Posts Tagged ‘Cal’

Alabama Offense vs. LSU Defense

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, Rivalry on November 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM

For more on what to expect from the LSU offense and general comments, please see Part I published on Wednesday.  This page links the major previous discussions of the LSU-Alabama Series.  LSU seems to have better kickers, but I’m not going to spend any time on that point.

Proposition: Alabama runs away with the game to score 40+ again (Intro)

What made me decide to split this into two blogs was how annoyed I was with how many people were picking Alabama to score 40+ while picking LSU to score <22. I listened to a couple of somewhat credible prognosticators on YouTube who did that based on Alabama’s stats.

One of them (SECfans, which I mentioned before) actually replied to my comment and asked if I thought Alabama’s offense was severely overrated due to the schedule.  I said that I didn’t think they were severely so, but in all the years I’ve been watching college football (I would say I had something like an adult appreciation of it starting in the mid-90s), there hasn’t been a top team who scored over 40 every game.

Historical Precedent in General

In the video, they had mentioned the 2005 Texas team that scored 41 points in the title game against USC.  A neutral-site bowl game isn’t really analogous to Tiger Stadium.  What might be analogous was when the Longhorns went to Ohio St. that year and were held to 25 points.  Also, late in the season the USC team in question had allowed 42 points at home to a Fresno St. team that would finish with 5 losses.

Vince Young runs for a touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

The best offense I’ve seen through 8 games was probably 2010 Oregon.  They had an even higher average (by less than a point, but still) than Alabama does now at 54.8 points per game.  That was despite having played a top 10 team at home and a top-25 team on the road, neither of which the Tide has done.

The 9th game was consistent with that, but in their 10th game, the Ducks went on the road to play the unranked Cal Bears and only won 15-13.  That was a Cal defense that would allow three different teams to score 48 or more against them.  Cal finished with a losing record that year.  I’d say it’s pretty likely LSU has a better defense this year than that team did then.

The Cal (Berkeley) defense held Oregon to about 40 fewer points than the Ducks’ average in their 2010 matchup.

One of the best SEC offenses was the 1996 Florida. Early on the Gators beat #2 Tennessee on the road, but apart from that game the Gators averaged 54 points per game through the first 8 games.  Then in early November, the Gators escaped Nashville (hardly an intimidating road environment by SEC standards) with only a 28-21 win.  A few weeks later, Florida St. held Florida to 21 for the Gators’ only loss of the season.  Of course Florida would then run away with the national championship against the Seminoles, 52-20.

Florida’s Danny Wuerffel led the Gator offense to over 50 points per game before being brought back down to earth in Nashville and Tallahassee (pictured).

I don’t mind if people are picking Alabama to score 35, for instance.  Maybe this Alabama offense is able to produce points just as well as and just as consistently as 1995 Nebraska, who was only held under 40 twice and never below 35.  That was the only team since World War II that won each game by at least 14, but the team who got within 14 was unranked and playing in Lincoln.  I just need to see this year’s Alabama play a better defense than Texas A&M or Missouri to believe they’re better than that Nebraska team.  Despite the Cornhuskers’ having won the national championship in 1994, the voters in 1995 were skeptical of Nebraska and did not move them up to #1 until the Huskers had beaten top-10 teams in consecutive weeks.

Historical Precedent in LSU-Alabama Series

I can also refer to past games in the LSU-Alabama rivalry. I mentioned the 2013 game in the last blog. LSU didn’t keep Alabama very far below their average, although they were on pace to do so for most of the game. More relevantly to this blog, the Tigers had averaged 40 points per game going in, and Alabama held LSU to less than half of that average.  The Tigers have a lot of work to do if that’s the best their defense can do this year, one reason I think the Tide wins, but 27 points wouldn’t make it an impossible task.

Alabama teams of the last few years probably don’t compare to this one in terms of how strong the respective offenses and defenses are, but I think we may also be able to learn a little from 2011 and 2009.

People act like in retrospect the 2011 regular season game was destined to be in the single digits, but it really wasn’t.  I don’t remember the over/under, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t 16. Alabama was averaging 39 points per game and had only been held below 37 twice (27 @ Penn St. and 34 against Vanderbilt).  LSU had almost the exact same average despite having played Oregon and West Virginia, two eventual winners of BCS bowls. Only Mississippi St. had held the Tigers below 35 (like this year, LSU scored only 19 against the Bulldogs).

Granted the points given up were lower in both cases in 2011 but not ridiculously so. LSU has only allowed one team to score over 21 this year (but two right at 21).  They’d allowed two to score over 11 in 2011.  Alabama has only allowed two teams to score more than 14 points this year.  In 2011, they’d allowed double digits 3 times. So maybe not 9-6, but 20-17 wouldn’t be a shockingly low score.

I want to mention one other Alabama team, and that’s 2009.  That was Saban’s third year and his first team there that really tipped the SEC off about what was to come.  The Tide opened against #7 Virginia Tech and then played four unranked opponents, two in SEC play and one on the road. That’s not a body of work similar to what they have now, but in those five games the Tide scored at least 34 points in each one and averaged 40 points.

Patrick Peterson grabs an apparent interception in Tuscaloosa in 2009. The pass was ruled incomplete. LSU may not have won the game in Tuscaloosa, but a different call here could have changed the score.

The Tide went to #20 Ole Miss and point production fell by 45% as they only scored 22. A similar reduction in this case would result in the Tide only scoring 30. Ole Miss had a good defense in 2009, but maybe LSU’s is better this year. The Rebels did allow 33 to Auburn and 41 to Mississippi St. that year. I don’t envision LSU giving up that many to an unranked team this year.

Comparison to Other Games This Season

It’s odd for two teams in the same division to have only one common opponent at this point, but in this case it doesn’t tell us very much.  It was Ole Miss, who really didn’t have much of a chance in either game.  I think the games worth considering are ones where either LSU or Alabama had to get out of their comfort zone in some way.  The Rebels did not force either team to do that.

Again, the best team Alabama has played is Texas A&M, who I believe is justifiably outside of the top 25 in the coaches poll.  The Texas A&M defense, which made Mississippi St.’s Nick Fitzgerald look like a Heisman contender doesn’t compare favorably to LSU’s defense at all.  Mississippi St. scored a combined 16 points against LSU, Florida, and Kentucky, 12 less than A&M gave up.  The point being that we really don’t have a model when it comes to how Alabama does against a defense that can really affect an offense the way LSU’s affected Fromm of Georgia and Fitzgerald.

If it’s a similar game with Alabama holding the opposing offense in the low 20s, LSU will likely take at least one touchdown opportunity away that A&M couldn’t, especially given that A&M was playing in Tuscaloosa.

I haven’t seen anyone suggest this, but I did want to add a caveat. I wouldn’t be upset if someone thinks Alabama wins 41-34. That wouldn’t show LSU’s defense is almost as bad as A&M’s; it would show Alabama’s offense had to keep going in high gear the whole game when it could pretty much relax in the second half against A&M. I’d be surprised to see that much offense from LSU, but they did score 36 against Georgia despite settling for field goals 5 times and despite a quarterback who could only complete half of his throws.

A better measuring stick for Alabama offense (though the Tide defense did extremely well) is the Missouri game. That was the best comparison I could find to a tough game Georgia had to play (partly because it was on the road) before coming to Baton Rouge. Missouri had been the only team to score more than 17 against the Bulldogs (they scored 29) and the only team to come within 14 points (and that was despite a defensive touchdown by Georgia).

Tua Tagovailoa is sacked by Missouri’s 
Kobie Whiteside in Tuscaloosa on October 13.

For Alabama vs. Missouri, I’m more going to look to see what we can gather about things LSU might be able to do on defense.  Missouri did have the second-closest game with the Tide so far (after A&M), but more impressively (and more relevantly to this blog) the Tigers are the only team to hold Alabama below 40, and they did this in Tuscaloosa.

