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Computer Sees USC-Texas Rematch In Title Game

8/13/05 12:01 am edt
by Mike Mitchell

College Football's unique preseason forecast is based on the Congrove Computer Rankings which "plays" every game and projects what should happen.

The 2006 forecast calls for a national title rematch of USC and Texas, both of which will be reloading, not rebuilding.

Yes, Texas has to replace Vince Young and the candidates are a true freshman and a redshirt freshman. But the Longhorns arguably have just two hurdles to get over. The Red River Rivalry in Dallas was already tilted in Texas' favor before the Sooners had to cut ties with quarterback Rhett Bomar. The computer has Oklahoma losing four games. Obviously, the Longhorns' biggest game is in week two of the season when they host Ohio State with Texas favored by 6 points. Should the Buckeyes steal that game, pencil them in for a visit to Glendale, Arizona as Texas is the only loss on the computer's preseason forecast for The Ohio State University.

USC has to replace Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Just typing that sentence makes me wonder what virus attacked the hard drive. But seriously, the Trojans get their toughest opponents at home.

There can be bigger leaps of faith than to suggest that Texas and USC could each wind up back in the BCS title game.

Only two other teams - Virginia Tech and Louisville - are forecasted to escape the regular season without a blemish. Both teams could have those lofty prognostications erased by the same team, Miami. The Hokies have to visit the 'Canes where they're less than a 1-point favorite. The Cards, at least, get Miami at home but are still only favored by 2 points.

Louisville also gets West Virginia at home and is favored by 4 points to deal the Mountaineers their only regular season loss. A West Virginia victory could certainly propel them toward a title shot.

Speaking of leaps of faith - several preseason forecasters have Notre Dame at the top of the heap. The Irish haven't lost fewer than 3 games in a season since 1993. They haven't even won a bowl game since 1993. And they didn't go undefeated in 1993 as they lost to Boston College, in South Bend, in the season finale.

With all of that said, we'll know soon enough if the Irish are going to make a run for the championship. They open the season with a tough five-game stretch that includes road trips to Georgia Tech and Michigan State. At home, they have to deal with Penn State, Michigan and Purdue. Even if they survive that stretch, Notre Dame's final game is at USC.

Do I count Notre Dame out? No. But the road in front of them appears to be a lot more difficult than many other teams.

I have made my own list of what I consider to be controversial computer projections. I'm sure you have your own criticisms. Some of you may even criticize my criticisms. Go ahead. It's all part of what makes college football so much fun.

My criticisms are listed below in no particular order.

Controversy #1: The computer says Texas and USC repeat in the championship game.

It's tough enough for one team to make its way back. For the same two teams to accomplish the feat would be stunning, to say the least.

Controversy #2: The computer says Virginia Tech goes undefeated and wins the ACC.

Florida State and Miami would be more legitimate picks. The Hokies have an untested quarterback, no experienced tight ends, and only one running back with extensive carries as both starters from 2005 are gone. They play at Miami.

Controversy #3: The computer says Navy goes 11-1, Army goes 6-6 and Air Force goes 1-11.

The schedules for the Midshipmen and Black Knights allow the room for those picks to become reality. But what's happened to Air Force that they could be that bad two years in-a-row? The Falcons will manage to win more than one game. Coach Fisher DeBerry will see to it.

Controversy #4: The computer says Vanderbilt goes 6-6.

The argument from everyone is that they couldn't do it with Jay Cutler so how can they possibly do it without him? Putting the Commodores ahead of South Carolina and Tennessee seems even crazier.

Controversy #5: The computer says Memphis wins the CUSA east.

They may win it by default because no team in the conference stands out as a pure stud. But I don't see any team in CUSA going 11-1. Especially not Memphis without running back DeAngelo Williams.

Controversy #6: The computer doesn't even have Florida in the projected final top 25. It ranks them at no. 32.

With a year of Urban Meyer's system under their belts, a weakened Georgia and a suspect Tennessee...this could be the year of the Gator in the SEC.

Controversy #7: The computer has Fresno State winning the WAC.

The computer made the same pick last year and it should have happened, but the Bulldogs choked and lost their last four games of the season after accepting an early Liberty Bowl bid. They did finally beat Boise State as the computer forecasted, but that conference rivalry will be staged in Boise this year.

Instant Replay: Every conference except the WAC and Sun Belt adopted Instant Replay before the start of the 2005 season. Those conferences have ended their holdouts and signed on for the 2006 season.

Computer Success: Since its inception in 1993, the computer has predicted the exact national title match-up three times (1993, 1998 and 2005), and at least one contestant every year except 1994, 1997, and 2001. The team it picked to win the title did so three times (1993, 1998, and 1999), and lost in the title game four times (2000, 2003, 2004, 2005).

The computer has picked the winner in 74.7% of all games played since 1993 (6,644-2,245) while beating the spread in 54.6% of those games (4,487-3,727).

Out of 119 teams, the computer's 2005 preseason forecast correctly projected the exact records of 13 teams, came within one victory on 46 others, and within two victories on 22 more teams. That means the computer came within two wins of forecasting the records of 81 out of 119 teams.

The computer's preseason forecast had Texas and USC playing for the national championship. It also correctly picked Virginia Tech to win the ACC Coastal, Colorado and Texas to win their Big 12 divisions and Texas to win the Big 12 title game, USC to win the PAC-10 and LSU to win the SEC West.

Streaks: USC's streak of 34 straight wins came to an end in a 41-38 loss to Texas in the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl. The 34-game over-all winning streak stands as the longest in PAC-10 history, breaking their own record of 25 games set in 1931-1933. Still, the Trojans will begin the season with 32 straight regular season wins, 27 consecuctive home victories, and 23 straight games against conference foes.

Texas assumes the nation's longest winning streak. The victory over the Trojans was their 20th win in-a-row.

TCU has 10 straight victories.

Boise State has won 30 straight regular season home games. They've never lost a home game to a WAC opponent (20-0).

New Mexico State has the nation's longest losing streak at 13 games.

Temple has lost 12 straight.

New Coaches: The 2006 season introduces 11 coaching changes. Temple's Al Golden and Buffalo's Turner Gill square-off in week 1. We'll track the progress of all the new coaches throughout the season.

Boise State, 0-0 under Chris Petersen. Hosts 1-AA Sacramento St.  on 9/2.
Buffalo, 0-0 under Turner Gill. Visits Temple 8/31.
Colorado, 0-0 under former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins.  Hosts 1-AA Montana State 9/2.
Idaho, 0-0 under Dennis Erickson. Visits Michigan State 9/2.
Kansas State, 0-0 under Ron Prince. Hosts 1-AA Illinois State 9/2.
Middle Tennessee, 0-0 under Rick Stockstill. Hosts FIU 8/31.
Northwestern, 0-0 under Pat Fitzgerald. Visits Miami (Ohio) 8/31.
Rice, 0-0 under Todd Graham. Hosts Houston 9/2.
San Diego State, 0-0 under Chuck Long. Hosts UTEP 8/31.
Temple, 0-0 under Al Golden. Visits Buffalo 8/31.
Wisconsin, 0-0 Bret Bielema. Plays Bowling Green in Cleveland 9/2.


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