Daily Archives: December 11, 2017

Hard times in Oxford getting harder

The Freeze fallout continues apace.

SEC Michigan speed, baybee!  And Harbaugh didn’t even have to set up a recruiting camp down South to get a top-flight quarterback.

You know Jim Delany’s chest is bursting with pride right now.



Filed under Big Ten Football, Freeze!, Heard About Harbaugh?

Fabris Bowl Pool PSA

I’ve just checked, and see that only 85 of you guys have signed up.  Games start this Saturday, so if you want your picks to count, don’t forget to register in time.

Go here to get in.


Filed under GTP Stuff

Vegas, Alabama and the CFP

I mentioned the other week that maybe college football ought to outsource the selection committee’s work to Vegas books.  Note that the team that just squeaked in to the CFP field is favored to win the whole shootin’ match.  Also note the betting distribution for the Sugar Bowl:

“Alabama got some money from a group who moves numbers,” Westgate Superbook assistant manager Ed Salmons said. “The public likes Clemson.”

At MGM sportsbooks, eight times as much money has been bet on the Crimson Tide as has been bet on Clemson in the first week since the matchup was set. The number of bets on the Sugar Bowl, however, was equally divided among the two teams, MGM vice president of race sports Jay Rood said.

Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology also reported taking early “sharp” action on Alabama. CG Technology vice president of risk Jason Simbal said Sunday that he had taken more bets on Clemson, but there was three times as much money on Alabama.

“The most action, by far, on any bowl game is on Alabama-Clemson,” Simbal said. “That could end up being the most-bet game of the year. It might end being more heavily bet than the championship game.”

There’s a “what do they know that I don’t” aspect to this that reminds of the betting patterns in the week leading up to the SECCG.  And we know how that game went.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, What's Bet In Vegas Stays In Vegas

“Every week has been a playoff mentality for us, because if you lose you’re probably out.”

It appears that Kirby Smart and I are on the same page about playoff expansion and its effect on the regular season.

“You do devalue that as you increase the number of teams in the playoff,” Smart said. “You do value the end of the season. You think about the last, probably, three weeks of the season, last two weeks of the season, the amount of attention and the amount of big games. (The committee) probably got it more right this year than ever with a lot of the championship games as de facto play-in games. I think that’s the right way to go about it.”

And Dabo Swinney.

“If you know you’re in the playoffs, certain games become very irrelevant,” Swinney said. “All of a sudden, you don’t play certain players because you know you’re in and you don’t want to get a guy hurt. There are a lot of unintended consequences that would creep in, just like you see in all the other sports. I love the NBA, but I don’t ever watch it until the playoffs, because it just doesn’t matter. In our sport, it still matters. I mean, it matters. It matters what you do in September, October and November.”

And Nick Saban.

“We sort of started the two-team deal. Now it’s a four-team deal. Now all the focus and emphasis is on the playoffs,” Saban said.

There’s a certain contrast between the coaches whose teams are in this year’s playoff field and at least one whose team isn’t that has to be mentioned.


Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh came to the Wolverines after a four-year stint with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, and he’s all for an expanded field.

“I would just analyze it in terms of every other sport, whether it’s gymnastics, basketball, pro football, FCS football — pick a sport and they have a playoff to get to a champion,” Harbaugh said this past week in a news conference for the Outback Bowl. “None of them start with the last four. You have a great model with the NFL, with their 12 teams, and a great model in the FCS, which had 16 teams and now has 24.

“Eight teams would be better than four and 12 would be better than eight. I think 16 is kind of the sweet spot.”

Counter point:

Riley pointed out that if the playoff field expanded, there would still be folks upset over a certain team being left out.

“There’s never going to be a magic number,” Riley said. “If we have eight (teams), nine and 10 are going to be upset. If we have 16 (teams), 17 and 18 are going to be upset.”

Said Saban: “I don’t care if we have 68 teams in it, we’ll still have a two-hour show on who shouldn’t have got in it just like they do in basketball.”

