Plus-one progress; more mail (cont.)
I am curious as to why you are so upset about Virginia Tech being selected to the Sugar Bowl, and yet you seem to have no problem with Michigan getting selected. Michigan is behind Virginia Tech in the Harris, Coaches', as well as the computers (the only objective piece of the BCS) and yet you are OK with Michigan getting selected and not Virginia Tech?
-- Mark, Lynchburg, Va.
That's a fair point. Because it had been so well known for so long that the Sugar intended to take Michigan with its first choice, I fixated more on the second choice. But I also understand, from a business standpoint, the appeal of Michigan, which is one of the biggest brands in the sport. Virginia Tech has established itself as a solid brand too, but it's also been in a BCS game three of the past four years, and none of those games drew stellar TV ratings. There isn't the same public appetite for the Hokies as the Wolverines. And in terms of selling tickets, Virginia Tech fans will no doubt travel en masse to New Orleans, but so would Kansas State fans or Boise fans. It's not like one has a clear advantage over the others.
Also: I don't care what the polls say. At least Michigan beat a current Top 25 team (Nebraska). At least it beat a semi-notable nonconference opponent (Notre Dame). At least it finished its season strong (winning three straight) rather than losing its last game 38-10. You brought up computers before? Do you know that the highest-ranked team Virginia Tech beat in the Sagarin ratings is No. 45 Georgia Tech? It's astonishing. But by all means, yes, let's all gather around our TV sets Jan. 3 to watch this game.
Enough with the Virginia Tech bashing. VT and Michigan beat the same number of ranked teams: one.
-- J.D. Bolick, Denver, N.C.
Technically, they're all ranked somewhere. It's just that Michigan's is in the Top 25.
Does the Big East's expansion signal that the AQ concept will continue past the 2014 BCS contract renewal? Or is the Big East just taking teams because it needs to try to stay relevant, AQ concept or not.
-- Andrew, Warren, Mich.
While the Big East remains hopeful of maintaining its AQ status, I'm sure the league (and, presumably, the schools joining it) realize it's a long shot. The conference came within one Cincinnati upset of sending a 7-5 Louisville team to the Orange Bowl. Whatever the new structure, I can't see a scenario in which the Big East is considered to be on equal footing with the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and ACC.
But the Big East's remaining football schools (Louisville, Cincinnati, Connecticut, USF and Rutgers) have invested substantial amounts of money in their programs and needed to do something bold to stay afloat. So too have most of the schools they're taking in (Boise State, UCF, etc.). What may have started as a fight to gain/preserve AQ status is now primarily about television revenue. The Big East's contract goes up for bid next year, and the hope is that with a recognized brand, an East Coast presence and now a reach into Texas and California, the schools will be able to fetch significantly more money than they would have in Conference USA or the Mountain West -- money they'll then promptly blow on cross-country flights and extra nights in hotels.
Everywhere I read about Montee Ball needing two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl to break Barry Sanders' record. Barry Sanders had five touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl that did not count toward his season total. What gives? When did bowl stats start counting in season stats?
-- Jesse Couch, Grimsby, Ontario
The NCAA started counting bowl stats in 2002, which, along with the addition of the 12th regular season game and conference championships, helps explain why players seem to be breaking season or career records every other week. In the interest of fairness, the NCAA should really keep separate records for the pre-bowl stat era, and maybe even the 11-game era. A four-year starting quarterback today gets to count as many as nine to 12 extra games over the course of his career.
That doesn't diminish Ball's achievement. Give the man his due for 38 -- 38! -- touchdowns in a single season. But let's not forget that Sanders scored 39 in 11 games, 44 in 12. Those marks will never be touched.
Not to date myself, but Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl = payback for what happened in 2000, when the Hokies were 10-1, ranked No. 5 in the BCS heading into Michael Vick's last game, and got jumped by Notre Dame (which proceeded to get obliterated by Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl). Ironically we blew out Clemson in the Gator Bowl that year. We're even in my book.
-- J Walczyk, Raleigh, N.C.
Fair enough. Since that time, however, the Hokies have gone to four BCS games and now boast a 1-4 record. How much longer is this payback going to drag out?
Stewart, UCLA's list of head coaching candidates seems to be dwindling. Who is an off the radar, little-discussed candidate that UCLA should look at pursuing?
-- Garret, Sacramento, Calif.
Indeed, unless Dan Guerrero has a surprise up his sleeve, it seems the Bruins may be headed toward their own Derek Dooley. But here's one for you: Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Why is no one giving this guy a look? Yes, the Ducks' offense is primarily Chip Kelly's brainchild, but Helfrich has been running it for the past three years, and Pac-12 defenses have yet to find a way to stop it. UCLA plays in a conference that is quickly loading up on renowned offensive minds with the addition of Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez; it's got to do something to keep up. Why not import the league's most successful offense?
Helfrich, 38, has worked at three current Pac-12 schools (Arizona State, Colorado and Oregon) and at one point was the youngest offensive coordinator at a BCS school. His star is on the rise, and if Arizona State can't make things work with June Jones, I'd bet it places a call Helfrich's way (if it hasn't already). So that's my suggestion to Guerrero, not that he's listening to me. I think he's going through a Rolodex of fired NFL coaches as we speak.
LSU has played for the BCS National Championship the past three times the game has cycled to New Orleans (2003 vs. Oklahoma, 2007 vs. Ohio State, 2011 vs. Alabama). Coincidence or are Cajun voodoo powers are at play here?
-- Scott Davis, Chattanooga, Tenn.
The first was coincidence. Les planned the others all along.
Alabama has the opportunity to win the national championship while winning just four games against FBS teams with a winning record. What's the last team to win against such a record? Without looking, I'll guess the BYU team that beat a 6-6 Michigan team to win the national championship in the 80s.
-- JG, Kendall Park, N.J.
That '84 BYU team did in fact beat four, all of them from the WAC or Missouri Valley conferences. In the BCS era, the lowest was six by LSU's 2007 team, which should not be surprising since that team had two losses. Most champions usually beat eight or nine foes with winning records. Keep in mind, though, that Alabama's number could go up to seven if Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt win their bowl games.
By the way, the Tide's 2009 title team set the BCS-era record with 10.
Why isn't 7-5 Western Kentucky in a bowl when a bunch of 6-6 teams are? I thought the rule was 6-6 teams only get to go bowling if there are no other teams with better records left.
-- Dan, Washington D.C.
That rule did exist as recently as two years ago, but Beebe of all people led the charge to repeal it, much to the delight of bowl execs, who will always prefer to take a 6-6 Big 12 team over a 7-5 Sun Belt team. But WKU was a particularly galling omission. It would have been the school's first bowl trip, and to make matters worse, it was snubbed at the expense of 6-7 UCLA. Eric Adelson wrote an excellent piece on the Hilltoppers' heartbreak.
Mr. Mandel, I am new (legal) citizen from foreign country, learning English and American sport. Please explain me how team can be national champion but not conference or division champion. In my country thing like this do not happen.
-- Chartah Varhta, Akron, Ohio
I can't possibly explain it, but this may be the most insightful summation of the BCS I've ever seen.
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