Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gameday Recap

Week Fourteen
Bristol, Connecticut - ESPN Campus
December 2, 2006

Finishing the job, though it's late. I'm expecting a lot of season-long highlights. So much has happened in college football since this show that it'll probably not be very useful. But on the plus side, no Game Face or fake field walkthroughs.

  • I caught the end of the morning SportsCenter and some discourse with Holtz & May... naturally, May was hilariously wrong about the USC-UCLA game. Holtz ends up right but makes no sense in his reasoning. A perfect fractal of both their careers.
  • Whoops, I'm wrong about the fake field already. The opener is on an inside fake field. Seems very rehearsed.
  • 2 years since they'd been in the studio.
  • Three conference championships today with teams that are back in the title game for the first time in a while. Plus, there's the UCLA-USC game and Army-Navy.
  • Corso says Army-Navy is his favorite.
  • Corso: Rutgers and Wake Forest in the BCS bicture, Boise State in the BCS, FSU in the Emerald Bowl - clearly the fault of Global Warming or El Nino.
  • Herbstreit says the biggest game of the day is USC-UCLA. Now, in hindsight this looks like a prescient choice. However, in foresight, is there any reason why he should've chosen that game? The SEC title had two top 10 teams, a Heisman finalist and had BCS Title Game implications. USC had BCS title game implications... and was on the family of networks that employed Herbstreit. He's right about USC shouldn't assume a win, but Herbstreit also doesn't think UCLA will win.
  • Fowler jumps on that, says that Herbstreit picks a big upset "as often as Jim Tressel visits a dance club." Obviously Fowler doesn't read Tressel's World.
  • Fowler says they'll talk about Florida soon, since there are some Gator fans who think they should be considered for the BCSNCG even without a USC loss, but calls their statements "spinning" and "propaganda", but "nobody over here is buying it". This show is restating and creating conventional wisdom with that one sentence. At the moment that this sentence was read, Florida had a better record than USC. The schedule Florida had played was just slightly less difficult than USC (but still among the toughest in the nation). Florida had beaten more top 10 teams than USC. Florida's loss was against a significantly tougher opponent than USC. These facts are what they're calling "propaganda" and "not buying".
  • Herbstreit: UCLA has two of the best defensive ends in all of college football.
  • Corso on GT-WF: Pleads for Tech to get Calvin Johnson the ball, cites the few catches he had against Georgia (disregarding the number of times the ball was thrown his way but defended).
  • Herbstreit on WVU-Rutgers: Steve Slaton may have to carry the load because Pat White has "an ankle and a toe". Strange, I have two ankles and 10 toes. Pat White's injury must be more serious than I remember being reported. The loss of an appendage and 90% of his toes must've been a bad accident.
  • Watch for Connecticut-Louisville? Really? This game is something people should pay attention to ahead of the SEC title game? Seriously, they listed this game ahead of Florida-Arkansas.
  • Fowler calls Florida's offense "unfairly bashed". By whom? Your colleagues? You are the media.
  • Desmond Howard comes on to tell us how Florida isn't that good. There's no conflict of interest here whatsoever, is there? Howard calls Florida "a dime on paper, but really a nickel and a couple of pennies", and goes into detail about how Florida isn't as good as their record when you actually watch them. Howard cites Florida's struggles against FSU and South Carolina, but interestingly, no one mentions USC's close wins over Washington, Washington State and Arizona State, or Michigan's close wins over Penn State, Ball State or the lackluster win over Northwestern. Howard does say that voters might give Florida credit for a win over Arkansas if USC loses. Still, he was clearly working on a narrative there.
  • Corso says that if USC loses, Florida might jump in the polls simply to avoid a rematch. Corso doesn't say whether that'd be right or wrong.
  • Herbstreit squats on the fence hardcore. Says Florida deserves a chance at OSU, but Michigan deserves a rematch more. Says that it's been too long for Michigan since they played and people are forgetting about them. Unlike the others, at least Herbstreit says who he thinks should go, even if he qualifies it and tries to make nice. Everyone else simply talks about what might happen rather than what should happen.
  • Fowler chimes in and says that the matchup he'd really like to see is Florida-Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
  • Fowler says Florida could be complaining, but the system stinks and there should be a playoff. Herbstreit responds by again calling for a Plus-1 system. Corso says exactly what needs to be said: it's not happening. The contracts are signed. This is the way it's going to be.
  • Corso does some game analysis on Rutgers-WVU. I like to see this, but I have nits to pick on the analysis itself. Por ejemplo, Corso loves WVU's O-line and says they're as good pass blocking as run blocking because they've only given up 8 saks all year. WVU has probably the most mobile QB in the country. Dude's not going to take many sacks because he can outrun pursuit. The highlights didn't really match what Corso was talking about either.
  • Herbstreit calls Rutgers one of the most aggressive defenses he's seen all year. Darius Reynaud is one of the most explosive slot receivers in all of college football. We're not 20 minutes in and Herbstreit's already dropped three superlatives.
  • Extended piece on Patrick Hughes, the blind and disabled marching band member at Louisville. Tom Rinaldi reporting.
  • Nebraska-Oklahoma: Corso thinks OU might have trouble with Nebraska's passing game, not 15 seconds after Fowler said Nebraska could have trouble because of the weather. Do they listen to each other? Herbstreit also doesn't respond to the comment about the weather. It's odd how the analysis on this show seems written so far in advance that late information just doesn't seem to come into the picture. Fowler, with a broadcasting background, is the only one who seems to be able to react to new info.
  • Flashback to Gameday on the road at Army, the show got rained out.
  • Some talk about Army-Navy. They actually focus on the game at first instead of just the pageantry - which I think is actually respectful to the teams.
  • All-Access with Navy Football. (Aside: the nicest campus I've ever seen is the US Naval Academy. It's absolutely beautiful.)
  • The team talks about the pageantry for a bit. Why didn't they go to this game?
  • Coaching changes: list of people who have turned down the Alabama job. Corso calls Alabama's expectations unrealistic, but he also says that agents are messing with things, trying to get their clients better jobs. Herbstreit also rails against agents, Alabama's expectations. So who's going to get the job? Any insight?
  • WIRED with Urban Meyer. Useless as usual. The mic is a little loud, or Urban yells loud.
  • Herbstreit: Brandon Siler is one of the fastest LBs in the country, Florida has one of the best sets of DBs in the country. More superlatives.
  • Herbstreit won't stop with the weird semi-sarcasm about Arkansas not being able to move the ball on Florida. It's very odd.
  • Highlight package on big hits in football this year. Always enjoyable.
  • Play of Season: Corso: ND TD vs. UCLA. Herbstreit: Pitt punt return inloss against WVU. OK. Fowler likes DeSean Jackson's return TD against Oregon.
  • Game of the Year: Corso: OSU vs. Michigan. Herbstreit: Rutgers vs. Louisville. Fowler likes Oregon vs. Oklahoma.
  • Surprise of the year: Corso: Rutgers. Herbstreit: Wake Forest (and he admits that it took him too long to realize it). Fowler: FSU and Miami.
  • Interview with Troy Smith. This didn't work that well, because it seems like Troy Smith has been well media trained. I like how Smith said that guys can play QB whether they're 6'5" or "quote/unquote not tall". The quotations sell it.
  • Short discussion on who wins between OSU and USC. Two years in a row ESPN assumes something about USC and they end up faltering. Were I a Trojan fan, I think I'd be about tired of ESPN's fawning coverage.
  • Corso says that OSU's D is ridiculous because they've given up a total of 10 points off of 16 turnovers. That is pretty ridiculous.
  • Herbstreit says he'd love to see the colors of a USC-OSU game. Fowler wants the matchup too. Glad to see that they admit that their coverage is based upon personal whims rather than simply covering the best teams.
  • Some discussion on Colt Brennan. (Aside: is it just me, or is his delivery kind of to the side, like Vince Young's? Obviously, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing - I believe the delivery doesn't matter as long as the ball gets there. But I don't remember reading anyone dwelling on it, even when people talk about Brennan's pro potential.)
  • Extended piece on Colt Brennan. Steve Cyphers reporting. June Jones shaved his mustache? Unthinkable! Outrageous! Meanwhile, I think Colt Brennan might be wearing a wig from a gay medieval guy's costume. And he might be 14, wearing a fake beard.
  • Game Face: Some dudes at the Louisville game. I thought they wouldn't be doing the cheesy bits.
  • Wake-Tech discussion: They throw to the coverage team on site. Nessler suggests that Reggie Ball might bounce back (not so much). No discussion on Wake Forest by the announcer crew. Corso does talk about Wake, though it's pretty clear that he can't pronounce any of the names. Good mention by Corso on the importance of Wake's system of redshirting and playing seniors. Corso and Herbstreit say Grobe is clearly the national coach of they year (I have a feeling that sometime, on some program, they've probably touted Greg Schiano and others as well).
  • Extended piece on Dwayne Jarrett. Shelley Smith steps out of her comfort zone to cover a USC player. Jarrett deserves coverage, sure, but how many Shelley Smith USC stories over the last two years are we expected to swallow before it becomes old hat?
  • Howard on the fake field. There's no reason for him to be on the fake field. He's not acting anything out. He could've easily said the same exact stuff at the anchor desk.
  • 5 teams before USC had been ranked #2 in the BCS and lost their last game. Interesting.
  • Fowler lets us know that style points don't matter to the pollsters for USC. Again, conveniently ignoring their poor performances in the middle of the year.
  • Corso likes a close game in USC-UCLA.
  • Herbstreit again gives the same superlative for UCLA's DEs. The Lady laughed when she heard Herbstreit say "It'll all come down to whether UCLA can get after Booty." Not nearly a good enough double entendre for my tastes.
  • Herbstreit thinks USC wins in a blowout.
  • It seriously feels like they've covered Louisville-Connecticut more than Arkansas-Florida. How embarassing.
  • Gamechanger: Corso: McFadden. Herbstreit: Lawrence Jackson (and hilariously, Herbstreit says that Jackson's got to be tired of hearing about UCLA's DEs - after TWICE in this show HERBSTREIT called them the best in the country. Funny.) Fowler: Allen Patrick.
  • They thank the National Football Foundation for an award they gave to the show for its contribution to the game.
  • Saturday Stupid Selections: Corso: Rutgers, Hawaii, Nebraska, USC Herbstreit: Arkansas, Georgia Tech, USC.

