Sunday, February 15, 2009

What 9 wins really means

I'm growing very frustrated reading how "we're all pessimistic" and "Wannstedt haters" because some of the people disagree that 9 regular season wins is not as big as some people make it out to be.

Is a 9 win season successful? Yes it is.

Is the 9 win season we had enough reason to not have some concerns heading into next season? No it is not.

Let's look at some history. People are claiming this is our first 9 win season in over 25 years and that is a very big deal. To me, I don't buy that line. In the last couple of years, schools are now forced to have 12 regular season games whereas in the past, teams only had 11 games. So now we have an extra non-conference game. Most schools (like Pitt) will scheduled a lower ranked D1 team or even a FCS school (D2) for that extra game. All that means is an extra home game for more revenue and an almost automatic win to puff up your win totals. If you look at Pitt in the 80's starting with Foge, there were a few seasons that we would have had 9 or even 10 regular season wins had they had the 12th regular season game. Even going back as recently as 2004, Pitt would have had 9 regular season wins had they been able to schedule that 12th game against an inferior team as would have been the case.

The second point I want to make is that while I believe Pitt ended up with a SOS around 25, we had a schedule full of good teams, but not great teams.

Arguably Cincinnati and Rutgers ended up being the best two teams we played during the regular season (I put Rutgers ahead of USF because of their amazing turn around and the collapse that USF had finishing 1-4 in the regular season). Every other team we played had a decent year, but not a great year. 3 of the teams we played did not make a bowl and we lost to one of those teams. When we played a middle of the group PAC-10 team, we were held scoreless.

9 wins is great, but this is not the gauntlet of schedule that we have seen even just a few years ago. The Big East regressed more than I could have imagined this year. As Louisville and WVU were expected to be the dominant teams based upon their recent success, coaching changes really ruined their programs. UConn is still gathering itself and trying to find an identity. USF goes through a midseason collapse after their annual Thursday night Big East beat down (luckily Pitt did it to them this year although a 5 point win is not a beat down). Rutgers turned it on at the end of the season but was awful early on. Now Cincinnati, our BCS representative, has lost a ton of players and will not be at the level they were at last year.

We won 9 games against teams that were not all that great last year. It is amazing that we didn't run the table and go 12-0 last year as that was probably the best chance we had in recent memory. We had a great leader at RB and an amazing talent at linebacker. Now they are gone and we have to prepare for life without them.

Unless there is some amazing change with this team, I do not see them winning more than 7 or 8 games, especially if the offense remains the same. Any SEC, Big 12, and most Big 10 teams would run through our schedule with ease. We simply just had an above average year.

I want to make something clear here. There is nothing wrong with pointing these things out. Looking at facts and being objective is what makes a good fan. If you blindly follow or blindly hate the coach without reason, that is where the problem lies. I'm not trying to be doom and gloom here, I am simply pointing out that 9 wins is a successful season, but it is not the season some are making it out to be nor is it the only predictor as to how we should expect to perform next year.

I look forward to some good discussion about this.


johnny said...

There are a few ways to look at a 9-win season. It is usually either a "turning point" or "stepping stone" season onto something bigger like a conference championship/BCS game or the upper limit to what a team/regime can accomplish. Under the circumstances, there is nothing wrong with being ambivalent that we are leaning towards the latter option.

Had the 9-win season occurred in 2007, then it would have more obviously been a turning point season. This is because it would have meant more stability at QB (Bostick or an uninjured Stull), Shady coming back for his Sophomore year, and an upgraded defense heading into last year.

Under the circumstances, we have a void at running back, linebacker, regression at the QB position and the prospect of a new offensive coordinator. Those are fairly gaping holes, though they will be addressed in time.

Thus, the actual loss of the Sun Bowl is irrelevant compared to the manner of the loss (poor QB play, inability to assert any kind of will over a defense that was embarrassed in a rivalry game several weeks earlier.) To this extent, even a 10-win season with a Bowling Green victory is equally unsatisfying, since it still means that the team has similar issues going into next season and failed to win a winnable conference.

However, I'm not trying to sound too pessimistic, since every team has player attrition and coaching turnover every season.

I believe that the secondary improved more in the second half of the season than any unit, the d-line is solid as always, and Greg Williams is a beast at LB. Hopefully we have enough underclassmen developed on the o-line for more consistency there. I also think that JB and the receiving corps will be deeper next season, and he and Porter could make for a formidable starting duo. I am also guaranteeing more yards from our running backs, since teams won't go into the season knowing that they can stack 10 guys in the box to stop Shady. Ideally the new OC will remember that we have these two whacky dudes named Byham and Dickerson who can actually catch.

