MotSaG Mythbusters

OSU and LSU “backed in” to the Bourbon Bowl; were “arbitrarily picked.”

OSU and/or LSU were listed in either first or second place for seven of the eight weeks the BCS was being calculated. The two teams accounted for 56% of all first- or second-place BCS votes in 2007. The remaining 44% of votes were spread out across six other teams, two of which are no longer ranked at all.

Anyone who claims surprise or alarm at the fact that these two teams are meeting for the title was simply not paying attention all season long. The Buckeyes and Tigers dominated the polls for the entire 2007 season.

LSU is faster; has that dreaded “ESS EE SEE SpeEEEeeddd.”

Nope. OSU is faster across the board. The only true reality about SEC speed is the bumper sticker hubris attached to it (“Slowhio,” indeed).

It doesn’t matter anyway. Coaching, penalties, mental mistakes, turnovers, and men named Stephan Pamon are far more likely to impact a game than negligible differences in 40-times.

OSU had a pathetic schedule, so [insert my favorite team here] should be getting a title shot.

Really? Like who?

Oklahoma? Using Sagarin, The Sooners schedule was ranked 59th (to OSU’s 62nd). Negligible difference, yet Oklahoma had one more loss than the Buckeyes did.

USC? 2-1 vs the top 30, OSU was 3-1 vs the top 30. And again, the Trojans had two losses on the season.

By the way, Arkansas’ SOS rank (64th) is lower than OSU’s, yet they beat LSU. Interesting.

Most importantly, though, is that OSU’s sole loss was to its conference’s second-place team, one that finished ranked and headed to a BCS bowl game. It wasn’t to one of the worst teams in its conference, like Colorado or Stanford.

It’s folly to mock a team’s schedule when the team you’re advocating as a replacement (1) had more losses, and (2) had losses against the patsies on its own schedule. If OSU had two losses, and one of them was against a team like Minnesota or Northwestern or Akron, then you’d have a point.

In all fairness, of course Ohio State’s competition in 2007 was of overall lower quality than in years past. The same goes for the entire country, though. OSU typically schedules at least one marquee non-conference game each year: Texas in 05/06, USC in 08/09, Miami (Fl) in 09/10, etc. There was no way to predict that Washington would lay an egg this year – when they were scheduled, they were contending for the Pac 10 title.

Pfef put it very well:

“Ohio State had one loss, by a touchdown, to a team that will probably end up in the Rose Bowl, and won their conference outright. In my book, that’s a bit more deserving than teams that lose in games which their favored by 41 points (like USC to Stanford), twice when ranked #1 (like LSU to currently unranked UK and Arkansas), or to 6-6 squads (Like Georgia to South Carolina)… The results say that Ohio State is more deserving than teams that failed to bring their A-Game on a week to week basis, and it’s an injustice to the world if an underachieving squad makes it in instead of an arguably overachieving Ohio State.”

LSU will be healthy, so they’ll destroy OSU like they did Virginia Tech.

First, I don’t understand how LSU being healthy somehow makes the Buckeyes play like the Hokies (i.e., not show up to play on defense, working through a rotating-QB controversy on offense).

Still, though, some are saying that the Buckeyes are in trouble, because LSU will “finally be healthy.” Every time I hear that, it sounds like someone’s trying to find excuses for some pretty average performances through the middle to end of the Tigers’ season.

OSU suffered from plenty of team-affecting injuries, too, and persevered. Consider Beanie Wells. In his last five games, he averaged 164 yards per game (at 6.0 yards per carry). At least one of those teams (PSU) has a better rush defense than LSU. And yet, he did all this with a bone chip in his ankle, tweaked knee, and sprained hand – injuries that should be largely healed for the big game.

