An article released yesterday made its way through social media yesterday about ranking college football teams by TV ratings. You can read it here.
There was much chest-thumping in the SEC over the fact that 12 SEC teams were in the top 25 teams in terms of TV ratings. This guy was pretty excited about it, as were his followers:
And why wouldn’t they be? It’s yet another example of SEC dominance…or is it?
The first thing I tell my students when reading a study is to simply take a minute to see if it makes sense to them. Nothing fancy or scientific – just a gut reaction as to whether the study seems like it makes sense. In this case, it does not. Mississippi State at #23 in the nation? Really? Texas at #26? Double really?
Once you find that logical irregularity, then you have to determine if the study is merely presenting something that is challenges the way we traditionally perceive something…or if the study is flawed.
In this case, the study is flawed, for three big reasons:
Look at the number of games for those SEC teams. LSU has 11 (respect), but Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn and Georgia only have 10, Tennessee has 9, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Missouri have 8, and Mississippi State has 7.
Now look at some of the other teams, particularly the traditional powers: Florida State and Oklahoma have 12, Notre Dame and Ohio State 11.
My follow-up rule to students: Actually read through the methodology, because that’s where mistakes are made. And that’s where this study falls apart:
“Ratings include only games on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and FOX Sports 1. Data for other networks are unavailable (e.g., Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network, Longhorn Network), and this boosts averages for teams playing on those networks since ratings are generally low (e.g., Michigan on the Big 10 Network and Texas on the Longhorn Network).”
“Boosts the averages for teams playing on those networks since ratings are generally low.” Oh, okay. Since you said it, that must be true!
Teams like Ohio State and Florida State have more games on these networks. And while your half-assed explanation for excluding BTN and the like from your convenience sample makes sense on the surface, the number of games included is what makes the difference.
Let’s look at Florida State’s schedule, since they had 12 games broadcast on the list of networks (unfortunately, I do not have access to what games were televised, but we can certainly make some assertions). Not only were almost all of these games blow-outs, but only one game was not televised, which I’m assuming was against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (yes, that team exists). So let’s look at the others that were televised: Nevada, Wake Forest, the rest of the ACC…Idaho!
Think back to school: Remember when you had to figure out what your grade was, and one really bad quiz or test would tank the whole thing? That’s what Idaho and Nevada were – a horrible biology lab or spelling test. Those (undoubtedly) awful numbers undoubtedly dragged down the entire average for Florida State…who still ended up 14th overall (which, given that schedule, is kind of amazing).
Compare that with Alabama, which had 10 televised games. Looking at the Tide’s schedule, the most likely games that were not televised were Georgia State and the Chattanooga Mocs (also a real team that exists). To keep with the school metaphor, they got to drop their two lowest quiz grades, while Florida State only got to drop one. That’s a hell of an advantage.
Incidentally, that’s undoubtedly why Michigan sits at #3, despite an awful, awful season – the Wolverine average only had to include seven games.
The authors go to great lengths explaining how they included all the numbers for the national networks, ESPN stations…and Fox Sports 1. Considering that ESPN/ESPN each have access to about 11 million more households than Fox Sports 1, that’s a hell of an advantage when you’re talking about the difference between 2nd place and 30th place is about 3 million viewers. It’s a fledgling network that was in its first year, and it’s being compared with the most established name in sports. The ratings discrepancy was rough – to quote from the linked article:
The Oklahoma-Baylor game on Fox Sports 1 last Thursday drew 2.11 million viewers, the highest viewership total ever for the network. ESPN alone had nine telecasts break the two million viewer mark for the week ending November 3. It’s not even worth comparing directly at this point because the gap from ESPN to everyone else is huge.
And you know who has not played a single game on Fox Sports 1? SEC teams. Fox Sports 1 has contracts with the Big 12 and Pac-12 , and Fox is desperately trying to court the Big 10 for when the contract renewal time rolls around…but no affiliation whatsoever with the SEC. So you get a lot of Big 12 teams and Pac-12 teams who lose a significant chunk of ratings simply because of the network they’re on, not necessarily because of a lack of fan interest.
For me, the most damning part of this chart are #23, #24 and #25: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Arkansas, respectively. Like I said earlier, ask yourself if you really, truly believe that this year, the University of Texas had fewer people turning in to watch them play than Arkansas. The Longhorns were wildly disappointing this year, but the Razorbacks? An Arkansas team with a 3-9 record, who lost their last nine games? Really?
Of course not. And that’s the key – when you find some portion of a study that is not consistent with what is known, then it’s a gateway to understanding why the study is flawed.
In this case, Arkansas is ranked higher than the University of Texas because of a combination of what we talked about earlier (the authors counted six televised games for Arkansas, nine for Texas), and the opponents that those teams played.
Arkansas had six games televised on the aforementioned TV stations. The Razorback schedule is here, so let’s look at the opponents together: Louisiana, Samford, Southern Miss, Rutgers, Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and LSU.
Out of those 12 teams, which ones do you think were not televised? My guess would be Louisiana, Samford, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and maybe Rutgers. So, we’re left mostly with the traditional SEC powers (Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, and LSU) and Texas A&M.
In other words, this isn’t measuring the ratings for Arkansas fans – it’s a measurement of other fan bases. And therein lies the fatal flaw of this study.
There’s no denying that some SEC teams have delivered ratings, and this is why so many people find SEC fanboys so obnoxious – it’s not enough to say that Alabama achieved ratings excellence (or Texas A&M or LSU), but they have to go lumping the entire conference in with the top performers, as though standing next to Lebron James makes you an amazing basketball player or standing next to Bill Gates makes you a millionaire.
Bottom line: When you’re asked to determine the internal validity of a study, it comes down to a simple question: “Are you measuring what you think you’re measuring?” And in this case, the researchers who threw these numbers together are not. What this analysis essentially says (beyond “We don’t have all the TV ratings but let’s crap out an article anyway”) is that the SEC has a contract with ESPN, not all of the SEC conference games are televised anywhere because the SEC network isn’t rolling yet, and highly-ranked teams garner more ratings.
As for conference dominance in the TV ratings, like most arguments about the SEC, it’s more about the teams at the top than anything else.
