Daily Archives: January 6, 2009

The perfect is the enemy of the good, or, be careful what you wish for.

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve expressed concern about how a D-1 football playoff might negatively impact its greatest asset, the regular season.

In a sense, that’s already started to happen, as Ed Gunther cogently argues here.

… But doesn’t this negate my argument from above that thinking about who’s “best” is a bad thing? It would seem that way, but my point is that a healthy dose of discussion and controversy is fine – it’s when it becomes a cancerous growth that overshadows the rest of the sport, as it has recently, that it becomes a problem. The controversy used to be a side dish or dessert – the cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table that added a little kick. Now it’s become the turkey, and eating that much of it only makes you tired and cranky. When people are pissed off and focused more on “not winning a national championship” rather than being thrilled about their 12-1 or 13-0 season, there is a problem.

In other words, implicit in the attack on the current postseason format is the argument that the regular season is somehow delegitimized by it.  I think that’s what’s most striking to me about the 2007 season.  I honestly think it was the most exciting regular season of my lifetime.  We saw an SEC East race go down to (literally) the last second.  Georgia for the first time in my memory beat Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech in the same year and three of those four games were classic.  And we cared about the outcome of a West Virginia-Pittsburgh game.

Yet, all I saw from the middle of the season onwards was piece after piece critical of the game.  From all the grumbling, you’d have no idea how great the season was.  Assholes like John Feinstein openly advocated a regular season train wreck – in whatever form that might take – so that everyone else would become as angry as he and a new postseason format would somehow miraculously arise from the ashes.  There was no pleasure to be taken from how things unfolded, because in the end, without a playoff, it didn’t really mean anything.

It’s been more of the same this season. (Note to Chris Stephens:  the NCAA has nothing to do with the BCS.)  Regardless of which school wins the BCS title game, I expect to read over and over again about how the system has failed us.

The question that’s begged here is how much better would things be with a D-1 playoff.  Once again, Ed steps forward with a timely post on the matter.  (In case you can’t tell, Ed is my new hero.)  After looking at how the BCS era would have played out under different tourney scenarios, here’s what he concludes:

The Plus-One w/ Bowl Results would’ve definitely helped in 2001, 2003, 2004, and may have helped in 2006 and 2007, but it would have completely screwed up 1999, 2002, and 2005 and it would’nt (sic) have done any good in 1998 and 2000.

The Plus-One Top 4 would have probably been better than the BCS in 2004. That’s it, one year out of ten. It’s not a good system.

Eight-Team Playoff w/ Conf Champs would have been solid only in 2002, but so was the BCS that year. In one other year (2000) you have three teams vying for two spots, so one is getting left out. In all other years, you have either 4 or 5 teams that would be worthy of an at-large, so you’re gonna be pissing off more people than you’re gonna be making happy. (And I’m not even including the uproar that would occur when a playoff round staged a rematch of a regular season game, which is pretty likely. Or the fact that the non-BCS conferences would demand a spot, thereby leaving just one at-large for those 3-5 worthy teams.)

Eight-Team Playoff w/ BCS Top 8 If you go this route, you’re always going to be leaving a BCS conference champion out – it would’ve happened to every single conference at least once during the last ten years. Most likely you’ll be leaving two out, as well as the random undefeated non-BCS conf champion.

I know you hate the BCS, but there’d be just as much controversy surrounding these setups as well. Somebody is always gonna get screwed – and there’s a good chance that someday it’ll be your team, if it hasn’t happened already. The BCS might be easier to live with if we just accept the reality that no system is even close to perfect every year. All of them would be controversial most of the time.

Personally, I don’t think Ed goes far enough.  Once you go down the playoff road without satisfying folks, there’s only one likely outcome.  And that’s to make the postseason tourney even bigger.

The more I ponder this, the more strongly I feel that the only acceptable playoff format would be an eight-team, conference-champ-only tournament.  Yeah, there would have to be some tweaking of the conferences to level the quality of the participants, but you’d preserve the significance of the regular season and you’d also have a platform that would be harder to expand from.  Otherwise, it looks like Ed has confirmed the old adage about the devil you know.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, The Blogosphere

One O to rule them all, one O to find them.

