Rumblin', Bumblin', Stumblin'
January 4, 2006

I just wanted to update the progress of the book and maybe babble a bit.  The book, tentatively titled "the Fantasy Baseball Scouting Handbook" will be available on March 1.  I realize that's a bit late for most, but I'll start taking orders via Paypal in mid-February so they'll still ship out in time for most drafts.  The late delivery date will allow me to update player profiles up to the start of spring training games.  OK, rather than update all the transactions that have occurred since my last update, I wanted to say something about tonight's big Rose Bowl game.

Not only have the USC Trojans not won back-to-back championships, but there's a good chance they will lose to the Texas Longhorns tonight.

First things first.  USC didn't win national championship in 2003.  Look, I don't make the rules but they came up with the BCS to be the official national championship because the pollsters/popularity contests had a habit of making very bad decisions as to who should be considered the best team at the end of the year.  Remember BYU "won" the national title in 1984 in those polls despite playing a nothing schedule and defeating a 6-win Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl?   People, myself included, complain the BCS is lame but until they institute a playoff system, a computer-generated ranking system based on statistics is the only real option to determine a real national championship in college football, or at least the game that determines it.

As much as people like to complain about the BCS and Oklahoma playing for a shot at the title in 2003 despite losing their conference championship, they were the better choice to oppose LSU in the Sugar Bowl that year.  The Sooners had the #1 ranked offense in the country and the #3 ranked defense.  Oh, and they had that year's Heisman award winner, Jason White.  This is not a better choice than a team with the 6th ranked offense and the 18th ranked defense?  Each team had 1 loss that season: Oklahoma lost to a Kansas State team that was ranked 4th overall in defense and 9th in offense.  The Trojans on the other hand lost to a California team that was 30th on offense and 43rd on defense.  Neither conference has been particularly deep recently so it's not as if the schedule favored one or the other.  Given that, it's really no contest who the better opponent for LSU (1st overall in defense, 14th on offense) was for the national title. 

And in case you need to be reminded of what happened in that Sugar Bowl: that #1 ranked offense that averaged 45.2 points and 461 yards per game was held to just total 156 yards and 14 points, 7 of which came in the closing minutes.  As they often say, defense wins championships and LSU's totally dominated that game.  Then-freshman tailback Justin Vincent had nearly as many yards as the Sooner's #1 ranked offense.  There's no question LSU deserved it's national title.  And I'm not convinced USC would have fared any better than Oklahoma in what amounted to a home game for LSU.  USC won it's final games in a home game (the 2003 Rose Bowl) and a neutral field (last year's Orange Bowl).  Even this year is pretty much a home game for them.  Would they have fared as well is a very hostile environment against a dominating defense?  I have my doubts.  The championship trophy resides in Baton Rouge and that, frankly, is all that matters.  Anyone who suggests it doesn't belong there just isn't looking at the facts. 

And how about those Tigers this year?  Yeah, they choked against Tennessee at home (although the Vols were ranked #10 at the time) and showed their fatigue in the SEC championship against Georgia after playing 11 straight weeks, but finishing with 11 wins after enduring the worst natural disaster in US history just a week before their season began is pretty special.  They finally played to their potential in the Peach Bowl, completely crushing a very good Miami team... "crushing" seems like an understatement.  In the second half, the LSU defense held Miami's offense to 3 yards total.  Not three points, not three first downs... three yards.  Ouch!  And the offense wasn't too bad either, rolling up 40 points and 507 net yards against the 2nd ranked defense (11.9 points, 252 yards per game) in the country.  Double ouch!  The only downside of their performance was the fake field goal and fake punt attempts in the fourth quarter after the game was well in hand.  That was a bit bush league.  I'm not sure how well they'll do next year as a good portion of their defense will be graduating, but that Peach Bowl win will go a long way toward recruiting.

Back to tonight... who has USC played this year?  Notre Dame?  They just got dismantled by Ohio State.  Oregon?  They lost to unranked Oklahoma in their bowl.  UCLA?  They had to come back against a 7-win Northwestern team in their bowl.  Fresno State?  They just lost to Tulsa, a team that was in no one's top 20.  Texas on the other hand, beat Ohio State at Ohio State, and three teams - Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech - that won their bowl match-ups.  Texas has the the #1 offense in the country and the #4 defense.  USC is second on offense and have the 27th (!) ranked defense in the country.  Except for UCLA, who ranked dead last in Division 1 in rushing defense, the Trojans struggled to beat their top opposition.  The closest any team got to beating Texas this year was Ohio State.  Other than the 4th ranked Buckeyes, no team finished within 11 points of the 'Horns and they beat those aforementioned bowl teams by a combined 99 points.   Much has been made of Texas' 30th ranked rush defense, but USC's 25th ranked rush defense - only 7 yards per game difference - isn't much to write home about either.  Both teams should be able to run the ball, but the Longhorn pass defense is excellent and their overall defense is by far the best defense the Trojans have faced; the previous best was the 26th ranked Cal defense. 

People talk about how good a coach that Pete Carroll is, but since when is a guy who barely had a .500 record in the NFL considered a great coach?  Mack Brown isn't a great coach, but he isn't completely outclassed.  Texas has the advantage on special teams and many observers say they have the edge in team speed.  Statistically, there's very little difference between the two team's specific strengths and weaknesses, and since Texas played the tougher schedule logic dictates they have the edge.  It may not play out that way, but the Longhorns have a great chance to end this three-peat talk.