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Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Talking computers and playoffs

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

I get a lot of requests from readers. Some are anatomically impossible. Some are anatomically possible, but I choose not to fulfill them because they would hurt my anatomy. Among those that I never fulfill are the ones that begin this way:

"Please tell Trev ... "
"Next time you see Trev ... "
"Mark May is an ... "

Hey, I don't have Trev's and Mark's e-mail, either. And I see them on TV just like you do. When they are in Bristol, I am on the road.

But now, thanks to the same electronic wizards who scare you with that picture of Geno every week, there is trevandmark.com. I realize this means my volume of e-mail may plummet, but it's a price that I am willing to pay. There they will reside, so read and weep to your heart's content.

I look at it as something else to be thankful for. Granted, it's way down on list, but there's never too much to be thankful for. Have a great holiday.


Lou Holtz
Lou Holtz's memory won't be tarnished by the fight in his finale. Instead, he'll always be remembered as a winner.
I remember going to Carolina games as a child and watching Joe Morrison coach the Gamecocks to victory. I also remember the years of instability that followed. I graduated from USC in 2002. I remember being a sophomore when Lou announced he would coach in 1998. The town was ecstatic. "Cock-a-doodle-Lou" seemed to be posted just about everywhere on campus and throughout Columbia. If I have ever known one school that is hungry for a championship, it is the University of South Carolina. Lou Holtz has brought USC back from football limbo, and I don't believe anyone is more grateful than true Gamecock fans. It was all the more disappointing when our team acted the way they did on Saturday. I considered it a direct smack in the face of Holtz, who has given more to this program than anyone I can imagine. The postgame interview, not to mention the Lou Holtz show the following morning, almost brought tears to my eyes. I truly believe his career will not be tarnished by the final incident in his coaching career, and hope that everyone will remember what he did for the football program at USC. Go Gamecocks.

Patrick Anderson
Columbia, SC

Patrick, the morons who fought will be forgotten in a year or two, if not sooner. Holtz will be mentioned anytime someone talks about winning football.


Kerrie Klein from Chicago forwarded this excerpt of mine from a midseason column:

"A year ago, when Iowa came off of its Big Ten co-championship having lost about 43 starters, I relegated the Hawkeyes to one-year wonders. With a stout defense and game-changing special teams, Iowa went 10-3.

Well, the Hawkeyes weren't going to fool me again. The entire offense had to be rebuilt again, but no big deal. Surely coach Kirk Ferentz would find another fifth-year senior quarterback, and how much could they miss tackle Robert Gallery?

It turns out that Ferentz and Iowa are human. They really do have some rebuilding to do. The 44-7 loss at Arizona State is no more indicative of the state of the Hawks than Notre Dame's loss at BYU was of the Irish. Iowa gave a more accurate picture in the 30-17 loss at Michigan. The Hawkeyes will improve over the course of the season, because Ferentz's teams always do (there I go, predicting the future based on the past). The problem is, the schedule is going to get tougher, too. Iowa closes with Purdue, at Minnesota and Wisconsin. Barring getting upset themselves, unless the Hawks upset Ohio State in Iowa City on Oct. 16, they will have to win one of those final three games just to make a bowl game.

Picking them in the top 15 may have just been a tad optimistic. I'll take that one back, if you please."

Are you sure you still want to take that one as your mulligan? It turns out you were right in your preseason prognostication this year after all. (Thought you might not mind being reminded that you were right on that score). And this Hawkeye fan couldn't be happier or more appreciative of the accomplishments of our coaching staff and our players (who have a lot more talent than they get credit for, by the way).

Kerrie Klein
Chicago

I'd like to take it back, but I'm rehabbing the ankle I sprained jumping on and off the Hawkeye bandwagon.


The Computers were wrong when they selected Nebraska to play in the 2002 Rose Bowl.

The Computers were wrong when they selected Oklahoma to play in the 2004 Sugar Bowl.

Why should I believe the computers will be right now?

Jason Valentine
Opelika, AL

Preaching to the choir, Jason.


I read your college football columns, articles and e-mail answers every week on ESPN.com. I just wanted to send a note, though, to thank you for one thing you wrote today: "But anyone who has watched Holtz through the years should remember the way that the 67-year-old raced onto the field and flung himself in front of players twice his size, ordering them away from the fray. If any part of Saturday's ugliness elbows its way into Holtz's legacy, it should be that." I felt exactly the same way when I saw what was happening and saw Holtz rush in. It was something so much a part of his nature that it provided a very rare glimpse at the Holtz behind the facades you discuss in your article. I couldn't have said it any better. Your article is a concise and graceful tribute and is perfectly suited for a man of Holtz's stature. I really appreciated it, and I hope Mr. Holtz does as well. I, and I hope all of the fans of college football, will miss him. (And to think, this e-mail is coming from a lifelong Purdue and Tennessee fan . . .) Thanks again, and best wishes. Stephen G. Kabalka
Knoxville, Tennessee

That's the thing about college football fans. You hate the guy on the other sideline, and when he leaves, you hate to see him go.


