Nothing at noon: Early college football slate has been boring

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Terrelle Pryor  of the Ohio State Buckeyes leads teammates including Justin Boren , Dan Herron  and Mike Adams  off the field during a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

If you like to sleep in on Saturdays (like, really sleep in), you’ve been in luck. The noon (eastern) slate of college football games this season has been both lacking big-time games, and any kind of surprises. It’s essentially the bad Big Ten and ACC games, and maybe lower-level SEC matchup.

I imagine it has a lot to do with television, and the networks trying to get the biggest games in the prime spots (3:30 and 8). But in year’s past, I seem to remember there being some noon games that were worth watching. And even if they weren’t worth turning on at the start, there always seemed to be at least one game that you saw the score for that made you turn on the TV.

Outside of Florida’s scare against Miami (OH) in Week 1, South Carolina’s win over Georgia in Week 2 and Miami’s win over Clemson last week, there really hasn’t been that much to watch early in the day. And really, none of those were all that exciting. This is surprising in a year where college football has had a ton of big games with a lot of hype. As a couch potato who loves to come home from my morning duties and take in some football right away, I’m very dismayed by this.

Sure, the 3:30 and 8 time slots are great, but if you plan on focusing on one game, the others might as well not even be on. Plus, some of the bigger games get pushed completely off of television in different markets. For instance, last week’s 8 p.m. ABC game in Michigan was Notre Dame vs. Boston College. If you’re not a Notre Dame fan (or I suppose a BC fan, but there’s really not many of those in this state), that doesn’t do much for you. The mirror game on ESPN2 was Washington at USC, which turned out to be a good game, but really doesn’t draw that much interest in the Midwest.

One of last week’s biggest games, Stanford at Oregon, wasn’t even on TV, and I’m not just talking about my crappy basic digital package at home. Buffalo Wild Wings, which has like 75 TVs, didn’t have the game on because it wasn’t available. You’re telling me Notre Dame at Boston College couldn’t have been moved to the noon time slot where people in the Midwest and East (the obvious major markets for that game) could have been awake and watching?

Surely there are more pressing issues in college football right now, but this dearth of noon games seems to be the easiest to fix. So get on it, NCAA, because not only is this boring me early in the day, but it’s really making it hard to find things to write about before 3:30.

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Georgia Tech most intriguing team heading into 2009?

In his “Five questions as college football camps open” piece for the Los Angeles Times, Chris Dufresne writes that Georgia Tech is the most intriguing team heading into the 2009 season.

4. Which is the most intriguing team out there?

Georgia Tech. First-year coach Paul Johnson did something last year that first-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez failed to do: He took over a team, junked the scheme, and won anyway.

Georgia Tech finished 9-4 operating Johnson’s unique triple-option offense. The Yellow Jackets flourished despite finishing 116th nationally in passing — talk about old-school. Johnson basically now has Navy, where he previously prevailed, only with more quality players. There’s no reason to think Georgia Tech can’t wreck the winnable Atlantic Coast Conference.

The only concern I see for the Jackets are the losses the sustained along the defensive line. Defensive end Michael Johnson, as well as tackles Darryl Richard and Vance Walker are all gone and those are significant pieces to lose on one line.

Anthony Barnes, Sedric Griffin and Kyle Jackson return to give Tech’s linebacker corps some stability and safety Morgan Burnett leads a solid secondary, but if the front four can’t generate any pressure on the quarterback, I worry about the Jackets’ defense over the long haul.

Still, as the article notes, their triple-option offense will certainly be fun to watch again this season.

An open letter to the NCAA

Dear NCAA Men’s Tournament Selection Committee,

This weekend, the Final Four will be played at Ford Field in Detroit, and I want to thank you for another lackluster tournament. The aristocrats of college basketball trampled their opponents en route to the Motor City. Your selection process favors the haves (30 of the 34 at-large bids went to schools from the six largest conferences) and discriminates against the have-nots (four at-large bids to mid-major conferences).

An alarming trend has shown that the number of at-large mid-major schools has dwindled from the high water mark of 12 in 2004 to a low of four schools (Xavier, Dayton, Butler and Brigham Young) playing in this year’s tournament. You’re slowly taking away the madness of March. Please don’t BCS the most anticipated playoff format in all sport.

Your chairman, Mike Slive, proclaimed, “It’s all about who you play, where you play, and how you do,” when describing the criteria for selecting the 65-team field. He added that the committee looks at schools individually and not at their conference affiliation. I beg to differ, as a bailout package was handed to a couple of major conference schools (Arizona and Wisconsin) to salvage their seasons, while the mid-major schools were left standing at the altar.

