Monday, November 27, 2006

Hey, Utah Fans...

No, I'm not going to taunt you. Your team played well. In fact, the Utes aren't a bad team this year: look at how they've played against really good teams: sure, they were solidly defeated by Boise State and UCLA, but they beat TCU and they were more than competitive against BYU. The team shouldn't have lost to New Mexico and just came out flat against Wyoming--perhaps the TCU game left them emotionally drained or vulnerable to an upset the next week.

This team should be 8-4, but they lost two games they should have won, but only won one that they should have lost. They'll play in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, and probably do quite well there against a Conference USA team, probably Rice or SMU. Utah is better than any C-USA team, and this game cannot be against either of the top two teams in the conference, who are committed to other bowls. Thus, this game will be quite winnable. Go buy tickets and enjoy a trip to DFW. It's a great place.

In other Mountain West Conference news, TCU has officially accepted an invitation to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego against an at-large team, which will probably mean one of the weakest teams eligible from the MAC or Sun Belt. The Frogs should win handily. New Mexico will be invited to stay in town for the imaginatively named New Mexico Bowl and play either Nevada or San Jose State, as Hawaii is going to the Hula Bowl and Boise State to the Fiesta. (The other team will play in the MPC Computer Bowl in Boise.) This will be relatively difficult compared to what TCU or Utah face, but the Lobos can win--especially since it is essentially a home game, and they are likely to be facing San Jose State, the weaker of the two possible WAC opponents.

It is clear that the most difficult match-up for the Mountain West will be the Las Vegas Bowl, where BYU will play Oregon (unless UCLA beats USC, then UCLA will be there). Whatever the opponent, though, BYU will be favored, in part because they will effectively be the home team.

This week in the BCS

Ohio State is the Big 10 Champ; USC is the Pac 10 Champ. Oklahoma and Nebraska play in the Big 12 Championship (Oklahoma should win easily); Georgia Tech and Wake Forest play in the ACC (pick Georgia Tech, even though they're not great); and Florida and Arkansas in the SEC (probably Florida). In the Big East, Rutgers beat Louisville head-to-head, so if they win against West Virginia, they are the champion, but if they lose, Louisville need only beat an unimpressive UConn squad to win the conference. (If West Virginia beats Rutgers and Louisville loses, all three will have two conference losses, and the tiebreaker situation becomes quite complicated, but Louisville won't lose.)

As mentioned last week, Michigan isn't a conference champion, but is high enough (currently #3) to get an automatic spot. Boise State is from the WAC, which is not a conference that gets automatic representation, but (currently #8) they get an automatic spot, too. (Any team in the top four, any conference champion in the top twelve, and Notre Dame in the top nine get automatic spots.) That leaves two other spots open. LSU, after beating Arkansas, has played a very difficult schedule and would be a great story, so they probably get a spot, even though they're not in the SEC championship game. Wisconsin and the loser of the SEC championship game would be great picks, but since no conference is allowed three teams, those teams are out of luck. Instead, the spot will go to either Louisville (assuming both they and Rutgers win,) or Notre Dame. Louisville (#6) is markedly better, but Notre Dame (#10) has better name recognition, which will probably be enough to overcome their two crushing defeats. Of course, if either Louisville or Rutgers lose, including Notre Dame would make sense--even if they'd get crushed by anyone other than Wake Forest in a BCS series game.

So, all said, here are the most likely match-ups:

National Championship: Ohio State is in. USC will be the opponent if they beat UCLA; if they don't, Michigan will get a rematch with the Buckeyes. USC in an upset.

Rose Bowl: Since USC and Ohio State will be taken for the national championship, the Rose Bowl gets to pick replacement teams first. They'll certainly take Michigan, since having a Big 10 team is traditional, and also have either LSU or the Big East champ (Louisville or Rutgers). LSU travels better, so that's who they'll pick to fill USC's spot. Michigan would be the favorite, but not by much.

Fiesta Bowl: They have the Big 12 champ (Oklahoma or Nebraska), and Boise State, who would be an unlikely team for the Sugar or Orange Bowls to be really excited about. Oklahoma would be favored here, but Boise State should not be misunderestimated.

Sugar Bowl: They have the SEC Champion (Arkansas or Florida), and will also want Notre Dame. Notre Dame should lose badly to either team.

Orange Bowl: They have the ACC Champ (Georgia Tech or Wake Forest), and probably will end up with the Big East champ (Rutgers or Louisville) as well. The ACC is unimpressive on top this year, so if Louisville is here, expect them to win. If it's Rutgers, the game will be harder to predict, but I'd still give the edge to New Jersey's state university over either ACC squad.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Overlooked BCS storylines

An overlooked storyline: the Rutgers loss means Boise State is in significantly less danger of falling to thirteenth. Texas could perhaps pass them with wins against A&M and another win against Nebraska, but even if that happens, Auburn would also have to pass them, which cannot happen, since Auburn has finished their regular season. All the Broncos need to do is beat a quite good Nevada team in Reno. This is the most difficult game they will have this year. (Yes, Hawaii is better than Nevada, but Boise played at home against Hawaii this year; the same was the case against Oregon State.)

