Bowl Bubble Watch- Week 14 Edition

The most comprehensive analysis of the college football bowl bubble is back!  For the fifth-straight year, I will be publishing weekly November columns analyzing which teams will get bowl bids and which will not.  Below, I have written a report for every team that has yet to be declared either bowl eligible or ineligible.  Each week this list will be updated and new odds will be provided for each team.  Please note that these odds only represent the chances that a particular team will get enough wins to be eligible to receive a bowl bid.  They do not represent the odds a team has for actually receiving a bid.  This discrepancy likely won’t affect the bowl chances of most major conference teams, but sometimes a 6-6 record won’t be enough to a get bid from a non-BCS conference.  The teams are ordered in descending order of likelihood that they will become bowl eligible.  As of now, there are 3 teams on the list with 1 predicted to attain bowl eligibility and 2 predicted to fall short.  As of now, I’m projecting there to be 79 bowl eligible teams for 2013 (see full stats at the bottom of this entry).  Keep in mind that there are a total of 70 bowl slots to be filled by 125 Division 1-A teams.

Good Side of the Bowl Bubble: Teams closing in on bowl bids (1):

Rutgers– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. USF; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 65% (previous odds: 95%, 91%, 81%)

Bad Side of the Bowl Bubble: Teams who will likely be home for the holidays (2):

South Alabama– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. UL-Lafayette; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 30% (previous odds: 37%, 16%, 20%)

SMU– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. UCF; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 18% (previous odds: 15%, 24%, 32%)

Already Bowl Eligible (78):  UCF, Louisville, Cincinnati, Houston, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami (FL), Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Michigan State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, East Carolina, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Tulane, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Ohio, Ball State, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Fresno State, Utah State, Boise State, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, Southern California, Arizona, Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A & M, LSU, Ole Miss, UL-Lafayette, Texas State, Western Kentucky, Vanderbilt (previous odds: 90%), Boston College (previous odds: 85%), Kansas State (previous odds: 80%), Navy (previous odds: 82%), Maryland (previous odds: 86%), Arkansas State (previous odds: 75%), San Diego State (previous odds: 77%), UNLV(previous odds: 58%, 58%), North Carolina (previous odds: 49%, 98%), Pittsburgh (previous odds: 65%, 49%), UTSA (previous odds: 61%, 61%), Washington State (previous odds: 21%, 48%), Mississippi State (previous odds: 40%, 37%, 43%), Central Michigan (previous odds: 47%, 57%, 67%), Troy (previous odds: 55%, 55%, 53%), Florida Atlantic (previous odds: 48%, 52%, 78%), San Jose State (previous odds: 70%, 51%, 35%), Colorado State (previous odds: 51%, 74%, 70%), Syracuse (previous odds: 69%, 64%, 51%), UL-Monroe (previous odds: 54%, 54%, 38%)

Already Ineligible for a Bowl Game (44):  Penn State*, UConn, Temple, Virginia, Kansas, Iowa State, Purdue, UAB, FIU, Southern Miss, Tulsa, UTEP, Army, Idaho, New Mexico State, Akron, UMass, Kent State, Miami (OH), Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Nevada, Hawaii, Air Force, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia State, West Virginia (previous odds: 59%), Illinois (previous odds: 2%), NC State (previous odds: 22%), TCU (previous odds: 16%), New Mexico (previous odds: 1%), South Florida (previous odds: 1%), Northwestern (previous odds: 44%, 21%), Wake Forest (previous odds: 23%, 23%), Memphis (previous odds: 4%, 9%), Tennessee (previous odds: 46%, 46%), Utah (previous odds: 45%, 44%), Louisiana Tech (previous odds: 31%, 20%), Florida (previous odd: 33%, 18%), Indiana (previous odds: 5%, 3%), Wyoming (previous odds: 20%, 19%, 24%)

 

Current Stats:

Already Bowl Eligible: 78

Predicted to be Bowl Eligible: 1 (79)

Already Ineligible for a Bowl Game: 44

Predicted not to become Bowl Eligible: 2 (46)

Ranking of Top College Football Rivalries

I have been planning to write a lengthy analysis of college football’s top rivalries for several months now, and I thought this would be the perfect time to publish it.  The first few “end of year” rivalry games (more on that classification in a bit) took place this past Saturday, and the next two weeks will be filled with rivalry grudge matches from all across the country.  It’s time to just sit back and enjoy the best few weeks of the college football season!

Let me begin first by stating the parameters and factors I have used to conduct this analysis of college football rivalry games.  The first rule I have established is that only FBS games are being considered.  Sorry, I know that Lafayette-Lehigh and Harvard-Yale are as intense and historic rivalry games as any, but I just don’t follow enough non-FBS football to properly evaluate those games.  Secondly, the focus of this rivalry analysis will be on the intensity of a rivalry, and not necessarily its history or its aura.  In other words, I care more about how much two teams hate each other than about how many famous players, coaches, and great games a particular rivalry has possessed.

