Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gameday Recap

Week Five
September 29, 2007
Eugene, Oregon - California at Oregon

West Coast locations are tough for this show, normally, because the time zone makes the show so early. It's not that the games are undeserving or that the fans aren't rabid out west. Just in any college town, especially on a big game weekend, is it easier to gather a hungover crowd after a Friday night out at 10:00 AM or at 7:00 AM? Still it's not right for the show to use that as an excuse not to go out west and provide the natural added coverage that an on-site visit provides.

  • It's dark, but there is a very big crowd on hand. Good for them. Also, the stadium looks cool and futuristic.
  • LC: Because of the configuration of the stadium, Autzen is the loudest stadium, per person, he's ever been to in his life.
  • KH wants to move to Eugene.
  • Review of last year's Cal-Oregon game.
  • CF suggests that Cal has some trouble on the road, hadn't won in Eugene in 20 years.
  • KH says how he's been talking about the depth of the Pac 10 and how it's "closed the gap" on the SEC, says that Oregon and Cal are two reasons why that's the case. Hasn't Cal been pretty good for, like 6 years now? Oregon has gotten ranked at some point during the season just about every year. These teams have always been pretty good.
  • KH: QB/WR/RB units at Oregon and Cal are as good as any in the country.
  • CF hints about look ahead games.
  • The graphic reads "Looking Ahead?" and they mention Florida, Texas and Oklahoma. Combined record on the day: 0-3.
  • KH: Auburn is fast on defense, but Tim Tebow will be ready.
  • LC: Texas "is coming along" based upon all the points they scored the previous week against Rice.
  • Which team is most vulnerable? LC says Texas, now because they're not that good (citing Ark State and UCF). KH says none, because Florida's out for revenge against Auburn and at night and at home; Texas is at home; and Oklahoma is playing Colorado "so it doesn't really matter".
  • CF: Citing past Auburn wins in Gainesville, says there's a pattern there.
First Commercial Break
  • Darkness has lifted on the set.
  • Highlights of USF-WVU. Jim Leavitt press conference clip - this guy should not take off his visor. It's like Mike Bellotti without the 'stache. Just looks weird.
  • Now Leavitt joins via satellite for an interview. The satellite delay feedback is hard to listen to. Leavitt, I think, misses out on an opportunity here to really build up his team - he kind of downplays the importance of the WVU win and talks about one game at a time, etc. I think that's right for purposes of talking to the team and keeping the team focused, but for purposes of getting national media to pay attention, he could've/should've bragged a bit more or at least shown more excitement.
  • KH: The story of the year in college football is USF over WVU. Also, says that Leavitt is right to keep the win in perspective because he has bigger goals. My view is the opposite: if he has bigger goals than just beating WVU, Leavitt needed to play up the win and garner more attention, rather than downplay it.
  • KH also praises USF for the turnovers they've created in the Auburn and WVU games. In a way, turnovers are something to be praised but also should give a pundit some pause. Turnovers are the result of a number of things - the opposing team's error, luck, and then also forcing turnovers. USF may be forcing turnovers with a good defense and aggressive play, but it may also have had teams with unforced errors , and sometimes it's jut a tipped ball ending up in the right spot. Relying on turnovers to win games in the future might not be something you'd want to do.
  • KH: "I still think Rutgers is the team to beat in the Big East."
  • Some Rutgers/Maryland talk.
  • LC, who tells us that he once was a coach, tells us that it takes a few weeks for a team to get over a loss like Maryland had to Wake. Is this not a clear admittance that Corso wasn't a very good coach because he couldn't keep his team focused?
  • KH also likes Rutgers because they have 8 home games. Note how some teams are criticized for this by other pundits, some credit teams (or at least think teams will do well because of that).
  • They all like the Big East because a lot of teams are still in the conference race.
  • CF: in a tease, mentions Notre Dame, says "We'll hear from Charlie Weis, as we do EVERY week". Almost seems an admission that he's not sure they should cover the Irish as much as they do, but we'll see when we get to their piece.
Second Commercial Break
  • Some ACC talk. Every other BCS conference had 2 teams in the Top 10.
  • Clemson-GT talk. Fowler talks of Clemson motivation because they have a lot of Atlantans on the roster. KH focuses on "Clemson's mindset". Both Corso and Herbstreit pick Clemson.
  • Miss State-South Carolina talk. Both predict a close game, but USC to win because they're at home.
  • Alabama-FSU talk. Timeline showing ties between the Alabama staff and the FSU staff with the other school. Bobby Bowden likes Alabama. Corso picks FSU by a TD (nailed). KH picks Bama, but questions whether they can get up for 3 straight games and Fowler agrees. Fowler says "let him play, get him back in there" regarding the FSU starter who was arrested and tasered and will be benched for the start of the game. Here's hoping Fowler won't bring out sanctimonious handwringing for other teams that use lenient punishments against players.
  • Tease on best players in the nation, Howard interviews DeSean Jackson, and says that we'll see if the grasshopper can steal the pebble from the master.
Third Commercial Break
  • Extended interview with DeSean Jackson and Desmond Howard. Breaking down film of returns.
  • Best Player in the Country is the topic.
  • KH says Mike Hart at Michigan is the most valuable, and Dennis Dixon and Andre Woodson could also be the most valuable, but the best player is Darren McFadden (but also look out for Sedrick Ellis).
  • LC jabs Herbstreit by asking if KH would like to name any more players. LC says Mike Hart is the best player in the country, because Lloyd Carr vouches for him.
  • CF says Tim Tebow is playing the best in the country.
  • LC again talks about Hart because not just ability but leadership.
Fourth Commercial Break
  • Clip of the Oregon mascot fighting the Houston Cougar.
  • Tale of the Tape between the animals that are the mascots for Cal and Oregon.
  • Buy/Sell time. Fowler recaps briefly the previous week.
  • Miami: LC is selling because of tough schedule coming up. KH is buying because A&M win.
  • Louisville: LC is selling because defense is not correctable. KH is also selling because off the field problems.
  • The Duck behind them is making the hosts crack up. Good for the Duck.
  • Kentucky: LC is buying because they're a "cinderella team". KH is also buying Kentucky because something's going on there.
  • Nebraska (after a recap the Ball State game): LC is buying because they have good fans. KH is selling because Missouri is better.
Fifth Commercial Break
  • Piece on Trick Plays. Chris Connelly reporting. Again, considering Connelly's body of work in previous years, his work this year has been unbelievably great. This piece was fantastic. In the past, Connelly's pieces were always beyond dumbed-down and usually only tangetially football-related. This one had plays broken down, interesting interviews. GREAT piece.
  • Shockingly, Corso likes FSU's trick plays the best - says it's because they were the ballsiest. KH adds how rarely trick plays work in practice.
Sixth Commercial Break
  • Desmond Howard on the set now.
  • Big Ten talk - the crowd boos.
  • OSU-Minnesota. Corso likes OSU big.
  • Penn State-Illinois. Howard calls the Illini win. KH praises Penn State's receivers but questions whether Paterno is using them well enough. KH also picks Penn State because of redemption.
  • Michigan State-Wisconsin. Howard picks Wisconsin because of turnovers. Corso gives Howard the NSFMF, picks MSU. KH thinks MSU is different this year because of the coaching staff, and that Wisconsin hasn't lived up to the expectations - and because of that Wisconsin steps up and wins. See if you can follow Herbstreit's logic: because people in the media (like Kirk Herbstreit) have placed expectations on Wisconsin, and because people like Herbstreit think Wisconsin (though unbeaten) hasn't lived up to what people like Kirk Herbstreit think they should be doing, Wisconsin will want to prove people like Kirk Herbstreit wrong by playing well, thereby living up to the expectations of people like Kirk Herbstreit and proving them right.
Seventh Commercial Break
  • Have I missed the Brady Quinn Gillette Game Face Commercials before.
  • Game Face features face paint. Not much of a surprise.
  • Some discussion of Mike Gundy and the Jenni Carlson controversy. Jenni Carlson gets a chance to respond - admits that she used hearsay.
  • CF thinks the column was out of bounds but Gundy's response was too.
  • KH also says Gundy handled it wrong, but takes specific note of those in the media who instantly attacked Gundy in Carlson's defense - and doesn't like that.
  • Corso, who again tells us that he was a coach, says he would've done things differently, ignored the article in public, would've had a meal with the columnist and let it go.
  • Fowler also seems to want to defend Carlson by suggesting that Reid is old enough to handle criticism. Fowler then says that because kids younger than Reid are in Iraq getting killed, Reid should be able to handle it.
  • KH makes a point about how the Oklahoma State players and recruits know that Gundy has their back - and Corso agrees with that, but then says that Gundy will mature and won't let these things bother him.
Eighth Commercial Break
  • Recap of Oregon-Stanford.
  • Dennis Dixon extended piece. Shelley Smith reporting. More football content than human interest story.
  • ASU-Stanford. KH says this is a huge game, but that Stanford's in trouble.
  • USC-Washington. Biggest key for Washington is to keep the crowd in the game and avoid turnovers and get a running game going. LC says someone is going to beat USC on the road (but not Washington).
  • Howard on the bus says people chatting are giving more credence to Cal's win over Tennessee than Oregon's win over Michigan.
Ninth Commercial Break
  • UGA-Ole Miss reference (not really talk).
  • Florida-Auburn talk.
  • Oregon fans were chanting "Tebow Sucks" for a bit there, so it's not just Georgia fans.
  • Tim Tebow mechanics extended piece. Wendi Nix reporting. Useful, informative and interesting. This one wasn't as much about hyping Tebow it could've been.
  • Fowler says little chance of a look-ahead for Florida because Auburn beat them last year.
  • Graphic Reads "How Good is Tim Tebow". KH calls him Roy Hobbs, the Natural. Now here's the hype for Tebow. KH says the threat of Tebow running makes it almost impossible to stop Florida. KH picks the Gators BIG.
  • LC focuses on Florida's defense and how Ole Miss gave them a lot of trouble. Gives good info on Florida's D. Corso also says Auburn doesn't have a chance against Florida.
Tenth Commercial Break
  • Notre Dame-Purdue talk. Purdue apparently does something right on kickoff returns, but they don't tell us exactly how they do it.
  • Fowler tells us how AWESOME Notre Dame is doing at recruiting and how the future is still bright. This is fluffery.
  • Clip of Charlie Weis's press conference.
  • Corso says Purdue hasn't played anyone, won't cover. Herbstreit isn't sure Notre Dame will beat even Air Force, Navy, Duke and Stanford.
  • Herbstreit, I believe repeating something he said last week, says Purdue is best when people aren't paying attention.
  • Oregon fans are booing Jimmy Clausen.
Eleventh Commercial Break
  • Clip of Animal House, shot at Oregon.
  • Extended piece on Jonathan Stewart and his running mechanics (similar to Tebow story). Shelley Smith reporting. The extended pieces were very good this week. Again, they avoided the gauze lens tearjerkers, and the show was much better for it.
  • Fowler tells us that Cal's defense is banged up. I always appreciate injury reports.
  • Corso breaks down some Oregon offensive plays. Corso also thinks it'll be a shootout.
  • Howard comes back on the set to tell us that special teams will be key.
  • Howard said something here that confuses me. He says that because of the threat of a good return guy, sometimes teams force punters to do something they're not comfortable with - directional punting. OK so far. But then he says "sometimes those punts end up beating the coverage down the field and go directly to the returner". Directional punting isn't supposed to do that at all. It's supposed to angle the punt as far away from the returner as possible, by putting the ball out of bounds. The risk is that you're giving up more yards by not punting as far. If a directional punt beats the coverage and ends up in the returner's hands, it was simply a really bad punt - not a directional punt. Howard suggests that bad punting leads him to pick Cal.
  • Herbstreit breaks down Cal's WRs and how coverage of Jackson opens things for other offensive threats.
  • Fowler says Autzen is no louder than it used to be, but it is bigger. I have trouble believing that.
Twelfth Commercial Break
  • On-site report with Rob Simmelkjaer at LSU-Tulane. Pelican Patch.
  • On-site report with Erin Andrews at ND-Purdue. Says Notre Dame was going to throw more.
  • Fowler offers $100 if anyone knows the nation's leading rusher.
  • Pontiac Game Changer. LC - Chris Painter, QB for Purdue. KH - Cullen Harper, QB for Clemson. CF - Justin Forsett, RB at Cal. Painter and Forsett both had good, if not great games.
  • Saturday Stupid Selections. LC - Oregon State, USC "big", Rutgers, Clemson, Michigan State, Florida "big", Oregon. KH - Rutgers, Clemson, Alabama, Florida "nobody can beat them at home". Bad week picking for Corso.
Another solid show. Good crowd. Good extended pieces. If they keep this up, I won't really have to do these recaps. There's still some unnecessary promotion and some intangible-focused analysis, but the last 2 weeks are almost a completely different show from the first three weeks.