Self-preservation is part of basic human nature.  If you’re a coach who’s concerned with job security, Jim Boeheim’s long-standing position that the more the playoffs expand, the better for coaches’ resumes and survival, regardless of what that means for the nature of the game itself, will always carry the day.  Add to that the egos of conference commissioners and school presidents upset that their teams aren’t playing for all the marbles and the resulting momentum to make the playoffs bigger and better will not be checked in the short and medium terms.

The genie is out of the bottle and the cork won’t be going back in until it’s too late.  They’ll excuse themselves by telling us they did it for the fans, though.  No doubt I’ll find that incredibly comforting as I’m filling out my CFP brackets.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

What do fewer eyeballs on college football mean?

Richard Deitsch takes a look at broadcast numbers for the just concluded 2017 regular season and reports a decline.

Per Karp, here’s where the networks finished for average viewership for this year’s CFB regular season:

CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.

ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.

Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.

NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.

ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.

FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.

Some interesting thoughts from Karp in the piece: CBS’s SEC package was the most-viewed individual package for the ninth straight CFB season, but this year’s average was its lowest in well over a decade. ABC’s Saturday Night Football was down 4% from 2016, even though its window remained college football’s most-viewed window with 5.7 million viewers. ESPN was easily the most-viewed cable net for CFB—it has the most games so that lowers its average—but was down with fewer Big Ten matchups. FS1’s average was its best since the network launched but below what the cable net FX averaged for its games in ’11 (1.01 million viewers).

Let’s cut to the chase here:  is it panic time?  Well, far be it from me to speak for the geniuses who run the sport, but Karp seems to suggest that while the numbers are an indication of a problem, it’s not an existential one.

“I don’t think that meant less interest in college football,” Karp said. “If anything, I’d say the interest was higher this season compared to some prior years. If you look at total minutes viewed for college football, it had to be some sort of record this year. There were some really exciting matchups and Fox Sports really stepped up their game this year—the company’s first with the Big Ten regular season lineup. You could often find three college football windows on the Fox broadcast window this season, which never happened before. With a healthy dose on FS1, they are making themselves a destination for college football now. But this is a zero-sum game, particularly as it relates to the Power Five conferences. Fox Sports’ gain was ABC/ESPN’s loss, as the new Big Ten contracts meant Bristol had fewer options with regard to top teams. While Saturday Night Football on ABC still got some bigger matchups, there were just fewer options for Saturday afternoon windows. As good as a team like UCF was this season, matchups from the AAC just aren’t moving the needle.

“For CBS, the SEC was just too top heavy this season,” Karp continued. “They had some bad matchups on the network. Alabama is still a draw, but there is a limit on the number of Alabama games the network can air, and Georgia-Florida or any Tennessee game just aren’t what they used to be. For NBC, Notre Dame fans just didn’t watch early in the season, expecting some sort of repeat of 2016’s debacle. But NBC saw improvement over the last three game telecasts. I’d say college football fans were winners this season. There are options galore on TV, and that doesn’t even include improvement on the streaming front. Networks like CBS and ESPN need to see improvement from some big-time programs like Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska and maybe even an Oregon. That would increase the availability of bigger games for those networks.”

The SEC in particular hasn’t been doing CBS any favors of late.  When it’s mid-November and the schedule lines up to present Kentucky at Georgia as your game of the week, you haven’t been trying that hard to make sure your customers are getting prime matchups.  Sure, having more programs with a pulse certainly helps, but anybody looking at that week before the start of the season could have sensed that the conference wasn’t putting its best face forward then.

It’s not just CBS, of course.  Overall, this season has struck me on more than one occasion as one in which the networks loaded up primo games — as in plural — in the same time slot.  Some of that is no doubt due to schools and conferences trying to accommodate their fan bases who actually attend the games (quaint, I know), but you can’t help but question if there are other factors in play.

Aside from the top-heavy nature of this season’s landscape, as well as a certain amount of inept scheduling, I wonder if there are any other issues worth considering.  Those of you who swing right politically would no doubt cite ESPN’s social media missteps this season as a factor, although there’s a certain amount of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face involved with that.