Also, the Buckeyes lost a heavily-used RB (Saine), their slot receiver (Sanzenbacher), and their starting defensive end (Wilson) earlier in the season, among many others. Yet none used injuries as an excuse for the poor performance against Illinois. Furthermore, all are expected to be back to contribute significantly against Red Beaulieu and his merry band of foolsball players, which should even out any advantage LSU has in bringing its players to the field healthy. Good. OSU’s best vs. LSU’s best makes for a far better game, no matter what the outcome.

LSU was “unbeaten in regulation,” and so really doesn’t have two losses. Just two OT losses, which aren’t really losses. Because they didn’t happen in regulation, where LSU was victorious (because they didn’t lose). In fact, they are so far away from actually being losses that one could call them “incomplete victories.” Yes. That’s it. LSU has 11 victories and 2 incomplete victories. And no losses.

Uh… whatever *rolls eyes*.

You’ve gotta admit, though, this “undefeated in regulation” campaign was, if not logical or intelligent, at least original. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the school’s sports information director was up until 3 a.m. on Sunday (Dec. 1), emailing voters and stumping for LSU with the “undefeated” argument. Spin? Of course. Effective? Absolutely. For those of you keeping count, that’s two years in a row that an SEC team has stumped its way into the title game. Maybe the heads of the other power conferences should be taking notes.

But back to this “undefeated” argument. Here’s an idea: Maybe we could use the same logic to make another point, that LSU actually has four losses. You know, in two games, they lost in regulation, and then lost in OT. They failed to win two games, even though they had two attempts each time to do so. Sounds like four losses to me. And just as logical as Beulieu’s argument.

Or, we could abandon this nonsense and move on. Groovy? Groovy.

If Florida could destroy a great Ohio State team with such ease last year, then LSU should absolutely crush an arguably weaker Ohio State squad this year.

We’ll be diving deeper into the analysis over the next 10 days, but I’ll summarize it this way: anyone who is expecting OSU to look and play like it did last year is in for a surprise. The differences between this team and last year’s couldn’t be more vast, in either talent or attitude.

SI’s Austin Murphy had a few wise things to say about the latter:

“The biggest difference is that the boys in Scarlet and Gray won’t be getting smoke blown up their backsides [the month before the game]. The Buckeyes took the field against the Gators almost believing their success to be inevitable — an attitude bordering on entitlement. As Boone recalls, ‘We had Troy, we had Teddy [Ginn], we had Gonzo’ — future first-rounder Anthony Gonzalez. The feeling, he recalls: ‘We have all these superstars, so, we’ll pass block a little bit, we’ll get the ball off, we’ll jog up the field’ to the new spot.

This time around, the Buckeyes are hearing how unworthy they are to play for the title, ‘how we’re gonna get killed,’ says Boone. ‘You hear that for a month, you start getting pissed off.’

Welcome to Florida’s world, Ohio State. On the field after that 41-14 blowout last January, I was struck by how deeply many Gators had been offended by — and drawn motivation from –predictions of a Buckeyes romp.’

As for the differences in talent, he goes on:

“It’s to the benefit of Boone and All-America right tackle Kirk Barton that the Tigers have no pass-rushers on a par with [Florida defensive ends] Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss, who combined for five sacks… ‘Everybody doubts us, says we don’t deserve to be here,’ admits shutdown corner Malcolm Jenkins. ‘They don’t give us a chance. We feel comfortable in that role.’ “

In short, Ohio State matches up much, much better against LSU than it did last year against Florida. Plus, the hubris of LSU (and ESPN on its behalf) has given the Buckeyes a totally different attitude, helping the team to angrily define its underdog role. The entire situation is apples to last year’s oranges.


  1. fan-freaking-tastic post!

    i’ll be waiting for your upcoming analysis eagerly.

    keep it up, PLEASE!

  2. “There was no way to predict that Washington would lay an egg this year”

    How about when they hired Ty? zing…

    *Thanks, i’ll be here all week.*

    Seriously, the only school that has a legitimate beef is Hawaii. Much of your post is dedicated to the idea that you can only play who you schedule. The fact that other teams are running away from them shouldn’t be held against Hawaii. That’s why, frankly, i’m more interested in the Sugar bowl that the Mythical National Championship game. Something tangible is actually on the line. Who cares about a sponsor provided crystal ball when you can watch ( and hope for ) the continual rise of parity in CFB?

