Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Gimme a f'n siren... Here's my attempt to answer all of the EDSBS Live!!! questions since they've been doing it. When they ask for something about "my team", I'll respond for UGA reluctantly, but my real response will be in reference to college football media coverage.

Naturally, this is going to be long, so it's below the fold...

August 14:

1. Favorite Sportswriter (Big Media): I used to like Tim Tucker back when he was really just interesting quirks and numbers. But I'm not even sure if he even has a column anymore - and all I can remember from him for the last few years are some Reillyesque human interest stories. I'd give props to Phil Mushnick for his recent crusade against Joe Morgan (but he's not really into college football, is he?). But really, isn't Barnhart the correct answer here?

2. Favorite Broadcaster: For TV, the guy who shuts up the most wins. So, I'll give it to the time the CBC broadcast CFL games without announcers. If I have to choose one... well, Ron Franklin's an obvious pick. Brad Nessler's pretty good, but kind of plastic. This question would be a lot easier if "least" were inserted at the front. I'll catch hell for it, but were he not affiliated with his current school, I guess I'd pick Wes Durham. Calls a clean game, doesn't dumb things down, and you always know what is happening on the field, even if you can't see it. So basically, the opposite of Larry Munson (who is fine for adding color, but is totally useless if you can't see what's happening).

3. Simple change in coverage that would make things better: Some competing network puts on a pregame show opposite Gameday, and that show is modeled almost entirely on Sky Sports News: 60% of the screen showing information, constant injury and weather updates, first hand interviews, zero personality stories. Like you wouldn't watch that.

4. Sexiest Blogger: Great framing. Why not ask about the smartest character on The Hills, or most virginal contestant on Rock of Love? I don't even know where to start on this. So I won't.

August 7:

1. Question Marks for my team: For the Dawgs, you'd think O-Line (and you're right), but I'm more worried about the defensive backs. Could be trouble. For the media: will Gameday continue the trend of cross-promotion at the expense of objective journalism? Will the daily CFB Live show cause Gameday to be a rehashing and repeating of previously run topics/clips?

2. Player our team cannot lose this year: Dawgs - might think I'm crazy, but it's Fernando Velasco, the senior center. Seriously. Media - SMQ.

3. Preseason Shopping List: TiVo HD Dual Tuner. Comcast's DVR is driving me crazy. I just won't be able to do Gameday Recaps with that crappy box and remote.

4. Something that gets me almost as fired up as college football: Books about mountain climbing. Highbrow/Lowbrow comedy classics that first time you see it. Cold beer.

July 31:

1. Best road trip destination: Ole Miss this past year was solid, but I doubt anything will top the New Orleans/LSU trip in Fall '98 (Quincy Carter's "One Shining Moment"). Hurricanes on Bourbon Street, outrageous drunkenness in Red Stick, the single worst smelling vehicle I've ever been in. I'd say Georgia-Florida in '97 was at least second, but I cannot for the life of me remember a single detail of the entire weekend (including where I even stayed) before or after Edwards turned it upfield to clinch.

2. Road Trip I want to take the most: Got a lot of ideas on this one... How about a Wisconsin weekend with Madison on Saturday and Lambeau on Sunday? What about Louisville with a side trip to Churchill Downs? But the one I've always watched and I'd love to see in person: Army-Navy in Philadelphia.

3. Essential Road Gadget: Ex Officio Give-n-Go Boxers. Your balls will thank me.

4. Most impressive road performance: Hmmmm... not too great history here. Perhaps the 11 hour train from Oxford to Edinburgh, during which I vomited for 8 of them (hot scotch and coke from a bowl for several hours right before departure), but then rallied to drink on Grassmarket Street? Maybe pulling the "Drink around the world" trick from France to Mexico at Epcot? Pretty weak, overall.

July 24:

1. Adopt an underdog (player or team): I'm going with Idaho. Getting jobbed by Dennis Erickson deserves something, doesn't it? Also, App State against Michigan.

