Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pollsters Wish Gay Marriage Was Legal, and that Pete Carroll Was Available

Boosters at the University of Southern California (henceforth USC, the REAL USC regardless of what you hear from the South Carolina folks) must be having a tough time during the recession. A downturn in the economy must mean lower payments to football prospects, which means more of those prospects end up elsewhere, or perhaps they don't put out as much on the field as they do off the field when the bills are of the Andrew Jackson variety rather than the Benjamins they are used to seeing. As I search the halls of ludicrousness (if the previous scenario is actually ludicrous) for the reason USC won't win the Pac-10 for the first time since W. was still a new president, one thing has become abundantly clear. The folks who cast votes in the college football polls continue to suckle at the teet of SC head coach Pete Carroll, because they still haven't figured out that the Trojans are just another mediocre football team this season.

USC is ranked number 22 in the Associated Press writers poll this week, number 21 in the baloney-filled USA Today coaches' poll, and an amazing 18 in the BCS standings, helped out by a number 14 computer ranking. Regardless of what computers say (and I will diffuse that portion of the equation in a bit), let's examine just how the humans who cast votes could come to the conclusion that the Trojans are rated higher than other teams with three losses, and even a number of teams with two losses.

You may have already heard my previous arguments as to why the Trojans are annually rated higher than they probably should be, so I won't revisit my theory that pollsters lust after Pete Carroll because he seems to be a cool, hip, California dude, the closest the hot dog eaters of the polling world will ever come to hanging with Tom Cruise, well, without the jumping on the couch, spousal mind-control, and hangin' in the closet with R. Kelly on South Park. Theories on poll inflation aren't needed when empirical evidence shows that a number of teams should be ranked ahead of USC, even amongst the supposedly more fair world of computers.

USC has three losses this season, so let's examine them versus teams ranked below them (or not ranked at all) who have three or fewer losses. Two of the Trojans losses have been to higher-ranked teams, at least they are higher ranked now; Oregon and Stanford. Those two losses were whoppers, by a combined 61 points, and the loss to Stanford was on SC's home field while the Cardinal were NOT ranked. The Trojans other defeat may be the worst loss by a ranked team this season, to 3-7 Washington. Despite this, the pollsters absolutely insist that SC is one of the 21 or 22 best football teams in the country.

Ranked just below the Trojans in both polls are a pair of teams with two losses, Houston and Utah. Houston's two losses were to an okay Central Florida team (6-4) and to a not-so-okay UTEP (3-7), which may rival SC's loss to the Huskies. The Utes, on the other hand, have a pair of legitimate defeats, at Oregon (by a touchdown versus USC's 27) and a blowout loss to unbeaten TCU. So why are the Trojans ahead of Utah? Because the hot dog eaters can't get snockered on 3.5-percent beer in Utah, and they'd much rather get a rubdown with the head coach in sunny SoCal rather than snowy Salt Lake City. Perhaps if Utah coach Kyle Whittingham recruited some of those ladies that helped sway the International Olympic Committee a few years ago, he'd have better luck with the poll voters.

Other teams who either could or should be ranked ahead of SC include 7-3 Clemson (a bad loss to 2-8 Maryland, but other losses to TCU and 10-1 Georgia Tech by a combined seven points), 7-3 Nebraska (all losses to teams with winning records, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, and Iowa State), 7-2 Rutgers (losses only to unbeaten Cincinnati and one-loss Pittsburgh), 7-3 Ole Miss (losses to winning-record teams South Carolina, Alabama, and Auburn), not to mention 8-3 Navy and 8-2 Central Michigan and Temple (TEMPLE for crying out loud!).

"But USC has some better wins than those teams. I mean, they won at Ohio State, Ray. AT OHIO STATE. And AT NOTRE DAME. Top that, Schmucky Steele!" Well, if you insist. Sure, Ohio State is the Big 10 champion, which once again means they might as well be the champion of the Big Two. Any conference that allows a mediocre Iowa team only two losses in a year isn't a very good conference. That Ohio State win is also the reason SC is rated so high by the computers, as there is no good explanation as to why the 9-2 Buckeyes, with a loss to 4-7 Purdue, are ranked higher than 9-1 Pittsburgh. Well, there is no good explanation other than the hot dog eaters enjoy sweater-vest shopping with Jim Tressell (code name: BCS Title Game Loser) almost as much as hot tubbing with Pete Carroll.

Notre Dame? Once again, coach Charlie Weis has a quarterback and a giant collection of Lucky Charms marshmallows, and it took a last-minute goal line stand for SC to beat them. The Trojans only truly good win was at home over a solid Oregon State team, and most of the teams mentioned above have wins at least as good.

Yes, this is a losing battle. Despite the avalanche of evidence against ranking them now, it would probably take a losing record to get the Trojans out of the top 25, and even then there would be one or two sucklers in the media making the argument as to why a seven-loss SC team still belongs in the BCS. Even if they stunk or if all of their best players landed in jail now rather than later, the lure of seeing Coach C minus the shirt is just too tough for a pollster and a blank top-25 list. Is that your poll writing pen in your pocket, or are you just.........oh, never mind.

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