USC Should Be Ranked #1

The latest college football rankings have a lot of people crying foul about USC being ranked #5 in the BCS and #4 in the human polls.

I agree that the polls have it wrong, I think USC should be ranked #1 and even though it may sound biased my conclusion is totally logical. The main premise of my argument is that who you beat is much more important than who you lose to (or if you’ve lost at all). That’s more true in NCAA football than in any other sport because top-level teams (Division I-A or FBS) can play lower tier teams (Division I-AA or FCS). This isn’t allowed in any other sport, however in college football this practice is not only allowed but a victory by a FBS team over a FCS team counts the same as a victory over a conference rival. This makes no sense whatsoever in a sport that only plays 12 regular season games.

Should a 12-0 team that plays two or three patsies at home and has an inflated preseason ranking automatically be considered better than a team that’s 11-1 but plays a much more competitive schedule? Absolutely not, this is totally illogical.

Can you imagine MLB teams paying AAA baseball teams to play in their stadium and then getting credit in the standings for those victories? It sounds crazy but that very thing is allowed in NCAA football. FBS teams pay FCS teams hundreds of thousands of dollars to come to the FBS stadium and take a licking. USC is one of only four FBS schools that has never played a FCS school and they will never play a FCS school because Trojans have too much pride, confidence and class to stoop to that level.

LSU fans seem to be complaining the most about USC’s ranking so I’ll use LSU as an example of why who you beat is more important than who you lose to. LSU and USC are both 6-1 but LSU fans are bent out of shape because their only loss was to #1 ranked Florida while USC’s loss was to unranked Washington. LSU’s argument implies that they are the superior team because if you compare the losses by LSU and USC, LSU’s loss is to a better team. But losing to Florida doesn’t tell you anything at all about how good LSU is. Does losing to the #1 ranked team mean that you could beat the #2 team? No, it doesn’t tell you a darn thing other than you can’t beat the top ranked team. 50 teams could lose to Florida and there would be no way to know which of the losers is best without a lot more information.

LSU fans also point out that they beat Washington so they are better than USC because USC lost to Washington. But any college football fan knows that this reasoning is sorely flawed. In 2008 BCS Champion Florida lost to Ole Miss in the fourth game of the season, does this mean every team that beat Ole Miss in 2008 is better than Florida and should be ranked ahead of Florida? Of course not. That kind of logic is bankrupt.

When rating college football teams it makes a lot more sense to compare the quality of their wins. USC has played three top-25 ranked teams. They’ve played all three of those games on the road and they have won them all. On the other hand LSU hasn’t beat a single team that’s currently ranked! LSU has played just one currently ranked team (at home) and they lost. So it’s impossible to make any kind of logical claim that LSU is better than USC because LSU hasn’t demonstrated they can beat good teams. There’s no way to know if LSU can even beat one currently ranked team let alone beat three ranked teams on the road, which USC has done.

Based on the available data it seems to me that USC is head and shoulders ahead of LSU.

But my argument isn’t that USC should be ranked ahead of LSU – USC is ranked ahead of LSU. My argument is that USC should be ranked #1 ahead of Florida and everyone else. So let’s compare Florida and USC.

Florida is undefeated but has only beaten one ranked team. That one team is LSU, the same LSU that hasn’t beaten a single currently ranked team. Some believe that Florida’s win over LSU is a quality win but the data doesn’t support that. Additionally, two of Florida’s seven wins are at home against Charleston Southern and Troy, and Florida still has a late season home game against Florida International on their schedule. That’s three home games against a FCS team and two teams from the Sun Belt conference which doesn’t have a single ranked team.

So when you dig into Florida’s record there’s scant evidence that they’re any good. How and why are they ranked #1? Where’s the signature win against a really good team? USC already has three quality wins against ranked teams on the road and two more on the schedule. Why are there so many patsies on Florida’s schedule when USC doesn’t have any on its schedule (San Jose State may not be good this year but at least they’re from a conference with a top ten team)?

For argument’s sake let’s also consider the #2 and #3 teams. Texas is 7-0, ranked #3 and has beaten the #22 ranked team. But their seven victories include home wins against Sunbelt and Conference USA teams. Is that impressive? It doesn’t sound all that impressive to me. Texas is a lot like Florida but with a slightly stronger schedule because they have one less patsy. But Texas still hasn’t proven a whole lot.