After this weekend, much more will be clear about the automatic-qualifying conference championships. USC and Ohio State are in, Arkansas and Florida will play for the SEC championship. The Big 12 is a little more complex, with Nebraska playing either Texas (if they beat A&M or if Oklahoma loses) or Oklahoma (if they beat Oklahoma State and Texas loses) for the championship. Texas is the favorite. The ACC is slightly more complicated, with one more possible team: Georgia Tech will be in the championship game, and will play Wake Forest (if they beat Maryland), Boston College (if they beat Miami and Wake Forest loses), or Maryland (if they win and BC loses). The Big East is still unclear, with two games left for each of the contenders. I'll just say that West Virginia has the inside track, then Louisville, then Rutgers.

Still not too illuminated about the fourth at-large, either. Boise State and Michigan are automatic qualifiers by rule, and Notre Dame is too big a draw not to invite if they qualify. (Which they almost certainly will, even if they lose to USC.) The main candidates for the final spot would be the SEC runner-up, LSU, and the Big East runner-up. SEC teams generally have more credibility, and the SEC commissioner is the one that runs the BCS, so they may have an in. LSU, runner-up to Arkansas in the SEC West division, does not deserve a spot more than a division winner, but they draw better than Arkansas does, so if Florida beats Arkansas, be on the lookout for a cash-related shafting. The Big East is probably out of luck; any of the three SEC teams with two losses would probably be a stronger draw than a one-loss Rutgers (if they beat West Virginia) or Louisville (if West Virginia beats Rutgers). Even though the Big East is a better conference than the SEC this year--which is not the usual state of the world, but is the case this year.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Top 25 College Football Ranking that isn't absurd

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan (a)
3. USC
4. Florida
5. Arkansas
6. Wisconsin
7. Notre Dame
8. Louisville
9. West Virginia (b)
10. Boise State
11. Texas
12. LSU (c)
13. BYU (d)
14. Boston College
15. Oklahoma
16. Georgia Tech
17. Virginia Tech
18. Rutgers (e)
19. Tennessee
20. Auburn (f)
21. Hawaii
22. California
23. Nebraska
24. Wake Forest
25. TCU
26. (g) Clemson

a. Yes, they lost, but it was a close game on the road to the best team.
b. The Big East is better than many are saying.
c. The last of the relatively easy to place teams.
d. Sure, call me a homer. Then, go look at how they've been playing--and after Arizona has beaten Oregon and Cal as well, that last-second loss doesn't look as bad as it once did. Neither does the overtime BC loss; Boston College is a legitimate contender for the ACC title.
e. Yes, this is a big drop. But they looked really bad today and have only a couple good wins--which teams above them would they really beat most of the time?
f. The most over-rated team right now. I'm not impressed.
g. Okay, so that's 26, not 25. I want to show that I'm thinking of Clemson, but they're just not better than TCU, Wake Forest, or Nebraska. And stick it to The Man for trying to limit my list to an arbitrary number.

Oh, and the national championship game really should be a rematch. I wouldn't be too bothered by USC or Florida, but Arkansas or Notre Dame would be quite the poor pick indeed.

How much is playing at home worth?

According to Sagarin, about three points, which is the margin by which Ohio State defeated Michigan. I think it's pretty clear that Michigan is the second-best team in the country, so it seems appropriate that they should play for the national championship in January. Of course, there is a preference among many to avoid rematches whenever possible, so that may not happen. However, I'd like to note that I believe that only USC and Florida now have a chance. If both of those teams lose, or perhaps even if they win unimpressively, Michigan will get a rematch.

That said, New Mexico plays better on the road than at home, which is rather odd. But BYU won in another impressive victory. This is a very good team. I came away from the game thinking, "That didn't seem too good. We'll play better next time." Taking that away from a 42-17 win against a respectable opponent is a good thing.

Friday, November 17, 2006

With so many choices, what's the answer?

The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan play their final games of the season tomorrow. Or rather, final game, as it is against one another. Both teams are currently undefeated, and currently are ranked #1 and #2 nationally. The winner obviously gets into the National Championship game. The question, though, is who would deserve to be #2, and get to oppose either the Buckeyes or Wolverines? There are a few options, and I'll look at them in order of likelihood to reach such a game...

The University of Southern California. The Men of Troy looked like they were out of it three weeks ago, when a comeback against Oregon State fell short--they were unable to get a two-point conversion that would have tied the game. However, since then, they've looked good, even as other teams that had moved ahead faltered, and in most cases, lost. Surprisingly, the Trojans are back as the top contender. However, they have three games remaining, and none of them are especially easy. This both hurts and helps, though; if they beat California, Notre Dame, and UCLA, they will be the most obvious candidate. Their schedule strength may end up as the hardest in the country, so that will help them appear better than any other one-loss team.

