Thursday, August 30, 2007

The HoG's Semi-Informed College Football Preview

Tonight the collegiate gridiron season kicks off, as Louisiana State University visits the hostile environs of Starkville, Mississippi to battle the MSU Bulldogs. I'm glad to have the games back, and I'm ready to watch and gamble my little heart out. I can't quite shake the feeling, though, that the sport of college football really stinks right now, and it may get a lot worse before it gets better.

Don't get me wrong, the games themselves are great. There is absolutely nothing better than a close, well-played college football game. Due to the fact that there is no preseason and no playoff system, each contest is incredibly important to everyone: the players, the coaches, the students, the alumni, the media wags, and dopes like me sitting at home on the couch.

I mean, I hate Notre Dame, but for some reason the Irish have played an incredible number of fabulously entertaining games since Charlie Weis got to South Bend. Be it against USC, who's always better, or Michigan State, who's always worse, Notre Dame has played in at least half of the truly great games that I've seen in the past two years.

But Notre Dame is indicative of everything that's wrong with this sport. They set their own rules and have a preposterously easy path paved straight to the BCS. The deck is clearly stacked in their favor, and they make no apologies for this fact.

Take Major League Baseball, which most would argue is the least equitable of the major professional team sports (plus hockey). The main argument that casual fans have against MLB being a truly great game is that the New York Yankees can spend way more money than the Minnesota Twins. This is very true. But the Yankees still have to play a balanced schedule set by a governing body, and that schedule contains an equal number of home and road games. They have to earn a spot in the playoffs or the World Series by wining more games than their opponents, not because they have more fans or history and tradition on their side.

Now I'm not arguing for some giant sports welfare program to come in and make everything "fair" and "right." I'm a capitalist, a proud one, and I've never had any problem with smart people making good business decisions and succeeding because of them. If the University of Florida has a bigger football fan base and places more emphasis on football on an institutional level than does Vanderbilt, than they should kick Vandy's ass in football. You can't legislate Vanderbilt into being good at football if they don't want to be.

Vanderbilt doesn't have to play in the SEC or even Division I, just like Minneapolis doesn't have to have a Major League Baseball team. It's a choice. If Vanderbilt wants to kick ass, they can either invest the resources it takes to play big-time football or it can drop down to D-II.

But this is all getting very political and abstract, and it doesn't get to the reasons I don't care as much about college football. Everyone knows how fucked up the polls are, and how difficult it is for a truly underrated or underappreciated team to make any kind of meaningful advancement in one season. If you're not in, say, the top 12 to start the season you have no shot at winning it all. How many champs in other sports have defied preseason expectations to come together and make a run? Try most, lately. In the BCS the Cardinals, White Sox, Marlins and Angels would have never won rings, because the pundits never would have put them in the title round.

To me the most ridiculous aspect of the polls, specifically the preseason ones, is the impact of the perceived strength of schedule. A team like Rutgers or Boise or Louisville is downgraded because they don't play a tough enough schedule, and yet USC is No. 1 in part because their schedule isn't as hard as LSU's (or Texas' or Michigan's...or West Fuckin Virginia's). The Trojans are the most likely elite team to go undefeated, so they're tops. The voters allegedly love ballsy scheduling decisions like Texas and Ohio State playing early games the last few years, but the incentive of scheduling such risky matchups is far outweighed by the benefit of lining up tomato cans.

So we the fans get screwed, in dozens of different ways. We don't get true champions. We don't get good early games (I'm supposed to be excited about Tennessee and Cal this weekend). What we get is an endless series of bullshit political debates, about the relative merit of an SEC loss versus a Big East win and blah blah blah. I watch sports to escape the shenanigans going on in D.C., yet it seems as though modern-day fandom is all about salary structure, court documents and lobbying by Oklahoma State patrons.

So that's that. I know, Earth-shaking revelations--college football has some issues. If you tuned in seeking an honest-to-goodness PREVIEW, go somewhere else--I hear ESPN, EDSBS and Scooter McDougle have good ones. The team I feel is going all the way? That's easy. West Fuckin Virgina.


7 comments:

bankmeister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bankmeister said...

Great post. Great perspective as always. One complaint though.

Notre Dame makes up it's own rules? They have a preposterously easy path to the BCS paved for them? When you're done trolling the Wikipedias and the MySpaces for evidence to support this latest theory, feel free to fill the rest of us in.

old no. 7 said...

Jesus Christ. Dude, for the last time, you need to quit with this "prove it" bullshit. You forward your opinions on this web site every day without anything backing them up. No footnotes, no citations, no video evidence. They are your opinions. They are almost universally wrong, but because this is both America and the Internets no one cares.

I shouldn't humor you, but since you've once again done this (become defensive and upset because I've taken on one of your sacred cows) I shall go through the reasons:

No. 1, Notre Dame has negotiated its own television contract with NBC. It is the only college to have this arrangement, and it puts the Irish on TV more than any other team. This places it in a position to influence poll voters the most.

No. 2, Notre Dame is the only school that has an exclusive arrangement with the BCS. Your precious documentation is here (look at #4 on the "automatic qualification): http://www.bcsfootball.org/bcsfb/eligibility .

No. 3, Notre Dame has utilized these built in advantages to make the BCS three times in the nine-year hitory of the arrangement, following the 2000, '05 and '06 seasons. In each of these three instances they leapfrogged teams that were ranked higher than the Irish in the BCS matrix.

In 2000 they were ranked 11th in the BCS standings yet jumped past No. 5 Virginia Tech (which had to play in the Gator Bowl), Nebraska (8, Alamo), K-State (9, Cotton), and Oregon (10, Holiday). By the way, they got smoked 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl by Oregon St.

In '05, they were ranked 6th, yet jumped past Oregon (again) who had to settle for the Holiday Bowl (again). By the way, they got hammered in the Fiesta Bowl (again) by Ohio State.

And last year, the BCS was expanded to ten teams in five games. Yet the Irish still fucked a couple teams. They were ranked 11 in the BCS yet got a berth ahead of No. 9 Auburn (Cotton Bowl) and No. 7 Wisconsin (Capital One). Once again, they got their asses handed to them in the BCS with a 41-14 Sugar Bowl loss to LSU. Notre Dame has lost nine straight bowl games, because they repeatedly accept invitations far above their actual level of achievement.

No. 4, not only does Notre Dame screw other deserving teams solely because of their reputation, they're also greedy assholes. Any team affiliated with a conference shares bowl revenue with the other conference schools. For the BCS berths other schools earn but Notre Dame is handed, the payouts are between $14 and $17 million (documentation: http://www.bcsfootball.org/bcsfb/facts). Now when USC makes this bowl they split it evenly with Arizona St. and Cal, but when Notre Dame gets it they pocket every nickel. This for a private school with an endowment of $3.6 billion, that's billion with a B (documentation: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0112636.html).

These are not radical threads of thought, nor are they in any way original. Critics of the state of college football have been making these complaints about Notre Dame for many years, and especially since the NBC and BCS contracts were signed. For most semi-involved college football fans this is old news. So I'm sure everyone is thrilled to have slogged through this old news, just as thrilled as I am to have researched it for you.

I doubt I'm filling "the rest of us" in, I'm pretty sure I'm informing only "head-in-the-sand, myopic Domer homer." Go Touchdown Jesus, and God bless Brady Quinn.

Nathan said...

"The deck is stacked in their favor." You treat this as a negative thing, sir. I guess it's all a matter of perspective. You don't seem to bothered by the Red Sox ASTRONOMICAL budget that stacks thing "in their favor." I guess it depends who you're cheering for, huh?

Don't bash Notre Dame, man. While you provide some evidence (when asked, AFTER making a rather bold statement ... in my field you can't just say shit, and get all riled-up if someone calls you out. That's just the gig, bro.), you must admit that the problem is much deeper than one University. I guess you're using them as an indicator of some sort, but I think you've allowed your bias to interfere with your vision. Get some better glasses, man. The problem with College Football is not theirs alone. You'll need to attack ALL of the major universities and their money-grubbing, selfish approach to their championship. Attack the coaches and the university admistrators for putting profit ahead of competition, and student athletes.

I think you're onto something, but a broader perspective will help that argument out. It's not one team, it's the NCAA.

Nathan said...

P.S. The BCS is a fuckin' joke. Who cares how they qualify, or who has an edge. It's meaningless. You're upset because the muffler's got a hole it in and the damn engine hasn't started in 15 years. You gotta fix the engine first, man.

-- TLR

dylanebrown said...

Who got deleted and what did they say?
Was a Jack Elway photographed in LoDo doing a "wide stance" and then published on HOG?.
(Google: Craig, Senator, Idaho for details)
A few points. Any upright human with some sort of cluster of ganglions, neural tissue, cerebrums and cerbellums residing inside his/her head realizes one thing... the people on the teevees want you to watch Notre Dame football. It don't matter if they good or not, you gonna watch them and they gonna be ranked.
That is obvious and made very clear by #7's reply to bank's obvious attempt to instigate. What is important is that it was done just by making claims. ND fucked WV in '02 and things like the sort. It was done without references to infoplease, hyperlinks, peer reviwed journals and ,again, the mountains and mountains of evidence. This call to cyber-academia seems a bit counterproductive. Not everyone has the CIA factbook handy.
Ceeding the obvious ND bias, Nathan makes a great point, colleges are fucked. A college president's success is determined on how much money is won on bowl/championship games?
Do you guys think that there is a, perhaps, Arizona Wilcats football fanclub, saying the same things about the USC Trojans? Maybe not to the extent of ND, but along the lines of it..
Good night DfromKC

bankmeister said...

D -- that was my own comment; I goofed trying to create the links that so set OnS off his cracked-out rocker.