Monday, June 12, 2006

A little remainder or reminder

I think a lot of the readers started visiting this site because I wrote about college football. Wow. Those were the days. I still post a comment or two other places, but I haven't been writing too much myself, being all involved in the World Cup and stuff. But I still do think about college football a lot and I'm actually starting to get excited about the coming season.

Anyway, the other day, or maybe a week ago or something, I was trying to kill a ton of brain cells in the most efficient manner. I thought about drinking heavily, or huffing gas, or reading Jenn Sterger's advice column. Then I spotted the perfect form of moronic, drooling, javelin-through-the-stem-brain-killing writing.

Beano Cook's column on Florida and Notre Dame. ($$$)

If you want the type of analysis that your 12 year old nephew thought was lame 4 months ago when it was at least timely, this has it (paraphrased to avoid the ESPN lawyers...):

- Larry Coker might be in trouble! He sure had to fire some people!
- FSU fans are mad that Florida has recruited well!
- Virginia assistants sure are getting head coaching jobs!

Really astute. And way ahead of the game! The kind of stuff people should be paying for.

If you want statements without any factual support or even elaborated opinion, this is it:

- Notre Dame hasn't been unsuccessful recently, but it's not because of high academic requirements, it's... uhhh... uhhh... Let's talk about how Urban Meyer made a bad choice to go to Florida instead!

And yes, that's pretty much how the piece goes. He says that Florida has a much tougher schedule than Notre Dame, and because of that, Notre Dame is better. In a way, it's kind of refreshing. Instead of the typical "my skool rulz, UR skool sked'z pusssseeeeeeee!!!11!!1!", here's a pundit that's not afraid to admit it: a weak schedule is totally awesome and should be the goal of every team that wants to win the national championship.

Then Beano knocks Purdue and Navy by grouping those teams that have actually won bowl games this millennium (unlike the Irish) with Stanford, Army and Air Force. And he suggests that the Irish wouldn't think about recruiting anyone on any of those teams.

If you thought Florida was getting off easy and avoiding the BeanoCrazy, you were wrong. Again, paraphrasing: "Florida is playing a tougher schedule than many NFL teams." Yes. He said it. I've written before that anyone who tries so suggest a college team and a pro team are in any manner similar should never be allowed to write again, and indeed, should never be trusted. Beano, congratulations. You can finally retire. And if you didn't get the point his first time through, Beano repeats it at the end, saying, "If Florida goes undefeated through that slate, they're as good as the best NFL teams." Evidently, the brains Beano once had have gotten lost in his enormous enormous jowls.

But picking on the elderly, however fun, isn't exactly intellectually stimulating (feel free to quote me on that one). Let me take the bait and actually address Beano's arguments, or at least what I can decipher of them...

Basically Notre Dame is planning on playing an easier schedule than in the past, and since Notre Dame rulzrulzrulzrulz, they'll definitely recruit the best players ever (and even if they don't Tom Lemming will say they did). Meanwhile Florida is playing tough opponents, which they just can't beat no matter what. And because of this, Notre Dame is a better job than Florida and Urban Meyer was a fool for passing on the most awesome place ever.

Or something like that. Is Notre Dame playing a tougher schedule than Florida? Well, maybe, maybe not. I guess we won't know until we see how good other teams are. Last year Notre Dame's schedule sure looked tough, but then Tennessee sucked monkey balls, Purdue fell apart, Pitt was stachetacularly bad. Looking back, Notre Dame's best win might've been over Navy. Great. But who knows, this coming year might be really tough.