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Couch Potato Alert: 3/13

Last night, you got a taste of madness…March Madness, as Connecticut/Syracuse played a 6-OT historic Big East quarterfinal game that seemed like it would never end. The player’s performances in this contest sum up why we love this time of the year in college basketball. You watch teams that will fight tooth and nail just to compete for another day. Neither team will receive a special trophy for last night’s game. No, Syracuse gets the opportunity to play West Virginia in a semifinal matchup this evening. Enjoy your hoop du jour.

All times ET…

Friday, 7:30 PM: Indiana Pacers @Atlanta Hawks (NBA TV)
Saturday, 9 PM: Los Angeles Clippers @ Denver Nuggets (NBA TV)
Sunday, 3:30 PM: Dallas Mavericks @ Los Angeles Lakers (ABC)
Sunday, 9 PM: Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors (NBA TV)

Saturday, 3 PM: Ottawa Senators @ Pittsburgh Penguins (CBC)
Sunday, 12:30 PM: Philadelphia Flyers@ New York Rangers (NBC)

College Basketball
Friday, 7 PM: #13 Villanova vs. #5 Louisville (ESPN)
Friday, 7 PM: Maryland vs. #9 Wake Forest (ESPN2)
Friday, 9 PM: #23 Arizona State vs. #20 Washington (Fox Sports Net)
Friday, 9:30 PM: Boston College vs. #8 Duke (ESPN2)
Friday, 9:30 PM: #7 West Virginia vs. #20 Syracuse (ESPN)
Friday, 11:30 PM: USC vs. #14 UCLA (Fox Sports Net)
Saturday, 1:30 PM & 4 PM: ACC Semifinals (ESPN)
Saturday, 1 PM & 3:15 PM: SEC Semifinals (ESPN2)
Saturday, 1:40 PM & 4 PM: Big-10 Semifinals (CBS)
Saturday, 6 PM: Pac-10 Final (CBS)
Saturday, 6 PM: Big 12 Final (ESPN)
Saturday, 9 PM: Big East Final (ESPN)
Sunday, 1 PM: ACC Final (ESPN)
Sunday, 1 PM: SEC Final (CBS)
Sunday, 3:30 PM: Big-10 Final (CBS)
Sunday, 6 PM: NCAA Tournament Selection Show (CBS)

World Baseball Classic
Saturday, 8 PM: Puerto Rico vs. United States from Miami, FL. (MLB Network)

Genius post at ESPN

Lately, I’ve been hitting the Joe Lunardi bracketology page over at ESPN on a daily basis — the guy knows his stuff. But I scrolled down and found myself intrigued by one of the comments (by EliSilverman):

Here’s some math to prove just how much better the Big East is than any other conference. The Big East has the lowest average projected seed amongst the top conferences (3.7), surpassing the ACC (4.2), Big 12 (5.5), PAC 10 (6.4), SEC (8.0) and Big 10 (8.1). Now, here’s a bit more math….I predict there’s a 75% chance that the semi-finalists of the Big East tournament also become the Final Four in the Big Dance.

All right, I’m not a math major — I just have an engineering degree — but in order to prove conference strength, it’s not accurate to only average the projected seeds of the teams that get in the tournament. By that logic, Conference USA is the strongest conference because its average projected seed is 2.0 (Memphis).

Eli might say, “Everyone knows that C-USA isn’t the toughest conference because it only has one team in the tournament.” Well, by that logic, the Big 10 is the strongest conference because Lunardi projects that it will get eight tourney bids, one more than the Big East. You can’t have it both ways.

What makes the strongest conference? Is it the quality of the teams at the top? Or is it the strength of the conference from top to bottom. If it’s the former, then the Big East has a great argument. Pitt, UConn and Louisville are legitimate Final Four threats (and are all ranked in the top 5), while the ACC, Big 10 and Big 12 only have one team ranked in the top 7. If you’re going by total conference strength, then it’s hard to beat the Big 10 since it looks like eight of its 11 teams (73%) could get bids. (I know, it’s dumb to have 11 teams in a conference called the Big 10, but that’s another post.) The Big East has 16 teams (a fact glossed over by Big East supporters), so seven bids out of 16 teams (44%) isn’t quite as impressive.

Personally, I go by Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings. The guy knows his stuff, so if he says that the ACC is the strongest conference top-to-bottom, then I believe him. And if he says that the Big 10 is second, then I’ll believe that too.

And as for the “more math” part of Eli’s post, where he says there is a 75% chance that the Big East semifinalists will make up the Final Four, I’d take that bet any day. First, that’s not “math,” that’s a prediction, and an arbitrary one at that. Second, for that prediction to come true, Pitt, UConn, Louisville and a fourth Final Four team (Villanova/Marquette/Syracuse/West Virginia) all have to be in separate regions. It’s likely that Pitt, UConn and Louisville will be split up, but I’d say that the chances of all three making the Final Four (PLUS a fourth Big East team emerging from the fourth region) aren’t quite 75%. Maybe 5%, and that’s being generous.

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