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Pac-10 Roundtable - TwistNHook Ain't So Great

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Look, I know it feels like TwistNHook is the Grand Master around here, and the rest of us dance upon his puppet-strings.  Yeah, yeah, he "writes" all the DBDs, and puts together the Roundtable post each week.  OK, it may feel like he's in charge, but trust me:  it's only an illusion.

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Left to right:  HydroTech, Yellow Fever, TwistNHook, ragnarok, and CBKWit.  -  Image via upload.wikimedia.org

Take the Pac-10 Roundtable.  You may read it each week and come away confused, saying "Some of these answers are well thought-out and reasoned, and some are just weird; they're only tangentally related to the question at hand, and some are just a series of catchphrases and Family Guy references.  What gives, Twist?  Are you manic-depressive?  Split-personality disorder?"

In actually, the answers are written by all of us GoldenBloggers, and then Twist compiles them (because he seems almost allergic to doing actual legal work, which is a boon for rent-dodging grandmothers everywhere).  But does each GoldenBlogger get their name attached to their answers?  Uh-uh, no way, José.

Take, for example, this roundtable.  Here's a couple of questions and answers from that roundtable.  Try and spot the answer written by TwistNHook, and the answer written by not TwistNHook.

2.  Oklahoma jumped Texas in the latest BCS poll. Is this an example of the BCS getting it right or does it add more fuel to the growing calls for a playoff system?

Well, from a BCS perspective, it doesn't really matter.  The issue here is with the Big XII, and their inability to break the tie in the South division based on the on-field results.  The BCS will take the conference champion, and they let who that team is be decided by the member conferences.  Situations like this enhance arguments not for a college football playoff, but for a Big XII playoff.

More generally, though situations like this are an example of the BCS working as designed.  Remember, in 2003 USC was jumped by both Oklahoma and LSU into the national title game despite the voters' preference for the Trojans.  Shock and outrage and a split national title ensued, and the setup was changed to give the polls more power to manipulate the BCS standings to create the matchups and outcomes desired.  In this case, the voters felt (or were lobbied to feel) that Oklahoma was the superior team and deserved to play for the Big XII South title, despite their head-to-head loss on a neutral field to Texas.  The system works.

Of course, one could easily argue that the system is stupid, and we should just have a playoff.  But then, what would college football pundits write about each December?

 

4.  Is it better suited for the conference as a whole to send the most teams possible to bowl games or only ones that have a legitimate chance at victory...aka teams that won't further embarrass the Pac-10?

Well, the obvious and incredibly easy answer is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, and more $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.  More schools is more money.  More money is better facilities, better recruiting, better football.  So, even suffering an embarrassing loss in a BCS game helps the team.  If you have any Pac10 pride, you'll want them to get as much money as possible.  So, as many teams in the bowls, it is!  Anybody who answers otherwise isn't as ruthlessly oriented to money as I am.

Pretty obvious, huh?  OK, perhaps we don't need to put our names next to the questions we answer, but I think it makes things clearer.  So, from now on, it shall be so!

Let's get to some current Q+A:

1.  Do you think Cal and Stanford fans would still have voted for Barack Obama, if this was what he meant by "change"?

TwistNHook:  Hell 2 Da Naw!  Forget all those innocent people tortured at Gitmo.  Who gives a doodle about warrant-less wiretapping!?!?  THIS IS CAL BAK-BAK-ETBALL PEOPLE.  More important than civil liberties or an efficiently run economy.  Now with the 2 losses to Stanford and OSU, we are prolly looking at 4 losses out of 5 games.  I mean yeah sure, UCLA is down this year and maybe we catch USC sleeping.  But it seems more likely we lose both.  After a strong start that would be a rough middle of the season.  And it could be the barrel of the gun we are about to look down.

This is a young team, too.  Any and EVERY win brings much needed experience, but also every loss is that much worse.  Losing to a team like OSU might seem like an unfortunate bump in the road to many, but for a young team like this it could, potentially be what derails the train.  Now, I trust Monty and believe that that won't happen to Cal.  I also believe that this is a team that could make the tournament.  Hopefully, that slight bump won't be enough derail the train.

