King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Texas tops USC in rankings. Don't worry, others still have no chance. Plus: Minuscule Series ratings.

Published October 25, 2005 4:00PM (EDT)

I've been enjoying the little controversy over Texas passing USC in the Bowl Championship Series rankings this week.

USC has won 29 consecutive games and was No. 1 in both of the human polls that go into the BCS formula, the USA Today and the Harris Interactive. But five of the six computer rankings that together make up a third of the BCS formula had Texas ahead of the Trojans this week. That gave the Longhorns an ever-so-slight overall lead.

There are people who know the ins and outs of the BCS formula -- and I thought my brain was filled with useless knowledge! -- and they all agree the flip-flop in the rankings is probably a meaningless, temporary glitch and that USC will pull back in front in the next few weeks if it keeps winning.

I find two things funny about this mini-event. First, the outrage and disbelief in some quarters that USC could actually lose its top spot without losing.

"How can you be the No. 1 team in the country, win five road games, three against ranked opponents, and lose ground?" Harris poll voter, TV analyst and former USC quarterback Pat Haden asked the Los Angeles Times rhetorically.

The Times also quoted sportswriter and Harris poll voter Tom Luicci, who said, "I don't know how anyone can even conceive of dropping them when they keep winning every game."

These people are mad at the computers because the computers don't base their rankings on assumptions the way human polls do. You can criticize the computer rankings' methodology all you want if you can figure them out, which would put you ahead of me, but theoretically at least, what computers do is analyze the action that's taken place on the field.

The reason it seems outrageous to some for Texas to be ranked ahead of USC is that USC has been ranked No. 1 all along. But if, for whatever reason, the various typists, chatterers and ex-jocks who make up the two polls had decided among themselves over the summer that Texas looked like a better team than USC, it would be unthinkable for USC to be on top, because Texas hasn't lost.

The whole system is predicated on what a bunch of old men sitting around in August and sucking their thumbs think is going to happen in the fall.

But that's not as crazy as what the BCS experts are saying to calm people who might be upset about USC slipping to No. 2 -- which, let's face it, is probably not a huge group of people other than USC fans, who remember getting screwed by the 2003 version of the BCS system. Nobody else sheds many tears for the Trojans.

Anyway, here's what the experts are saying: Don't worry. It's just an effect of the strength-of-opponent aspect of the computer rankings. "USC is in the middle of a lull in the schedule," Jerry Palm, identified as a BCS analyst, told the Associated Press. "Texas is about to hit a lull."

Don't you fret, the experts are assuring us, even if Virginia Tech, the No. 3 team in the rankings, stays undefeated, it has virtually no chance of playing for the championship as long as USC and Texas keep winning. None.

And that's not to mention the other undefeated teams, Georgia, Alabama and UCLA, who'll have no chance at the championship if USC and Texas stay undefeated or enough teams ahead of them keep winning. So UCLA could beat USC and still have no chance at the title as long as at least two teams from among Texas, Virginia Tech, Georgia and Alabama win out.

And don't even bring up all those teams that have ruined their season by losing one game already. I mean, what do you think this is? Wait till next year, kiddos.

Just a reminder: This is all supposed to be a defense of the system, not a condemnation.

Good grief, what a preposterous way to run a sport.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Fans flee Flyover Series [PERMALINK]

The Flyover World Series is getting the same kind of TV ratings this year's NBA Flyover Finals did. It's not that nobody's watching. It's just that they're watching "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" instead of baseball.

The first two games of the Series, both Chicago White Sox wins over the Houston Astros, got lower ratings than the first two games of the 2002 Series. Not to put too fine a point on things, but the 2002 Series was the lowest rated of all time, and that includes all those ones played before television was invented.

There are people returning their television sets to the electronics store so they don't have to watch the World Series.

I don't get it, myself. The White Sox and Astros are both fun, interesting teams. They have terrific pitching and play an exciting brand of baseball.

There are compelling characters like Chicago's loose cannon but likable manager Ozzie Guillen and stuff-stirring catcher A.J. Pierzynski and Houston's long-deprived veterans Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, not to mention Roger Clemens, who's at least as funny as Jimmy Kimmel.

Well, I do get it. There are no New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. Not a one. Until this year 2002 was the only World Series since 1997 that didn't have either the Yankees or the Red Sox. That year's first two games averaged a 10.7 rating, a measure of the percentage of sets in use that tuned in. This year the average rating for the first two games was 10.3.

Last year, with the Red Sox playing, it was 14.7.

So, as in 2002, I guess the only people watching this year's Series are the ones who've been complaining over the last few years that they're tired of seeing the Yankees and Red Sox all the time.

And baseball fans, like me. We're going to have a convention next week to discuss our fandom and this Astros-Sox World Series, which has been as good as advertised so far. We've got a corner booth reserved at the Dewdrop Inn.

Full disclosure: I dew get paid to watch the World Series. But I've been watching it for a lot longer than I've been getting paid to do so.

Here's an idea for Major League Baseball: When the Yankees and Red Sox both fail to make the World Series, have them play anyway. Derek Jeter! Big Papi! Joe Torre staring out from the dugout! It'll be boffo.

Whoever wins those little National and American League pennants can also play if they want. That can be a B game, maybe start it at 4 p.m. EDT. If it goes into extra innings and runs over into the Major Automaker Pre-Game Show, it can be switched over to FX.

- - - - - - - - - - -

NFL prognosticating disaster [PERMALINK]

What a horrible week of NFL picks for your newly humble narrator, who through the first six weeks of the season had been battling his coin-flipping son for first place in the Panel o' Experts prognosticating contest.

After being undone by one fantastic finish after another and ending up 5-9, I've tumbled to fourth place with a 65-37 record, four games out. Buster, coin-flippinest 2-year-old in America, is tied with ESPN's Sean Salisbury, the defending champ, each having correctly picked the winner 69 times in 102 NFL games so far this season.

Yahoo's users, representing the wisdom of the mob -- small-m mob -- are third at 66-36. ESPN's Eric Allen is in the cellar with a coin-flipish 53-49 mark. Note: Buster flips his coin for all games except those where one team is favored by six points or more, in which case he takes the favorite. That's about three games a week, on average.

Thanks to the NFL Sunday Ticket, I was able to watch pick after pick of mine snatch defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday. Green Bay, Dallas, Denver.

The San Antonio Let's Kick the Suffering People of New Orleans in the Groin Saints may have been headed for a game-winning score when a bad call and a lack of timeouts to challenge doomed them. Only the Philadelphia Eagles' great escape against the San Diego Chargers worked in my favor.

Here are the standings:

Rank Fool Record
1. Buster, Coining News 69-33
1. Sean Salisbury, ESPN 69-33
3. Yahoo Users 66-36
4. King Kaufman, Salon 65-37
5. Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News 64-38
6. Mark Schlereth, ESPN 63-39
7. Merril Hoge, ESPN 62-40
7. Chris Mortensen, ESPN 62-40
9. Mike Golic, ESPN 61-41
10. Ron Jaworski, ESPN 59-43
11. Larry Beil, Yahoo 57-45
11. Cris Carter, ESPN 57-45
13. Peter King, Sports Illustrated 55-46
14. Joe Theismann, ESPN 53-41
15. Eric Allen, ESPN 53-49

Previous column: White Sox take 2-0 lead

- - - - - - - - - - - -

  • Bookmark to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to

  • By Salon Staff

    MORE FROM Salon Staff

    Related Topics ------------------------------------------