A modest proposal for college football

So earlier today I posted that college football needed to reconcile its desire to keep making money with its desire to maintain the notion of amateurism. College football could go all-in and become an explicitly for-profit enterprise, or it could take some drastic steps to reclaim the notion of amateurism, but it couldn’t continue to have it both ways.

One of my ideas for what college football could do to keep making money was to completely divorce itself from the NCAA, preventing an all-sports split by the big-name schools, allowing the NCAA to focus on lesser sports, and most relevantly to this discussion, allowing conference realignment to proceed without affecting the lesser sports. With that in mind, I propose this fairly radical idea for conference realignment in a post-NCAA college football universe.

This idea can be summed up in three words: Promotion and relegation.

Fans of European club soccer, whether newcomers or old standbys, inevitably become fascinated by and enamored of the promotion and relegation system. Newcomers wonder what would happen if it were applied to American sports; old standbys insist that America’s own soccer league, MLS, adopt it. In both cases, they wildly underestimate the deep philosophical differences between American and European sports that explain the existence of the promotion and relegation system.

Europe places more emphasis on the individual teams as the bedrock of the league, as opposed to American sports where the teams’ power ultimately derives from the league. By the same token, Europe isn’t as obsessed with parity as the United States, and the assumption of the promotion and relegation system is that the teams at the bottom are substantially worse than the teams at the top. You couldn’t have a player draft in a promotion and relegation system, nor would team owners be likely to accept the possibility of being moved up and down every year, with the millions of dollars at stake. If baseball adopted pro/rel, the Yankees and Red Sox would become even more powerful than everyone else.

But guess what one American sport the above doesn’t apply to? College football’s power, as has been proved time and again, derives from its individual teams, not from any central source, and ultimately could care less about parity. A promotion and relegation system would give the lesser teams a bigger slice of the college football pie, create better matchups throughout the season, and ultimately solve college football’s championship problem, while surprisingly keeping much that makes the sport great.

Here’s how I could see it playing out. The big schools start making noise about separating from the NCAA, while their 16-team superconference dreams start coming to fruition and they start making noise about a de facto playoff. The schools left threaten to, or actually do, sue the big schools for monopolizing the college football pie. The big schools reach an agreement with the small schools and the NCAA that theoretically allows any school in the country, even NAIA Podunk U, to some day compete with the big boys at the top level of the sport, but effectively ensconces the power of the big schools at the top of the sport, while creating a better experience for the fans. Everyone wins.

What would this system look like? At the top level, I see two 12-team conferences composed of the biggest-name, best programs in the country – call them the SEC and Big 10. These add up to 24 teams, very close to the “Top 25” we’re so used to. Unlike current 12-team conferences, every team plays every other team one time, with no divisional arrangement. Under the current schedule, that leaves one game for a team to schedule a cupcake or a cross-conference or interlevel rival, preserving most rivalries between teams of comparable power while creating a far more exciting season full of big matchups. The champions of the two 12-team conferences then meet in a single game at the end of the season to determine college football’s national champion, solving the championship problem while preserving the sanctity of the bowls (for example, second place in each league could play each other as well).

The top four levels are important in this plan, as those levels are the ones that can tell recruits that, at least theoretically, they can someday play at that top level. Thus, the next few levels are arranged so that the top four levels total 120, same as Division I-A today. I see another two 12-team conferences at the second level (the ACC and Pac-12), then three conferences each at the third (Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA) and fourth (WAC, MAC, Sun Belt) levels. (These names are just for show, and to indicate the general geographic area each conference would cover.) The fifth level, where I-AA would essentially start, would then consist of four conferences, and so on down the line.

The bottom one or two teams in each top-level conference are relegated, with the champions and possibly runners-up in each second-level conference promoted. Perhaps the 11th-place teams in each conference could hold a play-off to determine who gets relegated, while the second-place teams at the second level hold their own, similar game to determine who gets promoted. Similarly, the last-place teams in each second-level conference are relegated, with a play-off between the 11th-place teams, while the champions of the three third-level conferences promoted.

What would these conferences look like at the top level? Here’s one way they might be arranged, with reference to Stewart Mandel’s 2007 column on college football’s “kings” and recent on-the-field success:

The Southeastern Conference

  1. Alabama
  2. Auburn
  3. Florida
  4. Florida State
  5. Georgia
  6. LSU
  7. Oklahoma
  8. South Carolina
  9. Texas
  10. TCU
  11. Virginia Tech
  12. West Virginia

The Northern and Western Conference (aka the “Big 12”)

  1. Boise State
  2. BYU
  3. Michigan
  4. Nebraska
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Ohio State
  7. Oregon
  8. Penn State
  9. Pittsburgh
  10. USC
  11. Utah
  12. Wisconsin

Look at all the rivalries that are preserved. Michigan/Ohio State, Oklahoma/Texas, Auburn/Alabama, Florida/Florida State, USC/Notre Dame, and so on down the line. There are even some new rivalries like Penn State/Pittsburgh, on top of all the other great games created with these top-notch programs. The extra game for inter-conference rivalries also allows us to preserve such games as Florida State/Miami (FL), Michigan/Michigan State, USC/UCLA, Oregon/Oregon State, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, Texas/Texas A&M, South Carolina/Clemson, Georgia/Georgia Tech, and Virginia/Virginia Tech. The other thing to note is that, unlike in today’s conferences and even in European soccer, most if not all of these teams have large, devoted followings in their own right, large enough to merit their own per-school TV contracts with the networks and ESPN. There are no Longhorn Network controversies with this group. And some superb teams and programs will be relegated to the second tier at the end of the year.

What of the second tier? What do those conferences look like?

