What’s the deal with the SEC! chant?

Now that college football season is over, and FSU won the final BCS Championship, there’s a bit of a college football vacuum to fill. I might as well take a few minutes and explain something that seems to really confuse people outside the SEC: What’s the deal with the “S-E-C! S-E-C!” chant?

The short version

The SEC! chant was a marketing gimmick to get SEC teams more votes and more favorable rankings in the polls, meaning higher BCS rankings and more shots for SEC teams to win the BCS Championship.

The longer version

The BCS era was a transitional regime between simply voting for the national champion and deciding the championship “on the field” with a playoff. It was essentially a two-team playoff whose participants were determined by a computer algorithm that accounted for poll rankings, strength of schedule and some other stuff. The actual algorithm changed often throughout the BCS era as components were dropped, certain polls got more weight, the strength of schedule formula changed, and they made other tweaks here and there. But at its core, the BCS relied very heavily on polls, getting votes, and beating other BCS-ranked teams.

The SEC! chant reminds voters that the SEC is pretty good, so they’ll give SEC teams more votes, leading to higher poll rankings for SEC teams. This has an explicit benefit of nudging SEC teams ahead of non-SEC teams in the polls, and subsequently improving BCS rankings for SEC teams. For the last half of the BCS era, if it came down to a tight race between an SEC team and a non-SEC team in the polls, the SEC team would generally get preference. Sometimes, the preferred team would be a non-UF SEC team, but sometimes it would be UF, and we’d get a shot at a title. So that’s one way it helps UF when UF fans root for the SEC.

There was a nice indirect benefit, too: The BCS formula also included a bump for “quality wins”, so beating a Top 15 BCS team meant a better BCS score, which often meant a better BCS ranking. Most of a football team’s season is played against conference opponents, so if your conference had a lot of BCS-ranked teams, then that was good for your team because there were more “quality win” opportunities available. But if your team was the only BCS-ranked team in its conference, that meant there were no in-conference quality wins available. In this sense, rooting for the SEC was also rooting for UF.

To put a finer point on it, the SEC! chant gave SEC teams a small mathematical edge over non-SEC teams in the BCS formula; since UF is an SEC team, UF got a small piece of that edge. So, at least in the SEC, we could have our cake and eat it too—we could root for our team by rooting for our conference.


The trick with this whole gimmick is the SEC had to show up and actually win games so that the SEC! chant would continue to carry weight. If the SEC had gone to a couple BCS Championship games and lost, the chant would’ve been almost worthless. Of course, the SEC dominated the BCS era with the most appearances of any conference, winning three more BCS Championships than all other conferences combined. So it seems the SEC! chant served its purpose.

Florida Football shoots self in foot

I’ve been meaning to write about Gator football for several weeks, but I’ve been distracted with changing careers and moving back to Gainesville. Anyway, here’s my assessment of the season so far:

We’re good. Really, really good. Our earlier games showed that we’re a strong team with talent on all sides of the ball (I’m lumping special teams in there, too). We’re tough and able to finish games, we have a very potent offense and our defense is stifling. The Chris Leak, Tim Tebow duo is easily one of the best quarterback rotations in the country right now (and is probably one of the better ones in Florida football history). It’s been really fun to watch this team improve and I think we’re the favorite to win the SEC right now.

All that being said, we stunk in the second half at Auburn. Auburn didn’t outplay us, they didn’t out hustle us, we beat ourselves by making several stupid mistakes. I think the first half showed how good we are and the second half showed how dumb we can be. We were clearly the better team and we just melted down in the second half. They brought more intensity, but we were our biggest enemy. Their offense scored only three points in the second half, but our special teams gave up the winning touchdown.

I could rant about that for a while, but the bottom line is we made several stupid mistakes and it cost us. I think there’s a good chance we’ll play Auburn again in the SEC Championship and we’ll beat them by at least two touchdowns if we do (I feel like the magic number is 17 points, but I’m only predicting two touchdowns).

We coulda’ been a contender. We can still be somebody if we can win in ATL in December.


