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On Ball State Football, CFB Playoffs, and Clemson Punters

OTP Rucks ReactionWell, hello there, friend. How are you? Enjoying your pre-holiday festivities? That’s delightful. Yes, it’s been a while but that isn’t without reason. Frankly, this football season left a quite sour taste in my mouth, and it’s hard to be my usual beacon of positivity and Card-riffic fanfare when you are oscillating somewhere between a murderous rage and general befuddlement about how and why this season went so off the rails. I’ll be the first to admit that my preseason prediction with Jason on the OTPcast of 10-2 was being my usual extremely optimistic self, but not even in my most negative thoughts did I see 3-9 as a real possibility. I would have bet darn near anything I had that at worst the Cards were 5-7 and even then I’d feel like it was a sucker bet for whomever was on the other end of the wager.

So now I, like most Cards fans, sit and grumble about the 2015 campaign as the gap between the Cardinals and the upper echelon of the MAC continues to widen. For whatever reason, the Cards just can’t seem to crest the hill. Conference brethren BG, NIU, and to some extent others seem to be able to consistently win. Wins that come regardless of personnel, coaches, and details. Year in, year out, W after W. That hasn’t been Ball State in the past, isn’t Ball State now, and frankly, may never be Ball State, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.

Speaking of coaches, no news out of the nest on coaching shake ups, additions, or reorganizing. Admittedly, it has only been a week or so since the Cards’ last game, but I would be shocked if there wasn’t a shake up of some sort on the coaching staff. If there isn’t, there’s your sign that Coach Pete Lembo (CPL) has decided it’s ride or die with the group he has, and while noble and loyal, may be the decision that years from now people point back to as the tipping point of when things really went south.

The key thing now is holding a recruiting class together and somehow figuring out how to cobble together an offseason that will set this group who remains up for success in 2016. The excuses this year were ready-made in a tough schedule, two relatively new coordinators, so on and so on. But with each year that passes, the excuses get smaller and smaller. 2016 is a critical year for this program, this staff, these players, and this fanbase. A successful season means 2015 was a blip on the radar and the prior years when everyone was ready to sell off Letterman memorabilia to raise money to keep CPL is the norm. A season that doesn’t meet expectations says that mediocrity may very well be the new norm. Another disaster like this season and I don’t even want to think what that’s going to look like. The Cards’ fanbase is small but mighty, and when it’s angry mobbin’ time, we do it with the best of them.

Regardless of the outcomes, it’s going to be a fall not to miss.

The Playoff
Well, whoopy-ti-do we got ourselves a final four! Fans of Clemson (more on them later), Alabama, Michigan State, and Oklahoma can now lord their playoff appearance over their non-playoff-participating-friends. Is this group the four best teams? Eh. Cases could be made for probably three or four others (Stanford the most notable) but on the whole, I’d say those four  are just as qualified as any other. My gut says the final will be Oklahoma-Alabama, but Michigan State has seemed like a team of destiny most of the year. Hard to pick against the Sabanbot though.

Dabo Screams at a Punter, the World Explodes
In case you didn’t see the ACC Championship game on Saturday, you missed Clemson’s punter deciding to fake a punt. The aftermath…

Right on cue and predictably so, the world seemed to explode immediately with an undercurrent of “Dabo is so mean!” or “How can he treat a player like that?!”, all of which makes me weep for our society if that’s what we’ve come to. Andy Teasdall, though I’m sure a delightful human being and great punter, decided to freelance a play in a championship game where his teammates and coaches were counting on people playing as one. That’s not championship football, it’s not a winner’s attitude, and it’s selfish. That, in my mind, isn’t up for debate. The outcry is what is most unnerving and makes me wonder if this is more placation for the fragile snowflakes today’s youths. Did the punter’s feelings get hurt? Too bad. Don’t be a selfish asshole and life dramatically improves for you. Best you learn that now, Princess.

