ASK CFN - Will The Pollsters Bypass Oklahoma?
Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham
Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham
Posted Aug 20, 2009

After all the recent BCS losses, will Oklahoma get left out of the BCS Championship if there's another option? What preseason No. 1 teams ended up winning it all? Should Virginia Tech drop in the rankings after losing Darren Evans? What was the all-time misfire prediction from CFN? All this and a lot more in the latest ASK CFN.

ASK CFN ... August 21

By Pete Fiutak

Fire over your questions, comments, and baskets of mini-muffins to

I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

- Will Texas really go 9-3?
- Can Ole Miss win the BCS title?
- 2008 ASK CFNs
- 2007 ASK CFNs
2006 ASK CFNs
Q: Florida, Texas and USC go undefeated. Who plays for the title and how would this affect the BCS? - JR

A: Welcome to the debate of the 2009 college football season. Of course, everything usually has a way of working itself out, and Florida, Texas/Oklahoma, and USC won't all go unbeaten, but there will be plenty of room for screaming and yelling. Considering how much respect Florida is getting, and with the SEC winning the last three national titles, the Gators might have to lose twice to be out of the party with one of the losses coming in the SEC title game. To answer your question, if Florida and Texas go unbeaten, they're playing for the national title. Period, end of story, and it doesn't matter if USC, or anyone else, wins every game by three touchdowns. There's no way, no how that No. 1 Florida doesn't get a chance to defend its crown if it's unbeaten, and with everyone still feeling lousy about how Texas got the small piece of chicken at the end of last year, there's no way it'll get left out two years in a row if it goes 13-0. Is that fair? Absolutely not. If USC, or anyone else, appears to be better, I promise to scream and yell about how the pollsters have to go by what happened on the field, and I'll hardly be alone.

Would any of this controversy affect the BCS? Not ... one ... lick. With ESPN taking over things next year, it would love, LOVE nothing more than to have three unbeaten BCS conference teams at the end of every season (while slapping muzzles on the ESPN talking heads when it came to any criticism of the BCS ... far more on this coming next week). More debating means more screaming, more people listing to ESPN radio, and more fans tuning into SportsCenter. Just like the health care debate has helped jack up ratings for Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann, the BCS debate brings numbers. And before I get all self-righteous about this, yeah, for my own selfish purposes when it comes to non-stop column fodder, nothing is better in my world then when three (or more) big-time fan bases are fighting over two national title spots.

Q: Florida, Oklahoma and USC all end the 2009 regular season undefeated.  Is it fair for pollsters to consider Oklahoma's 0-3 record in their last 3 BCS title games when filling out their final ballots? How about when adding in the fact that all 3 of those title game berths came at the expense of other deserving teams with equivalent records (USC, Auburn, Texas)? - John

A: Is it fair? No, its the job of the pollsters to analyze every every team on its own merits and completely blow off anything that happened in previous seasons. Is it possible to ignore the elephant in the room? How? If a pollster is trying to decide between Oklahoma and USC when it comes to a BCS Championship slot, how can he not subconsciously take into account recent history? That's why there needs to be a totally objective computer part of the BCS equation, and it needs to take on a bigger role in the formula.

When it comes to one "deserving" team getting left out, there weren't any right answers when it came to the 2003, 2004, and 2008 debates. However, it's hard to say that USC in 2004 and Florida last year didn't earn their national titles. They were clearly the best teams in the country at the end of their respective years, but until there's some sort of a playoff figured out, there are always going to be mad fan bases at the end of every season, and until we can get Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine to work again, good luck convincing USC, Auburn, or Texas fans that their teams couldn't have won national championships in those controversial seasons.

Q: How many teams rated #1 in the preseason have finished the season at #1? - TD

A: Going back to 1936, when the AP poll kicked in and Minnesota was the first No. 1 team, with the rankings starting after three games, here's the list of teams that started out on top and finished that way (and this includes the eventual addition of the Coaches' Poll).

