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How Could I Possibly Have Ranked the Missouri Tigers Over the Oregon Ducks?

The final 2008 BlogPoll has been released and the Florida Gators are your consensus national champions, pulling down 46 of 62 first-place votes in the blogosphere. Second-ranked Utah occupied the top spot on 15 ballots and Southern California received the No. 1 ranking from the final BlogPollster.

Also of interest for us here in Bulldog Nation are the rankings awarded to No. 6 Alabama, No. 12 Georgia, No. 13 Mississippi, and No. 22 Georgia Tech. (That last poll position seems to me inexplicable, inasmuch as the Yellow Jackets finished 9-4 and beat fellow A.C.C. member Florida State, yet the Seminoles---who sport an identical 9-4 ledger---ended up ranked 21st. There simply is no way to justify this.)

Speaking of unjustifiable BlogPoll ballots, though, my ballot drew some constructive criticisms from fans who wondered how on earth I managed to put Missouri ahead of Oregon. Since my subsequent explanation evidently did not pass muster, I will endeavor to explain the discrepancy between my top 25 and the overall BlogPoll. (For the record, the blogosphere placed the Ducks tenth and the Tigers 19th.)

I freely admit that I was more sold on Mizzou than I should have been, which may have colored my thinking, but here is why I came down the way I did upon this question:

  • Both teams won ten games, although Oregon did not play a Division I-AA opponent and Missouri did. Advantage: Oregon.

  • The two teams had one common opponent, Oklahoma State. The Tigers lost to the Cowboys in a close contest at home and the Ducks defeated the Pokes in a close contest at a neutral site. (Yes, I’m calling the Holiday Bowl close; Oklahoma State led with ten and a half minutes to go and Oregon was up by only four until just over three minutes remained.) Advantage: Oregon.

  • The Ducks’ best wins (over Oklahoma State and Oregon State) were superior to the Tigers’ best wins (over Nebraska and Northwestern). Advantage: Oregon.

  • Missouri lost four games. Oregon lost only three. Advantage: Oregon.

How, then, did I opt for the Tigers over the Ducks? Here’s how:

  • Discounting Division I-AA competition, Missouri faced eight teams that finished with winning records. The Tigers went 4-4 against those eight opponents. Oregon faced six teams that finished with winning records. The Ducks went 3-3 against those six opponents. Forget that it’s effectively 9-4 for Mizzou versus 10-3 for Oregon; against passably good teams, both were .500, but the Tigers played more semi-quality opponents than the Ducks. Advantage: Missouri

  • In the loss column, Missouri lost two games outside Columbia, falling by 25 points to Texas and by 41 to Oklahoma. Oregon lost two games outside Eugene, falling by 34 points to Southern California and by ten points to California in a game in which the Ducks never led after the sixth minute of the first quarter. Neither was competitive against top five teams, but Oregon fell to the marginally rankable Golden Bears, whereas Mizzou won on the road against a Cornhusker squad that was only marginally worse than Cal. Advantage: Push.

  • Missouri and Oregon each played four games that were decided by a touchdown or less. The Tigers went 2-2 in those games, beating Baylor (4-8) on the road and Northwestern (9-4) at a neutral site while falling to Kansas (8-5) at a neutral site and to Oklahoma State (9-4) at home. The Ducks went 3-1 in their quartet of nailbiters, getting by Purdue (4-8) on the road and defeating U.C.L.A. (4-8) and Stanford (5-7) at home but losing to Boise State (12-1) at home. Narrow escapes against bad teams don’t impress me much and Oregon has the lion’s share of them. Advantage: Missouri.

  • Three of Mizzou’s victories were over teams that finished with either eight or nine wins. Three of Oregon’s victories were over teams that finished with either eight or nine wins. However, seven of the Tigers’ Division I-A victims were over .500 or were within one win of bowl-eligibility and only one of the Tigers’ wins was over a team with a record worse than 4-8. By contrast, half of the Ducks’ ten wins came against Purdue (4-8), U.C.L.A. (4-8), Utah State (3-9), Washington State (2-11), and Washington (0-12), while only three of their victories came against teams that won more than five games. There are a whole heck of a lot more empty calories in Oregon’s resume than there are in Missouri’s ledger, yet the two teams struggled as often (with four close calls apiece), they each went .500 against Division I-A opponents with winning records, and both squads beat a trio of eight- or nine-win teams and won ten games. When two teams compile essentially identical resumes and one faces a tougher slate, the team with the superior schedule gets the nod. Advantage: Missouri.

Obviously, reasonable people can and do disagree with that result, and we are talking about a difference of a mere two poll positions on my ballot, so I admit it’s a close call, but now you know why I reached the conclusion I did. As always, any further feedback is welcome in the comments below.

Go ‘Dawgs!