Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Does Ohio State Put The 'O' in Overrated?

We all know the chant. It's become a common cry in college sports, used as a humiliating tool against opponents the AP and coaches said were either greater or in the same class as you. It echoed throughout the Superdome, while then No. 4 Georgia was dismantling No. 10 Hawaii. Just as it was heard in Kentucky, as the Wildcats topped the LSU Tigers in triple overtime. But if we look back at the opening preseason poll and compare it to the end product, which were the overrated and underrated teams of 2007?

At first thought, after witnessing the Buckeyes being soundly defeated in the BCS championship game, some will draw the conclusion that they were overrated. You have no argument, if we focus strictly on that one game, but going into the 2007 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes ranked 11th in the AP and 10th in the coaches poll. When you compare their end position of 5th and 4th, the Buckeyes climbed, making them slightly underrated for the season.

Our National Champion LSU Tigers are the easiest to figure. They ranked second in both preseason polls, and finished first. The preseason No. 1 Team, USC, finished 3rd in the AP and 2nd in the coaches poll. LSU slightly underrated, and USC was slightly overrated. Ironically, the first poll to number LSU and USC correctly was the AP, which jumped the Tigers ahead of the Trojans in week 5. This is the same AP that the folks in Louisiana, and down in SEC country, frowned upon, after they crowned USC the champions in 2003. I'm sure once the AP jumped the Trojans in week 5, those same people weren't insinuating that the media didn't know what they were talking about. Funny how that works. But hey, that's college football.

But enough of the slight, let's look at the most overrated and underrated teams of 2007. Some are easy to figure, such as Cal failing to finish in the top 25, after starting as No. 12. Michigan moved from 5 to 18 in the AP, after fighting back from the media boot they received with the loss to Appalachian State. Not only did Michigan go from No. 5 to completely off the board with that first week loss, but Appalachian State picked up AP votes. Louisville, Rutgers, UCLA, Florida State, TCU, Nebraska and Texas A&M would complete our list of the most overrated teams. The most underrated are fairly obvious. Missouri and Kansas didn't appear on either preseason poll. In fact, of the original list of teams in the AP top 10, 6 reappeared in the end of season 10. Mizzou, Kansas, Georgia, and Ohio State replaced Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Louisville.

This is the first year that fans didn't have the opportunity to debate the ranking of Notre Dame. year after year the talk was about Notre Dame being the overrated media darling. I've said it once or twice myself. Truth revealed is that over the past 10 years, according to beginning and ending positions in the polls, Notre Dame is neither over or underrated. They usually live up to their preseason projection. I'll give you the overrated culprits, and I'm sure the revelation will be accompanied by grimaces.

7 past BCS champions top the overrated list for the past 10 years. I guess it's easy to say that when you win it all the bar is set high and the expectations become much more. But as I look at some of the teams appearing on the list, I can easily point out Florida teams that continually failed to meet the preseason projection under coach Ron Zook. I also see Tennessee teams that underachieved, and Miami and Nebraska programs that began to slide. A great history can slap a high ranking on your back, but programs have a new look every year, and too often the polls don't look at today, but will keep looking in the rear view.

Most overrated teams in last 10 years:

1. Florida State (-70)
2. Tennessee (-55)
3. Washington (-42)
4. Florida (-40 1/2)
5. Nebraska (-40)
6. Michigan (-38)
7. Miami (-35)
T8. Ohio State (-30)
T8. Texas (-30)
10. Clemson (-17)

As you can see, the numbers show Florida State as the most overrated team of the past 10 years, based on preseason ranking and final poll position.

The most underrated teams are again the easiest to predict. These are teams that usually won't see a poll until the season has began. These teams aren't projected in the top 10 every year, and if they do touch a poll, their climb begins from the bottom.

Most underrated teams in last 10 years:

1. Washington St. (+51)
2. Boise State (+46)
3. Oregon (+35 1/2)
4. Boston College (+32)
5. Arkansas (+21)
T6. Iowa (+17)
T6. Maryland (+17)
8. TCU (+14)
9. Wisconsin (+6)
10. Louisville (+5)

And when we break it down again by conference, again it shows the obvious. The Pac 10 is usually the most disrespected conference. Outside of USC, voters don't expect anything from from the rest. The Pac has spent most of the last ten years adding teams to the top 25, rather than dropping them. According to the calculations, the ACC is the most overrated conference, which only extends an ongoing debate, considering their 10 years of bowl performances.

BCS Conferences:

1. Pac-10 (+60 1/2)
2. Big East (+9)
3. Big 10 (+3)
4. SEC (-12 1/2)
5. Big 12 (-78 1/2)
6. ACC (-102)

LSU defeated the eventual ACC champion before going on to win the SEC, finally ending the season as the crowned Kings. West Virginia is a Big East champion that made easy work of the Big 12 Champion. Georgia failed to win their conference, without ever getting a shot at the Tigers, and USC was forced to mow down what the bowl committees placed before them. There is no true power ranking of teams, since not enough of the college football powers are facing each other to make that determination. We live and die by poll positions. These polls carry us through the season, before crowning our champion. There's obviously a better way than coaches and media opinion, but the NCAA refuses to give us that satisfaction. Coaches sell their teams, friends, and conferences. The media sells us games, promoting upcoming battles and extending the hype with a ranking. The NCAA recognizes no champions for the sport of football, yet the schools stuff their pockets by marketing "championship" events through the use of the media.

We watch it. We cheer for it. And we anticipate the first preseason poll. We live for the game, while at the same time whining about the system. It's how it is, and how it looks to continue to be. But just once, I'd like to see a season end, and like all other team sports, have nothing left but silence.

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