Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Bulldogs #18 in Directors’ Cup

Wednesday June 27, 2012

Georgia’s athletic program finished #18 in the 2011-2012 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings released this week. The Bulldogs were the third-highest SEC program – fourth if you include Texas A&M. Florida was second in the nation behind perennial winner Stanford.

Georgia’s #18 finish is a slight improvement from the #20 position they occupied for the last two years. But it’s still a long way from the state of the program a decade ago.

Post Oh no – not strength of schedule!

Wednesday June 27, 2012

Strength of schedule will and should be part of the selection process for a college football playoff. You can forgive Georgia fans for being a little sensitive about the topic as we’ve heard the griping about Georgia’s schedule since it came out. While schedule will certainly be a factor to decide between two otherwise similar teams, an SEC champion – especially an undefeated champion – won’t have much explaining to do. Before we run off and schedule Murderer’s Row to impress the selection committee, a few mostly stating-the-obvious points:

  • The strength of schedule will be just one of many criteria considered. If college football finds its RPI, schedule will already be part of the formula. What else will a committee possibly consider? As an example, the basketball committee also looks at record against top 50 teams, conference and non-conference performance, and performance away from home. Many of those criteria have a strength of schedule component (a road win over a top 50 team would be golden), but teams can compensate for weaker schedules by being strong in other areas.
  • Even under current scheduling practices, it’s hard for me to accept that an undefeated champion of a major conference will be left out of the playoff. Wins will still matter more than schedule.
  • Yes, the Big 10 / Pac-12 partnership will likely bump the strength of schedule for those conferences. It will also give several good teams an additional loss.
  • The same can be said for conferences with nine-game schedules. You might get the benefit of an additional tough conference game, or your ninth game might be against Indiana. An additional conference game still means an extra loss for half the teams in the conference.
  • Even in a season with the most favorable conference schedule, any team worthy of consideration for the playoff will likely have to face a strong opponent for the conference title. This opponent won’t appear on the preseason schedule, but it will factor into the final strength of schedule calculations.
  • Along those lines, strength of schedule is determined after the season and not before it. We can have a reasonably informed discussion during the offseason about a team’s schedule, but there are always the preseason paper tigers who tank and the darkhorses who wind up a lot better than expected.
  • Georgia’s strength of schedule is bound in no small way to Georgia Tech. While the Dawgs might occasionally schedule an additional BCS-conference opponent, the Jackets’s permanent spot on the schedule means that the strength of Georgia’s non-conference slate will rise and fall with the quality of their rival. Does that put us in the awkward position of wanting a stronger-than-average Tech program?

Post Overthinking a selection committee

Wednesday June 27, 2012

So we have a playoff now. Habemus certamen. There are a lot of details to be worked out, but one thing we know is that a selection committee will choose the four participants. This committee will determine the postseason fate of national title contenders, so it’s reasonable that there is no shortage of angst and questions about the structure and process of the committee.

I can’t get all that worked up about the mechanics of the selection process. There are ways in which a college football playoff will be unique relative to other college championships, but a selection committee isn’t breaking much new ground. There’s not much need to reinvent this wheel – for example, the “council of elders” idea bounced around a few weeks ago that had every retired or out-of-work coach short of Bobby Petrino angling for a role. There’s plenty of prior art covering the composition and process of a college championship selection committee.

Here’s the current men’s basketball selection committee. It’s about as interesting as khaki pants. Some names you recognize, some you don’t. You mostly have a mix of current and former athletic directors and conference commissioners. You don’t see Bobby Knight or Dickie V or Wimp Sanderson. Football needn’t be any more complicated, but the temptation to bring the selection process into the spotlight will be tremendous.

One difference that will become clear is that this is *not* an NCAA championship. The basketball selection committee features input from schools as disparate as LSU and UT-San Antonio. Football’s process will lean heavily on the major conferences (can we call them “BCS conferences” anymore?). There will be pressure for token representation from the rest of Division I that hasn’t scurried under the umbrella of a major conference.

What metrics should be used? Polls won’t go away. We’ll still be able to calculate the BCS rankings, but it would also be worthwhile to see the human polls removed from the process. There will be no shortage of people trying to give college football its RPI. Whether that’s something like the F/+ rankings or some other system, the committee will have plenty of data with which to make its call.

Whatever system is used, I’ll be satisfied as long as the committee shows its work. By that I mean something similar to what the basketball committee started doing this year: publishing the ranking system they came up with. They’ll also release official RPI and team reports throughout the upcoming season. Committee members or a spokesperson can expound on the process as they do each March, but that disclosure of the official rankings used to see the playoff should be the minimum amount of transparancy expected. I don’t need to see a member of the selection committee grilled on the 3rd quarter play they missed while in the bathroom at last week’s Southern Cal game.

Post Fixing Blair Walsh

Monday June 25, 2012

Apparently the Minnesota Vikings’ special teams coordinator has found the problem at the root of Blair Walsh’s senior slump last year. In a few words, Walsh was rushing the kicks.

He was rushing every kick,” Priefer said. “Every kick he missed, he hit them well, but he was much too fast with his get off time. I don’t know if that was what he was coached to do, maybe that’s what he wanted to do.

If that’s the case, bully for the Vikes. Walsh is a good kicker with a big leg, and he’ll be a capable pro if that diagnosis is correct and the problem addressed.

Of course the “if” is the key. The thing is that I remember reading last fall that another kicking expert had spotted and fixed the flaw in Walsh’s mechanics. “I was coming too much in at the ball rather than up-field with it,” Walsh admitted. “I just fixed it.” Walsh’s inconsistencies remained after that mid-season meeting with his “swing doctor.”

This Minnesota story got a lot of attention over the weekend most likely for Priefer’s comment, “I don’t know if that was what he was coached to do.” Special teams have been, put generously, a mixed bag for Georgia recently. A popular suggestion raised long before Walsh’s senior season has been to appoint a dedicated special teams coordinator, and the implied “what the heck are they coaching kickers to do in Athens?” from a pro coach has re-opened the question for many people.

Minnesota’s Priefer might be right, and hopefully it’s just a question of timing. Then again, it’s probably not something so obvious. Successful kicking instructor Nick Gancitano saw something else. The only placekicker in the College Football Hall of Fame had a vested interest in the success of the kicking game, and surely he would have pointed it out to Walsh if it were merely something so basic as rushing the kick. Walsh had three pretty good years using the mechanics with which he arrived in Athens, so it’s likely that the Georgia staff didn’t suggest very many changes.

Whatever was up with Walsh, I hope he’s able to sort them out either through coaching or through his own discovery. Those who have coached and observed him mean well and probably have valid pointers, but Walsh will have to be careful not to fall into something like the classic “analysis paralysis” that plagues so many advanced golfers who end up overthinking each element of their swing.

Post Crimson-and-Cream Man’s Burden

Tuesday June 19, 2012

Bob Stoops has a complaint:

“We play at night way more than everybody else,” Stoops said during an interview with The Oklahoman.

Poor guy. According to the Oklahoman, the Sooners have played 18 evening or night games (out of a possible 27) over the past two seasons. You might wonder what the problem is, but Stoops goes on to explain the toll that so many late games take on family time and academic performance.

It needs to be spread around. We’re talking about competitive advantage and equality, and we’re all sharing the money … let’s all share the burden of it.

Facing a schedule that seems to feature few, if any, opportunities for home games worthy of a starting time much later than 1:00 p.m., I suspect most Georgia fans would be more than happy to see their program help Coach Stoops with his “burden.”