College football mailbag (cont.)
First of all, Tajikistan is indeed a real country. My family and I have lived here for five-and-a-half years, where I am the administrator of an English school. Do you think Georgia can survive its brutal schedule and make it to the BCS championship game this season?
Michael was the first of a small handful of readers who heeded my call for questions from the long-overlooked Tajik sect of college football fans, nearly all of whom were Americans currently living there. Apparently the craze has not yet reached its natives, though the Mailbag will continue its best effort to spread the word.
There's no question Georgia's schedule looks brutal on paper, with six games against teams that were ranked in my post-spring Top 25. That aforementioned Arizona State game is sandwiched between dates with Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban. Later, the Dawgs face LSU and Florida on consecutive weekends.
But if there's one thing I've learned about schedules it's that the games that look the most daunting on paper don't always turn out that way, and vice versa. Who would have guessed prior to last season, for example, that Oklahoma would crush Miami but lose to Colorado. That USC's road trip to Oregon would prove the bigger detriment than its trip to Cal. Or that LSU would handle the likes of Virginia Tech, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee but lose to Kentucky and Arkansas.
In the end, it's less about the schedule and more about whether the team is strong enough to handle the challenge. If the Dawgs are as loaded as many of us think they are, then they'll take care of business. If they're not, then it wasn't meant to be.
Which game in the BCS era do you think would have caused the largest ripple effect throughout the entire sport had the outcome been reversed?
I was so intrigued by David's question, I had to publish it -- but I also had to condense it by about 90 percent. David had come up with a long, hypothetical sequence of events that began with Kansas State's upset of Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 title game, revised nearly every subsequent national champion and ultimately wound up causing regime changes in foreign countries (or something like that).
I'm going to take a little simpler approach. If I had to pick a single game that had the most far-reaching after-effects, I would say Ohio State's upset of Miami in the 2002 national title game. Remember, at the time, the Hurricanes were the undisputed kings of the sport, having won 34 straight games, while Jim Tressel was only in his second season with the Buckeyes, which had gone 21-15 the previous three seasons. We all know what happened after that -- Miami began its gradual descent into mediocrity under Larry Coker while Ohio State began a run of four Big Ten titles and three BCS title-game appearances in six seasons.
What would have happened had that slim double-overtime margin gone the other way? (Or, as Miami fans would undoubtedly argue, had referee Terry Porter never thrown that infamous end-zone flag.) By no means do I think the 'Canes would have stayed at the same, dominant level, but Coker, with not one but two title rings, would not have faced nearly as much pressure nearly as soon as he did and there likely would not have been as drastic a drop-off. And while the Buckeyes certainly wouldn't have faded into oblivion had they lost that game, there's no quantifying just how much credibility the program gained from that victory. Without it, Tressel might not have reeled in quite as many blue-chippers, and Ohio State would not have built up the level of respect that helped propel it to these past two title games and remain a fixture near the top of the polls.
You've seen the backlash caused by the Buckeyes' past two title-game losses -- just imagine if they were 0-for-3.
Have you seen the returning quarterbacks in the Big 12? Ten teams return their starting signal-caller, including Chase Daniel at Missouri, Colt McCoy at Texas, Graham Harrell at Texas Tech and Sam Bradford at OU. Can any other conference match the firepower at quarterback that the Big 12 brings to the table?
No question the Big 12 takes the cake in that department, but it's also the conference with the least amount of good defenses. And I feel like that dichotomy has existed for years. Go back to the 2004 season, when the league included (all at the same time) Vince Young, Jason White, Brad Smith, Reggie McNeal and whichever Texas Tech quarterback threw for 5,000 yards that year (it was Sonny Cumbie). Yet the league's champion, Oklahoma, went to the national title game and gave up 55 points to USC.
I do think the Big 12 as a whole has improved significantly since then, due in large part to the rise of Missouri and Kansas, but it's still very much an offense-driven league. Kansas was the only team in the conference with a top-25 defense last year. That's not to take anything away from guys like Daniel or Bradford, who are indisputably elite passers, but you have to wonder whether they'd put up quite the same ridiculous numbers if they didn't get to face defenses like Nebraska (112th out of 119 teams nationally last season), Baylor (110th) and Oklahoma State (101st) on a regular basis.
<b>I haven't seen one poll with Michigan listed in the top 25, yet the Vegas odds show the Wolverines tied for 10th in terms of being most likely to win the 2009 national championship. What gives?
Brian Adams? Really? Baby you're all that I want/When you're lying here in my arms /I'm finding it hard to be-lieve ... Yeah, I know, that one had a "y" in his name.
The reason, as confirmed to me by a hardcore gambling acquaintance who shall remain anonymous, is that those type of "futures" bets are basically for suckers. They're for non-professionals who, while checking out one of the sports books during a Vegas bachelor party, mindlessly plop down $10 on their favorite team, regardless of how realistic their chances.
Therefore, while the oddsmakers do weigh the teams' actual prospects -- note that the same teams you find at the top of most preseason polls, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Florida -- garnered the best odds (6:1), there's always going to be certain, popular programs whose odds are skewed. Case in point, Notre Dame's odds (55:1) are nearly twice as low as Oregon's (100:1), which, from a pure football standpoint, is completely ludicrous. Michigan (30:1) and UCLA (35:1) both garnered respectable odds despite the fact both may have to play the coming season without a quarterback.
I'll tell you what. If any of you Michigan fans out there find yourself tempted to place the aforementioned $10 bet, I'll make you a deal: Send the $10 to me instead, and I will promptly send you back $5. Trust me -- it's a better deal.