The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
2006 ohio state
THIS POST IS NOT FUN, SO HERE IS A SMALL CHILD ENJOYING THE BUBBLE HOCKEY TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS [Bill Rapai]
HEARTBREAKER, LOVE TAKER
Is this the most heartbreaking year in the history of Michigan sports?
Along with other painful experiences, we have lost by one play, one shot or one call the following four things of real consequence:
The Big Ten regular season hoops championship
The hoops national championship
Defeating undefeated Ohio State
Defeating #1 Arizona
And hell, let's just throw in the Tigers losing on a grand slam in the 9th inning to let the ALCS slip away.
I'm not sure I can watch this bowl game. I fully expect it to go to five overtimes, whereupon Gibbons shanks a kick, decapitates Hoke and Borges is made head coach.
Oh man. It is bad when I see this list and immediately think not "wow, that's pretty grim" but "don't forget losing the Outback Bowl on the last play of the game." Oh and also "don't forget losing to Notre Dame in the CCHA championship game to break a 22-year tournament streak in hockey." Oh and "Wisconsin." Jesus. If I was a Lions fan…
But I'm not, so let's self high-five on that one. /self high five
My one quibble with your list is that Michigan was probably two or three plays away from beating Louisville. But with your things and my things we can create an Arbitrary Heartbreak Point Amalgam (AHPA) and compare it to previous years. I'm including hockey because I like hockey and you can eat your own face if you don't.
Outback Bowl outcome. 1 point. It's never too much of a heartbreak to lose the Outback Bowl. The way it went down was very frustrating, as Floyd's suspension came back to bite Michigan at the worst time. Did want Denard and Kovacs to go out with wins.
THAT GODDAMNED WISCONSIN GAME. 6 points. Championship not as obviously on the line (and even if they win that game they would still finish one game adrift of Indiana) but seriously, Wisconsin is the vanguard of the bug people.
Losing Big Ten hoops championship on missed Morgan putback. 15 points. This is a lot of points, because Michigan flat-out blew that game and then had it back in the palm of their hand not once but twice with Burke flying down court and then the putback. Winning that game means Michigan gets a banner from the best year of Big Ten basketball in decades. That one still hurts.
Losing tourney streak in hockey. 4 points. That game was always tilted towards Notre Dame and you just wanted them to get in for the streak's sake, but that streak was pretty great. Frustration factor high. Heartbreak factor not so much.
Outcome of national title game. 8 points. Conflicted. Michigan was on borrowed time after the Kansas game, played great, everything was terrific and fun, and just lost. Probably my favorite loss ever. But… so close.
Penn State outcome. 5 points. I was super mad about this, and the game did feature missed 40 and 33 yard field goals to win plus that game-tying drive. Though it meant little in retrospect, at the time it felt like Michigan had just given up a lot of ground in the division title race. Which lol, of course.
Ohio State outcome. 15 points. 11 of 13 feels bad; would be more points but by that point Michigan had outplayed expectations significantly.
Arizona outcome. 1 point. Probably a seed difference in March.
Professional baseball. 0 points, but I feel for anyone who is a fan of both Michigan and Detroit pro sports teams, as on top of all the crap listed above they've had to deal with Joe Dumars passing on Trey Burke for a guy who was so good at basketball that he led Georgia to a .500 SEC record and first round conference tourney exit, baseball happenings described above, and the continued existence of the Detroit Lions. This year the flavor is hilariously heartbreaking instead of hilariously incompetent.
I don't even know what I would do if I truly cared about those teams and Michigan. "Psychotic break" is a prime contender.
I have 55 points. This is offset by things like Michigan's tourney run and the Northwestern game, but I've built a lot of the offset into points given for the Louisville loss and seriously nobody cares about beating Northwestern as part of their overall happiness level, especially in that game.