They say that money
Can’t buy love in this world
But it’ll get you a half-pound of cocaine
And a sixteen-year old girl
And a great big long limousine
On a hot September night
Now that may not be love
But it is all right

– Randy Newman, “It’s Money That I Love”

I feel like I’m watching some bizarrely radical experiment taking place in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Start with a proud, but somewhat down, football program that’s gotten maybe a little desperate and watch what happens when the guys running the show throw ginormous amounts of money at it.  Just how much happiness can you buy in Urnge Country?

To start with, it looks like what you get after you hire a thirty-something with a 5-15 record as a head coach whose career to date seems more like a testament to connections than ability – did I mention that he’s hired his dad and a couple of brothers-in-law? – is an abiding faith in Ed Orgeron.

Think Ed Orgeron is important to Tennessee’s future success?

Just ask Monte Kiffin.

“It was huge,” Kiffin said Friday shortly after being announced as UT’s defensive coordinator. “(UT coach) Lane (Kiffin) kept saying ‘The key, the key, the key is Ed Orgeron.’ “

The key, my precious.

What I love about this article is the open discussion of Plan B – you know, the one where everything blows up in UT’s face:

… In many ways, Orgeron is UT’s ultimate insurance policy in the great Lane Kiffin experiment. Let’s theorize for a moment that Lane Kiffin doesn’t work out as head coach, that he’s more Raider than Trojan, and that his father just can’t relate to college athletes after many years in the NFL.

Albeit unlikely, in that worst-case scenario UT would have to make a change in the near future. As long as the Vols recruit clean, expect UT to be loaded with talent for the next guy – thanks to Orgeron.

Hey, it worked this year at Ole Miss.  Maybe Houston Nutt will be ready to move on by then.

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Filed under Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin, Media Punditry/Foibles

A tale of two Chiziks

With the hire of the soon-to-be legendary Trooper Taylor, Gene Chizik’s star at Auburn burns so brightly that I’m afraid some of the Tiger faithful may go blind from staring too hard.

Dont worry, hes about to drop the ball and chest bump somebody.

Don't worry, he's about to drop the ball and chest bump somebody.

Meanwhile, at Iowa State, the perception of Chizik isn’t quite so rosy, as The Wiz relates.  Is some of that sour grapes?  No doubt, but some of it still comes across to me as pretty damning.

… The fact that Gene Chizik could only muster at most 3 minutes for his two years’ worth of connection with a team, not answering any questions, he might as well have walked in, peed on the floor and walked out. Why waste your time with people you obviously care so little about? To satisfy his own guilty conscience is my only speculation.

I know it’s kind of gotten brushed over in the excitement of the assistant hires in the past couple of weeks, but Chizik’s also the guy that left Auburn before, for a lateral move to Texas.  Auburn fans seem awfully forgiving, so you wonder what might hurt more down the road – Chizik falling on his face, or Chizik succeeding and moving on again.

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Filed under Gene Chizik Is The Chiznit

Going down swinging

I can’t wait to see how the last coaches’ poll plays out.

… Texas coach Mack Brown certainly considers his team worthy of the assignment.

“I wasn’t sure before right now, but Friday morning, I am going to vote Texas No. 1 (in the final coaches’ poll), because I think this is the best team in the country,” Brown said in the postgame celebration.

Utah’s Kyle Whittingham intends to vote his team #1.  My bet is that Pete Carroll probably feels the same way about USC.

Except the coaches are supposed to vote the winner of the BCS title game #1.

I feel for Mack Brown, to some extent:  a play away from being undefeated and a screwy conference decision about which school plays in the conference championship game are the things keeping his team from a shot at the title.

It will be interesting to see if he tries to lobby any of his fellow coaches to vote with him in the event Oklahoma beats Florida.  If the Gators win resoundingly, though, I expect this whole thing to quietly fade away.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs