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USC, BCS & the Meaning of a Trophy

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After Reggie Bush got his Heisman stripped, and USC got punished by NCAA, the BCS finally joined the party stripping USC of their 2004 BCS National Title. This sound like a really big deal. After all, it is the national title that all of these college football teams are playing for, right?

And yet, taking away the BCS trophy doesn’t change who won the championship game. Doesn’t change the fact that the runner up got completely embarrassed and proved to all they had no business even being in the game. Doesn’t change the money that USC made along the way, doesn’t change the exposure that USC players got and other players didn’t get. Doesn’t really have any impact on anything going forward for USC.

Of course that doesn’t mean there was something wrong with the BCS making this call. It’s what is within their power to change. Everyone else has stripped USC of what they could, why shouldn’t the BCS do the same.

However, I think it’s worth taking a moment to realize how little these official crowns mean. We all know who the best team was, and what they did wrong. It’s up to each of us decide how to weight those two facts when evaluating what was accomplished.

But let’s apply it one step further. In 2003 USC did not win the BCS Championship, and so didn’t lose it this past week. They did however win the championship as crowned by the AP Poll, the most respected college football poll there is. Those who were paying attention back then that USC didn’t just top the AP Poll but the Coaches Poll as well before the Bowls, meaning that among the human voters determining BCS Championship participants, USC was the clear choice. USC didn’t play in that game because of the series of deeply flawed computer polls that the BCS has insisted on using (and abusing through reactionary demands) through the years.

So USC is in a unique position already. With it being the only team that humans agreed was the best team in the nation to not get to play in the BCS Championship, USC supporters are already well aware of how meaningless the BCS Championship Trophy is. For those keeping score at home, this means that the BCS has now chosen twice to exclude the best team in the country from being its Champion, and both of those teams were from USC. Can you imagine how little this current decision means to USC supporters then?

As I’ve said, the BCS has a right to do what it wants in response to ethical violations. Practically though, I question how wise it is to further make clear that BCS Champion does not necessarily mean “best team”.

Reflecting on Cam Newton; Remembering Barry Sanders

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As you might imagine with my insistence on talking about Player of the Year instead of MVP when looking at the NBA, I don’t like to take stock on what athletes accomplish until season’s end.  So I held off really evaluating Cam Newton‘s accomplishments until after the National Championship.  That game came and went, and I started putting Newton up against the guy who I consider college football’s gold standard in recent years, Vince Young.

Cam Newton vs Vince Young

Briefly, Newton’s got the bigger stats over all, but part of that is simply a decision by Auburn to focus more around Newton than Texas did with Young.  This increased focus around one running quarterback is part of a general trend, and why I’ve previously said it’s unreasonable to expect a typical star running back to match the impact of someone like Newton.  If you go back and look at the numbers for the Tommie Fraziers and Michael Vicks of the world, it’s amusing to look at how small they are compared to the Newtons, Youngs, and Tim Tebows.

Auburn was more reliant on Newton than Texas on Young, but Texas’ dominance was significantly greater.  Auburn was really quite lucky to go undefeated, Texas was not.  Given that, and Young’s two amazing bowl performances, I still lean toward Young as the more accomplished college player.

What these comparisons really got me thinking about though was Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State.  Hopefully those who saw my previous rant about the relative impotence of running backs in college football knew that Sanders is in his own category.  Still, the more I think about Sanders, the more his superiority over EVERYONE, quarterbacks included, is glaring.

Barry Sanders, Greatest of All Time Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

January 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm

6 Thoughts from Auburn vs Oregon

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1. Great game.  One of the best national championship games we’ve seen in recent years.

2. Disappointed to see a game get decided on a play like Dyer’s big run.  Oregon has no right to complain that it was a bad call, but there’s a clear reality that such a play is not something that can be replicated reliably by the team that benefitted from it.  Meanwhile, from the Oregon players’ perspective, clearly if there was no fear of being called for personal fouls, Dyer gets taken down.  It’s only the bizarre context of football with fears of being incorrectly seen as malicious that allowed Auburn to benefit here, and that’s a shame.

3. I was really glad Oregon got that last touchdown.  Not simply because it made the game more competitive, but because it helped damp down some of the silly narrative implying that Auburn was simply in a different league than Oregon.  The Cowherds of the world are still saying Auburn was clearly the better team, but until the last fluky drive, Oregon had gained more yards, and could’ve been up a couple touchdowns if this had broken slightly different in the red zone.

4. Cam Newton was still valuable for Auburn, but I was disappointed.   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

January 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm

You Damn Well Better Give Cam Newton the Heisman

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Okay, first things first.  Cam Newton still has to play the SEC Championship game there – so this post is in some ways premature.  I write it because:

1) Newton’s so far out in front of everyone else now, it’s hard to imagine anything could possibly justify considering him other than the most outstanding player in the country.

2)  People are actually, and ridiculously, telling voters to NOT vote for Newton.

Cam Newton is Very Good

First, a refresher on point (1)…

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