The results this week really must've messed with their probable plans for next week's show. I have to think they were 80% going to LSU-Florida, 20% going to Oklahoma-Texas. Now, with three of those teams losing, might Ohio State-Purdue or Illinois-Wisconsin come into the mix? I'd still bet LSU-Florida, but OSU-Purdue is the only matchup of unbeatens. Either way, next weekend is the best lineup of games so far all year. You've got the games listed above, but also Georgia-Tennessee, Cincinnati-Rutgers, Clemson-VT, Nebraska-Missouri and (on Thursday) Kentucky-South Carolina.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Honest Athletes

Even though I am a big soccer fan, I haven't written anything about the Womens' World Cup. The reason for that is that (a) I haven't really been following it as much as I feel I should to write too much intelligently on it, though I did watch the England quarterfinal match, and (b) I have a problem with the way soccer is often unfairly viewed as a sport "for women" in this country. As to (b), and I want to be very clear about this, it's not that I don't like that the womens' national team gets too much coverage and it's not that I think the womens' team gets more or better coverage than the men would in a major international tournament. But I do think there's a subtext to some of the coverage - a hint that soccer's an OK sport for girls, but boys should play "real" sports. And I realize that I'm wrongly reinforcing opposition stereotypes with my view on that. But all that's not the point of this post.

This post is to out and out praise and declare my unyielding support for USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo, who was benched by manager Greg Ryan in the semifinal match against Brazil. Ryan started Brianna Scurry, who hadn't played a full match in three months, and displacing Solo, who had preserved three straight clean sheets.

After the match, Solo was not reserved in her criticism of the decision to go with Scurry:

"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that," Solo said after the game. "There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. ... You have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past."

This, if I can be very clear is AWESOME. I am so sick and tired of media trained athletes and their wishy-washy, limp, always-qualified, softball responses to questions. I absolutely love that Solo came out clearly and confidently in calling bullshit on the manager's decision.

Professional athletes are probably the most competitive people in the world, and certainly among the most confident. It's painful to watch world-class athletes mince their words so as not to offend people they compete against. To see a world class athlete demur instead of coming out and say it makes me wonder about his or her personal confidence and backbone.

Now, pre-game trash talking can get a guy in trouble (see Wallace Gilberry or Casey Clausen). I'm not really talking about that. And honestly, I don't have that much of a problem with it - I like the confidence, but you are just raising the bar for yourself on having to back it up.

But what's wrong with honestly responding like Solo did? Especially when she clearly has a point that the lineup was wrong - and she probably could've saved some of those goals (one was just atrocious).

What would've been the better response to questions about the roster move?

"Well, Brianna did her best and I support her and the manager's decision. We're all sad about the result and there's nothing I could've done differently."


"It was bush league. We lost because we didn't have our best team on the field. I am a good enough player to have made a difference."

Would you want the person who responds like the former or the latter on your team? It's the choice between (a) the player you'd most like to have a group hug session with, or (b) the person whose competitive fire is strongest. All day, I'd take Hope Solo on my team.

UPDATE: I'm not really happy with this post, but I'm leaving it up. I kind of went off on too many tangents and didn't really get across my main points, which are these: 1) I appreciate honest, even if brusque and uncouth, answers from athletes because they're a welcome departure from the typical media-trained boring, emotion-free soundbites we get from most athletes; and (2) I don't have that much of a problem with a competitive person saying something that's probably accurate like what Solo said. I'm tired of people either saying nothing controversial at all for fear of whatever, and I'm also really tired of hearing "well, that might be true, but you just shouldn't say that." The truth sometimes hurts.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Few College Football Thoughts

1. I don't have much to add on the Mike Gundy-Jenni Carlson story, since it's already cold. But since I write a lot about the media and college football, I guess I can add something to one aspect of the story that Gene Wojciechowski covered here. The piece itself is kind of odd. I sense that he wants to defend Carlson, but his own reporting on the story suggests that her column was filled with hearsay, inaccuracies, and most certainly unfair descriptions. But then the last paragraph or so Wojciechowski hits on a bigger issue:

The real work is to fix what's broken. There is a growing disconnect between the sports media and the coaches and players we cover, and the people who read that coverage. There have always been disagreements -- that's a given -- but there also was a common ground and a mutual respect.

Now it's something much more polarizing.

Mutual distrust.

In this day and age, I find it pretty hard to believe that a journalist of any stripe can be surprised that the public distrusts journalists. The reasons are too numerous to go into, but there are probably two that I'd like to highlight.

A) Sometimes mass media journalists simply get things wrong - or fail to cover things the public actually wants to see, hear or read because of other considerations. Journalism is like no other profession. People screw up. And just like any other profession, credibility is currency. If a lawyer screws up, the client's going to go elsewhere for his or her legal services. If a doctor gives bad advice, often the patient will find a new GP or specialist. And if a journalist screws up a story or slants a story or fails to cover something of interest to the audience, the audience is going to look elsewhere. In the past, there was no "elsewhere". 25 years ago in most locations you couldn't get sports news on the radio, TV or the internet 24 hours a day. There was no "elsewhere". Now there is. So if journalists don't serve their audience well, they'll look elsewhere. And as for "distrust", that's just part of being a professional and screwing up sometimes. When my family has had to find a new doctor, we most certainly hold the screwup against the old one. When I've worked alongside or opposing a bad lawyer, I remember that. If you don't like the distrust the media is receiving as a journalist, do your job better.

B) Opinion journalism, I feel, works against the credibility of journalism as a whole. Opinion journalism is a different monster entirely from traditional journalism, and their aims are clearly at odds. Opinion journalism's point isn't to bring facts or truth to the reader, but rather to keep the story going - to draw a response, to press buttons, to draw more readers in. I've written before about how these aims necessarily may conflict with the facts, as opinion journalists have the tools to soften or dance around an actual falsity. The problem for journalists - both traditional and opinion - is that if there are outlets all over the place where anyone can get the facts of a story (online, on a ticker on cable, every 20 minutes in a "sports desk" radio update), what draws readers to this particular outlet are the opinions, whether they be aligned with the readers or diametrically opposed. Reaction matters more than accuracy, because you can get accuracy anywhere. The problem is that, even though we all have a natural "moth-to-flame", car wreck attraction to strong opinions, most readers don't like to be lied to or otherwise messed with. Just because we're reading an intentionally flaming column doesn't mean we don't resent the writer. And resent really is the proper word. I don't think I'm outside the majority of people when I say that. I sense that when an opinion writer aims for controversy rather than accuracy, it's an insult to the reader. The natural response is resentment.

So I leave it at this: if journalists don't like the distrust they sense from readers, there's two things they can do to respond: (1) do a better job at getting things right and covering the things the readers/listeners/viewers want; (2) focus on accuracy rather than eliciting a response.

2. Since 1995 and the beginning of the Bowl Alliance and the effective elevation of the Orange, Rose, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls, Notre Dame has been to one of those four bowls a total of 4 times. Arguably, two of those bowl selections were undeserved (in 2000, Notre Dame was selected at-large ahead of 2 eligible teams with higher BCS rankings, Nebraska and Kansas State, and ineligible Oregon was also ranked ahead of the Irish; in 2006, Notre Dame was selected at-large ahead of one eligible team with a higher BCS ranking, Auburn, and ineligible Wisconsin was also ranked ahead of the Irish). Since 1995, Virginia Tech has also been selected to play in 4 Bowl Alliance/BCS games (though all 4 were automatic qualifications as a result of winning their conference). Over that same stretch of time, neither team has won a National Title, though Virginia Tech has played in the game that decided it (Notre Dame has not).

Here's the question: were Virginia Tech to start the season unranked, lose its first 1, 2, 3 or 4 games, how much television coverage would be given to Virginia Tech and their coach's struggles?

Yes, I realize that football did not start in 1995. But I also state that television coverage and the current BCS structure have significantly altered the sport.

Who is a proper comparable to Notre Dame? Is there one? Excluding the argument that Notre Dame allegedly draws more viewers than most (which isn't necessarily proven), is there any explanation for Notre Dame's coverage by major media sources of its current on-field failures?

My take is that the Irish just aren't a good team this year. Bad teams shouldn't get coverage. Army, Illinois, and Minnesota all have multiple national titles from long before the memories of current players, but their recent troubles didn't lead to weeks of stories and TV segments on what has gone wrong with them and how they can get back to national prominence. And I'd like to be very clear about one thing: my criticism is not toward Notre Dame or their fans. Lots of schools have bad seasons every now and then. The criticism is directed toward writers and TV producers who think this is a story. It's not. There's no need for constant Notre Dame updates this year.

3. I have done an initial draft of the Lebowski Standings because the Colley Rankings came out. I think I'm going to wait one more week for sorting things a little more. I'll give you a top 5 tease...

5. Ohio State
4. Oregon
3. Missouri (really)
2. Florida
1. LSU

Georgia's 28th, right behind South Carolina because of the tiebreaker. I expect big changes this week.

4. Scores that stunned me last week:

  • Syracuse over Louisville, obviously.
  • Ball State nearly beating Nebraska, obviously.
  • Western Kentucky winning at MTSU was a surprise and the Hilltoppers could make waves next year in the Sun Belt (and what happened to MTSU becoming a Sun Belt power?).
  • North Dakota State over Central Michigan by 30 in Mount Pleasant. Another 1-AA/FCS win over a 1-A/FBS team. And how good a coach must Brian Kelly be? Last year he had the Chippewas winning 10 games, the MAC title and a bowl. This year the Chipewas are 1-3, while Kelly's undefeated coaching the Cincinnati Bearcats.
5. Something's Got to Give! Matchups between unbeatens:
  • West Virginia at South Florida (Friday)
  • UMass at Boston College
  • Michigan State at Wisconsin
  • Cal at Oregon.
6. Please God Something Give! Matchup between winless:
  • Florida International at Middle Tennessee State.
7. Odd Road Games. Last week the odd road games led to some of the closest games. Iowa State lost to Toledo by 1, Wyoming beat Ohio by 1, and Idaho had recovered an onside kick and was driving when they were stopped, losing by 7. This week not as many because the conference season is in swing:
  • Memphis at Arkansas State (tonight). Rare Sun Belt OOC home game against 1-A opposition.
  • Syracuse at Miami (Ohio).
  • Cincinnati at San Diego State.
  • LSU at Tulane (really, this won't be a road game).