Giving up 39 isn’t that impressive on its own (unless LSU really does give up 41 without producing much on offense); but as I’ve said before, you can score into the 40s against almost anyone if you’re given easy points. Twice while the game was still competitive, Missouri committed a turnover deep in their own territory. So where it was 27-10 with 10 minutes left in the half, it probably would have been Missouri ball down only 17-10. I’m not that Alabama didn’t deserve to beat them like they did, but what I am saying is the Missouri defensive unit did even better than Alabama’s point total indicates.

It’s also somewhat impressive that Mizzou limited Tua to only 2 of 5 on third downs and 12 of 22 overall (though it was still an average of over 10 yards per attempt) with only one positive run. Missouri has neither a good pass rush nor a good secondary. I couldn’t get the stats on how many sacks and hurries they had against Bama, but I know they had one sack and no hurries against Georgia. That’s one reason LSU was able to limit Georgia to fewer scoring drives than Mizzou had.

LSU was able to improve significantly on what Missouri did with Georgia. Even if we cut out the defensive score, LSU roughly cut Georgia’s point-scoring in half. So I think the low end of Alabama’s point total (barring a disaster or freakishly low-scoring game) is a lot lower than some people have it. I would put it in the low 20s. So I think the route for LSU to win would most likely be LSU scoring between 24 and 31 and Alabama scoring 1-7 points fewer.


My prediction is that LSU holds Alabama to 31, which is two touchdowns fewer than Texas A&M allowed, and that the Tigers score 24. I think chances are the Tigers score closer to their point total against Auburn and Florida than the point total against Georgia. Most other people seem to be picking either a narrow LSU upset or a complete blowout by the Tide, either of which could happen of course, but I think these are two really good teams and LSU is just slightly outmatched.


Post-Game Comments and Week 4 Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 18, 2016 at 3:16 PM

I’ve updated the Mississippi St. Rivalry blog, and here is the one for Auburn.

LSU really needs to work on the end of the game. Everything was going great at halftime for the last two games, and the second half was underwhelming even though it didn’t hurt nearly as much against Jacksonville St. Against Wisconsin, the second half was better than the first, but the Tigers had the lead late in the fourth quarter and were in field goal position on the last drive before the interception that essentially ended the game.

There were a couple of bad calls in this one. There was a highly questionable pass interference call that set up one of the Mississippi St. field goals. Then Leonard Fournette appeared to have converted a fourth down play but was stripped as he crossed the line to gain. It was reversed by replay, although I don’t see how the video evidence was indisputable. Mississippi St. scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession then scored another touchdown 40 seconds later following an on-sides kick.

Fournette was effective most of the game, but a late fumble (his second of the game) helped keep the Bulldogs alive.

Fournette was effective most of the game, but a late fumble (his second of the game) helped keep the Bulldogs alive.

I do want to give some credit to the defense for that last series. They didn’t give State a chance at a tying or winning drive.

I think things are improving, but there is a long way to go before LSU can claim to be a top team. Going to Auburn is never easy even though the War Eagle Plains Tigers lost to A&M at home.

That’s all I have to say about that. There were some more significant developments elsewhere.

The Florida St.-Louisville game blew me away. If Louisville wins by a touchdown, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised, but someone wrote that they made the Seminoles look like the Charlotte 49ers, which isn’t too far off. I mentioned before that I don’t like to move teams more than 10 spots in a week, but I had to make an exception and move them up 15 spots.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson had no problems with the Florida St. defense.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had no problems with the Florida St. defense.

It seems that Florida St. and Oklahoma are showing that having a top-4 season and a talented team doesn’t guarantee anything for the next year or even a couple of years later after a successful rebuilding year.

There were a couple of other dramatic movements that were necessary. Of course Florida St. had to go down pretty far, and so did Iowa for its loss to North Dakota St. The Bison would probably go about .500 (if not better) in the Big Ten West, but still.

I did the first trial run of my computer rankings. I only used them as a somewhat small part of the consideration this week, but next week I’ll do a full computer formula and a subjective top 25 and roughly average the two.

Since I am relying more on what’s happened on the field, I feel it is appropriate to move Michigan down even though I still think they’re a potential competitor for championships.

Since 9 of the 14 SEC teams started Week 1 against power 5 opponents and there have been a number of such games since then (both in conference and out of conference), it’s not really surprising that five undefeated SEC teams are in the top 10 in the formula. However, other teams will still get a couple more weeks to see what they can do in big games before I would rank those SEC teams so highly.

LSU’s win last night helped to bolster Wisconsin, so that’s why they’re up there. Oklahoma is almost certainly out of the running for the national title, but beating them still looks pretty good right now. Maybe they’re just not good and Houston and Ohio St. didn’t do anything special, but for now, it’s hard to justify not giving the Cougars and Buckeyes high rankings.

UCLA (who fell to the Aggies in Week 1) beat BYU and of course Texas A&M beat Auburn, so that’s why they move up again. Arkansas is also 3-0 with all games against FBS opponents, which is significant at this point.

As I mentioned, I moved Louisville up as far in one week as I was willing to. It will be interesting to see if they keep blowing out teams like this. I think Stanford’s results are what you expect of a #9 team, but I didn’t see anything that seemed to require that they move up. I’m also comfortable with where Clemson is. I’m OK with moving LSU up one spot because I do think they show some potential.

Florida goes up two spots. They’re also 3-0 against (not very good) FBS opponents, and they have won comfortably.

San Diego St.'s Week 2 win over Cal could be significant if the Aztecs make a run toward a New Years Day bowl.

San Diego St.’s Week 2 win over Cal could be significant if the Aztecs make a run toward a New Years Day bowl.

San Diego St. beat Cal, and Cal looked pretty decent last night. Maybe Sports Illustrated was right to rank the Aztecs in pre-season. At least it looks good for the moment.

I only dropped Georgia one spot even though they looked pretty bad at times in a close win again. You win on the road in the SEC, and I can’t gripe too much about the margin. I wouldn’t be confident about the next two weeks (@Ole Miss and hosting Tennessee) if I were a Dawgs fan though.

I moved Nebraska up six spots for the win over Oregon even though the two teams scored the same number of touchdowns. Going for two every time is a losing battle.

I don’t think Notre Dame is anything special, and I didn’t think so in preseason either, so I kept Michigan St. in the same spot. I also saw no reason to move Boise St. or Washington.

I think of Oklahoma St.-Central Michigan as a tie roughly, and the Cowboys just beat the Pitt Panthers, so they seem to be good selections for 23 and 24. I thought about #25 for a long time, but Cal was pretty high in the computer ranking and Texas is a good win. I won’t penalize them any more for San Diego St. until the Aztecs have a loss.

I think we’ll have a much better idea about a lot of things next week. I count about 10 games that could have a major influence on how the divisions and conferences shake out at the end of the year.

1 Alabama 1
2 Wisconsin 5
3 Ohio St. 6
4 Tennessee 7
5 Houston 8
6 Arkansas 14
7 Texas A&M 16
8 Louisville 23
9 Stanford 9
10 Clemson 10
11 LSU 12
12 Michigan 3
13 Utah 11
14 Florida St. 2
15 Florida 17
16 Iowa 4
17 San Diego St. —
18 Nebraska 24
19 Georgia 18
20 Mich. St. 20
21 Boise St. 21
22 Washington 22
23 Okie St. 25
24 C. Michigan —
25 Cal —

Out of rankings: (13) Oklahoma, (15) Texas, (19) Oregon

Week 3 College Football Preview

In College Football, Preview on September 16, 2016 at 6:54 PM

Mississippi St. cowbell from the days when they regularly beat LSU.

Mississippi St. cowbell from the days when they regularly beat LSU.

LSU-Mississippi St. Rivalry blog (updated annually). Reminder that this is LSU’s most-played series.

So there are a couple of big games in the middle of the country – Michigan St.-Notre Dame and Ohio St.-Oklahoma – and one on either coast – USC-Stanford and Florida St.-Louisville.

