COW, Part 2: What's A Quality Win?

COW, Part 2: What's A Quality Win? Breaking down what makes up a real win to get excited about


Cavalcade of Whimsy

Nov. 4, Part 2
 

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November 4th
- Part 1 The Playoff Doomsday Scenario 
- Part 3 Playoff Questions Answered

“But they haven’t played anyone.” …

Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed witty and lively banter with Ohio State fans looking for love in all the wrong places, not realizing that playing and beating the likes of Kent State, Cincinnati and Illinois just doesn’t mean all that much when other teams out there are playing Ole Miss, Oregon and Kansas State – and especially considering the home loss to a Virginia Tech team that’s probably not going bowling and a double-overtime win over a Penn State team that lost to Michigan.

This week, I spent half of my Saturday making polite conversation with a slew of Florida State fans who can’t quite seem to grasp the concept that 1) 2013’s team was one of the all-time greatest, but that doesn’t matter in 2014 and 2) yes, for all the bullspit about a champion’s heart and “knowing how to win,” the Seminoles have two losses if Clemson doesn’t gag and Notre Dame executed its key third down play just a wee bit better.

But, fair enough, that’s football, and you can’t do the “if” and “but” thing, except when it comes to actually evaluating teams, and that’s where the superfans tend to go blind.

No one’s saying Florida State isn’t amazing, and, of course, no one is suggesting it shouldn’t be in the top four and the playoff if it keeps on winning – that’s not the point. If we’re supposed to compare 2014 Florida State to other top teams, and it comes within a flag of losing to a Notre Dame team that struggled with a Navy team that lost to Western Kentucky, and whose best win was a miracle over an average Stanford team, yeah, that matters.

All of these fan debates – complete with the all-too-predictable charges of bias and insults – end up coming down to one key component: did Team X actually play someone who’s any good?

Florida State fans trying the wave the undefeated flag won’t and can’t use the same argument when it comes to Marshall, and it’s a hard fight when everything is based on the eye test, but when it comes to what’s a really, really great win and what’s just a good win, it really comes down to one key thing.

Talent.

No, America, there isn’t a media bias towards the SEC - trust me when I say that few of the top media type don't particularly give a hoot about the SEC - there’s a bias towards the teams with all of the talent.

Wisconsin has turned into one of the premier college football programs in the country with a yearly standard of excellence that about a 100 other schools would die for. But for all the success and all “recruit to a type” rhetoric and all the positives, in the fourth quarter against LSU, the Tigers had four and five-star talent at defensive back, and the Badgers had two-star receivers.

Last year, Northwestern was hanging punch-for-punch with Ohio State, until Urban Meyer decided to hand the ball off to his NFL running back and let the line full of elite recruits start to pound away on the Wildcat defensive front loaded with try-hards.

Wide receiver DeVante Parker is a future NFL starter, but Louisville didn’t have a lot of those against the Seminoles, and it showed in the second half. The Cardinals have talent, but Florida State had Scout.com’s No. 8 recruiting class in 2010, No. 1 class in 2011, the No. 11 class in 2012. Meanwhile, Louisville was 45th in recruiting in 2010, 33rd in 2011, and 42nd in 2012 – very, very solid and respectable, but not nearly at the same level as Florida State. The Seminoles won because they had more talent and were just plain better in the second half.

While recruiting is hardly an exact science, and there are always cases of mediocre prospects who emerge as superstars – Dak Prescott was the 70th-ranked quarterback in 2011 –  for the most part, duh, the teams that consistently get more talent are going to be better.

Does that mean that beating Texas this year is a big deal? No, and how are Michigan and Florida doing after ranking near the top of the recruiting rankings for the last bazillion years? That’s sort of the point of why their respective coaches are on hot seats – there’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the Longhorns, Wolverines and Gators to be bad. But when trying to figure out where truly good, respectable wins are coming from, really, you’re talking about where those truly good, respectable wins are coming against the teams with the elite talent and depth.

That’s why SEC wins are so big. It’s not that all the SEC teams are awesome, but when Kentucky is pulling in a top 25 recruiting class, and when Ole Miss comes up with its greatest haul ever in 2013 and, despite being ranked tenth in recruiting, is still ranked sixth in the league that year among top classes, there’s just a whole other level of talent to deal with across the board. Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, USC, Notre Dame, and, of course, Florida State, are all at that level, too, but their respective conferences aren't. When it comes to respect and wins, the SEC simply has the teams with the most talented football players.

Yes, Ohio State and Florida State, you’re included in this, too … What’s the No. 1 difference between the SEC and the rest of the college football planet? Defensive linemen. Any team with the right system can find a quarterback who’ll put up big numbers, and running backs can always crank it up when running behind a talented line, but what separates the SEC from the pack – and makes Ohio State and Florida State so much stronger on a consistent basis than they fellow conference teams – is the D line, because outside of an NFL-caliber offensive left tackle, the hardest thing to find recruit is an athletic 290-pound 3-technique tackle.

So if you’re looking for why the SEC is so much better overall as a conference, it’s because, for example, in 2013, five of Scout.com’s top seven teams in defensive line recruit rankings were in the SEC – the other two were Ohio State and Oklahoma – and had seven of the top 13. Florida State was No. 1 in 2012, Ohio State No. 2, Mississippi State No. 3, and seven of the top 15 teams were SEC. 2011, Florida State was No. 1 again, but four of the top nine teams were SECers, and in 2010, the SEC had five of the top seven defensive line recruiting classes.

November 4th
- Part 1 The Playoff Doomsday Scenario 
- Part 3 Playoff Questions Answered


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