Saturday, December 2, 2006

From the Cheap Seats at the SEC Championship

Good evening to all and I hope you enjoyed a day of college football that made every prediction made on this site invalid. I'll be the first to admit, I'm shocked by USC implosion. During halftime of the SEC championship, I watched with a swarm of rabid Florida fans as they cheered UCLA on to victory.

Of course I really wanted to vomit on their blue shirts, but I had a stronger desire to avoid fighting while I was "working" and therefore held my contempt for this brief article. I thought y'all might have some interest in some of the observations I would like to share.

For one, I have never seen more trick plays pulled off in one game. From Florida's fake punt on 4th and 13 from their own 10 yard line, to Darren McFadden's 3 attempted halfback passes, this game had it all. Was Florida clearly the better team? Absolutely. Much more talent on the perimeter and Chris Leak, though his stats don't do him justice, played a solid game. It was a treat to watch all the way (until Arkansas' Casey Dick threw a game-ending interception to Ryan Smith in the end zone with three minutes left). So, that being said, I suppose the fate of the SEC champion is left to the pollsters, who will decide whether or not the best team in the SEC is in fact more worthy than the second best team in the Big Ten.

Along that same line, I had a rather humorous conversation with a fellow reporter in the press box during the game. It all originated when halfway through the third, after USC had imploded against UCLA, the jumbotron at the Georgia Dome showed a fan and his sign.

"Hey USC, at least our one loss came against a RANKED team."

I chuckled a bit and commented on the surprising creativity and intelligence of the Florida student.

"Clever sign."

The journalist next to me, a Florida fan, replied:

"And a true one too."

Unable to contain my sarcastic and abrasive attitude, I said:

"Michigan lost to a ranked team too."

The man became quite defensive at this point, citing how Florida had played 10 bowl-eligible teams this year and that no team had ever done that before.

He was actually correct, Florida had played 10 bowl-eligible teams this year (Southern Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State, and Arkansas).

Still, wishing to egg him on further, I had to continue the argument somehow. So what did I do? I attacked the only vulnerability in the argument. "How do you account for beating Florida State, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee by 7 points or less each, when Michigan has destroyed teams all year and lost their only game to the best team in the country?"

You never really understand the passion of an SEC fan until they begin a tirade about why their team is God's gift to the world, but by the end of his 10-15 minute explanation of the divinity of Gator nation, I merely smiled and realized that I had pushed the man's buttons long enough. After all, I agreed with his point, and it was tough to play devil's advocate (although Michigan did play 6 bowl eligible teams, which isn't a walk in the park).

Naturally, my colleague and I did not share another word for the rest of the game. Having satisfied my desire to provoke some sort of anti-Florida argument, I turned my attention to the only other aspect which I shockingly had ignored most of the evening.

Let me tell you something, don't underestimate the state of Arkansas, because there are some absolutely beautiful women there.

No matter where I looked, I couldn't help but ogle a bit at the incredible features of the Arkansas ladies. Where these beauties came from, I have absolutely no idea, and I wish that I had pictures to demonstrate what I am talking about. But there is little doubt that state has got its concentration of blonde angels.

On another note I'm probably going to apply to Arkansas Law School simply because of that fact. And no, I'm not kidding.

12 comments:

Chris Lee said...

I was there in Atlanta tonight... very good game. Florida's offense still doesn't bowl me over, but its defense is very good (especially in the secondary and along the defensive line) and special teams are outstanding.

I have thought that Urban Meyer was overrated as a coach, but have started to become a believer. I am looking forward to see the Gators and Ohio State, UF doesn't bowl you over but they just keep beating good teams, and often times the team that took the toughest road to get to the title game is the one that takes it all.

Shamas O'Toole said...

Stanimal, thanks for the great remarks.