This is probably Florida St.’s toughest road test all year in their first ACC game. I’ve been a Louisville skeptic to this point; but the Cardinals were up 21-0 at one point two years ago, so good teams can have trouble visiting Louisville.  This would make a good baseball match-up too, come to think of it.

ohio st
Ohio St. isn’t in conference, but the Buckeyes will have one of a few big tests in Norman. Later in the season, they will have trips to Wisconsin, Penn St., and Michigan St. This is why I thought they might have a few losses this season. I certainly suspected going into the year that this game would be one of them, but now I’m not so sure. Chances are inexperienced teams lose such games, but on paper Oklahoma should have beaten Houston, so who knows?

I’ve also been a Notre Dame skeptic, and I’m not quite sure why they’re ranked, but at least for a few hours maybe they’ll be ranked roughly correctly if they win. The Irish are playing at home though, so you can’t say they don’t have a chance even though I believe Michigan St. has the better team.

USC has had trouble with Stanford over the years even when they’ve had a better team, and going to Stanford is an additional challenge. The Trojans did win there two years ago despite themselves, but they lost the previous two games there. USC also lost to Stanford last year, so this is an opportunity to take a big step forward. The Trojans have been expected to return to the glory days many times in recent years, but it hasn’t materialized.

There are a couple of other interesting games involving Pac-12 teams, but not quite as compelling and not conference games. Oregon-Nebraska is a top-25-adjacent matchup. Oregon was near the top of football a bit more recently, but this would also be a really strong win for them in the effort to go back. Another is Texas-Cal. I don’t think Cal is a good team, but Texas needs to do well to back up its ranking.

I think the SEC (see my SEC Wednesday entry for more) will continue to have more unknowns than knowns. For instance, if LSU wins, it won’t really prove much. If Miss St. wins, then they’re just inconsistent; although 2-0 in conference is always a good way to start.

If Ole Miss beats Bama (the only game between two ranked teams), it would be a big deal; but I’d be pretty shocked by that. A&M at Auburn is a good test for both teams, but they both have so far to go from last season, it won’t prove either is going to compete for the West.

Week 2 SEC Preview and Other Key Games

In College Football, History, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 9, 2016 at 8:38 AM

I added a note to my rankings blog about why this was delayed until today. It’s partly because the playing week hasn’t started yet.


In my first round of SEC predictions, I only got two wrong in each category, with the spread and without. Florida St. and Alabama beat the spread, and obviously LSU and Mississippi St. lost. So the total is 9-2 against the spread and 11-2 overall (I picked the winners for the Thursday games but did not consider the spread).

ESPN doesn’t publish a spread for FCS opponents, and I skip those anyway. Obviously I pick LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M to win.

Florida only beat UMass by 17, and Kentucky usually makes it interesting against the Gators, so I’ll take the Wildcats and the 16.5 points but Florida to win.

I have a feeling Alabama will be high-energy for their home opener, so I would give the 28.5 points there.

Vandy-Middle Tennessee is a good line. I’ll pick Vandy to win but take the 5 points. They may win by a touchdown. They may win by 1 or even lose. I just think the five points roughly reverses the likelihood.

I think South Carolina was lucky to win, while Mississippi St. was very unlucky and has more potential. Another good line, but for this one I’ll give the 6.5 points and pick the home team.

Neither Arkansas nor TCU did very well in their opening games. I’ll give TCU the edge because it’s a home game for the Horned Frogs, but Arkansas could make it very close or win, so I’ll take the 7.5 points. I was tempted to pick the upset, but then I remembered what happened with Texas Tech. The Hogs may be repeating their pattern from last year.

If Auburn can give Clemson trouble the way they did, I see no reason they can’t put Arkansas St. away easily. So I’ll give the 19 points there.

I know Eastern Michigan is bad, but from the game they gave LSU last year and Missouri’s general ineptness the last 11 months, I’ll take the 25 points.

Tennessee will be motivated to redeem itself from Week 1 against Virginia Tech, but I think the setting will motivate both teams and Tennessee has some things to work out. 11.5 is just too many, so I’ll take the points.

Week 2 Preview

It’s sort of a poor man’s rivalry week, but I know it isn’t the most thrilling collection of games. A lot of these teams are not ranked and don’t deserve to be, but some of the teams might treasure obscure- or latent-rivalry wins when we get to bowl season. They are also games that matter with recruiting.

In addition to the Arkansas and Tennessee games, another interesting close interstate game is Washington St. and Boise St. Washington St. lost to Eastern Washington, a very good FCS team, but I wouldn’t count them out. Boise St. is trying to return to being the top Cinderella of the land on the blue field. Had the Cougars gone to Eastern Washington instead of hosting the Eagles, they would have played on a red field last week.

Will the formerly intimidating Smurf Turf return to its past glory?

Will the formerly intimidating Smurf Turf return to its past glory?

There are also some intra-state games to look forward to as well: BYU-Utah took place a couple of playing weeks ago, but it was surprisingly close and may be again. Pitt hasn’t played Penn St. in 16 years. That’s a big inter-conference game as well as a game for bragging rights. I don’t know why some of these games don’t take place more often.

There are some less compelling intrastate games, but they still might have close final scores. Games like New Mexico-New Mexico St. They are both usually terrible, and I have no contrary information, but football games can be like movies. There is a level of badness you get to where the entertainment value starts to improve.

One that may be lopsided is Iowa-Iowa St., but the Cyclones are good for one or two good games a year, and that game is often one of them. I wonder if they’ve given any thought to bringing Gene Chizik back. Speaking of which, North Carolina (where Chizik is an assistant now) travels to Champaign to play the Illini. It wasn’t close last year, but these things can turn on a dime. For instance, you might remember LSU losing in triple-overtime to Kentucky in 2007, but people forget that the year before LSU beat them 49-0.

Another compelling intra-state game is Cal-San Diego St. Sports Illustrated actually picked San Diego St. for the top 25, so that could be a good matchup in hindsight at the end of the year.

Texas Tech and Arizona St. dominated the old Border Conference.

Texas Tech and Arizona St. dominated the old Border Conference.

Finally, lest we forget, old Border Conference rivals Texas Tech and Arizona St. will square off in Tempe. They combined for 16 Border Conference championships. All other members of the Border Conference combined for only 11 championships (3 were shared). That conference disbanded during the Kennedy administration, but there you go. Another fun fact: Les Miles’ first win at LSU was against Arizona St., and as of right now his last win was over Texas Tech.

Trojan Horse of Misinformation

In Bowls, College Football, History, NFL on October 23, 2015 at 2:43 PM

I watched the “30 for 30” about the USC “dynasty”.  They won a lot of games in a row, but that’s not my definition of a dynasty.  Overall, it wasn’t bad, but there were so many misleading or outright false things in there.  That detracts from the quality and entertainment value.

The first thing was the comparison between Paul Hackett and Pete Carroll.  I wasn’t in the L.A. area at the time, so I don’t know know what the conventional wisdom was around here, but it just doesn’t match reality.  Hackett’s previous head coaching job was with the Pittsburgh PANTHERS (not in the NFL like the documentary said).  How is that like the New England Patriots at all?  Hackett’s previous job was in the NFL, but offensive coordinator isn’t the same thing.

The Chiefs did make the playoffs all but one year while Hackett was there, but after his first season, they failed to win any playoff games under head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The Jets never gave Carroll a chance and have been a poorly run organization for a long time, so I don’t blame him for their 6-10 mark in the one season he was there.  Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 his first season with the Cowboys.  Speaking of the Cowboys, Tom Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season there.  It’s ridiculous to judge anything based on a head coach’s first year with no chance to follow up (Carroll didn’t do much better his first couple of years in Seattle either), so I’ll focus on his time in New England.

Carroll coached the Patriots for three seasons and made the playoffs twice with an overall record of 28-23.  He followed Bill Parcells, who had coached there for four seasons and also made the playoffs twice, going exactly .500 in his time there.