9-0 in the league

Well, we finished the regular season undefeated and we’ve entered the post season as the favorite to win it all. We won our first playoff game easily and we expect to win our second game this week. There’s really only one team that we think can beat us, and we beat them earlier this season. I’ve been playing very well and I’m pleased with my progress this season. I’ve been alternating between point guard and shooting guard and I’m comfortable at both positions. I’ve always been more of a shooting guard because I’m good at moving without the ball and getting myself open looks, but I’m getting more confident at point. The biggest improvement has been in my 3-point shot, and I think my team has really started trusting me to knock down shots. I sense that my teammates are trying to get me open behind the line and I generally don’t let them down. I’ve been hitting open shots and, more importantly, making big shots at critical times. I’ve also been working on playing around the rim and I’ve seen improvement there. Most of my success near the basket has been thanks to my teammates seeing me when I get open.

Florida basketball in the Final Four!

After five straight years of early exits, we’re heading to the Final Four in the NCAA tourney. All year, I’ve been consistently impressed with our team, but they’ve really surprised me in the tournament. There’s just no quit in this team and they’re not intimidated by anyone. I really think we have a very legitimate chance at winning it all this year. The best part is that it’s a complete surprise. We weren’t even ranked pre-season, and I don’t think anyone really expected much of Billy D. and the Gators. Next thing we know, they’ve got 17 straight wins to open the season. There were a few bumps in the road near the end of the regular season, but I think those were just growing pains. We’ve adjusted and we’re looking our best right now, at the best possible time.

Also, this was supposed to be a “down year” for the SEC. For a down year, we’re doing pretty well considering we have a decent shot at having SEC teams battling it out in the Championship game.

Playing a little cards

Not much to report with the poker. I’ve been running a little bad lately, but that’s gonna’ happen from time to time. I feel like I’ve been playing well and making good reads, so I just have to stick it out. I’ve become very good at controlling the table when I play live. I make good moves and use my table image to my advantage. I’ve become particularly good at getting my opponents to show me their cards when I want to see them (usually when I want to know if I made a good laydown). I wish the cash flow was following the information flow, but I guess I just have to give it time.


Florida basketball fumbling around

Well, after a 17-0 start, we’ve dropped 5 of our last 10 games. Three of those were on the road to then unranked teams. There’s good news and bad news. First, the bad news: we’re young and we seem to have hit “the wall” that players and coaches talk about. It usually happens in mid-to-late Febuary and the symptoms are very similar to the traits of a bad basketball team: there are unforced turnovers, missed layups, poor clock management and bad decision making in crucial situations.

Obviously, this is a terrible time to hit the wall since so much is on the line from here on out. We have to play the SEC tournament and then we’ll get our seeding for the NCAA tournament. Seeding is crucial and we don’t want to fall too low. Florida has been the perennial 5-seed that meets the problematic 12-seed. We don’t want that to happen again.

But there’s also some good news: our biggest loss is by 6 points. We’re not getting run out of the gym, but we’re not finishing games either. In four of our five losses, we were tied or leading with about a minute left. In each case, we found a way to blow it, but we just as easily could’ve won it if fortune was smiling on us. These errors that we’re making late in the game are very small ones and can be corrected with good coaching and experience. If anything, it’s good that we’re experiencing this now so that we’ve experienced these situations before we’re playing down to the wire against an unknown opponent in the NCAA tournament.

I’m hoping we really turn it on again in the SEC tournament. We are the reigning SEC Champs, afterall.


Gator Bait!!

I don’t have much to say because there isn’t much to say. We own the ‘Noles. We beat ’em at Ron Zook field last year and, if not for some egregious officiating, we would’ve beat ’em at home two years ago. In fact, there are a lot of parallels to our 2003 matchup, but the glaring difference is that the refs didn’t blow call after call this year.

At any rate, by blowing out FSU, Urban Meyer has redeemed himself and our season (not that Urban really needed much redeeming). Granted, a win at South Carolina a couple weeks ago would’ve been wonderful, but beating all our big rivals–UGA, UT and FSU–in a season for the first time since 1996 is plenty reason to celebrate. Pile on our first season since 2000 without a home loss and things just seem that much sweeter.