2. Underdog I hope falls flat: I'm not sure I get this question. If it's a traditional underdog that some people are talking up this year, it's simple: South Carolina.

3. Favorite underdog player of all time: In time, I've got a feeling that Verron Haynes will become a favorite underdog for most Georgia fans. Perhaps it's odd how a lot of recent big plays for the Dawgs have come from underdog-type players, like Haynes and Michael Johnson.

4. Biggest sexual upset: The fact that the night I introduced myself to my eventual wife I was wearing bright white slacks with embroidered nautical symbols and anchors. That's Nova over Georgetown right there.

July 17:

1. Game I'd sacrifice my firstborn to the Gods for this year: To win, Georgia-Florida. This will be the answer until people stop using the phrase "Florida's won X out of Y in the series" and start using the phrase "Georgia's won X out of Y in the series."

2. Game not involving my team I'd sacrifice something to see: I've got a feeling Michigan-Wisconsin in Madison would be fun as hell and it'll be important too. But there is a correct, non-obvious answer here: Thanksgiving weekend, Boise State at Hawaii. Like you wouldn't want to roll up on that one.

3. College Football Gods: Darren McFadden is Brahma, the Creator. Jake Long is Vishnu, the Protector. Glenn Dorsey is Siva, the destroyer.

4. Sexiest God/Goddess: Got to go with the Celtic Goddess Brigid, who for some reason has a following in Haiti, where she's described thusly: "Maman Brigitte may be characterised as a hard working, hard cursing woman who can swear a blue streak and enjoys a special drink made of rum laced with 21 hot peppers." Awesome.

July 10:

1. Three worst coaches: Zook, Morriss, Mangino. Three coaches with at least 5 years tenure, below .500 winning percentage, all have winning percentages far below the traditional winning percentage for their respective schools.

2. Offensive or defensive scheme I hate the most: Modified West Coast Offense. 5 yard out, 5 yard out, 5 yard out. Games take 6 hours to play. The entire scheme is predicated on the idea to make the other team miss a tackle. It's a loud admission that you don't have the ability to overpower another team. I hate it.

3. Playoff/system preference: Shit or get off the pot. Either go back to conference tie-ins where bowl committees chose teams based solely on economics and champions are decided in Locke's Natural State, or go to a completely objective won/loss system. As long as coaches and writers who aren't paying attention and have inherent biases aren't involved, I'd be for it.

4. New crush for the season: I always have trouble with the "sexy" questions. I guess I'll go with the most beautiful girl in the... room. Rachel Blanchard

July 3:

1. What do I know about the ACC: I get a sense that there's a continuing trend of ACC teams playing toward the middle. I see UNC as improved. NC State should be a lot better. Wake and Georgia Tech should be worse. FSU better. Miami underrated, but not great. Duke will suck, but I don't see another team better than 9-3 or worse than 5-7.

2. UGA's worst multi-year starter: Greg Bright drove me nuts back when I was starting college, but there's no way I could not say Quincy Carter after 2000 in Columbia. F him in his cokehole.

3. Something nice about the ACC: Ralph Friedgen is a fantastic coach and deserves to be considered among the best in the country. Maryland simply isn't a football school. He's been able to create winners there, and not just off the back of a couple of players or a quirky system.

4. Most mediocre performance: So many to choose from! Wrecking a car from falling asleep (no alcohol) at the wheel the night of Junior Prom is high mediocrity.

June 26:

1. Most undervalued team: I typically think this team is overrated, and normally lazy pundits look at schedules and returning starters, so I expected them to be listed a lot, but I haven't seen them anywhere. Iowa. They miss Ohio State and Michigan. The OOC is weak. The way last year ended offered some off-season motivation. I could see them 11-1 and top 10, easy.

2. Underrated coach and announcer: Believe it or not, I honestly think Dennis Erickson is underrated. 2 National Titles, 4 conference titles, and a top 15 active winning percentage, to me, means he's objectively a top coach, but he's rarely thought of that way. Also, I think Phil Fulmer's gotten to the point where he's underrated. Wins don't lie, and he's got a ton of them. I don't think any announcer is underrated, because "not being completely horrible" is equivalent to sainthood in that profession.