The only thing I will take issue with is the notion that what transpired yesterday "made every prediction made on this site invalid." I would humbly submit that last week, I argued that Florida is the most deserving team to play Ohio State, but that "none of this will matter when UCLA beats USC next week." Not only was that prophesy fulfilled, but it appears the rest of the country is beginning to come around and realize the inappropriateness of leaving the Gators, a 12-1 team who has played (brace yourself) the #1 toughest schedule of any team in Division 1-A football, out of the national championship game.

I don't even like Florida. At all. But facts are facts, and every argument that would leave Florida out of it hinges on "style points," that age-old philosophical chimera used by those whose arguments are designed to fit pre-selected (and by their very nature, biased) conclusions, rather than allowing their conclusions to derive naturally from their arguments. There is nothing comparatively tangible about "style," and therefore, at best, any conclusions rooted in "style" rest on the unshaky ground of questionable (if not wholly false) premises.

I don't think anyone on this site deserves to be accused of such reasoning, but as we've watched the pundits on ESPN and elsewhere this past week, that kind of inconsistency has been exposed time and time again.

I agree with Chris Lee that Florida's defense is more battle-tested than Ohio State's offense, and thus perhaps better positioned to contain it. The big question mark will be Chris Leak, and whether or not the Gators will be able to put up enough points to beat their 11th bowl eligible team in 14 games.

(Postscript: I wish I could call Meyer moronic for the fake punt from their own 10, but I guess there's a reason he gets paid the big bucks and I do this.)

Jonathan said...

A touchdown pass by 5 different players?? Has this ever happened before?

This was one of the most entertaining football games I've ever seen, hence my intense jealous of Stanimal and Chris Lee.

Shamas O'Toole said...

The writers and the coaches came around. The computers are next. So be it:

Week 15 AP Top 25
1. Ohio State (65) 12-0 1,625
2. Florida 12-1 1,529
3. Michigan 11-1 1,526
4. LSU 10-2 1,365
5. Louisville 11-1 1,333
6. Wisconsin 11-1 1,255
7. Oklahoma 11-2 1,232
8. USC 10-2 1,182
9. Boise State 12-0 1,097
10. Auburn 10-2 1,020
11. Notre Dame 10-2 939
12. Arkansas 10-3 867
13. West Virginia 10-2 865
14. Virginia Tech 10-2 798
15. Wake Forest 11-2 766
16. Rutgers 10-2 631
17. Tennessee 9-3 576
18. Texas 9-3 564
19. Brigham Young 10-2 436
20. California 9-3 390
21. Texas A&M 9-3 379
22. Nebraska 9-4 193
23. Boston College 9-3 179
24. Oregon State 9-4 112
25. TCU 10-2 80
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES
Georgia 57, Georgia Tech 53, Hawaii 25, Houston 21, Penn State 9, South Florida 6, Maryland 6, Navy 4, South Carolina 3, UCLA 2.
DROPPED FROM RANKINGS
Georgia Tech 23, Hawaii 24.

Week 15 USA Today Poll
1. Ohio State (62) 12-0 1,550
2. Florida 12-1 1,470
3. Michigan 11-1 1,444
4. LSU 10-2 1,299
5. Wisconsin 11-1 1,263
6. Louisville 11-1 1,223
7. USC 10-2 1,173
8. Oklahoma 11-2 1,115
9. Boise State 12-0 1,053
10. Auburn 10-2 1,000
11. Notre Dame 10-2 923
12. West Virginia 10-2 800
13. Arkansas 10-3 798
14. Virginia Tech 10-2 781
15. Wake Forest 11-2 745
16. Texas 9-3 582
17. Rutgers 10-2 567
18. Tennessee 9-3 500
19. California 9-3 436
20. Brigham Young 10-2 369
21. Texas A&M 9-3 303
22. Nebraska 9-4 242
23. Boston College 9-3 175
24. TCU 10-2 95
25. Oregon State 9-4 72
25. Georgia Tech 9-4 72
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES
Houston 40, Hawaii 22, Georgia 12, Clemson 11, Penn State 10, South Carolina 2, Navy 2, Maryland 1.
DROPPED FROM RANKINGS
Hawaii 23.

