Sunday, November 30, 2008

Monday musings and a guest post

As you can imagine, Saturday was a very good day for the entire Tech fan base, including me. Even more so, however, it was a great day for all college football fans. At one point Saturday night, my channel guide was set up to jump between the following: USC v. N.D.; Wake v. Vandy; UT v. Kentucky; Oregon @ Oregon St.; and OU @ OSU; and of course, The Hawks @ The Wiz (big win for the Hawks). Around 10 p.m., my DirecTV box just shut down. Seriously, the screen went blank, the blue light on the box went black, and I had a complete meltdown. Luckily, the feed came back on within 3 minutes, the remote control is incredibly durable, and a little plaster can very easily fix a dent in the wall. I, of course, have a lot of opinions on what happened all over the country on Saturday, especially in Athens. But, before I get there, I am very excited that Fite is making a guest appearance today. As a die hard Sooner fan and a distinguished alum (yes, in other states, the state University’s fans actually attend the school), he’s had a enough of the Sooner bashing and is here to tell you why they rightfully belong in the Big 12 Title Game. All that being said, here’s what I took from the weekend:

  • I am, of course, elated that the Jackets won a thriller in Athens Saturday. And, I am, of course, elated that Paul Johnson and his offense have arrived on the Flats and seem poised to take the program where we so desperately want it to be. You know these things, and you don’t need me to waste your time waxing poetic about them. What I will waste your time with, however, are some thoughts you might not expect from Saturday’s game. That is, I think it would be a shame for UGA fans, in the aftermath of the defeat, to overlook the amazing performances of Matthew Stafford and Mohamed Massaquoi. These guys have given their blood, sweat, and tears to your program for a combined 7 years, and that time culminated with career performances on Saturday. UGA fans seem unwilling to stop railing against Willie Martinez and Mark Richt’s accomplishments long enough to acknowledge these kids’ accomplishments, so I guess I will do it.
  • Speaking of Willie Martinez, I understand UGA fans have been unhappy with his performance for a long time, but if you are looking for an excuse to fire him, Saturday is not it. I don’t know when people will be willing to admit it, but Paul Johnson’s offense is as devastating an offense as there is in America. He is the Mike Leach of the ground game. In other words, this offense exploding on you is nothing so egregious to warrant questioning the decisions of a head coach that has won 78% of his games. And, last time I checked, Mark Richt wants Willie Martinez as his defensive coordinator.
  • Down 14-12 Saturday, Paul Johnson chose to go for the two point conversion. Normally, I would have been irate. My philosophy is that you never chase points, and you should only go for 2 in the 4th quarter when you absolutely have to. Somewhat surprisingly, however, I didn’t even flinch at this decision. In fact, I loved it. Why? Because for Paul Johnson to do anything else would have been completely out of character for him. This is a man that wants every play to be perfect, wants to win every game, wants to compete for national championships, and wants to beat UGA at all costs, even if it means chasing points on the road against an offense that we seemingly can’t stop. In other words, this is the coach I have dreamed of since Bobby Ross left for San Diego. Can you feel the man love?
  • Two final points about this year’s version of “Clean Old Fashion Hate”: 1) Jonathan Dwyer is one of the best running backs in America, and is the best college back in Georgia; and 2) Nice move immediately turning off the scoreboard so Tech fans couldn’t snap pictures after the game. Stay classy, UGA.
  • Okay, I lied. One more point: I wrestled with whether I should write this or not, because I know it will naturally lack credibility coming from a Tech fan. In fact, in my preseason predictions I was going to write this, but ultimately I decided against it. Now, based on UGA’s performance this season, I’m going to write it. A major reason I predicted UGA would lose three games this year is that I thought they lacked the “professionalism” and character to handle their lofty expectations. What does that mean? Well, over the Richt years, UGA has had similar success to teams such as USC, UF, OU, and Texas. Those teams have all won national titles, however, and UGA has not. Some reasons for this are, of course, bad breaks here and there and unfortunate scheduling. More than those reasons, however, is the way the UGA players conduct themselves on the field. No other elite team in America dances and celebrates after every defensive tackle, kickoff tackle, or other ordinary event than UGA. Not other team seems more pre-occupied with pumping up and playing to the crowd than UGA. It has actually reached comical levels at times. At one point Saturday, a UGA safety pushed Roddy Jones out of bounds after a 15+ yard run and came up woofing and celebrating and doing everything in his power to draw attention to himself. Therein lies the problem. If you watched the OU game Saturday night, you saw numerous occasions when the OU defense sacked OSU, tackled them for a loss, or made a major hit. Every time, however, the defenders would pat each other on the head, go back to the huddle, and get ready for the next play. Why? Because: a) they know they are just doing their job; and b) they knew they were getting their ass whipped up and down the field and the time to celebrate is when you force a turnover, a three and out, or the team scores a touchdown. Also, and most importantly, coaches like Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and Mack Brown don’t tolerate the type of individualism and self promotion that pervades the UGA roster. So, in addition to being intolerably annoying, it is also detrimental to the team’s performance. For the Jackets’ sake, I hope Mark Richt doesn’t go changing. If he does, he might just snag a Crystal Ball or two.
  • As for the other games this Thanksgiving weekend, here are 7 random thoughts:

1) Charlie Weis has to lose his job. 4 first downs and less than 100 yards total offense is not bad, it’s embarrassing. Notre Dame can offer no justification for not ending the Weis era.

