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Hot Reads: Bowling Alone
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: Bowling Alone

August 22, 2017

In the not-too-distant past, when times were simpler and bowls were fewer, making a bowl game meant a little more. From a fan’s perspective, it might have been one of three or four times you knew your team would be on TV. From a player’s perspective, you definitely got a winter trip somewhere warm and might get a Rolex. From a coach’s perspective, going bowling meant — at least until 1985 — that you were one of the top 20-ish teams in the country at worst and that brought some job security.

That’s gone now and that’s not news to anyone. But I was reminded of how much different things are while reading through SB Nation’s season preview. There’s a lot to read there like a long story told by (but not written by, of course) Ed Orgeron about how he landed the LSU job, how Clemson became champions of social media and why the nickel is now everyone’s base defense.

There is also a 1-to-130 ranking broken out by tiers (from best to worst): the contenders, near contender, teams that could jump up to a top-10 level, teams that could jump up to top-15, “a decent bowl is the goal” and then three more lower rungs.

Nebraska comes in at No. 39 overall, near the top of the “decent bowl” tier. Here’s Bill Connelly’s description of this tier:

With a few decent breaks, a few of these teams could make runs at division titles, particularly those in the Big Ten West or ACC Coastal. But for the most part, there’s little separation within this group. I didn’t think I disliked Indiana, Georgia Tech, or UCLA, then ended up having them quite a few spots lower than S&P+ projections.

Seems fair enough. Nebraska is sandwiched between Pitt and Colorado in the rankings, though six and seven spots lower than Iowa and Minnesota respectively. The Huskers are ranked ahead of a few teams that showed up in the preseason polls: Utah (25th, Coaches), West Virginia (20/22, Coaches/AP) and South Florida (21/19, Coaches/AP).

I think it’s the right range for Nebraska, though I wonder if it’s the right title for the tier. Going to a bowl game still has at least some residual prestige. It’s better than not going to a bowl game, for example. But are you the Husker fan (presumably) thinking about Nebraska getting to a bowl game here at the start of the 2017 season?

A few other notes on this particular set of rankings:

>>I quite like it because teams I’m high on in 2017 do pretty well here and we all fall prey to confirmation bias, willingly or unwillingly. In my case, I like seeing Auburn at No. 7 and love seeing Maryland ahead of Indiana, even if its only by one spot.

>>Yikes, Michigan State. The Spartans rank 74th. Rutgers (105th) is the lowest-ranked Power 5 team in the country.

>>Oregon gets the benefit of the doubt at No. 25. Nebraska’s other two nonconference opponents fall in the “mid-major up-and-comers and power-conference dead weight” tier. Arkansas State is 85th, Northern Illinois is 90th.

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