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"If we put them back into Gitmo, does that mean OSU has to forfeit its win over Cal?" - Image via msnbcmedia3.msn.com

2.  Recruiting is heating up.  How is your team's recruiting class looking?

TwistNHook:  No idea.  I'm really stupid and barely follow recruiting.  It is kind of like following the minor league baseball draft.  Some players might go straight to AAA or the majors, but the vast majority have a lot of time and a lot of work left before they make a noticeable impact on the field. 

Moreover, having read books like The Blindside and Meat Market, "recruiting" as it is set up now is wildly inane.  Online sites like Scout and Rivals making little more than educated guesses as to the quality of certain players. 

TedfordIsGod wrote one of the world's finest SBNation comments ever on this:

A few excerpts:

Five star players are made in one of two ways: they are truly great (or they at least get recruited by USC) or they are heavily recruited by many top schools.

Only the "truly great" players from California get recognized generally. (Truly great guys in my estimation should fill spots about 1-20 or so on the list – they are the guys that couldn't possibly miss.)

A truly great player in CA these days is going to go to either Cal, USC or if they are being crazy UCLA or Oregon.

Alternatively, multiple top schools recruited a player also can create a five-star recruit. However, I contend that because of the USC/Cal/UCLA/Oregon monopoly in the West, only inter-regional players get much benefit from this. What is the big difference between DeSean (top 20) and Best/Lynch? He visited Oklahoma and LSU. Guess what, that pushed him into the Rivals Top 20, whereas Best probably never had a Rivals writer at any of his games and found himself at No. 94 (he was the No. 9 running back. Ha! Joe McKnight was at No. 1. Double Ha!).

That makes, generally, the point I wanted to make.  But quite a bit more eloquently.  And with examples!  A player's star ranking can be as much created by outside factors than their actual skill.

Moreover, some fans are upset that we aren't getting these 5 star recruits.  Assuming, arguendo, that 5 star recruits truly are the greatest and worthy of our attention, it would be frustration to not get them.  However, we can't force people to come to Cal.  All we can do is put our best face forward, try our hardest, and hope for the best.  The fact that Cal is coming up in discussions with schools like USC and Texas is huge!  Sure, we might lose out to those schools on a player like Kennard, fair enough.  But just to be there is big.  And the inroads made recruiting Kennard (and being viewed as a big player) might help get other players.

So, there are many reasons why I don't know much about recruiting.  Stupidity.  Idiocy.  Some modicum of boredom.  But, also, the utter inanity of it all and the moderate unimportance.  Tedford has done an amazing job recruiting so far, who are we to doubt him now?  Especially with epic(k) recruitnik Tosh Lupoi roaming the fields!  Go Bears!


3.  Woah, UCLA loses another game.  What's up with that?

TwistNHook:  Last week, we wrote that UCLA would probably still win the Pac-10, even with their home loss to ASU.  Now, there is a road loss to UW to add on top of that.  Many people will now believe that UCLA's time is done.  And perhaps they are right.  But I think that they can still take care of bees-wax.  They've apparently lost to UW in Seattle the last 4 times.  Cal fans can attest that the scene up there is intense.  Our own The Maharg was on the scene to witness that historic game and told me that he nearly got in a fight with a Huskies fan, it was so raucous there. 

So, although having those two losses are very frustrating for UCLA fans, but, the UW loss doesnt add much more than the ASU loss.  They have been on pace to lose up there each year. 

But really why should I try to figure out why those losses are taking place, when I have others doing it for me.  Here, a Bruins Nation reader takes time out of their busy schedule irrationally hating Karl Dorrell to do some statistical analysis.  Here are some of his findings:

 

  1. A sign that our team is inexperienced: we foul more per game than any other of our teams. In fact, we have more than one foul per game than 05-07, and 3 more fouls per game than last year. Yes, 1.5 more fouls per game might not seem like a lot. However, This can easily average out to a 2-5 more points per game given to the opponent. A foul means they're closer to being in the bonus, or gives them another possession on offense, or allows them to get and-1's. This has already burned us a few times this year, and might be why our defensive ratings are so poor this year. However, this is an experience issue as our players with the highest rate of fouls are all our freshmen.
  2. Our free throws per game are at the lowest of any of these 4 years. Big difference. A player with the athletic ability of Holiday should aim for getting more free throws as well. Looking at the past comparisons, Farmar and Westbrook both drew nearly twice as many free throws per minute/possession.


