Brother v. Brother: Discussing BCS standings, UCLA, USC, & the Pac-12's divisional alignment

Everyone has an arch nemesis. Mine just happens to be my older brother. But our mutual hatred (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration) has led to many an entertaining discussion through the years. And because much of the debate has centered on college sports, it seems only appropriate we take these debates to the blogosphere to settle them once and for all. (I mean, who wouldn't want public affirmation that Big Bro's always wrong and I'm always right?) Here's your weekly ATQ Blogger Debate, affectionately known as Sh*t My Brother Says.

PaulSF: OH HAI JOE! Are you ready for another round of sibling mudslinging? You KNOW I am. I'm feeling rather supercilious today. Probably has to do with the Ducks' 60-13 massacring of UCLA last Thursday night. Or maybe I'm just preparing for our second-straight bludgeoning of a SoCal school on Saturday. Either way, I hope you're in the mood for my contemptuous attitude toward you and your inferior opinions.

GrumpyJDH: Uhhhh...should I have brought a helmet and a cup? It's called decaf, Paul. You should probably consider it. Besides, what are you so feisty about? We WON! Then, Oklahoma went out and did us a huge favor by soiling the bed in Columbia. All in all, pretty good little weekend for the good guys.

PaulSF: That's exactly why I'm so feisty. We WON! No, correction: We DOMINATED! We made UCLA look about as pedestrian as Portland State. Or New Mexico. I think the Ducks are hitting their stride, and just in time for the toughest stretch of the conference slate.

Of course, I could just be fired up about yet another BCS snub. Auburn jumps not one, but TWO teams to take over the top spot? Sure wish we played in the SEC. Because apparently that means you'll automatically qualify for the National Championship Game.(1) What was your reaction to the second edition of the BCS standings?

GrumpyJDH: Maybe you shouldn't read this book then. In a word, Paully? Disappointed. Not surprised, just disappointed. Bear in mind the BCS is really only designed to get the top two teams right. I think you'd be hard-pressed to say it hasn't done that through eight weeks, no matter how much we feel like quibbling over the exact placement of those two teams. Moreover, while I don't pretend to completely understand the computer element of the BCS (though this helps), I know the computers absolutely do not include a margin of victory component. Ostensibly, this is to discourage teams from running up scores. (You're free to ask UCLA or anyone in the WAC how that's working out for them so far, by the way.) Bottom line? Auburn has played a tougher schedule and is similarly unblemished, so all things being equal, they deserve the nod. For now.

PaulSF: I guess I can't really say I'm surprised either. I was actually more ticked off when I first saw the new standings. Despite utterly obliterating UCLA, we actually moved DOWN in two computers: We went from No. 2 to No. 6 in Jeff Sagarin's Commodore 64, and from 9 to 10 in the Colley Matrix's TI-83. I understand margin of victory isn't taken into consideration by these sociopathic algorithms, but there virtually no rhyme nor reason to this system. I guess that's just the way it is.

Of course, it's all a moot point if we win out. If you look at the current standings, we are buffered by not one but two teams who have little to no chance of playing in the title game: Boise State and TCU. And below them is a Michigan State team that I don't think has the schedule strength to jump from No. 5 to No. 2 even if they do win out (which I don't think is likely either).

In other words, keep F-in' that chicken, Ducks!

GrumpyJDH: It takes a tough man to make a tender forecast, Paul. Hey, before we leave UCLA in the dust (figuratively this time), (2) what did you feel was the single-most impressive aspect of that nationally televised beatdown on Thursday?

PaulSF: If you think about how much pressure was on this team to perform on a national stage after extended time off with a lofty new ranking to back up, the Ducks answered all doubters with arguably their most complete game of the season. I liked how well Oregon's defense performed. I liked how well the offensive line played. (Did you see how much time they allowed for Thomas to throw? He could have taken a NAP back there! Hell, if I was him, I most certainly WOULD have taken a nap. Because I really like naps.)

GrumpyJDH: Paul, you'd take a nap ANYwhere if there's time to spare.

PaulSF: True. But as Dave pointed out on the ATQ podcast on Sunday night, Darron Thomas's performance was probably the highlight of this game. He set single-game career marks in passer rating (I'm not counting his brief appearance in the Washington State game), passing yards (eclipsing 300 for the first time), completion percentage (over 70% for the first time), and all of that without throwing an interception for only the third time this season. I know he did all of this against a short-handed UCLA defense, but those numbers against any defense are impressive.

GrumpyJDH: And even when he does face pressure, he takes it like a man who has triple the FBS experience (read: right in the grill as he's heaving the 6-pointer). Just love the kid's moxie at this point. That said, the second half effort by the defense is what stood out for me above everything else. It would have been pretty easy to sit back and coast to a three or four TD victory. Hell, we were up four scores at halftime! Yet, when the final gun sounded, the deficit was essentially SEVEN touchdowns. That's a testament to how hard the Duck defenders competed and to how much pride they take in such an effort. I was truly irritated when the Bruins tacked on that last touch...and I'm sure they were too.

PaulSF: There's no doubt Oregon's defense is special this year, even if they don't have padded stats to prove it. Want to know whose defense hasn't been special this season? USC's. So let's talk about it. (3) What are your thoughts on this weekend's GameDay match-up in L.A? Is USC's D the proverbial Trojan Horse, inflaming our delusions of national grandeur whilst Barkley & Co. prepare to ambush us with what appears to be a pretty lethal offense?

