Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma’

Independance Day at Notre Dame: How Many More Will There Be?

July 2nd, 2010

This July 4th comes to South Bend on the heels of change. At Notre Dame, change is apparent in a new coach, new style, new philosophy. Change is also evident all around.

In June, the college football landscape changed considerably. The Big Ten lit a potential powder-keg in conference expansion that, for a moment, threatened to drastically alter the college football landscape and ended only in what could be described as a seismic shift.

Some schools moved, two conferences emerged stronger, one struggling to survive.

Somehow at the center of everything was the one school who, more than anyone, wanted to remain as they always have been.


In the heart of Big (12) Ten country, Notre Dame is an obvious geographic fit for the conference. It would also prove an enormous financial win-fall for the Big Ten and it's television network.

The Irish remained stubborn, and insisted that, despite larger riches in the Big Ten, they would rather remain as they are.

Many see this as arrogance or greed by Notre Dame, as if they are willfully forcing people all across the country to become fans and remain so through lean years.

What these people are missing is the reason Notre Dame celebrates it's own independence, along with that of the United States this July 4th.

There was a time long ago that Notre Dame was an upstart little midwestern university with an emerging little football team that wanted to join up with the mighty Western Conference.

The conference referred to in the Michigan fight song "The Victors" (hail to the victors, hail to the conquering heroes, hail, hail Michigan, the champions of the west") was dominated by the Wolverines early in the 20th century.

Following a Notre Dame victory in 1908, legendary Michigan coach Fielding Yost refused to schedule the Irish and led the charge to deny the Irish entry into the emerging Big Ten.

While Notre Dame and Michigan did not meet on the gridiron again until 1942, Notre Dame seized the opportunity to schedule the likes of Army, Navy, USC, Stanford, as well as Big Ten teams Purdue, Iowa, and Michigan State.

Not burdened by conference schedules or rules, Notre Dame accepted games across the country, playing often in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The attention gained by consistently beating these top teams led to legend. Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, and the "Gipper Speech" all never would have been known had Notre Dame been a small midwestern school in a midwestern conference.

Notre Dame's independence has brought rivalries with USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Stanford, and Navy. Schools played regularly reside in three different time zones and four different conferences.

Notre Dame also has historical ties to Army, Miami, and BYU, among others.

Because the Irish's list of rivals features several perennial collegiate powers, many memorable games have emerged.

The 1913 Army game not only introduced Notre Dame as a national football program, but is thought of as the first use of the forward pass in a game.

A rare Notre Dame-Ohio State contest in 1935 became the first Irish game to be dubbed "The Game of the Century", when the 5-0 Irish beat the 4-0 Buckeyes, 18-13, on a last-play touchdown pass by a quarterback named Bill Shakespeare.

The second "Game of the Century" came little more than a decade later, when in 1946, the No. 2 undefeated Irish played to a 0-0 tie with the No. 1 Army Black Knights.

In 1957, Notre Dame ended Oklahoma's NCAA-record 47-game winning streak, 7-0, in Norman. Oklahoma's previous defeat was a full four years earlier in South Bend.

In 1966 Notre Dame's third "Game of the Century" saw No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State play to a 10-10 tie to preserve Notre Dame's undefeated season and allow them to claim that year's National Title.

The 1974 USC game saw one of the greatest halves of football ever recorded (unfortunately against the Irish) as the Trojans trailed 24-0 with :10 remaining in the first half, and held ND scoreless, while posting 55 second-half points in what became a rout of the Irish.

The 1977 USC game matched an underdog Notre Dame team against a top-ranked and seemingly invincible Trojan squad. The Irish donned green and entered behind a Trojan Horse before pulling off an amazing 49-19 thrashing of the men of Troy. The Irish went on to claim their 10th National Title.

1988 brought the University of Miami to South Bend, ranked No. 1 and riding a 36-game regular season winning streak. The No. 4 Irish stopped the Hurricanes' last-second two-point attempt to preserve a 31-30 win. The Irish claimed their most recent title that season.

In 1993, No. 1 Florida State came calling, wearing green "FS" hats and "Knute Who" tee shirts to tangle with the No. 2 Irish. The brash Seminoles were given a lesson in karma, as Notre Dame held on to win a 31-24 thriller in the fourth Irish game to be called "Game of the Century".

Notre Dame would lose their season ender to Boston College at home the following week to spoil a 12th National Title bid, 41-30, in what I feel was the greatest game I've ever attended, despite the Irish loss.