I really don’t understand the view that Carroll was a failed NFL coach who was going to do poorly at USC; and as someone who followed the NFL closely in the 1990s, I did not have that expectation at all.  I’m not saying I thought USC was going to be one of the top four teams seven years in a row though.  I don’t think anyone could have reasonably expected that.

We can also contrast Carroll’s prior NFL record with that of Bill Belichik, who coached a total of five seasons in the 1990s and only made the playoffs once with a total record with the Browns of 37-45.

Next, they acted like USC looked so bad in early 2002 to for losing to Washington St.  You have to hear the way they say it.  The tone suggested they had lost to a Cougar team from 2008-2010.  The loss was in overtime in Pullman, and Wazzu had won 10 games the season before and went on to win 10 games again that season before losing in the Rose Bowl.

Washington St. completes a long pass against USC in October 2002. The Trojans won 46 of their next 47 games after this loss.

Then they acted like the win at Auburn in 2003 was a monumental victory, calling them “one of the best teams in the country”.  The Tigers went 9-4 in 2002 and would finish 8-5 in 2003, infamously resulting in Tommy Tuberville nearly being replaced by Bobby Petrino.

The documentary ignored the Trojans’ last loss before the streak, which was in Berkeley against a similar team.   Winning 34 in a row and 45 of 46 doesn’t really need to be embellished, does it? So why completely ignore the one loss in those 46 games?

Cal’s Tyler Fredrickson kicks the winning field goal in overtime against USC in 2003.

I guess it was to avoid mentioning the three-team race at the end of that year.  No mention was made of the fact that Oklahoma was the unanimous #1 going into the conference championships (which of course the Pac-10 didn’t have) or that the Trojans finished third in the BCS standings behind the eventual winners of the BCS LSU.

I did note that at one point Matt Leinart used the singular when referring to the USC national championship, although the narrator repeatedly talked about how the Trojans were a minute away from winning a third in a row.  USC did beat Michigan at the end of that year, but when the team you’re playing is just playing for a nice bowl win, that’s not the same as actually playing a team who’s also trying to win a national championship.

The famous “Bush push” to win against Notre Dame.

Apart from the last-second controversial win over Notre Dame, the documentary also acted like USC was untouchable in 2005.  A lot of mention was made of how many yards the Trojans (Reggie Bush in particular) put up against Fresno St. in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but somehow the fact that they gave up 42 points and only beat the Bulldogs by 8 wasn’t mentioned at all.  You would have guessed from the information provided that USC won by several touchdowns.

The point being that there were some cracks in the façade.  USC was not seen as unbeatable by any sports fan I remember talking to that year, and I talked to a lot more people about sports back then.  They were in 2004 by some but not in 2005.  It was similar to the difference between the perception of the 2013 Florida St. team and the 2014 edition.  They were still expected to win every game during the regular season, but they weren’t seen as invincible.

I remember going to Louisiana for Christmas in 2005 and people asked me how close USC would make it, implying Texas was going to win and the only question was the margin.  Of course, I insisted USC was in fact a very good team even though I picked Texas myself.

Vince Young scores the winning touchdown against USC, ending the Trojan’s 34-game winning streak and giving Texas its only national championship since 1970.

I know that’s an indication of regional bias, but there were people in other areas who saw USC as vulnerable.  Based on the Notre Dame performance, there were also some Midwesterners (and Notre Dame fans from other regions) who saw the same thing.

Anyway, I had a lot of respect for Pete Carroll even going back to the Patriots and I still do.  I wanted him to lose once USC became a prominent team in 2003, but when I cheered for other teams to beat him I knew they were facing a prepared and formidable opponent.  It just bothers me not to correctly characterize what actually went on, and not just trying to bolster a simplistic cardinal-and-gold-tinted recollection of events.

I’m not even saying this as a USC detractor.  Why not give Carroll some credit for not being a bad coach (though I guess you could say he was mediocre) in the NFL?  Why not give the 2002 team credit for only losing a couple of early games to good teams (the other was to Kansas St., who would finish 11-2) and then finishing strong?  According to Jeff Sagarin, that was the best team in the country that year despite the losses.  I thought they at least had the best second half of the season.

I understand you can always highlight some things and not other things to tell the story a certain way, but don’t pick a game that’s a bad example of what you’re talking about and distort what happened and who the other team was.

One thing I was glad they didn’t do was mention whether Vince Young’s knee was down in the second quarter.  I think the ball was already coming loose from his hands when the knee touched (if we were evaluating a fumble rather than a lateral, I don’t think it would even be very controversial); but even if he were down, he already had a first down on the play.  Texas would have had first and goal at the 10.  The game was decided by who did (or didn’t do) what in the fourth quarter, not by that call.

I just think getting it right is more important than telling a dramatized story, which was compelling enough on its own in reality.

Week 6 College Football Rankings 2014

In General LSU, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 6, 2014 at 1:32 PM

LSU plays Florida this week, so if you’re interested, here is my LSU/Florida Rivalry blog.

Dak Prescott evades an Auburn defender last year.  I rank the two teams #1 and #3 going into their game Saturday.

Dak Prescott evades an Auburn defender last year. I rank the two teams #1 and #3 going into their game Saturday.

1 Auburn 1
2 Florida St. 2
3 Miss. St. 6
4 Ole Miss 11
5 Arizona 15
6 Notre Dame 12
7 Ga. Tech 13
8 TCU 23
9 UCLA 9
10 Alabama 3
11 Marshall 24
12 Oregon 4
13 Nebraska 10
14 TX A&M 8
15 Oklahoma 5
16 Mich. St. —
17 Baylor 17
18 Missouri 25
19 Penn St. —
20 Minnesota —
21 Ohio St. —
22 Arizona St. —
23 Louisville 20
24 UC-Berkeley —
25 Florida —

Full computer rankings 1-128 (as I will explain, these are not in agreement with the top 25 given above)

Out of rankings: (7) BYU, (14) LSU. (16) E. Carolina, (18) Georgia, (19) S. Carolina, (21) Okie St.. (22) NC State

Explanation and future rankings

I only made two adjustments to my computer ratings to make this top 25. One was to keep Florida St. at #2. They actually were #2 in the computer rating last week, but the big points by undefeated Ole Miss, Miss. St., and Arizona teams them all ahead of the Seminoles. I still think it’s too early to put any of them #2 though.

If the Bulldogs win next week, I may even put them #1. If Ole Miss and Auburn win, they may be 1 and 2, but then Florida St. would have a chance to get back in the top 2 with a win over Notre Dame the following week. In that scenario, I may again keep Florida St. #2 pending the outcome of the game against the Irish.

The other adjustment was to keep UCLA at #9. It just doesn’t look right to lose to an unranked team and move up. They were #1 in the computer ratings last week.

I may make similar minor adjustments next week (I mentioned one possibility), but after the following week, I plan to just follow the computer rating to the letter.

In total, 7 of my top 11 teams lost of the 9 possible. There were three games where top-11 teams were playing one another, so that’s why there were only 9 possible losses. The only survivor against a team ranked below #15 was Florida St. Auburn was also a survivor, but LSU was #14 going into last week. (More on LSU below.)

I’m going to talk about new teams in the top 25 and old teams that fell out. I think it’s pretty obvious why South Carolina (losers to Kentucky) and North Carolina St. (losers to Clemson) fell out. Some teams only moved into the rankings because 12 teams ahead of them lost.

BYU fell all the way out after losing to Utah St. That wasn’t based on past opponents so much (although Texas didn’t help), but Utah St. (#87 going into the week) is a bad loss at this point, so having a bad loss this early makes you sink like a stone. Virginia is still a quality win though.

East Carolina’s loss to South Carolina continues to drag them down. Also, the Pirates essentially have zero points to show for the last two weeks (a bye and a win over SMU). Virginia Tech won, but they beat North Carolina (another prior opponent of East Carolina), so that didn’t help much.

