so much for that
... not that it ever was.
Someone was getting screwed yesterday. If Michigan went, Florida was getting screwed. Every other year the BCS claims another fanbase as its virgin sacrifice on the altar of "#1" versus "#2," and you're damn skippy those are airquotes delivered with maximum sarcasm. It just so happens that this year it's us.
I had planned on slapping up a column today boldly titled "FLORIDA GOT SCREWED." This would have been preferable to the above title for many reasons, the foremost among them being that since it isn't it's Michigan fans who are quietly swearing oaths of revenge against poll voters. But it would also have removed the waft of sour grapes from this post and allowed me to be really frickin' righteous. Alas.
I spent a good portion of the day jumping from from Tradesports to the coaches poll to the computer rankings, pounding refresh. When the coaches poll came out I slapped some stuff up, updated it a few times with more detail, and then clicked over to Tradesports. Naturally, Michigan had collapsed and Florida had surged. What stood out, though, was Ohio State's price, which shot up in concert with Florida's.
The market was telling Ohio State to breathe easier because the coaches had decided that the number three team in the nation was number two. Over the course of yesterday, OSU shot up from a 64% chance to win against either Michigan or Florida to a 73% chance against just Florida. If you think a win premium was built into Michigan shares, the market was 50-50 on who would get picked, so a reasonable assumption is that the market felt Ohio State was around 55% to beat Michigan.
That's what draws my ire. It seemed clear to everyone from sea to shining sea that there was a choice between the best team and the matchup that least highlighted the staggering absurdity of the BCS. The vast majority went with the latter. Some people are at least forthright enough to admit it:
George Lapides, a Memphis sports radio talk host, said he believed Florida would lose to Michigan if the teams were to play. But he jumped the Gators from No. 4 to No. 2, past the Wolverines, after Florida beat Arkansas.
"I liked the idea of a conference champion playing a conference champion," he said. "I think that's more appealing than a rematch. I think you try to pick something as appealing as possible."
God... this is what it's come down to? We're having sports talk radio hosts choose who plays in the national championship game? Sports radio is a medium built around saying and doing dumb things for attention. If there's a profession less suited for the careful consideration I would like to think is the main attribute of a good poll voter, I can't think of one.
Uh, nevermind. I forgot about football coaches. Here's Jim Walden. He's the guy who voted Florida number one, and his reasons for doing so are subtle and reasonable:
"If you look at the Big Ten conference, it is a joke," Walden said in a telephone interview late last night. He added: "I voted my heart and I voted my strength of what I believe in. In my opinion, Florida is the No. 1 team in the nation."
If I stumbled across that sentiment on a Rivals message board, I would dismiss that guy as one of the board idiots. This guy has a vote that determines who goes to the national championship game. (Wikipedia temporarily has this nugget of joy on Walden:
Then there's former MSU coach George Perles:
"They lost one game to the best team in the country," Perles said in a telephone interview from his home in East Lansing, Mich. "And No. 2, because they're from the state of Michigan, and I just so happen to live here."
I did not realize that geographical proximity was supposed to be a factor.
It's Pat Hill, the D-I coach voted Most Likely To Be Mistaken For A Janitor, who comes off the best:
"It was hard," Hill said in a telephone interview. "I think Michigan had their shot at Ohio State. They didn't get it done."
...for a given value of "best," anyway.
Bowl advocates constantly tell us that the entire regular season is a playoff. If that's so, it's the world's dumbest, one where teams either can lose or can't, either must schedule tough teams or don't have to, either have a history of good teams or don't. It's a "playoff" where over half the time some team with as much or more of a claim is cast aside, leaving their fans and coaches to gnash their teeth and, if they're from the charmingly insecure and paranoid south, bring it up for years whenever their team hits 6-0.
There's no conspiracy here save that of stupidity. The BCS is a Lovecraftian monster with parts swiped from any system that was handy. A playoff beak here; bowl tentacles there. It is a playoff, a two team playoff, which is no playoff at all. It has ruined college football's most hallowed traditions, kicked a half-dozen teams directly in the nuts, and given us mostly grief. The people who run the BCS are, bluntly, idiots. The Harris poll has talk radio hosts in it and guys who vote Boise #2. Richard Billingsley's formula is a disjointed mess. The rest of the computers are crippled by an inability to consider the same factors humans do. The coaches -- glorified gym teachers all -- are hopelessly biased. Only Jim Tressel, who abstained after looking at the absurdity of picking one of two teams and seeing it spun as an insult to his opponent either way, seems sane to me.