8. Big Impact Games. Any matchup of unbeaten conference/divisional foes gets mentioned.

  • WVU at South Florida
  • Michigan State at Wisconsin
  • Baylor at Texas A&M
  • Iowa State at Nebraska
  • UTEP at SMU
  • BYU at New Mexico
  • Cal at Oregon
  • UL-Monroe at Troy
  • Hawaii at Idaho
9. Revenge Games.
  • WVU at South Florida. Last year's USF upset may have cost WVU a BCS bid.
  • Clemson at Georgia Tech. Clemson was Tech's only regular season ACC loss last year.
  • Pitt at UVA. If not for last year's loss to Pitt, UVA would've been bowl eligible.
  • Kansas State at Texas. Last year Texas was #4 and en route to another BCS game when the Wildcats upset them.
  • Indiana at Iowa. Last year's Hoosier upset started a bad slide for the Hawkeyes.
  • UTEP at SMU. If not for the loss to the Miners last year, SMU likely would've gone to their first post-death-penalty bowl.
  • Air Force at Navy. Commander in Chief Trophy has been Navy's for a while now. This should decide it.
  • NIU at CMU. The Huskies' win kept CMU from perfect in the MAC last year.
  • Cal at Oregon. Last year Cal waxed the higher-ranked Ducks.
  • UCLA at Oregon State. This might surprise you: had UCLA not beaten Oregon State last year, there would've been a three way tie for the Pac-10 title, with the Beavers, Trojans and Bears.
  • WSU at Arizona. WSU would've gone bowling if not for the loss to Arizona.
  • Auburn at Florida. The Gators' only 2006 blemish.


Flick The Button

1. The Illusionist. Saw this a long time ago but forgot to write about it in either of the last 2 recaps. And that says about everything. Just not much to write home about. And quite predictable, too. I think it's natural to compare this to The Prestige because of the subject matter. The Prestige didn't meet its own expectations, but is a far far better film than this. This is just blah. You're Fired.

2. Let's Go To Prison. One trick pony, and it came up lame. Got the sense like this movie was mostly made up of the third or fourth book of rejected Reno 911! jokes. Will Arnett seems miscast too - almost as if his part was supposed to have been written for Thomas Lennon's Dangle character. The only thing of use here: Chi McBride has a lot of hair. You're Fired.

3. Factory Girl. Actors playing dress-up, and not well. Music montages. 85 minutes, thankfully. For supposedly interesting people, a terribly boring movie. You're Fired.

4. I re-watched Blades of Glory too. Let me downgrade my initial assessment from Dull Steak Knives to You're Fired. Repeat viewings didn't make it funnier, and I didn't notice new funny stuff.

5. I also watched the first season of Rome. Amazing detail, and I really enjoyed the actual pseudo-historic parts. The soap opera plotlines with Vorenus and his wife were painful. There were about 4-5 episodes that outright sucked in the middle - alternating Forrest Gumpesque historic dropins with boring spousal relations. But the last 2 episodes were great - and I have a feeling that those two inflated opinions for the whole series. I know I'll eventually watch the second season, but I haven't been banging on the door of Blockbuster to get them, like for some other shows.


'Bout It, 'Bout It

Today, CFR calls the following the "Quote of the Day", citing Heisman Pundit:

"Or course politics determines the outcome [of the Heisman Trophy vote]. But that is what college football is all about. Hate the Heisman, hate college football."

Here's a list of things I think college football is "all about" that rank above "politics":

scoring more than the other team
throwing the ball
playing defense
catching the ball
scoring touchdowns
allowing fewer touchdowns than your team scores
clock management
avoiding penalties
avoiding turnovers
causing turnovers
kicking field goals and extra points
special teams coverage
kickoff and punt returns
recruiting talented players
referees making important calls

...and if you're not interested in the whole "on-field" aspect of the sport, there are these things that college football is "all about":

supporting your school
fight songs
marching bands
color guard
historic stadia
fall weather
grilling out
yelling your ass off
classic radio play-by-play announcers
legendary coaches
uniform colors
pageantry, like dotting the i or opening up the T.
singing the Alma Mater
arm motions, like the FSU's chop or Florida's chomp
flags on car windows and magnets on the side
watercooler bragging to the guy who went to a rival school
chants specific to each school

College Football would still be "all about" any of these things if politics had nothing to do with the sport.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gameday Recap

Week Four
September 22, 2007
Tuscaloosa, Alabama - Georgia at Alabama

I don't want to complain or anything, but there's no way of writing this without sounding this way... I've got to find a way to make these recaps shorter. They take far too long. Been dreading doing this one all week. Perhaps if the hosts of the show said more intelligent things?

  • Opener with statue of Bear Bryant. CF: no coach in any sport for any team casts a longer shadow than Bear Bryant. Fade to clips of Saban's arrival, packed spring game, win over Arkansas.
  • Fowler says the crew receives a chilly reception (compares themselves to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) because every time they show up, the Tide lose. Corso says they have nothing to do with it.
  • Corso says according to a study, Birmingham has the biggest fans of college football, Columbus, OH is second. KH says that's a shocker.
  • Review of the Alabama-Arkansas game. Quick interview with Wallace Gilberry, before the foot was placed in his mouth.
  • CF: a few weeks ago, 8 wins for Alabama sounded good, now they're thinking championship.
  • Corso: SEC teams on the road have big tests.
  • KH: Penn State-Michigan winner will make a run to the B10 championship. Also, Alabama is more excited now than they were in 1992 when they won the MNC.
First Commercial Break
  • Pan of crowd. 3 "OJ stole my tickets signs" are visible.
  • USC-Washington State talk. Actual football analysis by KH here (USC pass rush vs. WSU passing game).
  • USC-LSU talk. More football analysis. LC says to expect screens and reverses from LSU.
  • UF-Ole Miss talk. CF says the Gators are on letdown alert and it's a sandwich game (correct)
  • MSU-ND talk. Let it be said that there were quite a few games involving ranked opponents that were not covered, while Notre Dame gets some discussion 12 minutes in.
  • Iowa-Wisconsin talk.
  • Penn St.-Michigan. Some injury talk, watch ballhandling.
  • Corso (after mentioning that he coached in the Big Ten, in case you didn't know) says Michigan is like the horse Rags to Riches, which fell down and then got up and won the Belmont. Herbstreit says Michigan was down for good after the Oregon and Appalachian State games, but then agrees completely with Corso.
  • Fowler says Rece Davis has accused Herbstreit of smoking/drinking something because he has Penn State #5 in the country.
  • Fowler says the Ivy League is starting today with the first night game ever at Harvard. Corso and Herbstreit look at him like he was speaking another language.
  • Todd McShay's preview, says Matt Ryan is the most underrated QB in all of college football.
Second Commercial Break
  • Piece on Boston College. Pie chart on how little BC is covered in the Boston Globe. 12.5% compared to over 40% for the Patriots and Red Sox.
  • CF: compare Alabama to Boston College. At Bama the third string long snapper is treated like royalty, while in Boston people don't know the coach, conference or QB. Man on the street interviews. Might this piece not prove that BC doesn't get enough attention, but rather that Bostonians are just morons?
  • Todd McShay breaks down Matt Ryan's film. This segment is awesome. Best part of the show.
  • Desmond Howard joins the set to talk about Matt Ryan and BC. Howard doesn't know if BC is the best team, but says the most impressive ACC win so far is Duke's over Northwestern. Ha Ha. Also says about Miami's win over A&M, "I haven't seen a beatdown like that since I left the hood." The question was "who is the best team in the ACC?" and Howard says that he's not sure it's Miami or BC, but that Miami gave the best performance.
  • KH: Miami/Clemson and maybe BC is the best in the ACC. 'Bama fans boo Clemson.
  • Corso actually answers the question and says BC is the best in the ACC.
  • Fowler says "there was a team in Orange that plays in the Orange Bowl that nobody's mentioned yet" not 45 seconds after Herbstreit mentioned Miami, and not 90 seconds after Howard mentioned them. The rest of the crew mocks Fowler appropriately for it. Also, nobody mentions how Miami got annihilated by Oklahoma just a couple of weeks before.
Third Commercial Break
  • Fowler again says how Florida needs to be careful with Ole Miss. KH talks about how Florida's defense has locked teams down.
  • Some quick Tim Tebow hyping.
  • Timeline of Spurrier wins over SEC powers at USC.
  • Fowler says how LSU struggled for 40 years in day games at home. Was that true?
  • Clip of Spurrier's press conference talking about how loud SEC stadia are. Spurrier says they're all loud, about the same. I was surprised to see him list Georgia.
  • KH: LSU sacks people a ton, USC has had serious protection problems, but Spurrier will come up with something. Breakdown of some USC pass plays where WRs break wide open. Herbstreit thinks USC will hang around and Corso agrees.
  • Corso thinks South Carolina has a lot of confidence. More breakdown clips.
  • Some injury talk regarding LSU.
  • Howard previews his piece on Andre Woodson, says he's about to hop on the bus to start up his blog. Is it a blog or a chat? I can't say I've ever hopped online on a Saturday morning to see it happen.
Fourth Commercial Break
  • Montage of Darren McFadden looking like a freak of nature.
  • Kentucky-Arkansas talk. Lots of players mentioned, good highlights.
  • Extended Piece on Desmond Howard interviewing Andre Woodson while playing pool.
  • Fowler mentions some roster changes for Arkansas.
  • KH likes Arkansas close in a shootout.
Fifth Commercial Break
  • Highlights from Friday's Oklahoma-Tulsa game. KH says Oklahoma is taking advantage of their opportunities to shine for the BCS.
  • Buy/Sell???
  • Fowler points out how wrong Herbstreit and Corso were on last week's Buy/Sell.
  • Texas: LC buys but advises to sell before Oklahoma. KH says sell now because of Oklahoma.
  • Fowler offers $100 to anyone that could name the coach of Rice.
  • Arizona State: LC buys because of Erickson. KH buys now but says sell before USC and Cal.
  • Air Force: LC is buying because they won in Utah already. KH is selling them because he doesn't know what TV channel they're on and hasn't seen them. This is weak because (a) he works for a network that has satellite hookups with every network, and (b) I find mockery of competitors to be unseemly.
  • Purdue: LC is selling because they are successful against cupcakes but they've got tough competition ahead, and he includes Notre Dame among them. Immediately, we all may stop listening to anything Lee Corso has to say because of that idiotic statement. KH says buy because nobody is talking about Purdue.
  • Iowa-Wisconsin talk. Fowler calls it a defensive struggle.
  • Wisconsin: LC says buy now but sell before they play good teams. Apparently KH can't buy/sell Wisconsin because he's calling their game tonight. That's ridiculous. Might he call a Purdue, Texas, or Arizona State game sometime? He's not even picking the winner of the game. That's stupid. KH does say that Wisconsin needs to start playing up to the expectations that people in the media have placed upon them.
  • Corso says Iowa still isn't over the Iowa State loss, so he's picking against Iowa.
Sixth Commercial Break
  • Man on the street interviews with Notre Dame students rationalizing and complaining.
  • "If we can just keep the win streak against Navy alive, I think we'll consider this season a victory." Wow. Wow. Wow. Fowler acts like this was sarcastically said. I didn't sense that at all.
  • Shelley Smith reporting on how Notre Dame is starting over. Calls Weis an "offensive guru." Amid a montage of sacks, there was a clip of Clausen, after a sack, of getting some dude's balls right in his face. He looked perturbed.
  • Michigan State-Notre Dame talk. Clips of recent games.
  • WIRED!!! with Mark Dantonio. This one is only slightly less dumb than usual, because we get to hear the piped in crowd noise during MSU's practice.
  • Interesting graphic - ND has 46% of their offensive plays go for 0 or negative yards.
  • Regis Philbin at the ND pep rally. He's fired up. And wrong.
  • KH decides to take the approach that ND's current failures can be excused because of youth, cites how many 5 star recruits Tom Luginbill has listed as ND bound. Nicely, KH does pivot to say that MSU is a good story.
  • KH says if ND didn't beat MSU, they definitely will start 0-8.
  • LC breaks down some MSU blocking and rushing offense. Thinks ND covers.
  • Howard is online. Says people think ND will score, not win. Then he picks ND to win on defense. Nick Saban is in the bus with Desmond Howard and Alabama fans are happy.
Seventh Commercial Break
  • Clip from Georgia-Alabama in 1990, showing Chuck Carswell intercepting the pass to clinch it for the Dawgs. Chuck Carswell!!! A Walton Raider has made an appearance on College Gameday. I never thought I'd see the day!
  • Fowler talks about Larry Munson for a second.
  • Some Auburn talk. Bad offensive numbers. They don't mention whom Auburn is playing.
  • Nick Saban joins the set, calls the crew "a class organization". He's wearing a pink shirt. He's also talking really quickly.
  • No questions really pressed Saban, but I suppose that'd be asking too much.
  • Teasing the upcoming piece, Russell Crowe says he'd fight to the death for Lloyd Carr.
Eighth Commercial Break
  • Game Face has no face paint. Wouldn't expect that in Tuscaloosa.
  • South Florida-UNC talk. CF: a test of "maturity".
  • Syracuse-Louisville. Fowler and Corso both kind of laugh about Syracuse sucking. Graphic on how bad Syracuse was.
  • West Virginia-East Carolina. Fowler says ECU has contained WVU well in the past few years.
  • Extended piece on Pat White and Steve Slaton. Interviews and highlights.
  • The question on the screen is "How good is West Virginia?" and Herbstreit only talks about Rutgers. Corso likes Louisville, but actually answers the question and then says WVU should look out for the South Florida game on Friday.
  • Fowler says people are writing off Louisville, but they can still win the Big East.
  • Herbstreit says the Big East is the third best conference behind the SEC and Pac 10 (but there's a big gap).
Ninth Commercial Break
  • Another clip from a past UGA-Alabama game, and it's another UGA win (Man Enough game in 2002).
  • Extended piece on Alabama conditioning program. Sounds like Wendi Nix reporting. I wish they'd tell us what the program actually was, but this was better than most extended pieces.
  • Fowler talks about Georgia for a moment. "Matthew Stafford 'allegedly' has a strong arm". Corso thinks Georgia will throw the ball downfield, but then later talks about how young the line is.
  • Herbstreit notes the incorrect highlight clip that was on during Corso's bit a second before.
  • KH says Bama won't be dominant until Saban can recruit on defense.
  • Wallace Gilberry quote is mentioned.
Tenth Commercial Break
  • Pac-10 discussion, fans boo.
  • Oregon-Stanford. KH says it's "name your score" for Oregon.
  • Cal-Arizona. Not much said here.
  • USC-WSU. Corso likes USC big.
  • Howard looks at USC's schedule and talks about where USC might trip up. Howard says maybe Oregon State, Arizona State.
  • KH calls Howard out because Oregon State sucked against Cincinnati.
  • KH thinks USC is only getting better offensively, but they won't lose a game this year.
  • Corso disagrees, because USC has lost 5 road games in 5 years, just like he's said 2 weeks in a row. Thinks they'll lose a late game on the road somewhere.
Eleventh Commercial Break
  • Michigan-Penn State talk.
  • Extended piece on Russell Crowe and Michigan. Chris Connelly (of course) reporting. Lloyd Carr looks happy as a pig in shit on the dais with Crowe. Surprisingly good work by Connelly, whose pieces are usually the worst on the show. For a puff piece, this actually had some informative value.
  • Then the set shows a clip of 3:10 to Yuma. Really?
  • Some highlights of past U of M - PSU games.
  • Press Conference with PSU receiver, who, like Steve Spurrier, isn't intimidated by road games. If nobody's ever intimidated, how come people make a big deal about road games?
  • Some play breakdowns of the Penn State rushing defense and pass rush.
  • KH says Michigan will realize that they have a second opportunity to start the Big Ten season. I don't know what that means. Picked Penn State.
  • LC breaks out the NSFMF, which has kind of been missing this year. Corso breaks down some Michigan passing plays. Corso calls Mallett one of the best freshman QBs in the country. Picks Michigan because Penn State hasn't played anyone.
Twelfth Commercial Break
  • Erin Andrews at WVU game.
  • Pontiac Game Changer. LC - Ryan Mallett. KH - Brandon LaFell at LSU. CF - Matt Grothe. Fowler gets it again...
  • Saturday Stupid Selections: LC: Notre Dame to cover, Florida "big", USC to cover, Arkansas, Alabama. KH: Penn State, Florida "huge", USC to cover, Arkansas.
By far their best show of the season. This episode took an hour less to recap than last week's. So I sort of take back what I wrote at the start. Even the puff pieces were decent. No fisheye lens tearjerkers. Probably double the "actual football analysis" they had the first three weeks. Much improved show. Good for them.

