If you’re looking for a summary of the ’07 season from a national perspective, this post at the All American Football League Blog is as good a place to go as any.
(h/t The Wizard of Odds)
In the show, Walter Brennan played a crotchety old army scout searching for his son, a gunfighter on the run. Brennan’s character would tell people that he was a faster draw than his son and then add that it was “no brag, just fact”.
That’s basically how I feel about tomorrow’s Sugar Bowl. On this kind of stage, Georgia’s track record is far more impressive than Hawaii’s. Georgia’s certainly taken a more difficult path to get to the game than the Warriors have. Overall, the Dawgs are bigger, faster and deeper than Hawaii. Heart, desire and smarts will take you so far – at some point in time talent has to matter, too.
That’s not to say that a Georgia win is a lock, of course. The Dawgs have lost to some inferior opponents in the last two seasons, including a loss to Vanderbilt at home in ’06 that ranks as the most embarrassing loss of the Richt era. There’s also the loss to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago that came as a result of a sloppy and poorly prepared team not showing up to play until spotting the opponent 28 points.
But I don’t think this team and, more importantly, this staff will repeat those mistakes. Richt was able to right the ship in the last minutes of the Vanderbilt game this year and has pushed all the proper buttons since. This team has improved steadily in its play all season and that’s reflected in its current six game winning streak. Despite the disappointment of not playing for the MNC, I don’t foresee a letdown in focus or energy against Hawaii.
And for all the attention being payed to the run and shoot and Hawaii’s #1 scoring offense by idiots like Lee Corso, it’s not like Georgia’s offense has been too shabby, either, of late. And that’s the real mystery to me as to why people believe Georgia is going to have a close call in this game.
Hawaii is ranked 41st nationally in scoring defense. Ignoring strength of schedule for the moment, consider the school that Hawaii is tied with in that category: Florida. Georgia scored 42 points against Florida. Georgia Tech, against whom Georgia put up 31 points, is ranked 18th. Auburn, ranked 5th nationally and giving up eight points per game less than Hawaii, allowed Georgia to score 45. If the Dawgs can hang those numbers on Florida, Tech and Auburn, why the hell should we expect Hawaii to do better?
And that’s without factoring in strength of schedule considerations. Steele, in his infinite wisdom, says Florida checks in at #9, Auburn at #38 and Georgia Tech at #63 in national SOS. Hawaii ranks 119th. It’s simply not realistic to expect Hawaii to do a significantly better job of holding the Dawg offense in check than those three schools did.
Moreover, there’s nothing analogous on Hawaii’s side of the coin to this. Georgia is currently 25th nationally in scoring defense. No team on Hawaii’s schedule this year ranks as statistically high as that. Boise State, Phil Steele’s #111 in strength of schedule rankings, comes in at 27th in national scoring defense. The Broncos, in a road game, held Hawaii’s offense seven points under its season’s average.
To me, this is the essence of the ballgame. Both offenses are going to come out trying to do what they’ve been successful with all season – Hawaii throwing the ball all over the place and Georgia using the run to set up the play action stuff – and the story of this game is going to be which defense is able to do a better job slowing down what the other guy does best. There is absolutely nothing that’s occurred this season that suggests that it’s Hawaii’s defense that carries the day here.
In essence – and no offense meant, Hawaii fans – it’s Georgia’s game to lose. No brag, just fact. Yes, look for Brennan and Company to get their yards in the air. And I’m pretty certain that Hawaii will score 28 or so points on the Dawg defense. But barring a turnover hemorrhage or some other unforeseen disaster, I’d expect Georgia to put up at least 42 in response. Over the course of the game, I don’t think Hawaii can keep up.
Georgia wins and covers the spread.
The current line in the Sugar Bowl is around 8 to 8.5 points. The over/under total is around 68-69.
Keep that in mind as you look at a few current trends.
And Hawaii in its last ten games as a road dog is 1-9.
Stewart Mandel can’t really be as naïve as he comes off sometimes, can he?
… SMU’s interest in Jones makes perfect sense. His run-and-shoot offense helped Hawaii make a dramatic turnaround as soon as he arrived in 1999 (jumping from 0-12 to 9-4) and would almost certainly lift the Mustangs to their first bowl game since 1984 (pre-death penalty). I’m sure the school has some deep-pocketed boosters that could float him a sweetheart deal.
I just don’t understand why Jones would want to go there. Not only is he at home, he’s a guaranteed hero there for as long as he coaches. I could see him leaving to take another stab at the NFL, but not to take over a struggling Conference USA program. Maybe I’m being naïve.
