Mike Lantry, 1972
We all know it by now: the notion that football is just better down there. But why? For the most part, those advocating for this point-of-view make one or more of the following arguments:
1. The best team in the country annually comes from the SEC, and not from any of the other power conferences.
2. Other conferences don’t fare well in bowl matchups against SEC teams.
From this commentators conclude that SEC teams are just faster, which means the SEC region (sometimes stretched to include all of Texas) just has better athletes, ergo domination. Drew Sharp (and no, I won’t link out to him) has made a particularly strong variation on this last one, arguing that migration patterns from the Midwest to the Southeast essentially mean that all the good athletes from Ohio or Michigan now reside in Florida or Alabama, which ensures the eternal viability of SEC national championship campaigns, and mostly dooms those from Big 10 country—this despite the fact that migration patterns are long-term processes whose social effects are generally felt across generations, not year-to-year. If this were true, one would assume the effects would be more wide-ranging across time. So let’s look more closely at this issue…
1. Where does the best team in the country come from?
Since 2006, it has been the SEC. No doubt about that. But since 1990, it breaks down as follows (with split championships counted as 2, and with teams assigned to their 2010 conferences):
Big 12: 5/24
Pac 10: 3/24
Big 10: 2/24
Looking at 1990-2005, it breaks down as follows:
Big 12: 5/19
Pac 10: 3/19
Big 10: 2/19
Taking this longer-view shows that SEC dominance is largely in the short-term. Prior to 2006, the SEC was decidedly middle-of-the-pack.
2. How do other conferences fare against the SEC in bowl matchups?
In 2010 the SEC went a dominating…5-5. Middling though this sounds, the other power conferences did even worse:
Phil Steele has some handy figures for the years 2000-9:
Here we see that the SEC has, in fact, been the best conference in the country in terms of bowl record, to the tune of a 48-31 record. The MWC and Pac 10 did next best. The other power conferences were less successful, including our beloved Big 10. From this we can conclude that the SEC has, in fact, generally done better than the other conferences in bowl matchups during the last decade, but that this success isn’t quite sui generis.
While I didn’t find a site listing conference records in bowl games for the 1990s, I did find a site that listed the most successful programs of that decade:
The SEC contributed 2 (Florida and Tenessee, at #s 4 and 5), the Big 10 3 (PSU, Michigan and Ohio at #s 6, 7 and 10), while the top 2 were Florida State and Nebraska. This suggests the SEC was not quite the top conference in the ‘90s that it would become in the ‘00s, which in turn suggests that the rise of the SEC has more to do with specific developments than innate or natural advantages.
So what about that migrations theory?
It’s not completely baseless, if you also count other sites of in-migration like the Southwest and West, but then again…Arizona and ASU aren’t exactly lighting it up, are they. But it’s nota very good explanation either. Here are better ones:
1. Warm weather schools have training advantages that cold weather schools don’t, particularly at the high school level, where kids don’t have access to the multimillion dollar conditioning facilities that colleges have. This is most evident in speed conditioning. Just think about it…what’s a better place to practice your 100-meter dash in January: suburban Miami or the Upper Peninsula? It’s not just the SEC that benefits, though. It’s a general advantage for southern and Western schools over Midwestern and Eastern ones. As the game moved towards a greater emphasis on speed over brawn over the past two decades, this translated into an advantage for schools recruiting primarily within the warmer parts of the country. Given the fast pace of advancements in conditioning, and the increasingly nationalized recruiting process, expect this advantage to soften over time.
2. The rise of the SEC in the ‘00s came at the moment of the ACC’s decline. Remember when Florida State used to annually beat Florida? Me too. From 1990-1999, FSU went 7-4-1 (and 7-3-1 if you discount the rematch in 1996-7). From 2000-2009, FSU went 3-7. So what gives? Bobby Bowden getting old and FSU losing ground in the in-state recruiting battles. Oh, and Miami’s post-Coker hangover didn’t hurt either. Actually, the whole ACC declined in stature during the ‘00s, which opened up recruiting lanes for several SEC schools that were previously more competitive. This suggests less a “natural” advantage than an historical one. Since the ACC doesn’t look to be coming back anytime soon, it may be a long-term development. At the same time, it also suggests that the Big 10 could benefit from similar declines in the Big 12 and Big East—provided the conference and its programs take advantage of that.
