A False Narrative Anywhere is a Threat to Truth Everywhere

As a first-time blogger here on ALDLAND, with hopes of semi-regular future contributions and an eye towards establishing a reputation for taking on the most popular burning questions of the day, my topic essentially selected itself.  Obviously, I’m compelled to address the issue that is certainly on the minds even of casual fans – the media portrayal of Georgia Tech’s struggles with third and long.  I know, I know, you are probably thinking that is a rather ambitious topic, but hear me out.

If you have watched any Georgia Tech games recently, or in the past 8 years, you have almost certainly heard the television commentators’ familiar refrain whenever Paul Johnson’s option offense gets off schedule.  “This offense isn’t really built for this.”  “This is not where Georgia Tech likes to be.” “Paul Johnson has a good offense, but here is the weakness.” Or my favorite, “they really need to be in third and manageable.”

Odds are, most of you have not watched many, or any, Georgia Tech games.  And those of you who have probably haven’t noticed these comments or paid them much attention.  The few of you who have noticed presumably nodded in relatively indifferent agreement, quickly moving on and largely forgetting the idea.  Meaning, it is just us die hard Georgia Tech fans who care enough to object, and believe me, the twelve of us can get pretty irked.  Downright inflamed at times. 

If you’ve already stopped reading, I urge you to continue.  I know, thus far, I have given you no reason to do so, but there is a chance I will successfully make a worthwhile point eventually.  Anyway, without further ado, here are the numbers from ACC teams since Paul Johnson arrived at Georgia Tech in 2008.  These are compiled from cfbstats.com, and, for a fair and accurate if barely scientific comparison, only examine the 11 teams that have been in the ACC during this entire period.

3rd and 7 or More, All Plays

3rd and 7 or More, Passing Only

3rd and 10 or More, All Plays

3rd and 10 or More, Passing Only

Boston College

11th – 22.73%

11th – 25.49%

10th – 19.00%

11th – 22.34%

Clemson

4th – 30.49%

4th – 36.46%

5th – 22.92%

4th – 28.41%

Duke

7th – 28.61%

8th – 31.72%

6th – 22.40%

8th – 25.33%

Florida State

1st – 34.8%

1st – 42.48%

1st – 30.65%

1st – 41.22%

Georgia Tech

2nd – 32.7%

3rd – 36.92%

2nd – 27.59%

3rd – 31.84%

Miami

8th – 27.81%

7th – 32.14%

7th – 22.13%

6th – 26.48%

North Carolina

6th – 29.00%

5th – 34.34%

11th – 18.72%

9th – 23.37%

NC State

5th – 30.00%

6th – 33.09%

4th – 24.24%

5th – 26.86%

Virginia

9th – 26.42%

9th – 30.63%

9th – 19.21%

10th – 23.03%

Virginia Tech

3rd – 30.88%

2nd – 37.73%

3rd – 27.09%

2nd – 34.62%

Wake Forest

10th – 25.81%

10th – 30.44%

8th – 21.49%

7th – 26.40%

As you can see, Georgia Tech is among the best in the ACC at third and long.  Actually, Georgia Tech is even better than the chart shows, because in addition to being good at converting third and long, Paul Johnson’s offense is excellent at avoiding it.  This is important because, as the numbers illustrate, nobody converts third and long very often.  Georgia Tech faces third and seven or longer just under 8% of all plays, while the conference average is just over 10%.  Georgia Tech faces third and ten yards or longer just 4.4% of all plays, while the conference average is 5.69%.  Georgia Tech is first in the ACC in both categories.  Continue reading

Advertisements

College football wrapup: 2014-15

The 2014 college football season is in the books, and Ohio State is the first school to win a national championship determined by a postseason playoff system.

