Is the Pac-10 structurally flawed?

Tom Dienhart posted something about Southern Cal that made me think (yes, there’s a first time for everything, it seems).  Take a look at this chart he compiled:

Most draft picks since 2005
USC: 43
Ohio State: 30
Oklahoma: 29
LSU: 28
Georgia: 28
Florida State: 26
Texas: 25
Virginia Tech: 24
Miami: 23
Virginia: 22
Auburn: 22
California: 21
Wisconsin: 21
Michigan: 21
Louisville: 21
Florida: 20

Yep, that’s right – in the past five years, the Trojans have had almost fifty percent more players drafted into the NFL than the next team on the list.  That’s one helluva spread.

But USC hasn’t won a national title in that time.  In fact, the program has only played in one BCS title game in the last five years.

As Dienhart points out, that’s because the Trojans have gotten into a bad habit of losing a game or two a season to a clearly inferior conference opponent.

… In 2006, losses at Oregon State and UCLA were USC’s undoing. In 2007, USC was dumped at home by 41-point underdog Stanford in the greatest upset in college football history; the Trojans also lost at Oregon. Last year, the Trojans were stunned at Oregon State when Beavers true freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 186 yards and two TDs against a USC defense that had eight players drafted over the weekend.

Does Pete Carroll deserve some criticism for what seems like a now annual practice of having his team crap the bed like that?  Absolutely.  However, one other thing that comes to mind with this is how small the margin for error is for Southern Cal.  Don’t forget that last year’s team finished with the same number of losses as the national champion Gators; the same can be said for the ’07 Trojans.  Yet neither squad was seriously in the mix to play in the BCS title game either season, even though many thought that by year’s end, the 2007 edition was playing the best football in the country and the 2008 team was by far the best defensive team in the nation.

Nor was it a matter of schedule strength.  Sagarin ranks Southern Cal’s strength of schedule at 29th for 2007 and 16th for 2008 – not the best, but certainly more than credible, especially given the fact that Ohio State played in the title game two seasons ago with the 53rd-ranked SOS.

What I do think is a problem for the Trojans is the conference they play in.  Even with the yearly slip ups, they still wind up dominating the Pac-10, having won seven conference titles in a row now.  There’s no other team that has emerged in that time period as a credible, consistent rival that the public can measure USC against.

Also, there’s no conference championship game for Southern Cal to play in.  Don’t get me wrong – I actually think the Pac-10’s round robin format is the ideal way to structure a conference’s football season.  But if you look at the recent trend of which schools play in the BCS title game, it’s apparent that not having a conference championship game leaves the Trojans at a disadvantage when it comes to the postseason.

The BCS title game is eleven years old now.  During that time, a school from a conference with a championship game has played for the MNC in all but two of the games.  There hasn’t been a BCS title game without a team that won a conference championship game since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

I can think of several factors for that.  A conference championship is a high profile game, so it gives the poll voters one more chance to see a team win against very good competition.  As was the case with LSU in 2007, it can provide an opportunity for redemption for a team that suffered its share of regular season disappointments.  It provides a strength of schedule boost to the winner that the computers absorb in their calculations for the BCS rankings.  And, as USC learned to its chagrin in 2003, sometimes there’s not as much of a downside to a conference title loss in the minds of the voters and computers as there is in a regular season defeat.

I’m not a huge fan of conference title games.  Like I said, I think a round robin schedule is a far superior means for determining a conference champion.  But given the extra revenue such a game generates as well as the impact it has on the postseason order, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the new Pac-10 commissioner take a look at going that way.

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41 Comments

Filed under College Football, Pac-12 Football

41 responses to “Is the Pac-10 structurally flawed?

  1. Lowcountry Dawg

    Anybody done any analysis or quantifying of leapfrogging/poll jumping near the end of the season? Seems like it happens a lot. The conference championship games are certainly a cause here, but poll jumping always gets people worked up and it’d be interesting to see how that plays into the issue.

  2. The Realist

    1) While I think round robin makes a lot of sense, I like the conference championship games. I don’t like that home-away could so strongly determine a team’s fate in a round robin format. If there are 10 teams, you may only get 4 conference home games compared to 5 conference road games. By adding divisions and a championship game, it negates the home/road split, and makes for a semi-playoff for the conference crown.

