Friday, December 01, 2006

Non-Conference Opponents: Why USC is a better pick for the Championship game than Florida or Michigan

USC won solidly against Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Arkansas. Those are some very good opponents; each of them could legitimately be playing in BCS bowls.

Michigan won solidly against Notre Dame, Central Michigan, and Vanderbilt. This set of teams is not as impressive. Don't underestimate Central Michigan; the Chippewas were the MAC champs this year, but even so, they're not in the same class as Nebraska or Arkansas. Vanderbilt is not a good team--sure, they're in the SEC, but they're historically the worst team in that conference. They also had a game against the Ball State University Cardinals that was much closer than it ought to have been--Michigan beat a not-very-good MAC team visiting their stadium by only a touchdown.

Florida dominated against I-AA Western Carolina, but they're not even a good team at that level of play. Wins against Southern Miss (an above-average Conference USA team) and Central Florida (a below-average C-USA team) were also by convincing margins, but the game against Florida State was quite close. This usually would be a good thing, but Florida State is not very good this year.

When those non-conference games are considered in light of current conference strengths--the Pac-10 is slightly better than the SEC this year, and the Big 10 is quite a bit behind either one. (And Michigan is hurt in conference, too; they did not face Wisconsin, their conference's third-best team, or Purdue, who finished fifth.)

As a whole, USC has beaten six teams with winning records, two from Sagarin's top ten and all in the top thirty. Michigan has beaten only three winning teams, none from the top ten and only two in the top thirty. Florida has drawn a tough SEC schedule--the only teams they don't face are the two worst in the conference--and like USC, they have half a dozen wins thus far, and two from the top ten--but two of them are not top thirty teams.


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