Now that you know what I’m trying to do here, I am going to discuss the criteria I relied on most heavily in my analysis.  There are three controversial premises I used as the baseline for my evaluations:  (1) The first is that intrastate rivalries are superior to interstate rivalries; (2) the second is that inter-conference rivalries are superior to intra-conference rivalries; and (3) the third is that “the animosity must be mutual”.  I obviously took into account other factors such as historical significance, the quality of games, the level of play the success of the participants, etc., but when push comes to shove, a rivalry’s importance can be boiled down to the three components mentioned above.  I will now explain each of these premises in more detail.

Premise # 1: Intrastate rivalries are superior to interstate rivalries– Ohio State fans have argued this point with me until they were blue in the face.  They insist that their rivalry with Michigan is the best in the country, and while it definitely makes my top 10 list, it can’t even approach the top spot because of its interstate nature. Intrastate rivalries are just so much more personal than those between two schools from different states.  When you graduate high school in a state where there’s two big state universities, typically half your friends go to one university and about half go to the other.  As a result, you’re left with friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors who are divided in their athletic allegiances.  Every day at work there’s taunting.  At every neighborhood block party there’s bickering.  And whichever team wins the annual rivalry game gets bragging rights for the next 365 days.  This may seem like an exaggeration to some of you, but that’s what exactly what happens in states like Alabama, Virginia, South Carolina, and Mississippi.  The same phenomenon just doesn’t exist in interstate rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan, USC-Notre Dame, or Oklahoma-Texas.  In those situations, the teams are separated geographically so the schools and their fanbases don’t have to interact with the enemy on a daily basis.  The bottom line here is that: the greater the familiarity and interaction between fan bases, the more passionate a rivalry will be.

Premise # 2: Inter-conferernce rivalries are superior to intra-conference rivalries– This premise is definitely the most controversial of the three that I have used for my rivalry analysis.  Many people will disagree with this contention stating intra-conference rivalries carry with them greater implications because they can affect conference and/or division title races.  While that may be true in some cases, the phenomenon known as “conference cheering” trumps any potential benefits of having an archrival from your own conference.  I have criticized and sneered at conference cheerers for years now, yet it seems like they are expanding exponentially.  Quite simply, conference cheerers are those who will cheer for any team in their favorite school’s conference in any non-conference game they play.  These people are the scourge of humanity in my opinion… the folks who will sell their soul to the devil and cheer for their archrival all because they are imaginarily representing their school’s conference in a non-conference matchup.  SEC football fans are notorious for this of course.  They want to see their fellow SEC rivals and competitors do well against anybody from any other league.  This phenomenon is not just limited to the SEC though, in fact it extends nationally.  I personally know Pac-12 fans who cheer for Pac-12 teams.  I have Wake Forest and UNC friends who cheer for the Puke Blue Devils to do well in the NCAA tournament.  And yes, I even encountered an Ohio State fan this fall who was cheering for Michigan to beat Notre Dame, just so the Big 10 would appear more respectable.  All in all, this conference cheering phenomenon is one of the most absurd aspects of college sports, and it can really put a damper on a good rivalry.  Red Sox fans would never cheer for the Yankees.  Redskins fans would never cheer for the Cowboys.  Why then did thousands of Alabama fans cheer for Auburn in the BCS Title Game last season?  The golden rule of a rivalry is “thou shall never root for my archrival.”  Not if they’re playing North Korea.  Not if they’re playing Al-Qaeda.  And certainly not if they’re playing Oregon.

Premise # 3: The animosity must be mutual– This is a little more straightforward of a concept than the other two premises I have discussed so far.  In order to be a true rivalry, both teams must make it their top priority to hate the other.  Any rivalry that doesn’t possess a “mutuality of hate” is automatically barred from the list.  Therefore, you will not see games like NC State vs. North Carolina, Kentucky vs. Tennessee, or Tennessee vs. Florida in my rankings.  In all three of those cases, the first team mentioned despises the second, but the second team has another rival whom they are more concerned with.

So without further ado, here is my full list of the top 10 rivalries in college football.  Feel free to comment and debate.

# 10: The Holy War: Utah vs. Brigham Young– If you read the premises I used for these rankings, you will understand that this rivalry has a lot going for it.  It is an intrastate rivalry with each team regarding the other as their intense archrival.  Also, it is now an inter-conference game, as both schools broke away from the Mountain West at the end of last season.  Furthermore, the games in this series are typically close, as four of the last six meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.  This rivalry even has a great and somewhat humorous nickname- “The Holy War”.  So then you may ask why is this game so far down my list of the best college football rivalries.  Well, unfortunately, this matchup suffers from a major scheduling dilemma now that the two teams are no longer in the same conference.  Rivalry games are best played during the last two weeks of the season for several reasons.  First of all, late-November rivalry games allow each team to end its season with a huge and intense victory.  Also, if a rivalry game is played at the end of the year, it can have bigger ramifications in terms of bowl bids and conference championships.  Unfortunately, “The Holy War” is now played in mid-September which really puts a damper on the importance of this game.  I really wanted to rank this matchup higher on this list, but “end of year” rivalry games must take precedence.

