Playoff Irony

January 9, 2008

From UF President Bernie Machen and Urban Meyer last year to UGA President Michael Adams this year, the most vocal proponents of having a playoff in college football have come from the SEC. I find that quite ironic.

You see, back in 2004 Auburn was shut out of the national championship game in favor of USC and Oklahoma. OU had just won a national championship in 2000 and had been to the title game the previous year, and Oklahoma had former Heisman Trophy winner Jason White at quarterback. USC won the AP national title the previous year and had then-current Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart. In the court of public opinion, and in the AP and Coaches’ opinion polls, those were the two best teams. Tough luck, Auburn.

Once that happened, SEC fans unleashed a public relations onslaught. The only way to prevent one of their own from getting shafted again was to indoctrinate everyone with the perception that the SEC is the best conference in the country (which was debatable then, but is not now). Once the country believes that 11 wins in the SEC are worth more than 11 wins from anywhere else, there shouldn’t be any more SEC teams left out in the cold.

In a bit of providence, this was also around the time that the SEC got a whole lot tougher. Urban Meyer and Les Miles came in, Steve Spurrier and David Cutcliffe came back, and eventually even Nick Saban would come back into the fold. Rich Brooks would get Kentucky turned around, Bobby Johnson would get Vanderbilt turned into a decent team, and Sylvester Croom began his rebuilding job that culminated in a bowl win this year. Now, you have Bobby Petrino finally coming to the conference, something he’s been trying to do for years. So while the braggadocio of the SEC fans waxed, the conference itself became a lot more difficult of a place to play.

Now, it’s mission accomplished. The SEC is perceived to be the best conference in the country, and 11 wins in it actually do count more than 11 wins elsewhere. You can see that through the selections of Florida over Michigan last year and LSU over USC, Oklahoma, and others this year for the BCS championship game. It basically guarantees that if the SEC champ finishes undefeated or with one loss, that team will make the championship game (provided that it doesn’t finish with one loss while two other BCS conference champs go undefeated, though not necessarily). The SEC beat the system and won the poll game.

That’s the irony. No conference is set up nearly as well to win in the current system than the SEC is. Single teams from other conferences (USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State, etc) have national power auras to them under the right circumstances, but no other conference can produce a champion that will automatically be seen as one of the nation’s top two or three teams. That’s why it’s ironic, that the conference that is so uniquely suited to winning under the current system would be the loudest complainers to see it overthrown.


Did the BCS Get it Right? Part II

January 9, 2008

Yesterday, I examined whether in hindsight the BCS got the national championship game participants right. As I have pointed out in the past though, that’s only half of the BCS’s mission:

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a five-game arrangement for post-season college football that is designed to match the two top-rated teams in a national championship game and to create exciting and competitive matchups between eight other highly regarded teams in four other games.

So, did it get the second half correct?

The Sugar Bowl

Participants: 10-2 Georgia vs. 12-0 Hawaii

Result: Georgia 41 – Hawaii 10

This game sure set the tone for the 2008 rendition of the BCS. It was unwatchable unless you are a Dawg or you just liked seeing Hawaii get its comeuppance for actually thinking it belonged in the BCS and then daring to be sanctimonious about it. I feared for Colt Brennan’s life at times, and this game spooked June Jones so much that he actually willingly took the job at SMU.

The Rose Bowl

Participants: 9-3 Illinois vs. 10-2 USC

Result: USC 49 – Illinois 17

This game had the largest margin, and honestly USC could have made it even bigger if it wanted to. Illinois was overmatched from the start, and the Trojans just kept pouring it on as the Illini kept giving the ball away. From everything I’ve read, the nation wanted to see Georgia in this game, but that was kept from happening by two main things: 1) the BCS rules made it so the Sugar would’ve had to give permission to the Rose to take UGA, which it did not, and 2) the Rose Bowl officials think it’s 1960 and believe that there’s nothing better than a Big Ten/Pac 10 matchup.

Illinois had to be in a game somewhere since it finished in the top 14 and was the only eligible team left after you accounted for Hawaii’s auto bid and Georgia and Kansas’ selections. However, it should have been in a game versus someone around its talent level such as Hawaii, Kansas, or Virginia Tech. Note: it’s pretty sad if definite tiers can be seen within the BCS, but that’s the way it goes with the BCS.