In the studio made for a boring show, actually. Get back on the road.

That's enough from me. See y'all next year.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bowl Meritocracy!

I hinted at it a few weeks ago, so here comes a long post.

It is no surprise that I don't like the current system of selecting a champion in college football. I dislike the subjectivity of polls. I don't like the way teams are never in control of their own destinies. I dislike how a team can win every single game and not win a championship. I prefer objectivity.

Over the last few weeks a debate has arisen around college football blogs over whether there should be a playoff instead of the BCS. I hate the current system, but I still am not sure if I think I'd prefer a playoff. See, it'd still have some level of subjectivity involved in selecting the teams to compete in the playoff. Maybe it'd be better than the BCS, but it still wouldn't be perfect. And regardless, the current system isn't going anywhere. There are contracts in place that will be honored through the next decade. The NCAA and university presidents appreciate how the bowls provide them a useful excuse to lie about how they care about the athletes' academics in the face of the massive checks they cash from bowl sponsors. Simply said, the bowls ain't going anywhere.

So is there a way to make the bowl system fairer, more objective, even simpler? Yes, I say.

I'm not arguing that there are too many bowls. Well, there might be, but I don't think it matters all that much. I do think that bowls are too cheap to put on, though. 14 of the bowls, nearly half, have the minimum payout - $750,000. Three were added this year at the minimum, and (I think) at least 10 at the minimum in the last decade. The evidence suggests, to me at least, that these bowls are making money - lots of money. That's why Toronto, Birmingham and Albuquerque got in on the action. ESPN or other networks pay probably at least that in fees per bowl - and they get between 6 and 8 hours (or more) of TV airtime. ESPN shows each game twice, and if it's a classic, they might get more viewings on ESPN Classic. For each game, ESPN probably gets a half hour to an hour of commercial time. Split all that up, and ESPN is making money. Now, add in whatever other functions the bowl puts on and gets sponsors for (parades, luncheons, etc.). The cities, even at lesser bowls, make a lot of money from visitors. Everyone wins with bowls. Except the teams, in a way. My question is this - for all the money the bowl committees and cities make on bowls, why is it that the teams make the minimum (and few lower tier bowls have increased payouts over the last decade)?

I say the reason is competition. Automatic tie-ins to conferences and multiyear contracts that are negotiated every 5-10 years give no incentive for bowls to work harder. The Emerald Bowl could work their ass off, find a better stadium, up their payouts, put on a great show for the teams, but they'll still be stuck with the 7th place ACC team that doesn't want to trek all the way across the country.

So my suggestion: get rid of all tie-ins. All of them. Get rid of the BCS rules. Get rid of everything regarding bowl tie ins.

Here's how you do it.

Step one: take all the bowls and list them in order of bowl payouts. Start with the biggest payout, and order it down to the lowest.
Step two: slot teams according to their position in the purely objective rankings based on won-loss, schedule strength and head-to-head wins, the Lebowski Rankings on this website. #1 and #2 play in the biggest payout bowl, #3 and #4 play in the next, all the way down. Exception - if two teams paired up after slotting have already played during the season or are in the same conference, you skip one and pick up the next.

Result: the teams with the best seasons (maybe not the "best" in someone's particular opinion, but teams which have played best) end up in better bowls. Another result is that bowls can end up with better teams if they want to - they just need to pay. Each year, the payout scale might change. If the Holiday Bowl committee thinks they can afford upping the payout to jump ahead of the Chick-Fil-A and Outback bowls, they can go for it. #1 always plays #2, and #3 always plays #4. In fact, all the matchups would be between teams that had pretty comparable seasons. No The teams that get screwed in the new system are the mediocre to bad teams in major conferences - but so what? I'd much rather screw a 6-6 team in a big conference than a 10-2 team in a smaller conference.

So how would it work in practice? Would my system provide for better matchups for the bowls, or the teams?

