UPDATE: Despite my ability to add and subtract numbers quite well (sometimes even three-digit numbers), I misread the Kansas State – UCLA score. Kansas State beat the Bruins by 9 in Manhattan, KS. I still do not see any evidence that the Big 12 is superior to the Pac-10, as Kansas State should beat UCLA at home, but I aim to be accurate!
Despite being ranked numero uno in both the USA Today and AP Top 25 Polls, the Oregon Ducks find themselves number 2 in the first B(C)S poll of the year behind Oklahoma. I assumed at first it had to do with Oregon’s preseason scheduling. Portland State and New Mexico state are hardly tough non-conference games, and Tennessee could easily finish last in the SEC East. However, there’s reason to believe the Pac 10 is collectively playing the toughest non-conference schedule of any conference.
Sure, Notre Dame–a common opponent of Stanford and USC–always starts the year overrated, but Oregon State played competitive games against TCU and Boise State, consensus top 5 teams in the country, losing by a combined 16 points. Arizona knocked off Iowa, and UCLA beat #23 Houston before handling Texas…AT TEXAS. Texas may have “slid a little,” then losing to the very Oklahoma team that leads the BCS rankings, but they came back to beat #5 Nebraska in Lincoln last week. Arizona State lost a heart-breaker in Madison on a last-second PAT block, and don’t look now, but the Badgers just beat #1 Ohio State by 13.
The Pac-10 has some impressive wins–and competitive losses–this season against BCS-conferences foes, and has posted a 21-9 overall non-conference record. In comparison, the Big 12 (from which Oklahoma hails) sits at 36-8, a much better overall non-conference record, but against whom?
From the Big 12 North, 2nd-place Kansas State lost by 9 to UCLA which is tied for 7th in the Pac-10. Nebraska pounded Washington, which despite being 2-1 in conference play, is just 3-3 overall and likely won’t finish higher than 6th in the Pac. Iowa State, Oregon-State-like in aspirations, broke the Big 12 mold and actually played two top 10 teams out-of-conference, Iowa and Utah…The Cyclones got pounded by at least 4 touchdowns in both games. Colorado’s marquee non-conference game was against former SEC powerhouse Georgia. But Georgia has struggled this season, and likely won’t find itself near the top of that conference.
As for the Big 12 South, Oklahoma State pounded the Pac 10’s worst team, Washington State, but really, who hasn’t? The rest of its opponents–Tulsa, Troy and Lafayette–have been on par with the Cougars in that they are all Division I JV teams. Baylor took on #4 TCU, and lost by 35. Texas, as mentioned, lost to Pac 10’s UCLA by 22, and otherwise rounded out its schedule with Rice and Wyoming. Texas Tech loaded up with Southern Methodist, New Mexico, and Weber State. A&M played Stephen F. Austin, LA Tech and Florida International–an intimidating bunch, if I may say so. Which brings us to BCS #1, the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooner’s best win out of conference, and it was impressive, was a 30-point drubbing of Florida State, currently the country’s #16 team. Other than that, they slipped by Utah State, #23 Air Force and Cincinnati (all at home) by a combined 12 points. Air Force was ranked #23 in the country last week, until it lost to San Diego State, and its wins are not impressive (I didn’t know Northwestern State was a school).
Oklahoma has definitely played a harder non-conference schedule than Oregon, though its wins outside Florida State have not been impressive. I find it very difficult to say objectively that the Big 12 is a better conference than the Pac 10. The Big 12 teams–all 12 of them (the Big 10 could learn how to count from these guys)–have approximately 1 major non-conference win, maybe 2 if you count Air Force, and one significant losses to the Pac-10. Texas’ loss to UCLA is significant because the Horns are likely to finish in the top half of the conference, while UCLA will probably not finish in the top 5 in the Pac. The Pac-10’s performance against some of the same schools has been better in point differential, and the Pac-10 has big wins against Iowa and Texas, with a nail-biting loss to then #11 Wisconsin–from our 7th-place team, Arizona State. Wisconsin is now #10 with just one loss.
Despite Oregon’s weaker NON-conference schedule, it has still outscored opponents 326 – 98. A +228 point differential. Oklahoma? 216 – 114, for a +102. It would seem that any of Oklahoma’s advantage in tougher scheduling is wiped away by the seemingly more-difficult Pac-10 schedule and Oregon’s point differential. In a hypothetical perfect system, we could have Oregon play Oklahoma and Stanford play Texas…100 times each. But with limited information, looking deeper than who beat whom is necessary to making the best guess at true ability. This is why Arizona State’s 1-point loss to the Badgers is significant.
So why all the computer polls in the BCS system averaged Oregon at 8th in the country and Oklahoma at 1st is beyond me. I wouldn’t complain if it were the Sooners 1 and the Ducks 2, but 8th? Those six computer polls have given Oklahoma the top spot in the BCS, and left Oregon behind the likes of TCU, Boise State, Auburn, LSU, Michigan State, and Big 12’s Mizzou. Speaking of Mizzou, I didn’t forget to mention the Tigers’ opponents earlier. They didn’t have any. They beat San Diego State by 3, and Illinois by 10. Then rounded out the non-conference schedule with McNeese State and Miami(Ohio), which hasn’t been good outside the MAC since some guy named Ben played there. Their two conference games thus far include wins over Colorado and A&M, bottom dwellers of the Big 12. But yeah, obviously they’re better than Oregon.
Who the hell writes the programming for those computers?