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Recruiting is not my bailiwick. I follow it mind you, at least from a distance. There is no doubt that it is the life blood of a program and I believe that we are seeing the fruits of Saban’s prowess in this area equating into wins, but I’d rather not check a plethora of sites on a daily basis to gleam what seventeen and eighteen year old kids are feeling about their college choices.

I did find interesting however, this. It’s a model put together by Mercer University to predict where recruits will sign and it has a better than 70% rate of success.

If the model is to believed, Alabama will close with Dre Kirkpatrick, Tana Patrick, Eddie Lacy, Darren Myles, and Kendall Kelly. It will miss on Rueben Randle and Patrick Patterson. I will qualify that by saying that is the way I interpeted the numbers. I could be wrong.

Interestingly enough, the model predicts Trent Richardson as a Florida commit although he is presently committed to Alabama. I suppose that if he switches we shouldn’t be surprised.

There are a dew others of note on there too.

(HT: Get the Picture)

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I rarely agree with Scarbinsky. I beleive him to be a failed Dennis Miller wannabe and sensationalistic blowhard. But I will give him props when he deserves them.

He’s a little more bullish on the prospects of the football team that Alabama will field in ’09 than some of the “experts” are.

Basically, three pundits have proclaimed the Tide a top six team that will be in the mix for the national title again.

In this instance, I thinks he’s got it right.

I’ll go ahead and go on the record now and say that Alabama should begin the season around 15. You don’t immediately contend with 2/5 of an experienced offensive line (including replacements at center and left tackle) or a wide-eyed quarterback.

The possibiltity is there to see addition by subtraction at the signal caller position but the line will take a few games to get it together either way. You don’t go on a strong campaign without good line play. You just don’t.

The only saving grace could be the schedule. Auburn and Ole Miss will be the toughest road games, not the mention the season opener againast a Virginia Tech team that improved most of the last half of the season. The Tide does get a rebuilding Tennessee, an improved Arkansas, and an always dangerous LSU at home. Exchaning Georgia for South Carolina helps as well.

My belief is that the offense is purring by the end of the season and the defense has become other worldly. This makes me think that as play begins in 2010 that Alabama will be loaded at most every position and a top three pre-season ranking will be warranted.

I don’t think that the parallels are exactly the same but, for the most part, the third year of a new coach, following a great second year, is usually down. LSU just completed the worst season since Saban’s third year. The fourth year is statiscally a good year though. Just look at Saban, Meyer, or Les Miles for further proof.

(ht: Bama Sports Report)

Sometimes when you lie awake in the middle of the night strange thing pop into your mind. Like this:

I never really heard or read this if it’s already been said this year but the thought occured to me that not only was this past season the first time in quite some time that Alabama went undefeated in the regular season (’94 was the last – which ended in similar fashion as this year, a loss to Florida in the Georgia Dome) but also the first in which they went undefeated at home.

I checked some archives and it turns out that ’94 was the last time that Alabama also successfully defended its home turf for a whole season. So that makes thirteen consecutive seasons with at least one home loss.

So much for, “We must protect this house!” Of course that was Tubby’s gig anyway.

Coincidentally, the 2008 campaign is the first (at least in modern times) in which Alabama won all its home games at Bryant-Denny. Meaning, that until 1999, the Tide played at least three games a year at Legion Field and then in 2004, with the closing of the upper deck in Birmingham, they began playing  every home game in Tuscaloosa. Therefore, Alabama has never won this many games in Tuscaloosa in a single year.

The tally stands at seven (extending to the La. Monroe defeat in 2007) and the counting resumes in Spetember.

One of the preseason mags I got this summer, Lindy’s, had a special section on the SEC with a half-page review of the four year standings of the conference. Prior to the just completed season it looked exactly like this:

Four Year Period Ending in 07-08
Team SEC Pct. All Pct. Ch./Div. M B
Auburn 26-6 .813 42-9 .840 1/1 1 4
LSU 25-7 .871 43-9 .826 1/2 2 4
Georgia 22-10 .688 40-12 .769 1/1 2 4
Florida 21-11 .656 38-13 .745 1/1 1 4
Tennessee 21-11 .656 34-17 .667 0/2 0 3
Arkansas 16-16 .500 27-22 .551 0/1 0 2
Alabama 15-17 .469 29-21 .580 0/0 0 4
South Carolina 15-17 .469 27-21 .562 0/0 0 2
Kentucky 10-22 .312 21-27 .438 0/0 0 2
Mississippi State 8-24 .250 17-29 .370 0/0 0 1
Vanderbilt 7-25 .219 16-30 .348 0/0 0 0
Ole Miss 6-26 .188 14-32 .304 0/0 0 0
Note: M=Major Bowl (BCS); B=Bowls

Auburn was still riding high from the success of their spectacular run in ’04 and LSU helped them to hold down the top two spots (in terms of conference winning percentage at least).

