Monday, December 3, 2007

Why Bother Supporting Your Claims With Evidence or Explanations? That Takes Too Much Time

CNNSI.com's Stewart Mandel is mad about this year's BCS bowl matchups. He's sure they're all going to suck. I strongly disagree, as I think every game except USC/Illinois will be close and entertaining. (See below for some probably-going-to-blow-up-in-my-face predictions vabout them.) But that's not why I'm writing this. I'm writing it because Stewart flagrantly violates arguably the most basic rule of analytical writing. I'm pretty sure I learned it in 4th or 5th grade: if you're going to write about your opinion, you have to say why you hold that opinion. See, that's the format. First you make a point. Then you give some kind of evidence that justifies that point. Mandel gets lost somewhere between those two steps, and the result really pisses me off.

Meanwhile, you'd be hard-pressed to find too many fans who would describe this year's other BCS matchups (besides the title game) as "compelling."

Virginia Tech, No. 3 in the final BCS standings, is playing Kansas, the No. 2 team in the Big 12 North. No. 4 Oklahoma's reward for beating the No. 1 team in the country Saturday night (Missouri) is to face a West Virginia team that lost to 4-7 Pittsburgh the same night. No. 5 Georgia went from an anticipated title date with Ohio State in New Orleans to the undercard a week earlier against Hawaii. And do you think USC's Carroll, whose teams have made mincemeat out of their previous Big Ten Rose Bowl foes, is losing much sleep over those Illinois game tapes?

Little to no analysis is given as to why these games supposedly won't be good. Apparently because Kansas lost to Missouri they are terrible. Meanwhile VaTech's disastrous performance against LSU is conveniently ignored. Sure, it was like three months ago. It was also by 41 points! Forty fucking one! West Virginia lost to 5-7 Pitt, so they're ostensibly unworthy of lining up against Oklahoma. Sure, OU lost to 6-6 Colorado. But that's totally different. Georgia/Hawaii is going to suck, uh... because... Georgia thought they were going to play in the title game, and now they're not. (Nevermind that just like Kansas is the #2 team in the Big 12 North, Georgia is the #2 team in the SEC East.) The USC/Illinois matchup, well yeah, he's got me there. Probably will be a blowout. Still, that's three cheap shots taken at three BCS games with absolutely no justification. None.

But wait, there's more. Mandel then has the nerve to conclude his diatribe with this completely outrageous endorsement of the "plus one" quasi-playoff plan. (I have no problem with the "plus one," I just have a problem with this shitty, unexplained logic.)

Imagine, if you will, the potential bowl lineup if such a format existed. Right now, rather than lamenting the colossal letdown of this upcoming postseason, we'd be salivating over, say, an Ohio State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl and an LSU-Virginia Tech rematch in the Sugar Bowl -- with the added excitement of knowing two of those teams would meet each other the following week.

Oh, OK. Ohio State-Oklahoma, unlike West Virginia-Oklahoma, would be making us "salivate." Because apparently to him, it's abundantly clear that OSU is way better than WVU. Or they match up more salivation-inducingly with Oklahoma. Or something. How are are we supposed to know if he can't take the time to explain? Same for LSU-VaTech. Earlier in the article he described the OSU-LSU championship game matchup in this fashion:

Whichever team, Ohio State or LSU, wins the Jan. 7 title game, there will be a significant faction of the public that questions its legitimacy.

Now, we just add two more two loss teams and one more game and everyone should magically feel 100% better about the legitimacy of whoever ends up being crowned champion. Sounds totally reasonable. Not only that, but the matchups suddenly go from being boring to "thrill a minute," "plan your evening around this," "be careful not to shit your pants" exciting. Huh.

Is all this crap self-evident, and I'm the stupid one for not being able to see it? Or is Stewart Mandel just full of crap, and trying to make an argument for the plus one game without utilizing any logic or support whatsoever?

Oh, and before you accuse me of hypocrisy because I'm ripping Stewart for not explaining himself while failing to provide my own explanation for thinking the actual BCS games this year will be exciting: (Obviously these are outrageously simple at best but at least it's better than what Mandel does)

USC/Illinois: Yawn. Stanford over USC gets more ridiculous every time I think about it. Illinois beat Ohio State because no one could tackle Juice Williams. USC won't have the same problem.

LSU/Ohio State: Stewart never says this game won't be exciting, just that it won't definitively settle all debates about who should be #1, so I don't think I need to say much. LSU's loss to Arkansas exposed some of their weaknesses, but Beanie Wells is hardly Darren McFadden. They're clearly going to be the underdogs, but OSU's defense is pretty awesome. Should keep things interesting.

