It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that Homerism and the Blue Horseshoe, Zach Rosenfield of sports forecasting firm AccuScore, were rapping about the chances their beloved Sooners would be headed to the national championship game.
Since then, the Sooners have taken a nosedive and Rosenfield has started co-hosting a popular semi-weekly podcast with ex-ESPN Radio personality Dave Dameshek, The Dave Dameshek Show Powered by AccuScore. (Homerism? Well, I’ve just kept on living, and that’s good enough for me.)
Rosenfield graciously took time out of his busy schedule to join a not-so-busy Homerism to bring it full circle and break down the bowl season.
Blatant Homerism: Let’s start with the million dollar question: Will Oklahoma beat Stanford?
Zach Rosenfield: This is one of the better match-ups of the bowl season and should be interesting. Of course, the Oklahoma brand is a lot stronger then Stanford’s, but this game is all about unknown variables. Andrew Luck is out, and Toby Gerhart is 60 minutes away from being a millionaire 10 times over.
On the other side of the field is a team that has shown no consistency, has a terrible offensive line and has no incentive to play this game. My friends all say, “Oklahoma needs this one.” And they are fools. Even if Oklahoma loses, they are still in the preseason top five next year and will be favored to win the Big 12.
AccuScore has Oklahoma winning 72 percent of the simulations because we think the Sooners defense will be able to focus on stopping Gerhart now that Luck is out. However, there is no evidence to show that the Sooners defense will show up, and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson‘s offense has underachieved against the numbers all year long.
Homerism: That was depressing. Let’s move on. Is the SEC as strong this season as we’ve been made to believe?
Rosenfield: I felt the SEC was the second-best conference in 2009. I was really disappointed in Ole Miss, because the Rebels were just soft. LSU was exactly what I thought it would be and is coached by a terrible game coach. Florida really seemed to struggle without Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. I was pleasantly surprised to see Alabama do what it did, considering quarterback Greg McElroy‘s numbers were pretty average, and his play throughout the season was not much better.
Homerism: Are there any match-ups in the bowl games that really caught your eye?
Rosenfield: This year, the second-tier bowls are interesting and really hard to predict. Remember that bowl games are glorified exhibition games, and it is hard to know how a college kid will respond to having to play a game of no consequence after a layoff.
The most intriguing game of the bowl season (non-title game) has got to be TCU-Boise State. It’s the only match-up where you know both teams are playing for something and care about the game. We think TCU should roll in that one, but it’s a bit closer then you might think in the simulations, because Boise State put up big numbers against those second-class schools on its schedule.
The other game that interests me from a consumer standpoint is Oregon-Ohio State. It’s just too bad that they are not playing for anything beyond pride. The winners get to stand on the podium and feel good about themselves. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Homerism: Give us a couple teams that are underrated relative to their rankings in the polls.
Rosenfield: Oregon State was very underrated and is much better than a Las Vegas Bowl bid indicates. The same can be said for Stanford, which is much better than a Sun Bowl team. Oregon could be among the best two-loss teams I have seen play, and Arizona is an “old school” New Years Day-quality team.
If you see a theme here, you’ve busted me. I think the Pac-10 was the best conference this year. Lots of great teams that would have an impact on any conference.
Homerism: In your projections, how do you take situations like Brian Kelly bolting Cincinnati into account?
Rosenfield: Well, we still would have had Florida winning the Sugar Bowl regardless. From a human point of view, I think Cincinnati had a better chance of winning with Kelly than without him. Bowl games are all about variables, and the team’s reaction to Kelly leaving is a major variable.
The Sugar Bowl is probably as boring of a match-up as you can get–two teams playing for absolutely nothing.
Homerism: Let’s say we had a playoff consisting of the top eight teams in the BCS standings. Who wins?
Rosenfield: It really depends on how you structured it and where the first rounds were played. What are the qualifications to get in? Regardless of how you seed it, Alabama would be our favorite to win it all.
Homerism: Two mid-majors received BCS bowl invites this year, albeit to play each other. Do you think the BCS success of teams like Utah and Boise State represents some type of progress?
Rosenfield: It really depends on how you measure progress. If you feel that mid-majors making it to a BCS game is progress, then sure, there has been progress. But the public likes to think that Utah’s two BCS wins combined with Boise State’s win over Oklahoma have moved the needle. The truth is they haven’t.
