Tuesday, May 30, 2006

If you even dream of beating me, you'd better wake up and apologize

I recently received an e-mail from the proprietor of Heavyweight Football Champs, a site exploring the idea that the college football champion should be determined in the same fashion as the boxing champions: to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. When I first read about it, I thought "Hey, that's a good idea." Then I thought about it some more, and said "Wait, no it isn't." Now I've sort of decided that it's just a new and interesting way of looking at things.

At first glance, it makes a lot of sense to decide the national champ on the field, rather than relying on polls and the BCS to give us a good national title matchup. The whole concept of "beat the best to be the best" pervades sports in America (how often did you hear that from teams playing the Patriots in the NFL over the past few years?), and this seems like the best way to determine the national champ without any real arguments.

But there are shortcomings in the idea. First of all, if Texas should lose to North Texas in the season opener, and then North Texas ends up dropping a game to some team in the bottom of the Sun Belt conference, are you going to try to tell me that, say, Arkansas State is the best team in the country? That doesn't make much sense. Further, graduation can impact teams to the point that they are completely different from season to season. Sure, Texas took the "title" in the Rose Bowl, but then they lost some major contributors to the NFL, especially Vince Young. A team can be on top of the college football world one year, then come back down to earth over the course of one NFL draft. If, say, Muhammad Ali had won the title, then decided to have his left arm amputated, would you still think of him as the best boxer in the world? Probably not.

This second objection is somewhat weak, as theoretically the title eventually finds its way to the best boxer/team, and that's the way it often plays out on Heavyweight Football Champs. For example, looking at recent history, the major "title holders" since 1997 have been Nebraska, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, and USC. Even when OSU lost the college football title to a middling Wisconsin team, it only took it about three and a half months (six games) to find its way to the best team, USC.

Basically, I think the college football national championship is meant to recognize the best team in a given year. It's a yearly prize to me, and I think everything should be run back to zero at the start of each season, with everyone starting on equal footing on the way to determining the best team of the season. However, this is an interesting take on the college football championship, and worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses. To that end, I'm adding it to the sidebar.

And of course, this post wouldn't be complete without a comparison of college football teams to some of the top heavyweights in history:

USC - Muhammad Ali: Possibly the best ever (just ask them), very cool, and very popular with rappers.

Miami - Mike Tyson: For a time, the absolute best there was, inspiring awe and fear. Experienced a rapid fall from the top. Both want to eat your children.

Ohio State - Joe Louis: Buster Douglas would probably go better here, what with the Douglas-Tyson/Fiesta Bowl parallels and the Columbus connection, but if I gave Muhammad Ali to USC, I damn sure wasn't going to stick us with some average guy. I know next to nothing about Louis other than he was one of the best, so let's move on.

Michigan - George Foreman: For quite some time, among the best in the game. Haven't been at the top of their game for years, but occasionally do noteworthy things, such as produce grills that college students love.

If anyone has any better comparisons, feel free to leave them in the comments. I'm out of time for now.

Edit: Now that this has been mentioned over at BON and CFR, I would like to add a disclaimer that the above is admittedly a pretty half-assed list, and would like to further encourage people to come up with better and funnier comparisons. I know some of you out there could come up with your own lists that blow my own out of the water, and I'd like to read them.


Beaker said...

Gotta get my arguments in. =) BTW, thanks for the writeup.

As to the starting from zero thing, I don't disagree, however that really doesn't happen now. Preseason ratings still have too much influence, and too often the preseason polls are very heavily based on the previous year. My personal opinion is they shouldn't relate any polls until 3 or 4 weeks into the season.

Now, I'd be more inclined to equate Ohio State with Evander Holyfield than Buster Douglass. While they were pretty heavy underdogs that year, talent wise they were much closer to the top.

Buster Douglas beating Tyson was more of a fluke. A better comparison to Buster Douglas is the 1984 BYU team.

Sean said...

I agree, preseason polls are basically a guess, yet the voters then just adjust them for the rest of the season. Your system, on the other hand, has some logic as to who's number one to start off, since the champion remains the champ until they are beaten. Preseason polls are just silly.

mem said...

(Found you by way of Buckeye Commentary.) Joe Louis once got in an a car accident, and the other driver began abusing him afterward. Louis refrained from knocking his block off, and when asked why replied, "When they insult Caruso, does he sing them an aria?"

That's all I know about Louis. But it speaks well of him.

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