Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let's Ask Bristol (if you want terrible analysis)

ESPN has their "Power 16" list of the top college football teams up, as based upon voting by their particular experts. Georgia is at #11, which is probably too high in my opinion. But the reasons some of the experts give are just ree-damn-dick-a-loss.

Todd Blackledge on Pass Offense
QB Matthew Stafford took his lumps (7 TDs, 13 INTs) last year as a freshman. But he has a big, accurate arm and surprising mobility. Question is: Who will be his safety valve? Senior Sean Bailey is speedy, but he has only 36 career catches and is coming off a knee injury.

In re Stafford, very conventional analysis. As to the receivers, Georgia probably has one of the deepest corps it's had in years. Kris Durham is listed as the 7th or 8th received, and he had a lot of plays last year. No mention of Massaquoi, Kenneth Harris, Mikey Henderson, AJ Bryant, Tony Wilson?

Bill Curry on Run Offense
The Dawgs have lots of backs but no stud. Kregg Lumpkin is a slasher, not a home run threat. And, while Thomas Brown can break into the secondary and run away from DBs, he's coming off a knee injury. No matter who's back there, Stafford is going to face stacked fronts.

First sentence OK. I don't think of Lumpkin as a slasher at all. He's a pounder just not with a massive, Jerome Bettis-type body. No mention of Knowshon Moreno. The last sentence I disagree with. I think Georgia's passing game will be much improved over last year, and will especially require defenses to respect the deep ball. I don't necessarily believe the way to beat Georgia this year is "stack the box". Also, mandatory conflict of interest statement: really, ESPN, are you going to ask a guy who coached 3 rivals of UGA and who has never held back his contempt for the program for advice on UGA?

Rod Gilmore on Pass Defense
Asher Allen and Prince Miller are small (5'10" and 5'8", respectively) but scrappy CBs. They're fast enough to cover. Just not sure yet if they'll be able to tackle anyone.

Asher Allen and Prince Miller are both currently listed as backups to Thomas Flowers and Bryan Evans. Also, I'm not really sure where he gets the evidence that they're "scrappy" and "fast enough" or that they'd have trouble tackling opponents. Neither has had a ton of playing time.

Chris Spielman on Run Defense
Both DTs -- 6'3", 292-pound Jeff Owens and 6'5", 315-pound Kade Weston -- command double-teams. That should allow new starting DEs Roderick Battle and Marcus Howard to work one-on-ones and become backfield pests. Combined, they had only 2 TFLs last year.

Probably too favorable analysis. Owens and Weston have promise, but I think it's a little bit of a stretch to say they command double teams so far. I hope he's right, but this seems a bit optimistic.

Desmond Howard on Special Teams
Henderson can flat-out fly, and he's one of the few guys who can legitimately take it to the house at any time. Just have to wonder if a guy who's 5'10", 150 pounds and playing a bigger role on offense will hold up back there.

To Desmond Howard, "Special Teams" doesn't mean field goal kicking, punting or coverage. It's just the return guy. Also, it should be said that Desmond Howard was 5'10, not much bigger than 150 pounds the year he won the Heisman Trophy. Just sayin'.

Jim Donnan on Coaching
Mark Richt is a terrific special-teams coach, but he relies too much on field goals. And while he did an underrated job bringing along Stafford, he needs the QB to take a monster step in red zone efficiency this year.

REALLY! ESPN thinks it's a good idea to ask the guy who got fired to comment on his replacement? Seriously!!! And it takes some nerve for him to knock red zone efficiency and field goals. I don't recall Georgia being a scoring machine during his years. Points per game under Donnan = 26.6. Points per game under Richt: = 28.2. Nerve. (Also, arguably, the jockeying of QBs in the middle of the season messed with Stafford more than helped him along, and it may have cost us against Vandy and UK. That's the crazy thing about this whole piece - even when they're complimentary, they get it wrong.)

Brad Edwards on Schedule
A 2-0 start would vault Georgia toward the top of the polls, but the Tennessee game is huge. It's Georgia's first big SEC road test, and the Dawgs lost at home to the Vols last year, 51-33. Now they have to win in Knoxville.

Yes, they have to win in Knoxville... which is exactly what they've done the last three times they've traveled there. Brad Edwards normally has the numbers behind what he writes, but this is just lazy. Nothing on OOC games, nothing on SEC west rotation. Just weak.