2) Other than Weis, Les Miles has done the worst coaching job in America this season. With LSU’s talent, they should be able to line up and dominate Arkansas on both sides of the ball and win comfortably without any effort. They did not, and they lost another game they had no excuse losing.

3) Graham Harrell is nails. Ordinary quarterbacks don’t calmly lead their team from 14 down in the second half without their superstar wide receiver. Great job by him.

4) If you combined the UF and USC rosters, they would win the AFC West.

5) If you combined the UF, USC, and OU rosters, they would win the AFC.

6) Oregon State took it on the chin Saturday night, but big props go to their crowd. Their stadium only seats around 47K, but they were electric Saturday night, just as they were earlier this year against USC. Suddenly, Corvallis has jumped high on the list of stadiums where I must see a game.

7) OU is the best team in America, and they absolutely deserve to play in the Big 12 Title Game. For more on that, I turn it over to the WAD’s Texas correspondent:

In defense of OU

Rock, paper, or scissors? Sure you try to analyze the situation, but you can’t make one objectively better than the others. All you can do is rationalize your decision and hope for the best. Now that the Big XII South is in a similar situation let the arguments begin.

Texas 45 - OU 35 on a neutral field in Dallas

Without a doubt this is the strongest argument in Texas’s favor. If this were a two-way tie then Texas would and should win. But it’s not. Texas fans have learned from the recent election: they don’t answer the question asked, they answer the question as they think it should have been asked.

Texas ignores its loss to Texas Tech, and the media has largely gone along with this approach. All of the focus has been Texas vs. OU. Why is that? Texas Tech dropped out of the picture when OU went up 42-7 at the half. Nobody is arguing that Tech should be the South champion. Texas has used the public’s focus on the OU/Texas debate to argue using an inaccurate major premise (nerd alert): Ties in the standings should be decided by head to head competition; Texas beat OU head to head; Texas should be the champion. Unfortunately for Texas, the correct argument is: Ties in the standings must be decided by the Big XII’s tiebreaking system; the Big XII’s tiebreaking system ranks Oklahoma ahead of both Texas and Texas Tech; Oklahoma is the champion.

OU just runs up the score, Texas has class

GT grads rejoice: this argument can be analyzed empirically. This year OU is winning games by an average score of 53.3 to 23.7, nearly 30 points a game. Texas wins its games by an average of 41.3 to 17.9 – about 23 a game. Clearly OU has no class, runs up the score, and looks better on paper while classy Texas pulls its starters and lets the fourth stringers have some playing time. After all, wasn’t it Bob Stoops that beat Texas A&M 77-0 a few years back?

Let’s look at fourth quarter scoring: OU averages 5.8 points per game while Texas scores 9.1. What about the third quarter? OU outscores Texas 11.8 to 10.6. In short, Texas’s average second half score is 2.1 points higher than OU’s. In fact, Texas increases its lead in the second half by an average of 10.2 points compared with only 5.2 for OU. Either Texas is wrong and OU doesn’t run up the score, or we have a pot and kettle situation.

Texas has better conference wins

Texas and OU had five common conference opponents. Both teams dominated Baylor (45-21 Texas and 49-17 OU) although OU’s victory came on the road and Texas’s at home. Similarly, each team abused Texas A&M (Texas won by 40 at home and OU won by 38 on the road). The Kansas games are clearly in Texas’s favor (35-7 Texas vs. 45-31 OU). Now that we’ve looked at the doormats, let’s examine two quality Big XII South opponents. Texas narrowly survived Oklahoma State, winning by 4 in Austin on a last drive interception. Oklahoma went to Stillwater and crushed the Cowboys 61-41. And then there’s Texas Tech. Tech dominated Texas for 3 quarters, survived a furious comeback, and won by 6 in Lubbock. OU decimated Tech 65-21 in Norman.

Texas argues that its dominating victory over North division champion Mizzou should be determinative. If OU loses in Kansas City then they might have a point. But you can only play the games on your schedule, and Mizzou was lucky to avoid the Sooners this year.

OU’s defense and special teams are terrible

Texas has a point here. Defenses win championships, and in that regard OU is in deep, deep doo.

Small game Bob chokes in the BCS

Another good point. But it has nothing to do with winning conference championships, which Bob has done for the past two years.

The Sooners always get unwarranted love from the BCS

OU lucked out by playing FSU instead of Miami, a team Miami beat, in the 2000 Orange Bowl. Then OU loses in the Big XII championship game and still gets to play for the national title (and loses). Now OU is the division champ over a team it lost to. Will the voters stop at nothing?

The logical answer to these claims is that everybody plays by the same rules, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Or you could say its karma, and that the Cal coaches called all their buddies and had them vote against Texas. Remember Texas edged Cal by 0.0129 in the BCS after Mack Brown’s public relations campaign. Now Texas is 0.0128 behind Oklahoma even though Stoops turned down opportunities to vote in the coaches’ poll and campaign on national TV.

Where are we now?

Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech all have legitimate claims to the Big XII South title. But in this case, the conference’s fifth tiebreaker gives OU the edge. OU has a tough road ahead. They’ve got to beat a Mizzou team that they beat twice last year and that’s out for revenge. All the while OU will have to deal with media distractions about whether they deserve to be there in the first place. That’s a lot to ask of college kids that are undoubtedly trying to “meet” as many women as possible every Sunday through Friday. I think the Big XII championship game will be one of the biggest challenges of Stoops’s career.

There’s really only two things we know for certain. First, the Big XII will have a new tiebreaking system next year. Second, if I were a Texas fan I’d be making all the same arguments that they are.

Have a nice day.