I am all but certain that this total cannot be matched, as it requires investiture in all three sports and major things on the line. If anything is going to give it a run, though it's…
This is all based on your opinion of how much Football Armageddon was worth. The worst thing in the last 20 years of Michigan football is without question the Crable helmet-to-helmet call, and while there was still a lot of work to do even if that flag is not thrown, losing that game gets ever more heartbreaking in retrospect as it set the stage for Ohio State's dominion of the series and represents the last moment that Michigan could claim its place amongst the college football firmament. Some things fade as time goes on… next year the Arizona outcome probably wouldn't register in a post like this. Football Armageddon just looms ever larger. How many points is that worth? 40? I don't know, entirely, but it's in that ballpark.
As a bonus, that year's basketball team was 16-3 with a win against MSU on February 1st only to lose 7 of their last 9 games, including a 14(!) point loss to a miserable Purdue outfit that would finish 3-13 in the league and a 2-point home loss on the final day of the regular season against Indiana. Even then Michigan probably makes the tournament except for an opening-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Minnesota, which finished 5-11 in the Big Ten.
The hockey team was pretty bad that year and got a three-seed in Denver against North Dakota; North Dakota ran them out of the building. Frustration there, but not heartbreak.
Is that worse? I don't think so. Any other candidates are before my time, but if you want to make a case, uh, go ahead. 2005 was called the Year of Infinite Pain around here, but that was pure naiveté.
This is not about Florida. It is not about Florida. Comments will not be about Florida. There is no Florida. There is only Zuul.
Visitors, Michigan is not your football program. One thing this Recent Event Not Involving Florida has done is reveal the deep-seated weirdness of Michigan in relation to the rest of the world. Anyone who sat through WVU and Rutgers' three overtimes to catch Lloyd Carr's rare appearance on SportsCenter probably wondered why he bothered at all. His entire segment consisted of a brief appeal to not punish Michigan for finishing its schedule before Thanksgiving followed by "I don't want to campaign" repeated ad nauseum until the helpless anchor bid Carr adieu. His only other public statement before the fateful Event came on Michigan Replay, when Carr said this:
I just think that based on some of the comments the Florida coach has made in the last two weeks, he has been campaigning strenuously for a berth in the championship game and making some statements about Michigan that I think were inappropriate. That certainly is going to stir a controversy, and who knows what that's going to lead to.
The press, desperate for any word out of Carr's mouth, slapped up story after story on that single phrase "I think [his comments] were inappropriate," delivered with all the ferocity of a euthanized koala bear to Jim Brandstatter on Michigan Replay.
Oddly, this has spurred a lot of passion. Stewart Mandel's bizarre response:
I wasn't particularly thrilled with either coach's approach, and I think the whole exchange marked a particularly ugly moment for the BCS. ... [Stuff criticizing Meyer snipped]
All that said, I thought Carr's response to Meyer went completely overboard. Never once during the final two weeks of the season did Meyer say anything derogatory about the Wolverines. He never even said his team was better than Carr's. All he said was that Michigan had its shot at Ohio State and that he felt his team had earned the right to get its shot at the Buckeyes. So don't give me this "Carr took the high road" nonsense.
It's not like this is a great shock or anything, but Mandel's plain wrong. In the immediate aftermath of the Ohio State game, Meyer is the one who went overboard:
"If they do that (rematch), there should be a playoff system next year," Meyer said. "And I do think those are great teams, because I tried to watch every snap, but I believe as we move on, we need a playoff series. I think if that (rematch) happens, I think it's over. All the presidents would need to get together immediately and put in a playoff system - like, now. I didn't think it was possible to do with all the stadiums and selling tickets, but I believe there's enough firepower out there now to get that done."
Should the Wolverines upset the Buckeyes in a rematch, Meyer would not consider Michigan the champions.
"Absolutely (there would be no national champion)," he said. "If I'm Ohio State, I go get a bunch of rings and say, 'We won the national championship.' That's not right."
