Thursday, May 04, 2006

Thursday's Docket: Happy Returns

And We're Back

Work has been hell. Haven't had anytime to post. When not working, drinking to forget work. Oh well. Back to the salt mines.

Brandon Saine Verbals to OSU

D'oh! Ohio track star/football star, and one of Michigan's top recruiting targets, verbally committed to OSU yesterday according to's OSU site. The leak on the verbal commit, however, did not come from Saine himself but from his high school athletic director. We'll learn soon enough if its true. Buckeye Commentary has the story.

D'oh! Part II: The Columbus Dispatch confirms the commit with a quote from Saine:

I picked Ohio State because it's my favorite school. I like the coaches a lot, and it's close to home. It has everything I'm looking for.
So much for he and Carlos Brown running roughshod over Big Ten together.

Nitpicking Kyle's New World Order, Part I

A few days ago The Mayor put together a great explanation for his new Midwestern Conference that due to job constraints I was not able to properly respond to. In case you missed it, Kyle's been at it redesigning the college football landscape. Part of his hedge trimming of the college ranks was a complete redesign of the Big Ten, including expansion to 12 teams, the dropping and adding of several schools, and the inclusion of a conference championship in Chicago. While Kyle's proposal merits consideration, there are some points from his treatise that I disagree with. I'll address them one at a time. One a day.

First, there should never, ever, ever, ever be a Big Ten or Midwest Conference Championship Game.

Let me this up front. I am not a fan of conference championship games. The way college football is currently run, teams now have 12 games to cram into a three month span. Then, provided they've had a good enough year, they play a 13th game in some temperate southern or western city in late December or early January. As if that's not enough, some conferences have a championship game to decide their conference champion because wins and loses apparently aren't enough. The teams with the best divisional records meet to decide the conference's champion. So, bottom line, if you're a good team you're going to play 14 games in three months.

Call me nuts, but that's too much. I absolutely love college football. But one thing that must be stopped is the proliferation of conference championship games in college football. With the demise of the Big East and Southwest Conference, and the rise of super conferences like the ACC, SEC, and Big XII, conference championships have become a must. There are just too many teams in these conferences for the members to play one another every year. Because there are so many teams, it's more than likely that two or more teams could go undefeated in conference. That's not good.

So in order to prevent that, separate divisions were established and the championship game was conceived. Therefore, you could at most have two undefeateds, and they'd have to meet in the championship in order to determine an outright conference champion.

Here's the problem: You're better off with fewer teams.

Take the SEC

Eastern Division
S. Carolina

Western Division
Old Miss
Mississippi State

You can't tell me that the SEC wouldn't be a better football conference with two fewer teams. Dump Kentucky and Mississippi State and not only does the level of play go through the roof but you eliminate the need for a conference championship. With a ten team league you only have to rotate one team a year off your in-conference schedule.

The SEC would look like this if I had my way:

SEC a'la Dave
Old Miss
S. Carolina

Now take Tennessee as an example. In a twelve game schedule the Vols would have time for four non-conference games and eight conference games (nine if they dropped a non-conf, but you need to play outside your conference). You schedule two to three "rivalry" games. So Vandy is a must. They have to play Florida every year so Stranko and Orson can hammer on Fulmer. And throw in maybe Bama or LSU as a third "rivalry" and you've got yourself a schedule. By slimming to SEC down to a lean ten teams, you've already guaranteed at least three conference deciding games and eliminated the glorified practices that occur when they play current intradivision whipping boys Kentucky and Vandy (usually). Worst case scenario you've only missed one power school a year rather than three or four.

Under the current conference championship system if a good team has a hicup at the wrong time, all of a sudden you're looking at a Florida/Old Miss conference championship rather than Florida/LSU. While I realize this scenario seems farfetched, it's happened. Remember when Colorado beat Oklahoma a few years ago? Does anyone outside of Iowa actually want to see Iowa State in a conference championship game? By eliminating the conference championship game you truly get the best at the top. If teams are tied by virtue of the win/lose record, in a 10 team conference more often than not you're going to have a head-to-head tie breaker (80% of the time, as an unscientific, randomly asserted, totally unsupported figure/guess). If, say Penn State and Ohio State don't play one another and both finish undefeated, then 1) you fire Lloyd Carr because this implies we lost to both schools and 2) fall back on the age old tie breaker of the team who hasn't been to the Rose Bowl the longest goes. The conference champion is split for a year and both teams go to bowls healthy. I think it's better to have the potential for a tie than to bypass playing 4 teams in your conference every year.

Let's apply this rationale (back) to the Big Ten. The Big Ten currently stands at eleven teams.

Ohio State
Michigan State
Penn State

Looking at that lineup, how Penn State ended up in the Big Ten is still a mystery to me (I know why, I just still don't get it). That aside, every team in the Big Ten currently has to rotate out two intraconference opponents every year, while maintaining two permanent rivalry games. So eight in conference games, three to four out of conference games.