3. Advice I've been given and undervauled and wished I hadn't: "Take your vacation time. If you don't, you're not earning your full compensation."

4. Undervalued sexual asset: words.

June 19:

1. Paradise for UGA: 1980, before my Dawg Mitzvah. 2002 could've been...

2. Gameday Utopia: I arrive before the parking lot is full. It's quiet and a little chilly (cold enough for a pullover that'll get removed by 10:30. The only sound is the pitter patter of flip flopped feet of a shacking girl on the walk of shame. Thought it was early? Wrong. I unwrap a Chic-fil-a biscuit. Not undercooked, as they're wont to. I read the newspaper, scanning the high school scores. Then, the silence is punctured with the crisp crack of a frigid cheap tallboy. The next 4 hours are filled with discussion about the day's games and exactly how many nugget trays I could eat in a single 24 hour day. 7 beers killed, but not wavering. Arrive at seats just as the trumpet blares. Mistake free football is played - especially clock management. I feel the nerves that things will fall apart at exactly 3 points during the game, but it never comes to pass. Leave hoarse and happy. Drink a gallon of gatorade and eat half a ton of chicken fingers. Sleep without worry.

3. Perfect game, situation and score: After 8 weeks of eking out wins against inferior opposition but remaining undefeated, #5 Georgia is a TD underdog to #1 Florida. 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. 38-0 at the half. 45-3 at the end of the third. 59-3 final. Florida turns the ball over 6 times in their own half. Florida receivers drop 11 passes. Basically, everything that had gone their way over the last 2 decades gets turned on its head. A stunned national media elevates Georgia to #1. Brogen's and the Jacksonville Landing burn to the ground.

4. Favorite book/show/movie in re Hawaii: Magnum's the easy pick. Lost is probably my favorite current show, but it's just filmed there without reference to being in Hawaii. If I can't pick that, I'll go with a tie between From Here to Eternity and Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style.

June 12:

1. Big XII winner: I've got a weird feeling that the South is going to look like the SEC East this year, with 4-5 teams all at 5-3 in conference and every single team with at least one scalp against a good team. I could see some weird tiebreaker coming into play, and, seriously, 5 different teams winning it. Looking at the schedule, Oklahoma and maybe Texas Tech have the most favorable home/away/North teams. I'll go with the Raiders to be weird. In the North, screw it, I'm going with Kansas State. They'll have a lot of tiebreaker advantages because of their schedule against the North. I'm not buying Nebraska. K-State vs. Taco Tech? I'll go with the 'Cats.

2. Winner of Big XII play for BCS title? I doubt it. I see a lot of teams beating each other up. I actually think the Big XII will be better than it has been in recent years (step up in abilities for Okie State, A&M, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State), but that'll just lead to tougher games for supposedly elite teams - and random losses. The conference will be better for it though.

3. $500K to move to Nebraska: I'd do it for less than that, but to make me stay it'd take repeat payments. Also, it'd depend on what I'd be doing. Insurance Adjuster? $300K per year minimum. Athletic Director in Lincoln? $100,000 per year. Blogger? $100K per year.

4. Sexiest Big XII mascot: I'd say Kansas, because of the phrase "naked as a jaybird", but the mascot's nose looks far too much like a dick. I'll go with Kansas State - because cougars are Wildcats.

June 5:

1. Do I care about Notre Dame: A little, just not what I'm supposed to. I'm Irish Catholic. I was born up North. I have an Uncle who graduated from Notre Dame. But I've never been all that fired up about them. Natural response to something when people tell me I'm supposed to like a certain thing is to go the other way. It's hard to separate what I think of them from the massive promotional support system. I guess objectively, I care some. But not anywhere near as much as someone in a conference room in Bristol, CT thinks I should.

2. Grief ND fans endure proportional to crimes: Please. Undeserved worth draws undeserved criticism. This question is akin to "Does Paris Hilton deserve to be hounded by papparazzi?" Were the Irish just another program, they wouldn't deserve criticism and attention. But they reap the benefits (bowls, poll fluffing, easier recruiting, $$$$$$$$$), so don't cry about it.