In 2005, Notre Dame and USC played the first "Game of the Century" of the new millennium, in what is also called the "Bush Push" game. No. 1-ranked USC held, scoring the go-ahead points in the last seconds to turn away the No. 9 Irish.

The "Bush Push" name will, more than likely, be more prominent, not only because USC RB Reggie Bush illegally pushed QB Matt Leinart froward into the endzone in the waining seconds for the winning score, but because Bush has been ruled ineligible for the entire season, officially removing the win from USC's records.

These games became more memorable, not necessarily because of their true greatness, but because they were televised or broadcast nationwide in an era before cable TV, before SportsCenter and before the Internet.

Because Notre Dame played everywhere, and hosted teams from everywhere, they had a presence and, soon, a fan base everywhere.

Notre Dame was no longer a small midwestern university, but a national university, drawing not only athletes, but students from all over the country.

Without being restricted by conference borders, Notre Dame could fulfill it's own manifest destiny.

They became the New York Yankees of college football.

And then came change.

First ESPN.

With more college football televised, there was a closing in the separation between Notre Dame and everyone else.

Then came the BCS.

The restructured non-series Bowl Championship Series that seeded teams that won their conferences into originally 4 (now 4 + a championship game) big time, big money games.

Notre Dame has the hardest path into the series as they have to be ranked in the top eight, while any winner from the ACC or Big East gets in, even if unranked.

Then came realignment.

While this year's dust has settled without the total armageddon that could have occurred, the result seems temporary.

The Big XII is on life support, the Pac-10 seems ready to accept anyone willing to come, and the Big 10 doesn't seem satisfied with Nebraska.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick stated that there could be a time when Notre Dame's hand is forced and independence is lost.

That time is really a Pittsburgh, Syracuse, or Rutgers away.

Should the Big Ten poach another Big East team or two, the conference may fold. Along with it probably would go the Big XII (10) leaving four super conferences in the Big Ten, Pac 10, ACC, and SEC.

While independence works for the Irish football program, a conference is necessary for every other sport in which Irish athletes participate.

Should the Big East dissolve or be threatened, they may enact the Randy Edsall plan and give the Irish an ultimatum <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> "join for football or leave all together".

Should this be the case, with independence no longer an option, the Irish would have to choose between joining the sinking ship Big East or relenting and agreeing to Big Ten membership.

As fast as everything happened this summer, and with all the rumors and dollar signs swirling, it is hard to imagine that the era of conference expansion is over.

It may not come next year, but there may soon be a day when Irish independence is simply no longer possible.

The Irish alumni, fans, and television partner, NBC, expect Notre Dame to be a part of the National Championship discussion more years than not.

Looking at the current trend for BCS conference teams to schedule a mid-major and a Football Championship Subdivision team, in addition to their eight league games, an increase in conference opponents to 16 would probably mean one more conference game.

Notre Dame would find itself playing a lot more MAC and Conference USA teams.

Irish independence has been a gift.

It made the program and the school what they are today.

But there are threats to that independence closing in from all around like a regiment of Red Coats in the War of 1812.

Except these Red Coats have Buckeye stickers on them.

This July 4th, revel in this independence. Reflect upon all it has given us.

Most of all, enjoy it while you can.

Change comes swiftly.

Does the SEC’s Talent Advantage Explain Recent Success?

July 2nd, 2010

A few days ago, I wrote an article about the top 10 highest ranked recruiting classes since Rivals introduced their class ranking method. 

You can read that piece here .

Well, I'm not done with Rivals yet. I've spent the better part of this week compiling data on recruiting classes, because it's a slow, summer-y work week, and apparently, that's what I do to pass the time.

Anyway, I was looking for a hierarchy as far as base talent goes. This obviously does little to settle a "X conference is better than Y!" as there is more to football than just fielding the most talented team.

Still, my data shows that the most talented teams have held a monopoly on the BCS championship since 2002 (possibly since the BCS' 1998 inception, I don't have recruiting data prior to 2002, though).

Of the eight schools that have played in national championship games since 2002, five come from the top six recruiting schools and all eight fall into the twelve (FSU narrowly edges out Oklahoma as the fifth best recruiting school otherwise the top five would be five for five).

If I piqued your interest, here are the top 12 best recruiting schools since 2002 (in descending order)

Ohio State

At the very least, talent is correlated to success. Before you throw Boise State or some other non–AQ at me, know that those schools are at or near the top of the recruiting pile for their conferences for most years.

