Thursday, August 30, 2007

Most Spectacular Plays of the last 5 Seasons

Note: What defines spectacular? A play that gives you goosebumps and sends chills down your spine as you watch it on ESPN Classic three years later. A play that still makes fans of the opposing team sick to their stomach. A play so absurd and improbable – there is no way it could ever be repeated. These ten plays.

10. “Hook and Lateral” – Boise State v Oklahoma, 2007 Fiesta Bowl:
The list begins with one (of many) of the unbelievable plays from this unbelievable game. With just seconds left in the game, 4th and 18, down by 7, the Broncos had to dig deep in the playbook for this one. After this ridiculous 50 yard touchdown, the Broncos forced overtime against heavily favored Oklahoma.

9. “The Run (Seneca Wallace)” – Iowa State v Texas Tech, 2002:
As the best thing ever to happen to Iowa State, Seneca Wallace succeeded in always making something out of nothing. No other play exemplified this ability more than this one – an amazingly athletic 12 yard touchdown where he retreated back over 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, zig-zagged across the field, and picked up one jaw-dropping pancake block to send him home.

8. “Jump Pass (Tim Tebow)” – Florida v LSU, 2006:
How do you even describe this play? Urban Meyer cooks up one of the strangest touchdown passes you will ever see. Tebow, the freshman sensation fullback/quarterback, comes into the game for a crucial goal-line situation. Everyone in the stadium was expecting an off-tackle run – which he appeared to do, except that he stopped at the line, jumped into the air, double clutched, and forced a disgustingly ugly jump shot into the wide open arms of Gator TE Tate Casey.

7. “Laterals” – Michigan v Nebraska, 2005 Alamo Bowl:
Don’t remember this play? Just watch it. Down by 4 with virtually no time on the clock, Chad Henne completes a modest pass, which is then lateralled 7 times before winding up in the arms of Tyler Ecker. Players and fans come onto the field before the tight end is forced out of bounds at the 15. If he turns around and gives the ball to Steve Breaston, the fastest player on the field, this play rivals Cal-Stanford. However, Ecker is an idiot, and Michigan finishes 7-5, a fitting end to a disastrous season.

6. “Devin Hester punt return” – Miami v Duke, 2005:
How many tackles can one man break? I’m not sure if this play is an example of Devin Hester’s ridiculous ability or Duke’s ridiculous futility, but it sure is amazing to watch. Just when you think he’s going to be tackled, he escapes (six times) – en route to a 81 yard touchdown.

5. “Vince Young can’t be stopped” – USC v Texas, 2006 Rose Bowl:
Perhaps the only reason this play isn’t higher on my list (considering the significance), is because we all knew it was going to happen. Deep down, we knew USC couldn’t stop VY. We knew nobody was going to tackle him when he got down inside the five. We knew nobody was going to catch him in a footrace to the pylon. We knew all these things, and yet we were still awe-struck.

4. “Hail Mary I” – Iowa v LSU, 2005 Capital One Bowl:
With only seconds left in this back and forth game, Iowa’s Drew Tate needed a miracle. That miracle came when an LSU blown coverage left little used receiver Warren Holloway wide open. Tate heaved the ball as time expired, completing a 56-yard pass to seal the Tigers’ fate in Nick Saban’s last game coaching the Bayou Bengals.

3. “Hail Mary II” – LSU v Kentucky, 2002:
Another LSU hail mary, except this time the tables were turned. From a pure improbability standpoint, this has got to be the most amazing such play in recorded history. Only the sheer meaninglessness of this game kept it from moving into the top two. A ridiculous 75 yard heave that miraculously caromed into the streaking Devery Henderson, who waltzed into the endzone for the touchdown. Perhaps the best part of this play is the Kentucky fans storming the field, only to realize that they had lost the game. That’s why you’re Kentucky. Stick to basketball.

2. “The Audible” – USC v Notre Dame, 2005:
While surely not the most unbelievable play, this Leinart to Jarrett pass ranks so high because of its significance. In the waning seconds of the game, the undefeated Trojans had to convert a 4th and 9 to keep their dream season alive. In the frenzied mania that was Notre Dame Stadium that day, Leinart audibles to a fade route to go big or go home. Leinart makes the throw, Jarrett makes the catch, and history is completed several plays later with the “Bush Push.”