3. What do I like about ND: The fact they've never beaten UGA. Sugar Bowl 1980. How they occasionally beat GT. How good an example they are for why the current system of popularity-based polling should be completely scrapped.

4. Sleep with a leprechaun?: No. Not into dudes, and there aren't female leprechauns.

May 29:

1. OMG What's HoTT?: Perception of the SEC among sportswriters. I sense a lot more "best ever" descriptions attached to the SEC this year than in many. A lot of national writers I think felt totally scooped by Florida last year, and right on time (translate: late to the party), they decide to jump in with hyperbole. And it's probably wrongheaded. CNNsi has 6 SEC teams in their top 20. The early coaches poll has 9 getting votes. I think the SEC is tough as hell, but I also know that polls inevitably drop teams that lose games. In the SEC, these teams will play one another, and someone has to lose. I'm readily awaiting the columns mid season (after everyone in the SEC has a loss or 2) that wonder why the SEC isn't quite as strong as they though because there isn't a dominant team (and without the intrusion of y'know, logic).

2. OMG soooo NoT HoTT?: Wake Forest. They return a whole lot of talent but aren't getting much stick. It's not like the ACC got that much better overnight. I don't know whether they'll win the conference again, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them back in a bowl and the Top 25. Also, I wrote above about Iowa. Don't understand why they're not getting much publicity.

3. Hot Boomlet: Iowa ends up hyped big by the end of the year. Arizona pulls a big upset and gets into the Pac-10's third best bowl.

4. Trend for 2007: Red Bull and other energy drinks fall out of favor. I've got a feeling that these drinks won't age well - and the people who were 18-23 when they originally came out are getting older. Red Bull and Vodka will be as easily mocked as an 18 year old male ordering an Amaretto Sour. If it's not already.

May 22:

1. Big program that deserves the awe: I don't care much for awe. I guess the best way I can answer this is by saying the big program that pisses me off the least for receiving awe is Michigan.

2. Big program that has caused me the most personal anguish: Florida. 1995 alone gets them this spot. If you'd asked me this question in 1998, I might've said Tennessee.

3. Little program I wish was big: Any of the Florida schools- FIU, FAU, UCF, USF. Dilute the talent down there. Also, if Memphis were more of a perennial power, I think it'd hurt Tennessee and several of the SEC West schools, and it wouldn't hurt UGA all that much.

4. Overrated Hottie: Jessica Simpson's never done much for me. I like women smart-strong-independent, not fake-strong-independent. Never much cared for Jennifer Aniston either. Can't really separate her from her loathsome character on Friends.

May 15:

1. Favorite play/scheme/thing that goes boom: If it worked better, I'd like that goal line run that UGA sometimes rons with the FB lined up just behind the tackle and even with the QB. But it rarely works. So I'll go with the play I appreciated the most in flag football: the inside shovel pass.

2. Favorite football movie: Football is probably the worst sport when it comes to movies. I suppose I think Varsity Blues was entertaining, if ridiculous. Little Giants had that awesome play, the "Annexation of Puerto Rico".

3. Am I blitzing: early, but not often. If you can get the jump on the opposing team's line in the first quarter and shake the confidence of the QB, it can have a great impact (not just risk rattling him, he'll feel like he has to rush his throws the rest of the game). But I wouldn't blitz much in the second half. Fewer risks unless absolutely necessary.

4. Most suggestive football term: There are hundreds. I'm personal to "spread 'em out wide, but pound it right up the middle".

May 8:

1. Worst team I've ever seen: 1998 Kent State. They went 0-11 and were annihilated 56-3 by a Jim Donnan Georgia team. One of the few instances where Georgia didn't play to the level of the opponent, because it was physically impossible for Georgia to play as bad as that Kent team.

