Sunday, October 28, 2007

Metaphysics of presence

Michigan started the 2007 season ranked No. 5 in both the Associated Press poll and the USA Today coaches' poll. Set aside that many of us considered that position exceedingly generous, even before the inglorious losses to Appalachian State and Oregon -- there they were at Number 5, the most overhyped team since 2006 Notre Dame.

But those inglorious losses happened, Michigan clawed back, and as of today, the team is ranked No. 14 in the USA Today poll (one spot ahead of USC) and No. 15 in the Associated Press poll.

As someone who loves the program, the team, the coach, and is deeply impressed by this season's recovery, it's still difficult to reconcile the No. 15 ranking with life as we know it, except that you glance up the ladder and see Hawaii, Virginia Tech and Texas teams ranked ahead of Michigan, and are reminded that this is the year Derrida and Foucault have made their way to big-time college football. There is no longer such thing as truth. Glance through the polls, and there are fine arguments on behalf of ranking Michigan at 11, or placing them in the low 20s.

Now consider this: instead of I-AA Appalachian State, Michigan might have scheduled I-A Buffalo. Instead of scheduling Oregon, they might have scheduled Florida State. (Keep in mind that the Oregon game was scheduled early in the century; Florida State would have been a more respectable, even fearsome, pick back then.) Michigan would have won those games. The exact same team, with its flaws and paradoxes, would be undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Ohio State would be No. 2. That No. 1 team would literally be no different than the present No. 14/15 team, except that Mike Hart would be consensus Heisman frontrunner and the hordes of breast-biting banshees calling for Carr's head would be forced to be more creative in their bloodlust.

I've been adamant in my opposition to installing a playoff. It's more trickery disguised as science, with a selection process no less arbitrary than the BCS. Worse, the media hype, money and distortion coming from a playoff would be unbearable.

Yet with scheduling tweaks, Michigan would be the consensus No. 1 team in the country. That's an excellent argument for a playoff.


Paul said...

If Michigan played in the SEC, they would probably be ranked about No. 56. They might stand a slight chance agaist Mississippi State or Vandy, but the other SEC teams would clean their clock. The Big Ten is a joke anymore.

crimenotes said...

Irrelevant to what I wrote and more than a little hyperbolic.

But yeah, there are good football teams in the SEC.

Cock D said...

#12 in the BCS poll.

If Michigan beats OSU and
1) LSU loses at Alabama and in the SEC title game and
2) Arizona St. loses to USC and/or Arizona and
3) Oregon loses to ASU and Oregon St. and
4) Oklahoma lses the B12 title game (something tells me they won't lose to A&M, TT or Baylor) and
5) West Virginia loses to either UConn or Pitt and
6) Kansas lose to Nebrask and Okie State and
7) Missouri loses at Colorad or at Kansas and
8) Georgia loses at Auburn and
9) Viginia Tech loses to Virginia or Miami

then Michigan could play Boston College for the National Championship.


Mr. Shain said...

save your subjunctive counterfactuals for the bar.

BG5000 said...

Paul's point is a little more relevant than you think. Of course you'd be against a playoff system. Michigan is one of two decent teams in the Big Ten, ensuring that as long as they don't fuck up that bably, they've probably got a BCS bowl in their future. If they were part of a meat grinder conference like the SEC, i think you might change your tune.

CrimeNotes said...

The conference versus conference arguments are pointless. I'd rather talk about things that actually happen and, you know, exist and are capable of being judged. Gators roll OSU, Penn State beats Arkansas, does Northwestern suck more than Vandy, "Hey, even Kentucky's good this year!" etc. It's a drunk bar argument and sort of fun, but you can't pretend it's a real discussion. The middle tier of the SEC is generally stronger than the middle tier of the Big 10, but where that takes us beyond guesswork, I don't know.

Personally, I'd love (fucking love) some kind of Big Ten-SEC conferencewide agreement that every September, each Big Ten team plays one SEC team. Do a home-and-home arrangement. Every two years, you move to the next team down the line. Over 24 years, every Big Ten team has a home-and-home with every SEC team. For people who are interested in which conference is better, it'd at least give a baseline. It would be a bonanza for everybody and a ton of fucking fun, but I guess trying to get unanimous consent on the idea is herding cats.

I'm also not enough of a homer to let a rooting interest fuck with my judgment. (A month before last year's bowl season, I put up a long post saying that Florida should be in the championship game and that the pro-Michigan arguments were baseless. Also note my disgust that this same Michigan team would be ranked No. 1 with a tweaked schedule.) I'd be happy to scrap the BCS, end the playoff talk, and go back to the old system. Whatever structure the NCAA uses to decide a national title, it's going to be a beauty contest, but at least the old system didn't pretend to be scientific. This idea that a playoff is going to satisfy anyone or bring peace in our time is fucking ridiculous -- it will just move the controversy into fights over who's in and who's out and the injustice of two-loss Wake Forest going into the fake playoff instead of a one-loss team with a tougher schedule, etc. Wait for the day when a clearly superior LSU/Oklahoma/OSU team is denied a shot an ostensibly objective title playoff because of Notre Dame or conference-based affirmative action, only to see that team get crushed. It'll be a new brand of rage -- "We were denied our hard-earned opportunity!"

dmbmeg said...

