Another Week, Another Upset, Another Reason Why Preseason Rankings Mean Squat

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Another Week, Another Upset, Another Reason Why Preseason Rankings Mean Squat
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Last night the South Carolina Gamecocks "upset" the Ole Miss Rebels. It was a great win for the Gamecocks and a horrific outing for Ole Miss and Jevan Snead.

However, anyone who follows the Southeastern Conference (SEC) should not have been surprised by the Gamecock win. Personally, it would have been more of a surprise had Ole Miss gone in there and actually handled South Carolina the way some thought they would.

The problem with the rankings system in college football is that is gives too much credence to teams based on what they have done in the past. Football is played on a yearly basis—whatever any team did the prior year shouldn't hold water.

For example, the 2008 Georgia Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the nation last season based on a strong end to the 2007 season and the return of running back Knowshon Moreno and future first overall pick, quarterback Matthew Stafford.

However, based on the brutal schedule the Dawgs were facing the first half of the year, should they really have been ranked that highly?

The BCS has one thing right in that it doesn't release its official rankings until after week eight of the season. By that time, the contenders are likely known and the pretenders have been weeded out.

So, using last night's "upset" as a launching pad, let's take a closer look at a few of the upsets so far this season and see why they should not have been a surprise to anyone.

 

South Carolina defeats Ole Miss 16-10

Led by the beastly linebacker Eric Norwood and a very talented defensive line which touts Cliff Matthews at defensive end, this South Carolina team has looked more dangerous by the week and came into this matchup ready for battle.

Carolina had already been tested twice this season—a win at N.C. State gave a hint at how good this defense could be while the loss at Georgia showed that this offense has a number of weapons at its disposal, the biggest being quarterback Stephen Garcia.

However, that being said, the Rebels were playing with a few less warriors on both sides of the ball, starting with the all-important offensive line.

Jevan Snead, for all his talent, lost a key component to his success last season when All-American left tackle, Michael Oher, graduated into the NFL—add to that the loss of both starting guards and you have an untested line trying to hold its own against premier SEC talent.

Snead was never able to find his rhythm because he never had the time. South Carolina's front seven manhandled the Rebels' front four all night long—holding both Snead and McCluster in check for the majority of the game.

Cliff Matthews and Eric Norwood had two sacks each and when they weren't busting through to take Snead down, they were pressuring him into bad reads and off-target passes.

On the other side of the ball, Stephen Garcia played very well. Despite a couple sacks made by Ole Miss, one early in the game and one after it was well in hand, Garcia was able to manage the clock. He looked poised and unrattled by the magnitude of the game.

The Ole Miss defense played well but obviously will miss the gap penetration lost by the departure of Peria Jerry (former All-SEC DT).

Another factor worth noting is that the Rebels lost their D-line coach last season. Tracy Rocker, a longtime Houston Nutt assistant, left at the end of 2008 and is now coaching the defensive line at Auburn. Rocker is a well-respected coach in the SEC known for producing top tier talent off the D-line.

Ole Miss was not ready to have a top five ranking based on the facts of their team. They got precisely what many should have thought they would get last night: a loss.

 

Florida State takes down BYU, 54-28

BYU's record against the ACC since Bronco Mendenhall took the reigns in 2005 is 0-3 (two losses came to Boston College) with the third loss coming against the Seminoles last Saturday.

BYU earned a lot of respect from college football pundits last season despite the fact that they have never truly beaten anyone of merit under coach Mendenhall. Sure, they have beaten a few Pac-10 teams, but who else who have they beaten?

Since 2005, when BYU is matched up against BCS conference opponents, specifically the ACC and the Pac-10, they are 5-7 and 5-4, respectively—that's hardly any reason to shout their relevance from the rooftops.

Fast forward to the Florida State game. Despite the dismal performance laid out by the Seminoles against Jacksonville State in the week leading up to the BYU matchup, the Seminoles were still a talent-laden team with a lot of weapons heading into this game.

Florida State's Christian Ponder could very well be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the ACC right now. He's as lethal with his arms as he is with his legs.

Further, Greg Reid, the true frosh who has played all over the field this season, looks like the real deal and very nearly helped lead the Noles to a win over the surging Miami Hurricanes.

Florida State should not have been underestimated entering this game, but they were, and that spelled sure disaster for a BYU team that has been told it's BCS worthy since they romped all over UCLA 59-0 last season.

The Noles didn't have to throw the ball to win the game because BYU couldn't stop them on third downs. BYU had no answer for the run game and Max Hall had no clue how to adjust to FSU's speedy defensive backs and talented defensive line.

Florida State beat BYU because they were the better, faster, and more talented team on the field. BYU is a good football team, no one can deny that, but they are not worthy of all the BCS hoopla because,quite frankly, they haven't done anything yet.

 

BYU bests Oklahoma, 14-13

It's not a coincidence that this is the game that follows the prior argument. It's the first one that comes the way of any person who denies the prowess of the Mountain West Conference.

Every MWC proponent and college football fanatic who adores the underdog starts railing about how "BYU beat Oklahoma...that means they, and by extension the MWC, are relevant."

Here's what that really means: Oklahoma is irrelevant. BYU beat Oklahoma. Good for them, but here's a question, in the last five years, who hasn't beaten Oklahoma when they've had time to prepare?

The Sooners are a powerhouse team. It's impossible to deny that Bob Stoops is a great coach and that the Sooners are a phenomenal program, however, if a good team has enough time to game plan for the Sooners, they can beat them—that's the M.O. of the Stoops-led Sooners.

The opening opponents for Oklahoma, like many other top tier teams with national championship aspirations, tend to be cupcakes. However, in 2005, a very talented TCU team came to Norman and beat the Sooners 17-10. Why? They had time to plan.

In the last five bowl games, the Sooners are 1-5—all those teams had time to plan.

There should have been little doubt that the Cougars had a good chance to upset the Sooners. After all, the Sooners lost four starters from their offensive line while BYU came in with the best defensive line in the Mountain West, sporting senior leadership at nearly every position in the front seven.

It doesn't matter that Sam Bradford went out of the game. BYU was dominating the game prior to his ousting and likely would have won regardless. Why? BYU had time to plan. Say what you want about this argument being shallow—the proof is in the win-loss department.

Oklahoma has been living off Bob Stoops' good name and Oklahoma's proud tradition but, let's be honest, they have been anything but top 5 worthy based on their BCS showing over the last five years.

Here's the preseason top 10 as determined by an overall concensus of the most popular polls:

  1. Florida
  2. Texas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. USC
  5. Alabama
  6. Ohio State
  7. Virginia Tech
  8. Oklahoma State
  9. Ole Miss
  10. LSU

See a team that doesn't belong? All of those teams have looked awful at some point this season. None have looked like national title contenders.

A ranking should be earned, not awarded based on the expectation of greatness. It's unfair to the other 109 teams who come to play on Saturday.

Scrap the rankings until teams have earned the right to be ranked at all; maybe then the performances will be more even and all the "upsets" won't be nearly as big a surprise.

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