Wednesday Gator Bites

December 10, 2008

The BCS is in theory something I should not complain about too much as a Gator fan, but I will anyway. This year needed a playoff, and on top of that it was one of the very few where eight teams would not be enough. You’d need to find a ninth spot for undefeated Boise State.

What is interesting this year is that it appears the BCS went with “best” over “most deserving.” Florida got a spot in the title game in 2006, and Ohio State and LSU got their spots last year by playing the “most deserving” card. This year, Oklahoma passed up Texas by better meeting the eyeball test.

It’s worth noting though that it took Oklahoma setting the record for points scored in a season with a game to go to make that happen. It’ll be interesting to see what is necessary to break ties next season.

The BCS Championship Game is something that not many people seem to be upset about. Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman are the latest, though easily not the first, to rank it as the most appealing bowl game. I can’t blame them, and I have yet to see anyone pick anything else.

Dan McCarney was linked to the New Mexico job earlier this week. Since the Lobos have hired Mike Locksley, that will not happen. I am selfishly glad because I think another season with McCarney would do wonders for the D-line, but he deserves another shot at having a head coaching job.

The Gators and Tim Tebow made the cover of SI this week. Go have a look for yourself.

The Heisman voting ends today, and the finalists will be announced on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter. For now it looks like Sam Bradford is the leader, with Tebow in second and Colt McCoy third. Or maybe it’s McCoy-Bradford-Tebow. Would you believe Tebow-Bradford-McCoy? Anyway, as with the national title game, it’s easy to make a case why any deserve it but hard to make the case that any don’t.

The website Stiff Arm Trophy is again tracking all publicly-known votes. It appears that it’s not the number of first place votes but the number of second place votes that will propel Bradford to taking home the statue. And no, I have not thought at any point this season after the first game that Tebow would realistically win another.

Fascinating though that Tebow’s argument last season, which was look at the stats and not the record, is entirely reversed this season. He’ll be a finalist, but I’ll be shocked if he wins it.


New Stadium Art

December 10, 2008

They wasted no time in getting that up and painted while the metal version is made. I guess they do that to inspire the players if they practice in the stadium at some point.

They did that back in 2006 after the SEC title, and I know because I saw it when I went into the Swamp to take pictures after my undergrad graduation ceremony. Looks like this year is no different.


Gators on the All-SEC Team

December 9, 2008

Normally today is the day where I tell you which Gators made the all-SEC team for the week. Seeing as how the season is over, the all-SEC team for the whole season came out yesterday.

Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, and Phil Trautwein made the first team. Percy Harvin, Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, and Joe Haden made the second team. There is no third team, but Brandon James, Jonathan Phillips, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey, Jason Watkins, and Ahmad Black made honorable mention.

Tebow was named Offensive Player of the Year.

It’s somewhat puzzling to see Harvin on the second team behind LSU’s Brandon LaFell and Georgia’s A.J. Green, but I guess the selectors were looking for traditional receivers first. It’s great to see Black on there, considering he wasn’t even going to start until he was forced to by injury. All he did was tie for the second-most interceptions in the country with six.

All told, 13 Gators were recognized for excellence by the conference. Four of the five offensive linemen were recognized, all except Carl Johnson who did not play a full year at guard.

One name that will certainly be on this list next year (barring injury) is Janoris Jenkins. Man, is that guy good.


Gators Potentially on the Move

December 8, 2008

When you go to the national title game twice in three years, you can expect to see assistant coaches start looking around at other opportunities. Norm Chow and Lane Kiffin left USC for the NFL earlier in the decade, and Mark Mangino and Mike Stoops left Bob Stoops’ staff too. It comes with the territory, two guys on the staff are browsing at head coaching jobs.

It should come as no surprise that defensive line coach Dan McCarney is looking at the opening at New Mexico. He is the winningest coach in Iowa State history and took them to bowls with more regularity than anyone else has. It amazed me that they let him go, and they have done nothing but suffer under his successor. Apparently the AD at New Mexico hired Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and Meyer recommended that McCarney look at the job.

