Monday, November 07, 2011

Paterno and Urkin

Random Thoughts from the Weekend:

  • The Penn State indictments unleashed a torrent of ill-considered opinions on Twitter, the likes of which I haven’t seen for a long time.  At least two otherwise respectable commentators were calling for the Penn State football program to receive the death penalty, as if: (1) there are provisions in the NCAA’s rulebook that cover reporting of child molestation; and (2) Penn State is a repeat offender in the department.  Short answer: the NCAA doesn’t concern itself with criminal law.  There are authorities in central Pennsylvania who are tasked with enforcing the state’s laws that seek to protect children from predators like Jerry Sandusky and require that certain authority figures report allegations of abuse; the NCAA’s province is to enforce its own laws, which generally have to do with enforcing the concept of amateurism and preventing programs from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.  I seriously doubt that anyone can make a passable case that Penn State received an advantage by virtue of Sandusky’s reprehensible conduct.
  • In a strict football sense, the indictments should get Penn State out of a sticky situation.  They have a legendary head coach who is grimly clinging to his position, regardless of his inability to perform the basic functions of the role, because he is afraid of dying shortly after retirement like Bear Bryant.  Now, Paterno’s limp response to a graduate assistant telling him that his former defensive coordinator – a man who still ran a football camp at Penn State – was raping a child in the program’s showers gives Penn State a solution.  And this doesn’t even require Penn State to deal with the fantasy that Paterno, the most powerful individual in the athletic department (or possibly the entire university), was unaware of the prior allegations.  In every other sense, this is a disaster for Penn State.  The program’s image is inextricably linked with that of Paterno.  JoePa always projected the impression of a man of unimpeachable ethics, which his defenders often used to distinguish him from Bear Bryant.  Now, that is all gone.  The program and its godfather have been embarrassed and the taint from this scandal will stick with all of them for a long time.  More tangibly, the fact that various decision makers at the school did so little to deal with an incredibly serious issue and as a result apparently allowed multiple assaults to take place on university property is going to expose the school to major civil liability.  These are expensive mistakes that Penn State’s brass made.
  • In the realm of “it’s pointless to ever make predictions,” how many people would have guessed that: (1) Nebraska, which has had an excellent recent defensive record coming into the Big Ten, would be able to stop Michigan State, but no one else in the Big Ten; or (2) Michigan, which was averaging seven yards per play coming into the weekend, would put up less yardage that just about every other team that Iowa has played?  Count those two results as reminders that we are dealing with teenagers whose performances will vary from week to week.  Except for LSU and Alabama, I guess.
  • I felt conflicted in making my ballot.  In my heart of hearts, I think that Alabama is the second-best team in the country.  With Stanford having played a weak schedule so far and Oklahoma State confirming my suspicions that they are a good offense-average defense team, I would take the Tide over either of those teams on a neutral field, probably by a touchdown in both cases.  On the other hand, if you go based on resume, then the Tide have to be behind the Cowboys and Cardinal.  The SEC just isn’t strong enough this year for the Tide to develop a national championship resume without a win over LSU, especially since they did not play the two best teams in the East.  Moreover, if LSU has one of the spots in the title game, then the Tide cannot make a good case that they should get a second chance at the Tigers when they blew the first chance at home.
  • I will admit that I have little interest in seeing Oklahoma State in the title game.  I have nothing emotional against the Pokes, but they just seem like Oregon Junior to me and we already played that game last year.  Team with a powerful offense and questionable defense, thousands of ludicrous uniform combinations that involve shades other than the school’s official colors, success as the result of a very wealthy benefactor…  Not again, please.
  • Ralph Friedgen has to be laughing his ass off right now.
  • Did Saturday night mark the most depressing home game in Tennessee history?  The Vols came in at 3-5, having gone 0-for-October.  Meanwhile, their most hated rival and another conference foe were playing in a one versus two matchup that Vols fans probably would have preferred to watch than their own wheezing offense.  And nothing says “this game doesn’t matter” quite like Bob Rathbun on the call.  But hey, at least they set up a true state title game with Vandy by beating Middle Tennessee State.

Separate thoughts on LSU-Bama to follow…   


Anonymous said...

Oregon's defense was excellent in 2010.

Anonymous said...

Georgia Tech had a pretty good week considering they didn't even play a game. Why the big jump?

Anonymous said...

Seeing UND jump 11 spots in your rankings makes me realize that, but for two inexplicable red zone turnovers, we'd be getting bombarded with "Irish to the MNC game" hype.

Michael said...

Anon1, Oregon was tied with Maryland, Florida, and Pitt in yards per play allowed in 2010. Would you say that those teams had excellent defenses?

Anon 2 and 3, I never reference my old rankings when I do the new ones. There was no rationale for GT and ND moving up other than the fact that it is hard as hell to come up with a rational order for the teams after the top nine or so and a team can move around just based on what other teams do. Maybe it's just that GT and ND didn't embarrass themselves like Michigan and Nebraska did.

PatinDC said...

I agree on the UMD. There could not have been a worse one. I don't even like them, but the drop has been huge. Fridge's was let go due to declining attendance. The UVA-MD game, a big rivalry game in the past, had about 10,000 fans in a 50k seat stadium. I would say that's an attendance problem.

Gerald Perry said...

I think Real Madrid should be rated just above Clemson in the top 10.

Completely unrelated... but something I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on.

It's a topic I've been meaning to research: application of the "soccer scoring system" on major American professional sports. For example in MLB, you look at only the regular season, scrap the playoffs, etc. Give a team 3 points for a win (excluding wins in extra innings); 1 point for an extra inning game (as the equivalent of a tie) and 0 for a loss (excluding losses in extra innings).

As a Braves fan, I would interested in how many championships we'd have earned during the 90s-00s run.

Granted, its not a perfect a correlation, as managers may have played to avoid ties depending on the standings and thus have impacted the results accordingly.

Still, I would interested to see if we would have earned more championships under that model (I presume so) than under the playoff model.

Of course the Braves would have been relegated down to single A by the late 70s, so maybe this is moot.

Nate said...

Since you are talking about the NCAA here, Michael, I'm also curious about your reaction to the recent Atlantic article by Taylor Branch. Between the brutality of football and the greed of the NCAA, it would appear that supporting college football in particular is becoming something of a moral issue.

Ell Roberson said...

That's an impressive jump for Kansas State after a loss. What was the reasoning on that one?

IrishDevil said...

I think you might be underrating the Oklahoma State defense. Football Outsider's FEI ratings had it as #1 in the country going into last week, their S&P+ at #6. They'll take a hit this week for not slowing down KSU, but their poor yardage and scoring numbers are due to (a) playing in the offense and pace-heavy Big 12, (b) the pace of their own offense leading to more snaps faced, and (c) lots of garbage time stats accumulated against them after they already built a huge lead.

I'm not saying that they're really a top-10 defense, but they are a lot stronger than folks realize.

Thomas Gamble said...

You are right. I totally agree with you, Michael.