Final point? I am cautiously optimistic, but anything short of 10 wins & Gator/Sun Bowl is failure. We have the Notre Dame Fighting Joke at home and most of our conference is in shambles. The only games that could be problematic are at Morganhole and at NC State, which is a very mediocre team in the All-Crap Conference. It's also time to start owning Rutgers' joke asses again.

rkohberger said...

I love how you say 9 wins isn't a big deal, then put out every then pull out every reason to justify that statement - and all for what purpose.... you never really get around to make a primary point.

You state the obvious "9 wins is a successful season" then try to rebut that with another obvious point 'there are concerns'.

So what I get from your article is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which any fan knows anyway, or that a 12th game 'almost automatically guarantees another win'. Again, what's the point?

We have heard ad nauseum how great the 2004 "BCS" team did by virtue of the fact that in ended up in a BCS bowl game. But now we have a team that won more games (or equal number if you apply your 'automatic extra win' retroactively to the 2004 team) and we do nothing but degrade it in hindsight?

I don't think anyone is pointing to 2008 and saying "this is the ultimate season and the best we can hope for". I do think fans look at the season, see a 75% winning percentage, and think it went very well. Especially compared to DW's winning percentage of 52% and Harris' of 55% at PITT.

I do wonder why you felt compelled to write this article now - as opposed to anytime between Dec 6th and now - more than nine weeks later. After all, this comparison was valid on that date - a 9 win regular season - and nothing has changed that win total since then. Is it possible that's because something happened to change your mind over that time period? Did you have a revelation and somehow 'it all became clear'? Did a brightly colored bandwagon roll down the street outside your door in the past three days?

Or is it because it is probably a lot easier for you to float this out there now as opposed to before? I seem to remember a real sense of pride and happiness coming from this site, and from every PITT fan, when we reached that goal after the UCONN game. What exactly happened to change the facts of those nine wins, did we play different opponents after all?

Those nine wins meant exactly the same on Dec 6th as they do now. It's how the fans perceiving them that makes a difference.

DPJ said...

The ambiguity of how Pitt fans are divided was the main point of it.

In fact I am very torn over how to feel about the 9 wins. I want to feel that this is a huge stepping point for the program and I want to believe we are headed in the right direction.

The other part of me doesn't want to simply have blind optimism so that I set myself up for disappointment. I certainly felt much better about the 9 wins after the UConn game than I did after the OSU game.

I chose to write this now because with the Mazzone rumors floating out there, people are acting like Pitt is either black (everything sucks and won't get better) or white (Wannstedt and the team have no flaws and we should just accept everything they say).

I think that we should all realize that we are some where in the gray. Everything isn't terrible, everything isn't great, but we should accept our strengths and flaws.

rkohberger said...

I agree that there are very few PITT fans who are in the middle of the road about this pending hire. I may be one of them - although I hold very strong feels about one of the candidates - who I do not want to see hired at any cost (it's not Mazzone).

I think what bothers me about the tone on the message boards over the last few days is that this issue has somehow convinced PITT fans of impending doom of the PITT football program - when in reality it may just be in the best shape it's been in years.

Every team has questions going into the off season, just as all of Walt Harris' did during his tenure. This one certainly does - but then again, we had some of the same questions going into 2008.

Why, if Cav so so poor (again, I'm not quite convinced he did as poor a job as most fans) is this change so universally reviled? According to these same fans "any thing would be better than what we had with Cav" - we heard that time and again since DEC 31st. So - now we are on the brink of a change - yet those fans who would have just not liked Cav returning but would have accepted it, are threatening mass season ticket cancellations, withheld donations, email campaigns, etc... all because of Mazzone? I don't buy it.

I firmly believe the pushback is because this "Hire Walt Harris" campaign reached a groundswell among posters. Take Harris out of the equation and I believe an announcement of Mazzone would be met with a WTF? moment, and perhaps some criticism, but not like we are seeing now.

Look at what the most vocal PITT fans are espousing - Walt Harris for OC, or secondarily - Angelichio for OC and Harris as QB coach. Either way it's a group of fans who have never let go of, or accepted the fact that, PITT fired Harris in the first place.

But more than anything else, what bothers me is that we are seeing a repeat of exactly the same thing we saw last August when we lost to Bowling Green. These same vocal and excessive posters were so damn sure the season was lost, and were calling for DW's head - without the patience to see the results through. We have the same lack of faith going on today, and it smacks of a perverse pleasure PITT fans take. Almost like they want these things to go poorly so that they can turn around and say "Told you so, we should have, could have, ...".

