Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The IT Factor

As college football draws near every summer, the annual ritual of choosing an “anointed” team takes place. The format for this is fairly routine at this point. The team typically chosen has a number of characteristics that start the media buzzing, and the momentum builds until said team becomes the “IT” team. Preseason “IT” teams of the past 5 seasons were –

2003 Oklahoma
2004 USC
2005 USC
2006 Ohio State
2007 USC

This year that team is Georgia.

Preseason “IT” teams typically possess the following characteristics -

1. Ten plus win seasons the year before
2. A convincing win over their last bowl opponent
3. Top 5 ranking the previous season
4. A “celebrity/genius” coach

This is not to say any of these choices are necessarily illogical, just that they are lacking in any particular imagination. For the first three numerical characteristics, the prior seasons for the past 6 “IT” teams were –

As for the fourth characteristic, there is perhaps no coach (other than Pete Carroll) who meets the “celebrity/genius” test more among the media types right now than Mark Richt. After all, it was his daring “celebration” tactic that turned the entire 2007 season, at least according to pundits like Stewart Mandel. Besides Carroll, Stoops and Tressel easily fit this prototype for the other preseason “IT” teams.

The actual track record of recent “IT” teams is decidedly mixed. With the exceptions of USC in 2004 and 2007, the “IT” team of the past 5 years has ended up the LOSER to the future mythical national champion in the BCS title game. By year –

2003 Oklahoma loses to preseason 15th LSU in BCS title game.
2004 USC wins BCS title
2005 USC loses to preseason 2nd Texas in BCS title game
2006 Ohio State loses to preseason 8th Florida in BCS title game
2007 USC wins bowl game, but preseason 2nd LSU beats Ohio State in BCS title game

Georgia’s support as the “IT” team of 2008 is decidedly more tepid than those that held the spot in the past 5 years. By number and percentage of 1st place votes in the Coaches poll –

2003 Oklahoma– 29 of 62, or 46.8%
2004 USC– 44 of 61, or 72.1%
2005 USC– 60 of 62, or 96.8%
2006 Ohio State - 28 of 63, or 44.4%
2007 USC – 45 of 60, or 75%
2008 Georgia – 22 of 61, or 36.1%

What is fairly remarkable to me as an SEC fan is a team in the conference getting the nod at all, despite (or maybe because of) the SEC actually winning the BCS title 3 of the last 5 years. Those 3 SEC title winners were preseason ranked 15th, 8th and 2nd, respectively.

But as noted, Georgia’s support is fairly slim, and merely 6 first place votes ahead of USC and Ohio State, both tied with 14 first place votes apiece.

Because, despite the fanfare of the World Wide Leader for the Dawgs, perhaps Georgia’s first place spot is deservedly tenuous.

Next – Is Georgia THAT good?


Mhoram said...

further evidence that preseason predictions are for entertainment value only.

As for UGA being THAT good? At least no one is touting them as the "greatest team ever." In fact, surprisingly few people are even touting them as the greatest team in the SEC East.

I suspect that Georgia is going to be very good this year, and that they have no glaring weaknesses. But ... the dawgs will lose to at least one of LSU, Tim Tebow, Alabama or Auburn, and will probably lose one game against a dangerous team that they should beat(Spurrier, Tennessee, Georgia Tech or Arizona State).

Even if Georgia is THAT good, (which they almost certainly are not), the schedule is too much.

I predict Tim Tebow and co. over tOSU in the MNC game.

Mergz said...

Agreed no one is touting UGA as the "greatest team ever" (even UGA fans). As we all know, the greatest team ever was USC last year, or so it was widely thought preseason.

I'll give Georgia a fair look in my analysis. And I'm not saying they don't "deserve" to be number 1. This year they are as deserving as any.

heyberto said...

mergz, I have to give it to you... as a UGA fan I admire your practicality and objectivity in your Blog. Most I read are bashing us, but you're being fair and I appreciate it.

I think the preseason polls are not a prediction.. but who they think has the best credentials going into the season. Georgia has talent, depth, quality coaching, and less questions than most teams. We're pretty balanced. Can we go all the way? We can.. but I'm also not sure that we will. But we'll see.

DLB said...

You can put '02 Miami and maybe '01 UF on that list as well. They don't meet each criterium you set, but they meet most, such as high ranking to end the previous season with a well known coach (even if Larry Coker was just riding on Butch Davis's coat tails). Both started the season ranked #1 in both polls and blew games they shouldn't have to teams that should not have beat them.