So, NOTRE DAME is one of two undefeated teams left in the nation, along with the other Big 10 team that doesn't entirely suck, OHIO STATE (people keep telling me NOTRE DAME is going to the ACC, but I was under the impression they were always headed back to the hell from whence they came, and as I understand it, that would be the Big 10, yes? I've always understood the ACC to be more like Purgatory, and yes, NOTRE DAME is Catholic, but who are they kidding? I've seen FAUST, I know where this is going.)
According to the BCS, this is NOTRE DAME'S award-winning schedule, courtesy of the college football buffet that is an indepedent team getting to pick and choose who they play year in and year out without be tied down by conference necessities (shouldn't there be, like, a rule or something against this?):
Navy (7-4; UR): 50-10.
Purdue (5-6; UR): 20-17.
Michigan State (5-6; UR): 20-3.
Michigan (8-3; 19): 13-6.
Miami (6-5; UR): 41-3.
Stanford (9-2; 8): 20-13 (OT).
BYU (6-5; UR): 17-14.
Oklahoma (8-2; 13): 30-13.
Pittsburgh (4-6; UR): 29-26 (3OT).
Boston College (2-9; UR): 21-6.
Wake Forest (5-6; UR): 38-0.
Okay, so... by BCS standards, the CHOSEN ONE has won 3 games against Top 25 competition: Stanford, Oklahoma, and Michigan, with NONE of them being played back-to-back, with each big win being followed up by a serious underperformance over a mediocre-at-best team (with exception to Miami). Under .500 Pittsburgh took them to 3 OTs, and equally mediocre Purdue got within a field goal. BYU, another close one, is just barely bowl-eligible. This is your number one team, by virtue of being undefeated by the skin of their teeth.
ALABAMA is #2 and this is what their schedule looks like:
Michigan (8-3; 19): 41-14.
Western Kentucky (6-5; UR): 35-0.
Arkansas (4-7; UR): 52-0.
FAU (3-8; UR): 40-7.
OLE MISS (5-6; UR): 33-14.
MISSOURI (5-6; UR): 42-10.
TENNESSEE (4-7; UR): 44-13.
MSU (8-3; UR): 38-7.
LSU (9-2; 7): 21-17.
TEXAS A&M (9-2; 9): 24-29. (L)
WESTERN CAROLINA (FCS): 49-0.
The only main difference here between our schedule and NOTRE DAME's is that we played 2/3 of our Top 25 competition back-to-back. Yes, we lost at home. But the whole home/away thing is largely a myth, an out-dated reference to a time when traveling was a giant pain in the keister. ALABAMA is normally rather awful at home as there are too many distractions.
As for performance, beyond our little mini-gauntlet of two top 25 teams (yes, I can see they're both top ten, but a 3-loss Texas A&M would be somewhere closer to the 20s, I think), the only other main difference is that we never struggled against who was left. Heck, people keep telling me Michigan sucks, but from what I can see, they're a win away from being ranked over Oklahoma (a single touchdown against NOTRE DAME, perhaps)...
GEORGIA is #3, and with this team, I'll say brevity is the sole of wit, and let's look at their a)wins over BCS-ranked teams, and b)losses and close nail-biters to non-BCS ranked squads:
Buffalo, Missouri, FAU, and Vanderbilt were all disposed of rather effeciently. Business as usual for a Top 5 team.
TENNESSEE (4-7; UR): 51-44. A nail-biter against Derek Dooley.
SOUTH CAROLINA (9-2; 12): 7-35 (L: Really, the Gamecocks ground them into mince-meat. This is the sort of loss that poets would write songs about... if, in fact, South Carolina had the capacity to produce any poet that knows better than a dirty limerick on a beer-soaked bar napkin).
KENTUCKY (2-9; UR): 29-24. Really, Georgia? Really? This is why nobody is batting an eye at NOTRE DAME being ranked #1.
FLORIDA (10-1; 4): 17-9. Anybody who watched this game knows that both of these teams could not have tried harder to give the other team the victory. In some ways, Florida won this game by throwing the ball into the end zone at the end and saying, "Here, Bulldogs! You lose to Alabama and we'll just watch and end our season with a Sugar Bowl victory."
OLE MISS, AUBURN, and GEORGIA-SOUTHRN were summarily dispatched as though these four October games never happened. In fact, if you took away the month of October, the Bulldogs look fairly elite. Of course, if you took away two weeks from ALABAMA, we'd look all but invincible.
Who's next? Oh, why hello FLORIDA.
BOWLING GREEN happened, then...
TEXAS A&M (9-2; 9): 20-17.
TENNESSEE and KENTUCKY. Both were business as usual. Tennessee kinda posed a little threat, but not really.
LSU (9-2; 7): 14-6.
VANDERBILT posed no great problem. And here's where FLORIDA's season mirrors ALABAMA's. They've already played two top ten teams and won. But what happens when you have to play two great teams back-to-back with no bye week or paycheck game inbetween?
SOUTH CAROLINA (9-2; 12): 44-11. It looked easy, but the Gamecocks were on the last leg of an F.U. tour, having destroyed Georgia before tiring out and losing to LSU. This was a beatdown of a dead horse.
GEORGIA (10-1; 3): 9-17 (L). Two wounded animals are thrown into a cage together and rip each other to shreds.
MISSOURI (5-6; UR): 14-7. The difference between beating Georgia and losing to Georgia is that you no longer have anything to seemingly play for.
LA-LAFAYETTE (6-4; UR): 27-20.
JACKSONVILLE STATE wasn't a pretty win either (23-0), but you really couldn't ask for more rest period than a sub-.500, an uppity Sun Belt squad to keep you on your toes, and an FCS paycheck game. FLORIDA beat this triple-play 64-27. ALABAMA beat it (via Missouri, WKU, and Western Carolina) 126-10. This is who the BCS thinks is the number 4 squad, huh?
OREGON! The good ole mighty fallen Ducks, who have been torn to shreds by the computers because they apparently don't play anybody...
ARKANSAS STATE, FRESNO STATE, and TENNESSEE TECH were dispatched as though they barely existed (all three were able to put down some points, but only in garbage time. Oregon sorta stops trying after the first half).
ARIZONA (7-4; 24). 49-0. I don't know why Arizona is ranked in the Top 25 (Oregon is not alone in their capacity to wipe the floor with the Wildcats. UCLA did it as well. It's true, ARIZONA has played some teams to the wire: Oregon State and Stanford were close ones, but Utah (4-7), was also fairly close as well, and Toledo took them to overtime. Is it because they beat USC? Really?
WASHINGTON (7-4; 25). There's a gimme game against Washington State sandwiched between these, but they took out all three of them without a glimmer. I'm as confounded by Washington being in the Top 25 as I am by Arizona, then I looked and noticed they'd beaten both Stanford and Oregon State, though they nearly got picked off by CALIFORNIA (3-9), and against LSU, it wasn't even close (and if there's anything LSU's been good at this year, it's finding a way to keep games nailbitingly close).
ARIZONA STATE (6-5) was an easy win, and COLORADO (1-10) shouldn't even count as a football team this year.
Then came USC. And it was tantilizingly close at 62-51. USC is also 7-4 and unranked in the BCS, so this kinda counts as that game that Oregon should've owned and then didn't. CALIFORNIA wasn't anywhere near that close, obviously, but then came STANFORD.
STANFORD (9-2; 8). 14-17 (OT)(L). Did OREGON get caught looking ahead to OREGON STATE? What was that I said about playing 2-3 elite squads back-to-back with no rest period inbetween. It's excruciatingly difficult and has way more to do with losing than whether your game was at home or not. Just ask KANSAS STATE (10-1), who's #6 in the BCS.
KANSAS STATE has lost one game, a nailbiter to Top 10 Baylor... wait, what's that? Baylor's 5-5? And it wasn't close? Baylor beat the stuffing out of them? Oh...
Of the 11 teams Kansas State has played thus far, they have won in championship fashion against seven of them. Of those seven, three of them were ranked at the time of the game. As of this week, only one of them (7-3 Oklahoma State at 21) is still ranked.
That sounds lovely and all, but what I'm really getting at is that the rest of their games were pretty darn close.
NORTH TEXAS (4-7; UR): 35-21. Two touchdowns is all that separates them from the lone Texas member of the Sun Belt (what, NTU? Too crowded in Conference USA?)
They were probably caught looking ahead to OKLAHOMA (8-2, 13): 24-19, a game that could've gone either way, and so far the only real evidence that NOTRE DAME deserves to be where they are.
IOWA STATE (6-5; UR): 27-21. They destroyed KANSAS before this game (as did everyone else), so maybe this game was all about looking ahead to WEST VIRGINIA (who had already been caught looking by TEXAS TECH, and have seen seemingly imploded with five straight losses).