So, the pros of our season just might outweigh the cons. With the whooping we put on FSU, we might get a decent bowl bid. Also, we played a very difficult SEC schedule this year and Urban still had a decent season while installing a new system and working around several key injuries. It’s obvious that a healthy Gator squad with a full year of Meyer’s offense under its belt will be a force in the SEC next year. Also, it seems we may have finally taken back the Swamp.

All in all, it’s been a good season. I’m glad I got to go to both the Tennessee and FSU football games. Next up, the Alabama State vs. Florida basketball game on Monday night.


Florida Basketball: It’s Faaaaaantastic!

Well, I don’t think anyone saw this coming. Since yesterday, we’ve knocked off two Top 20 teams–Wake Forest (18) and Syracuse (16)–to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

This year, I expected our team to be young, scrappy, a lot like the Kentucky teams of the past few years. No real superstar, but several solid players, most capable of scoring 15 or 20 points on any given night. I expected us to play high-octane basketball, pressing, smothering teams on the defensive end, and trying to run the fast break game whenever possible.

What I didn’t expect was the chemistry that our team has shown so early in the season. It’s still November and they look like they’ve been playing together for years. Our passing game is impressive and we looked right at home against Syracuse’s signature 2-3 zone. In fact, we forced them to go to man-to-man defense because we were shooting so well and passing so well inside and around their zone.

I’m very pleasantly surprised and I think this team can be very, very good. We’re starting 4-0 and I expect we’ll be ranked when the next rankings are released. I think the SEC is in for a surprise from a young, solid Gator basketball team this year. We might be able to defend the first SEC Championship in school history with an all-around better team than the one that won the Championship last year.


The football infestation continues…

Well, I said I didn’t want this to become a football blog, but since I have no life and I love football, I guess that’s just what’s on my mind. We beat Georgia… again. I’m not saying that in a cocky way, it’s just how it is. Yes, they were without their quarterback, but that elicits little sympathy from me. We’ve been playing without our stars all season–Chris Leak hurt his shoulder against Alabama and it clearly affected his next couple games; Andre Caldwell, our first receiver, broke his femur against Tennessee; several of our key defensive players have missed games and on and on–and we’re not looking for sympathy. We’re just playing good football, the same as Georgia. And this game wasn’t as close as it looked on paper, either. We should’ve scored just before the end of the first half, but we fumbled on the 5 yard-line when a Leak/Wynn exchange went poorly. That wasn’t good Georgia defense, it was a gift from the statistical gods. Also, Georgia’s only touchdown came on a trick play that only worked because it was botched. It was a nice catch by T3, but he wouldn’t have been open if he didn’t accidentally fall down earlier in the play. It was like hitting a 3-pointer off the glass–you get 3 points, but everyone in the game attaches a mental asterisk whose note reads, “3-point airball.”

Anyway, it was another SEC slug-fest and we were fortunate enough to win it. Our offense actually came alive in the first quarter and then it went back into hibernation as the defense dominated the rest of the game. Meyer is finally figuring out what to do with Leak and company. Keeping it simple is the best way with these guys. Zook’s problem in 2004 wasn’t offense–we torched most of the teams we played–it was a lackluster defense who took naps and drank drinks with little pink umbrellas in them during the fourth quarter. Our defense has totally transformed this year, but our offensive personnel are the same. Give Leak a pocket, let him pass and use our running backs to run it right down their throats. We are best on the ground when we’re running downhill.

So now what? Well, we should win out in the SEC, which means we’re going to be chanting “War Eagle!!” soon enough. I think it’s silly that we’re depending on UGA’s game with a Western Division foe to vault us into the SEC Championship. Each East team plays 3 random West teams and Florida had to play AT Alabama and AT LSU. Georgia? They get Auburn at home. They don’t have to play ‘Bama or LSU at all. Must be nice. The planets have aligned and UGA may have a shot at the SEC Title in spite of their second-best SEC East record.