Aside from the strong implication that Meyer's been watching too many Larry The Cable Guy specials, that's a blindingly stupid statement and undoubtedly what Carr was referencing as "inappropriate." I hate deploying the word "whine," which -- along with "drinking the Kool-Aid," "thrown under the bus," and "special" -- is one of the four leading indicators that the person you're dealing with is a bonafide moron, but goddamn, son, that's a whine right there. It probably warranted some mild opprobrium on a regional, little-watched coaches show. As a Michigan fan it ticks me off a bit, and I'm glad Carr called him on it. Mandel's assertion that Carr went "overboard" and thus forfeited the high road which you're goddamn right he took -- that road was less "high" than "orbital" -- further proves that whenever you ask a Northwestern graduate about Michigan, they lose their capacity for rational thought. (Something like "I could have gone there, not suffer miserably for four years, and come out with a degree just as prestigious" does not sit well.)
Exhibit B is PTI's Michael Wilbon, also a product of Northwestern, who called Carr a "Neanderthal" in the aftermath of the Recent Event, then said he'd acquired all the negative personality aspects of Bo without any of the positives. And there's the litmus test. Either you see Carr and by extension the entire Michigan program as a throwback to the bad old days... or a throwback to the good old days. You exhort Carr to emulate Mamet characters or exalt Lloyd as the dumpy guy from the Mac commercials (in one of the weirdest analogies I've seen work in a while).
In short, you believe in what the ads call The Michigan Difference or you don't. If you don't, that's fine, but then at some point we're going to do our version of the Nebraska thing and ditch it. What's Nebraska now that they chucked Frank Solich and the triple option? Just another mediocre North division team that loses the Big 12 championship game. They ditched it, and I bet in their heart of hearts they regret it.
In the end, I don't really care about narrow aisleways or too-small seats or cold metal bleachers. I don't care about the infinitesimal chance that if Lloyd Carr had spent the last two weeks on a media blitz that we would be in the national championship game. I don't care that Michigan's never going to have a recruiting run like USC or go on some five-year streak where losses flash across the sky with the infrequency and populace-terrifying inexplicability of comets. Or rather, I do care about all these things but I regard them as a necessary cost of doing business, because I believe that Michigan does stand for something that other athletic programs do not. And whatever that thing is, it is deeply intertwined with Lloyd's refusal to do anything resembling campaigning.
What I care about is that when you enter Michigan Stadium all it advertises is itself, and what I pity is the kind of person who would walk in and think about all the revenue they could make if they would just stop being cavemen.
Note: if you see last week's poll it's a cache thing, I think. Refresh should cure it.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Yes, that's Michigan #2. Full disclosure: last night I sent out an email reminding voters that, unlike the other polls out there, the BlogPoll has a specific mandate to rank the teams in order of who is "best," whether you arrive at that conclusion by resume or another method, and that rematch concerns should not influence voting. (This would seem fairly straightforward since the BlogPoll isn't, you know, able to set up a rematch. But one of the oddest things about the BCS-aftermath articles were quotes from AP voters like this:
AP poll voter Michael Vega of The Boston Globe said he wasn't against a rematch but found it hard to justify one this time.
"I had to reconcile a fundamental problem with giving Michigan a chance to win the national championship when it didn't even win a conference championship," he said.
Uh... for a newspaper guy you're not up on current events, Mr. Vega.)
We do have two voters who succumbed to minor Harris-ism by breaking up the OSU-Michigan-UF trifecta in the first three spots: 50-Yard Lion ranks Michigan behind both Florida and LSU while Bevo Sports has LSU #2, Michigan #3, and Florida #4.
Another discrepancy of note: Wisconsin keeps creeping up despite having proven little in the other polls, but BlogPollers knocked the Badgers down a slot behind Oklahoma. Also, USC was hurt less by its loss than in other polls.
Risers: It was mostly just sliding up where others fell, but Wake Forest did leap Virginia Tech to become the highest-ranked ACC team. As mentioned, Oklahoma leapt Wisconsin.
