Calculating the ups and downs of the AP poll

Unbuckling the mailbag:

Question: I don’t know what world Associated Press voters are living on, or if it is me who is seeing things fuzzy, but how is it possible that after an unranked team goes onto the home turf of a “top 10" team and then thoroughly obliterates them, voters have the gall to keep Texas ranked higher still than UCLA?


Answer: So what you’re saying is there’s no way Texas should have dropped only 14 spots to No. 21 after losing to such a horrible team as UCLA?


Actually, the AP guys got it right. If UCLA and Texas both had 3-1 records, you would move UCLA into the poll ahead of Texas.

But UCLA is 2-2, and still has that horrible 35-0 home loss against Stanford to explain. You can’t rank the Bruins … yet.

Besides, with Texas playing Oklahoma this week, the Longhorns will either stay in the poll with a win or drop out with a loss.

Q: I enjoyed reading the college article today (Sept. 30). Noting your mention of the whole 10 yards, I wondered if you know the origin of the phrase from which it was taken, the whole nine yards, a reference from WW II?

Kevin Park


A: There are reports that “whole nine yards” is a reference to the length of machine-gun belts fighters used in World War II.

These days, though, it sounds more like UCLA’s most effective passing play.

Q: Any chance that Jeff Tedford might be fired at the end of the season? I’m really tired of visits to the Emerald Bowl and I figure the money saved could be used to restore the recently cut baseball and rugby teams at Cal.

Pedro Cardenas Jr.

A: Only if enough clear-headed fans such as yourself band together, storm the Berkeley administration gates, and demand the departure of one of the most successful coaches in school history.

How about a protest? You guys are good at those.

Go climb in a tree and not come down until Cal finds a better coach than Tedford, who took over a program that had one victory in 2001.

Here’s the backdrop to the win:

Cal’s game at hapless Rutgers that year was postponed because of 9/11. The Bears were 0-10 when it came to replay the game. Rutgers, limping home at 2-8, wanted to cancel the game, you know, to save Cal some money for its baseball program.

No way Cal was going to pass up its only chance of victory that year. The Bears flew across the country and prevailed, 20-10.

Tedford was hired the next year and has since gone 69-37, with eight straight winning seasons, seven consecutive bowl appearances and a 7-1 record against Stanford.

It is true Cal under Tedford has been perplexing at times — that wipeout loss at Nevada this year the most recent example.

But given the school’s culture, politics, budget restraints and idiosyncrasies, finding a better coach than Tedford at this point might be impossible.

I might, though, suggest pink-slipping a few fans.

Q: USC moved up in the polls. Where is your conspiracy?


A: I keep USC’s conspiracy in a file cabinet next to information the U.S. government covered up the JFK assassination and irrefutable proof of UFOs at Roswell, N.M.

Q: Is the official sponsor of the Pac-10 scheduling Hostess? You know, all cupcakes?

David Saw

A: The Pac-10 needs to play easy teams because all it has are Twinkie defenses.

Q: You might recall that I am a UGA fan…. It was painful to watch the Mississippi State-Georgia game last Saturday night. We did all the things that losing teams usually do: Inopportune penalties, mishaps that result in a change of situation in the game, penalties, fumbles, etc.

In my opinion, it is the mark of a mediocre or worse team.

What’s your take?

Don Joel

A: My take: That was the night that the lights went out on Georgia.

Q: I don’t know about other football fans, but I didn’t enjoy seeing the Boise-Oregon State game on that blue field with their matching uniforms. I wonder if there could be a subtle advantage in terms of judging speed, angles, or timing?

Jerry Meerkdreebs

Sierra Madre

A: Oh, it’s an advantage. Coaches complain about having a hard time watching film on Boise because of the blurring colors. Maybe they could try 3-D glasses or something?

My only suggestion is to join the club. Oregon’s dark green uniforms give the Ducks the same advantage on green turf, and Eastern Washington just put in red turf to match its school colors.

For about $850,000, your school could do the same. Northwestern could install a purple field, and Georgia Tech could put in yellow.

I recently told Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier that coaches were complaining about his school’s blue-on-blue color schemes.

“That’s great!” Bleymaier said.

Q: You’re the best college football writer in L.A. How could you learn your craft from a college (Cal State Fullerton) with no football team?


Studio City

A: Cal State Fullerton did have major college football when I attended, and it produced the greatest passer, Damon Allen, in the history of the Canadian Football League. Not bad, eh?

I actually learned plenty about football watching the Titans in the late 1970s, but mostly I learned about construction.

This is absolutely true: in those days, Fullerton didn’t have a stadium, so to meet NCAA minimum seating requirements the school rented those portable stands used for the Rose Parade. Each summer, while Alabama players were dining on lobster, Titans football players gathered to put their stadium together — just like an erector set.

The press box was a card table and sometimes the game statistics would blow into the stands and you’d have to ask a drunk sophomore to hand them back.

The Titans never went to the Rose Bowl game, but the football team, after returning the stands one year, received the Tournament of Roses “Grand Marshal’s Award for Excellence in Creative Concept and Football Stadium Design.”

Q: What did you think about Bryant Gumbel’s commentary about the NCAA?

Mark Darren Walker

A: I thought it was spot on. Gumbel made the point the NCAA is more interested in putting teams like USC on probation for breaking rules than it is for punishing schools like Florida that have had several players arrested on Coach Urban Meyer’s watch.

You could make the same argument about the Heisman Trophy. Reggie Bush has to give his trophy back, but O.J. Simpson gets to keep his?

The problem is, you either have rules or you don’t. If USC blatantly broke the rules, shouldn’t it be punished? NCAA rules relate to competitive balance and fair play. Legal issues involving alleged crimes are more complicated.

But maybe Gumbel is onto something: Why can’t you put a team on probation if it reaches a certain number of arrests? Or fine the head coach?

Q: Just one time this year, can you at least mention that Alabama has a pretty good team and is worthy of being the best team in the land right now?

Neal Kendall

A: Listen up, because I’m going to mention this just one time this year. Alabama has a pretty good team and is worthy of being the (second) best team in the land right now.

Q: I read and re-read and re-read your article a couple of times wondering if I missed something. How could you write a credible article without even mentioning Arizona is 4-0?

They had two big wins against Iowa and Cal and then you write about Arizona State with two losses. Is there some media bias that we need to know about?

What the heck?

Maybe the editor is a Sun Devil?

James F. Schuster

Oakbrook Terrace, IL

A: You must have read a truncated version of my Pac-10 story in the Chicago Tribune, home city of the Big Ten conference, which has 11 schools, soon to be 12.

Numbers just don’t seem to be important to Chicago, except for 1908, the last time the Cubs won the World Series, so I’m guessing cutting Arizona out of a Pac-10 story simply made it the Pac 9 for one day.

What’s the big deal?

Arizona’s success this season did make the newspaper cut in Los Angeles.

Here is what I wrote:

“Arizona and USC are also 4-0. The Wildcats are ranked No. 14 after Saturday’s 10-9 win against California in Tucson.

“What’s impressive about the Wildcats: they’ve needed last-minute drives the last two weeks to pull out victories.

“Seven days after a program-defining win against Iowa, an emotional letdown against Cal could have been expected — and it happened.

“And it looked like the classic hangover defeat until quarterback Nick Foles hit Juron Criner for the game-winning touchdown with 1:11 left.

“ ‘It was a flat night all the way around,’ Stoops said.

“Maybe the Wildcats, though, have finally seen the flat light.”