# 9: Clean Old-Fashioned Hate: Georgia Tech vs. Georgia– This is a great name for a very good intrastate rivalry.  You will come to find out that this is the one of the few games on this list which meets all three of the major criteria I mentioned previously– it is intrastate, inter-conference, and both teams hate each other.  The reason I’m not ranking them higher than # 9, however, is that the Georgia has so many other rivals that I am not sure the Yellow Jackets can truly be considered the Dawgs’ archrival.  Georgia also has historic and hate-filled rivalries with Florida, Auburn, and South Carolina, so the Bulldogs and their fans have too many other people to hate besides Tech.

#8: Florida State vs. Florida– I have to put at least one Florida rivalry on this list, so I am going with the Noles and Gators.  The problem with the Florida rivalries is that all the schools involved are like Georgia in that they have two or two different teams whom they consider as rivals.  Florida has to spread their rivalry animosity between Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida State; while, Florida State is intense rivals with both the Gators and the University of Miami.  It sort of takes away from the significance of a rivalry when both teams involved have other rivalry matchups dispersed across the season.  Nevertheless, this is an intrastate, inter-conference, end of year rivalry game that involves two traditional powerhouses.  There’s not much more a college football fan can ask for.

# 7: The Big Game: California vs. Stanford– This rivalry has some very distinct pros and cons.  The cons are that traditionally (though not recently) both teams are horrible and the game lacks any tangible significance.  Also, I don’t like the fact that this game is now played the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which is a week before rivalry games really gets going.  However, those cons are outweighed by several other factors.  First of all, no other rivalry features two schools ranked in the top 21 of the U.S. News & World Report Rankings.  Personally, I think the whole public school brainiac vs. private school brainiac vibe is pretty cool.  Also, “The Big Game” certainly has the most entertaining trophy presentation of all rivalry games, as these two universities have student-run “Axe Committees” who take control of the “Stanford Axe” at the end of the game.  The committees from each school meet at midfield just as time expires and the school currently possessing the Axe either retains it through their committee or transfers it to the opposing committee.  Finally, this rivalry clearly possesses the most epic play of any rivalry game in college football, and possibly the greatest play in the history of sports (“The Band is on the Field!”).  Overall, the pros outweigh the cons here, so The Big Game gets a prominent ranking.

# 6: The Egg Bowl: Ole Miss at Mississippi State– The hilarious/absurd name of this rivalry game rockets this hatefest up the list.

# 5: The Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon State– Any game called “The Civil War” deserves to be ranked as one of the top 5 college football rivalries.  Recently, this matchup has produced a slew of high-scoring shootouts that have had major postseason implications.

# 4: The Game: Ohio State vs. Michigan– This game would probably end up # 1 or 2 on most people’s rivalry list but as I mentioned at the beginning of this column, the factors I’m using for my analysis are somewhat unique.  This game loses a lot of points in my book because it’s not an intrastate or inter-conference rivalry.  Though some will deny this, there are in fact Ohio State and Michigan fans who are Big 10 homers and cheer for their archrival when they are involved in non-conference games.  Likewise, even though the fanbases may hate one another, they certainly don’t have to deal with each other on a regular basis.  Michigan fans are hard to come by in Ohio, and Ohio State fans are equally hard to find in Michigan.  Thus, the familiarity factor is low here.  Despite the fact that this rivalry game has decided multiple national championships and possesses two of the most legendary coaches in all of football, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, this game is topping out at # 4 in my rankings for the reasons mentioned above.

# 3: Army vs. Navy– This is definitely the most tradition-rich rivalry in all of sports.  Also, the fact that the game is played a week after everybody else finishes their regular season is really cool.  Overall, I love the Army-Navy game as much, and probably more than most college football fans, but the reason I can’t rank this game any higher on this list is because when push comes to shove these two teams and these two academies don’t really hate each other.  Clearly, they have a deep-seated respect for one another and for all the sacrifices the other makes.  Don’t get me wrong, that is definitely a good thing.  It would be horrible for America if our Navies and Armies truly disdained one another. However, “hate” is the principal component of a true archrivalry, so this game just can’t crack my top 2 for that reason.

