Thursday, January 11, 2007

Destruction of a Stupid Statement, Part 1

I had planned on quickly discussing Iowa-ILLINI today (a pretty ugly basketball game, to tell you the truth, and a game that exposed the massive shortcomings of both teams), but I woke up this morning to the dumbest statement I've heard in quite some time.

My clock radio is set to a nondescript Fox Sports Radio affiliate. I couldn't even give you the frequency or call letters, as it's rarely on for more than 2 minutes before I can fire up Imus on my television. Someone emailed to say that, "after another 2-5 bowl season," the Big Ten was "a mid-major football conference with larger fan bases." This statement (obviously made by an SEC supporter, as the rest was on the greatness of Florida) is, quite frankly, too stupid for words. Here's why.

"You are an idiot! That is stupid!"
  • There has not been "another 2-5 Big Ten bowl season" since 2002 - In 2005, the Big Ten went 3-4 in bowl games. In 2004, it was 3-3. In 2003, it was 3-5. In 2002, it was 5-2. In other words, the Big Ten was .500 in the past four bowl years. This was unquestionably the weakest top-to-bottom Big Ten season in the past decade (only four teams were truly deserving of a bowl trip), and the 2-5 performance proved that. But that was an aberration, not another year of the same. By the way, over that same period of time, the SEC was 2 games over .500.
  • The Big Ten performs consistently well against the SEC - Both Big Ten wins this bowl season came against SEC opponents (Wisconsin over Arkansas, PSU over UT). Their 2-1 mark is consistent with the recent past; over the last 5 years, the Big Ten is 8-6 against the SEC in bowl games. Speed does not necessarily kill, EDSBS'ers
  • SEC "Home" Bowls - This never gets brought up. Bowl game officials have determined that finding a team that "travels" well and pairing them with a team from in-state is a recipe for success; you sell the hotel rooms and restaurant checks to the tourists, and you get a stadium full of locals for the game. This happens repeatedly in SEC bowl games. When Florida doesn't win a spot in the championship game, they routinely play bowls just down the road from Gainesville ('06 Outback, '04 Outback, '03 Outback). How many times does LSU get to play in the Sugar Bowl (2004, 2007)? This even extends to the Big XII South (Texas has played in-state in the 2002 Cotton and 2006 Alamo; Tech played in the 2006 Cotton, 2003 Houston, and 2001 Alamo) ACC, and Pac-10 (honestly, does Michigan get blown out if they're not playing USC in LA?)
  • Bowl performance is an imperfect indicator - That leads to my biggest point. Measuring conference performance by bowl victories is a horrible indicator of the actual strength of the conference. The layoff between games is ridiculous (imagine if we played the Super Bown on St. Patrick's Day). The "neutral sites" are generally anything but. The bowl tie-ins give some conferences an unfair leg up (the Big East won each of their bowl games, but they were also heavy favorites in each of those games; Big East teams played more bowl games against true mid-majors this year alone than the SEC and Big Ten have played in the last five). To say that we know a conference's level based solely on these games is completely absurd.
Which brings me back to the idiotic statement made earlier. To say that a conference with Michigan, tOSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, MSU, etc., etc. is "mid-major" defies nine different forms of logic, and truly deserves no response. But to say that the Big Ten constantly underperforms, while vindicated by one-year results, is equally idiotic. Considering the circumstances, the Big Ten constantly overperforms. It was a down year in the Big Ten, to be sure, but it was an abberation nonetheless.

I think a better rationale for tOSU's crushing defeat against Florida comes from poor coaching and a long layoff. I'd never thought I would say this about Tressel, but did he even watch a Florida game tape? The defense looked completely confused by the Gators' passing attack. The offensive line leaked all night. Smith was flat (undoubtedly an effect of 60 days off). Ohio State's season ended two full weeks before Florida, and it showed. Florida was apparently the better team, but not by this much. In any case, that's the season. On to hoops (and...God damn it, Florida and tOSU are good there, too).


Irish Hawk said...

I completely agree with you. Especially the point about every bowl game for a Big Ten team is basically an away game.

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