Beyond the usual discussion of champions and coaching legacies (quickly: Urban Meyer– three national championships at two different schools, evil; Nick Saban– four national championships at two different schools, merely soulless), one of the central season-in-review topics of conversation, at least in these parts, is whether the SEC is over. Surprisingly but also not surprisingly, Paul Finebaum, voice of the SEC, answers the question implied in the previous sentence in the affirmative. (UPDATE: PFT Commenter emphatically concurs.) Although he’s been developing his position over the course of his daily radio show since roughly the first of the year, he summed up the general point in his appearance on Keith Olbermann’s show just before the national championship game:

In short: “It was a pretty bad year for the SEC.”

Although I contemplated the notion of Peak SEC at least as early as December 2012 and later pegged the possible date somewhat more recently, I’m not sure I agree that the SEC is over.

The SEC’s bowl record was 7-5. (They were 7-3 last year.) The Pacific Twelve was 6-2 (exclusive of Oregon’s national championship loss), the Big Ten was 5-5 (exclusive of Ohio State’s national championship win), the Big XII was 2-5, and the ACC was 4-7. In other words, among the power five conferences, the SEC had the most teams playing in bowl games and notched the second-best winning percentage.

What seems to concern Finebaum, though, is a sudden lack of championships. That people think the SEC is done for because one of its members hasn’t played for a national championship in a whole year and hasn’t won one in a whole two years is a testament to the never-before-seen degree of dominance the conference produced during the BCS era. Prior to Ohio State’s inaugural CFP championship on Monday, the Big Ten had 1.5 national championships since 1970. The SEC had nine in the BCS era (i.e., since 1998) alone. The ACC had two BCS championships, the ACC had two, the (now-defunct for football purposes) Big East had one, and the then-Pac Ten had one, since vacated.

After the hunt for Mississippi October turned up empty and OSU knocked Alabama out in the semis, the SEC may need to do a little more to earn its seeds next year, but I’m not sure we can say the conference is measurably weaker simply because it failed to produce a national champion this year. If anything, the above suggests the conference is as deep as ever.

_____________________________________________________

Transitioning toward the offseason and the 2015 season, I’ll use this space to remind everyone that Michigan State’s only losses in 2014 were to Ohio State and Oregon. The Spartans face both teams again in 2015, albeit without the aid of their departed defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi. Continue reading

Book Review: Paul Finebaum’s Conference has Beaten Your Conference (Probably)

IMG-20140814-00138For someone who spends twenty hours a week on national airwaves as the host of an eponymous radio show, now simulcast on cable television, and makes regular television appearances on a major network, Paul Finebaum sure does manage to keep himself hidden.

I am not a longtime listener of Finebaum’s show by any means. I first remember hearing about him when I moved back to SEC country during the 2012 football season and he was still broadcasting on Birmingham’s WJOX. Due largely to my own preconceived misconceptions, I was surprised when I first heard the show following its move to ESPN Radio in 2013 to find that it was an extremely caller-driven show, to the point where Finebaum rarely asserted his own voice for purposes other than briefly sparring with or otherwise egging on his admittedly bombastic callers. At that time, the majority of those callers remained Alabama-based, and the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry served as nearly every item on the host’s go-to menu.

While a lot of this struck me as fairly standard cheap talk radio tactics, I remained intrigued by this person, who had risen to such prominence and reported influence, despite, I thought, hardly taking active steps to exert much in the way of influence. I therefore read the then-recent and still-surprising long feature on Finebaum in The New Yorker with great interest and anticipation. I found the piece to be more an introduction for Manhattanites to the other SEC and its attendant culture than a deep dive on Finebaum himself. Finebaum as access point, rather than Finebaum as subject. (A long Deadspin feature from the same year had a similar effect.) It’s a worthwhile read if you like college football. Still, I did not feel like I knew or understood this man, though, or why he was so widely regarded.

Fast forward (the lazy blogger wrote) to August 14, 2014. The SEC Network, an ESPN entity, launches (on Tim Tebow’s birthday, naturally), and Finebaum’s book, My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football, arrived in my mailbox.

