Archive for August 19th, 2006

Flashback: Billy Ratliff forced Clint Stoerner’s fumble in 1998

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

GoVolsXtra.com has a nice trip down memory lane, interviewing former Vol Billy Ratliff about former Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner’s fumble, the play that saved the 1998 national championship season.

Folks, it wasn’t a fluke. Ratliff, after receiving a short pep talk from injured lineback Al Wilson, beat the offensive lineman who’d been beating him all night when it mattered most, knocking him backwards into Stoerner, who tripped and fumbled the ball. Ratliff recovered, and the Vol offense drove the field to take the lead and win the game.

Pre-season BlogPoll Roundtable: the Poll Position Edition

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

It’s the Pre-Season BlogPoll Roundtable, hosted by The House Rock Built! Call it the Poll Position Edition. Green flag!!!

1. What’s the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that’s offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter’s bad pick (hey, we’re all adults here, we can handle it).

As Mr. Numb Existence, I’ve been charged with evaluating Mr. Bold’s defense of his “wrongest ballot,” so I’m to answer the second question with another post. As far as a team that’s offensively over or underrated, I thought that because Mr. Numb Existence’s ballot best approximated the BlogPoller consensus, I’d stick with that theme and see what everybody else was saying. Keep in mind that this is, after all, the pre-season, and the hedges were high. Most bloggers qualified their answers, acknowledging that there was a lot of room for error. (NOTE: Peter at Burnt Orange Nation is apparently averse to hedges, as he tore into Virginia Tech and any blogger that voted them in the top ten without reservation. Okay, that’s a bit strong, but it was a gutsy, but pretty fair critique, I thought. Braves and Birds responded with what I thought was a decent defense. As you can see, I, unlike Peter, like hedges.)

Anyway, and this is sure to trigger a stiff rebuke from Peter aimed at the CFB blogosphere in general, a plurality of early returns (Off Tackle, TAMU and Baseball, Statistically Speaking, and CrossCyed) are saying that Texas is the most overrated team right now, although none are saying that they are “offensively overrated.” Go ahead and add me to the list, but note the ten-foot hedges on all sides. Vince Young is gone. Yes, I know that the team was good at just about every position, and that they could realistically be expecting to be as good or better at most every position this year. I’d bet, though, that they expect to be as good or better at QB. Having a legitimate dual-threat quarterback is like having an extra offensive player on the field. If the play worked, it worked. If it broke down, the QB could run and make something out of nothing. Having Young was like having two extra players on the field. If the called play worked, it worked. If it didn’t, Young ran. But Young did more than made something out of nothing. He made something great out of nothing. Young wasn’t your typical scrambling quarterback, he was more like a shifty, strong running back with wide receiver speed, so when he ran into a defense that had broken down, he was practically impossible to stop. Bottom line, the Horns will be playing with 11 really good football players on offense. But they no longer have 13.

So No. 2 might be a bit optimistic for Texas. Then again (here comes the hedge), Ohio State has a similar problem on defense, and I’m not sure that Auburn, Southern Cal, or Notre Dame are any better. Heck, I had them at No. 3, so what exactly am I trying to say? Um . . . more data in the form of games, please! Any objections?

My wild guess as to which team is closest to “offensively overrated?” Uh, let’s go with . . . Iowa.

2. What shold [sic] a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team’s schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

Well, the BlogPoll, of course, should be whatever the Lawgiver says it should be:

Teams should be ranked without regard to future schedules. Please don’t rank Purdue high because they miss Michigan and Ohio State this year. Teams should also not be ranked on their performance in previous years. At all times it should be an approximate ranking who would beat who on a neutral field this year.

I have to admit, though, that it was difficult for me to ignore the schedule. I mean, we really don’t know much about the teams to begin with beyond what they did last year and what they have returning, so why not add one more factor to the mix?

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Again, the early returns suggest that the teams getting the most buyer’s remorse among BlogPollers are California (Off Tackle, Dawg Sports, and The Card Report), Iowa (Burnt Orange Nation, Black Shoe Diaries, and Statistically Speaking), and Clemson (The College Game, The Cover Two, and Illini Report). I don’t really see any stretches in either the composite poll or my own, but I think there’s a danger of being really, really wrong on Tennessee. They could finish anywhere between 4-8 and 12-2. No. 20 was the safest middle ground.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

The two best lines I’ve seen so far on this topic come courtesy of Mountain Lair, who observed that “Humans hold grudges, and computers have no soul,” and Kyle at Dawg Sports, who, in a preemptive rebuttal to those who believe they have “the answer” to the currently “flawed” system, said, “As Dudley Moore found out in 10, fantasies are unblemished precisely because they are fantasies.”

True and true. It is precisely these “flaws,” however, that make college football so much fun. Everything is up for debate. It’s one game on one day followed by six days of discussion analyzing the last game and anticipating the next. Still, despite the enjoyment spawned by the “flaws,” there should be some degree of objectivity and some expectation that the best team will be crowned the champion when all is said and done. The answer is in diversifying your portfolio, so to speak. Put the decision into the hands of both the vengeful humans and the soul-less computers and enjoy every minute of discussing the flaws of such a system.

On the question of whether human pollsters should vote for who they think is best or on more objective criteria like wins and losses, I think it must necessarily change as the season progresses. In the pre-season, before there are any wins or losses, you have to just go on what you think. Early on in the season, subjectivity counts more, but as the more objective hard data comes in in the form of wins and losses, you can’t place what you think should have happened over what in fact did happen. If your team is beat in the national championship, your team is second best, regardless of what you think. Subjectivity can only gain sovereignty over actual results if those results end in a rock, paper, scissors scenario, such as Florida beating Tennessee, who beat Georgia, who beat Florida.

5. You’re Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to “Quantum Leap” back in time and change any single moment in your team’s history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school’s founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

November 6, 2004. With the clock winding down late in the first half and the team backed up in its own territory, the offensive coaching staff opted to call a pass play instead of simply running out the clock. Quarterback Erik Ainge, who was enjoying a fine freshman season, had to chase down an errant snap. Instead of simply falling on the ball for a loss, Ainge opted to pick it up and try to make something happen. What happened was that he was sacked and awkwardly landed on his throwing shoulder. Upperclassman Rick Clausen did well leading the team through the rest of the season while Ainge healed. The play resulted in that particular malady known as the Two QB System the following year, a tendency of Ainge to panic in the pocket (of which he does not yet appear to be healed), and The Season of Which We Do Not Speak.