Big 10 Roundtable – Week 11

Blog/site newsFootballWe’re a bit late to the party on the Big 10 Blogger Network, and we thank the rest of the group for inviting us. You’ll notice the new widget to your right – make sure you keep up with the posts from the other members of our fine community.

Anyway, BTC is hosting this week’s roundtable discussion. Brad’s questions and our responses follow below:

1. Every year we hear that the quality of play in the Big Ten is “down” and that the conference as a whole is “weak”. This season most pundits would consider the Pac 10 or SEC as superior conferences. Give your best argument for the over strength of the Big Ten and evaluated how your team would be doing if they were placed in either the Pac 10 or the SEC.

This “my conference is better than yours” argument is very new to college football. For most of history, it’s only come up in the context of non-conference or bowl games. But in 2003/04, Auburn was pushed out of a shot at the national title game, and the SEC ADs and coaches got angry. They organized themselves and began a four-year, nonstop marketing campaign aimed at changing reality through perception; specifically, that the SEC was superior to everyone else. Terms like “SEC speed” were coined, and myths were created. ESPN ate it up, and the rest is history.

Again, the “conference wars” are a very new phenomenon. Using history’s way of comparing conferences, the SEC is fair-to-middlin’ at best. They have a very unimpressive nonconference performance. They lose most of their bowl games. And they seem to be terribly inconsistent.

However, using the same criteria, it seems clear that the Pac 10 is the toughest overall conference this year. Bowl victories, impressive non-conference wins, and generally consistent play abound. Every conference has some measure of parity, but the Pac 10 has about four or five teams’ worth of it at the top. Would anyone have wanted Washington’s schedule this year?

Therefore, it seems that the Big 10 lies in between the Pac 10 and the SEC, strength-wise.

Where might OSU fit in as regards the superior Pac 10 conference? Let’s compare OSU to Oregon via a common opponent – Washington. Against the Huskies, Oregon was more impressive offensively, where Ohio State was more impressive defensively. OSU won the game by 19 points, and Oregon won their game by 21 points. One important observation: OSU was dominant and in control for the entire game against the Huskies… but the Ducks entered the fourth quarter tied with Washington. For me, therefore, it’s clear that OSU’s strength is at least very similar to Oregon’s overall, and therefore, the Buckeyes would probably be performing at a similar pace (atop the conference).

2. Pick your team’s Most Valuable Player to date and tell us why he should be in consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Boeckman. Instead of making the case myself, I’ll direct you to some cogent points recently made by Pfef @ AtO:

Boeckman has played beyond the role of caretaker that everybody expected him to be this year, leading the Big Ten in Passer Rating by a ridiculous 21+ points, completion percentage, yards per pass attempt, and is tied for second in the conference in touchdowns. Not half bad for a guy that has the second least passes attempted for starting quarterbacks in the conference.

To put Boeckman’s stats against some of the other Heisman contenders, there is no reason to believe that Boeckman shouldn’t be at least a part of the Heisman conversation. His yards are right on line with Dixon, and his completion percentage (66%) is almost identical to Tebow’s and Dixon’s 68% rates. Boeckman actually averages less pass attempts per game than either Tebow or Dixon, and he still has more TDs through the air than either of them.

3. Sure it’s the time of year that has most fans looking ahead to Bowl games, but we covered that last week. Plus, basketball season has officially begun! If you plan on covering basketball, give a brief analysis on your team and how far they will go in this year’s postseason (Final 4, Sweet 16, NIT, friend’s couch, etc.).
I’ll let el Kaiser expand on this… he probably has more insight than I. I’m thinking Sweet 16, though.

Bonus Question:
It’s time again for annual “rip on the BCS” party! In your opinion, what is the best way for college football to determine its National Championship?
Current BCS system, current system plus one, 16-team playoff, 4-team playoff, something totally cool I’ve never even thought of before?

The BCS system has problems, but most people don’t realize the problems we’d encounter with a playoff system. I still think the BCS could be tweaked to be more credible.

Remember, the problem the BCS was created to solve was NOT to “match up the two best teams in the country.” ESPN is pushing that myth. Remember how bad it was in the late 90s, when teams couldn’t be matched up due to bowl affiliations? That’s what the BCS system addressed. How to get someone like 1997 Michigan out of the Rose Bowl, so that it could play 1997 Nebraska for a no-questions, undisputed, winner-takes-all matchup.

The BCS was designed to match up the teams ranked #1 and #2, giving them a way out of any potential contractual bowl obligation. That is NOT the same as “matching up the two best teams.” It’s the voters who determine who is #1 and #2, not the BCS.

Therefore, improve the voter polls, and you’ll make the BCS more credible. Step one would be to get rid of preseason rankings. Shoot, get rid of rankings altogether until bowl season nears. That fix alone could separate out the wheat from the chaff.

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