Saturday, February 07, 2009

Final Post, Again

It is only coincidence that I am once again deciding to discontinue this blog almost exactly a year after I did so previously before reconsidering several months later. The reasons are very much the same, although I have even less time for non-essential writing than before before due to a demanding church calling.

One of the things I put ahead of writing about BYU sports is a desire to write about my autistic son, which I also mentioned a year ago. So, I have started a blog about him instead.

The reason I knew for certain that I could not continue with this blog was that I have felt some strong opinions about Manti Te'o's decision not to come to BYU. I had let go of them until I yesterday read an opinion piece by Matt Payne, who I presume is the same person who was the great punter for BYU a couple of years ago. Even as strongly as I feel about rebutting Matt's article (and am going to do it here), I don't feasibly have the time.

So, this is it. Last post, countering Matt Payne's view about the choices great athletes make.

Matt made an analogy to a person who wants to be a lawyer. If a person wants to be a lawyer, who are we to complain about him choosing to go to Harvard instead of BYU? By the same token, Matt posits that a football player should not choose BYU over Notre Dame because the latter regularly sends more players to the NFL.

There, however, is where Matt is wrong. An analogy only works if the situations are analogous. These two are not. People do not see law students competing on a regular basis nationally representing their schools. People do see football players doing that. Not only that, but the opportunities for success for a particular person in law can have a direct correlation to the school he chooses, regardless of his or her talents. Success in football is almost entirely decided on actual talent.

Schools like Notre Dame and USC send players to the NFL with more frequency than does BYU because they recruit more talented players from the start. When is the last time that Notre Dame or USC did not have a highly-ranked recruiting class? When is the last time BYU did?

Great players can go to the NFL from virtually anywhere, even from (formerly known as) Division I-AA schools. BYU has put its share of players in the NFL as well. It has even sent them as first-round draft picks. Two quarterbacks have won Super Bowls, and one has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. One may say, "sure, but those are quarterbacks". But BYU has had a linebacker (Rob Morris) chosen in the first round in recent memory. If Manti Te'o progresses as could be foreseen, he would certainly be regarded at least as highly as Rob Morris, and likely more so.

I do not pretend to know the full story behind Manti's decision to go elsewhere, so I will speak generally. When the San Francisco 49ers played the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl, I was impressed, and wondered what the general public thought, when not one but two offensive starters were announced with their alma mater, Brigham Young University. Steve Young and Bart Oates played on that team. Now consider an LDS player that eventually goes to the Super Bowl with any team besides BYU. It is true that some might wonder if a player is listed as having played at Utah. But the only school that people will automatically identify with the LDS Church is BYU. So, no matter how great an LDS player is, unless a fan follows that particular player extremely closely, he or she will not automatically make the association between that player and the Church.

Now, what if an LDS player never makes it to the Super Bowl? What of college achievements? If it is established that a player can make it to the NFL from any school if that person is good enough, then why not help the profile of the Church through the school that represents it? BYU does well with players that are, for the most part, not top-flight. What could they do if they had more players that were? I have said it before, and I will say it again, here, for the last time. All things equal, BYU will be more successful with more talented players. Again, I don't know the situation with Manti Te'o. In general, LDS players should do what they can to boost the position of their church. The best way to do that is to play at BYU.

Thank you again to those of you who have read this blog. If I decide at some point to write again, I will start a new blog and give the link here. I apologize if this last post is not very polished or cohesive. I have chosen not to spend any more time on it than simply to get the basic point across.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Top 15 (Plus One)

I often view the rankings as travesty; I regularly see teams being penalized for losing close games on the road, for instance, when that should not be the case. I believe the rankings should reflect who would likely defeat whom at a neutral site. With that in mind, I present my thoughts on how the rankings should look, with comments following. In order, with records listed:

1 Florida 8-1
2 Texas 9-1
3 Oklahoma 9-1
4 Texas Tech 10-0
5 Alabama 10-0
6 USC 8-1
7 Boise State 9-0
8 Oklahoma State 8-2
9 Penn State 9-1
10 Ohio State 8-2
11 Georgia 8-2
12 Missouri 8-2
13 TCU 9-2
14 LSU 6-3
15 Utah 10-0
16 BYU 9-1

I know that Florida stumbled badly earlier in the year at home, but I now think they would beat anybody on a neutral field--and often at an opponent's site. Other than that, I don't think the SEC is as strong as it usually is. Alabama looked extremely impressive winning at Georgia earlier this season, but Georgia has subsequently shown that mediocre defense is their norm rather than the exception.

The Big 12 is an incredible conference this year. I don't think Texas Tech beats Texas or Oklahoma on a neutral field. Of course, I will have to admit my mistake if they manage to win in Norman.

USC has shown that their loss to Oregon State was perhaps not as much of a fluke as they would like voters to believe, as the only teams they have really dominated in conference play are the weak schools in the state of Washington.

Based on low opponents' scores, I feel Boise State is the real deal. They aren't just about great offense. Since they have already won on the big stage as well, I feel they could beat a great many schools from the "power" conferences.

Oklahoma State should not be ranked as far down in the national polls as they are. Their loss at Texas Tech was really the first time this year that they have not been in position to compete at the end, and their only other loss was a close one at Texas. Surely they would defeat many other teams around the nation.

Penn State and Ohio State come from a weak conference. The Buckeyes barely won at what has proven to be a very average Wisconsin, and the Nittany Lions barely won in Columbus. Remember also that Ohio State looked pathetic at USC early on.

