Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Poll Vaulting

So, I haven't been able to write much this week becasue - in case you didn't know - it's been raining in Atlanta. And, boy, did we get some rain! Creeks rose, rivers overflowed and my neighborhood flooded to my doorstep...

But I'm dry now and assessing the world of sports, though, I'll be trying to keep this brief.

Today, let's talk AP Poll. It's an interesting little monster that, I think, drives the popularity of college football. Have you ever wondered how it works though? It's actually pretty interesting when you consider some of the whack-jobs that get to decide on it. If you're interested in taking a second or two to look throgh some of the AP's voters' ballots, HERE is the list. I would encourage people to take a quick gander at the ballots of Mr. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News and Mr. Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. These are the very "whack-jobs" that I was telling you about. Or are they?

From ESPN Senior Writer Pat Forde

"What people think in August [when filling out preseason Top 25s] is at least partly based on what Phil Steele and Athlon thought in April [when their preview magazines are written]," Lesmerises said. "A multi-gazillion-dollar industry based on people putting 15 minutes into a poll that is based on a magazine that did its rankings in April is not a good system."

It should be noted that, unlike some human voters, both writers put a lot more than 15 minutes into their ballots on a weekly basis. Wilner said he works for hours on his Top 25. Lesmerises said he usually does three or four drafts before sending in the final version.

This week both Lesmerises and Wilner rank Alabama No. 1 and Miami No. 2.

Lesmerises has Houston No. 3 and Cincinnati No. 4, while Wilner goes with Texas third and LSU fourth.

You and Urban Meyer might both be wondering where a certain orange-helmeted team fits in. Both have the Gators a heretical fifth.

Lesmerises has Texas lower than any other AP voter at seventh. Among his other against-the-grain rankings: Penn State 15th, Ohio State 22nd, Mississippi 24th and USC 25th.

"I cover Ohio State," Lesmerises said. "I can't pretend to be an expert on every team in the country. Because of my ignorance of the college scene as a whole, I fall back on results."

"I'm trying to treat every team as Team X, where it doesn't matter where you were ranked in the preseason and it doesn't matter what conference you're in and it doesn't matter what your record was last year. What matters are results, results, results. But I'm not a computer, so 10 to 20 percent of my voting tends to take in my perception of how good a team is."

Wilner has Virginia Tech sixth. Houston is seventh. Oklahoma State is 11th. And Penn State is 21st.

"Every August, the AP sends out a list of voting guidelines," Wilner said. "The No. 1 guideline is to base your ballots on results. They also say, 'Don't be afraid to make radical changes week to week.' They want you to shake it up. I try to mix results and common sense."

To Wilner, Lesmerises and three other AP voters, Florida does not deserve its current ironclad place atop the rankings.

"Not when other teams have good results," said Wilner, who stresses that his rankings are not predictive but reactive. "Florida beat Tennessee, but I don't think Tennessee is that good -- unless UCLA is really good, and I don't think that's the case, either."

And both writers are amazed to find Houston ranked lower than Oklahoma State. Despite a double-digit victory in Stillwater, the 2-0 Cougars are one spot below the 2-1 Cowboys in the AP poll and seven spots lower in the coaches' poll.

Because of their willingness to vote outside the mainstream, both writers have become accustomed to scrutiny. And they welcome it. Said Lesmerises: "I have to be able to defend every single spot on my ballot."


All very intersting stuff. We'll see how things will "shake up" after this weekend.

Now for this week's edition of The Betting Man:
Last Week (2-3); Season (4-10)
-Better week but that's not really saying much. Things better turn around quick or I'm going to have to switch from ALPO to the "store brand" dog food for dinner...and NOBODY wants that! Too bad the games aren't getting any easier to pick.

#4 Ole Miss (-3) at South Carolina
-My first impression is to take South Carolina and their defense to keep things close at home. But my "first impressions" are 4-10 this season...

#9 Miami (-2.5) at #11 Virginia Tech
-Miami has been on a hot streak and normally I'd ride that hot streak into the ground. But if I'd "normally" pick Miami then I'd probably "normally" be wrong...

