October 10, 2004

Showdown Saturday

So the sports media billed yesterday as “Showdown Saturday” in college football. The day was filled with a lot of great match-ups, but honestly, was really no different for a lot of the teams than any other gridiron weekend. Here’s the view from our little bowl:

Oklahoma vs Texas

What a yawner. When we finally turned on the game, mid-way through the second quarter, we were impressed that Texas had managed to hold the Sooners scoreless thus far, considering the shellacking the Longhorns received last year in the Red River Shootout. It was decidedly a defensive game, but alas, the Longhorn defense tired first, and Texas was held scoreless for the first time in 24 years. Bob Stoops beats Texas for the fifth time, and I’m sure there’s already talk in Austin amongst the restless Longhorn fans that maybe Mack Brown’s time at UT is over. Pshaw. Texas fans should be proud of the program Brown has put together; in the past four years, UT has won at least 10 games every season. As was noted on the broadcast today, UT has the fourth-winningest record in college football these past four or five years. If you flip-flopped the Red River Shootout record with Oklahoma, Texas would be number one. There is very little Mack Brown and the Longhorns have to be ashamed of; beating the Sooners is at the top of the short list.

California vs USC

Simply put, the better team lost. Aaron Rodgers lit up the vaunted USC secondary, tying a NCAA record with 23 consecutive completions. The Trojans were able to make crucial stops when required, and got lucky as Rodgers’ arm just got tired enough in the fourth quarter that he threw three straight incompletions in the Bears’ final drive. Technically, he threw four, but that was because his receiver fell down on the last play for Cal. Considering the two offenses involved, 23-17 seems like a low-scoring affair.

Tennessee vs Georgia

Boy, was I ever wrong about this one. After the pile-driving the Vols received at Rocky Top last weekend by Auburn, and the similar butt-whooping Georgia handed LSU last week, I fully expected the Bulldogs to crush Tennessee. Georgia had a 17-game winning streak at home in its favor to boot. A big upset in the SEC, as I was sure we’d see two undefeateds going at it for the SEC Championship come December, in the form of Georgia versus Auburn. Now the SEC East is up for grabs.

LSU vs Florida

However, LSU made it a little easier for Tennessee and Georgia in the east. How about those Tigers? Again, was I ever wrong about this game. Seeing how David Greene picked apart the Tiger secondary last week, I expected the same from Chris Leak and the Gator receiving corps. LSU’s defense decided to show up for this game, even if it took the offense a little longer to do so. Fourteen of Florida’s 21 points came off of LSU turnovers in the first quarter, both at the hands of redshirt freshman JaMarcus Russell, who was given his first start by Coach Nick Saban.

I was pleased to see Russell get the start. I have never been a fan of Marcus Randall. Like many LSU fans, and I expect more than a few members of the Tiger football squad, Randall has never really inspired much confidence in me. When Russell was sidelined with an ankle injury, Randall came in and proved all of us unbelievers wrong. He simply had the best game of his career at LSU. He kept his poise and built his confidence, in the process showing his teammates how to keep their poise and building their confidence in him. It paid off, with a last minute drive that culminated in a 10-yard strike to Joseph Addai for the go-ahead touchdown with 27 seconds left. The Tigers would hang on for the win, 24-21, in the Swamp. I couldn’t be more pleased, and am shocked I didn’t wake up the little phisch when I whooped at LSU’s go-ahead score.

The above were the games I was focused on today, so the rest of this will be the miscellany I picked up throughout, and my thoughts.

First, someone want to tell me why Auburn won’t be ranked #1 ahead of Oklahoma and USC? With one game and one win up on each of these teams, you would think that the War Eagles would deserve the #1 spot in every poll out there. With its loss today, Georgia will obviously fall out of the Top 5, as will Texas. It’s laughable that Florida State is even in the Top 10, and with their lackluster performance against Syracuse this weekend (come on, it’s Syracuse!), they shouldn’t advance, and, quite frankly, should drop down. I would put California, with the loss to USC, ahead of Florida State.

Auburn, however, like just about every other SEC team that manages to stay undefeated, will be shunned by the pollsters. Oklahoma and USC will retain the top two spots. This is because college football journalists are enamored with Bob Stoops and with the Hollywood glitz of USC. Granted, Bob Stoops has built a fantastic football program in Norman. He lured away the top running prospect in all of Texas, Adrian Peterson, for crying out loud. However, I don’t think the Sooners are one of the top two teams in the nation at this stage of the year. They certainly weren’t one of the top two teams in the nation at the end of last year. The BCS had to institute a new rule for this season, the “Oklahoma Rule,” which stipulates you have to win your conference to be eligible for a BCS bowl. This, after the pollsters saw to it that Oklahoma would play LSU for the national championship, rather than the USC-LSU match-up we should have gotten.

USC, likewise, has a great football team, but I fail to be convinced that a legitimate national champion can come out of the Pac 10. I would rather see a national champion with one loss out of the SEC, Big 12, or Big 10, than an undefeated out of the Pac 10, Big East, or ACC. Are you listening, Miami and Florida State? It’s one thing to roll over Syracuse, Rutgers, and Temple year after year. A lot of Texas high school teams could go undefeated in the Big East or the ACC. It’s quite another thing to do so in the SEC, Big 12, or Big 10. Those latter three conferences are where your “strength of schedule” lies year after year. The Trojans romp over those powerhouses at BYU, Stanford, and Colorado State. California gave them their first real test, and but for Aaron Rodger’s tired throwing arm, there but goes a perfect season for USC. As much as I stand by the statement that led this paragraph, I will grant you that the Pac 10 is a stronger conference than the ACC or Big East.

While we’re at it, will someone also please explain to me why Oklahoma State, at 4-0, went in to this weekend at #21? That’s atrocious. They are not only in the same conference, but in the same division as #1/2 Oklahoma. Using the BCS theory, they have the same “strength of schedule”. Like Oklahoma, they are now 5-0 after play today. This should be the number two or three team in the country come Monday, but I doubt they’ll crack the Top 10.

The Retrophisch College Football Top 5, post-October 9th, reflecting reality a bit more than the sports journalists and coaches will:

  1. Auburn
  2. Oklahoma State
  3. Oklahoma
  4. USC
  5. California

Yeah, I know what I said about the Pac 10, but looking at their game against USC, I’d put Cal up against Miami or Florida State any Saturday of the season.

Finally, you know things are floopy in the NCAA when Purdue is leading the Big 10 in the rankings…

Posted by retrophisch at October 10, 2004 12:29 AM | TrackBack