This story is utterly fascinating; like easily the most fascinating story of 2013.
For me, the comments about the story are just as much fun as the story itself. Everything about this piece is online: Investigated by Deadspin, involving a fake person only made possible by the Internet, and now the forums are destroying the absolute JOKE that is the attempted spin by Te’o and Notre Dame.
For me, this is especially enjoyable because I can laugh at all the comments because she never existed. It’s a comedy free pass! As for Te’o, I have no sympathy for someone who repeatedly lies, regardless of the reason.
So, in terms of the humor, I’ve been scouring the comments pages of different sites.
These were my favorite (often inappropriate) comments from Deadspin, Reddit, Fark, and Bucknuts. Kudos to all!
– Nosuch Dame
– “Manti wasn’t missing tackles in the BCS Title Game, he was just hugging his girlfriend.”
– “Manti Te’o changed his relationship status to ‘It’s Complicated'”
– “Manti Te’o may have just pulled the 3rd grade “I have a girlfriend. She just goes to another school,” prank on the entire United States.”
– “Oh, man. That’s so tough. How’d she die?”
Manti’s Dad: “Car crash.”
Slowly look at each other.
– “Twist: Online gf was his grandma this whole time.”
– “Jim Tressel knew about Manti Teo’s fake girlfriend last April”
– “Uh-oh, Spaghett-Te’o.”
– “What if I told you a Heisman-candidate linebacker fooled us into thinking he could tackle? “Manti Te’o: The Lyin’ Hawaiian” A new 30 for 30 film by ESPN”
– “I can’t describe her…” Technically he was telling the truth. “Sort of tall. With… hair. And wears t-shirts sometimes?”
– “AJ McCarron’s girlfriend was so hot that Manti Te’o’s girlfriend ceased to exist”
– “Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend is the name of my fantasy football team next year.”
Remember Tebowing? This is Te’o-ing:
This shirt is actually kind of inspirational:
And, because this never gets old:
And finally, because I’m a petty man, let me just say this: Since the world flipped a collective shit over Jim Tressel covering up the fact that his players sold their own equipment for money, we’ve had:
• Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend
• Jerry Freaking Sandusky
• Miami boosters paying for abortions for Miami football players
Just saying that perspective is a wonderful thing.
Oh, and one more thing: My favorite Te’o gif of all time–truly a work of art.
It’s that wonderful time of year again! No, not Rocktober – that has, sadly, passed us by. Not T-Give yet, though I’m counting down the days. And it’s not quite time for Cinnamon Nog and ABC Family movies.
So…that can only leave one thing: It’s time to hype the Oregon defense! YAY!!!
It happens this time just about every year. By this time, we’ve heard all about Oregon’s no-huddle offense that dominates the PAC-12 (Wow! 70 points against Colorado? How’d you do it?!). But now the Ducks actually have to start playing the “tougher” part of their schedule, but ESPN has breathlessly detailed every facet of their offense. So what to do now?
Each article/ESPN segment starts the same way: “More and more, coaches in the PAC-12 and across the country are growing more concerned about Oregon…and their defense. That’s right. Their defense.” **pause for gasps**
This year has been more of the same – everyone talks about how the “human element” (which is a nice way of saying clueless coaches and mysterious Harris-ians) would never rank Notre Dame or Kansas State above the mighty Ducks (see what I did there?). Just like every year, this is the best Oregon team ever!
And right on schedule, here comes the talk about the defense. This week ESPN writes “Ducks being fueled by defense” and it’s what has happened every damn year. And the logic is, at times, a reach:
2011: ESPN goes for the shocking shock that “Oregon is better on defense than on offense.”
And that wasn’t the only one: “Not to be defensive about Oregon but…”
2010: Hey, this year don’t be surprised if Oregon has the number defense in the PAC-10!
And don’t question their defense or the beat writer will pull out obscure stats about third down conversion rates.
Hell, even back in 2009, the Oregon defense was “surprisingly stout.”
And those were just the ESPN articles.
And now the hype is growing. Oregon barely stopped a mediocre (yes, mediocre) USC team last night. In fact, you could make the argument that USC stopped itself.
The problem is that this sort of hype actually convinces coaches and voters that the Oregon Ducks could shut down McCarron and Alabama’s scary running game, when they cannot. The only thing they can hope to do is outscore them, which worked out great in the past. Just ask Boise State, Ohio State, LSU, Auburn…hell, Wisconsin almost beat them last year in the Rose Bowl, and they were god-awful.
Look, I hate to defend Notre Dame and I hate to defend the SEC. But come on, Oregon. We’ve seen this before. Oregon plays a finesse game, and whenever they go up against a tough defense (especially one that has had time to game-plan against them), their offensive production shuts down. And then their defense is revealed as suspect. Again. And from the look of things, this year will be no different.
But ESPN and many others are obsessed with offense, even though these offensive powerhouses always (yes, always) struggle in bowl games after a long layoff (again, ask Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Oregon again…). So we’ll get to hear about how dominant that Ducks defense is, and how they’re the only ones who can hang with the Tide. And then the Ducks will get beat, the Tide will roll, and next year this time around we’ll be having the same damn conversation next year about how this year the Ducks defense might surprise you. Again.
So last week on Grantland (the most amazing site to come along since fivethirtyeight) Michael Weinreb and *swoon* Chuck Klosterman decided to trade questions about college football. Clearly, they had been doing this awhile and it was a fun read. I forwarded it to my friend/enemy/partner/nemesis Jared (I’ve mentioned him before), and he responded with a list of questions. Game on, apparently.
Be patient with us–we’re still working this out. But I think it’s got potential.
1. Who’s the 6th best Big Ten team this year?
2. Who will be the last undefeated team in the WAC?
3. In the AP poll, what’s the most overrated team at their current rank?
4. Who has the best name in college football?
5. What teams meet in the Big Ten championship game?
You pose some good questions, and I am happy to answer most of them. I’m not answering your WAC question because I’m not stupid. If you think I’m going to gush about Boise State, you think again. And you can also show me some GOD DAMN RESPECT! (that last line was in Mitch Leary’s voice).
