Bears

Rhymes with Mess

Rhymes with Mess

Friday, October 23rd

In case you missed it due to the fact that you were mesmerized by the hot topic of the last week, the NFL trade deadline (LOL), the first BCS (Bowl Championship Series) rankings of the year were announced. Yawn. I dont know if its the fact that where I live is not necessarily a hot-bed for college football these days (The Big Ten is awful! is a familiar refrain.) or understanding how frustrating following college football rankings can be, it wasnt really a topic at the bar. The few conversations Ive had were fairly animated and I guess thats the point. When a system is flawed, hard to understand and subject to many interpretations, of course everyone, including yours truly, is going to have an opinion and think theyre right. (And why should my opinion on this be any different than on other topics?!) Its an argument thats had every year at the bar, the only things that change are the names: I cant believe that Small Town U. is ranked behind Established Moneymaker State! This is an outrage! They should be able to settle it on the field, we need a playoff. Been there, done that, with this discussion. Is there really any new ground to be covered? It becomes mind-numbing.

Then I look at the paper and see my boy Orrin Hatch has better things to think about than healthcare reform. Still ticked off that his undefeated Utah Utes (Did you say, Ute?) got left out of the national championship last year, hes picking up on President Obamas well received line that he would like to see a playoff in college football. In fact, he was part of a Senate Antitrust Subcommittee that hosted a hearing on the BCS in July. To get his desired result, hes following the thing thats most important to the BCS, the money, and wondering out loud if its legal. This because there is a LOT of money involved, and he wants to make sure the right thing is being done, and did I mention what happened to his Utes last year?!! Coincidentally he sent a letter to the President this week calling for an antitrust probe of the BCS. This guy is one angry Ute! What Id like to say to him is: Good luck, pal! While youve been busy filibustering and entertaining moneyed interests, we college football fans have been enduring this farce forever!

I guess hes new here, since controversy and college football rankings (and subsequently bowl pairings) go together like, controversy and Dennis Rodman. (Does this mean that Dennis Rodman = BCS?) Without the controversy are people talking about them? The thing to remember is that college football is first and foremost about making money. College football fights for the headlines in the national spotlight with the NFL, its not going to get attention in the larger cities (those with NFL teams) or the larger populated areas without a hook. What better a hook than to drive those who do follow you insane, while protecting your business model? Genius!

Now I dont want to beat this to death, again, but does he understand the game thats being played here? This system is well oiled and time tested. Even if, due to some public outcry, they have to offer an insignificant tweak now and then, the good old boys do what they want. Then again, he is a POLITICIAN! It starts like this: Each year at the end of summer, theres a little thing in the paper thats called the USA TODAY Coaches Poll. Thats right, before a game is even played, the teams are arranged in an order that the coaches think they will finish. (Again, part of the beauty of this is that I could spend an hour typing about the coaches part of the process alone.) It could also be called, stacking the deck. What you do is put the various favorites of the power conferences in the top 15 or so, (check out this years, the names are very familiar) and then sprinkle the rest of the top 25 with those pesky good teams from the lesser conferences. Like say putting LSU, coming off an 8-5 season and unranked at the end of the year, at 9, ahead of Boise State, TCU, and Utah, which all finished in the top 13 last year. I wont even get started on the fact that Notre Dame coming off their stellar 7-6 campaign of a year last year was ranked a preseason 23! (I will admit, that right now LSU is 10, but thats the roll of the dice that they take, 8 of the pre-season top 25 are no longer in the polls, including a fall from grace of 3 Oklahoma which is now one of the dreaded others receiving votes even with a 3-3 record. (Its hard to let go!)

Why have this pre-season poll? Why not wait until say October 1st? What it does is make sure that it is harder for a team to move up past ALL of the teams from the bigger conferences. And the computer polls? While they give you generics about their formulas, they have to have a starting point dont they? I wonder what that is? I will give them this though, they average out to have Iowa, Cincinnati and Boise State ahead of Texas, which since they all are undefeated is not entirely far-fetched. But as long as there are voter polls, and the perception is that the SEC and Big 12 are the stronger conferences, those teams will stay where they are as long as the records are the same, because the voters still control 67 of the vote. So, if youre Iowa, even if you run the table, good luck getting into a title game if Texas and Florida are undefeated. And, what do you think the odds are that an undefeated Boise State or Cincinnati could make it to the title game over a ONE LOSS Florida squad? How about nada?

I dont know if its a coincidence, but it seems with all of the better programs in the south, theres not as much interest in the bowl games around the bar. Dont get me wrong, as long as you can bet, people will watch, and everyone was excited for that Illinois Rose Bowl a couple of years ago. But its not consistent, the games dont have the level of anticipation that they used to. Although I know what youre thinking: that last years Virginia Tech-Cincinnati Orange Bowl was must-see-TV. Not! (Now imagine if the winner had to play the winner of the Rose Bowl in a national semi-final? Think it would have gotten some interest then?) Plus theres the fact that there are 34 of them. What do you think? Too many without meaning? Not to mention, thats a lot of travel for student athletes around finals time. (Kidding! Only are students!)

So whether the distinguished gentleman from Utah is looking out for his own interest or not, Im rooting for him. As one who watches what the NCAA basketball tournament does for the bar, I think one involving football would be just as big, if not bigger, and could be done while still incorporating the 34 bowl system. Theres enough money for everyone, as long as the big conferences realize that its in their best interest to share it. What? Did I just type that? Have I lost my mind? The presidents of the schools with the most to lose will never let that happen. Institutions of higher learning have definitely learned one thing: Protect the nest egg! (The Desert Inn doesnt have heart!) Good luck Orrin!

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.