    2) The Pac-10 is USC and the Nine Dwarfs. College football is a game of coaches. The Pac-10 has had some very mediocre to bad coaches during Pete’s reign. Washington is a strong program traditionally that has been saddled by Ty Willingham. UCLA had Karl Dorrell. Arizona State had Dirk Koetter. Arizona mutinied under John Mackovic, and Mike Stoops hasn’t been considerably better. Now that Neuheisel is in at UCLA and Sarkisian is up in Washington and Erickson is at ASU, things may become more competitive.

    • The Realist

      I would love to see Harbaugh get a job in a place where football mattered. He seems to be a pretty good coach.

  3. kckd

    Senator, why do you always base how good a team’s schedule is based on Sagarin. There has been a lot of criticism of his way of doing that. It’s not like it’s universally accepted.

    • Because I’m lazy, most people are familiar with him and he’s easy to access.

      Seriously, do you argue that SC doesn’t play a competitive schedule most years? At least as credible as Ohio State’s? The exact ranking isn’t that important to my point.

      But if it makes you feel better, GBE isn’t as impressed with the Trojans’ SOS. Colley is about like Sagarin. Howell, for ’07, is, too.

  4. I’m with you on the conference championship game. USC wins a theoretical P10CG in 2003, 2006, and 2007, and things might have turned out different. For example, LSU beat a demonstratively half-assed Tennessee unit and jumped from 7 to 2 in the final weekend.

  5. Senator,

    Check out the analysis I did of the Pac-10 & it’s BCS participants over the last few years since the rise of USC:

    http://www.threesapattern.com/blog/2009/01/07/usc-the-pac-10-and-the-bcs/

    You’ll see just how far down the Pac-10 is compared to the other BCS ( and non BCS ) conferences.

    – Griffin

  6. I agree about the round-robin. I’d love to see the SEC dump Arkansas and SCU and then add a conference game so that all the of the “Big 6″ had to play each other every year. As far as the home/away split, it would flip flop every other year, so I don’t see that as being that big of a deal. For UGA’s sake, going round robin would absolutely kill the Cocktail Party since I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t want to play 6 conference games away from Athens and only 3 at home every other year. It’s an interesting debate, although I’m sure the CG’s aren’t going anywhere.

    What’s not debatable to me though, is that you have to have one or the other. It makes NO SENSE whatsoever to not have a conference championship game AND not play every other team in the conference (here’s looking at you Big 11Ten). I know the SEC did that for years prior to the divisional setup, but it didn’t make sense then either and it’s been corrected. The Big Ten, with it’s archaic mindset, will never correct their problems or adopt the obvious solution: add a team, conference championship game the Friday night after Thanksgiving at Soldier field.

  7. You’re absolutely right about USC having way more talent than anyone else in the Pac Ten. For instance, there have been 15 Rivals five-star players in the state of California in the past four years. USC has signed ten of those 15. The rest of the Pac Ten combined has signed one…and that was a USC decommit. Any way you want to slice it, USC has a massive talent advantage over every opponent on the schedule.

    As for winning national titles, as we’ve discussed about the Dawgs, there’s a heavy luck component involved.

    • JasonC

      Some writer did an article about this during the season. He made the point that USC was a victim of its own success- like you said, they get all the recruits which weakens the Pac 10 and then they don’t get the poll credit for success, but really get whacked for losses.

  8. 69Dawg

    I think the polls look at it as a case of with that much talent they must be undefeated or they don’t deserve to play for the big prize. They will again be 1 or 2 starting the season along with UF, if they win out they will be in the BCSCG as will UF. 2009 could have another Auburn type season with one or two undefeated teams left out.

  9. The Chosen One

    I do feel that SC is held to higher standard than the rest of the country. How else do you justify SC losing on the road to a conference opponent, while UF loses at home to a conference opponent on the same weekend, and then watch UF be forgiven for that loss while SC suffers for that loss? SC schedules OOC road games against BCS teams…UF schedules OOC home games against teams called The Citadel.

    Home losses>road losses.
    SC OOC schedule>UF OOC schedule.

    CCG’s do not pit the two best teams on the field…see UGA in 2007 watching LSU get a mulligan vs Tennessee. Split division formats and CCG’s have ruined the conferences with those features, and it gives those conferences an inherent advantage in the system known as the BCS.

