Saturday, August 29, 2009


Last year, 2008, was going to be the year for BYU to bust the BCS. BYU entered the season ranked in the top 20, and all the media outlets were on the band wagon. Following an impressive 59-0 win over UCLA, stories with titles like “Could BYU land in the National Title Game” (Stewart Mandel,, and “Moving Mountain West into BCS Title Picture” (Dan Deinhart, started popping up on the Internet. Then, on October 16, 2008, that all came crashing down as TCU ambushed BYU en route to at devastating 32-7 upset.
This crushing defeat could be attributed to many factors. I believe one significant factor was the media hype. Having played football before, I know how distracting rankings can be. Coming from Utah, I know how exciting it is to have media attention there. Graduating from BYU, I know we feel entitled to success. My experience tells me that the players bought into the hype and were not very focused, otherwise the BCS might have been. Contrast that with 2006 and 2007, when the expectations were not as high. BYU posted back-to-back 11-2 seasons, back-to-back conference championships, and back-to-back bowl victories.
That loss to TCU and Utah’s subsequent Sugar Bowl win shifted the attention away from BYU. Although I greatly enjoyed the attention and frequent updates, I thought that the lack of attention would be better for the team to succeed in 2009. My optimism was growing that 2009 would be an exceptional year since the team would not have all the distractions. Now, however, the 2009 season is upon us, the media has forgotten last year and showering BYU with press time. (It doesn’t help that this year marks the 25th anniversary of BYU’s National Championship.) This is making me worry again how the team will react. How much did they really learn from last year? Throw in a possible upset of number 3 Oklahoma on September 5, and the attention and expectations will skyrocket.
I consider myself a true-blue Cougar all the way around, but I think we would all sacrifice some media coverage for more victories.

Friday, August 28, 2009

USA Today Top 25 Preseason Poll

When the preseason USA Today Top 25 (Coaches Poll) was released a few weeks ago, the coaches, definitely unintentionally, poured fuel on the fire that is BCS debate. The Mountain West Conference (MWC) had three teams ranked while the Big East had none. TCU was number 17, Utah was 18, and BYU was 24. The leading vote getter for the Big East was Cincinnati which would be number 29 if the rankings went that high. The BCS debate reached new proportions at the end of last season. The last thing that the BCS needed was for preseason rankings like this. Keep in mind this is the USA Today poll, which is part of the BCS formula.

Before going on, I am one who feels the MWC is better than the Big East and the MWC Champion can hold its own with the “Big Six” conference champions. I would love to see multiple MWC teams ranked above the Big East champion at the end of the year. However, MWC/“mid-major” fans need to temper our jubilee. First, a whole season needs to be played. Preseason expectations don’t put points on the scoreboard. Second, the Big East champion will be ranked at season’s end. How high? No one knows.

The Big East has no clear favorite. This is what the preseason USA Today Top 25 is reflecting. As I noted, Cincinnati was number 29 with 90 points, followed by Pittsburgh at 30 with 64 points, West Virginia at 31 with 55 points, and Rutgers at 32 with 51 points. It looks like most voters have at least one Big East team in their Top 25. They just don’t agree on which one is the best. As the season progresses, and one team separates itself from the others, the points that these four teams share will migrate to the one with the separation. The point total for these four teams is 260 points, which would be good for number 21 in the poll. At this point, the voters feel the Big East champion will be the 21st best team in the country. This is still good news for MWC fans, because two teams are still ranked above 21. Come season’s end, though, there is a 95% chance the Big East champion will be closer to number 12 than 21. Last year Cincinnati was ranked number 12 in the final BCS polls, as well as the final regular season USA Today poll. With an 11-2 won-loss record, that ranking can’t be criticized; it just was not foreseen in August. Expect the same this year, unless the Big East champion has three or four losses.

