Daily Archives: July 28, 2013

Georgia/Clemson, a Steele-y comparison

The season opener is about a month away, so maybe it’s time to get the ball rolling, discussion-wise.  Thought it might be fun to start a conversation by looking at Phil Steele’s rankings of each team’s units and seeing how they stack up against each other.  Steele has Georgia ranked ninth and Clemson fifteenth in his preseason top 40, but has them spaced farther apart in the one power poll he publishes.  In that, Georgia’s sixth and Clemson’s 20th.

Here’s how he breaks down the respective units (he lists the top 45 nationally at each position):

  • Quarterback.  He’s got Clemson fourth and Georgia sixth.  Boyd’s got gaudier numbers than Murray and Clemson’s backup quarterback has more experience than any of Georgia’s do.  Still, those rankings are close enough to be considered a toss-up.
  • Running back.  Monster gap here:  Georgia is first and Clemson doesn’t even rank in his top 45.  Boyd is the Tigers’ leading returning rusher.
  • Receiver.  Another close one, with Georgia fifth and Clemson seventh. Both teams lost one of their top receivers, but still return a lot of depth at the wideout position.  Watkins will be the scariest guy on the field that night.  Georgia has more productive tight ends, though.
  • Offensive line.  Steele projects a pretty good-sized difference here. Georgia has his third-best unit and Clemson only ranks 28th. Both teams bring back experience, but Georgia brings back more.
  • Defensive line.  The shoe is on the other foot here, with Clemson at #15 and Georgia at #42.  The Tigers did lose a big, if uneven, talent in Goodman, but still bring back seven of their top eight from last season. The Dawgs… don’t.
  • Linebacker.  Back to the toss-up – Georgia is 30th and Clemson is 32nd. Clemson actually brings back more experienced players than Georgia does, so take that for what it’s worth.
  • Defensive back.  Close, but not impressive:  Clemson’s at #39 and Georgia is 44th.  And that doesn’t take into account JHC’s suspension.
  • Special teams.  Neither team shows up in his top 45, which in Georgia’s case is a little hard to follow, as he describes them as finishing thirtieth in his 2012 rankings and expects improvement this season.  On the other hand, Clemson’s place kicker has been more consistent than Morgan, who, yeah, won’t play opening night.  Call this the big wild card of the game.

I see two talented offenses, except that Georgia has a more balanced running threat (Clemson does have a couple of freshmen backs from whom it’s hoping for big things).  That’s probably not such good news for the less highly ranked defenses.  Subject to our old friend turnover margin, I’m seeing Gurley and Marshall as difference makers, but I’m a little concerned about who wins the special teams part of the night.  What do y’all see?

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Georgia Football, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water

The hunt for a compelling schedule

I think it’s fair to say that the number of people dissatisfied with the current state of SEC scheduling isn’t shrinking.  You’ve got Miles’ and Spurrier’s competing fairness arguments, pressure from the networks to make sure there’s enough quality product in the conference pipeline on a weekly basis, fans’ general displeasure with paying top prices for cupcake games, Saban’s legitimate point that players should have the opportunity to face every conference foe during their careers… well, you get the picture.

The short-term problem is derived from these abominable bridge schedules Slive’s office foists on us as it ineptly tries to find a balance between these competing interests (more accurately, some of these competing interests) while continuing to honor the cross-divisional permanent opponent games established in 1992 and most schools’ desire to keep a high number of home games against lower class opponents.

It’s complicated.  Too complicated.  Tyler Dawgden, riffing off a post that appeared at the LSU blog And the Valley Shook, has a suggestion on how to begin undoing the knot the conference has tied itself up in:

Basically, if Alabama/Tennessee and Georgia/Auburn want to keep playing, good on them. Let’em. That gives the other 10 teams opportunities to play each other in a round robin way or whatever. Essentially, those four teams are opting out of the opportunity to play the other division’s opponents more often…

… My point is a strong conference is built on the teams playing each other in compelling match ups. Georgia vs. Auburn is more compelling, to me and from a marketing stand point, due to how long they’ve been playing. If LSU doesn’t want that kind of long term cross-division rivalry, that only hurts them in the long run, from my perspective.

