The last empty Saturday of the year has passed…

…College football kicks off this week! Finally.

Getting ready for the season:

* “Live odds”:http://www.bangthebook.com/football-betting/live-football-odds.php. Not that I bet, nor do I believe that odds have much to do with expected outcomes, but still interesting to peruse.
* “CFB stats”:http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/ — awesome site with comprehensive stats. For when you need to spew them at someone to prove your school is better.
* “Senator Tressel held in high regard by coaching ranks”:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/collegesports/2012722914_survey29.html?syndication=rss. Pretty awesome.
* “Blogpoll”:http://www.sbnation.com/ncaa-football/rankings/college-football-blogpoll-top-25.

The BCS needs an agenda

OK I don’t love the BCS but I am not a college football playoff nut either. College basketball is great in March but the rest of the season has been sapped of its vitality and that would be terrible for football.

The BCS has been made the bad guy in all these and they just sit back and let themselves get hammered, trying only the most pathetic PR response. Hiring a fancy PR firm, which the BCS has done, isn’t going to help. No amount of spit and polish is going to make a crappy message look better.

The BCS needs to quit letting others set the agenda and needs to go on the offensive with their own agenda. Here is one proposal:

  • What is the real problem with the matchups created this season in the BCS bowls? No one knows how to evaluate all the unbeatens — is an unbeaten TCU better or worse than Cincy or Texas or Boise or ? And are they really better than any 1-loss teams out there?
  • We don’t know how to evaluate these teams because the regular season is a failure — there is little/no meaningful cross-conference play. Imagine if TCU had had to play a couple SEC teams or Cincy a couple Big-12 teams and so on. Meaningful interconference play during the season would help bowl seeding dramatically.
  • The NCAA let schools add a 12th game to their seasons a few years back — and rather than adding meaning interconference play, everyone has gone on a cupcake search. These games have added nothing to the quality of the sport. These games could and should be replaced with something more meaningful.
  • The idea then: grab the 12th game back. Ask all schools to hold a weekend in mid-October open. At the end of the previous weekend’s play, seed all the FCS teams into meaningful interconference games. And have a grand mid-season interconference weekend full of meaningful games.
  • This would bring a level of excitement to the sport in October that would be unprecedented. A weekend of great games. The excitement of seeding announcements the weekend before. It would be an event on the scale of March Madness but unique to football in structure. It would be like a midseason Bowl season.
  • We would hold off creating BCS ratings until after this weekend so that the ratings can benefit from the information learned in this weekend.

Rather than sitting back passively and being blamed as the bad guy ruining the sport, the BCS could go on the offensive with a proposal that would materially improve the sport. And it would maintain the character and history of the bowls, while improving the postseason matchups.

There are many ways the mid-season seeding could happen and there is no need to get caught up in our undershorts of any one system. A proposal below but the exact form doesn’t matter.

  • Pick a weekend 6 weeks into the season — halfway point. All schools hold the weekend free for a game to be scheduled, and they agree to provide a playing facility every other year. Gate will be evenly split between schools, no one should care where a game is played. There is a debate to be had about games played on campus or at neutral sites, I have no strong position, there are good arguments for either.
  • Scheduling is done completely blind of any rankings, human or computer. All that is considered is FBS conference rankings up to that point in the season.
  • Conference standings are split in half — upper and lower. If you are in upper half, you will play an FBS team in the upper half of another FBS conference. Lower half, then opponent in lower half of another FBS conference. Seeding happens within these halves then.
  • Unaffiliated teams are grouped with existing conferences for this exercise. ND with Big10, Navy and Army with BigEast, etc. A best estimate made of where they would rank in conference standing.
  • The out-of-conference lineup rotates each year according to a known schedule.

