Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (family counseling sold separately for squabbling members of the "Auburn Family" we heard so much about in the glory days two years ago):
BCS STANDINGS ARE COMING. SO IS THE OUTRAGE.
On Sunday, America's least-popular sports entity this side of the NFL replacement refs makes its triumphant return. The first Bowl Championship Series standings will be released. The coast-to-coast complaining will follow immediately thereafter, because there is widespread divergence between the voters and the computers.
Despite the overwhelming belief among human voters that Alabama is the best team in America and Oregon is No. 2, the computers aren't buying it. At least not yet. The Dash looked at five of the six rankings that are used by the BCS – Wolfe doesn't release its first public rankings until Sunday – and four different teams are ranked No. 1: Alabama (Sagarin), Florida (Anderson & Hester), Oregon (Billingsley) and Notre Dame (Colley and Massey).
That's right, Notre Dame is first in more computer formulas than Alabama. Don't tell Harvey Updyke or he's liable to graffiti the Golden Dome. And Oregon is only ranked higher than sixth by Billingsley.
A lot can change this weekend, but as of right now the computers rank the top five this way (throwing out the high and low ratings for each team, per the BCS formula):
Florida (1). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: plus-five spots. The microchips are impressed by the four Southeastern Conference victories – well, at least by three of them. Beating Kentucky probably doesn't do much for the strength of schedule.
Notre Dame (2). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: plus-five spots. The Fighting Irish benefit from having played four major-conference opponents – if indeed the Big Ten counts as a major conference in 2012. And they could conceivably move up to the computer top spot with a victory over highly ranked Stanford on Saturday.
South Carolina (3). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: none. The Gamecocks could leapfrog the Irish and the Gators with a computer-pleasing victory at LSU on Saturday.
West Virginia (4). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: none. Beating Texas on the road was a big boost.
Alabama (5). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: minus-four spots. The two big September games turned out to be blowouts of disappointing teams – Michigan and Arkansas – and the rest of the schedule has been easy.
Of course, there are major problems with releasing the aggregate computer rankings halfway through the season. Schedules are wildly divergent and hard to compare, and most of the season's biggest games are still to be played. So they're judging incomplete data – and those incomplete results will influence human voters as well.
Especially when the subject is Hot Button U., also known as Notre Dame. If the Irish are 6-0 Sunday and ranked No. 1 by the computers, look for human voters to either boost the Irish to get in line with the computers – or to trap-door them in a backlash against what many perceived to be a terminally overrated program. Either way, the early release of data will have the unintended consequence of influencing the polls that count for two-thirds of the BCS formula.
The other problem with the computer rankings is the BCS-mandated removal of margin of victory. While it should certainly matter that Alabama drilled Michigan by 27 points and Notre Dame beat the Wolverines by only seven, the Crimson Tide won’t get additional computer credit for a blowout.
The human vote should still establish Alabama as the BCS No. 1 on Sunday, provided the Tide takes care of banged up Missouri. But who is No. 2 – which is what really matters – will be very interesting. And very controversial. Stay tuned.
OHIO STATE'S COSTLY HUBRIS
One unbeaten that would be in the thick of the BCS conversation is instead on the sidelines, with only itself to blame. That's Ohio State (6), which never got sufficiently proactive in response to TattooGate and is paying for it now. The result is a postseason ban in a year when the Buckeyes might have competed for the national title.
Had the Ohio State brass taken the allegations seriously and realized a postseason ban was inevitable, it could have self-imposed one last year – when the Buckeyes were flailing to a 6-7 record with Luke Fickell (7) as an interim coach. But the school either blindly or haughtily assumed it would get a slap on the wrist from the NCAA Committee on Infractions. When the penalties came out last December and included a postseason ban, the result was a guarantee that the inaugural season under Urban Meyer (8) would end without a Big Ten title or a bowl game – no matter how good it was.
So far, it's been pretty good. The Big Ten is acrid, but the Buckeyes are the class of it. Had the school played its cards right with the NCAA, there would be a lot more interest in the BCS standings come Sunday.
BIG, BEAUTIFUL, EXCITABLE, HALF-NAKED
You come to The Dash for the latest cutting-edge trends in college football – this is understood. Thus, The Dash delivers the newest fad: Shirtless fat boy celebrations. They're sweeping the nation.
This was the Arkansas fat boy (9) last year, as the Razorbacks completed a huge rally to beat No. 14 Texas A&M:
This was the North Carolina State fat boy (10) last Saturday, after the Wolfpack completed a huge rally to stun No. 3 Florida State:
Who will be next? Let's do some trend-spotting.
First ingredient: fat. Go where the chubby folks are. According to 2012 statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both Arkansas (No. 7) and North Carolina (No. 17) rank among the 20 most obese states in America.