# 2: The Iron Bowl: Alabama vs. Auburn- I have always considered this game the ultimate sports rivalry.  In fact, I ranked it as my # 1 rivalry in all of sports just last year.  So then you may ask why does it appear at # 2 on this list, especially after ESPN just produced an epic documentary about it.  SEC Pride is the reason.  The so-called “conference cheering” phenomenon has knocked this game down from the pinnacle of rivalries. I always thought Alabama and Auburn fans hated each other so much that they would never cheer for one another no matter the circumstances.  Well I was proved wrong last fall when a number of Alabama fans, including some I was very close to, rooted Scam Newton and his Auburn Tigers to beat Oregon in the national title.  Their inexplicable pride in the SEC and its quest for five straight national titles caused Bama fans to compromise moral fibers and root for the Tigers in the title game.  In the beginning of this column I stated that the golden rule of a rivalry is “thou shall never root for my archrival.”  Not if they’re playing North Korea.  Not if they’re playing Al-Qaeda.  And certainly if they’re not playing Oregon.  Alabama fans violated that rule and as a result this rivalry has been knocked down for the pinnacle of college sports.

#1: The Palmetto Bowl: Clemson vs. South Carolina– As both a former resident of South Carolina and a passionate Gamecock fan, this may seem like the most biased selection of all-time.  However, if you carefully read the parameters I used for my analysis, then you understand why this rivalry takes the cake.  First of all, the animosity is both mutual and intense.  These schools really, really despise each other.  In fact, I have several friends who I am either not friends with anymore or not as close with solely based on the hatred that spews from this rivalry.  Secondly, this is the ultimate intrastate matchup.  An overwhelming majority of college graduates in South Carolina (granted there aren’t that many of those, lol) call one of these two universities their alma mater.  As a result, the entire state is divided between neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives who argue, gloat, and taunt each other throughout the year.  However, the one thing that separates this rivalry from most others and catapults it to the top of the list is the inter-conference component.  As I have discussed throughout this column, inter-conference rivalries are frankly more intense because there is no “brotherhood alliance” between the two universities.  In other words, the South Carolina fans who adore the SEC as a whole will never have any reason to cheer for Clemson.  Likewise, the Clemson fans who adore the entire ACC will never have any reason to cheer for the Gamecocks.  In fact, I am confident that no true fan on either side of this rivalry would ever cheer for their opposition, regardless of the circumstance.  That my friend is what a rivalry game is all about!

Bowl Bubble Watch- Week 13 Edition

The most comprehensive analysis of the college football bowl bubble is back!  For the fifth-straight year, I will be publishing weekly November columns analyzing which teams will get bowl bids and which will not.  Below, I have written a report for every team that has yet to be declared either bowl eligible or ineligible.  Each week this list will be updated and new odds will be provided for each team.  Please note that these odds only represent the chances that a particular team will get enough wins to be eligible to receive a bowl bid.  They do not represent the odds a team has for actually receiving a bid.  This discrepancy likely won’t affect the bowl chances of most major conference teams, but sometimes a 6-6 record won’t be enough to a get bid from a non-BCS conference.  The teams are ordered in descending order of likelihood that they will become bowl eligible.  As of now, there are 12 teams on the list with 6 predicted to attain bowl eligibility and 6 predicted to fall short.  As of now, I’m projecting there to be 76 bowl eligible teams for 2013 (see full stats at the bottom of this entry).  Keep in mind that there are a total of 70 bowl slots to be filled by 125 Division 1-A teams.

 

Good Side of the Bowl Bubble: Teams closing in on bowl bids (6):

Rutgers– Record: 5-5; Remaining Schedule: at UConn, vs. USF; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 81% (previous odds: 95%, 91%)

Florida Atlantic– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. FIU; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 78% (previous odds: 48%, 52%)

Colorado State– Record: 6-6 (needs 7 wins); Remaining Schedule: vs. Air Force; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 70% (previous odds: 51%, 74%)

Central Michigan– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule:, vs. Eastern Michigan; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 67% (previous odds: 47%, 57%)

Troy– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. Texas State; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 53% (previous odds: 55%, 55%)

Syracuse– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. BC; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 51% (previous odds: 69%, 64%)

 

Bad Side of the Bowl Bubble: Teams who will likely be home for the holidays (6):

Mississippi State– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. Ole Miss; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 43% (previous odds: 40%, 37%)

UL-Monroe– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. UL-Lafayette; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 38% (previous odds: 54%, 54%)

San Jose State– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: vs. Fresno State; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 35% (previous odds: 70%, 51%)

SMU– Record: 5-5; Remaining Schedule: at Houston, vs. UCF; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 32% (previous odds: 15%, 24%)

Wyoming– Record: 5-6; Remaining Schedule: at Utah State; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 24% (previous odds: 20%, 19%)

South Alabama– Record: 4-6; Remaining Schedule: at Georgia State, vs. UL-Lafayette; Odds of Bowl Eligibility: 20% (previous odds: 37%, 16%)

 