Let’s start this beast with the Big 10. I think I might be more certain about the sixth-best team in the Big 10 than the top team, though Wisconsin’s offense looks scary-good. That said, the top teams (in my biased opinion) are Wisconsin, Iowa (only because no one’s talking about them—a hyped Iowa team is like What Dreams May Come: pretty, but quickly forgotten), Nebraska, and Ohio State. I think Michigan State is on a mission to redeem themselves after being exposed by Alabama (who thought that was going to be a good game?). Don’t get me wrong—they’ll still lose horribly to Alabama, but they’ll make some noise in the conference. Typically, I’d say, in the immortal words of Hot Shots: Part Deux, the painfully underwhelming Penn State is “the best of what’s left.” BUT…I think Michigan is going to have a few surprises this year, which will be enough to finish sixth (and cause an off-season of insufferable bluster).
As for the championship, I think Wisconsin has some questions on defense (I hope they kept their coordinator’s receipt), but it’s a down year for our conference, and I don’t think that playing in Columbus will make that big of a difference (especially with Wisconsin’s O-line). I see them running the table and ultimately winning the conference, simply because no one else can match them. All they need is a win over Ohio State (who I don’t think is going to pull off the upset) and they’ll be fine. Who on the other side can match them? I think ultimately Iowa will play the Badgers, as Martinez continues his fluky play for Nebraska, Michigan State will do exactly what is expected of them (and nothing more), and Persa can only carry his team so far.
SCENARIO: You lost a bet, but it totally wasn’t your fault—it was a side-wager and he caught an ace on the river. You have to wear a jersey to this year’s Big 10 championship game of one of the teams playing in the game…and Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Indiana aren’t playing (know you know it’s made-up—Indiana not playing??). Whose jersey are you wearing, and why?
I tend to complain (borderline incessantly) about poll rankings, but the toughest part for me is, “Okay, who is better?” USC is ranked #25, mostly because the NCAA put them on probation and the Associated Press is still playing the spurned lover role after the BCS dumped it for the vapid, easily-persuaded Harris Interactive. Get over it. USC has no business being there—the spoiled children dropped five games last year, including four in the PAC-10. With that obscene level of talent, the Trojans should be able to show up and still beat any team in the top 15. But the problem becomes, “Okay, who do you replace them with?” That’s a tougher question (probably Iowa or Northwestern) that gets significantly tougher the higher up the chart you move.
This is the toughest part about your question, because you stipulate the “most overrated team at their current rank.” Obviously, the first games exposed a few poseurs, but none of them were ranked highly enough to affect me (“Wait, you mean Notre Dame was overrated? ALERT THE MEDIA!!”). Plus, safe picks are for pansies and March Madness North Carolina fans. Let’s go down the list.
1) Okay, I’m quasi-indifferent about Oklahoma—they’ll dominate Florida State (no way I’m sold on this team), blow away Texas (shocker), soundly defeat A&M, but they’ll lose to someone they shouldn’t. They always do.
2) Alabama will be fine, I’m sure. A little worried about their QB play, but they’ve got the defense to make it happen.
3) Oregon was going to be my original choice, given they are so ridiculously, perennially overrated. Football experts cannot get enough of an exciting offense (it doesn’t help that practically every ESPN commentator was on the offensive side of the ball), and so they gravitate toward those dominant offenses. Last year’s Oregon squad, Bradford’s Oklahoma, Bush’s Trojans, even *gulp* Smith’s Buckeyes got the benefit of hype. Oregon (or Texas A&M or Oklahoma State) is no different, despite losing Matthews and most of their defense (which wasn’t that great anyway). But, they lost to LSU (the Ducks were defeated by a physical defense with time to prepare??), and so I’ll move along.
4) LSU. As long as Les Miles is there, LSU will find a way to win, even though he probably shouldn’t. Bottom line: The man knows how to recruit a defense, and I would never bet against his ungodly luck (especially considering my shockingly godly luck).
5) I think you can argue that the poll is as much about where the team will end up as much as how good they are (this is a discussion for another time). Is Boise State anywhere near as good as last year (which wasn’t that great)? Nope. Is anyone on their schedule going to beat them? God no.
6) Someone knows something I don’t about the Seminoles. Personally, I don’t get it. Everyone shat themselves last year when Florida State went on a tear, but if you look at their schedule objectively, the highest-ranked team they beat was South Carolina at #19 (hardly an accomplishment, given Spurrier’s inevitable collapse toward the end of every season). Wait, did I say highest-ranked team? I meant ONLY ranked team. Yes, their victory over a bipolar Miami team (probably broken up about that day’s lack of prostitutes) was impressive…at the time. Then Miami tanked. Their victory over Florida was impressive to anyone who didn’t see Florida play last year. The rest of us witnessed Brantley come in on 3rd and 12, stand Todd Boeckman-style in the pocket, and throw a beautiful spiral out of bounds. Yeah, Florida State beat Florida. You know who else did? Mississippi State…at the Gator Homecoming game. Awkward.
Oh yeah, and Florida State lost to the defensively-depleted North Carolina, got trounced by Oklahoma, got beat by N.C. State (after the wolf pack had already woken up from their dream season), and lost to Virginia Tech (who should have their very own “overrated” section of every column for all time…ever). And that was with first-round draft pick Christian Ponder. He gone.
You know, when I started writing this, it was building up to trounce Stanford (I mean, how does a team that loses its coach AND its defensive coordinator make it that high? Oh yeah, they beat Virginia Tech in the bowl game. What’s your secret??). But I convinced myself: Most Overrated (at this point) goes to the Florida Seminoles.
Question back to you—who is your most UNDERRATED team in this week’s poll?
Team names intrigue me—I love Brutus, but I definitely wish we were more than a poisonous nut (though anything’s better than Otto the Orange). I think the best team names are powerful animals that can actually do some damage. I like the Longhorns because Bevo is great, but at the end of the day it’s a cow. Driving around West Texas you see lots of dead grass, Mox tossing the pigskin around with Tweeder, and cows eating. I’m sure if Bevo is pissed he’ll charge, but otherwise he’s just taking it cool. Oh, and his quarterback blows.