Let's go Bowl by Bowl, starting with the cheapest. Oh, and one other thing. When I ranked the bowls, and the payouts were the same, I placed the bowl closer to January 1 in the slot with higher priority.

32. Poinsettia Bowl - $750,000
Actual matchup: Northern Illinois vs. TCU
New matchup: Florida State vs. Pittsburgh
Analysis: Bigger names, though perhaps lesser quality for the new matchup. Pitt is the last team in under the new system, and they didn't get a bid under the current system. I think more people would watch the new matchup. Plus, I don't think it'd be a two-touchdown spread. On totality, I think the new matchup would be better.

31. Las Vegas Bowl - $750,000
Actual matchup: Oregon vs. BYU
New Matchup: Iowa vs. Oklahoma State
Analysis: Neither matchups is terrible, though BYU is a better team than the rest (and should probably be going to a better bowl). If any bowl should be ponying up more money, it's the Las Vegas Bowl, so under this kind of system, I'd expect a quick raise for payouts. The new matchup has two teams that should travel well, and I'd bet the city would prefer fans that gamble and fornicate and such. Probably about the same for matchups, but the system this bowl would be big fans of.

30. New Orleans Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Troy vs. Rice
New Matchup: Minnesota vs. Washington State
Analysis: Bigger programs, and probably better teams. Washington State is another team that simply should've been included in a bowl ahead of some others. Better matchup, more interest, better bowl.

29. Papa John's Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: ECU vs. South Florida
New Matchup: NIU vs. Arizona
Analysis: Birmingham probably would prefer the actual matchup, since geographically the actual teams might be more likely to travel. However, Arizona is the best team in the country according to the Lebowski Rankings that did not get invited to a bowl. Arizona deserved a bid somewhere. I'll call it a wash.

28. New Mexico Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: New Mexico vs. San Jose State
New Matchup: MTSU vs. ECU
Analysis: Since it seems like the New Mexico bowl was tailor made for New Mexico, this is not as good a matchup.

27. Armed Forces Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Utah vs. Tulsa
New Matchup: Utah vs. Troy
Analysis: Not too different. Troy deserves some credit for winning its conference, so a slightly better bowl than New Orleans is deserved. Tulsa ends up better. Geographically, the bowl might prefer Tulsa to Troy, but Tulsa has one of the smallest fan bases in the country. Wash.

26. Hawaii Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Hawaii vs. Arizona State
New Matchup: Kansas State vs. Rice
Analysis: Worse for the bowl, since the 10-win home team is gone. But Hawaii should've been going to a better bowl. The new matchup isn't all that bad though. This Bowl is one of the most expensive to attend for bowls, so increased payouts would be extremely important.

25. GMAC Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Southern Miss vs. Ohio
New Matchup: Cincinnati vs. Texas Tech
Analysis: Southern Miss was a semi-local draw, so that's a drawback. But Texas Tech is a bigger name. The new matchup teams are both pretty good, so it'd be a decent matchup under the new system.

24. Motor City Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Central Michigan vs. MTSU
New Matchup: Kentucky vs. Arizona State
Analysis: Another local draw gone, but two big conference, large fanbase teams head to Detroit. The new matchup would be a pretty exciting matchup too. I think this change would be beneficial to this bowl.

23. Emerald Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: FSU vs. UCLA
New Matchup: South Carolina vs. UCLA
Analysis: Not too different. FSU's season was more deserving of a worse bowl than this (and this isn't that great a bowl). I'd argue that this game is better than the actual matchup.

22. International Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Western Michigan vs. Cincinnati
New Matchup: Southern Miss vs. Oregon
Analysis: I have no idea whether this is a better game, matchup for the bowl, or what. Southern Miss probably isn't a catch for Canada, but Oregon gets ratings, for some reason.

21. Texas Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Kansas State vs. Rutgers
New Matchup: San Jose State vs. Purdue
Analysis: Not as good for geographical draws, and this bowl loses a great story in Rutgers. But Rutgers deserves better. Purdue doesn't, and they're more appropriate here. Maybe not a better matchup, but I'd argue it's a fairer matchup.

20. Insight Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
New Matchup: Nevada vs. Western Michigan
Analysis: Smaller names, but better teams (seriously). Plus, Nevada is a geographic draw (sort of). I think this is a better and fairer bowl.

19. Meineke Car Care Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Boston College vs. Navy
New Matchup: South Florida vs. Tulsa
Analysis: Worse matchup, worse draw. But BC and Navy deserve better bowls. Maybe fairer, but not better for the bowl.

18. MPC Computers Bowl - $750,000
Actual Matchup: Nevada vs. Miami
New Matchup: Missouri vs. Clemson
Analysis: Much better teams for Boise, and Miami probably didn't deserve a bowl bid. Better game, better teams. Overall, a definite positive.

17. Music City Bowl - $780,000
Actual Matchup: Kentucky vs. Clemson
New Matchup: Georgia vs. Maryland
Analysis: The first bowl where a couple thousand more makes a difference. The shape of things to come if money meant better choices. Basically, Music City slides up a notch in the SEC and ACC bids, so it's a better bowl.

16. Champs Sports Bowl - $862,000
Actual Matchup: Purdue vs. Maryland
New Matchup: Ohio vs. Penn State
Analysis: Penn State is a good pick for the bowl, and Ohio gets a reward for a great season in the MAC. Probably a wash as to the quality of the teams.

15. Independence Bowl - $1,200,000
Actual Matchup: Oklahoma State vs. Alabama
New Matchup: Georgia Tech vs. Central Michigan
Analysis: Seriously, that payout is legit! Alabama shouldn't be in a bowl this year. And Shreveport is suprisingly a better bowl than it gets credit for. Better teams. I'd say it's a better bowl.

14. Liberty Bowl - $1,500,000
Actual Matchup: Houston vs. South Carolina
New Matchup: Oregon State vs. Nebraska
Analysis: The SEC automatic bids are crazy high payouts, man. Liberty deserves better, and Memphis is a totally underrated destination. Much better teams, a better matchup, and finally this bowl gets the attention it deserves. Significantly better.

13. Sun Bowl - $1,575,000
Actual Matchup: Oregon State vs. Missouri
New Matchup: Boston College vs. Navy
Analysis: The Meineke Bowl gets a deal. BC and Navy deserve a better bowl than where they're heading, and the Sun would get decent teams, if not a better matchup.

12. Gator Bowl - $1,600,000
Actual Matchup: Georgia Tech vs. West Virginia
New Matchup: Cal vs. Texas
Analysis: The bowl would love it, since Tech isn't coming back after a loss in the same city, and two of the most telegenic programs and largest fanbases would arrive. Vastly improved (and WVU deserves a little better).

11. Alamo Bowl - $1,650,000
Actual Matchup: Texas vs. Iowa
New Matchup: Tennessee vs. Texas A&M
Analysis: Iowa doesn't deserve a bowl this good (they lost to Northwestern and Indiana!). Tennessee and A&M are a great matchup and there's still a geographic draw. Much better bowl.