Georgia also lost to South Carolina, so that is hurting them as well. Also, Tennessee’s loss wasn’t helpful either.

Oklahoma St. is having issues with prior opponents, and Saturday’s win over Iowa St. (which only has one win) didn’t help much. Texas-San Antonio has struggled, and Texas Tech lost yet again as well. Florida St. is still a respectable loss, but it’s not really more respectable than it was already.

Michigan St. is back after finally getting a good win over Nebraska, nothing controversial there. Their land grant rivals (Penn St.) might be more of a mystery, but Akron, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Central Florida all won last week, and of course some higher teams suffered losses.

There isn’t much analysis required for Minnesota, Ohio St., and Arizona St. Minnesota was idle, so they didn’t really have points added, but it still helped a lot that TCU (the team they lost to) beat Oklahoma. The other two also had fairly decent wins.

Cal is probably the worst 4-1 team, but their only loss is to undefeated Arizona. Even though the Colorado and Washington St. wins weren’t pretty and the Bears have allowed 144 points in their last 9 quarters, a win is a win. The Pac-12 schedule is a decent boost as well. I’ll mention Florida below.

I don’t factor in margin of victory, so you might wonder why LSU fell so far. The Tigers had two wins over otherwise-unbeaten teams (ULM and Wisconsin) going into the week, but both lost. LSU does still have an extremely good schedule (#12 in FBS average), but it’s very difficult to be in the top 25 with two losses this early, and the ULM and Wisconsin losses made it impossible. Also, an average FBS opponent would have given more points than Sam Houston St.

I’ve already given my thoughts about LSU in the past few blogs, but this was a very good article about what is important in this season at this point.

Forget winning the SEC West. Sure, competitive divisions like that can theoretically have a two-loss champion, but they need to just put it out of their minds completely. It should be a relaxed atmosphere where if you can upset Alabama, Ole Miss, or whoever, that’s great, but just play a good game. We didn’t do that against Auburn, it was like the worse it got the more afraid LSU was of making it even worse. Even though Auburn is in playoff position and could easily be overshadowed with just one slip-up, they played more like a team with nothing to lose than LSU did.

My one disagreement with the author in the piece above is I don’t think you settle on one quarterback. If one of them plays a bad half, take him out. The only decent drives were orchestrated by Jennings in the last game (the touchdown drive was essentially one good play rather than a well-orchestrated drive) and by Harris in the previous game. Neither one should have stayed in. We don’t have to pick next year’s quarterback until next year. If they both get an equal number of snaps this year, then you have even more to go on in picking the quarterback for next year.

I think it’s far worse to wrongly settle on a quarterback and stubbornly refuse to make a change. That’s what happened in the 2012 title game. Maybe they wouldn’t have gotten any points with Lee (who had struggled in the first game against Alabama), but you can’t do worse than 0. Saturday was only one of two times since then (the other being @Alabama last year) that LSU lost by more than one possession.

As mentioned, LSU plays Florida next week. They also have two quarterbacks. Will Muschamp benched one of them to provide an offensive spark, and it worked. I don’t know if he put a better QB in the abstract in, and he probably doesn’t either, but he made a change to see if it would help against a given team in a given situation and it did. I suspect the second quarterback will do better against LSU based on his skill set (at least they might not be shut out for three quarters); but if not, I’m sure Muschamp will put the other guy back in.

The Gators snuck into my top 25 because the Kentucky win was strengthened when the Wildcats beat South Carolina. The one-point win at Tennessee got them some points as well. I think beating a team like that on the road would be something for LSU to be proud of. There will be a lot of unhappy people if they don’t win; but like the ESPN article says, there is a lot of potential for the future either way.

Earlier rankings:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5

Thoughts on Pac-12 expansion

In College Football, Realignment on November 12, 2013 at 8:26 PM

Logos in white boxes represent potential additions.  The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.

Logos in white boxes represent potential additions. The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.

With BYU’s success as an independent team (despite losses to Virginia and Utah, the latter a recent Pac-12 addition), I still think the Cougars would be a good fit for the Pac-12. That’s the real rival for Utah–not Colorado, who doesn’t have a real rival in the Pac-12.

I know the conference is expressing reluctance to expand, but it wasn’t too long ago that it was talking about 16 teams. Also, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that the Pac-10 and Big Ten didn’t want to expand, didn’t want a championship game, and didn’t even want to be involved in the BCS. Both wanted their champion to play in the Rose Bowl and for that to be the end of it. A few conferences seemed happy at 12 but have expanded/are expanding anyway.

I still don’t understand why public “research universities” is such a priority for Pac-12 admission, but people always bring it up. I had never heard much about Utah or Arizona St. (or a couple of the more long-standing Pac-8/10/12 schools) being academic powerhouses. Anyway, I do know BYU is a good school (without so much research maybe), and since they’re unaffiliated and there are two schools in the Rockies unconnected with the rest of the conference, it seems it would fit.

Although I don’t know anything about its standing among other schools academically (promotional materials seem to make their research sound impressive:, Texas Tech would be a good way to expand into the pool of Texas talent since it is in Western Texas, actually not very far to the East (although significantly to the South) of Boulder, Colorado. It was one of those potential additions to the Pac-12 when the Big XII nearly fell into pieces.

How to align the divisions would be a challenge, although I do have an idea of how that could be done. Basically, take the 7 rivalry pairs and put all the more sophisticated schools in one division and the other schools in another. Washington St. and Oregon St. seem a little grittier than Washington and Oregon, the latter two being rivals of one other anyway. Stanford/Cal, USC/UCLA, and BYU/Utah are fairly obvious since the first one of each pair is private and the second public. I don’t think I have to elaborate on why Texas Tech is more rough-around-the-edges than Colorado. Just imagine Boulder, then imagine Lubbock. By reputation, Arizona seems a little more buttoned-down than Arizona St., but I’m not sure that matters either way.

Colorado could have an even better rival in Air Force, although that doesn’t really expand the recruiting base. It may add to fan interest though. The service academies have fans scattered all over. Of course, Air Force also regularly played BYU and Utah when all three were in the Mountain West and WAC. The team right now is pretty bad though. You don’t always want to focus on the short term, but I think that would be a meaningful concern. The Pac-12 doesn’t want another doormat.

Boise St. doesn’t have much of an academic profile, but that would seem to make for an easy transition. The Broncos already have the talent and interest to compete, and it would be natural to add them to the Pac-12 North and BYU to the Pac-12 South. I still think teams in Colorado and Utah being in the South seems a little off, but my understanding is everyone not in California wants to play in California at least once a year.

Fresno St., UNLV, San Diego St., and San Jose St. could be other possibilities if academics aren’t a priority. UNLV and San Diego are big unexploited media markets for major college football (and in the case of UNLV, there are no major professional sports in the area either). I’m not sure how much San Jose St. and Fresno St. would add, so they’re probably least likely, but they make obvious geographical sense. There are half a million people in Fresno and no major sports in the surrounding area, where arguably another half a million people or more live. San Jose St. isn’t very far from Stanford, but not everyone is a Stanford person.

Another possibility I thought of was Hawaii, which apparently does have some research credentials, but that program has crashed and burned since June Jones and Colt Brennan left the islands, so it has some of the same problems as Air Force, except I think Air Force has better road fans. Logistics aren’t very favorable for Hawaii either, of course.

Nebraska is a long-shot, but I thought it worth mentioning. I don’t think the Big Ten is quite what the Huskers signed up for. If they have to play a 9-game conference schedule and travel to one of the coasts, why not the Pacific Coast instead? With Colorado, at least they would get one of their traditional rivals back. Maybe if they joined along with Texas Tech, that would be the best way of including new teams in a more logical way.

As to how the divisional alignment would work, Utah could just be switched to the North and keep playing Colorado as a permanent opponent (or “protected series”, as the Big Ten calls it). Berkeley is about the same distance away as Tempe (Arizona St. is the second-closest Pac-12 South opponent for the Utes) is anyway. Nebraska would also help out the competitive balance in the long-run. I’m sure that would be a really expensive proposition though.