South Florida has the bulls, which has potential, but they steal the Longhorns “Hook Them” hand-sign, so that’s an automatic disqualification (the same would hold true of the Hawkeyes stealing the Gator chomp, if the Herkie wasn’t the dumbest-looking mascot this side of the Stanford tree). The Colorado Buffaloes definitely have the coolest real-life mascot—that buffalo (bison in disguise?) tearing across the field is all kinds of badass. But, that’s not really the name now, is it?
For me, it’s Marshall. The Thundering Herd is the beginning and the end, mostly because it combines the badassery of a large animal and the bonus of a verb describing what said animals are actually doing. Bonus.
Any of your questions are, as always, fair game, but I wanted to pile on a couple of my own. Sorry to tack them on at the end—I’m sure we’ll get better at this.
What is your most memorable regular-season game not involving the Buckeyes and why?
For what team do you possess the most irrational hatred? The key words here are most irrational—plenty of personal reasons to hate Florida and USC.
As a matter of fact, you are stupid for not answering my WAC question. I wouldn’t set a trap like that in week 1, and Boise State is in Mountain West. I’ll go with Nevada. I’m still on their bandwagon from the Boise win last year. (Or I could have picked them because everyone but Hawaii lost this weekend).
I like where your heads at with the Big 10 rankings. (Honestly, I was glad you removed it from your ass after the Boise State confusion.) Wisconsin is clearly the best team. I’ll be a rankings homer and say they meet Nebraska in the championship. As for the 6th best team, it’s Iowa. 1 – Wisconsin, 2 – Nebraska, 3 – Ohio St., 4 – Michigan, 5 – Northwestern, 6 – Iowa. Judge my Michigan pick all you want, but it’s about time they had an above average season, and let’s face it, college football is better when Michigan is good.
RESPONSE: Since you eliminated Ohio State and Wisconsin, I’m assuming Penn State would luck their way into the championship. I’d have no choice but to sport the #85 jersey belonging to Brandon Moseby-Felder (architect?) WR.
I purposely phrased a few of the questions so they would be open to interpretation, and I’ll continue to do so to keep things interesting. I’ll start with another list to narrow the field. Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon, LSU, and possibly Nebraska are the only teams ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll that should/could be ranked in top 10, and both Oklahoma and Oregon are big stretches at their current rank. (The coaches poll is a complete joke, so it’s not worth discussing.) It would be pointless to argue that Virginia Tech is overrated, shocking, TCU already exposed themselves so that’s old news, and both Notre Dame and Michigan State are too low to give a shit about. I basically agree with youryou on the top 6 teams, so let’s venture a little lower. At their rank, Texas A&M is an easy pick at #8. They’ll lose at least 4 games this year, including 1 to the RG3 lead Baylor Bears, on their way to a 4th placed finish in the Big 12.
I’m not trying to sound like a fan, but I think Ohio State is clearly the most underrated team in the polls this week. Starting the season at #18 was asinine based on the talent they bring in each season, so I don’t care if they how many starters returned this season. The win over Akron doesn’t mean anything, except that they did exactly what they were supposed to do against an inferior team.
You went with team names on my question, which I appreciate, but I was going for an individual player. Someone along the lines of Pat Angerer or Kurt Coleman, but let’s start with yours. I like your pick of the Thundering Heard, even though you picked them for your love of both “We Are Marshall” and Matthew McConnaughey. I always thought the Demon Deacons and Crimson Tide sounded cool, but neither are particularly intimidating. always liked the Wolverines. Something about it sounds cool, but that could just be a lingering affect of Red Dawn.
Most memorable regular season game would have to be Appalachian State vs. Michigan. That was some funny shit. I’ll have more for this question next time. It’s late and I want to send this thing off.
Most irrational hatred is a tough question. That eliminates everyone from the SEC since the media has given us plenty of reasons to hate them. I guess I’d have to go with Hawaii. Not sure why, but I just like watching them lose.
Best Nickname Week 1 – RG3
– Worst Uniform – Maryland. What the hell were they thinking? I always wondered what happened to the brain trust that came up with the 11 camera Miami game. Apaarently they now work for Under Armour. At least now I know what it would look like if a checkered flag mated with the Knights of the Templar shield.
I’m not stupid for answering the WAC question–I was trying to make a joke (because all of those conferences are jokes) and by the time I was done writing that damn thing I didn’t proof it beforehand. Probably should have made that a little more obvious. Awkward.
I agree with your reasoning on the overratedness of the polls. That said, let’s dwell a little bit on Virginia Tech because no one…NO ONE…will say anything bad about this team. Every goddam year, the perennially overrated Hokies start atop the poll and then it’s a race to see who can make the most excuses for a lack of success (photo finish between ESPN and the Hokie Student Media Association). This is an average team playing in a pathetic conference. Period.
Last year, it was all about the VaTech/Boise State game. As it always does, the hype fed off itself like a perpetual motion machine, and when the Broncos beat VaTech, commentators made it out to sound like it was a statement win for Boise State instead of yet another example of the team’s shitty schedule. The next week–the NEXT WEEK–VaTech lost to James Madison (let’s really let that sink in for a minute), and everyone gave them a pass (“Classic letdown game after playing in primetime the week before”–shut the hell up, it’s James freaking Madison). Then the Hokies climbed the polls (like Oregon in 2009, where everyone said team pulled it together) until they made it to the Orange Bowl where Stanford (who legally isn’t even allowed to HAVE a defense) kicked the shit out of them 40-12.
They’re at it again. Everyone’s pissing their pants because the VaTech running back Wilson Whatshisnuts rushed for 162 yards on just 16 carries. Wow! That’s amazing! (Truman’s voice)
To be fair, it is pretty impressive (especially when you consider the three touchdowns he rushed for) when you consider that this is an Appalachian State team that’s returning seven defensive starters from last year, and last year they were 6th in the NATION at defending the run. Go Hokies!
Wait, did I say nation? I meant in their league. But still, they play in the SouthEastern Conference, so that was against Richardson, Ingram, Lattimore, and a slew of other elite running backs from arguably the best conference in the nation! S-E-C! S-E-C!
