Monday, November 12, 2007

Basketball Boxscore Item, Football Extra

Here in a nutshell is my sports obssessed weekend:

Georgetown Home Opener

College Football Saturday

Direct TV NFL Ticket

Fantasy Team pulls ahead during Sunday Night Football

Arrghh. Despite all my good intentions to blog about the start of the basketball season, I may have to wait until next weekend before I delve into the early basketball box scores. But here's a quick nugget:

2 Points: Number of points scored by newcomers and returning bench players.

66 Points: Number of points scored by Georgetown’s 4 returning starters in Georgetown’s 68-53 win over William and Mary.

I know experience is more important early in the year, but this is ridiculous. Those 2 points were scored by freshman McDonald’s All-American Austin Freeman. Fellow freshman McDonald’s All-American Chris Wright scored 0 points in the opener. Last year's bench scored 0 points.

Later this week, I’d like to do a feature on the debuts of all the McDonald’s All-Americans if I get time. But now onto the Football.

A Happy BCS?

Though I haven’t written much about college football in the last few weeks, I did have time to make one set of predictions here. Not only did I predict that Ohio St. would lose one if its final games, I also said, “For BC, even Maryland is no gimme.” On Saturday, Illinois defeated #1 Ohio St and Maryland defeated #8 BC. Go me.

The experts have pretty much been saying for weeks that LSU and Oregon are the best two teams in the country. (See ESPN GameDay wrapup shows, Stewart Mandel Bullet Point #5) And they may actually get their wish this year as LSU and Oregon have moved up to the top 2 spots in the BCS standings.

While LSU could have a tough game in the SEC Championship and schizophrenic UCLA or rival Oregon St. could give Oregon a scare, LSU and Oregon should be favored to win out. The real question is what happens in the Big 12. The Saturday after Thanksgiving one loss Missouri travels to undefeated Kansas and the winner should face one loss Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. There are really three scenarios.

1) If Oklahoma wins the Big 12 championship game, I think the poll voters will remember Oklahoma’s poor BCS Title game performance in the 2005 Orange Bowl and not jump the Sooners over a dominant Oregon team. (Remember Oregon’s only loss came in a game they could have easily won. Check out this depressed fan’s recap.)

2) If Missouri wins the Big 12 championship game, much like West Virginia, I think they will not be able to overtake Oregon in the human polls.

3) But, if Kansas wins the Big 12 championship game, then all hell is going to break loose. Not only will several of the computers have to move Kansas up after beating two one loss teams, but the poll voters will have an emotional time leaving an undefeated Kansas team out of one of the top spots.

Keep an eye out for people accusing the poll voters of preseason bias with regards to Kansas. The idea is that if Kansas had started as a ranked team like Ohio St., they’d already be #1. The reason I mention this is that BOTH Kansas AND Oregon were not ranked to start the season, but Oregon moved up earlier, in part because they went on the road and beat Michigan. Meanwhile Kansas was beating up on the weakest of non-conference schedules (Central Michigan, SE Louisiana, Toledo, and Florida International). So Kansas is a victim of its own scheduling as much as preseason bias.

Other BCS Bowls

Lot’s of places are going to have BCS predictions over the next few weeks, but there are still too many permutations for me to invest too much energy. But I highly suggest Stewart Mandel’s bowl predictions, because he usually explains how he makes his decisions. The key thing is to understand the BCS selection process which you can read about here.

If I remember correctly from past readings, the selection process goes something like this.

1) Slot Big 10, Pac 10, SEC, ACC, and Big 12 Champions in the obvious bowls.
2) The two bowls that lose their “home” teams pick next.
3) Then, this year, the Orange Bowl picks.
4) Then the Fiesta Bowl picks.
5) Then the Sugar Bowl picks.

Because there are some automatic qualifiers, the Sugar Bowl actually just gets stuck with a team. They don’t really have a choice. For awhile, it looked like the Sugar Bowl was going to get stuck with Hawaii, but either because of injury or simply the juggernaut known as Boise St., that is seeming less likely. But the Sugar Bowl will still probably end up stuck with some sort of automatic qualifier that they don’t want, we just don’t know who yet. The Fiesta Bowl might get stuck with someone too, particularly if we get a wacky outcome like UConn winning the Big East.

