9/28/2008

week 5 rankings

Well, a ranker this week of college football gets to do pretty much whatever they want after this past week.

So here's what I did. I've got 11 undefeated teams that I think have legitimate shots at their conference championships. Then I put 9 teams that are all good, but have already lost a game. Then I've got 5 teams I'm not sure what to do with. They're a combined 20-1, but when you look into the conference schedules, it's hard to see them maintaining that pace.

However, if they do, I'm certainly willing to jump them up the rankings. And for the ones that lose, I'm thinking teams like Boise State, Fresno State, and Florida State are primed to take their place.

1 B-12 Oklahoma
2 SEC LSU
3 B-12 Missouri
4 SEC Alabama
5 B-12 Texas
6 B-Ten Penn State
7 B-E South Florida
8 B-12 Texas Tech
9 MW BYU
10 MW Utah
11 B-E Connecticut
12 SEC Florida
13 SEC Georgia
14 ACC Virginia Tech
15 B-Ten Wisconsin
16 B-12 Kansas
17 P-10 USC
18 B-Ten Ohio State
19 ACC Wake Forest
20 P-10 Oregon
21 B-12 Oklahoma State
22 B-Ten Northwestern
23 SEC Kentucky
24 SEC Vanderbilt
25 SEC Auburn

And on a different note, is it possible that the Royals aren't even the worst pro team in Kansas City, let alone the AL Central? The Royals finally seemed to have decided they don't like being in the bottom third of the league, and they've now won more games than the season before for three consecutive years. Hmm, they tease us...

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9/25/2008

update: it worked

(P) Senator Bond's office didn't even answer the phone this morning! But guess what, his voice mailbox is now full.

Now hopefully our fearless leaders know how to listen to those messages.

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9/23/2008

call senator bond

(P) So I tried to do my part and give my members of Congress my opinion on the bailout package.

It turns out quite a few other people have also been doing so. The voice mail boxes for Senator McCaskill and Representative Clay are full!

Interestingly, I was able to leave a message for Senator Bond. So either our senior Senator gets a fancier vm system, or apparently more Democrats are upset than Republicans.

In either case, call Senator Bond. Let's see if we can fill up his mailbox, too!

(202) 224-5721

And if you have his more, uh, personal numbers, make sure he gets messages about how we feel on those, too. This is a classic case where people of all stripes understand the basic concept; outrage is a nonpartisan reaction. A guy who made $700 million at Goldman Sachs is trying to steal hundreds of billions of dollars from us to give to his buddies.

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9/20/2008

competition is good

The more you look at college football this year, the more you realize things are very competitive. I like that, although the SEC prognosticators are of course a little slow to catch on. There are certainly some individual players and teams that have separated themselves. If you took the top ten or so teams and did home and away matchups against anybody else, they'd probably win about 17 of the 20 games.

But increasingly so, the next grouping of teams keeps getting larger. So to backup my angst when I hear some ex-Georgia or Florida commentator talking about how obviously the SEC is the best conference in the country, I thought I'd break down exactly what that means. And the result is that you just can't reach any such conclusions. The conferences aren't meant to play each other; the vast majority of games played are within the conference, so there are few data points to consider. There's also the debate about how much you look at what has actually happened during the season, and how much you predict what will happen in the future. And finally, how much weight do you give to playing good opponents, and how much goes to not losing? What's better, going 4-2, or going 6-4? Is it better for a conference to be relatively even, or for there to be a large difference between its top teams and the bottom ones?

So I looked at matchups that have happened so far among the six major conferences plus the Mountain West, Notre Dame, ECU, Boise State, and Fresno State. Does anything stand out?

For one thing, there just aren't that many marquee matchups. I count only four 'big' games through four weeks: Missouri-Illinois, USC-Ohio State, Alabama-Clemson, and Kansas-South Florida. That's simply not enough information to make conclusions about conferences as a whole, although it is interesting that each of the six BCS conferences is represented in these pairings at least once. Georgia-ASU could have been big, but the non-USC Pac 10 is just terrible, and I'm willing to go back and make Wisconsin-Fresno State a big game at the end of the season if Fresno State wins out, but I'm not sold on that happening.