2. Team I'd wish football anthrax on: You might expect me to say Florida, but I'd rather beat them hard, fair and square. I might have said Auburn, but since the fanbase whines more than anyone, terrible misfortune would simply spread. I thought about Georgia Tech, but that'd just make us look bad because of a worse OOC schedule. I'll just go with the team from Knoxville.

3. Worst player/play I've ever seen: September 9, 2000. The first, second, third, fourth and fifth interceptions thrown by Quincy Carter.

4. Worst song to make love to: OK, here's something embarassing... I was making a mix CD of mood tunes. I found a somewhat recognizable Massive Attack song. Slow groove. Moody, seemed right. Slapped it on there. Of course, when I finally get around to playing it, the Lady chimes in with "Isn't this the theme from 'House'?" Indeed it was. Things stopped right there, as she couldn't control her laughter. Alternate answer: The Kidz Bop version of Since U Been Gone.

May 1:

1. Sportswriter that most gets under my skin: If just college football, Stewart Mandel. If not, Scoop Jackson.

2. Sportswriter I like that some unfairly bash/underrate: I like Clay Travis and wish he had a broader audience. Not too many people bash him though.

3. One writer who doesn't cover sports who would become one: I cackle to think of how Chuck Pahlaniuk would cover college football.

4. Lovin' Song: Trainspotting by Primal Scream is pretty great. Big Poppa by Biggie usually gets a laugh, but it's never failed.

April 24:

1. Best Pre-1990 team: The talent on the '86 team might've been even better, but I'll take the '87 Miami national champs. Steve Walsh, The Blades Brothers, Bubba McDowell... even the punter was a stud: Jeff Feagles. And the icing on the cake: Irvin. They beat then-ranked #10 Arkansas, in Fayetteville, 51-7. Beat Prime Time in Tallahassee. Shut out a top 10 Notre Dame team. Beat top-ranked and totally roided Oklahoma (with the Boz) in the Orange Bowl. Pretty impressive season. One of the few 1980s teams to get through a challenging schedule unscathed with some badass wins.

2. Favorite Pre-1990 player: Herschel is Herschel, enough said. But I remember liking how Terry Hoage played, a lot.

3. Remove one aspect of the modern game/coverage: TV timeouts. I'm not too upset with commercials during games when the clock and game is stopped anyway. It's TV's insertion into the game that bothers me.

4. Favorite Retro Babe: Myrna Loy. Nora Charles is the ideal woman: hilarious, kinda hot, willing to get ass over ears wasted with you, and can solve mysteries.

April 17:

1. Sleeper player of the season: For UGA, it's got to be Sean Bailey, because nobody remembers him. Wouldn't surprise me if he tears up a few early games, then draws more safety coverage, and Mo Massaquoi explodes the second half.

2. Incoming freshman/early enroll that can help: If you count JUCOs and Redshirts, then pick one of Haverkamp, Davis, and Sturdivant. If just true frosh: Sturdivant's your boy.

3. Tailgate the Spring Game: Nope. Had to help the Lady travel (pregnant 6 months). Saw some of it on TV though. Mark Richt was doing play-by-play, which should let you know how important it really was.

4. News anchor reporter I'd bang: I'd bang Debbie Matenopolous with a hammer in the face. For the other meaning, I'd go with two choices. (a) CNN's blog girl Abbi Tatton. (b) 60 Minutes II's Lara Logan. Lara Logan in a war zone in a flack jacket = fantastic.

April 10:

1. Sketchiest Football Player Ever: I take sketchy to mean "you know something's fishy, but it's never public", so guys like Marcus Vick don't count. Quincy Carter fits that description. I'd also add Onterrio Smith, because it takes a large amount of sketchiness to get kicked out of Tennessee for bad behavior and then go on to get caught with a fake-dick drug test circumventor.

2. Sketchoid Program: Everyone's dirty but my team, right? Those mid/late-90s Nebraska teams were really sketchy, but I think Alabama's probably got the all-time title wrapped up on this one.

3. Sketchy Family Member?: Yes, but it's not polite to point that out. Who am I kidding? The guy just filled up half the first page with pictures of ThunderCats. Sketchy (and awesome)enough?

