Saturday, December 06, 2008

As is my habit, going on record before the game

There are, obviously, lots of people who do not agree with me (a) that OU should have been the Big XII South champion by virtue of "best overall performance in the OU/UT/Tech mini-round-robin," even though it's a tough call, (b) that had Austin Box not fallen in the closing minutes of the OSU game, OU would have hands-down earned the right to be ranked ahead of UT in the BCS polls (which, however, ought to have had nothing whatsoever to do with the Big XII South round-robin tiebreaker), and (c) that once Box went down OU fell from being the team I thought was the best in the country to a team that is now behind at least UT and Florida and possibly Alabama and perhaps even USC as well. But I think I at least ought to be immune from the canard that "if it was the other way around, all you OU fans would be talking about nothing but head-to-head." And the reason is that I have been, I would say, pretty clear and consistent all along in my expectations and arguments; whereas UT supporters are caught in a situation where all of the emotionally powerful arguments they would like to advance against OU, are undercut the moment they turn around to deal with Tech fans and are forced to start talking out of the other side of their mouths. I can make a case for UT that I think holds together with logical consistency; but only by inflating the importance of home field to a number that (a) I don't think anybody would actually bet on in real life, and (b) runs afoul of the stark difference between UT's squeaker in Austin against OSU and OU's convincing win in Stillwater. An OU fan can be accused of not believing his own arguments, but only by appeal to a hypothetical: in another year, if it were different, then you would talk out the other side of your mouth. But for the overwhelming majority of UT fans -- not all of them, and I continue to be impressed by the class shown by Finke and Gallop, and the intellectual consistency of Fiutak -- there's no hypothetical involved here: they do talk out of the other sides of their mouth. Put them in a room with an OU fan and they insist that their head-to-head arguments are unanswerable and that gross injustice has been done; let the OU fan walk out and the Tech fan walk in and the UT fan instantly starts arguing in direct contradiction to everything he just said to the OU fan. Is a Tech fan in the room? Then head-to-head doesn't matter; all that matters is that Tech got beaten by OU by 44 points. Is the other guy, instead, from OU? Then OU's 44-point beat-down of Tech is suddenly ruled out as a complete irrelevance; all that matters is that UT won the head-to-head matchup.

What dishonest, hypocritical proverbially sunless regions these people are.

I don't think you can accuse OU fans of that this year; you can accuse us (though not, I think, all that convincingly unless you start off with a guilty-until-proven-innocent mindset) of choosing the set of rules that favors us this year. But we apply those rules consistently, to UT, Tech, Florida, everything else: we say, "This is how we think it ought to work," and apply it to the entire conversation. The 45-35 crowd...well, they're just embarrassing themselves.

I, however, have a defense even against the accusation that I am choosing the set of rules that happen to favor us this year. And that defense is simply that I have picked my rules, consistently, before the outcomes were known -- and haven't changed the rules after the outcome.

First of all, I pointed to the extreme improbability of the best team's making it through the Big XII South without a loss here, before the OU/UT game, and said that OU was going to lose one of those games, and that it would "the game where they come out at something less than their best against a team that's almost as good as they are and they catch a couple of critical bad breaks." In the comments, Gallop pointed out that UT's schedule was even more brutal than OU's and that therefore you couldn't expect UT to come through unscathed; and obviously a similar point could have been made for Tech and OSU. Well, the bad break came in the UT game with Reynolds' injury -- and you will note two things.

(1) The absence of whining about the Reynolds injury in the weeks that followed.

(2) After the UT loss at Lubbock, but before the OU obliteration of Tech, I not only continued to believe that UT should be ranked ahead of OU, but I openly stated, to a UT fan, that if OU beat Tech but had to struggle to do it, I would still say that UT and Tech and OU should be 1-2-3 in that order because of the home field advantage. And I gave a number, in advance, that I thought would suffice to move OU ahead of UT, and that number was I think a number that very few people would have taken as a serious possibility: four touchdowns. Thus I established, before the Tech game, that in my own mind home field advantage should be taken into account and given significant weight, that on-the-field domination should also be taken into account, and that it would take no-further-questions domination to outweigh the home field advantage. And I adopted those rules when I don't think you could have found anybody who wouldn't have given me 10-1 odds against that kind of beatdown's taking place. You may disagree with the way I approach the issue; but you can't say I didn't decide in advance what I thought was fair, without trying to stack the deck in favor of my team.

Even after the Tech beatdown, I continued to say strongly, here and here, that I could understand a UT fan's believing that UT ought to stay ahead of OU. I did bring up the injury to Reynolds at that point -- but I also argued that it was primarily relevant to the BCS, who's-the-best-team-now question, and there mostly because it went to the question which of the two teams could be argued to have improved since that second half; I didn't appeal to that injury in setting out what I thought the Big XII South tiebreaker ought to be. We'll return to the injury question in a little bit because I would argue that the injury question is actually the best proof that I follow my arguments where they lead without regard to whether they achieve the desired partisan result; but more on that in a moment. Right now I direct your attention to the fact that, between the Tech and OSU games, I set out -- again in advance of the event -- more criteria to help settle the question. I said that I thought that an OU squeaker of a win in Stillwater would pull OU further ahead of UT in my mind, given the degree to which the deck was stacked against OU; that an OU loss, no matter how close, settled the question in Texas's favor beyond discussion, and that a three- or four-touchdown win would start getting me into territory where I would start losing patience with UT fans on the BCS question.

