Friday, January 6, 2012

The logical fallacy of college football

In the aftermath of Wednesday night's debacle in Miami I have read a lot of dumb stuff written by so called experts in drawing a correlation on bowl performance and next season's performance along with the overall state of a program. I am not trying to convince anyone that what I witnessed from Clemson last night was pleasant or enjoyable but I do think people need to step back a minute.

I have heard a lot of people talk about the 2011 campaign as "disappointing" or "poor" this morning. I know emotions are often raw and just that full of emotion. To say that a 10-4 season for the Clemson Tigers is "poor" or "disappointing" chaps my ass to be frank. I will agree that the 2011 season was overshadowed at times with "poor" and "disappointing" performances. However, to paint the season as a whole in such a matter is shortsighted and disrespectful to the people who invested 1000s of hours into this season.

College football is driven prognostications. Those prognostications are as fleeting as meal cravings. On a week to week basis we all, myself included seek to make definitive judgement statements about a team or program based on one game performances. It's silly and juvenile to be honest. It is like a teenage boy who is in love with girl A one week, she disappoints him so he then hates her, finds girl B days later thinks she is the one who is going to be the one he goes steady with, then 4 weeks later, she finds another guy who has bigger muscles, you catch my drift.

We spend all offseason after schedules come out and say we are going to win this game, that game, there is no way we lose that one because we never lose to those guys. We make these grandiose predictions like our teams can be manipulated like figures on a video game. Just in case some of you out there were concerned, the guys on the field are not the same people that show up on your screen when you play NCAA Football on your gaming platform.

It goes back to September 2, 2011, the night before the first game of the season. If we were having a conversation that day and the football gods came to you and said, Clemson will go 10-4 win the ACC, look abysmal in their losses and get blown out in their bowl game, not many people I know would not have taken that reality and ran with it. 

We can now look back at a total work and draw conclusions but this team with 42 freshmen or sophomores on the roster, under the leadership of a first year starter at quarterback, new coordinator won 10 games and secured Clemson’s first conference title in 20 years. The sting of 70-33 will not go away quickly but this team had a really good year. I hate the fact that when we lost, we were defeated by an average of 24 points. It is head scratching but were you not head scratching when you in your late teens and early twenties?

I realize that people get paid a lot of money to make in the moment commentary. Sadly it is the culture we live in, who’s up, who’s down, who’s hot, who’s not, that is the reality that we face each day of our lives. I find it exhausting myself. Just because a dude that sells exceeds his sales number by 35% for eight consecutive months but then misses his sales quota September bounces back in October going above his number, misses his sales number in November and comes within 3% of hitting his sales goal in December. Is this a guy who should be fired? Has he had a “disappointing” or “poor” year? I would say not when you look at the total picture. 

I have said this in person to several people in the past “experts” put way too much emphasis or attempt to glean future success or failure based on bowl performances. Our friends in Tallahassee defeated South Carolina College in the Chik-fi-la Bowl last year, became the offseason media darlings, had a #5 preseason ranking and how did that workout? 

Wednesday night was terrible, believe me I was there in my seat till the bitter end. To categorize the season as a whole as a “disappointment” or “poor” just just wrong. 

In closing in all of the tweets, facebook comments and editorials coming out of the Wednesday Massacre, I found a blog that pretty much sums up how I feel about Clemson and why I am wearing orange today. A woman named Jess articulated the thoughts of most true Tigers and I will close out the 2011 Season with an exert from her thoughts. Thank you all for allowing to share my rants and thoughts. I will probably not have the time to write as much in the coming months as I close out grad school but I will be sure to send out a link when I am able to get some thoughts down.

“My alma mater is more than the color orange or purple. It is more than football or baseball or basketball.  It is a feeling.  And until you have experienced it, you just won't get it.  My alma mater buries itself deep in your heart and thumps louder and louder and louder the older you get.

