The KinderGarden - Preseason Edition

Ruminations on the BCS, the irrelevancy of the AP poll, and, of course, Mountaineer football highlight the latest installment of the KinderGarden.

I try to like the BCS. I really do. I like going to bowls. I like more than one team being able to end the postseason with a win. But no matter how much I try to block out the negatives, the poohbahs that control the system always seem to be doing something to mess it up.

The latest dud fired from the BCS arsenal was the recent announcement of the list of voters who will participate in the Harris Poll – the poll that replaces the Associated Press poll in this year's BCS formula.

While some of the names make sense, a number of them do not. Terry Bradshaw? When will he have time to watch college games? It has to take a lot of preparation to come across the way he does on Sunday – I'm guessing Saturdays are pretty busy for him. Gene Bartow? Granted, he's a collegiate athletic director, but he made his chops in basketball, not football.

Using former players is even worse. Are you telling me guys like Steve Largent and Jack Thompson will be able to vote impartially? Would Thompson, a former Washington State QB known as the "Throwin' Samoan", ever be able to vote for hated rival Washington?

I'm not sure what the answer is. But I don't think letting guys vote that watch and cover fewer college games than I do is the answer.

* * *

Although the AP removed its poll from use by the BCS, I'm not letting them off the hook either.

The AP tried to claim that they were removing their poll because they wanted to cover the news, not be a part of it. Yet, earlier this week, when the AP poll came out, there were dozens of AP stories about it. Ummmm, excuse me, but doesn't that constitute "making news"? And what do you think will happen if the AP votes a team #1 that's different from the winner of the BCS championship game? Bingo – instant controversy, along with hundreds of articles about a "split national champion". And all guaranteed to be created by those selfsame AP voters that decided they couldn't be a part of the process.

Let's face it. The AP pulled out of the BCS because the vast majority of its members want a playoff. And when the BCS didn't deliver, the AP took its ball and ran home. Which is fine, but don't expect to be invited back to the game, either.

Since withdrawing their poll from the BCS, the AP poll is now about as relevant as Gary Hart in a presidential race. Even so, you can bet we'll see beaucoup articles and columns using the AP's rankings this fall.

* * *

OK, on to more important things – namely, WVU football.

I do believe that if West Virginia's offensive line suffers any more injuries, Dan Mozes could be a very busy man. Mozes, a road grader at guard, might be West Virginia's third best tackle and second best center as well. So, if another tackle goes down to injury, it might well be Mozes that slides out that spot. Likewise, should center Jeremy Hines miss any time, Mozes could be the man to take over there. Now that's being indispensable.

* * *

It seems as if everyone has to have a label – and WVU's quarterbacks are no different. Adam Bednarik is cast as the passer, while Pat White is tagged as the runner. But while those appellations might have some truth on the surface, the fact is they are as shallow as many clichés.

Bednarik, while certainly not the runner White is, can move in the pocket to buy time, and is capable of running with the ball. He's also a load to tackle – I don't think you'll see many arm tackles bring him down. White, characterized as a running back in the QB position, has shown improvement in his passing, and only figures to get better. Next time you hear someone try to pigeonhole these guys, fight the madness. Each has skills that don't get enough credit.

* * *

Is there any more misleading statistical number by which to gauge a team's strength than number of returning starters? I don't believe so.

First, there's no standard method employed to calculate the totals. Does a guy who started one or two games count? Do you include the punter? Placekicker? Long snapper? Return specialists?

In perusing several different sources, I found totals of "starters returning" and "starters lost" that ranged anywhere from 22-30 players. Talk about your standard deviations!

Adding more doubt to the returning starter stat is the fact that not all those returning starters will start again this year. True, they will have some game experience behind them, but that doesn't mean they'll automatically be on the field at the opening whistle. Also, as we're likely to see with WVU's quarterbacks this year, starting is overrated. It's the players that are on the field the majority of the time, and the ones that produce while they are there, that make the difference.

If you're looking for a measure that might be more true, take a look at returning lettermen. While it's not an ironclad indicator of success, it does show the number of players that got significant time on the field a year ago – a figure that at least gives a relative experience level for the team. That's assuming, of course, that schools award letters for similar amounts of time on the field.

* * *

Finally, I was shocked to hear that Syracuse had only sold some 35,000 tickets for the opener next Sunday. Even if that number doesn't include students, it still seems pretty low for a school embarking on a new coaching era.

What happened to all those Paul Pasqualoni haters? The CoachPMustGo.com website was flooded with people vowing not to go to another game until Pasqualoni left. Wonder where they are now?

I'll tell you. They're the same place all those Gale Catlett haters were. People like that aren't fans. They're just looking for something to attack and rip on. Now that they achieved their goal, they're probably off harping on something or someone else. Good riddance.

Some final food for thought. Coach Dick MacPherson is revered at Syracuse. His career record? 66-46-1, including a 3-1-1 bowl mark. Pasqualoni, as noted, was despised in many quarters. His career mark? 107-59-1, 62-33 in the Big East, 6-3 in bowls. Hmmmm.


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