Alabama is 7-0, ranked #2 and has beaten the #13 #21 and #24 ranked teams. That’s an impressive track record but they’ve also played home games against Florida International, North Texas and have an upcoming home game against Chattanooga from the FCS. Like Florida and Texas, Alabama only plays four road games all season and only one of Alabama’s road games is against a ranked team. Meanwhile, USC played four of its first six games on the road and three of the four were against ranked teams. USC plays half it’s schedule on the road (six games) and four of the six road games are against ranked teams. Who else attempts to do anything like that? USC has already beaten three ranked teams on the road and no other Top 25 team has beaten more than one ranked team on the road. Compare USC’s schedule against Alabama’s or anyone else’s and the advantage clearly goes to USC.

There’s more to a comprehensive evaluation than quality of wins. Teams ought to be penalized for playing cupcakes because you should  account for risk of injury and the advantage of resting your starters against cupcakes. In week two of the season Florida played Troy, Texas played Wyoming, LSU played Vanderbilt and Alabama played Florida International. All easy games where the starters were either resting or could have been resting by the end of the game. All played at home.

At the same time USC was in a dogfight on the road at #8 ranked Ohio State. USC’s quarterback Matt Barkley was injured in that game which led to USC’s loss against Washington the next week with backup quarterback Aaron Corp (currently USC’s third string QB) starting. If USC had played a FCS school instead of Ohio State Matt Barkley probably wouldn’t have been hurt, USC would have beat Washington the next week, USC would be undefeated today and USC would be considered miles ahead of any other team. Even with the loss to Washington USC is miles ahead of the other teams because they have proven themselves against the toughest competition week in and week out.

The teams ranked ahead of USC right now are only there because they started the season ranked ahead of USC. But halfway through the season teams should be ranked on their merits. If you consider all the facts I don’t see how anyone could logically or rationally make the argument that any team in America has actually demonstrated that they are better than USC right now. And if USC wins their last five games, which include two more ranked teams and none from second tier conferences, there’s no way any other team’s résumé can match USC’s.

Before wrapping this up I’d like to point out that the SEC is a joke. It’s highly regarded by the media but if you think about it the accolades are hardly deserved. A few SEC teams start the season highly ranked by the media. These teams don’t do anything during the season to legitimize that ranking by beating tough out of conference opponents. They play as many cupcakes as possible and they play each other. Their rankings are artificially inflated to begin with so when they play each other the victor’s ranking is further inflated by beating a collection of unproven teams that haven’t earned their rankings. I don’t think there’s a single SEC team that could make it through USC’s brutal schedule undefeated. But USC could cakewalk through a typical SEC schedule.

And if you’re wondering, yes, USC has tried to schedule out of conference games with the likes of Florida. But they are on record refusing to play USC. Why should they risk playing tough out of conference teams like USC when voters continue to swoon over them and refuse to properly penalize them for scheduling embarrassingly weak out of conference opponents?

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

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One Response to “USC Should Be Ranked #1”

  1. Mike & Christy Reed Says:

    That was Awesome.

    It kills me every year when the supposedly big schools keep play the cupcakes of college football. Every year it is the same thing and every once in awhile a team like Appalachian St gets lucky and knocks off a mighty division (1) team. Not that Michigan is Mighty anything these days.

    But if we are stuck with the damn BCS, they should really put emphasis on strength of schedule back into there little computer rating systems. Then maybe the Florida’s, Texas, Alabama’s, LSU’s and some of the others would stop this crap of scheduling such easy opponents so that they boost there stats for there Heisman hopefuls and have at least three plus easy wins under there belts.
    Not that I am a Boise St. fan, but much like USC they to try and schedule big out of conference games with the big schools but they do not want to play them either. Boise then gets screwed because there conference sucks. Hell even ND schedules better games then Florida, Alabama, LSU, Texas.
    I truly hope that your blog gets seen by some of the college football voters. STOP the madness of letting the teams have such a cupcake seasons. It would be better for us all too really see who I the best out there.

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