In yesterday’s Editors’ Roundtable at TSS, we looked at two of the more significant games from week one and identified our off-the-radar developments from the opening weekend of the new season. Today, we take a broader look at the college football landscape by examining two basic kinds of controversies: voting… and Wisconsin’s quarterback situation.
Question No. 1: What should the College Football Playoff Selection Committee take away from week one?
On Twitter @TheCoachBart
They should just look at it the way you do when you’re making a massive meal for a bunch of people. The meal isn’t going to be done until early December, and right now you’re simply going to the local grocery joint and gathering stuff you know you’ll need.
Every week for the playoff committee should be viewed simply as an information-gathering session on teams. They have it pretty easy since we’re seeing fewer and fewer big early-season matchups as the years go by, so the games to pay the most attention to seem to appear unfettered by other big-time games going on.
College football, unlike people relationships, is not so much defined by the idea that “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” For the most part, early season games fade deeper into memory in November and December. The playoff committee should understand that it basically bought mayonnaise, burgers, and beer, and hasn’t even begun to start the grill.
On Twitter @SectionTPJ
What should the College Football Playoff Selection Committee take away from this week’s action? That’s easy: I provided a list of takeaways from Week 1 on Sunday afternoon.
With that in mind, I think it’s important to note that the committee shouldn’t make any important decisions just yet. If the Selection Committee is serious about getting the four best teams in the bracket for the College Football Playoff, it must evaluate these squads based on their entire bodies of work rather than one single contest. Contrary to what people in social media are saying, one game doesn’t provide nearly enough information to make an informed decision about whether team A is better than team B, unless said teams settled the issue on the gridiron.
In other words, the regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. The Selection Committee should wait until more games are in the books before it makes any definitive conclusions.
On Twitter @SectionMZ
I’ll answer this question through the prism of how I’d treat the first week if I were a committee member.
I would take note of Georgia’s and Texas A&M’s performances. I would be prepared to see how Oklahoma State and West Virginia evolve — or regress — over the course of the season. I would take care to pay attention to Ohio State’s progression without Braxton Miller, using the win over Navy as a starting point. I will want to see if Virginia is as good in the coming weeks as its performance against UCLA would suggest. If the Cavaliers measure up, UCLA would grade higher in a late-season evaluation involving Oregon or other teams outside the Pac-12. I would stay focused on Wisconsin to see how much value that win accumulates for LSU. Those would all be starting points for my season-long evaluation process.
Question No. 2: How should the voting process be handled in September, with week one representing the beginning of that larger process?
Voters shouldn’t be afraid to have wide movement betwixt teams in polls at this point. We should vote on what we know, not necessarily based on what we think we know. That’s human flaw. Like Matt, I don’t really see how pre-October polls do anything but wedge divides in the college football season, but they make money and eyeballs so they’re not going away.
The best thing voters can do is watch as much football as possible to really have an answer for the question, “Why did you vote Team X here?” Voters need to watch enough games to give a reasonable explanation (e.g.: the offense looks much different from last year; guys are more comfortable and clearly the conditioning program is working…) for where they put teams. As we learn more, voters should not have invisible ceilings or floors for teams based on name. Credit teams based on what they do.
Voters generally don’t practice this (it’s part of why I absolutely detest pre-November polls in general), but week-one polls and September polls are meant to fluctuate wildly and reflect simply what has transpired to that point in the season. Polls should not be projections. They are supposed to measure what has happened in the season — that’s past tense. Georgia and Texas A&M should be the top two teams right now… if I voted, and if I cared. That’s how September voting should be handled.
Polling is a much easier process than people think.
Here’s how I handle it: during the preseason, I pick the winner for each game. After that, I rank the teams based on how many games they’ll win as well as their strength of schedule. Using those factors, I pick the top 25, and publish the poll based on how I think each team will finish the season.
That second part tends to confuse a lot of people. When I published this week’s poll, many people asked me, “Why didn’t the team that I hate move down? They didn’t blow out team X like they should’ve. My school did win convincingly and that proves that my team is better.”
Unfortunately, my poll doesn’t work that way. Until I see something that makes me think that a team is either going to win or lose more games than I expected, the teams pretty much stay where they are. After all, shouldn’t a team’s entire body of work matter more than just the results of a single game?
Of course, it should.
Whether you agree with my approach or the knee-jerk reaction method that others use, it’s important to note these things typically sort themselves out over the course of the season. Regardless of where a team begins the year, as long as it keeps winning, it will end up at the top of my poll as well as everyone else’s.
Question No. 3: In a different sort of controversy, how should Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen handle his quarterback situation, involving Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave?
Madison, we have a problem.
While my answer to virtually every question involves being patient, it’s evident that Wisconsin has an issue at quarterback that it needs to deal with right now. Sure, everyone has a bad game from time to time, but let’s review the numbers. On Saturday night, the Badgers attempted 24 passes and completed only 8. Those completions netted only 50 yards, and none of them went for a gain of longer than 11 yards.
For those keeping score at home, that’s an average of just 2.1 yards per pass attempt.
Let’s be honest: those numbers must improve if UW is going to win the Big Ten West this fall. Without at least the threat of a passing game, opposing defenses are going to load the box to stop Melvin Gordon and the Badger ground game.
So what is the solution to this problem?
Simple: Wisconsin should utilize both quarterbacks and take advantage of each one’s strengths. As long as offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig mixes things up enough, opposing defenses won’t be able to think “run first” when McEvoy is in the game or “watch out for the pass” when Stave is under center.
With McEvoy being so conspicuously limited as a passer, the Badgers need to give Stave work in the next few weeks before the Big Ten season begins. Some would understandably say that such a move would undermine McEvoy’s confidence, but that’s what the second half against LSU has already done. Stave should be motivated to play better. If he can’t at least get some work in what should be easily winnable games for Wisconsin, coach Gary Andersen is not giving his team a full range of options.
To be clear here, it’s not as though Stave has to be the guy when the Big Ten season begins. Stave simply needs to be given a chance to win back the job by that time. He’ll either rise or not; failing to give him the chance to rise or fall would be the one true mistake Andersen can make at this time.
I was puzzled by the fact that in the second half of Saturday night’s game, Badger running back Melvin Gordon saw only three … that’s right … three runs as Wisconsin kept tripping over its own shoelaces while LSU did what LSU does, and eventually did so all the way to a win.
Now we know the real story behind that turn of events: Gordon suffered a hip flexor. Wisconsin’s passing game needed to move the chains with Gordon being unable to play, but it couldn’t.
The quarterback position at Wisconsin has long been the condiments of a burger, and whether it’s McEvoy or Stave, that won’t change. There’s a certain unsettling reality to the fact that a guy that was a safety last year has unseated the guy who was the starting quarterback last year, but going in you just had to say, “Well, maybe the guy worked hard and earned the job. It’s not necessarily regression by Stave.”
Um … it doesn’t look settled at all. Yet, either way, if Wisconsin wants to win football games over elite teams, no matter which guy is in, he needs to be turning around and handing it off to Gordon. A lot more. Gordon’s health needs to cooperate, of course, but that has to remain the Badgers’ top priority on offense.