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The BCS Is Perfect

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Deacon Blues

The BCS: It’s is a joke. It’s a ridiculous system that everybody loves to hate. It’s perfect.

 

For 13 years, anybody who cares about college football – that is, everybody — has been subjected to a system that has done precious little to do what it set out to do. According to the BCS website, the BCS “is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game.” Does anybody really think that the two best teams meet year after year? What about USC in 2003? Auburn in 2004? Boise State? TCU?

Even according to the organizers of the BCS, it’s not a perfect system. To quote the BCS website again, “Thanks to the BCS, the top two teams have played each other 13 times in 13 years by BCS measurements and 10 times in the last 13 according to the AP poll — including the last seven years in a row.” According to their own measurements, the top two teams meet every year, but even they grant that there is dispute over this. It’s almost expected that there will be disagreement as to which the two top teams are.

 

Take this year for example. #1 Louisiana State (13-0) is the team most deserving to be there. However, their opponent is not the same shoo-in. #2 Alabama (12-1) already lost to LSU. They didn’t even win their division, let alone their conference.

 

What about #3 Oklahoma State (11-1)? Other than a double overtime road loss to Iowa State, they murdered their competition, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Texas A&M. #4 Stanford (11-1) lost one game, and that was to #5 Oregon (11-1). That one loss for Oregon was to the horribly underrated – and regrettably ineligible – USC (11-2).

 

All the while, #7 Boise State (11-1) lost a heart-breaker to the perennial competitive TCU (10-2), and that was that.

 

In all of this, #6 Arkansas (10-2) is nothing more than a footnote. The Razorbacks lost the only two legitimate challenges they received all year: LSU and Alabama.

 

Alabama received their berth to the championship game base on a margin of .0086 points – the closest margin in eight years. A couple votes the other way – or even a slightly altered computer formula – and Oklahoma State has the chance to contend for the glass football. A bounce here or there for Oregon, or Stanford, or Boise State, and the landscape is completely altered.

 

It’s true that every other major team sport has a playoff system, but there are 120 teams in the FBS. Proponents of a playoff, or a plus-one, or something similar think that college football would be benefitted by determining a clear-cut winner. That’s just not true.

 

Playoff systems are inherently flawed. The only thing they tell us is which teams would win on those days. Often, the best team doesn’t win the championship. The Giants beat the Patriots. Villanova upset Georgetown. The Mariners won 116 games and didn’t even make the World Series. Is there any reason to believe college football would be any different? Of course not.

 

Coaches, ADs, and the whole of the NCAA have been deafeningly silent on the issue of a playoff system. Why is that? If instituting a plus-one or an eight-team bracket would really benefit the sport, why isn’t everyone pushing for it? Because they know they would run the risk handing the Coaches’ Trophy to Kansas State. A Boise State-Cincinatti matchup would absolutely kill ratings. Outside of the college football wastelands, nobody wants that.

 

The beauty of the BCS is the ambiguity of it all. With a pool as large as the FBS, everybody benefits from a system that encourages debate. Oklahoma State fans don’t want their team to get destroyed by LSU in the championship game; they want the Cowboys to get “cheated” out of the chance to play, go out and beat Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, and then have the opportunity to talk around the water cooler about how great their team was in 2011.

 

Nobody remembers the team that lost; everybody remembers the team that should have been there. Without the playoff system, the regular season is the playoff. Win and you’re still in, but lose, and you’re probably done. The BCS rarely gives out second chances. Absolutely every game matters, and no other sport can say that.

 

Deacon Blues grew up in Moscow, Idaho, and still resides there with his lovely wife and four savages. By day he is an economist and database expert, but he doubles as a T-ball coach, lacrosse official, suffering Mariners fan, and reader of children’s books. He also makes a mean morning meal and is ever on the lookout for the perfect breakfast burrito recipe. He can be followed on Twitter at @deaconblues42. 

Making Sense of Tebowmania

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Aaron Watson

Here is what Tim Tebow isn’t: a polished passer capable of making quick decisions or reading a defense like Brady or Brees.

Here is what Tim Tebow is: an incredible leader, runner and motivator who doesn’t make costly mistakes and is growing as a passer each week.

He didn’t ask for the hype. He doesn’t write the hundreds of stories each week about his heroics. He’s just trying to win football games for a team that, if we’re being honest, is mediocre at best. Yet for some reason the publicity he has generated just “trying his hardest to win” has made him a target for voracious criticism and overzealous praise that no other young player in the league seems to see.

But I guess it is fitting to have the Mile High Messiah being crucified for being different.

Nevermind that he is outplaying the oft injured Sam Bradford, last year’s #1 overall pick. Or former high picks Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Blaine Gabbert, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Christian Ponder. While those players continue to struggle week after week, it is Tebow who gets blasted by the pundits who seem to forget he is young, winning, and surrounded by a cast of players no one else wanted. And did I mention this is the same team that won 2 games last year?

