Monday, January 12, 2009

Blogpollery: the Final Countdown (plus, a FUN look back at the JCCW's preseason ballot)

Tempting as any number of G.O.B. clips are, there's also something to be said for headbanging cellists, correct?

Besides, banging one's head whilst trying to play the cello seems like an appropriate metaphor for the difficulty of arranging a top-25 ballot after the chaos of bowl season. This is what the JCCW came up with:

1 Florida 1
2 Utah 6
3 Texas --
4 Southern Cal 2
5 Oklahoma 4
6 Alabama 1
7 Texas Tech 2
8 Penn State 4
9 TCU 2
10 Mississippi 8
11 Boise State 1
12 Oregon 3
13 Oregon State 3
14 Iowa 7
15 Virginia Tech 2
16 Ohio State 7
17 California 6
18 Cincinnati 5
19 Georgia Tech 5
20 Georgia 2
21 Michigan State 1
22 Pittsburgh 3
23 Oklahoma State 11
24 Florida State 2
25 Missouri 1

Dropped Out: Boston College (#24), Northwestern (#25).

1-3: I think there's a perfectly legitimate argument to be made for Utah, but in the end, for me, finishing with zero losses against the Sagarin No. 56 schedule just isn't as much of an accomplishment as a resume with wins over Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Florida St., LSU, Miami, Kentucky, South Carolina, etc. The Utes' Alabama, TCU, and Oregon St. wins are awful nice. But past that, there's just not the depth of schedule that the Gators faced, and one loss to what ended up being an outstanding Ole Miss team isn't enough to counterbalance things. In fact, I seriously considered moving Texas to No. 2; between the Oklahoma win and equally-understandable nature of Texas's loss, it's perfectly justifiable to have the 'Horns second, or maybe even first. (Both Texas and UF have one loss and neutral-site Oklahoma victories, and it's hard to hold Texas's lack of a conference title against it when it was denied that possibility for the flimsiest of reasons.) But in the end I can't give the 'Horns a whole lot of credit for narrow victories over Ohio St., Missouri, and Oklahoma St. teams that, in retrospect, just aren't that impressive.

4-9: You could order the two-loss brigade just about any which way you chose and it would make some sort of sense. Between their Big 10 wins and the Pac-10's bowl dominance, I did think Southern Cal was a pretty decisive No. 4, though. Behind them, Oklahoma's only losses of the season came to Texas and Florida while dominating everyone else; Alabama also lost just twice to two of the top-3, and even as they lost to Utah the wins over Ole Miss, Georgia, and LSU appreciated in value; Texas Tech can't drop too far when they're still the only team to beat Texas and the Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri wins all got better; and TCU, losers only to Utah (who they beat everywhere but on the scoreboard) and Oklahoma became the only team to beat Boise St. There's a pretty sizeable gap between this bunch and ...

10: ... Ole Miss, the most schizophrenic team in the country. They finish the season with the only win over the national champs and a dominating beatdown of a two-loss Texas Tech team. But even those victories don't erase losses to Vandy, Wake Forest, and South Carolina, all of which seem nigh-on impossible given the way the
Rebels finished the season. But they count just the same, and they mean you can't fairly rank the Rebels any higher than this.

11-13: Boise beat Oregon who beat Oregon St., with all three having reasons--12-1 record, huge bowl win, USC victory--to stay out in front of the next group of teams.

14-18: This must seem awful high for Iowa, but scan over the rest of the poll, and try to find me a win in the ballpark of "vs. Penn St." Neither Virginia Tech nor Ohio St. have one, certainly--of those two, Tech has good wins but some bad losses while the Buckeyes have understandable losses but no win better than "at Michigan St.," and that's a pretty lousy best win. Cal has four losses, but that Oregon win is looking spiffier than ever and the L to Arizona looks more explicable after the Wildcats ambushed BYU. It's enough to nudge them in front of Cincy, another no-bad-losses-but-no-particularly-good-wins team.

19-21: Georgia Tech beat Georgia who beat Michigan St. There's an argument to be made that Georgia, with just three losses, has done enough to move past the likes of the Jackets and Bearcats ... but when beating the relatively toothless Spartans (whose own claims to fame are a lucky home win over Iowa and not losing to anyone outside the top-25) immediately gives you your best win of the season, you don't have a lot of room for griping.

22-24: Pitt and Florida St. each have one solid win (Iowa, Va. Tech) and enough decent ones across the schedule to make up for some questionable losses. Sandwiched between them is Oklahoma St., the bowl season's Emperor's New Clothes Award winner. How did I not realize beforehand that when your best win is a squeaker over Missouri and you're next-best win is ... drum roll please... Houston, you're probably not that good no matter how understandable your three losses are? If I'd figured this out before bowl season, I'd have taken Oregon and won my bowl pool. Dammit.

25-waitlist: I took a look at West Virginia, but the last slot finally came down to Missouri and Nebraska. Missouri crushed the Huskers in Lincoln, so that was simple enough.

And thus ends the JCCW's first season of Blog Polling. I figure now's as good a time as any to look back on my first ballot of the season and see what I had right and what I had way, way wrong.

The bad

--Like everyone else, I fell for the Clemson hype: they were seventh. The other stuff where I was just one of the crowd, though, I'll skip to focus on my rankings that were closer to outliers.

--The SEC West viewpoint was totally backwards. I had LSU and Auburn in the top-10 with Ole Miss on the fringe and Alabama totally out of the poll--the truth was something like the opposite, except that LSU and Auburn were even worse than the opposite. Yikes.

--I can't believe I thought a team as lucky as 2007 Tennessee would turn into a successful team in 2008 while replacing both their starting QB and offensive coordinator. Stupid.

--Georgia and Ohio St. 1-2. Not quite. Maybe offensive creativity does count for something, huh?

--USF as the 11th-ranked Big East champion. Time to stop expecting Grothe and Leavitt to put it all together, I guess.

--Penn St. seven slots below Wisconsin and generally lower than the poll-at-large.

--Kansas No. 17? Illinois No. 24? Apparently I need to recognize that sometimes there really are such things as fluke years.

The good

--Only one other preseason voter had West Virginia ranked lower than yours truly. And as far as I can tell, I was the only voter who had Pitt ranked ahead of the Mountaineers. Yay?

--Likewise, even if Ole Miss at No. 25 was way too low only five voters even had them in their preseason poll at all.

--Both Texas and Texas Tech were too low, but at least I had them in what ended up being the right order.

--Sliding Utah into my second Mountain West slot would have been smarter than going with TCU at No. 23, higher than anyone else in the poll ... but hey, at least I didn't go with Fresno St as this year's WAC darling.

Conclusion: SEC bloggers who rank Georgia over Florida and Alabama fourth in the SEC West don't get to feel good about themselves, but it could have been worse.

A little bit of Real Life to attend to first, but the Works should be along this afternoon.

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