Continue reading

History at stake in the College World Series finale tonight

The outcome of tonight’s game between Vanderbilt and Virginia will decide the College World Series. A victory for the end of the alphabet is guaranteed, but for Vanderbilt, the stakes are higher: a win would be the school’s first national championship for a men’s team, and only its second overall. (The VU women’s bowling team won it all in 2007.)

After winning game one of the best-of-three series on Monday, the Commodores had a chance to clinch last night. They were unable to hold an early 2-1 lead, however, and ended up falling 7-2. While some are criticizing Vandy coach Tim Corbin’s decision to leave starting pitcher Tyler Beede in to pitch the seventh inning, during which Virginia’s 4-2 lead expanded to a 6-2 lead, the real problem lies with Vanderbilt’s absentee offense. There remains plenty of attention on Vanderbilt’s nine-run third inning in the first game, but UVA still owns the run differential advantage, 15-11, over the two games. Take out that wild third in the opening contest, which was as much a result of an early and unexpected pitching collapse as it was Vandy plate discipline or hitting, and that expands to a 15-2 advantage for Virginia. The truth is that VU has been unable to generate its own offense in this series, and outside of one disastrous frame, Virginia has been in control. The Commodores aren’t a power-hitting bunch, and the conditions in Omaha won’t do anything to change that, but one has to believe the Vandy bats are due to come alive. They must do so tonight if the Dores are going to claim this national championship.

While a Vanderbilt win tonight would make school history, and last night’s bid may itself have been historic as (possibly, I haven’t researched this) the school’s first actual opportunity to win a men’s national championship, the Cav-Hoos are carrying the mantle and burden of a conference into tonight’s game: The ACC has just one College World Series win, and it came in the 1950s, when Wake Forest topped the Broncos of Western Michigan.

ALDLAND Podcast

Hello ALDLAND listeners, its the ALDLAND Podcast team, and we have quite the episode for you this week. Lip service is paid to the end of the Olympics and Canada is blamed for things that are assuredly their fault. If that’s not enough, your two favorite co-hosts get deep into discussing the NCAA tournament bubble.

_______________________________

Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

2014 BCS National Championship Preview

The final BCS National Championship Game is tonight at 8:30 pm on ESPN between Auburn and Florida State. The Seminoles, behind Heisman winner Jameis Winston and a robust defense, are heavily favored, but that’s no reason to think the Eagles/Tigers/Plainsmen can’t win. When I previewed all the bowl games last month, I wrote of this one:

Florida State and Auburn round things out in the final BCS National Championship Game before the implementation of the College Football Playoff next season. If this game was being played this weekend, I’d have an easier time picking Auburn to win. Although the Eagles/Tigers/Plainsmen have beaten Alabama, Missouri, Texas A&M, and everyone else on their schedule with the exception of LSU on the road, I think all of the time off will allow Florida State to better prepare for Auburn’s packaged offensive scheme. I can’t help being reminded of Auburn’s last national championship, in a game in which I also thought they were severely overmatched. Auburn’s giving up forty-two points to Missouri in the SEC championship game worries me, but they’re still my tentative pick to win it all on January 6.

I don’t know that anything has happened since then to make me feel more confident that Auburn can win, so I’m going to leave my prediction as it is. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

(Sidebar: Picking bowl games is a little bit difficult. This year, my picks were pretty scattered, none worse than picking Rice to beat Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl, which ended up being one of the few bad games this postseason. Still, I would like to note that ESPN the Magazine went 0-fer in its BCS bowl predictions. They had Alabama by 14 in the Sugar (Oklahoma by 14), Baylor by 20 in the Fiesta (UCF by 10), Ohio State by 6 in the Orange (Clemson by 5), and Stanford by 15 in the Rose Bowl (Michigan State by 4).)

