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Was ASU the better team against Stanford?

By now you know that No. 5 Stanford beat the No. 16 Arizona State University Sun Devils in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Saturday 38-14.

On Sunday, I heard a die-hard Sun Devil fan say that ASU was simply not the better team. I thought this was an interesting statement coming from a fan, since fans typically say just the opposite followed by something akin to, “We were robbed!” This prompted me to look at the question, “Was ASU the better team?”

So many times when a sports team loses you hear its fans comment, “But we were the better team.” To this I say, “Apparently not, because if it was the better team it would have won.” That may seem harsh so let us think about that statement.

The winning team is the one that scores the most points, so if it scored the most points then it IS the better team, period. Maybe it was not the better team going into the game (enter Vegas odds) but it came out the better team. Put another way, on THAT day on THAT field the winning team was in fact, the better team. So ASU was not the better team and those that say it was are simply deluding themselves or trying to make themselves feel better. Think about this the next time you make that seemingly innocent statement.

In sharp contrast, there is another saying that floats around in college football, and sports in general, and that is “You are only as good as your last game.” I suggest that no one likes that statement and it is only true when it is the championship game.

Let’s take these statements with college football as an example. The team’s record during the season is important because that is what the conference championship game is based upon. I could go as far as to say that that is what the BCS standings and bowl games are based upon, however, that is not always the case. For example, your team might not have the best record in the Big 10, but if it wins the Big 10 Conference Championship Game, then it has an automatic birth in the Rose Bowl, unless of course it is chosen to play in the BCS Championship game.

In these instances, the statement “We were the better team” does in fact win out since usually the better record gets the better bowl game. Yet the team with the best season record does not always get selected to play in the championship game. So, which is more true, we are the better team or you are only as good as your last game?

Is all of this confusing an example of cyclical thinking, like the question “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” Yes it is. However, I find both of these statements fascinating and are great conversation starters especially when talking about the BCS standings and the resulting bowl games.

So next time you hear someone say “We lost but we were the better team,” I suggest you look at them and say, “You really think so?” and let the fun and heated conversation go from there.