Thursday, August 21, 2014

Preseason Poll Nonsense

Preseason polls in college football are completely meaningless and even more so now that the BCS is finally dead (YEA!) and a committee will select the four teams for the College Football Playoff.  Yet, uninformed dolts, like Clay Travis, keep citing them as if they mean something and/or are important.   Here's an example that was posted just after the AP preseason poll came out:  "Auburn has seven opponents ranked in the AP top 25.  Ohio State has one."  While factually correct, the statistic is meaningless at this point in the season.  Citing that statistic now as proof of the narrative that the schedule Auburn will play is much more difficult than that of Ohio State is complete nonsense.  And when these (false) narratives are established early in the season they carry on even when the results at the end of the season prove them false. 
Case in point:  2012 Notre Dame.  Notre Dame's 2012 schedule included 5 teams ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll including USC (#1 )--lolz, Oklaoma (#4), Michigan (#8), Michigan State (#13), Stanford (#21) in addition to in addition to unranked but perennially decent teams Miami & BYU.   That's 3 teams in the top 10, 4 in the top 13 and 5 in the top 21, a venerable murderer's row.  Any team who could navigate that difficult schedule would clearly be one of the best in the country.  <NOT!>  The rankings in the final AP Top 25?  #7 (Stanford), #15 (Oklahoma) & #24 (Michigan).  So ND had beaten 1 top 10 team, 2 top 15 teams and 3 top 25 teams.  To quote Homer Simpson, "That's good but not great."  But the perception had already been established that Notre Dame played a brutal schedule and thus, coming out of it undefeated was quite the accomplishment.  Fortunately, Bama proved that was not the case.  So please, stop making judgments/statements about how easy or difficult a team's resume is until AFTER the season has ended and we have a full picture of the actual level of difficulty.   

Friday, July 18, 2014

SEC columnists are jealous of the Big Ten?

Last May, the SEC announced it would start its own conference channel, the SEC Network (SECN), following in the footsteps of the Big Ten (B1G), Midwest Conference (MWC) and the Pac-12 (P12).  The channel is set to launch in about one month on August 14, 2014 and has currently secured deals with several major cable/satellite providers including U-Verse, Dish Network and most recently, Cox.  Every time another major provider signs on, there are updates about the number of subscribers who will have the SECN available to them.  Constantly updating this running tally makes sense, except there’s one thing that always seems to be mentioned with the tally: the number of subscribers the Big Ten Network (BTN) had at launch.  Why?

Example 1:  When it was announced on July 9th that Cox Cable had signed on to carry the SECN, Barrett Sallee (CFB writer on Bleacher Report, yes I know…) tweetedThe addition of Cox brings the @SECNetwork to around 26 million homes. The Big Ten Network had 16 million the day it launched.” Interesting.

Example 2:  Brandon Marcello (Auburn beat writer for, in an article from July 11thabout the SECN in general and its experience in gaining carriage agreements, wroteThe SEC Network has secured about 26 million homes so far, surpassing the 14 million homes the Big Ten Network secured when it launched in 2007. More announcements are likely on the way…”.  Notice that both statements are almost identical except that Marcello somehow incorrectly states the number of homes BTN was available to at launch as 14 million (link showing correct # of subscribers at launch).  (Editor’s Note: I reached out to him on Twitter regarding this error but have not received a response).  Again, interesting.

So this begs the question.  Why are SEC-centered college football writers constantly comparing the number of subscribers the SECN is currently available to (leading up to its launch) to the number that BTN was available to at its launch?  Are they jealous?  Are they secretly obsessed with the B1G?  Both?  I honestly don’t know, but it seems extremely peculiar considering that the circumstances surrounding the launch of both networks are hardly similar.

*BTN was launched in 2007 while the SECN is being launched in 2014 in a completely different media and broadcast landscape
*BTN was the first tv channel of a major FBS conference (the MWC launched a tv network a year earlier but its carriage was very low before shutting down in 2012) while SECN will be the third major conference tv channel (BTN 1st in 2007, Pac-12 Network (P12N) 2nd in 2012)
*BTN had Fox Sports backing it (which at the time had only a minimal interest in CFB by televising the BCS games and the Cotton Bowl) while the SECN has the full weight of ESPN (i.e. Disney) behind it.