Dan Mullen was rumored to be in play at New Mexico State not that long ago, but that talk died down. He is now said to be a major player for the Mississippi State job, though he is not a confirmed finalist as had apparently been reported in some corners of the Internet. When you’re the offensive coordinator for the most dominant offense the SEC has seen in a long time, you’re going to get some interest, but I don’t know if that’s a good fit for him.

Tim Tebow, for his part, says that he once thought going to the national title game would affect his decision to go pro or not, but now he doesn’t think so. He says he wants to stay, but ” it also would be great and really fun to go to the next level and see how that goes, too.”

The fact that he used the word “want” with coming back to school and “see how that goes” when referring to the NFL makes me think he’s leaning towards coming back. It’s a weak quarterback class, but I think the scouts probably want to see him go back another year. Of all stats, the only one with a high correlation to NFL success is total collegiate starts, so they are probably right.

The other Gators I see potentially leaving early are Jermaine Cunningham, Percy Harvin, and Brandon Spikes. Spikes missed out on winning the Bronko Nagurski award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive lineman or linebacker, finishing behind Texas DE Brian Orakpo. It’s understandable because he’s an absolute beast and he helped cover for a woefully young UT secondary.

An interesting report from that ceremony is that Orakpo gave Spikes some advice on beating the Sooners. You know that Texas is the only team to beat Oklahoma, but did you know Orakpo had two sacks, four tackles for loss, and a forced fumble in the game? I’m sure whatever he had to say pales in comparison to what Florida’s film staff can tell him after a month of study, but there are certainly worse people to ask for help from.


Hypothetical BCS Title Game Scenarios

December 8, 2008

With the BCS Championship Game set between Florida and Oklahoma, a lot of time and effort will go towards analyzing the two teams. Before we leave everyone else for third place or worse, I figured it would be fun to look at what historians call counterfactuals. You and I know them as “what ifs.”

Florida and Oklahoma are obvious inclusions, as is Texas since some voters out there still think the Longhorns should be No. 1. I went ahead and included USC as well because of how dominant their defense has been, and it’s hardly their fault that the Pac-10 stunk it up big time.

The methodology I used was the same as I used for the SEC title game last week. I looked at what effect each team had on its BCS conference opponents and used that against the other’s season averages to project yardage and points for the game. I am not going to make all the tables for all these matchups, but if you want to see some that illustrate the methodology, have a look at the prior post.

I do two projections for each game. One is using real numbers, meaning statements like “Florida holds its opponents to 12.48 points below their season averages,” and one is using percentages, meaning statements like “Florida holds its opponents to 52 percent below their season averages.” I should mention that I left TCU in Oklahoma’s calculations because the MWC is better that at least the Big East and the Frogs are in the top-15 of the polls.

For the time being, I give more credence to the real number projections because they did a better job at projecting the SEC title game. They had a 35-21 Gator win (actual was 31-20, which becomes 34-20 if UF doesn’t miss a field goal), and they had Florida outgaining Alabama 372 to 325 (actual was UF 358 and Bama 323). The percentages projected the yards slightly better but had the scores too low.

That is a sample size of one though, so I know that the percentages could end up being better in general.

The Matchups

First up is the actual BCS title game with Florida versus Oklahoma. The real numbers project a UF victory of 41-40, with the Sooners outgaining the Gators by a count of 481 to 440. The percentages predict a much more comfortable Gator win of 41-26, with Florida narrowly outgaining the Sooners 449 to 435.

If the Longhorn fans had their way, it would be Florida versus Texas. The real numbers project an instant classic Gator win of 36-35, with the Longhorns barely outgaining their foes 415 to 400. The percentages do the same thing in this game as with UF-OU, as they project a 32-20 Gator win with Florida outgaining Texas 406 to 359.