The Atlantic Conference

  1. Arizona State
  2. Arkansas
  3. Cincinnati
  4. Clemson
  5. Connecticut
  6. Georgia Tech
  7. Iowa
  8. Miami (FL)
  9. Michigan State
  10. Mississippi
  11. Texas A&M
  12. Texas Tech

The Pacific Conference

  1. Air Force
  2. Arizona
  3. Arizona State
  4. California
  5. Colorado
  6. Missouri
  7. Nevada
  8. Oklahoma State
  9. Oregon State
  10. Stanford
  11. UCLA
  12. Washington

Here are a bunch of lesser powers that could probably carry a pair of conference-wide contracts with ESPN2 and a considerable audience despite not being top-tier. That’s four conferences’ worth of great teams and great matchups on two tiers. For completeness’ sake, here’s what the third tier would look like:

Big East Conference

  1. Army
  2. Boston College
  3. Illinois
  4. Louisville
  5. Maryland
  6. Navy
  7. Northern Illinois
  8. Northwestern
  9. Ohio
  10. Purdue
  11. Rutgers
  12. Temple

Conference USA

  1. Central Florida
  2. East Carolina
  3. Kentucky
  4. Mississippi State
  5. North Carolina
  6. NC State
  7. South Florida
  8. Southern Miss
  9. Tennessee
  10. Troy
  11. Vanderbilt
  12. Virginia

Mountain West Conference

  1. Baylor
  2. Fresno State
  3. Hawaii
  4. Houston
  5. Idaho
  6. Kansas
  7. Kansas State
  8. Minnesota
  9. San Diego State
  10. SMU
  11. Tulsa
  12. UTEP

These conferences aren’t quite of the caliber of the previous tiers, with only a few teams able to carry their weight in TV contracts for the occasional ESPNU game, hence why there are three of them in more compact geographic areas. (Washington State, Iowa State, and Syracuse have some claim to being in this group. Most of the remaining I-A schools are on the fourth tier, with Appalachian State, Montana, and one or two more I-AA interlopers replacing some weak Sun Belt schools.)

A showcase for all the best teams in the country to play each other week after week, competing for national glory and to stay in that brutal competition. Opportunity for any team to rise to the top. No more cupcakes and a college football national championship everyone can agree on. Now, isn’t this a far better picture for college football than franken-conferences and the BCS?

First college football rankings should be coming later today.

College football’s moment of truth

College football needs to make a conscious decision about what it wants to be, a decision it should have made a long time ago. It can attempt to reclaim the notion of showcasing students who happen to play football, or it can embrace its current popularity and become the NFL’s developmental league, with teams effectively selling their naming rights for a fanbase, probably adopting some sort of playoff system. It can be popular, or it can be college, but it can’t be both.

One of the glories of college football in the pre-ESPN, pre-BCS era was that the results didn’t really matter. Yes, good teams went to bowls at the end of the season and rivals wanted to beat each other, but the real heart of college football was everything surrounding the game – all the pageantry that purists like to talk up. Polls crowned a national champion at the end of the year, but few people really cared. In the words of Ed Guenther, whose series on the college football playoff debate informed my own series on the same debate two years ago, college football was a sport “played regionally on Saturdays”, whereas now it’s “played nationally for four months”.

The BCS is the biggest proximate reason for this change, but it is itself a result of the increasing television attention focused on college football, which began with the birth of ESPN in 1979 and the court case that stripped the NCAA of control over the TV rights to regular-season college football. Once conferences began selling their own TV rights, it became possible to follow college football on a national basis over the course of the whole season. It’s no coincidence that the rise of conference TV contracts coincided with the rise of attempts to provide some sort of “national championship game”. As the national championship became more important, and as the bowls started coming into more and more money as more and more people across the nation became interested in them, the focus shifted away from the overall college football experience, and wins and losses became more important, even all-consuming.

Combine the influx of money into the sport with the increased stakes for getting the best players, and the result is a dog-eat-dog recruiting world. It’s no wonder the college football landscape has been rocked by scandal in recent years, scandal that has, in all likelihood, only scraped the surface of the corruption and under-the-table “extra benefits” trading hands in college football. The ongoing scandal at Miami (FL) is only the worst that has come to light.

The notion of amateurism – once thought to be the bedrock of college sports – now seems quaint to almost everyone outside the NCAA offices, even exploitative when one looks at the amount of money these players provide to their schools and the NCAA while seemingly getting little to nothing in return. The idea of paying players has started to look rather appealing, with the major obstacle being the practical matter of paying participants in non-revenue sports; I believe someone on ESPN (maybe during their Blueprint for Change series?) pointed out that sports are the only collegiate activity that isn’t paid.

Of course, sports aren’t like other collegiate activities. The school band or the student newspaper doesn’t have the whole school coming out to support all of their activities, nor are they broadcast on national television for a tenth to a fifth of the country to see. The school band or student newspaper don’t rack in millions of dollars for their universities, nor do they engage in high-stakes recruiting battles with other schools for the best trombonist or the best reporter. Paying players would only exacerbate a trend that has been growing for the last few decades: players as mercenaries taking their talents to whatever school they feel would best prepare them for the NFL or NBA, or in this case, selling their services to the highest bidder, with no real connection to their schools, and turning college football into a de facto developmental league for the NFL, or college basketball into the NBA’s de facto developmental league, with teams simply selling their naming rights to schools for a fanbase.

College football’s gatekeepers need to figure out whether they want to keep making money hand over fist, or reclaim the notion of amateurism once thought to be at the heart of collegiate athletics. I don’t think the latter can withstand the continuation of the former. The pay-players movement has too much momentum, and lawsuits will be filed if things continue as they are. But college football needs to definitively choose one or the other; they can’t have it both ways. Either approach, however, would involve some hard choices and some decisions college football’s gatekeepers don’t want to make.

