I thought that nerds were smart?
I get the point that Georgia Tech fans were pessimistic going into the game in Athens on Saturday night with the Jackets 6-5, missing their starting quarterback, and coming off of an unimpressive performance against Duke. In light of those expectations, losing 42-34 in large part because of a missed PAT seems like a victory. However, this part of Mark Bradley's post-game column is excessively optimistic:
In the end his team lost, but the same Tech man who’d told me after the Jackets’ uninspiring defeat of Duke that he fully dreaded Saturday night in Athens was positively giddy in this losing aftermath. And another Tech man, the former captain Taz Anderson, sent this e-mail 18 minutes after the final whistle: “Tonight you saw a great football coach take a group that has little talent and keep them in a game where they were clearly overmatched.”
OK, I know what (some of) you Bulldogs are saying to that: “They’re Techies and they lost– who cares what they think?” And under other circumstances I might agree. But after this wild night I’d suggest both sides saw the same game, which is to say an on-paper mismatch that became an on-field white-knuckler. And I’d also ask this: When was the last time Georgia’s coach worked a game that good?
If Tech has little talent, then whose fault is that? Partially Chan Gailey’s, but at least partially Paul Johnson. Do Tech fans not understand that the head coach has a major role to play in determining whether his team will have talent, either directly by recruiting players himself or indirectly by hiring the coaching staff? Put another way, are Tech fans viewing Saturday night as a lab experiment in which the guy in the white coat did his best to get a reaction out of the materials at hand, all while ignoring the fact that that guy is responsible for the materials in the first place? If Tech’s roster is full of promising underclassmen who were recruited by Johnson and is suffering because of Gailey’s last classes, then I guess this response makes sense, but I don’t see that phenomenon when I look at the Jackets’ mix of players. To me, the post-game reaction places way too much emphasis on the coaching decisions that we see with our eyes (Johnson’s decision to let Georgia score at 35-34 and Richt falling for the gambit) and not enough on the coaching decisions that we don’t see (recruiting good players 365 days per year).
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Tiebreaker)
Remember 2008 when the Big XII South (and therefore a shot at playing Florida in the national title game) was decided with the Big XII using the BCS rankings to split a three-way tie? Remember how large segments viewed this as a travesty? At this point, it seems fairly well accepted that this is the way to split a three-way tie. The Big XII South is going to be settled by this method, as will the Big Ten. As best I can tell, no one is clamoring for a return to using other methods.
The Big XII South coming down to BCS rankings makes perfect sense because it has a three-way tie in which the three teams each went 1-1 against one another. The Big Ten’s three-way tie is a little more complicated. Because Michigan State didn’t play Ohio State, there isn’t a complete set of results for the three teams tied atop the conference. (By the way, if you want a good argument in favor of the Big Ten implementing a championship game, how about the fact that 27% of the conference gets to claim that they are conference champions? Another good argument: money.) Michigan State went 1-0 against the other two teams; Wisconsin went 1-1; and Ohio State was 0-1. On the other hand, Michigan State is behind Wisconsin and Ohio State in the human polls and the BCS computer polls. The Spartans are well behind the Badgers and Buckeyes according to Sagarin (they would be an 11-point underdog on a neutral field against Ohio State), Massey, and SRS. In short, there is near-universal consensus that Michigan State is the weakest of the three teams tying for the Big Ten title, a conclusion that comes from the fact that the Spartans had very close calls with 7-5 Notre Dame, 7-5 Northwestern, and 4-8 Purdue. With 36 games of evidence showing that Michigan State is not as good as Ohio State or Wisconsin, isn’t it better to use that evidence to determine the Rose Bowl bid as opposed to common record in two games (or, even worse, the fact that the Spartans haven’t been to Pasadena as recently as the Buckeyes or Badgers)?
Can Chuck Neinas find a defensive coordinator?
In 2009, Michigan finished a disappointing 71st in yards per play allowed. As bad as that showing was, Michigan was ahead of Texas A&M (90th) and Florida State (105th). A&M and Florida State both hired young, promising defensive coordinators, while Michigan stuck with Greg Robinson. A&M returned nine starters on defense, Michigan returned seven, and Florida State returned six. In 2010, the Aggies and Noles both improved to 11th in yards per play allowed, while Michigan plummeted to 100th. The contrast was especially stark this weekend, as Texas A&M and Florida State both notched impressive wins over their arch-rivals, while Michigan was dominated (again) by Ohio State. Yes, Ohio State is much better this year than Florida or Texas, but is there much doubt that Michigan would make John Brantley and Garrett Gilbert look like their predecessors under center?
This example can cut one of two ways when evaluating Rich Rodriguez. On the one hand, he made a major staffing mistake unlike two other offensively-minded head coaches and that mistake would be a legitimate basis for termination. On the other hand, if Rodriguez got another shot and found his version of Tim DeRuyter or Mark Stoops, then Michigan’s defense could show similar, marked improvement in 2011.
Random Thoughts on the Iron Bowl
- What is it with Auburn and the late rallies? I get the fact that the Tigers sub liberally, so their defense is fresher in the fourth quarter. That said, how does one explain their tendency to get torched by star receivers for two to three quarters before shutting them down in the fourth? Does it take Ted Roof a while to realize that maybe he should be shading his coverage toward A.J. Green and Julio Jones? And will he learn his lesson when the Tigers get a second crack at Alshon Jeffery this weekend? On offense, Auburn and Oregon share a tendency to get better as the game goes on. I see two explanations here. First, their no-huddle offenses play at a fast pace and wear opposing defenses out. (Maybe the Auburn and Oregon defenses are especially well-conditioned because of practicing against their offenses? Can the Spread be an advantage to a defense?) Second, Gus Malzahn and Chip Kelly are both very bright offensive minds, so they adjust to what the defenses are throwing at them over the course of 60 minutes. That said, Auburn got back into the Iron Bowl on the strength of two basic fly patterns, one of which was badly misplayed by Mark Barron. Jeff Bowden would be so proud.
- On the list of things that Gary Danielson got wrong this year, let’s add in the fact that he wanted Auburn to punt on fourth and three from the Alabama 47 on what turned out to be the winning drive of the game. Anytime you have a team with a great offense and a merely decent defense, you want the game to come down to the defense instead of the offense, right?
- The personal foul on Nick Fairley in the first quarter was insane. Ohio State was also the victim of a pair of dreadful “too much happiness” calls on Saturday, which makes me dread a world in which refs will have increased powers to make meaningful excessive celebration calls next year.
- 36, 102, 69. Those numbers represent Alabama’s rushing totals in the Tide’s three losses this season. Remember before the season when the discussion was whether the Ingram-Richardson tailback pairing was the best in college football history? The most interesting inquest following the 2010 Alabama season is what happened to the running game.