1936 Minnesota
1941 Minnesota
1942 Ohio State
1943 Notre Dame
1945 Army
1947 Notre Dame
1951 Tennessee
1952 Michigan State
1956 Oklahoma
1974 Oklahoma (AP, USC was the No. 1 in the UPI poll)
1975 Oklahoma
1978 Alabama (AP, USC was No. 1 in the UPI poll)
1985 Oklahoma
1993 Florida State
1999 Florida State
2004 USC

Q: Can you tell me what is preventing Boise State from joining the Mountain West or why the Mountain West has not offered Boise State a place in their conference? It seems to me that a Mountain West expanded to 10 teams and including Boise State would be so far and away better than the Big East that even the worst BCS Blowhard would have a hard time not giving them an automatic bid while keeping the Big East on their roster of BCS leagues.
- Chris

A: The Mountain West might be thinking bigger. Expansion isn't just about bringing aboard a good program with a winning record; it's also about expanding the reach and the television opportunities. As good as Boise State has been, its inclusion in the Mountain West wouldn't move the needle one bit when it comes to the BCS and its interest in adding the league in the ranks of the automatic conferences. Boise, Idaho is the nation's 112th ranked TV market, just ahead of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Springfield, Massachusetts. Of course, college towns aren't exactly huge when it comes to demographics, Gainesville is 160th, but Idaho just isn't a big market overall (while Florida draws on the Tampa (13th) and Orlando (19th) markets). Now, if the Mountain West snagged Boise state and Fresno State, looking to get a Sacramento market that's 20th among TV rankings, along with Fresno, which is 55th, then you'd be talking about putting butts in the TV seats. Of course, there's a balance needed between how good the program is and the TV market. Getting the San Francisco market is great, but the Mountain West isn't going to be banging on San Jose State's door any time soon.

And to your other point about the Mountain West being better than the Big East, take a look at what the two conferences have done in non-conference play over the last three years (I'm working on this for a later article). Not only has the Big East been better, but it could make a case that it's been a stronger conference than the ACC and the Pac 10, if you take into account that USC is the x-factor that skews things the Pac 10's way. More on this later.

Q: What is a college football fanatic (the guy, like you, who watches SMU vs. UTEP because it's on) to do with what seems like the ever escalating problem of I-A teams playing I-AA teams? I can remember a time when the Duke's, Baylor's, and Temple's of the world were the sacrificial lambs, but even those teams schedule body bag game now. What the hell is going on??? These match-ups completely ruin the opening weekend (and week two and week three) of the season. I get so fired up by the time August 1st arrives because it starts to feel like "college football time", yet all my exuberance is chopped off at the knees when I look at the slate of games available to me. It's so disappointing. Yeah, I know Oregon plays Boise, and Alabama plays VT. I get that. You want to know the one thing the NFL has over CFA? Opening weekend, and it's not even close. The Detroit Lions may be terrible, but they ain't Charleston Southern. - Bryan

A: I write this every year about this time, but I'm a firm believer that to make the problem go away is to designate the first week of the season to FBS vs. FCS matchups. Since there's no preseason to tune up, like there is in the NFL, a good college team is insane to start out the year with a Georgia vs. Oklahoma State or Virginia Tech vs. Alabama type of matchup. The college teams don't get anywhere near the practice time that the pros do, and they don't get nearly the scrimmage work in that the NFL types get. So what you're getting in week one is a mish-mosh of teams that either haven't jelled yet, and get taken advantage of by a lesser team, are trying to survive through the inconsistencies, or are still trying to find the right pieces to the puzzle. Again, NFL teams get four or five games and several scrimmage to firm up the depth chart, weed out the weak, and tune up for the season, while some college teams need four or five games just to figure out what they have. Do you think USC beats Oregon 44-10 had the two teams played on November 29th instead of October 4th?

My idea has always been to force each FBS team to start out the season against an FCS team, with the results not counting in the polls, the BCS, or the official record books. Let the FBSers get their backups some meaningful work, give the starters some real, live reps, and the schools would make a lot of money while doing it. And then that's it for the FCS games for the rest of the year. We'd get a better overall product, the coaches would love the preseason game aspect of it, and it would allow for a fantastic opening to the season. And as far as your comment about the NFL having Opening Weekend over college football, that's absolutely true (there's nothing like it searching for your first fantasy points of the season three minutes after the first kickoff), but college football crushes and kills the NFL as far as excitement come late October. As I always say to end the debate with my NFL-loving friends, off the top of your head, give me the five best NFL regular season games ever. There aren't many because they're relatively meaningless.

Q: Where does picking 2005 Texas to go 8-3 rank on your all-time whiffs list? - Zach in Denton, TX

A: Not even remotely close. It wasn't that major a misfire, considering Texas wasn't exactly known for putting together complete seasons at that point. But it does go to show the point of the polls and how they should be done. Yeah, we blew the preseason call in 2005, but if you remember, we quickly changed our tune once the season started to roll and we were among the only outlets to pick the Longhorns to beat ESPN's Greatest Team of All-Time in the Rose Bowl (which, by the way, USC fans are still mad at us about even though we got the call right). Without any preseason games as a guide, we're going on inside info, speculation, overall talent, experience, and a slew of other factors to put the puzzle together when creating the preseason rankings. But unlike the big polls, we have no problem calling the sky blue and making massive changes based on what's happening on the field. The Coaches' and Harris Polls rank teams one way and then never move them unless something dramatic happens.

