Category Archives: I don’t want to go off on a rant here…

A Few Thoughts in Early March

I’ve really got to get better at this posting regularly around here thing. However, I changed jobs at the beginning of the new year and now have some more time to contribute to the cause around here. Hopefully I’ll be active enough to contribute material that is meaningful to discussion around UGA topics and college football in general. With all that said, here are a few things just bouncing around my head on this Monday morning:

  • Perhaps I’ll save the longer rant on this for another post at a later time, but who in their right mind believes that a playoff without the team that stomped the ever-living crap out of LSU on January 9th (since it seems señor Sam the Eagle and Larry Scott believe that the soon-to-be Plus One should be comprised only of conference champs) would legitimately be considered an effort at crowning the best team in college football?
  • Following up on my first point above. Dude…DUDE…You wrote an entire damned book espousing the idea that a playoff system had to include conference champions as it “maintained the integrity and relevancy of the regular season”. Now you say that a playoff system that includes conference champions over a non-conference champion such as Alabama would make the regular season less relevant? Consistency, thy name is not Dan Wetzel (h/t: Senator).
  • I particularly like the news coming out of Athens regarding Isaiah Crowell from his teammates, and I agree pretty strongly with these words from Artie Lynch:

“The person I’ve been most impressed with — and the person who I think has been wrongly scrutinized the whole year — was Isaiah,” Lynch said. “You ask these high expectations out of a kid who’s 18 years old, it’s such a different game than high school. Let’s face it, he had instant success and people were so demanding of him to be the savior, this idea of `Oh, the next Herschel.’ That was just unfairly [placed on] him. . . .

  • We’ll never know the extent of Crowell’s ankle injury and how much it truly hurt him to try to tough it out. I certainly struggled adjusting to the college life my first semester away from home and I never had to endure everything I did being scrutinized by a million different people. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for him. I personally believe his ankle never really was healthy the last half of the season last year and we’ll see a world of difference this fall after a full offseason in the conditioning program and having endured a full season playing big boy football. I expect we’ll see big things from him next season.
  • Losing the Auburn game annually would probably be enough to make me stop caring about college football the same way I don’t really have a passionate interest in the NFL and college basketball anymore. I suppose baseball could get me through the year, but with the new playoff format I’m already having my doubts. Basically, don’t screw this up for us SEC president’s and AD’s. Please step back from seeing all the $$’s in your eyes and try to remember what made your commodity so valuable in the first place. I assure you it has nothing to do with entering the Dallas and St. Louis TV markets.
  • On that same note, the 9 game conference schedule is going to happen at some point. The coaches can go suck on an egg and stop whining about it. They sound just like the Jim Boeheim’s of the world who want the NCAA tournament to expand to 128 teams so that there is little to no chance they would ever miss it ensuring perpetual job security.

Quick Thought

I know it’s been a weird season and I haven’t posted much since the Boise game.  However, here’s some food for thought:

Andrew Luck: 2,937 passing yards, 31 TD’s, 8 INT’s

Aaron Murray: 2,698 passing yards, 32 TD’s, 10 INT’s

Who’s really the Heisman contender here?  I ain’t sayin’, I’m just sayin’…

Where do we go from here

By my calculations, it’s been nearly a full year since I last posted when Gamecock Man at Garnet and Black Attack was so gracious to exchange Q&A’s with me last year just a few days prior to the beginning of the end of the 2010 UGA football season. Since then, we’ve gone through the whole turmoil that was losing four in a row, a heartbreaking loss to Florida, losing to Auburn when Mike Bobo decided to take his foot off the gas, and then the humiliating end to 2010 with the worst lack of effort I’ve seen from a Mark Richt coached team against UCF. The whole time last year, there were many times when I wanted to weigh in and add my thoughts, but I remembered a post by Paul Westerdawg a few years ago:

You want to know why I haven’t blogged much the past few weeks? What’s to say? From mid 2005-2008, the song has remained mostly the same. We got a 6 game reprieve from our problems in late 2007, but it’s been the same problems for most of that period. It gets redundant saying the same things over and over. “If we tackle well, don’t get lots of penalties and score points in the redzone, blah, blah, blah.” It gets old talking about that every week.