3. SEC schools have aggressively pursued excellent coaches and been willing to pay money for them. After a Zook experiment, Florida hired Urban Meyer. LSU hired Nick Saban, and later Les Miles. Alabama hired Nick Saban. South Carolina hired Steve Spurrier. Arkansas hired Bobby Petrino. Auburn hired Gene Chizik. Just as importantly, they all paid big money so these guys could build the staffs they wanted.
Big 10 schools are getting there, but it’s taking longer. Michigan is finally paying top dollar for top coordinators; Ohio will be too. Though their ceilings are lower, Little Brother and Wisconsin have also managed to put together efficient, competitive programs on tighter budgets. (Who knows what will happen to PSU—will they go for someone creative like Dan Mullen, or fall into a series of Notre Dame-like FAILS?) A lot of SEC success can be attributed to expensive coaching hires, which translates into a competitive advantage until the rest catch up. This won’t last forever.
4. Oversigning. Not every successful SEC program does this, but some of the most successful (Alabama and LSU, particularly) do. This ensures that certain programs have, say, 4 good choices for WDE rather than 3. Since not all top recruits pan out, oversigning raises the odds that you have someone who will at every position. It’s also a competitive advantage that won’t last, as virtually everyone in the world realizes practices like forcibly granting medical redshirts to college kids are unethical. Virtually everyone.
The SEC has, at least for the past 5 years, and probably for the past 10, been the best conference in the FBS. But the idea of some endless supremacy peddled by homers and haters (I’m looking at you, Drew) are as silly as Karl Rove’s dream of a “permanent Republican majority” in 2004, or Rahm Emmanuel’s similar dream of a “cascading wave of legislative victories” after 2008. Like politics, college football goes in cycles. At certain times, certain identifiable things provide certain empirically verifiable advantages. After some time, others either catch up or conditions change so that those advantages cease to be the assets they once were. We’re almost certainly going to have an SEC champion in 2011-12, and at least three programs in that conference are built for lasting success. But nothing lasts forever.
Pickerington (OH) North defensive end Jake Butt, a four-star and the #70 player overall in the 2013 247Sports rankings, visited the Big House on Saturday holding offers from Bowling Green, Buffalo, Duke, Iowa, Kent State, Maryland, Northwestern, Purdue, Syracuse, Toledo, and UCLA. Today, he added two schools to that list, Indiana and Michigan. Jake was busy fielding congratulatory phone calls and interview requests, but took the time for a quick chat this afternoon:
ACE: First of all, you visited for the Ohio State game, what was that experience like for you?
JAKE: It was crazy, you know, it was unbelievable. I was blessed because I also got to go to the Notre Dame game, and those were two excellent games to be down in the Big House for. It was amazing.
ACE: You just got your Michigan offer. How'd you learn that you were getting the offer, and what does it mean in terms of your recruitment?
JAKE: Actually, it started off earlier today, I got offered by Indiana as well. My coach texted me in class and told me congratulations and that Indiana had offered me, so I was really excited about that. I didn't really expect to get offered. Their recruiting coordinator, Coach Smith, was in practice today—I thought he was just checking me out, to see my size, see me move a little bit in person. Then I actually got a text from a few people saying congratulations on the offer to Michigan, and I hadn't heard news of it yet, so I called my head coach and was like, "Has Michigan offered?" and he said "Yeah." I'm really excited about both the offers, for sure.
ACE: So where do you stand now in terms of what schools have shown the most interest. Have you been able to narrow it down at all or are you still trying to figure things out?
JAKE: It's still too early for me to narrow anything down. I'm getting a lot of great opportunities right now, but it's still much too early for me to narrow anything down.
ACE: The last time I talked to you, [Pickerington North] was 5-1 at that point. How did the season finish out for you, and how do you think you played this year?
JAKE: You know, we could've, should've finished out 10-0, but we actually finished out 8-2, and unfortunately missed the playoffs, which, just, that was a dagger, we should've made it. I can't sugarcoat it for you, we should've made those freakin' playoffs, but we didn't, so we're back at it next year. Individually, I thought it was the best season I've ever had in any of my sports.
ACE: Being at the game on Saturday, were you able to get in touch with any of the other guys being recruited by Michigan?
JAKE: Yeah, I got in touch with a few of the recruits. [Any specifically?] Yeah, my dad played rugby with a guy, his son, Sean Welsh, he's a big, big line recruit, he's a stud, I was talking to him, and I met a few kids from Trotwood too.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a timeline for your recruitment, or is it still too early to say?
JAKE: Still much too early.
That Should Have Been Easier: Although the official stats indicated a turnover margin of –0-, the blocked punt and the meaningless turnover at the end of the game meant that M really was at a disadvantage in TOM of –2. This calculated to be a disadvantage of 5.5 expected points. Add in the reversed call on M's last touchdown and we all had a far more stressful afternoon than it should have been. In a way, though, it validated that Michigan is a very good team this year because very good teams manage to win even when things don't go your way.
Synopsis for Turnovers: M ended the game with a TOM of zero. For the year, M has had 6 games with a positive TOM, 4 games with a negative TOM and 2 games with a zero TOM. Michigan has lost a total of 21 TOs (ranked #62) but has gained 27 TOs (ranked #19) for a turnover margin of +6 or 0.50 per game (ranked #25). Michigan is ranked #7 in fumbles lost but is #119 in interceptions thrown. The 19 fumbles recovered is ranked #3 and is the reason the turnover margin is excellent instead of horrible.
Avery forced a fumble and intercepted a pass (his 2nd). DRob had the one fumble.
BTW, blocked punts are not considered a turnover.
(See the Section on Gory Details below for how the adjustment for Expected Points (EP) is calculated.)
The Gory Details
Details for Turnovers: Here is overall summary for all games by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
Expected Point (EP) Analysis: Basically, the probability of scoring depends on the line of scrimmage for the offense. Therefore, the impact of a TO also depends on the yard line where the TO is lost and the yard line where the TO is gained. Each turnover may result in an immediate lost opportunity for the team committing the TO and a potential gain in field position by the opponent. Both of these components can vary dramatically based upon the down when the TO occurred, the yards the TO is returned, and whether the TO was a fumble or an interception.
Here are the details for the game.
The analysis is a bit tricky because: (A) the TO may directly result in lost EP for the offense but (B) only modifies the EP for the team gaining the TO because the team gaining the TO would have gotten another possession even without the TO (due to a punt, KO after a TD, KO after a field goal, etc.). The Net EP Gain must take into account the potential EP gain without the TO. The EP gain without the turnover is based on where the field position would have been for the next possession if the TO had not occurred.
The expected point calculations are based on data from Brian Fremeau at BCFToys (he also posts at Football Outsiders). Fremeau's data reflects all offensive possessions played in 2007-2010 FBS vs. FBS games. I "smoothed" the actual data.
Here is a summary of the smoothed expected points.
According to economists, “a burglar burgles because he finds it a more attractive profession than any other. Without an effective deterrent, he will continue to do so and overwhelm the courts with costly investigations, prosecutions and punishments. So, it is too with the “criminal” schools—like OSU-- that repeatedly violate NCAA rules. In the absence of effective deterrents, they continue to find it profitable to cheat. Such cheating will cost the NCAA vast amounts of time, resources and money..
What can be done? The obvious way to reduce burglary is by raising the costs of the burglar's profession or reducing its benefits.”* So, ask yourself: how can NCAA schools protect themselves from those like OSU, who have allegedly stolen players, titles, bowl games, reputation, and the resulting money that comes to the AD?
Currently, the NCAA relies heavily on information from the press, does a cursory investigation often centered on these allegations, and may then ask the school to suggest penalties. It’s like a policeman asking a mugger to suggest what punishment he deserves. But how has that worked in deterring the crimes of schools like OSU? What did OSU do with their opportunity to self-punish when faced with a deluge of national attention to the increasingly incriminating evidence?
The school agreed to give up their lying coach—with one national title—and replace him by another with two. What a painful penalty! Ouch! Did the self imposed penalties or NCAA investigation slow their coaching search?
To be fair, OSU clobbered itself with other penalties too. Like bank robbers who offer to give back the money after being caught red-handed, OSU also proposed to vacate one years’ victories and return the ill-gotten bowl money. Yet, even the bank robbers now seem more honest. In fact, OSU alums in the national media as well as OSU-controlled Columbus newspapers conveniently ignored the vacated season when they misleadingly reported that OSU’s successive BCS bowls and victories over rivals. So, OSU seemed to say: “we’ll pretend to ignore last year’s victories” (while encouraging alums and boosters to continue the misrepresentations).
Likewise, look at what OSU did to deter future coaches from cheating. First, nothing. Then they let their coach—who admitted lying to the NCAA about ineligible players-- to set his own penalty. A two game suspension….no, raise that to five...and let's call the NCAA's bluff. In fact, the OSU president said he had no intention of firing the coach—he was too afraid of getting fired himself by Tressel. Finally, faced with a PR disaster, OSU reported that they had forced Tressel to resign. But that was not exactly true. Tressel, we were told, himself resigned. Then OSU proclaimed that they had cut ties with him. ….but maybe “cut” wasn’t the right word. After seeming to take the fall for the school, he suddenly was transformed from a resigned or fired employee into an esteemed retiree. So, he got full retirement benefits, was honored in a local parade, with his exploits prominently displayed in the OSU AD exhibition of school honors. In fact, Tressel was not even dissociated from the team. He was allowed to give a pre-game pep talk prior to the UM game—as if he were still the coach
Yet, OSU boosters suggested that Tressel would soon be drummed out of the coaching profession by the NCAA in Indianapolis. Somebody else in Indianapolis must have been listening. He made Tressel an analyst there for the Colts. So, in reality, Tressel was getting paid by the pros, while OSU gave him—hush, hush---pension money---proportional to his past salary gains of $27 million. Seriously. Would the horrible prospect of getting a job in the pros, supplemented by plushy retirement benefits prevent future cheaters from engaging in activities that had already made them rich, famous, and revered as a local God? Would they do so knowing that the chance of even getting caught was small---as exemplified in the Clarret whitewash?
So, what can the NCAA member schools do? First, they can take back control of the NCAA, then they can insist on more effective deterrents.
Economists suggest that the only thing one can do to deter crime, is to make penalties much larger. In fact, the penalties should not merely be assessed so that the expected risks exceed the expected benefits of dishonest behavior. The penalties should also consider the damage done to the victims---the schools that OSU deprived of Bowl bids, recruits, equipment sales, publicity, and the future benefits of an enhanced reputation. For instance, when OSU attended the Sugar Bowl by lying about players’ ineligibility, they cheated another team of attending as well as damaged the record and reputation of their bowl opponent, Arkansas. Who knows how much they decreased the future value of players, like Mallet who dropped much further than expected in the pro draft. Who knows how long OSU had continued to damage other schools by stealing recruits and winning games with ineligible players? Who knows how many schools have suffered losses and prestige by playing a team of paid mercenaries? The length and intensity of the NCAA investigation needs to mirror the number and severity of these questions.
Likewise, it’s hardly enough just to offer the vacation of a season of wins or one game’s bowl money or even to give up a couple of future scholarships. The NCAA must prevent future bowl appearances so that other schools go. They need to take away many years of future scholarships so players can go elsewhere. They cannot be satisfied when a school, like OSU, can get rid of an offending coach, then easily attract another despite the “threat” of impending NCAA sanctions.
The presumed impotence of the NCAA threat is a signal that deterrents to cheating have failed miserably. Now, such empty threats only embolden the worst violators. Until the NCAA penalizes offenders in proportion to the damage they cause, the NCAA will not prevent future violations. Rather, they will find themselves inundated with more and more cases….like they are now.
I was thinking about Urban Meyer yesterday, and today has only compounded those thoughts with every random article or thread post.
Urban Meyer. Ohio Head Coach.
No pressure there, right?
Here's a guy whose body couldn't handle the stress of the expectations he created at Florida, the expectations of greatness and regularly performing at champion-caliber football.
Today he'll arrive in Columbus as the most heralded man ever to set foot in that cesspool of a town, praised and worshipped for what every slack-jawed Buckeye native is absolutely certain he'll bring: National titles, and several of them, in as little time as possible.
"Jus' y'all wait 'n' see-- 'Rbin's gon' take US all da way!"
They are all telling us, ever since Saturday-- just wait. Just wait til Urban gets here. He's going to win so many dang football games they'll be saying 'Woody Who?'
Urban will do it. Urban can do anything.
And, interestingly enough, we haven't even learned of their fate from the NCAA. If the governing body of collegiate sports actually grows a set and gives these hooligans what they deserve, the noose will grow tighter as every diehard Buckeye swears that 'it won't matter, Urban will win it all for us anyway."
The demands that will be heaped on Urban Meyer will be as ludicrous as the boasts being proclaimed about him this very minute by every scarlet and gray "football fan." Every ridiculous thing we read about what he'll accomplish or what he'll do to us will add to the weight of what is expected of him.
And if he fails to meet those expectations... well, just ask Jim Bollman what those dedicated wagon jumpers are capable of saying.
Can he meet what is expected of him in Columbus?
Today he is the Scarlet and Gray messiah, and Heaven help him should he not be able to produce what the Senator did under a blanket of corruption and deceit. Heaven help him if he isn't able to walk on water they way an entire fan base is today testifying him as being capable of.
Stressful? Are you kidding me?
I guess, in short, my point is that for a man who feared for his own health enough to walk away from the stress in Gainesville... this is a very curious choice. The pressure on him is already mountains more than anything he'd ever sufffered in Florida.
I think he'll win, plenty. Yes, he may bring them a national championship. But I just can't see the guy there more than four or five years top.
I hear there was some football game played on Saturday or something. I wouldn't know. I was too busy sleeping off the over-indulgence of Thanksgiving leftovers. Anyone know what happened?
Well, whatever happened, it is still my sworn duty to provide you guys with a bunch of stuff other people wrote which you could just as easily look up on your own, but I know you won't, you lazy bums.
Here are the week 13 bowl projections for all our bowl-eligible Big Ten teams, whether they have coaches, don't have coaches, or kinda sorta do but not really but yeah they do hint hint nudge nudge wink wink. (Note: as of this writing, BTN and CFN/Scout have not yet updated their projections. I'll revise when they're up)
Also, this will be the final installment of the 2011 season, since I'm assuming the bowl selection show will be on Sunday night after all the championship games are over.
|Post Week 13||Rittenberg||ESPN-Schlabach||ESPN-Edwards||CBS Sports||CNNSI||BTN||CFN|
|Fiesta||Ok St||Ok St||Ok St||Ok St||Ok State|
|Orange||Va Tech||Va Tech||Va Tech||Va Tech||Va Tech|
|Georgia||S Car||S Car||S Car||S Car||Georgia|
|Insight||Iowa||Penn St||Penn St||Iowa||Iowa||Nebraska||osu|
|Care Care||Penn St||Iowa||Iowa||Penn St||Penn St||osu||Iowa|
|Ohio (NTO)||Toledo||Toledo||Ohio (NTO)||Ohio (NTO)||NIU|
So what's new, pussycat? Not much, honestly. We'll know our bowl fate on Sunday during the selection show, but right now, everyone (except for slowpokes BTN and CFN) have Michigan still projected to go to N'awlins to face Houston in the Sugar Bowl. I can live with that.
In other news, Wisco is a lock amongst the prognosticators to whip up on Sparty and head to the Rose to face Oregon. This means most folks are liking msu for the Outback, with the Cap1 opting for Nebraska (like I said, ignore the last 2 columns for now, which are populated with last week's predictions).
Pretty much everyone is also calling an osu-Florida matchup in the Gator Bowl. The Urban Meyer storyline would just be way too juicy to pass up. I'm guessing they expect Florida fans to make a strong showing with the hopes their team will beat up on their old coach's new team. Sadly, this means an Ohio-Ohio Pizza Pizza Bowl Bowl will likely no longer be in the cards. I know, I'm crushed, too. Rather, you've got either Iowa or NW there, with the other team probably in the TicketCity Bowl.
Penn St and Iowa are currently splitting votes for the Insight and Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowls (seriously - that's the real name).
Finally, you've got the sad Illinois Fighting
Zookers TBD'ers who, on the bright side, may get to go bowling in N'awlins in the Superdome!!! Woo!!! Sugar Bo... Wait, what? The R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl on Dec 17? Well, they were close in proximity to a BCS bowl, at least....