And somehow people who oppose a playoff will tell me that watching a bunch of idiots decide that my 11-1 team doesn't deserve to go to the national championship game because there's a much worse 12-1 team that had the good fortune to play in a conference without Ohio State is a beautiful thing that adds to the unique charm of college fooball. To them, I only say that I wish you would die in a hideous and painful fashion because a bunch of gym teachers held a vote.
More at the Fanhouse. Long story short: 71% of coaches went for Florida. We need a miracle.
Update: it's official per the LA Times. It's over. I'm pissed. More Monday with a very special edition of "On Notice" and probably some BCS related bitching too angry to make much sense. Then we move on: USC in the Rose Bowl. Let's win this time, yes?
Update II: Whoah, go away for a couple hours and come back to epic stupidity. Comment moderation is on.
I understand that expecting sports talking heads to make a damn bit of sense is futile, but good God... I can't watch or read anything without feeling an intense desire to choke whoever wrote/said it.
If you say any of the following things, you are wrong and should be shamed.
Michigan didn't win its conference. If this was going to be changed it would have been changed after the Nebraska fiasco. It wasn't, even though the BCS was fully aware it was a possibility. The system is about the two best teams, and this year every indication is that they come from the same conference.
Michigan had its chance. AOK SWELL. If we change the location of the MNC game to Columbus, Ohio, and play on crappy turf that OSU is used to but Florida is not, I can see this argument working. I doubt that's going to happen. This is also ignoring what the BCS is about: the two best teams. There is no "they had their chance" clause.
Florida played a harder schedule. Says who? The only team with anything resembling a pulse on the nonconference schedule was Florida State, and that's a mighty generous definition of the word "pulse." Then we're getting into the SEC, which has pretty records because of the Sun Belt World tour and excessive media hype. Objective measures of these things have Michigan slightly behind or slightly ahead. In any case, the gap is razor thin, close enough that the relative performances of the two teams against their nearly identical schedules should be the deciding factor.
Michigan has been idle for two weeks. Yes, I have actually seen this. Personally, I think Florida should go to the Alamo Bowl because it had bye weeks early in the season instead of Michigan's incredible twelve straight weeks. The idea that Michigan has an unviolable right to the #2 spot because they "didn't get worse" -- as advanced by Doug Flutie -- is wrong, since Florida's accomplishments since
Do you notice what Florida backers never talk about?
Michigan and Florida. They make it about whether Alabama is better than Indiana. Whether Penn State is better than Georgia. The historical fluke that the #1 team happens to be in Michigan's conference. While I'm not in favor of Vegas-style rankings because they discard what actually, you know, happened, in this case we have two teams having played comparable schedules and with comparable records. Style points don't matter, but substance points do. South Carolina may be a hair better than Iowa, but Michigan's game against Iowa -- though close-ish in the second half -- did not come down to a blocked extra point and two blocked field goals. Michigan dominated Vandy; Florida was outgained by them and won by 6. Florida limped past Georgia and Florida State; though the scores were superficially similar in the Penn State and Minnesota games, Michigan was never really threatened, unless you consider a petrified third-string quarterback with 80 yards to go when his team has racked up a total of 150 a "threat."
The foes were comparable. Michigan has ruthlessly executed them; Florida has scraped by on a wing and a prayer. With accomplishments relatively equal, we can look to Vegas.
Vegas says Michigan by six.
|Lloyd Carr, an eloquent public speaker, tireless defender of his players, and playoff advocate||Urban Meyer, a inveterate whiner who goes purse shopping when not running the local chapters of NAMBLA and the Communist Party. Also points too much.|
|Versus Ohio State's death machine in the ninth level of hell (Columbus, for the unititiated) by three points entirely because of rampant cheating and a slip 'n' slide masquerading as a football field.||Versus Auburn, a team that can't throw or run or do anything except cheat on tests, really. Auburn, like, lost to Georgia, a team that sucks butt.|
|F*#-ING BEAT DOWN of Notre Dame that ruined them psychologically for the next eighty years.||Gifted six turnovers by LSU. Probable 60-point loss if not for completely unforced implosion.|
|Second Best Win|
|Comfortable win over wonderful, tested 11-1 Wisconsin team.||Referee-aided win over I-AA Western Carolina.|
|Outgained Vanderbilt by 200 yards and won by 20.||Outgained BY Vanderbilt, lucked out 6 point win.|
|N/A.||Six hundred blocked kicks versus South Carolina. Reggie Fish's decision to field a punt at his own five over his shoulder.|
|General Impression Left By Play|
|Daaaaaamn.||Lolly lolly I want a lolly.|
|Sided With Who During Civil War?|
So much of what is said and published about who should go to the national title game is political. In my world, this is what "political" means:
political. adj. fancy pronunciation thing
- willfully ignorant of the whole picture.
- an argument that cherry-picks only the facts beneficial to your argument and discards those that are harmful.
The only way to determine who should go to the national championship game is to look at the resumes of the contending teams top to bottom. No whining about "unfair" or "deserves" or blah blah rematch. If Michigan had the best season, it goes to the BCS championship game. Did it?
|#1||ND, 37-17||@ ND, 47-21||LSU, 23-10|
|Advantage: Michigan's win over Notre Dame was 34-7 in the first half and 34-14 at the half. At the end of the third quarter it was 40-14; Michigan also was on the road instead of at home. Florida was at home, outgained by LSU and benefited from five Tiger turnovers and a safety on the second-half kickoff. (Note that Michigan also ended up +4 in turnover margin, but was only plus one by the time the game was out of reach. They also dominated in terms of yardage.) LSU's a better team than Notre Dame, but I think Michigan's performance was the most impressive.|
|#2||@ Ark, 50-14||UW, 27-13||(neutral site)Ark, ???|
|(Note that this scenario assumes a Florida victory over Arkansas, though a relatively narrow one.) Advantage: USC. If you assume that Arkansas and Wisconsin are approximately equal -- or even if you assume UW is the better team -- a 50-14 road stomping trumps a solid home victory that was close into the second half. It should be noted that there were a lot of mitigating factors on the USC blowout. Arkansas, more than any other team in the country, has improved since their opener. Human swiss army knife Darren McFadden was dinged. Casey Dick was unavailable. But... uh... 50-14. On the road. If Florida wins the SECCG by 21 that'll be a better victory given Arkansas' improvement, but that isn't likely. To put it mildly.|
|#3||Cal, 23-9||@ PSU, 17-10||@ Tenn, 21-20|
|Advantage: Comparative scoring is always a dangerous exercise, but Cal bombed Minnesota while Penn State needed a fortunate pass interference call in overtime to win. The polls also suggest that Cal and Tennessee are better than Penn State. I believe them in this instance. So PSU is out. We're left with a two-touchdown victory over Cal at home versus a one-point victory over UT on the road. UT bombed Cal. Call it a tie, and that's being generous to Florida.|
|#4||Nebraska, 28-10||@ Minnesota, 28-14||Georgia, 21-14|
|Advantage: This is where the bottom drops out for Michigan. Minnesota is 6-6, got waxed by Cal, and generally impressed no one in an off year. Neither Nebraska or Georgia is a powerhouse but Nebraska's 9-3 and heading to the Big 12 championship game and Georgia is 8-4. Advantage Trojans here, as Nebraska was really never in the game while Florida allowed a late Georgia comeback to make it interesting.|
|#5||Oregon, 35-10||Iowa, 20-6||SoCar, 17-16|
|Advantage: These are all equally mediocre opponents, though both Oregon and South Carolina are 7-5 instead of Iowa's 6-6. USC hammered the Ducks, while Michigan struggled all game and Florida needed a miraculous three blocked kicks to scrape by the other USC. Two points Trojans.|
|OTHERS||UCLA, Arizona State, Washington State, Washington, Arizona||CMU, Indiana||Kentucky, So Miss, 'Bama|
|Advantage: USC. None of the above teams are exactly world-beaters but all are at least half-decent. USC has five of them, Michigan two, and Florida three. Two points Trojans.|
|JUNK||Stanford||Ball State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Vanderbilt||Western Carolina, Vanderbilt, Central Florida|
|Advantage: One team USC played is worse than 5-7. One team! While most big time universities have three or four automatic wins built into their schedule, USC had one. No late-season Ball State or Western Carolina. Two points Trojans.|
|LOSS||@ Oregon State, 33-31||@ Ohio State, 42-39||@ Auburn, 27-17|
|Advantage: Michigan, obviously. But the gap here is not quite as severe as it seems. Oregon State ended up 8-4 and USC had a chance to tie with a two point conversion, where Michigan and Florida needed a miracle to come back in their losses.|
Well... there you have it. Michigan has a narrow advantage in "best win" but after that it's all Trojans until you get to the loss category. They clearly lost to the least intimidating opponent, but unlike their competition they battled back and had a chance to tie at the death. Also, OSU benefited from a panoply of freak plays: a punt return touchdown, USC turnovers, etc. I think the most astounding thing about USC is this: they played one team worse than 5-7. When they rolled on to the field this year, all but one of their opponents was capable of beating them.
If you really think that Michigan's Notre Dame win was superlative enough to override USC's season of wins against solid opposition and that their Oregon State loss was an unforgivable sin, you can make a case for Michigan. But let's give it up, guys. USC's tiebreaker is Arkansas and Nebraska versus our Vanderbilt, Central Michigan, and Ball State. They took on two above-average BCS teams. We took on the worst team in the SEC and two MAC teams, though one of them happens to be okay this year. Set aside the Michigan fandom and look at the big picture: if USC has this season and does not make the NC game, no one will ever schedule anyone again. It's time to take the bullet.
Let's go Bruins!
(Side note: how excellent does a four-team playoff look this year? Way.)
Sometime last week a dude got booted from the AP poll. His offense: dropping Oklahoma because he thought they lost. Naturally, as the operator of a similar enterprise a few people asked me my opinion. It's similar to everyone else's -- boy, is that guy dumb! We'd like to introduce him to this interwebs thing! -- with one bonus thought: it's the structure of the poll and these people's lives that's at fault for the regular stupidities.
This case is made for me by the Good Witch in an extensive article on the snafu (from Oklahoma, natch):
As a voter in the Associated Press Top 25 college football poll, John Hoover takes his job seriously. This past week, Hoover, the OU beat writer for the Tulsa World, filled out his ballot at 2 a.m. after getting home from the OU game.
"I watched a couple of games on TiVo. I looked on the Internet for about an hour. I read a couple of school reports; game reports and watched a highlight show. I then spent another hour just moving teams around on my ballot," Hoover said.
An hour? Filling out a ballot? Hoover's either helplessly OCD or a filthy liar, but at least he manages to pay enough attention to college football to keep Louisville in front of West Virginia. Later in the article Hoover makes some displeased noises about the carelessness of this other guy's ballot, but if you accept WVU-UL as an acid test the AP poll as a whole fails by placing West Virginia behind the Cardinals. That's inane. It can't be explained by anything in either team's schedule or play and requires you to ignore a 10-point UL victory like three weeks ago. It is the product of carelessness. That carelessness is caused by the unholy demands on beat writers' time and newspaper's foolish devotion to having everything as quickly as possible because it's NEWS, dammit.
(Rutgers? Well, Louisville can be placed ahead of them now because they've played a tougher schedule, won by greater margins, and lost narrowly to a good team instead of getting hammered by a meh one. Head to head is important but not so much that it outweighs a team's resume. But when you're ranking teams and you judge that two teams that played each other are basically equal, you'd better rank the head-to-head winner first unless you've got a good reason. Pat White meowing doesn't count.)
I, of course, love this story. I love it for many reasons, but foremost among them is the newspaper man (as archetype) and his state of mind. There's a software saying: "Fast. Cheap. Good. Pick two." Newspapers -- in comparison to the internet -- only get to pick one, since "cheap" is right out the window. They went with fast. The AP poll comes out on Sunday. Game stories hit the wire minutes after the game ends. Columnists rip off 600 words on a game and move on. And the deeply ironic thing is that all this is in service to a flagging print beast that shows up in the morning, hours after anyone who actually cares about speed has already seen the box score, six minutes of highlights, and immediate reaction from internet folks. Nobody picks up the paper to find out the score of the game last night. But along the dilapidated beast rolls, its momentum making it impossible to stop or even divert.
If I ran a poll I would probably back the voting deadline off a couple days so the participants could, you know, find out what happened. Even then, certain people would freak out and rush ballots in at the last moment every week, but by in large everyone would have some time to digest, discuss, and evaluate what happened. Then they would keep Louisville in front of West Virginia.
Newspapers have slowly morphed from the fastest communication medium available to the slowest. They have not adjusted their coverage. They have gone from monopolies on information dissemination to a sea of competition. They have not shed their belief that attention is their birthright. They are beset on all sides by people who have not come out the other end of a sports journalism meat-grinder bitter, twisted, and devoid of all human feeling. The Free Press still employs Drew Sharp.
Circulation dropping, you say? That's strictly dog bites man stuff.