This is the mindset I’ve pretty much been in since I got back from the game in Columbia last year and didn’t really feel like talking about UGA football much. Much to commenter Darth’s delight, I’ve decided to finally update something here.

Now we sit here roughly 36 days away from opening kick-off in the Georgia Dome against Boise State and I don’t really know how I should feel about the upcoming season. Normally, this is a time of great excitement and anticipation for me, but frankly I’m not truly feeling it this year. I suppose it’s the old “fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me” syndrome”. While I’d love to buy into the offseason hype and believe everything is going to be okay and it’ll be just like 2002-2005 all over again, it’s just too soon for me right now to do that. I’m firmly in the wait-and-see camp.

With all that said, now I have to figure out where I go from here on out to make this blog interesting without getting myself too worked up. I suppose an easy topic this off-season has been the question of how warm the seat on which Mark Richt resides truly is. However, this is a touchy subject and I don’t want to get in a pissing war with these guys who are utterly done with Mark Richt nor do I want to get in a pissing war with these guys who believe that Mark Richt is going to turn this thing around by citing examples such as not giving up on Bear Bryant or Vince Dooley when they went through rough stretches in the middle of their careers and the schools were subsequently rewarded by sticking with their men.

Personally, I believe both are right and wrong to an extent. The “cold blooded sausage makers” are right in that the argument that we can’t get anybody better than Mark Richt is false considering there are a ton of coaches that we could have hired that would have done much better over the last three years than Mark Richt. I also believe that they’re wrong in completely writing off Mark Richt because I genuinely believe he truly realizes how far awry the program had slipped and he’s now reinventing himself and how the program goes about its business in a way that hasn’t been there since DJ Shockley was running the show in Athens.

I believe TKK is right in that given a long enough sample size we are going to see highs and lows and what we’re seeing in Athens the past few years is an inevitable low point that would occur for any coach given enough time in any high profile job (even the great Urban Meyer lost five games last year and Nick Saban lost six games his first year in Tuscaloosa). I also believe he’s wrong in citing the Bryant and Dooley examples, because it’s never as simple as saying that “my belief must be true because everything that has ever happened in the past will happen again”. While Mark Richt very well may turn it around, the idea that he should be held onto by citing the Bryant and Dooley examples is false. Mark Richt should be retained because performance on the field improves this year, not because history says he should.

I suppose the point I’m getting at is that the fanbase is divided right now (however, it’s not in the black and white manner that these guys would have you believe). While there are certainly a few that will defend Richt to the end and some that are truly done with him, I believe the bulk of us rest somewhere in the middle. We know that the program isn’t where it can and should be, but we also don’t believe that we should just keep railing on how much we want Richt gone. The fact of the matter is that Mark Richt is the coach right now and will be for 2011. There’s no need to get worked up about who we could get or when he’s going to get fired. In my mind, the goodwill he’s built up in Athens is all but gone, but the man is still the head coach at my alma mater and me bitching and moaning about him isn’t going to get him fired or retained any time soon. Ultimately what I’m saying is that it’s time to stop debating what will or won’t happen sometime in the next six-eight months and rather we should hope for the best from the young men and coaches that will represent our alma mater this fall. While I will truly never understand the perpetually optimistic UGA fan, I’ll also hold equal contempt for the fan that decides to spend all his/her time railing on how bad the current coaching staff/program is. At some point, you’ve got to get behind your program no matter how bad it gets and trust the people up top (i.e. Greg McGarity) will make the correct decision going forward.

Sounds like retreat mode to me

In the aftermath of some criticism being thrown his way, Joe Cox appears to have gone into (H/T: Senator) full on defensive mode.

“Half the people who have stuff to say after games have never played a down of football before in their entire life,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t criticize somebody for something I’ve never played before or never done before, but some people feel it’s their place to say how somebody is doing when they’ve never done it before. That’s just something I’ve never understood.

