Friday, December 5, 2008

Saban's Defense

This breaks down Saban's approach to scheming on defense. I had posted earlier a piece from the same site on Meyer's offensive approach and scheming. It's a very informative site. This entry is really good as well, I posted it below under the "Game Theory" heading.

BCS Defends BCS!

"I really think the BCS is good for college football. We have tremendous amount of interest in our regular season - more so than in any other sport. I ran the Final Four for 13 years and we just don't have this kind of passion in the regular season. And the BCS has moved college football from regional to national. The SEC fans are now very interested in the Pac-10. Before the BCS, that interest was there but not at the level it is today. College football is more popular than ever and we believe how our postseason is handled is a big factor in that. When you consider a change, the single biggest thing we have to think about is what would it do to the regular season. That's the great unknown and there would be unintended consequences to any change, with out a doubt. This is the crown jewel and it's too risky to just tinker with it. I think the commissioners are on the right track in being very deliberate about change. We don't know if this is perfect, so let's not tinker with it until we're sure we know how it's going to be better."

This quote is from an interview with Bill Hancock, the ONLY BCS employee/administrator. It argues the "regular season is exciting" theory of pro-BCS advocacy. I've basically addressed this in a post below. It should be pointed out how idiotic his point about basketball is. 1) basketball regular season games are inherently less exciting than football's since they occur every night. 2) he is arguing against playoffs in football by using an example of a sport that has the MOST exciting postseason in sports, March Madness. 3) Is he really suggesting that it would be really cool if college basketball dropped March Madness and selected 2 teams to play in a BCS championship game at the end of the season? Really!?!? He also brings up "unintended consequences." This is a classic argument used by neo-conservatives in the 1970s (not so much when they argued for the Iraqi invasion!). What you get is the worst kind of non-action, or incremental action, which both are capable of producing terrible consequences, intended or not. Also, what does he mean about SEC interest in the PAC-10? Have we cared about the PAC-10 this year anyway? Yes, we have. When? When Oregon St had a shot to win the PAC-10. In a playoff format with conference winners, the same exact thing would have happened, except in even more quantities. We would have been paying attention to Oregon-Oregon St to see if Oregon St would have made the playoffs. Does he really think a playoff would make college football popularity crumble and force it into some kind of quixotic, regional interest-type thing? This is pathetic.

Saban Critical of Coach-Firings

Saban talking loyalty. Hmm.

Uh Oh!

I guess this post is not moot since, so called, "head-to-head" advocates could still keep Florida out.


I think if Florida wins they will get more boost in human polls than the article implies since they will get lots of first-place votes. However, if Texas holds, we will get a scenario where Texas and Oklahoma play for a BCS Title and Texas Tech would NOT get into a BCS bowl...amazing! They could join Boise St in the "Isn't the BCS Great!" Bowl.

I've mentioned this point before, but I will say it here again, I support a 16-team playoff (11 conference winners + 5 at-large picks) that would NOT put limits on the number of teams that can be represented in the playoffs from any particular conference. So, under such a system this year, we would (likely) get OK, Tech, and Tex in the playoffs, as well as Alabama and Florida. And, of course, Boise, Utah, and Ball St would all get in, as conference champs. After this Saturday, we can have some fun with hypothetical brackets.

Now, someone might argue that such a playoff would decrease excitement for some of these regular season and championship games. This point isn't very serious, though. First of all, we don't know before the year, or even by the middle of the year, whether or not the SEC championship winner or loser will get into the National Championship game, in fact, we still don't know for sure that Florida could get in, even if they win. So, the meaning of any given win or loss is never clear until the end of the year...and it would be the same during the regular season in a playoff system--a certain win or loss COULD mean a lot...or not. BUT! we do know that in a playoff structure like the one I've mentioned, the SEC winner would DEFINITELY go to the playoffs.