Next week is a trip to Eugene for Cal-Oregon. The early morning shows are usually quiet and calm, but it's definitely an important and good game, so it's good that they're going there. It's bad that that game won't be on nationally, though.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Few College Football Thoughts

Perhaps this'll become a weekly event. Obligation is sometimes the only thing that gets me writing...

1. Over the next few weeks (if not already, but I'd prefer to wait until the conference season starts for you to really notice it) , when you read national columnists, watch college football TV shows, read blogs, or listen to radio stations talk about college football, you are probably going to hear someone using the phrase "Conference X is really down this year". Set aside the concept that a conference, whose members primarily all play one another and therefore cancel one another out, can be "up or down", and further set aside that comparing conferences can be anything more than a fool's errand. The thing I want you to pay attention to is this: when a writer/pundit/talking head says that a conference is "down", are they really just saying "my predictions as to who would be good in conference X were wrong"? Is the Big Ten really "down" this year or is Michigan just worse than some people thought? More than half the conference is unbeaten right now. If Mighigan State and Purdue (or, who knows, even Indiana) end up winning a bunch of games, the conference might be much deeper than in previous years. But when the predicted frontrunner falters a few times, some want to tar the entire conference. This was the case last year in the ACC. Miami and Florida State weren't as good as many people thought. Wake Forest and Georgia Tech were better than people thought.

The point is that when preseason predictions fall apart, pundit-types can either admit they were way off, or turn to a different narrative. If the results don't fit your preconceived notions, you can admit that you don't know what you're talking about, or you can pivot and put the blame (potentially unfairly) on something else.

Keep an eye out for it.

2. This brings me to one of my Grand Unifying Theories on college football punditry. In simple terms, I don't like the idea of polls determining titles because polls are subject to opinions. And it has been my experience that one of the most difficult things in the world is for a person to admit that their opinion is wrong. It takes overwhelming facts to change someone's mind.

This is why it took 9 weeks for Wake Forest to get ranked last year in the Coaches' Poll, while an Oregon team on its way to 7-6 remained ranked in the same poll.

Teams that were ranked high in the preseason (based on nothing but projection) are given the benefit of every doubt - until overwhelming evidence makes it impossible for such a team to remain ranked. Teams that were not expected to play well in the preseason (based on nothing but projection) are held to a significantly higher standard - they have to really prove to pundits that they merit ranking, a hardship many other programs are not faced with.

I think about this hypothetical. Kentucky and Florida. They play almost exactly the same schedule. Kentucky plays Auburn, Miss State and LSU from the SEC West, while Florida plays Arkansas, Mississippi and LSU. Both play one good OOC opponent (FSU for Florida, Louisville for Kentucky (both at home). Both play three other weak OOC opponents (EKU, Kent State, FAU for Kentucky; WKU, Troy, FAU for Florida). It's oddly the same. Florida started the season ranked #3 in the coaches' poll. Kentucky received but a single vote (fewer than Memphis, Houston and 43 other teams). Here's the question: since Kentucky and Florida play almost the exact same schedule in terms of difficulty, and the only difference between the two is how they are perceived in preseason, why is it likely that the road to a top ranking is significantly more difficult for Kentucky than for Florida? If both teams were to roll through their schedules undefeated going into their matchup in late October, how many spots higher would Florida be ranked? And if Kentucky were to win that game, would Kentucky merely take Florida's spot, or would any interceding teams remain ahead of the Wildcats?

Of course, this is a hypothetical, and a long way off. But it's not that crazy. In fact, it almost happened last year. The AP rankings last year in Week Ten listed Louisville at #3, behind Ohio State and Michigan, who would be playing later in the year. Rutgers was unbeaten and ranked 15th. Louisville had played a more difficult schedule to that point (though it woud tighten significantly after the game between the two of them). After Rutgers defeated Louisville, and the two had played a very similar schedule, did unbeaten Rutgers assume Louisville's slot in third? Nope. Rutgers jumped to 7th, behind four teams with a loss (and the only unbeaten teams ahead of them were Ohio State and Michigan). There's a logical disconnect. If people thought an unbeaten Louisville team was good enough to be #3, why wouldn't they also think an unbeaten Rutgers team that had just beaten them was good enough? The only difference between the two was that Rutgers began the season unranked, while Louisville began at #13.

3. Last week, the only scores that made me very surprised were Utah-UCLA and Iowa State-Iowa.

4. Something's Got To Give! Unbeaten matchups this week:

  • Oklahoma at Tulsa (Friday Night Lights - could be a fun offensive game)
  • South Carolina at LSU.
  • 27 other unbeaten teams can remain so.
5. Please God Something Give! Winless matchups this week:
  • San Jose State at Utah State
6. Odd Road Games. Last week's list featured UCF scaring Texas for three quarters and FAU beating Minnesota.

  • Iowa State at Toledo: Toledo's no good, but Iowa State could suffer a letdown).
  • Baylor at Buffalo: Other than a couple of home games against UConn, Syracuse and Rutgers, this is the first home game for Buffalo against a BCS-conference team since November 29, 1900 when Penn State visited.
  • Northern Illinois at Idaho: First OOC home game against a 1-A opponent since 2003.
  • Wyoming at Ohio: First ever meeting of these teams.
7. Big-Impact Games. To describe better this category, these are games which have an impact on conference titles, and later in the year I'll mention teams trying to get bowl-eligible. Trying to whittle this down, so as not to list all the Big Ten conference openers. These are games that might not get the most attention, but could have big ramifications.
  • Georgia Tech at Virginia: a loss by the Jackets puts them three games behind Virginia in the Coastal, and Virginia is in the driver's seat (seriously!).
  • Air Force at BYU: With a win by the Falcons, they'll have already beaten the top three teams in the conference by preseason predictions.
  • Memphis at UCF: If anyone is going to challenge Southern Miss in CUSA-East, it'll be the winner of this game.
  • Florida Atlantic at North Texas: Just a couple of years ago, North Texas dominated this conference. Now, FAU there are a few teams that are almost respectable (FAU, Troy, Arkansas State). FAU can move closer to New Orleans (the first bowl there this year) with a road win.
  • Washington at UCLA: who can rebound the best and perhaps start a campaign against USC?
8. Revenge Games. Teams where a team was upset last year, or the favored team this year lost last year, or a lot was riding on last year's game for the losing team.
  • Arizona at Cal. The loss to Arizona last year ended up costing Cal the Rose Bowl and an outright Pac-10 title.
  • Maryland at Wake Forest. Last year's game gave Wake the Atlantic Division title, and Maryland (seriously) would've gone to Jacksonville and potentially the BCS had they won.
  • Iowa State at Toledo. Maybe a reach, but had Toledo last year won in OT, they would've been bowl-eligible.
  • UConn at Pitt. Last year's late loss to the Huskies cost Pitt a bowl bid.
  • Michigan State at Notre Dame. This collapse last year caused a tailspin and brought a new coach to East Lansing.
  • Penn State at Michigan. Remember curious timekeeping the last time the Nittany Lions went to Ann Arbor?


The End of a Frustrating Season

There are two things that piss me off about the Braves this year...

1. There's a mathematical equation that uses runs scored and runs allowed to determine an "Expected Won/Loss Record". Baseball statisticians call it the "Pythagorean Record".

The equation is simple: Runs scored [squared] / (Runs scored [squared] + runs allowed [squared])

Normally, the Pythagorean record pretty closely approximates what the actual record is. In fact, right now, 19 of the 30 teams have actual records within 3 games +/- of their Pythagorean record.

