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Friday, January 12, 2007

Note for confused bloggers wishing to vote in the things which aren't the "Suxors." There is a form that you vote at. Here is where the Voting Machine is.

Your full list of early enrollees: Ryan Mallett, Vince Helmuth, Austin Panter, and Artis Chambers. The first three were already known to be enrolling... well... now, but Chambers is a surprise.

It's been a bad week for the kind of person who idly wonders about building a sterilization ray when he encounters most people, even when they aren't using one game, no matter how lopsided, as vindication for whatever crackpot theories they espouse. I've spent much of the week sputtering in helpless rage, so I'll let a decidedly lucid SMQB make the point:

First rule of order, as it were: recognition and celebration that sometimes this game makes no sense. Maybe we're fools for attempting to impose decorum on entertainment fundamentally fueled by its predilection for shock and anarchy.

Certain truths emerge which cannot be reconciled with any other existing facts or theories.
- - -

But we try to make coherent the naturally disordered anyway, even as our efforts at methodically synthesizing disparate facts are repeatedly mocked. In some way, then, method must account for anarchy, or inevitably succumb to it. Because this isn't science; sometimes this game makes no sense.

The bowl season - not only the mythical championship game, but also the Rose and Fiesta bowls, most prominently - vindicated the November conversation and SMQ's resume argument in myriad ways, primarily by broadcasting live to a stunned nation unmitigated dismantlings of the two teams it was repeatedly assured were "the best" and had only a little more than a month earlier engaged in a timeless struggle of wills for unquestioned supremacy rather than put on just another entertaining, emotional shootout on the same level of play as, say, Louisville-West Virginia.

But what SMQ would most like to point out in light of Monday's merciless pantsing of the team officially earmarked as the "best" in America through the three-month regular season is not that Ohio State was "exposed" or that Florida "proved" to humbled skeptics the indomitable essence that dwells eternally in its collective soul of souls. Rather, he'd like to defend the conviction that Ohio State really was, in fact, the "best" team in the nation from September through November, in the sense the Buckeyes' cumulative performance over that span deserved by all available evidence to be considered superior to that of any other team, and offer the untimely demise of that perception Monday as evidence there is nothing dwelling in the blood pumping through a team's metaphorical veins that can tell us anything about any single performance outside of itself; that is, what occurred in the championship game, like any other, was representative only of the championship game, and should inform our opinions about its participants only as an addition to the months-long whole. A prominent addition, of course, but by no means the all-defining one or, very importantly, one that can be extrapolated to prove great inner truths about certain conferences or larger trends within - unless, of course, you're willing to argue the relative merits of Ohio State's "speed," however that is supposed to be measured, and by extension that of Michigan, Iowa, Penn State and Texas, in relation to the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence of Vanderbilt and South Carolina, which each fared exponentially better against the Gators than the Buckeyes. Sometimes this game makes no sense.

Indeed. In my formative years trawling through various Rivals message boards I stumbled across a wonderfully dorky post that burned itself in my mind and fundamentally altered my perception of college football. This was in the aftermath of some Purdue-Michigan game or another that ended 31-3 in favor of Michigan. Attempting to cope, some engineer or another doodled out this ASCII image of Gaussian football genius:

|| __ __ ||
|| / \ / \ ||
\// \ / \\/
/ P \/ M \
/ /\ \
--/ ___--/ \--_____\--___
He then explained: the two uncapped pyramids are normal distributions of overall performance labelled "P" and "M"; the arrows display the actual performances turned in that day by the respective teams. On a good day for Purdue and a bad day for Michigan, Purdue could win. On an average day, they would lose but not by four touchdowns, by God. The assumption that the winner of any particular game is obviously the better team is just that, an assumption. When the score is 31-3 or 41-14 you can be fairly certain that assumption is a good one. But never sure.

One thing you would think, though: the bonafide #1 and #2 teams in the country would have pyramids damn near on top of each other. And unless probability was really screwing with us the games they produce would more often than not be worth watching after, say, halftime. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.

As the Not Fiesta got more and more lopsided it seemed much less a vindication of the BCS for having chosen the two "right" teams and more a vicious rebuke of it for having the presumption to pick two teams at all. I've made this point before, but here it goes again: college football has the sparsest data of any sport anywhere in the world. Teams play a mere 12 games per year and far fewer than that are actual "games" rather than glorified exhibitions with a 90% or better chance of victory for a powerhouse. At the end of the year we have but the barest suggestion that one or two teams are better than the remainder, a suggestion so bare that the presumed Greatest Team Ever This Year got stomped 41-14, raising questions not about Florida's place in the Not Fiesta but rather that of the GTETY. Submitted that last year everything worked fine, but as King Kaufman points out...
It also means that three times in the past six years the BCS has offered up a Championship Game that was a blowout.

It's one thing if a title game at the end of a tournament is a rout. At least both teams plausibly played their way in. But when a system pulls two teams from the multitudes and places them in the final by fiat, that final had better be a damn good game more often than not. A lot more often. It had better be a fluke, rather than routine, for one of the teams to look like it doesn't belong.

The frequency of pretenders getting to the title game is one more reason to dislike the BCS, which brings us to about 1,800.

Eventually, the BCS is going to collapse under the weight of its own stupidity. That stupidity was in full flower this year, with the Boise State upset over Oklahoma and the Florida pole-axing of Ohio State combining to illustrate beautifully that judging teams on paper and declaring that two and only two will play for the title just doesn't work.
On the balance, there have been far fewer satisfying matchups between undisputed titans than vicious melees between indistinguishable teams vying for their place in the stupidest playoff in the world.

Which is why I felt... zo unsatysfyed after the fireworks and confetti and crystal whatever.

(Interlude: Ga-tors, Ga-tors, We Stick It In You.


Ugh! The official winner of the inagural MaxwellPundit? Andre Ware. Er... Hawaii QB Colt Brennan, AKA "Timmy Chang++." I'm appalled at my fellow voters for going with the default player you didn't see fail instead of the much better, though flawed, candidates that actually played in the season's most important games. Tenuous justifications of schedule strength universal in his selections prop up Alabama (a 25-17 loss), Purdue (awful defense), Oregon State (loss), and Arizona State (awful defense) as indicators that Brennan was battle-tested or something. But shiny stats rule all, I guess.

Etc.: Entertaining story on the '87 Fiesta from ESPN the Magazine. (Via FO); problems with referees in the WCHA... hey, at least you didn't get called for like 80 penalties against the worst team in the league by a guy who has to be "Bull" from "Night Court"