Instead of waiting until late June, I went ahead and crunched some numbers. All information came from the official athletic websites of the conference members. The bowl record and change from last years results are columns that I added.

Four Year Period Ending in 08-09
Team SEC Pct. All Pct. Ch./Div. M B B Rec. Change
Florida 26-8 .765 43-9 .827 2/2 2 4 3-1 up 3
Georgia 23-10 .697 39-12 .765 1/1 2 4 3-1 up 1
LSU 22-11 .667 42-11 .792 1/2 2 4 4-0 down 1
Auburn 20-12 .625 34-16 .680 0/0 0 3 2-1 down 3
Alabama 20-13 .606 35-17 .673 0/1 1 4 2-2 up 2
Tennessee 17-16 .515 29-21 .580 0/1 0 2 1-1 down 1
South Carolina 15-17 .469 28-22 .560 0/0 0 3 2-1 up 1
Arkansas 15-18 .455 27-23 .540 0/1 0 2 0-2 down 2
Kentucky 12-20 .375 26-24 .520 0/0 0 3 3-0
Vanderbilt 12-22 .526 21-27 .438 0/0 0 1 1-0 up 1
Ole Miss 9-24 .273 19-29 .396 0/0 0 1 1-0 up 1
Mississippi State 8-24 .250 18-30 .375 0/0 0 1 1-0 down 2

Well as you can imagine, things changed up quite a bit this year. Gone is the statistical magic of an unblemished season and Florida, along with their Eastern Division brethren Bulldogs have combined to take over the top two places.

I’m happy to announce that Alabama jumped two spots and is now just behind Little Brother, who leads by the slimmest of margins.

Another thing to note is that with the holiday trips of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, all twelve teams in the conference have now been to a bowl game within the last four seasons- actually all have been within the last two seasons. I’m not sure, nor am I going to take the time to verify that right now, but I doubt that any other conference can say that. Combine that with three of the last four national championships, and it presents a very strong case for the overall strength of the conference.

I’m certainly interested to see how the balance of power continues to shift.

A few other things I noted:

  • Alabama won their division with a better record than LSU did the previous year and finished the season with the same record that was good enough to garner LSU a national championship. Don’t tell me that record alone is a good enough of an indicator to determine the best of the best.
  • Alabama is also the only team to finish the regular season unblemished in the four year period. Subsequently they are the first to do it since Auburn in 2004.
  • In the study period, there were only three squads that won eight conference games in a season. Alabama was the only one that did and did not win a national championship the same year. (Florida ’06 and Florida ’08 are the other two)
  • Ole Miss is the only team to fail to win a conference game in a single season over the four year period (’07).
  • In spite of Florida’s dominance during this period (two conference championships and the best league record) they have won only one game over 75%. Despite three great years followed by one substandard year means that LSU has won exactly two-thirds of their conference games.

Take a look and let me know what else you can gleam from this.

The good Senator is wrapping the season up like all good pollsters, by tallying one last round of votes. Here’s mine:

National Champion

Florida(13-1)

Cry, bitch, or applaud, but they won it. For all of you who refer to the national championship as mythical, the Gators hoisted a real crystal football last night. Regardless of what any other team (or pundit) says that claims a share of it, it doesn’t get any more real. Who cares if you don’t acknowledge it. The history books won’t have an asterisk by this one and even more importantly when Florida stumps to recruits they don’t have to say, “we should have won it that year”. That’s because they did… win it.

Top Four:

Oklahoma(12-2)

Texas(12-1)

USC(12-1)

Utah(13-0)

I believe USC to be the best out of that group. There is no doubt in my mind that they could beat Florida, but that conference plays such bad football – at least from the perception standpoint – it’s hard to forgive the loss. Had the Trojans had better competition down the stretch and the benefit of a conference championship game it could have been different. Were there a playoff they would be the favorite. Bottom line: USC’s loss to the Beavers looked much worse than Florida’s, or Texas, or Oklahoma’s then and now.

Texas probably would have fared as well against the Gators but to me there still is not that much difference between the two reps from the Big XII South. I don’t believe their road to accolades was any tougher than Utah’s – going 1-3 in bowl games somewhat reaffirms my belief that the Sooner’s and Longhorn’s division was overrated – but they have the perception. I would predict semi-final losses for either of those teams in a playoff scenario. On the whole though, a pretty good body of work.