Now, OU won by twenty, which is pretty much three touchdowns -- and yet, as you can see here, I actually argued that the twenty points were deceptive because in watching the game I thought it had been much closer. So even though I could have claimed three touchdowns with only the tiniest of stretches, I instead said basically, "Ignore the twenty points; in my mind this game was in the 'squeaker' category." I don't think you can ask me to be fairer than that.

Except I didn't stop there. Remember my mentioning the Reynolds injury as evidence that OU was probably a much better team now that they were in the second half at Dallas? Well, in my most recent post-Stillwater post, I brought up the injury to Box -- and actually said (even though I still think OU earned its slot in the Big XII championship game by outplaying UT and Tech in the mini-round-robin) that on my BCS ballot I would now move UT back ahead of OU -- because OU had now been forced defensively right back to where they were in the second half at Dallas, and we know that UT is a better team than that OU team, by a wide margin.

And that's where I stand now: my ballot would be Alabama, UT, Florida, OU at this point. (With all due apologies to my friend Mike Burger, I just don't think USC deserves to be in the same discussion as those other four teams. Go find a real conference to play in, Mike, and then we can talk.)

So it's time to go on the record again.

Texas got Missouri in Austin, punched 'em in the mouth early, and Missouri folded -- pretty much just like the OU-Tech game (although Tech is a significantly better team than is Missouri). OU has Missouri on a neutral field, and our starting middle linebacker will step onto field having played a grand total of twenty snaps. We can hope that by the time the national championship arrives, OU will have reschemed and given him tons of reps, and therefore the team that goes to the bowl games will be slightly better than the team that plays tonight...but there's not that much time. If OU struggles with Missouri tonight, that will confirm in my mind that the Box injury on top of the Reynolds injury is just too much to overcome and that OU will go limping into New Years as a what-might-have-been team that will not put as good a product onto the field as we will see from Texas at the Fiesta Bowl. An OU win in which they struggle leaves them #3 on my BCS ballot, behind UT and Florida (if Florida beats 'Bama) or the Tide and the Horns (if 'Bama pulls the upset).

But if OU hangs another 60 on Missouri while controlling them on defense -- actually, if, in weather that does not conduce to high scoring, OU wins on the "neutral site" (conveniently located, of course, in Missouri) by three touchdowns (sticking with my previously proposed five-point home field adjustment) then I definitely move OU back up. If OU wins by two, tough call, but probably I give my nod to UT. Somewhere around 17 points is the tipping point for me, given that I think the defense will do some more Balogun-related adjustments between tomorrow and the final bowl game and will therefore improve slightly over the last couple of weeks of December.

And I'm sorry if I sound defensive. Please know that the UT fans I know and talk to have been no problem; it's the constant bleating from the "45-35-45-35-45-35...oh, wait, you're from Tech? I mean, 65-21-65-21-65-21..." openly and shamelessly dishonest crowd -- that bleating about how we OU fans would (gasp!) change our arguments if positions were reversed, from sheeple whose mouths (given their apparent conviction that what they say to OU fans using the right sides of said mouths won't be heard by the Tech fans to whom they're talking with the left sides and vice versa) would appear to be approximately as wide as the Mississippi -- it's that bleating that, frankly, enrages my temper and engages my contempt.

Oh, and by the way: Stoops is asked to call in and go a-politicking during the UT/A&M game, and firmly declines. Brown is given the chance to call in and go a-politicing during Bedlam, and absolutely soils himself in his excitement. Having lived in Austin for most of Mack's tenure, I had already accumulated a list with numerous reasons that I, if my sons were blue-chip football prospects rather than six-foot-one hundred-and-thirty-pounders, would much prefer for them to have their character shaped by Stoops rather than by Brown (though, to be fair, Brown would be infinitely preferable to, say, Saban or Tressel). That list is now one item longer. For God's sake, Mack, grow up, will ya?


At 6:00 PM, Blogger Butch said...

BTW, does anyone but me think that about the only thing that Joe Castiglione hasn't figured out yet is how to schedule an actual "neutral field" game. It's interesting to me to think to all the examples. Of course, OU-Texas always in Dallas, the 2003 Championship game against LSU in New Orleans, This Big 12 championship against Missouri in KCMO, and probably the BCS championship game against Florida in Miami, FLA.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Ken Pierce said...

I don't have that much problem with the Texas State Fair; the stadium is always half-and-half and, believe me, I've driven I-35 between Austin and Dallas and I've driven I-35 between Dallas and OKC and that's a huge advantage to the Okie fan. I-35 between Austin and the Metroplex is hell on wheels.

But, yes, it's a joke that the Big XII championship is on a "neutral" site this year and that the national championship is going to be on a "neutral" site with convenient shuttle service to the UF campus. I've always thought, by the way, that the Miami football program was consistently overrated because most of their national championship games were played on their home field, after seasons in which they were always careful never to schedule any games in sites where there was a remote danger of the temperature's falling below fifty degrees. Put the national championship game in Omaha every year and then tell me which school would win more titles, Nebraska or Miami...


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