4. How am I gay: At every party my roommates and I threw in law school, I made sure to play George Michael's "Father Figure" on the stereo. It was always a hit, if to nobody but me.

April 3:

1. Favorite Sporting Freak: In terms of freaking out, there's Lee Elia, Lou Pinella, Bobby Cox, Earl Weaver, and the best ever, Jim Mora. In terms of being totally eccentric and loving it, I don't know if anyone will ever top Shaq. Seriously, he's a freak and it's awesome.

2. Is it harder to be weird now?: Yes, but not because of the public eye looming larger. It's because it takes more and more insanity to be considered weird now. I find myself shrugging off things that are completely insane.

3. Biggest oddball currently in action: In college football, I think Hal Mumme tops Mike Leach.

4. What would my eccentricity be?: I'd respond to all inane sideline reporter/press conference questions entirely in rhyming verse a la Tobias Funke.

March 27:

1. Favorite sports broadcasting widget: The first down line. It's hard to watch football on TV without it.

2. Something I'd like obliterated from the face of TV: I'll avoid the gratuitous ESPN bashing on this question. What I really hate is the in-game shot of a celebrity promoting a TV show on the network. I don't want to see Mandy Patinkin in the 4th row of the Super Bowl so CBS can tell us that "an all new Criminal Minds is up right after the trophy ceremony." I hate this so so so so so much.

3. Celebrity who would make the worst color commentator: Can it get worse than Craig James and Rod Gilmore? Robin Williams? Rosie O'Donnell? Bill O'Reilly?

4. Antisocial behavior I fantasize about indulging: So there are some kids that park outside my house and roll back into nearby woods to smoke weed or screw around. Didn't bother me for a while, but this summer it's been terrible. All hours of the day and night. They block my driveway and wife's car. Litter in my yard. The woods area used to be a good place to walk Murphy, but now there's blunt wrappers and empty beer cans and broken bottles everywhere. Eventually the police caught some kids, and it's subsided. But before the cops caught them, I always wanted to let the air out of their tires and fuck up the rest of their cars. Never did it because of reciprocity, but it was the first time I ever really wanted to fuck with someone's car.

March 20:

1. Favorite NFL Draft pick I saw play that's not obvious: Thought David Irons to Atlanta in the 6th round was a nice pick. Fred Bennett in the 4th wasn't a bad pick either.

2. Radioactive Do Not Touch Pick: I've got little faith in Brady Quinn at #22, but my choice here is Ted Ginn at #9. I think he'll have an injury-filled, so-so career.

3. Favorite College Stud with no success in the Pros: Breaks my heart, but it's Robert Edwards. I don't understand why he doesn't own ESPN now. He should've sued the crap out of them after that ridiculous sand football BS.

4. Big Draft Board of Life, I was: as a sophomore, Kiper had me pegged as a can't miss prospect, but for some reason I slipped to the 5th round. People in the know then thought I was underrated and a steal, if only the right program could motivate me. Nobody did though. I was out of the game quickly. Total bust.

March 13:

1. What don't I know about football: Too much, but most importantly, how much it hurts, physically.

2. What do I pretend to know more about than I really do: Everything football related. I honestly have little knowledge.

3. Something I could lecture on: Professional sports systems of player allocation (law journal note), movement of professional sports franchises, Arrested Development, the connection between the growth of the game of soccer and shipping routes.

4. Offseason Resolution: TOO LATE! By August 2007, I will be fully capable of using a Baby Bjorn to carry my daughter to a football game.

March 6:

I actually tried calling in on this one and had answers ready... I posted them HERE.

February 27:

1. Prediction for next season pulled from ass: Navy will beat Notre Dame for the first time since 1963.

2. Shameshag: I'm terrible for saying this... Chris McKendry.

3. Tweak one thing about college football: This question has been repeated, sort of. Competitor to College Gameday.

4. Hire one coach, Fire one coach: If I could hire one guy for UGA (assuming Richt becomes unavailable), I'd hire Paul Johnson. If I could fire one guy at another school, I'd fire Urban Meyer, to be replaced by the gay sounding intern from The Tonight Show and Celebrity Fit Club.

