A numbers game

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I like numbers and off the wall stupid, useless information that absolutely no one cares about.  So, in that vein, this week I took a look at the NCAA Official FBS football statistics.  I did so because the first college football playoff rankings come out on Tuesday of next week and in addition to the so-called “eye test” committee members are required to use, apparently a lot of determining who are the best 4 teams in the country depends a lot on “data” or useless information that no one other than the people in that room actually care about.  At least that’s what they say.  But, it’s a like a Grand Jury, no one really knows for sure.

First of all understand that I have no problem with a committee picking 4 teams to play in the playoff.  It works just as well, if not better, than having a bunch of fat sportswriters – most of whom really don’t know that much about sports – do it through the AP Top 25 poll.  But, let’s not be so naive as to conclude that these playoff committee members are starting from a blank canvas and picking their Top 25 “on their own” through their own observations and data that they are given on their lap tops when they arrive in Dallas next Monday.  The first college football playoff rankings come out on November 3rd.  That’s two months later than the Associated Press and Coaches polls.  So, don’t tell me that a bunch of busy athletic administrations and others haven’t looked at those polls and carry that bias into the room.  They do, and don’t listen to them when they say they don’t.

My only problem with the playoff committee is why do they have to put out weekly rankings, when they are absolutely meaningless?  Last year TCU was in the Top 4 going into the final week of the season, won it’s last game and missed the playoff.  It’s dopey to have the committee put out weekly rankings.  It’s surpassed in dopiness only by ESPN’s treatment of it as a major event.  You’ve seen the dramatic introduction to the playoff rankings.  Jeez, we aren’t electing a new president guys.  It’s football.  The only time the committee needs to put out rankings is when the season is over and it’s time to pick the 4 teams.  The NCAA Basketball Tournament committee doesn’t put out weekly rankings.  Why?  Because it is just so damn stupid.

So what do the NCAA weekly stats say about college football teams in the Nation.  Well, it’s just possible (and in fact likely) that if both Ohio State and Clemson win this weekend, they’ll be numbers 1 and 2 in the first rankings.  Why?  Well to start they are ranked high in both the major polls.  Secondly, the numbers show that there are just 4 teams ranked in the Top 20 in Scoring Offense, Scoring Defense, and Total Defense.  The point of football is to score points, while not allowing the other team to do so isn’t it?  Well, just two Power 5 conference teams are in the Top 20 in those categories and who are they?  Ohio State and Clemson.  The Buckeyes are 15th in Scoring Offense, 9th in Scoring Defense, and 13th in Total Defense  Clemson is 16th in Scoring Offense, 7th in Scoring Defense, and 4th in Total Defense.  Want to win a bar bet, have someone try to guess who the other two teams are in the Top 20 of those three categories?  They won’t get it.  It’s Boise State of the Mountain West, and Appalachian State of the Sun Belt.

You’ve heard the tired old cliche that defense wins Championships. Well, it might. The top 25 teams in Total Defense have a combined record of 139 – 46.  Michigan is number one in total defense and 5 – 2, although if not for some misfortune would be 6-1.  Clemson is 4th and 7-0, Alabama is 6th and 7-1, Duke is 9th and 6-1, Iowa 12th and 7-0, Ohio State 13th at 8-0, Temple is 14th at 7-0 , Florida is 18th and 6-1, LSU is 20th at 7-0, and Oklahoma State 21st at 7-0.  But, there are a couple of odd teams in there.  Boston College for example is 2nd in total defense and just 3-5, while Louisville is 19th and 3-4.  Contrast those numbers with Passing Offense statistics where of the Top 25 teams only 12 are from the “Power Five.”  The other 13 are non-Power 5 teams led by top ranked Bowling Green throwing for 434 yards per game.

The numbers and data can be overwhelming which brings me back to my original point.  The playoff committee isn’t digesting all this data and coming up with a Top 25.  I’ll bet you when the first rankings come out Tuesday night, they look similar to the Top 25 polls of the AP and Coaches.  Stayed tuned for the reading of the rankings after ESPN’s dramatic entrance and some low rent analysis from someone who once played college football.

Onto this week.  Since my last post, the coaching openings in college football have grown from 5 to 8.  Miami ditched Al Golden, who honestly was doing a pretty good job in straightening out a mess he inherited after that Little Turd Nevin Shapiro screwed up everything around the program.  The alumni and former players didn’t like him and that’s usually a problem. I did however find it ironic that Warren Sapp’s sorry ass was calling for Golden’s head.  Gee Warren didn’t I read something about you filing bankruptcy and soliciting prostitutes in Arizona, which cost you a job on the NFL Network?  It’s always these big mouths who live in Glass Houses.  On the same day, George O’Leary retired at Central Florida.  And, then just a few days later, college football lost one of its good guys when Jerry Kill was forced to retire at Minnesota due to his epilepsy.  I don’t know him, but I know what I’ve observed about him.  He’s not college football royalty.  He’s a shelter mutt who made good.  Kill worked his way up from high school, NAIA, Division II, FCS Southern Illinois (where he took an awful program from 0 – 11 to the National Semi-Finals resulting in the construction of a new on-campus stadium), Northern Illinois and then Minnesota.  Along the way, he fought and beat Kidney Cancer and survived a couple of fainting spells on the sideline.  He gave it his all, but quit to concentrate on his health.  Let’s hope he lives a long healthy life and finds life out of football as rewarding as he made it for himself.