If I had my druthers, Indiana and Illinois would be gone and Notre Dame would be in. The Big Ten would again be the Big Ten and we'd return to ten teams. You can argue Illinois should be kept over Northwestern, but the 'Cats have shown a surprising dedication to their football program since it burst back onto the scene in the 1990's. (Mark my words. If things continue to progress the way they have in Evanston, Northwestern will be a legitimate "oh-crap-we-have-to-play-them!" Big Ten team for the foreseeable future. That is something I can't say for Zookinois). Next, expand the "rivalry games" scheduling requirement to three games. Notre Dame gets Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue. Michigan gets Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Wisconsin gets Minnesota, Iowa, and Ohio State (or whoever). And the list goes on. As I said above, there is a possibility for a tie. But looking at the schedules, it will be a slim possibility. You will almost alway end up with an outright conference champion, based on wins and loses AND head to head matchups, without a 14th game.

By returning to ten teams, you eliminate the need for a conference championship, improve the quality of play in conference, and give the kids a little time to rest. Which brings me to my second objection to conference championships

Its not fair to the players. Call me what you will (whiner, hippie, lesbian, etc...), but 14 games in one semester is a lot to put on a 19 year old kid. I realize there is a significant percentage of players who do not take their schooling as serious as their football. However, they are students. We're not (supposed to be) paying them. They're in college (supposedly) to get an education too. With the way the NCAA carries on about the importance of academics and the (alleged) sanctions they slap on schools failing to meet their academic responsibilities, how in God's name is a major college player ever expected to graduate if he's playing 14 games? You might as well eliminate the fall semester (or fall and the first half of the winter trimesters) from their academic schedules entirely and force them to spend their summers and springs in 14 hour a day class schedules to make up for it.

The schedule as it stands is already too much. And yes, the argument can be made that its just one more game, if you've already played 12, what's the difference. They argument can also be made "so you'd allow them to play 11 games and a bowl and that's fine?" To some extent, yes. 12 total games has been the standard, at least for Michigan, for some time. It works. It's also what I'm used to, so I have a bias. However, we're all aware how much time and effort goes into playing in a major conference game. It's even tougher if you're playing the same team back to back, as Braves and Birds pointed out on Kyle's re-organization. They're still kids. I know they're tough, but even they need a break.

Mind you, none of what I'm saying here will ever come to pass. There's too much money in the patsy games, the conference championships, and the 12th, 13th, and 14th games. The colleges and the NCAA will never pass on them. However, slimming down the conferences would be better for college football that the bloated excess that currently reigns.

UPDATE - Mississippi State:

Just as a heads up to the Bulldog Fans I've managed to piss off with this posting, this only pertains to football. Not Basketball. Football is the only sport in the discussion. You can be a member of different conferences for different sports, so MSU would still remain in the SEC for basketball, but your football alliance would change.

The idea behind this posting was to produce a better on-field football product. I feel you are better off with a ten team conference than a twelve team conference. I think a conference championship hurts rather than helps. I am fully aware that a championship game brings in piles and piles of money. I am fully aware that SEC fans LOVE their championship game. I am simply proposing a change or two which I woould like to see.

Unfortunately, for MSU fans, it involved removing your team from the SEC's football pantheon. But I don't think you can argue that MSU's football team has been sub par for some time now. To be honest, it was a toss up between Kentucky, MSU, and Ole Miss. I just picked the first two based on recent and historical records. Boot Ole Miss if you want. Doesn't matter to me.

The crux of my anti-championship argument is 1) the on field product is better off without it because 2) there are too many games and its not fair to the players. I like the idea of only missing one team a season rather than 3. I think its better to have it all settled on the field, once. I'm not a particular fan of college teams playing each other more than once a year. That's all.

If a championship game is added, I'll still watch it and cheer for my team. I'm not going to complain about more football. But at a certain point the NCAA is expanding into an NFL style schedule which will do more harm to tradition than any amount of money can rectify.

(back to my original posting)

Coming tomorrow: Who should be in and who should be out of Kyle's Midwestern Conference.

In Other News

Johnny's obsessed with Grey's Anatomy. He breaks Grey's down like Brian on Carlos Brown.


At 10:26 AM, Blogger Johnny said...

I know a lot of haters are probably eager to say Lloyd "dropped the ball" with Saine, but considering the guy's parents are UM alumni, his myspace page had pictures of Braylon on it, and it openly confessed to being a UM fan, I'd be hesitant to believe he ever actually had an offer. The fact that they're giving Robert Hughes all the love - and I really don't know why; Saine and Clay have better film - probably means they like him better and are confident with their chances.

Good work with the conference championship issue, though if Michigan added Pitt or Notre Dame and the Pac 10 added two like Nevada and Utah, everyone could have a championship game. As it is, you're right; certain teams playing all these extra games is a disadvantage. But if all the conferences did, it's just more football for everyone.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger SEC I2esource said...

I agree with what you said about the sec conference and the amount of games played each season. I agree that two teams need to be released from the conference, but I beleive that all the fans in the sec live for the conference championship. People love the atmosphere in ATL snd it provides a lot of money for the sec. There is always atleast one good team in each sec division and it would be undecided without a game being played between the two teams. good post


At 12:20 PM, Blogger SEC I2esource said...

I also believe that their needs to be a championship for every conference like you said. It would make USC play a somewhat decent team like the rest of the world. I hate how west coast teams dont play anybody annd are ranked so high while sec teams are put up against great teams with offenses and DEFENSES week in and week out. By the way LSU won the national championship in 03'and the "dynasty" of USC won the AP.



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