Now, the argument of the 2000s has been "The esS-eEe-Cee is thuh best confuhrance evurrrrr."  While that statement is impossible to prove, the following facts are usually used as evidence:

The SEC has won four straight national championships
The SEC has the best bowl record of the major conferences

The first two are irrefutable, though not necessarily proof of any SEC advantage. The third is simply fun to tout as fact to piss off the slower, brainy Big 10levenwelve fans who hate hearing about the SEC all day.

The truth is, it's virtually impossible to say one major conference is better than another.  Better is too vague a word.

We can, however, determine which conference starts out with the most talent. 

Again, this does not mean better, and it doesn't even mean that the conference is in fact more talented. It means that the conference starts out with the best recruits, which should mean the best chance to have the most talent.

In order to do this, I took the average recruiting scores for each BCS conference along for each of the last nine years as well as the total average recruiting score for each conference.

I didn't do the Non–AQs, with the exception of the BCS bowl attendees because the non–AQ conferences suck at recruiting. Regardless, none of those teams matter here.  This is big vs. big only beginning with the lowest scoring conference, the Big East.

Big East– 723.35 points

The Big East clocks in as the only BCS conference to hold a mean score under 1,000 points. 

This has nothing to do with the fact that the conference only has eight teams (at least on the surface) and everything to do with the fact that the conference lost Miami and Virginia Tech, its most powerful recruiting teams, to expansion.

In the two years that Miami and VA Tech were in the Big East, the conference averaged 1245.25 and 1336.25 points. Those numbers put the Big East at fifth best, just ahead of the Big 10.

In 2005, the conference plummeted to a 382.86 points average, and although it climbed out of Sun-Belt territory once the conference became more stable, the Big East never again crosses the 1000 point average threshold.

There is a distinct power gap here. The best Big East team is as loaded as a middle–tier team from any other power conference, or a bottom 33 percent team from the SEC. Since the contraction/expansion, no Big East squad has crossed the 1500 points mark, much less the 2000 points threshold that every BCS champion has crossed.

Big 101020.79 points

This should come as no surprise to anyone who really follows college football. It's hard to get kids to go to school up North when there are plenty of elite schools in areas without a real winter.

The biggest difference between the Big 10 and the Big East is that the Big 10 has a couple of real power schools. Both Michigan and Ohio State fell within the top 11 recruiting schools. 

However, after Michigan and OSU, there is a big drop off. Penn State and Michigan State both have sporadic recruiting success, but both find themselves near the bottom of the Big 10 during some years.

This lack of depth lands the Big 10 in the five-spot.

ACC– 1085.42 points

The ACC has a strong top with Miami, FSU, Clemson, UNC (under Butch Davis), but the lack of consistency from the middle of the road teams and a large number of bad recruiters (Duke, GT, Wake) keep the ACC in the middle of the pack. 

The three conferences who recruit better than the ACC have at least one school with a Rivals recruiting score of 2000 or better each year. The ACC fails to break that mark three times. Still, with two schools in the top 10 for recruiting, the ACC definitely has the talent to compete.

Big 12– 1173.17 points

This could be the only upset on the list. The conference that has placed two teams in the last three BCS championship games as well as Texas again in 2005 falls behind USC and friends in terms of recruiting.

If you're going to blame something, blame size (also, Baylor). The Big 12 has more teams over the 1,000 points mark than the Pac 10. It also has more teams over the 2000 points mark than the Pac 10.

However, the Pac 10 only has 10 teams, which means everything counts for a little bit more on average. If you go by Median, the Big 12 is second. Replace USC with any other school, and the Big 12 is second. 

However, I'm using mean to rank, and USC is a Pac 10 member so the possibly real–life stronger Big 12 takes the bronze.

Pac 10– 1219.44 points

This is 100 percent USC. USC is the best recruiting school in the nation, with an average score of 2589.89 points. To put that in perspective, the best Big 12 recruiter, Texas, trails by over 400 points at 2178.78 points.

The rest of the Pac 10 is pretty average in terms of recruiting. Oregon, Cal, and UCLA play a good rotating second chair, but none are up to par of the ACC, Big 12, or SEC's No. twos. 

The large disparity between USC and the rest of the conference probably explains why the Trojans won the Pac 10 for all but one of the nine years the recruiting data covers.

By that same logic, the large disparity between money USC was paying recruits and the broke lives the recruits from other Pac 10 schools were living probably explains the large disparity in USC's recruiting and the rest of the Pac 10.

