Sunday, September 11, 2005

How to make Tech a respectable football team

Ok, I'm going to toss out an idea on a subject about which I don't know much, so bear with me and correct me where I'm wrong. Yet I feel that my experience here at ND has lent me some perspective on the lack of respect towards TTU in the AP/USA/BCS (mmmmm, alphabet soup).

Riddle me this: 2004- ND has a lukewarm season, finishing just at .500, and losing the Tidy Bowl handily to the Oregon State who-gives-a-craps. This year they beat an overrated and unexceptional Pitt (23), and land at #20 in the AP. Texas Tech went 7-4, went on to trounce #4 California 45-31, and enters the '05 season at... #21? What gives?

It's all about perception: if I've got this right, then 2 of the 3 major ranking systems (AP and USA/ESPN coaches) are tabulated using human votes. So they're at least influenced by the perception of those teams' skill as well as the actual hard numbers of wins/losses and points and whatnot. That perception is something that is built over time, so Notre Dame or Miami or Michigan does not have to work as hard for a good ranking as Tech does, because people expect Notre Dame and Miami and Michigan to be good teams.

So how, then, do the Red Raiders go about acquiring this sort of reputation, other than just the patently obvious "win more games?" I have several ideas.

1. Play harder teams. Look at Tech's schedule, for Pete's sake. Florida International? Indiana State? I live in Indiana, and I've never heard of Indiana State! Just playing those teams makes Tech look like a lame ball club, and winning against them does nothing to improve their reputation. You can beat the Des Moines State Knuckledraggers 80-3 and you still won't even make the Saturday evening sports highlights. But you beat the LSU tigers by 1...
The problem with this idea is that any given team can't just schedule a game against whomever they want; the other team has to go for it, too. And most good teams right now won't give Tech the time of day. So how do they fix this, you may ask? Well, on to #2!

2. Become a real rival to good teams. There are some good teams who do play Tech every year, like OU, Texas, and A&M. And we Red Raiders consider them (esp. the last 2) our "rivals." But, (and any of you 'Horns and Aggies correct me if I'm wrong) they don't really feel the same way. For them, Tech is that annoying little team that gets the best of them if they screw it up. There's a big difference here: for Tech, it's a good season if we beat A&M. For A&M, it's not a good season if they win necessarily, but it's a bad one if they don't. They don't feel like Tech has a better team if Tech wins; they just feel like they played sub-par.

That's not a rivalry.

To fix this, to make Tech a rival, Tech needs to create the perception that A&M, or Texas, or whoever, has to play well to beat them, not just play normally. That means Tech needs to beat those teams consistently when they're having off years. Take last year, for instance: A&M didn't have a great year, certainly not like their glory days, but still beat Tech 32-25. Texas and OU or A&M will often go for several years at a time consistently beating the other, depending on who's hot (the Longhorns, for instance, haven't beaten the Sooners in 5 years). My dad told me once that he had already been a rabid Longhorns for years the first time he saw them fall to the Aggies. I had been watching college football for years the first time I saw the Longhorns beat the Aggies. Tech needs to start playing this way: when a team goes through dry spells, Tech should beat them consistently. Aggies will look at TTU in a whole different light after losing to them for 5 straight years.

I think these 2 points go hand in hand, supporting each other. As Tech becomes more consistent, building rivalries and getting associated with the good Big 12 teams, better non-conference will be willing to play them. As they stop wasting their time with lame teams, they'll get more used to playing good ones, and people will get used to seeing them playing good ones. And better teams will be willing to play them, etc. This improves their reputation and makes them look like a better team, so that the rankings folks will start to expect them to be good, and will tend to give them higher rankings.


Glazner said...

I think you have some good points. But basically the ranking system is very biased in the first place. And you're right, big name teams with a history of winning will move up the rankings easier.

I must say that the Tech non-conference schedule is disappointing this year, but that is not to say that they couldn't play big name teams. A few years ago Tech wasn't near as good as they are now, but they opened the season playing a good game against Ohio St (who ended up winning the national championship that year) So Tech would not have any problem getting big names to play against. Therefore, I'm not sure what the strategy was for choosing this year's non-conference schedule was...

Anyway, on to one of my thoughts about how Tech could increase their respect accross the nation. Win the games you're supposed to win (Spike had problems with this but Leach is doing a good job) and beat ranked opponents. Seasons are made by "the big game", like UT vs. OSU. Late in the season, people might forget that you lost to Kansas, but they would always remember Tech upsetting UT in Austin (for example). The big game is Tech's next obstacle. They've got to start winning the tough ones to go to the next level.

Tech will be in the top 25 consistently as long as Leach is there, but to go to the next level they'll have to start knocking off UT, Oklahoma, A&M (overrated but respected because of the history) in order to get true respect.

El Ranchero said...

Absolutely. I don't remember the Ohio St. game; that makes Tech's current schedule even more asinine, since they actually are capable of playing good games. I agree about beating ranked opponents. It really doesn't matter all that much in the long run if you lose to a crappy team once during your season (especially if it's early on), but beating big opponents is memorable. My thing is, they have to start knocking off those opponents regularly. When they do it enough that people aren't shocked by a big Tech win anymore, that's when they're on track for the top 10.

A&M is the perfect example of that BCS bias, good call. They really don't have that much going for them, but the rankings voters remember their hayday and still expect that they'll perform well.

They're on the right track, BTW, with that wicked butt-kicking they handed Nebraska last season (70-10). Thing is, to get respect, they need to do it again this year. And again the next. And the next.

TioChuy said...

I'm not sure what they were getting at but the coaches had this to offer for the schedule- 1) the pick the schedule three years in advance. I guess the logic of that one being they didn't think they would be any good? I didn't think Tech was doing that bad three years ago, of course I was half way round' the world for football season that year. (2) The cost of bringing teams here, the home school has to pay a portion of the cost of travel. That doesn't seem to hold much water either, FIU is in Miami, pretty sure there is another school there that would bring more notoriety if they came here to play us???