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-12 Football Playoffs Part 2

13 10 2010

I despise the BCS system, and we’ve already showed how exciting it would be to have the Pac-12 Playoffs. If commissioner Larry Scott would flip the bird to the NCAA and start his own playoff system it would impact the rest of the country and be the first step towards overthrowing the BCS.

I would love to see the Pac-12 scrap the traditional eight or nine game conference schedule and do a full round-robin with only a single non-conference game. This would eliminate the need for the conference to come up with separate divisions or figuring out complex schedule issues.

At the end of the season we would have an eight team playoff with the first two rounds being at the higher ranked team’s home field. The championship game could either rotate annually around the geography of the conference or be played at a centralized and neutral site like Las Vegas.

Since the round-robin schedule is probably unrealistic for the next couple of years, my next favorite proposal of the divisions is on Pac12cooler.com which splits the teams by the geography zipper, but also follows the visible color spectrum.

Here’s where it gets a little confusing. The conference would have two divisions (yet to be named), but within them would be three separate pods (pictured below), California (Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC), Northwest (Oregon, OSU, Washington, WSU), Rockies (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, ASU).

Every year each team plays the other three teams within their pod, the rest of the teams in their division, and two more games from the other division, one from the two pods. Playing the teams in your pod would maintain the traditional and geographical rivalries. Pictured below is an example of Washington’s nine game schedule. The teams that they would play annually are circled, and the other games from the other pods would alternate so they never go longer than one season without playing a team.

I know that the conference is planning to have a conference championship game with the top team in the zipper divisions facing off. This has worked terribly in other conferences like the BigXII which typically has the top two teams of the conference in the same division. In the ACC and SEC it has often produced a rematch of a game earlier in the year, which doesn’t typically draw much excitement. As you can see from this image, both teams in this match up wear warm colors so wherever you see a blue it’s an empty seat.

What the conference should do is start its own playoff system. The geographical pods set it up perfectly to take the top team from the three pods and one wildcard team (the team with the next best record). Starting a four team playoff would be revolutionary in the NCAA and would take the entire country closer to a playoff system. When the conference is ready for expansion it would be easy to combine with another conference and form a six or eight team playoff. If the Pac-12 teamed up with the Big Ten (+2) here’s how it would pan out if the season ended today based on rankings.

Pac-12 Ranking BigTen
Northwest #1 Oregon #1 Ohio State
Rockies #2 Utah #2 Nebraska
California #3 Stanford #3 Michigan State
Wildcard #4 Oregon State #4 Iowa

Here’s how the match ups would stack up

 

I’ll do a series to figure out how the games of the Pac-12 vs BigTen playoff would play out, but here are the early lines.

#1 Oregon vs #4 Iowa – (Ducks -13)

#1 Ohio State vs #4 Oregon State (Ohio State -7)

#2 Utah vs #3 Michigan State (Utah -3)

#2 Nebraska vs #3 Stanford (Nebraska -4.5)

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Around the NCAA

4 10 2010

SEC Sucks!

If Alabama runs through the SEC undefeated, how can you consider that the best conference in the land? There’s no way they would make it through the Pac-12 gauntlet unscathed. I have to give LSU props for scheduling like they’re a member of the Pac-12 by playing two BCS opponents in non-conference.

It also helps that Les Miles is the luckiest coach on the planet. Check out the end of the LSU game today. When they won the championship in 2007 they weren’t even the best team in the country and they got an invite to play in the BCS championship, but on their way they had an amazing game winning play against Auburn.

Here’s how the conference stacks up against the Pac-12 and by my account we have a 6-3 edge over them with three ties. This season Oregon smashed Tennessee and Colorado beat Georgia today! Even if we give Alabama the advantage over Oregon, that’s still 5-3 in favor of the Pac.

SEC Pac-12
Alabama Oregon
LSU < Arizona
Auburn < Utah
Florida Stanford
Arkansas > USC
South Carolina > UCLA
Ole Miss < Cal
Miss State < Oregon State
Kentucky < Washington
Tennessee < Arizona State
Vanderbilt Colorado
Georgia > WSU

Go Big Blue!

Rich Rodriguez is back and he has his best player since Pat White at West Virginia. Although Michigan barely escaped Indiana yesterday, Denard “Shoelace” Robinson is the most exciting player in the country and the last piece that the read-option offense has lacked. The defense will cost them a couple of games this year, but their offense can score at anytime with their big play potential. If the Heisman Trophy was awarded today he would win it. The award is supposed to go to the best player in the country, not the best player on the best team. Marc Ingram is a great player, but Alabama still would have gone undefeated without him. Toby Gerhart was the reason that Stanford was even competitive.

Hurt Locker

Last night we saw exactly why Jake locker was touted as the number one quarterback on Mel Kiper’s draft board. He led the Huskies to their first road win since 2007, dissected Monte Kiffin’s defense all night long, and finished with 410 yards of offense. All of Locker’s weapons (Chris Polk, Devin Aguilar, and Jermaine Kearse) dropped perfect passes in critical situations, but the strong-armed quarterback shook it off and continued to make plays. Whenever Sarkisian rolled Locker out of the pocket he looked unstoppable and those flashes of brilliance need to continue if the Huskies want to make a bowl game this year. The 4th and 10 play on the game winning drive was a thing of beauty and you can see other highlights here.

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Pac-12 – Week 2 Players of the Week

14 09 2010

Another glorious Saturday of college football and the Pac-12 taking care of business. Oregon gave Tennessee a Pac-12 shocker that was felt through SEC country. UCLA looked lost offensively, USC can’t seem to play a complete game yet, and U-Dubb quarterback Jake Locker looked like the guy that received some Heisman hype before the season.

Jake Locker played an efficient game and even more importantly led his team to victory. The Huskies were down 10-zip before Locker started finding his rhythm and completed 22 of 33 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns. His favorite target was Jermaine Kearse who was the recipient of 9 passes for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Another player that I was extremely impressed with was Darron Thomas of the Oregon Ducks. His 17 of 32 passing for 202 yards won’t blow you away, but he was in a hostile environment and didn’t turn the ball over. He had some help out of his backfield with LaMichael James stealing the spotlight back from Kenjon Barner by running for 134 yards on 16 carries. His 72 yard run not only gave Oregon the lead, it was probably the best play of the weekend.

There were a couple other players that stepped up big time this weekend, but I prefer the two defensive performances from the Bay Area teams. Cal harassed Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen to the tune of six sacks and 3 interceptions, and a fumble. The defense scored two touchdowns with one coming on an 82 yard fumble recovery that popped right into the hands of senior corner back Darian Hagan. When I highlighted a strength of the Cal Bears in the off-season I mentioned Mike Mohamed and Mychal Kendricks, the two combined for 25 tackles, an interception returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery, 3 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Stanford’s defense was even more impressive by posting a shutout of the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl. Playing on the road in the Pac-12 is difficult, but shutouts are more rare than a perfect game in baseball. The Cardinal held the Bruins to only 233 yards of offense and Michael Thomas spearheaded the effort by collecting five tackles, forcing two fumbles and returning one of them for a 21 yard touchdown to blow the game open to 28-0. My research team told me that it was nearly impossible to find a picture of a good looking girl wearing Stanford apparel, but here is the one bright spot for them.

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Pac-10 vs SEC Non-Conference Schedule

27 07 2010

As everyone on the west coast already knows, the paradox of the SEC being the top conference in the country should be questioned when you take a look at their non-conference schedules. Even without looking at the other conferences, I would be willing to bet that the SEC would be at the bottom when it comes to strength of schedule and comparing them to the Pac-12 is not even fair, but here’s the information in an excel chart.

*Rankings were determined from espn.com and nationalchamps.net

**Two different SEC opponents were ranked 25th in each poll, but unranked in the other.

Looking at the Pac-10 it looks like they typically follow a format to include one A game (BCS conference team), B game (mid-major), and C game (easy win). There are exceptions to this rule, but even the worst schedule in the Pac-10, which I would give to Arizona State for playing two FCS schools – has the Sun Devils traveling across the country to play a top ten team on the road.

In contrast, the SEC’s 48 non-conference games includes the Sisters of the South and a bunch of teams from Louisiana that they want to beat up on (Louisiana Lafayette – twice, Louisiana Monroe – three times, and Tulane). I’ve been able to deduce that either the Bayou is a recruiting hotbed, or the SEC is recruiting these teams to join the conference when they expand. How would fans react if the Miami Heat were playing 27 games a year against the D-league, or the Yankees playing 54 games a year against Triple-A teams?

Instead of playing four non-conference games, the SEC should borrow a page from the Pac-10 and do a full nine game conference schedule. The Leader of the Pac should reveal to the rest of the country what the standard is when it comes to schedules and the rest of the country is looking West to see where the standard is set. Even the two teams that are joining the conference next year are already playing strong schedules. I should also note here that the Utah Utes are the last team to beat the defending national champion Alabama Menstruating Periods also known as the Crimson Tide.

It’s not all negative when it comes to the SEC schedules with some good traditional rivalries outside of conference play in Florida-FSU, Georgia-Georgia Tech, and Clemson-South Carolina. The Tennessee Volunteers also deserved to be praised for their fortitude in regards to scheduling perennial powerhouses every season. They play against a top ten Oregon team this year, and have had UCLA, Cal, Miami, and Notre Dame on the schedule in the decade.

Top schedules in the Pac-10

Oregon State – @ #6 TCU, Louisville, @ #3 Boise State

UCLA – @ Kansas State, Houston, @ #4 Texas

Washington – @ BYU, Syracuse, #7 Nebraska

Top schedules in the SEC

LSU – #21 North Carolina, #25West Virginia, McNeese St, Louisiana Monroe

Tennessee – Tennessee Martin, #10 Oregon, UAB, @ Memphis

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Team Twilight vs Pac-12

30 06 2010

If you’re like me and your girlfriend is forcing you to go watch the new Twilight Eclipse movie at a 1PM matinée on Thursday, the only manageable way to watch the film will be to appreciate what it means to women. The Team Edward vs Team Jacob obsession that is running rampant among teenage girls (and mid-twenties like my gf) parallels what Pac-12 fans go through with their rivals. It got me wondering whether their fans were more dedicated than ours, or just plain crazy.

In the past few weeks I’ve been subjected to Oprah interviewing the Twilight  cast, reruns of the first two movies, and listening to my roommates ask each other how excited they are for Eclipse: The Twilight Saga every single day. Despite it giving me flu-like symptoms I was still able to pick up on some similarities in their behavior and Pac-12 fans.  Both fans deck themselves out in their favorite team apparel and wear it proudly. Twilight fans are more harsh than Pac-12 fans, because they actually care about superficial things like fashion, which makes the banter even more intense. If it’s the wrong time of the month (and we get lucky) then it could potentially lead to a cat fight like the Miller Lite great taste, less filling advertisement. Despite Twilight fans having a greater interest in fashion, the Pac-12 fans look significantly better in their apparel so we have to give the edge to the Pac-12.

Both fan groups get irritated by their significant other if your criticize their team’s performance. I was almost castrated after I said True Blood is superior to Twilight in dialog, sexual content, and the overall ability of the actors.  When the ole ball-and-chain questioned the Pac-12’s dominance compared to the SEC, I just shrugged it off as if she didn’t know what she was talking about. In sports we call them rabid fans, in Twilight they’re called TwiHards or as I like to refer to them, TwiTards, but whatever you call them they are more territorial and win this category.

I also have to give credit to the thousands of of girls willing to camp out for a terrible movie premier, which is their version of tailgating. Twilight fans crush Pac-12 in the girl-to-guy ratio so they get extra cool points for that, but Pac-12 fans enjoy beers and BBQ at their tailgates while the TwiHards are stuck outside of the movie theater with popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. Pac-12 fans also tailgate about a dozen times a year compared to just once for Twilight, so this proves the Pac-12 loyalty is greater.

Every sports enthusiast and Pac-12 fan reads about their team on blogs and the internet, but meeting their favorite player or taking pictures with them would be the ultimate prize.  Twilight fans take this a step further by creating cardboard cutouts of their favorite Team (Team Edward or Team Jacob) and make-out with them. Normally this would be considered even more desperate than what Bella Swan does in Twilight, but this is Twilight fans taking it to a different level. For this they get the title of Twidiots (Twid-e-its) and actually lose cool points.

One issue that hurt Twilight fans in this competition is that they were torn when their team was out of character. Taylor Lautner is almost as big of a douchebag as Tom Cruise, but he plays a better role in the movie. Robert Pattinson is charismatic and witty in interviews, but his role in Twilight is an overprotective hipster vampire with an inexpressive girlfriend. Conversely, the Pac-12 fans have no trouble identifying with their team in every situation. This was a pretty even battle overall and my respect for their passion has grown substantially, but the Pac-12 is still the Leader of the Pac when it comes to having the best fans.

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Pac-12 Playoffs: Elite 8

25 06 2010

#5 Cal vs #12 WSU This one ended before it even started with the Washington State team showing up in their favorite World Cup soccer jerseys. Coach Paul Wolff of the Cougars was quoted before heading back into the tunnel “When we heard about the Pac-12 playoff, we thought that we would be playing soccer to celebrate the the World Cup.” The uniform change didn’t help their cause as the Bears built a 35-3 lead at halftime with Shane Vereen scoring 2TD runs of 21 and 35 yards and Kevin Riley displaying some accuracy by connecting on 12 of 16 passes for 145 yards and a TD. Bears Roll On in this one 49-17.

#6 UW vs #11 Colorado Jake Locker kicked off his Heisman campaign in a big way and did a little bit of hazing of the new Pac-12 member in the process.  After Locker’s third TD in the game he turned over to the Colorado sideline and threw the ball at head coach Dan Hawkins. The Huskies were powerful on offense racking up 515 yards, but they gave up 425 to an average CU offense. Huskies rolled 38-14.

#7 Stanford vs # 10 Arizona St. This game looked more like an SEC low-scoring snooze fest than a Pac-12 shootout as the defenses dominated the game.  The Stanford offense really struggled with their new running backs failing to gain positive yardage on the ground until the third quarter. The Arizona St defense was aggressive with their blitzes and Andrew Luck couldn’t capitalize on his opportunities. Chris Owusu had Stanford’s only TD on a kickoff return, which wasn’t enough to overcome two Cardinal turnovers in their own redzone. Arizona St took advantage of the short field and took a 14-13 lead with 7 minutes to play and the defense didn’t allow another first down to finish up the game.

#8 Arizona vs #9 UCLA

Nick Foles and Juron Criner connected on 9 passes for 121 yards and a TD and the Wildcats ground game picked up 220 yards against UCLA’s rebuilding defense. Kevin Prince and the UCLA revolver offense were firing blanks all afternoon as the sophomore finished just 7 of 18 passing to go with 25 yards rushing. Coach Rick Neuheisel says they need more target practice. Arizona 27 – UCLA 13

Round two of the playoffs features so get your picks in.

#1 Oregon vs #8 Arizona – Who can forget the battle that these two had in the desert last year with Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli stealing this game like it was a Macbook Pro in a fraternity. Oregon overcame a 24-14 deficit in the fourth quarter to win this one in double OT. Arizona should be playing with passion in this game, but the Ducks are favored by 4.

#2 USC vs #10 ASU – USC is anxious to start its new era of Trojan football with Lane Kiffin leading the helm and he’s literally riding that white Trojan horse into the stadium to get the fans energized. USC is favored by 17.

#3 OSU vs #6 Washington – This one pairs two Heisman candidates in Jake Locker and Jacquizz Rodgers. Will it be Locker’s arm or Jacquizz’s legs that steal the show? Beavers are 3 point favorites.

#4 Utah vs #5 Cal – The Mormons and Hippies battle it out again in a rematch of the Poinsettia Bowl. Jordan Wynn is excited after dominating the Bears and coming home with the MVP honors of the bowl game. Utes favored by 2.

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