USC is elite, the rest of the Pac 10 is just decent, although they're trending upward.  Oregon has placed in the top 20 in three of the last four seasons and all that Nike influence could send some would–be Trojan five stars to Eugene during USC's timeout.

SEC– 1526.99 points

The 307 point gap between the SEC and the Pac 10 marks the largest disparity between any two consecutive Be conferences on this list. In the SEC, recruiting is everything, and the teams in the conference do it better than anyone.

Of the six power conferences, four conferences average one or more 2,000 point teams per year (ACC, Pac 10, Big 12, SEC). The Big 12 checks into second place with 1.56 teams per year, but that number crumbles compared to the SEC's 3.67 per year.

The 2,000 point cutoff basically means the team is one of the top 10 recruiters in the nation for that given year. So, on average, the SEC gets over three teams into the top 10 nationally. 

In fact, if you look at the top recruiters again, you'll see just that. Five of the top teams are SEC teams. A sixth, Auburn lurks just outside the top 12. Half the league is as loaded as the best schools in the country.

Look at the list again: Florida, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn. Do those teams sound familiar? 

Three of them can claim a BCS title in the last three years along with five of the last eight championships. Auburn has the 13–0 season where they got muscled out of a championship chance during that stretch as well. 

Georgia has a Sugar Bowl massacre, which set Non–AQs back a year, a possible claim to best team of 2007 as well as two more BCS appearances. Tennessee hasn't done much recently, but they do have a BCS title, even if it's in the way–back–when year of 1998. 

We're at the halfway point of the league and still talking about the national stage.

Additionally, almost nine members break the 1,000 point barrier per year, putting, on average, 75 percent of the conference in the top 35 teams nationally.

Does that settle it? Is the SEC better? No to both questions. For one, getting talent isn't as important as developing it. 

Look at where Tennessee sits on that list, ninth. How many BCS bowls have they been to during that period? How many losing seasons have they had during that period? If you answered "zero" and "same as Michigan," you are correct!

Both teams can recruit; neither is doing a whole lot with it right now.

Take everything you've read here with a grain of salt if you're going to use it to take any side on the "best" argument. As for me, I'll say this: the SEC may not be the best and it may not be the most talented, but it is certainly putting itself in the best position to be both.

Tommy Tuberville Calls Out Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe

July 2nd, 2010

Tommy Tuberville, incoming coach for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, was not reserved in attacking the politics that he feels weakens the structure of the Big 12 Conference. Specifically, he implicated Dan Beebe, the current Big 12 Commissioner, indirectly taking him to task for keeping the culture of disparate profit-sharing intact.

On Tuesday, June 29th, Tuberville compared the Big 12 situation to his experience at Auburn in the SEC. "Being here for six months, I've just kind of noticed there's just not a lot of camaraderie in this league like you have in the SEC...It starts with the commissioner.

"And I think [SEC commissioner] Mike Slive has done a good job. [Former SEC commissioner] Roy Kramer did a good job of building a base where everybody was on the same page. And that just has not happened here in the Big 12. It's just a matter of time, to be honest with you, unless they get everybody on the same page."

While not directly referencing Dan Beebe, it is clear that he believes a fair measure of blame rests with the Big 12 Commissioner. Tuberville's rhetoric was certainly direct for a Big 12 newcomer. It's an airing of discontent that many other institutions in the league, by comparison, have not been too willing to air publicly.

Tuberville cites the money distribution in the Big 12 as the reason why the conference's days are numbered.

Coach Tuberville forecasts, "I just don't think this conference will last long because there's just too much disparity between all the teams here. I've just noticed that in the SEC, for instance, Vanderbilt makes as much money in the TV contract as Florida. Everyone is good with it, everybody's on the same page, gets the same amount of votes."

Reading between the lines, Tuberville is shedding light that the Big 12 members are not really as unified as they have projected post expansion losses of Nebraska and Colorado.

The power behind the Big 12 culture, for instance, has made Missouri into the league pariah after what was perceived as prior soft campaigning to be included in the Big 10 expansion plans. 

Most outside the league, however, see Missouri's position as par for the course given the politics within the Big 12. Inside the league, however, strife has been sown and the Tigers were cast at one point as a turncoat of the league.

Says Tuberville regarding the money distribution issues in the Big 12, "When that happens, you're going to have teams looking for better avenues to leave and reasons to leave. And so we have a 10-team league now, but I just don't know how long that's going to last, to be honest with you."