My verdict on #2

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings Commentary on December 3, 2011 at 11:55 PM

When LSU narrowly defeated Alabama, I said that regardless of what my computer ratings said, I would vote Alabama #2 if I were a voter. That continued to be true through last week.

Unlike some, I don’t place a high premium on margin of victory. For example, the Georgia Bulldogs played a hell of a game today, and that was not reflected in the final score.

I do understand the system is set up to allow for some subjectivity though. That subjectivity has favored Alabama thus far. Alabama did not have the borderline victories like Oklahoma St. The Tide’s narrowest win was over Penn St. by 16, and the game wasn’t even that close. The Cowboys appeared lucky that Kansas St. ran out of time (allowing Okie St. to win by 7), and they only beat a mediocre Texas A&M team by a single point.

For Oklahoma St. to lose a game to Iowa St. in similar fashion to the way Alabama lost to LSU was crippling for its BCS-championship-game argument. Obviously, Iowa St. is in a different galaxy from LSU and Alabama as far as depth and talent.

On the other hand, the Cyclones are not much different from Mississippi St., and that was the second-toughest game on the scoreboard for both LSU and Alabama. There wasn’t any late-game drama in either MSU game, and obviously the better teams won, but I question letting approximately one quarter in such a game decide who makes the national-championship game.

I don’t think there should be a uniform rule against a re-match. If the Pokes had lost to Texas A&M or Kansas St., I would be vigorously arguing for Alabama right now over Stanford or Boise St., even though that would be against my interests as an LSU fan.

Back to the resume, looking at the loss gives Alabama a head start once we compare the wins. I’ll put relative wins in major and minor categories. So it’s starts out Alabama 1 and 0, Oklahoma St. 0 and 0, because Alabama has a major win for the better loss.

First win: Alabama beats Kent St., Oklahoma St. beats ULL. Neither was a likely threat for a loss, although ULL is a bowl team that has won 8 games. Slight edge to Oklahoma St. here. Alabama 1 and 0, Oklahoma St. 0 and 1.

Second win: Alabama beats Penn St., Oklahoma St. beats Arizona. Alabama 2 and 0, Oklahoma St. 0 and 1.

Third win: Oklahoma St. beats Tulsa, Alabama beats North Texas. Tulsa has only three more wins than North Texas does, but North Texas lost to much worse teams than Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Boise St., and Houston. If Tulsa played Hawaii’s 2007 schedule, they could very well be undefeated and in a BCS bowl. Alabama 2 and 0, Oklahoma St. 1 and 1.

Fourth win: Alabama beat Arkansas, Oklahoma St. beats Texas A&M. I said I’m not impressed by margin of victory, and even if you do look at that, Texas A&M and Arkansas had a close game when they played one another. Strange to say at this point, but I don’t know how good Arkansas really is either. The Hogs played no one out of conference apart from the Aggies, they lost going away against both LSU and Alabama, and they didn’t play Georgia. Plus, their young quarterback was even younger earlier in the season. I can’t give Alabama a major victory over Oklahoma St. here. Alabama 2 and 1, Oklahoma St. 1 and 1.

Fifth win: Alabama beat Florida, Oklahoma St. beat Kansas. The game was at Florida before all their injury issues, Kansas is really bad. Alabama 3 and 1, Oklahoma St. 1 and 1.

Sixth win: Oklahoma St. beats Texas, Alabama beats Vandy. The Okie St. game was in Austin, and I have the Horns about 30 spots ahead of the ’Dores, so minor win for the Cowboys. Alabama 3 and 1, Oklahoma St. 1 and 2.

Seventh win: Oklahoma St. beats Missouri, Alabama beats Ole Miss. I rate this Okie St. win as decisively better. Alabama 3 and 1, Oklahoma St. 2 and 2.

Eight win: Oklahoma St. beats Baylor, Alabama beats Tennessee. Same thing here.
Oklahoma St. 3 and 2, Alabama 3 and 1.

Ninth win: Oklahoma St. beats Kansas St., Alabama beats Mississippi St. Despite my having K-State 35 spots ahead of the Bulldogs, I’ll count this one as a minor win, only to make up for resolving a couple of the doubts above in favor of Oklahoma St. Oklahoma St. 3 and 3, Alabama 3 and 1.

Tenth win: Oklahoma St. beats Texas Tech, Alabama beats Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern is still alive in the FCS playoffs and could very well win, they only have one other loss. This might seem to cut against Oklahoma St.’s loss, but if Texas Tech can lose to Iowa St. 41-7, they could have easily lost to Georgia Southern. So I’ll just put this down as a minor win for the Pokes. Oklahoma St. 3 and 4, Alabama 3 and 1.

Eleventh win: Oklahoma St. beats Oklahoma, Alabama beats Auburn. This is borderline between major and minor, but I’ll go with minor given that Auburn played Clemson, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia. Oklahoma St. 3 and 5, Alabama 3 and 1.

So Oklahoma St. has three clear weekly wins, and so does Alabama. But the 5 to 1 in the minor-win category I believe should put Oklahoma St. on top. The SEC supporters (in which I would generally include myself) argue all the time that SEC teams should receive some consideration due to the week-in, week-out play. In this case, that consideration goes in the Cowboys’ favor moreso than it does in the Tide’s favor. Even though there are some second-tier teams, they’re still teams you can’t fall asleep against.

According to ESPN’s numbers, Oklahoma St. has 7 wins against winning teams (this includes ULL and Tulsa to ba fair), and 5 wins against ranked teams. Alabama has 3 wins against winning teams (Arkansas, Auburn, and Penn St….6-6 isn’t “winning”) and 2 wins against ranked teams.

I’m not saying the Big XII is better than the SEC, but because Alabama did not make the SEC championship game, Oklahoma St. played 9 conference games to 8. If LSU loses to Alabama in OT and the Tigers are the ones who don’t make the championship game, and we’re comparing LSU to Oklahoma St., LSU (with wins over the Pac-12’s automatic bid and the Big East’s automatic bid) would win this hands down. So any shortfall between the Big XII and SEC is resolved due to the extra game and the deeper (if not better) non-conference schedule by Oklahoma St. A team putting itself at greater risk of a loss more often should matter more than margin of victory.

The close games could in some weird way be an argument for Oklahoma St. Three games came down to the wire and they won two of them. Alabama is 0-1 in such games.

I also heard Gary Danielson bring up the argument about what type of team is a better match for LSU. He basically argued that the offensive teams were shut down too much by the LSU defense and counteracted too much by the LSU special teams, so it needs to be a defensive team to beat LSU. He might be right, but I don’t think that has any place in the consideratiion of this.

In 2004, USC beat Oklahoma 55-19. Now, I think Auburn should have been in that game, but regardless, if you really wanted to scare USC that year, they should have been forced to play Cal again. The Trojans had only won by 6 at home, and Aaron Rodgers had a first and goal with under 2 minutes left in the game, and the Golden Bears just could not find the end zone. Cal may well have won on a neutral field on that day, not to mention with the benefits a losing team can have in a rematch. That was Cal’s only regular-season loss.

I have another example of a similar argument that was not followed, and the more I looked into it, the more analagous it was to this situation. It’s ironic because the conferences are reversed, but I think the right decision was made that year.

In 2008, Florida lost to an Ole Miss team which would finish with 4 losses. Still, Florida made the championship game over a Texas team who had beaten then-#1 (at the time of choosing) Oklahoma and had lost to one-loss (to Oklahoma) Texas Tech. That Texas team did not win its division. And although Florida would beat Oklahoma, I certainly think a reasoned argument could have been made that Texas was more likely to do so. After all, they had already beaten Oklahoma by 10 on a neutral field. But Florida had better wins overall than Texas did. Florida played 9 conference games to Texas’s 8, and they also faced the better nonconference schedule. Texas’s best nonconference opponent had been Arkansas, who would finish 5-7 (although one could argue Rice, who finished #35 with 8 points in the final AP poll, was better), while Florida’s best nonconference opponent was Florida St., who would finish ranked #21 in the final AP poll.

