Friday, January 11, 2013

Input and Output in College Football

Now that college football is over, it's time to talk about college football.  Naw, but I just thought this was an interesting observation by notorious intelligence investigator Steve Hsu, formerly of Oregon, now research VP at Michigan State.  A second's reflection will show you how important recruiting is to any sport; your input is players and coaching, and your output is the end-of-season rank.  Which sets up an interesting reverse-quality gradient in coaching.  Hsu says:  "One of the big adjustments I had to make in coming to Michigan State was to Big 10 football. The offensive execution reminds me high school play ;-) Does any team squander more athletic talent year after year than Michigan?"  He has a video of some Oregon play calling to make his point.

That inverse correlation is that if you have weaker players from the get-go, you have to make up for it in better coaching (training and strategy).  Hsu points out that coaching seems better at Oregon than in the Big 10 because the big 10 has strong-recruiting legacy programs that draw more players more broadly. As a result, the Big 10 coaches have better players, but don't seem to work as hard strategically.  (Plus these teams get a break in the pre-season rankings and have an opaque computer system so the college football enterprise can trick fans into thinking the ranking numbers represent an actual competition, which is to say, maximize profits.)

(Note that I valiantly resisted the urge to make Notre Dame fans feel bad.  It's kind of like scolding your dog after it gets beaten in a fight by a cat.  Oops!  I did it again!)

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