Feinstein knows who should go for the gold!


Script never sleeps, college football edition: John Feinstein knows who should play Florida State for the college football title.

He has memorized a sacred script, college football edition:
FEINSTEIN (12/12/13): It also is true that Florida State hasn’t exactly beaten Murderer’s Row. But the Seminoles’ 51-14 rout at Clemson is head and shoulders above anything Ohio State has accomplished.

Neither one can come close to matching the résumé of either Auburn or Missouri—which also is 11-1 with the loss to South Carolina in double overtime. Auburn’s loss was at LSU. Does anyone out there really think Ohio State would go to Baton Rouge and win?

Auburn’s nonconference schedule was at least as unimpressive as Ohio State’s. But the Tigers play in the Southeastern Conference, the best league in the country. They have wins over Georgia, at Tennessee (not that impressive unless you look at how tough the Vols played teams at Neyland Stadium), at Texas A&M and now Alabama. Seriously, is that even close?
According to Feinstein, Auburn should get the nod over Ohio State in large part because they “play in the Southeastern Conference, the best league in the country.”

But is the SEC really the best this year? Not according to Jeff Sagarin, whose computer rankings are used as part of the BCS system. According to Sagarin’s computer, the Pac-12 has been the best conference to date, with the SEC ranking second.

Just click here. You’ll have to compute two averages.

Sagarin may or may not be correct. It has become quite hard to compare the conferences, given the very large number of cupcake non-conference games.

You can only tell how good the conferences are when they play each other—unless you simply repeat the script, in which case the SEC is best. Let’s note how hard Feinstein works to make the case for Auburn, a two-loss team with only one loss due to a crazily bungled, last minute play by the Georgia defense.

According to Feinstein, Auburn’s nonconference schedule “was at least as unimpressive as Ohio State’s.” As part of that schedule, Auburn tangled with Washington State, the eighth- or ninth-best team in the Pac-12.

Auburn escaped at home, 31-24. By way of contrast, when Oregon played Tennessee, a bottom-quarter SEC team, the Vols were battered, 59-14.

(It was 59-7 after three quarters. After that, the Ducks let season ticket holders play.)

Incredibly, Feinstein is touting Auburn’s win over Tennessee as one of its credentials. (The Vols play so well at home!) In Feinstein’s reckoning, Auburn has beaten Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Alabama. Translation:

Auburn has beaten three ranked teams, one of which it actually lost to. It has beaten #22 A&M and #25 Georgia (which it actually lost to), while losing to #14 LSU. By Feinstein’s reckoning, this means that Auburn is one of the nation’s two best.

(For all polls, click this. In the coaches’ poll, Texas A&M is #24, Georgia isn’t ranked.)

Who should be in the title game? There’s no real way to tell. Florida State has played exactly one ranked team. Do they belong in the title game? Even that isn’t clear.

That said, it isn’t clear that the SEC is the best conference this year. (We’d say it seems clear that the SEC and the Pac-12 are the two best.) Meanwhile, might we deliver the dope about omnipotent Auburn?

They barely got by Washington State. As everyone knows, they actually lost at home to Georgia—except two Georgia defenders made the worst defensive play in history on a last-minute, 4th-and-18, sub-Hail Mary thrown from Auburn’s own 27.

Two weeks later, they were able to beat Alabama because Alabama 1) was afraid to attempt a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, then 2) defeated itself by going for a 57-yarder with a bunch of mastodons on the field.


Auburn is 11-1, not 9-3, because of very bad play by two of Feinstein’s vaunted teams from the nation’s best conference. (Alabama’s fourth quarter play was atrociously bad.) But sports pundits won’t drop their favorite line, which doesn’t let them recognize how poorly those teams performed.

There are no obvious “two best teams” this year, but pundits like Feinstein can’t see or say this. They have memorized a script.

Here too, script never sleeps.

What about the Tigers: Should Missouri go to the title game? Maybe! But at present, they have played only three ranked teams. They defeated #22 Texas A&M and #25 Georgia, while losing to #8 South Carolina.

That’s it! In this age of the mega-conference, they didn’t play Alabama, Auburn or LSU. They may be in the nation’s best conference, but they didn’t play its best teams.

On the Sagarin computer, Missouri has played the nation’s 41st toughest schedule. The Alabama schedule ranks 48th; Ohio State is 61st.

(According to Sagarin, Arizona State has played the 4th toughest schedule. Stanford is 5, UCLA 6. Georgia’s schedule ranks 8th; Auburn is 26.)

By the way, is anyone embarrassed to see Missouri in the SEC title game? Last year, they came to the SEC as a mid-level program from the Big 12, a supposedly lesser conference. (Overall record in 2011: 8-5, 5-4 in conference.) In just their second year, they are playing for all the marbles in the mightiest conference around!

In our view, there are no “two best teams” this year. Given the lack of inter-conference match-ups, it would be hard to pick a field for an eight-team tourney this year.

It isn’t clear that Auburn rules. Will someone teach Feinstein to say this?


  1. Which are more arcane -- education statistics or football statistics?

  2. One correction: The Ravens won the Super Bowl last year because the Broncos made an even worse defensive play than Georgia last year.

    Until there some kind of complete overhaul of college football with an 8 or 16 team playoff, we're always going to be comparing apples to Oranges. How can you possibly know who is better? But this did spoil the game I wanted to see: Alabama-Florida State. Would have been the most fun to watch.

    1. Perhaps it was a more inexcusable play because the Broncos are professionals, perhaps a dumber one because they let the receiver get behind them even though, in mitigation, it was on a third down and three play with 42 seconds left in the game as opposed to a fourth and 18 one with 35 seconds left. However, there's a case to be made that those "two [perfectly positioned] Georgia defenders made the [worse] defensive play." Then again, how did that Denver safety end up backpedaling to come up short at the end there?

      Compare and contrast:

      Exhibit A

      Exhibit B

  3. But the BCS rankings are scientific! They have numbers, down to four decimal places!

  4. Auburn is only a one loss team, and how could anyone think they lost to Georgia on that miracle play that gave Auburn the game.

    Bob needs to get back to extolling the virtues of that poor misunderstood Zimmerman.

    1. You think you've read Somerby "extolling the virtues" of George Zimmerman.

      You are as hopeless as you seem. Off yourself.

    2. Hey Anon1107 - follow your own advice.

    3. Yes, more brain-dead reader/commenters like 10:59 are what we chiefly need!