The Montana Unified Theory of College Football

Something nagged at me when I wrote my Mandel post yesterday and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was.  This morning it dawned on me, and I’m kicking myself for not having posted this a long time ago.

Go back and take a look at his infamous “Montana” post and check out his list of college football’s royalty.


Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee*, Texas and USC.

* Tennessee is the lone school in the group that caused any hesitation. The Vols would have been a no-brainer 10 years ago, but they have fallen off the map a bit lately. In the end, I figured those 100 fans in Montana still know “Rocky Top,” the checkered end zones and that Peyton Manning went there.

Now take a look at where those schools appear on Stassen’s Cumulative Overrated/Underrated Teams from 1989 to the present.  That’s some correlation, no?  There’s exactly one of Mandel’s Kings that finishes in the black over that time period – Alabama – and rest of the teams on his list are among the most overrated programs in college football during that twenty year period.

In essence, isn’t this at the heart of what we find most frustrating about the game today?  Because this thinking is hardly limited to Stewart Mandel – Stassen uses the AP Poll to track over and under rating, keep in mind – and it obviously impacts what goes into the BCS rankings as each season plays out.

And before some of you say it, a playoff doesn’t fix this.  Or at least a playoff that relies upon subjective rankings to determine the class of postseason participants doesn’t.

So how do you address it?  An “objective” playoff – one comprised solely of conference champs, for example – works, obviously, but isn’t a realistic option at this moment.  How much would eliminating preseason polls help?  Or should we eliminate the human element totally?  Give me your thoughts in the comments about how you’d show the door to Mandel’s buddies.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

14 responses to “The Montana Unified Theory of College Football

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    It has finally dawned on me that the MNC is a child of the media.

    It exists only to sell fish wrap and toilet paper on TV.

    I am as guilty of “dreaming of the day” as any fan anywhere.

    It seems to me the sane thing to do is to re-program our selves to enjoy or not, what happens on the field between September and December, accept that the SEC Championship game is the pinnacle of the sport, and just turn off the TV after that game, where you know what happened.

    For the children of the media this will be impossible. They are programmed. Without media input into their lives there is a danger they don’t really exist at all.

    Even if there were a playoff, a group of us will still let the media decide what really happened.

    Watch the game, form your own opinion, turn off the tv, the computer, don’t read the paper.

    Wait till the next game.


    • Macallanlover

      Finally Scorpio, someone who gets it, there is no, and never has been a “national champion” in this sport, and the SEC is the highest of all crowns that can be worn at the end of the year. While I support a limited playoff, I have no problem with not having one UNTIL some fan claims a title. That is just wrong. Play the season, win your conference if you can, play your exhibition game at some bowl, then argue about the relative strengths of each conference, fully knowing there is no definitive answer and no one can claim more than superiority of their own region.

      Where I disagree is the that we cannot have a meaningful playoff without the media playing the key role. The six BCS winners, a play-in winner from the top two rated conference champs, and a wild-card for the “best” runner-up to fill out the 8 team field. Sure, that gives the media and computers some say in two entries, but that is only 25% of the field, and not the teams most likely to win three straight games against that level of competition. Only when title winners of the conferences are included can we say we have a National Champion, imo.


      • Tom

        So “no one can claim more than superiority of their own region”, yet “the SEC is the highest of all crowns that can be worn”? Interesting.


  2. NCT

    A playoff comprised solely of conference champs would work, yes. Uniform scheduling rules would help, also. (And by “help”, I mean “help arrive at a more objectively determined championship or championship field”; I don’t necessarily mean it would help me feel better about the game; it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if things went back to the way they were pre-Bowl Coalition days.)

    Uniform scheduling rules would be awfully disruptive: eliminating IAA games, for example, or requiring uniformity of conference membership numbers, or eliminating neutral-site games to have equal home-and-homes. You could then talk about out-of-conference games with a little more concreteness. We’d be talking more about “good losses”, and how a team is “scheduling for a run” (a la basketball and baseball).

    You could build a ranking system that took into account a team’s record and the records of its opponents (and beyond that, if you wanted). Coming up with a formula would be a bit arbitrary, but once you did it, everyone would have the same formula available and would know what was required to achieve a high ranking.

    Montanans and SID assistants who compile coaches’ ballots would be disenfranchised.


  3. Mike

    I am not sure Stassen’s analysis says much.One can easily say the teams that were the most overrated were the teams that had the highest expectations to being with.