He suggests that if the schools don’t like the opt-out approach, the SEC could think about realigning the divisions.  (That’s something I discussed in a Twitter thread a couple of weeks ago – move both Alabama schools into the East and move Missouri and South Carolina out West and the conference could ditch the permanent cross-division games with both of the big rivalry games moving within the same division.)  But there’s a place Dawgden doesn’t want to go.

Unless, of course we want to discuss relegation, yearly competitively balanced schedules, and crap that the NFL has done to make schedules ‘more fair.’ Which I don’t.

No problem.  Michael Elkon will.

The obstacles to fair (or at least truly random) non-conference scheduling are the Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia rivalries. Offer a Georgia fan fewer games with Auburn and more games with the Mississippi schools, and he won’t be pleased. But offer those fans a three-week period of top SEC opponents playing one another, and he might see a worthwhile trade-off.

Enter the Modified Spurrier. The Ballcoach wants only intra-divisional games to count in the standings. That idea does not work in its pure form, because it would relegate inter-divisional games to glorified non-conference games. In essence, you would have two castes of SEC games.

However, if we divided the season into stages, a la the World Cup, then we can accomplish Spurrier’s aim while still having meaningful cross-divisional games.

How?  Here’s how.

Stage one

Teams play three non-conference games. Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina would all move their in-state rivalry games into September, an idea that has been floated independently of the Modified Spurrier.

Stage two

Teams play a round robin within their divisions, which means six games each.

Stage three

The top three teams in each division then play each of the top three in the other division. The team with the best overall conference record at the end of this nine-game schedule is declared the champion. This does away with the SEC Championship Game, but it is replaced by the final round of the three-week closing stage being played at neutral sites.

… Meanwhile, the remaining eight teams would play three cross-divisional games that are assigned randomly. There would be no neutral-site games at this stage, so efforts would have to be made across seasons to ensure that teams that only play four home games one year play five the next.

That puts a bullet square in the heart of Miles’ and Spurrier’s fairness qualms. And it’s all kinds of awesome if you happen to be someone following one of those top three teams.  But if you’re not, it basically reduces the last quarter of the season to a race to become bowl-eligible, at best.  The chance to redeem a lousy season by ruining a rival school’s season with a brutal late season upset is gone.  And, as Michael admits, so are those historical rivalries many of us SEC fans love.  On top of that, you’d be asking the top schools to give up another home game each season, which might be made up to them financially with TV money, but would have their local businesses looking at losing a lot of game day revenue raising all kinds of holy hell about it.  All in all, it’s an interesting set of choices.

The thing is – wouldn’t it just be easier to go to a nine-game conference schedule?

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Filed under SEC Football

Sunday morning buffet

Help yourselves.

  • Kenarious Gates has lost weight because he wants to be your starting left tackle.
  • Bill Connelly:  “… if you can avoid going three-and-out more than twice in a given game, you have a good to very good chance of winning no matter what else happens.”
  • Shakin’ the Southland breaks down something I looked at recently – evaluating hurry-up offenses by plays per minute.
  • Andy Staples gets to the bottom of one of the strangest parts of the new targeting rules – that the 15-yard penalty will be enforced even if the call is reversed by the replay official – with this incredible explanation: “What’s going to happen if we don’t do that is officials are going to stop calling it,” Anderson said. “Then it’s going to continue to occur. We won’t get it out of the game.” So, essentially, your team could be losing 15 critical yards so a guy in stripes doesn’t get his feelings hurt.
  • It turns out Big Game Bob’s “our conference’s bottom is better than the SEC’s, so there” argument doesn’t hold water under closer analysis.
  • David Paschall looks at Georgia’s quarterback succession under Richt.
  • Statistically speaking, how random a game is football?