    • Macallanlover

      Are you equating USC’s loss to Oregon State to that of Florida’s loss to Old Miss? It wouldn’t matter if they played those games in Iraq or Afganistan, Florida’s was a minor hiccup as they lost to a pretty danged good Rebel team while USC’s loss to OSU was projectile vomiting. The talent base between those opponents isn’t in the same solar system.

      I will give you that USC was a very worthy candidate for the BCS title game, better than any of the Big 12 contenders, but let’s face it…USC just yipped a short putt that night (Masters Scott Hoch type miss). In a better world, they still would have been a part of an 8 team playoff where the 6 BCS conference champions get a chance to recover from these abberrations. I would have loved to have seen a UF/USC game last year, and a USC/UGA game the year before. Perhaps you guys can get your commissioner to stand up to Delaney and let’s start moving forward.

      • Or State

        Oregon State had 7 players drafted to the NFL this year, and that doesn’t include the two players most responsible for their victory over USC–Pac 10 Offensive POY Jaquizz Rodgers and brother James Rodgers. OSU also put up a much better showing against undefeated Utah than SEC power Alabama. OSU blew a late lead to lose by 3 while Alabama just got destroyed in the trenches, losing by 14. For you to say that the talent base between the two teams isn’t in the same solar system is just ignorant.

  10. Hobnail_Boot

    FSU in the ACC : 1990’s :: USC in the Pac10 : 2000’s

    • Maybe in some ways. But at least FSU had two foils to measure itself against in Florida and Miami. What’s SC got?

      • The Chosen One

        So now it comes down to a 2-game season? Who else did FSU play during the season from the ACC?

        • You misunderstand me, Chosen.

          My original point was that no consistent rival from a talent standpoint has emerged in the Pac-10 to challenge USC and capture public attention. That’s not the same thing as saying the season is being reduced to a game or two.

          Even though FSU didn’t have a conference opponent that matched it during that decade, it did have the benefit of playing two powerhouse programs year in and year out.

          • The Chosen One

            And SC plays ND and ucla every year…those are two traditional rivals. Not to mention the rest of their OOC schedule on any given year. It’s easy to downplay SC’s accomplishments, however, the P1o offers something that the other conferences do not…parity. Since 1999, every P10 team has won the conference championship. When was the last time Ole Miss, Miss St., South Carolina, Kentucky, or Vandy accomplish that feat?

            UW and Wazzu may be down right now(yes I know that is understatement), however, they were also the best teams in the conference at the beginning of the decade.

            What SC is doing right now is unprecedented and it has more to do with SC than the rest of the conference not being up to SC’s caliber. The conference was perceived as being down last year, however, all 5 teams won their bowl games against BCS teams. So give the conference a little more respect that it deserves.

            Miami was great in the 80’s and so-so in the 90’s. UF dominated the SEC in the 90’s under Spurrier and only earned 1 NC in 1996, however, the rest of the SEC kind of sucked wind learning about the forward pass.

            • “And SC plays ND and ucla every year”

              Who aren’t as good as Florida and Miami were in the 90s.

              (Heck, you could have said “And UNC plays Duke and NCSU” every year” and it’d be nearly the same quality of play.)

            • “the P1o offers something that the other conferences do not…parity.”

              Um. So?

              • The Chosen One

                “Um so”, meaning it is more difficult to go through the P10 undefeated then it is to do the same in the SEC. Don’t believe me? Look it up.

                At some point you have to take into consideration OOC schedules when comparing the overall success of one team vs another from a different conference. Don’t believe me? Ask Auburn.

                • Macallanlover

                  “meaning it is more difficult to go through the P10 undefeated than it is to do the same in the SEC” You are kidding right? Not smoking bad crack you can really put that forth as a comment meant to be taken seriously?

                  I choose to think you meant that as an attempt to be funny because no one is so goofy as to enter a serious CFB thread and put that forward as an example of their thinking. In the event you did actually mean that, I am through with reading your posts as you have issues and I don’t want to make fun of your problem.

            • You continue to miss my point. I’m not comparing conferences here. I’m not dissing the Pac-10, either – for Christ’s sake, didn’t I specifically mention that SC’s problem isn’t strength of schedule?

              You can split hairs all you want here, dude. The fact is that Southern Cal doesn’t have an opponent on its schedule that’s in shouting distance of it from a talent standpoint more years than not. That you point to Notre Dame and UCLA (!) as a rebuttal to my argument tells me you’re not getting this at all.