Speaking of losing good guys there appears to be little doubt that Frank Beamer is into his final weeks as the head coach at Virginia Tech.  I don’t know anything for certain.  I have no sources inside the program.  I know a couple of people close to the program, but I also know how to read between the lines.  This week for the first time Beamer addressed his coaching situation in his weekly press conference.  He began with the obligatory “I’m concentrating on Boston College” and then said that he was for whatever was best for Virginia Tech.  That I believe.  Yes, he built the program, but like other coaches before him it’s eroded on his watch.  He’s a hall of fame coach and person by the way (and yes I do actually know him and have interacted with him), and deserves better than to have it end like it’s apparently going to, but if it was going well, it wouldn’t end.  So, why do I think this is it?  Well, on occasion I listen to a sports talk radio show on-line out of Roanoke hosted by one of Coach Beamer’s best friends.  To this hosts’ credit, he’s never hidden that fact from his listeners and is always honest on his show.  This week, he said on his show that there is a high probability that Virginia Tech is going to need a new head football coach.  He’s not saying that if he doesn’t know something.  So, I have a theory on what’s going to happen.  Next week during Va. Tech’s “bye week” I expect Coach Beamer to announce his retirement effective at the end of the season so that the school can celebrate his career in the final home game against North Carolina on November 21st.  This is the same thing that Tennessee did with Phillip Fulmer — although Fulmer who suffered from a major case of “ego-itis” would still be coaching if he hadn’t been fired — and it’s the right thing to do.  There seems to be little chance Va. Tech wins 3 of its last 4 to go 6-6 and earn a minor bowl berth so allowing Coach Beamer (who is a humble man with no ego) one last stand at the house he basically built is the right thing and perhaps the only way to handle what is an impossible situation.  Do I think the decision to retire is totally his?  No way in hell do I believe that because he’s too competitive, but I also believe he knows at 69 it’s time to take his $250,000.00 salary as a “special assistant” to the athletic director, just be a grandpa and enjoy his remaining years because it’s well deserved.

This week is actually one of the games I think Va. Tech can win.  I like them to beat Boston College although they always seem to have trouble with the Eagles.  B-C’s defense is great.  It’s offense is non-existent.  Va. Tech’s problem is just the opposite and so take the team that can actually score points.  Other picks this week, Louisville over Wake Forest, East Carolina over U-Conn, La. Tech over Rice, Utah State over Wyoming, Navy over South Florida, Wisconsin over Rutgers, Nebraska over Purdue (Purdue may be the next to do an in-season axing of its coach), Auburn over Ole Miss, Penn State over Illinois, Texas A&M over South Carolina, Cincinnati keeps Central Florida winless, Florida State over Syracuse, Western Kentucky over Old Dominion, Ball State over U-Mass, Central Michigan over Akron, Southern Miss over UTEP, USC over California, Ga. Tech sends Virginia coach Mike London a step closer to unemployment, UCLA over Colorado, Marshall over Charlotte, Appalachian State over Troy, Clemson over N.C. State, Iowa over Maryland, San Diego State over Colorado State, Florida to beat Georgia at the cocktail party in Jacksonville, Oklahoma State over Texas Tech, Oklahoma big over Kansas, Florida International over Florida Atlantic, Boise State over UNLV, SMU over Tulsa, La.-Lafayette over Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State over Ga. State, Texas over Iowa State, Houston over Vanderbilt, Utah over Oregon State, Memphis over Tulane, Michigan over Minnesota, Tennessee over Kentucky, Notre Dame ends Temple’s unbeaten season, Stanford over Washington State, and Air Force over Hawaii.

Our FCS Game of the Week takes us to Dayton, Ohio where the unbeaten Flyers of Dayton at 7-0 host the 6-1 Jacksonville Dolphins in a Pioneer Football League game.  Dayton is one of only 5 unbeaten FCS teams and has two alumni who coached NFL teams to Super Bowl wins: Jon Gruden who graduated from the school in 1986, and Chuck Noll who won 4 Super Bowls with the Steelers and  graduated from Dayton in the 1950s.  The Pioneer Football League is an FCS Conference whose teams do not provide athletic scholarships.  The League Champion does however get an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.  Many of the Charter Schools of the league which was formed in 1992 were formerly Division III Schools, including Dayton which won Division III titles in 1980 and 1989.  However, they were forced to go to Division I when the NCAA no longer permitted schools whose other sports played Division I to play football in a lower division school.  Thus the Pioneer League was formed with Charter Members Dayton, Butler, Evansville, San Diego, and Valparaiso.  The League now includes: Butler, Campbell, Davidson, Dayton, Jacksonville, Marist, Morehead State, San Diego, Stetson, and Valparaiso and stretches from coast-to-coast.  If you intend to offer scholarships to your football players, the Pioneer League won’t welcome you.  Austin Peay was booted out a few years ago when they started offering scholarships and Evansville simply dropped football.

Division II takes us to Ashland, Ohio where the undefeated and 5th ranked Eagles of Ashland University host 9th ranked Grand Valley State.  Grand Valley State has four (4) Division II National Titles on its resume in 2002 and 2003, 2005 and 2006.  The first two were won by Coach Brian Kelly now the coach at Notre Dame.

For Division III, it’s off to Baltimore where the 8th ranked and undefeated Blue Jays of Johns Hopkins host the Ursinus College Bears from Collegeville, Pennsylvania.  In going 7-0, Johns Hopkins has scored at least 30 points each game with its lowest output being 34 points.  Ursinus College’s famous alum is Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen, who played tight end at the school.

NAIA features the undefeated Reinhart University Eagles against Campbellsville, Kentucky.  Reinhart is ranked 8th in NAIA, and scores points in bunches having scored 73 points in a game against Point University while hanging 80 on Bluefield College.

Finally, in Junior College, Louisburg Junior College of North Carolina tries to close out an undefeated season by hosting Nassau Community College in Louisburg, North Carolina.

No tricks here, all treats and the main treat for a Saturday is getting to sleep past 6:30 a.m.  Have a good one…

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About mbrown021851