TCU is one I am not quite sure about after the game against Utah. The previous three weeks led me to believe they were a Top 10 team. Although I predicted that Utah would beat the Horned Frogs due to a loss of some composure in Salt Lake City, I did not foresee a virtual meltdown. If they bounce back from that, though, I think TCU is the class of the Mountain West, and the best team on a neutral field.

LSU. Yes, the Tigers played Alabama close despite throwing three interceptions in regulation, but that simply shows to me that the Crimson Tide are not quite deserving of the top ranking. Georgia won handily in Death Valley, and LSU was never in the game at Florida. Nevertheless, the SEC is not so bad that the Tigers' three losses should relegate them to a ranking of 19 or 20, as the national polls have done.

Utah is quite good. But they aren't a Top 10 team, and I don't say that as a BYU fan. I just don't see anything that indicates they would beat the teams I have ranked above them if they were to meet in a bowl game.

And then there is BYU (not Ball State--beating nine weak teams does not make one great; consider Tulsa, who failed miserably at also-ran Arkansas). The game against San Diego State was a step forward, although the Aztecs admittedly have problems. If SDSU had been more consistent on offense, I would have compared their performance to that of Wyoming when they visited Provo. The Cowboys failed to score any points against the Cougars, but that was due to turnovers, which the BYU defense has not produced lately in numbers similar to earlier in the year. The remainder of BYU's season will be determined by the ability of the Cougar defense to return to form. That may be difficult due to the number of injuries currently sustained. At this point, I am not confident that BYU would beat Utah. Thankfully, the game will not be played for two more weeks.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Blessing In Disguise?

As painful as the recent loss to TCU was, this could be best for the conference, and thus BYU's future, in the long run.

BYU had its way in conference play the last two seasons. Although some of the victories were too close for comfort, the only statistic that most who determine important matters in college football will remember is that no one beat the Cougars. I was wondering if another team anywhere in the country had gone undefeated in their conference the last two years. Ohio State lost to Illinois last year, and mighty USC lost two conference games in each of the last two years. Neither the Big 10 nor the Pac-10 have been considered recently to be in the same league as the SEC or the Big 12, so BYU's dominance of the Mountain West--and, before that, other teams going undefeated in conference play--can only lead many to suspect that the overall strength of the conference is not on par with those of leagues that currently comprise the group of automatic BCS qualifiers. One could make the argument that different teams going undefeated proves its strength, and I agree with that argument. However, others will likely say that one team "got hot" and dominated other good-but-not-great-schools.

Frankly, the best scenario for the Mountain West is now to have Utah beat TCU, and then BYU beat Utah. If each team has no other losses, that would leave TCU with two (one coming against Oklahoma on the road), and BYU and Utah with one each. The SEC and Big 12 might be able to match that, but could any other conference?

A conference with three strong teams, plus a couple of decent schools like Air Force and New Mexico--although the Lobos admittedly don't look quite as solid this year as they have in recent seasons--would need to be given consideration as an automatic qualifier in the BCS. I certainly think such a league would not take a back seat to the Big East, and an argument could be made that the ACC would not be significantly better, either--as long as Florida State and Miami are in their current state of less-than-national-championship caliber.

To further strengthen their position, though, the Mountain West Conference should allow Boise State to join their club (I would have added Fresno State as well, but I understand that is out of the question because the Bulldogs accept academic non-qualifiers). The Broncos have proven they are not a flash in the pan. Not only would this strengthen the MWC, but it would likely keep BSU from periodically coasting into a BCS bowl (which may well happen this year) as they annually have to deal with BYU, TCU, Utah, and Air Force. Current reasoning among non-automatic BCS qualifiers is that any team in such a conference essentially needs to go undefeated to reach a BCS bowl game. The MWC would force a re-evaluation of that logic with the addition of one more strong team. The reason conferences with champions that automatically qualify for the BCS do not have to go undefeated to be considered quality teams is that it is expected that the level of competition in their leagues would make an undefeated season rather unlikely. To illustrate, nobody bats an eye when SEC teams are in the Top 10 at the end of the year with two conference losses, because the league is that good from top to bottom. Could anyone feasibly expect to regularly see an undefeated MWC champion if the top half of the group includes BYU, TCU, Utah and Boise State, and then Air Force and New Mexico are thrown in for good measure?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Accurately Predicted, Sadly

This falls under "I hate it when I'm right". I wrote in January about the difficulty I foresaw in running the conference table a third consecutive season. I asserted that BYU would win its non-league games this year, but that the task would be even harder to go undefeated in the Mountain West again.

I think Bronco Mendenhall is an amazing coach, but I hope the 32-7 loss to TCU, and Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson's admission that his staff had been preparing for BYU since January--along with the TCU tackle dummy wearing a BYU helmet--illustrates what I wrote about teams targeting the Cougars. Mendenhall is great, but not perfect. I hope he will see the value in deflecting attention to other conference teams where he can, talking about how good they are, etc. and not coming up with slogans like "Quest For Perfection" that make other teams so overjoyed when they finally beat BYU. Or was I the only one who noticed TCU's defender in rapture after sacking Max Hall and recovering a fumble late in the game when the outcome was hardly in doubt?

I suppose if Mendenhall could always get his team to walk the walk to match the talk, he could disregard how the opposition feels about things. So far, however, I haven't seen a coach anywhere who can do that all the time. I continue to believe he improves his team's potential for success by publicly showing humility, even as he builds up his troops behind closed doors.