Moar Rose Bowl thoughts

A series of random things that popped into my head over the weekend:

  • Those of you trying to convince yourself that Georgia is walking into a similar situation to the 2008 Sugar Bowl need to disabuse yourselves of that notion.  For one thing, Oklahoma boasts three first-team AP All-Americans on offense and one defender who made the second team.  For another, unlike Hawaii’s, Oklahoma’s schedule isn’t a mirage.  Quite the opposite:  Sagarin rates the Sooners’ strength of schedule higher than Georgia’s; ESPN has Oklahoma first in strength of record and Georgia third; and Brian Fremeau’s FEI has Georgia narrowly leading Oklahoma in strength of schedule.  Oklahoma is a tested (at least as tested as the Dawgs), credible opponent and don’t kid yourself otherwise.
  • One thing I do believe is underplayed is how dominant Georgia has been throughout the course of the season.  I mentioned before that the Dawgs have more wins by 21 or more points than any of the teams in the CFP field.  For more evidence of that, compare Bill Connelly’s percentile performances between the two teams:  Oklahoma has three over 90%; Georgia has eight.  (On the other hand, Georgia has that ugly 14% against Auburn on its résumé, while the Sooners’ worst showing was a 57% mark against Kansas State.)  Anyway, if the schedule strengths of the two are similar, what does it say that Georgia has been more dominant in the outcomes?
  • Something else being underplayed are the special teams.  Oklahoma’s rank 56th in Bill’s S&P+.  Georgia’s are (gulp!) first.  FEI doesn’t show the Dawgs being as dominant, but it still shows Georgia with the advantage.  One area to keep an eye on may be punt returns.  Georgia ranks 34th in opponents’ punt returns, while Oklahoma is 128th.  Maybe it’s Mecole’s time to shine.
  • That, in turn, probably factors into the wide gap Bill finds in starting field position:  Georgia’s offense ranked 26th; Oklahoma’s a much more daunting 114th.  Again, this may turn out to be another little thing that winds up mattering more than we thought.
  • You can see from IsoPPP that the Sooners’ offense is more explosive than Georgia’s, but their defense is also far more prone to give up the big play than is Mel Tucker’s group. If there’s a shoot-out, there’s no reason to think Georgia will lack the fire power to stay with Oklahoma.
  • Speaking of giving up big plays, this post at Georgia Sports Blog makes a good argument that Oklahoma is going to try to exploit that in much the same way Auburn did, substituting Mayfield’s prowess in the short passing game for what Malzahn does on offense with Auburn’s running game, to set up the big play.  Georgia made fantastic adjustments for the SECCG that put Stidham on his heels after the first quarter.  The question is, with a month’s worth of prep time, can Smart and Tucker dial up something similar for Mayfield?  A more specific question may be how well the linebackers handle pass coverage.  A Georgia defense from a few seasons back would have been eaten alive by the Oklahoma passing game, but this year’s bunch at least has a fighting chance.


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Take your participation trophy and shove it.

After reading this Bill Connelly piece on whether there are too many bowl games (SPOILER ALERT:  There aren’t.), I can’t help but wonder what a Venn diagram composed of people who think we’ve got more bowl games than we need and people who are offended by players sitting out bowl games to protect their health before the draft would look like.


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

Coaches cornering

Three random bits on the hiring process:

1.  Hiring coups for head coaches aren’t as easy as they seem.

(I’d probably add Virginia to the list, as BYU is a quasi-P5 school.  But I digress.)  The point is, all that money flushing through major college athletic departments cuts both ways.  Sure, the big boys have more money with which to entice Sexton’s clients, but they also have more money with which to play defense with Sexton’s clients.  That means if you’re an AD looking for the Next Big Thing, you’re probably dipping into the mid-majors ranks for an existing head coach, or going after an up-and-coming assistant.

2.  This article is a reminder that whatever on-field accomplishments a coach may have on his résumé, being weird in an interview may well count for more.  It’s also a reminder that Maryland passed on Mike Leach to hire Randy Edsall.  You’d think that might lead to some soul-searching about hiring priorities, but this is college football we’re talking about here.

3.  Is there a tool designed to help athletic director’s get their heads out of their asses when it comes to making hiring decisions?  Eh, maybe, but I think it’s easier to point a finger at a search firm than a computer program if things don’t work out.  Accountability can be a tricky beast.


Filed under College Football

Nice commitment you got there, Mr. Three Star. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

While I appreciate the lack of sympathy on display there for Nick Saban’s whining about the early signing period, that’s not what really has his knickers in a wad.  This is:

The other factor is that Arizona doesn’t have any five-star recruits and isn’t in the running for any. Rivals recently elevated defensive end Adam Plant of Las Vegas to a four-star recruit. Everyone else has three stars.

Plant, who de-committed from Arizona in June and re-committed in November, isn’t expected to sign until February. Analysts believe many of those decisions will fall along those lines: The higher-rated players will wait and bask in the courting process, while the lower- and mid-tier prospects will sign now with schools that expressed interest in them from the outset.