Another point on this is the ridiculousness of these championship games and in-season rivalries somehow meaning less if there were playoffs (actually, these championship games ARE playoffs). They are just as likely to mean MORE, since playoff stakes may be at hand. Currently, a BCS bid may or may not be at stake, and actually, most regular season games for most teams are meaningless from a national championship perspective. And by adding more teams to the mix, with a playoff, you are getting a net-gain of meaningful games since more teams will have a shot.

Also, even with 16 teams, losses would hurt quite a bit (and so, wins would help a lot). As I've said before, just one loss in the race for the SEC East is often costly. It is always a loss that knocks a team from some kind of championship, and we never know which loss that is until the season is at least near over (and even then, if multiple losses are involved, it may not be clear which loss was the stake in the heart). Likewise, we can never pin the achievement of a championship on any given win, since it's the accumulation of all of the wins that makes it possible. Even more perplexing, though, is the fact that wins nor losses decide the champion at this point--just rankings.

So, the single-game theory (the theory that holds tight to a "2-team" playoff because it argues that it fosters a more interesting regular season) is a myth. Those exciting games are exciting simply because they are upsets and because championships and rivalries are at stake. Changing the form of the championship-determining structure will not change the character of the excitement of upsets and rivalry wins. Increasing the possibility for a championship for more teams, in fact, without demeaning the standards of success, would create a more interesting college football regular season.

This is just from the perspective of pleasure for the fans. Even more powerful arguments can be made from legal-justice-equality-funding-type perspectives.

The Recruiting Story of Tebow and Alabama

Medical Analysis of Harvin's Injuries (Not Really)

This site (EDSBS) was founded by Gators. They also link to a Smart Football (the blog) posting that analyzes Saban's defense. More Smart Football stuff in postings below.

Florida Offense Historicized, Dissected. A Real Treat.

Game Theory and Offensive Strategy? A New Favorite Blog For Ode?

Franklin Blacklisted After Delivering Dish on Mumme, and "Airraid" Spread Not Recognizable At Auburn--Tubs Didn't Buy In?

"If the teams play a rough approximation of how they have the whole year [...], it appears Florida will win," says Gator Tailgating.

Some number crunching. Gator Tailgating (educated) guesses, 25-17 Florida, or 35-21 Florida.

Teams With Great Defenses Usually Underrated, But Great Offensive Teams Often Overrated, Argues Chait

This years Gator team has both, I think. At least a much better Defense than that 2005 USC team Chait is referencing. But his point really bared out for the 2006 Gators. I love that he nailed the truth about that USC team BEFORE they lost to Texas. If you're curious after reading the article, this year's Gator team outscores their opponent by a 3.8-to-1 ratio.

Smiting Irish

Chait normally writes on politics and economics, but occasionally knocks out some wise collegiate football pieces. This is from last year, but still applies. What struck me was near the end where he describes the trouble some NFL assistants have had coaching in college. You don't hear that point too often. People will say that college coaches usually struggle at the pro-level, which is an observation based on selective evidence or insufficient data (many don't coach very long, so if, say, Belichick were held to a similar standard, he would have been declared a failure since he had a losing record until his 9th! season as a head coach). And then you will maybe hear that it's just a different coaching experience at each level, meaning they require different strengths. But the emphasis is usually on college coaches struggling at the pro-level.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Auburn Testing Leach's Interest

Gators to prevail, but it won't be a runaway

Read the full blog

Harvin's health a mystery heading into SEC championship game

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's Percy Harvin might be the fastest decoy on the field in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Harvin spent the last four days in and out of the training room, trying to get his sprained right ankle healthy enough to play against top-ranked Alabama on Saturday.

Florida coach Urban Meyer says his do-it-all receiver is "getting better and better," but Harvin's health remains a concern for the second-ranked Gators and a mystery for the Crimson Tide.

Will he play? If so, how effective will be? Will he be mostly a decoy? Is his status all a smoke screen to throw off Alabama?

"He's such a great player and such an asset to this team that not one player can come in and step in and completely have this offense going the way it was," fellow receiver David Nelson said. "It's going to take two or three of us to fill his position."