If the decision is made to go all-in and turn college football into a money-making developmental league for the NFL, the first thing that should be done is to divorce college football from the NCAA, ASAP. The NCAA has its origins in an effort to clean up college football shortly before World War I, but football is now the sport the NCAA has the least connection to. Cutting off college football from the NCAA at all levels would save the NCAA from an all-sports defection from the big-name football schools that would probably cripple it permanently, allow conference realignment to proceed to 16-team superconferences (and the potential playoff that comes with it) without screwing up the conferences for other sports, and depending on how such a split would be interpreted through the lens of Title IX, save lesser collegiate sports from being sunk by the requirements imposed by the need to pay players. And make no mistake: unless the NCAA and college football’s gatekeepers take steps to reclaim the notion of amateurism in collegiate athletics immediately, they will have to pay players. Hell, it’s already happening under the table and everyone knows it.

The new collegiate football association would then be able to impose the sorts of rules and regulations necessary to create a fairly stable status quo, one that brings the current black market into the light, that could propel what was left of college football into the future without the NCAA’s unnecessary bloat – possibly including a playoff, but such a divorce would open up another approach, which I’ll get to in a later post.

If the NCAA decides that, ultimately, the money isn’t worth losing the soul of college football, then some drastic actions will need to be taken to reclaim it. The first thing will involve putting pressure on the NFL to start its own developmental league (whether from scratch or by absorbing the UFL) and allow potential players to declare for the NFL draft right out of high school without necessarily changing the age limits for the big league, a step absolutely necessary to give people who only see college as a stepping stone to the pros an alternative, similar to the college baseball model.

Then the NCAA needs to impose some drastic, top-to-bottom reforms to, possibly, put the toothpaste back in the tube, completely remaking the rulebook, getting tough on corruption and the Nevin Shapiros of the world, beefing up the enforcement staff and making clear that the age of Michael Wilbon comparing the NCAA to “Barney Fife” is over. It’s possible that ending athletic scholarships and recruiting entirely may be necessary, or at least severely restricting them.

If – and it’s a big if – these moves are successful at bringing the stakes in college football and college sports in general back down to earth (besides potentially keeping the stakes high, the NFL could balk at starting its own developmental league and the big schools could decide they want to keep making money and secede from the NCAA), it’s going to start another major shake-up in college sports. Conferences that were formed for reasons of money will shatter in an instant, with the return of regional rivalries possible but a big long-shot (more likely, conferences remain capped at 12 teams). The BCS could collapse, not necessarily replaced with a playoff as opposed to the old bowl system, and probably half the bowls shut their doors immediately. The result would be a long period of uncertainty, and maybe – maybe – a return to a more idyllic time in college football at the end of it.

I can’t guarantee that any of that would actually happen. It’s possible it’s too late for anyone to save the ideals at the heart of college football. But college football needs to make that decision on its future soon, lest it collapse under the weight of its own scandal and corruption.

NFL Schedule: Week 4

Can someone explain to me why the Bears are 6½-point favorites over the Panthers? This is the Panthers team with the guy who captivated everyone with his offensive performances the first two weeks, right? And this is the Bears team that’s been hugely disappointing through three weeks, right? Same with the Eagles being 8½-point favorites over the Niners; I know we expected them to be that way, but not even the power rankings agree anymore.

With no votes on the poll, I’m probably not putting out the SEFL recap this week. Decided it’s not really worth it.

What is the Median Expected Score?

Away MXS Home Time (ET) TV DTV Announcers NTR SIRIUS Notes
Away Home
#6(3-0) 23½-20½ #24(1-2) Sun 1:00 PM 704 Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker 106 137 Bills getting respect, and they’re on the right end of the squash game for once.
#18(2-1) 18¾-20¼ #21(2-1) Sun 1:00 PM 705 Marv Albert, Rich Gannon 104 94 Bet you didn’t expect this to be a battle of 2-1 teams.
#7(2-1) 20½-24½ #10(2-1) Sun 1:00 PM 706 Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf 86 128 Once again, the Texans face a huge test against a formidable top-tier team.
#5(3-0) 22¾-23¾ #11(2-1) Sun 1:00 PM 707 Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver 135 85 It was great seeing Romo fight off injury the past two weeks, but can he handle the resurgent Lions?
#20(2-1) 18-26½ #17(1-2) Sun 1:00 PM 708 Ron Pitts, Jim Mora CMP 139 93 Are the Niners for real? Is the Dream Team little more than, well, a dream?
#22(1-2) 18¼-24¾ #19(1-2) Sun 1:00 PM 709 Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin USA 112 91 Bears defense hasn’t looked up to snuff… could Cam Newton go off on them?
#15(2-1) 22¼-21¼ #31(0-3) Sun 1:00 PM 710 Chris Myers, Tim Ryan WW1 148 138 Will the Rams finally look like the team we expected them to be against the Redskins?
#2(2-1) 26¼-19¼ #25(1-2) Sun 1:00 PM 711 Sam Rosen, Chad Pennington 92 136 It doesn’t get any easier for Gabbert against the vaunted Saints defense.
#T28(0-3) 20¾-19¼ #32(0-3) Sun 1:00 PM 712 Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Tim Brewster 117 113 One team gets their first win of the season! The other’s a step closer to Andrew Luck.
#14(2-1) 23-21 #23(1-2) Sun 4:05 PM 713 Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa USA 85 149 Could Eli go off against the woeful Cardinals defense?
#16(1-2) 22-17½ #27(1-2) Sun 4:05 PM 714 Craig Bolerjack, John Lynch WW1 93 134 Seahawks could be just what the doctor ordered for the Falcons to bounce back.
#26(1-2) 17-29½ #1(3-0) Sun 4:15 PM 715 Jim Nantz, Phil Simms CMP 117 91 Broncos may be about to enter a lion’s den in Lambeau.
#30(0-3) 19-26 #9(2-1) Sun 4:15 PM 717 Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts 92 94 The Bolts seem to have shaken off their early-season swoons, but maybe playing teams like the Fins helps.
#4(2-1) 29¾-25¼ #12(2-1) Sun 4:15 PM 716 Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots 86 113 Best game of the week you won’t be able to watch. Will the Pats be stunned by a surprise team again?
#8(2-1) 19-22½ #3(2-1) Sun 8:20 PM Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya WW1 92 93 Showdown between the two teams Pittsburgh beat en route to the Super Bowl.
#T28(0-3) 15¼-25¼ #13(2-1) Mon 8:30 PM Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber WW1 92 93 Now it’s ESPN’s turn to bang its head against the wall for having a Colts game.

