Monday, December 03, 2007

Georgia vs. LSU

I don't feel like taking the time to take apart the usually sane Mark Bradley's poorly constructed argument that Georgia should be playing for the national title instead of LSU, but here is one of a dozen good arguments against that proposition: every SEC coach other than Mark Richt had LSU ahead of Georgia.

Thus concludes the first instance in which Terence Moore was right and Mark Bradley was wrong about a subject.


LD said...

A poll on popularity is not a "good argument".

There are certainly arguments why LSU is a good choice to the detriment of Georgia (schedule strength, more wins over top opponents, closer losses, etc). But "because a handful of people said so" isn't one.

Michael said...

It's not a popularity contest. All of these coaches have coached against LSU and/or Georgia. They've seen a huge amount of film on those teams. The fact that all of them think that LSU is better than Georgia is a very important statement.

LD said...

It's a subjective opinion, not fact. And a weaker argument than any of the objective ones someone can make on behalf of LSU.

And there are necessarily considerations for each vote other than "strength of the team" - personal friendships with members of coaching staffs, recruiting rivalries.

Does Tuberville, who recruits Georgia significantly more than Louisiana, want to go head to head with Mark Richt for particular players when Richt can talk about a national title? Does Tuberville, whose DC coached with Miles and at LSU, have a personal reason to give a vote to LSU over Georgia? Does Tuberville feel more embarassed by his own inadequate preparation of his team against Georgia?

Fact is this: it's a popularity contest, and individuals voting might have a number of reasons for a certain vote that have nothing at all to do with the strength of the team. Individual voters are conflicted - biased, personally benefiting from the results of the polls. Relying on any results of polls to "prove a point" is a fool's errand.

Michael said...

Individually, pollsters have all sorts of different biases. I can see your Tuberville point. However, when five of five coaches who coached in the same conference all conclude that LSU is a better team, that means something. Sly Croom has the opposite motivation from Tuberville; he's far more likely to be recruiting against Les Miles for a player than Mark Richt, but he still voted LSU ahead of Georgia. It's like Robert MacNamara said in "The Fog of War": we should have known that our Vietnam position was a bad one when all of our allies reached the opposite conclusions that we did.

LD said...

Croom's situation is different from Tuberville's because he never saw Georgia play this year (and he also has some incentive in voting LSU highly because he got waxed by LSU - better to defend a terrible loss to a highly ranked team).

Tuberville is more like Spurrier and Fulmer - all coaches played both teams, but all three also recruit Georgia heavily. (Also, I understand Fulmer and Spurrier voting LSU ahead of Georgia for on-field reasons, naturally).

Point is that we're talking about a small sample size for a "consensus", and all of the members of that sample size have personal biases and conflicts that may cause their opinions to be completely meaningless. It's why polls are a terrible way to arrive at truth - even if the eventual outcome is defensible.

peacedog said...

Mike, Shenanigans, and don't you dare come back at me with anything remotely resembling "You're just upset because LSU got the nod over Georgia", because I'd say this in any situation like this.

You're making a flawed assumption: that the coaches are voting rationally. I think they're right to have LSU ahead of Georgia, but we can safely say that this is a dangerous assumption.

For one, we know that coaches don't always fill out their ballots. They probably, at best, get help filling them out from other coaches, grad assistants, etc. There have been documented instances of coaches admitting as much.

Two, coaches are as subject to bias as anyone else, and while I don't think there was a huge issue here we cannot automatically assume their ballots were all cast in good faith.

Three. . . I don't agree that the coaches watching film and coaching against the teams necessarily constitutes a reasonable sampling of data regarding the worth of a team relative to the rest of the teams in D1 college football. Sometimes it will, sometimes it wont. Additional factors can come into play beyond bias and "absentee" balloting.

Once again, I don't think they got it wrong, but arguing for UGA is hardly a stretch, and some of the voting patterns are a touch on the wonky side (to put it politely; wyoming had UGA 10th, which is patently absurd).

Michael said...

It's college football; we're always going to have small sample size issues. We're making these decisions based on teams playing about eight competitive games each, remember? It's an awful coincidence that all five of the SEC coaches reached the exact same conclusion. And these five coaches know more about these teams than anyone else. Croom didn't play Georgia, but you think he didn't see a lot of film on the Dawgs? You think he didn't watch the tape of Georgia's game against Alabama?

Michael said...

Peace, the biases in a sample size of five ought to cancel one another out. It's not a perfect situation, but these coaches know more about LSU and Georgia as teams than anyone else. You think that Croom didn't watch tape of UGA-Bama and come away with some definite ideas as to how good Georgia is?

LD said...

Looking harder at the SEC coaches' polls, I think only Tuberville's is a little strange.

Croom had LSU 2, UGA 3 - reasonable because he played LSU and LSU pounded them.

Fulmer had LSU 2, UGA 4 - reasonable because he played both, beating UGA, losing to LSU.

Miles had LSU 1, UGA 3 - reasonable to defend one's own team, I suppose.

Nutt had LSU 2, UGA 3 - didn't play UGA, played LSU - pretty close anyway.

Richt had UGA 2, LSU 3 - reasonable to defend one's own team, I suppose.

Spurrier had LSU 2, UGA 4 - reasonable because he played both, beating UGA, losing to LSU.

Only Tuberville doesn't make sense - in that he played both, lost badly to one, close to the other, but ranked the team he lost to close a lot higher - LSU 1, UGA 5.

Tuberville's poll (because of the gap and the on-field results), I think, raises some questions about personal motivation.

One wonders how Urban Meyer would've voted - another coach that lost to both, one worse than the other.

One really wonders how Rich Brooks would've voted - seeing as he's the reverse Fulmer/Spurrier, having beaten LSU but lost to UGA.

Regardless - it wasn't the SEC coaches that put LSU in the title game over LSU. There were some odd ballots out there though, that show some prett bad biases - like Stoops putting LSU and UGA outside the top 5, but 3 Big XII teams in the top 4. Or Hal Mumme with Hawaii at #1. Or Joe Glenn with UGA behind Florida (no idea on that).

Point is that the polls sometimes make no sense, and we don't know the rationales for them - and relying on them to prove a point makes for a weak argument (especially when one could make strong fact-based arguments).

Anonymous said...


First, I enjoy your blog. Second, I don't have a problem with LSU in the titlegame (As a UGA fan, I think it should have been LSU and Oklahoma) near as much as I have a problem with OSU. The Big 10 stunk this year, and if strength of schedule had nothing to do with the analysis, Hawaii should be playing Kansas for the title.


Unknown said...

From listening to Tuberville the last few years I think he rationalized in this way (for right or wrong) -

"Winning conference is most important so LSU, OU, OSU...

But I don't want to hang the SEC out to dry by voting UGA after USC and Va Tech so they go 4th...

Wait, I've been saying since 2004 if you go undefeated you should get a chance to play for a championship, so Hawaii...wait, I'll catch serious heat if I put them #1, how about 4? That looks good...

Ok UGA #5, that should put me square on the medium, no fuss either way..."

Anonymous said...

ld 4 - michael 0

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