Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:17 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 8:18 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Basics: Oklahoma (11-2) vs. UConn (8-4), Jan. 1, 8:30pm ET
Why You Should Watch: If you like those nature programs where a pack of lionesses hunt down and ruthlessly slaughter a gazelle, this is totally the bowl game for you. Probably. Possibly. Not if you go by Bob Stoops' prior track record in BCS games, admittedly; he and his Sooners have lost their last five. And that's the real reason you have to tune in, no matter how lopsided a matchup this might appear to be. If a UConn team that is totally overmatched on paper -- remember that the Huskies lost to Temple, were shut out by Louisville, and won the Big East despite being outgained by some 600 total yards in league play -- can pull off what might be the upset of the season, or even come close, Stoops might hitch the first plane to Gainesville just to avoid the tomato storm that would await him on his return to Norman. It's not likely, but like the first round of the NCAA Tournament in hoops, the potential is tantalizing enough that it's still a game you have to watch. Just know that no one will blame you for making other plans for the third and fourth quarters.
Keys to Victory for Oklahoma: The biggest one for the Sooners is pretty simple: just don't screw it up. Stoops' team has overwhelming matchup advantages all over the field, and if they can merely avoid making the handful of catastrophic mistakes that would keep the Huskies in the game, they should cruise. Start with the passing game, where Oklahoma will feature the nation's No. 4 air attack at 337 yards-per-game, one headed by quarterback Landry Jones and featuring one of the FBS's most dangerous receivers in overlooked All-American (if there can be such a thing) Ryan Broyles. They'll be facing a low-wattage UConn secondary that was shredded by the likes of Michigan (8.5 yards an attempt), Rutgers (11.4), and Pitt (7.9). If the Panthers' Tino Sunseri can do that kind of damage (he finished 20-of-28 for more than 220 yards) against the Huskies, there's no telling what Jones and Broyles might do. It doesn't get much better in the run game, where 1,100-yard All-Big 12 rusher DeMarco Murray will face a young front seven ranked 56th in the country in rush defense -- lower even than the Huskies' pass defense. If the Sooners don't turn the ball over (and their 16 total giveaways were the fewest in the Big 12), they should put up major yards and points without too much effort.
Defensively, though, the Sooners aren't quite as overpowering; they rank outside the top 50 in total, passing, and rushing defense. But they do have a penchant for big plays, having forced 30 opponent turnovers this year, good for the fourth-highest total in the country. The ball-hawking secondary tag-team of senior safety Quinton Carter and junior corner Jamell Fleming each picked off four passes, with a big assist to Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Jeremy Beal. The senior defensive end wreaked havoc on opposing lines all season, recording 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss. If Beal can force the Huskies into repeated third-and-longs or the Sooners' sticky fingers can negate a UConn drive or two with turnovers, the underdog won't stand a chance.
Keys to Victory for UConn: To actually win this game, UConn's going to have to catch a ton of breaks, and the bigger impact those breaks have, the better. Which is why they're going to need to make the game as low-possession, as short, and as break-dependent as possible, and that means a heavy dose of Jordan Todman. The nation's second-leading rusher, Todman gained 1,574 yards this season on an impressive 5.2 yards per-carry. Combine his toughness with a veteran line featuring a pair of first-team All-Big East performers in jumbo junior tackle Mike Ryan (333 pounds) and equally jumbo senior guard Zach Hurd (325 pounds), and you get what might be the Huskies' only real matchup advantage as they go up against a Sooner front that's allowed seven different teams to average 4.5 yards a carry or better. If Todman and the big Huskie front can grind out some big first downs, they'll take loads of pressure off the entire rest of the team: wobbly quarterback Zach Fraser (5.4 yards per-attempt for the season, 5-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio), a front seven that could be ground down by the Sooners' up-tempo attack if left on the field very long, a secondary that simply can't be allowed to face Jones, Broyles, and Co. with the burden of trying to salvage the game on their shoulders. For Uconn, it all starts with Todman and the line.