But, what makes things interesting is that this could be the first year that an at-large BCS selection has 3 losses! Just take a look around the leagues:

ACC: This Saturday, Clemson takes on Boston College for the ACC Atlantic title. The day after Thanksgiving, Virginia takes on Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal title. The winners will meet in the ACC title game. All four teams already have 2 losses, and three of the teams are guaranteed to lose once, so the BCS will have to take a 3 loss team to take a 2nd team from the ACC.

Big East: West Virginia faces 2 loss Cincinnati and 2 loss UConn over the next two weeks. I will be shocked if West Virginia does not win both games easily. So all at large candidates will have 3 losses here.

Big Ten: If Ohio St. wins, everyone else already has 3 losses. If Michigan upsets Ohio St. and takes the auto-bid, would a BCS Bowl want an Ohio St. team that had lost its final 2 games of the year?

SEC: Georgia would have to get past Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and LSU in the SEC title game for the SEC to have two teams with 2 losses. The SEC is almost guaranteed to have a 3 loss team earn an at-large bid and it will probably be Florida.

The Big 12 was reviewed above and should have multiple teams with less than 2 losses, especially when you add in Texas.

The Pac-10 still has multiple teams with less than 2 losses. The USC vs Arizona St. game on Thanksgiving could very well be for one of those BCS at large bids. Moreover, assuming Oregon earns a BCS title game slot, USC vs Arizona St. could be a game for a trip to the Rose Bowl!

Middling Teams Fight For Bowl Berths

OK, the other thing I love about the next few weeks is the last minute shuffling for bowl slots. Consider this:

10 of the 11 Big Ten Teams are Bowl eligible.
10 of the 12 SEC Teams are Bowl eligible. (Vanderbilt will be an 11th if they can upset Tennessee or Wake Forest)

What kind of sick world rewards a 10th place conference team with Bowl eligibility? Oh, the kind of world where you can play 4 cupcakes and go 2-6 in conference and still be eligible. Woo-hoo we’re 2-6! Let’s celebrate. Ah, but the fates have stepped in. With so many teams eligible, there are not enough bowl partnerships. The Big Ten only has 7 affiliations unless it somehow steals a 2nd BCS bid. The SEC only has 8 affiliations, and while it almost certainly will get 2 BCS teams this year, that’s still 9 affiliations for possibly 11 teams.

I was going to break this down game by game, but almost every game matters next weekend in these conferences. Remember, teams can be skipped in the bowl pecking order if the lower team has a more attractive fan base. And if the Motor City Bowl is mean-spirited, Indiana might even have 7 wins this year and still not earn a bowl bid! The drought may continue.

Oh, and don’t expect the other conferences to give a bid up.

ACC: At least 8, and possibly 9 teams are eligible with only 8 affiliations. (Miami could be a 10th if they could upset Virginia Tech or BC, but given that Miami just lost 48-0 to Virginia, I think they won’t be eligible this year.) Key Game: Maryland vs NC State

Big 12: Probably 9 teams with only 8 affiliations. The Big 12 is almost guaranteed to get a BCS at large though, so they’ll be OK. Key Game: Colorado vs Nebraska, winner is bowl-less.

Big East: 5 or 6 teams with 5 affiliations. The wild card is Louisville. Will Louisville beat Rutgers or South Florida?

Pac 10: Five are qualified already with 5 affiliations. Assuming they get a BCS bid that opens up one more slot, but Washington St., UCLA, and Arizona can still keep it within the Pac10 by finishing strong. Washington St. may actually have the best shot at that since UCLA and Arizona each finish with 2 ranked teams.

Oh, and don't forget the MWC. BYU has been on a roll, but here comes Utah. In CUSA..., OK I'm going to stop and go to bed now. Can't wait for next weekend!