The Braves, right now, when comparing the actual record to Pythagorean record are the most underperforming team in the NL.

If the standings were determined by Pythagorean record alone, the Braves would be leading the NL East and have the second best record in the NL (1.5 GB the Padres).

The reasons for the disparity are many. Some say a large disparity between Pythagorean record and actual record is due to managing, a great/terrible record in close games, an oddly large number of blowout games (with a lot of them won or lost but not both), or just plain luck. This year, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Pythagorean record is 73-79. Their actual record is 85-67. That's basically the difference between last place and first place in their division. The biggest reason? The Diamondbacks are an absurd 32-18 in one run games. The Braves are just 17-24 in one-run games.

The Braves are scoring plenty of runs, and they're allowing few enough to win their division and make the playoffs. They're just not scoring or allowing runs in the right places. And that's frustrating.

2. The imbalanced interleague schedule has totally screwed the Braves.

The Braves went 4-11 in interleague play, the worst record in the National League.

Compare the current aggregate winning percentages of the teams the Braves played in Interleague play to those of their divisional and wild card rivals:

Braves (Boston twice, Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota): 426-332, .562%
Mets (Yankees twice, Detroit, Minnesota, Oakland): 405-353, .534%
Dodgers (Angels twice, Toronto twice, Tampa Bay): 393-363, .520%
Phillies (Toronto, Kansas City, White Sox, Detroit, Cleveland): 378-377, .501%
San Diego (Seattle twice, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Boston): 377-377, .500%
Colorado (Kansas City, Baltimore, Boston, Tampa Bay, Yankees, Toronto): 445-461, .491%
Arizona (Baltimore twice, Yankees, Boston, Tampa Bay): 368-387, .487%
Milwaukee (Minnesota twice, Texas, Detroit, Kansas City): 366-389, .485%
Cubs (White Sox twice, Texas, Seattle): 280-323, .464%

Those winning percentages might not seem so different upon first glance, so here's a better way to look at it. Consider the current aggregate winning percentages of each team's opponents in interleague play to a team that approximates that record, and see who you'd rather play. Below are the closest equivalent of a team (based upon its current winning percentage) . For example, the Cubs opponents' winning percentage is .464, which is roughly equivalent to the current won/loss record of the Texas Rangers. Look at the equivalents below, and you tell me who had it rough:

Braves, .562 - closest equivalent is the Yankees
Mets, .534 - Mariners
Dodgers, .520 - Cubs/Brewers
Phillies, .501 - Blue Jays
Padres, .500 - Blue Jays
Rockies, .491 - Twins
D-Backs, .487 - A's
Brewers, .485 - A's
Cubs, .464 - Rangers

If you eliminate the results of all interleague games from all NL teams, and the Braves would be currently tied with the Phillies, and 1.5 games behind the Mets. The Braves would be just 2 games back in the loss column from the Wild Card.

The imbalanced interleague schedule absolutely screwed the Atlanta Braves.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Staying On Message Doesn't Mean Playing Loose With Facts

Brian Grummell writes about college football for AOL Fanhouse and created the excellent link aggregator/blog College Football Resource. Unfortunately, it appears he didn't use the tools on his own site, and instead relied on stale and untrue opinions, such as that the SEC doesn't play anyone and teams from out west always do. On his Monday Hangover column he brings this chestnut out:

I realize the little guys are having a ball this year in scaring major powers (Appalachian State, The Citadel, Furman, etc.), but these games are still ridiculous. It's not fun for the players, coaches and fans to see good teams sleepwalk through the first third of the season, particularly with supposed SEC powers.

Two points on this:

1. The 1-AA/FCS concept of beating/scaring 1-A/FBS opponents isn't new, and the three games cited aren't the only ones this year.

  • Six 1-AA/FCS teams have wins over 1-A/FBS teams: Appalachian State over Michigan, Nicholls State over Rice, Northern Iowa over Iowa State, Southern Illinois over Northern Illinois, New Hampshire over Marshall, and McNeese State over Louisiana-Lafayette.
  • 1-AA/FCS teams currently have more wins against 1-A/FBS opponents than the Sun Belt Conference, the Mid-American Conference, Conference USA or the WAC have nonconference wins against the rest of 1-A.
  • Aside from the cited Citadel game, Rhode Island put a scare into Army (took them to OT), Cal Poly scared Idaho, and Texas State scared Baylor. Point is that these lower division schools have talent, just not depth because of the scholarship limitation difference. You have to suit up for every game.
  • The concept of 1-AA/FCS teams defeating 1-A/FBS teams did not start with Appalachian State. Just last year, seven 1-AA/FCS teams defeated 1-A/FBS opponents: Richmond over Duke, Southern Illinois over Indiana (which cost the Hoosiers a bowl bid), New Hampshire over Northwestern (two years in a row now that UNH has beaten 1-A teams), Montana State over Colorado, North Dakota State over Ball State, Portland State over New Mexico, and Cal Poly over San Diego State.
2. What support is there for the slam against "supposed SEC powers"? At the time this was written, SEC schools had played a total of 5 games against 1-AA/FCS opponents. This is exactly the same number as teams from the Big XII and ACC, and fewer games than the smaller Big Ten (7) and Big East (6) conferences. Why was the SEC singled out? Also, I would love for Grummell to specify exactly which supposed SEC powers have been able to sleepwalk through the first third of the season? Just point to one below:

Alabama: just played a ranked Arkansas team
Arkansas: just played at now-ranked Alabama, played no 1-AA opponents.
Auburn: played 2 OOC games against BCS-conference opponents and a conference game.
Florida: just played a formerly-ranked Tennessee team, played no 1-AA opponents.
Georgia: played a ranked conference game and an OOC game against a BCS-conference opponent.
Kentucky: just played top-10 ranked Louisville.
LSU: played ranked Virginia Tech and a conference game.
Mississippi: played an OOC game against a BCS-conference opponent and a conference game
Miss State: played two conference games and an OOC game on the road.
South Carolina: played road conference game against ranked opponent.
Tennessee: "Three weeks in, they may have the nation's toughest schedule having gone on the road to face legitimate top 10 teams with ridiculous offenses in California and Florida." says Grummell himself
Vanderbilt: played 2 conference games, including one against a now-ranked opponent.

Which one of those teams has been able to sleepwalk so far? From my reading, every single one of them has had to be up for at least one game and usually a couple. Compare that to the schedules of these unbeaten teams in other conferences: Connecticut, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arizona State. There surely are paper tigers out there. But none of them plays in the SEC.

Continuing in Grummell's column:

Quality football teams out west tend to go unnoticed. Too bad, because little Wyoming has held its ground against big boys like Virginia and Boise State this year. If it's not Wyoming, someone else from the MWC or WAC (Utah!) is always pushing a bigger team around. The SEC could afford to go on the road and face those guys and get a taste of the medicine the Pac-10 and Big 12 see annually. No more layups against Nicholls State, please!

Some more points:

1. Yes, western teams get far too little exposure because of the time zone differences and the fact that the Mountain West Conference and the WAC have atrocious TV contracts. That's the reason, not because the SEC is ducking them.

2. Is Virginia really a "big boy"? Also, in terms of resources available to each, I'm not sure Boise State is that much bigger than Wyoming. They've been a better program in the last 6 years, but in the long run Wyoming has a better tradition.

3. As for MWC teams "pushing around" bigger teams... The MWC is 5-8 this year against BCS opponents. The 5 wins were over Arizona (twice), Baylor, Virginia, and UCLA. The best win by any of those teams currently is... UCLA's win over the MWC's BYU.

4. Current MWC teams have played SEC teams 13 times since 2000. The MWC is 5-8 against the SEC, with none of those MWC wins coming against an SEC team that had a winning record.

5. As for WAC teams "pushing around" bigger teams... The WAC is currently 0-12 against BCS conference opponents. Also, no conference has played as many 1-AA/FCS opponents as the WAC has - 7, tying them with the Big Ten. The WAC is most certainly not "always pushing a bigger team around" this season.

6. Current WAC teams have played SEC teams 26 times since 2000. The WAC is 1-25 against the SEC, the lone win by a 10-win Hawaii team by 5 points over a 4-9 Alabama team.

7. "Taste of the medicine...":

Since 2000, the Pac-10 is 100-27 against teams currently in the WAC and MWC (.787 winning %).
Since 2000, the Big XII is 47-18 against teams currently in the WAC and MWC (.723 winning %).
Since 2000, the SEC is 33-6 against teams currently the WAC and MWC (.846 winning %).

39 games is a decent sample size.

8. Nicholls State should not be the example of a "layup". Nicholls State just beat a 1-A opponent THIS YEAR. In 2006, they led another 1-A team at the half, putting a scare into Louisiana Tech. In 2005 Nicholls State put a huge scare into Indiana in Bloomington. In 2003, they led South Florida at the half. Nicholls State has a good history of scaring 1-A teams.

9. Nicholls State has never once in its history played a team in the SEC. NOT ONCE. Assuming Nicholls State is an embarrassing opponent, it's not the SEC's embarrassment. In fact, the conference that has played Nicholls State the most in recent years is... err... the "always-pushing-around-bigger-teams" WAC.

The point of all of this is that it's easy to hang on to conventional wisdom and repeat it like it's fact. The SEC doesn't play anybody. The SEC loads up on 1-AA opponents. If the SEC had to play teams from the west, they'd have it much tougher.

The truth is that this year, so far, every team in the SEC has had at least one tough game (usually 2) and not one has been able to sleepwalk. The SEC isn't the worst offender in playing 1-AA opponents (that'd be the Big Ten, the Big East and the WAC), and is exactly the same as the other 12-team conferences. In recent history, the SEC has played plenty of teams from the smaller conferences in the west - and has a better record against them than the Pac-10 and Big XII.

Or we could look at it another way, and say that Grummell is merely staying on message in support of his favored Pac-10 conference. The Pac-10's main competition right now for "toughest conference in the country" is the SEC, so it's smart to (a) insult the OOC opponents SEC teams beat (by claiming the SEC doesn't play anyone good) and (b) pump up the OOC opponents Pac-10 teams lose to (by acting like the WAC and MWC are better than they really are).

There's conventional wisdom. There's "staying on message". And then there are facts. It's a shame when the third conflicts with the first two.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Gameday Recap

Week Three
September 15, 2007
Lincoln, Nebraska - Southern California vs. Nebraska

I heard yesterday that during this week's College Football Live programs, Shelley Smith devoted an extended piece to John David Booty doing sit-ups. Sit-ups. At what point is satirically describing the ESPN college football shows simply unnecessary?