Even that might not be enough.

Harvin, a junior expected to jump to the NFL after this season, leads the Gators with 35 receptions for 595 yards and seven touchdowns. He also is second on the team in rushing, with 538 yards and nine scores. He has scored at least once in 14 consecutive games -- the longest streak in the nation -- and burned defenses while lining up at receiver, running back and even quarterback.

"He's a great player," Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas said. "He's a great playmaker. When you think of the Florida Gators, you think of Percy Harvin. He's kind of the first thing that comes to mind. He'll make a huge impact."

If he plays.

Meyer acknowledged that his staff was creating two game plans -- one with Harvin and one without. Meyer also hinted that Harvin's role could be a deceptive one.

"The biggest thing you notice is when you play him, when he's lined up somewhere, the whole defense kind of [shifts], and I don't blame them," Meyer said. "That's opened up some other things for us."

The Gators certainly have received plenty of contributions, making their offense much more diverse than the Tim Tebow & Harvin Show that everyone saw last season.

Chris Rainey leads the team in rushing with 654 yards and four touchdowns, and Jeff Demps, a freshman who holds the national high school record in the 100-meter dash, is close behind with 529 yards and six scores. There's also Tebow (507 yards, 12 TDs), Southern California transfer Emmanuel Moody (394 yards), senior Kestahn Moore and return specialist Brandon James.

"Whether he plays or not, they're going to be able to have somebody that's going to be able to be just as explosive as Percy Harvin," Tide linebacker Cory Reamer said. "He's a great athlete. If they don't have him, that's a tough loss but they'll have somebody that can replace him, I'm sure."

Florida, which has won eight consecutive games by at least 28 points, would much rather have Harvin in the huddle, especially since few players are as versatile as the 5-foot-11, 190-pound speedster. He handles direct snaps, takes option pitches the distance, catches passes in traffic, finds running lanes and often turns negative plays into big gains -- when he's healthy.

Harvin missed two games last season because of migraine headaches and sat out this year's season opener while recovering from offseason heel surgery. He also has missed practice time because of a hip pointer, tendinitis in his Achilles' tendon and tendinitis in his knee.

The Gators have done just fine without him. They scored 31 points after he injured his ankle Saturday at Florida State, totaled 110 points against South Carolina and Florida Atlantic last year and managed 56 points against Hawaii in the 2008 opener.

Coincidence? Meyer believes so.

"When you hand it to No. 1, the whole stadium holds its breath," he said.

Whether that happens at the Georgia Dome remains to be seen. Harvin was still wearing a boot Wednesday and limping around campus and the training room. Coaches expect him to try to go full speed Friday during walkthrough, see how his ankle reacts Saturday morning and then test it once more before the game.

Then they'll decide whether Harvin plays, sits or becomes a decoy.

"No matter how good you are -- it definitely helps that you're gifted -- but ultimately you play your best ball when you have a chance to get those reps throughout the week," receivers coach Billy Gonzales said. "So we'll just have to wait and see what he's able to do."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

Tuberville out after 10 seasons as Auburn coach

AUBURN, Ala. -- For most of Tommy Tuberville's 10 seasons as Auburn coach, the Tigers were the best college football team in a state where that title is almost as important as the national championship.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Abercrombie and (BCS) Fix

Hawaii Representative Neil Abercromibe, speaking my language, trust-busting and college football playoffs. I don't know how I missed that a resolution to disband the BCS (in the name of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law) was already submitted earlier this year.

A Soundtrack for a Victory in Atlanta

Another brilliant pick that I was told should be in the list is "City Middle," by the National. The album it is on is called "Alligator." This is from the chorus (I kid you, not):

"I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners,
I'm really worked up."

Other good selections not on the list (I do like the list):

--"Florida" by Modest Mouse. Added bonuses, it's a great song, it has the lead singer from the Shins, and Modest Mouse's Brock lived in Gainesville.

--"Hope" by REM. Here are some lyrics:

" dreamt of alligators..." and, "you want to cross your DNA with something reptile..."

There are also some references to "killing alligators," but, whatever. Also a great song. (There's also a reference to a "volunteer" on the last song on the album, "Falls to Climb.")

--"Orange Crush" by REM. I don't like this one as much, though. Love the song, but it's a song about Vietnam, and the Broncos already called themselves the Orange Crush way back when, and it could be turned around by a Gator opponent, "we are Orange Crushers.")

One more thing, the list includes a Sufjan Stevens song. Another song on that same album of Stevens' is called "Jacksonville." So, you could make some kind of claim that the song is about the scene of the beat down of Florida's challenger in the SEC East, an event that helped Florida get to Atlanta to wham (also could make the list) on 'Bama.

-ed.-Santogold made the list. She has a song on that same album called "Shove It." It is with a group called "Spank Rock," which is a good enough reason to include it in such a list, but the lyrics also apply:

"We think you're a joke,
shove your hope where it don't shine."

also, an attack on Alabama's backwoods culture in the same song:

" guns for the strength they lack"

and, an attack on their traditionalism and anti-Darwinism?:

"I pay for what's called
eccentricity and my will to evolve."


I would enjoy any ideas from others. Variations on "Tide" and "Crimson" seem potentially fruitful, though, the original list didn't need any literal connection whatsoever to work.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why Everything You've Heard About The Big 12 South Is Wrong

Texas would be a more formidable opponent than Oklahoma, for Florida.

But Oklahoma most deserves to represent the Big 12 South this Saturday.

I will start with the latter point first. You have certainly heard, or may have even argued yourself, that head-to-head is a better measure than BCS rankings when deciding which team should represent the South in the Big 12 Championship game, so Texas should be Big South Champions. Sounds simple, right? But what is being (unintentionally) concealed here? This argument is either already relying on the rankings, or it is being supported by Oklahoma's dominance against Texas Tech to set the parameters of their judgment (which is something the polls are also relying on). If this latter point is true, then Oklahoma is being (theoretically) punished by people using the head-to-head argument because they beat Texas Tech so thoroughly and so late in the year.

Here's how. To make the head-to-head argument, you have to find a way to reduce three teams to two teams. How is that being done? Rankings. Not rankings? Subjective judgment (Texas Tech seems weaker)? Date of loss (Tech lost later)? So, if rankings are not the reason, then the reason is because Oklahoma so thoroughly, and so recently, embarrassed Texas Tech, dropping Tech in rankings, making Tech look weaker, and giving Tech the latest loss of the three teams. So either the head-to-head advocates are relying on polls, or they relying on Oklahoma's dominance (or both), to make their case.

Here's what is being said, effectively, albeit, unconsciously: Texas should represent the South since Oklahoma just beat Tech so badly.

One might add that their real reasoning for reducing their decision down to 2, and then choosing Texas, is the "neutral field" argument. Let's examine. The advocate of this argument will say that of the three teams, only Oklahoma lost a non-road game (Texas and Texas Tech lost in other teams' stadiums). This gets you down to Tech vs Texas. I have yet to hear anyone argue Tech should represent the South, so I guess the head-to-head claim is one more of convenience. Maybe they cite the reasons I cited above, but again, you get into the same problems of defending a poll when you are trying to say the polls are not the right standard, or you are justifying a position by using Oklahoma's recent, devastating win over Tech. You might notice another problem, you are granting an a priori advantage to Texas and Oklahoma since these two teams often play one another on a "neutral field" (it is at the TEXAS State Fair). It would be like saying, before the season, "if there is a 3-way tie between Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia, the tie should be broken by the winner of the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville. In these cases, Tech and Tennessee would never have a shot to gain advantage in that tiebreaker (not that anyone 'round these parts would shed any tears for Tennessee)--and such a system would also eliminate the loser of Florida-Georgia automatically, no matter what kind of margin of victories or non-divisional wins were at hand.

Even if one were to give some stock to the neutral-field theory, no matter how strained that logic is, it is Oklahoma's non-conference schedule, and their impressiveness of victory over Tech (which unconsciously caused many to magically abandon a 3-way tie for a 2-way tie), and a few other teams (like Florida, Oklahoma lost 1 and dominated the rest), that makes me think Oklahoma is the right team to win the South. Also, I don't object to the BCS tiebreaker out of principle, since doing so would undermine anything I might say about strength of schedule, etc. Think about that. Can we say much of anything about how good teams are without citing some kind of ranking, even if tacitly, and even if we don't rely on a crude determination of polls? Sure, we can talk about division and conference championships as measurements, but this is precisely our problem--conventional determinations of conference measures are not fit to answer who is the champion of the Big 12 South.

Quickly, the best team Texas beat that Oklahoma did not play was Missouri. Missouri lost 3 games, and their best win was against Illinois, when they gave up about 45 points. Illinois was ranked, but not anymore. Oklahoma beat two very good teams that Texas didn't play, TCU and Cincinnati. TCU lost 2 games, one to UTAH, a team that will be going to their second BCS Bowl game in 4 years(!), by 3, on the road, and they were blown out by OK on the road. Also, TCU blew out BYU when BYU was ranked in the top 10. Cincy won the Big East--a BCS conference! Cincy beat 3 ranked teams in one month (USF, West Virginia, and Pitt--all ranked when Cincy beat them). OK blew Cincy out. Tech has no big wins against a team the others didn't face. The best candidate is Nevada. To be fair, Texas did face Arkansas, whom they blew out, and FAU, a team that did win their conference, albeit, not a good conference. But Oklahoma, based on ranking, based on their win over Tech which silently reduced 3 to 2, and based on non-conference, or non-common opponents, comes out with a clear advantage by my judgment.

I know that some may claim schedule is out of these teams' hands, so its unfair for me to cite that standard since I thought the neutral field standard is unfair. But, the analogy is weak (since the strength of teams is not an, a priori, advantage the way that the neutral field is because we don't know how good teams will turn out, and OK underwent greater risk playing that schedule, a risk that Texas and OK did not have to endure by simply playing on a neutral field, since doing so gives them a better shot than Tech if all 3 teams are tied), and I'm not committed to just non-conference-schedule as a standard (I use several criteria), and so its not necessary the way that the head-to-head argument needs everything to fall together in a way that it simply doesn't (it claims it avoids rankings--it doesn't, it claims neutral field is a neutral standard--it isn't to Tech, and it claims there are 2 when there are really 3--a fact that exists because of OK's dominance).

Okay, so after all of this, why is it that I think Texas would be a tougher match-up for Florida, at least theoretically? Colt McCoy and defense. Texas gives up an average of 1 fewer TDs per game, and 20 fewer yards per game than Oklahoma. And McCoy is more dynamic than Bradford, running and throwing well, and showing that he may be a bit better against a rush than Bradford. But my case is far from convincing, even to me, since these stats are conditioned by the fact that OK played a tougher schedule, as I argue above. Also, now that OK is playing in the Big 12 Championship game, they will, unlike Texas, have an experience playing, and winning (since they will have to win it to face Florida), a high-pressure championship game. But that effect is overrated, and Texas has played under plenty of pressure this season. Moreover, Texas has played better defense, overall, against opponents that are common with Oklahoma. Wildcard? Oklahoma has a much better turnover ratio than Texas.

This last bit of speculation is moot (and so is this entire post). Oklahoma will beat Missouri. Florida will beat Alabama. Both will meet in the Orange Bowl (actually, Dolphin Stadium, for the BCS Championship Bowl), January 8th.

Harvin showing improvement

Story Highlights
Florida's Percy Harvin has shown improvement and hopes to play against 'Bama
Harvin is wearing a protective boot on his ankle, which he injured against FSU
Harvin leads the Gators with 35 receptions for 595 yards and has 538 rush yards