Archive for October 17th, 2005

The BCS Race to the Rose Bowl (with Logos!): Week Seven

Monday, October 17th, 2005

The season’s first Bowl Championship Series rankings are out, so my weekly Race to the Rose Bowl will now be based on the BCS rankings instead of on the Coaches’ Poll.

Here’s how the first BCS top ten shapes up:

Newcomers UCLA and Texas Tech find themselves in the top ten with 6-0 records, while Florida State dropped after a loss to Virginia.

Notre Dame dropped and starts the BCS race at No. 16, which I think is way too low. How often do you lose a game by making a Heisman Trophy winner fumble the ball?

And while I’m on that topic, while USC deserved to win that game because they made big play after big play every time they needed to, Notre Dame also deserved to win because they executed an ingenious game plan almost to perfection and only lost because of a couple of bad breaks at the very end. Had Matt Leinart not fumbled the ball on the second to last play of the game, the clock would have run out and the Fighting Irish would have won. Had the officials spotted the ball on the three yard line (where the ball went out of bounds) instead of the one yard line (where Leinart landed), the game would certainly have been different is some way. And had USC tailback Reggie Bush not pushed (I heard someone say that that’s not even legal, but I don’t know) a back-peddling-for-a-second-chance Leinart into the end zone, the Irish would have won.

Notre Dame has lost two games: one they would have won had they not had three breaks go against them, and one in overtime to a good Michigan State team. They deserve to be ranked higher than No. 16.

This slight tangentially affects the Tennessee Volunteers, who need to play (and beat) as many good teams as they can in order to improve their standing. The Vols start the BCS race at No. 19, and highlights of their resume to this point include:

  • a loss at Florida when the Gators were ranked No. 7 (now ranked No. 20);
  • a big win at LSU when the Tigers were ranked No. 4. (now No. 5); and
  • a loss to Georgia when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 4 (still No. 4).

Tennessee is scheduled to play No. 5 Alabama this Saturday and a should-be-in-the-top-ten Notre Dame team two weeks after that. In between those two big games, they host Steve Spurrier and South Carolina.

See the Race to the Rose Bowl from the beginning:

Fickle Volunteer Fans Hurting Themselves

Monday, October 17th, 2005

In his most recent column on GoVolsXtra (subscription required), Dave Hooker pointed out that losing a big game at home during a recruit’s official visit isn’t that big of a deal. The coaches can sell the Volunteer football program to a recruit after a big win by stressing the opportunity to play for a great team, and the coaches can sell the program after a loss by emphasizing to the recruit that the team needs him.

It is often reported that recruits are awed by the size of Neyland Stadium and the fact that it is almost always filled to capacity with enthusiastic, orange-clad fans. That’s one of the biggest reasons the Tennessee football program is tough for a recruit to resist.

But what happens when a visiting recruit looks up into those grand stands and sees the place peppered with empty seats? What happens when those in attendance are less than enthusiastic or worse, booing the home team? Such sights and sounds turn off recruits (or tip the scales to a competing university) and thereby make it much more difficult to lure blue-chippers to Knoxville.

There are apparently a lot of recruits taking their official visits to the University of Tennessee over the second half of the football season. Hooker observes that the two biggest games remaining on UT’s schedule — Alabama and Notre Dame — are away games. The only home games remaining for recruits to attend are South Carolina, Memphis, and Vanderbilt.

How will the home crowd respond if the Vols lose to either or both of Alabama and Notre Dame? If most fans choose to simply enjoy the game day atmosphere in Knoxville and Neyland Stadium, recruits will still be impressed.

But many purported Volunteer fans seem to be extraordinarily fickle and only enjoy the game day atmosphere if Tennessee wins. For this reason, another loss or two this season will likely result in sparse and restless home crowds that turn off visiting recruits.

Fans are largely responsible for the team’s recruiting successes or failures. Fickle fans are bad for the team and by their behavior and response to losses, they deprive themselves of the very thing they desire.