#15 TCU at Clemson (-2.5)
-I love almost everything that there is about TCU. It's in the south, it's a good ol' private Christian-based school in Texas and they took an otherwise useless mascot (the frog) and put some "awesome" in it...the HORNED FROGS!!! It's just too good!

#6 California (-6) at Oregon
-Stupid Oregon and it's multiple personality disorder! There is absolutely no telling WHICH team is going to show up against Cal. And there is absolutely no telling whether they will be wearing crazy uniforms or not.

Texas Tech @ #17 Houston (-1)
-The line says that this is basically a "pick the winner" game. I just can't, in my right mind, pick Houston here. Tech is going to be gunning after the loss to the Longhorns and Houston can't possible out-gun the Red Raiders...right?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breakin' Up With the Bravos

So, now that football has officially stolen the nation’s consciousness away from everything else, I have a simple message for my Atlanta Braves…

We’re through. Listen, we had a good run. Every spring you suck me in. You’re like the college girl that comes back from Holiday Break but hasn’t put on all the extra L-B’s. You saunter through the first party (around Valentine’s Day) and I get entranced every time. You always seem to look great and seem to have a very bright future.

This year was no different. I was legitimately excited. You got some hot new clothes (aka starting rotation) and you still had that foxy little number that you always wore downtown (aka Chipper coming off a batting title). Things were looking great and we were having fun...even when I think we were sort of delaying the inevitable.

But you started to get a little lazy in May and June. You were looking a little slow and things just weren’t clicking between us. Plus, you always seem to let that crazy chick from Florida (aka The Marlins) push you around when we are out trying to have a good time with our friends.

We had a fantastic July though. We went on a couple road trips, crashed some parties and it started to feel like old times – I really felt like I had fallen in love all over again. And don’t even get me started on Tommy Hanson…that entire move rocked my world! Even August was decent – you hung around with me and kept my attention.

Then September came. And with every September comes a new set of challenges. Recently, you’ve put on a show. Five straight wins, huh? No…I’m not going to let you do this to me again. No…I have to move on. I have to get this figured out. I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, we can still be friends but let’s be honest here – we both know that this relationship isn’t working out. So, I think it would be a good idea to just make a clean break. No, no…I just don’t think that you are ready for a serious relationship. I mean, what do you think I’m in this for? I’m getting to a point in my life where I need more than “just a good time.” I’m sorry. It’s over.

Until next season at least…

Speaking of picking up the pieces of my broken heart, let’s move on to this week’s The Betting Man:
Last Week (1-4); Season (2-7)
-Ugh!!! This has been as bad a start as I have ever had. I think this is why Dad always told me that “we don’t bet on college football.” An emotional week – but what do you expect from a bunch of teenagers? But like my intern said, “When you’re down with the bookie, just start doubling your bets.” Good advice from the young man [rolling my eyes].

#14 Georgia Tech at #20 Miami (-5.5)
-Last week, Tech screwed me. I should have been ashamed of myself for picking Tech in the first place. I won’t let that happen again!...Even if Miami isn’t exactly the Miami that we all remember.

Tennessee at #1 Florida (-29.5)
-Twenty-nine and a half?! That’s crazy talk! But Urban Meyer is mad. Gator Nation is mad. Tim Tebow is…well, Tebow really doesn’t get mad. That all being said, I’ve seen what happens when “Corch Urban Meyers” gets mad – he takes it out on the scoreboard.

Florida State at #7 Brigham Young (-7.5)
-I hate to say it but I don’t think that Florida State is a very good football team right now. On the other hand, BYU might be a pretty decent football team right now. They’ll take on a late field goal to cover the ‘Noles.

#19 Nebraska at #13 Virginia Tech (-4.5)
- I remember when Nebraska was great. Not good – great! Unfortunately, Tommy Frazier ain’t walking through that door. Tom Osborne ain’t walking through that door. But…

#18 Utah at Oregon (-4)
- I’m worried that this might be the “Year of the Little Guy.” I want to pick Oregon. They’re quack-tastic! But they aren’t as good at football as Utah is.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Problem With You (and Maybe Me)

So, I’m still shaking out the cobwebs from college football’s triumphant return and I would normally use this time to talk about the upcoming week but…

You’re crazy. You are completely insane. I’m not pointing my finger at “you,” my blessed reader. It’s more of a collective “you.” I fall into that group as well, from time to time.

Let me explain why YOU are nuts though. It’s because you have fallen into the trap. The trap created by technology, by the media and, frankly, by ourselves. That trap is called INSTANT GRATIFICATION. And you need it in EVERY aspect of your life. You, my friend, have Veruca Salt Syndrome.

When you have a question, you don’t find a book on the topic, conduct research and come to a conclusion, do you? Are you kidding me?! No, you go to your good friend Google. When you hear a song on the radio that is half-way decent, you rush to your computer to download it on iTunes so that you can put it on your iPod (which you keep in your pocket at all times) so that you can listen to the aforementioned song at any particular time that the need beckons. Even worse than all that, however – when it comes to sports, you want to win and you want to win now. Not later, now! And you don’t give a damn about what happened last year, or even last week for that matter. That coach/player just better figure it out for you NOW!

I sat in a room watching the Georgia-Oklahoma State football game this past weekend and was amazed by how quickly everyone’s tune changed just before the first half came to an end. I wish that I had hired a videographer for that event to prove it to people. It was simply astonishing.

Before the game, people were in good spirits (probably because the “spirits” weren’t flowing to heavily yet). The Bulldog Nation was riding high as a kite after the opening drives as well.

“Joe Cox looked very good on that drive – a polished senior.”
“The running game looked fantastic. Richard Samuel was really pounding the ball out there.”
“The defense looks sharp. They are really hitting hard and making good tackles.”

But, wow – how things change! By the middle of the third quarter I found myself sitting in a room where people were, literally (and this is not an exaggeration), questioning whether Joe Cox could actually throw a football 20 yards. I heard more than one person condescendingly mention that Coach Bobo had “never won an SEC title as the offensive coordinator.” Worst of all, and I still can’t believe that someone would actually say this – I actually heard someone mention that if Coach Richt can’t get things squared away soon that he might be looking for a new job.

You can’t possibly be serious, folks! Did ANYONE actually watch the game that just took place?!

First off, anyone who questions whether Mark Richt is the right coach for the job is a moron…that’s right, and you probably shouldn’t be allowed to speak either because the incoherent drivel that comes spewing from your mouth will make everyone in the room dumber!

Second off, can Joe throw a football more than 20 yards…I’m not going to dignify that with a response. Does he have the same type of arm as Matthew Stafford? No, he doesn’t. But we can’t just throw the guy under the bus for that.

I understand why we think this way though. It’s the whole idea that I need deserve the biggest and the best and I deserve it now! I shouldn’t have to work for things or, God forbid, wait for things! I should graduate college, fall ass-backwards into a cushy $90k per year job, have a big house and two BMW’s and maybe a Mercedes for the weekends. This topic goes way past the way that we think about sports. It’s about how we live our lives. It’s about maturity. Maturity is the ability to delay pleasure now in order to ensure a better tomorrow.

Off the soapbox and onto The Betting Man:
Last week (1-3); Season (1-3)
-Well, I didn’t know that Oklahoma was going to lose their Heisman Trophy-winning QB and I didn’t know that LSU was going to be jet-lagged before they even got to Washington. Otherwise, those numbers might have been flipped. Either way, we move on to Week 2.

Clemson @ #15 Georgia Tech (-5.5)
-The patented ACC Thursday nighter. And an ACC opener for the Tigers and Jackets. A-Backs, B-Backs, whatever. I think that Georgia Tech handles Clemson at home and readies itself to make a statement in the conference.

#3 Southern Cal (-6.5) @ #8 Ohio State
-Huge game for Ohio State. If the Buckeyes can’t keep this close and make a game of it then a lot of people are going to lose a lot of respect for not only “The” Ohio State but also “The” Big Ten. Side note: the over/under for this game is 46.5 points…if I were a betting man, I might take the over on this.

#18 Notre Dame (-3) @ Michigan
-If people would just leave Rich Rodriguez alone he could have himself a contender in a year or two. But since I like the Irish this year, I’ll give Michigan the three points and ride the Charlie Weis Gravy Train! Hoo hoo!

