Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why Michigan should be #2 (The Vanberbilt Addendum)

It seems like the entire sports world is lobbying for Florida to take the #2 spot over Michigan, for a variety of inane reasons. Michigan is clearly a superior football team to Florida, and I'm just trying to bring some sanity to the world. If you haven't already done so, first check out my last two blog entries, BCS Talking Points (AKA: Why Michigan Deserves a Rematch) and OthelloRank Strength of Schedule.

The SEC isn't not the super-powerhouse that everyone is making it out to be. Last season, #21 Wisconsin exposed this with a convincing 24-10 over #7 Auburn in the Capitol One bowl. This season, USC exposed this with a 50-14 beatdown on the road against #8 Arkansas, which was one muffed punt away from winning the SEC championship.

The SEC's winning %s are overinflated, due to a weak out of conference schedule that featured 15 matchups against Division I-AA opponents. The lone impressive out-of-conference win for the SEC was Tennessee's 35-18 win over Cal, who turned out to be rather mediocre anyway.

Let's take a look at Vanberbilt's record. Vanderbilt is the only common opponent between Michigan and Florida. In the first week of the season, Michigan handed Vanderbilt a 27-7 drubbing, outgaining them by over 200 yards, and holding the Commodores to 171 total offensive yards.

Let's look at how Vanberbilt performed against the rest of the SEC:

Vs. Florida: Loss 25-19. Vanderbilt puts up 391 yards, outgaining the Gators by 60 yards. Florida throws three interceptions. Florida manages to salvage a victory when they recover Vanderbilt's onside kick attempt with just over 2 minutes remaining.

Vs. Arkansas: Loss 21-19. Vanderbilt puts up 364 yards, but a failed 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter keeps them from tying up the game against the team that was a muffed punt away from winning the SEC Championship.

Vs. Georgia: Win 24-22. Georgia was at one time ranked as high as #7 in the coaches poll, falls to the SEC bottom feeders.

Vs. Alabama: Loss 13-10.

Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina all easily handled Vanderbilt, but the point remains that several of the supposed to top-tier teams in the SEC struggled against this supposed bottom feeder. This has all the markings of a mediocre/overrated conference.

There is little to no evidence to support the claim that the SEC is a tougher conference than the Big Ten. In fact, most evidence points to the contrary. The SEC is composed of a bunch of middling/overrated teams that are exposed each time they face a stronger out-of-conference opponent. (See Wisconsin vs. Auburn, USC vs. Arkansas, Michigan vs. Vanderbilt)

Florida's out-of-conference schedule featured C-USA opponents Southern Miss and UCF, along with Division II-A bottom feeder Western Carolina (who finished 0-7 in a Division II-A Conference. Western Carolina's only two wins of the season came against Chowan (???), who lost every game of the season, and Eastern Kentucky, of the OVC (???)). This out of conference schedule tells us nothing, and the fact that SEC is overrated exposes the fact that Florida's supposedly toughest schedule in the nation is vastly overrated.

My own strength of schedule calculations show that the Big Ten has vastly superior top end talent in Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Florida struggled for many portions of the season, and consistently looked mediocre on their route to an 12-1 season. Michigan, meanwhile, dominated in every facet of every game this season, and truly looked like a national title contender. Their only loss was by 3 points, on the road, to the #1 team in the nation. They truly deserve a rematch on neutral territory to determine who the #1 team in the nation should be.