“Stuff like that doesn’t bother me. You’ve got to look at the source, and if it’s somebody who’s never played football, I could care less what you say.”

Comments like that bother me for several reasons.  First off, I damn well have the right to criticize you if it’s deserved.  Excuse me, let me edit that.  I damn well reserve the right to criticize the play of Joe Cox the QB if deserved, but I will never take a shot at Joe Cox the person because I don’t know Joe Cox the person.  I pay my hard-earned money to the UGA Athletic Association and buy tickets so that you can go to school for free and play football.  Secondly, that’s such a weak copout and backhanded comment to the knowledgable fan.

Look, I haven’t strapped on a helmet since I was 12 years old as I was more of a baseball man, but I think the 20 or so years I’ve spent watching football and playing football video games have taught me a thing or two about what is and isn’t a good performance.  I find it so condescending this notion that athletes believe that by having played the game at a certain level they are invulnerable to criticism from others that didn’t.  It’s similar to the bloggers versus mainstream journalist divide.  My argument has always been it doesn’t take a journalism degree from Northwestern for me to say “Derek Lowe looked tired in the 8th inning.  Bobby Cox probably should have pulled him.”  Similarly, it doesn’t take me having played football at the highest collegiate level to say that “Joe Cox played pretty poorly on Saturday.”  It doesn’t make me dislike Joe Cox because he has those feelings, but frankly he needs to get over himself and the perceived importance of “playing the game.”  Athletes seem to think that their “experience” is the trump card and everyone else has no clue.  I got a news flash for them.  I haven’t played since I was 12 and I could tell you what a Cover 2 defense is.  It’s not the great mystery that athletes make these things out to be and I can’t stand that condescending tone they take towards the fans that pay for their salaries/scholarships.

Just a quick thought

I was having a conversation with a friend earlier today about this and saw this line that made me just go “Huh??”:

Calipari didn’t arrange Rose’s SAT scam, in the same way he didn’t arrange agent payments to Camby, but in both cases it’s hard to fathom that Calipari was 100 percent ignorant of what was going down. He had far too much at stake in Rose and Camby to not be intimately aware of what was going on in their lives. Even if you’re convinced that Cal is a victim — that it was only a coincidence that two major scandals happened on his watch — you can’t deny that he profited immensely from his illicit use of those two stars.

Okay….

So Calipari is at fault because he profited from having two immensely talented basketball players that made stupid decisions on his teams and that makes him slimy or a villain?

Look, I understand that people always want to blame the coach and could never fathom that kids could make stupid decisions on their own (I will attest that I made many stupid decisions during my five years in Athens).  The ultimate reality is that Calipari had nothing to do with either of these situations.  In the end, he is paid millions of dollars to do one thing: win basketball games.  Perhaps did he take on guys with questionable backgrounds?  Maybe.  Is that worth labeling the guy as dirt or scum of the earth as guys like John Kincade on Buck and Kincade have been doing?  Absolutely not.

What happened to the concept of personal responsibility?  Derrick Rose chose to allow someone to fraudulently take his SAT exam.  Marcus Camby chose to accept cash, jewelry, and hookers from agents while at UMass.  Just because you’re an 18-21 year old athlete doesn’t preclude you from making stupid decisions.  Calipari is being unfairly singled out here and I challenge the media drivel out there to take a step back and question what the kids did, not what Calipari should have known or done.

He gets it, why don’t they?

I’ve referenced Bill Simmons here before.  While I do get tired of his unabashed belief that the world of sports revolves around everything Boston he usually writes very in-depth pieces that could apply to any team.  With his latest piece over at ESPN.com, he hits the crux of what drives me (and most other baseball fans) up the wall regarding the steroids discussion.

What bothered baseball fans this decade wasn’t the cheating as much as the lack of accountability. Some players lied to our faces. Some twisted the truth. Some hid in shame. Some said nothing but probably wake up every morning thinking, “I wonder if today will be the day I get caught.” I can’t think of one player who admitted wrongdoing and just came clean. You know, something like, “I did it because everyone else was doing it. I did it because there were no rules in place that I couldn’t do it. I did it because I’m a competitive guy, because my professional and financial success, as depressing as this sounds, was at stake to some degree. If you were me, what would you have done?”

This is what I think bothers most fans about the steroids thing.  Personally, I couldn’t care less that a bunch of guys were taking some sort of performance-enhancing drug to make an extra buck or to keep up with the rest of the competition.  I completely understand it.  What I wish they would do is quit insulting my intelligence with claims of “I didn’t know what I was really taking”/”I didn’t realize XYZ supplement was banned.”

Is it likely that some of these guys legitimately took something over-the-counter that happened to be banned?  I’m sure it happened.  The problem is that these guys are PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES.  Their body is their temple.  They damn well know what they put in their body because that is the basis of their career.  Quit treating me like a five year old and just man up to it.  I’m not that naive and neither is the majority of baseball fans.

Update #1 : Bronson Arroyo gets it.  (H/T: Deadspin)

Finally…More About Orrin Hatch, the BCS, and why I don’t think a playoff makes sense

It’s been promised to Mike that I was going to get my thoughts out there about the whole debacle going on lately around college football, but real life has intervened in the interim.  This is actually a very prescient topic just because of all the discussion going on within the college news ranks regarding Orrin Hatch, BCS, and playoffs.  In light of this discussion, I find it interesting that I just finished reading Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis this past weekend.  More on that later.

I wrote a piece while Kyle and his family took a vacation a few weeks ago regarding Orrin Hatch and his anti-trust crusade against the BCS.  Personally, I think Mr. Hatch is doing a disservice to all those rational supporters of a playoff and gives unlimited ammunition to the oldies (by oldies, I mean traditionalists, I’m still a child of the 1980s dammit) like me that are still in favor of the bowl system as it stands today.  My ultimate conclusion about Hatch is that he probably is just trying to score some cheap political points with his constituents as the BCS vs. playoff debate touches an emotional button akin to the pro-life/pro-choice debate. 

Rather I think he (as most politicians today) just doesn’t care how the taxpayer dollars are spent and thinks by spouting off with the word “anti-trust” that the proletariat will believe anything he says as “anti-trust” is a complex subject.  In reality, he has absolutely no “anti-trust” case as the BCS does not violate any provisions of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.  Nothing is stopping the Coalition conferences from setting up their own post-season and TV deal and call it a national championship tournament if they wish.  Anyways, the anti-trust debate is another discussion for another day.  I’m here to talk why I’m against a playoff.

A few months ago, I posted some thoughts about how I see any potential playoff systems happening.  Now that I’m a little older and a little wiser (with improving writing skills) I’d like to expand upon that initial foray into this slippery slope.  First, we need to define what is a national champion.  College football is unique in that it has always defined (or attempted to define) its national champion as the best team over the course of an entire season of work.  This is inherently different from every other sport where we essentially define champion as the team holding the trophy at the end of the day.  That in and of itself presents a problem with having a playoff to me.  I especially like that unique quality of college football where we try to objectively evaluate who was the best team over a four month season.  We don’t just say “this team that backed into the playoffs and only played four good games all season long deserves to be declared the best team in the nation”. 

I think the biggest proof of the fault in determining a champion in a playoff is evidenced by the results the last few years in the NFL.  I mentioned this in my previous post, but these are still my three biggest reasons why I’m against a playoff:

(1) 2008 Arizona Cardinals
(2) 2007 New York Giants
(3) 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers

None of these three teams would be considered the best team over the course of their respective seasons, but two of them were deemed champions and one nearly won a championship because of the playoff structure in the NFL. There’s not one person that will ever convince me that the 2007 New England Patriots were not the best team that season and possibly in the history of pro football. Yet, because they lost one game by three points to a team that they defeated soundly in the regular season, they are an afterthought. If the Patriots and Giants played again the next week, who do you think would be favored in Vegas? To get in touch with my inner Orrin Hatch, I find it slightly unfair that the Patriots weren’t considered the best team in football that year because they lost one game. They might not be the champions under the definition of “holding trophy at end of day”, but they were the best team in football that year and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

