Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why Texas should be in the Big 12 Championship game (and other assorted takes)

This is a place that I'm sure that Big 12 ADs wish they'd never be in. A three-way tie to be broken by the BCS poll, and by extension, by voters in the coaches and Harris poll, many of whom might have a vested interest in one team or another. It has been pointed out elsewhere that Mack Brown, if he chose to do so, could vote OU out of the poll, thereby putting Texas in the championship game.

That being said, it is the system they have, and two out of the three teams will be unfairly snubbed. In my mind, the team that should get the nod is Texas.

It's clear that Oklahoma has the best offense in the conference, and maybe the best in the country. They have scored over 60 points in their last four games, and over 50 in 8 of 12. Their offensive line is dominating everyone in sight, Sam Bradford is clinical in his accuracy, they have a gaggle of talented running backs and receivers and you get the feeling they could name their score in just about every game.

But it's just as clear that Texas has the best defense in the conference. Texas is the only one of the contenders that has played all the top teams in the conference (OU, Texas, Tech, Kansas and Missouri -- although Nebraska is probably better than KU), and has held each on of them to less points than their season average. They are first in the conference in Scoring, Rushing, and Total Defense, and second in Pass Efficiency Defense.

Each of the three teams went 4-1 in their toughest five games, but Texas played only 2 of those at home, with a road win at Kansas, a neutral game win against OU, and a road loss to Texas Tech. OU played 3 of five at home, with only the road win at OSU and loss to Texas away from Norman. Tech also played three games at home, with the road loss to OU and a win against Kansas. Furthermore, Texas played the second half of their only loss without their best defensive player, Brian Orakpo. Does OU win the Bedlam game if Bradford goes down in the second half? Bottom line, the best two teams in the league played on a neutral field and Texas won. End of story.

Other stuff:
-I found it appropriate that Minnesota lost its last game at the Metrodome 55-0 to Iowa. When The Gophers started playing their home games at the Hubert H. Humphrey, they were one of the top 15 teams all-time, having won almost 64% of their games. Since that time they have won only 41.67% of the time. They are .520 at home, which is inflated quite a bit by a number of FCS and lower FBS opponents. They were 0-12 in the battle for the Little Brown Jug, and 0-11 against the Buckeyes. Attendance at the off-campus facility was awful, centering around 40 to 45k out of 64k capacity for most of their history there. This is not to say that the new on-campus facility will cure all that ails Gopher football, but it's a good place to start.
-I also can't help but think there is some sort of metaphor for Gopher Football in this story.
-For all of those making fun of the ACC this year, better get your licks in now, because it looks like it will be much improved next year. Miami and FSU are young and very athletic. Cutcliffe has done a great job at Duke. Carolina will be better if Butch Davis doesn't bolt. Clemson might finally stop being so wildly inconsistent with a new coaching staff in place. And Paul Johnson has done wonders at Georgia Tech this year. Give him one more year to perfect his offense, and it will be nearly unstoppable (if it isn't already)
-BTW, for the first time in forever, the ACC had a winning record against the SEC this year, despite Florida's demolishing of FSU and Miami. They've jumped ahead of both the SEC and the Big 12 in the most recent Golden Rankings (to be posted later today).
-Although I'd like to see USC play somewhere other than the Rose Bowl, I'm glad that Penn State gets a crack at them. Anyone who wants to include USC in the championship discussion should include Penn State since the Knitknees beat Oregon State by 31 and USC lost by a TD to them.
-One of things I enjoy about the Thanksgiving weekend is watching the Michigan High School championship football games from Ford Field. Eight games involving teams from throughout the state running all sorts of offenses, from pro-set, to the spread option, to the wing-T, and even to the single-wing. It's like a walk through the history of offensive football. This year it was a big year for the western side of the state, with three teams from Muskegon winning championships, along with East Grand Rapids, Holland, and Rockford.