  3. lane –
    TYVM. 😉

    I do think that there is a line somewhere where SOS differences become important. I don’t think it’s all that big a deal when comparing a #62 Ohio State to a #59 Oklahoma, for instance; or even to a #21 LSU.

    But Hawai’i’s SOS is 137! That’s lower than a couple of dozen I-AA schools. To me, differing by ~100 on SOS is not negligible.

    It’s not about punishing Hawai’i for having soft competition, it’s about fundamental fairness (to the I-AA schools that are not allowed to be ranked in I-A or play in their bowl games; otherwise, Appy State could make an argument that it deserves a title shot more than Hawai’i does).

    IMO, if Hawai’i is unsatisfied with its level of competition in the WAC, then it has the freedom to leave the WAC and seek higher competition elsewhere, like Va Tech did when it left the Big East.

    I sure hope Hawai’i maintains a consistent level of play, and earns that respect from the power conferences. I’d love to see them playing teams from the BCS conferences more often.

  4. sportsMonkey-

    wrt to SOS, you may have a point, but I guess it depends on what criteria you use to rank teams. I don’t agree with saying a team that plays a “stronger” schedule and has losses is more deserving of a title shot than a team without losses but weaker schedule. Taken to the extreme, would an 0-12 with the #1 SOS would be better than a 12-0 team with a SOS of 100?

    AppState is not a DI-A school, so I can’t see how you could make an argument that they should compete for a D1-A postseason bowl. BTW, I-AA schools, as of this year, can be ranked by the AP.

    All I’m saying is that there is no real good argument for excluding certain teams from the BCS title game in favor of other teams. Not when the avg margin of victory for the BCS title games is over 2 TDs ( 15.3 pts to be exact ). If that is what happens when the elite of the “big boy” conferences get pitted against each other, frankly, i’m not impressed. I would rather see undefeated teams from non-BCS conferences get a shot than a 1,2 or 3 loss team from a BCS conference.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter since it is a BCS award and the BCS is a coalition of 6 conferences. They can include / exclude who they want. However, people who want to make an argument that it’s a national title are kidding themselves.

  5. In all fairness, that 15.3 points is largely a function of extreme statistical outliers in the form of 2004 and 2006 games (55-19 and 41-14, respectively). Remove those two games and the average margin becomes a lot closer: 10.7. One could even argue that 1999 (46-29) is an outlier, but that might be a bit much.

    Look here:

    I’m not one to exclude a non-BCS conference school simply on principle, but Hawaii’s schedule is so terrible this year that to include them over a 1 or 2 loss school who played major opponents would be a travesty. Taking SOS out of the equation and looking purely at the numbers, Hawaii’s 1A opponents had a cumulative 0.390 winning percentage. That’s a fucking travesty. Ohio State’s had a cumulative 0.500 (for comparison, Washington had the “toughest” schedule, with opponent’s having a cumulative 0.621 winning percentage). The important difference between Hawaii (rank 118th toughest) and the other candidate teams is that the drop from toughest to 73rd toughest (where OSU ranks) is only 0.121 winning percentage, versus a difference of 0.231 for Hawaii.

    So while I support non-BCS schools getting their shot, they have to at least be in the fucking ballpark in terms of competition. Hawaii simply didn’t play a schedule that’s remotely close to OSU’s or LSU’s in terms of difficulty.

  6. BeardGuy –

    if something makes up 20%-30% of the dataset, it can’t really be called an outlier. In this case, those 2 or 3 games you mentioned could be considered an outlier if there were 100+ BCS title games played. But since there have been only 9, they are just as valid as the 3 pt USC/UT game. In fact, one would have a better argument to call the USC/UT game the outlier since that’s the only game to have not been decided by 7 pts or more.