              • The Chosen One

                I’m not missing your point at all…or are you forgetting the recent NFL drafts that you used in original post?
                Since 2005, Cal, has placed 21 draft picks in the NFL, and just this past year, Oregon St placed 7. Not sure of their overall number since 2005, however, I’m sure it’s somewhere in the double-digits, and forgive me for not looking up Oregon’s numbers, however, they have been putting talent in the league too.

                The fact that you pointed to the FSU-Miami-UF triangle, when UF does not play Miami every year meant what? Miami had to gear up for one rivalry game year in and year out and nothing more during the 80’s. FSU had to gear up for 2 games in the 90’s and then skate through a bad ACC conference. SC not only plays 2 rivalry games every year, they also play a better OOC schedule and play in a better conference than the ACC. Capiche?!

                • This is my last shot with you, as this has grown tiresome, honestly.

                  The original comparison was made between FSU in the 90’s and USC in the 00’s. My response was to point out that every year in the 90’s FSU played two teams that for the most part had similar levels of talent to deploy and that USC in this decade hasn’t enjoyed a similar situation.

                  Florida versus Miami is completely irrelevant to the discussion. I have no clue why you think it matters here. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that USC doesn’t have a similar level opponent to match itself against every year, as FSU did back then.

                  You want to argue that one of the Oregon teams of this decade is analogous from a talent standpoint to either Miami or Florida of the nineties? Good luck with that.

                • Small tangent, but regarding Oregon and USCs loss to them in ’07:

                  It’s a shame Dixon got hurt because that team would have played for the MNC. With Dixon, that team beat a healthy USC team. Unfortunately no one remembers that and just lumps them in as a Stanford-type upset. As much as they would have hated it, USC needed Oregon to win the Pac-10 that year to lend some sort of credibility to the Pac-10 over the last 6 years.

      • Because of Notre Dame’s condition, USC doesn’t have a regular opponent on the level of Florida or Miami, but they play plenty of additional tough opponents. Since their run started under Carroll, they’ve played Ohio State, Colorado, Auburn, and Arkansas in regular season OOC games.

        Also, keep in mind that: (1) Miami was down for a significant portion of FSU’s run; and (2) FSU had a major advantage over Florida in the 90s in that they played the Gators the week before the SECCG. Those games weren’t exactly fair.

        • Again, I’m not arguing that SC doesn’t play a respectable schedule – quite the contrary.

          My point is that there isn’t that opponent year in and year out that you can measure SC’s talent against as an equal. I’m not arguing about whether the Florida game was fair, just that it was a game that matched two highly ranked teams regularly. It’s not the Trojans’ fault, but as you note, that’s something lacking from the schedule and I think it hurts SC a little in the voting.

        • The Chosen One

          Griffin, just a point of clarification; SC was not exactly healthy for that game vs Oregon. Booty did not play in that game…Sanchez started that game. Booty was mending his broken finger from the Stanford game. The other pieces that were missing were a couple of starting Olinemen that were injured in the Washington game.

          I get your point about needing Oregon to win the conference that year, however, the same could have been said for Cal getting jumped by Texas in 2004 missing a BCS bowl game, or ASU getting jumped by a Kansas team in 2007 missing a BCS bowl game…or Oregon getting hosed by Nebraska.

          • You are correct, I forgot Booty was hurt that game, but still, subbing him out for Sanchez could be considered a push.

            As for your other Pac-10 snubs, take a look at the article I wrote ( find it in the comments above ) about the Pac-10 and the BCS. You’ll see that aside from some dumb luck in the years you mention, the Pac-10 has been awful the past 6 years. The fact that the Pac-10 was snubbed 3 years, which isn’t 100% true in the case of ASU in ’07 and Ore in ’05, still brings up the fact that the Pac-10 has only had those 3 teams even in the running to be snubbed over the last 6 years. That’s pretty bad compared to the other 5 BCS conferences.

            • The Chosen One

              I just read your article and it is factually wrong right from the beginning. In 2002, Wazzu and SC split the P10 conference championship. Wazzu beat SC in OT which sent the Cougs to the Rose Bowl vs Oklahoma, while SC took the at-large bid against Iowa in the Orange Bowl. I suppose if we use your timeline starting from 2003, it is correct, however, that’s an interesting launching point to support your thesis.

              SC’s dominance in the P10 started in 2002 which has sent them to 7 straight BCS bowl games and a 6-1 record in that time frame.