The Fiesta Bowl

Participants: 10-2 West Virginia vs. 10-2 Oklahoma

Result: West Virginia 48 – Oklahoma 28

This game was probably not as close as the score indicates, though not nearly to the same degree as the Rose Bowl. The conventional wisdom said that OU had the better talent and was on a roll, as opposed to the poor old Mountaineers who had inexplicably lost to Pitt, keeping them out of the title game, and had lost head coach Rich Rodriguez. Instead, WVU rolled to a comfortable victory, and Bob Stoops’ bowl record now suddenly looks a lot like Larry Coker’s does.

The Orange Bowl

Participants: 10-2 Virginia Tech vs. 11-1 Kansas

Result: Kansas 24 – Virginia Tech 21

This one was the only actual close game, but it was the bad kind of close. Poor offensive execution by both sides hamstrung progress for these two defensive-minded teams, and yet each scored multiple touchdowns. This game proved that Kansas was good but not overwhelmingly so, and that VT (and by proxy, the ACC) probably just was not that good this year. That is all I have to say about the Orange Bowl.

The BCS National Championship Game

Participants: 11-2 LSU vs. 11-1 Ohio State

Result: LSU 38 – Ohio State 24

Ohio State got a garbage time TD late against an LSU prevent defense to keep within three scores, though the game really wasn’t that close after the first quarter. Again the SEC champion embarrassed Big Ten champ OSU in the biggest game of the year, turning the BCS’s experiment of having a special 5th game for the championship into a blowout-fest.

This game technically doesn’t fall under the second part of the BCS mandate, but the fact that it ended up a one-sided blowout reinforces the fact that the first part was botched.

Conclusion

So did the BCS fulfill its mission of creating exciting and competitive matches in the non-championship games? Absolutely not. Only one game (Orange Bowl) was competitive, and none were terribly exciting. As a showcase for the sport, the BCS gets a rating of “EPIC FAIL” for the 2008 bowl season.

ICanHasCheezburger.com


Did the BCS Get it Right?

January 8, 2008

Now that LSU has defeated Ohio State for the BCS title, did the system set up the right championship game? I’ll do a quick rundown of the 1-loss and major conference 2-loss teams then make my case. After all, everything’s clearer with 20-20 hindsight. Teams are listed in alphabetical order, and the “Best Wins” category lists wins over .500 or better teams from major conferences (and Hawaii, if applicable, since the Warriors made a BCS game and had only one loss).

1 Loss Teams

Hawaii Warriors

Best Wins: Boise State, Fresno State

Loss: Georgia, 41-10

No wins over a major conference foe besides the Pac 10’s doormat, Washington. I feared for Colt Brennan’s life in the Sugar Bowl. No way, no how. I’m calling this one right now.

Kansas Jayhawks

Best Wins: Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech

Loss: Missouri, 36-28

While losing only once (and only by 8 points) is impressive, beating a perpetually suspect Virginia Tech team and a 7-6 Oklahoma State team is not, so Kansas is not helping itself much with the schedule.

2 Loss Teams

Georgia Bulldogs

Best Wins: Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oklahoma State

Losses: South Carolina, 16-12; Tennessee 35-14

The team was lost and listless until injuries forced Mark Richt to play Knowshown Moreno as a feature back. Uninspired play also forced Richt to pick a new motivational gimmick each week starting with the Florida game, all of which worked. This team was playing some of the best football in the country at the end of the year, but you must consider the season as a whole.

LSU Tigers

Best Wins: Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech

Losses: Kentucky, 43-37 (3OT); Arkansas, 50-48 (3OT)

It’s hard to accept a national champion who had two losses and gave up 50 points in a game during the season. Still, no one had a better array of wins, and as LSU fans will be quick to point out, the Tigers were undefeated in regulation and won the system everyone agreed upon.

Missouri Tigers

Best Wins: Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Losses: Oklahoma, 41-31; Oklahoma, 38-17

Missouri only lost to one team all year, except that it did so on two separate occasions. The Tigers did have wins over BCS participant Illinois and Arkansas, a team that beat LSU.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Best Wins: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Losses: Illinois, 28-21; LSU, 38-24

Ohio State had the #1 rated defense in the regular season and was one of the most consistent teams all year. It did however play in the Big Ten, which dropped a stink bomb in bowl season and looks awful now. Plus, Illinois was thrashed by USC and the final score of the LSU game was closer than it should have been.

USC Trojans

Best Wins: Arizona State, Illinois, Oregon State

Losses: Stanford, 24-23; Oregon, 24-17

The Arizona State and Illinois wins were certainly impressive. However, it took until November 3 for the Trojans to beat a team that would finish above .500 for the year. The Stanford loss was unimaginably bad, and though USC had it’s backup QB playing the game, so did the Cardinal. Oregon with a healthy Dennis Dixon was probably the best team all year, and USC lost by just a touchdown.

