Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More Anit-SEC Cluelessness

Once again, a sportswriter comes forth not to praise the SEC, but to bury it. The media just can't seem to get enough of such pieces, promising to deliver an argument that proves once and for all the SEC is just average this year, then embarrassing themselves by making an argument a child could defeat with little effort.

The latest is from Rick Bozich one of my hometown newspaper columnists for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Rick isn't a bad guy, and knows basketball pretty well. But when it comes to football, he is a little more ... challenged. And since a good bit of his audience is Louisville fans, he knows he has a built-in admiring audience whenever he deigns to smack down Kentucky or the SEC at the expense of Louisville or the Big East.

As has become the norm, Rick wants to point to the SEC's record against out of conference foes to prove his case. Quoth he:

Here is the mighty SEC's record in those 10 games against teams from other BCS leagues:

Five wins.

Five losses.


I don't have a math degree from Ole Miss, but I'd guess that would qualify as average. I wasn't on the debate team at Auburn, but I'm prepared to argue there isn't one great league this season. There are a number of very good leagues.

Well, Rick, math really has nothing to do with it, but debate ... well, let me just respectfully suggest that you wouldn't have made the second string of the debate team at Auburn. One of the first things you learn in debate are all about logical fallacies, and the one you have thrown out here is known as a deductive fallacy.

Let's look at the six "BCS" conferences -- ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, and Big East, at the time of Bozich's writing (before the week 10 games):

  1. Big 12 - 3-13 -- 3 BCS wins, 7 BCS losses with 4 losses against non BCS foes and 1 loss against FCS
  2. Big 10 - 8-8 -- 8 wins (4 against Notre Dame) 4 losses to BCS (one to Duke), 2 losses to non BCS and 2 losses to FCS.
  3. Pac 10 - 8-8 -- 8 Wins (1 against Notre Dame) 5 losses to BCS (one to ND), 3 losses to non BCS
  4. ACC - 6-12 -- 6 wins (2 wins against Notre Dame), 6 losses to BCS, 6 losses to non-BCS
  5. SEC - 5-5 -- 5 wins, 5 losses to BCS, no non-BCS or FCS losses.
  6. Big East - 7-8 -- 7 wins, 7 losses to BCS, 1 non-BCS loss

Disclaimer -- I may have made an error or two, I did this pretty fast. If anyone spots one, please let me know and I'll be glad to eat my words if the error changes my calculus, or strongly argues against my conclusions.

Every other conference other than the SEC has lost to Non-BCS foes. Four of the Big 10's OOC BCS wins have come against the incredibly weak Notre Dame, and one loss providing the only victory for Duke this year, plus 2 FCS losses.

The only conference that even has an argument, using this measure, is the Pac 10, which is 8-8, but 3 of its 8 losses come from non-BCS schools, one win and one loss against the aforementioned Notre Dame.

Of course, a disproportionate number of the bad losses come from the cellar-dwellers in the respective conferences. But notice that the SEC has virtually no "bad" losses (at least, for the purposes of this analysis). I also don't meant to imply that non-BCS losses are always bad -- the aren't -- but the tendency is for non-BCS teams to be a bit weaker overall than BCS teams, taken together. Of course, any conference that has losses to FCS teams deserves a bit of ridicule (I'm looking at you, Big 10 and Big 12).

I guess one could argue that the SEC benefited from a weaker out of conference schedule than the other BCS conferences, and they may have a point there -- the SEC played significantly fewer BCS games than any other conference, and no less than 10 SEC schools scheduled FCS opponents (83%). Compare that to 7 for the ACC (58%), 8 for the Big 10 (67%), 6 for the Big East (75%), 2 for the Pac 10 (20%) and 8 for the Big 12 (67%). However, that argument certainly won't help anybody but the Pac 10, since 2 conferences lost games against FCS opponents and the other two have losing records against OOC competition.

Bozich continues thus:

Would somebody please explain how 5-5 translates to seven spots in the top 24 when no other league has more than four? And a really solid league like the Pac-10 has three?

I know the answer: Because it's the mighty SEC, the league with the largest crowds, highest-ranked recruits, highest-paid coaches, the most laudatory TV coverage -- and, typically, the most schools on NCAA probation. Oops.

Let's leave aside his appeal to moral superiority and look at his main question, which is why does the SEC have seven top 25 teams, and the Pac 10 only have 3?

Well, who else from the Pac 10 would you put in there? There are only two other teams with a decent argument for inclusion: UCLA, who has provided 1-8 Notre Dame with its only victory, and lost to Utah (who lost to 2-7 UNLV) and Pac-10 cellar dweller Washington State? UCLA's best win is against Cal, the only other team that could be considered for inclusion. And what of Cal? They have lost 3 games in a row, sometimes called a "slump" -- a sure formula to get run out of the polls -- just ask South Carolina.

And the SEC? Well, no reasonable person could argue against the inclusion of LSU, Georgia, and Alabama -- they all have 2 or less losses and the worst loss among them is Alabama at Florida State. Auburn has been hot lately and played LSU to within an inch of victory at Death Valley, so they can't really get tossed. Florida would seem to be a bit overrated, but their worst loss has been to Auburn in the Swamp, and they have beaten 3 top 50 teams against UCLA's 2 -- can't see how anyone would prefer UCLA or Oregon State (who's best win has also been over Cal) over the Gators.

So that leaves South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, who seem to be swapping in and out on the fringes. There are maybe three or four teams among the other major conferences with an argument -- just not a very convincing one, apparently.

So, Mr. Bozich, it seems that your "deeper look" really wasn't all that deep after all. You make a lot of snarky comments, but when you get right down to it, a reasonable man can't find any conference better than the SEC. The best you can do is argue that the Pac 10 may be just as good. Is it a runaway? Not from the Pac 10, but I would argue nobody else is even within shouting distance.

I have a suggestion for you, Rick -- before you try this again, why don't you actually look a little deeper. And while you're at it, read this.


mlmintampa said...

After Auburn lost a chance to play for the National Championship, SEC fans, perhaps unconsciously, have been beating their chests saying how good the league is. Good to see we got in Bozich's head. Maybe if he had gotten a journalism degree from Florida or Georgia, he would be a better writer.
By the way, didn't he go to Indiana?

BestofSEC said...

I think he did go to IU, but I'm not really sure.

He's not all that bad, just a bit of a Louisville (and hence, Big East) homer. You get used to it.

The SEC is good, arguably better than any other league, but ultimately it doesn't make all that much difference except in the BCS, where better leagues are punished.

Right now, the biggest BCS titty baby is the Big Ten.