The latest talented college athlete we’ve teamed up with for #NIL is one of the best players in the country on the #1 team in the nation, Jordan Davis.
— Morgan & Morgan (@forthepeople) October 12, 2021
Hey, you go argue with him.
Hey, you go argue with him.
It’s Kentucky. Another big conference game. You’ve got tickets. Or, you need tickets.
The exchange is open for business. (Be specific!)
Last week, as Peyton and I were working through the logistics of getting the MP ready to roll, I was 99% certain I was going to cast a two-team ballot, as Alabama and Georgia had been head and shoulders above every other D-1 program.
Then came Texas A&M. That led me to an internal debate over what I wanted to rank this week, best team or likely playoff field. It was a very close call — I spent more time on the philosophical question than I did filling out my ballot, to be honest — but in the end, I elected to go with the latter approach. I think it’s easier to start there and whittle things down as the season inevitably continues separating the wheat from the chaff than it is to start with one team and then perhaps have to backtrack.
Besides, in the end, if Georgia’s as good as they seem, I’ll wind up in the same spot, right?
Based on the eye test and advanced stats, here’s my initial ballot:
Yeah, there are two one-loss teams there. I can’t eliminate an Alabama team that’s started there and finished with a natty several times. And if I’ve got ‘Bama on my ballot, Ohio State, which has the best offense in the country, deserves it, too. Besides that, the top of the Big Ten isn’t a joke this year; if Ohio State makes the playoff, which I expect, it’s going to have to beat some decent teams to get there.
The closest call I had on that list was Michigan, mainly because, at least on the surface, Michigan State is also 6-0 and picking one without the other made me think for a minute. The rest of the list was pretty obvious to me.
Share your thinking in the comments. Results of the first MP of the season will be posted tomorrow.
If Georgia’s defense is the biggest story of 2021, then its depth is the second biggest. Sure, it’s had a major impact in shoring up the injury situation, but on defense, it’s also had the effect of allowing Lanning to rotate the front seven like a madman. That’s meant there are always fresh bodies on the line ready to harass opposing offensive lines and back fields.
It’s also meant something else, as this series of Matt Hinton tweets neatly illustrate.
A few weeks ago, I mocked everyone in the media who left Davis off their preseason All-SEC teams, but I fully expect a few smart asses at season’s end to downgrade Davis because his stats don’t match the conference leaders on defense. (Georgia’s leading tackler at present is Channing Tindall, with… get ready… 29 total tackles. He’s having a helluva year, but the SEC leader is LSU’s Damone Clark, with 68. Georgia’s top player in tackles for loss is Adam Anderson. He’s 24th in the conference. You get the idea.)
Don’t get me wrong. I think this team is brilliantly fashioned, the defense in particular. But don’t be surprised, assuming things hold up, if the best defense in the country and one of the best over the past decade seems underrepresented at season’s end on awards list. Not that anyone of us is likely to care all that much.
A clash of business models between ESPN and… its owner?
Disney’s big dilemma for ESPN is whether and when to fully embrace a future without cable.
Broadcast and cable networks still make billions of dollars per year from the traditional TV model. ESPN is a huge beneficiary, because media companies earn monthly subscriber fees from pay-TV providers regardless of how many people watch their programming. Niche channels make just a few cents a month per subscriber, while sports networks charge several dollars.
Disney makes more money from cable subscribers than any other company, and that’s solely because of ESPN. ESPN and sister network ESPN2 charge nearly $10 per month combined, according to research firm Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. That’s at least four times more than almost every other national broadcast or cable network, according to Kagan.
Disney requires pay-TV providers to include ESPN as part of their most popular cable packages. It’s a no-brainer for TV providers, who wouldn’t dare drop ESPN.
Meanwhile, the non-sports world is cutting the cord.
And why is that a clash?
While Disney makes more than $10 a month per subscriber for sports, it makes far less for entertainment networks such as Disney Channel and FX, which draw lower audiences and don’t command high advertising rates.
If Disney can get a cord cutter to pay $8 per month for Disney+ and $6 for Hulu, it’s a huge win for the company.
The reverse is true for ESPN. Swapping an ESPN subscriber for an ESPN+ customer, who contributes average revenue of less than $5 per month, is a significant loss for Disney. ESPN+ is a streaming service with limited content.
Disney Chairman Bob Iger, who was CEO until last year, told investors when he launched Disney+ that Disney was “all in” on streaming video.
But ESPN isn’t. ESPN’s strategy is to cling to the cable bundle for as long as possible, knowing it can draw potentially billions of dollars from U.S. households that are each paying $120 for the network even if they never watch it.
Some analysts have even questioned whether Disney should spin off ESPN, allowing Chapek to focus more clearly on streaming. An ex-Disney executive, who recently left the company and asked not to be named, said there’s “strategic misalignment” between the parent company and ESPN, and the businesses no longer belong together because Wall Street doesn’t look kindly on declining assets. The executive said having ties to the legacy bundle will weigh down a company’s stock multiple.
Mickey rakes in $9 billion — that’s billion, with a “b” — from carriage fees, plus billions more in advertising. That’s a lot of jack, but the key fact buried in there is the money it earns from people paying for ESPN who don’t watch it. What happens to the bottom line as those folks steadily leave for a more a la carte approach with streaming? Well, one thing you can bet on is that Disney ain’t giving that money up without a fight.
Should the number of pay-TV bundle subscribers drop to a level well under 50 million U.S. households, Disney would likely take ESPN to consumers in a more complete streaming package, said two people with knowledge of the company’s plans. At that point, the economics would flip, as most of the people paying for linear TV would be sports fans. Disney could likely make more from a full-service sports streaming service than it would make in a wholesale pay-TV distribution model.
In other words, prepare to get your asses charged off, sports fans.
Pat Forde compares Penn State’s situation with its starting quarterback going out against Iowa…
After what befell Penn State (21) Saturday, it’s clear how important quarterback depth can be. When Sean Clifford was injured, the Nittany Lions were sunk at Iowa. Ta’Quan Roberson may end up being a fine college QB, but he wasn’t ready for that admittedly very difficult spot. The guy who had been Penn State’s No. 2 QB, Will Levis, is now the toast of Kentucky, where he is starting for the undefeated Wildcats and doing strange things with food.
… and you-know-who’s.
Stetson Bennett IV (24), Georgia. He’s played a lot of football for the Bulldogs, throwing 244 passes in three seasons. While Bennett struggled at times last year when thrust into a starting role, he’s been really good when pressed into service by injury to JT Daniels. Bennett’s efficiency rating is a robust 206.56, way up from 2020. He might have played his best game Saturday at Auburn, throwing for 231 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Most importantly, the team and coaching staff have faith in Bennett to get the job done and avoid catastrophes.
With the transfer portal, having an experienced back up who’s good enough to hold things together for an extended period is going to be an ever rarer thing. Stetson Bennetts are valuable as hell.
Number one rankings are kinda like age, amirite, Kirby?
Seriously, how can you not appreciate this team’s mindset?
“The goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season, we always know that. Everybody’s goal is there, but to have an opportunity to do that you’ve got to be in the four (in the playoff). That’s the most critical part. We won’t get caught up in that and let you guys write about it. That’s not a burden we carry. The burden we carry is how to play.”
“Do you worry about the psyche of guys reading it and looking at it?” said Smart, in the middle of his sixth season as Bulldogs coach. “Yeah, you’ve got to do a good job talking to your guys and keeping them grounded. That’s kind of what we’ve been working on for 10 months around here.”
“It’s really what you control your thoughts on and what you put your priorities into,” he said. “I’m very honest with our team in the way they’ve handled things to this point. They’ve handled practice well, they’ve handled leadership well. They’ve bought into the DNA traits of our team. They’ve got to continue to do that.”