West Virginia

Best Wins: Cincinnati, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Rutgers, UConn

Losses: USF, 21-13; Pittsburgh, 13-9

The Fiesta Bowl win was a huge statement, the Miss State win was nearly as big as LSU’s, and the UConn win was overwhelming. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the Pitt loss was nearly as bad as USC’s loss to Stanford, and the team couldn’t get anything going against USF. In its defense, WVU lost Pat White for large stretched during the two losses.

As a side note, Pitt’s 13-9 win over WVU that sent LSU to the championship game was the same score as the UCLA win over USC last year that sent Florida to the championship game.

Conclusion

Who are the top two teams?

Hawaii is eliminated, period.

Kansas had just two wins over teams that finished above .500 for the year. You’re a nice story, Jayhawks, but you’re also eliminated.

USC, you only had 3 wins over above-.500 teams, and you still lost to Stanford. Total body of work counts, so you’re eliminated.

Ohio State had only 5 wins over winning teams, but it also played a pillow-soft non conference schedule and the Big Ten was deplorable this year.

West Virginia had also 5 wins over winning teams, but it was the weakest set of wins out of the teams with 5. WVU, you’re eliminated.

We’re now down to Georgia, LSU, and Missouri. LSU does belong in the top two because it had seven wins over .500 or above opponents and wins over two other BCS conference champions (ACC, Big Ten). Between Missouri and Georgia, the Bulldogs had more wins over teams .500 or better and beat a team (UK) that beat LSU. But, Missouri’s losses were better and the Tigers played just as well as UGA did in each’s bowl game.

For the moment, I have to pick the team with more quality wins, so I go with Georgia. That leaves an LSU/Georgia game. It might make people from the Midwest or West unhappy, but honestly those two deserved it more.

So no, the BCS didn’t get it right.


Tebow’s Stats and Records

January 5, 2008

Just so you all know, the posting has been light around here lately because I graduated in December and now am in the process of moving to Charlotte, NC. It’s a lot of work and not conducive at all for putting out quality content.

For the time being, I’d like to draw your attention to a post made by cwarner206 from the GatorSports.com message board. It contains a list of every record set by Tebow this year, along with other records that are within striking distance. He probably won’t get a lot of the overall rushing records since Florida should have 2-3 good running backs for next year, but it’s still pretty amazing, and it’s some excellent work by cwarner206.

Season Marks

NCAA records:
–1st underclassman Heisman winner
–1st person to ever have 20+ rush and 20+ pass TDs in one season
–Most rushing TDs by a QB, season (23, previous record 22)
–Highest passing efficiency in a Heisman season: 172.5
previous: 170.6, Danny Wuerffel, 1996, Florida

SEC records:
–Most total TDs, season: 55
previous: 41, Danny Wuerffel, 1996, Florida
–Most total TDs, game: 7 vs S. Carolina, tied with 7 other players
–Most rush TDs, season: 23
previous: 19, 3 players
–Most rush TDs by a QB, season: 23
previous: 13, 3 players
–Most consecutive games with a rush TD and pass TD: 13
–Most total yards, season: 4181
previous: 4151, Tim Couch, 1998, Kentucky
–2nd in passing efficiency, season: 172.5
–2nd in most points, season: 138
–3rd in completion pct, season: 66.9%
–5th in yards per game, season: 321.6
–7th in TD passes, season: 32
–7th in ratio of attempts/ints, season: 1 every 58.3 attempts
–14th in passing yards, season: 3286

UF records:
–Most total TDs, season: 55
previous: 41, Danny Wuerffel, 1996
–Most total TDs, game: 7 vs S. Carolina, tied with 3 others
–Most points, season: 138
previous: 110, Reidell Anthony, 1996
–Most rush TDs, season: 23
previous: 14, Emitt Smith & Buford Long
–Most rush TDs, game: 5 vs S. Carolina
–Most rush TDs by a QB, season: 23
–Most rush yards, QB, game: 166 vs Ole Miss (also #2 with 120 vs S. Car.)
–Most rush yards, QB, season: 895
–Most rush yards, QB, career: 1364
previos: 785, Larry Libertore
–Most consecutive games with a rush TD: 13
previous: 7, Errict Rhett
–Most consecutive games with a rush TD and pass TD: 13
–Most total yards, season: 4181
previous: 3904, Rex Grossman, 2001
–Most 200 yard passing games, season: 11, tied with 3 others
–Highest completion pct, season: 66.9%
previous: 65.6%, Rex Grossman, 2001
–2nd in passing efficiency, season: 172.5
–2nd in yards per game, season: 321.6
–2nd in ratio of attempts/ints, season: 1 every 58.3 attempts
–4th in TD passes, season: 32
–4th in passing yards, season: 3286