If we wanted to have an East Coast/West Coast game, we’d have Florida versus USC. The real numbers project a narrow Florida win of 28-24, with USC massively outgaining Florida 385 to 313. The percentages are not as kind to UF as they have USC winning a low-scoring 18-14 contest with the Trojans outgaining the Gators 364 to 275.

If the rematch had happened, we’d have Oklahoma versus Texas. The real numbers project the Sooners avenging their loss with a 42-37 win, having outgained the Longhorns 495 to 436. The percentages see these teams basically even in points with Texas winning 35-34, though the Sooners are projected to outgain Texas 471 to 431.

A replay of 2004 would give us a game with Oklahoma versus USC. The real numbers have Bob Stoops avenging his 2004 loss with a 35-33 win, though with USC outgaining OU 439 to 408. The percentages see the Trojans doubling up the Sooners 32-16, with the Men of Troy massively outgaining OU 439 to 322.

Finally, the matchup of the two on the outside looking in is Texas versus USC. The real numbers project a narrow Trojan win of 27-24, with USC outgaining Texas 399 to 310. The percentages don’t see it that close, with USC rolling the ‘Horns 25-12 and outgaining them 396 to 266.

Overall

Here are the results of this fictional tournament. The real numbers see Florida going 3-0, Oklahoma going 2-1, and Texas and USC each going 1-2. The percentages see USC going 3-0, Florida going 2-1, Texas going 1-2, and Oklahoma going a surprising 0-3.

The real numbers say the system got it right, while the percentages favor the Gators and Trojans. No matter, almost all of these hypothetical games are close. These are all good teams and choosing between them is basically a task of splitting hairs. An actual tournament wouldn’t definitively say which team is best of them, but it would at least give us a most deserving team.

If there’s another matchup of teams you’d like me to do, tell me in the comments and I’ll try to get around to it some time. I’ll do Utah if you want, since I think the MWC is as good as or better than the Big East and maybe the Pac-10, but the WAC is not, so sorry but no Boise State.


Coaches’ Poll Votes

December 8, 2008

Since this is the final poll, the coaches’ votes are public. There are here, courtesy of the poll’s sponsor, USA Today. Urban Meyer voted Florida No. 1, Oklahoma No. 2, Alabama No. 3, and Texas No. 4. Mack Brown had Florida No. 1 and Texas No. 2. Bob Stoops did not have a vote.

The eight coaches to vote for an Oklahoma-Texas rematch were Iowa State’s Gene Chizik, North Texas’ Todd Dodge, Colorado’s Dan Hawkins, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, UTEP’s Mike Price, Purdue’s Joe Tiller, and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel (!).

All except Tiller and Tressel, both Big Ten coaches, are either Big 12 coaches or coach in the Big 12 footprint. Good to know that SEC-Big Ten relations are doing so well (see below) and that Tressel is completely over the game from two years ago.

Texas Tech’s Mike Leach also had Florida No. 3 as the rematch folks did, but he had Oklahoma at No. 1 and his own Texas Tech Red Raiders No. 2.

Interesting:

  • Leach and Baylor’s Art Briles have Texas at No. 5
  • Both Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook have Oklahoma No. 1 and Florida No. 2
  • Every SEC coach with a vote except Spurrier had Florida No. 1
  • Where other coaches in Florida had the Gators: FIU’s Mario Cristobal and FAU’s Howard Schnellenberger had them at No. 1, while FSU’s Bobby Bowden, USF’s Jim Leavitt, and UCF’s George O’Leary had them at No. 2. Miami’s Randy Shannon did not have a vote this year.
  • Bobby’s son Tommy got to keep his vote despite losing his job, and he voted Florida No. 1
  • Not one single Big Ten coach had Florida at No. 1. Tiller and Tressel had the Gators at No. 3, and Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez, and Zook all had Florida at No. 2. Florida got 26 of the 61 first place votes, so by percentages, UF should have got 2 or 3 first place votes from the Big Ten voting bloc.

It’s Official

December 7, 2008

It’s No. 1 Oklahoma versus No. 2 Florida for it all.