Those are some key conclusions he has.  This is a UCLA team that lost a lot to the NBA last year (including noted early 90s R+B singer, Kevin Love).  Replacing that won't be easy.  Nonetheless,  I still think that UCLA can win the Pac10 this year. 

4. Who is going to have the better season in Football next year? Washington State or Washington? Tell us why and show your work.

ragnarok:  I'm gonna go with UW, for this reason:

Healthy Jake Locker + Steve Sarkisian > Whatever Wazzu is going to throw out there.

By every measure except the win column, UW was the better team in 2008, and they not only would have beaten WSU easily with Jake Locker healthy (remember, the guy nearly single-handedly defeated BYU), but they probably would have won at least another game or two as well.  In the end, they basically quit on Willingham, and I don't really blame them.  With a healthy QB and an energetic new coaching staff, you've got two reasons why UW should be markedly improved next year; I can't think of one for WSU.  The Cougs should show incremental progress next year, but I imagine they'll remain an easy out for most Pac-10 teams next year.

Oh, and UW actually decided to schedule a "winnable" non-conference game this year, hosting Idaho in September.  Too bad the game is sandwiched in between hosting LSU and hosting USC.

5. Word making the rounds is that the Mountain West is seeing an automatic BCS Bid. Should they get one? Do they deserve one? If they did get one, would it silence calls for complete and total destruction of the BCS?

ragnarok:  I'm totally OK with this, actually.  I think such a development would help the Pac-10, giving us another BCS conference out west.  Mountain West teams currently fill slots on most of the Pac-10 school's non-conference slates, but for many Pac-10 schools, it's a rough proposition, because you get a tough opponent, but not the prestige for beating such opponents (because they're supposed to).  Conversely, losing to them hurts more because they're not a BCS school.  The Mountain West has consistently been the best of the non-BCS leagues, demonstrating time and time again that they can complete with the Big Boys, and were they garnered an automatic bid to the BCS, I'd imagine the league would get even better (sorta how the Cincy and South Florida got better once their teams had an easy path to the BCS).

Do they deserve one?  Maybe.  The top of the league is definitely there, but the bottom of the league falls off quicker than you might realize.  Sure, Utah and TCU were both in the Top 10 of Sagarin's rankings, and BYU isn't far off, but after that, well...Air Force doesn't crack Sagarin's Top 50, and the rest of the league (more than half!) ranks below 90 on his 'Predictor' scale, probably the best single measure of league strength.  Sure, 7-6 Colorado State won a bowl game, but remember how far off from the Bears they looked when they played Cal?  It wasn't close.  In fact, Sagarin would favor all of the following teams on a neutral field vs. the Rams:  UCLA, Temple, UTEP, Montana, Weber State, Cal Poly, and a host of others.

Compare this to the other power leagues:  The ACC had no great teams, true, but it had no really bad teams:  every one ranked between 19 and 63.  Yes, the Big East had two putrid teams (Louisville and Syracuse), but the other 6 teams (75% of the league) ranked in the top 50.  The Pac-10 had 70% of the league in the Top 50, and of the current BCS conferences, only the Big 10 failed to place 50% in the top 50 (however, even they had 5 in the top 50, and every team but Indiana rated higher than Colorado State, the Mountain West's "median" team).

Yes, the league looks good now, but in two of the last 4 years ('07 and '05) the Mountain West champ finished outside the Top 20.  Cal could only be so lucky to garner BCS consideration with such a flawed record.

And as to whether such a move would quash calls for the dismantling of the BCS?  No, of course not.  Don't be silly.  The only thing that could end the griping about the BCS would be the end of the BCS itself.  Or perhaps the Rapture.  That might do it.



So, there you go.  Those are our answers.  What are yours?

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And our CGB North vassal-slaves continue to bring the Pac-10 BakBaketball Power Rankings:

Washington 44
Arizona State 40
UCLA 36
Cal 28
USC 27
Washington State 17
Oregon State 14
Stanford 14
Arizona 5
Oregon 0


If we win today against UCLA, we will have defeated the 3 teams ahead of us.  Unlikely, but who knows?