On the modern Ring of Gyges

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized influence.)

Rich rarely makes huge storytelling blunders, a result of how straightforward the comic’s art style forces his storytelling to be, but this comic contains a pretty big one. In the midst of Belkar dealing with Mr. Scruffy’s injury, we get a random panel showing Enor with Mr. Scruffy’s head, Gannji with Belkar’s head, and the back of Belkar’s head.

Or a flashback to Enor and Gannji’s arena battle, giving context to Belkar’s decision to save the two by unleashing the allosaurus. That works too, but only if you remember (a hard task given how slow the comic has updated recently – Robert A. “Tangents” Howard had a post on this comic nearly a week ago) that the line in that panel was originally said by Roy in the original comic. The panel isn’t given any real context, certainly no buildup, and the “revelation” contained therein seems to be randomly divulged without any real impact or providing any additional meaning to current events. In fact, there isn’t really any reason we couldn’t have gotten it a lot sooner.

Regardless, we now have some context for that decision, and an opportunity for me to say something about it. What we knew before was that Belkar made that decision, and didn’t want Ian to tell Roy about it – and seemed uncomfortable taking Roy off the scent himself. Considering Belkar is currently trying to fake the sort of character growth that would lead to him releasing a dinosaur to save a couple of people he only knows for getting him thrown in jail, it seems odd that he would deny any responsibility for it and actively try to maintain Roy’s impression that he’s still every bit the bastard he’s always been.

But what I’ve noticed, re-reading past strips in this book and my posts on them, is that Belkar only ever claims to be a team player. He never claims to have any sort of character growth beyond that. He never actually tries to claim that he’s any less of a murderous psychopath, he simply claims he’s no more of one than any other adventurer (something of a sore spot of Rich’s). Which begs the question: is that what Shojo meant? When he asked Belkar to fake character growth, did he mean as little character growth as possible? Re-reading my original post on the matter, there may be evidence in favor of this interpretation:

To this point, it seems that Shojo’s point might be bigger than whether or not Belkar should be a “hero”, but whether he should simply live a life bigger than just stabbing everyone at every opportunity. Consider Belkar’s life immediately preceding being struck by the Mark of Justice: skipping out on the entire explanation of the Gates because he’d killed a guard and fled, leading Miko on a wild goose chase and slowly driving her more and more insane with fury, pretty much trying to get her to kill him out of blind fury for kicks. Belkar doesn’t even care about staying alive as long as he believes he can be quickly resurrected…we can place a name to Belkar’s life through the Mark of Justice experience: “anger and needless rage”. He’s spent too much time consumed with both to realize his true potential, whether that involves “hurting…living creature[s]” or not.

I proceeded to suggest that “Really, nothing about the conversation says Belkar needs to stop acting outwardly evil; only the circumstances would determine that at any time”, and that one interpretation of Shojo’s remarks was that “Belkar needs to stop acting like he’s above the alignment system entirely, and start acting Chaotic Evil“: “Belkar, in this interpretation, is entirely within his rights to do exactly what he has been doing, but only as long as he at least makes an effort to get along with the rest of the Order of the Stick, and pay some effing attention to everything else that’s going on.”

Belkar’s reaction to his own decision to release the allosaurus suggests he’s taken this interpretation, but there’s a difference between not hiding your evil actions, and hiding your good ones. Belkar has an interest in Roy thinking he’s a team player, but somehow, he seems to also have an interest (or thinks he does) in Roy thinking he’s still a Chaotic Evil murderous psychopath. (It’s not that Roy would have a problem with him helping Gannji and Enor specifically; Roy’s own reaction disproves that.) Otherwise it would seem odd that Belkar would hide an act that would further his effort to convince Roy of his reformation, however defined. What makes it even odder is that Belkar has been introduced to the rewards of being good – but interestingly, his interpretation is wrong: “I did exactly what I always do – murder people horribly – but because I killed the people everyone else wanted me to kill, I get presents instead of jail time?”

So I have two interpretations of Belkar’s decision to hide his decision to release the allosaurus from Roy. The first is that Belkar is still new to this “society” and “morals” thing, and doesn’t realize that saving lives, even a couple of supposedly evil lives, is as praiseworthy as killing the people Roy asks him to. The second has to do with what we’ve now learned about the reason he released the allosaurus: that Belkar panicked at his own decision and didn’t know what to make of it. Under this interpretation, Belkar believes he had a one-time moment of weakness and worries that if Roy knew about it, he might not trust Belkar to do what needs to be done in the future. But not only is he wrong about what Roy’s reaction would be, he’s wrong about what that moment means, because I’m now with the group that believes that Belkar’s fake character growth, or at least his alliance with Mr. Scruffy, will lead to real character growth, at least in the short time he has before he inevitably dies – and perhaps Belkar’s line in the last panel suggests he realizes this. Perhaps it’s only now that he even realizes why he released the allosaurus to begin with.

