Sunday, 04 November 2007

“But you can’t have a one-loss team ranked ahead of an unbeaten.”

Yeah? Why not?

Here’s the rub, looking at the latest AP poll and BCS rankings:

Ohio State may be unbeaten, but they haven’t exactly had a tough time in their lossless season. Of the three ranked teams they’ve played, and beaten, none of those teams have been ranked higher than 21. The Big Ten is not so big this season.

LSU, on the other hand, plays in the toughest conference in the land, widely acknowledged as such by the sports media and honest college football coaches and fans. As Mark May said one night on College GameDay Final, “Where do NFL scouts go first? The SEC.” LSU has played twice as many ranked teams to date as OSU, with a record of 5-1 against those opponents. None of those opponents were ranked lower than 17.

Sure, LSU hasn’t been putting up the big numbers against their opponents like the Buckeyes have done, but it’s easy to pad the score and go undefeated when you’re playing a bunch of nobodies. And this nonsense about Kansas leapfrogging the Tigers should the Jayhawks go undefeated? Please. The case for Kansas being number one or two is weak. Their only win against a ranked team was in-state rival Kansas State, which clocked in on the October 6th game day at number 24. Oklahoma has a much better case, even with its one loss, at a higher ranking, since both of its wins came against teams ranked above twenty. The Big 12 as a conference isn’t its usual powerful self this season either, but based on their schedule, I’d still put the Sooners ahead of the Buckeyes—and right behind LSU.

The Tigers have definitely had the hardest road to the national championship, and unlike OSU or Oregon, will have to play one more game to get there. (Barring, that is, back-to-back stumbles against Ole Miss and Arkansas, both in the bottom half of the SEC West.) Looking at the rest of the season, it’s very likely that LSU will be facing a Top 10 opponent in Georgia for that contest, eclipsing by ranking the twelfth-ranked Wolverines OSU faces on the seventeenth.

Ever since, and including, the game against Florida, LSU has been it’s own worst opponent, not the folks on the other side of the ball. Ivan Maisel calls it. The Tigers have played sloppy and undisciplined. It cost them at Kentucky, and made for much closer games against Florida, Auburn, and Alabama. Yet the Tigers still find ways to win against teams the likes of which Ohio State has nightmares about (Florida in Glendale earlier this year), and Oregon prays they won’t have to play in the post-season.

Why is so hard for an undefeated team to emerge from the SEC? Because the conference is just that good. Witness the rankings this week: no conference has more teams in the Top 25 than the SEC. Last season, no conference played in more bowls than the SEC. Last season, no conference won more bowl games than the SEC. (No one won as many as the SEC did, either.) You want to talk strength of schedule? Start with the Southeastern Conference, because that’s where the strength not only lives, but has drilled deep to lay the foundation the rest of college football wishes its conferences were built upon. At least five members of the sports media got it right this week: they cast their number-one votes for the Fighting Tigers of LSU.

If Les Miles can, ahem, “enlighten” his team to the point that the same Tigers who dismantled number-nine Virginia Tech in the second week show up for the rest of the season, the SEC Championship, and the national title game, God help whomever their opponent is.


posted on November 4, 2007 8:45 PM

Copyright © 2002-2013 | XHTML 1.0 | CSS | Powered by Movable Type 4.2-en