    Again, my argument was never to make a case for Hawaii having the best resume / claim to be in the title game. I’m arguing simply for a good, entertaining game. There is simply no correlation between wins, losses, conference and SOS of the teams in previous BCS title games to suggest that including teams w/ high SOS but losses makes for an interesting game. In fact, there is more evidence that including those kinds of teams leads to blow outs in the BCS title game. Last year, OSU had the #1 SOS according to that site you linked to above and that didn’t work out so well.

    All I’m saying is that in our quest to crown a “best team” every year, we’re missing out on opportunities to see some potentially great games. In 5-10 years, I won’t be telling my kids about Josh Heupel leading OU to a BCS title in ’00. I’ll be telling them about the amazing, unbelievable Fiesta Bowl Boise State won in ’06.

  7. Griffin – All good points.

    You wrote, “I’m arguing simply for a good, entertaining game.”

    While I agree that would be ideal, I think expecting the championship game to be the most exciting just because it’s 1 vs. 2 is unreasonable.

    Exciting games occur when two teams match up against each other very well… like the Boise St./Oklahoma game you mentioned. Or OSU/UM in 2006.

    And what defines “exciting,” anyway? Consider last night’s Purdue game. Down to the wire, over 1000 yards of offense, and won on a last second FG attempt. It was exciting, but it was exciting precisely because both defenses are absolutely horrific. Had one team’s defense been a little better, the game would have appeared lopsided, and more “boring.” The two teams just matched up well. Had nothing to do with their rankings.

    Same goes for whoever is in the top two spots… it’s possible that #s 1 and 2 match up well, and it’s possible they don’t.

    Look at this year’s lopsided World Series sweep. Or most Super Bowls. Lopsided most of the time.

    Again, a championship game in any sport is not really about creating the “most exciting matchup.” It’s about determining which of two teams is the best overall.

    If another bowl game ends up being more exciting, that’s just what makes CFB so darn awesome. 🙂

  8. SM,

    Very true. It’s not realistic and I don’t advocate subjugating 1 vs 2 in favor creating an exciting matchup. Although that just brings us full circle back to disagreeing as to how #1 and #2 are decided 🙂

    All I’m looking to do is get people to realize that sometimes, a team with 1,2,3 losses is really just not a very good team, whatever their SOS. There’s really no such thing as a good loss, which is what I think you start to discuss when you bring such things like SOS into the conversation. It’s that same kind of argument that the SEC advocates spew forth when they defend the conference as “too competitive” or “eating its own”.

    In the end, if this years game ends up in yet another blow out, perhaps we should just go ahead and try something different next year just to see if we get a different result. If game after game results in a blowout, what does it matter what kind of team is getting blow out? After all, the BCS game(s) are really just exhibition games.

    However, when people call into question the level of competition in the WAC, I point to the fact that in the last 5 years, there have been more teams from the WAC (2) and as many from the Mountain West (1) in the BCS as teams from the Pac-10 (1).

    What does that say about the level of competition of the Pac-10 ?

  9. Griffin –
    >>when people call into question the level of competition in the WAC, I point to the fact that in the last 5 years, there have been more teams from the WAC (2) and as many from the Mountain West (1) in the BCS as teams from the Pac-10 (1)<< That's very interesting, I hadn't realized that. Just off the top of my head, though, it might be fair to be specific about the # of teams... you actually mean "# of different" teams, not number of conference representatives (USC has gone to the BCS six years in a row). Such a shame how the Pac 10 was riddled with injuries this year. No doubt had Dixon stayed healthy, the Pac 10 would have sent two teams this year to the BCS. This probably means that Kansas, Hawaii, or West Virginia would have been left out. Amazing how one player's injury can affect the entire CFB landscape. Or... consider this: remember the Oregon/Oklahoma game last year? The one where the refs gave the game to Oregon? Had that not happened, Oklahoma would have played OSU for the BCS title, and it likely would have been someone else playing Boise St. for that classic game. Very unlikely that the game would have been anywhere near as exciting. Again, I find it fascinating how one mistake, made early in September by a referee, can affect the entire football landscape.