Both interpretations also raise the question of why Ian doesn’t correct Belkar’s misconception, but I’ve been meaning to write a whole post on him…

NFL Schedule: Week 3

After seeing how the inclusion of records looked last week, I’ve decided to include RealClearSports.com’s consensus power rankings. Also, I found out that Westwood One is not the only game in town when it comes to Sunday afternoon NFL games, and have adjusted the former “WW1?” column accordingly. It now reads “NTR”, for “National Terrestrial Radio”, with Westwood One games marked with “WW1”, Compass games marked with “CMP”, and Sports USA games marked with “USA”. Finally, I have a new poll up for the first time in over a year, asking if I should keep doing the SEFL recaps for the remainder of the season. I wanted to minimize the amount of thinking I had to do, which hasn’t been happening; I’ll play out the remainder of the season, but just writing the recaps takes up time better spent on other things, like schoolwork. The poll will run through the Week 4 games, but if “No” is leading substantially by Tuesday I won’t do a Week 3 recap.

I have a feeling the Rams will at least cover; it’s possible the Ravens and Steelers are just both lousy (though not Andrew Luck-lousy) this year. Also, can someone tell me why there’s so little gambling information on the Monday Night game, and what information there is is inconsistent? The MXS for that game is very guesstimated.

What is the Median Expected Score?

Away MXS Home Time (ET) TV DTV Announcers NTR SIRIUS Notes
Away Home
#22(1-1) 19¾-23¼ #T26(0-2) Sun 1:00 PM 704 Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein 136 113 Will Cam Newton’s success finally lead to a win, or will Gabbert be this week’s big rookie QB?
#11(2-0) 24¼-20¾ #29(0-2) Sun 1:00 PM 710 Dick Stockton, John Lynch 135 85 Lions picked a franchise QB #1 once and look red-hot now; could the Vikings follow suit?
#21(1-1) 18¾-21¼ #23(1-1) Sun 1:00 PM 711 Ron Pitts, Jim Mora USA 139 149 Two teams looking to discover their identities.
#28(0-2) 19¼-21¾ #24(1-1) Sun 1:00 PM 707 Don Criqui, Randy Cross 117 94 Is Tony Sparano on the hot seat already?
#2(2-0) 30½-23½ #14(2-0) Sun 1:00 PM 706 Marv Albert, Rich Gannon CMP 93 106 The Bills want to prove their start isn’t a fluke, but beating Brady and the Pats will hardly be easy.
#17(1-1) 20-28½ #9(1-1) Sun 1:00 PM 709 Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa WW1 112 91 The Dream Team starts divisional play against Eli and the Giants.
#T26(1-1) 18-24½ #18(1-1) Sun 1:00 PM 708 Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker 92 104 Two teams successfully bouncing back from Week 1 losses.
#6(2-0) 24¼-28¼ #4(1-1) Sun 1:00 PM 705 Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf 86 148 Texans face a huge road test against Drew Brees and the Saints.
#3(2-0) 22¼-19¼ #19(1-1) Sun 4:05 PM 712 Jim Nantz, Phil Simms 85 134 The Raiders have had good offensive days, but not against a defense as strong as the Jets.
#5(1-1) 23-19 #25(0-2) Sun 4:05 PM 713 Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots 92 138 Which is more of a fluke, the Ravens losing to the Titans or the NFC West faves losing to the Giants?
#32(0-2) 15-29½ #10(1-1) Sun 4:05 PM 714 Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts USA 137 91 Chiefs continue their descent towards Luck while the Chargers look to recover from the Brady Experience.
#8(1-1) 22-23½ #16(1-1) Sun 4:15 PM 717 Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin CMP 112 94 Falcons and Bucs seek to lay claim to the South, or at least top-two with the Saints.
#20(1-1) 23¼-19¾ #31(0-2) Sun 4:15 PM 716 Chris Myers, Tim Ryan 93 139 Which will stink less, the Cardinals D or the Seahawks O?
#1(2-0) 25-21 #12(1-1) Sun 4:15 PM 715 Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver WW1 86 135 If the Bears want to return to the playoffs, they’ll have to beat their Super Bowl champion rivals.
#7(1-1) 25-14½ #30(0-2) Sun 8:20 PM Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya WW1 92 93 Colts can’t get their offense going without Manning, and the Steelers D won’t help.
#15(2-0) 20-25* #13(1-1) Mon 8:30 PM Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber WW1 92 93 Two rivals who plain don’t like each other, as Dallas tries to prove the ‘Skins start is a fluke.

Simulated Experts’ Fantasy League: Week 2 Recap

Despite having the same number of players in play, an hour into the early games Commissioner’s Favorite and Takedown Glaze had substantial leads over Worldwide Leaders and Politically Incorrect respectively. Both teams were admittedly propelled by their defenses, but RTFS had their defense in play as well. It wasn’t until after an hour of play that The SportsLine could muster a single point on the board, by which point Wisdom of Crowds had already redeemed itself for the previous week’s low-scoring performance with 34 points.

Ron Burgundy All-Stars held a four-and-a-half-point lead over College Busters, but the real close game was between Inside Information and Team Infograph. After an hour-plus, the score in that game stood: FLEA 13.5, USAT 13.3. That’s a .2 lead for Inside Information. Despite having fewer players, Inside Information looked more likely to end the early games with the lead, as USAT had their defense in play. Calvin Johnson had already had a good day with a touchdown scored. In a bad sign for Indy Tea Party, Swimsuit Issues already had a narrow lead, even though FFTB had only one more player yet to play. They had to hope the Pats defense would lock down. SI had the Ravens defense in play, but they were arguably outperforming their bonuses with an INT in the books.

By halftime, College Busters, Indy Tea Party, and Inside Information had managed to take decent-sized leads, though Team Infograph was still putting up a close fight. Ray Rice’s long touchdown catch was golden for YHOO, while Dwayne Bowe and Kenny Britt proved especially valuable for FFTB.