That in and of itself is why college football is different. There is no team holding the trophy at the end of the day. There is “best team in the land” and a four game playoff doesn’t determine that. A four game playoff determines who played good football for four games, not twelve. I brought up Moneyball earlier for a quote that I read in the book that I think is very relevant. It was near the end of the book and the Oakland A’s (who won more games in 2003 than any team not named the Braves/Yankees/Giants) had just been defeated in the 1st round of the playoffs by the Minnesota Twins who were considered an inferior opponent. A’s GM Billy Beane was flabbergasted at why everyone considered the A’s to be a failure becuse they lost in a five game playoff series despite the fact that they won 96 games during the regular season. Over time, statistical studies have shown that 15% of the time, an inferior team will win in baseball. You can’t account for abnormalities to the norm (in that playoff series Tim Hudson lost two games which no one would have predicted at the time). In Beane’s opinion, and generally that of sabermetricians, the best measure of a baseball team was how the team performed during the regular season because sample size was large enough.

Ultimately, this is why I’m against a playoff. I believe that if a playoff is ever implemented in the highest level of college football, there is an inevitable expansion just like what has happened with every other sport that determines its champion via a playoff. Once you start expanding to include wild-card teams and the such, you truly devalue the regular season. It becomes the objective of teams to make the postseason, not win their rivalry games and the such. I suppose I’m just a traditionalist in that sense, but I sincerely believe a playoff will devalue what is the truly unique aspect about college football and that is the regular season. There is no other sport in America where hopes and dreams hinge on every game.  One loss and you could be done for the season. Could you imagine a 16 team playoff (I know that 8 is the most discussed, but I think that it would expand to at least 16 if not more) where both Michigan and Ohio State have playoff spots wrapped up and they sit all their starters to rest for the first round of the playoffs? I don’t want to imagine a college football world like that.

I think the problem a lot of people have regarding the BCS, and what Orrin Hatch consistently mentions under the guise of anti-trust, is that the BCS is unfair.  I somewhat disagree with that sentiment.  I find the argument that so many people make that teams like Utah or Boise State are systematically eliminated due to the structure of the BCS to be a valid one, if not misguided.  The BCS didn’t prevent Utah/Boise State/Hawaii of the last few years from playing for the BCS championship.  It was the voters that didn’t deem them as worth as other counterparts. 

Some argue that this is exactly why a playoff is needed because these teams will never get a chance otherwise.  I completely disagree with that sentiment.  My recommendation is that Utah does what Florida State did 30 years ago.  Become an independent.  Take the Fresno State mentality of “anyone/anywhere”.  That’s exactly what FSU did and now we give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rankings and the such.  The Utahs and Boise States of the world need to prove that they belong with the big boys.  We’re so quick to remember Utah beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl or Boise State beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl as proof that they belong while discounting Hawaii and Boise State both being destroyed by Georgia in recent years.  Behind the to two teams in the MWC and WAC there aren’t a whole lot of world beaters and that’s why Utah/Hawaii/Boise State doesn’t get the love in the final polls.  Start playing and beating the big boys more frequently and maybe you have a case that there’s a systematic exclusion of your team.

Anyways, to make a long story short, there are several reasons I am anti-playoff in college football. 
(1) There is an inherent devalution of the regular season that I refuse to stand for. 
(2) A playoff does not determine who is the best team over the course of a season, but rather who played the best football for 1/4 of the season (i.e. too small a sample size).
(3) I haven’t really mentioned it, but there are so many economic factors and communties of bowl games that would be adversely impacted by the loss of the bowl season that I don’t think there’s a realistic way to satisfy everyone involved.

Now do I think the BCS is without its flaws and is the best solution? Not necessarily. Do I think it is better than the proposed playoff models? Absolutely.