Wait, I’m looking at my notes here, and apparently they play in the SOUTHERN Conference. So…yeah. They were sixth in the Southern Conference. VaTech ran all over the field on a defense that lost starters from last year, when they finished sixth against the run.
Forgive me for not freaking out about how dominant this team is. I hope last week’s email was wrong and that Florida State runs all over Virginia Tech. It would be totally worth it. Though I’ll settle for an East Carolina upset this weekend.
I just wish college football commentators would follow this very simple formula (EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT!!!) when it comes to dealing with the first week or three of games (at least when it comes to teams playing weak opponents):
“If the team struggles, talk about it. If they don’t, ignore it.”
Very simple, and (biasedly speaking, very accurate). Wisconsin let UNLV run all over them (though the rebels failed to score). That’s worth talking about. Auburn should have lost to Utah State. DEFINITELY worth talking about. Texas struggled mightily against Rice, pulling away in the 4th quarter. Worth talking about, especially after last year. A blowout win against an inferior opponent? Nope. Not worth discussing. Save that for the hometown newspaper’s message boards.
And while we’re on the hate train, let’s jump back to Boise. You know what I would like to see? Alabama or LSU vs. Boise State. I’m not even talking about some balanced attack team (more of an Oklahoma squad, which I’m sure would like another shot the Broncos)…just a ferocious, gigantic defense. Something where the game would end up being close–only because the Tiger/Tide quarterbacks are inept and only the defense scored–but Kellen Moore threw for 18 yards and the team had like 75 yards total (thanks in large part to a 29-yard run off of a missed tackle).
On that note, given the defenses and the quarterback situation, who do you think is going to win–Alabama or LSU?
At the risk of sounding like a homer, I have to agree with you about Ohio State. Should they be in the top 10? Absolutely not, especially given a rebuilding defense, young receivers, dueling quarterbacks, and a new coach. But 18th? Really?
I do need you to do me a favor: Answer. My. Question.
When I wrote you, I asked you what team faces your most irrational hatred? And you give me Hawaii.
Yeah, that’s not irrational. 2005. All we heard about all season long was how dominant Hawaii was, with June Jones and Colt Brennan (they had some overtime win against some joke of a team, but it just showed how tough the team was). FINALLY, they played a real opponent–Knowshon Moreno’s Georgia team–and lost 41-10. And we laughed at the Boise State equivalent that year. But the hatred lingered.
Try again. IRRATIONAL hatred.
• Nice reference on the uniform. Jake texted me, “Did you see the Maryland uniforms? They were so ugly that Miami players said you couldn’t PAY them to wear those things. HEY-OOOOOO!”
• Did you know that Alabama beat Penn State last year 24-3? I watched that game and I SWORE it was like 100 to -6. How ugly is that game going to be this week?
• Check out My Man Pete’s piece this week:
Specifically this excerpt:
“Why isn’t the SEC better?
Who finished on top of the Scout.com 2011 conference recruiting rankings? The SEC. 2010? The SEC. Who ranked on top from 2002 to 2009? Who’s going to be on top in 2012? Yup.
The SEC has all the talent in the world, all the resources, all the TV exposure, all the coaches, all the fan support, all the booster support, and all the booster support, yet the conference is just okay, not superior, when it comes to non-conference play. With this much talent year after year after year, shouldn’t the league be untouchable from top to bottom? Or at least top to Kentucky?
Of course the conference is the best in college football, but don’t get so hung up on the idea of winning five straight national titles. Just because the conference has one or three dominant teams every year, that doesn’t mean the entire league is the be-all-end-all like it should be. It’s just like saying the Pac 10 used to be great when USC was crushing and killing everything in its path, and it’s just like thinking the Big Ten might be down because Ohio State is rebuilding. As crazy as this might sound, again, considering the talent level, the SEC might actually be underachieving.
Auburn rallied to beat Utah State, but it got flat-out whipped on the lines. Ole Miss was embarrassing at home against BYU, and Georgia was picked apart by the same Boise State that no one wants to give any credit to.
Since 2002 the league is 86-70 in non-conference games on the road, in a bowl, or at a neutral site. That’s not taking into account non-conference home losses, and there are a ton of road games against Memphis in the win column. Also, remember, when Georgia goes to Georgia Tech, that’s sort of like a home game. Florida plays Florida State every year, South Carolina plays Clemson, and Kentucky plays Louisville, which means that several SEC schools aren’t too keen on challenging themselves outside of conference play with a second tough BCS-league road test.
86-70 might seem solid, and it is, but to keep hammering the point, considering the SEC has been on top of every ranking of recruiting classes for a decade, shouldn’t it be a whole bunch better than +16?
What if the four teams in the NFC South had the top four overall draft picks, along with an extra first round selection, for over ten drafts in a row? Wouldn’t the division destroy every other division? The SEC should be killing everyone else no matter where the game is played.”
I am a man of reason.
With few exceptions, I’m pretty calculating, I certainly try to control what I can, and I’m much more likely to believe in statistical possibility as opposed to supernatural intervention. However, the one area I am, without a doubt, ridiculously superstitious, is when it comes to sports. And the crazy is most concentrated when I watch my Ohio State Buckeyes play football.
It’s a bizarre ritual with a million unwritten rules. I can’t talk to my friend Jared during a Buckeye game (unless we’re watching the game together, though we rarely risk it). I can’t wear Ohio State gear within a few days of the game, even if it’s by accident. I really can’t boast about a potential victory–it’s the kiss of death. If the game is going badly, I have to pause it for awhile (thanks, Tivo) and, by the time I catch up (fast-forwarding through commercials) that normally gives the team enough time to overcome whatever curse I’ve placed on them. Don’t believe in curses? I bragged non-stop about how Ohio State would dominate Florida in the 2006 National Championship game (and I listened to the song “Remember the Name” when I went running before that fateful night), and we know how that turned out.
And that’s the real problem with this kind of arrangement: I take the blame for the big losses (I watched the infamous Purdue loss with a group of strangers and accepted a handful of Buckeyes before the game began, I couldn’t watch the Wisconsin game live this year…) but, because I’m just that kind of guy, I make sure that the players and coaches deservedly get credit for the victory.