Worldwide Leaders could not be kept down for long, and came roaring back in the second half, thanks to Fred Jackson’s long TD run and strong performances by Mike Wallace, James Starks, and to some extent Fred Davis. ESPN had the most points of anyone with at least three still to play and a 24-point lead heading into the late games. The SportsLine would pick up the scoring but was still badly behind Wisdom of Crowds heading into the late games, where CBS hoped to catch up on the strength of having five players active, including Arian Foster, to PROS’ one. PROS ended the early games having almost matched their total Week 1 scoring. Politically Incorrect, always respectable, pulled ahead of Takedown Glaze in the second half on the back of Aaron Rodgers’ comeback against the Panthers, but would see Knowshon Moreno declared a late scratch, robbing it of up to 12 points Darren Sproles would have provided. Would it be the difference?

Ron Burgundy All-Stars retook the lead from College Busters in the second half as Cam Newton attempted to match Rodgers’ comeback and Jahvid Best capped a 57-yard, 2 TD day. Indy Tea Party pulled away to a 56-point lead as Darren McFadden ran the ball up and down the field, waiting for SI’s other players and the Pats defense. And Inside Information and Team Infograph continued matching each other stride-for-stride, ending the early games with USAT ahead by only two, and also losing Brandon Lloyd to a late scratch.

Of ESPN’s two active players, Neil Rackers scored nearly as many points as Matt Schaub by halftime of the late games, matching iffy performances by Commissioner’s Favorite’s players (Vincent Jackson had the most at 9.2 points). None of The SportsLine’s players were outscoring Owen Daniels individually, and CBS remained well behind. Team Infograph would pull away in the third quarter behind another strong performance by Tom Brady.

By the end of the late games, Jackson and Phillip Rivers had caught fire and Commissioner’s Favorite had roared into the lead, but NFL was out of players and Worldwide Leaders had a good chance with both the Falcons defense and Hakeem Nicks still to play. The SportsLine looked certain to lose with Wisdom of Crowds ahead by 17 with three players still to play and CBS only having Ahmad Bradshaw; the lead would balloon to nearly 28 after the Sunday Night game, and eventually ended CBS 69.6, PROS 96.94. Takedown Glaze roared into the lead on the back of a strong performance by Ryan Mathews, ending the contest FOX 92.02, RTFS 82.02 – the 10-point margin meaning starting Sproles would have, indeed, made the difference. Ron Burgundy All-Stars roared into a 30-point lead during the late games on the back of Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, while Indy Tea Party ended with 113.14 points, second to Commissioner’s Favorite, leaving Swimsuit Issues with 33 points to make up with three players left to play.

Michael Vick carved up the Falcons defense and Worldwide Leaders only made up four points. On the other hand, Michael Turner and the Eagles defense brought College Busters within seven and a half of Ron Burgundy All-Stars… but only KFFL had someone left to play. YHOO 103.26, KFFL 123.78. LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Macklin had such good days that Swimsuit Issues went from 33 points down to nearly 20 points ahead, with one more still to play vs. Indy Tea Party’s none, and would end the day already on top of the weekly points standings (with NFL and FFTB having no one left to play and KFFL 22 points behind) and ahead of YHOO for the overall two-week points lead. They would defeat Indy Tea Party 136.5-113.14. Finally, despite Vick Inside Information had too big a deficit to make up, especially when Tony Gonzalez had a good night as well, and that match ended FLEA 51.78, USAT 81.32.

Only two matches would have their outcome determined Monday night, and in only one case was the outcome in much question. Worldwide Leaders needed 12 points from Hakeem Nicks to beat Commissioner’s Favorite, while The SportsLine had little chance of making up a huge deficit, needing a ginormous game from Bradshaw and nothing at all from Rams kicker Josh Brown. Nicks would fall short, NFL 121.22, ESPN 117.1.

Takedown Glaze had to cut Jamaal Charles after he was knocked out for the year. Inside Information cut Derrick Ward and replaced him with the Texans defense. For Wisdom of Crowds, Owen Daniels is out and Matt Hasselbeck is in. Knowshon Moreno is out and Eric Decker is in for RTFS. (If those three, all of which don’t provide waiver wire picks for various reasons, remain in the bottom three spots in any order next week, I may have to dump the waiver wire.) Takedown Glaze brought in Dexter McCluster. Isaac Redman is in for Team Infograph and Ricky Williams is out. Brandon LaFell is in and Antonio Brown is out for The SportsLine. Braylon Edwards is out and David Nelson is in for Ron Burgundy All-Stars. Worldwide Leaders passes. Ed Dickson is in and Todd Heap is out for Indy Tea Party. Commissioner’s Favorite passes. Earl Bennett is out and Andy Dalton is in for College Busters. Finally, Swimsuit Issues nabs Nate Washington and DeMarco Murray, cutting Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai. Team Infograph also dumps Chad Johnson for Titus Young, while Takedown Glaze cuts Chris Cooley in favor of Preston Parker.

Just as soon as I got back to them…

…full-fledged webcomics reviews may be going back on the back burner for the foreseeable future.

I have a large backlog of posts I intended to get done over the summer, mostly sports-related, that I wanted to get as much of done as possible BEFORE school started. That… didn’t quite happen. I also just hit two of my largest feeds in my ongoing attempt to catch up on the RSS feeds I abandoned two years ago, and one of them will trigger a rather involved project. And there’s still one more project I’d like to follow up on.

However, one of the posts in my backlog is a VERY involved and interesting series on the state of the comics medium. Stay tuned for that.

Simulated Experts’ Fantasy League: Week 1 Recap

I’ve firmed up the regular season schedule:

  12. #1 v. #3, #2 v. #4, #5 v. #10, #6 v. #9, #7 v. #11, #8 v. #12
  13. #1 v. #5, #2 v. #6, #3 v. #7, #4 v. #8, #9 v. #11, #10 v. #12
  14. #1 v. #9, #2 v. #10, #3 v. #12, #4 v. #11, #5 v. #8, #6 v. #7

Note that in the last three weeks, #1 will be the team with the best win-loss record after 11 weeks, but #2-#12 will be picked in order of total points scored.

Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees got Politically Incorrect and Swimsuit Issues, respectively, off to a rollicking start with their offensive explosion in Thursday’s kickoff game. Brees scored more, but RTFS benefited more from the game with the winning effort by the Packers defense. But RTFS came out of the game with a relatively small lead over The SportsLine, no thanks to Greg Jennings also having a big day.

With two exceptions, the scores an hour into the first round of games could all be explained by the number of players active. But Indy Tea Party was woefully underproducing with only four points, worst among all teams, and was losing by over 30 points to the College Busters. Also, Team Infograph led Swimsuit Issues despite fewer players active, a lead that remained constant, though relatively small, thanks to a yeoman’s effort by the Bucs defense. As the Bucs allowed more points, though, SI retook the lead. SI’s Jets defense wouldn’t take the field until the Sunday Night game.

Another game where the outcome started to fall into place during the early Sunday games was Inside Information against Commissioner’s Favorite. Big days from Calvin Johnson and Michael Vick propelled FLEA to a 44-9 lead 90 minutes into the early games, arguably outperforming the five active players it had and casting doubt over whether NFL could catch up. Also by 90 minutes in, College Busters had actually already outscored Politically Incorrect and led Indy Tea Party by a whopping 60 points. At the half of the early games, Takedown Glaze led KFFL 40-28, Wisdom of Crowds led Worldwide Leaders and Swimsuit Issues led Team Infograph by 10 each, and Politically Incorrect maintained a 30-point lead over The SportsLine.

Indy Tea Party picked up more points in the second half, thanks to Kenny Britt’s big TD catch-and-run; meanwhile, the Ron Burgundy All-Stars pulled surprisingly close to Takedown Glaze in the third quarter, as Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson caught fire, but Josh Freeman’s comeback attempt proved killer, as did (for a time) the start of the Vikings-Chargers game giving College Busters defensive bonuses, and when Fleaflicker came back from an extended outage shortly after the late games started, the scores were: FLEA 72-14 NFL; FOX 83-60 KFFL; ESPN 57-59 PROS; YHOO 86-38 FFTB; CBS 59-64 RTFS; and SI 81-51 USAT.

Worldwide Leaders had a chance to take a substantial lead in the late game with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Fred Davis active, while Wisdom of Crowds only had Donovan McNabb. That they did: Nicks in particular had a big day and ESPN was the first team to end their week with 85.8 points, good for third place and a 22.5 point lead over Wisdom of Crowds with LaDainian Tomlinson still to play in the Sunday Night game. LT had a relatively pedestrian performance and the only match without Monday Night participants ended 85.7-71.86, ESPN winning. Scarily, Worldwide Leaders could have gone over 120 by starting Steve Smith of the Panthers; as it stood they wound up with the fewest points of any winner.

Cedric Benson had caught fire late to drive The SportsLine closer to Politically Incorrect, and CBS had a chance to take the lead with no RTFS players active if Ahmad Bradshaw and Vernon Davis caught fire and the Chargers’ defensive bonuses held up. That’s exactly what happened: Bradshaw had a big day and the Chargers picked off McNabb, and The SportsLine led by 2 early in the second half. But they could only increase that lead to 3.3 in the second half.

Commissioner’s Favorite needed to get out of the scoring basement with five players, including Philip Rivers and Adrian Peterson, active, despite Inside Information having three of their own. Tim Hightower’s gimme touchdown helped in that department, and Rivers also had a big day. NFL made it to 71 points by the end of the late games, only 10 behind Inside Information, who was hurt by the loss of Derrick Ward and Danny Amendola, and NFL had one more player yet to play than FLEA.

Beanie Wells also had a good day to help bring the Ron Burgundy All-Stars up to 72.88 points, needing 14.9 from the last player in the matchup to pass Takedown Glaze. One problem: that player was kicker Dan Carpenter. On Monday, he closed the final margin to 88.06-78.88, Takedown Glaze winning. College Busters and Swimsuit Issues finished the late games with huge leads over Indy Tea Party and Team Infograph, with YHOO boasting a whopping 105.5 points, nearly twenty more than the next-highest-scoring team, Takedown Glaze.

On Sunday Night, Inside Information counted on the Cowboys defense to top off their point total, while the Jets defense would pad Swimsuit Issues’ point total. Commissioner’s Favorite hoped Santonio Holmes could help them catch FLEA, while Politically Incorrect hoped Felix Jones could give them at least a temporary lead heading into Monday. Holmes had a decent day but never found the end zone, while the Cowboys defense had a stout enough performance, with 4 sacks and an INT, to pad FLEA’s lead just a little to 12 points for Reggie Bush to make up in the Monday Night game. Jones gave RTFS an 11-point lead over The SportsLine, while the Jets defense’s role in almost single-handedly causing the win caused Swimsuit Issues to move into second in total points, 15.24 points behind College Busters.

As the first Monday Night game progressed, the most interesting match shaped up to be that between Inside Information and Commissioner’s Favorite. Reggie Bush had a rather productive day, and NFL took the win on Bush’s touchdown with three and a half minutes left in the game, the final margin 92.9-89.48. Team Infograph also pulled surprisingly close to Swimsuit Issues when Tom Brady had a historic day (35.1 fantasy points), enough to shoot up into the top five, and enough for Brandon Lloyd to have a good chance to close the gap in the late game; however, he had no touchdowns and Team Infograph just barely fell short to Swimsuit Issues 107.06-100.68, the most points of any loser. The SportsLine, meanwhile, pulled well ahead of Politically Incorrect with Chad Henne having a superb day, Brandon Marshall doing well as well, and Davone Bess being underwhelming. If Arian Foster’s injury replacement Willis McGahee had 17.36 points, CBS could pass College Busters for the Week 1 points lead; however, McGahee managed only 4 yards.