  • The first show listed on the "Saturday Slate" was to be shown on a competing network (Tennessee-Florida on CBS). Good that they didn't shy away.
  • It looks like the crowd is throwing things at the anchors. Stuff seems to be bouncing off the netting.
  • LC: "I think the Nebraska football fans are the best college football fans in the nation." See if he breaks this pander out elsewhere. Corso says this is because they applaud opposing teams that play football the right way, like the Indiana team coached by him 30 years ago (in case you didn't know, Corso used to be a coach. This sentence is one of my programmed "auto-fill").
  • Fowler suggests that the fans sing happy birthday to noted humanitarian Pete Carroll.
  • Herbstreit lists a bunch of teams with big matchups today.
  • Corso wants to see if USC is as good as advertised. Nothing too mindblowing there, but I note that this is the second or third time already in this show where Corso says the following: "I'm excited/I think X. The reason why I'm excited/I think X is...or Here's why I think X..." An odd quirk.
First Commercial Break
  • Desmond Howard joins the set. No online chatting this week?
  • Second Saturday Slate lists the rest of the good games of the day.
  • DH: Brohm and Woodson are two of the best passers in the country, Woodson may be the best QB in the country.
  • Fowler gives an injury update on Matt Flynn for LSU - more of this would improve the show.
  • Discussion on Early Season Polling
  • Fowler suggests Herbstreit is "staunch" in his polling opinions, rather than flexible. KH explains that he'd rather wait to see if his opinions are proven wrong rather than move up someone.
  • DH: The problem with early season polling is that it's so subjective and "measuring intangibles that you really can't measure". Has a problem with giving teams with question marks the benefit of the doubt based on program respect. It might not be the best way of saying it, but I think Howard is on the firmest logical ground here.
  • Corso hints that he prefers resume ranking: this year only, against quality opponents, margin of victory are the factors he considers important. Says his top 4 are LSU, Oklahoma, Cal, and USC. Arguably, USC should not be in the top 4 at all if the factors Corso listed are the sole factors considered.
  • KH: Is it USC's fault that they played Idaho and then had a bye? (ummm... yes.) Herbstreit seems unable to understand the concept of fluctuating ballots. LSU could be #1 this week based upon their performance last week, and USC could later jump them on the basis of good performances against quality opponents later. What's Herbstreit's problem with things changing from week to week? Might it be that he doesn't want to look like his preseason predictions were incorrect, if even for a week?
  • Herbstreit: This whole discussion is ridiculous because who cares about polls in week 2... Well, you seem to, because you're defending your ballot. Also, there is no doubt that early season polling affects coverage of teams the rest of the year, and can potentially inflate a team's position. If Team X is ranked in the top 5 early on and loses a mid-season game to a weaker opponent, Team X won't drop nearly as far as a team not rated as highly. If Team X starts at #4, loses and drops to #9, it's better off than Team Y, which started at #15, lost and drops to #25. If Team X and Team Y both win the rest of their games and end up with the same record, X will be ranked higher than Y. Perhaps this is because X really is better than Y. But also, perhaps the early season perception of X, with limited information to support such perception, was incorrect. Early season polling most certainly matters, unfortunately.
  • Shorter Kirk Herbstreit: It's too early for facts to prove my opinions wrong, even if the facts don't confirm my opinions, so I'm not changing anything.
  • Fowler: Nebraska should be Top 5 if they were to win.
Second Commercial Break
  • CF: Best Matchup of Passing QBs all season is in the UK-UL game.
  • Todd McShay is on site to discuss pro prospects. I'm torn on this new segment. I like the idea of in-depth coverage of particular players and theur specific talents - strengths and weaknesses. But also, this is a college football show. The NFL Draft is 7 months away. I wish they'd break down these players with reference to this game today, rather than from the perspective of the draft.
  • That said, the breakdown by McShay and the graphically enhanced highlights is exceptional and excellent. Really really good segment.
  • Corso reveals that he re-thinks his preseason picks instantly and based on on-field performances. Says he once picked Louisville to clobber Kentucky, but because of defense, now he thinks it'll be close.
  • Fowler and Herbstreit both compliment McShay's segment. Do more of this if you like it so much.
Third Commercial Break
  • OSU-Washington discussion. Washington QB Locker doesn't read newspapers or use the internet.
  • Tom Rinaldi report on Washington drinking chocolate milk. Everything except the interview clips with the team nutritionist is pointless.
  • KH: Jake Locker to Washington is like Tim Tebow to Florida. Start up the Hype-o-nator!
  • LC: Thinks OSU wins close in low scoring game, bases much of that on how well UW defended against Boise State.
  • Fowler twice mentions how OSU losing to UW would be another slight to the Big Ten.
  • Oregon vs. Fresno State. Show the Duck/Houston Cougar fight.
  • Lil' Red (blowup mascot) and the regular Nebraska mascot fight. I don't know if I've written this before, but I think the inflatable mascots are weird and freakish. And the stand on head and bounce thing is overdone. Herbstreit, on the other hand, thinks Lil' Red is his favorite.
  • Corso is affronted because he doesn't have a vote for the mascot hall of fame in Newark, Delaware.
Fourth Commercial Break
  • Gillette Game Face: no face paint. Good job not laming it up, Nebraska. On the other hand, at least 4 of the guys in the Game Face thing clearly had not shaved that day. Someone at Gillette is pissed.
  • Buy or Sell
  • UCLA (playing Utah today). Corso is buying because of a good home schedule. Herbstreit also is buying and says this team is "for real" and can get to 10, maybe 11 wins. (UCLA lost by 38 points).
  • Hawaii (playing UNLV today). Corso is buying because of a QB and coach and can outscore anyone (analysis so canned it may as well be spam). Herbstreit likes Brennan, but is selling Hawaii; doesn't want to put them on the same level as Boise State last year, doesn't think they deserve a BCS bid. (Hawaii won by 35). Herbstreit dodges Fowler's question as to whether he'd rank Hawaii if they went undefeated. Herbstreit says "it'd be difficult to put them up there", which neither answers the question nor is a concrete response one can hold him to.
  • South Carolina (playing SC State). Corso is buying because the defense is good and Spurrier knows offense. Herbstreit also is buying, likes their schedule and sees 8-10 wins. South Carolina had 5 games remaining against then-ranked teams, several of which are on the road. If anything, South Carolina's schedule is a reason to sell them. Herbstreit's opinion is fine, but the rationale, to me, is lacking. (South Carolina won by 35)
  • Texas A&M (playing Louisiana Monroe). Corso is selling because they travel to Miami, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri. Herbstreit also is selling and adds Texas to Corso's list. A&M's schedule too tough, they both say. (A&M won by 40).
  • Fowler and Herbstreit suggest that Texas could have trouble with Central Florida. Corso says the new stadium is nice, but doesn't give the full name correctly.
  • Now Desmond's in the bus and chatting away. Fowler says, "Stop fake typing and listen to me." and they all laugh. Is this a reference to the recaps' accusations of fake typing? Howard says it's the real stuff.
  • Howard takes a different approach to South Carolina, saying the defense looked better than it is because of UGA's young offensive line, and says that Spurrier is good for one big win a year at USC, and perhaps Georgia was it. Also Howard is selling Clemson. Howard, almost overnight, has become the pundit on this show with perhaps the most salient analysis.
Fifth Commercial Break
  • Extended Human Interest Story on the death of Mario Danelo, USC kicker. Shelley Smith reporting.
Sixth Commercial Break
  • Northwestern-Duke discussion. Duke has lost 22 straight. Fowler mentions that Duke and Northwestern play again next year and #34 for Duke would be against Northwestern, tying the all-time 1-A record. No worries for Blue Devils fans, as Duke won 20-14.
  • Chart of longest active losing streaks. Duke, NC State and UAB all won this week, so only FIU, Colorado State and Utah State remain on that list.
  • Michigan. Piece on disappointed faces of Michigan fans with opera backing.
  • "Internet chatter" breaks the story on Demetrius Jones transferring to NIU. Fowler doesn't confirm it, but passes it along.
  • Montage of bad plays by Notre Dame and Michigan. I think we saw the same thing a week ago, only shorter.
  • Another week, another clip from Charlie Weis's press conference. It is interesting to me how nearly every coach in America has a weekly taped press conference, but Gameday rarely shows any of them, except Charlie Weis appears almost weekly.
  • LC: Notre Dame is more desperate for a win because Notre Dame has won 19 games over the last few years and everyone wants payback. (Just in case you were wondering, Michigan has won 18 games over the same stretch, but apparently those teams didn't want payback so it isn't as hard for Michigan to get wins... or something. This makes no sense.)
  • Howard: "There's two things in coaching... it's your legacy and your money". I suppose legacy could include wins, losses, titles. But what about whether you've improved players, gotten them to the next level? What about educating men? There are probably a few more things that matter to coaches, and many of them may actually rank higher than money.
  • Howard also makes a Freudian slip here, but corrects himself when he says that Weis got his big contract extension when he beat USC... err, lost to USC. That's the rub.
  • KH: makes a big deal about home fans booing Michigan players/coaches. This is shaky ground, I think, that Herbstreit is treading on. Home fans booing is an issue that is certainly fair game for discussion on the show. But it's Herbstreit that brings it up. Fans booing players is a very touchy subject in the world of recruiting. Herbstreit is an active alumnus of Michigan's biggest rival - and against whom Michigan fights several recruiting battles every year. It'd be one thing if Fowler raised the issue. But to me, this is a conflict of interest for Herbstreit to bring it up.
  • KH: Thinks the ND game is bigger for Michigan. Says Michigan's only chance of winning the Big Ten is by winning a non-conference game against ND and getting confidence.
  • KH: Penn State is the best team in the Big Ten.
  • KH: Charlie Weis is just beginning, he's not on the hot seat. Note: was Ty Willingham "just beginning" in his third season, as many have written already? There's a narrative in place that Weis needs more time.
  • Fowler also thinks it's bigger for Michigan because ND is a year away and because Michigan has been favored in all of their games so far. Note: will "ND is a year away" become the favored narrative of pundits, or will it be "What has happened to ND"? Watch next week to see. If it's the former, there's no reason to cover ND this year. If it will be the latter (as I suspect it will be), why is Fowler making this excuse now?
  • Corso breaks down Notre Dame's zone blocking and pass protection quite intelligently, surmises that Michigan will blitz more than any team in the history of college football today. He's on point: Michigan tallied 8 sacks.
  • Howard thinks Mallett will get into a rhythm and Michigan wins.
  • Herbstreit already has the narrative in mind: Michigan wins and ND goes to 0-3 and "that's a huge story". Is it? Fowler just told me it didn't matter because ND's so young.
Seventh Commercial Break
  • Miami-FIU talk, referring to last year's brawl.
  • FSU-Colorado. LC thinks FSU, his alma mater, wins. Interestingly, Corso picked FSU, Howard picked Michigan, and Herbstreit picked Ohio State. Crazy, isn't it?
  • BC-GT. Fowler says GT has been superb against ND and Samford. "GT could emerge as the ACC's closest thing to a contending team." Fowler says BC could take control of the division, and that Clemson is also unbeaten in the ACC, but apparently neither of those teams can contend.
  • WIRED! with Jon Tenuta. Complete waste of time. Shorter cuts, so this has even less context than we normally get, which is zero. The set seems to like it though.
  • KH: "I think the Yellow Jackets are for real."
  • LC: BC wins with an NFL-style attack that'll hurt the Texas, no, Tenness.., no Tech defense. Great cutback highlight though. Also says senior leadership leads to the BC win.
  • Fowler adds that BC is going to learn about Tashard Choice because teams that play against him end up respecting him.
Eighth Commercial Break
  • Segue to Penn State discussion by mentioning Turner Gill, coach at Buffalo, but they don't mention how Buffalo enjoyed one of their biggest wins ever last week.
  • Wisconsin-Citadel. Corso mentions that Citadel scored a lot of points against a bad team last week, but then says Wisconsin wins big.
  • Iowa State-Iowa. Fowler suggests that in the coming weeks they'll be OK because they've had recent success against Wisconsin, Penn State.
  • Corso: the perception of the Big Ten is low because of bowl games last year, Appalachian State, etc. Then says the Big Ten really has to win 2 games today: Ohio State- Washington and Northwestern-Duke (no mention of Iowa-ISU).
  • Herbstreit: perception is important when it comes to the Big Ten, BUT, it's too early to tell because the good teams in the Big Ten haven't played anybody. Further tracking the Herbstreit "facts haven't yet completely confirmed that I'm wrong, even if they haven't supported my opinions, so I'm not" thesis. Also: if the good teams haven't played anybody good, the Big Ten schools are at least partially to blame for that - and this time Herbstreit comes back to that perspective.
  • Herbstreit ranks conferences this way: 1) SEC, 2) Pac Ten closing ground to SEC, HUGE DROP, 3) Maybe Big East? Big Ten way behind the other power conferences. I don't know whether I should praise Herbstreit for not pandering in Big XII country, or wonder why he didn't mention them - there are 6 unbeaten teams and 2 of the top 6 in the rankings.
  • Trevor Matich is a big guy.
Ninth Commercial Break
  • Arkansas-Alabama. Replay of highlights from last year.
  • WIRED! with Nick Saban. THIS IS A REPEAT WIRED. "That ain't how you play cover-2!" has been shown before. If you're repeating these stupid segments already in week THREE, you need to find some new content.
  • Extended piece on Darren McFadden's stiff arm. That dude is a freak of nature.
  • Matich and Howard on the REAL field to show how a stiff arm works. Desmond has changed into a sweat suit. Matich's info is technical and informative.
  • Fowler seems a little frustrated that nobody's picking upsets.
Tenth Commercial Break
  • Number 5 is now a trendy number for tailbacks.
  • Semi-extended piece on Marlon Lucky changing numbers from 20 to 5. Punchline: Lucky "chose" #5 because it was the only one left.
  • Lots of Californians on Nebraska, no Nebraskans on SC.
  • Highlights of Arizona State-Nebraska from 2 years ago, short interview with Sam Keller.
  • Corso says Nebraska needs to throw the ball and attack SC.
  • Herbstreit sarcastically suggests SC isn't afraid, that SC's defense is great, waiting for a big moment.
  • Herbstreit says Nebraska needs to throw the ball on first down to have a chance.
  • Herbstreit thinks '07 USC would be just fine against '95 Nebraska and '71 Nebraska. I respectfully disagree with him about '95 Nebraska - probably the best team I've seen in my lifetime.
Eleventh Commercial Break
  • Tennessee-Florida. Florida is whipping its rivals lately.
  • Shelley Smith (doing double duty) provides an extended piece on how the families of the coaching staff come to practice on Thursday night. The producers really must think Shelley Smith draws in the occasional viewers. I could do without all of this, and I bet most of the people reading this think the same. But we're not the ones they care about, I guess. Maybe some other network will put on a college football preview show for fans of college football, rather than for people who aren't really fans.
  • Fowler: questions Florida's defense, says first time starters for Florida typically struggle against UT.
  • Jesse Palmer and his douchetacular hair make an appearance to discuss Florida. His analysis is actually good, or at least isn't terrible or vacuous, but I can barekly pay attention because of the gel in his hair. HDTV has drawbacks.
  • Corso: Ainge can throw the ball like a pro and Cutcliffe has it working well. Thinks Tennessee will score a lot of points because Florida's defense has little experience and doesn't cause turnovers. Florida recovered 3 turnovers, including one for a TD.
  • Herbstreit thinks Tennessee has been tested because of the Cal game. Also thinks Tebow will be unleashed.
Twelfth Commercial Break
  • Pontiac Game Changer: LC - Art Carmody, Louisville. KH - Andre Woodson, Kentucky. CF - Tim Tebow. Herbstreit and Fowler tie.
  • Saturday Stupid Selections: LC - Louisville, Tennessee to cover. KH - Georgia Tech,
  • Corso takes pandering to the crowd to a new level: "If I could live anywhere by Orlando, I'd live in Lincoln!"
  • Also: Corso wears jeans on the set, not suit pants. Nice.
Heavy on the human interest stories, but a few nice new segments. Todd McShay's segment worked well, though I was afraid it might not. I hope that one comes back again.

