Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Wisconsin Tapeworms (and Other Random Observations from the Weekend)

This weekend is the fifth week of the 2011 football season.  We are already one-third of the way through the campaign.  We are at a point where we can make intelligent judgments about most teams because we have seen them against quality opponents.  LSU is the new #1 team in the country, having won on trips to Jerryworld, Starkville, and Morgantown.  Alabama has whipped Penn State on the road and Arkansas at home.  Oklahoma went to Tallahassee on a Saturday night and showed that maybe a Big XII can actually play defense.

And then we have Wisconsin, the parasites of college football.  The Badgers have played nobody.  Barry Alvarez lined up UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, and South Dakota, three of which were at home and the fourth was at Soldier Field against a MAC fan base, requiring Badger fans to drive a whopping two or even three hours to see their team play a de facto home game.  While the vast majority of college football powers have played at least one good opponent, thus giving us entertaining games to watch, the Badgers have been engaged in a glorified preseason.  If every team scheduled like Wisconsin, then no one would watch games not involving their own teams in September.  Wisconsin does no useful work, but benefits from the efforts of the larger organism.  Hence, they are parasites, just like a rich soccer or baseball team whose youth team/farm system produces no good players and they instead buy the quality players produced by other teams.

My disdain for Wisconsin is especially pronounced because Barry Alvarez built a program on disgraceful scheduling, but whereas most upstart programs eventually outgrow their tendency to play Hucklebuck U, Barry just keeps lining up tomato cans as if Wisconsin were still the upstarts of the Big Ten.  If F***ing Kansas State just played at Miami this weekend, then maybe the Badgers are a little behind the curve in non-conference scheduling.  You know, like 15 years behind?  Brett Bielema is in his sixth season as the coach of the Badgers and here is the complete list of non-conference road games that Wisconsin has played during his tenure:

UNLV (twice)
Fresno State

Way to step out on a limb against the WAC/MWC!  Maybe last year’s Rose Bowl should have been branded as the MWC Championship Game.  And here is the complete list of BCS Conference opponents that Alvarez has lined up for his prodigy:

Oregon State
Arizona State
Washington State

We’re really going after the cream of the Pac Ten crop, aren’t we!  As a committed college football fan, I am eternally grateful that Barry Alvarez has gone to the greatest length possible to give me watchable games.  He makes Frank Beamer look like Knute Rockne or Bobby Bowden.  “We’ll play anyone anywhere at any time, as long as ‘anyone’ is someone from a non-BCS conference that has a massive resource disadvantage compared to us and ‘anywhere’ is somewhere that my fans can treat as a vacation.  There’s nothing quite like rows of cheddar-stretched bellies lined up by a pool at the Bellagio or a beach in Maui.  Go Badgers!”

Other thoughts from the weekend:

  • We all made fun of Arkansas fans when they went FOIA-crazy in their efforts to get rid of Houston Nutt, just as Nutt was having some success with his McFadden/Jones teams.  It bears mentioning that everything that Arkansas fans said about Nutt and how he would fare at Ole Miss has turned out to be accurate.  He did well initially when he was coaching players recruited by The Orgeron, but now, his half-assed recruiting effort is coming home to roost.   Meanwhile, Arkansas ran off Nutt and replaced him with a significantly superior coach, so who says that lunatic fan behavior doesn’t pay off?
  • Greg Mattison’s Michigan defense has held consecutive opponents to single-digit scoring.  GERG’s defenses held two opponents to single digits in two years and one of those opponents was a low-level I-AA team.  In the eternal “what matters more: coaching or players?” debate, Michigan’s defense is illustrating the value of competent leaders on the sideline.  And speaking of Michigan coaches, Brady Hoke went a long way to dispelling the comparisons to Lloyd Carr by going for a fourth and two just inside of Michigan territory late in the second quarter against San Diego State on Saturday.  Naturally, Chris Martin thought that it was a bad idea.  Coaches are way ahead of color analysts in understanding risk/reward calculations. 
  • We’re too early to reach any conclusions, but one interesting comparison this year will be between Al Groh and Todd Grantham in year two of their efforts to install 3-4 schemes.  Paul Johnson has his offense fully in gear, so Tech will not need to be better than decent on defense to be a contender in the ACC.  Tech will be a significant favorite in its next three games, so 7-0 headed to Miami looks like a distinct possibility.  Groh seems to have his defense playing a little better than they were last year.  Grantham’s efforts look inconclusive right now.  Boise State had success against the Dawgs, but how much of that was simply a result of playing an excellent offense with a senior quarterback?  The numbers in the South Carolina game were bad, but Georgia surrendered three non-offensive touchdowns.  The Dawgs have faced two tomato cans since the opening two-game challenge.  Two big tests are coming up for Grantham.  Mississippi State and Tennessee both have good offenses, but are by no means unstoppable.  With Georgia’s margin for error gone, Mark Richt really needs Grantham and his charges to produce.
  • My father-in-law was trying to tell me this weekend that Randy Edsall was a great hire for Maryland.  Do you ever find yourself in social situations where you want to respond with “that’s ludicrous for the following six reasons” and then come to the “what’s the point” realization?  Anyway, thank you to Temple for making my point for me.
  • LSU is becoming an interesting test for the notion that yardage is more important than points.  The scoreboards at the end of the games against Oregon and West Virginia were impressive; the box scores, not as much. 
  • Alabama held Arkansas to 226 yards on 3.8 yards per play.  I think that the hype for the Alabama defense has proved to be well-founded.  To come back to the start of this post, a one-loss SEC Champion ought to get a spot in the national title game over an unbeaten Wisconsin.  At some stage, the Badgers should be punished for being [insert euphemism for lady parts] and that would be the way to do it.  Plus, Wisconsinites in New Orleans would be a crossing of the streams in terms of the least healthy fan base meeting the country’s most unhealthy, decadent cuisine.  That event could single-handedly destroy the cost curve that Obamacare is designed to bend.   


Anonymous said...

LSU's special teams are great. Special teams are the whole of YPP analysis. Yardage efficiency tells you everything you need to know about a team's offensive unit and a team's defensive unit, but it can't tell you squat about Morris Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return, or that LSU's average starting field position is close to their own 40 yard line, or that WVU's punter had one or two punts that traveled less than 20 yards.

Right now LSU's yardage efficiency tells us that they are a good team (+1.0), with a great defense and a mediocre offense. I don't think that's going to be sustainable, and I suspect they'll lose one or two in that stretch of schedule where they play @ Tennessee, host Auburn, then travel to Alabama.

Wisconsin's schedule is a good reason to cheer for Nebraska in Saturday's Red Bowl.

Steve S said...

You mention bypassing an undefeated UW team for a one-loss SEC champ. What if the scenario is unbeaten Bama and one-loss LSU (or vice versa, my SEC rooting interest is primarily seeing UGA get beat down)? Even if they would have demonstrated themselves the two dominant teams, does allowing a rematch invalidate the "regular season as playoff" argument?

Kevin said...

In defense of the rich “parasitic” soccer team that buys its youth stars rather than developing their own, one could say that the clubs selling their stars certainly benefit from transaction. In fact, the very training grounds that produce these stars are funded not solely by the revenue generated by their small club but rather in part by their transactions with larger clubs. Ajax, of late, has succeeded in a new business model built more on the business of producing and selling young talent than winning league titles.

Unlike the tick that offers blood borne pathogens, the parasitic soccer club funds and rewards the well run youth training grounds.

www.lerida-3d.com said...

Gosh, there's a great deal of useful material above!

Hostpph said...

You are right. It is the right time to look to some trends and prediction that most of them will be right.