Coach Tuberville apparently has a good deal of appreciation and insight into why teams like Missouri would like a more stable situation unlike the disparity found in the Big 12 with Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M receiving distinctly more TV revenues than the remainder of their conference members.

Adding to the instability of the Big 12 structure is the knowledge that the money promised to the 10-team Big 12 is not, to date, inked in a contract. Commissioner Beebe's figures are future projections and the league is hanging by that thread of optimism apparently offered by ESPN and Fox Sports. Notably, the contracts for ESPN and Fox still have five years and two years to go, respectively, before renegotiation is even possible.

Makes many of us wonder what will happen to the Big 12 in that two-to-five year interim.

The real question here is whether Tuberville's comments reflect animosities and resentments among the other schools in the Big 12 not named Texas, OU, and A&M that are powerful enough eventually to undo all the recent positive spin projected by the conference after surviving the Pac-10 bid for the Big 12 South.

Is the writing really on the wall for the 10-team Big 12?

Five Reasons the Florida Gators Could Stumble In 2010

July 2nd, 2010
Before you start to bash me, consider that I am a Gator fan. In recent years, a more realistic one than in my youth. I think that if all the chips fall the way we expect them to fall, than this year's Gator football team is looking darn good. But, as in my previous articles, I've said that in the SEC things can and do usually happen. Predict the unpredictable, and expect the unexpected is what the SEC is all about. Let's take a look at some potential pitfalls that are out there for the Gators. Again, will they materialize? Probably not. Could they? Ask Oklahoma if they thought they would be OK with Bradford coming back. Let's take a look.

Begin Slideshow

Richard Jefferson’s Surprise Decision Should Spook San Antonio Spurs

July 1st, 2010

The San Antonio Spurs hoped to structure their low-key summer around the expected signing of Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter.

The prized 2007 first-round draft pick appears ready to leave Spain and head to South Texas to complete the Europe-to-NBA jump.

GM R.C. Buford did not plan on a visit to a particular star's door step, or that a key cog not poised to hit the market would.

The team drafted Oklahoma State guard James Anderson last week and hoped to make another small splash this month by landing an additional role player. Matt Barnes, anyone?

Late Wednesday night, forward Richard Jefferson whacked Buford over the head with a frying pan the size of the Alamo. From floating the lazy river at a water park to now searching for a new starter at small forward, Jefferson's decision to opt out of his contract and leave $15 million on the table as reported by the San Antonio Express-News could send them into an unexpected scramble mode.

That lazy river may have become an ocean. As Hurricane Alex approaches Mexico and Texas, Hurricane Richard threatens to leave San Antonio a mess. A category one storm still qualifies as a dangerous event.

His potential departure would not sting if the front office had the cap space to lure a replacement. His exit would hurt the squad from a talent standpoint and might taint what remains of the Tim Duncan era.

This ranks as good news only in the eyes of delusional folks who do not understand the salary cap and how it handicaps the Spurs this summer.

I still contend the trade that landed him in San Antonio was a stupendous move. Buford surrendered bit role players in Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto, and Kurt Thomas and netted a versatile athlete with NBA Finals experience.

Waiting another year to fetch Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili some help would have proven disastrous. Chris Bosh was never coming to San Antonio, so get real. That "special" player the Spurs could have landed this summer was a pipe dream.

Buford isn't the weed-smoking type.

Jefferson wasn't that bad, and another year might allow him to coalesce better with his All-Star teammates.

If he leaves, the Spurs will have about $7 million total to sign Anderson, Splitter and find another small forward. They would have the same amount had he opted in for the final year of his deal.

Then, Buford could have pursued Barnes as a final glue piece. No one seems to know what Jefferson was thinking, or if he was thinking at all, when he walked away from $15 million.

In the most optimistic view, he opted out to afford the Spurs more wiggle room to improve the roster.

For those who prefer pessimism, he opted out to find another squad that he feels better suits his abilities. It says here the Spurs can still become that team.

The looming 2011 lockout could dampen the Spurs' financial future, as it would the entire league. Financial security surely factored into Jefferson's decision.

Jefferson must also hope that a team will offer him a multi-year deal that allows him to recoup some of the dough he forfeited Wednesday night. San Antonio better make sure it becomes that team.

The Spurs lack the money and the ability to find a comparable substitute.

I will write more as Jefferson's motives and landing spot become clearer.

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