Analyzing college football coaches’ favorite musical artists

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ESPN conducted a survey of all 128 Division I college football coaches, asking them to name their favorite musical artist. The full list of responses is here. My cursory analysis is here:   Continue reading

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

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

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)

From champs to chomped: How Urban Meyer broke Florida football (via Sporting News)

The uproar and controversy of Urban Meyer’s stunning recruiting coup at Ohio State settled in and Stefon Diggs, still on the Buckeyes’ wish list, was debating his future.

Diggs, the second-highest rated wide receiver in the country, had narrowed his list of potential schools to Maryland, Florida and Ohio State. For more than a week following National Signing Day on Feb. 1, and before Diggs eventually signed with Maryland, Meyer relentlessly pursued Diggs.

Multiple sources told Sporting News that Meyer—who won two national championships in six years at Florida and cemented his legacy as one of the game’s greatest coaches—told the Diggs family that he wouldn’t let his son go to Florida because of significant character issues in the locker room.

Character issues that we now know were fueled by a culture Meyer created. Character issues that gutted what was four years earlier the most powerful program in college football. … Read More

(via Sporting News)

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Related:
Urban renewal: Once Meyered in the Swamp, a Buckeye nut returns to his roots

Urban renewal: Once Meyered in the Swamp, a Buckeye nut returns to his roots

I met Urban Meyer once, about a month after we won our first title with him at the helm. Through a series of very fortunate events, I actually got to have an uninterrupted conversation with the guy for about 20 minutes. In that time, it became obvious that February 2007 Urban Meyer only cared about two things: winning football games, and spending time with his family. And it was clear that, notwithstanding all the success on the first front, he was pretty upset about everything he was missing out on at home.

Which is why, 2 (and then again 3) years later, when he claimed he was leaving, at least in part, on account of his family, I believed it. I really think that was a big deal to him, and I think he has, by and large, taken great advantage of the time off to see his kids. But he loves coaching football, so seeing his inevitable return come a little quicker than I expected is understandable.

Given all that, I’m having trouble being mad at him. Sure, he said some ridiculous things about how he couldn’t step away and then end up coaching somewhere else in a year or two; how wrong that’d be. I’m sure he felt that way at the time, and I appreciated the sentiment. But he obviously can’t come back to UF now, and tOSU is his alleged dream job, so I don’t begrudge him moving on. If he raids our coaching staff, as has been rumored, that’s another story. But until we see that confirmed, best of luck buddy.

My feelings about the way UF handled the Urban Meyer situation over the past two years are a little different. I understand that he had a ton of leverage when we negotiated with him, but our AD, Jeremy Foley, basically let Urbz walk all over him. As I understand it, he had a $500,000.00 buy out, on a deal that paid him millions of dollars over a very long period of time. Even worse, a month after his second, longer-term retirement, we still paid him a $1MM bonus that he was to earn if he was still the coach as of January 1, 2011. So we essentially gave him a cool million to take a year off while he waited on what is reportedly a 7 year, $40MM contract. Money aside, the guy also got to keep an office on campus, and was a continued presence in Gainesville. It made for a challenging transition, and probably didn’t make Will Muschamp’s job any easier (though I’m not going to begin making excuses for this season).

As for how this hire plays out for tOSU, it’s tough to predict. Call us bitter Gator fans, but from discussions with fellow UF grads over the past week, the consensus seems to be that the Buckeyes might not be getting their money’s worth. The Urban Meyer that won national championships had great assistant coaches he could rely on. Even then, he was a workaholic. If he’s truly found a work-life balance, I think we’ll see a more even win-loss balance as well. I’ve heard more in depth analysis about why he’ll have trouble succeeding, but I’m not an Xs and Os guy, and I can’t begin to give a good explanation. Surely they will improve on this year’s record, but questions of how many years before he can win a national championship are a little premature. In terms of recruiting, I’d assume tOSU starts getting more national recruits than they have in the past, but I’m praying that kids from the state of Florida still think of Ohio in the same way I do: Cold, gray, ugly, and irrelevant for decades.

Busy Monday

It was a busy weekend, really, and mostly because it was twice as long as most ordinary weekends. Plenty of football, including another Lions Thanksgiving day defeat at the hands of the Packers, injuries, and Ndamukong Suh (more on him later), a dominant performance by LSU over then-number 3 Arkansas that left Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino less than happy with the Tigers’ Les Miles (Clay Travis (who else?) has the video here), Michigan State rolling over Northwestern in a classic trap game, Michigan beating Ohio State for the first time since 2003 (more on that exciting game later), and Vanderbilt destroying Wake Forest to finish the regular season with a bowl-eligible 6-6 record, tripling their win total from last year and besting their win total of the last two seasons combined. In an era when a new coach routinely gets three or four years to “get his guys in” before he has to show success, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin turned a 2-10 team into a 6-6 team in one year, playing in the toughest conference in America, and he’s mad because they were a couple plays away from being 9-3. The Commodores’ loss to UT still stings, but the Vols’ defeat at the hands of lifeless Kentucky will keep the Big Orange out of a bowl this year, and that definitely is a silver lining for Vandy fans.

In Sunday NFL action, I have to mention Tim Tebow, who continued his improbable winning ways, and the Indianapolis Colts, who continued their extremely probable losing ways.

Two pieces of basketball news sure to be disappointing to large segments of the population: first, throwback UNLV took down top-ranked UNC in decisive fashion at the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday, and the NBA is back, games to start piously on Christmas Day (link to the entirety of Grantland.com pending) (UPDATE: here it is.). (More seriously, the situation in Syracuse seems to have entered a new phase.)

In hockey, the Red Wings took down the pesky Predators and the Capitals fired their coach 22 games into the season.

Oh, and despite their loss in Ann Arbor, Buckeye hearts are aflutter with news of the hiring of Urban Meyer as OSU’s next head football coach. (More on that later, too.)

ALDLAND takes you live to Ohio State-Michigan

I suggest watching this preview of tomorrow’s game between Michigan and Ohio State on mute.

Brendan and I will be at this one tomorrow, where we’ll attempt to go 2/3 on planned Ann Arbor tailgate rendezvous this season. This is an important game for both teams. Michigan has the chance to move to a completely improbable 10-2 record and beat Ohio State for the first time since 2003. For the Buckeyes, this has been a lost season in many ways, but a win over the Wolverines on the road would validate everything for them. This is particularly true, I get the feeling, for head coach Luke Fickell, who almost certainly is done after one season on the job. Some already are reporting that OSU has a deal with Urban Meyer that will make him the next head coach sometime after this Saturday’s game.

Michigan fans like to taunt Michigan State fans by making a point of regarding Ohio State, rather than the in-state Spartans, as their main rival, saying that rivalries actually have to be competitive. Michigan hasn’t done much winning against either school in the last few  years, and first-year coach Brady Hoke already continued that trend against MSU this season. I’ll be eager to see how he fares against OSU tomorrow.