We have reached the Silly Season in college football. The time when fans of teams in contention to play in the BCS championship game lose their minds.
They attack the schedules of the competition, ignoring any and all quality wins. They trump up their own quality wins, ignoring the cupcakes. They rip opposing conferences, and declare media bias.
Not that any of them are biased, of course.
In this year's Silly Season, we have four prime competitors at present: Alabama, smug and secure in its spot atop the human polls and the BCS standings; Florida State, on the muscle after a series of routs and seemingly in control of its own destiny; Ohio State, defensive and whiny at the prospect of a second consecutive undefeated season still not being enough; and Baylor, the overstimulated newbies who are yapping like an annoying small dog on the heels of the Buckeyes.
There are some Silly Season supporting actors, too. Namely, a trio of one-loss teams that can dare to dream: Auburn, which could present a fascinating argument by beating Alabama Nov. 30 and winning the SEC championship game; Missouri, which could do the same if it wins the SEC East and then takes down the Crimson Tide in Atlanta; and Oregon, which probably would need help from others but nevertheless has a chance to win the rugged Pac-12 at 12-1.
But let's stick with the Big Four unbeatens that currently top the BCS rankings. In an attempt to cut through the spin and short-circuit the Silly Season lobbying, I've consulted the Sagarin Ratings and ranked all 39 of their victories from most impressive to least. Then at the end of this column we'll do some math with the rankings and see how it shakes out. Forthwith:
1. Florida State 51, Clemson 14: By far the most impressive performance of the season by anyone. On the road against what was then a top-five team and still remains a top-10 team, the Seminoles dismantled the Tigers.
2. Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42: Another high-quality road victory, and it came in an incredibly charged atmosphere.
3. Alabama 35, LSU 17: Crimson Tide's second-half performance was as good as anything they have done all season.
4. Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24: Sagarin actually rates the Badgers the No. 5 team in the nation, and the No. 1 team in the Big Ten. Buckeyes only won by seven but controlled the game throughout.
5. Baylor 35, Kansas State 25: Toughest game the Bears have had to date, and one of just two true road games so far. Had to rally in the fourth quarter to win.
6. Alabama 25, Mississippi 0: Tide shut out a 7-3 team that is averaging 34.5 points per game.
7. Baylor 41, Oklahoma 12: Sagarin is no fan of the Sooners, ranking them 30th. Neither am I. But a 29-point victory did make a statement.
8. Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10 in Atlanta: Tide won by 25 but was outgained – and the Hokies' late-season slide has devalued this victory.
9. Baylor 63, Texas Tech 34 in Arlington, Texas: Red Raiders are 7-3 but fading. Still, they jumped out to a 20-7 lead and made the Bears rally.
10. Florida State 41, Miami 14: Hurricanes were undefeated but overrated, as has been proven in the weeks since then.
11. Alabama 20, Mississippi State 7: The Bulldogs are not a great team by any means, but this was a road game and although 'Bama did not dominate it was never seriously threatened.
12. Ohio State 34, Iowa 24: Buckeyes trailed at halftime and game was tied going into the fourth quarter before they pulled away.
13. Florida State 41, Pittsburgh 13: Jameis Winston's coming-out party. Pitt's first-ever ACC game on Labor Day night quickly became a statement for how good the Seminoles would be.
14. Alabama 45, Tennessee 10: Complete domination of a major rival. Not a good Volunteers team, but the Tide choked the life out of them very quickly.
15. Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30: Road win, in what was billed as the biggest Wildcats home game ever. That billing turned out to be dead wrong, and this was a struggle, but the Buckeyes rode Carlos Hyde to victory.
16. Baylor 70, Buffalo 13: Hard to know it at the time, but the Bulls turned out to be a decent team. And they were routed in Waco.
17. Ohio State 63, Penn State 14: Eye-opening score, but the Nittany Lions have been so bad on the road that it lessens the real value of the rout.
18. Florida State 63, Maryland 0: Terrapins were ranked (and overrated). Seminoles ended that fallacy quickly and with brute force.
19. Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20: Not the same as beating the Bulls by 57 (see above). Buckeyes flexed early in season opener, then relaxed, then had to bear down at the end.
20. Florida State 48, Boston College 34: Seminoles fell behind by 14 in Chestnut Hill, then rallied forcefully.
21. Florida State 59, Syracuse 3: Distractions over reports connecting Winston to an alleged sexual battery incident? None evident. It was 28-0 after one quarter, 38-0 at halftime, 59-0 after three.
22. Baylor 73, West Virginia 42: A lot of people wanted to know if the Bears were for real after three wipeouts. The fourth wipeout, against a Big 12 opponent, answered the question.
23. Florida State 59. Wake Forest 3: A road game, no matter how benign the atmosphere. Demon Deacons threw six interceptions in their first 10 passes.
24. Ohio State 60, Illinois 35: Another conference road game, at least in theory. Plenty of scarlet in the house to see the Buckeyes blow out to a quick lead and then play inconsistently the rest of the way.
25. Alabama 52, Arkansas 0: Razorbacks are a bad team, but the blowout was emphatic.
26. Alabama 48, Kentucky 7: SEC road game. That counts for something. Not a lot when the opponent is the Wildcats, but something.
27. Baylor 59, Kansas 14: Also a conference road game. Also a rout. Bears led 38-0 at halftime.
28. Alabama 31, Colorado State 6: Rams get no respect but are bowl-eligible and coached by former Nick Saban assistant Jim McElwain, so 'Bama was properly scouted for this one.
29. Ohio State 42, San Diego State 7: Even after Braxton Miller got hurt, this was a rout behind backup Kenny Guiton. Score was 35-0 at halftime.
30. Ohio State 52, California 34: Long trip to play an opponent from a big-five conference. But Cal is as awful as it's ever been.
31. Baylor 71, Iowa State 7: Massive mismatch in a league game.
32. Florida State 49, North Carolina State 17: See above.
33. Florida State 62, Nevada 7: Mismatch.
34. Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman 6: A pretty decent FCS opponent, especially compared to others played by top-four teams.
35. Baylor 70, Louisiana-Monroe 7: Mismatch.
36. Ohio State 56, Purdue 0: Want to know the Buckeyes' biggest problem? Horrible league opponents like the Boilermakers, who are No. 169 in the Sagarin Ratings.
37. Baylor 69, Wofford 3: Mismatch.
38. Alabama 45, Georgia State 3: Mismatch.
39. Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0: Embarrassing mismatch that should never have been scheduled.
Assigning points from 39 (FSU over Clemson) to 1 (Ohio State over FAMU), here's how it breaks down: Alabama 239 points; Florida Sate 195; Ohio State 175; Baylor 171.
But the Bears have played one fewer game, so it's necessary to average the points per victory. Result: Alabama 23.9; Florida State 19.5; Baylor 19; Ohio State 17.5.
And outside of Alabama, which has a game remaining at Auburn (No. 15 Sagarin) and theoretically against either Missouri (No. 9) or South Carolina (No. 17) in the SEC championship game, Baylor has the best schedule-enhancing opportunity remaining. That is Saturday at Oklahoma State (No. 13 Sagarin). Florida State has a game at Florida (No. 36) and an ACC championship game potentially against Duke (No. 39). Ohio State has a season finale at unimpressive Michigan (No. 49) and a possible Big Ten title game matchup with Michigan State (No. 19).
So no matter what numerical metric you want to use, this is an Alabama-Florida State party unless one of the two teams loses. Then Baylor and/or Ohio State get its shot. At the moment it's advantage Baylor.
In the Silly Season meantime, the fans should consult the numbers and keep the yapping fact-based.
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