1. “Statue of Liberty” – Boise State v Oklahoma, 2007 Fiesta Bowl:
While this list was difficult to compile and rank, Number 1 was a no-brainer. During one of the most spectacular games in recent memory, Boise State found themselves in overtime against Oklahoma. After a quick Adrian Peterson touchdown, coach Chris Petersen knew he had to put the game away quickly. When the Broncos scored, there was no question he was going for the win. When Zabransky faked the throw and handed it to Johnson, there was no question he was going to score. Nobody saw it coming. A perfect play with perfect execution. To top it off, Johnson ran off the field and proposed to his longtime cheerleader girlfriend….and she said yes. You can’t write this stuff. Just watch.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Best Teams of the Decade (Mathematically)

Note: In response to ESPN's semi-recent article - "Ladder 119"

I was taking a look at this interesting piece, which attempted to rank all 119 college football teams based on factors such as winning percentage, tradition, attendance, facilities, etc. I noticed that ESPN used a completely subjective ranking system, so I decided to attach some numbers to their criteria. I also chose to evaluate only the teams I thought would have a legitimate chance to finish in the Top 10 (this happened to be 21 teams).

Note: I did not tweak the numbers to come up with a specific result. I did these rankings the fairest way I could think of, and these are the results.


Results: Michigan is #1? Are you kidding me? The numbers don't lie. Since I'm sure you are all very curious as to how i came up with this, let's take a look at my methods.

Understanding the Rankings:
Winning Percentage: In my opinion, possibly the most important metric in determining the best team is how much they win. I took the winning percentage over the last decade times a factor of 10.
Conference and National Titles: Obviously important for separating good teams from great teams. I took number of conference titles times 1/4, national championships times 1. Conference titles garner a significantly lesser weight due to the fact that some conferences obviously have a tougher road to a title.
Attendance, Tradition, Facilities, National Exposure, Conference Toughness Ranks: With the exception of attendance, all of these are subjective. However, I also assigned a relatively lower weight to these numbers. I averaged these five categories; gave 4 points if the average was 1-5, 3 points if the average was 5-10, 2 points for 10-15, 1 point for 15-21. Note: Topping this list were schools like Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Florida, so I must have been doing something right...
Non-Bowl Seasons and Dirty Program Rank: These were the two categories that I subtracted points for. First of all, if you are to be considered one of the great teams of the decade, I believe you must be consistently good during that decade. ESPN chose USC as the team of the decade despite the fact that they did not play in a bowl game for 3 seasons during that span. To me, that is unacceptable. I took off a point for each non-bowl season. The dirty program rank is probably my most controversial metric. I toyed with this a bunch, and ultimately decided to keep it, because I feel that negative publicity stemming from arrests, shady recruiting habits, and so on detracts from a school's "greatness." Of the top five programs, I subtracted 0.5 from their total.

So there you have mathematical formula for determining greatness in college football.

What does it mean?

Consistency is important - We tend to fall in love with teams like USC (now) or Miami/FSU (start of the decade), but we also tend to forget that those teams have had some really bad spells. Teams like Michigan and Texas have consistently fielded great teams year after year.

The powerhouses are here to stay - Take a look at the top 10. Would they look any different if you had done this exercise ten years ago? What about ten years in the future? The big name teams who fill the stadiums, rank high in tradition, and receive the most exposure are the ones winning the most games and titles.

Michigan easily had the best decade - Check out the margin of victory of Michigan (#1) over Texas (#2). You can try tweaking the rankings, but you're still going to get the same results. How do they fall under the radar on most of these lists? One possible answer: recent success. College football is a "what have you done for me lately" sport. Michigan's last National Title, although within the last decade, is ancient history to most fans. Although they have been in the mix as recently as last year, they have largely been out of National Title contention for most of the past few years. However, Michigan's ability to consistently field top 10-15 teams season after season makes them Best of College Football's "Team of the Decade."