Sometime, a long time ago, someone decided that head-to-head matchups were the be-all end-all in determining which team is better. Whether this thought was the chicken or the egg in the birth of a playoff system we'll never know, but it goes without saying that when one team beats another, people, in general, think the victorious team is the better team.
It makes perfect sense, after all, we often hear about passing the "eye test," and when you watch one team handle another, it seems fairly easy to proclaim the victorious team is simply better.
Although it never set out to do so, college football is the only sport to challenge that notion. It's the only major sport that has never used a playoff system, and though there's been plenty of controversy along the way, the team or teams crowned champion in the end have often been deserving.
I bring this up because with its win over Oregon last week, Stanford cleared the path for a Florida State vs. Alabama national championship game. In doing so, Stanford showed itself clearly superior to Oregon, right? I'm not so sure.
Using the head-to-head measure, sure, Stanford is much better. But let's not forget that Stanford lost to Utah, a far inferior team to Oregon.
This is where it gets sticky. Depending on what criteria you use, the "better team" is different. Best win, it's Stanford. Head-to-head, it's Stanford. Worst loss, that's Oregon.
Let's take that last scenario further, if Oregon played Utah, the Ducks would win 100 of 100 times, yet Stanford lost its only match with them this year. Could it be that Stanford simply matches up well with Oregon? Could it be that the Cardinal are not a superior team, but when facing the Ducks, they simply have their number? I think it's more than possible.
It happens every year during the NCAA tourney. That's why there are always "upsets," because of matchups. Is it fair that say the No. 1 seed overall faces a team in the second round that matches up well with it, while the No. 8 seed gets an easy game - matchup wise? I say no, but hey, it's March Madness, the ultimate test to determine the best team in the country
I am on board with the modified playoff system going into place next year, but let's not pretend that a playoff system, any playoff system is perfect. Just like the chicken and the egg, we'll never have the answer to which team is truly the best during any given season - just which team won the last game.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @gregvara where I'll often have updated insight to matchups on the weekend and starting next week, some tips on the early-week MAC matchups.
Cream of the Crop (Week: 2-1/Season: 22-10)
Houston at Louisville: I'm not sure what's going on with this Louisville team. The Cards' have looked rather bored the entire season and it bit them in the butt earlier this season against UCF. If they aren't careful, it will bite them again this week against a Houston team with a legit offense. My feeling however is that with Houston in town, an exciting team, the Cards' might actually get up for this game. That doesn't mean they'll cover, it just means that we should see some fireworks on offense. As for Houston, its defense is garbage, but its offense is solid. UCF, which has the best defense in the league shut down the Cougars for much of the game, but eventually, John O'Korn and crew, broke through, nearly winning the game late. Thanks to some lackluster showings over the past month from Louisville, the total here is in a nice spot.
Total: Over 57.5
Florida at South Carolina: Florida is a bad way right now. The Gators have been dreadful on offense all year, but last week's 34-17 loss at home to Vanderbilt was definitely the low-point - for now. It's entirely possible that after listening to everyone in the nation talk about how far the Gators have fallen in the past few weeks, that they fight back and show up in this spot, but I honestly don't think they have it in them at this point. South Carolina's had some issues also, but the Gamecocks are more than capable of blowing out a helpless Gator team.
Side: South Carolina -12.5
Georgia at Auburn: The Bulldogs are starting to get some pieces back on offense and just in-time, because they'll need them this week at Auburn. Auburn is starting to carve out a niche in the SEC as a strong offensive team and the Tigers should have no problem moving the ball on a suspect Bulldog defense. The total is in a reasonable place for this game and unless weather comes into play, I see no reason why it will go under.
Total: Over 63
Best of the Rest (Week: 1-3/Season: 28-20)
Indiana at Wisconsin: The Hoosiers have had some fun over the past few weeks slicing up some bad defenses, but it's back to reality this week as they face a top-tier Big-10 team. If you've followed the Hoosiers over the past month, you know that their defense is historically bad. I mean, leave the punter at home if you are facing them bad. Wisconsin's offense can move the ball on any defense in the Big-10, imagine what it can do against Indiana. The back door is always an issue with a team like Indiana, but I have a feeling the Badgers could put up 60+ points, so that door might be out of reach come the 4th quarter.
Side: Wisconsin -23
Oklahoma State at Texas: Remember when Texas was embarrassed at BYU earlier this year and followed it up with a 21-point loss at home to Ole Miss? Well, the ‘Horns have ripped off six in a row and are now in position to win another Big-12 title. Here's the problem with that win streak though, they haven't played anyone of note outside of Oklahoma, so we really don't know how improved they are. The same could be said for OSU as its best win came against Texas Tech, a team that has since dropped a home game to KSU, but if we are talking about the "eye test", I think OSU is the better team here.
Side: OSU -3
Utah at Oregon: Remember when we were talking about Utah playing Oregon? Well, it just happens to be this week and while some may think the Ducks will be wallowing in self-pity, I think they'll come out on fire here. This is not foreign territory for the Ducks, they do this every year, so the fact that their national championship hopes went down the drain last week shouldn't have a lasting effect.
Side: Oregon -26
Michigan State at Nebraska: If MSU had any kind of offense, this would be a lock, but since it does not, this game might be closer than I'd like. With that said, last week's win aside, the ‘Huskers are still a mess. The fact that they beat another team that's a mess does nothing for me. MSU's defense will win this game and maybe score itself a time or two.
Side: MSU -6
PASSing Thoughts (Week: 2-1-1/Season: 20-24-3)
Georgia Tech at Clemson: Georgia Tech is always tough to predict. Its offensive production depends on its unique rushing attack and it's either on or off. If it's on, the result is something like 56-0 against Syracuse. If it's off, it's a 30-45 loss at Miami. Not a horrible loss mind you, but Miami is the best team on Tech's schedule to date, so I dare say the ‘Jackets are stepping up in class. The problem though is Clemson's inability to slow down Tech's running attack the past two season, each time giving up 31 points. Sure, not the same teams, but when you struggle against a certain style, it's hard to adjust. With that said, Clemson could put up 40+, so I don't feel comfortable taking the points. I'll take the over and watch both teams move the ball.
Total: Over 58.5
Washington at UCLA: Both teams started hot, and both were derailed by Oregon and Stanford. Washington has pounded weaker competition lately, while UCLA has slipped by decent competition. I don't know which way to go here. I'm leaning toward UCLA, but I'd rather focus on the total. Washington has really cranked up the offense lately, and UCLA isn't about to let the Huskies run away with this game, so expect a lot of points.
Total: Over 61
Texas Tech at Baylor: Texas Tech is going the wrong way right now, but it's not like the Red Raiders forgot how to score points. Baylor is still a machine, but just a week after a huge win, relatively, over Oklahoma, there might be a slight hangover effect.
Side: Texas Tech +27