I, though, think about whether we’re witnessing a certain canary in the coal mine doing a little chirping.  Deitsch prefaces his piece with the observation that “College football is a tougher game to analyze for ratings experts given a number of factors including the innate regionalism of the sport…” and it seems fair to ask if ESPN’s relentless promotion of the college football playoffs is already having an unintended, yet inevitable, impact on fans’ interest in the regular season.

Left to consider, then, are what the broadcast numbers for the playoffs look like and whether the conferences and the networks can get their collective acts together next season.  Maybe some better conclusions can be drawn then.


Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain

“I passed my test. I’m ready to hit the road.”

When it comes to hiring head coaches and judging which side is best able to negotiate terms, I’m a big believer is studying the tea leaves for leverage.  Sure, a coaching job is coveted, but some jobs are more desirable than others.  Kirby and his agent did an excellent job wringing a level of support from an athletic department that had a track record of stinginess; you won’t convince me that was due to anything other than that McGarity was negotiating from a level of relative weakness.

Now, turn your lonely eyes to Knoxville, where Jeremy Pruitt is just beginning to embark on his journey as Tennessee’s new head coach.  Given the debacle of the Vols’ coaching search, as well as Jimmy Sexton’s obvious gifts for negotiation, it’s easy to assume that Pruitt came out on top.

Easy, though, may not be right in this case.  Dial up this clip to the 2:20 mark (h/t AirForceDawg) and listen to what Phil Fulmer’s been up to since he got his man:

Yep.  Phil Fulmer — Fulmer the AD, not the coach — is actively recruiting again.  I wonder how that’s sitting with Pruitt.  (Well, actually, I don’t wonder all that much.)

I’m really looking forward to watching this relationship pan out over the next two years.


Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Recruiting

Kirby blinded me with science.

It sounds like Georgia is leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of a national title.  (h/t)

SEC champion and College Football Playoff entrant Georgia has been using MuscleSound for assessments of players’ game readiness this season.

MuscleSound is a Colorado-based company that uses ultrasound imagery to measure glycogen and determine muscle fuel by sending photos to its cloud for computation with its proprietary algorithms. Low readings can be a precursor to soft-tissue injuries. Nutrition and training recommendations can be catered to each athlete.

The ultrasound company is relatively new to college football, having worked with Colorado since last year and starting its collaboration with Georgia this fall.

Data provided by MuscleSound showed a sampling of up to eight Georgia players each week to provide a snapshot of the team’s physical preparedness. The Bulldogs received their highest score prior to its second game of the season, a come-from-behind road victory at Notre Dame that not only showed team stamina but also proved decisive in propelling the school toward its eventual No. 3 national ranking and matchup with Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.

One of Georgia’s two other highest marks came before its 42-7 thrashing of Florida in the rivalry game formerly dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” That game was preceded by the Bulldogs’ bye week, likely explaining the energy boost.

Dayum.  I’ll have to take their word on much of that, but I got that the two highest scores came in the face of two of Georgia’s biggest wins this season.  (Although it looks like the Dawgs did just fine as their scores declined during the Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee trifecta.)

In any event, it’s noteworthy what kind of data this staff is receptive to analyzing.


Filed under Georgia Football, Science Marches Onward, The Body Is A Temple

Does either team in the Rose Bowl stand a chance against the other?

The more analysis I see, the more it sounds like most pundits expect the game to come down to Baker Mayfield versus the Georgia defense.  As this chart demonstrates, Mayfield’s had a spectacular season in just about any way you’d expect a quarterback to perform.

There aren’t too many holes to pick there.

Just as daunting is this Seth Emerson piece where he goes about getting some of Oklahoma’s opponents over the past couple of seasons to give their impressions of ways to stop him.

The key seems to be play excellent defense.  Seriously.  Check out this series of comments from a Texas defensive back.

Texas cornerback DeShon Elliott, a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, was asked how to deal with Mayfield.