The amount of coddling and insulation from failure or critique for students of today is one of the biggest cancers in higher education. It is a breeding ground of students that are neither equipped to handle failure nor capable of solving their own problems. We are doing a disservice to students when we don’t prepare them for the world, a world that on the whole is a cold, heartless, and cruel place that cares approximately dick about your feelings. Don’t like your place in the world? Change it. Don’t like how you get treated? Address it. Don’t be bitter, be better. And don’t blame the people who are trying to make that so.

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Coaches Poll Contemplates Doing Exact Opposite of Sensible

Disclaimer… This is not another BCS rant. That lifeboat in the blogosphere, the S.S. Hate, long set sail from this port. OTP is against the “playoff” conversations, because it’s just another half assed attempt to fix an unfixable inherently flawed situation. Ranting about the BCS is ridiculous, a waste of time and keystrokes, and is akin to bitching about the clouds. Complain all you want, it isn’t going anywhere.

However, the components of that BCS are at bare minimum open for discussion, especially given what’s at stake beyond a berth in the national title game. When Texas loses out on an opportunity to play for the Big 12, because computers and polls rank a team with an equal record, who Texas beat, ahead of the Longhorns, someone, somewhere has to look at how those numbers are computed. If staying within the current system is a given, and to me, it is, then the only viable solution is to ensure as much transparency, accountability, and reasonable thought/logic goes into the various components of said less-than-ideal current situation.

What doesn’t even remotely compute within this conversation is the proposed shift in the Coaches Poll. The poll itself has undergone myriad changes over it’s 59 year life span to get to its current spot in the football universe. The identities of those voting is not a secret, their votes are (with the exception of the final regular season ballot), and the participating coaches are required to put the BCS Championship Game winner #1 in their final ballot of the year.

On the table for the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), based upon a recommendation from Gallup, is a total shroud of mystery draped over the entire thing. Identities would be concealed, votes remain secret, and transparency would go from its current “sort of” to a marked “absolutely none”. How can this be good for the sport? The simple answer is that it cannot.

The Coach’s Poll, in and of itself, is a bit ridiculous to me. For one, you are asking a group of professionals who are totally focused only on their own team and their opponents in one week bursts to evaluate the play and performance of 119 others over the course of an entire season. That’s asking a lot, unless you want them to pawn it off to an SID or an intern, which I wouldn’t be surprised to see happen far more often than not.

Second, you’re asking coaches to be non-biased. A great theory, but nearly impossible, given that these polls play into the BCS rankings, and therefore BCS selections, and therefore BCS paydays which are split amongst fellow conference schools. If I’m a head coach who can let my school potentially have another million bucks for voting conference mates ahead of others, you can bet your ass I’ll do it. Anyone would. It’s human nature.

So for the coaches poll to have any “credibility” to begin with, we, as fans, are asked to assume that coaches will be informed, participatory, and non-biased. And the only way to ensure that’s happening is to ensure that the public can see exactly how these non-biased informed voters are voting. More transparency is the answer. More mystery, more cloak and dagger, more smoke and mirrors does nothing. It only serves as yet another way for the major conference powers to be territorial, possessive, and discriminatory while playing in their BCS sandbox.

But perhaps what is most troubling, and this to me is the crux of the argument against these proposed changes, is that this is just another little roadblock thrown up to prevent fans from getting too close. Watch, but not too close. Support, but not too close. Come, but not too close. Because when it all boils down to it, athletics in general, and specifically college football, it’s the haves and the have nots. And this, like most decisions made, show all of us fans exactly where we are and where we’re expected to stay.

4 More Days to Complain About the BCS

3 more games is all that stands between all of us and a cold and bitter winter/spring of no football. What this means, of course, is that time will have to be spent working, or entertaining family and friends, but I’ve got approximately 86 hours until I have to acknowledge that I’ve let some things slip over the course of the last 4 months. As far as I know I am still gainfully employed, maintaining a semblance of a normal relationship, and my ass hasn’t merged itself with the sofa yet, so this break may in fact be coming at a semi-decent time. Though with the recent purchase of Rock Band 2, I make no promises that assmerging will not, in fact, occur.