Last night, the players and coaches did their job (especially in the first half), but I think it’s time for my contributions to be recognized. Here is a list of what I did to secure victory:
• I did not contact Jared during the game (and obviously not John or Nate either)
• When the game got tight, I paused it via DVR and, after about 20 minutes of Parks and Recreation, I watched the game live
• I did not wear any Ohio State gear and downplayed the chances of the Buckeyes (though that wasn’t too hard after the Big Ten New Year’s Day debacle)
• During the first half (before Tressel decided to sit on an 18-point lead for 30 minutes–thereby making the Arkansas defense actually feel like it was doing something as opposed to stuffing nine men in the box to stop Herron), I was drinking Pepsi with an occasional sip of A&W Root Beer. During the second half, I tried to alternate the two in order to predict what was causing the success
• In the middle of the first half, I noticed I was sweating (because I sweat a lot when I’m nervous) and I was afraid my shirt smelled. So, I went into my room to change shirts, but then realized that I could ruin the game. So, after taking the shirt off, I actually put the damn thing back on
I am a bonafide crazy person when it comes to watching Ohio State football. And it gave us a ridiculous victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
It’s nearing the end of the bowl season that means everyone has a brief, precious amount of time left to complain about how college football should have a playoff system. It’s a popular sentiment and simply bringing up the BCS (more like the BS SYSTEM!!!11!!1!!!) is all but guaranteed to get plenty of irate posts. I’d love to write a piece bashing the BCS Bowl SHAM-pionship series (Zing!), but I can’t; I am one of the very few people who are publicly against a playoff.
A few of us exist. Tony Barnhart dismisses polls that show support for a playoff because those polls are too vague to actually mean anything (a good lesson for any methodology course). Stewart Mandel wisely supports a “+1” format. Even my man Pete Fiutak (hands down the best college football analyst online) has expressed unease about a playoff (though he does push for an 8-team design which seems feasible, especially when compared with the 64 team playoff (!) proposed by CBS writer Darin Darst). But for the most part, it’s easier to trash the BCS.
I could go on and on about how unique college football is. It’s a bullshit talking point, but it still has some merit: The entire college football season is a playoff. Right now I’m sickened by the talk about NFL teams who have clinched the playoff berth resting players for the final game or two of the regular season (just ask the Colts fans how that felt last week). It’s absolute bullshit and I fear it would absolutely happen in college football.
People point to the Urban Meyer/Nick Saban types who strive for perfection (no one else strives, apparently), who would want an undefeated record (much like Tim Tebow wanted this season). But the most important thing in football is winning the championship. In the NFL, no one gives a shit that New England went undefeated with one notable exception – the Giants won the Superbowl. And that’s in the NFL. In college football, an undefeated season is far from rare. In the past 20 years, there have been 22 teams who have gone undefeated. Any coach would gladly sit his starters if a college playoff spot was guaranteed, especially if players are a little dinged up.
Of course, for the first year or two, rivalries would remain upheld and announcers would pontificate about the importance of tradition in college football. However, in a world of multi-million dollar contracts, it wouldn’t be long before some coach under pressure to perform well in the playoffs decided to rest his players. Any modicum of success would be met with imitation. And suddenly the college football regular season is as boring as the college basketball regular season.
Right now the source of the excitement is watching other teams fail. I watch as much college football as I possibly can, but what really holds my attention are the upsets. USC getting the shit kicked out of it by the (at the time) unranked Oregon Ducks was fascinating because a Trojan loss all but guaranteed they would be out of the BCS picture and stuck in a lame-ass bowl game (done and done). Watching LSU lose, or Michigan or USC or Virginia Tech or Michigan or Texas or Michigan or Les Miles or Miami lose is fine and enjoyable, but watching one of those teams lose where there are serious repercussions is must-see TV. Is the Cincinnati/Pittsburgh game as exciting if the Bearcats are guaranteed a spot in a playoff? What about Nebraska/Texas?
Scrap the idea of a college football playoff and…listen closely…FIX. THE. BCS. Don’t just trash it – fix it.
By far, by FAR the worst component in the current BCS system is the human element. The polls are just awful (especially the coaches poll). For evidence, look no further than the Capital One Bowl. This year featured Penn State and LSU (ranked number 13 and 12, respectively, at the end of the season). But did either team belong? Penn State’s best win, best win, was over Minnesota. That’s rough, but it’s nothing compared to LSU, whose best games were losses to Florida and Alabama. But because their preseason rankings were so high (Penn State started off the season at #8, LSU at #11), these two were bound to end up at the top.
How do we fix this? Actually Kirk Herbstreit suggested this years ago on College Gameday: Create a panel of people who are required to watch every game every weekend. Sit them in a room with comfortable chairs and excellent food, and make sure they watch every single minute of every single game. Make sure they’re moving teams around early in the season (a la the genius of Doug Lesmerises) so that no one is guaranteed a top spot because they looked good in a bowl game 9 months earlier.
I would also love to see written decisions, like Supreme Court justices. Maybe not one for every team, but if there is a particularly controversial ranking (or if there is a close vote) the winning side would write (anonymously) why a certain team deserved a certain ranking.
I also am a firm believer in the “plus one” format, again using the same criteria as before (with the panel meeting to discuss the major bowl games to determine who deserves to challenge for the national championship).
It’s manageable, it’s something that can be adjusted if there are still issues, and it’s nothing as drastic (and overly simplistic) as the playoff cure-all.
Mike Leach may like to think of himself as a pirate, but during this entire fiasco I could only think of him as Douglas MacArthur.
To recap: Less than a week ago, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach came under fire for mistreating one of his players – a wide receiver named Adam James (son of ESPN analyst Craig James). According to the accusations, Leach twice placed Adam James in a darkened shed after learning that the receiver had suffered a minor concussion. Leach was immediately suspended for his actions and, after filing a restraining order against Texas Tech University (so that he could coach in the Alamo Bowl), he was fired the next day.
