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May 13, 2008

SMQ: "The Contenders: Georgia"

Sunday Morning Quarterback (SMQ) has penned an exceptional preview of the 2008 Georgia Bulldogs. It's a fair and balanced look at a Georgia team which appears more and more likely to open the season as a consensus #1 ranking.

It's a must read.

See Also:
-- Examined by the Best - DawgSports



Anonymous said...

Question: Has anyone done research on the number of teams in the BCS era that have started number one and finished number one? Obviously, previous years have no bearing on what Georgia might do this year, but I am curious. Where did LSU start last year? How 'bout USC in years past?

SMQ said...

Florida State in 1999 is the only team that went coast to coast unanimously; USC did it in 2004 depending on the poll, since they were split between SC and Oklahoma until the Trojans crushed OU in the Orange Bowl. Miami came pretty close in 2001, but it started as No. 2 (Florida). Oklahoma in 2004 (in some polls), USC in 2005 and Ohio State in 2006 (again, depending on the poll, since OSU split No. 1 at the beginning of the year w/ Notre Dame) went all the way until they lost in the championship game. Texas was No. 2 throughout 2005 until it beat No. 1 USC in the Rose Bowl. LSU started No. 2 last year behind USC, but the polls were obviously crazy - they were up and down all year.

Before the BCS, Florida State started No. 1 and ended No. 1 in 1993, though it lost the spot after the loss at Notre Dame in the regular season. Florida was No. 1 throughout 1996, lost to FSU in the regular season finale (a 1 vs. 2 game), then got it back by pounding FSU in the Sugar Bowl rematch.

Anonymous said...

I love that opening to the games this year. They just need the communications or drama department to coach up the players a bit and it would be perfect.

carter said...

I think we would be better off starting out ranked 2 or 3. That way we can play the whole "we don't get no respect" card that seems to play so well w/ (college) athletes.

Anonymous said...

many thanks smq!

Xon said...

The athletes shouldn't need the "we don't get no respect" card to be motivated. People do need help getting motivated sometimes, of course, but a wise and clever coach can figure out ways to "spin" being the king of the hill into adversity.

Talk about how #1 means you've got a big target on your back, that every team is going to give you their best shot. Being #1 means that every single game you have to fight to keep your crown. Are you going to let these guys take your crown? Etc.

But I'm no motivational speaker, per se. Just speculating...

As for teams finishing #1 who started #1, the sample size is small enough (even with however many decades of football) that it's hard to draw any hard conclusions, but I don't think being 1 is a "curse" or anything. 1 is just an arbitrary number for analysis. How many teams start off #4 and then finish #1? #2? #3? Some, but not many.

This is a "wisdom of crowds" thing. Teams ranked near the top of the rankings (#1 is probably too narrow , but top 3 or top 5 (top 10?) is probably a decent indicator though) are more likely to have qualities that make them one of the best "on paper." But that's no sort of guarantee, and the ball bounces this way and that and there are injuries, etc. and so the exact team that actually ends up #1 often didn't start that way. But they usually started somewhere pretty high (although there are surprises who come off of lackluster seasons, like Ohio State in 02...they went 6-5 in 01 I believe).

Think of it probabilistically. Even a dominant #1 favorite is probably only say, a 3 point or 7 point favorite over other top 5 teams. Let's say UGA really is the best team this year, on paper and on the field. What are the odds that they would win it all? Well, how much better is the typical #1 team than everybody else? What do you think hte "odds" are of winning any given game if you're the #1 team?

In fact, be ridiculous and say that the #1 team preseason is soo much better than everybody else that they have a 100% chance of beating half their schedule and a 90% chance in each game on the harder part of their schedule. So, UGA is so good that they have a 90% chance of winning against Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, and Arizona State. That would be a pretty darn good football team if they were 9-1 to beat all those teams. But now what are the odds that they would actually run through that slate of 5 games unscathed, even with 90% odds? It's 59%. So, in 4 out of 10 years, a team that was that dominant still wouldn't finish unbeaten. Of course, you don't actually have to finish unbeaten. Then again, you're never really going to be that big of a favorite against your toughest half of the schedule (and the easy half is never going to be 100%, either). Sorry to Nerd it up, and sorry to "threadjack." Something like this has been on my mind for a while, though.

I'll bet that the number of #1 teams who end up finishing that way is pretty close to what we would expect, statistically.

Dante said...

"but anyone who likes UGA at the top either thinks the schedule is somehow manageable for an undefeated season or that surviving Florida, at LSU and at Auburn with just one loss will be good enough with some help."

I've never understood this argument. Preseason rankings are a bellwether to track weekly change. That might not be the intention but it's certainly the reality. Preseason rankings define where pollsters think a team starts out and the weekly schedule raises and lowers them according to their performance each week.

To further nerd out this post, I'm going to take a pretty outlandish but possible scenario to point out the folly here. Suppose you have 4 teams preseason ranked 1-4. We'll call them teams A - D, respectively. Team D is only #4 because it has a really tough schedule while A - C have manageable schedules but are seen as lesser teams. Now suppose all 4 of these teams go undefeated in the regular season. When does Team D jump A - C? It never does. So in that scenario the best team is doubly penalized for bothering to schedule decent opponents.

And if you think the above scenario is outlandish, just wait until BCS schools start heeding the lesson Ohio State taught us this past season: number of wins and losses trumps strength of schedule every time for BCS teams, even when you lose one and play poorly in the other of your only real games.

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