Thursday, December 07, 2006

Don't count Michigan out yet

Believe it or not, Michigan’s National Championship aspirations did not disappear as a result of being left out of the BCS Championship game. Granted, the odds of all the right things falling into place are minute at best. But, Michigan can still pull a Nebraska ’97 by dismantling USC in the Rose Bowl and then whining like babies in the post-game trophy ceremony. Hey, it worked for Scott Frost. I see no reason why it can’t work for Chad Henne too. Unless, of course, Henne just isn’t a natural born whiner. Since the AP decided to divorce its poll from inclusion in the BCS calculations, the AP hands out its own National Championship regardless of who wins the BCS Championship game.

An AP National Championship for Michigan is only a possibility because Michigan is only three points behind Florida for second place in the AP Poll. The first thing that needs to happen for this to even be a possibility is for Florida to upset Ohio State. Florida has to win a close game or it may look obvious that they are indeed the best team in the country. Second, Michigan needs to beat USC by at least two touchdowns. It would help if Louisville crushed Wake Forest since that might encourage a voter or two to vote Louisville number one instead of Florida. I highly doubt that any voter who had Michigan number two in the AP Poll would jump Florida over Michigan if Florida beats Ohio State by a razor thin margin and Michigan pummels USC. But, I do think that it is possible for a voter who had Florida #2 to put Louisville ahead of Florida if Florida beats Ohio State in an ugly game (not at all likely but possible). The people who think Michigan is better than Florida will probably think that regardless of the outcome of the BCS Championship game. The AP has been Michigan’s biggest supporter all season. When Michigan lost to Ohio State, the AP is the only poll that didn’t drop Michigan out of the #2 spot. There is no question that the possibility of Michigan jumping Florida exists.

Now, there is one thing that cannot be quantified that may propel Michigan into a split National Championship if Florida does manage to beat Ohio State. That thing is the irrational momentum created within a certain group of people for seemingly no reason at all. Remember, two weeks ago after Michigan lost to Ohio State, the consensus was that there was no way that Florida would ever jump Michigan. The consensus changed, not because of anything Florida did (remember, most people thought Florida was going to beat Arkansas since most people had Florida ranked ahead of Arkansas), but because people began to think about policy. People started to think about the ramifications of a rematch. People began to think about personal enjoyment of an Ohio State/Michigan Championship game. People began to listen to Urban Meyer whine about his team being left out. All of the factors that cannot be predicted are the factors that ended up moving Florida ahead of Michigan. Those are the exact same factors that would have to exist for Michigan to move ahead of Florida in the AP Poll. It would be foolhardy to think that those factors will not be present.

If Florida beats Ohio State, all of the rematch talk and the talk of Michigan already having its chance gets thrown out the window. Now, people will be forced to compare resumes. Michigan’s one loss will still be to Ohio State (which will certainly be ranked in the top four win or lose). Florida’s one loss will be to Auburn. Michigan will still have the better loss. Michigan will have beaten Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and USC who were all top ten teams for the majority of the year. People will start to reevaluate Florida’s schedule and realize that it wasn’t anywhere near as tough as people make it out to be (Western Carolina, UCF, Southern Mississippi, Florida State, Alabama, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina are all average or terrible). The AP Poll will also see the opportunity to stick it to the BCS system that they deplore so much. If the AP is in favor of a playoff, the best way to influence policy is to vote another split National Championship. The way voters compared Michigan and Florida’s resumes was skewed so much by the personal distaste for seeing a rematch in the National Championship game that there really was no comparison. Wins by Florida and Michigan will force the voters to actually compare the teams rather than pick one based on whether there should be a rematch or not.

These are all factors that nobody can predict. Because there is no finality in college football (i.e. NFL, MLB), irrationality presides over everything unless one team makes it through the season undefeated. Nobody could predict Florida’s jump over Michigan. It looked irrational three weeks ago and it’s irrational right now. The sad truth of the polls is that voters probably don’t vote for the teams they think are the best. Voters are probably more influenced by the effect that their votes have. Most of the people that voted Florida number two probably think that Michigan is the better team.

As a result of the unquantifiable nature of the factors that would need to be present to give Michigan the AP National Championship, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about the topic. Looking at it now, some four weeks away from the BCS Championship game, it looks about as probable as—I don’t know—Florida jumping Michigan for second place in the BSC Standings.

Here is what needs to happen (at a minimum) for Michigan to earn the AP National Championship:

1). Florida needs to beat Ohio State. Florida cannot dominate Ohio State. It helps if the game is ugly. The voters need to come away thinking that Ohio State, Florida and Michigan are all in the same boat talent-wise.