Career records within reach

NCAA:
–Most total TDs, current: 146, Colt Brennan, Hawaii
needed: 78 TD over 2 years
–1st person to ever have 50+ rush and 50+ pass TD
needed: 19 rush TD, 13 pass TD over 2 years
–Most rushing TDs by a QB, current: 59, Eric Crouch, Nebraska
needed: 28 rush TD over 2 years
–Highest passing efficiency, current: 168.9, Ryan Dinwiddle, Boise St.
needed: maintain anything close to his current 175.0 career rating
–Highest completion pct, current: 68.2%, Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo
neeeded: average a little over 69% over 2 years (66.8% currently)
–Lowest % of passes intercepted, current: 1.85%, Matt Leinart, USC
needed: maintain current average of 1.83%
–Most consecutive games with a rush and a pass TD:
needed: may already have it
–Most consecutive games scoring a TD, current: 27, Lee Suggs, VT
needed: 14 consecutive games with a rush TD
–Most Heisman trophies, current: 2
needed: one more
–Highest pct of passes for TDs, current: 9.7%, Danny Wuerffel, Florida
needed: slighly raise current 9.66%

SEC:
–Most total yards, current: 11,270, David Greene, Georgia
needed: 6,262 yards over 2 years
–Most total TDs, current: 122, Danny Wuerffel, Florida
needed: 54 TD over 2 years
–Highest passing efficiency, current: 163.6, Danny Wuerffel, Florida
needed: maintain anything close to his current 175.0 career rating
–Highest completion pct, current: 67.1%, Tim Couch, Kentucky
neeeded: average a little under 68 % over 2 years (66.8% currently)
–Lowest % of passes intercepted, current: 2.22%, David Greene, Georgia
needed: maintain anything near current average of 1.83%
–1st person to ever have 40+ rush and 40+ pass TD
needed: 9 rush TD, 3 pass TD over 2 years
–Most rush TDs, current: 49, Herschel Walker, Georgia
needed: 18 rush TDs over 2 years


Welcome to the Big Leagues, Colt

January 2, 2008

Last night’s Sugar Bowl was immensely satisfying. I have been sick and tired of the Colt Brennan hype machine since, oh, about last year’s bowl season. It got even worse when Hawaii plundered the bakery that is the WAC and somehow played an even worse non-conference schedule to finish the season undefeated. I didn’t want to see him get injured (although Georgia’s defense appeared to be trying to accomplish just that with as many fearsome hits as it delivered), but to see him humbled on the national stage was great, and possibly even good for him as he heads into draft workouts.

I found an article at Foxsports.com with some quotes of his, and I’d like to share them with you now:

  • “When you play against a team like this, you can’t miss a beat. We didn’t do that.”

No joke, Colt. When your whole team has 4 guys who might in a dream scenario play in the NFL, you have to absolutely perfect because every mistake becomes a sack, turnover, or touchdown for the other team.

  • “We knew coming in this was probably the best defense we’d ever faced. We really wanted to do something special here tonight, but we just couldn’t get any momentum going. We have a lot of drives that didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t so much a question of X’s and O’s. They just won the battles all night.”

Perhaps, but your X’s and O’s guru on the sidelines also had a hard time not calling slow-developing pass plays despite the fact you became intimately familiar with the inner workings of the “Sportexe Momentum 41” playing surface of the Superdome.

  • “Everybody knows the SEC is the fastest league in the country. We just couldn’t simulate that in practice with our scout team.”

Self-explanatory. It’s similar to Billy Donovan’s comments about Marresse Speights and Alex Tyus – they’re suffering in practice because there’s no one else on the team like them to hone their skills against. Okay, back to football.

  • “We had never played in this type of element before. We tried as hard as we could to keep everything the same as we have all season long, but it just seemed like we weren’t used to the venue as big the Super Dome. Georgia plays in this kind of environment in the SEC every week all season.”

If anyone has questioned whether playing on big stages every week helps teams of the major conferences, here’s your proof that it does make a difference. Hawaii started 1st and 20 on its opening drive due to penalties, and it was all downhill from there. Before you bring up Boise State last year, remember that the Broncos had a similar harrowing experience at the hands of Georgia in Sanford Stadium in 2006, and BSU regularly plays at Pac 10 venues.

  • “We have done a good job most of the year protecting Colt,” [Head Coach June] Jones said. “But they had eight sacks and a couple of times we didn’t touch anybody. They just blew in and whacked him.”