Next week: I have very little idea where the Gameday crew will travel. The only matchup of ranked opponents is South Carolina at LSU, but they traveled to Baton Rouge just last week. Penn State at Michigan was probably the early season choice, but with the Wolverines' issues they might not go there. USC plays Washington State at home. Oklahoma plays on Friday night. West Virginia plays East Carolina (whom Gameday has already covered). If ESPN ends up with Georgia at Alabama, it wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility for them to go to Tuscaloosa.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

A few College Football Thoughts

1. Though I don't participate, I do like to follow the BlogPoll. I have an odd sense of interest in reading how various participants create their polls. I get the sense that there's a tension in early season ballotting that's something like this:

Should the voter use only information obtained by on-field results, though such is most certainly incomplete (examples of this method are SMQ and Kyle at Dawg Sports), or should the voter use his or her own opinions, though such may be completely incorrect and proved wrong through subsequent games?

It's an interesting question. I believe it's a question of "what we know" vs. "what we think". "What we know" is only a small piece of the big picture, but at least we know what we know (and we can correct things once we have more information). "What we think" may provide a result now that is more in line with the eventual final outcome, but it also may give undeserved credit early on to teams whose on-field performance is terrible (and yes, that can be corrected later too - though one wonders about "opinion inertia").

2. I will be doing the "Lebowski Rankings" again this year. Must wait about 5 weeks to get worthwhile schedule rankings though.

3. When looking at the scores from last week, only one result actually stunned me. Buffalo 42, Temple 7. On the road. The Bulls outgained the Owls 414-141 and held the Owls to -36 yards on 25 carries. Remember, this is Buffalo. They had won a total of 12 games in their 8 seasons in Division 1-A. Only 4 of those 12 wins were on the road (averaging 0.5 road wins per year since joining 1-A). The aggregate record of the teams Buffalo has beaten (record in the year Buffalo won): 24-112, averaging 2-9. Of course, Temple is not good. But a 35 point win for Buffalo on the road (and they were underdogs in Vegas) is simply ridiculous.

4. Something's Gotta Give. Matchups this weekend between unbeaten teams:

West Virginia at Maryland (tonight)
USC at Nebraska
Boston College at Georgia Tech
Louisville at Kentucky
Ohio State at Washington
Arkansas at Alabama
Texas at Central Florida
Norfolk State at Rutgers

5. Please God Something's Gotta Give. Matchups this weekend between winless teams:

San Jose State at Stanford
Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois
Alcorn State at UAB
Houston at Tulane
New Hampshire at Marshall
and yes, Notre Dame at Michigan

6. Oddest Away Games:

Texas at Central Florida (opening UCF's new stadium)
Minnesota at Florida Atlantic
Texas Tech at Rice (Texas Tech should be the biggest favorite of any road team all year).

7. Potentially, the most meaningful games of the weekend. These are games that could directly affect a conference title or a bowl berth down the road.

Tennessee at Florida (could determine SEC East)
Arkansas at Alabama (if not for the Geauxrilla, this could affect the SEC West)
Vandy at Ole Miss (a loss here could be the tipping point for a bowl berth)
TCU at Air Force (TCU were among the MWC favorites, but USAFA sit atop the standings)
Southern Miss at East Carolina (could determine C-USA East)


I eagerly await Bill Simmons' treatise on the Kurdish-Turkish-Armenian conflicts.

Mandatory Blogger Preemptive Statement: Yes, it's passe to blog about Bill Simmons.

So in Bill Simmons' "Boston Blog" entry yesterday (and isn't it nice that one city gets their own little blog at the four letter?), Simmons wants to analyze the Patriots' videotaping controversy. Joining him is avowed Patriots fan Aaron Schatz. Nice to see that a dissenting voice is there to balance the discussion. The email chain proceeds as you would expect it to. But there was one line that sums up Simmons' sense of self worth appropriately:

"I love the fact you just quoted a Terrell Davis column. I'm just finishing his book about the Gaza Strip."

See, I'm just a guy who doesn't really know much about anything, but if I have one talent on this earth, it's the ability to spot a bullshitter. And one of the first signs always is intellectual arrogance about a topic one knows nothing about and towards someone who knows something about the same topic.

Terrell Davis' column (the merits of which are most certainly fair game for criticism) wasn't about the Gaza Strip, but was about football, and the effects of cheating toward competition.

Who would know more about a football team's operations and whether cheating the way the Patriots did would affect an outcome?

Person A: Seven year veteran of the NFL. League MVP. Super Bowl MVP. Two time AP Offensive Player of the Year.

Person B: Zero year veteran of the NFL. Zero years experience working at any level for a professional football team.

Which one would have more experience and expertise on this topic?

Also: I don't know whether a book about the Gaza Strip written by Terrell Davis would provide any insight, but I'd bet it wouldn't be peppered with 15 years stale Karate Kid jokes and 90210 references.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Gameday Recap

Week Two
September 8, 2007
Baton Rouge, Louisiana - Virginia Tech vs. LSU

Lots of questions open up the second week. Will there be a repeat of the 90% human interest story show from last week? How will the Appalachian State win be covered? Are there any new quirks in the program that they just didn't have time for last week with all the VT stuff? Will the hosts actually provide any concrete football analysis, or will it still be more "emotion" and "retribution" and "this team is tired of people questioning them". Of course, I've been asking most of these questions for a couple of years now. So I guess we'll see.

