Why 15 different teams can say they're among college football's five best programs
Numbers never lie, but they do tell a convenient truth.
Yesterday we took one look at the hottest team in college football, and now we've tackled that same question from another angle. We wanted to know college football's five best teams over different timeframes, and then monitor how that changed over time. We started with the last five games, then went back to 10, then 15, all the way back to the last 50 games.
The result? A total of 15 different programs can lay a legitimate claim to be listed among college football's five hottest programs. And they're all right. It all depends on how you slide the scale.
The NCAA's 10-second rule proposal has failed
The NCAA was supposed to put the 10-second rule proposition to a vote on Thursday, but it appears that's not going to happen. Citing anonymous sources, ESPN's Chris Low Brett McMurphy and USA Today's George Schroeder reported Wednesday afternoon that the NCAA rules committee has withdrawn the proposal and will not be put to a vote. The rule has died before it could come to a vote.
The rule was vocally and vehemently decried by a number of high-profile coaches, among them Mike Leach, Art Briles, Gus Malzahn, Kliff Kingsbury, Kevin Sumlin, Steve Spurrier and, most notably and hilariously, Rich Rodriguez. An ESPN survey of all 128 FBS head coaches reported that nearly 75 percent were against the rule.
In an off year for the rules committee, only rules related to player safety were able to be considered. While the 10-second rule, which would have assessed a five-yard delay of game penalty for any offense snapping the ball within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock in the first 28 minutes of each half, will not be adopted, another significant rule change has been forwarded to the rule oversight panel. A tweak to the targeting rule - which would no longer automatically attach a 15-yard penalty if a targeting flag is overturned by video review - will be put to a vote.
While the first attempt has failed, the slow-down committee championed by Saban and Bielema has pushed their talking point into the national narrative (even if most of the resulting talk was weeks of negativity). Expect this rule to be thrown back into discussion again in 2015.
Video: 'Let the philosophers ponder, we'll be right here training'
Four years ago, Ave Maria University's football program did not exist. Located about 30 miles inland from Florida's gulf coast, the only college football program in southwest Florida is off to a rousing start. The Gyrenes kicked off to a 1-7 debut in 2012 but rebounded to an 8-2 mark in 2013, closing on a eight-game winning streak with a cumulative score of 365-151. (In case you're an uneducated goof like me, a Gyrene is another term for a United States Marine.)
Ave Maria is hard at work to build on its fantastic 2013 season, and the coaching staff sent us this video to prove it. My favorite part was the team-wide rugby game at the end. More schools should do that.
Gregg Popovich has a few lessons for football coaches
Gregg Popovich has never coached football a day in his life. But the four-time NBA champion and future Basketball Hall of Famer has an encyclopedia of knowledge that every football coach in America can learn from.
With a nucleus that has been together more than a decade now, Popovich's San Antonio Spurs are perhaps the most well-oiled machine in all of sports. When things get humming, the Spurs' offense turns into a symphony of perfectly-timed passes and wide-open shots. But that's the thing about sports, it doesn't always work out that way. Even a team with three future Hall of Famers on the court can bog down and look like the worst team in the NBA for a possession or six.
Speaking before the his team's 122-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, Popovich delved into his psychological vault and explained how he motivated and challenged his team on a nightly basis. It's a lesson on the core of coaching from one of the best to ever strap on a whistle.
On how he gets his players to take ownership of their offense: "A lot depends on the competitiveness and the character of the player. Often times, I’ll appeal to that. Like, I can’t make every decision for you. I don’t have 14 timeouts. You guys got to get together and talk. You guys might see a mismatch that I don’t see. You guys need to communicate constantly — talk, talk, talk to each other about what’s going on on the court."
On encouraging communication amongst his players: “I think that communication thing really helps them. It engenders a feeling that they can actually be in charge. I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people."
On what he says when the team isn't playing well: "Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them.
On creating an environment where players take ownership of the team: “If they’re holding the ball, they’re holding the ball. I certainly didn’t tell them to hold the ball. Just like, if they make five in a row, I didn’t do that. If they get a great rebound, I didn’t do that. It’s a players’ game and they’ve got to perform. The better you can get that across, the more they take over and the more smoothly it runs.
“Then you interject here or there. You call a play during the game at some point or make a substitution, that kind of thing that helps the team win. But they basically have to take charge or you never get to the top of the mountain.”
Kurt Roper shares the most important lesson he learned under Cutcliffe
Placing a bet on Duke winning 10 games at the beginning of the year would have made you a rich man by now, so it's safe to say that the rapid rise of the Duke program has surprised just about everyone outside of the program.