I guess having too many fans is a cardinal sin in the NFL.

Does he get too much credit for his last minute heroics that have caused his team to move from 1-4 to first place in the AFC West? Sure. Has the defense made some great plays? Absolutely. But to say his 7-2 record is simply due to the defense and kicker is to forget how awful this team was in the first 5 games with Kyle Orton. And when Brady and Stafford carve up that defense with ease it should serve a reminder that this is simply an average team.

I honestly believe that if Tebow wasn’t so popular, he wouldn’t be as vilified. But as his ardent fans base continues to grow, his detractors feel the need to knock him down as many notches as they possibly can, regardless of how fair and honest their criticism. They see Tebowmaniacs going overboard in their support and thus feel the need to go overboard in their condemnation. There is no middle ground.

No one seems to accept the obvious. The team is average. The quarterback is young and has a steep learning curve. And the team is overachieving.

If the criticism was fair then Tebow’s detractors should be vilifying Sam Bradford for stumbling through an atrocious season. And if the support was fair then people would be lining up to receive Andy Dalton’s autograph and talking about how God must be a Bengals fan (that would be ironic).

But they are not. Because this isn’t about football anymore. It’s about him. It’s about a young man’s aura attracting a fan based that is simply unwarranted based on his production. And that just pisses off armchair quarterbacks who know he can’t be successful… ever. They’ve played enough Madden and fantasy football to know what a good quarterback looks like.

So to you pissed off armchair quarterbacks, I have a brief message:

Let the fans in Denver have their moment. If he can’t play, as you seem convinced, then the madness will end after 2 or 3 seasons like it does with all other young QB’s and you will have your moment of glory. And if you can’t do that, then at least be fair in your criticism instead of being just as irrational as the fans who think he deserves all the credit.  You don’t need to buy in, and you can be critical. Just give him the same deference you seem inclined to give every young quarterback not named Tebow.

And then when his legend fades off into the sunset one inaccurate pass after another, you can smile and look the rest of us in the eye and say, “I told you so.”

Or maybe, just maybe, he proves you wrong.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.

This Year Is Different (An Excerpt)

December 12, 2011 1 comment

“This Year Is Different” is published by Diversion Books and is available December 14, 2011. You can purchase it here.

By: Bob Sturm

It was a bit early to say the Mavericks had rewritten their legacy and reputation.

It was a bit early to say definitively the Mavericks were able to win road playoff games again.

It was a bit early to say the Mavericks no longer could be bullied in the postseason with physical and intimidating play.

It was a bit early to say the entire NBA was on notice.

But closing out Portland in six games with such tenacity and courage after a devastating Game 4 loss was a nice start in that direction.

Winning a playoff series should never be minimized. It had been five years since they’d won more than one, and now their prize was a meeting with the mighty Los Angeles Lakers. But the Mavericks would have a few days to catch their breath before that marquee battle. They could take pride in having outwrestled a very competitive Portland side that dragged them out into deep waters, knowing they were the survivors to reach the next shore.

“Tonight, Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry weren’t going to let us lose the game. It was simple as that,” Carlisle said. “There wasn’t going to be a miracle tonight. . . . Walking in this place and playing a playoff game is no fun, brother. This is the loudest place I’ve ever been. For our guys to hang in and be able to win in this environment is huge for us. To go through what we went through in Game 4, these things happen for a reason. But we feel our work has just begun.”

Nowitzki had both talked the talk and walked the walk. He scored 164 points in the six-game series — 60 more than his next-closest teammate, and never fewer than 20 in a game. With scoring totals of 28, 33, 25, 20, 25 and 33 against the Blazers, he was proving to be as deadly a weapon as in any point of his career. He had become that rare breed of player who could go on the road and make an entire arena groan when he released an open shot. When he started rolling, there was often no stopping him.

But Dirk would still need support. Perhaps his most dominating playoff series since 2006 had been in the Western Conference semifinals against Denver in 2009. Then, he amassed 172 points in just five games (28, 35, 33, 44 and 32), but Dallas lost the series. Nowitzki had delivered many times in many situations, but he could not single-handedly drag his team to victory. Neither could the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant before he was given proper help in 2008.

But perhaps this year truly was different. Nowitzki had battle-hardened, playoff-tested help. When his shot is falling, Terry can terrorize any opposing defense.Marion could lock down most top scorers and provide the loose-ball intangibles under the glass or in transition. Kidd’s vision and passing wisdom remained almost unparalleled. And then there was the big guy — Tyson Chandler — whose acquisition back in July 2010, frankly, disappointed many locals. Sure, he seemed to be an interesting player when healthy, but how excited could fans really get about a starting center who had started just 72 games in two years?