Why it it easier to assume failure when we've just been though a season of success? There is nothing wrong with looking at something pragmatically - as long as you don't do so with your opinion already set. Is PITT an 'elite team' at this point? No, and guess what - we may never be. But that doesn't detract from the good things we did last season, does it?

Not unless you want it to.

Danny said...

As a head coach Wannstedt has never been successful. He may be a great coordinator and a great face of the university, but when in charge the guy is a loser.

He treats this job like he is somehow doing a big favor to Pitt. He acts like we are lucky to have him here.

Another problem I have is him giving jobs to all of his loser friends.

I am not willing to give Mazzone a chance because he has failed everywhere he has been at. It is not like Bennett failing as a head coach. This guy failed as a coordinator and we're going to be bringing him in to do the same job.

We will never have more than 9 wins in a season. Sadly these 9 are coming against one of the easiest schedules in the country. The Big east is a joke and our non-conference schedule is hardly anything to be proud of.

The problem with Pitt fans is that we are so fragmented. One group only wants a Pitt guy, one group only wants us to bring back guys we fired (Walt), one group wants guys who have no head coaching experience.

If Pitt fans were more united to demand the administration be accountable for 10 or more wins per season regardless of the coaches background we would finally start acting like a real program instead of one stuck living off of a national championship in 1976.

Trevor said...

Here is the main problem. Wanny is an egomaniac. He won't listen to anyone else. He thinks that because he won under coaches that he has more knowledge than anyone and if you disagree with him you are wrong and don't know what you are talking about.

Good coaches adapt and change with the times. Wanny is running a good defense with a dinosaur offense. This is the same problem that plagued him everywhere he has been a head coach.

If Mazzone is hired, he is saying F YOU to all of the fans and administration.

A young bright coach who understands the college game is needed to save the program. We have all the talent in the world (outside of qb) but what we don't have is the leadership to win.

Trevor said...

Hey DPJ,

You're getting more publicity, check it out.

johnny said...


This evening should highlight the differences in the two programs when you juxtapose them. On the one hand, you have the football team which is inconsistent from week to week and progresses at a glacial pace. On the other hand, you have our basketball team just knock off the #1 team in the nation on our way to a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney.

I am not trying to make this a Dixon vs. Wanny argument, since the only argument less productive is Walt vs. Wanny. However, for most of us students and alumni under 30, we are, quite frankly, a basketball school first. And for what it's worth, there is no team on this planet that I am more passionate about and root for harder than Pitt football, but that is just reality.

Thus, I don't think you can accuse us young alumni or students of falling off the bandwagon so much as echoing frustration over a team that we all love sputtering. Clearly Pitt has the facilities to have a winning program in a marquee sport.

I understand why it's easy to confuse those emotions, so speaking for myself, and I believe most of the readers of this blog, I hope that you don't confuse us with so many of the Drama Queens over on the other message boards. I realize that they frustrate a reasonable guy named "rkohberger" on a daily basis. Though, "The Bald Guy" is also a reasonable dude.

Hail to PITT! On this evening with a most glorious victory. I hope the Victory Lights are blazing as I type this.

dugdogmaster said...

9 wins is 9 wins. Rejoice young ones!

Trevor said...

So is it Frank Cignetti JR????

johnny said...

Word is that Derrick Burns, younger brother of Chris Burns, has become the first commit to the Class of 2010. Welcome to the PITT family, Mr. Burns.

Or in the words of another Mr. Burns, should I say, "Excellent."

dugdogmaster said...

According to KDKA Cignetti has been offered the OC job. And the Burns kids or great athletes, better yet, great people.

Anthony said...

You are absolutely right. A nine win season against our schedule could have been viewed as a success if we had managed to stay in the final ranking. Achieving a nine-win season is good but it is not the achievement it once was. Wannedsted had to deliver a ranked team and he didn't. Bottom line.

Anthony said...

Furthermore, Wannstedt has been given far too many benefits of doubt. If you look at his record compared to other successful Pitt coaches, he just doesn't stack up. For example, Micheloson managed to get to the Sugar & Gator Bowls in his first two years. By year four, Johnny Majors had taken us to three bowl games and won a national title. Gottfried to us to two bowl games in four years as did Harris. So...what really is Wannstedt doing to advance the legacy of our great university in football?

Danny said...

But Anthony, don't you know. Walt had a great program and ruined it. Wanny was left with a bare cupboard...............