Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Works, national championship Buzz-style

You think I'm talking about the flurry of talk and predictions related to the game with that subject line, don't you? Please. I'm talking about this:

That's American hero Buzz Aldrin completely pwning some hysterical conspiracy theorist, and it's already a great visual metaphor for however tonight's game plays out: if Oklahoma wins, it's a Buzz punch directly to the face of the chirping that their defense just isn't good enough and that their offense hasn't been tested enough by what Florida's going to throw at them; if Florida wins, it's a Buzz punch directly to the face of the in-season talk that the SEC's reign-at-the-top was done and that Oklahoma's offense isn't going to be slowed even by the likes of the Gators.

So we'll see. But the JCCW's official guess is that Florida wins by two scores. In terms of net per-play, the Gators have a massive advantage: 2.8 to 2.0. Both of those are ginormous numbers, but the only other SEC team to have that kind of numerical advantage was Georgia, and it took the sloppiest non-Alabama first half the Dawgs played all season to even keep that game within two TDs. It's pretty simple really: Florida's offense just about as good as Oklahoma's, but the Gators' defense and special teams are way, way better. Unless Mullen's departure has caused some serious struggles in Florida's preparations, I don't see this even coming down to the wire. I'm also, of course, the same guy who said Texas Tech would romp all over Ole Miss, so maybe I should just keep my trap shut for the SEC's sake.

There are, of course, a bajillion-and-a-half things worth reading about the game. A selection of favorites include, first, Orspencerson Shwallindle's must-read take on Miami as the perfect host for the conclusion of the college football season. Choice quote:
For college football fans, the sport gets more difficult by the year because it is such a diverse, bumptious mess, and harder and harder to differentiate from a business. Which, for the most part, it is, another reason why the lack of a grand order in college football angers fans. It looks like pro sports, it feels a lot like pro sports, and it’s certainly getting the financial attention of professional sports.

And thus the central crisis in college football: reconciling a fundamentally local sport with the concept of a national champion. The current system is an inelegant fiction, a nice mock conclusion to a huge, formless storyline.

Think of it this way: the college football season is a seven-hour long movie featuring stunning scenery, amazing dialogue and some of the best action sequences you’ve ever seen. It is also completely disorganized. Someone at the studio fires the director, cuts the thing down to two incoherent hours, and then puts a happy ending on the thing that angers everyone concerned but at least gives the monstrosity some semblance of form.
This is the thing exactly. The past of college football is regional sport with league championships carrying the utmost importance and bowl games as glorified exhibitions; the future of college football makes it a national obsession with a playoff to determine a single national champion. In the present, the sport is unhappily torn between these two poles. Of course, it's much closer to the future than the past, and since we're not going to put the "everyone's perfectly satisfied with a conference title and leaving the national thing left up to the whims of the polls" genie back in the bottle, I really wish college football would just take the next step.

College football's uncomfortable balancing act between the glory of its traditions and the desire for a satisfactory conclusion also weighs heavily on this awesome-as-always Smart Football post:
So what does a playoff give you, and why would that be a better solution for crowning a National Champion? Let me say first that I think it would be a better system than the current BCS morass. But the advantage the playoff gives you is relative certitude. It's not perfect -- some clunker teams can be crowned, some historically great teams will inevitably be shrifted -- but before the season, during the season, and in the playoffs, everyone knows what it takes to be the champion: you must get into the playoffs, and you must win every game once there. The Patriots couldn't lobby for votes, they couldn't say that they got jerked around, and they even couldn't say that they didn't get a chance. They played, and they lost. They were probably better, they might have had a bad day, but hey, you know what you were getting into.
This is what, finally, it comes down to in the playoff vs. BCS debate: how much do you value that certitude? And even if you don't value it that highly, would you agree that it's worth getting rid of the ridiculousness of four or five different teams all having roughly equivalent claims on the national title?

I also enjoyed Year 2's scouting report of Oklahoma; his take on the dangers posed by both Florida's running game to Oklahoma's D and Fox's broadcasting capabilities to our sanity seem on point.

The way it ought to be. As expected, Ted Roof's first comments to the press after coming to Auburn weren't that exciting--hey, he cares a lot about stopping the run! Yeah, we knew that already--but I thought this tidbit was intriguing:
Roof's path to Auburn wasn't paved with sentimentality.

Gene Chizik, the Tigers' head coach, said Wednesday that he hadn't met Roof prior to interviewing him Monday. Roof was "highly thought of," Chizik said, by coaching colleagues the Auburn coach trusts.
How much better an approach towards these hires is this than the Dye-led "Hey, this guy played here once, let's hire him" school-of-thought? The only thing matters is whether a guy can get the job done, not where he went to school or whether the head coach likes golfing with him or whether he and the offensive line coach went to middle school together. It seems weird to say "I'm glad Chizik hired a guy he'd never met," but I'm glad Chizik hired a guy he never met.

Seriously, don't let the door hit you. So the Moreno-Stafford tag-team has moved onto greener pastures. This is good news for a couple of reasons: one, I'm really tired of losing to Georgia, and I think this helps. Two, it inspired Doug to tap into his considerable creative faculties to wish Knowshon good-bye. Good times all the way around.

But those weren't the only two notable departures elsewhere in the SEC this week, as our national four-year run of Dick jokes at Arkansas's expense finally came to a close with the news that little brother Nathan is leaving the Hogs to play for Central Arkansas. Man, am I going to miss those jokes. They've been there for all of us over these past few years, there every time we've needed them. It's heartbreaking, is what it is.