10. Holiday Bowl - $2,000,000
Actual Matchup: Cal vs. Texas A&M
New Matchup: Houston vs. Hawaii
Analysis: Smaller names, but probably a more fun matchup. Hawaii and Houston both deserve better bowls than where they're headed because of their good seasons. Cal doesn't head to San Diego for like the 10th straight year. Maybe not a much better bowl, but it'd be interesting.

9. Chick-Fil-A Bowl - $2,350,000
Actual Matchup: Georgia vs. Virginia Tech
New Matchup: TCU vs. Arkansas
Analysis: Georgia probably deserves worse (I admit it), VPI probably deserves better. TCU showed tonight that they deserved better. Arkansas would be a return team, so the bowl probably wouldn't like it. Probably a worse matchup, but maybe fairer.

8. Cotton Bowl - $2,500,000
Actual Matchup: Nebraska vs. Auburn
New Matchup: Rutgers vs. BYU
Analysis: Two teams are now involved that definitely deserve better than the bowls they're headed to. And it might be a more telegenic game. Definitely fairer, and arguably better.

7. Outback Bowl - $2,850,000
Actual Matchup: Tennessee vs. Penn State
New Matchup: West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
Analysis: I'd say better teams, and it could be an exciting game. The drawback is that these new teams have played a few times in recent years.

6. Capital One Bowl - $5,312,000
Actual Matchup: Arkansas vs. Wisconsin
New Matchup: Notre Dame vs. LSU
Analysis: The Capital One gets the Sugar matchup for a third the price. Better matchup, more exciting teams. Much better bowl.

5. Fiesta Bowl - approx. $14,000,000
Actual Matchup: Oklahoma vs. Boise State
New Matchup: Southern California vs. Auburn
Analysis: Pretty good matchup either way. The Fiesta gets two big teams to finish what could've been in 2004. Arguably, a better bowl.

4. Rose Bowl - $14,998,000
Actual Matchup: Michigan vs. USC
New Matchup: Oklahoma vs. Wake Forest
Analysis: Yeah. The Rose wouldn't be too crazy about this.

3. Orange Bowl - approx. $15,000,000
Actual Matchup: Louisville vs. Wake Forest
New Matchup: Louisville vs. Wisconsin
Analysis: Better matchup, bigger teams. Better bowl.

2. Sugar Bowl - approx. $16,000,000
Actual Matchup: LSU vs. Notre Dame
New Matchup: Florida vs. Michigan
Analysis: Now that'd be fun, wouldn't it? Better matchup, better teams, exciting draw. Better all around.

1. BCS National Championship Game - approx. $17,000,000
Actual Matchup: Florida vs. Ohio State
New Matchup: Boise State vs. Ohio State
Analysis: The two undefeated teams face off. No way there's a split title. Boise State gets a chance at a title by winning every game. For the people who think Ohio State is head and shoulders ahead of everyone else, here's a victory lap for them (instead of another tough game). It might be a huge spread, but there'd be the chance for the single greatest upset in the history of college football, with a title on the line. I'd love it.

And there you have it. The bowl selections are based solely on how much the bowls are ponying up and how good the teams' seasons were. Totally objective. I'd say there are probably a lot of fairer and several better bowls.

Of course, there's another way of doing things - rank the bowls by money, but then let the bowls who pay the most have the first two "picks" without regard to who actually was best. That'd be interesting too.


Is this the right answer? Is it the right question?

Florida Blog Orange and Blue Hue approaches an interesting subject - Why isn't Georgia Better? (spotted via CFR).

First off, go read the post. It's not a flame, and it's actually quite favorable and reasonable.

Next, indulge me in picking a few nits...

First, I have some problems with the thesis "why don't they win more?" (at least in terms of football). Specifically, what does that mean?

  • Does it mean "more" than Georgia "should" be winning? If so, how does one quantify how a team "should" be winning? Is it that "underrated/overrated" thing, because over the last 20 years Georgia is the 8th most underrated team (meaning they ended up winning more than expected, see here, and guess who's ranked way down at number 72?).
  • Does it mean "more than other programs"? If so, we must address scope.
  • Does it mean "more throughout the history of the program"? If so, can it really be argued that Georgia didn't win a lot? Georgia is the third winningest program in the SEC after Alabama and Tennessee. Georgia's 11th all time in wins. 13th all time in winning percentage. Georgia has won more SEC titles than any other program, save Alabama and Tennessee. Georgia has won twice as many titles as Florida. Among SEC teams, only Alabama and Tennessee have won more national titles than Georgia.
  • Does it mean "more in recent history"? How should "recent history" be defined. Is it over the last 5 years, during which Georgia has the best record in the SEC (52-13, one win better than LSU) and more titles than any other program? Is it over the last decade?

Though Keltic Gator doesn't say it, I've had this argument about scope with too many of my Gator friends before. Do we want to gauge the merits of each program based upon the totality of history (during which Georgia is quite good, and Florida was quite bad), or do we want to limit it to a shorter period. When I've restricted it to the past 5 years (during which Georgia has been damn good and up to this year during which Florida has been mediocre), Florida fans get upset. Too often Florida fans have wanted to limit all discussions of how good a particular program is to "the specific years where Steve Spurrier was coach at Florida". Naturally, I disagree with these fans. I say either look at the full history, or limit things to a particular period during which there was some commonality of players and where specific reasons for success or failure can be spotted (like a given five year period). If we look at 5 year periods (and it doesn't have to be the most recent period, you can take any 5 year period), we can give some pretty good reasons for why a particular team is good or not.

So to respond to the main thesis, I'd argue that, in the abstract, Georgia does win a lot. Over the long term, and over the short term. As to whether Georgia wins more than it "should", that's a question I believe one can't answer, exactly. For example, I think with all the talent Georgia had on its team in 2000, 8-4 was a poor result. But at the same time, the 2005 SEC Championship team I believe overachieved to win that title. Some years teams don't win as much as they probably should have, other years teams might win more. But whenever one addresses the question of "should've won more", I always think about Bill Parcells' line about records - they're usually a pretty good description as to how good you really are. And if that's the case, then I think Georgia has earned their spot as a premier SEC program - over several decades and in recent years.

On to Keltic Gator's other points...

On athletic department budgets: I think Keltic Gator raises a good point about UGA's athletic department being so profitable. However, profits of the massive size we've seen for Georgia in recent years are in some ways just that, recent. The state of Georgia is not the same state it was 20 years ago. Population and industry growth have made Georgia significantly wealthier than it once was, and the University and the Athletic Department have clearly been some of the beneficiaries. As recent as a decade ago, season tickets were readily available to non-donating persons. That is no longer the case. In the last 5 years, demand for tickets has skyrocketed. Second, the windfall the department has received from leasing skysuites at Sanford Stadium is something of recent days (the expansions are only now getting finished). The bloated budget and profit margins are not something Georgia had the luxury of even 10-15 years ago. Georgia's budgets have risen very well over the last few years, but for a good long time Georgia trailed Tennessee, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas and plenty of other programs in size of budget. Further, I think there's an argument that merely having large budgets does not always equal on-field success, but at the same time, I think it's interesting how Georgia's on-field fortunes have improved over the last 5-6 years, the budget has grown exponentially. I'm not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg, or which came first.

Now, there's a second issue regarding athletic budgets at Georgia - how profits are spent. This is a touchy subject, and one that I know I'm not in a position to have all the right answers on. Georgia has a very large budget (though definitely below Ohio State, Texas and Florida levels). Georgia has a budget that is more profitable than anyone else. The natural response is, "well, why aren't they rerouting those profits back into the program?" Indeed - I think it's pretty clear that one of the reasons why Georgia is more profitable than the above listed programs is that Georgia hasn't been spending like those other programs. Though it's planned for the future, Georgia has no indoor football practice facility. Georgia is currently making headway on a massive basketball facility, one that the profits from the past few years' budgets will clearly be spent on. In a way, the profits of the past couple of years may be somewhat misleading - Georgia may be saving for new projects, or for making sure Mark Richt remains the coach forever.

Another issue regarding budgets is the other sports within the athletic department. An astute commenter noted that Georgia took away from Florida the all-sports trophy last year (and in past years Georgia has finished ahead of Florida and the rest of the SEC in the Director's Cup). Georgia has always placed an emphasis - organizationally and budgetarily - on sports other than football and men's basketball. And that costs a lot of money, as few other sports (save women's gymnastics) are self sufficient. Another factor is Title IX. Georgia has a student body which is 57% made up of women. Thus, to remain compliant with Title IX, 57% of the scholarships offered must be awarded to women. With 85 scholarships awarded for men in football, that means Georgia has to find not just 85 scholarships in other sports for women, but actually more than that - in order to match the student body makeup. That means more sports for women, often which are for sports that, regardless of the merit, simply cannot support themselves financially - such as recent Georgia additions equestrian and lacrosse. For a state school of its size, Georgia is not exactly normal in its gender makeup - mainly because Georgia Tech is so heavily male - if both schools were merged it'd be a lot closer to 50-50. Not every large comparable university has as high a percentage of women as Georgia. For example, Tennessee is under 51% women. So there are perhaps external forces that prevent Georgia from merely spending the large budget back on football. Of course, that too relies on the supposition that more money means more wins.

Let's go back to picking at nits...

Keltic Gator wrote:

I like Marc [sic] Richt. I think he’s a fine coach and one of the best football
minds in the SEC. His teams never seem to overly impress me though.
There is always talent on the field but they don’t seem to have the type of
playmakers you find at Florida, LSU, Texas, Ohio State, USC, etc.

(his emphasis). Here's the question: why does Georgia not impress him much? Since Richt became coach at Georgia, the Dawgs are 60-17. That's a 5 and a half game lead on second place in the SEC East (Florida, 54-21). LSU inched ahead of Georgia this season, as they're 61-16 over the same period. I know I need to keep pounding it into my head - winning alone isn't impressive and that's what makes college football so great - the fact that you need to mix in a couple of triple axels and have incredibly appropriate music and an absolutely breathtaking wardrobe... oh wait, I keep mixing figure skating up with football. Silly me.

Also, "playmakers"? Another word I have no idea what actually means. Because it obviously doesn't mean guys who make plays on defense. Guys like David Pollack, Champ Bailey, Thomas Davis, Greg Blue, Tra Battle, Tony Taylor, Sean Jones, Paul Oliver, Boss Bailey, Kendrell Bell, Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Quentin Moses, Jermaine Phillips, Demario Minter, Kedric Golston, Charles Grant... And just so we don't leave out the offense, there actually are a few guys that can "make plays" on Georgia's rosters of recent. Maybe the NCAA's all-time winningest QB? Maybe the most recent Super Bowl MVP? 4 NFL running backs? One of the NFL leaders in TD receptions?

The point Keltic Gator is making, though I'm sort of mocking it, has some merit though. Well, sort of. Keltic Gator doesn't know Georgia's playmakers - or at least he doesn't immediately bring them to mind like players at other schools. The thing is that Georgia has had those kinds of players, they just haven't necessarily gotten the coverage other teams have had. As he writes in the next few sentences:

And is it me or does Bulldog football seem to be buried on the back pages of the
national papers and for late at night on the sports networks? Georgia
seems like they are the best team to not receive much national notoriety.
They are extremely regionalized and often overshadowed by fellow SEC teams like
Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn and Alabama even when those teams aren’t as

Again, his emphasis. His point is that Georgia doesn't grab the headlines. And that's true, unfortunately. Please venture through my archives to see all the numerous places where I've tried to get across the point that college football's reliance on the mass media and publicity to drive storylines and select champions is an incredible shame. I'm not one to complain that Georgia isn't getting a fair shake from the media. I think it's terrible that the media has any influence at all. Also, I think Georgia gets at least as much coverage as Auburn. I have little idea why certain teams get more favorable coverage than others. It's just an unfortunate fact of college football.

Another nitpick - scheduling:

Is it scheduling? I realize that Georgia hasn’t played a game outside of
the south since the 1965 but other big name schools seem to get away with being

There's that 1965 number again. September 20, 2008 (at Tempe, AZ) cannot get here soon enough so we can stop hearing that number. And though I don't think Keltic Gator is taking a shot at UGA's merit of scheduling, but can we at least note Florida's complicity in the fact that Georgia hasn't played many OOC road games? It's simple math - for many years when we had an 11 game season, every school would want 6 home games. Because Georgia plays an OOC game home and home against Georgia Tech and a neutral site game against Florida, Georgia had to schedule two more OOC home games to get to 6 (because in even years they'd only play 3 home SEC games, in odd years they'd play only 2 OOC home games). Before the SEC played a full 8 game season, Georgia played an annual home/home series with Clemson. Basically, for the bulk of those years since 1965, Georgia might not have played a terrible team from another part of the country on the road, but they were playing decent to very good local teams on the road. Yes, that might've added to a "regional" aspect of Georgia, but one of the main reasons for that was the game in Jacksonville. Let's compare Georgia to Florida - who has the same scheduling limitations as Georgia (the neutral site game and an in-state rival home/home). Florida has played exactly one game outside the South in the last 20 years - a road game at Syracuse in 1991. So why is it that Florida isn't considered regional like Georgia? My guess is that it isn't Florida's doing, but rather FSU's, and Georgia Tech's. Follow me: The Florida-FSU games throughout the 1990s and early 2000s were some great matchups - and FSU was a top 5 team for pretty much the whole time. Meanwhile, Georgia won 7 straight against a Georgia Tech team that since 1990 has made very little waves (and Georgia wasn't exactly lighting it up in the mid-90s either). A little more... Georgia had some epic battles against non-conference opponents in the early 1980s. Arguably, the early 1980s games between Georgia and Clemson (and in some ways, Georgia and Georgia Tech) were as important nationally as almost any of the Florida-FSU games. But in the early 1980s, there was only one game each week on TV. Thankfully, the Universities of Oklahoma and Georgia sued the NCAA and forced them to stop monopolizing television viewings. Had ESPN, CBS, ABC, and 5 other networks been showing games in the early 1980s, I'm certain Georgia would have had much more hype than they got. Florida's football program came of age during the TV era - and during an era when their signature OOC game featured great national attention.

Got no problems with his next paragraph.

But then it comes as a rush...

Looking at the records, UGA has 2 SEC Championships under Richt (2002 and 2005) their first since 1982. A 20 year shutout? Now how does that
happen? I look at other schools and the closest comparison would be
Florida - schools of similar size and location that are even in the same

How does that happen? Indeed. 20 years is a long time to go between SEC titles. It's the longest such dry spell for Georgia. However, it's not quite as long as the 58 YEAR DROUGHT Florida had between the day it joined the SEC and when it hoisted it's first title. That's a dry spell almost three times as long as Georgia's longest time without a title. How does that happen?

But other schools like OU and Texas have been able to rebuild traditional
programs from mediocrity back to national prominence in all the major
sports. Even the athletic directors of WVU and Louisville have lured good
coaches in to take their programs to new heights in both football and
basketball. Ohio State has taken its football and basketball programs to
new heights in the past 5-6 years and is a school with a large resemblance to
the one in Athens in terms of support and state allegiance.

Oklahoma didn't win a conference title between 1987 and 2000 - 13 years. And I bet you didn't realize this, but Texas won the first Big XII title (on an awesome 4th down call), but didn't win another one for a decade - until last year's title. Ohio State hadn't won an outright title in the Big 10 between 1984 and 2002. Until last year, it had been 12 years for West Virginia to win an outright title in the smaller Big East. Those are some pretty big gaps. Even the biggest, baddest best run programs go through title droughts. USC hadn't won a Pac-10 title outright between 1989 and 2002. Extended periods of time between titles happen. Sometimes it's due to bad luck. Sometimes coaching turnover makes a huge difference. Keltic Gator says these things, too.

The point I'm trying to make is that Georgia's success on the field has been pretty good over the long-haul, and pretty good in very recent memory. How they're perceived is a different matter entirely. If Keltic Gator (or CFR) think Georgia hasn't been as good as they should've been, well, I don't know how to respond. If the statement that "...national notoriety seems to have eluded the Bulldogs since the age of Hershell [unforgivable sic] Walker" is true, I'm not sure what Georgia could've been doing to get it back over the last couple of years. Most wins in the SEC? SEC titles? Top 3 finish? Tons of NFL draft picks? Maybe the issue isn't Georgia not doing what it needs to do, but rather, as Keltic Gator suggests, that Georgia isn't getting covered like other teams. Maybe. I don't like the "media bias" complaint though. I prefer to complain that the media has a role at all.

Now, on the other point raised by Keltic Gator - on Georgia's basketball team - I think he's on firmer ground, sort of. Georgia has the worst basketball tradition in all of the SEC. There is very little tradition there. If only the University had allowed African-American players and John Wooden had taken the Georgia job when offered... But still, no tradition is no excuse. Georgia could've placed more of an emphasis on it long ago. I think the basketball program is a clearer indication of the discussions above regarding budgets. Like I said, large budgets at Georgia are relatively a new feature. For decades, the men's basketball program was probably underfunded. And Title IX's influence can be seen pretty clearly in the way the Lady Dogs' team has been funded and backed by the athletic department over the years. In recent years, the increased budgets has led to added funding for the men's team, but there can be no question as to the negative effect of (a) Tubby Smith leaving for Kentucky, compounded by (b) the utterly terrible hiring of Ron Jirsa, and exponentially compounded by (c) the hiring and failure to micromanage Jim Harrick. Those three events caused a decade's worth of damage, and no amount of money thrown at the problem could have fixed it without time.

As to football and basketball, I think Georgia is on the right track. But the University is also a cautionary tale. Assuming for the sake of argument that the thesis "Georgia should win and should have won more than they do/have" is correct, the reasons can be directly attributed to coaching. The timeframe that it appears that Keltic Gator is addressing features the downtrun for Georgia football at the twilight of Vince Dooley's career. Georgia hired Ray Goff as a successor and probably held on to him a few years too long. Then, Georgia had an awkward replacement search (the Glen Mason debacle), and ended up hiring Jim Donnan. There can be no doubt that Jim Donnan improved the program and brought significant talent to Georgia. There can also be no doubt that his game-coaching left something wanting. Donnan won consistently at Marshall by having more talent than the other team, cloaking his strategy shortcomings. At Georgia, his capable recruiting brought Georgia to a level playing field, upon which Donnan just couldn't compete against better coaches. Why did Georgia have a downward slide in the 1990s? Their close rivals hired the right guys (Spurrier, Fulmer, Bobby Ross), while Georgia did not. And fixing the problems of a bad hire can often take a long time, depending on how bad things got. For basketball, as previously mentioned, two bad hires caused ridiculous damage to the program. Coaching made a huge difference.

Let's close with Keltic Gator's conclusion:

The bottom line is that in any ten or twenty year period Georgia should be in
the top three in both sports when judged from a resource standpoint. Yet
for some reason they aren’t and I’m not sure why. A school that should be
the home for championships is instead often the home of the phrase “wait until
next year”. It’s one of those enigmas in sports where a school that seems
to have all the individual pieces can’t seem to find a way to put them
together. To me the Bulldog legacy will always be one of quandary and

Going forward, I think it's reasonable to say that Georgia should be successful on the field in both sports. But as for past history, I cannot agree with his assertion. Some schools put all their eggs in one basket - and for a long time Georgia did this in football. The phenomenon of the huge budget program succeeding on the field and the court at the same time is a recent thing (Ohio State, Texas, Florida). In past years, there just wasn't enough money to spread around to do that, and so you had top basketball programs where football was an afterthought (UNC, Kansas, Indiana), and top football programs where basketball was an afterthought. It's pretty hard to find schools that had sustained success in both sports over time. And Georgia's budget hasn't been in the stratosphere for too long, either.

And as for "wait 'till next year U"... at least we've never waited 58 years. Beat Ohio State in January and you catch us in MNCs. Win the next 5 SEC titles and you catch us.

In football at least, Georgia has won... a hell of a lot in fact. If Georgia has a reputation of not living up to expectations, it's undeserved. If size of budget is directly related to on-field success, the future is bright for Georgia, and the past isn't all that embarassing.

Anyway, read Keltic Gator's post. It's definitely worth a read, and don't let my nitpicking responses here make you think he doesn't raise some good points.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Arthur ______! Gag your team.

It's been one thing after another for the Dirty Birds recently. SuperVick flicking-off fans. Jim "Playoffs!" Mora saying Vick is a "coach-killer." Jim "deer in the headlights" Mora saying he'd jump ship for the UW job even if the Falcons were in the middle of a playoff run. But, IMHO the worst gaffe is in the most recent comments by DHall. I admire his restraint in refraining from retaliating for T.O.'s disgusting act, but he should restrain himself a little more. He should NOT be encouraging the League to suspend 81. Take one look at the schedule. One of the more realistic paths to the playoffs for the Falcons is for them to take care of business against the Panthers, and for Dallas to beat Philly on Christmas Day. That way, the winner of the Eagles-Falcons season finale will get a playoff spot. Please, Falcons, on behalf of your fans, STFU.

On another note, BigUps for The General who got hitched this past weekend. He and his beautiful bride tore up the dance floor at the wedding and are now resting their toes in warm white sand.

Update: After further review of the tie-breaking procedures, it looks as if the Falcons would get a Wild Card spot if they win the next two, regardless of how the Eagles do against the Cowboys. If the Falcons win 2, the Giants win 2, and the Eagles win 1, they'll all be tied at 9-7. The first tie-breaker eliminates all but the highest ranked club in each division. The Giants would be ranked higher than Philly due to the division tie eventually being broken by them having a higher winning percentage against common opponents. Then the Giants would hold the tie-breaker over Atlanta by winning head-to-head. So, Giants are in. Next, with the tie between Philly and Atlanta, the Falcons (under this scenario) would get the nod due to winning head-to-head. But, if the Falcons slip against Carolina and need a lot of help staying alive, one of those helpful hands may well be Dallas with T.O. on the field.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lebowski Rankings - Final Regular Season

The full monty. About half of this won't change after the bowls.

119. Florida International 0-12 (102)
118. Duke 0-12 (30)
117. Eastern Michigan 1-11 (81)
116. Utah State 1-11 (60)
115. Temple 1-11 (57)
114. Stanford 1-11 (1)
113. Memphis 2-10 (81)
112. Buffalo 2-10 (78)
111. Miami (OH) 2-10 (94)*
110. UNLV 2-10 (75)
109. Colorado 2-10 (47)
108. Illinois 2-10 (18)
107. Louisiana Tech 3-10 (72)
106. North Texas 3-9 (116)
105. UAB 3-9 (85)
104. San Diego State 3-9 (73)
103. Army 3-9 (61)
102. NC State 3-9 (33)
101. North Carolina 3-9 (23)
100. Mississippi State 3-9 (15)
99. Bowling Green 4-8 (115)
98. Louisiana-Monroe 4-8 (101)
97. New Mexico State 4-8 (89)
96. Idaho 4-8 (76)
95. Fresno State 4-8 (74)
94. Colorado State 4-8 (92)*
93. Central Florida 4-8 (69)
92. Tulane 4-8 (66)
91. Air Force 4-8 (65)
90. Iowa State 4-8 (59)
89. Northwestern 4-8 (44)
88. Baylor 4-8 (39)
87. Michigan State 4-8 (38)
86. Vanderbilt 4-8 (19)
85. Mississippi 4-8 (20)*
84. UConn 4-8 (11)
83. Syracuse 4-8 (28)*
82. Akron 5-7 (109)
81. Toledo 5-7 (110)*
80. UTEP 5-7 (107)
79. Florida Atlantic 5-7 (105)
78. Ball State 5-7 (93)
77. Marshall 5-7 (84)
76. Virginia 5-7 (70)
75. Indiana 5-7 (25)
74. Washington 5-7 (7)
73. Kent State 6-6 (119)
72. Arkansas State 6-6 (118)
71. Louisiana-Lafayette 6-6 (112)
70. New Mexico 6-6 (100)
69. SMU 6-6 (98)
68. Wyoming 6-6 (88)
67. Kansas 6-6 (80)
66. Miami (FL) 6-6 (52)
65. Alabama 6-6 (50)
64. Pittsburgh 6-6 (41)
63. Florida State 6-6 (40)
62. Oklahoma State 6-6 (36)
61. Iowa 6-6 (29)
60. Washington State 6-6 (12)
59. Minnesota 6-6 (14)
58. Arizona 6-6 (2)
57. Northern Illinois 7-5 (103)
56. East Carolina 7-5 (90)
55. MTSU 7-5 (86)
54. Troy 7-5 (117)*
53. Utah 7-5 (82)
52. Rice 7-5 (79)
51. Kansas State 7-5 (67)
50. Texas Tech 7-5 (53)
49. Cincinnati 7-5 (17)
48. Arizona State 7-5 (16)
47. Kentucky 7-5 (13)
46. South Carolina 7-5 (10)
45. UCLA 7-5 (4)
44. Oregon 7-5 (6)*
43. Southern Miss. 8-5 (71)
42. Purdue 8-5 (54)
41. Western Michigan 8-4 (114)
40. San Jose State 8-4 (106)
39. Nevada 8-4 (113)*
38. Tulsa 8-4 (83)
37. South Florida 8-4 (63)
36. Clemson 8-4 (62)
35. Missouri 8-4 (56)
34. Maryland 8-4 (49)
33. Georgia 8-4 (31)
32. Penn State 8-4 (27)
31. Ohio 9-4 (111)
30. Central Michigan 9-4 (95)
29. Georgia Tech 9-4 (46)
28. Nebraska 9-4 (45)
27. Oregon State 9-4 (8)
26. Navy 9-3 (104)
25. Boston College 9-3 (51)
24. Texas 9-3 (34)
23. Texas A&M 9-3 (64)*
22. California 9-3 (5)*
21. Tennessee 9-3 (22)*
20. Hawaii 10-3 (97)
19. Houston 10-3 (96)
18. Arkansas 10-3 (24)
17. TCU 10-2 (108)
16. BYU 10-2 (91)
15. Virginia Tech 10-2 (55)
14. Rutgers 10-2 (42)
13. West Virginia 10-2 (37)
12. Notre Dame 10-2 (32)
11. LSU 10-2 (26)
10. Auburn 10-2 (35)*
9. Southern California 10-2 (3)
8. Wake Forest 11-2 (68)
7. Oklahoma 11-2 (58)
6. Wisconsin 11-1 (77)
5. Louisville 11-1 (43)
4. Michigan 11-1 (21)
3. Florida 12-1 (9)
2. Boise State 12-0 (99)
1. Ohio State 12-0 (48)


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

Been crazy tired by the time I've gotten home the last few nights, so I haven't posted a lot of stuff I've wanted to. I've had some comments elsewhere, and a few things to get off my chest though, so here they are:

1. I thought I'd jinx myself if I mentioned it anytime before all their games were played, but I feel kind of prescient about this post. Check that date. Your ACC Champions.

2. As a more recent "I CALLED IT!", take a look at this post from before the Ohio State-Michigan game. If you read any of the Michigan blogs this week, I think you can see why I like the term shit cyclone.

3. And to reference some comments I've left elsewhere, I think the animus projected from Michigan blogs towards CBS and Gary Danielson is appropriate, but it doesn't go far enough. The problem is not merely that CBS offered Danielson a platform to spout ill-informed opinions with the purpose of convincing voters in polls to vote a certain way; the problem is that decisions that matter actually are influenced by such spouting and platforms. I've tried to tell Michigan dudes this week: the issue is not that Florida had more supporters in the media propping them up on Saturday, the issue is that supporters in the media matter at all. They shouldn't. And that's why the system stinks.

