Thursday, August 14, 2003

Road to The Sugar Bowl, Part 2

Last weekend, TNT showed all five Rocky movies in a row. This normally wouldn't have meant much to me because I've seen all five, but when I sat down to catch a few minutes of the first one, my wife joined me. I figured that this was something to roll with, that if she wasn't going to pull us away from Rocky movies on a Saturday afternoon I certainly wasn't going to either. We watched the remainder of the first one, and all of the second one, before I cracked. Like Apollo Creed slumping against the ringpost as Rocky pulled himself to victory, I was out of gas, and as much as I enjoy Mr. T in his Clubber Lang role in Rocky 3, I threw in the towel. I don't think my wife was aware that there was any kind of competition going on, but I half-expected to hear her screaming "Adrienne! Adrienne!" in the middle of our living room.

Anyway, you might remember that Rocky 2 begins with the last few minutes of Rocky. In the spirit of those movies, I'm going to start today with the last couple of paragraphs from yesterday, when I mercifully allowed myself to split my entry in two. You might recall that I was trying to figure out who had the easiest role to the Sugar Bowl outside of their regular conference schedule. We'll pick up with 12 teams eliminated and 8 to go, after these commercials:

I don't why, when I type in "Sugar Bowl", it brings up a link to a search engine. How dare they infiltrate my blog entry! It pisses me off.

Only four more days until the Eisenberg College Football Championship Rules Presentation!

OK, here we go.

Now it starts to get a little easier.

Three teams have their toughest non-conference matchup as a team ranked between 15 and 20 at home. Ohio State hosts #16 NC State, and Michigan and Pitt both will play # 19 Notre Dame. Not easy games, but you ought to win it if you're a serious contender.

We're left with five teams. Here they are with their toughest non-conference matchup:

#6 Virginia Tech plays #27 Texas A&M at home.
#10 Maryland play at #51 Northern Illinois.
#13 Wisconsin visits # 58 West Virginia.
#17 Virginia goes to #41 South Carolina
#18 Oregon State goes to #42 Fresno State.

I bet only one or two of these teams loses this game. Any of the final eight teams - Ohio State, Michigan, Pitt, Va Tech, Maryland, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Oregon State - have very little turbulence in their schedules outside of conference play.

In head-to-head play, Maryland gets Virginia at home, but it's hard to see either of them maintaining the consistency to run the table. Same with Oregon State. Virginia Tech goes to Pitt, but both of them also have to host Miami. This brings us to the Big Ten.

Three of the eight contenders with the easiest non-conference path are all in the Big Ten - Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Everyone who cares knows that the Buckeyes go to Ann Arbor this year, but they also have to go to Wisconsin. Wisconsin and Michigan don't play at all. And this is where I go off on my Big Ten tirade.

The Big Ten is an excellent conference. The quality of the bottom half and middle make every game entertaining, and they get great crowds, and have all of that history. But outside of Ohio State, there's no top ten schools here, and none anywhere else on anyone's schedule. Here is the list of road games for the entire Big Ten this year, out of conference, with their CFN rank:

19 Notre Dame, 20 UCLA , 30 Nebraska, 33 Washington, 35 Oregon, 47 Iowa State, 53 Wake Forest, 58 West Virginia, 78 Duke, 84 UConn, 94 Kansas, 98 Ohio

There's no one ranked higher than Notre Dame, and the only one higher in home games is 15 NC St. So essentially you have a conference that, outside of Ohio State, no one is going to play anybody ranked in the top 10 in the country. With the only real competition being between themselves, and only one of the conference schools ranked higher than #13 Wisconsin, and no conference championship game, it is hard to measure just how good any Big Ten team is until bowl season. All of their records will be slightly inflated, as will their bowl rankings.

Not all of this their own fault. Notre Dame plays several of these teams, and they are capable of pulling a top 10 program together at any time. The fact that only Ohio State is top 10 dampens the conference somewhat, but they obviously don't choose that. They can't have a conference championship because they only have 11 teams, but of course I've never seen them protest that like the ACC is doing. And you could make the argument that the Big East and ACC are in the same boat, but neither conference has the reputation the Big Ten has. Also, there are three top 10 teams in the Big East, and Florida State, traditionally the best school in the ACC, plays Miami and Florida every year.

So, you want a long shot for the Sugar Bowl? How about Wisconsin? This is what College Football News says about them:

"Barry Alvarez has had some great teams in Madison winning three Rose Bowls over the years, but this could be his best team yet. He's never had a receiving corps like this one or a defensive front seven with as much talent as this team has. He also has a loaded backfield and a solid kicking game."

If they can beat Ohio State at home, the next highest ranked team they play is #23 Purdue, also at home. They have no conference championship game to worry about. A pretty easy path for someone coming from the Mighty Big Ten.

BAP Scores -

Boston 7 Oakland 3 From Tim at Musings From RSN

BOS 0.651 0.372 0.474
OAK 0.590 0.333 0.394
Both BAP and OPS win.

Tampa 6 Baltimore 5
BAP - TB .829, Bal .591
OPS - TB .920, Bal .807
Both win.

Seattle 13 Toronto 6
BAP - Tor .421, Sea .857
OPS - Tor .687, Sea 1.156
Had to create a new award for this one - The Nuke LaLoosh Award. I'm proud to present it to Toronto pitcher Tanyon Sturtze. Check out his performance in the fourth inning: He walks Bret Boone on five pitches, Edgar Martinez on four, then John Olerud on five. He throws another first pitch ball to Mike Cameron, then retires Cameron, Ben Davis, and Rey Sanchez on nine straight strikes.

The Standings:

BAP 22-4
OPS 20-6

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