So applied to this year’s Big10 standings (approximate midyear , based on memory):

  • Iowa Plays a 6 seed from Pac10
  • PSU plays a 5 seed from Mountain West
  • OSU plays a 4 seed from WAC
  • Wisconsin plays a 3 seed from Sun Belt
  • MSU plays a 2 seed from Big12
  • Notre Dame plays a 1 seed from CUSA
  • Northwestern plays a 12 seed from MAC
  • Minnesota plays an 11 seed from SEC
  • Purdue plays a 10 seed from Big East
  • Indiana plays a 9 seed from the ACC
  • Illinois plays an 8 seed from the Pac10
  • Michigan plays a 7 seed from the Mountain West
The conferences were just listed arbitrarily west to east. The next year they would rotate so you get a mix of seeds from conferences every year.
This system doesn’t screw up conference standings, in fact in reinforces the conference games as conference standing impacts seeding. It doesn’t screw up bowl affiliations, bowl economics, bowl season. It doesn’t screw up BCS participation except for at-large teams, and it can only improve the quality of selection. It creates a huge amount of midyear excitement, almost a 2nd bowl season. And it is scalable — if only 3 conferences want to participate at first, fine, do it with just 3.
OK so there are a ton of details to work out but the core is this — the BCS needs to create a positive agenda and get out of their reactive position, and there is plenty of opportunity to improve the regular season.

Big 10 expansion — why stop at 12?

Blogs and tweets galore today about Big 10 expansion — the discussion all centering on who should be the 12th team, particularly if not ND?

I’m not in love with the idea of expansion, but if it is going to happen…it is all about money. If ND won’t join in, no single other school will make a real contribution to TV viewership. So why stop at 12 teams? Pick up 3 or 5 and really increase TV footprint. Again assuming ND won’t play:

  • If 3, go after Rutgers, BC, Syracuse. Good schools, pick up major East Coast interest. BC can’t be that committed to the ACC. Syracuse is a great bball program and can be a great football program. Rutgers is the weakest but the potential TV market is huge. And this expansion would be big big news and would drive interest.
  • If 5, add in Pitt for sure. Not thrilled about WVU as the last add, no population base for TV or recruiting. What about UConn?

These would be dramatic moves but if the Big10 wants to grab the spotlight again, a one team expansion of someone besides ND is just not going to do it. It is a “me too” move and pretty boring.

OK two more crazy ideas, but in the vein of “let’s get the spotlight of football back on the Big 1o”:

  • A 2 weekend playoff at end of season. Trim off one game from 12-game schedule, have two play-in games from the top 4 teams. Pair up everyone else in seed order for a final 12th game.
  • Heck with eastern expansion, merge with the Pac-10. The Pac-10 tv offering sucks, the BTEN network could pick up all the Pac-10 content and Pac-10 footprint.

Point being, if you can’t get ND, don’t screw around with half-measures. Go big or go home.

Rose Bowl Tickets confirmed

Hurray, got the mail from the ticket office today, we’ll be there. Not like it was hard to get them — apparently the alums didn’t snap up all the tix as there will be a public sale.

As Rose Bowl prep, some reading:

Another great Buckeye season

While this weekend’s victory over Michigan was not one for the ages, it does cap another great Buckeye season. Undisputed Big10 champs, 5 straight Big10 titles, Rose Bowl trip, 5th straight BCS bowl, 6th straight victory over Michigan, undefeated November including wins over other title contenders. It is a good era to be a Buckeye fan. Tresselball is alive and well despite opinions to the contrary — I am very happy winning games with a tough defense, special teams play (tho this has not been as strong this year), and mistake-free offense. Some writers want to see a lot of “style” points, but that is not football. If you value style points, go watch ice dancing or diving — fine sports, nothing wrong with them. I don’t watch football for style points.

The throwback unis looked good and it is super to commemorate the ’54 team — congrats Dad.

For Michigan, wow, another terrible season. The fan base is failing as well — the amount of scarlet in the Big House was astounding. Real Michigan fans are pissed about.  For the sake of the rivalry, I hope that Michigan starts to be relevant and credible again. I admit to having the thought that, if there was any year in which the pain of losing to Michigan would be small, this might have been it, and it would have been good for the rivalry. The wolverines weren’t up to it.

Also watched a lot of PAC 10 action. With USC caught up in its own undershorts, the Pac-10 is a mess. Stanford opted out this weekend. Arizona opted out. Oregon-Oregon State for all the marbles? When has that ever been the case in the past? The collapse of USC is like the death of Tito, with the Pac-10 fracturing like Yugoslavia into a bunch of warring factions, none dominant.

The NCAA sucks

Dez Bryant ineligible for the year — “…NCAA, who ended Dez Bryant’s collegiate career for a stupid and relatively minor mistake in lying to NCAA officials about visits he had with Deion Sanders. If it requires work, they demur; if they can get a good hard swing in against a single individual, they will.” Who are these people who destroy a young man’s college career over a stupid dumb little mistake? Tell me, is any highly-paid adult anywhere going to have to pay a cost for this — a coach, an NCAA administrator, a college administrator? No? Just this student is going to pay? That is not right.