As such, the schools that traditionally sit atop the recruiting rankings — and often swoop in for players very late in the process — probably will land smaller hauls during the early signing period.

“If you’re a four- or five-star, they’re not going to say you’re out” if you don’t sign, Biggins said. “But if you’re a two- or three-star, you’re committed to a school like Nevada and you don’t sign, they’re going to keep recruiting your position.”

Biggins and Gorney say that dynamic puts pressure on prospects who aren’t in that elite class. It isn’t quite at the ultimatum level, but the message is clear: Sign with us now or we’ll move on.

Therein lies the rub.  Alabama isn’t going to fill its 2018 class this week.  There will a few recruits left to sign by the traditional February signing date.  In years past, that would leave Saban and his staff time to turn up a few underappreciated nuggets as well as flip a few recruits from other schools who simply couldn’t match the opportunity being presented.

That script’s been changed, though.  “Bird in hand” has a lot more leverage now than it used to.  The three-star recruit who was told last year to wait and see if something might come up in Tuscaloosa didn’t have much to lose by waiting, since his existing offer with Southwestern State A&M was still on the table.  This year, though, he’s got to weigh losing that offer if he doesn’t sign early against keeping his fingers crossed that Mr. Medical Hardship actually comes through in a couple of months.  Any way you want to look at that, it’s not as appealing for the recruit — which means it’s not as appealing for Saban, either.


Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting

Maybe it was meant to be.

I have to preface this by saying I don’t think even Nick Saban is this devious, but, damn, do I wish this was evidence of some serious eleventh-dimensional chess being played.

Talk to people behind the scenes on the Plains, and Auburn 26, Alabama 14 changed everything for Gus Malzahn and the Tigers. Without that victory, insiders say, it’s all but certain Malzahn wouldn’t have that new seven-year, $49-million guaranteed contract.

It’s quite possible he would be the new coach at Arkansas instead.

Go back to the next-to-last week of November. Thanksgiving week. Iron Bowl week. There was a curious vibe at Auburn.

It didn’t matter that the Tigers had beaten Georgia for the first time in four years, dominating the No. 1 Bulldogs as they hadn’t in decades in a 40-17 statement. Or that, despite having two losses on their resume, they had set up an Iron Bowl that would decide the SEC West title and maybe more.

Malzahn was concerned about the Alabama game for a different reason, people close to him say. He was convinced a fourth straight loss to the Crimson Tide would cost him his job. He may not have been wrong.

… Malzahn himself was fully aware of the possibility that the Iron Bowl could be an all-or-nothing proposition. His most insistent demand in the negotiations was that the entire amount of the contract be guaranteed to make it financially prohibitive to fire him in the future.

As concerned as he was, Malzahn had leverage in the Arkansas opening. While the Razorbacks weren’t offering the same kind of money Malzahn eventually got from Auburn, insiders said, that job was Malzahn’s if he wanted it.

Then came Auburn 26, Alabama 14.

Given what they perceived as the choice between losing a coach who’d beaten Georgia and Alabama to a lesser rival in the SEC West or making Malzahn one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, Auburn’s leaders put their faith in Malzahn. They put together a massive new deal that was essentially in place before the loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

Or, as Malzahn skeptics in the Auburn family put it, Auburn got played by Arkansas and Malzahn’s agent Jimmy Sexton, and Auburn caved.

Those skeptics fear that Auburn has given Malzahn too much power based on too little production, that it will be financially disastrous and thus impossible to fire him if he goes 8-5, 7-6 and 8-5 the next three years, that he’ll have no real boss going forward because there will be a new athletics director learning the territory soon.

If you think there’s a downside to Gus being at Auburn for the long haul, then the way things have turned out is a win-win-win for Malzahn, Saban and Sexton.  And all it cost was a loss that didn’t affect Alabama’s chances of making the CFP.

It couldn’t have turned out any better if the three of them had planned it.


Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Jimmy Sexton is the Nick Saban of agents and is Nick Saban's agent, Nick Saban Rules

Hit the road, Jack.

You gotta love the pious sanctimony on display here.

I’ll take him seriously when he gives a similar hot take for coaches who leave for other jobs before a bowl game.  Somehow, I get the feeling Mack’s all in on Pruitt coaching the ‘Bama defense in the playoffs.


Filed under Mack Brown Soldiers On

Alex, I’ll take Good Rose Bowl Questions for $200.

Finally, somebody in the media manages to get past Baker Mayfield.

Kirby Smart against Lincoln Riley. Roquan Smith against Baker Mayfield. It’s what sells in this national semifinal Rose Bowl.

But isn’t it possible what wins is Jim Chaney against Mike Stoops? Ogbonnia Okoronkwo against Nick Chubb? A huddle-then-handoff SEC offense against a low-respected Big 12 defense?

It’s kind of sad that those sound almost startling to ask.



Filed under Georgia Football