Meyer's inner conflict, more mail (cont.)
Stewart, every year I enter a bowl pool, and there's one factor in bowl games that I've tried to master: The "want to be there/letdown" factor. How can one gauge it? Last year I put my highest confidence points on Alabama to beat Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and the Tide looked like they didn't even want to be in the stadium. By the same token I picked Ole Miss to upset Texas Tech last year for the same reasons and was right. Is this "want to be there/let down" factor generally true, or is it just my imagination?
It's absolutely true, but it's also inconsistent, which makes predicting the non-championship bowl games a complete crapshoot (as my mediocre record so far shows). Case in point: The BYU-Oregon State Las Vegas Bowl. If that game took place on a Saturday in October, I highly doubt it would have been so one-sided. The Beavers' offense hadn't played that poorly all year. But the Cougars were coming off a dramatic season-ending win in their rivalry game, while the Beavers were coming off a crushing defeat in theirs. I have to think that affected both teams' preparation.
But Pittsburgh was playing under much the same circumstances against North Carolina and still prevailed. One wouldn't have been surprised if USC rolled over in the Emerald Bowl, but quarterback Matt Barkley actually looked sharper than he had in months against Boston College. The moral of the story: Flip a coin. I might try it next year.
Stewart, you are 0-4 so far in predicting bowl games. Is there a systemic reason for that or is it just a mere coincidence?
It was pretty amusing to read some of the e-mails that poured in during the first week of bowl season. You guys sure love to rub it in. I'd love to give you some scientific explanation for why I was so wildly off on Wyoming and Middle Tennessee State, but the simple truth is I'd seen those teams play as often as most of you.
Tim Tebow over Vince Young for player of the decade??? You have got to be kidding me!!! Young went 30-2. Tebow is 34-6. Young was invincible and even left one season on the table to head for the NFL. Tebow has proven to be very beatable. Good, but not nearly on the level of VY.
As an SC fan, I think it's cool that you named the Trojans the best program of the decade and I don't want to sound selfish as a result, but I've still gotta ask: Don't you think it's weird that you had ZERO Trojans on your All-Decade Team? (Besides Reggie Bush as an all-purpose guy.)
I must have done a decent job on the All-Decade Team, because there were surprisingly few complaints. But these were the two most common (shocker: People think Tebow is overrated), so I'll address them both.
First of all, my intent was to honor the most accomplished player(s) at each position. Much like Grant Wahl, whose college basketball team elevated three- and four-year stars (Tyler Hansborough, Shane Battier) over arguably more talented one-and-done guys (Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony), I looked at players' entire careers. Vince Young, at his peak, was the most dominant player I ever covered, but people forget that he didn't truly blossom until about midway through his second season. In his first two years, he threw 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
In terms of a career award, the much tougher choice was between Tebow and Matt Leinart, the latter of whom had a better record (37-2), won two national titles as a starter and also won a Heisman. In terms of actual production, however, Tebow has a higher career passer rating (168.5 to 164.5), more total yards (11,699 to 10,679) and more total touchdowns (141 to 109).
Speaking of which -- Leinart was just one of several USC players that barely missed the All-Decade cut. I didn't set out trying to allocate by team in any way, and I was surprised myself when I realized afterward that Bush was the only Trojan. But remember, you're dealing with a very small sample size (27 players) and position restrictions (with all due respect to Duke Robinson, we needed a guard). If you made a list of the top 200 players of the decade, it may well include 15 Trojans, and no one would deem that a "slight." One of those would probably be Dwayne Jarrett, an unquestionably exceptional college receiver. But was he better than Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Crabtree? Not quite. And my editors wouldn't let me go with a spread offense.
What makes you an expert on college football when you have only predicted one bowl game correctly through Dec. 25?
The only "experts" at predicting games are in Vegas -- and they started 1-5, too.
Stewart -- Now the talk against the Mountain West is lack of depth after the top teams. Yet couldn't you argue that same lack of depth for a number of the BCS conferences? There really isn't much to them outside of their top teams, either, and this has been the case for generations.
The issue isn't depth within each conference, it's the quality of the Mountain West's second- and third-tier teams versus those of the BCS conferences. The Idaho Statesman laid this out perfectly in a recent article about whether the addition of Boise State would help the Mountain West's cause. (The short answer: Yes, but not enough.)
The three criteria the BCS has said it will use for its current four-year evaluation period (2008-11) are 1) the average of each conference's highest-ranked team, 2) the average number of Top 25 teams and 3) conference computer average. In the first two categories, which involve only TCU, Utah and BYU, the Mountain West currently rates equal to or greater than several current AQ conferences. But in the third, which takes into account the whole league, it still rates a distant seventh. So the key over the next two years will be not only for the "Big Three" to maintain their current level, but for some of the bottom-feeders (New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State) to get a lot better.
Stewart: Congratulations on shaking off your rough start to bowl season and correctly picking five of the last seven games. These things have a way of evening themselves out, but sometimes, in our haste to jump all over you, we forget.
Just kidding. Nobody wrote that. The e-mails stopped showing up after 1-5, which is a shame, because I could have used more positive reinforcement like this:
I looked at your first few picks. You are apparently another off-the-shelf football guru. You are in fact another balding middle-aged idiot, that through your unique formulas has it all figured out. I'd suggest you sell insurance. You look like the guy who's my agent. I can give you his number if you'd like, I think he's hiring. Have a great holiday.
Oh I will. I'm going to go drench my balding head in some of that Pasadena sun.
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