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

Advertisements

Is James Franklin leaving Vanderbilt for Penn State? [UPDATE: Yes.]

This is the most reliable news in days on a story ALDLAND has been tracking closely. We will update this post as more information becomes available.   Click for all updates on this story…

A note on rants

The substantial development of online social networks as a solidifying infrastructure for the movement of information online has reinforced on the web the tenets of the attention economy and turned the internet, as concerns the sharing of content, into the interactive, digital version of a supermarket checkout aisle magazine display or afternoons on cable news networks. Whether you’re hawking cat videos or the latest from Miley Cyrus, the internet is in a serious tabloid phase, and the clickbait semantics of TMZ, Gawker, and Buzzfeed pervades. In the unending drive to control attention, the currency of our present time, everything must be labeled “awesome,” “EPIC,” “incredible,” “the best X you’ll see today,” “spectacular,” “fabulous,” and so forth, even if it’s barely out of the ordinary. It’s increasingly difficult to describe anything in measured terms, and we’re losing perspective on the degree to which anything truly is extraordinary.

The latest example of this phenomenon comes in the treatment of comments in a postgame press conference by Southern Illinois University head men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson, who expressed open frustration with his young team after a loss. It wasn’t the handful of mumbled sports cliches we’ve come to expect in such settings, but neither was it, upon my eventual listen, an extreme outburst deserving of the extreme attention it received. “Epic Rant!”, numerous outlets exclaimed. “Amazing tirade.” “Must-see video.” “Epic postgame rant for the ages,” they said.

Please. I’ve heard Denny Green. I’ve heard Jim Mora. I’ve heard Mike Gundy. I’ve heard Mary Carillo. Barry Hinson doesn’t hold a candle to those artists.

If you wanted a true rant this week, you just needed to wait until Wednesday afternoon. Colin Cowherd came on the Paul Finebaum Show and said that he thought that Gus Malzahn has Auburn situated to give Nick Saban and Alabama stiff competition in the coming years, and Cowherd predicted that the Tigers would beat Alabama again next year on their way to back-to-back national titles. Some of Finebaum’s Alabama listeners did not appreciate Cowherd’s opinions, and they called in to say so. As I heard the call of one such fan, Phyllis, unfold while listening to the Cowherd segment this morning, I had the slow-dawning realization that I was experiencing true radio magic. Listen for yourself:

(The full segment is available here.)

2013 college football bowl schedule

Before getting to the 2013-14 college football bowl schedule and associated predictions and operations, a note on sponsored discourse. In this post-Musburger-for-all-the-Tostitos world, it is an unremarkable fact that the bowl games are not merely sponsored football contests but business entities in and of themselves, the sponsorship-style nomenclature– e.g., “the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl”– a mere reflection of the game’s less overtly monied past. Even the ostensible bastion of postseason intercollegiate purity now is known as “the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.”

When a bowl game is a business, and not merely a happening, there is an associated shift in the commercial advertising language referential to that business. The NFL’s decision to prohibit the use of “Super Bowl” by non-league advertisers, who now must offer you late-January deals on new televisions for watching “the big game,” provides a rough analogy.

I understand and accept the logic behind a business’ desire to control its portrayal in other business’ advertisements and insist on inclusion of a game’s full, sponsored title in that portrayal. What I do not understand is why the news media plays along. This week, I heard a local sports talk show talk about talking about Georgia’s appearance in “the Taxslayer dot com Gator Bowl,” and that’s far from the only example. I understand that some of the sponsors have integrated their names into the bowl games’ names in such a way that it’s difficult– or, where the sponsor’s name and the bowl’s name are one and the same, impossible– to say the bowl’s name without saying the sponsor’s name as well (e.g., the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the Capital One Bowl, respectively). “Taxslayer dot com” is a mouthful, though, and everybody already knows the Gator Bowl. “The Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio” is ridiculous to say, and things like “the Allstate Sugar Bowl,” “FedEx Orange Bowl,” and “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl” simply are superfluous. Why the sports news media feels obligated to append these sponsor names when discussing the bowls is beyond me, and you won’t find us doing it here, unless it’s something humorous like the Beef O’Brady Bowl or the RealOakFurniture.com Bowl.

Onto the bowl schedule, which begins this Saturday.   Continue reading

College football starts tonight

College football is here at last. Like last year, the season begins on a Thursday night that features Vanderbilt in action against another SEC foe. In 2012, Vandy lost a heartbreaker to South Carolina on a blown call by the officials on opening night. This year, the Commodores take on inter-division rival Ole Miss. Vanderbilt has won three straight against the Rebs, but the margin of victory was just one point in their last meeting, and Ole Miss is on the rise thanks to their best recruiting class ever. While everything’s turning up roses in Oxford this season (“roses” being defined as something close to “Robert Nkemdiche“), a dark cloud has been hovering over Nashville as a result of rape allegations against four recently dismissed players. On the field, Vanderbilt’s biggest question might be at quarterback, where the journeymannish boy Austyn Carta-Samuels is set to take the reins from the graduated Jordan Rodgers and attempt to help the team improve on last year’s nine-win season, VU’s best mark since 1915.

Unlike last year, Vanderbilt technically does not play the first game of the season, Continue reading

The de jure national championship preview

Nick Saban* and Les Miles

The New Orleans Superdome has hosted a series of big football games over the past few days, including the Sugar Bowl, a Saints playoff game, and now the BCS national championship game tonight.

Keep reading…

The de facto national championship preview: The coaches

In college football, players come and go, and it’s the coaches who are more likely to become the lasting face of a particular team. Adding to this is the common college football notion of coaching “systems.” Coaching in the NFL is more about coordinators and their “schemes”– the Wide Nine really isn’t a defensive “system,” and the Wildcat really isn’t an offensive one, though it may be offensive to some– although coaches have developed systems at that level, including Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense and Tony Dungy’s Tampa 2. Systems certainly are in play at the high school level, but they frequently are crazy and not at all viable even at the college level. Think Wing-T, A-11, and, of course, the Wishbone.

The major college level is the Goldilocks of coaching systems, however, and along with this comes coaching personalities and attitudes that can influence the on-field performance of the impressionable, yet quite capable yoots.  

This installment of our ongoing coverage of LSU vs. Alabama, the de facto national championship, therefore focuses on the two coaches …Keep reading…

Ultimate Underdog (via Sports Illustrated)

For Vanderbilt, playing in the nation’s toughest conference is a losing proposition. But the only team in the SEC that everyone can love is 2–0, thanks to a new coach who has turned a blind eye to the past.

For fans, Saban is like a fiftysomething Justin Bieber. It does not seem to bother anybody that he is a reluctant guest of honor. “I think you all know that this is one of my favorite days of the year,” Saban tells reporters sarcastically.

Appearing before the media alongside Saban and the three Tide players, almost for bookkeeping purposes, are the representatives for the Vanderbilt Commodores. They have a new coach, 39-year-old James Franklin, but the same old story. They have finished with a losing record in 27 of the last 28 years. They have not had a winning conference mark since 1982.

Even at a gathering of its conference brothers, Vanderbilt football is an orphan. Forget luring fans to Media Days. Vanderbilt barely draws any media to Media Days. Of the 1,050 credentialed reporters, fewer than 10 are there to cover Vanderbilt.

And yet: This appears to be Franklin’s favorite day of the year. He says, “I believe whoever I meet, they’re a Vanderbilt fan. And if they’re not, by the time we get done talking, they are.” He looks out at a ballroom of skeptical media members and sees opportunity in every seat. … Read More

(via Sports Illustrated)

(HT: @rmccost)