Lubbock erupted. Insightful commentary (like this great piece by Jon Arnold) was rare. Leach is something of a deity down here and, to be honest, I don’t totally get it. Granted, I’m spoiled because I grew up as an Ohio State Buckeye fan, but to the outsider he’s a colorful, unique character who was good for an upset every now and then (and an inexcusable loss much more frequently). I personally didn’t care for him because I like defense, he only scheduled non-conference cupcakes to pad his numbers, and because he had Lubbock media absolutely cornered (and was a dick about it). But down here Leach was someone who brought prominence to the Red Raider football program. When the administration fired Leach, Hance and friends made a number of enemies.
Tons of keyboard commandos announced that they would be tearing up their bowl tickets (ummmm…you know you already paid for those, right?), not buying season tickets, and never donating to Texas Tech again (including one anonymous individual who gave “thousands” every year). ESPN radio programming was cancelled to allow more time for disgruntled fans to air their grievances on local talk shows. The angst was palpable, and it only grew when Leach gave a 34-minute interview to Rece Davis, during which Leach blasted both Craig and Adam James and the Tech administration.
Leach’s comments read like a list of talking points guaranteed to fire up a fan base in America. Craig James was a helicopter parent who hovered around, disrupting practices and trying to get his son more playing time. Adam James was privileged, acted entitled, and was lazy. Way to go, Leach – you should also talk about how he’s married to a welfare queen and has abortions for fun! Of course, those posting online used this as an homophobic argument for the wussification of the United States. Adam James is a coward!!11!!1!!one!! A real man would shake it off and punch the concussion out of his own head!!1!11!! Hell, James probably puts on Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, makes out with a line of dudes in his finest lace thong and then hands them all participation trophies!!!!
But I digest. Back to my comparison.
Airwaves and internet tubes are still flooded with arguments in support of Leach (with a number of amateur doctors explaining the nuance of a concussion) and few can believe he was fired for having (Adam) James placed in a shed.
That’s not why Leach was fired. Leach was fired because he was arrogant and stubborn and disobeyed his bosses. Period. General Douglas MacArthur was a hero on the rise (for a fascinating book about the man, check out William Manchester’s American Caesar) and enjoyed tremendous public support, especially after the daring Incheon Landing during the Korean War. Then, MacArthur decided to ignore Vizzini’s advice of the classic blunder…to the EXTREME (50s-style)! Sure, anyone can be involved in a land war with Asia, but MacArthur channeled his inner Max Power by basically invading China and almost starting a war. Against President Truman’s direct orders. Whoops. He’s lucky Truman didn’t nuke him.
That’s basically what happened here. Leach could have signed the apology letter to James (most likely a form letter to cover their collective legal asses), he could have explained his situation better, or he could have asked the administration for help (or forgiveness). Leach decided to go it alone, figuring that his tremendous popularity (and his own brilliance) would make him indispensable. As evidenced by MacArthur fading away, Leach was mistaken.
So stop complaining about James, stop pretending that Leach is a genius for being a pioneer in the field of concussion treatments, and just focus on the fact that Leach pissed off his bosses one too many times. It was completely preventable at a number of places, but Leach was too stubborn to take any of those offered exits. It was his fault that he’s gone.
Take solace in the fact that Leach wasn’t that great. Seriously, he wasn’t. Texas Tech was 8-4 this year, with a good win over Nebraska (who was struggling at the time) and a decent win over a drowning Oklahoma team. Last year’s victory over Texas was, without a doubt, the best game of the year (and made college football in October and November fun instead of this year’s plodding march toward predictable), but Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma by 44 points (and it wasn’t as close as the score made it seem) and choked in the Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss. More importantly, Leach went after the Miami and Washington jobs when they were on the table, and was a leading candidate for the Auburn position – he wasn’t going to be around forever, and as has been shown over and over again, Texas Tech has gone as far as it can with him.
You want to go further in the Big 12 and even nationally? Stop screwing around with half-ass replacements like former assistants or promoting in-house. Tommy Tuberville is the answer. He has expressed an interest, so bring him in. And hire him. He should have played for the championship in 2003 (13-0), has Texas ties (he was an assistant at UT), has coached almost 20 players into the NFL, and was a terror in the SEC. Throw a ton of money at Tuberville and watch the program soar. As for Leach, his spirit and support in Lubbock may never die…but it will definitely fade away.
Thankfully, Tim Tebow’s run at the Heisman ended against a wall that is the Alabama defense in which the overhyped, presumed national champion Florida Gators were exposed.
However, my argument isn’t that he shouldn’t win the Heisman. My argument is that he never belonged among the finalists in the first place. It’s a travesty that he’s still being mentioned in the same breath as the 2009 Heisman trophy.
So why shouldn’t he win it?
LET’S TALK CAREER.
Tebow’s career stats are impressive: SEC records for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns, ridiculously high passer rating, and three national titles.
That’s fine and dandy, but most of those numbers are meaningless this year. It’s painfully obvious why there is a clamor for Tebow to win. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest college football players of all time. Therefore, it seems obvious that the easiest way to demonstrate this achievement would be to be only the second player to win two Heisman trophies. However, while he (sort of) had a case last year, this isn’t it. The Heisman trophy is not a Lifetime Achievement Award, and shouldn’t be handed out because an individual should have won one earlier (e.g., Denzel Washington’s Oscar for Training Day) or because that person deserves something for all their accomplishments (to stick with the Oscar motif, let’s go with Gregory Peck and Al Pacino). Tebow’s past is irrelevant, so let’s not talk about all that he’s meant to college football.
LET’S TALK LEADERSHIP.
This “intangible” is so incredibly stupid that I can’t believe commentators even mention it, let alone dwell on it. Spoiler alert: Practically every veteran quarterback in college football has strong leadership qualities. Do you think McCoy or Bradford or Kellen Moore or Jake Locker or Darryl Clark or practically any other quarterback at a D-1 school doesn’t lead his team and desperately want to win? Suggesting that Tebow is somehow a “better” leader just because he’s a more visible leader doesn’t make him superior to other quarterbacks, especially not at any significant level that would place him above other players.
His intangibles and his past are meaningless, so only one thing matters: His performance.
LET’S TALK NUMBERS.