4. Notwithstanding items 1 and 2 above, I do, in fact, have no idea what I'm talking about 95% of the time. That's why a lot of the comments I leave turn out to be laughable. One that I'm particularly proud of is a comment I left at Heismanpundit last Friday night. The author wrote that it was embarassing about how the Governor of Louisiana was politicking for a Rose Bowl berth, and that people should just let the games play out. I added a flip comment, but then said that LSU was pretty much a lock for the Rose Bowl because, regardless of the outcome in the USC game, LSU would go to Pasadena. My thinking was that if USC made the Rose, the committee would choose LSU to play Michigan; if USC lost, there was no way that Michigan wouldn't make the BCSNCG. This is after I sort of predicted on this website the very occurrence of Michigan dropping without playing. By last Friday night I had convinced myself that even the foolish finger-in-the-wind imbeciles who we entrust with crowning our champions wouldn't go so far as to actually drop Michigan behind a team two places behind them while not playing. It just didn't seem like something that would happen without some egregious horse-trading. My mistake. Was it PT Barnum who said "nobody ever went hungry underestimating the American public"? I should've been wise to heed that. Not that I have any particular opinion either way (I've been steady all along that the scandal isn't the outcome, it's the system, regardless of the outcome). Besides all that, I find it a bit odd that I was the commenter encouraging jumping to conclusions, while HP was the one urging caution. See the next item for the counter.

5. When I was thinking about my Wake Forest post, I remembered a post Heismanpundit wrote a while back, like, the third week of the season. In fact, it was this post that kind of inspired my initial Wake Forest post. Basically, HP was doing a recap of the third weekend (in which he said some very very correct things, such as that OSU-Michigan would be epic and that folks shouldn't count out Oklahoma), and he listed a host of teams that he was already prepared to write off for the season:

After three weeks, it's pretty clear which teams are the dogs of the major conferences.

SEC: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina. These teams are just garbage.

Big 12: Colorado, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Texas A&M all look like they are in for long seasons.

ACC: Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest are all pretty much jokes.

Big East: Cincinnati, Syracuse, UConn and South Florida are the bad ones here.

Big Ten: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue should be easy wins for the rest of the conference.

Pac-10: Stanford, Washington, Arizona and Oregon State are junk.

I don't think it's too crazy to suggest that it might've been a little early to write off some of those teams. Arkansas was garbage in a way that made them a top 15 team. Wake is in a BCS bowl. Oregon State's the third best team in the Pac-10 and knocked off USC. South Florida is bowl bound and knocked off WVU. A&M ended up with a solid season. Cincinnati, Arizona, Purdue, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Kansas State all had decent, if not solid seasons and each either beat or put scares into pretty good teams. I said this in real time, pointing out Purdue, South Florida and Wake Forest in particular. Basically, I generally assume all teams are going to win the rest of their games (the Lebowski rankings basically use that formula), and that you can't completely write off a team in September. Teams should be given the benefit of the doubt. Stupidly, I went against that later.

6. And to wrap up my comments at HP... I need to give him a little more credit about one thing. For some reason, HP had an axe to grind about LSU over the last few weeks. Michael at Braves & Birds pointed it out, and I responded to a few of HP's posts on LSU too. One of the things that I didn't like was HP's assertion that LSU was a team that "can lose to almost any team". I didn't think that had any merit, since LSU was 14-0 against unranked teams under Les Miles (and 7-4 against ranked opponents). Both of LSU's losses this year came on the road against teams favored over the Tigers. Basically, I saw no empirical evidence that LSU was a team that would lose to anyone. HP cited the Ole Miss game which went to OT. I can see that a bit, but I viewed that game as a look-ahead game (definitely a slight as to coaching), and LSU did win the game, even though they were pushed to the limit. Anyway, I compared LSU's resume to another team that had already lost to a (then) unranked team and had only won three other games against unranked opponents by a TD or less. Smarmily, I suggested that HP wouldn't write that kind of thing about USC. Turns out, I'm wrong. HP had been picking against USC in his weekly picks pretty frequently, actually. He picked UCLA to beat them too. Had I been paying more attention, I would've seen that HP actually was writing those things (correctly) about USC. So, I apologize.

And just to wrap up everything I have to say about the dude, I think his All American team was pretty good. And I'm not one who really cares about the Heisman Trophy, but if you do, I don't know why you wouldn't read him.

7. It's a pretty futile exercise reviewing football predictions. Everyone's going to be right about some things, and wrong about others. Of course, in a way, I see that as evidence supporting my Grand Unification Theory: nobody knows nuthin', so we shouldn't listen to anyone. And that's why I don't like the way college football crowns its champion - the system relies on fools.

8. I thought about going through Stewart Mandel's post bowl announcement column line by line, well, because I haven't called him bad names for a long time and I kind of missed it. Lucklily, CFR pointed out the one line that made me shake my head hardest.

Mandel: Of course, the SEC's reputation as the best conference this season is yet another one of those pesky assumptions. Fortunately, we now have the perfect litmus test -- the national championship game.

CFR: [T]he BCS Championship Game is not a litmus test for the SEC superiority argument. One game is never any kind of measurement for the merits of an entire conference. That's been our problem for years in college football in that we only have a handful of games to evaluate the merits between each conference.

This is such an obvious thing, that I find it odd that people who get paid to write and offer opinions don't seem to understand it. One game between two teams says nothing about the respective strengths and weaknesses of the other 21 teams in the Big 10 and SEC. Florida and Ohio State could play 100 times, with one team winning all 100, and it still wouldn't say anything about how good the rest of their respective conferences are. All that game tells us is what it tells us about how well those teams played during that game. I personally think the results of a game do matter enough to tell the respective strengths of the teams, or at least that the results sort of bind us into a certain rule regarding relative strengths (such as, I for one don't think Cal can be considered a better team than Tennessee since they have the same record and Tennessee whooped them). So if Florida beats OSU, I do think that'll mean that Florida is better than Ohio State, and vice versa. But it doesn't say anything as to the relative merits of LSU against Michigan, Georgia against Penn State, Northwestern against Vanderbilt, etc.

9. 32 Bowls. 64 teams in bowls. More than half the 1-A teams are playing in bowls. My position is that bowls are too cheap to put on. I don't mind the number of bowls (what do I care? if I don't want to watch, I don't have to). I do think that it's kind of an unfair system. And I'll have a post up in a couple of days on what I'd do with the bowls. One word: meritocracy.

10. Here's a question for the hardcore football fans: Is hiring the right head coach even if that means waiting for the end of the NFL season and signing a lackluster recruiting class this year worth it? Should Alabama risk a terrible class (following up scholarship restrictions in recent years) for the sake of getting the right guy in, especially when that new coach might need to rely on the talent drawn in this "lost" class? Consider - the coach hired this year will be given a few years to "get his players" and get the system in place. But programs expect success by year 4. Shula was given just 4 years. Disregarding scholarship limitations from probation, Shula still only had 3 recruiting classes to get his players into the program. The "senior leadership" that should've been the backbone of his team this year wasn't even his group of recruits. Look at it another way: say you were an NFL assistant coach and approached for a pretty good job, but you can't take the job until your team is out of the NFL playoffs in mid-January. By then, you won't be able to make much of an impact on a recruiting class. You're already behind the 8 ball. Then, a couple of years later, when the boosters and athletic administrators have lost their patience, the most experienced, developed players will be the ones out of that lost class. Is that a risk the program or the coach would even want to take? Can we quantify the benefits of hiring a coach earlier in the offseason? How much of a value would you place on it.

And that's enough thinking. Gameday Recap when I get to it. Lebowski's probably tomorrow.