So my message to the voters would be: don’t pick Oklahoma St. because they finished the year with more of an exclamation point, don’t pick them because you don’t want to see a rematch (or because, as Mike Gundy argued, you want to see a 39-36 game), don’t pick them because you think they’re more likely to beat LSU (if anyone thinks that), pick them because overall they beat better teams and they deserve a shot at LSU.

Pac-12 Gets It Wrong

In College Football on June 27, 2011 at 5:44 AM

I somehow missed this back in November—or I was paying too much attention to current games to care—but I’ve been looking at the divisional alignments and schedules, and I disagree with putting Colorado and Utah in the South.

There is a wrinkle to this that makes it more digestible to the California teams, since with Colorado in Utah in the South, Cal and Stanford were placed in the North. That wrinkle is that both USC and UCLA will continue to play Cal and Stanford annually.

By the way, the scheduling format chosen continues the 9-game Pac-10 schedule, so of course every team in a division plays one another (5 divisional games per team), and every team also plays 4 non-divisional opponents. So for the California teams, it will be the divisional opponents, two non-divisional California opponents, and two other non-divisional opponents. I’ll call this the California rule.

To get some grumbling out of the way, I really don’t think this approach is fair because not only does 9 games mean some teams will get an extra home game, but there is greater potential disparity between non-divisional schedules this way. Consider this scenario. Team A and Team B are in the North, which is relatively weak. Team A beats every team in the North, including Team B. But Team A loses twice against the South, possibly against the two best teams in the conference and possibly against teams that Team B does not have to face. Despite the loss to Team A, Team B would still win the division by being undefeated outside of the division. Of course, a similar scenario can take place with an 8-game schedule, but it’s less likely that one team in this scenario would be 1-2 and the other 3-0 against the other division. That’s 33% versus 100% in the 8-game schedule rather than 50% versus 100% in the 9-game schedule.

But apparently the teams want a 9-game schedule. It has served the Pac-10 well with schedule ratings (not always easy to schedule an opponent of a quality conference when they’re all so far away…and now there are two fewer non-conference options in the West), so I can’t say it’s a bad thing for the conference, although the unfairness will continue to bother me. Anyway, my proposal assumes that there will be a 9-game schedule. I don’t think there is much point in talking about what would or should happen under an 8-game schedule.

You might say, “Why bother arguing about it at all? This is the way it is.” The SEC saw after a few years that its initial approach (which was two permanent rivals, meaning 7/8 of the schedule was the same teams every year) didn’t work very well, so it changed the scheduling rules. It did not change the divisional alignment, but in this case, the divisional change if done within a few years would not be that traumatic, since the California teams will all play each other, so that wouldn’t be a problem, and the Mountain teams are new to the conference anyway. There isn’t an alignment that just jumps out as inherently logical here, as there is in the SEC and as there was in the Big XII. The ACC, whose alignment I can’t remember, could still realign, and I don’t think it would upset many people.

I understand the respect for tradition underlying the California rule, but it will cause some problems. This would mean that there would be more games between the Arizona teams (shorthand for Arizona and Arizona St.) and the Northwest teams (shorthand for Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, and Washington St.). One of the benefits of expansion is that there will be fewer such games. Either way there will be fewer Arizona—Northwest games than there were before, but enough travel has necessarily been included due to the selection of Utah and Colorado (I’ll call them the Mountain teams) that the Arizona—Northwest trips should be minimized. I don’t think the Northwest teams even need to play an Arizona team every year, but that was the only way I could see how to get my overall scheme to work, and you have to fill out nine games somehow.

Of course, my suggestion is not that we leave the divisional alignment alone and eliminate the California rule. That would probably expose further weaknesses in the chosen alignment. It’s a choice between having the four California teams play one another as an exception to the rule (causing the adverse consequences mentioned) or as part of the rule.

USC will only play two Northwest teams to go with the two Northern California teams (Cal and Stanford). UCLA will also play two. Since there are four Northwest teams, that means there will be an average of one game per year played by the Northwest teams against an L.A. team (being USC or UCLA). So the Northwest teams will each have to play a combined three games against the Mountain and Arizona teams every year. I can’t see how that could be desirable.
So this is the current format:

Washington St.
Oregon St.

Arizona St.

Inter-divisional Scheduling—

L.A. teams: Both Northern California teams annually, two rotating Northwest teams
Northern California teams: Both L.A. teams annually, one rotating game against Mountain teams, one rotating game against Arizona teams.
Mountain/Arizona teams: three rotating games against Northwest teams, one rotating game against Northern California teams
Northwest teams: three rotating games against Mountain/Arizona teams, one rotating game against L.A. teams
This is my proposed format:


Washington St.
Oregon St.


Arizona St.

Inter-divisional Scheduling—

All California teams: One rotating Mountain team, three rotating Northwest teams
Mountain teams: Both Arizona teams annually, two rotating California teams
Arizona teams: Both Mountain teams annually, two rotating Northwest teams
Northwest teams: three rotating games against California teams, one rotating game against Arizona teams
Admittedly, moving the Mountain teams to the North would mean that each Northwest team would play both Mountain teams every year, but under my proposal, they would only EVER play one Arizona team per year. That seems more logical than sometimes playing two Arizona teams and one Mountain team. The two Mountain teams aren’t ideal, but someone has to play them.

By the way, Salt Lake City and Boulder are to North of Stanford/Palo Alto and Berkeley. People don’t always realize this, but there is geographically a lot of California between the Bay Area and the Oregon border, and then it’s a decent trip to get to Eugene or Corvallis from there.

Granted, a little bit would be lost from the Northern California—Northwest rivalries, but there would still be three games a year between Northwest teams and California teams. I don’t think it’s a catastrophe if the Northwest teams play the Northern California teams three years out of four (there were also such breaks in series with the L.A. teams before the 9-game schedule began), plus it’s an added bonus that they will also play the Southern California teams three years out of four. I think playing all California teams most of the time (which was same basic frequency before the implementation of the 9-game schedule) is more acceptable than playing the Northern California teams all the time and the L.A. teams rarely. If someone with an understanding of the Northwest disagrees, let me know, but watching the coverage and talking to people around here, it’s certainly the impression I get from this end that there is strong feeling by L.A. teams and their fans about playing the Northwest teams.

The Mountain teams would only play one L.A. team per year instead of two, but my proposal would still ensure they play two Arizona teams per year. I think it makes more sense for the Northwest teams to each L.A. team more routinely than the Mountain teams would.

Also, from the perspective of the Arizona teams, I think they’d rather play two Northwest teams per year than three.

I also prefer the idea of playing a home and home and then taking a break in the series, to playing (for instance) Cal one year, Stanford the next year, and having a return trip against Cal the third year.

Those are my abstract arguments. My more concrete arguments relate to how far the various teams are from one another geographically.

I’ve spent a lot of time crunching the numbers to determine what the average road trip is for a visiting team. Under the current format, it is 740 miles, and under my proposal, it would be 731 miles. But the average isn’t really that important anyway. I think it’s more important to consider what a reasonable trip might be.

Ideally, you would want the trip to be under 400 miles. That’s the kind of game that you can get excited about generally anyway, because if you’re a local fan, you may know someone who has something to do with that team, or it wouldn’t be unusual to live closer to the other team that you live to your team. Teams of that closeness tend to have better rivalries than those significantly farther apart. Also, I personally would generally choose to drive that distance, even if there weren’t a difference in price. That way, I would be comfortable leaving when I wanted, stopping to eat, etc. Same thing with going back.

