Daily Archives: August 6, 2009

Coming to grips with the SEC West race

If you’re a Georgia football blogger who also opines on the SEC, there’s going to come a point in time when you’ve got to handicap the conference’s coming season.  Well, I tell you what – I’ve been thinking about the chances of Alabama, LSU and Mississippi on and off this summer, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out which school is going to come out on top.

So I thought that maybe I’d go through the exercise of drawing that virtual line down that virtual sheet of paper, list the pros on one side and the cons on the other and see what I wind up with.  Hey, that worked great when you were trying to figure out which girl to ask out in the eleventh grade, didn’t it?

ALABAMA

Pros: Significantly upgraded roster.  Terrific defense, the best in the West.  Great depth at running back.  An elite play maker in Julio Jones.  A schedule that, once you get past the opener with Virginia Tech, is clearly manageable (i.e., no Florida or Georgia from the East; LSU at home).

Cons: A rebuilding year on the offensive line.  A noob at quarterback.  The program not being a surprise this year.  Saban’s track record of failing to coach teams to double digit wins in back-to-back seasons.

Bottom line: For all the talk about Ole Miss’ schedule, the Tide’s is pretty sweet as well.  And if there’s an offense designed to withstand less than great quarterback play, it’s Alabama’s.  (John Parker Wilson was fifth in SEC passing efficiency last year, with a nothing-to-write-home-about 122.3 rating.)  But defenses are going to gear up to stop the run until ‘Bama can prove differently.  And don’t brush off that Saban futility record too quickly, Tide fans. A trend’s a trend, no matter the underlying reasons for it.

Odds to win the West:  35%.

LSU

Pros: Still the most overall talented team in the West.  Miles was aggressive about dealing with shortcomings at quarterback and defensive coordinator.  Regression to the mean with regard to turnover margin (and seven pick-sixes!).  Charles Scott and Keiland Williams comprise the best one-two RB combo in the conference.

Cons: By far the toughest schedule of the three.  Depth on the defensive line maybe not as great as it’s been in years past.  Questions at wide receiver after LaFell.  Inexperience at quarterback – again.

Bottom line: This is the team of the three whose record is hardest to predict, because it seems to have the greatest upside, but at the same time the most questions.  Ask me again in a month and I may very well have a totally different opinion.

Odds to win the West: 35%.

MISSISSIPPI

Pros: Jevan Snead is head and shoulders above his counterparts at the other two schools.  The Rebels have the best offense in the SEC West.  Dominant defensive line and solid starters at linebacker.  Very soft schedule.

Cons: Below average secondary.  History.  Significantly less overall depth than Alabama or LSU.  And if you’re marking ‘Bama down for the loss of Andre Smith, it’s hard to do differently here with Oher’s departure.

Bottom line: It would be foolish to write off Ole Miss’ chances with that schedule and that quarterback, but I’m slightly less enamored over their chances to win, although it’s not because of any of that hunter-instead-of-hunted stuff, or the long dry spell.  My concerns are more concrete.  This team is more susceptible to injury than its competition.  I’m not sure that schedule is as big an advantage as people think – Alabama’s isn’t much tougher and LSU hasn’t lost in Oxford since 1998.  And that secondary is bad, as in offer-Jamar Hornsby-a-scholarship bad.  But Nutt’s a good enough coach to use the schedule as a way to protect the team against injury problems, and there may not be that many opponents that are going to be able to exploit the Rebels pass defense.  So I’m torn.

Odds to win the West: 30%.

That didn’t help much at all.

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Filed under SEC Football

Next time, stick to virginity.

Clay Travis has written one of the most painfully stupid columns I’ve read in a while.  And I say that as someone who (1) as a life long libertarian has a skepticism about government interference in the market that’s almost genetic and (2) agrees with his conclusion that yanking the tax exempt status of secondary institutions is the one big stick the government has at its disposal if it wants to bring schools to heel on something like a playoff.