Fallers: USC took a four-spot tumble after gacking against UCLA, as did Rutgers. Georgia Tech finally slouched its way out of the poll.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: Suspended this week.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is Eagle in Atlanta, and it's easy to see why: USC plummets from #2 to ... wait for it ... #17 after their UCLA loss. Rutgers also drops nine after a triple overtime loss at West Virginia, who re-enters the poll at #21, three spots behind Rutgers. Having all those teams so low makes a lot of other teams berry, berry high and results in "Mr. Bold."
USC... #17? Can we get an explanation on that?
Mr. Numb Existence is Double Extra Point again. For the fourth time. Uncanny or a cynical attempt to get attention? You make the call!
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award is also Eagle In Atlanta's. Going for a clean sweep of the nasty ones, he is. Boston College #19 doesn't seem too offensive, though.
Straight Bangin' Award is Burnt Orange Nation for the second straight week for ranking the Longhorns a spot worse than the poll at large. This is probably not a sign of mental illness. Moving on.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive is Badger Sports. Why? They forgot about Oklahoma last week.
Mr. Stubborn is Frank McGrath, who bumped last week's losers do wn only a tiny bit.
Expect more Saturday night in the future. This is a bit old, but, uh, yeah. Busy. Anyway, ABC's Saturday night football initiative was a major success:
An average of 14.5 million households tuned in to ABC's Michigan-Ohio State on a Saturday afternoon, making it college football's most-watched game since 1992. But the next seven most-watched games this season â€” Notre Dame-Southern California, Ohio State-Texas, California-USC, Florida State-Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame-Michigan State (leading regionalized coverage in a slot also including USC-Arizona), Notre Dame-Georgia Tech and Ohio State-Iowa â€” were all in prime time.
They were also all on Saturday nights on ABC, which raised its Saturday prime-time ratings 28% by focusing on football. The exception was FSU-Miami on ESPN. That was on Labor Day night, back when experts said both teams were actually good. The only other game drawing more than 5 million households: NBC's Penn State-Notre Dame, a day game that got 5.3 million.
Michigan has long resisted night games, but that's going to get more and more difficult as ABC pushes for winged helmets in its prime time slot. There have been rumblings that Michigan can either choose between a home game at night or three on the road in future years; they might have to cave. Probably not next year, though. Michigan's road slate doesn't exactly scream "FEATURE ME":
- @ Northwestern
- @ Illinois
- @ Michigan State
- @ Wisconsin
You can probably pencil in Wisconsin as a night game -- and a hell of a challenge if the Badgers adequately replace Joe Thomas and John Stocco -- but the rest of that slate is ratings death.
Dan Steinberg is excited!!!!!!!!!! "Vegas Chooses Michigan!!!!!," says Dan, and that's a sequence of punctuation I am deeply uncomfortable with. Anyway:
Some people, including Brian at mgoblog, said loudly that I was wrong [about letting Vegas guys pick the BCS]. And now, in the most delicious of all possible ironies, an apoplectic Brian is using Vegas as justification that Michigan is being robbed!!!!!! I told you Brian!!!!!! You should have listened to me!!!!
For the record, this was my stirring conclusion in the piece cited above:
Striking a balance between style-point madness and rote you-win-you-stay is a delicate thing. While you can very plausibly argue the latter holds too much sway in the BCS selection process, the oddsmakers are the communism to our current fascism: yeah, they're diametrically opposed, but neither is a good idea.
My main complaint with the Vegas rankings as deployed was their wild under-reaction to events. At the time that poll was posted, LSU was 5-2 with wins over nobody and losses to Florida and Auburn. They were #5, ahead of Florida and Auburn. To Vegas, the games hardly mattered. Anyone rushing to say that LSU at #5 was darn prescient should note #2 Texas, 6-1 and then ahead of a wide array of undefeated teams. Hell, suddenly Alamo-bound Texas is still #8 in their poll.
