Friday, December 20, 2013
Mailbag: Bowl, apple controversies
By Ted Miller
Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. Santa is watching and you don't want to be added to the naughty list.
George from Phoenix writes: I've read Kevin and your pre-bowl comments on how well the Pac-12 needs to (and should do) in the bowls. "Favored in all games (or 8/9)". "Opponents are overmatched," etc. I believe the hype. Then I read Mark Schlabach predictions yesterday which has the Pac-12 going a measly 3-6, including a loss in the BCS game you have so wisely noted is most important for Pac-12 perception!!!! Should I panic? What's a guy to believe?!?!
Ted Miller: I would say Mark shouldn't get too close to Vegas this holiday season.
If the Pac-12 goes 3-6 in its bowl games, Kevin has agreed to wear nothing but a burlap sack for a week. If the Pac-12 goes 3-6 in its bowl games, I will listen only to Adele songs for two weeks. OK, a week. No… a day. An entire day! An entire work day.
Everybody has opinions. And sportswriters are often asked to pick games. They can go the easy route and pick the favorites over and over again. Or they can try to spice things up by predicting upsets. It's also possible that Mark suspected he'd get a rise out of Pac-12 fans, so he's already 1-0 this bowl season. (George was not the only one to note Schlabach's Pac-12 bowl picks.)
But there might be method to his madness, or at least a justifiable logic.
You have two Pac-12 teams, USC and Washington, going through coaching turmoil. You have an Oregon team that had players complaining about the Rose Bowl now playing in the Valero Alamo Bowl against a Texas team that surely will be trying to win one for outgoing coach Mack Brown.
You have Arizona and Oregon State teams that have been pretty mercurial this season. You have Stanford facing a Michigan State team that is playing as well as any squad in the nation.
There are ways to script a 3-6 bowl season. Even Jon Wilner has the Pac-12 going a meager 5-4.
I think both will be wrong.
But ask Cal and Oregon State fans how often I'm right.
Mike from Springfield, Missouri, writes: I will miss the BCS because it really does make every game more interesting throughout the year. I don't deny that the playoffs will be more exciting than the current bowls. But I think the rest of the regular season will be much less interesting.
I would not have been watching the Iron Bowl this year because I would have known that even with a Bama loss, they would still be in the top four and making the playoffs and still probably be the favorite to win it, and so that game would have been not nearly as big as news as it was. We would then be talking about how it was good for Bama to lose because then they didn't even have to play the SEC title game and would be playing for the national title. Same thing years back when No. 1 Ohio State was playing No. 2 Michigan.
As well as Bama recruits, Bama will always start off ranked high in the polls and so the regular season won't get any headlines til Bama loses twice. I would have probably not watched a game all year this year with as good as Bama was, knowing that it would take two losses for them to not win the title and would probably just watch the playoffs. I think there will ultimately be a lot of fans like me and college football will find out that they had a good thing even with as much controversy as it had (there will always be controversy with a league with 119 teams that doesn't have equal schedules).
Ted Miller: You make a fair point.
On the one hand, by adopting a four-team College Football Playoff compared to a two-team BCS title game, we are increasing the pool and therefore the opportunity. It seems more democratic, eh?
But there are always unintended consequences when change comes to a system. It's possible the biggest beneficiaries of the CFP will be the college football superpowers, teams that get the benefit of the doubt after a loss (or two).
If Alabama, USC, Texas, and LSU (group A) had just one loss, and Duke, Northwestern, Boise State and Texas Tech (group B) also had just one loss, how many teams from group A get into the playoff compared to group B?
If the selection committee is, like the national polls, heavily reliant on reputation, the elite powers will typically get the benefit of the doubt.
When a highly ranked Alabama/USC/LSU/Texas team loses its first game, it won't tumble precipitously in the polls, whereas a Duke/Northwestern/Boise State/Texas Tech that is climbing the polls after being unranked in the preseason doesn't get the same consideration.
Further, as you noted, increasing the pool to four teams over two decreases the value of the regular season, the one undeniable strength of the BCS system.
Many think we're headed toward an eight-team playoff. That sounds far more equitable, but that would reduce the value of the regular season even further -- significantly.
It will be interesting to see how the CFP affects how we perceive and react to the regular season. It's still going to be college football, so it will continue to be awesome. And it will still provoke controversies.
It is possible that those controversies won't be as juicy.
Ryan from Kennewick, Wash., writes: Anything is possible in college football. "Never say never" and "Texas (UT) has unlimited resources" are two things we hear a lot. Even though there are provisions in the UT athletic director's contract to keep him from hiring ASU's staff, what are the chances that Texas uses their "resources" to go after one of them anyway? (Obviously I'm primarily referring to Todd Graham.)
Ted Miller: If Texas really, really wants to hire Todd Graham away from Arizona State, it will go after him. And I personally would have no problem with Graham taking the job because this is the United States of America, and if you are a football coach, you should want to coach at Texas and make $5 million a year.
(Kevin has told me that Texas is the only job that could lure him away from the Pac-12 blog. Mine would be Florida Keys Community College -- because, hey, you're living in the Florida Keys!).
I know there was an agreement between Arizona State and its former athletic director Steve Patterson, now at Texas, that Patterson wouldn't bring Sun Devils staffers with him to Austin.
But this is the United States of America. If you have money and good lawyers, you can make just about anything happen you want.
Other than get Nick Saban.
Scott from London writes: Just wondering what your thoughts are on B.J. Denker's 898 yards rushing and how his propensity to ball-hog on the read option hurt Carey's chances at the Doak/Heisman Awards?I know Carey was still a workhorse, but who should be running the ball? Your All-American RB or your gangly 6-2 QB?
Ted Miller: Everyone needs to read Scott's note with a British accent. I first used my best Jeeves/P.G. Wodehouse then went all Oliver Twisty cockney on it.
It might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the best thing for a running back is not getting the ball. It's the same when an A-list quarterback has a beastly running back lining up behind him.
Most defensive coordinators will tell you the first thing they do is try to take away what an offense most likes to do. With Arizona, that was hand the ball to Carey. So that means forcing the Wildcats to show they have other threats to worry a defense.
Denker averaged 5.4 yards per rush -- despite losing 121 yards on sacks -- and scored 12 TDs. A defense has to respect that. A read-option keeper from Denker, which was more often successful than not, forced a defense to obsess just a little bit less about Carey. That translated to a few split seconds of divided attention here or there that probably increased the size of holes Carey saw when he got the ball.
I think Arizona fans should be grateful for what they got out of Denker this year. I know he was doubted by just about everyone in August, including me. He became a solid QB for the Wildcats, and his outstanding performance against Oregon was one he should never forget. Not sure anyone made more out of his talents this year than Denker.
Nick from Seattle writes: "Again, this is a Fujis vs. Honey Crisp discussion. But when you look at overall consistency -- "Now you've done it. Now you have absolutely lost all credibility. How dare you suggest Fujis are better apples than Honey Crisp in any way?! Utter blasphemy...
Ted Miller: I told Kevin that if he uses apples-to-apples analogies, he's wading into deep and emotional waters, particularly with Washington fans. And Washington State fans for that matter.
I'm with you on this one. Kevin has lost all credibility -- ALL OF IT! -- when it comes to comparing apples to apples.
(Cue the Fuji apple fans with their outrage and advanced statistical analysis that proves -- PROVES! -- Fujis are just as good as Honey Crisp.)