The late game mattered little to the remaining two games. The SportsLine beat Politically Incorrect 119.24-87.4, and while Sebastian Janikowski’s incredible night pulled Indy Tea Party out of the points cellar, there was no beating a College Busters team with 14 more points than anyone else, and YHOO took the win 133.1-97.16. When all was said and done, Wisdom of Crowds would have the fewest points of the first week, followed by Ron Burgundy All-Stars.

KFFL had to cut done-for-the-year Nate Kaeding, but still has reach pick Dan Carpenter. Because FantasyPros doesn’t do waiver wire picks, I used a combination of Week 1 performances and Week 2 rankings to determine what they should do on the waiver wire, so Rex Grossman is in and Lance Moore is out. KFFL then nabbed Cam Newton to fill the empty spot; of their “priority additions”, Cadillac Williams and the Lions defense are already on teams and KFFL can’t add another WR without cutting one. With waiver wire order based solely on scoring, Worldwide Leaders was next, and decided not to get anything (also maxed out on WRs). Politically Incorrect will make waiver-wire decisions based solely on past performance; Jimmy Graham is gone, Scott Chandler is in. For Takedown Glaze, the Eagles’ Steve Smith is out and Devery Henderson is in. For Inside Information, Zach Miller is out and Early Doucet is in. Commissioner’s Favorite passes, while for Indy Tea Party, Austin Collie is out and Anthony Armstrong is in. Derrick Mason is out and Earnest Graham is in for Team Infograph, while Swimsuit Issues replaced Marcedes Lewis with Jacoby Jones. FLEA also replaced Kendall Hunter the Cowboys defense with the Niners defense, with Fox following by replacing the Vikings defense with the Raiders defense. FLEA also brought in Marcel Reece to replace Derrick Ward, cutting Hines Ward.

NFL Schedule: Week 2

I realized that last week’s schedule wasn’t given the Blog News tag, so… yeah, we’re doing this now. Check the Week 1 schedule for explanations. One change from last week: I’m now getting betting lines from Vegas.com, which was my intention from the start, but it wasn’t available last week. The main benefit, ultimately, is that I won’t have to sort out ties between various sources.

What is the Median Expected Score?

Away MXS Home Time (ET) TV DTV Announcers WW1? SIRIUS Notes
Away Home
(0-1) 12¾-27¼ (0-1) Sun 1:00 PM 713 Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa 139 93 Two playoff teams looking to bounce back from Week 1 losses.
(1-0) 20-23 (1-0) Sun 1:00 PM 705 Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots 148 104 Both teams got surprise wins Week 1, but are they for real?
(1-0) 20¼-24¼ (1-0) Sun 1:00 PM 709 Chris Myers, Tim Ryan 91 112 Will the Cardinals defense do for Sexy Rexy what they did for Cam Newton?
(0-1 19-22 (0-1) Sun 1:00 PM 710 Dick Stockton, John Lynch 104 113 McNabb looks to redeem himself for last week’s disappointing performance.
(1-0) 19¾-29¼ (1-0) Sun 1:00 PM 707 Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf Yes 136 85 Jags have won last three, but not against a Jets team this strong.
(1-0) 20-27 (0-1) Sun 1:00 PM 712 Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver 128 86 Saints looked great in a narrow losing effort. But it won’t be any easier getting past Da Bears.
(1-0) 28¼-18¼ (0-1) Sun 1:00 PM 711 Ron Pitts, Jim Mora 94 117 Newton looked like a Pro Bowler last week, but the Packers aren’t the Cardinals.
(1-0) 22-16 (0-1) Sun 1:00 PM 706 Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker 134 149 The Matt Hasselbeck era didn’t start off well, and the Ravens will be far tougher than the Jags.
(0-1) 18½-26½ (1-0) Sun 1:00 PM 704 Don Criqui, Randy Cross 137 135 After getting shellacked by the Bills, the Chiefs get a Lions team that looks like a playoff team.
(0-1) 21-18½ (0-1) Sun 1:00 PM 708 Marv Albert, Rich Gannon 106 92 The Kerry Collins era didn’t start well, but surely the Colts can do better against the Browns?
(0-1) 22¾-19¾ (1-0) Sun 4:05 PM 714 Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin 92 139 Romo seeks redemption against a team looking to stake their claim to the NFC West.
(1-0) 18-22 (0-1) Sun 4:15 PM 715 Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein 91 94 The Bengals try to spoil Orton’s attempt to shake off the Tebow chants.
(1-0) 23¼-30¼ (1-0) Sun 4:15 PM 717 Jim Nantz, Phil Simms 93 86 Brady won’t be able to repeat his historic performance against the Chargers defense.
(1-0) 25½-22½ (0-1) Sun 4:15 PM 716 Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts Yes 112 85 Texans’ quest for the playoffs is underway, and the team Brady torched should help.
(1-0) 26-23½ (0-1) Mon 8:20 PM Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya Yes 92 93 The Dream Team makes their primetime debut as Vick returns to his old stomping grounds.
(0-1) 18¾-24¾ (0-1) Mon 8:30 PM Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber Yes 92 93 Both teams need to recover from devastating Week 1 losses.

Cleaning up some notes on the sports television wars

So I made a big deal about the new Thursday Night Football contract coming down later this month, and it came out today that it’s probably not happening by the end of the year at least. Not that my post was completely useless, as it may well still happen in time to show up on the 2012 schedule (my guess is an announcement will come Super Bowl weekend), but it won’t be happening quite as quickly as I implied.

That came out in a press conference to announce ESPN re-upping with the NFL for the next decade, which like the PGA TOUR with CBS and NBC, was pretty much a formality, reported as early as January. It does mean, though, that combined with reported ongoing negotiations to re-up with the NFL’s other TV partners, the TNF package may be more than a two-year trial run, but may be another decade-long deal. Also, the scorecard now reflects NBC taking back the Belmont Stakes from ABC, which wasn’t announced until this past February.

3.5 4.5 2.5 .5 0