I don't get the USC community analysis of the UW loss

Here’s a typical blog posting from the “USC community”:http://www.conquestchronicles.com/2009/9/20/1045207/play-calling-is-overrated. Whacking on Corp for Saturday’s loss. All the blogs repeat this theme as do the press like the OC Register. And I saw quotes from Pete basically throwing Corp under the bus.

Seems to me tho that “Corp was no better or worse than Barkley before him”:http://www.conquestchronicles.com/2009/9/20/1045089/comparisons-between-barkley-and. When you change QBs and results are the same, perhaps it is the other variables — receivers or coaching. And as I watched the game, the poor ball handling by Havili and McKnight, who both gave up unforced fumbles to kill scoring drives, seemed like the greater issue.

Of course as a Buckeye fan, this all just reaggravates the wound.

Finally, football is here.

My picks this week (straight up):

* South Carolina vs. NC State (Thursday). SC. I’m tempted towards NC State as SC always lets me down.
* Oregon vs. Boise State (Thursday). Oregon. Hoping for a good game.
* Navy vs. Ohio State. OSU. I expect Navy to cover the spread tho, Tressel won’t show all his cards in this game.
* Oklahoma vs. BYU. Oklahoma. Oklahoma just has too much.
* Virginia Tech vs. Alabama. Bama. Tho I will be pulling for VT, I’m not a Saban lover.
* Georgia vs. Oklahoma State. Georgia. I refuse to support T Boone Pickens’ attempt to establish Okie State as the common meaning of OSU. We must crush any attempt of this program to rise out of the murk of mediocrity.
* Minnesota vs. Syracuse. Syracuse. This is a brutal game to pick. Going with the home team but these are two programs with all kinds of frothy expectations amongst their fan bases, and yet we all know they are going to crash hard.
* Mizzou vs. Illinois. Missouri. Why does everyone love Juice? By the end of the Big10 season, he will be like the 5th best QB in the big 10.
* Stanford vs. Washington State. Stanford. All the smart writers think Stanford is really stepping up, but not sure I can buy that. However they should have no problem with a pitiful WSU.
* Maryland vs California. Cal. I don’t know that I have ever picked a Cal game right tho, they continually disappoint.
* San Jose State vs. USC. USC. But SJSU covers the spread as the USC team starts to learn about itself.
* Mississippi vs. Memphis (Sunday). Ole Miss. Tho I am not on the crazy Ole Miss bandwagon.
* Colorado State vs. Colorado (Sunday). Col State. Another tough one to pick, Colorado has so often disappointed.
* Miami FL vs Florida State (Monday). FSU. Sad but true, I don’t care about either of these programs any more. I can’t even get up the energy to hate them. Oregon State, Minnesota, Rutgers all seem more relevant, and wow that is sad.
* Cincinnati vs. Rutgers (Monday). Rutgers. No idea so go with home team.

Will you see all 120 FBS teams play in 2009?

Will you see all 120 teams play in 2009? : Fanblogs College Football Blog. I’ve been wondering about this as a goal as well — just seeing a quarter of play from each team. Over 14 weeks of regular season, this is just seeing 4+ games a weekend IF you can magically pick all the games that cover all the teams. Going to need to pay careful attention to the Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night games to pick up all the lesser programs.

This weekend alone I will aspire to see parts of

* South Carolina/NC State
* Utah/Utah State
* Oregon/Boise State
* Minnesota/Syracuse
* Ohio State/Navy
* Georgia/Ok State
* SJSU/USC
* Missouri/Illinois
* Oklahoma/BYU
* Alabama/VT
* Maryland/Cal
* LSU/UW
* Colorado State/UC
* Cincy/Rutgers
* Miami FL/FSU

OK I probably won’t get all but that would be 30 teams right there. Of course the only somewhat obscure programs would be Utah State, SJSU, and Colorado State.

Perhaps my goal should be to just see the BCS teams — that is 66 teams, a very doable goal. And probably less painful than having to watch lower-division Sunbelt conference teams.