Already Bowl Eligible (70):  UCF, Louisville, Cincinnati, Houston, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami (FL), Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Michigan State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, East Carolina, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Tulane, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Ohio, Ball State, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Fresno State, Utah State, Boise State, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, Southern California, Arizona, Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A & M, LSU, Ole Miss, UL-Lafayette, Texas State, Western Kentucky, Vanderbilt (previous odds: 90%), Boston College (previous odds: 85%), Kansas State (previous odds: 80%), Navy (previous odds: 82%), Maryland (previous odds: 86%), Arkansas State (previous odds: 75%), San Diego State (previous odds: 77%), UNLV(previous odds: 58%, 58%), North Carolina (previous odds: 49%, 98%), Pittsburgh (previous odds: 65%, 49%), UTSA (previous odds: 61%, 61%), Washington State (previous odds: 21%, 48%)

Already Ineligible for a Bowl Game (43):  Penn State*, UConn, Temple, Virginia, Kansas, Iowa State, Purdue, UAB, FIU, Southern Miss, Tulsa, UTEP, Army, Idaho, New Mexico State, Akron, UMass, Kent State, Miami (OH), Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Nevada, Hawaii, Air Force, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia State, West Virginia (previous odds: 59%), Illinois (previous odds: 2%), NC State (previous odds: 22%), TCU (previous odds: 16%), New Mexico (previous odds: 1%), South Florida (previous odds: 1%), Northwestern (previous odds: 44%, 21%), Wake Forest (previous odds: 23%, 23%), Memphis (previous odds: 4%, 9%), Tennessee (previous odds: 46%, 46%), Utah (previous odds: 45%, 44%), Louisiana Tech (previous odds: 31%, 20%), Florida (previous odd: 33%, 18%), Indiana (previous odds: 5%, 3%)

 

Current Stats:

Already Bowl Eligible: 70

Predicted to be Bowl Eligible: 6 (76)

Already Ineligible for a Bowl Game: 43

Predicted not to become Bowl Eligible: 6 (49)

 

Conference Championship Analysis- Week 13 Edition

For the fifth-straight year, I will be publishing weekly November columns analyzing the conference championship races.  Like my bowl bubble watch, there is not really a column like this on any other mainstream college football site.  Bold teams have already clinched their division or conference.  Italicized teams are my predicted champions of their respective conferences/divisions at this point in time.  This list is updated through all week 13 games.

ACC AtlanticFlorida State

ACC CoastalDuke (With a win over UNC next Saturday, Duke football will clinch an unbelievable division title.  However, Virginia Tech, Miami, and even Georgia Tech are still in the hunt.  The Hokies need to a victory over Virginia and a Duke loss to get there.  The Canes need to beat Pitt and then have both Virginia Tech and Duke lose.  Meanwhile, Georgia Tech needs losses by Virginia Tech, Miami, and Duke to qualify for their second straight ACC Championship Game.)

American- UCF (The Golden Knights will most likely have to lose to both USF and SMU to not clinch the AAC.  The team with the best chance of challenging the Knights is actually Cincinnati, who sits in a tie for second and does not play UCF this season.) 

Big Ten Legends- Michigan State

Big Ten Leaders Ohio State

Big 12- Oklahoma State (The Cowboys can clinch the conference crown with a home win again Oklahoma on December 7th.  If the OSU stumbles, then Texas and Baylor will likely play a de facto Big 12 title game that same day.  It’s hard to get over the fact that if Oklahoma State had simply shown up for their game against 4-7 West Virginia on September 28th then they would be in the national title hunt right now.)

Pac-12 NorthStanford (It’s really funny how this division title race played out.  In the preseason I predicted the Cardinal to take the Pac-12 North.  Then after Stanford’s loss to Utah, Oregon became the frontrunner.  Then after Stanford beat Oregon, the Cardinal were the predicted champs.  Then, Stanford lost to USC, once again opening the door for Oregon.  However, the Cardinal clinched the division last weekend when Arizona knocked off the Ducks.  Now, that’s what you call a topsy-turvy title race.)

Pac-12 SouthArizona State (The Sun Devils’ victory over UCLA sets up a regular season rematch of ASU and Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  If Arizona State wants to host the game this time around, they will need to knock off Arizona next weekend.)

SEC East- Missouri (While watching Mizzou’s rout of Ole Miss last night, it kinda hit me that this Tiger team may just be a team of destiny.  I’m just not sure that Johnny Football has what it takes to go into Columbia and win next weekend following his disastrous performance at LSU.  It’s also mind-boggling to think that Missouri is a fourth quarter collapse away from controlling their own destiny for the national title.)

SEC West- Alabama (If you said at the beginning of the season that Alabama would beat LSU and Texas A & M and still be in jeopardy of losing the SEC West, people would think you were crazy.  Well that’s exactly what has happened thanks to the meteoric rise of Auburn.  Next Saturday’s Iron Bowl will be the de facto SEC West title game for the first time ever.)

C-USA EastEast Carolina (The day after Thanksgiving clash between ECU and Marshall will be a de facto C-USA East title game.  In the preseason, I predicted the Pirates to edge out the Herd in this division, so I might as well stick with that pick.)

C-USA WestRice (The Owls just need to beat Tulane at home next Saturday to clinch this division.  A loss there could create a wild 4-way tie for the C-USA West title.)     

MAC EastBuffalo (Next Friday’s clash between Buffalo and Bowling Green will be a de facto MAC East title game.)

MAC WestNorthern Illinois  

MWC Mountain- Utah State (Just as I predicted, Boise dropped a heartbreaker on the road to San Diego State.  As a result, the Aggies can clinch this division with a win over Wyoming on Saturday.)

MWC West- Fresno State

Sun BeltUL-Lafayette (The Ragin’ Cajuns can clinch the conference crown with either a home win against Monroe next Saturday or a victory over South Alabama the following weekend.)

Definining a Mid-Major

Every February and March college sports pundits begin throwing out the term “mid-major” to describe the “little guy” of college basketball.  First, we focus on the “mid-major” conference tourneys where only the winner of event gets to advance to the NCAA Tournament.  Then, we get inspired by mid-major Cinderella stories as they emerge in the Big Dance.  However, it always seemed to me that college basketball analysts throw out the term “mid-major” without defining exactly what it is.  Obviously, it refers to smaller conference teams, but what exactly does that entail?  Below, I will discuss several different perspectives, including my own, on this issue.  I have also included the benefits and drawbacks of each viewpoint.  There may never be a consensus opinion on what exactly a mid-major is, but I’ve always felt this issue needs to be analyzed in greater detail, and here is my attempt to do so.

Viewpoint # 1: The Big 6– This is probably the most popular viewpoint, but in my opinion, it is also the most flawed.

  • Definition: A “mid-major” is any team outside of the Big 6 power conferences.
  • Benefits to the theory: Very simple and easy to figure out.
  • Drawbacks to the theory:  My criticisms of this overly simplistic mid-major classification system are      numerous.  First of all, under this theory, the 2007 Memphis team, 1998 Utah squad, and UNLV dynasty of the early 1990s would all be considered mid-majors.  That means that we’ve had two mid-major runners-up in the past 2 decades and one mid-major national champion.  However, none of these runs were the least bit surprising or even intriguing.  Those teams were stacked with future NBA superstars, which is definitely not a typical characteristic of mid-major programs.  By applying this theory, we also make the George Mason Final Four run of 2006 somewhat insignificant since mid-major Memphis made it even farther than them in the tourney two years later.  And yes, all those trivia answers that said George Mason was the first mid-major to make the Final Four since Indiana State would be entirely inaccurate.  Finally, if we are to only draw one line separating the high-majors and the mid-majors, then any second grader can notice that something is missing.  In any type of hierarchy there can’t just be a high-level and a mid-level.  There also has to be a low-level.  Thus, this theory also fails to define what a low-major is.  In general, that is a huge problem I have with how college basketball analysts typically use this term.  They throw out the phrase “mid-major” when referring to any small conference team, as to imply that there is no such thing as a low-major.

Viewpoint # 2: The FBS/FCS divide

  • Definition: Any team outside the 11 Division 1-A football conferences is a mid-major.
  • Benefits to the theory: Also, very simple and easy to figure out.  It is superior to viewpoint # 1 because      it removes the mid-major classifications from the Memphis, UNLV, and Utah powerhouses I mentioned earlier.
  • Drawbacks to the theory: Almost every year Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences rank half of college basketball conferences, yet under this theory, they are lumped in as “high-majors”.  That just doesn’t  work.  Also, this viewpoint  once again fails to differentiate between mid-majors and low-majors.

Viewpoint # 3: The Red-Line (from Mid-Majority.com)

  • Definition: Any team in a conference that is below the red line drawn on Mid-Majority.com (the premier small conference basketball site on  the web) is a mid-major.  The red line is the dividing line between conferences whose members have an average annual athletic budget of $20 million or more and those conferences who      don’t.  Thus, there are 8  conferences that are considered high-majors, the big 6 conferences, the Mountain West, and C-USA.
  • Benefits to the theory: Also, very simple and easy to figure out.  This viewpoint seems to really follow the modern perception of which teams are mid-majors and which aren’t.  Kyle Whelliston, the author of the mid-majority blog, even admits that this is exactly what he is going for, as he says that the mid-major classification is one that changes over time.  Also, the aforementioned “misstated mid-majors” (Memphis, Utah, and UNLV) would be high-majors based on their recent/current conference affiliations.
  • Drawbacks to the theory: It seems cynical to use money (or lack thereof) as the only factor in making the mid-major determination.  Also, Whelliston is taking into account each school’s total athletic budget for this analysis, not just what the amount they spent on men’s basketball.  Obviously, such numbers will be greatly affected by a university’s football team, or lack thereof.  Furthermore, this viewpoint once again fails to differentiate between mid-majors and low-majors.  In addition, Atlantic 10 basketball is typically superior to both the C-USA and MWC, but most seasons it possesses a lower classification according to this theory.