Kurt Roper, who served as David Cutcliffe's offensive coordinator at Duke since 2008, played an instrumental role in the resurgence of the program before leaving to become Florida's offensive coordinator. That much time alongside a quality coach like Cutcliffe, is bound to pay dividends, and Roper recently shared the single best piece of advice that he took with him from his time with coach Cut.
That advice? Structure your practice to simulate a game as much as you possibly can, he told Sports Illustrated.
"Making practice like a game is the most important thing you can do." Roper explained.
"Really what that translates into is you've got to make everybody play at the speed at the game. You can't let them cruise along in practice and then all of the sudden the speed of the game shocks them."
As you and your program approach spring ball, or as you start to formulate your practice plans for summer and fall, keep that in mind. If it's a strategy that helped lead Duke to their first winning season since 1994, it's well worth your time and consideration.
Saban: Hurry up offenses are kind of like cigarettes
While many coaches and experts are scrambling to find scientific evidence to either support or criticize up tempo offenses, Nick Saban has something else on his side. Logic.
"The fastball guys (up-tempo coaches) say there's no data out there, and I guess you have to use some logic." Saban told ESPN.
"What's the logic? If you smoke one cigarette, do you have the same chances of getting cancer if you smoke 20? I guess there's no study that specifically says that. But logically, we would say, 'Yeah, there probably is.'"
Dr. Julian Bailes, the chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, somewhat agrees with that sentiment. Bailes has served as a consultant for the NFL Players association and advisor the NCAA during his 30 years around football.
"If you play more snaps, you're going to have more exposure. I think that's a fact. It bears very serious consideration on whether the game should be slowed down or have fewer plays, if you believe exposure equals injury risk or player safety."
"We know if you play another 20 to 25 snaps a game, you're going to have more exposure to all injuries, and you're going to have more potential for concussions, and you're going to have more blows to the head, whether they call them concussions or not." Dr. Bailes noted.
There's a lot more on both stances to the controversial topic in the ESPN piece, but the one study that I keep going back to (from College Football Matrix) every time I read something like this does have scientific evidence that directly contradicts Saban's "logic". Read that study here, and then consider "logic".
Start your morning with a solid D-III position specific hype video
Forget the morning coffee, get your day started with this 'DB Hit Tape" from the University of Dubuque (D-III - IA).
After just a minute of watching this, you get a sense that "swagger" is important for the defensive backs at Dubuque.
Having a positional highlight film like this available would be great to send to recruits in your first email. Combining highlights with the identity of the position is something every potential recruit can appreciate.
What is the hottest program in college football? We have an answer
Let's say one day soon you receive word that a distant relative has passed away, and this long lost aunt has gifted you $1,000 on the condition that you use that money to buy stock in a college football program. I realize this a completely unrealistic scenario, but roll with me here. What program would you sink your money into?
The obvious (and possibly correct) answer would be a powerhouse program like Alabama, Florida State or Ohio State, or maybe you've bought into the mind of Gus Malzahn and decide to go with Auburn. Hard to go wrong there. There's value in keeping a healthy brand strong, but the truly lucrative stocks are ones that grow year after year.
To help answer this little thought experiment, I've parsed through the FBS standings and found 50 51 programs that upped their win totals from 2012 to 2013.
Here they are in alphabetical order (get your scrolling finger ready):
New Mexico State
Jump back another year, and the number drops tremendously. Only 20 programs have managed to increase their win totals two years in a row:
Go back another year, and that number dwindles even further. Much further. Only four programs have managed to increase their win totals three seasons in a row:
Ball State jumped from 4-8 in 2010 to 6-6 in 2011 to 9-4 in 2012 to 10-3 last fall. Bowling Green has leaped from 2-10 to 5-7 to 8-5 up to 10-4 last fall, culminating in the 2013 MAC championship. Buffalo has moved from 2-10 to 3-9 to 4-8 up to 8-5 this fall. And out West, UCLA's record has grown from 4-8 to 6-8 to 9-5 and then to 10-3 in 2013.
If you bought hypothetical stock in Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo or UCLA back in 2010, Pete Lembo, Dave Clawson, Jeff Quinn and Jim Mora (with some help Rick Neuheisel) would have left you a happy shareholder.
Finally, let's jump back one more season, where we'll find one and only one program to up its win total in four consecutive seasons. This program's win total has grown from two to four to six to nine to 10 wins from 2009-13.