Tuesday, October 17, 2006

MIDSEASON REPORT: Who's No. 2?

It is the hottest question in CFB right now: Who is the second-best team in the land?

One of the reasons this is such a heated debate is because of the wonderful compooters that make up part of the high-falutin' BCS. Inevitably, those of us who think CFB can be broken down into data points have helped screw up what, to most humans who actually watch the games, becomes fairly obvious.


One of the BCS' computer experts.

Now, there are really only five teams that -- at no losses apiece -- currently have any room at all to argue that they are the second-best team in the land. Except that one of them happens to be Rutgers, whose most impressive win is a victory against Illinois. Or is it North Carolina?


Schiano doesn't like my fixation on, you know, playing someone who can defend themselves.

Besides the Scarlet Knights -- who would be a nice story if they could make it to the NC game -- we have Michigan, Southern California, Louisville and West Virginia.

Obviously, my poll has Michigan at No. 2. But to spell it out, let's look at the numbers:

MICHIGAN (7-0): defeated Vanderbilt, 27-7; Central Michigan, 41-17; Notre Dame, 47-21; Wisconsin, 27-13; Minnesota, 28-14; Michigan State, 31-13; Penn State, 17-10.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (6-0): defeated Arkansas, 50-14; Nebraska, 28-10; Arizona, 20-3; Washington State, 28-22; Washington, 26-20; Arizona State, 28-21.

WEST VIRGINIA (6-0): defeated Marshall, 42-10; Eastern Washington, 52-3; Maryland, 45-24; East Carolina, 27-10; Mississippi State, 42-14; Syracuse, 41-17.

LOUISVILLE (6-0): defeated Kentucky, 59-28; Temple, 62-0; Miami, 31-7; Kansas State, 24-6; Middle Tennessee State, 44-17; Cincinnati, 23-17.

Looking at Michigan, let's keep in mind (in fairness) that Vandy played them close. But Vandy plays everyone close before remembering that they are Vanderbilt and therefore are entitled to only one major upset per year. (Sorry, Georgia. No I'm not.)

The Notre Dame win was, is and will be impressive unless the Irish implode in Willinghamian fashion. Wisconsin is far more impressive than it looked at the time; Minnesota and Michigan State, less so. Penn State is at the periphary of being Top 25, as far as I'm concerned, and Happy Valley is always rough.

In Southern Cal's case, we have the Arkansas myth. Yes, they slapped 50 on the Hogs. But that was pre-Mustain. So, essentially, SC's getting credit for "I beat his butt before he bought a gun." The Nebraska win is pretty impressive, but it doesn't offset beating Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Beyond that, they have four too-close-to-call games against middling Pac-10 competition. Maybe they will win out, though I doubt it. Even so, the wins aren't as impressive as Michigan.

With the possible exception of the three-TD beat-down of Maryland -- and, really, wasn't that gratuitous -- there's really nothing impressive about what West Virginia has done.

As for Louisville, it's hard to tell. One week, beating Kentucky by that much looks impressive. The next, it looks like nothing special. The narrow win against Cincy always looks underwhelming. And the margin against Miami would look much better if this were bar-room brawling instead of football.


Beat Miami like this, and I'll be impressed.

So, for now, I'll leave Michigan at No. 2 until someone gives me a reason not to. Or, like every other No. 2 team so far this year, they manage to screw it up somehow.

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