For your pregame reading, I offer the following selections:

  • The Making of a Modern-Day Guru: How Gus Malzahn went from high school defensive coordinator to college offensive mastermind, and took Auburn to the brink of championship glory in the process Grantland
  • Florida State: Unbeaten and Untested. In contrast to Tigers, Seminoles Took the Path of Least Resistance Wall Street Journal
  • Equal Justice Under College Football Playoff: College football will take a big step forward when it adds a two-round, four-team playoff, but it will take a step backward when it replaces the BCS ranking system with the College Football Playoff Selection Committee ALDLAND

Enjoy the game tonight.

College Football Fan Guide: Championship Week Edition

Last week was one of the best football weeks in recent memory, and although our Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker weekly feature has fallen by the wayside due to worldly obligations, this week and the week ahead deserve note.

The Lions started things off on Thanksgiving with a wonderful win over Green Bay. It was Detroit’s first win on Turkey Day in nine years, and it was the first time Matt Stafford beat the Pack. The Lions also avenged the career game Matt Flynn had the only previous time he quarterbacked Green Bay against Detroit.

Brendan and I were in the Big House for Michigan’s surprise one-point loss to Ohio State, and I made it out of Ann Arbor in time to see Georgia come back to defeat Georgia Tech in overtime, note Vandy’s comeback win over Wake Forest, and watch maybe the greatest one second of college football in Auburn’s regulation toppling of Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

Records of note:

  • Auburn: 11-1 (35-21 loss at LSU)
  • Michigan State: 11-1 (17-13 loss at Notre Dame)
  • Ohio State: 12-0
  • Vanderbilt: 8-4 (poised for second consecutive nine-win season)
  • Missouri: 11-1 (27-24 2OT loss against South Carolina)

Bowl outlook:

  • Rose Bowl: Barring a very bad loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night, Michigan State seems set to ring in the new year in Pasadena. Here are the details on that situation.
  • Bowl projections keep waffling Vandy between the Music City and Liberty Bowls. Despite having a national championship in women’s bowling, they can’t seem to roll outside the Volunteer State. The former Independence Bowl in Shreveport might be a good alternative.

The BCS national championship: Right now, Florida State is set to play Ohio State, but that could change after this weekend. Each team needs to beat its conference championship opponent, Duke and Michigan State (more on basketball later!) respectively, of course. Auburn’s also in the mix here. If the Eagles/Tigers/Plainsmen beat Missouri in the SEC championship game, one-loss/SEC champ Auburn could leap an undefeated Ohio State. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask Florida head coach Urban Meyer:

There are a lot of people making a lot of decisions out there, but this is a big one. We’re going to tell a group of young men, who just went 12-1 in a most difficult schedule against six ranked opponents, that they don’t have a chance to play for a national championship? I’m going to need help with that one.

That was back in 2006, though, and in 2013, Meyer finds himself singing a decidedly different tune as the head coach of Ohio State. 2006 Urban Meyer got his way, something 2013 Urban Meyer ought to keep in mind this week.

(HT: @DrunkAubie)

ALDLAND Podcast

Marcus and I are back to discuss the games we previewed last week, as well as talk about some of the exciting games on this weekend’s slate. Coaches on the hot seat and how hot those seats might be is another topic of discussion, as is our new favorite musical artist, “Mathers.”

_______________________________

Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Clemson outpoints Georgia 38-35

uga-clemson 2013ALDLAND kicked off the 2013 college football season with a bang, as I joined Magalan and commodawg on the ground in Clemson, South Carolina for the weekend’s feature matchup, and the site of ESPN’s College Gameday: Georgia vs. Clemson. Keep reading…

ALDLAND Podcast

As promised, ALDLAND is back at it again with another college football preview blowout. Every BCS conference is discussed, and don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the Domers. Join Marcus and I, along with a special surprise guest as we unveil our picks and discuss the major players in the 2013 season as we see it. College football! So exciting!

_______________________________

Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here: