and it took this inane gem from Stewart Mandel to rouse me from my slumber. (We Southerners can be so prickly some times!) Anyway, Mandel misses several points:
1. Southerners are a little defensive right now about our teams because the last few years have seen them screwed routinely. In 2003, LSU only got a spot in the national title game because of Oklahoma's loss. The consensus of the human polls (which are greatly affected by media coverage and emphasis on chosen story lines, as well as inertia in that their assessment of teams rarely change unless those teams lose, hence the uncritical assumption that USC and Texas are the two best teams in the land) was that LSU was not on the level of USC or Oklahoma until the Sooners were exposed. In 2004, the human polls made the same judgment about Auburn, namely that they weren't on the level with USC or Oklahoma. In both instances, Oklahoma didn't do anything in their bowl game to justify the faith that the human polls had in them. Now, it's 2005, two SEC teams are unbeaten, and naturally, they have been judged to be inferior to USC and a Big XII team, such that they'll never get a shot at the national title unless one of those two teams lose. Stewie, you'll forgive us bumpkins if we don't take your proclamations of the inferiority of SEC teams seriously in light of the way that LSU and Auburn were erroneously written off in the past two seasons.
(And speaking of which, how is it that Big XII teams win out every time there is a controversy with the BCS? Flat-state bias?)
2. The reference to "ugly" SEC football is another illustration of why Southerners are so prickly and, incidentally, it explains why I like have computers as part of the BCS formula. Human voters always overrate the importance of offense and underrate the importance of defense when evaluating teams. Why was Bama's win over Tennessee ugly, but USC's win over Notre Dame and Texas' win over Ohio State were both glorious WHEN THEY WERE ALL BY THREE POINTS? Yes, Bama's six points against Tennessee were unimpressive, but how about USC allowing 31 points to Notre Dame? That was evidence of a top team? USC's defense was a complete sieve after they scored to take the lead at 27-24. That performance, more than Bama's problems scoring against the Tennessee defense, is inconsistent with a national champion. Hell, Mandel authored a very perceptive piece as part of SI.com's 2004 college football preview about the common factor for all national champions in the past decade being a top ten defense. USC isn't close to that right now, although in their defense, they've played far better offenses than any of the other unbeaten teams. The Trojans might get by being an exception to the rule that teams without great defenses don't win national titles because the rest of their schedule is manageable and I'm not going against the Trojans when Carroll has a month to prepare for a home game for the national title. That said, they don't look like a national champion right now, but most of the media are so obsessed with offensive skill position talent that they are overlooking that team's flaws.
And how does this relate to my original point? Simply put, Mandel's criticism of the SEC based on the games being defensive is idiotic because defense is central to winning a national title, so Georgia and Alabama aren't getting their due.
3. I love this:
"As a more lucid SEC alum in my office said this week, you can sum up the conference this season with a word: 'unwatchable.'
"Now, compare that to the ACC, which not only has three teams that could play with anyone in the SEC (Virginia Tech, Florida State and Miami) but also no less than six other teams (Boston College, Clemson, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina) capable of beating those squads on any given week."
As an initial matter, anyone who thinks that a well-played defensive game is "unwatchable" shouldn't be writing for SI. Additionally, Mandel shifts his argument from the aesthetics of SEC games to the depth of the SEC versus the depth of other conferences, which is actually a reasonable point for him to make. (The bottom half of the SEC is not good this year and that's a legitimate criticism of Alabama and Georgia.) Sticking with aesthetics, did Stewie watch the Miami-Florida State game? Or the Clemson-Boston College game? And he's going to criticize SEC teams for playing boring, defensive games?
4. And it gets even dumber with this gem:
"Perhaps if the Tide or Bulldogs had beaten an Ohio State or Notre Dame in their non-conference slate rather than Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss, Utah State, Boise State or Louisiana-Monroe, I'd have a better measuring stick."
Refresh my recollection, Stew. Weren't you the one who proclaimed Boise State to be the best mid-major before the season, along with every other SI college football writer? Hell, Georgia can't win for losing. They clobber a top 25 team with an offense that enamors everyone and that win makes that team worthless. (Incidentally, Boise State then lost a three-point game on the road to Oregon State and has not lost since.) And by the end of the year, Georgia and Alabama will have played Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and LSU, all of whom would probably be better than anyone else in the Big XII other than Texas. I guess those four games just don't give Stew the same ability to evaluate Georgia and Alabama in the same way that one win over Ohio State does with Texas. Ohio State must be SO good.
5. And let's not forget this last nugget:
"In the absence of that, perhaps the best point of comparison you can make is this: USC gained more yards against Arkansas in a two-minute span (261) than Georgia did against the Razorbacks over the course of an entire game (217)."
How about this: Washington scored more points against USC than they did against any other opponent this season. USC led mighty Arizona by seven points after three quarters. If we're going to judge teams based on not putting away bad opponents, how about those apples?