Two losses to two Top 10 teams

I guess Florida haters like to see that we have two losses and we’ve fallen to 5-2 overall. But I don’t think it’s really that bad. Of course, we didn’t look good against Alabama, but they’re still in the Top 10 right now. After this week, LSU should be Top 10 as well. All things considered, I think that’s reasonable.

Our hopes at a shot for the SEC title are all but gone, but I guess that’s just the way it goes. What’s frustrating is that we could be undefeated in the East and still not play on December 3rd in ATL. Something seems a little off there, but I’m just a biased Florida fan.

Speaking of Top 10 teams, our next opponent lives there as well. In two weeks, we go to Jacksonville to play Georgia. That should be a good game and could be Urban’s second win against a Top 10 team. Of course, we’ll be underdogs, but that’s the way it has been many times over the past few years. We’ve only lost to UGA once since I started school back in 1998 and I think we have a good shot at keeping that stat intact.

I don’t like that this has turned into a football blog, but at least I’m updating it with some frequency.


CA or bust

I’m officially going to El Segundo, California for three days next week. It doesn’t sound like all that much, but since Dallas is the farthest west I’ve been since I was about 10, I figure it’s kind of a big deal. Best part of it is that it’s not even on my dime and I only have to work one full day while I’m there.

Florida wins again–four in a row

Well, after losing a tough one to Georgia on their court a few weeks ago, it was nice to hear that the Gators stepped it up at home and split the series. It seems like our guys have really started playin’ big since Christian Drejer shipped out and they couldn’t have picked a better time. We have to play at Kentucky on Saturday, then we get a little time off before the SEC Tourney. A couple weeks ago, I’d have said we wouldn’t have a chance against Kentucky on their floor, but now I’d say it’s anybody’s game. With the offensive fire-power we’ve been able to rustle up, along with our new ability to refrain from choking away close games and small, late leads, I’d say we’re one of the better teams in the SEC.

Billy Donovan said [paraphrase], “Christian Drejer is a great player, but our guys are playing better without him for some reason.” After all the hype that Christian brought with him to America a couple years ago, it’s hard to believe Billy would say that. But he’s right and I’m almost glad Christian left. He was our leading assist man, but he wasn’t contributing too much on defense and he wasn’t being aggressive enough on offense. In the SEC, the more aggressive team often gets the win because of the up-tempo, quick-defense style of basketball that we play. I think Christian just didn’t really fit into that style of basketball. I think that, after a little time as a pro in Europe, he might be able to find a home on an NBA team with a slower, half-court based game. I think he has a lot of work to do before that’s a possibility, but I think it is a possibility.

I’m not going to make any predictions about the game on Sunday, but I will say that I think it’s going to be close. I think the game will be decided by 7 points or less and there will be at least two lead changes under the 10-minute mark.


Won one on the road

Looks like the Gators pulled out another win today. Although Arkansas was one of the worst teams in the SEC going into today’s game, it was entirely possible that Florida could find a way to lose. They tried to, but managed winning in spite of a late-game meltdown that brought the Hogs within 5 points as the clock expired.

We had trouble with turnovers, just as we’ve had the past few games. I think that’s the one area of the game where losing Drejer has really hurt us. He protected the ball, made smart passes and always finished with several assists. Other guys–Roberson, Walsh–are stepping up and getting assists, but they’re not protecting the ball like they should be. I think we had about 20 turnovers today and that’s just unacceptable. The reason turnovers hurt us so much is that we simply can’t get back and stop the other team from scoring after we turn the ball over; we’re just not fast enough. Our defense is slow anyway, and giving the team multiple opportunities to explicitly exploit our slow transition defense is not a good way to win close games.

I think we’re doing pretty well offensively, but if our perimeter game goes cold for a day, we’ll be struggling to win. That may or may not be a problem with so many great shooters–Roberson, Walsh, Abukar, Humphrey–that can tow the line. I’m looking forward to closing out our SEC schedule against Georgia and Kentucky. If we can with both those games, it’ll give us a huge boost of confidence as we move into the NCAA Tourney, regardless of how we perform in the SEC Tourney.