Dollars, (Non)Sense and Preseason Rankings

Jon Joseph Editorials 38 Comments

In my previous articles, I’ve written a lot about dollars and cents. But enough about that. Now, I’m ready to talk college football (CFB). Let’s talk Ducks football.

… But I hope you will forgive me a short interlude, an inquiry into whether the following makes sense …

I’ve been to Boulder, Colorado. It is a beautiful small city adjacent to the Flat Irons and Rocky Mountains.  It is the home of Colorado University (CU), a school with one of the more beautiful campuses anywhere. And the football stadium, Folsom Field, offers sublime views on game days.

If you’re craving more of the big city life, Denver is only a half hour drive east of Boulder. Pro football, basketball, hockey and baseball are there for the viewing. The city has many excellent restaurants, especially if you are not a vegan. The nightlife is robust, and if culture is your thing, it’s not NYC, but it is more than decent.

I’ve also been to East Lansing, Michigan. And that’s all I have to say for East Lansing, Michigan.

Photo of a packed Colorado University football stadium.

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The view from Folsom Field on game day.

From Mel’s Perspective

Let’s pretend I’m former CU head coach Mel Tucker. I am making $2.4 million dollars a year, plus bonus opportunities, to be the head football coach at CU. A school that has won a national title. A school that produced Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White, professional golfer Hal Irwin and Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam.  And I believe every CFB fan will recognize the name of CU graduate, Chris Fowler.

Yes, real estate in Boulder is not cheap, but at $2.4 million, if I’m Mel, I can afford a very nice house, no mortgage. And I can buy a whole lot of other stuff, more than I need. Even though I went 5-7 in my one season as the Buffaloes’ head coach, the team is looking better. So much so, I was able to convince 20 or so young men to buy into my vision and to matriculate at CU. My wife’s happy here. And the excellent public schools are perfect for the kids. What’s not to like?

Forgive me. My agent’s on the phone.

— “What’s that? $5.5 million a year for doing the same thing in East Lansing? You can’t be serious. Are you sober? Are the people that let a Doctor run amok sober? Is it April Fool’s Day?

— “Yes, yes, maybe not, and no. And by the way, you’ll be out of the left coast with the CFB left-behinds. Back in a conference where you played ball. And in a conference that has a competitive heartbeat in CFB and college basketball.

The Pirate walked the plank to Mississippi for more gold, no? How bad can East Lansing be compared to Starkville, Mississippi? Head east and leave Larry’s legion of lackeys behind. (Besides, think of the slice of that $5.5 mil coming my way.)

— “What’s that? I didn’t catch the last part. Oh, just clearing your throat, eh? But what about the kids I just convinced to come to Boulder to play ball for me?

Yeah, I know it’s a business and yeah, I also heard you when you said I could double my assistant coaches salaries. And yeah, CU will probably turn around and do another school dirty.

OK, I’ll take the B1G gig, but you’re the one who is going to have to tweet the news to the CU AD.

How MSU Made it Happen

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MSU put up a whole lot of money to get a 5-7 coach to East Lansing.

Of course, Coach Tucker was under contract to coach CU football at the time the Spartans hired him away. No worries! Michigan State came up with the $3 million buyout. However, the teenage kids Mel convinced to sign at CU cannot, of course, get out of the grant-in-aid deal they signed shortly before Mel said, “So long.

Michigan State gave Mark Dantonio a parting gift of $4.7 million, paid CU $3 million in liquidated damages and, next year, will pay a guy with 5-7 record $5.5 million to coach its football team.

But this is amateur athletics, right? And think about all that additional great stuff Mel will be able to buy!

Is there anyone else out there who feels the need to take a shower?

Now, Back to the Ducks

Alrighty then, back to the Game of CFB. Where do the pigskin prophets believe the Ducks will finish in 2020? And, do you agree?

Almost every CFB 2020 preseason poll I have seen has Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State in its top 3.  The highest I’ve seen the Ducks ranked? 5th, by Sports Illustrated. The lowest (other than as discussed below)? 11th, by Athlon Sports. I have yet to find a 2020 preseason poll that does not rank the Ducks as the top team in the conference. I have found a few, like Athlon, that has Oregon as the only Pac-12 team ranked in its top 25. None that I have seen has any Pac-12 team other than Oregon in its top 10. This is the (not unjustified) perception of today’s Pac-12.

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Where do the Ducks rank in the preseason top 25?

ESPN writer Bill Connolly recently released his SP+ 2020 preseason Top 130, ranking all P5 and G5 teams. Bill’s take is not a WAG (wild-ass guess), but a ranking based on statistics, including, among other data points: returning starters; the number of previous game starts; the prior four seasons’ recruiting rankings; strength of schedule; and head and assistant coaching changes.

Is Bill’s the perfect CFB forecast algorithm? If it was perfect, Bill wouldn’t have to hold down a day job. But more often than not, Bill comes up with projections that are the most borne out at the end of the season. In 2019, Bill had Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State in the playoff and he had LSU ranked 6th. He also had the Ducks finishing 8th, pretty darn close to an #6 AP Poll finish.

I am not going to go 25 deep with Bill’s 2020 forecast. I’ll limit it to 15, which includes Oregon and another “old friend,” as well as where the SP+ sees the remainder of the Pac-12.

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Georgia
  5. Penn State
  6. LSU
  7. Florida
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Texas A+M
  11. Auburn
  12. Notre Dame
  13. OREGON (1% chance to win it all. 14% chance to make the final 4.)
  14. Texas
  15. Southern Cal
  16. UW / 31. Utah / 40. ASU / 47. Washington State / 48. Stanford / 52. CAL / 60. UCLA / 75. Oregon State / 78. Arizona / 91. CU

So, Oregon versus Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl?

What say you?

Jon Joseph
Georgetown, TX
Top Photo: From Twitter

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.

 

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