Utah had a tremendous season and deserves much credit. If you look at the paradigm that says, based on the “body of work” view, Alabama’s bright season was dimmed by a poor showing in the bowl game, but they still fared well overall, then Utah, despite their tremendous showing in the bowl game still has a very mediocre season based on their relative body of work. Mainly, barley beating a bunch of mediocre teams. Meaning, if we cannot deflate a team too much fore poor showing in a bowl then we cannot elevate a team too much either.

I still think Utah is a good but not great team. They would have not stayed on the field with either of those teams last night. USC would mop the paint off the turf with them. They would easily be out in the first round of a playoff – in essence they should be loving the bowl system because it kept them form being exposed this year.

The Utes deserve much credit for a good year, but they didn’t beat the Alabama team that beat Georgia at home, or LSU. They beat the team that put up 188 yards on Tulane in contest that meant little more. That’s not their fault, I’m just saying they did not take the best shot of a great team, all year, and therefore in no way, shape, form, or fashion are they the best team in the country.

Sorry for the tangent, but that’s my problem with playoffs. Not that Utah did, but teams will dumb down their schedules to make their records look good and then get put out in the first round, laughably. That’s not good football. Cinderella’s are great in basketball. They suck in football. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

Finally, I believe Alabama to be, overall, a better team than Utah. Just like I believe Florida to be a better team than Ole Miss. The better team does not always win.  I ranked Utah ahead of Alabama.  They deserve it and that’s what rankings are about – somewhat. Florida obviously had the better body of work than Ole Miss. Utah had about the same as Alabama but the head-to-head makes it a no-brainer.

That’s the thing about this sport; series aren’t played and thus you will never get a true picture of who the best team is. It’s always going to be an “on this day” kind of thing. Thus a team that is better than yours might be ranked lower and a team that is not as good could be higher – even a team you beat. Just don’t act like a playoff will solve all of that. Hell, if it weren’t for debate this sport wouldn’t be half as fun.

Next Seven:

Alabama (12-2)

Penn State (11-2)

Boise State (12-1)

TCU (11-2)

Georgia (10-3)

Oregon (10-3)

Virginia Tech (10-4)

That’s my group of the rest. As always a few of those could be interchanged with a few others. More might be garnered from who I left off that list. I’ll say though that Virginia Tech is the only four-loss team I had. They finished the season strong with a bowl and a championship win, just the opposite of their ’09 season opening opponent, Alabama (see what I did there). Ole Miss (9-4) finished strong too, but the 10 in the W column for the Hokies looks better than the 9. Plus if I included Ole Miss that would be giving credit to Texas Tech (11-2).

If you take away the two FPS teams that the Red Raiders played in the pre-season (which in the Big XII South this year was anything prior to conference play) then they would not be at ten wins. The overrated standing of the Big XII South and Missouri makes the body of work not near as impressive. The biggest Red Raider win was against Texas but had Ohio State not allowed Texas to do the same thing to them that Texas Tech did against the Longhorns then they would be even less impressive. Which doesn’t say much for Texas.

Ohio State (10-3) was not impressive all year. Now that Notre Dame won in the post-season, will the Buckeyes take the mantle of the team that can’t get it done after November?

Cincinnati (11-33) and Georgia Tech (9-4) both had tenuous holds on the polls in my last ballot and bowl losses didn’t help that much.

There you have it. This was a lot of fun and certainly made me think through the process of who I voted for – for better or worse. Having my team in the mix all year helped with the motivation – I believe that my voting was fair all the way through. Plus, I’ve learned that when a person votes there will be some bias. That’s OK. There are many voters and the more there are the more bias works itself out.

Also, I really enjoyed the block voting aspect of this. I typically ranked teams as I put them down, but in the end the debate over a couple of positions – who should be ahead or behind someone else – is eliminated when you vote in groups.

Finally, I learned that polls are not about a direct correlation of who beat who (see above). Those are the domain of conference standings. With the size of the pool of teams, that would be impossible to keep up with and justify. Polls are based on perception (a strictly human trait) of record. The biggest factor of that is wins and losses. But record also has a component of the competition that was involved in compiling those wins ans losses. No matter what your formula, the opinion of that competition is going to vary form person to person.

I’ll close with this:

Football is not a type of race where there is a finite measuring point to determine victory. There is a winner of each contest, but even that comes into debate from time to time. It is also not a match or meet type of competition where a tally of many factors, including form and technical abilities, are recorded and exercised into a formula for determining champion.

It is a mixture of both.

It probably is most closely analogous to a boxing match.

Some rounds are clearly won by one of the opponents. Some are too close to accurately determine. Sometimes technical aspects come into play and while they may detract from the physicality of the contest, they are fatefully crucial to determining the outcome. Sometimes one opponent is clearly superior to the other and the knock-out only underscores that.

The blow that finishes it all is always the preferred method. There is little to argue then. But a winner is determined nonetheless (usually – a draw serves no one). And, just because the ending blow wasn’t delivered and the contest ends with questions, the promoters and patrons rush to deliver and view the next match.

But if the fighters are somewhat closely matched, the competition is fierce and the fight goes the distance. At the end of it all a winner is crowned. He is not always the favorite or the clear winner, but he walks away from the ring with some type of satisfaction. His fans are ecstatic and will defend his victory.

For the loser there is always the “what could have been thoughts”. He may fell cheated and begrudge the judged victor. His fans cry, “foul” and bemoan the system, the competition, and the judges. But for him there are two options; quit or preferably return to the gym to prepare harder and do everything in his power to not only earn the right to that fight again but to vanquish his opponent so badly that no one can say he doesn’t deserve the victory.

However you describe it, I’m hooked.

If the BCS is so horrible then what’s up with the media frenzy today? Why is Robin Mead telling me over morning coffee what a great game it’s going to be?

There will certainly be debate after tonight, regardless of the outcome, about who deserves a share of the national championship. Some will argue for Southern Cal, some Texas, and some Utah. Either way there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the winner of tonight’s game with Florida and Oklahoma will deserve a major share of it. Plus they get the opportunity to hoist a trophy that declares them champions.

This has the opportunity to be a great game between two powerhouse teams. I could go on and on about how good these teams are.

In the old system, this might not have happened. In fact it probably wouldn’t have.

The BCS has many, many faults. One of the major is that the four bowl games don’t always make for exciting matches. A tournament would, in all likelihood, do the same thing. Just look to the NCAA basketball tourney or pro-football’s playoffs for verification.

But what the BCS does is create highly anticipated football games between two teams with at least some legitimate claim to the title. Are some teams with a claim left out? Absolutley. Is it always their fault that they are left out? No. Would a playoff fix this? Not in any way.

The point here is that with the nature of football, the number of teams completing at the FCS level, and the range in disparity amongst them in both individual and team competitiveness, there is no way to field a tournament and crown a champion that will be completely without controversy.

In light of that, what we have is pretty damn good. Not perfect – present me a system that you think is and I’ll shoot holes all the way through it – but good enough.

Think I’m wrong? Then prove me so by not watching the game tonight.

That’s what I thought.

As everyone who cares at all knows, the BCS Championship game is tonight. I have no idea what percentage of the population follows college football on a regular basis but I do know that national news outlets, like Slate Magazine, don’t typically run stories about it in their headlines.

That’s not the case today as stats guru, Bill James, weighs in on the system he finds flawed.

Most of us claim to know next to nothing about the computer rankings that make up a component of the BCS scores. Nor do we want to. Mr. James, on the other hand, knows exactly what they do – and don’t do.

There are several things that a ranking system could do. It could rank teams based on their accomplishments over the course of the season—whom they played and whom they beat—or it could rank them based on the probability that they would win against a given opponent. It could rank teams based on how they have played over the course of the season, including perhaps in some early-season games against teams that were not quite sure who their quarterback was, or it could rank them based on how strong they are at the end of the season. It could rank the teams based on consistency, or it could rank them based on dominance.

Which of these is the goal of the BCS system?

Mistakingly, I guess, I thought that the computers tried to do a little bit of all that, and do it without bias in the form of team and conference loyalty.

He goes on to say that when the computers ranking do their job correctly and in the process differ from the polls, that the gurus add more parameters to keep them in line with the human polls, thus rendering them ineffective.

James’ is certainly a different voice mixed in the din of pundits and pontificates.

Just goes to show that when college football is big news, like it is today above maybe all days – because of the BCS, like it or not – then we get the opportunity to hear more than the usual voices.

Fox’s coverage of the BCS game has been laughable at best.

The sideline reporters that are spending time between inane comments in a tanning bed on the sidelines are the least of the worries.

The images of the game itself, when they are available, are just horrific. I can understand wanting to make your coverage stand out by presenting it in a little different manner but it’s costing football fans decent comprehension of the game – and the announcers aren’t even making up for it.

There were enough close ups of players with the ball jumping around to get me sea sick and at least twice they had the camera so focused on an individual player that you didn’t get to see the actual play. That’s not even mentioning the funky angles on replay that made the color guy’s explanation enigmatic at best.

