Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Debates Last Night

I watched nearly all of the governor, lt. governor, and AG debates last night (I missed about 20 minutes of the governor's debate but I don't think anything in that 20 minutes would change my mind). My observations, for what they are worth:
Governor's debate:
Governor Riley mopped the floor with Lucy. Lucy looked tired and, at least on my TV, red in the face like somebody had covered her with too much blush make up. She stumbled all night and was completely unimpressive. The governor stuck to his theme of bringing integrity and openness to the state house, at times sounding like a broken record, but also sounding much more qualified and interesting than Lucy.
Lt. Governor's Debate:
This was a very close debate with 2 polished candidates. I would say that Luther won it but not by much. Folsom came off as an experienced politician with deep ties to Montgomery and Alabama politics; in many states, this would make him the winner but I am not sure it does in Alabama. It is no secret that the legislature in many ways is a millstone around Riley's (a very popular governor's) neck and is thought of as representing an older, in many ways out of date version of Alabama politics. Folsom sounded like the candidate of the old ways. Luther was a little less polished than Folsom, in that he did not sound like a career politician. He was well spoken and articulate but you could tell he had less political experience, which is not a bad thing and is one of the reasons I think he was better in the debate. He did a good job of tying himself to the governor and arguing that he would be a help, not a hindrance like his opponent, to the governor's agenda. If you watched the debate, you realized that there were real differences between the candidates, especially since Luther began his answer to each question with "this is another difference between me and my opponent." Folsom has run a Republican-esque campaign, playing up conservative themes and appealing to gun toting voters so I guess this was probably needed but it was a little bit weird after a while. Luther would have won the debate hands down, except that he did come across as a little too close to Washington--talking about his relationships with both Alabama senators and his ability to work with them to get more federal funding for transportation. This is obviously good for Alabama in the long-run but it also makes me slightly uneasy. Overall, however, Luther came across as the voice of change and the candidate who would help and not hinder the progress that Riley has made in Alabama.
AG Debate:
Now this was entertaining. The gloves came off immediately and stayed off for 30 minutes. I actually think both candidates won different elements of the debate. Tyson, if you ignored the fact that he could not finish an answer in the allotted time and appeared angry the entire debate, had the best substantive answers. He was for crime prevention and pretty easily painted King as being almost an enforcement only person; prevention is very important in any state, but especially Alabama, since our prisons are already filled to capacity with criminals. King, if you ignore his substantive answers, came off as the better, more personally appealing candidate. He maintained eye contact and did not look like he was about to bust a blood vessel like Tyson did all night. The dumbest thing King did was accuse Tyson of having no experience and saying that his use of plea bargains was bad. Tyson has tons of relevant experience as a prosecutor and plea bargains are important tools in our legal system that should be used. Before the debate I was leaning toward voting for Tyson; after the debate, I think I am just not going to vote for either candidate. I don't think Tyson has the temperment to be AG and I don't think King has the intelligence.
If you missed the debates, you missed some great political entertainment. We will see what effects they have on the races.
For other views on how the debates came out, see this link and www.politicsinalabama.com generally.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

BCS: Benefitting Campuses [outside the] SEC

Tuberville was right about the BCS: it discriminates against the SEC. Think about the SEC this year: everyone says it is the best conference because Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Florida, and Georgia (all in the top 15 all season; at one point most of them were in the top ten) are in it. Beyond them, the mediocre teams this year (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina) could probably beat the top teams in many of the other conferences (Arkansas might should be in the top group but I am strictly going on rank there). The problem is that all of these powerhouses beat up on one another (see my Pyrrhic Victory and Defeat post). Put any of the top 5 teams listed above in another conference and they would have a much better chance of going undefeated and going to the BCS championship game. As it is, Auburn already beat LSU, Florida is currently beating LSU, Tennessee and Georgia square off tonight, later in the season Auburn and Georgia will square off, etc. Basically, to win out, one top ten team must beat 2 or 3 other top ten games in the regular season, then beat another one (or one they have previously beaten) in the SEC championship game, and then beat a non-conference top ten team in a bowl game. In a given season, a national champion from the SEC would have to win what would be 3 or 4 bowl games for most other teams. In between these games, they will also play 2-4 other teams ranked in the top 25 or which would be ranked in the top 25 if they had not been beaten by the top teams in the conference. It would be different if they could have Notre Dame's schedule of playing Michigan, Michigan State, USC but also Army, Navy, Air Force, and 3 or 4 other teams that the mediocre teams in the SEC would manhandle. Basically, they (and USC for that matter), play 3 or 4 games a year and have scrimmages with spectators in between. Their road to an undefeated season is markedly different than anyone's in the SEC.
Add to this a new phenomenon: ESPN's almost unabashed politicing against the SEC. Before you just call me bitter because they put GameDay at #2 USC v. #19 Nebraska instead of at #3 Auburn v. #6 LSU (no bias there, USC was obviously the better game considering they were favored by 18 and Auburn was favored by 3), consider who ESPN's analysts are: Corso (FSU fan), Herbstreit (Ohio State player), Rocket Ishmael (Notre Dame player), Mark May (Pitt player), Lou Holtz (long time Notre Dame head coach and FIRED South Carolina coach) and you can fill in the rest. The closest they come to having a commentator from the SEC on GameDay is when Charles Barkley (Auburn BASKETBALL player) is on. I used to watch GameDay religiously because it was the best college football show and played it pretty straight. However, in the last few years, especially since the BCS was instituted, they clearly have an agenda that is to promote conferences other than the SEC.
I believe there are a few possible solutions here: 1) institute a playoff (best possible solution); 2) eliminate the automatic bids for conference champions to the BCS and let #1 play #2, #3 play #4, etc. in the BCS rankings (still have the problem that SEC teams will beat each other and take hits in the rankings when other teams will cake walk to an undefeated season but its better than the current system); 3) do away with the BCS and go back to the old bowl system.
I don't usually whine an complain about things like the BCS, but I don't see any real way for an SEC team to ever win under it, even if they are the best team in the country. This year I am going to root for Florida for the remainder of the year (even though I am not a Florida fan) because they are the only SEC team with a chance to prove me wrong. Even if they win out, I am not sure they will make the championship game (my money is they won't because USC is a darling of ESPN and will be pushed as the second best team until they lose which they are unlikely to do and, if they do lose, ESPN will immediately jump on the West Virginia band wagon).
Another idea I had was for the SEC to immediately disband into 12 independent teams. Each year, the top 5 SEC schools should schedule to play USC, Notre Dame, and West Virginia each year back to back. The other games on their schedule should be 6 powder puffs (maybe the middle teams in the ACC, Big East, PAC 10, Big 12, and Big 10) and a few teams ranked in the top 25 (lower end of the top 25). A few things would happen: a) USC, Notre Dame, and West Virginia would not be undefeated most years; b) the SEC schools would be higher ranked by not beating each other up and having glorified scrimmages like other schools half of the year; c) ESPN might consider them on the same level with USC and West Virginia because they would no longer be in the SEC.
In conclusion: Go Gators (dang that hurts but desperate times call for desperate measures).

A Pyrrhic Victory and Defeat

Watching Auburn get manhandled all day by Arkansas and watching LSU currently getting beat by Florida (3rd quarter 23-7 so they could come back), neither team looks like a top 10 team although I think that they both probably are. The announcers during the Auburn game kept talking about how Tuberville said Auburn had not recovered from the LSU game and was still physically suffering. I am not sure I don't believe him. By the same token, I wonder if LSU is not still suffering physically too.
When 2 top ten teams, especially SEC teams, square off, it is bound to be a hit highlight reel. That game did not disappoint. However, I think both teams are still paying for it. Truly a pity they don't play in the PAC-10 with USC where you don't play a top ten team until the bowl game. Pyrrhic victories would seem to be much less common.