Well said, June. That about sums up the 2008 Sugar Bowl.

If last year’s Fiesta Bowl set up this season’s craziness from week to week, this year’s Sugar Bowl most likely sets up next year as a season of juggernauts. Florida, Georgia, and maybe LSU in the SEC, Ohio State in the Big Ten, Oklahoma, Missouri, and maybe Texas in the Big 12, and USC in the Pac 10 all appear set to dominate next season.

West Virginia in the Big East would have counted if Rich Rodriguez had stayed, and then Pat White and Steve Slaton would have stayed as well. If WVU hires former Rodriguez assistant and spread option fan Butch Jones away from Central Michigan, and Jones can convince White and Slaton to stay, they might yet have a chance. After all, Jones molded Dan LeFevour into only the second guy to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season, Vince Young being the first.

Virginia Tech will likely be the titan of the ACC, but the rest of that conference save Boston College is so bad, it’d be difficult to tell if the Hokies are really that good. BC won’t qualify as a juggernaut because it wasn’t one this year and is losing its senior starting QB Matt Ryan. No one else in the conference will clock in as better than “surprisingly good.”


Capital One Bowl Wrapup

January 1, 2008

The Capital One Bowl – What’s left in your wallet?

After last year’s national title game, many people attributed Florida’s win to the Gators having “SEC speed.” While that was true to a degree, Florida was the more physical and aggressive team. I just watched most of the game DVD last week, and that fact was easy to see.

I bring this point up because Michigan dominated Florida on both sides of the ball today. Florida’s defensive line, which punished Ohio State last year, looked like a collection of linebackers going up against the Wolverine offensive line. Florida’s offense couldn’t figure out a way to pick up the blitz. The secondary played terribly as usual, but you knew that was coming. The physicality of Michigan won them this game. It’s rare to see a team completely push the other around and lose.

Urban Meyer gave some very accurate analysis in the postgame press conference. According to the AP, he covered the basics: “Florida didn’t give Tebow much time to throw, couldn’t get pressure on Henne and failed to cover Michigan’s receivers.” It’s just what I was mentioning – Florida couldn’t pick up blitzes all year, Florida never got any push up the middle all year on defense,¬†and the defensive secodary was a sieve all year.

He was quoted as saying, “I don’t think we coached very well in certain areas,” and that’s for sure. The answer to the blitz on offense was to have usually Louis Murphy (who’s a twig compared to most linebackers) come back and block and still run slow-developing pass plays. Kestahn Moore is a much better blocker, but more often then not he was lined up way out by the sideline when he was in the game.

We also saw a return to the Tebow-Harvin tunnel vision offense. Only two rushes in the game were by someone other than those two guys (Moore, 2 rushes for 9 yards). Harvin also had as many receptions as the rest of the receiving corps combined, and more if you throw out Chas Henry’s completion to Aaron Hernandez. I realize that those guys are the two best players on the offense, but there’s more than enough talent on the offense for the ball to get spread around more than that. On defense, we constantly saw a linebacker on the slot receiver, which makes no sense in any situation.

Michigan for its part appeared to go with Auburn’s game plan. Florida’s defense this year was one of the worst open-field tackling squads in the country, so Chad Henne spent most of the game throwing slants and screens. When you know that the first guy is going to miss and the second guy might not arrive until 20 yards later, there’s no reason to try anything riskier. On defense, it was blitz on any 4 or 5 wide receiver set on second or third down. With the Gators never doing anything to make them pay for sending an extra guy or two, it made for a great strategy.

In some ways, Florida was fortunate that it was such a close game. After all, Mike Hart lost two fumbles just short of the goal line, and he had lost only one fumble in the rest of his four year career. Those would have been touchdowns in any other game. Now, some Florida fans might counter with complaints about questionable officiating, but that’s a red herring. The Gators had a four point lead with 5:36 to go. In those final five and a half minutes, Michigan outscored Florida 10-0, and the Gators could only muster 4 yards on 8 downs.

In the end a senior-laden, hugely physical team beat a very young, smaller team. Last season, Urban Meyer preached that he wanted to have the most physical team in college football, and he just may have had it based on the national title game. That toughness was missing this year for a lot of reasons. It’s now time for everyone to learn some lessons, have the young players to get some bulk and technique in the offseason, and get ready to come back ready to blow the doors off Hawaii on Labor Day weekend.


Happy New Year

January 1, 2008

Happy new year everyone. I’m attending the Credit Vulture Bowl, once known as the Citrus Bowl, so I’ll be back later with my thoughts and comments from the game.