Daily Archives: June 10, 2011

John Brantley has Mark Twain rolling in his grave.

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

Okay, it’s not exactly Brantley’s fault.  But the Florida quarterback does have a knack for making pundits overreach.  Take ESPN’s KC Joyner, for example.  Here’s his statistical argument to bolster his case that Brantley is a Heisman dark horse this season (I know, I know):

… Brantley’s 2010 numbers were not indicative of how well he played at times. In the three games against the Gators’ toughest pass defense opponents (at Tennessee Volunteers, at home against the LSU Tigers and at the Alabama Crimson Tide, all teams that placed in the top 31 in the FBS in passer rating allowed last season), Brantley had 18 completions (plus one defensive pass interference penalty) in 24 medium depth attempts for 347 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions (medium being defined as passes thrown 11-19 yards downfield).

That equates to a 214.4 passer rating on some of the toughest types of pass attempts against three top-level pass defenses. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will know how to utilize these skills quite effectively.

That’s some mighty impressive cherry-picking there.  (Brantley’s passer ratings in the three games Joyner cites:  136.21, 93.44 and 112.24.  Not exactly the stuff legends are built on.)  Give me enough time to play with numbers and I could probably invent an argument for Reggie Ball having been an overlooked All-American.

That’s the kind of approach that tends to make some people roll their eyes when you attempt to make any type of statistical case to support a point.

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Filed under Gators, Gators..., Media Punditry/Foibles, Stats Geek!

Is cheating structural?

One question I have about the scandals which have engulfed Southern Cal and Ohio State:  why, damn it?  After all, it’s not as if either school cheated because it had to scratch its way out of the muck to compete.  Both are among the cream of the college football crop.  (Just ask anyone from Montana.)

Elkon hypothesizes.

… Ohio State and USC are similar programs in that they sit in the best recruiting areas in their respective conferences.  There are more players from Ohio on Big Ten rosters than there are from other states.  Ditto for players from Southern California on Pac Ten rosters.  USC and Ohio State dominated the Pac Ten and the Big Ten in the Aughts by controlling local talent.  (If I had a nickel for every reference to Jim Tressel’s proverbial wall around Ohio.)  With fans following recruiting to an increased degree on Rivals and the like, keeping top talent at home became more of a priority for these programs.  Nothing will anger Ohio State fans more than Ohio players going to Michigan and coming back to haunt the Buckeyes.  (Ask an Ohio State fan about what state produced Michigan’s two Heisman winners in the 90s.)  Thus, both USC and Ohio State had an incentive to look the other way on rule-breaking in order to create an environment that would be attractive for recruits.  Because instate recruits are more likely to visit campus frequently and their coaches will be plugged into what’s going on at the major school in the area, a reputation that players get extra benefits will be especially valuable in keeping local talent.

It’s an interesting theory, but I’m not sure I buy it, at least in totality.  Elkon gives the SEC a pass on this because he perceives the talent to be more diffused geographically than is the case in the Big Ten, but from where I sit, Florida and Georgia (perhaps LSU, as well) should be eligible candidates for his theory, along with Texas, which he mentions and credits for avoiding trouble.

The Gators in particular during the middle part of the decade dominated in-state recruiting due in large part to the collapse of rival programs at FSU and Miami (insert Tommy Perkins’ useful analogy), but Florida the state remained a huge recruiting pipeline for a number of programs both in and out of the SEC, including Tressel’s, for that matter.  I’d argue there’s a strong similarity there with the conditions Elkon attributes to Ohio, maybe stronger in the sense that there’s an even bigger pool of schools which poach in UF’s waters.  Yet the Zooker, for all his obvious flaws, never ran seriously afoul of the NCAA.

I don’t dismiss Michael’s premise in its entirety, though.  I can see how that might explain the conditions on the ground that lead a coach to cheat and a program to look the other way.  I would simply add that it takes the right mix of people to allow those conditions to ripen into opportunities to commit serious violations.

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UPDATE:  USA Today posits another structural hypothesis:  maybe some programs are just too big to fail care.

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Filed under College Football, The NCAA

Friday morning buffet

Is there such a thing as overbuffeting?

22 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big Ten Football, Georgia Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness, Strategery And Mechanics, The Glass is Half Fulmer

‘What can we do to make your college experience better?’

Corey Grant, you’ll never get the chance to find out.

19 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules

A man walks into a bar…

and gets a promotion.

Say what you will about college football – even in the offseason, there’s always something going on.

4 Comments

Filed under Big East Football