When Case Keenum puts up utterly ungodly numbers, he’s dismissed as a “system quarterback.” The same was true last year of Graham Harrell, Texas Tech’s quarterback, and has been an clear concern ever since Andre Ware (system quarterback and horrible announcer extraordinaire) won the Heisman in 1989. And, to an extent, I agree with this; most quarterbacks would put up ridonkulous stats if they were making 50-60 throws per game. That said, these numbers cannot be ignored, especially considering that it was ridiculous numbers that got Tebow the Heisman his sophomore year.
Here’s the thing: Running the spread offense Tebow still put up average numbers, only throwing for over two hundred yards in six games and accounting for less than two hundred yards in three games. Given that the spread allows quarterbacks to jack up their numbers through short passes and bubble screens in lieu of a dominant running game, this is disturbing. Looking at his stats, which should be assisted by the offense that the Gators run, he is still embarrassingly average.
Still, the Heisman is all about the big games. What about those “tough” games against opponents that were good (or at least assumed to be at the time)? Tebow did not have his best games. He threw for 164 yards against “rival” Georgia (rushing for 85 more). The game against Tennessee and Lane Kiffin, who had been talking trash to Florida all summer? Tebow threw for 114 yards and rushed for 76 (on 24 carries). LSU? Tebow threw for 134 yards and rushed for 38 (on 17 carries). Keep in mind that this year was an awful one for the SEC, with two top-ranked teams and a bunch of mediocre pretenders. It’s like the PAC-10 normally looks, and Tebow still failed to dominate.
His “statement game” that was solidifying his Heisman candidacy was a game against Florida State. Florida State. I’m serious.
This might have been one hell of an accomplishment a decade ago, but right now…not so much. When the Gators played Florida State, the Seminoles were ranked “92nd or worse in every key defensive category.” That would put them in-between Hawaii and Colorado State. Good work, Tim– definitely something to brag about. But people still do, pointing to the fact that he has one of the highest passing ratings in college football.
Tim Tebow is one of the most accurate passers in college football history, something that is often touted when talking about his skills. The worst part is that his passing stats (which (again) are not that good) are grossly inflated because of the offense that he runs. Therein lies the double standard – quarterbacks that put up ridiculous numbers in other systems are attacked, but Florida’s system is ignored. Again, it’s not the same as Houston or Texas Tech, but it’s a system nonetheless. He’s running the spread, and that affects his numbers significantly.
Currently, Tim Tebow sits at #8 with a rating of 155.6. And, again, his stats are not that good. Why? Because of a little thing called YAC, which announcers trip one another while trying to be the first to say that it stands for “Yards After Catch.” Suddenly all those bubble screens, swing passes, and shovel passes look less impressive because the receiver is doing all the work.
Unfortunately, YAC stats do not exist for college football. You’d have to find some whackjob who would be willing to jot down the length of the pass for every throw the quarterback makes.
Guess what. You found that whackjob. I did just that for yesterday’s wonderful SEC Championship game.
Now, obviously, this was against Alabama’s wonderful defense, and that definitely affects Tebow’s numbers. But this isn’t about his passing yardage total; I’m only trying to demonstrate the types of passes Tebow makes. Also, obviously, this is one game and cannot be generalized to the entire season. I’m hoping only to draw attention to the kind of offense being run.
I should also mention that a few of these might be off by a yard or two – I used Tivo whenever possible but, at the end of the day, I’m a college football junkie and I was watching the game.
Of Tim Tebow’s 20 completions, 14 (!) of those throws were for four yards or less, and nine of those 14 passes were throws for two yards or less. The receiver takes care of the rest, with roughly 85 yards off of those 14 catches (about six yards a catch). Tebow had one completion where the pass itself was 30 yards; the other five completions were all throws that were 10 yards or less (including the 10-yard throw to Hernandez that resulted in a 59 yard gain to set up Tebow’s interception).
Keep in mind that Alabama’s defense was stifling and the players were clearly prepared for swing passes and shovel passes, and so you have to assume that Florida altered its game plan away from the short throws to try to stretch the field. This lone game is far from conclusive, but it definitely supports a suspicion that Florida’s system is not that far removed from Mike Leach’s offense.
So, no, Tebow’s numbers do not get him into the Heisman discussion. Nor does anything else. Send Mark Ingram, especially after his monster SEC Championship game. Send Toby Gerhart, who has had an unbelievable year (over 1700 yards and he still averaged at least 4.4 yards a carry in each of Stanford’s losses). Send anyone. Just make sure they deserve it.
It’s been weeks since the college football recruiting rankings were released and still, there remains a huge discrepancy: The Ohio State Buckeyes have the number one-ranked recruiting class on Scout.com, the number two-ranked recruiting class on CBS, the number three-ranked class from Sports Illustrated and the ninth-ranked pledge class from ESPN. I could see a little fluctuation and would even be willing to drop the Buckeyes to fifth in the ESPN rankings. But ninth place? One spot above Michigan? Really?
I hate to be Jonathan McConspiracyTheory, but I will say that it’s interesting that, on ESPN’s list, four of the top six spots are held by SEC teams; the other three lists only have the SEC with two of those top six slots. I say interesting because, as you know, ESPN is under contract with the SEC, and therefore would have a vested interest in promoting the fact that SEC teams were dominating the recruiting process. I’m not saying that’s what happened—I’m just saying that it’s interesting, that’s all.
It’s a shame that this cannot be more of a collaborative effort, a la March Madness bracketology. Even more upsetting is that no one is talking about it. Recruiting experts (apparently) don’t want to rip on competitors and, apparently, feel that they strengthen their position by ignoring everyone else’s. I’d love to see some kind of debate about how these types of rankings are determined and why they might differ. If nothing else, it would be a chance to showcase which formula works best and give each sportscaster the chance to defend their choice.
The whole thing reminded me of this fascinating piece in the New York Times, which talks about how the different online dating sites (Match.com, Eharmony, etc.) use different formulae to arrive at matches for people. In other words, each has a different equation that is supposed to discover true love, and each is convinced that they are right. These football rankings might not have the same impact as missing out on finding your soulmate (at least, I hope not!), but at the same time it has already affected discussions of pre-season rankings (more on that another time) and the strength of the conferences. And, after the shellacking of the Big Ten in bowl games (and Ohio State dropping another high-profile game, albeit this time a nail-biter), we can use all the help we can get.