  10. sportsMonkey,

    Right, I meant # of different teams.

    WVU & Hawaii would have gone regardless. Hawaii automatically qualified by being in the top 12 of the BCS rankings and WVU got the Big East automatic bid.

    Not sure I agree with the riddled with injuries part. Oregon, perhaps, but if your team is dependent on one player, you’re not much of a team. But even they weren’t as bad as UCLA or Cal. Cal lost 6 straight. SIX straight games. That’s horrible. ( Did you know that every team from the Pac-10 has gone to a BCS game but ASU, AZ and Cal? How does tedford still have a job? tangent, sorry… 🙂 )

    ASU was healty all year, and we saw what happened with them tonight. As for USC, frankly, I don’t get why people are so impressed with them. They lost to the only good team they faced ( Ore w/ Dixon ) and beat an bunch of Pac10 scrubs, including aforementioned ASU. They were even out-gained in the win vs. Cal.

    You’re right about last year too. Would have been interesting. But I think that’s what makes college football so compelling. Every game, every decision counts and has an impact nationally. No other sport can claim that.

  11. I think it’s very fair to call those scores statistical outliers in that the scores (from both of those games) lie more more two standard deviations from the mean (nearly 3 standard deviations, in fact). They are CLEARLY not representative of the remainder of the sample.

    I agree that, sometimes, a team with several losses is not very good, regardless of their SOS. The problem is this: what happens when a team underachieves either when it matters most (as OSU did last year) or all year (as some have argued the LSU has done this year)? There is no way of predicting which team will show up; the only insight we have into whether a game will be “good” or not is to base our judgment on the past achievements of teams and the context of those achievements. Certainly, this is a fair assessment of the potential of a game, isn’t it? While it’s vogue to slam teams that fail to perform on the big stage, (for example) there was virtually no doubt that OSU deserved to play for the championship last year. Hindsight being what it is, I’m unwilling to rewrite history to declare that teams who were blown out in the BCS championship game were undeserving. That’s revisionist history.

    Hence the problem. I have no doubt that Hawaii can play a competitive game with Georgia. However, based on their resume, I cannot legitimately moved them into a “better” or “higher” game. Likewise, there are many non-BCS teams that could create exciting matchups against perennial powerhouses; however, scheduling being what it is, they are prevented from having these opportunities by their lackluster regular season resumes. To resolve this, I personally favor the usage of centralized scheduling by the NCAA to create a more level playing field and allow non-perennial powerhouse teams the opportunity to create a better regular season resume by playing a tougher schedule (and allow the so-called “tough” SEC schedule to be brought down to mere mortal planes). Then, truly, we could say that “every game matters”.

  12. Interesting, no really. I love how you point out that PSU rush defense was better than LSU. Did you gorget to to mention that PSU also plays in your weak conference and that Gle Dorsey had his KNEE taken out by Auburn virtually making him very much ineffective the rest of the season. So LSU had the 3rd best defense in the country without thier stud DT not playing healthy, what a bunch of weak players we have…only 3rd best defense, playing in THE Souteastern Conference against real football teams.
    So goa ahead and call Les Miles Red and talk about Southern football, you bowl-winless against the SEC idiots.

    BTW, I do respect your football team and do think they are underrated. I do think ya’ll would have beaten Michigan by much more in better weather, That being said, you’d be in the middle tier of teams (Tenn, Bama, Kentucky) if you played in the SEC.

    Good Luck to your Bucknuts……
    and GEAUX Tigers!!!!!!!!!!!

    LSU 24-20

  13. BeardGuy,

    I think the sample size ( n=9 ) is far to small to try and generate meaningful stats. You have to eyeball the stats to interpret them. And to me, seeing more than half the games decided by 11 points or more is telling.