  • Opening comments from CF on how LSU is "supremely confident", "talking about shutting out VT", and suggests that they're taking the Hokies lightly.
  • Corso loves LSU because he can get some pralines.
  • KH: "Of all the places we go, this has the best tailgating and some of the best food."
  • Kind of a dick comment from Fowler: "[LSU] will honor two victims of the [VT] shootings who were involved in Katrina relief, but we'll see how long the respect lasts." Y'know, it was a terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech. We all know this because they devoted an entire show to it, ignoring the football game they were there to supposedly cover. How should LSU deal with the Virginia Tech shootings from 5 months ago? Should LSU fans root for the Hokies instead? Should they just decide not to cheer loudly? Should all Virginia Tech opponents just forfeit their games to the Hokies out of respect?
  • CF: If you like football where yards and first downs are hard to come by, you'll like LSU-VT. LSU racked up 598 yards (301 passing, 297 rushing!) and 28 first downs.
  • LC: How well LSU can block VT's SEC-type defense and players will determine how good LSU's offense is. See above.
  • LC: VT won't play a better team in a more hostile place than LSU.
  • Herbstreit goes on a tirade about "arrogance" among big programs against smaller foes.
  • Fowler corrects Herbstreit slightly by saying aside from Appalachian State, there were few upsets (though lots of underdogs covered).
First Commercial Break
  • Corso thinks Michigan rallies and scores a lot against Oregon, and that they'd need to. Half right.
  • Herbstreit was very impressed by Georgia's defense the week before, same with Matthew Stafford. Probably not as much anymore.
  • CF: TCU just doesn't let teams run the ball. Texas rushed for 176 yards on 4.9 a carry.
  • I think this is a bit of interesting information from Fowler: "[Mack Brown] told me that there is no way he can make his guys believe this TCU game is as big, means as much as it does to TCU". Mack Brown is admitting he can't motivate his team to win a game as well as someone else?
  • KH: TCU is ready on defense, just doesn't have the offensive weapons. Sort of. Texas moved the ball well, but TCU didn't, especially running the ball.
  • Herbstreit disagrees with Mack Brown, saying Mack Brown won't have to work as hard to motivate Texas because of what TCU did at Oklahoma a few years back.
  • Desmond Howard is back on the Gameday Bus, loosened tie.
Second Commercial Break
  • About 20 comments so far about how hot it is in Baton Rouge.
  • Nebraska-Wake Forest talk. A little analysis of last week's Nebraska game, but Herbstreit really focuses on "look-ahead" nature of the game.
  • LC: Nebraska's playing in the smallest stadium they've played in in the last 36 years. I'm not going to go back through all those years, but Nebraska did play at Southern Miss just a couple of years ago, and their stadium isn't much bigger. Also, Iowa State's stadium isn't much bigger than Wake's, and Nebraska plays there every other year.
  • Corso thinks Nebraska will be lucky to escape with a win because (a) Wake plays in a small stadium; (b) Wake is the third most losing program in football history; and (c) USC is coming to Nebraska the next week. Missing among those reasons, anything about talent, scheme, coaching. And arguably (a) and (b) would suggest that it's more likely that they win, right? But he's right about the prediction!
  • CF: "Enormous College Gameday implications in that Nebraska-Wake game"
  • What have we learned about the ACC? LC: Either GT is tremendous or ND is lousy (both is not possible?). Florida State was resilient, showed character, and will be much better.
  • KH: Clemson only cares when people are watching.
  • CF takes a mini-shot at Corso in re FSU, saying that FSU played better against Clemson largely because of Clemson mistakes.
Third Commercial Break
  • Extensive Review of ND-GT. Note: very few other programs receive coverage like ND. This is an editorial decision to spend several minutes of programming to a bad performance of a bad team.
  • "Jimmy Clausen Timeline". Did you know that this true freshman turns 20 in 3 weeks? I turned 20 after my Sophomore year had already been completed. How well is that known? Was Clausen a major recruit partly because he was dominating against kids 18-24 months or more younger than he was?
  • Lou Holtz, who has no particular ax to grind, is brought on to talk about Notre Dame. Says Clausen "will be great, just a matter of when".
  • Fowler asks if Holtz still thinks ND will win 11 games. Now Holtz says 8 games. Says "All ND needs is a quarterback", in 2008 they'll be awesome.
  • LC: Forget about emotion with ND, I want to talk about facts! (Halleluia!) Lists a bunch of facts about returning players. Thinks ND will be lucky to win 1 of the next 8.
  • KH: Clausen isn't your normal freshman because he got to campus early, but still only thinks ND wins 2 of the next 8.
  • Holtz: ND is capable of winning the football game, but the defense is going to have to do it. Upon pressure from Fowler, Holtz only goes so far as to say they have a chance.
  • Howard is chatting online, the chatters think ND might not score. Howard thinks it'll be close.
Fourth Commercial Break
  • Review of Appalachian State vs. Michigan.
  • Fowler talks about how LSU "dodged" Appalachian State, but then says they're coming in 2009. So last week Fowler mocked teams that were playing 1-AA opponents. Now, when LSU is playing a top 10 nonconference opponent, LSU is "dodging" a lower division opponent.
  • Tom Rinaldi extended piece on Appalachian State and "where it is". And they get to make fun of the Miss Teen South Carolina on the way. I think it's nice that they're covering the Appalachian State program in general, but I would've liked to have seen some more coverage of the team itself. "It was not a fluke" says the coach.
  • Fowler doesn't understand the sign of Nick Saban holding moneybags and wearing a Michigan shirt. Not too hard to figure out, Chris. The LSU fans, having been left by Saban for greener pastures, are suggesting that were Michigan to offer a little more money than Saban is currently being paid at Alabama, he'd leave for the job quickly. Fowler says that Saban wouldn't take the Michigan job, having previously coached at Michigan State, apparently ignorant of the idea that LSU and Alabama are in the same conference, rivals at some level, and with fans that aren't exactly in love with one another.
  • Now a discussion as to whether 1-AA victories are a trend or a one-off.
  • KH says it's not a trend, once in a lifetime event. Ranked opponents losing, that might be the case, but there have been quite a few 1-AA wins over 1-A opponents recently (Portland State, Richmond, Indiana State, Nicholls State, UC-Davis, Northern Colorado have done just that in recent years, and that's just by my memory).
  • KH says that the wishbone/veer is an equalizer for smaller teams, says that Appalachian State's spread made it hard for Michigan. Don't a whole lot of teams run spread offenses now? It's not like Appalachian State was running something different from every other team on earth.
  • LC: Appalachian State's win is like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling and like a meteor hitting the earth once every 100,000 years. Won't happen again for 10,000 years because every coach will say "remember Appalachian State" (and not because 1-A teams have more scholarships, more resources, usually playing at home, countless other reasons... no, it's because of motivational speaking). Corso says he thought Chicken Little was a "great movie".
  • Fowler says this won't be the last time, but might not be soon, won't be 10,000 years.
Fifth Commercial Break
  • Quick revisiting of the Virginia Tech tragedy. More talk of "emotions" of Virginia Tech. Seriously, do they really think Virginia Tech isn't focused on football?
  • Herbstreit says, with all due respect to ECU, all the buildup before the game regarding the tragedy and "look-ahead" led to the weak result against ECU. No mention of the role ESPN and Herbstreit played in building up that game.
  • Some discussion on how great LSU's defense is. But then they interview Sean Glennon, who doesn't talk about LSU's defense.
  • Fowler mentions how he thinks Glennon is too sensitive regarding his critics and crowd noise. This show should be called "The ESPN College Football Intangibles Show".
  • Howard is on the fake field showing how to change plays, do silent counts with crowd noise. This was decent. And Howard wasn't dressed differently. Howard has been a lot better this year, and quite possibly the best part of the show, because he's actually discussed things that matter to the game.
  • Corso says that when he coached (in case you hadn't heard the 40000 times before, he once was a coach) at LSU, they used a tighter huddle and used quicker playcalls.
Sixth Commercial Break
  • Miami-Oklahoma discussion, some footage from way back in the 80s. Wish they did more of that.
  • Extended piece on Randy Shannon. Joe Schad reporting. All human interest, something for the casual fans. Fine piece for what it is, but I'd prefer less of this.
  • They throw to Jimmy Dykes on set to give local news on Miami-Oklahoma, and this was important because the weather could have affected the game. More of this would improve the show.
  • KH thinks Miami-Oklahoma is a big opportunity for Miami, and one of the "matchups of the year" will be OU's offense vs. Miami's defense. KH doesn't think Miami's offense is good enough.
  • LC thinks Miami has a chance, and it'll be because Miami's defense will keep the game close like a baseball score, but Oklahoma wins because of long passes over the top (kind of conflicting what he'd just said).
Seventh Commercial Break (halfway point)
  • Fowler again can't stand the heat in Baton Rouge.
  • Pac-10 discussion time.
  • BYU-UCLA talk. Corso likes UCLA, BYU to cover. Herbstreit admits he doubted BYU last week, but that he's buying them now. Wrong both times.
  • Arizona State-Colorado. They both like ASU. Corso reaffirms his statement that ASU runs of a bunch of wins at the beginning of the year.
  • Washington-Boise State. Corso takes UW because of red zone success. Herbstreit takes a shot at Syracuse.
  • Herbstreit makes very little sense here on Boise State. "This is the day that Boise State steps out of the shadows" and shows the country that they were good before the Oklahoma game, and that they're good after the Oklahoma game. I have trouble following this, but it seems to be that Boise State isn't getting respect. Corso provides the reality check, that Boise State is the favorite in that game.
Eighth Commercial Break
  • Fowler again hints that LSU is overconfident.
  • SEC discussion time.
  • Florida-Troy. Corso thinks Florida's DBs will be tested because they haven't been good yet. Florida's D gave up 61 passing yards in the first half. After that point (it was 49-7), they gave up a bunch. In the previous game, Florida gave up 156 yards and no TDs to Provisional 1-A Western Kentucky. I'm not sure where Corso sees Florida's pass defense as "not good".
  • Bama-Vandy. Herbstreit gives it potential upset alert because it's a small stadium and "feels like a spring game", but Fowler corrects him by saying Alabama's spring game drew 90,000.
  • Auburn-South Florida. Fowler calls USF a "dangerous dog". Herbstreit says USF is improving because they beat Louisville 2 years ago and WVU last year. Neither picks USF. Herbstreit thinks Auburn wins because everyone's been warning Auburn that USF might upset them. Intangibilissimo! Fowler says Auburn's not looking past this game because the Velcro Pygmies are playing at the Fiji house. Fowler seems pleased with himself.
  • Georgia-USC. Stat they highlight: Georgia has held USC under 17 in 9 of 10 meetings. They did again, but lost (like they have in a couple other of those 10 meetings).
  • Semi-extended piece on USC. They show how USC uses Corso's words against him in a pregame video.
  • Corso says "Let's talk about football" in response to being made to look kind of like an idiot. Herbstreit tries to rub it in, Corso says "I don't dig that kind of stuff. Pfft!"
  • Herbstreit thinks Georgia's going to run and throw and the defense is deserving of credit, Georgia wins handily.
Ninth Commercial Break
  • Penn State-Notre Dame talk. More old time highlights, and review of last year's game.
  • Fowler says that the Penn State whiteout will be "Edmonton Oiler style". Penn State's done this before, haven't they?
  • Charlie Weis has kind of dickish response in a press conference, though we can't really tell what he was responding to.
  • Herbstreit thinks Penn State has a shot to go undefeated. There's some actual chalkboard breakdown of some defensive schemes for Penn State. When they actually break down a play, it's very helpful and good. Why don't they do that all the time?
  • Corso likes that Morelli spread the ball around, but really this game is "all about redemption".
  • Fowler again complains about the heat and humidity.
Tenth Commercial Break
  • Gillette Game Face: limited face paint. They look drunk, naturally.
  • Look back at Michigan's last three games. More in depth look back at the last week. Call-in show clips, press conferences, etc.
  • Fowler appropriately responds with befuddlement regarding Michgan players' statements that "fans aren't expecting much from them".
  • Corso, not content to allow Holtz to monopolize the embarrassment for "giving a pep talk to Michigan", offers his own, tradition-heavy locker room speech. Herbstreit has a good poker face by not laughing.
  • Herbstreit says Michigan will either fall apart or circle the wagons, says the Michigan seniors will show leadership.
  • No mention as to whether Oregon, y'know... Michigan's opponent, is any good.
  • Graphics show teams that lost opener but went on to have great seasons, but at least Fowler admits that none of those teams lost to a 1-AA opponent.
  • Finally some discussion of Oregon.
  • WIRED! with Mike Bellotti. For the newbies, I absolutely hate this bit. There's no context, nothing at all to be gained from this. Wow, coaches have voices and sometimes yell during practice, but we can't tell what they're yelling at. Totally useless.
  • Corso thinks Michigan rebounds and wins BIG because Oregon can't play great defense.
  • Herbstreit turns it around on Oregon, says that Oregon hasn't mattered since Joey Harrington. Also thinks Michigan wins because they're tired of hearing about Appalachian State.
  • Fowler says Oregon has something to prove because they performed terribly in a bowl last year.
Eleventh Commercial Break
  • WIRED!!! with Brian Stinespring. We totally just found out what was wrong with VT last week, thanks to 25 seconds of context-free shouting by an offensive coordinator.
  • Guard Sergio Render talks trash to Glenn Dorsey. Interesting lead-in. Bad idea for that lineman.
  • In-depth piece on Glenn Dorsey. Steve Cyphers reporting. Again, these pieces are good for what they are, but what they are is something I don't always want to see. I'd rather they go in further depth by analyzing the game.
  • Great quote: Glenn Dorsey says "The Heisman goes to the 'Pretty Boys'".
  • Herbstreit breaks down how double-teaming Dorsey doesn't solve anything because LSU has more talent. Do more of this - isolating breakdown of plays.
  • Howard is on the set now, says kick returners will be important in winning the field position battle.
  • Corso: you have to be better than LSU to beat them in Death Valley. They don't call him the best in the business for nothing!
Twelfth Commercial Break
  • Live report from Erin Andrews at Nebraska-Wake. Sime info on the return of
  • Game Breakers: LC- Ryan Torain of ASU. KH- Mike Hart. CF - Dan Connor of Penn State. Maybe Connor is the right pick? I didn't see the game. Torain had a decent game (91 yds and a TD).
  • Saturday Stupid Selections: LC - Georgia, Auburn, Michigan. KH - Vandy to cover, Georgia, Auburn, that Miami-Oklahoma was the game of the day, Michigan.
  • Fowler took off his jacket and he is totally drenched. Looks like he went swimming.
Much better show than last week. Some football-related content made the show. Herbstreit, if there's any chance you read this, take this piece of advice: do more of the play breakdowns like you did for the Penn State and LSU games. Those are actually informative and useful.

One interesting thing: I don't think there was a single mention of the #1 team in the nation, USC. That might be a first for this show. If I remember correctly, last year on USC's bye week they still did a Shelley Smith human interest story. Next week I'm sure will be loaded with USC segments, since it's probable that they'll be in Lincoln for the USC-Nebraska game. But it was kind of nice to have a week where there wasn't news about USC to actually lead to no forced stories on the show.