I've had a hectic couple of days, and I'm still working to pull together the information for the Expectations And Reality pieces and The Numerical. In the meantime, here are a couple of pieces I posted at The Mothership today.
College football is, literally and figuratively, an antique; the flaws, no matter how serious, just accentuate the charm. Shady academic dealings? Free tattoos? Envelopes of cash in recruits' pockets? Okay, sure, but ... fight songs! Bratwurst! Friends! Homecoming! Jumbotrons! Hugs from strangers after touchdowns! The local R.O.T.C. unit firing off a cannon!
I was a college football nerd long before I was a numbers guy. I've always been far too analytical about this sport (and most other things), and the numbers have simply informed my analytical ability. I thrive in the gray area most people are allergic to when it comes to sports debates (or any debates, really), and numbers give you more "Yeah, but..." material than just about anything else. Ranking teams is only the start of it.
Numbers have changed the way I watch the game, but not really in any conscious way. Numbers tell me just how important a fast start to a game truly is. Or how those long, satisfying, 20-play, seven-minute touchdown drives do not happen often enough to rely on them. Or how much of a difference 2nd-and-8 can make over 2nd-and-6 in the long run. Or how random fumble recoveries (and games that turn because of them) can be. Or how one team's offensive personality differs from others'. Numbers have given me a better feel for this game I love, and I feel they have given me a stronger voice.
Anytime we run through the "realignment Armageddon" scenarios, it plays out in virtually the same way: the Big 12 dies, the SEC, Pac-XX and Big Ten move to 16 teams, yadda yadda yadda, the ACC and Big East cannibalize themselves, and voila! Four 16-team conferences! As I've mentioned before, the math in that scenario does not work out in any clean fashion, but don't tell that to the ACC, who went ahead and skipped a few steps. Now, they bring into the fold a solid Pittsburgh team and a Syracuse program that has been historically successful and has improved over the last couple of seasons. And they have taken a few huge steps toward getting their "Best basketball conference" title back. Great move.
I must say, I very much admire all the players involved in this move, at least in terms of secrecy. We dealt with months of Big Ten expansion speculation. We dealt with months of A&M-to-the-SEC drama; the rumor would come, then go, then come, then go again. But this development went from rumor to fact in less than 24 hours. Players involved kept this so quiet that supposedly Big East commissioner John Marinatto didn't even know about it until it was all but official.