    I like your idea for the centralized scheduling, however.

    Don’t get me started on the SEC claims. if you look back at the BCS bowl representatives that each conference has sent over the past tean years, you’ll see that the SEC is far more top heavy than the Pac-10 or Big 10. If you look at the numbers, 70% of the teams in the Pac-10 have participated in at least one BCS game. 7 out of 11 Big 10 teams ( 63% ) have participated in at least one BCS game. Compare both of those percentages to the SEC, where only 6 ( out of 12 ) teams have participated. Of the 14 appearances by an SEC team, 11 have been by 3 teams ( 4 – LSU 4 – UF 3 – UGA).

    Is sure seems like the SEC is worse compared to the Big 10 when it comes to equality and parity. For all of the SEC “eats its own” talk, there sure seem to be the same teams year after year making it to the BCS.

  14. AZTigerFan –

    I usually don’t respond to trolls, but

    >>…you bowl-winless against the SEC idiots.

    BTW, I do respect your football team and do think they are underrated.<< LOL! Some respect, there. BTW, if the Big 10 is such a bad conference, how come the SEC always loses to the Big 10 year after year? Last year alone, the Big 10 went 4-1 against the SEC. This year, the team that competed for the SEC title (and almost won it) couldn't even beat the 7th best team in the Pac 10. Funny how some folks are talking about sample sizes in the comments section here, yet the SEC fans are using _one victory_ as the stereotypical example of their superiority, when year after year the SEC proves its overall inferiority to every other major conference. In fact, the only thing the SEC DOES do well year after year is marketing itself.

  15. 0-7, soon to be 0-8

  16. 7 out of 11 Big 10 teams

    Hmmmmm, don’t you mean Big 11?????

  17. AZTigerFan,

    I didn’t name the conference. Though the 11 is in the logo and there is 11 teams, it’s still the Big 10. Go figure.

  18. Griffin,
    Funny that I am compared to Bobby Boucher, yet you can’t even get yopur facts straight. Let me break it down for ya. This info was very easy to obatin on the internet sir. Just go to:

    SEC BCS appearances:
    LSU 3-0
    Auburn 1-0
    Florida (who ya’ll know well) 3-1
    Georgia 1-1
    Tennessee 1-1
    Bama 1-1

    *Combined 7 appearances by LSU and UF, 6-1 record. Georgia has 2 appearances not 3 and lost to #11 WVU last year 38-35, Georgia was not ranked

    Big 11 BCS appearances:
    Wisconsin 2-0
    PSU 1-1
    OSU 4-1
    Michigan 1-3
    Purdue 0-1
    * Combined 11 appearanced by the BuckNuts, Wisconsin and Michigan, 5-4

    Let’s see that is 6 SEC Schools out of 12 = .500
    5 Big 11 schools out of 11 = .450

    One last thing: Overall BCS winning percentage
    SEC .692 (9-4)
    Big 11 .533 (8-7)

    To borrow your phrase at OSU> This is THE Southeastern Conference, the one your BucNuts have never beat in a bowl game.

    Your response??????

  19. typo…Bama is 0-1, not 1-1.

    Darn fangled computer thing

  20. AZTigerFan,

    Couple of things:
    1 ) LSU & Georgia are in the BCS this year.
    2 ) WVU beat UGA two years ago.
    3 ) I miscounted UTs second appearance. That makes 15 total SEC appearances.
    4 ) Iowa and Illinois are still in the Big 10, right? That’s 7.
    5 ) PSU beat UT last year in a bowl game.
    6 ) i’m not an OSU fan.

  21. Actually, thast’s 6: LOL

    1) Your point?

    2) I agree that WVU beat Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl, so technically it was last year but two seasons ago

    3) OK, fair enough

    4) my apologies. I forgot about those two teams, you are correct sir.
    Illinois and Iowa are both 0-1 wich is included in your Big 11 record

    5) and???

    6) Me either. LOL

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