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The College Football Report: The Worst Best Rankings

In case you're curious, The College Football Report uses the Associated Press rankings.

This is for no other reason than how ESPN shows the W/L record - we prefer to see both the total record and in conference play. In contrast, CBS Sports uses the BCS rank* but only shows the total record - although CBS does display the point spread. Let's just say we rely heavily on the ALT+Tab** keyboard shortcut.

There's also the Deadspin rankings, complete with Deadspin-like commentary, and the "Best Worst Ten," which ranks the worst teams in college football - always a good time.

Didn't you ask for an explanation on the rankings issue? No? My mistake.

Before we get into the meat of this week's edition, let's briefly recap the headlines:

  • Florida officials declared Florida State QB Jameis Winston too-hard-to-convict (of sexual assault) on Thursday.

    After an inexcusable 11-month delay following the alleged incident in December 2012, State Attorney Willie Meggs*** announced his office did not have probable cause to make an arrest or a "reasonable likelihood" of convicting Winston. Thus the case no one wanted, including Winston, the alleged victim, the Tallahassee PD****, the State Attorney, FSU, the NCAA, and the BCS, not necessarily in that order, has gone away.

    Not that the hand-wringing will stop. Take Christine Brennan's article for USA Today, in which she wonders if we can truly "be certain Winston did no wrong" while resigning herself to knowing that we "likely will never get definitive answers."

    That's how this works. No, we can't be certain. Nor will we get the truth, whatever that means, in this case.

    In criticizing (which is dead on) a bungled press conference by Meggs, Brennan goes too far, indicting Winston for his affiliation with an inappropriately "light-hearted" announcement, as if a delivery with more "seriousness and sincerity . . . would have helped build a much more compelling case for Winston."

    We have two questions in response. One: how can we hold Jameis Winston responsible for how state officials handle press conferences, and two: isn't the case closed?

    (That said, we shouldn't rule out the possibility of another case in the future. Buster Olney suggested as much in an interview with ESPN Radio Friday morning, stating that the accuser and her attorney could wait "until Winston is a wealthy young man" before bringing charges in civil court.)

  • In related news, the Heisman will go to Jameis Winston.
  • Steve Sarkisian hired as head coach for University of Southern California.

    For the record: We're still with Sark.

    Update: Chris Peterson, head coach of Boise State, will fill the vacancy at Washington. This comes as a surprise, as Peterson has rebuffed several big-time offers in the past, but the opening may make sense as it keeps him in the area (broadly speaking) and affords him the opportunity to step up into a major conference and step into a project that is already on the rise.

  • Teddy Bridgewater: Playmaker.
  • Pissed Alabama fans stiffing waiters, killing people, in wake of last-second loss to Auburn.

    'Bama backers continue to lower the bar in amusingly petty and tragically crazy ways.

    As for Auburn fans, they just went crazy, and at least one paused for an impromptu funeral service while storming the field.

  • Finally: Bowl invite season begins!

    The first invites went out this week, including Louisiana-Lafayette and Tulane, who will meet in the New Orleans Bowl (in New Orleans), along with Navy (to the Armed Forces Bowl), Arkansas State (to the GoDaddy.com Bowl, for the third consecutive year), and BYU, which was invited to the Fight Hunger Bowl formerly known as the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.*****

Note: We will forgo the usual Match-Ups of the Week due to Championship Week, but Rivalry of the Week remains, if only by chance.

MAC Championship: Bowling Green (9-3, 7-1 MAC) vs. #14 Northern Illinois (12-0, 8-0 MAC)

The Huskies hope to "crash and/or bust the BCS party" (apparently, this phrase must appear in every preview of the MAC Championship) with a win, which should elevate NIU into the BCS Top 14, thus guaranteeing a BCS bid via the non-AQ-school-with-sufficiently-high-BCS-ranking-automatically-receives-BCS-invite rule. Bear with us, the end of the BCS era is mercifully near.

Our pick: Northern Illinois (the favorite, at -4.5) by 4.

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The Big 12 Non-championship Championship: #17 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) vs. #6 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1)

The Big 12 Conference does not play a conference championship game now that only 10 teams make up the league. So consider this the might-as-well-be-the-championship game. Incidentally, we believe that if this were the 2014-2015 season, the first championship decided by a playoff, Oklahoma State would be the team nobody would want to play.

Our pick: Oklahoma State (-10) by 7.

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Conference USA Championship: Marshall (9-3, 7-1) vs. Rice (9-3, 7-1)

Although seemingly a close match-up based on W/L records, the Thundering Herd commands an advantage due to an offense ranked in the Top 25 in passing yards, rushing yards, and points scored. As for the Owls? Let's just say Rice has a modest passing game, good for about 180 yards, less than 101 other teams.