What’s the bottom line? Yes, the perception of the MWC is improving, but they have to back it up on the field. The MWC is in a position to have its champion ranked higher than the Big East champion again this year, but the MWC champ’s won-loss record will need to be two losses maximum.
The USA Today Top 25 can be found at:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The end of the 2008 College Football season saw the only undefeated team in the country Utah finish number 2 in the Associated Press poll. Now the 2009 season is dawning and Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel has questioned “BYU pulled off a miracle 25 years ago; will it ever happen again?” That is in reference to BYU’s 1984 National Championship. Why is it that 25 years later critics still want to invalidate the title BYU earned?

Its time to get defensive and justify, once and for all, BYU’s 1984 National Championship.

1.WON-LOSS RECORD. In 1984, BYU was 13-0 and the only undefeated team in the country. Why the controversy? Not only did the University of Washington have a loss (11-1), the Huskies were not even Pac-10 champions; therefore, why would they be the national champion? (Fun fact: BYU beat Washington 31-3 in 1985.) The University of Florida (9-1-1) had two blemishes on its record. Why would they be considered the champion over a team with no blemishes? Florida actually had three blemishes—NCAA rules violations. Even if they had been voted number 1, any reputable poll would have stripped Florida of the title, just as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) did.

2.CONSENSUS NUMBER 1. More recently (2003, 1997, 1991 and 1990) the major college football polls could not agree who was number 1. BYU, however, was a consensus number 1. The Associated Press, the United Press International (UPI), Sports Illustrated, CNN-USA Today, the Football Writers of America all voted BYU number 1. Why should we dispute a championship that so many experts agreed on?

3.BEAT THE NUMBER 3 RANKED TEAM. To start the year, BYU went on the road to Pittsburgh, the number 3 ranked team, and won. Critics like to point out that Pittsburgh finished the year a disappointing 3-7-1, but they forget to point out that 11 Pitt players were drafted in the next three NFL drafts, including Bill Fralic (second overall pick, 1985) and Chris Doleman (fourth overall pick, 1985). Why wouldn't you rank a team with so much pro talent number 3? On opening day in 1984, the Pitt team (known then as “the Beast in the East”) believed that it was number three and played with that confidence. By losing, that confidence was shattered. College football is largely based on players’ mental psyche. An opening game upset loss can damage that psyche for an entire season, or at least bruise it and cause the season to be a disappointment. (For example, Michigan started 2007 season losing to Appalachian State, followed by a blowout loss to Oregon.) The mental psyche factor is also seen yearly come bowl season when teams who were dominant during the season play flat and lose to inferior competition. If anything, this Pittsburgh game is a testament to BYU’s superior mental psyche. They were on the road, playing the number 3 team, the game was a live, nationwide telecast on ESPN, the game was the first start for quarterback Robbie Bosco. Plus, BYU’s win exposed Pitt’s weaknesses and gave every other Pitt opponent confidence that they could win.

4.WON ITS BOWL GAME. BYU played Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. Critics argue that this was a 6-5 Michigan team that BYU beat only 24-17. Well, Michigan was ranked number 3 earlier in the year. Then injury struck. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s starting quarterback broke his arm. This goes a long way in explaining Michigan’s poor won-loss record. (Fun fact: Michigan ended 1985 ranked number 2.) While the Michigan offense was mediocre, the Michigan defense was strong (only two opponents scored more than 21 points). During the game, BYU lost its quarterback Robbie Bosco to injury for a series. He returned and played the rest of the game with an injured knee. In the game, BYU committed 6 turnovers, including a fumble at the goal line. You are not supposed to win when you commit 6 turnovers (the popular explanation for Florida losing to Ole Miss in 2008 was Florida’s THREE turnovers). Yes, BYU could have made a statement by winning 38-3, but it didn’t. However, what it did do—win despite playing with its star QB injured and despite turning the ball over 6 times—may be just as impressive, and it exemplifies what makes a team a champion: to overcome all obstacles and find a way to win no matter what. Kind of like the 2002 Ohio State National Championship team; they didn’t win pretty, but they didn’t lose either.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


This blog will have two types of posts on a regular basis: 1) a Daily Feature and 2) an open forum that allows you to discuss the issues important to you. Below is a detailed description of the Daily Features.