So given those 3 major differences, it makes absolutely no sense to repeatedly compare the number of subscribers SECN will have at launch to the number that BTN had.  Additionally, the number of cable & satellite subscribers is not constant, similar to how inflation changes the value of a dollar over time.  So just giving raw subscriber totals without adjusting for overall subscription levels is misleading as well (i.e. there were ~ 96 million cable + satellite subscribers in 2007, but ~ 100 million subscribers in 2014, ).  Therefore, anyone who compares the number of possible SECN subscribers at its launch to the number of possible subscribers BTN had at launch is either dishonest or foolish.  Or both.
Which brings me back to Barrett Sallee.  In response to several people calling out his misleading post on Twitter, he said "Just putting into perspective the success of SEC Networkpre-launch..." and "Just putting a little perspective on it..."  To quote Joe Biden "Are you joking? Is this a joke?"  Here you have a guy who cited two absolute figures (26 million & 16 million) without accounting for any of the multitude of factors listed above which make the situations completely different (and frankly incomparable).  Then when called out on it, he says that he is offering perspective.  Someone please cue up Borat ***NOT***.  He's doing the exact opposite of "putting a little perspective on it".  First, the BTN launch subscriber numbers shouldn't even be cited anywhere in relation to the SECN numbers unless you were doing a historical comparison with subscriber numbers of ALL conference networks that have launched over the years.  Second, if they are cited, they need to be prefaced with statements like "completely different time 7 years ago," or "completely different media landscape 7 years ago" or "first of its kind tv network for a major conference".  In other words, Barrett Sallee is doing the exact opposite of putting the numbers in perspective by choosing to arbitrarily compare the SECN to BTN instead of say, to the P12N.  The launch of the P12N would be a much more analogous situation to the launch of the SECN since it only launched two years ago and came along after it was proven that a television network devoted solely to a major college athletic conference could survive (and be profitable).  Yet, not a single article/tweet/story compares the SECN to the P12N.  Why?


Saturday, June 21, 2014

The 8 vs 9 conference game fallacy

           Ever since the College Football Playoff was announced there has been a never-ending debate about conferences, specifically the Power 5, playing 8 vs 9 conference games.   The Big 12 went to a 9-game full round-robin conference schedule in 2011 after Nebraska & Colorado bolted while the Pac-12 kept its 9-game conference schedule after it expanded the same year.  The Big Ten last year announced it would switch to a 9-game conference schedule starting in 2016, two years after it expanded (again) to 14 total teams.  However, this spring both the ACC & SEC decided to stay at 8 conference games for the near future (Note: the ACC did setup a scheduling alliance with Notre Dame in 2013 where it would play five games vs ND each year but those games would not count as conference games).   With the College Football Playoff set to begin this year (finally!) the 8 vs 9 conference game debate has been taken over by idiots and has focused on all the wrong issues.  Allow me to explain.
                The 8 vs 9 conference game debate is generally meaningless for two reasons.   First, the conferences themselves have varying levels of ability.  It’s generally been true that over the last 5-7 years the SEC has been the strongest conference followed by the Pac-12 and then some combination of the Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC (Note: While there were some years that the case could be made for the Big East being stronger than one or more of those conferences, the American does not appear to be such going forward).  You could also make a legitimate argument that in top to bottom strength the Pac-12 was better than the SEC last year.  But the point is, you can’t say with certainty that a team which played a 9-game conference schedule should be ranked ahead of a team who played an 8-game conference schedule without considering the quality (or lack thereof) of both conferences.  Also, you can’t reasonably compare schedules without looking at the specific teams played within the conference, which brings me to the second point.  You can’t accurately compare an 8-game vs a 9-game conference schedule (or any two schedules for that matter) without looking at the actual teams on the schedule (Note: In a separate post, I will expand further upon this idea, specifically the one situation where an 8 vs 9 game conference schedule actually matters).  For teams that play in a conference with divisions (every Power 5 conference except the Big 12), the crossover opponents from the other division (2 or 3) and the strength of a team’s division (which can vary greatly year to year, see SEC East 2012 vs 2013) have much more weight in determining the strength of a team’s conference schedule than solely the number of conference games played.  Yet, analysts and media personalities repeatedly discuss how an 8 vs 9 game conference schedule will affect a team’s ability to make the College Football Playoff while completely ignoring the factors mentioned above.
                Finally, there is one factor that is being completely overlooked by ignorant analysts (Trevor Matich & Joe Schad, I’m looking at you).  Frequently, the Big 12 & SEC are compared in that the Big 12 plays 9 conference games vs the 8 for the SEC; additionally, the SEC has a conference championship game in addition to 12 regular season games.  Thus, we frequently hear the conclusion that the SEC’s schedule is tougher or better than that of a Big 12 team due to having a conference championship game.  However, if you compare the SEC CG winner vs the Big 12 Champion you have the following:  13 total games vs 12, 9 conference games vs 9, and the only difference is the number of non-conference games at 4 vs 3.  Thus, when you’re comparing the Big 12 Champion to the SEC Champion, the only difference is one extra non-conference game.   Now, obviously as was mentioned earlier, when comparing the resumes of two teams one should look at a bunch of factors (overall strength of conference, the specific teams played—or not played, etc).  However, another factor that needs to be remembered, but which you never hear discussed, is that the difference between these resumes is simply a single non-conference game, most likely against a non-Power 5 or FCS team.  So to claim that 2014 Alabama deserves to be selected ahead of say,2014 Oklahoma, for the CFP because Bama played in a conference championship game and Oklahoma didn’t is ludicrous as they each played 9 conference games.  Bama’s 4 non-conference opponents are from Conference USA (2), Big 12 and the FCS while Oklahoma’s are from the SEC, Conference USA and the American.  So (again, ignoring the overall strength of each team) does the fact that Bama blew out an FCS team in a 13th game make its overall resume better than  Oklahoma’s 12 game resume?  Of course not, yet no one ever mentions this.  Except here.