Beano kind of picks at the Irish for playing 7 home games, 4 road games and one "neutral site" game where the Irish would have tons more fans. This is the one part of the piece I kind of agree with. Kind of because I don't care all that much. But it is something many CFB bloggers care a lot about, that whole playing home games = pussing out. I think CFR has mentioned this with some consternation, but I'm too lazy to hunt in his archives right now. I think I'm on record saying major college football programs under a 12 game season should play 7 home games one year, 6 the next. I think it's a reasonable proposition. That means one year your team would have 3 home OOC games, the next only 2. Teams that go for 7 home games every year should have some kind of an obligation to play at least one good opponent every year, ideally in a home-home situation. Teams that have 8 home games should be pointed out and semi-shamed. They are showing greed, which might be good for their program, but bad for all of college football. I think Alabama is doing this this coming season, and I know South Carolina did it the last time there was a 12 game season. But here we have Notre Dame basically announcing that they plan on doing just that for the foreseeable future. This is not a good sign for college football, and for the teams that want to play on a level economic playing field with the Irish. So, I kind of agree with Beano, if that's what he's saying. He doesn't really come out and say that.

One last thing I wanted to take issue with... Beano says that USC is a tougher opponent through the years than anyone on Florida's schedule. Is that true? I'm a little reluctant to think so. Maybe through the last three years, but surely Beano knows that football didn't begin in 2002. Beano writes that USC is tougher than ANYONE on Florida's schedule in ANY given year. Well, let's look back...

2005: USC was better than anyone on Florida's schedule.
2004: USC was better than anyone on Florida's schedule.
2003: Arguably, Florida played a team better than USC - LSU, the BCS champ, whom Florida beat.
2002: Florida played two teams ranked higher than USC in the final poll: Miami (who beat Florida) and Georgia (whom Florida beat).
2001: Uhhh... USC wasn't ranked in the final poll. Florida played 5 Top 25 teams.
2000: Again, USC wasn't ranked in the final poll. Florida played 9 games against teams ranked in the final Top 25 (9 GAMES!!!!)
1999: USC wasn't ranked in the final poll. Florida played 6 games against teams ranked in the final Top 25 (including the national champ - FSU).
1998: USC wasn't ranked in the final poll. Florida played 4 games against teams ranked in the final Top 25 (including the national champ - Tennessee).
1997: USC wasn't ranked in the final poll. Florida played 7 games against teams ranked in the final Top 25.
1996: USC wasn't ranked in the final poll. Florida, the national champs that year, played 6 games against teams ranked in the final poll.

That's the last 10 years, which go 7-2-1 in favor of Florida's toughest opponents. I can go back further, but I'd rather sleep. Taking Beano at his word, that USC is a tougher opponent for ND in any given year than anyone on Florida's schedule, he is, simply, full of shit. Over the last ten years, USC has been better than anyone on Florida's schedule exactly twice (with a push one other time). Meanwhile, in 5 of those years, USC wouldn't even have been in the tougher HALF of Florida's games. Yes, USC has been great the last few years. USC has a great tradition and history, and there's no doubt that they are a tough opponent for Notre Dame. But good Lord that's some unfortunate hyperbole, and denigrates Florida's schedule while he's at it.

And while I'm at it, why not mention Beano's aside about Notre Dame scheduling Michigan State. Beano's trying to smooth out his criticism of Notre Dame's recent scheduling by talking about how Notre Dame once scheduled games against the toughest of them all, specifically Michigan State, doing what Michigan and others wouldn't do. But that was in the 1940s! I'm sure there's got to be a better example in the oh... last 65 years or so. In fact, off the top of my head I'll give him one: In 1993, the Irish played the champions of the Pac-10, Southwest Conference, ACC, and Western Athletic conference, beating them all. That's playing a tough schedule.

So I guess to boil everything down to bare bones, and put words that make more sense into Beano's writing, I guess what he's trying to say is that Notre Dame is starting to schedule weaker, which we shouldn't hold against them, and because of that it'll be easier to win a national title there than at Florida. Seems like not much to say here. But instead I'll say (a) I have no problem holding the weaker schedule against Notre Dame; (b) because a team plays a weaker schedule, that should make it more difficult to win a national title, as voters should discount wins over inferior opponents; (c) Beano is 100% complicit, along with much of the media in making Notre Dame an easier place to win a national title, due to the overwhelming saturation coverage Notre Dame receives, unlike any other program. If Beano's buried thesis is that Notre Dame is an easy place to win a national title, I'll agree, because of columns like this that push the storyline months and months in advance.