According to Coaches Hot Seat blog, June Jones currently ranks 66th nationally in total compensation, at $800,000.00 per year (his contract is set to expire). Further, according to USA Today, Jones’ salary at Hawaii ($400,008 ) is less than the salary of fired SMU coach Phil Bennett’s ($495,602).
But that’s not where the story ends. According to the Dallas Morning News, SMU boosters have reportedly raised something like $10 million for salaries for their new head coach and staff.
So, no, that’s not naïvete, Stewart. That’s total freaking cluelessness.
By the way, good news for us Dawg fans – Mandel blogs that he’s at “the New Orleans Marriott/Convention Center, media headquarters for Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl and next Monday’s BCS Championship game — and, in turn, my home for the next 10 days.” We’ve got a lot more keen analysis to look forward to.
I’ve said it before, but as a group if there’s a more clueless bunch than collegiate sports administrators when it comes to handling money, I’d love to see ‘em. Maybe Congress in all of its infinite wisdom is worse, but it’s a closer call than you’d think.
Read an article like this and you realize why coaches’ salaries are out of control all over the country. Start with these three profiles in fiscal prudence:
Northern Illinois, 2006 Poinsettia Bowl: NIU sent 434 people to San Diego, costing the school about $916,800 in expenses. The school’s share of the payout was $598,901, leaving NIU with a $317,898 deficit, more than the school spent last year on six of its nine women’s sports combined.
Ohio University, 2006 GMAC Bowl: Former Nebraska coach Frank Solich led Ohio to its first bowl appearance since 1968. The celebration in Athens, however, was short-lived. A $277,550 bowl deficit was more than an athletic department already awash in red ink and facing Title IX sanctions could take. The university was forced to dip into general reserve funds to pay the bowl tab and just weeks after the game the school dropped track, swimming and lacrosse, leaving 383 athletes without teams. Ohio spent less than $200,000 annually on the three dropped programs.
Texas A&M, 2006 Holiday Bowl: The Aggies ran up a Texas-sized deficit — $489,978 — in San Diego. A&M’s awards expenditures explain some of the red ink. The Aggies spent nearly as much on awards for players and staff — $133,645 — as Florida and Ohio State did combined. Two years earlier, A&M spent $198,395 on awards at the Cotton Bowl.
As you read the article, it is obvious that the level of fiscal mismanagement is staggering. Even worse, it’s accelerating.
…Nearly half the schools competing in last year’s 32 bowl games lost money, according to the Register study that also reviewed conference financial documents, NCAA bowl records and athletic department financial reports filed with the U.S. Department of Education for all 120 universities in the NCAA Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A.
The 64 teams playing in postseason games last season had combined bowl expenses of $69.7 million, a $16.8 million increase from just four years earlier. [Emphasis added.]
And as much as some of these schools’ administrators want to bitch and moan about how they’re expected to carry the bowl mandated expenses of hotel rooms and meals that they don’t really need, what comes across over and over again is how little self control these institutions have.
“Bowls used to be a celebration of success,” former NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey said. “Now you have 6-6 teams going to bowls. And they’re taking everybody under the sun that has ever had anything to do with the university.”
For last year’s Sun Bowl, Oregon State and Missouri paid for 1,186 people to make the trip to El Paso. Wisconsin took three Bucky Badger mascots to one recent bowl.
“I guess if the first two Buckys get too wasted on New Year’s Eve,” said Sperber, the former Drake Group chairman, “you’ve still got a third Bucky for the Rose Bowl.”
There’s a basic truth that a lot of these folks ignore in their planning: the worse the regular season finish, the less enthusiasm in the fan base for the post season. This shouldn’t be rocket science:
“It’s not just Oregon State,” Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said. “We’ve absorbed a lot of tickets for virtually everybody in the conference. Once you get below about the third-place (allocated) game, you’re not going to get a great deal of fans’ support.”
And yet, these schools take the offer year after year.
… Universities and their conferences have absorbed $51.8 million in unsold bowl tickets since 2002. In last season’s Cotton Bowl, Auburn and Nebraska were stuck with $932,040 in unsold tickets. Eighty-six percent of the schools in non-BCS games last season ate unsold tickets.
“The ticket allocating is killing us,” said Georgia Tech’s Mayfield. The Yellow Jackets ate $400,180 in unsold tickets for last year’s Gator Bowl. “When you have a season-ticket base of 25,000 and the bowl is making you sell 10,000 to 13,000 tickets, getting 50 percent of those season-ticket holders to go to a bowl can be unrealistic.”