The final sticking point and probably most telling thing from the booth all night though was late in the game when Senator Tressel challenged a spot. The announcers said, “for those of you unfamiliar with the college game…” in an attempt to explain the challenge rule.

The only people watching that weren’t familiar with the college game were the guys actually broadcasting it. And it was totally apparent.

Fox, if your goal was to make Jefferson Pilot/Lincoln Financial/Raycom and the Daves look like award winning football broadcasters, you did a great job.

The Utes of Utah placed a monumental beat down on Alabama during Friday’s Sugar Bowl. The Utes were well coached and played a great brand of sound, passionate football. They jumped out to an early lead and when the game got close in the third quarter, they responded with a long scoring drive and never let up again. They were relentless and deserve the credit they are getting.

Utah played a great season and especially a great game.

But outside of the game, let’s put all this talk about shared national championships on hold for just a minute.

Before the game was played no one was talking about the implications of this game. At least no one other than maybe the Utes and their supporters.

Was anybody going to give Alabama a “piece” of any title other than the Sugar Bowl Trophy? I think not. And so now why all of a sudden does the call come out for Utah’s piece of the pie and how we’d all be better off with a playoff.

You know what would have made Friday’s game different? If it would have been played for something – that is something other than just the Sugar Bowl. You can’t, with a straight face and sincerity in your heart, tell me that the game would have been the same. I’m not saying that Utah wouldn’t have won – they certainly deserve the benefit of the doubt on that – but you certainly must admit that Alabama would probably been playing with a little more intensity and focus if the possibility would have been there for something greater. Nxojkt over at Bama Sports Report said it best when he said, “For the Utes the game was the biggest in the history of their program. For Alabama it was a consolation prize.”

Utah was the last pick in the BCS and would be again tomorrow. Every person I discussed the game with was not excited about Alabama playing them in a bowl game because there was no glory in it. Had Alabama won, as was expected, no one would have been surprised or demanding a playoff. It was a situation that favored only one team – and to their credit that team capitalized.

So, hats off to Uath. But make no mistake, just like the nearly identical situation with Boise State and Oklahoma, a few years ago, the power structure has not shifted in the college football world.

Alabama is still a program that is rebuilding. They had a great run in the regular season, a year or two ahead of schedule, and finished short of its ended the year with a humbling loss to a great football team on the national stage. Despite that they will still probably be a pre-season top ten team and a favorite to return to Atlanta to represent their division next year.

The talent is being stockpiled and the yearly (realistic) discussion of the national title are sure to follow. All that did not change by the outcome of one bowl game. Utah, on the other hand is not going to be mentioned for a title every season. They might have made their case for an every-few-year visit to a BCS game, where they will again be a disappointing draw. I’d guess that when Wittingham leaves for a school that throws more money at him they will settle back into obscurity. The best, or worst depending on your perspective,thing the Utes did with this win is clear the way for other non-conference teams to get shots into the BCS in the years ahead – virtually guaranteeing that other more deserving, “name” schools will get left out.

Despite what they did Friday night, which was impressive, would they realistically be a favorite in a game against any of the teams that they are being mentioned with for a shared national title? Would they even be a favorite over Alabama if they could play again?

Have you noticed that a lot of the spin on this game has been about Alabama losing rather than Utah winning? There were multiple signs from Utah fans and calls from Utah players demanding respect. While I am certain that some measure of respect was gained – Alabama  would not overlook them again – I believe that it is unrealistic to expect respect for a program like Utah, at least of the long-term prominent program type respect.

Does the name Utah strike fear in the hearts of opponents? Do you think any player on Alabama’s team (with the possible exception of Wilson) would be scared to suit it up against them again? I’ve been around football long enough to know that stories like this are good, and probably good for the sport, but in the long run, you aren’t seeing a new power in college football being built.

At the end of the day Utah put together a great season and a superb bowl game. It’s makes for interesting reading and thought to talk about the snub they are getting from traditional football. You an even rip the BCS as unfair but I doubt Utah would have had as big a stage for their masterpiece if they old bowl system were in place. So congratulations to them – they deserve all the credit. All I’m saying is, before you give them a portion of a crystal football make sure both teams know that you’re playing for that. Then after you’ve taken the best shot the opponent offers, then crow about what all you’ve done.

As far as Alabama, I said in the days leading up to the SEC title game that they had surpassed expectations for the year and that everything beyond that point – the conference championship and a bowl win – would just be cream. I stand by that. Like most fans I was disappointed in the overall play by the team. But overall I was pleased with the season – which I kind of felt was over on December 6th.

Alabama settled some scores that it needed to and in the process announced that they were on the way back – that while they won’t win the conference or the division every year, they will at least have something to say about who will.

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