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CFB notebook (10/20)

   by Larry Ness - 10/20/2005

(Headed for disaster?)

Now that the first BCS standings have been released and most of the nation's top teams have played six games, what do we know? EXACTLY what we knew before the season started, NOTHING! Actually, that's not quite true, so let me explain.

What we KNOW is that college football has a terribly flawed system. It combines the so-called human polls (this year the new Harris Interactive Poll and the traditional Coaches' Poll) with computer rankings and hopes to match No.1 versus No. 2 at the end of the year, in its national championship game. When the "system" actually gets it right, it's typically by pure luck!

The human polls have always been highly subjective and are open to plenty of criticism. For decades, both the AP (no longer part of the process) and the Coaches' polls have opened the year with a preseason poll, despite the fact that year-in and year-out, the foolishness of these preseason polls are well-documented. For just the latest example, note that the coaches' poll had Michigan ranked No. 4 and Oklahoma ranked No. 5 in its preseason poll. How about that for EXPERTISE!

As for the new Harris Poll, does ANYONE other than the BCS guys really think it has any credibility? Don't lament the loss of the AP poll though, as the writers' had Michigan No. 4 and Oklahoma No.7 in its preseason poll and like the Coaches' poll, often makes a person scratch his bald head when trying to understand their weekly rankings. Consider this.

Notre Dame jumped from unranked to No. 10 in the AP poll in the season's first two weeks, after beating Pittsburgh and Michigan. In case you don't know, the Panthers and Wolverines are currently a combined 7-7 in 2005 and were just 1-3 at the time ND 'jumped' to No. 10 (Michigan's lone win had come over Northern Illinois and Pitt's other loss was to Ohio U)! Just this week, Texas Tech made it to No. 10 in the AP poll (its highest-ranking since 1977) and No. 8 in the latest Coaches poll. Just for the record, Tech opened the year with three consecutive games against Florida International, Sam Houston State and Indiana State. You CAN'T make this stuff up!

Now to the computer rankings, the ones that are supposed to be less subjective. Despite Texas Tech's near-ridiculous schedule, the Red Raiders' combined computer rankings in the first BCS standings came it at seven. SEVEN! Are you kidding me? In comparison, Michigan State which has played Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State registered "zero" in all six BCS computer indexes. Ever heard of the phrase, "garbage-in, garbage-out?"

So what does this all mean? There are seven unbeatens heading into this weekend's action and at least one will fall on Saturday, as Texas Tech plays at Texas. If both USC and UCLA were to remain unbeaten, one would have to lose when the two cross-town rivals meet in the Coliseum on December 3. If Georgia and Alabama were to remain unscathed, those schools would meet in the SEC title game (also December 3), meaning another unbeaten would fall. Virginia Tech, which plays Thursday night at Maryland, is the only unbeaten team that doesn't have another current unbeaten team remaining on its schedule.

Are we headed for another season in which we finish with three unbeatens? Since only two teams can ever meet in the BCS title game (Rose Bowl), that tends to be a problem. Can you imagine the screaming coming from the SEC if, for the second straight year, a member of that conference finishes undefeated but gets left out of the BCS title game (remember Auburn in 2004)?

How about this scenario? USC wins out, as does Texas, Virginia Tech and either Alabama or Georgia. USC unquestionably remains No. 1 but can Texas hold on to its No. 2 rank in the BCS with only one ranked opponent left on its schedule (Texas Tech this week)?

Va Tech still has Boston College, Miami-Fla and Florida State (ACC title game?) remaining, a schedule that will surely boost the team's computer rankings, if not its Harris or Coaches' poll rank. As for the two SEC teams to remain unbeaten, Alabama would have to get past Tennessee, LSU and Auburn before the SEC title-game showdown, while Georgia would need to beat Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech. Couldn't Va Tech and either Alabama or Georgia (Alabama seems a more likely bet) overtake Texas by gaining on the Longhorns in the computer rankings?

It doesn't seem too far-fetched and wouldn't many feel (especially in the Pac-10) it would be "just desserts" if Texas was denied a second straight Rose Bowl trip, this time for a national-title showdown with USC, after it leapfrogged Cal for its Rose Bowl bid in last year's final BCS standings.

However, if USC and Texas both win out, I can't imagine that MOST people wouldn't want to see a USC-Texas showdown, featuring Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush against Vince Young? There are seven college football weekends remaining and a lot can still happen, but wouldn't it be nice if there was some kind of playoff structure in place to avoid the possibility of any number of 'nightmare' scenarios?

Next week I'll check in on how college football's 23 'new' head coaches have fared in 2005.

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