But the rest of it – sheesh.  It’s not as cranky as your typical John Feinstein screed, but it’s about as deluded.  To summarize:

  1. Some D-1 schools have athletic departments that make lots of money.
  2. Some D-1 schools have athletic departments that pay their coaches lots of money.
  3. All D-1 schools enjoy tax exempt status as non-profit institutions under federal law.
  4. Because D-1 schools don’t pay taxes on their profits, the free market ceases to exist when it comes to schools negotiating contracts with head coaches.
  5. Because the government subsidizes college athletic departments – and by extension, those people paid by college athletic departments – it has the right to regulate coaches’ salaries.

I kid you not.

… And the government could get involved.

How?

By using the same rationale they’ve used with banks and General Motors. Once we give you taxpayer money — or in this case, don’t demand tax revenue — the government has argued, we have a right to look at how you’re compensating your employees. If the government can set the pay scales of for-profit companies receiving government money, why can’t they do it for nonprofit colleges that they — and by extension we taxpayers — are subsidizing via the tax code?

Put plainly, they can.

Oy.  I feel dumber just from copying and pasting that.  If we are going to argue that tax code subsidies are grounds for government intervention in what schools pay their coaches, why stop there?  I bet I could line up more than a few people who feel that Michael Adams is grossly overpaid for what he contributes to society.

For that matter, why stop with universities?  Does Travis have a clue how many winners and losers the feds pick out in the tax code?  Start with the mortgage interest deduction – maybe we can limit how much money builders and realtors make (assuming the real estate market rises from the dead, that is).  Or take the biggest break of all, on employer health care cost contributions.  There’s the way to bring those pesky doctors and insurance company execs around on reforming health care!

Travis is in outright denial about this.

“I go back to professional baseball and Alex Rodriguez making $25 million a year. Or to Julia Roberts and $20 million for one movie. Are those people worth it? Of course not. But if that’s what the marketplace is and enough people are willing to watch Alex play or Julia Roberts in a movie, they have a right to get that.

“I don’t think this is any different.”

Wrong.

It’s very different. You can’t cite examples of for-profit corporations paying salaries to major league baseball players or movie stars in order to justify your college coaching salaries. You just can’t.

Really?  How many professional sports franchises have been the beneficiaries of government largess for things like tax breaks and outright subsidies for stadiums?  (And check out the regs on depreciation sometime, Clay.)  How many states give the movie and television industries tax breaks as an enticement for their business?  It’s the nature of the beast in this day and age.

And what’s his point, anyway?  If the schools are paying their coaches too much money in Travis’ estimation, why punish the coaches for that?  Shouldn’t the penalties fall on the schools who are taking advantage of us gullible taxpayers?  Why not make them refund some of their excess profits back to us, or at least to those who made contributions to these schools?  (By the way, those contributions are tax deductible, which means that the government is subsidizing those of us who contribute, which by extension means that… oh, never mind.)

I think you get my drift here.  We’re all sucking on the government teat, my friends.  Well, maybe not that guy holed up in the cave in Utah, but the rest of us.  If it makes you feel better to screw over Bob Stoops, so be it.  But don’t complain too much when the slippery slope rolls by your house.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, The Blogosphere

At least they waited until the first week of August.

They haven’t even put the finishing touches on their depth charts – hell, Nick Saban hasn’t finished kicking kids off the team yet, has he? – but the coaches are going to present their preseason top 25 poll this Friday.

That’s nuts.  Pointlessly nuts.  There are still some teams who haven’t gotten preseason practice underway.  So what’s with the rush to judgment?

If you’re Spurrier, you might as well toss a bone to Duke.  It’s not much less of an informed vote than most of the ones that’ll be cast by him and his peers this week.

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Filed under College Football

But college football didn’t exist before 1990.

History is bunk, dude.

  • Out of the current lineup of 12 SEC teams, all but 4 teams have had at least one undefeated season since 1936 (the start of the AP poll). The first 3 wouldn’t really surprise people. They are Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina. However, the 4th team surprised me. It’s Florida.
  • In a similar vein, there has only been 4 teams since 1936 to post a winless overall record since 1936. They are Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and, surprisingly, Florida. In fact Florida stands alone in one other piece of SEC trivia: they are the only team in the SEC to post more than 1 winless season since 1936.

When you’re looking up at Vandy, I suppose it is better to change the subject. Hey, did you hear about that raise Urban Meyer got this week?

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Filed under Gators, Gators..., SEC Football