5. Sweaters with Ties: Not for me. I'm not much of a sweater guy at all.


Brian said...


First, belated congratulations on becoming a father. Hope the pregnancy is going well!

As for your comments, very interesting--particularly your take on Larry Munson! But I did want to ask about why you mention ND and 'poll fluffing'…

I heard a similar claim from a UM fan just yesterday, so I decided to take a closer look. The best way I could figure was to take poll data I had available via the Internet and determine whether ND (and a couple control teams) got a boost in the polls. Naturally, I chose UGA and UM as the control teams.

I went back and looked at every post-bowl AP and coaches' poll from last season through the 1985 season. I then identified how many teams with the same or more losses were ranked ahead of each team in any given polls (winning percentage would be slightly more accurate, but I really did not want to take the time to deal with all the ties in older polls).

For instance, in 1989 Michigan finished the season 10-2 and ranked 7th and 8th in the AP and coaches polls, respectively. Alabama (coaches only), Auburn, and FSU finished ahead in one or both polls, also at 10-2. This gave UM a value of 3 and 2 for the polls that year, divided by two entries, for an average of 2.5 teams ahead of them.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, ties cause some problems. Also, UGA and ND often were not ranked--thank Messrs. Goff, Davie, and Willingham for that--in which case I simply had to ignore them (if I found someone in the 'also receiving votes', I counted that as their rank). Finally, I recognized that ND's bowl losing streak since the mid-90s could inflate the number of same-or-more-loss teams ahead of them (on the theory that teams finishing on a down note would be ranked below those finishing with a win), so I also used the final pre-bowl poll when available (back to 2002 on

The results are as follows, with the numbers representing the average number of teams with as many or more losses ahead of each team:

UGA: 1.74 avg. teams ahead
UM: 1.57
ND: 3.15

As you can see, if anything, ND is consistently underrated by the polls, (twice as much as compared to UM). I think the reputation for getting favourable votes comes from the Holtz years, when ND was admittedly often one of the two top-ranked teams for its number of losses (12 of 17 polls available, although 2 of those are the national championship season when no one was in ND's loss classification, as they were the sole undefeated team). Take out those years and ND is behind almost 5 teams of the same number of losses in the average poll (4.94)--but that comes with the bowl loss caveat. Even so, bowl losses barely change the number of same-loss teams ahead of any of the teams, and in fact they reduce the number as often as they inflate it (to prove this I'd have to send the whole spreadsheet, which I would be happy to email).

Since I know you are against folks stating things as fact without data or proof to back it up, I thought I would offer some data on the ND’s reputation for benefiting from 'poll fluffing'. Perhaps it changes your mind, perhaps not. And maybe ND is more highly ranked in preseason polls than it sometimes deserves, but that really does not matter as it is clearly corrected in the final polls (unless you are an ND fan who thinks the end-of-season underrating is an overcorrection, the result of backlash for ND starting highly ranked and then losing).

Remember, fans only talk about final polls when it all is said and done.


Brian said...

PS: sorry for the British English spellings. Dadgum autocorrect on this German version of Microsoft Word.

PPS: I was really surprised at how consistently overrated UM is--they are, more often than not, either the highest or second highest-ranked team for their number of losses (32 of 54 polls I looked at). I would not be surprised if they are the number one recipient of crucial end-of-season 'poll fluffing' in the nation (although I am not about to do the work to test that hypothesis!).

PPPS: None of the three teams benefited from being consistently ranked lower (with therefore more possibilities for teams to be ranked above them). The average rankings (again, these are only for those years when the team was ranked):

UGA AP: 12.42
UGA Coaches: 12.68
UM AP: 10.89
UM Coaches: 10.85
ND AP: 10.53
ND Coaches: 10.88

LD said...

I was talking more about earlier polls than final polls.