Maybe that’s just coach talk, but after watching this team’s play through the first half of the regular season, it’s hard to deny the buy in. They’ve gone about their business week after week (5-1 against the spread, and the one was South Carolina cashing in a touchdown in garbage time). They don’t seem to get too high or too low. You might have thought they came out with low energy at Auburn, but in retrospect they were mindful of keeping their emotions in check in a hostile road setting.
This season makes for an interesting contrast with 2017. That season felt like it was fueled by emotion, starting with the exciting Notre Dame game. And, between the decision of the four key players to come back and the unexpected course the season took after Eason’s injury, how could it not have been?
2021 feels way more business like. Yeah, there are moments that are celebrated, but they’re brief. This is a team that knows what it can accomplish if it keeps its collective head on straight and plays with that in mind. That’s good coaching.
You know, were I in a more generous mood, I might be willing to give some credence to this Matt Hayes column about how Alabama’s decline on defense can be laid at the feet of Kirby Smart leaving for greener pastures, except for that whole “Saban’s appeared in three national championship games and won two of ’em since” thing.
Under Saban, Alabama’s won four nattys after a regular season loss. Think I’ll wait a little before shoveling dirt on their grave.
Parity has returned to college football. Not since 2007 has there been so much tumult in the top 10 and as we enter the second half of the season, it’s clear any team can fall at any time.
Even Georgia, seemingly invincible this season, looked human in Week 1 against what turned out to be an incredibly weak Clemson team. Yes, even Georgia, set to be ranked No. 1 in the regular season for the first time since 1982, is vulnerable.
The College Football Playoff Committee has never selected a controversial field since the four-team field was introduced in 2014, but we might be heading that direction in December. We had a ever-so-small taste of hesitance in 2020 with Texas A&M finishing No. 5 just below Notre Dame, and while that wasn’t so much a controversy as it was a coin flip, the seeds have been planted for indecision and this is the year those vines break through the earth.
A 12-team playoff is on the horizon…
If an expanded playoff is implemented before 2027, the CFP’s Board of Managers must make the decision before January. There is no doubting that deadline. For that to happen, something radical must happen to force their hand. The only driving force against time isn’t money, it’s emotion. When chaos reigns, people look for solutions, even if they do not fully understand their options. Might that hasten the implementation for a 12-team playoff starting as early as 2023? It certainly can not be ignored.
As with most things in college athletics, it’s just a hypothetical, but amid the stormiest season yet in the playoff era, expansion appeared to be the only remedy to clear the skies.
I realize I’m guilty of painting with an overly broad brush when I say this, but imagine how much better national college football commentary might be if pundits didn’t need constant stimulation from shiny new toys.
Georgia’s not the only team dealing with fallout from injuries this Saturday. Kentucky’s got its share, too.
The No. 11 Wildcats will be without normal starters Josh Ali, Marquan McCall and Octavious Oxendine for the matchup between undefeated teams with first place in the SEC East on the line. None of the trio were listed on UK’s pre-Georgia depth chart released Monday.
McCall and Ali both missed the LSU win with leg injuries. Oxendine will miss the rest of the 2021 season after suffering a lower leg injury against LSU. Before his injury, Oxendine recorded two sacks in that game.
With Ali, a super senior wide receiver, out versus LSU, Kentucky made heavy use of two tight end offensive sets. That strategy is likely to carry over to Georgia as Stoops dropped the third wide receiver position from UK’s depth chart in favor of listing tight ends, Justin Rigg and Brenden Bates, as starters.
Life in the SEC, y’all. UK’s problem is that Georgia’s depth is much greater and the Dawgs are the home team, meaning the Wildcats’ travel roster is capped at 70.
They ran the ball 45 times against LSU, at better than seven yards a pop. I’m sure they’ll try the same this week, but Georgia’s defense against the run ain’t LSU’s.