Vanderbilt @ #11 Louisiana State (-14.5)
-Why is it that every time I write out “Louisiana State” I get confused as to which school I am talking about? Regardless, it’s hard to recover from a flight across the country and then prepare for a pesky opponent. Vandy looks good here.

UCLA @ Tennessee (-8.5)
-I gotta to hand it to Lane and Monte. Those guys are bat @#$% crazy! I think you’re going to hear some serious singing on ol’ Rocky Top this weekend.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Boise @#$% State

So, I would normally make this particular type of post on Wednesday (that way I have the rest of the week to agonize over it) but I was out of town early in the week and have been busy catching up on the 78 emails that my friends have been firing back and forth about this upcoming weekend's college football games...

College football. It's back! And not a moment too soon. Like I have always said, "There are really only two season in the south - College Football Season and Gettin' Ready for College Football Season." The latter was getting a little played.

Therefore, I found myself in fron tof the tube last night watching the Ol' Ball Coach and the South Carolina Gamecocks take on North Carolina State. For those of you that didn't watch...what a freakin' train wreck that was. Just miserable. I sure am glad that we have good games on the docket for the weekend. Games of importance.

The interesting thing about last night, though, was that there actually was an important game last night. Now, when I mention which game it was, I don’t want anyone complaining or leaving saying, “That’s garbage! That game wasn’t that big.” Just hear me out.

#16 Oregon at #14 Boise State

On the surface, I wouldn’t watch this game if it was being played in my back yard. It’s just not all that intriguing – except to see what uniforms Oregon is going to show up in (which ended up being White on White…that’s weak, Oregon).

But as I thought about it, I realized something. Do you have any idea what is going to happen if Boise State wins this game? There is going to be some weird junk happen. I mean, Boise is already a little weird. They play on blue astroturf for crying out loud! They have weird players and weird cheerleaders...they're just plan weird!

Well, they did win the game, 19-8 (which is a weird score). The meaning of that win: it pretty much means that Boise will make a trip to a BCS game barring a complete and utter meltdown. That meltdown would definitely be weird seeing that their remaining schedule looks like this:
-Miami (OH)
-@Fresno State
-@Bowling Green
-UC Davis
-San Jose State
-@Louisiana Tech
-@Utah State
-New Mexico State

That’s it. If they lose one of those games, it’s “season over!” If they win all of them, which they should, they will go to a BCS game.

What I think everyone needs to prepare themselves for is to watch them climb their way up the AP poll over the next couple months. They are going to be a Top-5 team by mid-October. Teams from the Big 12 and SEC are going to sit there and pick each other off and Boise is going to sit back and watch it all happen while playing one of the worst schedules in college football. Just be prepared for another “Should Boise State be playing for the National Title” argument with that random guy in accounting. It is DEFINITELY coming.

Now for the start of the 2009 Betting Man Games! Play with me, play against me, whatever. You can leave your picks in the comments section if you like or keep score at home. It’s up to you. Enjoy!

Week 1 Games (Theme: “Prove it!”):
#20 BYU vs. #3 Oklahoma (-22)
-The teams suit up in Arlington, Texas for this one. I’ll lay the 22 because I think that Sam Bradford and the Sooners are going to try to put on a show and prove that their recent title appearance was no fluke.

Nevada at #23 Notre Dame (-14.5)
-Again, another opportunity to watch a team try to prove something. Only this time, Charlie Weis and the Irish better prove it or he could be looking for a new gig.

#11 LSU (-17.5) at Washington
-LSU is going to be trying to prove something...that they can fly across the country win a game too (like Georgia did a year ago in beating Arizona State). Washington is going to be overmatched on a lot of levels here.

#5 Alabama vs. #7 Virginia Tech (+6.5)
-The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta! Great match-up! I think that Virginia Tech could pull this thing off and that could prove to some that big things are in store for the Hokies down the road.

#13 Georgia at #9 Oklahoma State (-5.5)
-We don’t bet on Georgia games on this site. That being said, expect a nice little game of keep away from the Dogs this weekend -- even if Joe Cox fights off his bout with the flu. The Cowboys’ offense can’t score if they are on the sidelines.