Tonight, however, we cherish one-third of our remaining games as Texas does battle with Ohio State. We use the term “do battle” loosely, if Ohio State’s recent performances in any game of a worthwhile nature is an indicator of what is about to happen in the Arizona desert. The Buckeye Band may play “Hang on Sloopy” but only because there isn’t a song created entitled “Dear Sweet Jesus Please Make the Men in Burnt Orange Stop Ripping Our Anuses Apart With Their Football Excellence”.

What this wind down also means is that on Friday morning, after the dust and coke have cleared from South Florida, we will have one fan base claiming to be national champions and at least 2 more totally and utterly flamingly pissed off.

As Orson at EDSBS points out, and we agree with, Utah has staked a viable claim to a portion of the national title with this little nugget-O-truth:

Award Utah a fourth of the national title. This is not 2004 Utah, a team that turned a fluffy schedule and a victory over a palsied Pitt team into an undefeated season. Utah beat 5 ranked teams and embarrassed the SEC West champion. They did not lose a game this season. They had a defense that dealt out harm to all they faced and boasted one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the nation. They beat people with spread-option tactics executed with wishbone brutality.

If you want more from a team, you’re either unreasonable, a total flaming asshole, or both. In lieu of a playoff, we have to resort to fractions, and to be fair: one fraction is just as good as another.

To be fair, Texas can lay their claim to another 1/4 (arbitrary) of the title should foot meet ass as I expect tonight in the Fiesta Bowl. And God help us all if Oklahoma should muster the sheer luck to beat Florida on Thursday. It is then, and only then, really, that Texas fans have a legitimate bitch with their lot in the whole football universe this season.

Head to head matchup results sound good and they fire up the fanbases. I will give you that it makes a much stronger argument than “Roll Tide, faggot!” or something else wittily crafted in the dark corners of the typical football fan’s soul, but in all reality, all those arguments are equally worthless. Should Texas have played for the Big 12 title? Probably. But they didn’t, and that really sucks, and that’s too bad for Texas. Yes, I know they beat Oklahoma. Kentucky beat LSU in 2007, but no Kentucky fan was claiming a part of that title.

Football, much like life, is unfair at its most basic core principle. You’ll hear people moan and groan about the BCS system and insist that a playoff is “more fair”. Of course, this is completely untrue, as a playoff, by sheer nature, is unfair. Is it “fair” that a team can have one poor game and not win the title? What if, given the 2008 situation, a team like BYU, ranked 16th in the last BCS standings at 10-3 had 4 good games and won a title? Is that fair? I can promise you that the resounding sentiment from the 15 schools above them in the standings would be a loud “Fuck no.”

So that leaves us with the choice of one shitty system (the current BCS situation) or changing gears to another shitty system (a playoff). For the teams that get screwed under the current system, there’s an easy fix… don’t lose. For fans, the media, or the blogosphere to sit back and bemoan the lack of inherent fairness in the BCS system is total buffoonery. It was never designed to be fair. It was designed as an imperfect fix to a situation that no perfect fix exists for. College football, by design, is subjective. And that, the fundamental nature of the sport we love, is the reason that a playoff is no better.

Complaining about the BCS not being fair is akin to bitching when the rainstorm outside didn’t litter your front yard with gumdrops and half naked strippers. Why? Because that isn’t what rainstorms are intended for. They bring rain. And your option is to accept that fact and move along without bitching about things totally outside your locus of control or you can stand on the lawn with your brass poles and your nipple pastys and hope things change. As for me? I’ll take my BCS rainstorm and just thank whatever deity resides above me that I have this wonderful crazy obsessive sport to complain about in the first place.