This sort of boosting:

Or the leap into the top 10 from pretty far down after a few wins. I.E., 2005, when in the preseason AP poll, the Irish had the same number of votes as Colorado State, Toledo and Southern Miss (1 each). After a win over #23 Pitt, they jumped to #20, and after beating then-#3 Michigan, they jumped to #10, leaping over 5 teams that had been ranked ahead of them and remained unbeaten. That's the sort of leap that few other programs can get, so it's an advantage.

[And for the record, I personally am in great favor of early season fluctuations in polls based on actual game results - and I didn't really have a beef with ND jumping like that, since their accomplishments that season thus far really did merit that kind of jump. The problem is that polls rarely actually work that way. Teams that win a few good games early are often forced to plod toward the top of the rankings, due to polling inertia. It's not right that it happens that way, but it does. The issue is that Notre Dame wasn't really bound by the same norms - even though I don't like the norms.]

Brian said...

I see your point, and I'm aware of the Stassen data (thank you for providing the link, though, it was fun to revisit with last seasons results--even though the update puts ND at #1), but who cares about preseason polls? They really almost never matter.

Since 2002, the only time I can think of that preseason polling maybe mattered was Auburn '04, but even there the computers also unanimously had Auburn in 3rd. Reasonable minds could state that 3rd was the correct poll slot (and the stat that mattered--votes, not position--was closer than a straight 2/3 distinction anyway). Shoot, they briefly tied OU in the AP poll and were still basically tied in both polls until OU destroyed Colorado in the Big XII title game. Preseason mattered far less than late-season performance and the 'momentum' so loved by voters (and even more importantly, OOC scheduling).

In '03, typical for a year with one-loss teams, the timing of the loss trumped the preseason rankings, as it always will with these polls unless the loss is very, very early AND the other team began a title run unranked. OU was #1 to start the season, lost last, and was #3 in the final pre-bowl polls. USC lost earliest, and was therefore #1 in the final pre-bowl polls. Same story in '01 (Oregon ranked higher than Nebraska), same last year (UF over UM), same in 1998 (FSU lost first of KSU, UCLA, and OSU, and ended up in the title game, while the others fell nicely into order of losses). I don't like preseason polls because they CAN affect the title hunt--a situation completely avoidable by delaying polling--but the effect itself is grossly overstated.

I'd much rather be underranked early in the year, all things being equal--things will sort themselves out. (I will grant that ND would probably never, ever fall victim to an Auburn 2004 situation--although the 1993 polls suggest I might be conceding too much even there.)

Not to mention that such early overranking is (theoretically) the primary reason ND is underranked in the final polls. Pollsters feel gypped, and take it out on ND, something they often even explicitly state on TV or in articles (something I think we both can agree is yet another problem with subjective polling--sportswriters and coaches are human, and let their feelings interfere far too much). If ND were fairly ranked amongst its loss peers at sesaon's end, it would still rank high in Stassen's overratedness list, but not at the top. Overrated to begin with begets underrated to end with, which makes ND look even worse in Stassen than it otherwise would.

Preseason hype and early jumps are arguably more curse than blessing--greater target on our back when we're winning, greater 'penalties' arising when we lose. ND indeed draws benefits from its name brand in many of the ways you list, but poll fluffing is not one.

Thanks as always for a reasoned and critical reply!


PS- As a curiousity, note that Michigan has the incredible distinction of being the second-most overrated team by Stassen's standards despite being perhaps the most overranked team in the final polls. Now THAT is poll fluffing.

PPS- Nor does poll fluffing benefit ND for BCS purposes. Since 2002--the last season for which I have the complete pre-bowl poll data--ND has had 3 arguably BCS-worthy teams (those with 2 or fewer losses at selection time). ND ranks behind an average of 23/6 = 3.83 teams at selection--again, hurt by polls more than helped. UM was 9/6 = 1.5 ('03, '04, '06). UGA was 10/8 = 1.25 ('02, '03, '04, '05). ND is hurt by late season polls, other teams are helped. If it doesn't help with BCS selection or final rankings, it doesn't do us any good at all!