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, The NCAA

Lulu and Junior are exploring their entertainment options.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press lays out the Tennessee ticket numbers that tell one sad story:

Year // Sold // Available for sale // Percent Sold // Season Attendance

2004 // 75,865 // 79,297 // 95.6 // 106,644

2005 // 75,753 // 79,297 // 95.5 // 107,593

2006 // 74,907 // 76,833 // 97.5 // 105,789

2007 // 74,380 // 76,833 // 96.8 // 103,918

2008 // 73,367 // 76,833 // 95.4 // 101,448

2009 // 70,194 // 76,833 // 91.4 // 99,220

2010 // 67,172 // 74,444 // 90.2 // 99,781

2011 // 61,665 // 74,444 // 82.8 // 94,462

2012 // 59,617 // 74,444 // 80.1 // 89,965

Yikes.  That ain’t pretty.

You want to hear a bigger yikes?  Sales aren’t getting better, despite the latest coaching staff change.

With individual game tickets and two- and three-game packages now on sale, UT expects to fall short of the number of season tickets it sold last season, though the athletic department has had better funding than it anticipated.

That last point is kind of interesting.  Chris Fuller, UT’s associate athletic director for external operations, chalks that up to fans becoming more choosy about their scheduling options.

“… We’re still a little bit behind on the ticket sales side. You haven’t seen it there, but I think that’s less of a reflection on our coaching staff and more of a reflection of the change in the landscape. We don’t have a wildly attractive home schedule this year.

“What’s been interesting is I think what we’ve seen people do is they’ve made their donation, they’ve invested [and] they might not have bought as many tickets on a season basis, because I think what’s happening, too, is, ‘Hey, I can pick and choose a little bit in terms of what games I go to.’

“There’s been a little bit of change in the landscape of ticket sales — not just here but everywhere in terms of that regard. I tend to look at the number on the annual fund donation as more of an indicator of the enthusiasm that Coach Jones has created. I think where we’re at on ticket sales right now is probably a little bit more of a reflection on our schedule and access in general.”

Just makes you wonder how long the SEC can hold out against that nine-game conference schedule.  I guess a little bit longer…

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

You want that cupcake on that line. You need that cupcake on that line.

Southern Miss’ Todd Monken thinks that if that new D-1 super bracket comes to fruition, mid-major schools like his ought to take their footballs and stay home, so to speak.

“Go ahead. See how you like that. See how you like the NFL rule and play each other every week. Coaches will be like ‘Whoa, hold on, wait a second now.’”

“Go ahead and do your deal — you guys split all the pie — but don’t go playing anyone else. You just play each other every week. Just have a nice NFL crossover where you play each other. Then when you fire up a nice 7-5, and you’re at a pretty good place and they fire you, they won’t be real excited about it, because you won’t have those games that they’ve been able to win. Plain and simple.”

“Some of those teams that get bowl eligible when they go 2-6 in their league and they go 6-6. Well, you’ll be 2-10, or 3-9, and it won’t feel so damn salty.”

Of course, he admits that comes with a price.

“Schools at our level, until we get done prostituting ourselves are never going to really see those teams to come play you [at their home field],” he said.

I’d love to play Auburn [at home] — they’re not coming. They pay you enough to where you won’t come. They’ll find enough people so that you’ll come.”
I bet you’ll find the records of schools in our league are pretty good when they get to play teams at home. They just don’t get to play them at home, but ’cause they need the money or someone else will do it. That’s the biggest thing — how do you get to where you give yourself a shot, and make them travel?”

Well, refusing to play them won’t help.  Does Monken have a solution?

“I don’t know that,” Monken said. “Obviously it’s very difficult, otherwise they’d be doing it. I understand the issues, when you need revenue streams that don’t exist — I get that. I do.”

“But if you’re asking in a perfect world, we want chances, games that we can win.”

And there’s your state of college football, circa 2013.  In the end, we know they’ll keep cashing those road game checks.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major