The good news is that if that start can keep the Huskies close going into the fourth quarter, they've shown an impressive ability to finish, winning tight games against West Virginia, Pitt, and South Florida with key late drives and clutch kicking from big-legged All-Big East kicker Dave Teggart. There's also little doubt that should the game stay competitive deep into the second half, all the pressure -- not only from this game, but from Stoops' previous BCS failures and Oklahoma's role as the overwhelming favorite -- will be on the Sooners, It won't be easy to get there, but if Todman can get rolling and the defense (notably all-league defensive end Kendall Reyes) can play far enough over its head to keep the Huskies in it, it might be the other team that makes the single game-deciding mistake.
The Fiesta Bowl is like: an inspirational underdog sports movie recast -- probably -- as a gritty indie drama. We've got a lovable, plucky underdog that's scraped and clawed to get its one shot at Goliath, a Goliath that by all rights should pound it into submission. (Big East or not, the Huskies are a far bigger underdog to Oklahoma than Boise State was four years ago in this same game.) If this was Rocky or The Mighty Ducks or something similar, the Fiesta would end with UConn executing some crazy trick play at the final whistle to pull out a shocking victory. Unfortunately for fans of those movies, it's far more likely that the Huskie heroes will be taught a cruel-but-authentic lesson about their inability to deal with powerful forces beyond their control. The critics might applaud if Oklahoma pulls away by three scores in the second quarter, but we're not expecting a crowd pleaser here.
Posted on: December 29, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2010 1:41 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
To boil this report from CNN Money down to one simple question: What recession?
The profit for the 68 teams that play in the six major conferences was up 11% from the prior school year, according to a CNNMoney analysis of figures filed by each school with the Department of Education.Way to ruin the shutout, Demon Deacons.
But seriously, folks: that 11 percent increase (fueled by rising ticket sales and prices and juicy new television contracts) pushed BCS conference profits up over the collective $1 billion mark for the first time. Contrast that with the profits turned in by, say, the nation's swim teams, and it's easy to see why -- charges of hypocrisy notwithstanding -- the NCAA and its member schools are willing to do so much to protect its interests on the gridiron.
Of course, that business model doesn't work nearly as well at the non-AQ level. Even after their 2009 Fiesta Bowl berth and the largest set of profits in the country at the mid-major level, for instance, TCU only broke even. We've heard plenty of horror stories the past few weeks about the amount of money smaller schools are burning through on their bowl trips, thanks to ticket guarantees and the like; in 2009, eight of the 53 bowl-eligible smaller-conference schools wound up losing money on the year.
With the line drawn so firmly between the sport's haves and have nots, it's no wonder access to the big-money BCS games and television's never-ending contract coffers have become the sources of so much acrimony. (Given that even the best possible year for them in the Mountain West still amounted to chump change for most Big East teams, is it any wonder the Horned Frogs jumped ship?) With no sort of NFL -style revenue-sharing agreement forthcoming (in fact, the angry comments from BCS commissioners like Jim Delany make clear that such an agreement would be less likely now than ever), don't expect anything to change anytime soon. The rich of college football are only going to get richer, and the poor will simply have to make themselves attractive enough to join them.
HT: GTP .
Posted on: December 27, 2010 12:57 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Way back on December 6, we wrote of the contract extension offered by Stanford to Jim Harbaugh that "if he balks [at signing it], it's going to be the clearest sign possible that he's going to want to hear what [Michigan] (or NFL Team X) has to say."
It's now December 27, and not only has Harbaugh not signed the extension, he claims he hasn't even bothered to look at it :
“I haven’t even discussed it,” he told [the San Jose Mercury News] today.If you are Bowlsby or Stanford, there is only one response to that: Ouch.
Because it's highly doubtful that -- even if Bowlsby was exaggerating when he claimed that Harbaugh was close to accepting the extension -- that Harbaugh isn't even aware of what Stanford is offering. The contract is out there, and whether he's "discussed" it or not, Harbaugh knows it. He's just not interested in putting his name on it just yet.
It's entirely possible he still does at some later date, of course. But with not one but two possible-bordering-on-probable landing places for Harbaugh should he decide to bolt, in both his alma mater at Michigan and now the vacant San Francisco 49ers head coaching job, it's clearer than ever that Harbaugh's in no hurry to limit his options now.