Well, they were excited now. And not just because Chandler wasn’t Erick Dampier. In the final two games of the Portland series, Chandler had realized all the potential that Cuban and Donnie Nelson had envisioned 9½ months earlier when they finalized the trade with Charlotte, beating Toronto to the punch. He not only had provided the best post play on both ends of the floor of any Dallas center in the “Dirk Era,” but he also appeared to be the William Wallace element the Mavericks always lacked. Chandler’s passion was undeniable, genuine and infectious.

Was he the alpha male? No, that was Dirk. But was he the guy who kept the bullies away from his buddies? Yes, he was.

A strange thing happened as Nowitzki left the court after Game 6. Many of  the Portland fans who had been rooting so hard against him suddenly showed their admiration and wished the big German continued success.

“They were great,” Nowitzki told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. “When we won and were walking off the court, a lot of them were yelling, ‘Go beat L.A.!’”

Earning opposing fans’ respect and a ticket to the conference semifinals was nice, but Nowitzki had much more on his agenda.

“It’s a nice win, but, I don’t really want to overrate this win,” he told reporters. “Our goal the last five or six seasons was always a championship. When I first got to the Mavericks, our big goal was making the playoffs. That goal obviously changed. Once you’ve been in the playoffs a number of years, you want to win it all.

“We understand that to win it all, you’ve got to take the first step, and that’s winning the first round. So we feel good about that. But we know we have a long way to go.”

That Nowitzki and Terry could play such big roles in dispatching the Blazers seemed especially fulfilling to their coach.

“These guys have been here a long time,” Carlisle said. “It is so meaningful for them both to help us move on. . . . I have grown to love these guys so much, and what they stand for, and what they’ve been through over a period of time that extends long before I got here. . . . Our team is a true team.”

The Blazers had been stout first-round opponents, certainly no pushovers. Their team wanted a fight and offered one. Their arena set the benchmark for what loud could mean. They forced the Mavericks to come together as a squad and see just how much agony and heartbreak they could stand. This series had been an ideal proving ground for what was ahead.

Bob Sturm, a native of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and a graduate of Liberty University, has hosted his half of the Bob and Dan Show on Sportsradio 1310, The Ticket in Dallas, Texas, since 1999.  Bob has also worked in television sports and has written sports blogs and stories for the Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, and Fox Sports Southwest.  He and his wife, Sally, and three children, Madeline, Brett, and Justin, live in Lewisville, Texas. 

Why Mark Buehrle Scares Me

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Nate Douglas

The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings are currently underway, and just like eggnog is synonymous with Christmas, so are rumors with the Winter Meetings.  Among the rumors is the Texas Rangers’ pursuit of free agent pitcher Mark Buehrle.  If CJ Wilson signs with another team (which sounds likely), I still do not think signing Buehrle would be the best move for the Rangers.  Over the course of his career, Buehrle has only had one sub 3.50 ERA season, which was 6 years ago.  His highest K/9 rate was 6.05.  When over the course of a season a pitcher strikes out less batters than the average number of days a Kim Kardashian relationship lasts, you don’t miss many bats. His xFIP last year was 4.14, a plateau he has reached regularly, and it would not surprise me if he had an ERA in the 4.00s during the course of his next contract.  I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like a $40 million pitcher.  The only argument I’ve heard in Buehrle’s favor was that he’s durable and can get you innings.  In response to this argument, I present you these stats (these averages were taken from 2005-2010):

 

Pitcher A: 189.2 IP, 4.39 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 139 K’s

Pitcher B: 213.6 IP, 3.94 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 117 K’s

 

Fairly similar numbers, Pitcher B obviously is a little better.  He’s Mark Buehrle.  Pitcher A is Kevin Millwood (who was in decline keep in mind), the Rangers’ last durable-gets-you-innings-pitcher.  That’s when the Rangers didn’t have any other starting pitchers to speak of.  Now, they have a rotation of Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison with Scott Feldman as the long-man.  A sixth pitcher would be nice to create even more depth, and if a trade opportunity presents itself for somebody like John Danks or Matt Garza, the Rangers would do well to pick one of them up.  But they don’t need a pitcher like Buehrle, the Rangers already have a left-handed inning eater who doesn’t pile up many Ks—Matt Harrison. Instead, if the Rangers had to get a free agent pitcher, I’d rather they give a couple years to Roy Oswalt at a cheaper price with higher upside than pay $40 million for a lukewarm pitcher in decline.  The Texas Rangers are the two-time defending American League champions.  That kind of pedigree leads to Joe Nathan/Neftali Feliz-like acquisitions.  They are no longer the AL West pondscum from six years, which lead to Millwood-esque acquisitions, which is what Buehrle would be.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.