Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NCAA Weekend Primer: Can a Simple Secretary of State Grasp Football?

After holding the menial position of Secretary of State, can Condoleezza Rice handle the complexities of watching football?
 By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

In case you hadn't heard, ESPN college football analyst and former Georgia Bulldog David Pollack began a statement on College Gamdeday Saturday with "now I'm gonna stick my foot in my mouth, probably."

Yeah, when you start a sentence like that, the next thing out of your mouth should probably be, "you know what, never mind."

Pollack was beginning to voice his displeasure with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being appointed to the College Football Playoff Committee, and getting a vote to determine which four teams will play for a national championship each year.

He continued to say that he wanted members of the committee to have played football, be able to break down game tape and know more about the teams than just what's on paper. Host Chris Fowler, sensing what Pollack was trying to say, asked him bluntly, "so, no woman belongs on the committee?"

Pollack's response: "You said that."

Come on David, if you're going to imply it every which way, you may as well take ownership of your opinion. Pollack isn't alone, by the way, as former Auburn coach Pat Dye has made it known that he doesn't think Condi should be on the committee.

"All she knows about football is what somebody told her," Dye said, according to "Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you've got to play with your hand in the dirt.

This opinion is, quite frankly, stupid. Just because you haven't played football doesn't mean you can't determine which teams are most qualified to play for a championship or, really, answer any question about the game at large. Take, for instance, The NFL Top 100, a list of the best 100 players in pro football, as voted on by pro football players.

The list features all the problems of one assembled by a casual fan: It overrates veterans past their prime, players that touch the ball and players from major markets. More than telling us who the best players in football are, this list has told us that just because you play the game at a high level, does not mean you are a student of the game.

Would anybody really rather have Pacman Jones on the committee than Rice?

Now, where the committee left discriminatory wiggle room for guys like Pollack and Dye is they picked Rice, a woman who's been a little busy the past decade, paying attention to things far more consequential than football. We know the woman loves football, as she says in this commercial, but perception is that she's a fan with a very demanding day job, and she watches when she can.

So, would the committee maybe be better served with a woman that's been around football or covered the game for years? Perhaps, but no sports writer or woman from the front office of an NFL team would bring the splash that the Rice appointment did.

At the end of the day, this is a great decision. It's got people talking, which is always a good thing, and the committee has shown that it will feature diversity of gender, race and opinion. Hard to argue with that.

Plus, I love to complain about politicians, and I've never held public office. Don't ruin that for me Pollack.

Coach that Got Served: Steve Sarkisian

Big shout out to my buddy David Lombardi, who was live tweeting Stanford coach David Shaw's serving of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. I'm glad he did and I didn't miss this coaching cat fight.

Basically, Sarkisian was a little butthurt after the Huskies fell to Stanford in Palo Alto in a game that featured the controversial overturn of a UW catch and, according to Sarkisian, Stanford defenders faking injuries.

"Their defensive line coach (Randy Hart) was telling them to sit down," Sarkisian said on KJR 950-AM. "I guess that's how we play here at Stanford, so we'll have to prepare for that next time."

That last part drew the ire of Stanford coach David Shaw, who proceeded to use his Tuesday press conference to refute and belittle Sarkisian. Here are some of the highlights.

"We don't fake injuries. We never have and we never will," Shaw said Tuesday. "And I don't care what Steve Sarkisian thinks that he saw. We've never done it. We didn't do it against Oregon. So why in the world would we do it against Washington? …
I believe it's unprofessional to call out an assistant coach on another team. It was unprofessional; it was disrespectful…
The only D-line coach that I know of that's ever instructed players to fake an injury works at the University of Washington, not at Stanford.
That's not calling a person out, that's stating a fact."

Did he take it a little far? Maybe, but I always love it when a coach comes out and says what he's thinking, instead of giving us the old "that's his opinion, it is what it is" line.

Crazy Stats of the Week: Baylor's Offense

Usually this spot would be reserved for the ridiculous Oregon attack, but even the Ducks pale in comparison to the Baylor Bears this season. Coach Art Briles' boys are currently averaging 150 yards and 11 points more than Oregon, the school long thought of as the standard for video game numbers.

Now, the Bears haven't exactly faced stiff competition, but 780 yards and 70.5 points per game is a line that you just don't see every day. But, perhaps the craziest stats come from junior quarterback Bryce Petty. The first year starter has been a model of efficiency, posting a 10:1 touchdown to interception ratio and leading the nation with a 97.7 total QBR.

As a reminder, QBR is on a 1-100 scale, unlike QB Rating which is on a -175.3343 to a bajillion scale.

That means Petty is about as close to perfect as it gets overall, but where he is especially effective is on third down. Petty has a PERFECT 100 QBR on third down, going 12-14 for 320 yards and converting said third downs 11 times. Baylor hasn't gone three-and-out yet this year.

Wait, They're Ranked? Not for Long

Last week it was Maryland, who snuck into the Top-25 after a 4-0 start that included wins over Florida International, Old Dominion and UConn (Ok, they beat up-and-down West Virginia too). This week it's Missouri, who gets the double whammy of "wait they're ranked? Wait, they're in the SEC?" as the Tigers hit the road to face Georgia.

Coach Gary Pinkel badly needs a bowl appearance after a disastrous SEC debut last season. Now, the Tigers' win over Indiana looks a lot better after the Hoosiers knocked off Penn State last week, and they do have a good win at Vanderbilt, but if you actually think this is a Top-25 caliber team, you're kidding yourself. It could get ugly in Athens, because Aaron Murray and that Georgia offense are absolutely humming right now, and the Georgia defense is the most athletic Missouri has seen yet.

Game of the Week: 17. Florida at 10. LSU

This could be a long day for the Gators if they start as slow as they have the last three weeks against inferior competition. You can play a sloppy first half against Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas (Maybe the three worst teams in the SEC), but the suddenly potent LSU offense and quarterback Zach Mettenberger will make Florida pay if it limps out of the gates this week.

We've become so used to this game being a defensive struggle, but there could be points galore, as the Tiger offense is ranked in the Top-10 nationally in scoring, but they're unusually porous defensively. LSU is surrendering 24.7 points per game, and that's including snooze feasts against UAB and Kent State. Against teams with a pulse, the Tigers are giving up close to 30 points a game.

Will Florida and quarterback Tyler Murphy be able to take advantage? It would seem so. Since taking over for the injured Jeff Driskel, the former third string quarterback has thrown five touchdowns and only one pick, giving the Gators a forced upgrade under center. He's also a slippery runner that can extend plays through improvisation in the pocket. It's a small sample size, but he looks more collected in the pocket than Driskel ever did. Still, Death Valley will be his biggest test yet.

Of course, the marquee match up will be the "strength vs strength" clash of LSU's 9th ranked scoring offense against Florida's 4th ranked scoring defense. The key will be Mettenberger, who has been nothing short of exceptional this season. If LSU can keep him upright he should be able to make plays against Florida's talented secondary, and open up running lanes for brutal back Jeremy Hill.

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