Monday, January 01, 2007

Same Old "Springboard" Bulls***

The 2006-7 bowl season isn't even over and already, thanks to Stewart Mandel, we have our first article parroting the notion that bowl victories can be "springboards" into the next season. Is it too much to ask that people writing about college football have a shred of empirical sense about them? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

It's that damn Mandel! He's so hot right now!

I went to the extraordinary trouble of doing a very complicated Google search for "2005 bowl games" and found this helpful guide. Please tell me if you see any correlation between bowl success last year and success this year, because I sure don't. If Mandel would have written about springboards at this time last year, he no doubt would have mentioned Kansas after their annihilation of Houston in the Forth Worth Bowl. Or maybe Clemson after a nine-point win over Big XII North Champion Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl? Alabama after winning the Cotton Bowl? Or how about NC State after a 14-point win over South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. (Good lord do I feel like a slapper writing out these bowl names. Thank goodness we have bowls instead of a playoff.) And let's take a look at the teams that were big stories this year for having far better seasons than expected:

Michigan - lost to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl (and as a matter of fact, Michigan's players have said that last year's debacle, ending with a loss to a clearly inferior Nebraska team, was a, dare I use the term, springboard into 2006).

Rutgers - lost to Arizona State in the Insight Bowl.

BYU - lost to Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Boise State - lost to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl.

Surely, there are examples to the contrary. LSU, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Florida all come to mind as teams that had impressive years on the heels of good bowl performances, but all that does is get us to the conclusion that bowls can be a springboard or they might not. In any event, it's useless to use results in December to predict results for next fall. Mandel, if he was paying attention, makes a somewhat related point in that same article when discussing how anomalous bowl results can be:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Most non-BCS bowl games are in no way reflective of a team's season as a whole. The circumstances are just too strange. During the regular season, you don't get a four-week break to reinvent your offense or throw younger players into the rotation. Already this bowl season, we watched Rutgers spring its own Tim Brown, Florida State's Lorenzo Booker morph into the player we'd been waiting to see for five years and some Iowa receiver named Andy Brodell do an uncanny Tim Dwight impression.

If a four-week layoff is enough to create results that are unrelated from the regular season, then what would we say about an eight-month layoff during which time teams see their personnel change, as well as their coaching staffs and schemes in some instances?


Fox said...

I think you are both right in a sense--bowls are a key building experience going into the next year. Sometimes a team wins big and it instills needed confidence for the next year. Other times, a bowl loss provides much needed motivation to a team or program to get their act together the next year to avoid going through another off-season with such a bitter taste. (Last year's Michigan team is a great example of this--getting lit up like a Christmas tree was no doubt a factor in the defensive reorientation Michigan needed.) Of course, Mandel doesn't say this, because he oversimplifies things.

I'm really hoping that my poor Hokies use their bowl loss as a "springboard" in another sense Mandel fails to mention--as final proof that their QB isn't capable of actually running a decent offense. I have no idea if their hot-shot incoming freshman QB is as good as advertised, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have turned the ball over 4 times in the 4th quarter.

Zebulon said...

I think Mandel's point may have been that a team *can* use a bowl game as a springboard. A win won't necessarily give a team a leg up on the next season. But given a reasonable degree of contiuity in personnel, scheme, etc., a quality bowl win might very well create some momentum for the next year.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the notion of a bowl win as a springboard is just something to key on for sportswriters who don't have anything meaningful to say. The manner in which it might actually be a springboard is in the national recognition sense--i.e., West Virginia's win over Georgia last year brought them to everybody's attention. -- Derek Oja, Decatur

Michael said...

A bowl result is a substitute for real analysis. 95% of the time, teams get better or worse because they return a bunch of players, they get healthy, they change schemes, etc. Michigan, for example, got better this year because they had a new defensive coordinator who didn't confuse the shit out of the players, they had a healthy Lamarr Woodley, and they put in a better running scheme. Losing the Alamo Bowl wasn't up there in terms of reasons for success or failure. Conversely, Nebraska got better because they returned a bunch of starters, including a three-year starter at quarterback, and they started to figure out Callahan's scheme, such as it may be. Winning the Alamo Bowl was entirely incidental.

I can tell you right now that Georgia is going to be overrated next year because of the "springboard" BS.

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