Whenever a football team faces a high-scoring opponent, we inevitably hear how it must exercise "ball control." Kirk Bohls has already opined that "if Texas is to get by an excellent Red Raiders team, it will have to devote itself to a clock-eating, chain-moving ground game."
The "ball control" strategy has never made much sense to me, at least as a blanket strategy for handling a high-scoring team. Yes, chewing up the clock gives your opponent fewer possessions and thus fewer opportunities to score. But it also gives your team fewer possessions and fewer opportunities to score. Ball control, in other words, not only keeps the ball out of your opponent's hands, it keeps it out of your hands.
Reducing the number of possessions makes sense only if your opponent is more likely to score on your defense than your offense is to score on their defense. Suppose, for example, that your offense has a 40% chance of scoring a touchdown on your opponent's defense on any given possession. And suppose your opponent's offense has only a 25% chance of scoring on your defense. If each team got 100 possessions, your team would be virtually guaranteed to win since statistical flukes are unlikely in a large sample. Note this would be true even if your opponent scored very quickly when it did score.
The optimal strategy for the team with the better chance of scoring is to maximize the number of possessions. Your opponent is less likely to get lucky the larger the sample. (This is essentially just the principle of reversion to the mean.)
Texas Tech has a prolific offense. Texas has a prolific offense. Texas has the better defense, though, and I think Texas is more likely to score a touchdown against Tech on any given drive than the other way around. Tech's best strategy, then, is to hold the number of possessions to a minimum and hope it gets lucky. UT's best strategy is to maximize the number of possessions. Ball control is the wrong strategy for handling Tech.
Fire Joe Morgan. Written by a bunch of statheads who really hate Joe Morgan and every baseball writer who is proudly ignorant of sabermetrics. It's the only blog on any subject that makes me laugh out loud every time.
I didn't have time to comment at the time, but the Statesman had a good piece on the Longhorn economy in Sunday's paper. This year, the University of Texas athletic department will spend more than $100 million. A lot of the AD's budget is spent on things like team travel (but chartered jets for the basketball team?), equipment, and medical care. But a lot of it gets spent sustaining the high life:
For the football team, after its Rose Bowl victory, "a $200,000 renovation of its players lounge, a retreat with four TV projectors (screens drop from the ceiling at the push of a button embedded in a six-foot replica of the UT tower), six flat screen TVs, four X-boxes and three PlayStations."
Another new lounge area for the football team, with five flat-screen TVs and a three-dimensional, lighted 20-foot Longhorn on the ceiling.
$380,000 to rehab Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds' suite overlooking the football field.
$9 million for the football stadium's new high-definition video and sound system, much of that for the new scoreboard, and $3.9 million to buy out the company that owned advertising space on the old board.
A couple of UT professors predictably called the spending an "extravagance" and an "embarrassment." I was disappointed nobody mentioned the key phrase: "economic rent." The athletic department has these millions to spend on luxury items because it belongs to a cartel that fixes the price of labor.
Of course, some of the rents are returned to the players as soft compensation; that's what those fancy lounges really are. But that $200,000 would almost certainly generate more utility if given to them in cash than if spent renovating a lounge to add barcaloungers and flat screen TVs.
This is a good illustration of the twin harms caused by the NCAA's price-fixing: (1) It redistributes money from student athletes to coaches and middle-aged administrators; and (2) it ensures that much of the compensation that athletes do get is wasted through inefficient barter.