Damn. And I thought NATS fans were falling all over themselves to get to Boise this year. And those Missouri fans complaining about getting screwed by the Orange Bowl? Take a good look in the mirror, pal.
… While Oregon State and Missouri might have paid for a lot of people to go to last year’s Sun Bowl, not many fans followed the Beavers and Tigers to El Paso. Each school was allocated 8,000 tickets. Oregon State sold 2,097, Missouri 2,025.
In fact, college football veterans said Missouri’s inability to sell more than 23 percent of its ticket allocations for its last two bowl appearances was a significant factor in the Orange Bowl choosing Kansas over the Tigers, even though Missouri beat the Jayhawks during the regular season.
Are the bowl committees being a bit greedy in mandating the hotel stays and dining expenses? Perhaps, but, just like with coaching salaries, nobody is holding a gun to the head of any school administrator. Their eagerness to participate in a bowl game is exploitable, and will continue to be as long as these schools and their conferences are willing to bear the fallout. And as much as these folks want to blame the “system” for the problem, the self-inflicted wounds are equally bloody.
…The high prices, however, haven’t stopped the party. University-financed New Year’s Eve parties, hospitality suites with 24-hour bar service, golf outings, tickets to concerts and sporting events and endless dinners and cocktail receptions have run up a combined $5.1 million tab in bowl-related entertainment over the past five seasons.
That total doesn’t include gifts schools give players, staff, administrators, boosters, sponsors and even university employee spouses and children.
From the “it’s a slow news day” department:
… For the first time in his tenure, Richt will allow his team to wear different color shoelaces if they choose.
The man really has loosened up this year.
Just to add some depth to the notion of the weakness of Hawaii’s schedule this year, consider that in its twelve games Hawaii played one BCS conference opponent (4-7 Washington), one school ranked at the time they played (#19 Boise State) and three teams playing in bowl games (Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State – all WAC schools).
But with a little digging, it’s even softer than that. Washington, by many accounts, played the toughest schedule in the nation this year and that’s apparent in that the Huskies played eleven BCS conference opponents, six ranked teams and nine bowl bound teams in its twelve games.
The eleven remaining schools on Hawaii’s schedule played a total of 130 regular season games (1-AA schools play eleven regular season games). In those 130 games, you’ll only find sixteen BCS conference opponents (12.3%), eight schools ranked at the time the games were played (6.7%) and thirteen bowl bound teams (10%). For comparison’s sake, Georgia played ten schools from BCS conferences (83.3%), four ranked schools (33%) and seven schools going to bowl games (58.3%) – in twelve regular season games, of course.
None of this guarantees a Georgia victory Tuesday night. But it does show that not only has Hawaii rarely been challenged, but that most of the Warriors’ opponents have rarely been challenged, by schools with better resources and talent pools. In other words, Georgia has much greater experience in what to expect from a quality opponent than does Hawaii. Honestly, that should matter.
Satisfying your inner voyeur, here’s a link to a live camera shot at the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter Streets if you want a peek at what’s going on in the Big Easy. The best of both worlds – the view without the smell.
It probably won’t get too interesting until the sun goes down (and the beads come out)…
Yesterday I took a look at how Hawaii fared against BCS conference schools over the past three seasons. Today I wanted to see how Georgia fared against schools like Hawaii – that is, D-1 schools that don’t play in a BCS conference.
The big problem with this approach is that the sample size is necessarily small due to scheduling constraints. Georgia plays an eight game conference schedule plus Georgia Tech each year. There’s often one 1-AA school on the slate, and Damon has made a serious effort lately to make sure there’s an additional BCS conference opponent each year. The end result is that even going back four years, there are only five games against schools with similar backgrounds to the Warriors that we can analyze.
Here they are (all five are home games, of course):
The average margin of victory in those five games is over 25 points.
Given the small sample size, I don’t want to read too much into the statistics generated from these games (as usual, taken from the excellent cfbstats.com) , but there are still a few noteworthy items worth mentioning.
A couple of other things that should be factored into the analysis: first, in four of these five games Georgia was able to run up a sufficient lead that enabled Richt to substitute liberally late (Troy scored its last TD in the final minute of the game against a number of kids not on the two deep defense, for example); second, for obvious reasons, Georgia didn’t spend as much time game planning for these teams as it has against Hawaii, with one exception (Boise State).
The bottom line from this is apparent. The talent gap matters.