Stanimal said...

Shamas,

Fair point regarding Florida, I know you've been adamant about their acceptance to the national championship game from the beginning.

Florida may very well get in, but your statement about their strength of schedule is bogus. They currently have the number 19 ranked schedule according to the sagarin rankings, and while they have played those 10 bowl-eligible teams, so did USC.

As I said, it's not about how you start, but how you finish. Florida played terribly down the stretch, but they finished strong in the SEC championship. They needed that win to solidify their shot. Outside of that, their second half was extremely unimpressive. If you look at their schedule, especially their performance down the stretch, I think it's impossible to ignore this. But in this instance, the championship game played in their favor, and it went against Michigan.

While I agree about style points, in a subjective system such as the polls you have to take into account how a team plays, particularly against teams that are not supposed to be of a similar caliber. Florida was extremely unimpressive down the stretch, where as Ohio State and Michigan have maintained consistency (Michigan by the way ranks 4th in bowl teams played with 6).

Still, college football is a wild game, and should Florida be selected for the national championship, then I have no doubt they could pull off the upset, especially since Ohio State will have been dormant for 51 days prior to the game. After this month of college football, who really can predict?

Shamas O'Toole said...

I'm sorry Stanimal, but I had to chuckle when I saw that you called my argument about Florida's schedule strength "bogus" and then trotted out the SAGARIN rankings. I mean, Jeff Sagarin--are we serious?

As I have said repeatedly, my argument boils down to pure objectivity (unlike Sagarin's bizarre formulas):

Going into the final weekend of the season, the Gators played the nation's toughest schedule, and it wasn't even close. THEIR OPPOSITIONS' CUMULATIVE WINNING PERCENTAGE WAS .643. Number two in SOS was Cincinnati, whose opponents were .622. That difference might not seem like much, but it is.

I think the right decision will be made here in a few minutes. Let's hope so...

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

First of all, let me re-establish a few things.

We are in agreement that the SEC is in fact the best conference. We also agree that a 1-loss winner of the SEC should be viewed differently than other teams.

I have never supported Michigan going to the national championship. I did pick USC to go simply so that my argument regarding the Pac-10 would become validated yet again, (perhaps they threw the game to disguise their advantage and are planning their run in '07).

But as far as Florida having the number one strength of schedule in the country, that is the only point which I disagree. Since the Sagarin ratings are used by pollsters as well as the BCS in calculating, you cannot dismiss them as a valid indicator. However, they are not the primary factor on which my rebuttal relies.

I have two issues with your assessment of SOS by opponent winning percentage. In an earlier post, I agreed with your assessment because it certainly does represent strength of conferences. It breaks down when you apply it to individual teams, however, because then you have to take into account the teams that Florida's opponents played. Southern Miss played one ranked opponent all season, Florida. Central Florida played one ranked opponent, Florida. Tennessee had a much tougher schedule than Florida, taking on nearly every team that Florida played (Auburn being the biggest exclusion), as well as Cal. Kentucky played Louisville, Florida, LSU, and Tennessee. Alabama played Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn. I could elaborate even further but already there are a number of SEC teams that played tougher schedules than Florida. They are the best team in the conference, but they didn't play the toughest schedule out every team in the conference.

Also, looking at Cincinnati's schedule is deceiving, because while it does contain Ohio State, it also has a number of teams that melted down in the long haul, particularly the supposed Big East juggernauts that couldn't slam the door on the conference. (Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Pitt, Rutgers).

I think Florida deserves to be in that game, but I don't think they had to traverse the most difficult road to get there. If every team on their schedule had in fact played up to expectations, then perhaps, but there were certainly tougher schedules among SEC teams than Florida's.

Shamas O'Toole said...

Stanimal,

I accept all of what you say, but couldn't disagree more. My reasoning is the same once again: when you get past winning percentage and start looking at who played whom from which conference, and what were their opponents ranked (at that point in the season), etc, then again I think you're making it too subjective. I didn't need to argue about recruiting classes or "style points" or tradition to claim that the SEC is obviously the best conference this year. All I had to explain was its overall winning percentage (as you acknowledge). But the same holds here: the argument goes in circles when you start to look past winning percentage, because which comes first: the quality of a team or its record of winning/losing? The old chicken and egg...

I think there are a few other discrepancies in your argument. You say "Tennessee had a much tougher schedule than Florida, taking on nearly every team that Florida played (Auburn being the biggest exclusion), as well as Cal." First of all, Auburn is a better team than Cal (and probably THE best team not in a BCS bowl), so that actually works in favor of my argument when you're talking about strength of schedule.

Kentucky did play some tough games, but the only difference in the big games you mention is that UK played Lousiville. I guess that's worth more than playing both Auburn AND Arkansas?

Florida played every team you said Alabama played except themselves. And that's the biggest hole in what you've said, because every team you mentioned played Florida, but Florida obviously couldn't play themselves, so the "big-game" comparisons are a little flabby.

The reality is that Florida had to play EVERY SINGLE great team in the SEC this year. They played Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, and Georgia. They also came out of the SEC East, which was top-to-bottom better than the SEC West this year, even though the top of the SEC West was disgusting (and Florida played all three of them, too).

As for Cincinatti, I think any reasonable person who looks at their schedule knows why it was the second-hardest. They played Ohio State and Virginia Tech out of conference, and Rutgers, Louisville, and West Virginia in conference. Those five teams have seven losses between them (mostly to each other), and I don't care what conference you play in, that's impressive.

Finally, let me emphasize that Florida's schedule was ranked #1 in strength BEFORE they played Arkansas in the SEC championship. That's a basis of comparison (for all the apologists) against Michigan, because it looks at the 12 games not including the conference championship (which the Big Ten obviously doesn't have).

But after playing the conference championship game against #8 Arkansas (10-2) and boosting their schedule strength even further, how can anyone dispute that they had the toughest road to where they are now?

By the way, Virginia Tech is in the ACC, not the Big East. Go Hokies.

Stanimal said...

I'm well aware that Va. Tech is in the ACC. I probably shoulded have worded my statement more clearly so that it did not appear that Virginia Tech was in the Big East.

We could continue to argue this point consistently. However, if you'd like to give Auburn an undo rating, that's fine, especially since Georgia mopped the floor with them in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

Interesting point regarding the chicken or the egg comment. It still doesn't take away that Florida played unimpressive non-conference games against Southern Miss (as under-rated as they may be), Central Florida, and Western Carolina.

Anyway, the result is beneficial to the SEC, so I think we can agree that it worked out well. But then there's one final question....
By the end of this season, won't Ohio State have played not one, not two, but three #2 ranked teams this year?

If that's not a difficult schedule, I don't really know what is.

Shamas O'Toole said...

So basically Stanimal just conceded that I am right, but wanted to throw in a cheap jab about the Georgia-Auburn game for...no, I can't think of what reason that would have been, except as a last-ditch effort to show that Auburn is not a difficult team or something since they got beat by a team as bad as Georgia, who got their asses handed to them on their own field on their own homecoming by none other than OUR VANDERBILT COMMODORES. Was that the intent?

Because prior that last post, in which you claimed that I gave Auburn an "undo" ranking (which I'm assuming means "undue" ranking, but correct me if I misinterpreted), you had listed Auburn as one of the "big game" opponents of other SEC schools. Come to think of it, you didn't even list Georgia in any of those "big game" opponents. So Auburn, a 10-2 team and the only one to defeat Florida this season, was a great team when it fit your argument but not a great team now that it doesn't? Do I smell a flip-flopper?

I suppose next year Florida should schedule more Mid-American powerhouses like Ball State or Central Michigan (as Michigan did) rather than C-USA teams. I don't know, I think this will be my last post on this thread because I'm done splitting hairs and it's obvious my argument has more than adequately held its ground.

Stanimal said...

On that, I agree with you. This post is dead.