To say the money is going Marshall's way would be an understatement. After opening at -4.5, the favorites have gotten all the action, with Vegas showing the Herd carrying 69% of the point spread money at this point. Rightly so.

The winner will play in the Liberty Bowl against the 8th- or 9th-place SEC team, most likely Vanderbilt.

Our pick: Marshall (-6.5) by 10.

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Southeastern Conference Championship: #5 Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. #3 Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC)

The Tigers have played the Tigers just once before, in the 1973 Sun Bowl, with the Tigers coming out on top, 34-17 over the Tigers. We like the Tigers in this one.

As an aside, if you're looking for the catalyst of the profusion of conference championship games, this is it. Following the league's expansion in 1992 to include Arkansas and South Carolina, the SEC added an East-West championship match-up. Every other conference followed suit, although the SEC's head start (the Big 12 didn't organize a championship until 1995) may help to partially explain the conference's rise to prominence. The followers included, in chronological order: the Big 12, the Mid-American, the ACC, Conference USA, the Pac-12, the Big Ten, and the Mountain West.

Our pick: Not to be flip, but we can't find anything more to add to the mountain of commentary on this game. We like the underdog Mizzou Tigers (+2) to win. Auburn has played a tougher schedule with a 3-1 record against BCS Top 30 teams (compared to 2-1 for Missouri), but in a one game match-up we always like the "nobody believes us" underdog in what is basically a toss-up.

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Pac-12 Championship: #7 Stanford (10-2, 7-2) vs. #11 Arizona State (10-2, 7-1)

Once again, the Pac-12 finds a way to remain quasi-irrelevant. Apart from the fans for the Big Ten runner-up, who will find the trip to California for the Rose Bowl a nice consolation prize, the outcome of this game doesn't factor into the national championship. While both would be scary in a playoff, neither boast an electric offense (a la Oregon) or a dynamic starter (like Braxton Miller) to captivate the general public. No matter. We'll watch anyway.

Our pick: Another toss-up. Take Arizona (-3) due to the marginally better conference record.

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Big Ten Championship: #2 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) vs. #10 Michigan State (11-1, 8-0)

No one believes the Spartans stand a chance. Ohio State fields arguably the best offense in Division I, and despite MSU's dominant defense, the game will be over if the Buckeyes go up by two touchdowns. Michigan State's Connor Cook leads a conservative offense with a very solid running game, but the scoring pace may force Cook (who has only started 11 games) into an up-tempo mode and it's unclear if he can handle the pressure. While we would like to see MSU pull the upset so we can watch utter chaos ensue in the BCS, an Ohio State W opens the possibility for another Buckeye loss in the national championship. So it's a win-win, really.

Our pick: We would like to see a close game, but Ohio State should cover the -5.5 points. OSU by 8.

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ACC Championship: #20 Duke (10-2, 6-2) vs. #1 Florida State (12-0, 8-0)

This one truly is a foregone conclusion.

Our pick: Sorry, Dookies. FSU by 30.

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Last but not least:

Mountain West Championship: Utah State (8-4, 7-1) vs. #23 Fresno State (10-1, 7-1)

The Bulldogs are legit.

Our pick: Fresno, baby.

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The Chicken Cares Not For Your BCS
There are other games taking place this weekend, as the FCS playoff kicks off. The Chicken weighs in:

Fordham +11 vs. Towson
Maine -3.5 vs. New Hampshire
Coastal Carolina (the Chanticleers!) vs. Montana -7
Furman (the Paladins!) +29.5 vs. North Dakota State
South Dakota State (the Jackrabbits! Note: all one word.) vs. Eastern Washington -6
Jacksonville State +7.5 vs. McNeese State
Sam Houston State +7.5 (the Bear-with-a-k-Kats) vs. Southeast Louisiana
Tennessee State vs. Eastern Illinois -23

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*What about before the BCS rankings come out? Well, we don't know.

**Translation: a handy way to switch between active windows. This one likely confused non-nerds and Mac users alike.

***We couldn't find a prop bet on Meggs' re-election odds. This could go either way: He could be an 8-1 long-shot due to incompetence or, considering his district includes Tallahassee, maybe he's a 5-4 shoe-in.

****We expect to see some forced resignations in the coming weeks, as most conclude that police detectives deliberately sat on the case and some have accused the police of intimidating the alleged victim.

*****Kraft still fights hunger, just not in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese Bowls sure get the job done.

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Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.

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