My alma mater is tradition.  It's military background and agricultural education paved the way for the university we love today.

My alma mater has home-made ice cream.  And for an ice cream lover, that makes for a little piece of heaven on Earth.

My alma mater has the most beautiful sunsets over the most beautiful clock tower.  The sky is painted orange and purple in the most spectacular display of beauty a person can imagine.

My alma mater is family.  I am forever bound by an unseen thread to men and women all over the world who feel the same feeling I do and have experienced the same traditions that I have experienced.

My alma mater is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains.  And there is something in those hills that beckons me to return over and over and over again.  It echos in my heart day after day.

My alma mater is Clemson University.  And despite the score of the game last night--or any other time--the fact still remains that I love the ground in which I tread for 10 years, first as an undergraduate then a graduate student and finally an employee. I love Clemson University to the depths of my heart.  Because it was during my time at Clemson, that I learned about faith and family and friends.  It was during my time at Clemson that I learned how to be me.

"There is something in these hills that brings together and binds together and holds together men and women of all persuasions, of all heights, sizes, weights, and cultural backgrounds--something that cuts across every difference, spans every gap, penetrates every wall--something that makes a man or a woman stand taller, feel better and say with high pride to all within earshot, "I went to Clemson."  ~Joe Sherman, Class of 1934

So today--just like any other day--I stand tall, feel better and still am proud to say that I went to Clemson.

Go Tigers!  Congratulations on an amazing 2011 football season!"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The My State is Better than Your’s Orange Bowl

             In an age of awkward bowl title sponsorships, terrible games, empty stadiums, I thought I would take the liberty to change Wednesday night’s game to a more appropriate name. This will be the second meeting between the Tigers and Mountaineers. The first meeting took place in the 1989 Gator Bowl where Clemson prevailed 27-7.

            This is an intriguing matchup on the field and on the government tape. Lets cut to the chase and see how Clemson and West Virginia match up.

South Carolina
West Virginia
Per Captia Income
Poverty Rate
% Completing College
% Completing HS only
Unemployment Rate
Population (millions)
Fed Funds per person (FY10)

Information retrieved from: USDA Economic Research Service

            The tale of the Fed’s Tape indicates that West Virginia and South Carolina have more similarities than many South Carolinians would like to admit. There is a youtube video making its way throughout the West Virginia message boards of a Clemson fan taking a brutal slap at the people of West Virginia. It is one of those things where a person from South Carolina making fun of West Virginia is like the pot calling the kettle black.

            Two culturally similar schools with similar football histories, the Mountaineers have enjoyed a lot of success over the years but like their counterparts from Clemson, have had a hard time getting over the hump and transitioning into an elite program. In the midst of conference expansion earlier this season, rumors of West Virginia joining the ACC were thrown around. I for one thought the Mountaineers would have been a great fit for the ACC. Unfortunately, the higher ups at member institutions allowed their bigotry to shine through and added schools that do nothing for the conference but allow administrators to fall all over themselves at academic functions.

It is important to understand West Virginia has a unique mission of access for the people of West Virginia. If you graduate from high school in the state of West Virginia, you are effectively given a chance at the flagship university.

            This reality and the fact that West Virginia has held true to this mission, means they are not going to look sexy in US News school rankings. West Virginia is a  more comprehensive institution than Clemson and makes strong efforts to meet the needs of the state. The people of West Virginia are a proud people, they take a lot of pride in where they come from and their values. It is a state that like South Carolina has a hard time getting out of its own way at times but offers its citizens good quality of life.

            Enough about debunking stereotypes, there is a football game to be played tomorrow night. Couple of tidbits about WVU from my perspective, they have several athletes who are capable of putting on a show in a similar fashion as Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen. Names you should familiarize yourself with for the Mountaineers quaterback Geno Smith, receiver Tavon Austin, and receiver Steadman Bailey. WVU will throw the ball all over the yard. If the Clemson defense does not tackle well, it could be a long night.

