We may never pass this way again.

I put up an item in the Gift Guide yesterday about UGA/Rose Bowl gear, because who knows when we’ll be there next?

I’m not being overly dramatic, either.  It’s been a long time since any SEC team has been to Pasadena for a Rose Bowl.

Before we sign off for 2017, let’s discuss the unique Rose Bowl pairing. As any college football fan knows, the Rose Bowl historically pairs a the Big 10 and Pac-10/12 champion. Even with the Rose’s inclusion in the BCS and later College Football Playoff, this tradition was mostly observed. However, with the Rose serving as a semi-final game and no Big 10 or Pac-12 teams in the playoff, this will be the first time since 2001 that both participants are not from the Big 10 or Pac-12. That national championship Rose Bowl marked the first non-Big 10/Pac-10 clash since the forties. Including that game and this one, there have been nine non-traditional Rose Bowl participants since World War II.

Amazingly, the Big 12 has accounted for five of those spots, with Oklahoma and Texas making multiple appearances. Georgia will be the first SEC team to play in the Rose Bowl since Tennessee in 1944.

I believe Georgia made its only appearance the year before.

I mentioned this to a buddy last night:  from a bucket list perspective, between a trip to South Bend and now this, the 2017 season’s been a helluvan experience for a Dawg fan.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Amateurism ain’t for amateurs.

You don’t get this without telling the hired help they’re only there for an education.

In a sense, that’s an education in and of itself.

11 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

The followers of chaos out of control

I’m starting to see a few things bubble up about how college football deals with the new early signing date that soon approaches.  MaconDawg has a level-headed analysis here, and I think we’ve already seen one aspect of the brave new world take effect:

Schools will drop the axe faster than ever before.

Did you notice that it seemed like a lot of programs, including those in the SEC, accelerated the firing of coaches who might have made it to Christmas in years past? That’s no accident. The early signing period means that schools have been on a truncated time line to secure new coaches and get them out on the recruiting trail. Schools like Georgia with incredibly stable coaching situations will benefit from that certainty in the new world of December signings.

I think that’s right.  The turnover in coaching has been compressed into a tighter time frame because of recruiting considerations, something that is both understandable and yet somewhat foolish — get it right should always outweigh get it done fast — and that does benefit programs that are stable and locked in on their classes.  (You could argue that the only one who benefits more by the time pressure is Jimmy Sexton, and, hey, who am I to disagree?)

One other big factor has yet to fully materialize.

December 20th is the new February 7th.

SB Nation’s Bud Elliott has been reaching out to coaches for some time now to find out what their plan for the new early signing period is. They’ve been pretty clear about it: they plan to sign everybody they can on December 20th. Schools like Georgia that have verbal commits for a majority of their available scholarship slots will plan for most of those verbal commits to sign next week.

December 20th is becoming the new “National Signing Day” to the extent that such a thing exists. With more and more top notch recruits waiting until after NSD in recent years, it’s become a bit of a fluid concept anyhow.

The February signing period looks like it will begin to resemble the spring signing period in basketball. It will be for rounding out classes with that one extra interior lineman or defensive back you need to fill out the depth chart. Or for the guy who didn’t have his qualifying test score in December but now appears set to enroll.

I suspect that’s right, but we won’t know for sure until the 20th rolls around.  In the meantime, Rivals’ Mike Farrell punches the alarm button.

Perhaps one of the reasons the powers-that-be in college football came up with an early signing period was to cut down on late decommitments. It makes sense, right? The decommitment has become out of control in college football recruiting and by giving kids a chance to sign early, surely the number of decommitments will settle down correct? Wrong.

I have never, in my nearly 20 years of covering college football, seen so many decommitments in the months of November and December. And it will get even worse as we approach Dec. 20. Many blame the craziest coaching carousel in recent history, but I see it more as a result of a signing period that is drawing closer and closer.

This is just another example of the NCAA not having any idea on how to control the recruiting process. It seems like everything it tries to fix leads to the opposite reaction that they were hoping for. I’m sure we’ll all be more familiar with what to expect as we go through many of these early signing dates, but for now it appears this has made the decommitment problem a bigger one instead of a smaller one. And that’s never a good thing.

That’s some hilarious bullshit there.  The idea that an early signing period would cut down on late decommitments is something I’ve never seen the NCAA argue.  That “Perhaps” of Farrell’s is doing some very heavy lifting there.  Logic would suggest the opposite would happen, that as schools, particularly the recruiting powerhouses, faced the earlier date, they would have to make their intentions clear in December.  As a result, more recruits would have a better picture of their opportunities at a point when they would still be able to rearrange their goals well before the last minute.  Indeed, that’s why coaches like Saban and Meyer bitched about how the new date would limit their decision making with regard to sleeper candidates who previously were being evaluated up until the February deadline.

If you want a specific example, yeah, we can speculate that Jaevon Becton’s decommitment came as the result of Georgia’s roster management and that it sucks for him, but isn’t it better for him in the medium term that he learn where Kirby Smart stands in mid-December instead of February 6th?

Contrary to what Farrell argues, the NCAA wasn’t trying to impose its control over the recruiting process.  It was, for once, attempting to give recruits a little more transparency from coaches, which is why Saban and Meyer complained.  I don’t often defend the NCAA, but it looks to me like things may actually be going according to plan.  At least until some smart coach figures out a way to game the new setup…

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Filed under Recruiting

“It’s an opportunity to find the next good guy to come along.”

With Jeremy Pruitt’s departure, Nick Saban faces a problem he hasn’t had in a while.

It’s why the last two defensive coordinators for Alabama were Saban proteges.

He groomed Smart, nurturing him as a defensive back coach at LSU, the Miami Dolphins and Alabama while teaching him the nuanced pattern-matching coverages that are a staple of a scheme that dates back to Saban’s days as an NFL coordinator.

As a result, Smart was able to step in for Kevin Steele in 2008 and run Saban’s defense through the Tide’s 2015 national championship victory.

He was immediately succeeded by Pruitt, who had also developed a firm understanding of Saban’s complex system as a secondary coach before moving on to become a coordinator at Florida State and Georgia.

Presiding over a unit that has led the nation in scoring defense each of the last two seasons, Pruitt has distinguished himself. The void he leaves is considerable, because there isn’t anyone in Alabama’s organization with the credentials Pruitt had when he came back to the Tide in 2016.

Derrick Ansley has supervised the defensive backs, but he has been a position coach at Alabama for merely two seasons. Tosh Lupoi has worked with the team’s pass rushers, yet has only been an on-field assistant with the Tide one year longer than Ansley has.

That’s why hiring Pruitt’s successor could be one of the most challenging pursuits Saban has faced as Alabama’s coach.

Obviously, this is more like don’t cry for me, Tuscaloosa, than anything.  Saban’s going to have a wealth of choices to select from and if anyone ought to know what he’s looking for, it’s Nick Saban.  Still, the recent situation this reminds me of in a weird way is what Georgia faced in 2015 when the quarterback well ran dry.  In the very short run, that didn’t work out too well.

14 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules

Lies, damned lies and ESPN’s statistics

This ESPN preview of the Rose Bowl is a total hoot.  According to ESPN’s own analytics:

  • FPI projects Georgia has a 53% chance to win the game and better odds to win the national title than Oklahoma.
  • Georgia is the more efficient team overall, and while Oklahoma’s offense is the most efficient unit in the CFP, there is better than a 30-point spread between its defensive efficiency and Georgia’s offensive efficiency.
  • Baker Mayfield is a bad mother — shut yo’ mouth! — but in four games against ranked teams, Georgia’s defense held opposing quarterbacks to a 14.1 QBR (I know), best in the SEC and fifth-best nationally.
  • Georgia has the most five-star recruits on its roster of any team in the CFP, and over the last four seasons has an average recruiting ranking of 6.75, compared to Oklahoma’s 14.75.

You know the punch line that’s coming, right?

So, what are they paying all those number crunchers for, anyway?

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

There’s gold in them thar bowl games.

You wonder how there can be so many bowl games, when so many have issues with attendance?  ESPN is here to help you with that knotty problem.

Such games arguably make more financial sense for ESPN than traditional non-profit bowl organizations because the currency of the realm for ESPN is eyeballs on screens and not so much butts in stadium seats.

“The ESPN bowl games, which account for the growth in bowl games, are essentially made-for-TV events,” Stanford economist Roger Noll told USA TODAY Sports.

Consider that Miami Beach Bowl in which Tulsa beat Central Michigan last year, 55-10.  A crowd of 15,262 was bad news for a small non-profit that relies on ticket sales and corporate sponsorships to make ends meet.

But attendance doesn’t matter as much to a deep-pocketed media network. ESPN wants live television programming during the holiday season to draw viewers, sell advertising and beat the competition, reinforcing the channel’s value with cable distributors and satellite providers.

The game drew an average of 795,000 TV viewers, trouncing other channels that day, on a Monday afternoon. Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network both had less than 280,000 viewers on average during the same time period, according to Nielsen. For comparison, ESPN boasted earlier this year that its Wednesday Night Baseball viewership had increased to an average of 636,000 in April, up 11% from a year earlier.

“Think of how well it would rate in a different time slot,” Overby said of the Miami Beach Bowl

Even though it was the least watched bowl game of the season, it was still a ratings win for ESPN. Live sports games are especially coveted by advertisers because viewers are considered more likely to watch their commercials live, unlike non-sports content that often is recorded with a DVR to skip the ads.

Not to say that Mickey doesn’t have a potential knotty problem of its own with which to wrestle.  Playoff expansion is bound to hurt the bowls, so where does the WWL line up when the day comes that the CFP moves to eight… sixteen…?

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

Why Smart will never be able to build a fence around the state

It’s the sheer numbers, stupid.

More than 4,000 former Georgia high school players have been on college rosters this season, according to the annual research of Steve Slay, a member of the Georgia High School Football Historians Association and football fan who has tracked these numbers in Georgia for the past 10 years.

His 4,191 Georgia players on 2017 rosters are the most he’s counted. They range from the 585 playing in Power 5 Conferences such as the SEC and ACC to the 372 on the rosters of junior-college teams such as the Eastern Arizona College Gila Monsters of the Western States Football League. Fun fact: There are 28 former Georgia high school players who were Gila Monsters this fall.

There also are six recently selected Associated Press All-Americans from Georgia.

Those include Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown (Peachtree Ridge), N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb (Hillgrove) and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (Macon County), all on the first team. On the second team are Clemson tackle Mitch Hyatt (North Gwinnett) and Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup (Monroe Area). Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant (Thomas County Central) made the third team.

You want more math?

Kirby’s game plan has to be to take the best and leave the rest.

Oh, and once again, thank you, Paul Johnson.

41 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting