Thursday, December 11, 2003

Taking it like real [california] men

I wrote a few days ago that the one group of people you won't see complaining about USC being ranked No. 1 but not playing in the Sugar Bowl are the USC supporters. After all, if Oklahoma were to have beaten Kansas State last Saturday, USC still wouldn’t have made the BCS Championship game, and they also wouldn’t have a No. 1 ranking to defend (in the AP poll, at least) in the Rose Bowl.

Looks like I wrote too soon.

If a column written this week by Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times is any indication, the Men of Troy have settled into full-on whine mode.

The piece touches on all the typical “it ain’t fair” arguments - the polls have USC No. 1, computers deciding who’s better is just plain un-American, there’s no way the Boise State / Hawaii game should factor into the BCS rankings, etc. But what I like about this particular whine-fest is the wonderful, left-coast, feel-good, “I’m OK, You’re OK” spin he puts on things.

I’d suggest fetching some Kleenex before reading on …

In describing the scene after USC’s players watched the BCS selection show and learned they would not be playing in the Sugar Bowl, he writes this:
"I can't lie," giant defensive tackle Shaun Cody said softly. "This is really tough."

Those university presidents who sold college football's integrity for $900 million and the BCS, they should have heard that voice.

"It's not right," receiver Mike Williams said, wincing. "It's just not right."

Those fools who program computers that determine a team's worth without understanding a team's heart, they should have seen that face.

Touching, isn’t it? How can the BCS do that? LOOK AT THEIR FACES, MAN! THE GUYS ARE WINCING! WINCING, I TELL YOU!!

Plaschke quotes USC coach Pete Carroll as saying his players are confused by the situation and “It’s hard for them to fathom.” And here I thought USC was a pretty good university. Maybe they don’t have logic classes there.

USC player Marcell Allmond is apparently pretty upset that Oklahoma didn’t fall father than No. 3 in the polls after their first loss of the season last Saturday.
"That's not fair at all," said Allmond. "They lose a game and it doesn't drop them way down in the rankings? We lost a game early and it dropped us real far. We had to work our tails off to get back up. What does Oklahoma have to do?"

A writer looking for facts would not have included this quote, as young Marcell is either just a whining little Trojan or he’s amazingly stupid. See, when 3rd-ranked USC lost to then- 2-3 Cal, there were seven teams who won that weekend and were still undefeated. That’s why they fell to No. 10. When Oklahoma lost last weekend, it was their first loss. USC and LSU are the only other major teams with just one loss, so Oklahoma fell to No. 3 (behind the two other one-loss teams, you see) rather than to No. 25, as you would have liked to have happen.

This is because the polls are as much political as analytical. It’s the same reason a team can go from No. 2 to No. 1 after giving up 500+ yards and 28 points to a 7-5 team on the same day the No. 3 team shut down the No. 5 team 34 – 13. No. 2 moves up to No. 1 when No. 1 loses. That’s all the analysis required of the polls.

If I had a few hours, I could probably also explain to Marcell how a No. 3 Oklahoma can still be ranked No. 1 in the BCS [hint: it involves math].

Even Coach Carroll seems to be confused by the math of the BCS, especially as it related to the regular season’s final game in Hawaii.

"It just didn't seem right. Could I believe that game had an impact? No, I could not believe it had an impact."

See, Pete, all the games have an impact on strength of schedule. And none matters more than any other; it’s just unusual that the ratings were so close and a USC opponent was in that last game played, and that’s why the one game seemed to matter so much.

But the best part of the piece is Plaschke's assertion that “how you finish” should be the most important thing and the line that “The BCS teaches us that it's all about reputation, not reality.”
How else to explain how LSU beats three lightweight programs - Louisiana Monroe, Western Illinois and Louisiana Tech - but passes USC in strength of schedule because the Southeastern Conference is considered that much tougher than the Pac-10

LSU passed USC in strength of schedule because - believe it or not - they played a stronger schedule. That’s how you explain it. Even with those lightweights, playing an SEC schedule (two games against a 10-win team, one 9-win team, two 8-win teams, a 7-win team, a 5-win team, a 4-win team and a 2-win team) left us with a better SOS than USC had based on its PAC-10 schedule (one 9-win team, two 7-win teams, two 6-win teams, a 5-win team, a 4-win team and a 2-win team) helped push LSU past USC in SOS.

Facts are tough, Bill.

And the only reason USC is ranked No. 1 in the polls is its “reputation.” The national press just loves that little Trojan man on the white horse. It’s so romantic. LSU doesn’t enjoy that kind of favorable bias.

Read the entire pity party here.

P.S. Funny how a school that is so upset about computers deciding who plays in the national championship game issued a press release last January touting the fact that the Trojans finished No. 1 in two of the BCS computers.

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