            Defensively, WVU will employ a 3-3-5 defense that can cause teams headaches in the ability to bring pressure from a variety of angles. Clemson fans have seen this offensive line struggle at times with odd front pressure packages. That being said, the Mountaineers are a light up front, which makes them susceptible to a power running game. Clemson will have a real opportunity to establish the run and if they can, it could be a good night for the Tigers. That being said, if the Clemson offense struggles and finds itself in long yardage situations on third down, defensive end Bruce Irvin will make it a long night for Tajh Boyd.
            For better insight into West Virginia, I enlisted one of my best friends, Buseman for insight into WVU. He is currently a PhD candidate at WVU and a rabid college football fan.

Smoke and Mirrors vs. Slightly Better Smoke and Mirrors

WVU is an inherently flawed football team.  No better than last year, the Mountaineers will take the field as a team that relied on a particularly tricky mix of smoke and mirrors and pure, dumb luck to secure the terrible Big East’s BCS bid.

The Mounties possess offensive skill position players who are roughly comparable to those of Clemson.  Geno Smith is, for right now, a more experienced and talented QB than Boyd.  Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are supreme talents and the RBs are young but pretty good.  If the Orange Bowl was a 7-on-7 contest, WVU would stand a pretty good chance of winning.

Unfortunately for the ‘eers, games are won on defense, in the trenches, and on special teams, and this squad has been either wildly inconsistent or downright horrific in these areas.  The 3-3-5 works particularly well when an opponent has limited time to scout it – Clemson has had a month.  Jeff Casteel, who I believe does about as much as he can with limited talent and a particularly feminine scheme, tends to abandon an entire side of the field in an oftentimes vain effort to supplement a spotty three-man pass rush.  Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin are exceptional pass rushers, but they are too small to stop the run.  WVU rotates in a pretty unremarkable and smallish platoon of NTs in the middle of the odd front.  The LBs are serviceable but a bit on the slow and small side.  If there is any spot on the defense where the Mounties can make some hay, it is in the backfield.  Boyd fell in love with his arm and threw too many iffy passes towards the end of the season.  The WVU DBs are good enough to take advantage of this flaw.  Ultimately, though, I do not foresee Clemson having much trouble road-grading a small defensive front and running the ball downhill.

The WVU offense was also spotty this year.  This inconsistency is the direct result of the OL’s inability to protect Geno game in and game out.  Still, there appears to be enough weapons on offense to keep the ‘eers in the game.  I don’t think CU has an answer for Stedman or Tavon (in the same way the WVU defense will fail to contain Dwayne Allen and Sammy Watkins).

This game will turn on special teams.  I am OK with WVU’s placekicker.  However, punt and kick coverage have been disastrous this year.  The Mounties have struggled on kick and punt coverage for several years now and they were no better this year.  This deficiency comes from terrible tackling and lane discipline – a pretty disastrous combo given the talent Clemson has returning kicks.  Even if WVU does somehow cover kicks, it may not matter as the two punters used this year have the nasty habit of decapitating the ball girl on the sidelines after a wounded-duck, 12-yard punt.

Ultimately, I think Clemson gets at least one special teams TD and runs the ball down WVU’s throat.  The Mounties will stick around, but they will play from behind all day and eventually succumb to a better team.

CU 34 WVU 24

            There you have it from the WVU perspective. If the first two BCS games are any indication of what we can expect, don’t plan on going to sleep early tomorrow night.

            In closing, I am humbled to have the opportunity to attend the Orange Bowl. After all the shoulda, coulda, and wouldas, to see a Clemson team finally rise to the occasion and win an ACC Championship again has brought me an immense amount of joy and satisfaction. Having waited 30 years to return to the Orange Bowl and 20 years for an ACC Title, I am going to soak this experience up like a sponge.  It has been a fun ride and a special night awaits Tiger fans tomorrow night in Sun Life Stadium. GO TIGERS!!