Slant Pattern Mailbag

It's time once again to open up the mailbag. As always, I don't get questions of my own, so I purloin them from other mailbag columns.

First, a fun question from Martin D. in Detroit via Stewart Mandel's College Football mailbag. He asks, "If football were an Olympic sport, would a team of U.S. college players be good enough to win gold? Also, who would the other seven nations be in an international tournament?"

I think college football players would be sufficient to win gold, but it'd be close between them and Canadian professionals. Each CFL team can only have so many American players, and the rest have to be "nationals." It hopefully won't surprise you to learn that a lot of those "nationals" are pretty good, impactful players. However, they tend to shade towards the offensive and defensive lines a bit, with not a ton of nationals at skill positions, especially quarterback.

The other seven nations would be those aforementioned Canadians, plus Mexico for sure, they have a modest league and benefit from closeness to the US. Elsewhere in the world, I notice that both in the old NFL Europe days, and contemporary European leagues, Germany seems very well-represented. So put them in.

After that, it gets harder. I think the UK would probably get the nod, then perhaps Japan, and let's round it out by looking at the European League of Football. Besides Germany, two other countries have multiple teams in the league: Austria and Spain. So there ya are.

Staying with Mandel's column, Rob W. of Atlanta asks, "The basketball selection committee has made it clear that strength of schedule matters. In football, teams historically have been judged first by the number of losses, with strength of schedule used only as a tiebreaker. Will that continue, or will the committee be willing to overlook an extra loss if a team played a tough schedule?"

Now that we are expanding to 12 teams, the committee will absolutely overlook an extra loss if they play a tougher schedule. And by "a tougher schedule" I mean, "plays in a P4 conference." And by "plays in a P4 conference," I mean, "the committee will never ever ever ever put a second G5 team (1 is mandatory) in a 12-team playoff."

Take a look at the highest rankings in the CFP era, going into bowl season, the committee has given to G5 teams, including 1-loss ones and undefeated ones. I'll wait.

Yeah, not much respect there, and teams like Liberty getting waxed by Oregon in their bowl game don't help matters; they overshadow accomplishments like Western Michigan giving Wisconsin a run for their money in 2017 Cotton Bowl, or some of the great G5 wins in major bowls — Boise State over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl chief among them.

Sometimes these G5 teams are as good and talented as we would hope. Sometimes they are not. It doesn't matter though, because putting, say, a 3-loss Arkansas team in the playoffs will generate a ton more money than putting in an undefeated Bowling Green team, so that's who will always get the nod.

Let's close this out with a tennis question from L. Jon Wertheim's tennis mailbag in Sports Illustrated. Sramkuma asks, "Shouldn't Slams be able to do a lucky loser in the main draw, as well? Sucks for fans and the remaining players that Casper Ruud is getting a free pass to the semis."

Sramkuma is referring to the French Open, when Casper Ruud basically got to skip from the round-of-16 straight to the semis because his quarterfinal opponent, Novak Djokovic, pulled out of the match due to injury.

Beyond that, I'm not sure what Sramkuma is asking for. Before I ponder that, a bit of a lingo lesson: every high-level tennis tournament has a certain amount of slots dedicated to players advancing in a qualifying tournament. Once that qualifying tournament is complete, however, invariably more players who are already in the main tournament pull out (almost always due to injury), meaning their spot has to be filled. So they choose (at random I believe) among players who made it all the way to finals of the qualifying tournaments, but lost. These players are called "lucky losers." It sounds pejorative, but it's not.

But, those lucky losers can only come in at the beginning of a tournament. In this Djokovic/Ruud example, they aren't going to pull a lucky loser all the way past the first round, second round, etc. to the semifinals. Instead, as is the case here, Ruud automatically "wins" over no-show Djokovic in the quarterfinals. This is called a "walkover" and it's also very common.

And this is the only way I can imagine it being. It seems crazy to let a lucky loser advance multiple stages of a tournament for "free" just because someone got hurt in a (in this example) a quarterfinal match. I suppose you could use a player who lost not in the qualifying tournament, but in the main draw, but for reasons I can't quite explain, that seems gross. Sometimes as sports fans we just have to accept things as they are.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site