Not quite. In the wake of the GMAC Bowl, the OA-News's Andrew Gribble repeats a meme I've seen a few places and kind of don't entirely agree with:
Franklin did not have time on his side at Auburn. Malzahn, in all likelihood, will.

Malzahn will likely need it, too, as he will have to adapt to the personnel he will inherit. Speedy, sure-handed receivers, a dual-threat running back and a reliable quarterback dot Tulsa’s offense.

It’s yet to be seen if Auburn has any of the three.
The speedy, sure-handed receivers ... no, Auburn does not have those. And we haven't seen any Auburn quarterback on the roster perform reliably since Cox's sophomore year.

But the offensive cupboard still isn't entirely bare. For instance: how is Mario Fannin not "a dual-threat running back"? He runs hard, he's fast, he can catch the ball ... and he will fit very snugly in Malzahn's offense. The offensive line has a boatload of guys with experience returning, and if they haven't put on all the weight they dropped getting ready for Franklin's up-tempo system, then that's one other obstacle Auburn won't have to overcome in this transition. And I'm not even ready to throw in the towel on the quarterback position. Burns has underwhelmed to date, sure, but to date he's also played for three offensive coordinators in two years, the first two of which had zero faith in him and didn't seem particularly interested in developing that faith, either. There could very well be something there to salvage, and if not, it's not like Trotter and Caudle arrived at Auburn with any less recruiting hype than the guys Malzahn had to work with at Tulsa. It might take a couple of recruiting classes to give Malzahn all the parts he needs, sure, but let's not pretend there's nothing left over in Auburn's toy box for him to play with.

And hey, speaking of recruiting, anyone think the Rivals No. 1-ranked receiver in the country would have done anything but laugh in Auburn's face a few weeks ago? Now he's got a visit scheduled. The chances of Auburn actually landing a five-star stud like Randle surely lie somewhere between skeletal and none, but that he's even willing to listen tells you something about the quality of recruiters Chizik has hired. (Say this for those chances, too: how many of the other schools on his list can honestly say he'll be the unquestioned No. 1 guy in an offense as explosive as Malzahn's the moment he arrives on campus? Or that he'll study under a guy with as good a track record of sending receivers to the NFL as Taylor? It won't matter, but that Auburn even has this kind of pitch to make is pretty exciting.)

Auburn women's hoops: Still undefeated, still awesome. They open SEC play tonight.

Bloggery. Acid's series highlighting the biggest wins of the Tubby era continues with this kick-ass review of the Florida Duval game. How unlikely did that win seem at the time? I had tickets and skipped it, deciding to watch the game with a few friends in Birmingham instead. Probably not in the Jerry Hinnen All-Time 10 Worst Decisions Ever, but it's in the conversation.

Elsewhere, at the Fanhouse Brian argues persuasively that Boston College should put the Charlie Strong Watch out of its misery, Iowa fans love Gene Chizik, and some Tennessee fans are decidedly unhappy with how their basketball season is going. (To which I have to say: You've got the best, most fun coach in the SEC, you haven't missed a tournament in years, you lost in overtime to Kenpom's No. 7 team in the nation, and for good measure those same rankings say you're still the best team in the conference. Get a grip.)

Aaaaaaand finally ... I found that Buzz video in the comments of this post from Dan Loney, the Orspencerson Shwallindle of U.S. soccer writers, in which he states definitively that a caveman would not win a fight with an astronaut. Good readin'.


JayAU'92 said...

Lollipops and rainbows be damned.

After inspiring delightful visions of Randle and other stud recruits signing their LOI with Auburn (delivered by our new and glorious staff) was placed in our feeble minds, you play Utah to Alabama's Sugar Bowl hopes and brutally dash them to the ground and stomp on them until they bleed and die an agonizing death.

Not content to inflict a single grievous injury, you follow that with blogs from denizens of a strange, parrallel universe (Iowa) lamenting the departure (South) of the one coach they believe assures their arch opponent (ISU) eternal mediocrity.

No self-respecting Pollyanaesque site proclaiming lollipops, rainbows, naked women, a tortuous death to Mark Schlabach, and other wonderful things would dare publish such horrible things and interrupt my early 2009 fantasies in such a cruel and perfunctory fashion.

For pity's sake, indulge and tease us a spell with fanciful notions of tall and speedy receivers with sticky hands delivering touchdowns in droves and vanquishing the dreadful soccer scores of AU seasons past for A FEW DAYS, at least. You shot it down in the same paragraph, you cruel bastard. What is this, Groundhog Day 2008 still????

Sadist, thy name is JCCW.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Jay, dude, someone's got to tamp down expectations or we're going to be printing "2009 National Champions" shirts by the end of the month.

In all seriousness, I guess anything's possible with a visit, but Randle's not just the #1 receiving recruit in the country, Rivals currently ranks him the No. 1 recruit, period. Those guys almost never choose a school like Auburn--as much as he probably likes coaches Luper and Taylor to take his visit where they're going, Randle's almost certainly going to pick a school with a quote-unfairquote "national spotlight." But hey, we've got a horse in the race, and with a guy of Randle's talent that alone is reason for optimism, right? And I could just be flat wrong--maybe he'll come to Auburn after all. There's a few reasons he might. And with Taylor and Luper around, I think it's a safe bet that if we don't get him, we'll get someone worthwhile.

As for the Iowa blog and Chizik, I don't know if you clicked through, but they love Chizik because he deserted ISU and left them drowning in their sorrows--they haven't lamented his departure, they've celebrated it.

But I suppose we could use still more sunshine, so here.