My objection was to letting Vegas' opinion override wide disparities in actual performance on the field. When you have two teams that have virtually identical resumes by every objective measure you can apply that's a very different situation, one in which you have to look at how the teams reached their finishing point and who looks better, because there's no concrete way to separate the two. In that case, the opinion of Vegas wiseguys is highly relevant.
But when it comes down to it... I must offer a mea culpa in the spirit of Dan's post (!!!!):
DAN STEINBERG IS THE GENIUSEST!!!!! HE IS RIGHT THAT A SMALL, INFORMED GROUP OF EXPERTS WHO ARE EMPLOYED BASED ON THEIR ABILITY TO PROJECT FOOTBALL GAMES IS A BETTER WAY TO PICK THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME THAN LETTING A BUNCH OF DOOFS VOTE*!!!!! I OWE HIM SOME BEER!!!!
If you need a letter of recommendation or something, Dan, I got your back. With a select group of Michigan engineering students, there's no better reference.
*(As long as some other group narrows down the potential candidates so they can't pick, say, a 9-3 Texas.)
I was already going to call him "Jimmah!" The Chicago Sun-Times sucks up to Notre Dame fans with this hilarious headline:
'He's just little Jimmy'
Dad's comment aside, Notre Dame awaits special QB
The manual says insert unflattering image of Clausen here...
[USC commit Marc] Tyler, who is black, also saw in Clausen someone capable of fitting in with anyone.
''Jimmy's really into hip-hop music,'' Tyler said. ''He's always trying the latest dances: 'Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It,' the 'Chicken Noodle Soup.' It's like he's black on the inside.''
I got nothin'. That's just a weird quote, and anything I say could come out really wrong. Moving on.
Yeah, we're not happy. I didn't want to wrap up the Michigan outrage. Thankfully, Double Extra Point did it for me. Missed a couple Hoover Street Rag posts, including the best headline anyone's thrown up: "Quag-meyer." Sad giggity. Also excellent: a simple "INFAMY!"
He's Michigan. Forget that. From the SBT:
Notre Dame professor Brad Malkovsky was in the middle of teaching his "Christianity and World Religions" course a few weeks ago when the classroom phone rang.
Never in his 15 years of teaching in that room had the phone even made a peep.
Startled, Brad picked it up.
"A woman on the phone, who sounded like a reporter, asked if this was Lloyd Carr, the head football coach of the University of Michigan," Brad says.
So he repeated the women's inquiry for the benefit of his 70-some students: "No this is not Lloyd Carr, the head coach of the University of Michigan football team," Brad answered.
She apologized and hung up.
That is a hell of a wrong number.
That's right, Tom. Brady on Fiasco '06:
"Anyone who has seen (Florida) play realizes it is a no-brainer. Florida is not very good. I watched that game (Saturday) night and that other (Arkansas) quarterback completed like three passes the week before. They have 18 guys out there throwing passes for Arkansas," Brady said.
When a reporter countered that Michigan already had its shot at beating the Buckeyes, Brady said, "But that's not the way the BCS works. It is supposed to be the two best teams in college football. I would vote for Michigan to play Ohio State if I had a vote."
So meone get that man a vote.
Etc. Wetzel on Don Canham. Mick McCabe declares incoming freshman Manny Harris the best player in the state. Kelvin Grady is #11. OSU is going to turf next year. Bo recollection from a friend of Shemy's. They have Drew Sharp in California, too. EDSBS gives us ten reasons to be happy.
There's no in or out. It's all in.
REGGIE FISH: Seriously dude, what the hell was that? I have never seen someone try to catch a punt over his shoulder at the five with four defenders bearing down on him. That was the stupidest play in the history of college football. (Plaxico Burress spiking a live ball wins "all of football.") The free touchdown you gave them was the difference between a 10-point Florida win and an Arkansas drive to tie or win that has time to utilize McFadden and Jones. I kind of hate you.
