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By Mike Luce
This weekend features several great match-ups, but the Red River Shootou... wait, it's no longer called the Shootout? The Texas-Oklahoma game, you know, the one played every year since 1922? We're calling it the Red River Rivalry now?
Yes, thanks to SBC Communications (and now this year, AT&T) one of college football's oldest rivalries was re-branded. The series dates back to 1900, but in 2005 the ad men behind the sponsorship dollars decided the impressionable public should be spared such language. Apparently, the boys at corporate feel as though "shootout" may in some way condone gun violence. The Nerfing of America continues.
Other top games include #22 South Carolina at #2 Alabama, #4 Virginia Tech visiting #19 Georgia Tech, and #25 Notre Dame hosting #6 USC.
In the background, the upcoming Bowl Championship Series rankings loom over any game involving a Top 10 team this weekend. The HAL 9000 will crunch all the numbers and spit out the results Sunday night. Here is how it works. Sort of.
1. The Harris Interactive Poll (33 percent): Comprised of votes by a panel of 114 former and current college muckety-mucks, drawn from more than 300 nominations by all 11 FBS (i.e. Division I-A, for those of you keeping track at home) conferences and other institutions.
2. The USA Today/Coaches Poll (33 percent): Same as above, basically, except only 59 voting members are involved.
Both polls follow the same inverse point order system, with voters allocating 25 points to first place, 24 points to second, and so on. In both cases, some addition and division happens, and you're left with a BCS quotient. We're supposed to believe a process exists to account for any missing voters (those too drunk, dead, or incarcerated to file a ballot), but I'm not buying it.
3. Six Junior HALs (33 percent): Another six rankings are generated by computers. The rankers include: Peter Wolfe, Wes Colley, Sagarin, the Seattle Times, Richard Billingsley, and Kenneth Massey. Note: those aren't the names of the computers, but instead the computers' fleshy, bipedal masters.
(For an interesting interview with Billingsley, go here, and check out his Week 6 rankings here.)
Finally, the BCS formula drops the highest and lowest ranking for each team from among the six computers. Then each piece from the three sources above gets added up and averaged. When it comes to the BCS, suffice it to say, some math is involved.
OK, got it? Good. Now, crunch the numbers for Ohio State and e-mail me the results. First correct answer wins a prize.
In two of the three games mentioned above, I don't have a strong feeling. (While I suspect 'Bama rolls South Carolina, Spurrier is due for a big road win SOME day . . . and is it blasphemy to wonder if Va Tech is a bit overrated?) Saturday should be a tremendous day of football - maybe the best so far this season - and laying off some games allows you some breathing room to watch and enjoy the game without worrying about the numbers. To date, the Report has not seen much success in our weekly picks. Through Week 6, we are treading water at 11-11 while the Sports Seal has a record of 5-6-1. This week, we guarantee all of the following picks by the Report are LOCKS*.
As always, the following is for entertainment purposes only. Including gambling.
Game: #20 Oklahoma (+3) @ #3 Texas (Over 52, Saturday, 11 a.m.)
Comment: Whenever watching a game out at a bar, compare your gambling strategy against the venue. For example, I like Oklahoma to play spoiler on Saturday . . . but I'll be taking in the game from a local Texas bar. In these situations, consider laying off altogether or look at playing the point total. I'm undecided at the moment. Officially, I'll pass on this one, although unofficially I would take the points and/or the "over".
Game: #6 USC (-10) @ #25 Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
Comment: I'm living up to my promise of rooting for USC over Notre Dame. I developed a love for ND as kid before I was old enough to know about Sports Bigamy. However, my interest has waned since the mid-90s, and the combination of Willingham and Weis has nearly extinguished any lingering support.
Apart from any emotional context, consider these numbers: USC allows 8.6 points per game while ND gives up 23.8. Further, under Billingsley's system, Southern Cal ranks #13 while the Irish come in at . . . #40. Hmm, this guy might be on to something here.
Tune in Saturday and catch the last belch of the Charlie Weis era. Take USC and lay the points.
Game: #7 Ohio State (-13.5) @ Purdue (Saturday, 11 a.m.)
Comment: Is this the same Purdue team Notre Dame struggled to beat a few weeks ago? You're telling me that the Boilermakers are 1-5 overall, and winless in the Big Ten? I like this pick (and USC, for that matter) more and more by the minute. I hope the number stays below two touchdowns.
Don't get me wrong, Purdue plays tough at home. But apart from pride, the Boilermakers don't have much left this season - and pride only does so much good when trailing the Buckeyes big at home. I thought OSU might struggle a bit to dispatch Wisconsin at the 'Shoe last weekend, but if the Badgers can't come within 14 points, I don't see any reason not to back Tressel's squad on Saturday.
Game: Colorado State @ #12 TCU (-22.5, Saturday, 3:00 p.m.)
Comment: Of all the teams discussed in the Report today, the Horned Frogs may have the most to gain or lose in the BCS rankings. Every team in the top 15 spots or so needs to win, that is a given, but voters may give other schools the benefit of the doubt in a close game. For example, if Iowa or Miami scrape out a tough win on the road against unranked opponents, the voters will find any number of excuses on their behalf.
But if TCU fails to blow out Colorado State at HOME on Saturday . . . well, eyebrows will go up. The system already favors teams from the Big 6 BCS conferences (those such as the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-10, etc. with automatic BCS bowl tie-ins) as it is, so the stakes for a team like TCU are very high. Not only must they win, they must win in impressive fashion.
I would worry about other teams in this position, and we have already seen would-be "BCS Buster" seasons (umm, yes you, Houston) derailed. TCU has produced tough wins under pressure situations before, and I'm confident in a cover at home this weekend.
Game: #23 Houston (-17) @ Tulane (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
Comment: Fresh from my snide comments about Houston in the previous pick, we come right back to the Cougars! I'm not so much picking for a heavy road favorite in this situation as I am picking against a terrible Tulane team.
* Unless my team doesn't cover the spread, in which case forget it.
The Beachwood Sports Seal has a determined look in his beady little eyes this morning. He doesn't like losing any more than the next guy. Despite his hot start, we're all only as good as our last week. But most of us won't get clubbed, skinned, and turned into a nice waterproof jacket if we flame out. For those of you surfing the job listings, keep this little thought in mind - getting laid off sucks, but it could always be worse.
~ #9 Miami (-17) @ Central Florida (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)
~ #11 Iowa @ Wisconsin (-2.5, Saturday, 11:00 a.m.)
~ Minnesota @ #14 Penn State (-17.5, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week. He welcomes your comments.
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