Friday, July 29, 2005
Revisiting Biggie and Tupac...
we're going to get all "East Coast-West Coast" with College Football Resource, with whom we've rumbled for his Boise State-Georgia "Georgia has never seen an innovative offense, I guess because Bobby Petrino wasn't innovative when he was at Auburn" pick. Now, he's defending John Walters' whining about SEC teams not wanting to get on airplanes. He makes a few good points, but I'm not buying:
1. As an initial matter, Pac Ten fans crowing about their teams' trips out of their time zone is a little like Bill Clinton taking credit for coming clean about Monica Lewinsky after he found out that Kenneth Starr had his DNA on Monica's blue dress: it's taking credit for necessity. Pac Ten teams have to travel to play high quality out-of-conference opponents because there isn't another major conference in the Pacific time zone and because they need to sign deals with name opponents to put butts in the seats of their stadia. If Pac Ten teams could schedule out-of-conference games without having to give return trips, they would, but they can't because the home gate at Pac Ten stadia is significantly less than the home gate in SEC stadia. Oregon State has a small home stadium in the middle of nowhere; LSU has a massive stadium that's always filled. Of course it makes sense that the teams would play in Baton Rouge and not Corvallis, given the economics of the situation. Louisiana is also a terrific recruiting area, so it makes sense for the Beavers to go there, especially since they can't fill all of their recruiting needs at home; the reverse is not true for LSU.
2. CFR makes a good point when he says that out-of-conference scheduling is done years in advance, which makes the whole process of measuring teams based on the pre-season rankings a little silly. That said, there are "name" opponents who can reasonably be expected to be good in the future. All of the top 30 teams the SEC is playing, with the exception of Boise State, could be expected to be good at the time the game was scheduled. On the other hand, over half of the Pac Ten's games are against upstarts Fresno State, Utah, and Boise State that aren't "name" opponents and couldn't be expected to be this good when they were scheduled. (Maybe that isn't true for Fresno or Boise if the games were scheduled this century, as both were good by about 2000. Utah was on Ron McBride mediocrity until Pope Urban.)
3. And then we get to the inevitable "it's hard to get on a plane and fly five hours" argument. There is a little merit to this; there are physiological effects of traveling a distance to a new climate, as any fan of Brazil or Argentina would tell you from their teams' performances in World Cups in Europe. However, when you're talking about two or three time zones, the effects aren't that great. However, I think that just about any coach in America would rather travel two time zones to play Missouri than travel 90 miles to play Florida State. By far, the most important factor in evaluating the strength of non-conference schedules is the quality of the opponent. Everything else is atmospherics.
CFR points out that Michigan sucks every time they play a road game at a Pac Ten stadium and that's true, but Michigan also sucks every time they play at Notre Dame and South Bend is a four-hour bus trip from Ann Arbor. Unless there is some magical effect that hits Michigan players when they cross into Central time (and doesn't effect them in Big Ten road games,) then I think the conclusion should simply be that Lloyd Carr, for whatever reason, nuts up on the road in non-conference games, regardless of the time zone.
4. And this point was wholly unconvincing: "But keep in mind the Big Twelve doesn't have its butt kissed by the national media, and doesn't self-appoint as the best conference in all the land, no matter the year." Ever meet a Texan? Ever hear Trev Alberts talk? Ever notice that every Big XII team in a close call for a spot in the BCS Title Game (Nebraska in '01, Oklahoma in '03 and '04) gets the nod and then loses? (Hell, there was serious talk in '99 of one-loss Nebraska getting the Sugar Bowl spot opposite Florida State in place on unbeaten Virginia Tech.) The only way to fairly judge the SEC's scheduling is to compare it to the other major conferences. Why is this so complicated?