I also looked at trips of 600 miles and below. That’s too much for one day for sure, but if you want to take a long weekend or something of that nature, even that might be something you would consider driving, and if you did fly, it would be around an hour. Even if you missed your flight, you could probably still get there without great expense or inconvenience on another flight. That’s not too far for a bit of a rivalry to develop either. Of course, Notre Dame and USC is a rivalry, but regional rivalries are more common and seem to develop quickly if they’re not already there. I anticipate that very soon, assuming a couple of competitive games at least, Utah and Colorado will have a rivalry despite being over 500 miles apart.

In divisional series, there would be 4 more trips a year of under 400 miles than there will be under the current format. There would be 1 more trip of under 600 miles.

There aren’t many relevant inter-divisional games, but of course under the current format, there will be the in-state California games (all of under 400 miles). Under my proposal, there will be the games between the Oregon teams and the Northern California teams (the farthest of those trips is Stanford—Oregon St., which is almost exactly 600 miles) but no inter-divisional games of under 400 miles.

Obviously, the way it’s set up, the California teams get the best deal of all because of the “California rule” I mentioned, but that wouldn’t even be the case every year. For instance, USC plays Oregon, Stanford, Cal, and Washington this year. Some years they might play Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, and Utah, and that would actually be less travel in the overall conference schedule. Regardless, I think my proposal is a good arrangement for the California teams and even if it’s USC making an extra trip to Seattle instead of to Salt Lake City, I think a lot of fans would rather have the former series.

Also, I don’t think the Arizona teams really want to play three Northwest teams per year instead of the two that I propose.

Any way I look at it, my proposal seems to make more sense overall.

My only guess as to why it came out this way was they said Washington and Oregon teams had to be in the North, L.A. and Arizona teams had to be in the South (a logical first step of course). Northern California teams are closer to Oregon, and Mountain teams are closer to Arizona. And then they said, “Wait a minute, what about the in-state California rivalries? Let’s fix that.” They should have started with, “Let’s try to keep the California teams together and make the divisions from there.” There may also have been other political considerations to which I am not privy.

This press release ( details how the Pac-12 will work and includes a chart in case my explanation was too hard to visualize.

I’ve made a chart for my proposal, but I don’t know how to make the fancy Adobe link, so I’ll just post it the best I can here. I’m just doing the inter-divisional games. I included a total of 8 years for USC and showed which ones would be away games, assuming two inter-division road games and two inter-division home games every year (which seems like the fairest approach). The only reason I chose USC was because that was the first real schedule I came across, and I had looked at relative differences in distance, as mentioned above. The rest are by alphabetical order in the respective divisions. The abbreviations shouldn’t be too hard to understand.


(They could also make it “@Colorado, Utah, Colorado, @Utah”; but I’d rather play the same team two years in a row.)


Arizona St.








Oregon St.




Washington St.

Les Miles: “It must have been the shoes”; SEC teams in the CWS

In College Baseball, College Football on June 22, 2011 at 5:39 PM

I’ll get to the shoes, but before that even came up again, I was planning to write about Les’ coverage by the Oklahoma St. media. After last season, I wrote this blog about Les Miles’ tenure at LSU so far as compared to previous coaches. I didn’t write anything about that other school where he was the head coach. (By the way, let me know if my links are not to your liking. I know some people like to know where they’re going before clicking on a link.)

I found this tribute by “News OK”/The Oklahoman interesting. Check out the video and the article.

Miles “only” went 2-2 against “Bedlam” rivals Oklahoma, including a 52-9 loss, but a few notes about that series that the Oklahoma St. media didn’t care to remind people about (and I don’t blame them). The Cowboys have only beaten the Sooners 16 times in 97 games. Only 7 of those Oklahoma teams had winning records (1917, 1930, 1944, 1966, 1976, 2001, and 2002), so the only two of those instances in the last 34 years were under Miles. 1976 was the only other time Oklahoma had what I would call an impressive record (9-2-1). The best Oklahoma record in the other seasons was 6-3-1. The Oklahoma teams that the Cowboys beat under Miles were 11-2 and 12-2, respectively. You would never hear Les call this a success, I’m sure, but the Cowboys only lost to the Sooners by three points in 2004, a year Oklahoma would finish 12-1 (the only loss being in the national championship game). The Sooners have won every game against the Cowboys since, and 4 of the 6 games were by 20 points or more.

I don’t understand what he did in leaving to upset the Oklahoma St. fans, but maybe some of the resentment is because they miss him a little, at least during one game a year. Despite the one blowout, there had to be a better feeling going into Bedlam then than there is now or than there has been any time in memory. He told people goodbye? That seems like a nice thing to me. Maybe someone could explain to me what he did. It’s not like he pulled a Saban and started coaching another Big XII South team (the only ones comparable to Alabama would be Oklahoma or maybe Texas) a couple of years later.

Mike Gundy had his tirade (“I’m a man, I’m 40”), but I prefer a guy being funny because he doesn’t take himself too seriously rather than because he’s prone to drama. It might have even been somewhat calculated too. He had to show he was just as committed-to-the-point-of-insanity (or at least a high level of eccentricity) to his program and his players to replace Miles in people’s eyes.

The three consecutive winning seasons in Les’s last three years were the first such string since Barry Sanders and the 1988 campaign.

But I’m not sure a coach has to have a pulse to win a majority of his games with a running back who averages 7.6 yards per carry and over 200 yards per game. There was only one winning record (1997) between Sanders’ time as running back ended and Miles’ tenure as head coach began.

Something else that’s interesting is I didn’t know who Les was back then, but I knew his team, and I knew they were going to fight hard no matter the opponent. I don’t know if he really aspired to be in the spotlight to the extent he is right now, but he seems to be embracing it as a way to promote his team and the school as a whole.

Les Miles had a bit of a media blitz yesterday at ESPN. But there has been some interesting banter between Les and Scott Van Pelt as a background to this, so I’ll show it all in order.

This radio spot began the whole thing during the week after the Florida game last year:

Then came a later addition to the Scott Van Pelt Show, this one with video (I couldn’t find it on YouTube, so I can’t embed it) after Van Pelt received a special delivery from Les:

This is another interview with Van Pelt after the Cotton Bowl and the Michigan speculation where Les bargains for a return gift (which where this is headed):

And that led to this amusing video that Les shot with two of his children:

Les’ style and grace just speak for themselves.

Then, these are just highlights of his meanderings around ESPN. Jordan Jefferson (via recording) got into the shoe discussion with Les as well: (linked to immediately above)

I also liked how Les talked about how he tries to keep players out of trouble with boosters and the like. He can be a loose cannon at times, but given that, it’s incredible how he avoids singling out people for criticism. That was also mentioned in the “News OK”/The Oklahoman link.

College Baseball

They also talked about how insane the SEC is in football. A little bit of a change in topic (Les Miles is apparently a baseball fan though), but the SEC is not so bad in baseball either. The only losses by any SEC team in the Super Regionals or College World Series (CWS) going into today were to other SEC teams (Florida to Mississippi St. once, Mississippi St. to Florida twice, and Vanderbilt to Florida). Vanderbilt leads North Carolina, 5-1, going into the 9th inning (UPDATE: now final). Only two other conferences had two CWS teams (Texas and Texas A&M of the Big XII, and Virginia and North Carolina of the ACC), and the SEC has three. The Aggies and Longhorns were were both swept out of the CWS, with one loss each to an SEC team. The ‘Hoos (loss to South Carolina) and the Heels (loss to Vanderbilt…twice now) were both 1-1 going into today. The Pac-10, like the SEC, had four teams in the Super Regionals, but only one (the Cal Bears) made the CWS. Cal is 1-1, with a loss to Virginia and a win over Texas A&M.

Admittedly, the SEC did suffer some losses to other conferences in the regionals, but the three SEC teams who were seeded first in their regionals (the same who are in the CWS) all made it through without a loss, as did Mississippi St., who was actually seeded third in its regional.

Unlike in the BCS, an SEC team has only won the last two College World Series (LSU in 2009 and South Carolina last year), but if things keep going as they are, a third seems in reach. It’s very possible that the potentially three-game championship round will be played between two SEC teams.