GrumpyJDH: No, it's just bad. Like, historically bad (by SC standards). The Trojans are yielding over four yards per carry, something they haven't done since before Pete Carroll arrived on campus. They're also giving up almost 275 yards/game through the air, placing them 107th out of 120 FBS teams. This is a Monte Kiffin defense? It isn't exactly like they've faced a murderer's row of great offenses, either. I'm no football tactician, but I suspect Daddy Kiffin's fabled Tampa 2 system is either ill-suited to defend the modern spread offense or, more likely, the personnel he has on hand is ill-equipped to run it effectively. Speed, gang tackling, turnovers, and more speed. That's the recipe. SC just doesn't have the ingredients. Now, about that Trojan offense...

PaulSF: You can't ask for a better setup than that, Big Bro! If there's anything the Trojans do well, it's move the ball. Despite playing a creampuff schedule thus far, as you pointed out, you can't ignore the fact the Men of Troy can and have been putting up impressive numbers on O. They're currently amidst the top 22 nationally in both rushing and passing offense, and they're 7th in the country in total offense, averaging nearly 500 yards a game. That, by the way, is good for second in the Pac-10.

And a lot of that success can be directly attributed to the play of true sophomore QB and All-American pretty boy Matt Barkley. Barkley's 167.3 passer rating is 6th in the country, and tops in the Pac-10. And yes, that means he's statistically more efficient than Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Needless to say, this is sure to be one of our defense's biggest tests this season.

But all we need to do is outscore the Trojans, and given USC's defensive deficiencies you pointed out, I think we will. And I hope we do, because this might be the last opportunity we have for a while, given the big news last week regarding the Pac-12's alignment plan. (4) What was your reaction to the big news from new Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott regarding the North-South divisional split?

GrumpyJDH: Meh. I don't really see what all the fuss is about. During the Arizona-Washington telecast, Coach B was carrying on about how important it is to sell LA-area kids on playing in front of the folks once a year. Really? That's more important than being on national TV or gaining a conference championship game? I'm not buying it, I guess. Kids are attracted to Oregon for a myriad of reasons (points, national notoriety, kicka$$ uniforms, more points). I doubt fewer games in the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl are gonna steer them away from the program. Plus, how cool would a Pac-10 championship in Autzen be? Best part of that announcement was the decision to hold the game in the top team's home stadium, don't you think?

PaulSF: First of all, are you saying the Godfather himself, Mike Bellotti, is full of it? What do you know about recruiting, Big Bro? When was the last time you made a recruiting visit to SoCal?

GrumpyJDH: Better question: How many starters for the nation's #1 offense hail from Southern California? Try ZERO! In fact, only two (Jeff Maehl, Jordan Holmes) even hail from the STATE of California. That game in Jerruh's palace next September might, arguably, do more for recruiting than another trip to Tinseltown.

PaulSF: I was not aware of that. Does this guy know how to party or what?! I actually agree with you (shocking!) that it's probably an aspect of the debate that's being overdramatized. The bottom line: Everyone in the conference has to compromise on some level in order to make the conference as a whole stronger, more marketable and more nationally viable. I think the plan that was announced last week does that.

And I completely agree (again!) with you regarding where they're planning to hold the conference championship game. The proposed neutral-site setup would have been a travesty. Case in point: the Pac-10 hoops tourney at the Staples Center every year. Regardless of who's playing, the place is a library for most of the games. Sure, it probably has something to do with the games being played during the week, but it's also got to be related to a general lack of interest when the L.A. schools aren't dominating. Which leads me to believe that a neutral site conference title game was probably a bad idea (just ask the ACC).

Unless, of course, that neutral site is Las Vegas, in which case you and I would have been all for it.

Speaking of the Pac-10, (5) which conference matchup is most intriguing for the upcoming weekend (excluding the Ducks-Trojans)?

GrumpyJDH: Easy. I wanna see how the Golden Bears (who I'm still afraid of) are gonna fare on the road in Corvallis after pasting ASU last weekend. Did you know the Beavers are 119th in total defense? Yet, they're 3 point favorites facing a team that just laid 50 on a pretty solid defense. Hmmmm. Not that I encourage gambling, of course. For entertainment purposes only, as always.

PaulSF: I can't say I'm very interested in that game. Cal has been atrocious on the road this year, losing all three of its road games by a combined 65 points. I'm actually more interested in another meaningless game: Wazzu at ASU. Why? Because I have a feeling the Cougars are finally going to end their conference beaten streak. Call me crazy, but after relatively solid performances in its past three games against nationally ranked teams (Arizona, Oregon, and Stanford), I think the Wulff Pack is about to shock the world. And by "the world," I mean "the 17 fans that show up to Sun Devil Stadium."

Well, I think I've had just about enough of you for this week, Big Bro. Let's get your prediction for Saturday's game.

GrumpyJDH: Undercard: Big Bro 56, Mom's nachos 14. Main event: Ducks 48, Trojans 41. We survive a last-ditch drive and remain in the catbird seat.

PaulSF: I think Ducks jump on the Trojans early and build a three-score lead in the first half. But a late Trojans rally brings them to within a field goal, before LaMike goes yard to seal the deal. Oregon 52, USC 42.

Joe, it's been real, it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun. Until next week...

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