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Pundit Roundup is Getting Into Football Shape

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This is normally going to run on Tuesdays, but PB's out of pocket today so it's coming a day early.  Highlights this week:  I rip apart a Kirk Bohls column; we play "Hey, you know who sucks?"; I praise Bruce Feldman for being good at his job; we check in on the Undulating Curve of Media Hype; Serial Bohls; video!; Twitter Tracker; and more!  

Also, how about that damn banner right there?  That's just beautiful.  Thanks to my talented sister for putting that together.  She's a pro.  Onward!

Much has been made about the dying industry that is print media.  Papers are going bankrupt, bureaus are closing, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News merged their sports departments, and on and on.  I don't have much to add to the narrative there, but I will say that, in my opinion, the death of the sports print media is due less to the failure of newspapers to embrace the online avenues of transmitting information, and more to their failure to adapt to the types of information and analysis that fans now want and expect. 


Orson Swindle: "I think I found Tim Tebows Heisman Campaign advertisement:"

For instance, the New York Times' (now-defunct) Play Magazine contained some of the greatest sportswriting of the past 10 years.  If it had been available only in print by subscription, I would have bought it (FYI: it was available for free online and as a supplement to the Sunday paper, which is why it's now defunct).  It contained long-form storytelling by phenomenal authors that you just can't find anywhere else anymore.  On the other side of the coin, you can put as much bland information and trite analysis online in a blog as you want, but I'm not going to read that (see, e.g., the always mind-numbing Bleacher Report).  It's the information itself that matters, not the mode of transmitting that information. There's always going to be a market for information or analysis you can't get anywhere else.  And as portals for that type of information and analysis continually emerge (on sites such as BON), the market for 800 word twice-weekly columns that are poorly written and don't say anything new is, not surprisingly, becoming further and further restricted.  Which brings us to Krik Bohls. 

Now, I'm sure Kirk Bohls is a nice man who loves his job.  And it's not my place to say that he should not have this job.  If the Statesman wants to pay him to do whatever it is that he does all week, then more power to Kirk.  He's living the dream.  But for the love of college football, I just don't understand how anyone could read this article and not think that they just wasted 5 minutes of their lives.  Let's take a look at the entire thing, Fire Joe Morgan-style, shall we?  Bohls' column is reproduced in its entirety in the blockquotes.

To absolutely no one's surprise, Florida and Texas were pegged as the top two college football teams in the nation by Associated Press pollsters.

To the surprise of some, it says here that those teams that are ranked 12th or lower might as well concede the national title.

This is one of my pet peeves that Bohls continually flaunts: "I have an opinion and therefore I will write it as thought it were fact.  This establishes my credibility among people who are stupid.  Luckily, anyone who reads my column in search of actual information probably fits this description.  It's the circle of stupidity, huzzah!"

Take heart, Longhorn fans. You, too, Tebow-lovers.

Of the last five national champions, three were ranked first or second in the preseason AP poll. Six of the 10 teams to play in the title game were among the original top two teams. Nice precedent.

So what you're saying is, 60% of the time, it works every time?

That's great news if you live in Austin or Gainesville, not so much if you get your mail in Utah or Idaho.

Now those teams outside the top 12 have tons to play for. They've got bowl watches and potential dates with the head cheerleaders and stuff to tweet at halftime.

Classic Kirk Bohls humor right there.

But let's face it. The National Championship Club is a closed shop. It remains an exclusive fraternity reserved for the top quarter of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences. No team ranked lower than preseason No. 11 Ohio State has played in the title game since 2003. The second-lowest ranked team to get there was No. 7 Florida in 2006.

So Iowa State need not apply. Mississippi State fans should worry more about that homecoming float than the BCS. Stanford, be proud of that graduation rate. Cincinnati, be glad you've got a wide receiver on the Biletnikoff watch list.

So teams that are supposed to be good are usually the ones that make the national championship game, and teams that aren't supposed to be good are the ones that don't make the national championship game?  Analysis! Followed by a patented Bohls-ism in the second paragraph!  Kirk, I appreciate that you have a "style" (insofar as cutesy folkisms masquerading as wit constitutes a "style"), but maybe mix it up a bit?  Try to write something that doesn't rely on utter hackery?

For those programs outside the BCS, you've got no shot. You know it, I know it and the 37-plus million who attended Division I-A games last season know it. Iranian elections are more inclusive.

Topical!  He probably thought to himself, "That'll prove to those smart-asses on the internet that I'm intelligent AND funny...."  Yeah, you're a regular Dennis Miller, Kirk.  No seriously, I mean it.  You two complement each other famously.  So congrats on that.

But enough bemoaning the system. Just who is going to be caressing that crystal trophy on Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl?

It will be one of the top eight teams in the AP poll, if recent history is any indication.

Hmm, I wonder what data Kirk is relying on to make this statement.  Surely he'll explain himself in the next few paragraphs.

An examination of the last five years also revealed that running the ball is more important than passing it. Not a single champion ranked in that season's top 25 of passing teams, but four ranked among the top 13 rushing teams.

Oh no?  You're not going to explain that at all?  You're just going to make a stilted segue to something completely unrelated?  Fair enough.  You only have 800 words or so anyway.  And really, who would ever want to read more than 800 words on a subject that they care deeply about?  Anyway, as for these paragraphs, the reason that national championship teams rank higher in rushing than passing is that they are very good and therefore they blow a lot of teams out and therefore they run the ball a lot trying to run out the clock in the second half.  But again, you only have 800 words.  Why delve into anything beyond the superficial?

You want to win, you'd better play D. Four champions were rated among the nation's 20 best offenses, but all five had a defense in the top 10.

So what you're saying is that national championship teams very often have very good offenses and very good defenses?  Insight!

It should come as comforting news to the Longhorns to learn that not a single national champion in our study had a running back average more than 100 yards a game.

Committees do work, but they work better if your committee members are LenDale White and Reggie Bush, or Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps. Even a backfield of Vince Young, Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles will do.

Of course, an elite tailback won't hurt. Three of the five national runners-up had decent backs named Adrian Peterson, Beanie Wells and a two-headed monster of White and Bush.

So the conclusion here is that pretty much anything works?  So none of what you just said matters?  Fantastic.  Luckily, I've already forgotten it.

It's not bad to have a Heisman winner or contender. Those five championship games featured five trophy winners in Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Troy Smith and Bush, as well as one fairly famous runner-up.

Having good players is a good thing!

If you start out high and keep winning, you're golden. But remember that only two of the five champions were unbeaten before the title game. To even reach that game, five of the 10 had lost a game or two. LSU had two defeats in 2007.

Winning all your games is good, but not winning all of them is okay too!

Texas shouldn't have big concerns there early because it doesn't play anybody in non-conference.

When I asked Mack Brown if he worried about getting squeezed out of the BCS hierarchy because of weak intersectional opponents, such as Louisiana-Monroe and Texas-El Paso, the Texas coach said, "I've got so many things that are real to worry about. I sure don't worry about what I can't control."

That said, Texas should have worried about this a long time ago and scheduled an opponent more formidable than Wyoming. All five of the last national champions played at least one tough non-conference team to test them.

LSU and USC both beat Virginia Tech en route to titles in 2007 and 2004. Texas survived Ohio State in 2005. Florida's never overdone it, but it does have Florida State annually and still won twice.

For the love of God, Bohls, you seriously should have had a point this this series of paragraphs.  There's really something there!  Your point should have been that because Texas isn't playing a tough non-conference schedule, one loss may in fact doom them.  But no.  You dance around any real helpful analysis and instead just go off on a tangent about how hard scheduling is good.  Glad you're here, buddy.

As a warning, neither Georgia nor Ohio State reached last year's finale despite starting out ranked first and second. But Georgia got everybody but Uga VII hurt in preseason. And Ohio State's season was sidetracked by Wells' injuries, as well as the decision to start freshman Terrelle Pryor by mid-September.

True, Texas has already had its share of tight end injuries, but I'm guessing Colt McCoy's job is safe. As is its very legitimate chance at reaching Pasadena.

So basically, everything he just said is relevant, except when it isn't.

August 27, 2009: Kirk Bohls is Apple Dapples
("I love Roger Sterling. He drinks all day and never seems to do any work.")  [well, that's apropos...]

Bohls really could have had a point here by talking about why teams with high preseason rankings usually make the national championship game and why teams with certain styles of play win championships.  But he didn't.  He half-assed a column by looking up the preseason rankings and total offense/defense stats of the last few national champions and then making not one single point that would tell you anything about what those rankings and stats mean.

We're at a point with the inundation of information about sports now that everyone can have an informed opinion and there is no such thing anymore as an authoritative voice on high in the form of a newspaper columnist.  The only way to gain the trust of your readership as someone who is worth reading is to provide them with some combination of novel information, a unique perspective on the topic at hand, and excellent writing.  That's why not all blogs are worth reading and plenty of mainstream writers are.

Hey, You Know Who Sucks?

Skip Bayless. Did you know his brother is world-class chef and Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless, who appears on TV to be the nicest and most gracious human being ever? Go figure.

For instance, Bruce Feldman at ESPN is indispensable for his reporting abilities and his levelheaded perspective on college football.  He has access to people and places that sites like BON simply don't have access to yet due to his mainstream affiliation, and he offers up unique information about college football that simply isn't skewed by the media-entertainment complex that is ESPN.  For instance, he recently conducted a phenomenal interview ($) with Colt McCoy (in which they talked about *gasp* football) and instead of writing a sappy article about it furthering established storylines and ESPN talking points, he reproduced the entire interview in full, verbatim.  Is that something you might be interested in? Of course it is......jc25 even posted a Fan Shot about it a couple of days ago.  More of this please, ESPN!

Speaking of Bruce Feldman, he recently took a little tour around some Texas schools and spent some time with Will Muschamp and had this to say about the meeting:

On Day 2 of my Texas tour, I had a chance to visit with Colt McCoy, Mack Brown and some of the Texas staff, including my new favorite coach, Will Muschamp. At the end of our talk I noticed a copy of "Meat Market" on Muschamp's shelf. In the back of my mind, I starting to think, "Man, those Longhorns PR guys are really, really good." Anyhow, off to craft a story pitch to get Muschamp on the cover of the magazine.

Even beyond the football benefits that Muschamp brings to the Longhorms, the media absolutely adores him.  He's much more in the Bob Stoops mold of a coach in terms of his relationship with the media.  Rightly or wrongly, the media generally views Mack Brown as a genial manager of a football program and guys like Stoops and Muschamp as "real football men" (whatever that means).  I don't think it's necessarily fair, but you can't argue that the Muschamp hiring is reaping rewards off the field as well as on.


Hey, you know the only thing that's worse than Lou Holtz on ESPN making a stupid prediction about Notre Dame making it to the national championship game? Some idiot on a blog trying to make fun of him, failing, and then making himself look stupid by actually agreeing with Holtz. Here's to you, Dashiell Bennett. The man who single-handedly drives away Deadspin's target audience with his witless snark and shallow understanding of even the simplest of sports concepts. I hope Lou and you are very happy together.  Oh, and Beano Cook wants in too?  Out-standing.


And finally, without further ado but with apologies to Adam Sternbergh and New York Magazine, here's the Undulating Curve of Media Hype.  Remember that if you can't read it well, click on the graphic and it'll open full-size.  Until next week!