So there's your expert analysis. Two guys with clear conflicts of interest (and I've always sensed that Blackledge didn't much care for Georgia, either). One guy who didn't even look at the depth chart.

These guys are supposed to know more than we do. To have more inside information. To be a filter, getting to us what we need to know. Awesome job.

This little thing right here is reason enough to hate national coverage of college football.


Kyle W. said...

To be fair about the conflict-of-interest stuff, each of those analysts, um, analyzed the same unit for each of the 16 teams. I'd have more of a problem with this if they'd had, for instance, Bob Davie rating other teams' coaching staffs and then brought in Donnan for Georgia. Also, I've never felt the same way about Blackledge; in fact, I thought he usually favored Georgia more than their opponents (not that that's really a plus for a color commentator).

The main question is why ESPN would put out something as shallow as this. Even the preseason mags, which have very little timely information by the time they hit the shelves, and don't go very deep with the information that does remain relevant, do a better job than this. All this feature did was reveal, once again, how little their analysts know about all but the handful of teams they fawn over. If they don't know much about the teams they think are the 16 best, how little must they know about the other 100-plus? And how valid are their opinions of which teams are the 16 best to begin with?

The only thing that was halfway decent in this feature was the brief spotlight on a guy from each team who doesn't normally get much pub. The stuff about Mikey Henderson being an IT whiz, for instance, was new to me (though, admittedly, completely irrelevant to his or the team's prospects this year). If they were going to do anything, they should have had that for each team, with links to recent articles (from staff or wire services) about its fall practices. That way, if you wanted to read about a team you're not as familiar with, you could at least trust that the information was reported halfway decently. As it is, I didn't even bother to read about the other teams, assuming their write-ups were as poor as Georgia's.

LD said...

I might be a little unfair about the conflict of interest stuff, I'll admit. It's also not like a life-and-death matter. That said, just because a particular judge rules on all murder cases in a particular jurisdiction doesn't mean it's not a conflict for him to rule on a case where his son was the victim. It'd surely be worse if Donnan only analyzed UGA (and someone else did all the others), but it's still a conflict.

Totally agree with the rest of your comment. National media cannot cover college football adequately in this era of specialized and localized quality journalism that's easily accessible.

Hobnail_Boot said...

I don't see what your beef with Desmond Howard is about or understand your comment about FG kicking.

Frankly, we don't know how Mikey will hold up with an increased role in the offense to go along with the PR duties. Let's not forget that we lost Thomas Brown to injury last year on a kickoff return.

LD said...

The point of this post was that ESPN turns to their "experts", but not one of their experts provides completely salient analysis.

The problem with going to Desmond Howard on special teams is that special teams is more than just kick returns, but that's all he wrote about. There is a lot more to that aspect of the game that an actual "expert" might write something about: like the effect of having Coutu for the whole season, whether Ely-Kelso can be replaced, or the most rarely analyzed - kick coverage. Howard didn't cover any of that.

And yes, we don't know if Henderson will hold up. But that can be said about 85 other players too. The fear of injury is just bad analysis, especially coming from a juy who wasn't much bigger than the person suggested as an injury threat. Injuries happen. And if Henderson were to go down, there are a few other guys who already have experience returning. Howard didn't mention any of them.

But the point for the entire post is this: if we're supposed to trust these people to provide expert analysis, it's sorely sorely lacking. Local coverage is far better. But the paradox of college football is that good local coverage has no effect on people outside a particular region, while bad national coverage can have a large effect on people who make choices that affect the game (polls, bowls, etc.).

DT said...

One other thing...researcher Chris Fallica had his alma mater (the University of Miami Hurricanes) listed at 11, one spot above your Dawgs at 12. Not saying he's not entitiled to his professional opinion...just saying that if there's another professional who's claiming the U is among the 11 best teams in the nation right now, I've yet to hear from them.

But similar to Kyle, that's all I checked out. Since there was nothing on the Huskers in this one, I skipped I've also been reduced to only reading national coverage that includes NU (to see how badly it's been botched). If I really cared that much, there are about 50 other places where I could find more accurate and inclusive coverage of Georgia's special teams than the generic two-sentence blubs the flow from the talking heads of the worldwide leader.