Ohio State Football, Sports

Who Wants to be Number 1?

10.19.07 | Comment?

What a wacky college football season we’re having. The pre-season Top 10 have all lost at least one game. The team the computers deemed as top of the heap, University of South Florida (an aside, it’s located in west, central Florida – how can it be called South Florida?) was beaten by Rutgers last night marking the third time in 3 weeks the #2 ranked team has been beaten…

I’m an Ohio State fan and I can honestly say, I expected the Buckeyes to be at 7-0 at this time of the year. Don’t believe me, read the season preview…But I can also honestly say, I had zero expectation that they would be ranked #1 coming into this week. Heck, this is a rebuilding year. The one thing that they’ve managed to do is beat the teams they are supposed to beat pretty soundly. The problem with this is in the national media is that the schedule is back-end loaded. The first 7 opponents sport a 19-25 win-loss record. The last 5 opponents (as of this date) sport a 25-10 win-loss record.

But enough about Ohio State, back to the question at hand: Who Wants to be Number 1?

Yes, I’m sure every team in the country want’s to be #1, but who’s playing like it? Unless and until Ohio State, Arizona State, Kansas, Boston College, and Hawaii lose, I’ll argue regardless of who they’ve played, they’ve taken care of the business; they deserve consideration. Does this mean that they would beat every one loss team in the land? No. In fact, this year, the parity we’re seeing makes me believe there’s not as much difference between the teams in Division IA as people want to believe.

Want an example? Kentucky beat LSU at home in 3 OTs, while there is no shame in losing on the road to a ranked opponent in overtime, but it’s still a loss. Here’s something very interesting to note: Earlier in the season, Kentucky beat Kent State and their defense allowed 453 yards in this affair, 324 of them rushing. During the 3 OT game (OT included in the stats) Kentucky gave up 403 yards to LSU, 261 on the ground. Does this mean that Kent State has a more explosive offense than LSU?

Riddle me this, in that same game Kentucky vs Kent State, Kentucky’s offense put up 484 yards on the Golden Flashes. Kentucky put up 375 yards on LSU, is there really only a 100 yard differential between Kentucky’s offense with a Heisman Trophy candidate and a 3-4 Mid-American Conference team? Is the Kent State offense really 50 yards better than LSU? Both games were played at Kentucky. Undoubtably the Kentucky team was more intensely focused for the LSU game. Now, here’s the real head scratcher, when Kent State played Ohio State (also on the road for KSU – they couldn’t get space in Kentucky’s stadium for the game – ha,ha) Ohio State amassed 401 yards on offense and held Kent State to 223 yards on defense. If there’s such a big difference between a “good” team like LSU and a “soft” team like Ohio State, using common opponents in similar situations, shouldn’t there be a large differential observed in actual on-field production against common opponents? That’s what I mean about parity, you just don’t know this year.

In the quest to find out who wants to be number 1, we should start with the teams lined up in the pole position at the start of the season. How has that preseason Top 10 performed? Oklahoma lost to unranked Colorado? What about USC? Lost to cellar dweller Stanford, at home. Cal lost to unranked Oregon State. Florida has lost twice! So has Texas for that matter. Wisconsin jumped the shark dropping two in a row after living on the edge all season. Michigan didn’t just lose two, the lost to a IAA team and were blown out by Oregon at home. South Florida lost to unranked Rutgers. Louisville, the one team that’s perhaps even more disappointing than Michigan dropping 3 and one to Syracuse…It’s hard to see any of these teams, at this point in the season, making a legitimate claim for #1.

There is a cadre of one loss teams where the loss is a “good loss.” Virginia Tech was blown out at LSU, but this was a loss against highly ranked team on the road at night. Since then, they’ve taken care of business and have shown improvement, though their offense is still troubling. South Carolina, a loss on the road to LSU. Again, strong defense, the offense is troubling. Oregon, a loss at home to Cal. The Bear defense is troubling. Missouri lost to Oklahoma, the defense is cause for concern. LSU lost to Kentucky, the defense looks softer than previously thought. West Virginia lost to South Florida, the offense and defense are now troubling. I can see a #1 emerging from this group as their losses are “understandable” in as much as losses can be understood. But, to make this happen, the unbeatens need to fall.

What about these teams? Texas Tech lost a shoot out to a bad Oklahoma State team, defense as always is the question with them, but they’re still 6-1. Virginia lost its season opener to Wyoming and has bounced back with 6 straight wins including beating previous unbeaten Connecticut. And what about Connecticut who’s only loss is to Virginia? Finally there’s Cincinnati, who blew out Oregon State who beat Cal, but lost to Rutgers. It’s unlikely a #1 will emerge from this group, but it’s also about time they enter the rankings.

So, who wants to be #1? Teams that take care of business. In the running for #1 are the unbeatens and the “good loss” one loss teams, and then everyone else. The way the season has been going, the only thing you can count on is surprise. So, it’s tough to imagine that there will be more than one unbeaten team at the end of the season…Let’s watch the final few weeks play out and see who really wants to be #1. After all, it doesn’t really matter who’s in that spot now. It only matters in the final regular season BCS ratings and then in mid-January. There’s still alot of football to be played.

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