Viewpoint # 4: Numbers Games

  • Definition: Mid-major conferences can be determined quantitatively in many different ways.  Example # 1: If your conference has averages less than 2 tourney bids per year, then it is a mid-major.  Example # 2: If your      conference averages less than 1 tourney win per year, then it is also a mid-major.
  • Benefits to theory:  This theory can be modified to include a low-major classification by simply adding another dimension (ex: teams that receive less than 1.5 bids per  year are mid-majors).  Also, this theory’s results change over time, so the Numbers Game theory can evolve to fit the current landscape of college basketball.
  • Drawbacks of theory:  The major drawback is its complexity.  No one wants to sit down with a calculator and determine what a mid-major is.  We want our mid-majors to be evident and obvious.

Viewpoint # 5: The Rule of Thirds (My personal view)

  • Definition:  There are 32 conferences in Division 1, and there are 3 categories we much create.  Therefore, it makes perfect  sense to me to divide the conferences in thirds.  The top 10 RPI conferences are the high-majors, the next 10 are the mid-majors, and the final 12 are the low-majors.
  • Benefits to theory:  They are quite numerous in my opinion.  First, it is not nearly as complex as the numerical calculations I mentioned previously.  Secondly, the parameters are very exact leaving no room for ambiguity.  Third, the theory allows for the classifications to adapt to the changes in college hoops.  Fourth, it accurately differentiates      between the George Mason run of 3 years ago and the UNLV, Memphis, and Utah runs I spoke about earlier.  The Colonial was not a top 10 conference in 2006, but C-USA was in 2008, the WAC was in 1998, and the Big West was in 1990.  Fifth, this system clearly differentiates between mid-majors and low-majors.
  • Drawbacks of theory:  One drawback is that it requires a little bit of research to go out and find the conference RPI rankings.   But let me help you out: http://realtimerpi.com/rpi_conf_Men.html.  The other drawback is that there are multiple RPI formulas in existence (ex: Ken Pomeroy, CBS, Real-time RPI, etc.) so it is possible that one site could have a different classification than another.

Viewpoint # 6: Theory of Mid-Major Relativity– Here is the sentimentalist viewpoint on this issue.

  • Definition:  Quite simply, a “mid-major” is any underdog that we fall in love with in March.  There are no exact specifications or parameters.  It’s like what the U.S. Supreme Court said about pornography: “we just know it when we see it”.
  • Benefits to theory:  It sure makes it easy for everyone to pick out who is a mid-major and who is not.
  • Drawbacks of theory:  This theory obviously leaves the door wide open for disagreement and ambiguity.

The bottom line is that no matter how you personally define a mid-major make sure you do it in a way that allows you to be inspired by their success.  Because that’s what March is all about.  It’s about the miracles.  It’s about the upsets.   And it’s about the mid-majors… whatever those are.

Greatest Sports Moments of 2000’s

I thought it was necessary to post an unbiased “greatest moments” entry after seeing ESPN.com an attempt at doing the same (their list can be found here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=games/decade/2009syracuseunconn).  Their list unfortunately does not rank the games in order of their greatness and only lists 25 games/events.  On the other hand, I have produced an my objectively-reasoned ranking of top 50 greatest sports moments of the 200os.  It is slightly different than the ESPN one in that it looks at specific moments as opposed to the games as a whole.  However, since most great sports moments come out of great games, the content will be similar.  I made a pretty legendary ranking of the greatest moments in sports from 1980-2000, so hopefully this list will be just as good.

1

  Boise State beats   Oklahoma in overtime of the Fiesta Bowl (2007)

2

  New England   Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl  XXXVI (2002)

3

  Kansas beats   Memphis in NCAA Title Game with Mario Chalmers buzzer beater. (2008)

4

  Tiger Woods beats   Rocco Mediate in 19 hole-playoff of U.S. Open (2008)

5

  Boston Red Sox   end Curse of Bambino with wins over Yankees and Cardinals (2004)

6

  Michael Phelps wins   400m Butterfly Olympic Gold by .001 seconds (2008)

7

  Lebron James goes   off against Pistons in Game 6 of Eastern conference finals (2007)

8

  George Mason upsets   Connecticut in Elite 8 of NCAA Tournament (2006)

9

  Goran Ivanisevic   beats Patrick Rafter in five-set Wimbledon Final (2001)

10

  New York Giants stun   undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (2008)

11

  Ohio State shocks   Miami in 2OT in BCS Title Game (2003)

12

  Pittsburgh outlasts   Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII (2009)

13

  Roger Federer beats   Andy Roddick in Wimbledon final (2009)

14

  Vince Young leads   Texas over Southern Cal in BCS Title Game (2006)

15

  Phil Michelson   sinks  putt on 18 at the Master’s to win first major title (2004)