Demographics and long term competitiveness in college football

Article in today’s WSJ about “Fasting Dying Cities” and Ohio is all too well represented (though Canton is growing, what is the story there??).

So let’s look at the big picture — college football competitiveness. It is not so much that Ohio and neighboring states are losing population — in fact they are staying pretty constant. So on the one hand, there is no reason to think that the talent pool will get any worse for the recruiting grounds that OSU tends to dominate.

However…the population in Texas, Florida, California continues to grow significantly and therein is a problem. Assuming that physical skills and coaching quality is distributed similarly in both sets of states, the top of the bell curve in the southern states will just continue to have even more great candidates while the midwest states will be flat.

Thankfully we are in a scholarship cap regime, so the leading schools in the southern states just can’t sweep all these kids up — OSU has 8-10 kids on the roster from Florida this year, a couple more from Georgia and Texas. And as population countrywide grows, while scholarship limits stay flat, you have to believe that talent will continue to spread out as it has done in basketball, creating greater parity throughout Division I in the long run.

Also, the southern states are not dominated by a single school the way Ohio is — Florida has UF, Miami, FSU, and all the up and comers like FIA, FAU, UCF, etc; Texas has UT, A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, SMU; California has USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, SJSU, Fresno State, etc. And every neighboring state is trying to poach from these states — Oklahoma and OSU and LSU poaching into Texas, Arizonas and Oregons and Washingtons poaching into California, etc. This happens in Ohio too of course, Michigan and ND and PSU poach into Ohio, and increasingly Pitt and MSU and Cincinnati. Thankfully IU and Kentucky are kind of moribund.

So long term — I suspect OSU can hold its own; however, you have to assume that the lead institutions in the fastest growing, high population states will have a builtin advantage due to a greater talent pool around them — UF, UT, and USC. OSU will have to work hard to maintain at this level — continuing to dominate Ohio recruiting, picking up great talent from neighboring states, and having a healthy flow of kids from Florida, Texas, California, etc. The pipeline from Florida seems to be working, and there is some representation from Texas though we could do better there. California is thin, and boy that is a long way culturally and geographically for an 18 year old to travel.

Back from the Fiesta Bowl

The 4th quarter was epic. Entered the quarter feeling terrible after the miserable offensive output in the 3rd, but then rose to a high with just 2 minutes left in the game as OSU went ahead, and then thought we closed out Texas once or twice on the final drive, and then a crashing low when they scored.
Our failure to capitalize on our first half offensive success killed us, and our inability to sustain an offensive possession in the 3rd killed us again. The defense did an admirable job.
We sat in a predominantly Texas section and the fans were all super nice. The facility is nice, tho lacks the setting and the noise level of Sun Devil Stadium.
There were many empty seats on the Texas side and many more on the OSU side. It was an announced sellout but…]
Next year…

College Football Polls – CBSSports.com 120, BCS and AP Top 25

College Football Polls – CBSSports.com 120, BCS and AP Top 25. Wow the polls this week are a total hash. I’m starting to believe we need a playoff. No problem with the top 3 in some order. But SC #4 in the coaches ahead of Oklahoma? SC did not look that good Saturday. And Texas Tech has beaten exactly no one and rises to 5? Oklahoma State beats a vastly overrated Missouri and climbs 7 spots? There are going to be a lot of changes going forward. Texas plays Missouri, Ok State, and Texas Tech in the next 3 weeks, and Texas Tech and Ok State match up, so this mess will all get straightened out. My bet is Texas wins all those and stays near the top, and Oklahoma rises back up near the top. No real problem with the Buckeyes at 11, they need to demonstrate that they are a complete team and have yet to do that.

USC 35, OSU 3

Sigh. USC is a great team, there was probably no way OSU was winning this game. The turning point was in the 2nd quarter when OSU penalized themselves out of a score. Things just got worse.

You have to pin the poor performance on coaching. USC offense and defense both have commented that they didn’t see anything surprising. OSU put no pressure on USC offensively or defensively. No interesting halftime adjustments — in fact halftime misadjustments as the staff decided to let Boechman carry the load — an impossible position for him with no running threat to keep the defense honest. There were a lot of stupid penalties and some really poor qb decisions to put the icing on the cake.

Here’s hoping that the staff learns something from this debacle.

On the plus side, the USC fans around us couldn’t have been nicer. Families, alums, a very pleasant crowd.