Second ingredient: red. Both Arkansas and North Carolina State have red in their color schemes. That, or some derivation of the color, seems to be a leading indicator.
Third ingredient: A ranked opponent to defeat in thrilling fashion. There has to be suitable stimulus to make a big man remove his shirt and twirl it like a lunatic.
Using this data, The Dash is predicting the next shirtless fat boy celebration will take place in one of five locations Saturday:
Bloomington, Ind. Indiana (11), tied for the seventh-fattest state in America and wearing crimson uniforms, hosts No. 8 Ohio State. It would take a miracle, in part because there might be as many Buckeyes fans in the stands at Memorial Stadium as Hoosiers. The fewer fat boys in the building, the less chance there is of seeing them. Not to mention the long odds on Indiana winning.
Baton Rouge, La. No. 3 South Carolina (12), also tied for the seventh-fattest state in America and using garnet in its color scheme, plays at No. 9 LSU. Keep an eye on the visiting fan section.
Dallas., Texas. No. 13 Oklahoma (13), America's sixth most overweight state and home of the crimson-wearing Sooners, plays No. 15 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Both fan bases lose their minds when these teams get together, so shirt-twirling fat boys would not be a shock.
Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech (14), hailing from the nation's 10th-fattest state and wearing red, hosts No. 5 West Virginia. Prospective half-naked fat boys are encouraged to add Tech's masked rider hat and eyewear for additional style points.
Shreveport, La. No. 22 Texas A&M (15), also hailing from the nation's 10th-fattest state and wearing maroon, faces No. 23 Louisiana Tech (16), from the nation's second-fattest state and using red as part of a tri-color scheme. This is Ground Zero. Both fan bases will have their chance. Tell the big-uns to get ready.
COUGHING UP HAIRBALLS
In the game that caused the latest fat boy to go shirtless, Florida State (17) solidified its reputation as the biggest perennial dog in college football. Every year, the Seminoles find a game to blow against a middling opponent – sometimes multiple games against multiple middling opponents.
FSU was a 17-point favorite at North Carolina State, making that its fifth loss as a double-digit favorite in the last 3 ½ seasons. The Noles were favored by 17 against Virginia (14-13 loss) and by 10 against Wake Forest (35-30 loss) last year. In 2010, they were 10 ½-point favorites over North Carolina (37-35 loss). In 2009, they were 14-point favorites over South Florida (17-7 loss). Las Vegas has yet to figure out that Florida State is annually overrated.
The worst part of the loss to the Wolfpack is what Florida State threw away in the process. Ranked third nationally, FSU had conned the voters into believing it was legit – if the Noles had run the table, they might have gotten a shot in the BCS Championship Game.
With one loss in a lousy league, that chance is gone for good. Add it to the list of Hairball Defeats – chokes against unranked teams that derailed national title dreams. The biggest Hairball Defeats in the past six-plus seasons:
Iowa State 37, No. 2 Oklahoma State 31 (18). Date: Nov. 18, 2011. Site: Ames. Spread: Cowboys were favored by 27 ½. Oklahoma State was ranked No. 2 and needed just two more victories to play in the BCS Championship Game for the first time. Instead the Cowboys were outrushed by 132 yards and were a minus-two in the turnover department against the 5-4 Cyclones, suffering the most crushing loss in school history.
Iowa 24, Penn State 23 (19). Date: Nov. 8, 2008. Site: Iowa City. Spread: Nittany Lions were favored by 7 ½. Penn State had played a soft schedule in getting to 8-0, but winning at Ohio State the previous game won it a lot of converts. Ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings and stalking No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 1 Alabama, the Nittanies took a nine-point lead over 5-4 Iowa into the fourth quarter but wound up losing on a field goal with one second left. Once-beaten Florida and Oklahoma would go on to the BCS title game.
Oregon State 27, USC 21 (20). Date: Sept. 25, 2008. Site: Corvallis. Spread: Trojans were favored by 25. Top-ranked USC had 12 days to buy into its own hype after destroying Ohio State 35-3. The Trojans had been shocked two years earlier in Corvallis, and history repeated on a Thursday night. Oregon State (1-2) jumped to a shocking 21-0 halftime lead and held on to win. It was USC's only defeat of the season; an undefeated Trojans team would have been a lock for the BCS title game.
Pittsburgh 13, West Virginia 9 (21). Date: Dec. 1, 2007 – the Year of the Hairball. Site: Morgantown. Spread: Mountaineers were favored by 29. West Virginia was a 60-minute formality away from playing for the national championship – but the Backyard Brawl is rarely a formality. The 4-7 Panthers took advantage of three West Virginia fumbles, two missed field goals and an injury to star quarterback Pat White to deliver one of the worst home losses anyone has ever experienced, in the history of the sport. The Dash was there and remembers the silence and stunned looks from Mountaineers fans leaving their stadium. That stunner cleared the way for LSU to back-door into the BCS Championship Game, which it won easily over Ohio State.
Texas Tech 34, Oklahoma 27 (22). Date: Nov. 17, 2007. Site: Lubbock. Spread: Sooners were favored by 7 ½. This was actually the second of two costly hairballs for Oklahoma in '07, the first being a three-point loss to 23-point underdog Colorado in September. But the Sooners had rebounded from that and risen to No. 3 in the polls, positioned for a chance to play for the title. Then they ran into a Mike Leach trap, another of the many breaks LSU needed that season.
Stanford 24, USC 23 (23). Date: Oct. 6, 2007. Site: Los Angeles. Spread: Trojans were favored by 41. The Cardinal wobbled into the Coliseum 1-3, with the losses coming by a combined 90 points. But this would mark the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh coaching legend, as backup quarterback Tavita Pritchard engineered a drive for the winning touchdown in the final minute. USC quarterback John David Booty contributed four interceptions to the No. 2-ranked Trojans' implosion. USC has only beaten Stanford once since that game. (The Trojans' loss set up an injury-related hairball later in the season when No. 2-ranked Oregon was upset at Arizona after quarterback Dennis Dixon got hurt early in the game.)
UCLA 13, USC 9 (24), 2006. Date: Dec. 2, 2006. Site: Pasadena. Spread: Trojans were favored by 15 ½. The Bruins have beaten their crosstown rivals exactly once in the last 13 meetings – but they made the one count. USC was ranked second nationally and in position to play for the national title, yet the Trojans lost to a team that only had 235 yards of offense and cleared the way for Florida to play for (and win) the title against Ohio State. UCLA finished 7-6.
WHICH ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WOULD YOU WANT TO RUN?
Last week, athletic director Shawn Eichorst abruptly left Miami for Nebraska. There could be any number of reasons why – the ongoing NCAA investigation of the Hurricanes, the superior fan support in Lincoln, a significant pay raise, etc. – but it spurred discussion about the best AD jobs in the nation.
So in the spirit of election season, The Dash went polling. A query was sent to 13 fellow sports writers who are veterans covering the college landscape. The question: Which are the five best athletic director jobs in the country? The results:
Texas (25). This was voted the top job by nine writers. Current AD: DeLoss Dodds. 2010-11 Revenue: $150 million. Learfield Director's Cup finish in 2011-12: Sixth. What makes it good: More money than some third-world nations, great facilities, fertile recruiting ground, traditional success across a variety of sports, a battalion of boosters to call on for the next building project.
Florida. Voted the top job by one writer. Current AD: Jeremy Foley. 2010-11 Revenue: $124 million. Learfield Director's Cup finish in 2011-12: Second. What makes it good: All the same perks Texas enjoys, plus multiple recent national titles in both football and men's basketball. Most schools would love to have one of either; Florida has two of both in the last seven seasons.
Ohio State. Voted the top job by one writer. Current AD: Gene Smith. 2010-11 Revenue: $132 million. Learfield Director's Cup finish in 2011-12: fourth. What makes it good: Has similar war chest, statewide backing, facilities to Texas and Florida – plus maybe even more tradition. Only drawbacks are the current football probation and membership in a league (Big Ten) that is losing ground to warm-weather conferences.
Notre Dame. Current AD: Jack Swarbrick. 2010-11 Revenue: None of our business. Private school doesn't have to report publicly. Learfield Director's Cup finish in 2011-12: 17th. What makes it good: Only AD with a seat at the BCS meetings, plus an NBC contract, plus independence in football, plus the ability to pick whatever conference the school wants to dabble in, plus the ability as a private school to ignore Freedom of Information requests from intrusive media. The downside is a football program that hasn't won a national title since 1988 or come close since '93, and a men's basketball program that hasn't been to a Final Four since 1978.
Stanford (26). Voted the top job by two writers. Current AD: Bernard Muir. 2010-11 Revenue: None of our business (another private school). Learfield Director's Cup finish in 2011-12: First. Again. What makes it good: The most well-rounded program in America every year, without many of the ethical compromises made at other schools. Not likely to pick up the phone and find NCAA Enforcement on Line One. Plus you get to live in the Bay Area, and as one writer noted, "the school gives you a damn house." Only drawback is the fickle nature of success in revenue sports at a serious academic school.
Others receiving votes: Oregon, Michigan, USC, LSU, North Carolina, Harvard, TCU and UT-San Antonio. (As one smart aleck noted of UTSA, "Nowhere to go but up, and, hey, in a few years you can be in the Big East.")