    For example, Florida in 2009 got a minus 2. This after finishing #3 in the nation. The BEST they could have done that year was 0. Did Florida under perform?Not by my way of thinking. They were 12-0 going into the SECCG and became the only school in BCS history to finish consecutive years at 13-1.In fact, there are only two teams that year that would not have been ecstatic finishing the year at #3.

    IOWA was +12 that same year.As Florida fan, I would not have traded places with Iowa for anything.

    I think those kinds of analysis have to consider where the teams start.For example, it is much more impressive for a team to be ranked in the top 5 and finish in the top five than it is fora team to start a 25 but finish 15.


    • Mike, I think you have to look at the Stassen numbers in a larger context than one season. Yes, you’re correct that when a team is the preseason number one, the best it can do is a zero. But there’s a pattern that comes into play with schools like Notre Dame that tell a much bigger story about media perceptions about a team.

      By the way, don’t you think it’s noteworthy that the bulk of Florida’s negative showing came in two of the Zooker’s three seasons as head coach?


  4. bort

    The fact that a team can be ranked in the top 5 before playing a game is one of the stupidest things about college football.


  5. heyberto

    I’m certainly not a playoff proponent.. but ultimately I just wish they’d pick one system and stick to it. Georgia’s situation in 2007 seemed to epitomize my feelings which, incidentally, existed before that. That the conference championships work counter to the BCS. Despite being beaten by Tennessee earlier that year, we were ranked in the top 5 and didn’t get a chance to play LSU for the national title. If the goal were to get the best 2 teams from each division to play each other, then the higher ranked Georgia would have played LSU that year. I’m not crying about that.. simply underscoring that if you have to win the conference championship to get to the big game, then ditch the rankings. If you’re going to go with the rankings, then get rid of the conference championships OR perhaps have the conference championships be decided by the overall record, as opposed to just the conference record. Such a scenario would have pitted GA v. LSU in the conf. championship that year.

    Also, I’m not saying either scenario doesn’t have its problems or my observations are absolutely correct.. simply saying I would prefer a system that doesn’t intermingle the requirements.


  6. Count me In: The NCG is strictly a media event which I enjoy but never put any faith in as far as determining the #1 team in the nation. Never will be a playoff. My opinion stands: A +1 game would work for me as a compromise.


  7. D.N. Nation

    Hee hee. Let’s go through that list, shall we?


    Natty title. Well done.


    Solid season last year. Didn't do enough with that talent, but whatever.

    Florida State

    Permanently mediocre.


    Permanently mediocre.




    Will be overranked in the coming year. Sucks mostly.

    Notre Dame


    Ohio State

    Hey, they won a BCS game! Good for them.


    Permanently dogs when it counts.

    Penn State



    Oh wow. Things happened.



    and USC.

    9-4 last year to fireable-offense Georgia’s 8-5*.

    * Marc Curles.


  8. Aligator

    i agree, this line of comparison is dumb as shiite …


    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      I missed Mandel’s “Montana” post in 2007. Thanks for posting it now. This post reminds us all that there are no qualifications necessary to be a “sports analyst.” This guy doesn’t know sh!t about football yet he has a column with a national publication. He doesn’t know as much as an average football fan in Montana or anywhere else. UGA has the 13th all-time highest winning percentage in college football while playing an SEC schedule. The only teams in the SEC with a better winning percentage are Bama and UT and only by a few percentage points. If you put FSU or Miami (or any of the Big Televen or Midwest schools he mentioned) in the SEC they would be a Kentucky clone. In fact, if UK went to the Big Televen it would contend for its championship every year. The fact is that in the ten years of the 2000s UGA has won 2 SEC Championships, 3 SEC East titles and tied for another SEC East title but lost the tiebreaker. The Dawgs have 90 wins in the last ten years in the most difficult conference in America. The only thing that hasn’t happened during that stretch is a MNC and if the Vandy kicker hadn’t doinked a FG off the uprights in the 2007 Vandy-UT game we would have had that, too. This idiot reminds me why I do not subscribe to SI and never will. One last thought–the UGA logo is among the MOST recognizable in all of sports as is our mascot (who a few years ago was named “Best Mascot” in college football). I’ll bet EVERY serious college football fan in America–not just Montana–would recognize both immediately.


      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        That’s 90 wins in the 9 years of the Richt coaching administration–please excuse the error above. The decade would actually begin in 2001 and end in 2010 which has yet to occur. Plus the 90 wins are in all games-not SEC games only-as my post incorrectly implied.