Next up is LSU (9-2; 7), a team that, like FLORIDA before them, has managed to look awful week in and week out, and won games in spite of themselves. Let's have a look, shall we?
Both NORTH TEXAS and WASHINGTON we've talked about. NORTH TEXAS is not a great time by any stretch of the imagination and it's a wonder how KANSAS STATE kept that one close. WASHINGTON is a better squad, but a 4-loss team is expected to get beat by teams like OREGON and LSU, and I'm astonished they're ranked.
AUBURN (3-8; UR): 12-10. I don't care if AUBURN is an SEC team. They suck and LSU whould've taken them out back by the woodshed. A two-pt win against a 3-8 team and they're still ranked in the BCS Top 10? How?
TOWSON (FCS): 38-22. The simple fact remains: they let TOWSON score 22 pts against them.
FLORIDA (10-1; 4): 6-14. With the kind of playing they had been doing, how did they expect this game to go?
To be fair to LSU, this was the gaunlet to end all gauntlets, and they managed to go 2-2 by virtue of playing a South Carolina team undergoing their own gauntlet (and probably a little too cocky for a cock after their win against Georgia), and they caught Texas A&M right on the tail end of a midseason slump (one that saw them eke out wins against Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech).
They needed late heroics to get past what must be a terribly underrated OLE MISS team and how they mostly manhandled MSU is going to make the Egg Bowl between MSU and OLE MISS must-see TV for me. All the same, their September cupcake carousel notwithstanding, I still can't fathom what makes this Tiger squad more than the mid-teens placement I have them in.
STANFORD is in at #8, and the computers must have an absolute fit untangling the web of records that is the PAC-12. STANFORD lost to WASHINGTON who lost to ARIZONA who lost to UCLA who lost to CALIFORNIA who lost to UTAH who lost to ARIZONA STATE who lost to OREGON who lost to STANFORD. OREGON plays OREGON STATE next week, another team that lost to WASHINGTON who lost to USC who lost UCLA who lost to... um... OREGON STATE. This is probably why ARIZONA and WASHINGTON are ranked with 7-4 records. The PAC-12 pulled an SEC, in that everybody beat everybody, but they did with such aplomb that they crashed the computers and pushed their best team, a very stout OREGON squad, to #5. The only real reason STANFORD is #8 is because they beat OREGON and only have 2 losses and, seriously, have you seen the other team's schedules?
TEXAS A&M is #9 because they beat ALABAMA. Their midseason slump had them deservedly at #15 and their A-game mastery of the Tide propelled them into the Top 10, and deservedly so. The only reason LSU is in the Top 10 is because Texas A&M is in the Top 10 and that just doesn't seem fair otherwise, does it?
FLORIDA STATE and CLEMSON are identical teams at the moment, but FSU has the win, so they're ranked #10 while CLEMSON is on the outside looking in. It's the ACC, which is just as underrated as the PAC-12 is over-rated, which is to say they're both just okay. DUKE managed to win some games in the ACC before realizing they were a basketball school.
How different is my Top 10 from the BCS? Not terribly different. I have ALABAMA and NOTRE DAME swapped. Despite the loss, I still feel like ALABAMA would mostly mop the floor with the rotting carcass of the Fighting Irish should they meet on the field of battle (especially with a month to rest and prepare). OHIO STATE is #4 in the AP and not being counted in the BCS and I have them at #4, which, if the BCS had them in the same spot, would push everything down a step. FLORIDA would be #5, and does anybody really think the Gators are a better team than OREGON? I have OREGON ahead of OHIO STATE at #3. FLORIDA in my books is no better or worse than TEXAS A&M (technically, 3 pts better, I guess), and LSU is mid-teens and staying there with me. The OLE MISS that LSU had to fight to beat was the same OLE MISS that had to fight to beat ARKANSAS. I see no reason why FSU and CLEMSON aren't just as good as OHIO STATE. Is there anything about the BIG 10 that makes it a better conference than the ACC? 2 loss Nebraska? 3 loss Michigan? There are nearly as many teams from The Big East in the BCS Top 25, and the Big East only has 8 teams to work with. For every Wisconsin, Penn State, or Northwestern, there's a Miami, Georgia Tech, NC State or UNC that's just as likely to take a head-to-head. So, I have FSU and CLEMSON at 5-6, with Georgia's schizo tendencies at 7, and Kansas State's burnt husk of a team at 8. Florida is at 9, and Texas A&M at 10.
There's a veritable world of difference beyond that, but let's reserve that conversation for people who care about teams that don't have a chance at the national championship.