              You use the same years that I mentioned about not another P10 team getting an at-large berth yet use that against the P10. Why did Texas jump Cal in the final poll of the 2004 season? Why was Oregon passed over? What made Kansas’ or Missouri’s schedule better than ASU’s in 2007…not to mention that Kansas did not even win the north division?

              So your data is flawed because you chose to start in 2003 for some reason to make a point that the P10 is the worst BCS conference, yet you simply throw out the fact that the P1o has been snubbed for that at-large berth 3 times in the last 5 years.

              • Dog in Fla

                TCO, maybe it’s because the BCS voters think no team, other than USC, merits much in the way of above and beyond consideration because of lack of PAC-10 cut-throat competition.

                The SEC benefits from the high competition idea because it markets that idea. Last year, competition among SEC teams wasn’t nearly as tough top to bottom as the home office presented it as being.

                Maybe it’s because the PAC-10 doesn’t have a championship game like the SEC or Big-12 to pump up the winner assuming it’s not the underdog. The Big-10 skates without a championship game but its got the Midwest and East coast voters behind it, which is usually means an OSU gets a pass into the big game

                The PAC-10 is structurally flawed because of the lack of consideration USC now gets from the BCS voters no matter which way the data outside that presently considered in the BCS polls is presented

                No one in the SEC chomps at the bit to get a dose of USC. You are right. Look at what USC did to Auburn twice in early season games.

                LSU and Florida have lucked out and not had to face USC in their BCS games. Oklahoma got blasted by USC and Texas pulled one out against USC.

                USC is, by and large, year in and year out, a great team. That can’t be said for the remainder of the teams in the PAC-10 conference. The two good teams recently in the SEC were UF and LSU. When USC loses one it shouldn’t, it definitely gets punished much more than a SEC or Big-12 team gets for losing one it shouldn’t have lost.

                The SEC, Big-12 and Big-10 are the primary beneficiaries of the BCS system as it exists now and they probably will battle as hard as they can to keep the national championship game qualifications exactly as they are now. Who wants to have USC as an opponent in the big game? Not them.

              • I’m not sure what’s “factually wrong” about saying “in the last 6 years…” when what I said was true. This article was written back in Jan and 2003 was used as a starting point because 2002 was the last year a non-USC Pac-10 team made a BCS game. That was the whole point of the article.

                If you read the article, I explained why Ore & ASU didn’t make a BCS game. It’s pretty clear why they didn’t.

                As for the data being flawed, I specifically stated that the article was looking at the last 6 years. You can not agree with the time frame, but saying it’s flawed because it doesn’t support a point about another entirely different time period is statistical jump rope.

                I think the Senator is right. This has become redundant.

                • The Chosen One

                  Why use the last 6 years though? SC’s run has been going on 7 years…not 6.

                  You conveniently use the Rose Bowl as wanting a P10/B10 match up, when it was Jim Delaney from the B10 that pushed Illinois for the bid. That does not explain why ASU got snubbed from playing in the Fiesta Bowl, or having Kansas jump Missouri. The question is why did the B12 deserve 2 bids over the P10 when they sent the 2nd bid from a team that 1) did not even win their own division, and 2) ASU tied for the P10 championship with SC.
                  The Sugar Bowl could have released UGA to play in the Rose Bowl…I know for a fact that the powers that be at SC lobied for that match up, however, Slive, said thanks but no thanks.

                  Nor did you adequately explain why Texas jumped Cal. Nor did you explain why Oregon got snubbed. Go back and look at Kansas’ schedule from that year and justify their #8 ranking.

                  The P10 deserved those bids just as much, if not more than the other teams, and it would have made your article moot.

                • “The P10 deserved those bids just as much, if not more than the other teams, and it would have made your article moot.”

                  Ok, last one and only because it fits as a reponse to the above:

                  and if I had two wheels, I’d be a bicycle.

  11. Left to Right

    One other thing jumps out at me on that chart: Georgia has had 40% more players drafted than Florida.

    Our coaching has got to get better if we are going to beat Myer on even a semi-consistent basis.

  12. Lowcountry Dawg

    Is this a record for comments yet?

  13. Carruthers

    Nah, when the Senator posted about the celebration in the endzone, the Gator fans came in and the comments got pretty long. But I wouldn’t be suprised to see teams like Boise State or Utah try and muscle into the Pac-10 to try and create a divisional layout.