Georgia/Hawaii: This is exciting on the surface because just like last year's Fiesta Bowl, it's a high scoring WAC team matching up against a traditional powerhouse. So I'm excited about that (as anyone should be, at least on some minimal level) no matter how imbalanced the matchups on the field look. In any case, Georgia is probably going to win, but I'm not sold at all on Mathew Stafford. He misses a lot of open guys. Colt Brennan is the shit and he showed it against Boise State. Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown should rack up big yards, but the game will be played indoors and on fieldturf so the Warriors will be moving the ball as well. If Brennan has time to throw Hawaii's going to put up at least 35. Can Georgia match?

Kansas/Virigina Tech: Obviously, Kansas is really going to struggle to score much. Fortunately they have a very underrated defense that's going to hold VaTech's offense in check as well. Kansas CB Aqib Talib is a bad man and future NFL starter. I've seen four Hokie games this year and they don't seem to have much at the offensive skill positions. Tyrod Taylor gets a lot of snaps considering he sucks. Brandon Ore crumples as soon as he gets touched half the time. If Kansas makes too many mistakes early, it could get out of hand, but I think Todd Reising is capable enough of not coughing up the ball that it should be interesting well into the second half.

West Virginia/Oklahoma: Since they seem to be on national TV every single weekend, I've seen WV absolutely embarrass several teams this year. Sure, they haven't played a team like Oklahoma, but as long as Pat White is healthy their offense can move the ball on anyone. Oklahoma is, of course, dangerously good in their own right. Stupid Bob Stoops. Stop looking so smug already. I can't explain WV's meltdown against Pitt other than to say it was a rivalry game, Pitt got up for it, and Westy choked. But like I already mentioned, I also watched Oklahoma absolutely shit the bed against Colorado in October. Bad games happen. If Westy doesn't have a hangover from the Pitt disaster (which is likely given that they have a month to forget about it) they're more than capable of beating the Sooners. Will they? Probably not. But it's going to be a good game as long as White doesn't get knocked out.

I will probably look back on this and laugh at myself 6 weeks from now, after LSU blows out OSU, Georgia blows out Hawaii, Oklahoma blows out West Virginia, VaTech beats Kansas like 4-0, and Illinois/USC turns into a triple OT thriller. Sigh. Such is the wonderful world of sports predictions. That's why we here at FireJay like to stay away from anything that resembles original ideas and instead spend all our time hating. I'm really going out on a limb here, I hope it doesn't come back to bite me too hard. Remember, all I'm claiming is that these games will be interesting and fun. That shouldn't be too much to ask for.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually Larry, Kansas is terrible not because they lost to Missouri, but because they ate patsies for lunch all season long and lost to the only good team they faced all year.

You and I could and the taxi squad of the XFL's Memphis Maniax (and coached by Skip Bayless) could probably beat most of these guys:

Central Michigan
Southeastern Louisiana
Toledo
Florida International
Baylor
Bill Callahan's Nebraska Cornhuskers™

Of the team's remaining five wins, only one came against a school with a winning record, 7-5 Texas A&M.

Mandel didn't explain any of this, of course, which doesn't make any less self-evident.

larry b said...

Well put, Anonymous, well put. I still think if they limit turnovers they'll give Tech a game. Tech's offense is not as good as their point totals would indicate, and KU's defense is underappreciated.

As a Colorado native I'm crushed that Callahan got fired. I certainly didn't see anything wrong with the job he was doing.

Andrew said...

I find all this media outrage over all these two loss teams being "snubbed" hilarious - while Hawaii is an afterthought.

What happens if LSU beat Ohio State, as it should, and Hawaii beats Georgia? Is the winner of another BCS game somehow more deserving than a 13-0 team in a season where no other team would have lost less than 2 games? In college basketball, the mid-majors have finally begun to get some respect in the rankings and tourney seedings - perhaps if a mid-major wins a BCS game for the third straight time, they'll be afforded the same respect as their hardwood counterparts?

But that would be too easy for Mandel or any other college football writer to talk about. Instead we can talk about a team like Kansas that played a Division III schedule, and we have an Ohio State team that beat ONE team that was ranked at the time of the game playing for the national title. God bless the BCS.

Anonymous said...

