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Why Starting #1 is Not Good



I just started following @soonersports on Twitter. I’m following mostly so making fun of them is at my fingertips and I don’t have to go trolling all over the internet for stuff to parody. But since I started following I’ve been reminded just how much I loathe Oklahoma University.

Now I’m talking sports hate here. I don’t actually hate the people that go there (although Eduardo Najera has a special place in my soul normally reserved for people who beat their spouses and/or their children), in fact, I have a lot of good friends who graduated from there (obviously those are in the minority of OU fans, but you already knew that). Sammy Bradford seems like a great dude, Landry Jones, for all the crap I’ve posted about him, seems pretty cool too, and don’t forget Thunder blogger Royce Young who helped me get rolling in the blogging world (thanks Royce!).

But yeah, mostly, I hate everything they stand for and hope they go 5-7 every year, not 0-12 mind you, but 5-7, just so their fans have to go through the moral dilemma of rooting for a 5-6 team to win its last game to become bowl eligible. Yay, who’s down for a trip to Memphis over Christmas?!

For those of you who are with me, I have good news on this front.

Dating back to the first year of the BCS (1998) only two teams have started and finished #1 in the AP poll, and OU is undoubtedly going to start at #1 in the 2011 AP poll. Here’s the list of all thirteen BCS champs with their beginning of the year rank in parentheses:

1998 – Tennessee (#10)
1999 – Florida State (#1)
2000 – OU (#19)
2001 – Miami (#2)
2002 – Ohio State (#13)
2003 – USC (#8) or LSU (#15)
2004 – USC (#1)
2005 – Texas (#2)
2006 – Florida (#8)
2007 – LSU (#2)
2008 – Florida (#5)
2009 – Alabama (#5)
2010 – Auburn (#22)

Florida State was incredible in ’99. That was the Peter Warrick “I got a 99.7% discount at Dillard’s” team that beat Vick’s Virginia Tech squad in the Sugar Bowl for the title. As for the ’04 SC title, I’m not even sure if that still stands, I don’t if anything they’ve done since Reggie Bush has been alive is valid or not. Somebody let me know in 2020 what we’re still recognizing and what was Fab Fived.

The first lesson here is that no matter how ridiculous we consider pre-season polls, more often than not the national title winner comes from inside the pre-season Top 10. Now whether that’s because AP voters are brilliant or merely just a self-fulfilling (or in this case, voter-fulfilling) prophecy is probably a debate for folks much smarter than I. But the fact remains, if you aren’t ranked in the top 10-15 to start the year, you’re probably not winning it all.

The second is that Oklahoma State will absolutely have a shot at playing for the title. The four brutal road games (Texas, A&M, Tech, and Mizzou) don’t help, but being ranked in the top 15 to begin the year will. The reality of last year is that that OSU team could have gone 13-0 and probably still been shut out of the title game by Oregon and Auburn (no, would have never recovered from this event). But this year the boost of being ranked in the top 10 or 12 or 15 (not to mention the reputation as one of the strongest programs in the country) will help shape voter perception (fair or not) in the Cowboys’ favor.

The last is that, like it or not, 85% of the time the crystal ball-holder in January has not been #1 in September. Good luck, Sooners.

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