LAST INTERCEPTION POOL
Back by popular demand, it's the LIP: The Dash's annual countdown to the last FBS quarterback to throw the ball to the other team in 2012. A whole lot of QBs threw their first pick last week, whittling a crowded field to just three among the top 100 nationally in pass efficiency. The finalists:
Geno Smith (27), West Virginia. Number of attempts: 204. The fact that he's thrown 24 touchdowns without a pick is just sick. Next up: Texas Tech Saturday, which has five interceptions in 124 pass attempts against.
Colby Cameron (28), Louisiana Tech. Number of attempts: 180. Hasn't thrown an interception since the Poinsettia Bowl last December. Next up: Texas A&M on Saturday, which has six interceptions in 193 pass attempts against.
A.J. McCarron (29), Alabama. Number of attempts: 111. Has had the luxury of having to throw far fewer passes than Smith or Cameron, since the Crimson Tide is built around defense and the running game and playing with a lead. Next up: Missouri on Saturday, which has five interceptions in 190 pass attempts against.
The Dash has established Smith and McCarron as co-favorites. McCarron will be outfitted with the safest game plan Saturday, but Smith seems impervious to the oskie.
Winner of the LIP gets a convenience-store hot dog and a 44-ounce polar pop, plus the undying admiration of Dashette Lana del Rey (30).
Meanwhile, these three guys are the pick magnets, throwing the highest percentage of interceptions:
Denard Robinson (31), Michigan. The regressing pocket passer has thrown eight in 115 attempts, an interception rate of 6.96 percent.
Chandler Whitmer (32), Connecticut. Sophomore seeing his first action this season has thrown 10 interceptions in 166 attempts, a rate of 6.02 percent. He threw four last Saturday at Rutgers.
Steele Jantz (33), Iowa State. He's thrown seven interceptions in 127 attempts, a rate of 5.51 percent. Coach Paul Rhoads saw enough after three picks in a loss to Texas Tech and benched Jantz last week in favor of backup Jared Barnett.
BUS BEATS COW, EVERY TIME
If you somehow missed it, the Boise State equipment truck (34) had its only little Oklahoma Drill on the Interstate outside of Albuquerque with a cow (35). The result was predictably not pretty.
That prompted a great deal of dead-cow humor, and few things are better than that. The best thing to come out of it was the parody Twitter account @BoiseStateCow, which says the following on its account: "I was a cow, minding my own business, before Boise State's equipment truck changed all that." For location the account says, "In multiple locations, now."
Boise State's equipment managed to continue to Hattiesburg, Miss., without incident. Once there the Broncos turned in their best performance of the year to date, walloping Southern Mississippi 40-14. No word on whether that has prompted Boise to seek out additional bovines to sacrifice in the name of football glory.
The Dash recommends this compilation of humorous utterances from the mouths of athletes, coaches, media members and assorted others: "Where's the Manure? Goofiest Sports Quotes of the 21st Century [so far]" (36). The book, available online through Smashwords.com, was compiled by longtime newspaper copy editor Dave Roos – a man who can write a funny headline with the best of them. Check it out (it's cheap) and have a laugh.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Bob Davie (37), New Mexico. Being out of the game for more than a decade didn't rob Davie of all his coaching knowledge, as he's quickly cleaning up the mess left by previous Lobos coach Mike Locksley. Davie is 3-3 with the Lobos, who had won three of their last 40 games before Davie arrived. After only losing by three points to Boise State on Sept. 29, it's reasonable to believe New Mexico will be competitive in all its remaining Mountain West Conference games.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Gene Chizik (38), Auburn. After an ignominious home loss to miserable Arkansas, Chizik's record as a head coach without Cam Newton is now 22-33. No further commentary needed.
PUTTING OUT AN APB FOR …
… Former Texas defensive tackle Stoney Clark (39). On the week of the Oklahoma-Texas Red River Shootout game, it seems an apropos time to remember Clark, who had one of the most memorable plays in the rivalry's history. With the Longhorns clinging to a 17-10 lead in 1994, Sooners running back James Allen was headed for the tying touchdown when Clark appeared and slammed him to the ground at the 1-yard line on fourth down. Anyone with information on Clark's whereabouts, please apprise The Dash.
Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject, former Arkansas heavy hitter Steve Atwater, is alive and well and watching his two sons play football at elite academic institutions. One son plays for Georgetown and the other for Princeton, and Dash spies report that Atwater was in the stands at Princeton recently to watch them play each other. They may not become football greats, but both boys appear well on their way to a good life after their playing days are over.
When thirsty in Gainesville, The Dash is always happy to recommend the Gainesville Ale House and its fine selection of beers and array of televisions. But The Dash also is excited to tout a Big Nose IPA (40) locally brewed by Swamp Head Brewery. It's delicious, and it fits well with the physical characteristics of The Dash.
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