Pac-12 Football Divisions and SEC Bias

26 10 2010

Larry Scott has finally decided how to divide the conference and they went with a North-South split to make it easier for novice fans to understand the alignment of teams. I liked the zipper plan if you were only going with two divisions, but maybe this one will grow on me. Here are some great pictures of the teams in their divisions from Pac12Cooler.com

It was widely known that Utah or Colorado had negotiated a deal to be in the same division as the So. Cal schools, which should boost their ability to recruit the hot bed of Los Angeles. Colorado has had recent success recruiting in the Golden State, and in 2008 they signed the top rated running back in the nation, Darrell Scott out of Los Angeles.

From a competition standpoint, I think the better division will alternate on an annual basis. USC will be down throughout their probationary period, but they’ll be back after Kiffin is fired in a couple of years. If the season ended today, here’s how the divisions would be split and I don’t think you could ask for a more competitive balance.

North South
#1 Oregon #2 Utah
#3 Stanford #4 Arizona
#5 Oregon State #6 USC
#7 Cal #8 ASU
#9 Washington #10 UCLA
#12 WSU #11 Colorado

The changes that happened were necessary, but these incremental changes don’t do much to shape the landscape of college football. The Pac-12 is the most balanced conference between academics and athletics, and the rest of the country relies on us for answers. Our conference is set up perfectly to be the first to have three divisions based on geography. We spoke about this in our playoff article, but it’s worth reiterating that the Pac-12 is unique in its geographic landscape and the natural rivalries in six regions. The three divisions for the conference should have been California, Northwest, and Rockies.

What would have followed the three divisions is the real breakthrough, a four team conference playoff which includes the top team in each division and a wildcard team. At some point one of the conferences decided to have a championship game. Eventually one of the BCS conference commissioners is going to have to make changes that differentiate itself from the rest of pack. Once the conference has success with the four team playoff, it’s easy to expand with another conference like the BigTen (which will have 12 teams after Nebraska joins in 2011).

The current system is designed to have an SEC team in the BCS Championship Game every year. ESPN is the main media outlet and they have a $2 billion dollar media contract with the SEC. You don’t need a degree from Harvard to realize that  an investment of that magnitude needs to be protected. The evil four letter network spends almost half its time covering the SEC to provide more exposure to the conference. The entire BCS system is completely backwards and driven by ulterior motives outside of competition.

In psychology they call this the exposure effect, a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. In social psychology, this effect is sometimes called the familiarity principle. In studies of interpersonal attraction, the more often a person is seen by someone, the more pleasing and likeable that person appears to be. What other sport has journalists as a component of which team plays in the national championship? Which other sport has computers with a secret formula that determines who plays in the championship? What kind of system has coaches vote on who gets to play in the championship? It seems blatantly obvious that they would overrate the teams in their own conference to boost their strength of schedule.

The Harris poll (which is composed of former players, coaches, administrators, current and former media) accounts for one third of the BCS equation, so naturally ESPN will want to show off their $2 billion child in the SEC. On an annual basis the Spring games are equivalent to recording your baby’s first steps. The twenty times Alabama and Florida were recorded during their summer practices were the first days of school. The start of college football season is the teenage years – teams trying to form an identity and be independent. The overprotective parents (ESPN) won’t let them fall without pumping them back up. Every time one of their teams lose a game (Florida), ESPN is right there plugging another SEC team (Auburn). The exposure effect continues the vicious cycle of SEC familiarity and guarantees one of their teams a shot at the national championship.

If Larry Scott doesn’t realize that the change needs to come within the conference, then the Pac-12 is right where it was with Tom Hansen – failing to have the foresight to be the Leader of the Pac.

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Pac-10 Positive Outlook

30 08 2010

I can’t remember a time when the conference was as wide open as it is this year with seven teams legitimately competing for the championship. Some people have UCLA as a dark horse, but their offensive line has been decimated in the off-season from players leaving for missions, injuries, and now academic ineligibility.

I’m tired of ESPN plugging the SEC as the top conference in the country just because they signed a $2.0 billion deal to cover their games. That conference is always top heavy with a couple teams that can beat anyone, but they also have six bottom feeders that would be average in any BCS conference. I don’t think Florida or Alabama could go undefeated against the top 7 in the Pac-10, but both of them somehow came out of the SEC unscathed until the conference championship. If I was betting on these Pac-10 teams to win the conference championship it would be due to the reasons mentioned below.

Oregon

  • Darron Thomas will be a household name by the end of the year, but not because he’s being mentioned on the police blotter like a former Ducks QB. Oregon fans will tell you about how awesome he was in the spring game and that he’s a more accurate passer than Masoli.  He will also be playing behind a talented offensive line and a stronger LaMichael James. If he’s anything near Dennis Dixon 2.0 then the Ducks could repeat as conference champion.

Cal

  • This team has all of the pieces in place, but the one thing that will make them a contender for the championship is the bump in production that typically happens to Pac-10 quarterbacks. Joey Harrington, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, Derek Anderson and Sean Canfield all know what it’s like to trod with mediocrity for three years only to see things slow down like Neo in the Matrix during their senior season. Kevin Riley is capable with the weapons he has at his disposal which could push the Bears over the top.

Oregon State

  • The Beavers have as much firepower as any team in the conference, but this year they will combine that with increased production in the trenches. Last year’s team ranked 8th in the conference in sacks allowed and the defense ranked 9th in sacks. Ryan Katz will have a much smoother transition with a more experienced offensive line and defensively the new linebackers will be looking for Stephen Paea to create gaps for them by taking on double teams.

Arizona

  • This team is replacing their defensive coordinator, both starting defensive tackles and their entire linebacking corps, but their defensive ends (Brooks Reed & Ricky Elmore) will be the best pass-rushing tandem in the conference. Combined with the fact that they have one of the best secondaries in the conference, they’ll have a solid defense to match their powerful offense.

USC

  • There’s been coaching turnover, players transferring, and the distractions of Reggie Bushgate, but USC  still has the talent to contend for the Pac-10 championship. The best USC teams of the decade had monsters on the defensive line that could get to the quarterback with a four man rush which allowed the linebackers and secondary to create turnovers. Jurrell Casey is one of the top defensive tackles in the country and Armond Armstead has shown big upside at defensive end.

Stanford

  • Kirk Hirbstreit already put the dreaded curse on Stanford by predicting that they will win the Pac-10 championship, but Jim Harbaugh wants to know what his deal is for adding pressure to an under the radar Stanford team? They have the best quarterback in the Pac-10, but for them to compete for the Rose Bowl it will be because of their currently underrated stable of running backs Jeremy StewartTyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor. The Cardinal offensive line proved that they’re one of the best in the conference, but even moderate production from the ground game will allow Andrew Luck to do whatever he wants through the air.

Washington

  • The Huskies have the most balanced offense in the Pac-10, but if they’re going to compete for the championship it will be due to a scrappy defense that creates turnovers. Nick Holt has seven returning starters which should translate into a better understanding of his schemes. With two all-conference calibur players in cornerback Desmond Trufant and linebacker Mason Foster, I’m anticipating a much more aggressive campaign from the Huskies.

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