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.

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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

ALDLAND Podcast

Early December is a dead time for sports, but that doesn’t mean that ALDLAND can’t find things to talk about.  Join Brendan and Marcus as they discuss the demise of the Big East and the crazy contracts that are being handed out like candy in Los Angeles.

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

Rutgers and Maryland to join the Big Ten

Rutgers and Maryland have joined the Big Ten conference.

From the Big Ten perspective, what a stupid idea. What an obviously stupid idea. Just because everybody’s jumping off the sinking Big East ship as fast as possible doesn’t mean the Big Ten needs to act as a refugee camp for below-average escapees. Already in a bad spot heading into this fall, the Big Ten has made itself worse this week, and no comment about “Maryland basketball” or “Rutgers and the New York market” can change my mind.

Beale Street recap: Vandy falls to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl, 31-24

After the Red Wings fell 3-2 to the Blackhawks at the United Center, I boarded a plane from Chicago early the next morning, and touched down in the land of the Delta blues, in the middle of the pouring sunshine. It was a beautiful New Year’s Eve day in Memphis, especially by my recently recalibrated Northern standards, and I’m not sure anyone could reasonably protest the prospect of tailgating outdoors in 60 degrees and sun on December 31st. Whenever I go to Memphis, I’m always (I write this as if I go there so often) struck by the lowness of the terrain. It isn’t just flat, it’s low. (Or maybe it was the lowrider dunebuggy of a rental car we had. It’s a tossup really.)

Hearing no reasonable or unreasonable protest, tailgate we did, the site graciously hosted and organized by the VSL Braintrust. After gorging ourselves on food, drink, and conversation, we made our way into the Liberty Bowl, which presents as large and grand but operates as small and comfortable. There’s an imposing fortress-like structure at the main entrance that would be impressively and confusingly lit at the end of the game, the moat area being a concourse that certainly felt like it was in the stadium but operated as a sort of DMZ for people to finish their outside consumables and proceed into the technical, ticket-taking entryway.

Once inside, I found myself in the best seats I’ve ever had for a sporting event of consequence. It wasn’t a surprise– I knew where the seats were– but there was something pretty neat about saddling up in the second row, right behind the Vanderbilt bench and about turning around and seeing a sea of black and gold stretched from end to end of the Commodore side of the stadium.   Keep reading…

What the Orange Bowl tells us about conferences’ automatic BCS bids

We’ve followed the Clemson Tigers this season, from their 8-0 start, through their late-season slippage, their return to their winning ways in the ACC championship, and now their embarrassing defeat last night in the Orange Bowl at the hands of West Virginia. The Tigers’ victories have come almost exclusively on the back of their high-flying offense. Like Grinnell “system” basketball, Clemson doesn’t much care how many points you score because they’re just going to score more. It’s a great approach as long as it lasts, and it definitely is thrilling to watch, but when it unravels, things can get ugly in a hurry. Keep reading…

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

USA Today does its best to disentangle the World Wide Leader’s role in the current conference realignment mess:

For all that ESPN has lent to the growth of major-college athletics — through on-air exposure and with rights-fees payouts that schools have fed into stadium improvements, luxurious locker rooms and huge contracts for top coaches — there’s an undercurrent of concern about the influence of the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports.

It’s not just that its tentacles are everywhere: They’re everywhere at once.

As a TV rights holder, ESPN is a business partner to a wide array of conferences and schools (its total college outlay will average more than $700 million annually by next year).

And as a leading broadcast, print and online news outlet, ESPN also reports the news it’s often a party to making.

Although I wish it delved more deeply into the ethical/journalistic issues involved in ESPN reporting on events that it has a substantial financial and controlling interest in, the article is still a great read.

Hmm.

Not that the Big East is relevant in any discussion of college football, but how is it that after Syracuse man-handled West Virginia, West Virginia is ranked while Syracuse is not?  (They share the same record.)  At least USC has a better record than Arizona State (although I’m sure they’ll have a loss after Oregon as well).  I imagine there would considerable uproar if Wisconsin were ranked higher than Michigan State today.

Then again, maybe I answered it in the beginning: no one cares enough about the Big East to actually bother evaluating them.

Update:  The coaches are even worse than the AP, giving WV about 10 times as much love as the Orange.

2nd UpdateNone of the computers have WV ranked.

TCU to join Big XII

ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth reports:

TCU trustees are scheduled to meet on Monday and are expected to accept the Big 12’s invitation to join the conference, sources confirmed Sunday.

An announcement could come as early as Monday evening.

The Big 12 extended TCU an invitation on Thursday and said it would begin discussions with the university immediately. TCU chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. issued a statement on Thursday about the situation.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” the statement said. “It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for many years. As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

A move to the Big 12 allows TCU to rekindle some of the rivalries it had for so long in the Southwest Conference, which disbanded in 1996.

TCU, the defending Rose Bowl champion, agreed earlier this year to leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East, which has an automatic BCS berth.

A source told ESPNDallas.com last week that TCU would have to pay a $5 million exit fee to leave the Big East, but would be able to join the Big 12 in time for the 2012-13 athletic year.

What? You thought the Big XII was collapsing? Over and done with? Maybe. But the Big East is going down first, as reported here a month ago. Texas Christian’s decision to get itself into a BCS conference at all costs made sense two years ago, but now, the Big East is done, and TCU’s football team isn’t as good. (That’s a perspective that shows how fast this landscape really is changing, even if it appears incremental on a day-to-day basis.) The Big XII, fearing it’s next to dissolve, had to take TCU to keep something resembling a critical mass and, conveniently, replace one departing Texas team with another. And of course, TCU still thinks it belongs in a BCS conference. Million-dollar musical chairs.

Football Expansion from a Basketball Perspective

I caught Syracuse Mens Basketball Coach Jim Boeheim on a PTI segment Tuesday night discussing the Syracuse/Pitt move to the ACC, and he made a number of good points.  Combined with a conversation I had this weekend with a Georgetown alum, I’m wondering how everyone in the non-football sports (and schools) is viewing realignment.  It seems like they’re mostly getting lost in the shuffle.  Anyway, there’s another good followup with Boeheim in the WSJ yesterday morning:

“If conference commissioners were the founding fathers of this country,” Boeheim told the club, “we would have Guatemala, Uruguay and Argentina in the United States.”

The full article is here. More from The Birmingham News here.

Transition Monday

This past weekend didn’t feel as exciting as the previous one, from a sporting perspective (still deciding if that dependent clause is necessary), but it was a busy one.

On Friday, Dave Gavitt died. On Sunday, the collegiate athletic conference Gavitt founded and ran, the Big East, also died. Some may protest that the conference is not dead yet, but the decamping of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC is the harbinger of the Big East’s now-inevitable death.

in addition to the regularly scheduled bundles of football, the weekend also saw AL Cy Young lock and legitimate MVP contender Justin Verlander earn his twenty-fourth win, as well as his twelfth straight start, with eight scoreless innings in Oakland. (As the improving Shane Ryan observed, Verlander “could become the first pitcher since Bob Welch in 1990 to win 25 games. That milestone would probably cement Verlander’s legendary status, because who can forget the great Bob Welch?”)

The final major happening of the weekend came in Las Vegas, where Floyd Mayweather knocked out Victor Ortiz in the fourth round. Full coverage, video, and instant analysis is available here.

As for the week ahead here, stay tuned…