Are you honestly defending Hawaii by contesting the bad schedule Kansas played? Hawaii had to make a huge comeback to beat Washington by a touchdown. As in, the University of Washington. As in, the worst team in a weak BCS conference. And this was Hawaii's first game of the season against a BCS conference opponent. Based on this logic, North Dakota State has just as strong of a claim as Hawaii does. They beat Minnesota and a bunch of scrubs so they should be in the BCS. Good call.

Chris W said...

If you go unbeaten, you should get a crack at the BCS as long as there are other BCS teams with more than one loss.

If it came down to Hawaii and real teams with 1 loss, maybe I could see leaving them out, but the bottom line is you can only win the games you scheduled...there's really no more that you can do...

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying Hawaii shouldn't make the BCS. I'm saying that complaining about Kansas playing a D-III schedule and then describing Hawaii's lack of respect is extremely hypocritical.

larry b said...

It's too bad- even if they beat Georgia in the Sugar this year, which I'm hoping for because the SEC is annoying as hell, Hawaii opens their season against Florida next year. With Brennan gone, they're going to lose like 42-3, and everyone will laugh and talk about how theire 2007 season was a fraud and no one should ever pay attention to a non-BCS conference team ever again. Stupid system. If only Alabama and USC hadn't pussed out from playing Hawaii this year, we could have seen how they really stacked up in regular season play against decent opponents.

Chris W said...

they would have lost :shrug:

larry b said...

They would have beaten 'Bama. As for USC, they lost to Stanford. They could lose to anyone.

tone loc said...

Larry,

I find it hilarious that you just wrote, "As for USC, they lost to Stanford. They could lose to anyone."

You also echoed this sentiment in your NO CRAPPY SPORTSWRITING HERE post on 11/30... 'USC over UCLA ("These guys are unstoppable! They would crush both Missouri and West Virginia right now! Put them in the national championship game! It's not like they lost to Stanford at home or anything!")'

You're probably asking yourself why I find this hilarious. Here's why...

In your post, WHY BOTHER SUPPORTING YOUR CLAIMS WITH EVIDENCE OF EXPLANATIONS? THAT TAKES TOO MUCH TIME, you wrote, "The USC/Illinois matchup, well yeah, he's got me there. Probably will be a blowout."

You continued with, "USC/Illinois: Yawn. Stanford over USC gets more ridiculous every time I think about it. Illinois beat Ohio State because no one could tackle Juice Williams. USC won't have the same problem."

So what you're saying is that USC can lose to any team on any given game... just not Illinois. They're not good enough, right? They only have the 8th ranked rushing attack in the nation because lesser teams (like #1 Ohio State) can't tackle Juice Williams, right? Those turnover margins (Illinois +.8, USC -.8), those won't matter in the Rose Bowl.

What about Rashard Mendenhall, one of the nation's best pro prospects, rushing for 1,526 yards at 6.2 a pop and 16 tds this season? What about the wins against Penn State and Wisconsin, in addition to going into the Horseshoe and beating Ohio State in convincing fashion by basically controlling the entire game... but you're right, USC/Illinois will be a blowout.

Illinois has never been blown out this year, including a last second loss to Missouri on an interception by their backup QB in the redzone, but the Rose Bowl will be that game, right? USC can lose Stanford, and you even backed up how beatable they are, but they will still for sure blowout Illinois... You don't make sense.

larry b said...

Touche, tone, touche. Sounds like I touched a nerve. You U of I people can get scary on the teg blogowebs, I've seen your collective work in the Deadspin/TBL comments sections and I want no part of it. Your points are all valid, and Illinois is a fine team. Your loss to Iowa is a little ugly, but overall, it's a solid body of work. Let me explain myself from a slightly less pathetic angle: I hate USC. Hate them with a passion. But save for that little blip against Texas in the 2006 title game, they ALWAYS get up for their bowl games and dominate people. Michigan in 2007. Oklahoma in 2005. Michigan in 2004. Iowa in 2003. Ever since I've been an undergrad, it seems like those assholes just embarrass someone in their bowl, year after year after year. BOOOOOO. So my comment was really made in frustration about the fact that I just expect USC to roll everyone at this point; it was not meant to shit on Illinois. Although I can see how it could be construed that way. I didn't mean to offend. I still think it'll be something like a 14 point USC victory. But my hatred for the Trojans is tied up in that. As if I needed to say so, though, I will definitely be wearing orange that night.

Chris W said...

the thing is, booty is healthy and USC has a defense fast enough to line up with the spread O...it doesn't look good for a U of I team that is by their own rights, very good