Florida has the next best chance. They are in the Southeastern Conference, which isn't really that impressive this year, but has a storied tradition and a great reputation, which is far better than current excellence, as far as public opinion goes. However, they are currently just behind USC, and while they also have three games remaining, only one has a real chance of impressing voters or computers: the SEC Championship against Arkansas. Western Carolina, (a I-AA team) and a quite unimpressive Florida State will do little to help, even if Florida wins big.

The loser of OSU-UM. Sure, they'll have a loss, but it will be to the best team in the country! Especially if Michigan loses a close one on the road, we could see an all-Big 10 rematch in January.

Rutgers is undefeated, but have played a much easier schedule and don't have many impressive wins under their belt. The Scarlet Knights have a close win against Louisville that was quite the impressive comeback, but their only other really impressive win was against Navy. Nothing else was particularly notable. If they have a great win against West Virginia, they can move past Notre Dame, but probably not USC or Florida, unless those teams lose. Before then, they will play Cincinnati and Syracuse. Cincinnati is thoroughly average, (which makes them one of Rutgers' better opponents,) so a win there doesn't help unless it's in spectacular fashion. Syracuse isn't good. Even a relatively close win in that game will hurt Rutgers' chances at moving up.

Notre Dame's fans may like to think they have a chance. They don't. They've got a better record than I expected this year, but that is due, in large part, to close wins. I don't think their luck holds against USC, even though beating Army this week won't require much luck at all. The biggest strike against them is their loss--a thorough beating at the hands of Michigan... in South Bend. If Ohio State wins, it's hard to see voters putting Notre Dame ahead of Michigan. If Michigan wins, it's tough to see voters wanting a rematch of a game that was incredibly lopsided. However, they'll still get a BCS invitation, which will likely end badly for the team.

Arkansas has a similar problem as Rutgers, and they've dropped a game already. They've got quite a bit of ground to make up in the polls, and beating Florida in the SEC Championship will certainly help, but they were beaten far too badly by USC at the beginning of the season. Beating Mississippi State won't impress anyone, but a solid win against Louisiana State will be a feather in their cap, but it won't be enough.

Boise State has two solid wins, against Utah and Oregon State. However, they have too many close games against weak teams. West Virginia, Louisville, and Wake Forest are too far back, and Wisconsin never got a crack at Ohio State and lost to Michigan, so they won't move up far enough.

Two-loss teams are out of contention for the championship game, obviously, so Texas, LSU, California, and BYU are all clearly watching on TV.

About the rest of the BCS invitations:

Interestingly, this season has a simple requirement to be certain of a BCS game: don't lose twice. (Or once, in Boise State's case, since their path has been easier.) There may be a one-loss team left out of the ten selected teams--or even two of them--but they will be the third-place teams from the Big 10 and the Big East. Incidentially, the Big East isn't as bad as some commentators seem to think--it's actually one of the better conferences this year. Not quite as good as the Pac-10, but still quite good. The problem is that the non-conference opponents of the best Big East teams were generally impressive. In any case, Wisconsin--and probably Rutgers, if they lose to West Virginia--will be out, even with only one loss.

Adding a fifth bowl this year means there are four at-large spots available. The teams for those spots currently look to be Boise State, Notre Dame, the OSU-Michigan loser, and either the Big East or the SEC runner-up.

I'll be watching plenty of football tomorrow, so if I've got something to say, you'll hear it. (Or read it, really...)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Not-So-Sweet Love Down by the Fire

Where, one may wonder, have I been? Well, I'll tell you. Some other time. But first, I mentioned something last time around...

First, people may not be (in Protestantese,) convicted about sexual immorality. If we've only been seeking to live up to the expectations of other people, (rather than God,) our conduct will come to include discrepancies, as we will seek to please different people with different expectations at different times. This sort of decision-making process will generally lead one to unhappiness.

Second, we may know what is expected of us, but our will is different. This is especially unsatisfying for people. Amulek noted, "I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, but [he] would not know." When this sort of dissonance exists between what we know God wants for us and what we want, sometimes we become especially skilled at ignoring God's will, and often even strengthen our resolve to do what we want to anyway.

Third, it's fun. Who isn't interested in things that are fun? I know am!

Fourth, we may crave security. Sex is about togetherness, so it holds a strong appeal when we're lonely or believe we don't really have a safe place yet. This has certainly been the case in my experience--girls that were dating me or my friends that had little to no significant emotional support from one or both parents (especially fathers) were much more likely to be interested in a more sexual relationship.

Fifth, we don't want to reject the other person. They may be taking things a bt farther than we would like to, but we care for them, and feel uncomfortable with the thought of telling them no.

Sixth, the appropriate emotional context for sex may have been created already--this is especially possible for engaged couples. The wedding ceremony is a formal ratification of relationship that the couple has created. Unsurprisingly, as our feelings develop, we seek for a way to express those stronger ties--in the case of romantic relationships, that includes, in part, their sexual relationship.

I'm sure I've got more to say about that sometime, but for now, I'm going to go take a shower. It's cold this morning, and the heat hasn't been switched on, so I'm looking forward to this!