This year proved it. The so-called mid-majors are allowed to come to the prom, but they are not allowed to be the king. Boise State and TCU both lost ground in the last week of the year to two BCS schools that were trailing in the final minute of their respective games. Had Texas lost, TCU still would have been shut out. And Boise State never had a real chance of making it to Pasadena.
As long as this system is in place, you will never see a team from the WAC or MWC in the BCS title game.
Homerism: So, how would you change the BCS?
Rosenfield: The best proposal I have seen is from Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! His format is a 16-team playoff with 11 automatic qualifiers and five wild cards. Win your conference and you are in. The next five best teams get in after that. Conference champions make up the top 11-seeds with wild cards making up 12-16. Higher seeds get home games and then you play out the National Championship game at a neutral site.
I also think this format would encourage better non-conference match-ups in September, as a loss would not hurt your conference standing and a win could bolster your overall resume.
Homerism: According to the numbers, are Alabama and Texas the two best teams in the country?
Rosenfield: According to our numbers, the answers is yes. It is hard to argue against Alabama, and Texas makes a case if you look at the big picture. Remember, UT is a veteran team that underachieved throughout the year and tossed in some highly productive games. Because of that, they rate highly. They were beating Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State by comfortable margins in our head-to-head simulations.
Homerism: Different question: Are Alabama and Texas the two “most deserving” teams?
Rosenfield: This is a good question and there is no right answer.
Texas lived off reputation and a strong brand. I feel Cincinnati had a more impressive schedule in beating Oregon State on the road and sweeping a very deep Big East. Texas didn’t have to play anyone and was rewarded. It’s a sad day for college football, because more ADs are going to realize that and avoid big match-ups early on. (Wetzel also wrote a good article about that.) While Bob Stoops and Pete Carroll scheduled BYU and Ohio State early in the season, both coaches ended up losing their quarterbacks that directly caused a loss. Mack Brown is not willing to do that. As long as Texas can get kissed into the BCS Title Game, he has no reason to change.
But let me get back to the topic. This is very similar to 2004–the year USC, Oklahoma and Auburn were all undefeated. All were worthy, but only two can get in. I am fine with Texas getting in, but I do think the Longhorns should have shown more on the field rather then just being “put in” that game.
Alabama is very deserving. The Tide beat Virginia Tech, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia and Florida. I think that speaks for itself.
Homerism: What can be done to create incentives for teams like Florida and Texas to toughen up their schedules?
Rosenfield: There is no incentive. When the Yankees won the World Series, it was a sad day for baseball. It validated that the broken business model could be exploited to the tune of championships. Prior to this year, the Yankees had bought all the talent, but it hadn’t paid off. Now that it has, there is no stopping it.
I feel the same way about Texas getting in the game. While I have no issue with the Longhorns being in the game, it’s disappointing to see how easy the decision was. I also think that Florida and Texas can look at what happened to Oklahoma and USC with their quarterbacks getting hurt and say “why risk it.”
Homerism: What was the biggest surprise of the season to you?
Rosenfield: In my opinion, the biggest shock of the year was how dreadful the coaching among the icons of the business.
In the 11.5 games that Bob Stoops was without Sam Bradford, he and his staff could never find a game plan that suited this team’s makeup and marginalized its weaknesses. Les Miles lost his mind against Ole Miss by telling his quarterback to ground a ball with one second on the clock, and his game plan against Florida was a complete joke. Texas made the national championship despite Colt McCoy being intercepted five times and sacked 14 times against Oklahoma and Nebraska–two teams that combined for nine losses. Mike Gundy got beat at home Houston. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt didn’t make Dexter McCluster an every-down back until November. Urban Meyer couldn’t figure out how to make his offense explosive and defensive guru Pete Carroll was consistently outschemed by coaches with inferior talent.
The greatest equalizer to lack of talent or a down year is coaching. Games are seldom won on game day. You win them in film study and practice. Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez is a great example of just how bad it was for the name-brand coaches. His defense gave up more than 6 yards per carry and seldom made the first tackle. On offense, the Wolverines’ quarterbacks got worse as the season went on and consistently turned over the ball due to bonehead decisions. It showed a lack of coaching.
I think we forget that being a great recruiter and overseeing a top-flight program doesn’t always translate to being a good coach. The best coach this year was clearly Alabama’s Nick Saban. Not only did he bring in the top recruits, but his team performed on Saturdays. His players stayed within their game plan. How else do you go 13-0 with a quarterback who completed just over 50 percent of his passes?