2). Michigan needs to handle USC. Right now, even though it is only three points behind Florida in the AP Poll, Michigan is on the backburner. Michigan needs to give voters a reason to think about them again.

3). Michigan cannot lay low after beating USC. Nebraska did not lay low in 1997 and they were rewarded with a split National Championship. Michigan needs to force the issue like Nebraska. I would prefer it to not be as whiny as Nebraska but they need to take it to the airwaves. It not only worked for Nebraska but it worked for Urban Meyer and Florida this year.

4). Irrationality along the same lines that caused Florida to jump Michigan in the last BCS Standings. I predict that if the #1 and #2 occur, there is a decent chance that the AP Poll will move Michigan to number one. If Florida beats OSU by a touchdown and Michigan beats USC by a touchdown, then Florida is your consensus National Champion. All this is moot, though, if Florida doesn’t pull a monumental upset by beating Ohio State.


Chris of Dangerous Logic said...

If Florida beats aOSU, no matter what the circumstances, all that would do would be to validate the BCS: clearly Florida would be a correct choice for the Glendale Bowl if they were to win it. The only chance Michigan has to take the AP title if that happens is to pound USC into rubble, the rubble into gravel, then bounce the gravel - like beat them by 35 or more. No way in hell that happens. I think Michigan will win, but it won't be by more than 10.

And for some odd reason I'd be more at peace with a Buckstache title than a Jorts U. one.

Jake said...

Hey Chris, I agree that the likelihood of Florida beating Ohio State and Michigan beating USC by 14+ points is an unlikely proposition.

If Florida beats Ohio State then your comments sound reasonable. The problem with your logic (other than being Dangerous)is that it is not irrational. Your thoughts are far too rational for college football. You have to put yourself in the shoes of people that have their opinions swayed by the color tie that Jack Arute wears.

I agree about not wanting to see Florida win after all that has gone down in the last week. It pains me to say but I'd rather see OSU win big.

Chris of Dangerous Logic said...

Yeah, I should have recognized the danger of using logic where it doesn't make sense to. Ironically, that's where the name of my blog came from: in some movie or book, and I really wish I could remember which one, one character warned another about 'brandishing dangerous logic' in a situation where logic did not apply.

But hey, why not? It's not like the BCS has done the logical thing recently. Or maybe ever.

Anonymous said...

The only downfall is that, if Florida beats Ohio State and Michigan beats USC, Ohio State has a better win (#3 Michigan vs a further-dropping USC or Notre Dame). Both have a loss to a top-2 team. And OSU has the head-to-head win... so you're more likely to see OSU with a shot at the split title than Michigan.

Jake said...

Very good point, Richard. I hadn't given that possibility much consideration. We saw from what happened to Michigan that when you lose is maybe even more important than who you lose to. OSU losing its last game would be hard to sell to the voters. I'm guessing that in the event that Florida wins a close, ugly game and Michigan wins big, you'll probably see all three teams receive number one votes in the AP Poll which is unprecedented in the modern era of college football.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of an AP title, but there's two words why it won't happen -- common opponent. If Florida beats OSU, even by a razor-thin margin, they will be voted by national champs by the writers b/c they will have beaten a common opponent (OSU) to whom Michigan lost.

The common opponent argument didn't hold much water when U-M beat N-D worse than USC did, or when U-M beat Vandy worse than Florida, but the big difference with a U-F win over OSU is that you're not comparing quality of wins (which is subjective), you're comparing a win with a loss.

Bottom line: if U-F beats OSU when U-M couldn't, there's absolutely no way the writers put U-M ahead of U-F, even if U-M beats USC by 60. I wish that weren't the case, but it's true. In fact, a really bad USC loss will make the voters question whether USC was any good, not bump Michigan over Florida.

Even if U-F were to win via some crazy Oregon-Oklahoma-esque controversy where OSU got completely robbed, U-M wouldn't get a piece of that title, but OSU might.

I remember playing this kind of parlor game back when I was at Michigan in the early 90's and we kept hoping for a bunch of oddball circumstances to occur that would give Michigan a shot at the title. Let the dream go -- it won't happen this year.

It's far more realistic to hope for the following:
1) U-M wins Rose Bowl, hopefully convincingly.
2) OSU thrashes Florida
3) Wisconsin beats Arkansas
4) Notre Dame beats LSU

1,2,3 can all happen, but #4 is a long-shot. The above scenario will validate the Big Ten's elite teams as being superior to the SEC and Pac-10. An ND can only help us, because it will further validate U-M's signature win of 2006. An bad ND loss calls U-M into question when you start to make comparisons to the SEC.

Michigan can't win the title this year. But it can prove to the world that it was more deserving than Florida, and position ourselves well for next year.


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