LSU-Alabama rematch talk silly and presumptuous; more Mailbag
Monday, Nick Saban
Saban would be pretty ticked about this week's Mailbag.
The LSU-Alabama buildup reminds me very much of that 2006 Ohio State-Michigan storyline, both because fans and media (myself included) already seem so united in their belief that these are the two best teams and because I'm already getting pre-emptive rematch questions, just like I was well before that OSU-Michigan game. However, there are also some notable differences.
While the Big Ten may have been stronger in the years before that '06 season, it had not produced five consecutive BCS champions, which is unquestionably the biggest factor driving our LSU-Alabama obsession. Meanwhile, a big reason OSU and Michigan jumped so far ahead of the pack in the public's eye that year was because there was no equivalent to 2011 Oklahoma -- or Wisconsin, Boise State and Stanford, for that matter. Looking back at the first BCS standings from '06, the chief competitors to OSU and Michigan were a USC team that had struggled on offense and would eventually be exposed; a one-loss Auburn team; a one-loss Florida team; and a trio of undefeated Big East teams, West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers. This year's field of challengers inspires a lot more confidence.
All of which explains why the presumptuous rematch talk is just plain silly. The '06 season taught us a long-lasting lesson. The OSU-Michigan rematch came awfully close to happening. The Wolverines were No. 3 going into Championship Saturday, and No. 2 USC lost. If not for the voters' 11th-hour elevation of Florida, we never would have found out that the Buckeyes were in fact mortal, which is worth remembering this year. Nobody, including poll voters, truly knows who the two best teams are. Five straight BCS titles for SEC teams or not, 'Bama and LSU are enjoying the luxury of beating up on an unusually high number of bad SEC teams this year, and some team from another conference -- be it Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Boise, Stanford or Clemson -- will deserve the same shot Florida got in '06 to prove our assumptions wrong.
Football-wise, I do think the Pac-12 could use another marquee program like Oklahoma. USC (traditionally) and Oregon (more recently) are its only real national powers, and the Trojans could be off the map for the next several years once scholarship reductions kick in. Stanford is enjoying a golden period right now with Andrew Luck, but it's unrealistic to think it will stay at that level over a longer period. Other teams like Washington may rise, while another like Cal has fallen. In general, however, there are really only two Pac-12 programs that fans from other parts of the country will tune in to see on a year-in, year-out basis. Contrast that to the Big Ten, which has at least five programs that fit that category (Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska and Wisconsin), or the SEC (Alabama, LSU, Florida, Auburn and sometimes Georgia or Tennessee).
Having said that, Larry Scott added Colorado and Utah at a time when he was positioning the league for a new television contract that wound up netting $3 billion over 12 years. That's $250 million a year, guaranteed regardless of the quality of the teams (which will fluctuate) or the ratings. By comparison, a second BCS berth in a given season -- the main effect of adding a marquee program like Oklahoma -- is worth a mere $6 million. In other words, program strength is not a driving factor in expansion. At the time the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State decision was made last month, the Pac-12 was in a position where it could be pickier than it was a year earlier. The more unwieldy divisional structure of a 14-team league and reservations about the Oklahoma schools' geographic fit and academic reputations apparently outweighed the possible BCS windfall.
Florida has a lot of issues right now, so I can't possibly gauge whether the muffed punts and inept offense had anything to do with Muschamp's rant. I will say, however, that I've rarely seen an instance where a head coach berating the referees positively impacted his team. Just ask Mike Stoops or Bo Pelini. Unlike basketball, a game filled with subjective, influential calls, it's nearly impossible to sway officiating in your favor in football.
To this point, Muschamp has only intensified the reservations I've had since day one about Florida's hire. Yelling and screaming is fine if you're an assistant, but most head coaches are more polished for a reason: They set the tone for their entire team. It's OK to get animated, but I fail to see how ranting and raving like a lunatic helps your team in any discernible way.
Boy did I feel the wrath of Bulldogs fans this week for the Grantham/buffonish comment. They're right, I should have mentioned Franklin's role in inciting Grantham to begin with, but Grantham's response was still ridiculous. How can we expect 18- to 22-year-olds to be sportsmanlike if the adults in charge of them act like teenagers in a high school parking lot?
First of all, congrats to you, sir, on hailing from the coolest hometown name in Mailbag history.
I'm not ready to fully jump back on the Hokies' bandwagon, as we're only a couple games removed from that three-point showing against Clemson (which hasn't shut down an opponent to that degree in any other game). But it does look like Logan Thomas and Co. have turned the corner. I was definitely skeptical of Frank Beamer when he insisted after the Clemson loss that the offense would be just fine, but it seems he was right. Thomas will probably continue to be up-and-down, but when he's up, wow.
Looking at Virginia Tech's remaining schedule, I'd be surprised if the Hokies didn't wind up back in Charlotte. Their only viable competitor in the ACC Coastal (Note: I triple-checked this time after mixing up the division names for the 242nd time in College Football Overtime this week) is Georgia Tech. I'm not writing off the Jackets after one poor showing at Virginia, but Virginia Tech gets the all-important extra time (12 days) to prepare for the option. The Hokies will be favored in every other game. That said, I'm not yet ready to assume revenge against Clemson when the Tigers are 7-0 and have yet to show any sign of slowing down, particularly on offense.
I had to chuckle when I saw the final score. It's one thing to pick winners, but I don't pretend to have any methodology in choosing the scores (other than the margin). Once in a blue moon I look smart.
Sorry Rich, I am not a spokesperson for the collective media. I can only speak for myself, and in doing so, I find it curious why you'd address this complaint to me. I felt I was pretty restrained throughout the Newton affair, particularly in the weeks leading up to the Heisman ceremony,
Unfortunately, many of my colleagues did just that. They're obviously entitled to their opinions, and regardless of what the NCAA did or didn't prove, they're certainly entitled to continued suspicions until the end of time. It's not like the innuendo happened in a vacuum. Cecil Newton
Done. The floor is open. My nomination: the Frequent Flyer Miles Conference.
The AP poll certainly loses much of its clout once the first BCS standings of the season come out, since those ultimately take precedent over everything else. While the AP does crown its own champion, the chances of another split title like in 2003 are remote now that the BCS formula is two-thirds poll-based.
But I would argue the AP poll still matters for several reasons. For one, it is ubiquitous. Because most media entities are AP subscribers, they still use the AP rankings when mentioning teams in stories, box scores, even the ESPN ticker. For that reason, it also sets the template that the Coaches' and Harris polls (the latter of which was created to essentially mimic the AP poll) then follow. And lastly, its voter roster on the whole is far more knowledgeable and dedicated than the coaches (who have bigger things to worry about on Sunday morning) or the non-media Harris voters (some of whom spend Saturdays on the golf course).
I've long contended that if the BCS really wanted the most qualified voter base possible, it would use the Las Vegas oddsmakers. But that would create some sticky situations.
I apologize again for the division mistake. Now I hope you'll apologize for wasting three minutes of my life trying to decipher the rest.
I've spoken to people at ESPN, who obviously vehemently deny DeFilippo's insinuation. I've spoken to others with knowledge of these types of talks, and of course I'm not naive enough to think DeFilippo's retraction means there was no truth to what he said initially. However, by "told us what to do," I don't believe he meant ESPN literally told the ACC to take Pittsburgh and Syracuse. For one thing, it doesn't help ESPN in any discernible way (it has to reopen the ACC contract now and give the league more money, while its most valuable basketball property, the Big East tournament, loses significant value). For another, the school ESPN would be most likely to push for is UConn, its home-state school and the team for which the cable channel was originally founded. In the same interview, DeFillippo said he (not ESPN) blocked UConn's inclusion.
But make no mistake, ESPN is involved either causally or formally in every decision made by any conference with which it has a relationship. What DeFillippo more likely meant was that the conference went to the network and told it what it was considering, and the network gave the league a ballpark of what those additions would be worth. These kinds of conversations take place behind the scenes constantly. We're past the point of concerns about ESPN's monopolization of college football; it's an unstoppable giant at this point. NBC was very close to getting the new Pac-12 deal, so what did ESPN do? It teamed up with FOX to outbid NBC. It continues unabashedly with the Longhorn Network despite the fact that it became such a lightning rod it nearly broke up a conference. And heaven help any party that dares to cross it. Ask the Mountain West what life is like without an ESPN contract. Ask Mike Leach how the network can help ruin a coach's career. Like it or not, ESPN unofficially runs college football at this point and will continue to until a viable competitor emerges.
I'm a little bit overrated in the polls right now, but the computers love me.