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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The secret to a proper USA Today coaches' poll? No secrets

The final survey of the year reveals some interesting, sometimes hilarious, maneuvering. Can you imagine what they'd do if they didn't have to go public?

December 10, 2009|Chris Dufresne

Coaches in the USA Today poll, following advice given by a Gallup survey they commissioned, wanted to make their final votes anonymous again starting next year.

Thank goodness the governing lords blew the whistle and pronounced that idea unacceptable. The Bowl Championship Series was controversial enough without reintroducing Soviet-era secrecy.

I don't like transparency in my coffee, but demand it in polls that help determine which schools play for something loosely resembling a national title. The USA Today coaches' poll is one-third of the BCS standings formula.

The public release of the final coaches' poll remains a revealing and hilarious look into the minds of college football's "Xs and O's" men.

This year's highlights:

* Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson thought his undefeated team deserved to play in the national title game ahead of Texas, voting the Horned Frogs No. 2 behind Alabama.

Last year, Patterson voted the only undefeated teams in the nation, Utah and Boise State, Nos. 7 and 8. (Yeah, but those weren't his undefeated teams.)

* Boise State Coach Chris Petersen, despite an opening win against Pacific 10 Conference champion Oregon, voted his team No. 4.

* USC fell out of the USA Today rankings for the first time in 132 polls, yet all but one voting coach who lost to USC included the Trojans on their final ballots.

The breakdown: Washington State's Paul Wulff (USC: No. 21), Notre Dame's Charlie Weis (No. 24), California's Jeff Tedford (No. 22), Ohio State's Jim Tressel (No. 25), Oregon State's Mike Riley (No. 25).

The coach who lost to USC but still left the Trojans off his final ballot: UCLA's Rick Neuheisel.

Yep, Rick called another timeout.

* Cincinnati and TCU were jockeying to sneak past Texas for the No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings, and the coaches involved did what they could. Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly voted his team No. 1 and TCU No. 4; TCU's Patterson voted his team No. 2 and Cincinnati No. 6.

Cincinnati jumped TCU for third in the final BCS standings by the margin of .8878 to .8836.

* Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh voted his four-loss team No. 12, higher than any other coach. Gary Anderson of Utah State didn't even have Stanford on his ballot. Surprising (not!) that the coaches who voted Oregon No. 5 were both from the Pac-10 -- Harbaugh and Wulff.

* Fifty-eight of 59 voting coaches thought Pittsburgh was a top-25 team. The exception: Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden.

* Only one coach voted for North Carolina (at No. 24) -- take a wild guess and say it was North Carolina Coach Butch Davis.

Can you imagine what these guys might have done if their votes weren't public?

Blitz package

It doesn't add up. The Big Ten has sent a second team to a BCS bowl game nine times. The Pac-10 has sent a second team twice. The Pac-10 was 5-0 in bowls last year; the Big Ten was 1-6. The Pac-10 is 9-4 overall in BCS games; the Big Ten is 8-11.

* Chip Kelly must be the Pac-10 coach of the year because he won the title with only one player, tight end Ed Dickson, making first-team all-conference. Oregon State had seven players on the first team. It's a tough league when Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli can't crack the first team; that honor went to Oregon State's Sean Canfield.

* There's no category for this, but we're giving Pac-10 "holder" of the year to Oregon backup quarterback Nate Costa, who saved a center snap that allowed Morgan Flint to tie the Arizona game at the end of regulation. Oregon won in double overtime.

* Louisville's hiring of Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong gives major college football 13 minority head coaches among its 120 schools. It's still not enough, but a few years ago you could count the number of minority head coaches on one hand.

* Texas Rep. Joe Barton, trying to push legislation that would prohibit the BCS from calling its championship game a national title game, whatever that would prove, complains lowly Baylor has made more money playing in the Big 12 than powerhouse Texas Christian has by playing in the Mountain West. The reason, though, is free enterprise: Networks pay more money to televise Big 12 games than Mountain West games. TCU was once a member of a power-broker league, the Southwest Conference, until widespread corruption forced its breakup.

* Reporter Ken Goe of the Oregonian recently unearthed this stat: Washington State did not hold the lead in regulation at any point during a season that ended 1-11. The Cougars' lone victory came in overtime, 30-27, against Southern Methodist, which, by the way, is playing in the Hawaii Bowl.

* Coach Mack Brown on Texas' earning a BCS title shot: "The system put us in the game, so who are we to question?"

* Early Rose Bowl scouting report on Oregon from Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel, who was impressed by the Ducks' speed. "We'd better get in shape."

* Don't expect to see Alabama players elbowing each other for interviews between now and the BCS title game. "We try to insulate our players from what we call 'the clutter' out there," Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said.

* What insight can anyone have on a Dec. 31 Insight Bowl featuring 6-6 Iowa State against 6-6 Minnesota?

My best guess is that it will be a 12-12 game decided in overtime.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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