On the all-time whiff front, my call that Ohio State was going to beat USC last year is probably No. 1.  Every year there are misfires here and there, like ranking Tennessee high at the beginning of last season, but that's all part of the gig when you put your head on the college football chopping block. Now, if any of my friends in the business read this, they'll call me out for my biggest all-time gaffe: touting Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning in the 1998 NFL Draft. It wasn't because I thought Leaf was that great; I argued that any team with Manning would be stuck for 15 years, would rely on him too much (like Miami did with Dan Marino), would consistently underachieve, and would never, ever win anything big. (No, I'm not wavering on this, and yes, I know.)

Q: Do you think the Big XII will achieve balance between the North and South divisions anytime soon? The North dominated for several years after the conference was formed, but as OU, UT, and TT have risen, the North was eclipsed. Will the pendulum swing back? - TMM

A: If you remember, the North was originally the power division with Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas State the superpowers. Oklahoma, back when the Big 12 started, sucked, and Texas wasn't the Texas it is now. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech certainly weren't the players they are at this point. However, I'm not sold that the pendulum will ever swing back the other way, at least not for a long time, to the point where the North is dominant. I don't think Nebraska will ever get back to being the elite of the elite powerhouse it once was, even though it can be among the land of the very good, and I don't think Kansas State will ever do that again. Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado are all solid, but are they ever going to be Texas and Oklahoma? Those two programs are in a VIP lounge with USC, Ohio State, Florida, and LSU when it comes to the elite of the elite programs that aren't going to go away unless there are NCAA sanctions (ha!), disastrous coaching changes, including the assistants (cough, Florida State, cough), or bizarre acts of implosion.

Q: I have just started a new job in Europe and worry about missing my Big Ten football games. None of the cable providers here offer the Big Ten Network. Will the BTN have any internet broadcasts? How else can us ex-patriots get our dose of college football? - Chris, Stockholm

A: SlingBox. It's the single greatest invention since the remote control. You control your home TV, and watch what's on your TV, from your computer. You have to find a way to hook it up to a TV here in the U.S., but then you can watch your TV from anywhere in the world. I use it whenever I stay at other people's houses, I can watch my TV without bothering anyone else, I use it in hotel rooms that don't get the channels I have, and I use it throughout the house when I'm working on my laptop out of the office. There's also an App for it on the iPhone, but it only works if you're connected to Wi-Fi.

Q: Now that the running back situation is not yet firmly established, this should give you an opportunity to effective revise your VT prediction. - JT

A: But nothing really changes. Ryan Williams is supposed to become a special back and David Wilson will also be a good one. Josh Oglesby is a decent veteran who should be more than fine behind a nice run blocking line, if he ends up getting the start. We predicted Alabama to beat Tech before the Evans injury, and that obviously doesn't change now, and we picked Georgia Tech to win when the Hokies go to Atlanta. Considering the rest of the tough games (Nebraska, North Carolina, NC State and Miami) are in Blacksburg, and the toughest remaining road game is at Maryland, we'll stick with the 10-2 call for now, which is the ceiling for this team with or without Evans, with a floor at 8-4.

Q: If you look at previous BCS at-large picks, they have all been from large market areas (such as Florida, Penn State, Ohio State, Texas). Do you think it would force talks of a playoff if two teams from BCS conferences but small markets were to play in the national title game, such as Iowa vs. West Virginia? This kind of match up would certainly draw a smaller audience, and therefore decrease the networks' incentive to broadcast BCS games. - Nick, Columbia SC

A: An Iowa vs. West Virginia national championship would hardly be an all-timer when it comes to TV ratings, but it would be an insane atmosphere with tens of thousands of Hawkeye and Mountaineer fans invading Pasadena (too ... many ... jokes). While Fox wouldn't be ecstatic with that, and ESPN will blow a gasket if one of its corporate SEC teams isn't in the national title game from 2011 on, the other four BCS games would be killers. Iowa won't be in the national title game, so let's be more realistic and say it's West Virginia vs. Oklahoma. The Sooners, after their recent BCS performances, would inspire a collective yawn if there isn't a bigger brand name opponent than West Virginia. However, that would mean, most likely, that Florida, LSU or Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Penn State, Texas, and Virginia Tech would take up seven of the other BCS slots, with the non-BCS flavor of the year taking the eighth. There would be some all-timer matchups.