Here's a question I don't think I've seen addressed anywhere... What happens if Tennessee beats Auburn in the SEC Championship game and Oklahoma loses to whatever team passes for the Big 12 North champion?

If I'm not mistaken, those two "champions," along with No. 12 Michigan and No. 21 Boston College (according to the latest BCS rankings), would be guaranteed spots in BCS games. That could be four teams ranked 12th or higher by the BCS in half of the spots for the "most important games". So much for getting the best teams to play each other. Great system we have in place -- please note the heavy sarcasm.

So, my sarcastic ranting aside, any idea what would shake out if the SEC and Big 12 favorites lost in their respective title games.

Thanks,
Philip Allison New Orleans, La.

If Utah is in the top six, Utah is in. If Auburn or Oklahoma were to lose and not fall below fourth, the higher ranked of them would be in. Another way to look at it: the Tennessees and Iowa States would be no different than having also-rans get hot and make the Final Four. This is the dark side of the playoff that so many want.


I didn't know who to contact about a mistake ESPN made this weekend, but your e-mail address was posted and you seem to be as good a man as any. So ...

In obvious response to some of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' probably unwise comments during his weekly press conference, an announcer for the station clearly claimed that there was no bias in the presentation of a series of statistics comparing Oklahoma with Auburn. One of the stats was each team's record versus top 25 teams; listed as Oklahoma 3-0 and Auburn 3-0. Unmentioned was the fact that those 3 top 25 teams that Auburn had beaten were the only teams Auburn had faced that are better than .500 for the year. (Alabama is better than .500 but the Iron Bowl had yet to be played at the time the stats were shown. Also of note, if it weren't for Arkansas' impressive win over Mississippi State today, which put them on .500, outside those 3 games Auburn wouldn't have faced a single team without a losing record) Of greater concern is the fact that Oklahoma is 4-0 against teams ranked in the top 25; Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Bowling Green (with Oregon and Texas Tech both having spent time in at least one of the polls, but currently unranked). It isn't really that big of a deal, but since the comment was made that the stats being shown were of unquestionable character, I thought it was fair to inform someone that a mistake was made in the figures.

I don't seriously think that anyone at ESPN would try to politic to put Auburn ahead of Oklahoma because of some TV contract (Especially since Oklahoma gets its fair share of time on big brother network ABC), but I find sympathy for Oklahoma understandable watching analysts for ESPN's GameDay all agree that there isn't "a dime's worth of difference between the top three teams" and not a single person from the network make any argument for Oklahoma to maintain its season-long number 2 ranking.

Scott Butcher
Admittedly from Norman

Scott, that's a good analysis, and I say that admittedly from Auburn's point of view (I've got the Tigers No. 1).


I am a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara. Because our school lacks a football team, I go with my roots and am an Oklahoma fan. Of course with the latest developments in the BCS, there has been some more talk of getting a playoff. Well I have a story for you about the failure of the NCAA playoffs. Our soccer team is number one in both the coaches poll, the media poll, and the RPI. We won our division and our record is 17-2-1, the second best record in Division I. Given this, somehow the NCAA selection committee has given UCSB the 9th seed. How is this possible? During non-conference play they shut out defending champion Indiana. The team broke many records during the season and competed in a difficult conference for soccer. It's also interesting to note the number of ACC members within the tournament. I do not want to get all Bob Stoops on you, but isn't it a little weird that the top-ranked team was not placed in the top bracket of the championship tournament?

Nicholas Heller
Santa Barbara

That's what happens. You let this goofy stuff infect football, and pretty soon soccer gets sick, and next thing you know, Kansas won't qualify for March Madness.


Ivan, I know that you and the rest of the nation are tired of hearing LSU talk about how they get no respect, but it is true. The two teams that LSU lost to are ranked 3 and 7. Even though our wins haven't been impressive, it still counts as a "W". Virginia Tech, Georgia, and Miami all lost their second game after we lost ours, yet they are ranked ahead of us. Georgia, who was idle, jumped 3 spots, Miami jumped 4, and we only jumped 2. And in the AP we stayed the same, even after teams ahead of us lost. I feel that LSU should be ranked eighth or ninth, behind Georgia but ahead of Miami.

Ian Jones
Baton Rouge

To quote Michael Corleone, "Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in." Ian, your Tigers would have a much better case if they weren't coming off a three-point victory over Ole Miss. I know it's a big rivalry and all that, but that kind of victory is going to make people bring up the narrow victories over Oregon State and Troy. The timing wasn't very good.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.