That SEC/Big 10 game idea would be fucking awesome.

crimenotes said...

It'd be called the "Sonic-General Motors Big Ten-SEC Classic." And it would be awesome.

crimenotes said...

An occasional commenter just e-mailed the following in response to the comments thread. I think it was intended to be on a not-for-attribution basis:

here is a list of SEC teams, with each team's best nonconference win in parentheses:

Alabama (Houston)
Arkansas (Troy)
Auburn (Kansas State)
Florida (Troy)
Georgia (Oklahoma State)
Kentucky (Louisville)
LSU (Virginia Tech)
Mississippi (Memphis)
Mississippi State (UAB)
South Carolina (North Carolina)
Tennessee (Southern Miss)
Vanderbilt (Miami, OH)

Exactly one signature win among the bunch, maybe two if you count Kentucky beating overrated Louisville. Meanwhile, the likely East division champ is a few weeks removed from being blown out by a Cal team that is now in the middle of the pack in the Pac-10. Alabama is playing for the West division title this week after losing to Florida State. Mississippi State is a nice story but was completely outclassed against West Virginia.

The SEC is probably the best league - there might be 11 bowl-eligible teams for gosh sakes. But this idea that it's better than ever is just hyperbolic talk. Aside from LSU and Georgia, nobody from the league should even be in the top 20.

The "they-beat-each-other-up" logic is circular and self-serving. "The worse we play, the better we are" - that should be the SEC's motto.

Cock D said...

CN - dude, I generally agree with you, so I hate to do this. Answer me this:

Who's OSU's best NC-win; Michigan's; Wisconsin's; Penn State's?

Washington, ND, UNLV(?) and ND...

As a Big Ten homer, let me remind you that our house is also glass on this front.

The Big Ten - SEC matchup would be great because apparently everyone is playing a weak schedule.

One tweak. Keep floating schedules: Last Years's SEC #1 vs Last Year's B10 #1. Or something like that - recalc every two years or what not...

CrimeNotes said...

1.) No one should ever agree with me.

2.) The point of posting that e-mail wasn't "SEC sux" or anything like it. Also, it wasn't my comment.

3.) I do think it underscores my point that trying to make extreme arguments about a conference (as opposed to a team) requires explaining away too much.

Cock D said...

Crap - my bad - embedded italics didnt make it from the retina to the brain pre-coffee.

My apologies; i didnt realize you were quoting the e-mail sent you.

That said - our best non-conference wins still leave a bit to be desired.

dmbmeg said...

It'd be called the "Sonic-General Motors Big Ten-SEC Classic." And it would be awesome.


How long til the SEC's arrogance causes them to try and secede from the rest of the country (again)?

Cock D said...

Would anyone stop them this time???

dmbmeg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dmbmeg said...

Saban will vote the name of the newfound country will be the Unites States of Saban.

J. Businger said...

"It's more trickery disguised as science, with a selection process no less arbitrary than the BCS. Worse, the media hype, money and distortion coming from a playoff would be unbearable."

Where to begin with this drivel? A 16-team playoff would NEVER deny an undefeated team the chance to earn a national championship on the field; the current system has already done that (Tulane '98, Auburn '04, Boise State '06, and probably at least one team this year). A 16-team tournament would guarantee a slot to every team good enough to win its conference, as opposed to the current system which rewards teams that happen to lose in week 5, instead of those that lose in week 7. No less arbitrary, you say? Malarkey.

Let's be honest about what's really going on here. Michigan has repeatedly bribed officials in critical home games (Penn State '02, Penn State '05 come to mind), and when that hasn't worked, they've simply fielded academically ineligible players, as was the case this year. This sort of low-brow chicanery is acceptable in the outlaw world of present-day college football, where conference commissioners and crooked college presidents call the shots, but under a fair, impartial and regulated national system, they'd never get away with it.

So enjoy your shot at yet another tainted conference title this year. (Or, more likely, another last game loss to the equally culpable Ohio State Clarretts.) At least some teams still have their dignity.

crimenotes said...

More importantly: How is it that I got away with referring to the Big 10 having 12 teams without someone responding with the phrase "fucking retarded"?

Cock D said...

CN - much of the rest of the country already thinks ND is a Big 10 team (y'know being in Indiana and playing half of a big 10 schedule); you are probably just thinking ahead to the pending annexation of ND. Let's get those tanks ready to roll.

BG5000 said...

I kinda wish j businger had stopped after his first paragraph, cause he makes some good points before he careens off into tin-foil hat territory.

And tell me who i need to contact about making the Sonic-General Motors Big Ten-SEC Classic a reality. I'll get the letter writing campaign started tomorrow.