Monday, October 21, 2013
Florida State: Best team in the country?
By Andrea Adelson
It's not just bravado: Jameis Winston might have a valid point with this gesture.
When the first BCS standings were finally unveiled Sunday night, just about everybody sat stunned as Florida State debuted ahead of Oregon in the No. 2 spot.
Me? Not surprised.
Because Florida State should be ranked No. 1.
Indeed, when it came time to submit my weekly Top 25 power rankings for ESPN.com, I placed Florida State at the top, ahead of defending champ Alabama (No. 2) and ahead of the Ducks (No. 3).
There are several reasons why I went against the popular vote. First, let me explain my method. Sitting down and doing the power rankings is never an easy endeavor. There are scores to sift through, schedules to analyze, stats to consider and games to catch up on throughout the weekend. When I do the rankings, I heavily weigh performance to date and -- just as importantly schedule to date. I do not allow results from past seasons to factor into my rankings. I base everything solely on what we have seen in the current season.
This is a big reason why I believe preseason rankings should be abolished. They set up teams with unfair advantages based on the past.
So why Florida State at No. 1? There are a variety of reasons.
Rashad Greene separated from Clemson's DBs; did FSU separate from the rest of the nation with its road blowout victory?
1. The Noles have the most impressive win to date, 51-14 at No. 3 Clemson. The Tigers are not a bad team. In fact, Clemson is still a top-10 team. These two facts alone should make everybody reconsider what they believe about Florida State. Did the Noles look sloppy at Boston College? At times, yes. But in their biggest game of the season, when people believed the spotlight would be too bright for Jameis Winston, they humiliated the preseason ACC favorite and made them look like an also-ran. On the road, in a place the Noles had not won since 2001. Florida State ended up scoring the most points in Death Valley. Ever.
Oregon has nothing that compares. Alabama? The Tide have two big wins over ranked opponents -- Virginia Tech and Texas A&M. But Alabama gave up 628 yards to A&M and had to come from behind to win. Virginia Tech was unranked when they played. In fact, questions started cropping up early in the season about Alabama because the Tide did not look like their usual selves vs. the Hokies or the Aggies, or even in a 31-6 win over Colorado State. Was a 52-0 win over Arkansas impressive this past weekend? Sure. But consider South Carolina also hung 52 on the Razorbacks and offensively challenged Florida put up 30 -- its second-highest scoring output this season.
2. The Noles have played the toughest schedule to date, a big reason why they rank No. 1 in the computer component in the BCS standings. Florida State and Alabama have played two ranked teams at the time of their respective matchups. The Noles beat No. 25 Maryland and No. 3 Clemson by a combined score of 114-14. The 63-0 win over Maryland tied the record for the largest margin of victory over an AP ranked opponent. The combined win-loss record of their five FBS opponents to date: 21-12. Florida State has played only one team with a losing record.
Let us take a look at Alabama. The combined win-loss record for the Tide's seven FBS opponents: 22-27. They have played four teams with losing records. Now Oregon. The combined win-loss record for its six FBS opponents: 18-24. The Ducks have played two opponents with losing records. Alabama and Oregon each have wins over teams with one total victory on the season. Florida State's worst opponent to date -- Nevada at 3-4.
3. Among the three teams, Florida State owns the best margin of victory. The Noles are beating their opponents by an average of 40.9 points per game. Oregon is beating its opponents by an average of 40.3 points per game; Alabama is beating teams by an average of 31 points per game. When you consider the strength of schedule to date, this stat makes Florida State look even more impressive.
4. Among the three teams, Florida State is the only one that ranks in the top six in the nation in total offense and total defense, and the only one among the three to rank in the top three in scoring offense and scoring defense.
I refuse to subscribe to the theory that Alabama deserves to be No. 1 because it is the defending champion. Last season and the season before have no bearing on performance in 2013. And let us not kid ourselves. Alabama lost games in 2011 (LSU) and 2012 (Texas A&M) in the regular season. I do not believe Alabama is a sure bet to beat Florida State, or Oregon for that matter. If the Noles continue to play as well as they did at Clemson they absolutely could win a national title. Nobody has been better with the stakes higher so far.
My rankings could look different as the season progresses. Oregon has an important game against No. 12 UCLA on Saturday and a later matchup against No. 6 Stanford. Alabama still has to play No. 13 LSU and No. 11 Auburn. Florida State has one more ranked team -- No. 7 Miami.
But for this week, Florida State deserves to be No. 1. Its body of work tells you exactly why.