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College Football Mailbag (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 11:46AM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 12:37PM
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When will you start being more objective as a sports writer? If I wanted opinionated sports talk I would open the paper here. I go to this site for an overall view of college football. When it comes to you, it's all about USC, USC, USC ... OK, so you're a fan of USC, we get it. But for God's sake, that's the only team you focus on! They aren't the end all be all of college sports! So I will leave it up to you to respond with one of your little quirky comments that we all love so much.
--
Mike, Skippack, Pa.

I have no quirky comment to offer. As I admitted a few weeks back, I am a rabid, uncontrollable USC fan.

If Miami and Florida State finish 6-6, do you think they deserve bowl bids? Miami's victories so far have come over teams with a combined record or 15-35; FSU's are 19-30. Both have a large fan base, which usually is helpful in securing a bowl, but do they deserve it?
--Joe H., Omaha, Neb.

Of course they don't -- but I could say the same thing about 20 other teams that will be playing in bowl games. Case in point: If Minnesota beats Iowa this weekend, both the Gophers and Hawkeyes will receive bowl bids. Both will be 6-6. Iowa will have gone 2-6 in Big Ten play, and Minnesota will not have beaten a single top-50 opponent. But that's the way it's going to be as long as there are 64 bowl berths, and as long as conferences like the Big Ten and ACC have deals in place for their seventh- and eight-place teams. It's great for the coaches (who get an extra three weeks of practice) and the players (who get a week's paid vacation), but I honestly don't understand what some of these lower-tier bowls are getting out of hosting a game between two 6-6 teams in front of 18,000 people.

To borrow from your colleague Peter King, the latest polls give a factoid that may only interest me: The current top eight teams, which are the same in both polls, are (probably) going to all play each other before the bowls: Michigan vs. Ohio St., Notre Dame vs. USC, Rutgers vs. West Virginia and Florida vs. (most likely) Arkansas.
--Joel Haywood, Macon, Ga.

I must confess, I hadn't noticed that. Great call. It goes back to what I said a couple weeks ago about this being a particularly memorable November (and early December), which so far has exceeded even my wildest expectations. This Saturday will mark the third straight week that two undefeated teams have faced each other in November, something that's never occurred since the advent of the AP poll in 1936. And then the Notre Dame-USC game and the potential Florida-Arkansas game (if all teams go in with just one loss) are going to be like de facto championship auditions. You couldn't have scripted a more climatic ending to the season.

Dan McCarney turned Iowa State from a laughingstock to a respectable program. Now that he has resigned, who in the heck are the Cyclones going to get to come to Ames to coach?
--John McBride, Fort Dodge, Iowa

Remember that question I fielded a couple weeks back from a disgruntled Minnesota fan regarding Glen Mason? Gophers fans ought to keep an eye on Iowa State's coaching search, because I have a feeling it could turn into a similar "be-careful-what-you-wish-for" scenario. I understand why AD Jamie Pollard made the change when he did. It's been a disappointing season for a program that probably blew its best chances of reaching the Big 12 title game the past two years, and after 12 years, a lot of people there feel like it's time for a change. But will the next guy be able to do any better? I kind of doubt it.

Iowa State's best hope figures to be a high-level coordinator or hot mid-major coach with some ties to the region or to the Big 12. Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe (who was offensive coordinator at Texas A&M in the late '90s) immediately comes to mind, but he may hold out for something better. A more realistic possibility is Nebraska offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, a former McCarney and Bob Stoops assistant, though that would mean competing directly against his boss of the past five years, Bill Callahan.

Rutgers is No. 2 in the computer rankings largely because of the BCS' removal of margin of victory from the computer rankings, leaving a bland mix of rankings. Would it make more sense to return to using the versions of the Sagarin and Massey rankings that incorporate MOV to create a better spread of computer polls?
--Jason, Minneapolis

The biggest folly of the entire BCS era has been the way the commissioners have handled the computers. First there were three computers, then there were eight, now there are six. First they included margin-of-victory (capped at 21), now they don't. First they removed the highest and lowest score, now just the lowest. First they represented 20 percent of the formula, now they represent 33 percent. And of course the people making these adjustments are not in any way trained in mathematics or statistics. They're athletic administrators.

I understand not wanting to put the championship decision entirely in the hands of voters, and I don't have a problem with using computer ratings in the formula -- but only if you use them the way they're intended. By removing margin of victory (and I don't buy for a second that it's influenced the way coaches manage the score one way or the other), they've left themselves with six sets of ratings that all basically do the same thing: Assess schedule strength. Wouldn't it be much simpler to just use a standard strength-of-schedule formula like the basketball committee does with the RPI?

Stewart, I read your column once in a while -- it is OK. But your attitude toward several schools is very offensive. Can you please explain why you hate Penn State so much? Were you beaten up by Penn State fans at some point? Did you apply to the school and get rejected? What happened?
--Alex, Tucson, Ariz.

I assure you, Alex, I don't hate Penn State. It's just that I love USC and no one else.

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