Elliott: “Blitz. Get to him. Because if you can just get to him then you should be OK. Other than that you won’t be able to. If you let him sit back there and just pat that ball he’s going to make plays. … You’ve got to be able to keep Baker in the pocket and keep him from being able to extend the pocket. Because if he’s able to extend the pocket and extend plays he’s going to score touchdowns. You’ve got to make sure you do your job and don’t bust coverages.”

Elliott: “To win games you’ve got to stop the run. So first of all you’ve got to stop Rodney [Anderson] and you’ve got to stop the freshman, No. 4 [Trey Sermon]. Other than that you should be good.”

Isn’t that easier said than done?

Elliott: “Oh yeah it’s easier said than done. We had a couple times in our game we thought we had [Mayfield]. Then he got out there and made a play. He’s just a great player; he’s an athlete. He’s going to make some plays. So you’ve got to do your job and just don’t give up big plays.”

Easy peasy.  All you’ve got to do is pressure the quarterback, stop the run, keep Mayfield in the pocket and not give up big plays.  If only every team that faced Oklahoma this season had known that.  (By the way, Mayfield still managed to throw for 302 yards and 2 TDs against Elliott’s Texas team.)

Meanwhile, from SB Nation’s Oklahoma site comes the observation that “The Georgia defense is spectacular, but it’s not invincible“.  It’s interesting to get the opposing viewpoint and the post is complimentary, and not in a back-handed way.  It’s also not totally convincing.

It’s argument rests on two foundations:  Missouri’s 28-point effort in Athens and, of course, Auburn’s blowout performance in the teams’ first meeting.  The rebuttal to the second point is both obvious and largely ignored.  This is what the article notes about Auburn’s offense in the SECCG:

Auburn sort of went away from the screen game in the SEC Championship, but credit Georgia for creating enough disruption up front to keep Auburn from doing much in the deep passing game that afternoon.

If by “sort of went away”, he means the Tigers had to abandon the screen game because Georgia’s defensive game plan smothered it, I suppose he’s got a point.  Just like if “from doing much in the deep passing game” is his way of describing Stidham’s inability to complete a single deep throw all game, well, sure.

Turning to Missouri, there’s no question that Drew Lock burned Georgia on a couple of 63-yard touchdowns in the first half.  Again, though, that was just a half.  What happened in the second half was that the Missouri offense was shut down — 21 yards in the third quarter and 112 yards in the entire second half (the last score came in garbage time with Georgia up by 26).

Both examples are really examples of a bigger reality, namely, that Georgia is good with its adjustments on defense.  Really good.  Buuut…  when I went to Bill Connelly’s team advanced stat profiles to verify that the Dawgs’ defense owned the third quarter this year (the defense finished second in S&P+), I also noticed something freaky.  While Georgia’s offensive S&P+ ranking slowly declines quarter by quarter, you aren’t going to believe what happens to Oklahoma’s offensive ranking.  It literally stays the same all four quarters and that ranking is first.  The cliché about needing to play all four quarters will be job one for Tucker’s guys.

One other thing worth mentioning is that when it comes to giving up big plays, Georgia’s defense has been more stout than has Oklahoma’s.  Here’s how the two teams rank based on distance:

It’s a pretty consistent picture.  Now you can certainly argue that those rankings reflect the conferences the two teams play in (“Georgia’s defensive efficiency ranks 2nd, which is very good, but could be argued that it is skewed because the offenses they normally face haven’t been as capable as some of the offenses in the Big 12”), and I wouldn’t totally dismiss that.  But you could just as easily argue that Georgia’s defense is more soundly coached to avoid giving up the big play.

The question left unanswered is what to take from all this.  Beats me.  I’m not the only one.

My final takeaway from all of this is that studying the metrics and statistics all day long will never truly tell me how this matchup will shake out, but the great debate between Georgia’s defense and Oklahoma’s offense will sort itself out on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. However, there’s reason for hope in the meantime.

Hope for both sides.  I can’t wait to see how this game plays out.


Filed under Big 12 Football, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics