Monday, November 27, 2006

The Return of Michael's Pinata

I was feeling frisky this afternoon, so I decided to click on HeismanPundit for a giggle. Lo and behold, he just can't help himself when discussing the SEC:

Some pundits like to rave about how much talent LSU has. Best in the SEC, maybe the nation, they say. I agree they have talent, but no one ever takes the next logical step to ask: If they are so talented, why do they have two losses? And why do they underperform so regularly? And Les Miles? He gets a pass, the alternative being to get yelled at--just ask Tracy Wolfson.

You're right, HP. No one ever criticizes Les Miles...except for just about every blogger who pays any attention to the SEC. Other than that, spot on, Mr. Mencken.

Fact is, LSU lost a snoozer--not a classic--to an Auburn team that has itself been blown out twice this year at home. It also lost to Florida, a team that has yet to have an impressive outing against a good opponent.

So much fun here. First of all, what difference does it make whether LSU's loss to Auburn was a snoozer or a classic? HP's somnambulent state every time he sees a defense that can tackle aside, LSU lost a road game against a quality opponent by four points. They outgained Auburn and ended the game in Auburn's red zone. What difference does it make if they lost 7-3 or 45-41...other than the fact that teams with great defenses are more likely to win the national title and thus, the game was not inconsistent with the conclusion that LSU and Auburn were legitimate national title contenders? Second, HP pretty much illustrates tautological thinking by claiming that Florida hasn't had an impressive outing against a good opponent. The only way he can prove that LSU isn't that good is by claiming that Florida doesn't have any good wins, but he has to prove that LSU isn't good in order to make that statement in the first place. Chase your tail much, pussycat?

Its two marquee wins were narrow ones against Arkansas--a team whose best passer is a tailback--and Tennessee--a team that was playing without its starting quarterback.

Uh, USC's best win was also over that Arkansas team, only they didn't play the Hogs with that aforementioned tailback at full strength. They also played Arkansas with their fourth best QB, since HP would presumably rank the Arkansas passers McFadden-Dick-Mustain-Johnson. And yes, LSU beat Tennessee with Erik Ainge sidelined, but they did manage to exceed Cal's offensive output against the Vols by over 100 yards and that didn't have anything to do with Erik Ainge's absence. Furthermore, that figure includes the garbage time yardage put up by Cal after they fell behind 35-0. (Oh, I do love bringing that game up.)

LSU athletic director Skip Bertman raved after today's game about how tough the Tiger schedule was. Four top 10 teams on the road, never been done, he said. Yada yada yada.

On Seinfeld, yada yada was a euphemism for "more than I wanted to know" details. For HP, it's a substitute for trying to argue against the incredibly obvious conclusion that a team that played four top ten teams on the road in one season actually played a difficult schedule...unless we're being tautological and have decided with no evidence that no one in the SEC is worth a damn and the conference is soon to be dominated by Urban Meyer's offense...or not.

What he doesn't mention is that the other eight games the Tigers played were at home against teams with a combined record of 37-50. So, the Tigers had a four-game season and merely had to go 2-2 on the road to ensure this 10-2 mark everyone is so impressed with now. So LSU is asking what if? Good grief, man. What if they had hadn't played eight home games, or what if they had to take on Erik Ainge at full strength?

Incidentally, one of those eight games was against Arizona, a team that beat BYU, Oregon, Washington State, and Cal. Let's play the comparative score game for fun:

LSU 45
Arizona 3

USC 20
Arizona 3

Arizona 24
Cal 20

Arizona 37
Oregon 10

So if Arizona is a crap team, then what does that say about the rest of the Pac Ten?

Oh, and one more crowning insult: HP has cited Sagarin's rankings as definitive all year because they show that the Pac Ten is the best conference in the country. For the record, I don't necessarily disagree because the Pac Ten was a lot deeper this year, as it had only one bad team while the SEC had several. If you're simply taking the average ranks of the teams in a conference, then the Pac Ten will come out ever so slightly ahead. That said, I would also argue that the SEC was a more dangerous conference for a team with national title aspirations because it had more top teams. LSU illustrates this point. Five of Sagarin's top 12 teams are from the SEC. LSU is one of those teams and they had to play the other four on the road. Sagarin has LSU at #4 in his rankings; LSU's prime conquests Arkansas and Tennessee are #8 and #9; and the two teams that beat LSU, Florida and Auburn, are #6 and #12.


SmoothJimmyApollo said...

Rankings for conferences are kind of busted when one has to include the worst, eye-bleedingest teams in the country. If you come to a conference ranking by averaging out team rankings, a median may be a lot more accurate than a mean. Whatever though, I made a C in statistics.

LD said...

Sometimes I think it's not exactly appropriate to fisk HP. I mean, he's just a blogger with his own opinions and stuff.

But then he writes what you've worked through, and then yesterday he writes this about LSU:

"The Tigers are a poorly-coached, but talented squad that can beat almost any team out there; but they also can lose to almost any team, too."

The first clause is probably accurate. The second? Here are LSU's losses since Les Miles became the head coach (rankings are as of the time the game was played):

vs #10 Tennessee in overtime
vs #13 Georgia in the SEC Title game
at #3 Auburn by 4 points
at #5 Florida

Since Miles became coach, LSU is 7-4 against ranked opponents. LSU is 14-0 against unranked opponents.

I see no evidence that shows that LSU can lose to "almost anybody". Who is that "almost anybody"? Are they the two teams ranked ahead of LSU, playing on their home field and favored that they lost to this year? Or are they the unranked teams that LSU beat by an average margin of 31.9 points per game?

LD said...

Jinx on the comments at HP's place.

I added a mention about how there is a Top 5 team that has already lost to an unranked team and has three wins over unranked teams by 7 points or less. If you couldn't guess, it's USC.

Anonymous said...

off topic - i know you are sick of Mike Vick talk, but this was interesting.

Was listening to local radio this morning and Joe Theisman, Jaws, and Mark Schlereth (sp?) all came on separately and the hosts just came out and asked each "how much of this teams troubles is Vick to shoulder the blame for?".

Theisman basically said he feels the majority should be on the receivers because the effect of a quarterback not believing his receivers can make plays is not measurable. Pointed out that in the games the receivers have made plays the passing game has looked outstanding.

Jaws said after tape scrutiny of Sundays game that he feels like (much like Theisman) Vick has lost confidence in receivers and now is looking to make plays with his legs unless everything is perfect for the pass. Admitted that Vick should face some of the blame and has to work on it but sounded like the O-line and receivers would be a losing situation for almost any QB.

Schlereth said after watching the tape that he puts zero blame on Vick. Jenkins and White would be practice squad players on almost every team in the league and have no ability to get open in single coverage. If no receiver can get open in single coverage then the QB has no chance to be successful. He blamed whoever drafted these guys. Also said O-line is very bad at pass blocking and very bad at picking up blitzes so Vick is running for his life every other time he drops back. Coming from an O-lineman I thought that was interesting.

Just wanted to pass along.