16

  Patriots hit another   game-winning field goal to beat Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)

17

  Rulan Gardner wins   Olympic Gold Medal in Greco-Roman wrestling (2000)

18

  15-seeded Hampton   beats Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tourney (2001)

19

  Rafael Nadal beats   Roger Federer in five-set Wimbledon final (2008)

20

  Tiger Woods hits   bunker shot on 16th hole of Master’s en route to win over DiMarco (2005)

21

  Stanford pulls off   biggest upset in college football history over Southern Cal (2007)

22

  Luis Gonzalez hits   Game 7 single to lift Arizona Diamondbacks to world series title (2001)

23

  Curlin spoils Street   Sense’s triple crown bid with photo finish victory at Preakness (2007)

24

  U.S. comes from   behind to win 4 x 100 freestyle swimming gold medal in Beijing (2008)

25

  Italy beats France   in penalty kicks to win World Cup after Zidane’s head butt (2006)

26

  Pittsburgh Penguins   upset Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of Stanley Cup Finals (2009)

27

  Floyd Mayweather Jr.   wins split decision over Oscar De La Hoya (2007)

28

  59 year-old Tom   Watson comes in second at the British Open (2009)

29

  Patriots beat   Raiders in divisional playoff game because of controversial Tuck Rule (2002)

30

  Aaron Boone his Game   7 HR to lift Yankees over rival Red Sox ALCS (2003)

31

  Syracuse blocks   Kansas’ buzzer beater to win NCAA basketball championship (2003)

32

  Texas Tech upsets   Texas with game-winning catch by Michael Crabtree (2008)

33

  Tiger Woods beats   Bob May in playoff in the PGA championship at Valhalla (2000)

34

  Chris Moneymaker   shocks the world and wins World Series of Poker Main Event (2003)

35

  Western Kentucky   upsets Drake in first round of tourney with overtime buzzer beater (2008)

36

  LA Lakers beat Spurs   in Game 5 of Conference Semis with Derek Fisher’s “0.4 shot” (2004)

37

  Jennifer Capriati   finally wins a Grand Slam title with win over Hingis at the Aussie Open   (2001)

38

  Philadelphia   Phillies end William Penn curse by beating Devil Rays in World Series (2008)

39

  United States soccer   shocks Spain in Confederations Cup Semifinal (2008)

40

  Maryland upsets Duke   in overtime of Women’s National Title Game (2006)

41

  Appalachian State   stuns Michigan in college football season opener (2007)

42

  Syracuse beats   Connecticut in 6 overtimes in Big East championship game (2009)

43

  * Barry Bonds breaks   single-season home run record (2003)

44

  Greg Norman come up   just short in an improbable run at the British Open title (2008)

45

  Mine That Bird pulls   off greatest Kentucky Derby upset ever (2009)

46

  Carolina Panthers   beat the Rams in double overtime of divisional playoff game (2004)

47

  Thierry Henry’s   controversial handball goal propels France into world cup (2009)

48

  Andy Murray beats   Wawrinka in five-sets in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon (2009)

49

  Louisville upsets   Japan for Little League World Series Title (2002)

50

  Usain Bolt destroys   the field in Men’s Olympic 100m final (2008)

 

Ranking of Favorite Teams- NHL

Here is the ranking of my favorite NHL Teams.

1.  Hurricanes– I always thought it made more sense for the Hurricanes to play in Charlotte, but Raleigh has really embraced these guys.  They’ve given the Carolinas their only professional sports championship, so you got to love that.

2.  Canadiens– I love the city of Montreal and its sports teams (the Expos were my favorite baseball team), so the Canadiens are a close second to the local team.

3.  Penguins– One of the best nicknames in sports.

4.  Predators– Got to go with my wife’s team here.

5.  Senators– It’s been 18 years since Canada has won a Stanley Cup.  Given the fact that they care about hockey exponentially more than Americans do that’s just not fair.

6.  Flames– See entry above

7.  Oilers– See entry above

8.  Canucks– See entry above

9.  Islanders 

10. Thrashers

11. Panthers

12. Blackhawks

13. Lightning

14. Sharks

15. Coyotes

16. Blue Jackets

17. Kings

18. Devils– I loved them growing up but they just got too good.

19. Maple Leafs

20. Flyers

21.  Ducks– I loved them as the “Mighty Ducks”, but dropping the Disney theme just wasn’t cool.

22. Wild

23. Avalanche

24. Blues

25. Stars

26. Capitals– Don’t like the city, and I like the dopey nickname even less.  Also, can these guys decide what color scheme they want to use.  They’ve gone from  blue and red, to black and gold, to blue and red again?

27. Bruins– I definitely can’t cheer for the Canadiens arch rival.

28. Sabres– Can’t give you a good reason why they are down here.

29. Rangers– I just really didn’t like this team when they made their early 90’s Stanley Cup.

30. Red Wings– One of those dynasties that are easy to hate.