Another way to look at it is the total number of games played against each other. That's a little misleading since there are different numbers of teams in the conferences. But you know what's really interesting here? The SEC, with 12 teams, has played by far the fewest games against fellow BCS+ folks, even less than the much-maligned Big East which only has eight teams. Now, it should be pointed out that the SEC begins conference play earlier than others, so there has been less opportunity to play non-conference foes. But it really jumps out at you when you analyze it. The SEC just doesn't play much non-conference competition; they're the only one of these seven conferences to have played fewer than 10 teams from the other six conferences.

So having said that, here are my conference power rankings followed by my individual team rankings.

1) Big 12
Marquee wins: Illinois, West Virginia
2) SEC
Marquee wins: Clemson
3) Big 10
Marquee wins: none
4) ACC
Marquee wins: none
5) Big East
Marquee wins: Kansas
6) Mountain West
Marquee wins: none
7) Pac 10
Marquee wins: Ohio State

1) USC
2) Oklahoma
3) Georgia
4) Missouri
5) Florida
6) Texas
7) Alabama
8) Wisconsin
9) LSU
10) South Florida
11) Texas Tech
12) Penn State
13) BYU
14 Utah
15) Wake Forest
16) Illinois
17) Ohio State
18) Kansas
19) Auburn
20) Oregon
21) East Carolina
22) Virginia Tech
23) Clemson
24) Connecticut
25) Oklahoma State

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9/19/2008

what's the point of two parties?

(PR) This is definitely both a political post and a rant. I've been good about separating those two, but lately, things are just insane.

I wish I could say that what is transpiring this week is absolutely unbelievable. But really, it's not.

The GOP will use the power of government to help rich friends when they need it ('begrudgingly', of course--they really, truly, deeply believe in the power of markets and the evil of government all the time except for this one horrific case). The Democrats will be split between the rank and file being screwed and the leadership selling them out, whether actively or passively.

And voila. We have terrible public policy backed by a narrative spewed by both Republican and Democratic leaders that has no basis in reality, a narrative that actually damages understanding of the problem and makes it more difficult to deal with the real issues. The problem is not credit. It's not liquidity. We don't need to rescue the gamblers. We need to value work in our economy. You want to make assets worth something? Give money to people who don't have any. We've already spent about $900 billion on various corporate giveaways. With this new fangled idea of having the government buy assets that companies can't sell, the tab appears to go much higher. You know what we could do instead? Spend that money on investments that will earn a return, like infrastructure, light rail, schools, and healthcare. Or give it to people who didn't get filthy rich the past 30 years. A trillion dollars split among 100 million American families is $10,000. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! That would make a real impact in the real economy, not a paper difference for companies that purposefully took on risk they shouldn't have, expecting to dump the problem on the taxpayer when things turned sour.

When corporations and CEOs need bailouts, 'time is of the essence' and the President and Congress can get stuff done in a matter of days. But when our soldiers are dying in Iraq, or people are losing their homes, or workers' wages are falling, or somebody can't get healthcare or our schools are literally falling apart, well, sorry folks, you see, it takes a long time to get anything done.

Take a number. Be quiet. Have a seat. No, don't stand up; we might have to arrest you for disturbing the peace.

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9/17/2008

too much excitement

No, it's not because this is my 400th post. Or because the Big 12 has three teams playing national games this week that get pretty small exposure. Or because it's Constitution Day, although, if we had some more Constitutional defenders like Russ Feingold and Ralph Nader in our political parties, that would be worthy of excitement.

It's not even because the major US stock exchanges are in the process of destroying a decade of wealth while the GOP vacillates wildly between their corporate masters and the need to employ enough populist rhetoric to get elected, as exciting as watching that train wreck is.

Nope, all of that pails in comparison to some quality time with the landlord chasing a squirrel out of the apartment. A baby squirrel at that! No rabies to report as of yet.

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9/15/2008

crash or business as usual

Today was certainly exciting. I go to lunch and see AG Edwards, er, Wachovia's handy dandy Dow sign down around 11160. Then at lunch Julie's talking about the Merrill buyout. Then I check Yahoo Finance before dinner and the Dow's down 500 points. And oil's under $100.

At times like this it's good to take a second and remember, short term volatility does not affect your investment goals. Odds are, the vast majority of your wealth is tied up in your wages. If you're lucky enough that equities represent a large sum for you, congratulations, you're one of the winners in our economy!

And for those of us that are younger-ish, this is a huge opportunity. With most of our earnings ahead of us, the cheaper assets like stocks and real estate are in the present, the better long-term value they represent.

And PS older folks, we'd be happy to buy your assets from you at prices you find amenable. All you gotta do is pay us wages so we can afford them. At the end of the day, that's what this is all about. It's not a housing crash or a credit crunch that's the root problem. The root problem is your average worker doesn't make as much money as she should.

But just remember, no matter your age, don't bet your lunch money in the stock market. Even iconic companies fail.

Au revoir Lehman and Merrill.

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9/09/2008

conference scheduling 2008

College football season is underway, so it's time for the punditry to talk about how the SEC is the only conference that knows how to play football. It's a time honored tradition; regardless of the facts of the weekend, talk like the SEC plays a different kind of ball.

So to build off of some of my analysis from the end of last season, I put together some ways of thinking about matchups as we start this season. I think it points to a more competitive field than the SEC partisans would have us believe.

First, I just looked at how many of last year's 10 BCS teams were in a conference's non-conference schedule.

Conference 2008 BCS opponents

Big 12- Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia Tech

SEC- West Virginia, Hawaii

Big 10- USC

Pac 10- Ohio State, Georgia, Oklahoma

ACC- Georgia, USC

Big East- Kansas, Oklahoma

It's the Big 12 and the Pac 10 that have the most of last year's BCS teams on their 2008 schedule. Scheduling is done in advance; it's not like the SEC chose to only schedule two, or the Big 10 only one. The point is that there's no marquee matchup that overshadows what the other conferences are doing. The Missouri-Illinois and Ohio State-USC games are at least as good (and quite arguably better) than the Florida-Hawaii and Auburn-West Virginia games. In fact, after West Virginia's loss to Eastern Carolina, the show-case SEC game is probably Georgia against Arizona State, a team that didn't make the top ten last season (and was soundly trounced by Big 12 #4, Texas). It's quite likely the SEC (as in, the entire conference) will end the season without a single win against a top-ten team.

Then, I poked around the non-conference schedules of the top four Big 12, SEC, Big 10, and Pac 10 schools.

Best non-conference matchup

Oklahoma- Cincinnati
Missouri- Illinois
Kansas- South Florida
Texas- Arkansas

Georgia- Arizona State
LSU- Troy?
Florida- Florida State
Auburn- West Virginia

Ohio State- USC
Illinois- Missouri
Wisconsin- Fresno State
Penn State- Oregon State

USC- Ohio State
ASU- Georgia
Oregon- Boise State
California- Maryland

Again, it's not that the SEC doesn't play any good teams; the Georgia-Arizona State game, for example, should be a good one, assuming both teams deserve to be as highly rated as they are. Rather, it's that looking at things this way doesn't make it look like there's anything that stands out about the way the SEC schedules. It's not Florida's fault that Florida State and Miami aren't very good this year. But that doesn't change the fact that they aren't. LSU is being talked about for the national championship, but their schedule is weaker than what the Kansas Jayhawks will play, who are traveling on the road against a ranked opponent.

The beauty of the SEC noise machine is its ability to shift the goal posts. Emphasize scheduling when it helps, emphasize records when they're the best, emphasize history when it's useful, point to conference standings when they boost your cause, say a loss within your conference shows how strong your conference is, and then dismiss these things when it helps somebody else.

College football is wide open this year. The fact that two 'ranked' SEC teams have already lost a game doesn't make the SEC a bad conference. But it certainly does make it interesting to suggest those losses are irrelevant and the SEC is better than other conferences that are taking care of business, winning the games they're 'supposed' to win. All of the top teams, after all, from all the conferences, are doing this at the beginning of the season. That's what makes Eastern Carolina's wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia notable. They're exceptions. The only other team aside from ECU with a victory over an AP Top 25 team is Missouri. The other 23 teams on the AP list are undefeated after week 2.

I anticipate spending the season finding fun ways to refute the SEC sales pitch that they're somehow a league apart from everybody else. They certainly could be; but so could others, and we can't give the final word until they actually play the games. This is important because the polls themselves in no small way decide the winners. After all, there are a lot of teams that will pick up a loss or two. It will be interesting to see whether the discussion about the SEC losses sounds the same as the discussions about losses from other conferences.

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