MONDAY: Top 25/BCS Standings-My revised Top 25 will debut each Monday morning that can be discussed and debated. As soon as BCS standings are being released they will be included, and, of course, subject to criticism. In the weeks before the BCS standings are released, I will include other material on the BCS.

TUESDAY: Heisman Trophy-My list of Heisman Hopefuls will be posted with updated stats, commentary on the overall race, and each player's standing in the race.

WEDNESDAY: Coaching-The game of football is much more than the players on the field, so once a week I will give some attention to the coaching side of the game.

THURSDAY: Perspective-As we roll into the week's competition, I will shed some light on parts of the game that tend to be overlooked, but have a significant impact on the outcome of games every week.

FRIDAY: X's and O's-These posts will aim to help fans new to the sport better understand the game. They can range from explanations of how the game is played to the conference structure to the rules and to the history of the game. Fans new and old should find something edifying in each post.

SATURDAY: Game Time-Game day will be open forum for sharing and discussing what happens as the games are played.

DAILY FORUM: Monday through Friday space will be provided to discuss the other issues in college football that interest you, but don't apply to the daily feature.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


No season can start without setting our sights on Heisman Trophy candidates. I know that it is essentially a three man race, barring an unexpected meltdown or unexpected phenomenal record shattering performance by someone else. But what is fun about a three man race in August? This list looks beyond the big three and will track each players' performance until they are reasonably eliminated from the race throughout the season.

Tim Tebow, Florida

Colt McCoy, Texas

Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

Max Hall, BYU

Jevan Snead, Ole Miss

Javhid Best, Cal

Terrell Pryor, Ohio State

Daryl Clark, Penn State

Jaquizz Rodgers, Oregon State

Kellen Moore, Boise State

Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech

Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame

Eric Barry, Tennessee

One of the Oklahoma State trio (Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter, Dez Bryant)

PRE-SEASON PREDICTION: Of the big three, Colt McCoy is the only one not to win yet, which should play to his advantage. The recent trend has been to spread the wealth with awards. However, something about McCoy does not scream Heisman Trophy winner to me. His accuracy is out of this world, but unless he goes over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns I don't feel comfortable predicting him as the winner. Besides, there seems to be a growing movement among voters that they want to be part of history by awarding Tim Tebow with a second trophy. Tebow has a 70% chance of making history as the second two-time winner. If he guides the Gators to the National Championship game and he throws for over 3,000 yards the trophy is his. Sam Bradford will suffer from stats that don't match his campaign last year, just as Tebow suffered last year. Matching his stat line from last year will be virtually impossible with a new offensive line. He will be in the discussion all year, but he is almost certain to continue the trend of 1st to 3rd place finish (Ty Detmer, 1990 and 1991, Jason White, 2003 and 2004, Matt Leinart, 2004 and 2005, and Tim Tebow, 2007 and 2008). I cannot imagine this Florida Gators squad, under Tebow's leadership, stumbling along the way to the National Championship game, so I predict Tebow will be crowned the 2009 Most Outstanding College Football Player.

TOP 25 (Pre-Season 2009)

The start of the season is less than a month away. Here is my pre-season top 25. For now, I am just making my best guess. However, as the season progresses, you will see that I rank teams on the following guidelines: overall won-loss record, head-to-head results, conference standings. In other words, a team with one loss will not be ranked below a team with two losses; the outcome of head-to-head match-ups will dictate which team is ranked higher when records are identical; a conference champion with the same record as a team that is second place in another conference will be ranked higher than the second place team. These are the basic guidelines. As the season goes on, I will explain additional criteria that I used to judge between two teams, as necessary.

1. Florida

2. Texas

3. Oklahoma

4. USC

5. Penn St.

6. Ohio St.

7. Ole Miss

8. Oklahoma St.

9. Oregon

10. TCU

11. BYU

12. Boise St.

13. Virginia Tech

14. Notre Dame

15. Alabama

16. Cal

17. Florida St.

18. Georgia Tech

19. Oregon St.

20. Nebraska

21. Iowa

22. LSU

23. North Carolina

24. Arkansas

25. West Virginia

OTHERS TO WATCH: Georgia, Miami (FL), Nevada, Kansas, Texas Tech