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College football notebook (10/27)

   by Larry Ness - 10/27/2005

I've been called many things over 22 years in this business but I've NEVER been called a BCS expert. In all honesty, just who would WANT to be known as one? That being said, we're stuck with the BCS determining college football's national title game matchup and most people are a little nervous these days, as almost EVERYONE is anticipating a Texas/USC or USC/Texas (whichever way you prefer) showdown in this year's Rose Bowl.

The first BCS standings were released on October 17 and there were rumors that while USC would be No. 1, consensus No. 2 in the polls Texas, could find itself behind Va Tech in the standings. Those fears were unfounded, as USC and Texas were a solid one-two in the first BCS standings. I pause here for a moment to remind everyone that since the BCS' inception in 1998, the two teams ranked first and second in the initial standings of the year, have NEVER met in the BCS' season-ending title game!

Moving on, the second BCS standings were released this past Monday. In somewhat of a surprise, USC fell to No. 2 with Texas moving up to the number one spot. The margin of .0007, was the closest-ever between the first two spots in the standings history. USC owns the nation's longest winning streak at 29 games (Texas has the second-best streak at just 14!), has been ranked No. 1 in the AP poll for 26 consecutive polls (an all-time record) and is the two-time defending national champion but now finds itself at No. 2!

For USC fans, it's not as bad as is sounds. USC is comfortably ahead of No. 3 Va Tech and remember, No. 2 is just as good as No. 1 in this 'game', as they both advance to the Rose Bowl. Actually, Texas, which has no more ranked teams on its remaining schedule, is in greater danger of falling out of one the top two spots than USC. The Trojans still have Cal (No. 23 in the BCS), Fresno State (unranked in the BCS but 22nd in the AP and 24 in the coaches' poll) and UCLA (No. 9 in the BCS) on their schedule.

Currently, Va Tech is in the "dreaded" No. 3 spot (see USC in 2003 and Auburn in 2004). However, the Hokies play Boston College (BCS No. 12) Thursday night plus still have Miami-Fl (No. 8 in the BCS) and a likely ACC title-game showdown on tap with Florida State on December 3 (No. 11 in the BCS), to boost their computer rankings. Currently, there are SIX unbeatens remaining in college football and it's possible that the year could end with as many as four.

Either USC or UCLA has to lose when those teams meet on December 3 and assuming Georgia and Alabama were to remain unbeaten through the end of the regular season, the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide would meet in the SEC title game, dropping one or the other from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Speaking of unbeatens, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, UCLA, USC and Va Tech are all 7-0. However, only Texas is a perfect 7-0 ATS. The teams combined ATS mark is 26-16, or 61.9 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, FOUR Division I-A schools enter this weekend's action winless. The list includes Buffalo (0-7), New Mexico State (0-7), Rice (0-6) and Temple (0-8). Of those four, only Rice, at 0-6 ATS, is also winless against the points! The combined ATS mark of the four winless schools is 11-17 or 39.3 percent.

Here's an interesting fact. You have often heard me and others refer to the pointspread as the "great equalizer." Here's why? The six unbeatens naturally have a winning percentage of 1.000 and the four winless teams naturally are at .000. However, you'll notice that when you compare the two groups' SU winning percentage versus their ATS percentages, here's what you get. The unbeatens' ATS percentage is .619, a difference of .381. As for the winless teams. the difference between their SU and ATS winning percentage is .393. Pretty darn close!

Before leaving this discussion of unbeatens and winless teams, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention both Duke and Purdue (although I'm sure those schools would rather I didn't!). While Texas is the nation's ONLY perfect ATS school, Rice is not the nation's only winless ATS school. Joining the Owls are Duke and Purdue. The Blue Devils are 1-7 SU but 0-7 ATS, beating only VMI in a non-lined game. As for the Boilermakers, they are 2-5 SU but 0-7 ATS, as they won but did not cover against Akron and Arizona to open the year, before losing their last five games both SU and ATS!

How are those new head coaches doing?

In one of may many preseason articles, I mentioned that 23 of the nation's 119 Division I-A schools (almost 20 percent!) would open the 2005 season with a different head coach than they had finished with in 2004. Are most of the schools better for the change? I won't waste time listing each school's individual record but alphabetically from BYU to Western Michigan, the 23 schools that changed head coaches for the 2005 year went a collective 114-149 (.433) in 2004 with an ATS record of 117-138-2 (.459). Heading into this weekend's action, those 23 schools are a combined 70-91 SU (.435) and 66-88-1 ATS (.429).

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? While the overall numbers are pretty similar from last year to this year, here are seven schools that have surely noticed a change, either good or bad.

Skip Holtz has East Carolina at 3-3 SU and 5-1 ATS, after the Pirates went 2-9 SU and 5-6 ATS in 2004 (ECU was a combined 3-20 in '04 and '03). Hal Mumme brought his supposed "Air Raid" offense to Las Cruces but the Aggies of New Mexico State are averaging just 14.3 PPG and are 0-7 SU and 2-5 ATS after going 5-6 (6-5) in 2004. Mike Gundy took over at Oklahoma State and the Cowboys are 3-4 SU (wins have come over I-AA Montana State, Fla Atlantic and Ark St) and 1-5 ATS, following a 7-5 (7-5) 2004.

Greg Robinson got his first head coaching job, after 30 years in the business, at Syracuse this year. However, his mid-season report card is not good, as the Orange are 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS after going 6-6 (8-4) in Paul Pasqualoni's final year (had 11 winning seasons in 14 years at Syracuse!).Utah set the college football world on its ear in 2004, becoming the first non-BCS conference school to get a BCS bowl bid and finished 12-0 (10-2 ATS). However, Urban Meyer left for Florida (where he's a disappointing 5-2 SU and 3-4 ATS) with former DC Kyle Whittingham taking over for the Utes and going just 4-4 and a pathetic 1-7 ATS so far in 2005. Things are looking up in Kalamazoo these days (try writing that with a straight face!), as Bill Cubit in his first year as a Division I-A head coach, has the Broncos 4-3 SU and 2-4 ATS after the school finished 2004 at 1-10 (3-7).

I haven't forgotten about Charlie Weis and Notre Dame, I just left them until last. Weis, with none of his own recruits, took over an offense that had finished 108th in the nation in total offense in 2002, 90th in 2003 and 81st in 2004. After seven games of the 2005 season, Notre Dame is 8th in total offense (492.7 YPG), 12th in scoring (37.9 PPG) and 5-2 SU (6-1 ATS). After going 6-6 SU and ATS in 2004 plus 5-7 SU (4-8) in 2003, Weis has the Irish ranked 9th in the latest AP poll, 10th in the latest coaches' poll and 15th (?) in the latest BCS standings. He's got a QB (Brady Quinn) that's breaking Notre Dame passing records on a weekly basis and would be the Heisman front-runner if not for two guys from USC and a QB from Texas named Young. Most importantly, he's got the Irish in line for a BCS bowl bid, if he can win-out.

Out of respect to the Willingham family, I won't mention how Notre Dame's former head coach is doing in Washington. On second thought, I don't know him or any one in his family, so what the heck. Willingham has the Huskies 1-6 SU and 2-4 ATS through seven games, with his lone win coming over an Idaho team which is 1-6. In fairness to Ty, he inherited a team that was 1-10 (3-7) in 2004.

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