Saturday, May 26, 2018
Colleges

Weighing the merits of FSU vs. Oregon

In September, college football is all about the sights. It is all about football teams racing onto the field and toward the season, and it is about mascots roaming the sideline, and it is about scheduling easy wins to get a team kick-started.

In October, college football is all about the feel. Conference schedules begin, and fans remind each other of traditions, and as the disappointments fade away, the season starts to take shape.

In November, however, college football is about the sound of it all. The noise increases in volume, and the cheers get louder, and the arguments get testier. It is as if fans believe they can debate their team into the national title game.

All of that said, here's a question:

Why, exactly, is Oregon ahead of FSU in the human polls?

Hey, it's just a question. The truth is that we don't really know that Alabama is better than Oregon, or that Oregon is better than FSU, or that Ohio State is better than all of them. At this point, college is an art show. You pick the team that looks prettiest to you.

What we do know is that the voters of the Associated Press poll like Oregon better, as do the voters of the USA Today poll, as do the voters of the Harris poll, as do the voters of the Legends poll. Yes, FSU is second in the BCS ranking, but if Oregon handles Stanford on the road Thursday night, that will probably change, too.

In other words, FSU could be on its way to finishing this season undefeated and uninvited. The Seminoles could easily finish third — someone has to — which would leave them in front of the TV and watching the national title game.

Again, why?

Aren't the polls supposed to judge teams by their accomplishments? If that's true, FSU has simply done more than Oregon has. It went on the road and trampled the No. 3 team in the country in Clemson. It has beaten three ranked teams, including two in the top 10.

There seems to be an impression out there that Oregon is playing a much tougher schedule than FSU. But is that true? Think about this: In eight games, FSU has beaten only two teams that have losing records. In its eight games, Oregon has beaten only two teams with winning records. Oregon's best wins have been over UCLA when it was ranked 12th and Washington when it was 16th. So why does everyone assume that a close race will go to Oregon?

It is true that there are too many soft touches on the FSU schedule. Playing Nevada and Bethune-Cookman and Idaho is just too many gimme putts along the way. But Oregon played Nicholls State and Virginia and Tennessee along the way, teams they didn't exactly pull off of the victory stand to schedule.

You want statistics? For what it's worth, Oregon has the second-best offense in college football, and FSU is only fourth. But FSU has the seventh-best defense, and Oregon is 27th. In other words, both are impressive teams led by impressive quarterbacks on their way to an impressive season. It's like comparing diamonds.

So why is Oregon ranked higher than FSU?

Why, it's easy. That's what the polls said was true in August.

For years, this has been one of the most absurd parts of the national polls. If you start high, it's easier to stay there. Oregon was third in the preseason polls, which means it had to pass only Ohio State along the way. FSU was 11th in one poll and 12th in the other. It was still eighth five polls later, and it was still fifth only three weeks ago.

Oh. So what you're telling me is that Oregon is ranked higher than FSU because it had a better July?

Really?

If you judge by what you read, maybe some of this, too, is because a lot of people seem to prefer to see an Alabama-Oregon title game. And, yes, the contrast of styles there is terrific to consider, a new school vs. old school, cavemen vs. spacemen kind of matchup. Remember, those teams finished last year 1-2, too.

And who knows? Maybe when the season plays itself out, that will be the best game possible. Lately, college football has been lucky that way.

On the other hand, there was Miami in 2000, and Oregon in 2001, and USC in 2003, and Auburn in 2004, and Georgia in 2007. Hey, it's the last year of the BCS. Why not go out with bruised feelings?

So is that the legacy of this FSU team? Is it doomed to be the latest team left out? Unless Oregon loses to Stanford, or unless Alabama loses to LSU, it might turn out that way.

No, that won't feel fair.

On the other hand, this is the BCS. When did fair have anything to do with anything?

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