Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Revisionist History: We’ll Take 2002

Of course, Cal is the focus this week. But I couldn’t help but take my eye off DeSean Jackson’s mouth piece when Stewart Mandel’s Power Rankings popped up on yesterday.

Just a little more than two weeks ago, we gave Mandel props for making us feel better after the loss to Oregon State … Oregon State. But this week he’s thinking Arkansas - which USC annihilated 50-14 in Fayetteville - should be ranked No. 3 … although he says he picks USC to play in the National Championship Game.

I’m confused. Mr. Mandel, will you please fill us in here…
[…] These days, fans don't particularly care who I or anyone else thinks are the best teams in the country -- not when there's a berth in the national championship game at stake. All anyone wants to talk about is who's "most deserving." […]

To me, there's little question the Razorbacks are playing the best football of any team in the country right now outside of the Big Two, which is why I have them third in this week's rankings. Not only have the Hogs won nine straight games, but they also seem to be getting better each week. […]

People seem to think college football is played in a vacuum, where the teams are all exactly the same on Nov. 14 as they were on Sept. 2. Anyone who's watched Arkansas realizes it's not remotely the team that lost 50-14. […]

USC, meanwhile, is just two weeks removed from a 33-31 loss at 6-4 Oregon State and a slew of sluggish performances before that. While the Trojans have certainly looked better since, if the two teams met today, I would take the Razorbacks in a heartbeat. Therefore, I have them ranked higher.

That said, if for some reason I was handed the responsibility of choosing the teams for the national championship game tomorrow, and it came down to one-loss Arkansas against one-loss USC for the second spot, of course I would give it to the Trojans. Why? Because USC would be ... say it with me now ... more deserving. Fortunately, I don't have that responsibility, so I'm free to fill out my ballot based on a more quaint set of criteria: Who I think is better.
Actually, I do understand where Mandel is coming from, I think.

Arkansas is playing very, very well (if the supposed quality of the SEC is to be believed) and perhaps they have performed better than USC over the last few weeks. On the other hand, if USC were to get through this gauntlet of Cal, Notre Dame, and ugla, the Trojans would have a better "resume" than the Razorbacks, regardless of who was playing better at the time.

My apologies if you already understood this, but Mandel’s thought process required a double take for me. Still, I like it, I think. By virtue of Mandel’s playing-best-now thinking, USC would have won three National Championships in a row:’02, ’03 and ’04. That’s right. As all Trojans know, USC with Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu was the best college football team in the country at the end of the 2002 season.

We closed out that year on an eight-game win streak, having beaten seven top-25 teams (by far the nation’s toughest schedule), including a 38-17 shellacking of No. 3 Iowa at the Orange Bowl. All this while averaging 400+ yards, and 30+ points of offense a game.

So, crown us National Champs for 2002 right now, Mr. Mandel. As for this year, if … IF … we can get through the next three games, we’ll certainly possess a worthy resume and no doubt the 2006 “Playing Best Now” Trophy.

But again, first things first …

Fight On! Beat the Bears!

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