It’s Close, but Looking Good

December 7, 2008

The Coaches’ Poll has come out, and Florida is just a single point behind Oklahoma for No. 1. That doesn’t matter as much as the fact that Texas is just 73 points behind Florida.

What is notable is that four coaches switched their first-place votes from Alabama to Texas, keeping both the Gators and Sooners out of the top spot. This poll will become public so it’ll be interesting to see where those four have UF and OU and if they were trying to game the system.

Anyway, the Coaches’ Poll component of the BCS looks like this:

Oklahoma – .9718
Florida – .9711
Texas – .9232

We know that UF is #4 in Sagarin’s computer poll. I project the others this way, just eyeballing it off of last week and not in any way using the formulas:

Anderson/Hester: OU 1, UT 2, UF 3
Billingsley: OU 1, UF 2, Bama 3, UT 4
Colley: UT 1, OU 2, UF 3
Massey: OU 1, TTU 2, UT 3, UF 4
Wolfe: OU 1, UT 2, TTU 3, UF 4

If that is the case, the computer element looks like this:

Oklahoma: 1.000
Texas: 0.95
Florida 0.90

Now comes the Harris Poll. As we all know, Florida was No. 2 in it last week and should move to No. 1. If everyone in the Harris Poll voted UF #1, OU #2, and UT #3, then the Harris component could look like this:

Florida: 1.000
Oklahoma: 0.9600
Texas: 0.9200

If you take all those numbers I ran for each component, this is the final BCS standings:

Oklahoma: 0.9773
Florida: 0.9570
Texas: 0.9310

So we should be good.

UPDATE 4:45 PM

A poster on the GatorSports.com message board who seems to have high credibility as well as high Gator Boosters standing says the UAA has already called him about ordering tickets to the BCS title game in Miami. Usual grains of salt are required for any “inside info” coming from message boards, but this seems about a legit as they come.

The official announcement comes a little after 8:00 on Fox, though ESPN has a much longer bowl show at the same time and will be mirroring the information with much better analysts. Say what you want about ESPN’s guys, but the network does college football better than anyone else. For Fox, it’s nothing more than a hobby.


A Follow Up on Predictions

December 7, 2008

Last Thursday I threw out some numerical predictions for the SEC title game based on the teams’ stats and those of their opponents. I was looking to see what kind of effect each team had on their foes, such as (for instance) Florida holds its opponents to almost 13 points a game under their season averages. The whole thing is here.

Anyway, looking at real yardage and point differences (as opposed to percentage differences) produced a fairly accurate picture of the game. It said Alabama was likely to gain between 317 and 333 yards, and the Crimson Tide had 323 yards against the Gators. It also predicted a scoring window of 19 to 22 points, and Alabama scored 20.

For Florida, it predicted a range of 370 to 374 total yards. The Gators ended up gaining just 358 yards. For points, it predicted a range of 34 to 36 points, a little more than the 31 Florida ended up getting. It is worth noting that Percy Harvin could easily have made up that shortfall, and also if Jonathan Phillips made his second field goal attempt, they’d have hit the lower boundary of the range.

Whether Florida’s bowl game will hold to this pattern or not I do not know, but I’ll run the numbers again before it happens.

Other predictions I made:

  • It’s going to come down to execution in every phase of the game. (Check)
  • I don’t think one team will lead the whole game… (Check)
  • Nor do I think either will win by more than 14 points because they are so close (Check)
  • I believe Tebow will find a way to win. (Double Check)

All that’s missing at this point is a berth in the national title game to make it complete. Overall, I think I did quite well with this game. It makes me feel good, at least until I pull out my preseason predictions to revisit those for a later post. Clemson the easy choice in the ACC? Ohio State in the national title game again? Beanie Wells winning the Heisman? Ouch.


SEC Champions

December 6, 2008

Games like that are why we love football. Games like that are why we love Tim Tebow.

31-20. Champions.


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