For the time being, Bowlsby and the Cardinal are just going to have to grin about their Orange Bowl berth and bear it. The rumor mill is going to be circling The Farm for a while.
Posted on: December 22, 2010 2:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Mountain West has been taking hits all season long. Things started out promising enough when the conference landed Boise State, and speculation that the league could end up with an automatic BCS bid because of it began. Unfortunately, since then, the conference has watched TCU, Utah and BYU move on to greener pastures, and any talk of an automatic bid for the Mountain West quickly came to a halt.
Though that hasn't stopped the conference from brainstorming ideas to get that bid. In fact, it seems that the Mountain West is teaming up with Conference USA in an attempt to find a way to get a BCS bid between the two conferences.
A united approach to a Bowl Championship Series automatic-qualifying berth has been among the most intriguing possibilities since neither currently has automatic status.
"There is still some level of interest in talking about that between the two conferences," [C_USA commissioner Britton] Banowsky said. "Where the conversation ultimately goes, I think, is way too early to tell. But I think as long as folks are interested in exploring that idea, we'll continue to do that."
There has been speculation the two could push for a BCS play-in game between the winners of their conferences.
That laughing you hear in the background is Bill Hancock.
It's a noble idea, sure, and one that in a perfect world would likely deserve some consideration, but let's be real, the BCS isn't looking to bring in any new members. While the two conferences may team up and help each other with marketing and television, there's no way either will end up with an automatic BCS berth.
Posted on: December 22, 2010 1:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Some of the stories that have emerged over the past few days about teams struggling to sell their allotment of bowl tickets aren't surprising, quite honestly. How many FIU fans are going to want to leave Miami for a late-December trip to Detroit ? What percentage of the fanbase at Tulsa -- one of the smallest schools in all Division I -- are going to have the means to fly to Hawaii ?
But you might think that things would be different on the top rungs of the bowl ladder. You'd think wrong, as the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl are each finding out. We mentioned last week that UConn was looking at a major financial shortfall, and that hasn't changed; the Huskies have still sold only approximately 4,500 of their 17,500 tickets and are on the hook for at least $1.4 million in unsold ticket costs alone. Stanford, meanwhile, isn't much better off , according to San Jose Mercury-News columnist Mark Purdy (emphasis added):
Why should the Cardinal football team and its loyal followers be forced to schlep way across the country to Miami for the Orange Bowl in two weeks? As of late last week, Stanford had sold less than half of its 17,500-ticket allotment for that game. Isn't it stupid that the team can't play in a big bowl much closer to home?Purdy's column makes clear that he and the Pac-10 would have much preferred to see the the Cardinal in the Rose Bowl over TCU (and no doubt the Rose itself agrees), but he doesn't ask the question from the opposite perspective: isn't it stupid the Orange Bowl can't invite a big school closer to home? Why do they have to take a team representing a private academic institution from the West Coast whose fanbase is mostly apathetic even in the best of times when teams like LSU or even Michigan State could provide a lot more attendance bang for the invitation's buck?
In Stanford's case, it's because of a BCS bylaw that requires any team in the BCS rankings top-four to receive an automatic BCS berth; in UConn's, it's because the Big East champion is also admitted auotmatically, no questions asked. If Purdy thinks the agreement that sent TCU to Pasadena at Stanford's expense is unfair (and that's debatable, since the other BCS bowls have each been saddled with non-AQ teams before and will be again; why should the Rose be excepted?), how fair is it that the bowls are forced into inviting schools they know will leave them with attendance issues?
It's a little fair, sure, because there's no question that at 11-1, Stanford has done more to deserve a BCS berth than, say, 9-3 Alabama. But it's high time the NCAA started examining a way to free teams from the burden of ticket guarantees -- since it is unfair for a team like FIU, caught between an invitation they can't afford to turn down for the sake of their program and a guarantee they can't afford to accept on the financial ledger -- and if they might start with either limiting or eliminating those guarantees, they can definitely continue by loosening bowl tie-ins and doing away with the BCS's automatic bid. If bowls can take teams that will actually fill seats, they won't have to charge the schools that don't when those seats go empty.
Posted on: December 18, 2010 3:08 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
As reported yesterday, Mark Cuban has set his sights on the deeply unpopular BCS postseason in college football, and that he in the exploratory stages of establishing and funding a playoff system with the intent of competing against the BCS. BCS spokesperson Bill Hancock expressed considerable doubt that Cuban would be able to accomplish that goal. Of course, if Hancock didn't say that he'd be fired on the spot, but that doesn't make his doubts entirely invalid. Cuban does, in fact, face a series of major challenges from the NCAA establishment in making this playoff system happen.
As Cuban wrote today, however, he faces another hurdle -- namely, that he's not the first person to have this idea, and those before him aim to profit off a playoff plan one way or another. Here's part of an e-mail Cuban received from someone reportedly represented by a major law firm:
In his post, Cuban then rues the fact that people can be issued patents for this system without ever having the means or intent of actually implementing it, and that the patent system effectively acts as a roadblock to real progress on the football postseason front. He's right. For as pro-business as the USA is, its draconian approach to copyright and trademark law (and the sheer volume of professionals trained to exploit it) means that innovation is effectively bottlenecked by lawyers and patent filers in this day and age.
But read that e-mail carefully; there are (purportedly) "three perfected alternatives to the BCS" already owned, but according to both the e-mail and CBSSports.com's research, there's only one actual patent issued for a postseason playoff system. It's unclear what the other two patents address, and as of right now we do not know how CBS is actually involved in this patent situation, but insofar as issuing playoff bids goes, there's one system on the books. For Cuban, that's good news.
The patent in question is here, and it's pretty thorough -- as all good patents should be, really. It's owned by Marc Mathews of Chandler, AZ (presumably this is the "guy in Arizona" Cuban's unnamed e-mailer mentions), and it was issued 12 years ago. It's long, but here's the abstract, with one particular portion emphasized by us:
A method for conducting a championship playoff includes the steps of ranking participating teams after a regular season by adding the ranks of each team based upon at least two different polls, and assigning a final rank for each team based upon the summation of these polls. A championship tournament is then conducted with a plurality of rounds of events to reduce the initial number of teams to a single champion. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, one poll is a poll of sports writers, a second poll is a poll of coaches, and a third poll is an objective poll, with the first and second polls being weighted more heavily than the objective poll. Each round of events in the championship playoff would be played at different site locations. A secondary tournament would be conducted utilizing the highest ranked teams below those which are utilized in the championship tournament. The secondary tournament would include a plurality of rounds of events to narrow the teams to a single champion of the secondary tournament. The secondary tournament rounds are played at different locations than the championship tournament rounds, and are played on different days than the championship rounds.
This, of course, is the method by which the BCS selects its national championship participants, and it was every bit the canon in 1998 as it remains today. Therein lies the problem for Mathews and his patent. If Cuban doesn't use at least two polls, he's got a leisurely stroll past this patent. Here's the first method patented by Mathews, and the method upon which every single other method in his patent is based (again, emphasis ours):
1. A method for conducting a championship playoff among at least three participating teams, each team playing a plurality of games during a "regular" season, comprising the steps of:
Again, this type of redundancy is typically seen as a strength of the BCS, but if Cuban, say, uses one formula to determine his postseason participants, even if it's a formula agreed on by several different participants, he violates neither this method nor any of the others in the patent (which, again, are all based on this founding premise).
All of which is to say, there is almost certainly a way for Cuban to get around the restrictions laid out by this patent (the existence of which is most certainly ethically dubious but generally accepted as "smart business" all the same), and opponents of Cuban's plan would be wise not to see this as an actual roadblock to a playoff but rather a weakness in the BCS's armor.
Posted on: December 16, 2010 11:59 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
One of the more enlightening parts of the book Death to the BCS wasn't the fact that college football could have a playoff that would be incredibly successful financially. This is something that anybody with common sense could figure out. No, when I read the book it was seeing exactly how much money that schools actually make by going to bowl games.
Or, as is the case quite a few times, how much money that schools can lose going to a bowl game.
Something that, at the moment, it looks like UConn is going to experience first hand. Yes, the chance to go to a BCS game is exciting for the program as it gives the school some national exposure, but it also means that the school has a lot of tickets and hotel rooms to sell, and it looks like it's having some trouble doing that.
UConn also has a hotel obligation — a total of 550 rooms at three different hotels ranging in price from $125-225 a night, not including tax, with blocks reserved for either three or seven nights. Additional expenses include a chartered flight and meals for the team, staff and 300-member band, as well as a $100,000 bonus to coach Randy Edsall, and smaller bonuses for assistants, per their contracts, for getting the team to a BCS bowl.
Those 4,000 tickets that UConn has sold? That means the school still has 13,500 more to go. Obviously, the economy has a lot to do with this. Most UConn fans just don't have the money to buy tickets and fly across the country and stay a few days right now, and those who do can surely find tickets cheaper elsewhere.
The school has started an ad campaign to encourage fans to travel to the game, even having coach Randy Edsall warn everybody that "this might be the only Fiesta Bowl we go to." Sounds encouraging doesn't it?
I get the feeling there are going to be quite a few empty seats in Glendale next month.
Photo courtesy of New Haven Register
Posted on: December 16, 2010 3:36 am
Edited on: December 16, 2010 3:43 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The BCS cannot catch a break these days. It's been only days since it finally shed the label of "most reviled aspect of collegiate sports" (the new winner being the Big Ten's "Legends" and "Leaders" division name change, of course), and already the BCS faces its toughest obstacle yet: Mark Cuban.
Cuban, the irascible and opinionated owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and various other holdings, proposed funding a playoff system during an interview earlier today:
And how, precisely, would Cuban make these changes? Why, throw an unholy amount of money at the problem, of course:
Our colleague Ben Golliver expressed doubt that Cuban would be able to make any headway in spite of a theoretical playoff's overwhelming popularity, but I'm not so pessimistic. The one thing the BCS has always been able to (literally) capitalize upon was that it operates essentially out of the purview of the NCAA. Sure, the bowl game committees don't break any NCAA rules when it comes to giving players gifts or anything, but that's likely due in some part to the fact that paying players doesn't advance the bowls' financial agenda nearly as much as paying the schools and conferences, which they do in insane amounts. In return, the bowl system -- which is ludicrously tilted in the financial favor of the six BCS member conferences -- gets to hand-select its participants with only the most basic of guidelines. People complain, but it's what works because it's what makes the most money.
But if Cuban comes along and suggests a playoff system that makes more money for the NCAA and its schools and conferences, well, the BCS finds itself in a spot of trouble, because it can't exactly come running to the NCAA to enforce any pro-BCS rules; again, the BCS is a separate institution, and one that generally relies on a postseason monopoly -- you either go to a bowl or you don't. There is very little to suggest that conferences like the Mountain West would pass on an opportunity to play for an opt-in title when its teams are going 12-0 in the regular season, only to be told those teams aren't allowed to play for the BCS Championship. Efforts by the power conferences to shame and intimidate the non-AQ conferences only serve to deepen the divide, and that's a power play that could backfire hilariously if the BCS isn't the only postseason game in town anymore.
Obviously, Cuban's plan isn't fully cooked yet, so it's impossible to judge the plan on its merits until we know what they specifically are. Further, opting out of the BCS entirely has never been attempted by a school or a conference (and really, why would anybody do that without a viable alternative?), so it's going to take a lot of contractual research to figure out exactly what that would entail. It may very well be the case that this playoff idea never gets off the ground for whatever reason. You really think Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are going to let their BCS baby roll over at the first sign of a fight? Please.
Nonetheless, Cuban's insertion of himself into the BCS debate isn't a gamechanger; it's even better. That's because the game's always going to be the same, and that game is money. If Cuban can bring more money to the table and win the PR debate to boot, then it won't matter how many rich men in blazers the BCS bowls send to top schools; Cuban's going to win that game every time.