Conventional Wisdom

By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: November 16, 2009

IOWA CITY (BASN) — Conventional wisdom is that bit of wisdom that everyone agrees on, even if it is wrong.

Iowa lost at Ohio State this past Saturday, verifying in the minds of pundits that the Hawkeyes were never that good, and the Big Ten is suffering from yet another down year.

Here is a thought — maybe the Big Ten is a better conference than previously believed. After next Saturday, the conference may end up with four teams with 10 victories — hardly a sign of a conference in decline

As for Iowa, they are 9-2, but they lost in overtime to the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe while previously beating Wisconsin and Penn State on the road. They also beat two of the best teams in the Big Ten on the road and nearly defeated a third.

I should add they also vanquished Arizona, another good team from the Pac-10 . As for Ohio State, they did lose to USC at home, but they also defeated Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Maybe conventional wisdom is wrong for the Big Ten this year.

The Pac-10, like the Big Ten, is solid conference minus a super team since USC has already lost three games this year and others have lost at least two. And Oregon, the team with the inside track to the Rose Bowl, may be the best team in the Pac-10, but they would only be the second best team in the Western Athletic Conference.

You may be asking, “Tom, are you nuts?”

No, I’m not because I remember an Oregon team that was whipped by Boise State. Conventional wisdom is ignoring the Big East, but they may be the second best conference in the nation that includes not only an undefeated Cincinnati, but a once defeated Pittsburgh.

Conventional wisdom treats Alabama, Florida, USC, and Texas as ordained from God and that Notre Dame have long been forsaken by Touchdown Jesus. One ESPN host has repeatedly stated that the Irish can never return to the greatness that it once had.

It was not that long ago that Notre Dame was one of the best under Lou Holtz.

From the time John Robinson left USC and Pete Carroll took over, the Trojans alternated between being good and being mediocre.

Alabama was on the down slide before Nick Saban took over and even Auburn dominated the Crimson Tide in the pre-Saban era in this decade.

And Florida suffered through the Ron Zook interlude between Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Zook is now on the verge of getting fired from Illinois just as he got fired by the Gators.

N otre Dame can be a great program once again and USC this year is showing that even great teams have down years.


Wasn’t it just a few weeks when Vince Young was declared a bust? He reminds me of another quarterback who had a tough time early in his career — Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw.

Bradshaw’s first five years saw him always looking over his shoulder and in 1974, the year of Pittsburgh’s first Super Bowl, he sat on the bench for the first six games before regaining his starting job for good.

Conventional wisdom says Young will never be a franchise quarterback but he managed to win 21 of his first 31 starts despite not having great numbers. He just finds a way to win and now he appears to have matured after sitting behind Kerry Collins last year.

Maybe if Jeff Fisher had ignored conventional wisdom earlier, he might have a playoff contender instead of a team looking to spend the Christmas season watching the playoffs.


Conventional wisdom tells us that every college football game counts, but this is false. As I stated before, if you are from certain conferences, not every game counts.

Boise State is only playing for a spot in the BCS bowls but they are not going to play for a national title. TCU is a long shot of making the national title game and there is a better chance that if the Horned Frogs and the Broncos go undefeated, one of them will lose out for at-large bid to one of the major bowls.

A Florida or Alabama with one loss will have a better chance of being in the title game than either TCU or Boise State. Conventional wisdom may be correct but there are times that it is wrong

And often it’s used to shut off the debate simply because if everyone accepts conventional wisdom, it must be right. Vince Young has been declared a failure despite his success as a starter, because conventional wisdom has declared it so.

Conventional wisdom has declared the winner of the Florida-Alabama as one of the finalist in the championship game going against Texas. Unfortunately in the byzantine world of college football ratings, rankings by the bias of voters are a determining factor in who will play in the final game.

So conventional wisdom will influence the results but no one will know for sure who’s the best. The NCAA sets up a system that eliminates half of the teams from a championship run.

Colleges football teams have ebb and flow. Florida and Southern Cal have been the dominant team of the decade. But in the 1990’s and early part of this decade, two of the better teams were Miami and Florida State.

Today, Miami is starting to wake up from a nearly a decade of slumber and Florida State has moved into mediocrity. Least I forget, Ohio State ended Miami’s domination when they upset the Canes in the title game just a few years back.

When Ohio State defeated Miami, the Big Ten was one of the best conferences and we are not talking ancient history. Sometimes, conventional wisdom can be challenged.