JIM WALDEN: If you claim "the Big Ten is a joke," what does that make you and your 0-17-versus-the-Big-Ten ass?
SMARMY-ASS CBS: CBS has long been in a neck-and-neck race with NBC to see who can put out the most feminized, patronizing sports broadcasts. The amazing thing is that SEC fans constantly decry ESPN/ABC as some sort of Big Ten propaganda machine. On Saturday night ESPN and ABC featured debate. Corso, Mark May, Lou Holtz, and Craig James all argued for Florida. Herbstreit, Flute, Fowler argued for Michigan. By comparison, CBS was Pravda, beating out a steady SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC drumbeat without the barest hint of debate. The second half of the the SEC championship game was less a football game and more an informercial for the magical juicing power of Florida. It was unprofessional, inappropriate, and hypocritical. I never want to hear another word about "bias" from SEC fans.
THE HARRIS POLL: I say this in all seriousness. If you gave me ten percent of the funding and a year, I could turn the BlogPoll into something more reliable and respectable than the Harris Poll. I'm close to saying "if you gave me no funding and made me deliver it right now" after Walden's comments.
RYAN SUCCOP: Three blocked kicks, one an extra point? You missed an extra point! You suck! Aaaaaargh.
SPAIN: I swear to God I'm going to get you for this, Spain.
"THEY HAD THEIR CHANCE." I guarantee you that when Florida loses to OSU that I will reference the 2006 Gators as the SEC's "chance" and incessantly argue against any SEC team ever making the title game again. Because they'll have had their chance. This will be stupid. It will also be the point.
URBAN MEYER: Wetzel has a column on this. I don't know if it's something in the water in SEC states that makes their coaches paranoid, bitchy, and irritating, but it seems to leak out from Tommy Tuberville and infect everyone around him.
And, in the grand finale:
DEAD TO ME
GARY DANIELSON: I can't summon my mental faculties to give him what he deserves. It would be a string of personal insults bordering on the obscene. So I'll let Braves & Birds say it:
Gary Danielson's performance last night was an absolute disgrace. I understand that he's reputedly a human being who is paid to have opinions, but I've rarely seen an announcer turn the fourth quarter of a football game into a 30-minute advertisement for one school. The fact that Danielson (a) was not recruited by Michigan (and thus went to Purdue) and (b) is working for the one network that exclusively covers the SEC surely had nothing to do with his open rooting for Florida and his subjective, idiotic comparison of the two team's schedules. Regardless of the result of the vote this afternoon, Danielson is going to go down in Michigan lore along with Sean McDonough, who performed a similar role in 1997 during CBS's broadcast of the Nebraska-Tennessee Orange Bowl to facilitate the Huskers picking up part of the national title.
CBS and Danielson framed the debate by focusing on the points that favor Florida - more good teams on their schedule - and ignoring the points that favored Michigan, such as the critical "not outgained by Vanderbilt" category. Thus, you ended up with voters hearing the Florida talking points drummed into their heads for the final hours before casting their ballots. The voters who stayed up for ESPN2's College Football Final then had those points repeated by Lou Holtz and Mark May, so they ended up going to bed with the impression that there was consensus that Florida was #2. Groupthink, anyone? You think these people wouldn't have sung along with "Throw Lloyd Carr down the Well" if May and Holtz were singing it?
Danielson irresponsibly used a captive audience and may have seriously harmed Michigan's chances of getting to the national championship game with his incessant, retarded assertions that Michigan didn't deserve the national championship game because it was a "second place team." He's lost the considerable respect I had for his color commentary. Now I only hope I can identify him getting out of his car so I can
STAB STAB STAB STAB HIM IN THE STABBY PLACES let the air out of his tires. KNIFEY NEEDS BLOOD TO BREATHE I don't like him very much.
... 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.