Friday, November 9, 2012

The "Levels of Opponents" and Other Friday Morning Tidbits

A little Friday morning email exchange to get you geared up for a prime time Saturday showdown in Tuscaloosa!

Ben: This week has gotten off to a fine start. Not only is it Bama week, but up here in the Northeast, the effects of Superstorm Sandy are subsiding, and it's getting cold. When it gets cold, I think football. When I think football, I get happy.

Ever since you mentioned last week your "Levels of Opponents" a la Bill Simmons, I have been thinking back on this season. How would our opponents have stacked up BEFORE the season, and how do they stack up looking back? 

To recap, here are the levels (and readers, keep in mind this is from the Aggie point of view. You NEVER show pessimism):

1. Should be a blowout. This opponent resembles early 2000's Baylor.

2. Should be a solid win.

3. Toss-up. Could go either way.

4. Needing a small miracle.

Before the season, I would have slotted our opponents like this:

1. SMU, South Carolina State, and Sam Houston State

2. Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, and Missouri

3. Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, and Mississippi State

4. LSU and Alabama

Now that we're 9 games in, here's how I'd slot them:

1. SMU, South Carolina State, Arkansas, Auburn, Sam Houston State, and Missouri

2. Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State

3. Florida and LSU

4. Alabama

What do you think? Any you don't agree with?

Scott:  I love that you have already embraced the "Levels of Opponents".  It is a great way to categorize the season and explore various possibilities.  I do feel like the "Levels" can be better described (as I did in our previous, unpublished exchange).

1. Should be a blowout, Easy, Can of corn, no excuses.

2. Should be a win, but the other team isn't a powderpuff.  Good teams RARELY lose these games.

3. A toss-up, Good teams win more of these than they lose.  Home field plays a big role here.

4. A small miracle.  The opponent is a monster.

The beauty of these "Levels" is that they are all subject to discussion... lots of gray areas in between.  It is often easy to see when teams are in level 1 or level 4.  FCS schools are always level 1, national title contenders should always be level 4.  Levels 2 and 3 are the fun ones.  A loss to a team in level 3... it happens sometimes, but a loss  to a level 2 team, that won't be tolerated.

Your rankings before the season were spot on.  Zero argument.

The problem with your rankings up to this point... is the benefit of hindsight.  I think these "Levels" are better served as a predictive tool.  Granted those predictions were way off on some teams (Auburn), that is part of the guessing game.  

My reaction to your rankings up to this point: I think you could argue LSU is a level 4, maybe even Florida too.  Missouri is not level 1; don’t be ridiculous.  Obviously we are very capable of blowing out level 2 teams and I think that is where your lack of description creates flaws.  We should beat Missouri 8 times out of 10.  That should be level 2.  Same goes for Auburn and Arkansas (both in disarray, but both have legitimate talent).  And you could make an argument that LA Tech (away game, dynamic offense) and Miss State should be level 3.  

You are a bit jaded with a lack of respect my friend.

Ben: My apologies. Sumlin has me amped! When you watch your team utterly dominate two games in a row that (before the season) were supposed be toss-ups, it's tough not to disrespect the opponent. Watching Johnny Football absolutely light up Auburn and Mississippi State has me soaring right now. The all-black uniforms have also injected another level of confident swagger into this already “drunk on hype” fan base.

What'd you think of the uniforms?

Scott:  Absolutely loved the uniforms.  I think the all-black unis were a great break off from the norm.  Nothing outrageous (like that of Miss State); just a cool branch-off to our traditional garments.  Great move all around.

Back to the "Levels" as I said, I think it is more of a predictive tool, and you can bet I will be whipping it out in the off season next year.  And how fantastic is that we get Vanderbilt and Missouri next year from the East... WOW.  I mean Vandy isn't quite the pushover that most people see them as, but avoiding Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina... that is huge.

Another topic of discussion with the "Levels" (which will serve a dual purpose in also calming your raging swagger), is the discussion of where we think the Aggies are going forward.  An honest fan has to remind themselves of the early season expectations from time to time.  That is why the thought of 9 - 3 gets me pumped! A 9 - 3 inaugural SEC season.  It has a great ring to it.  What about next year?  I mean you have to think 10 - 2 is the goal right (regular season that is)?  Holy cow how times have changed...

Ben: It does blow my mind to think about this season of Aggie football. I set my bar at 6-6. Anything over that and I'd be a happy camper. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd surpass that in just 9 games.

We all underestimated A&M coming into the season, but did we also overestimate the SEC? Arkansas has been horrible (because of extenuating circumstances, but still), Auburn has been atrocious, and Mississippi State didn't put up the kind of fight we expected from them (or maybe they did, but they just aren't very good).

As far as personal accolades go, I don't think he'd become the Heisman favorite (Collin Klein has that on lock barring a catastrophe) but he'd at least leapfrog into the conversation and the forefront of voters' minds.

As for the team, beating Bama paves the way to a 10-2 season, with those two losses against top-10 programs by a combined 8 points. I don't believe A&M could jump LSU in the standings because LSU would most likely own the tiebreaker on account of their BCS ranking. However, if A&M finishes 10-2 (the same as LSU), you have to guess that the Cotton Bowl would extend the invitation to A&M.

That would be awesome.

I know A&M sucks at Jerryworld, but the thought of playing in the Cotton Bowl is salivating. Especially if our opponent would be Texas or Oklahoma, I think A&M could smoke either of those teams.

What's your prediction for the rest of this season?

Dreaming is fun...

Scott:  I have to predict a narrow loss to Bama, despite all of my wild Kool-Aid inclinations.  Next week we obviously tear Sam Houston apart, and I think we finish with a bang when we blow out Missouri.  The Missouri game is important to me, I want to absolutely crush the notion that they are stronger addition to the SEC.  They are from Missouri, for goodness sakes, what great things comes from Missouri?  Yea, keep pondering that one.

We end 9 -3 and patiently wait for our bowl bid… we will all secretly hope a Cotton Bowl miracle occurs, but it seems as if we are destined for something like the Chick Fil A bowl (from what I have read).  While that doesn’t carry the clout of a new years day bowl, I would be content. 

Heck, I love Chick fil A, those spicy sandwiches are magical. 

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