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2022 College Football Preview

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

In this week's episode, Professor Mike Lewis and I take a look at the upcoming college football season and break down Week 1's biggest matchups.

This episode also features discussion of Serena Williams, NFL quarterback storylines, and Mike's "sports apathy" findings from his 2022 Next Generation Fandom Survey.

Listen to the full podcast here:


Mike Lewis 0:08

Hey, welcome. This is Mike Lewis and Doug Battle with the Fanalytics Podcast. How are you Doug on this? I know you're happy. We're Week Zero of the college football season. So it's sort of the happiest time of year for you. So I'm sure I mean, wasn't a lot of games on deck. A lot of really good stuff about to hit, but you got to be enjoying it.

Doug Battle 0:30

Yeah, if you're listening, you can probably hear my smile. I am so thrilled. That is football season. I have been constantly reminding everyone in my life that it is almost football season. And I'll be honest, Mike, I didn't watch any football this weekend. I'm not wanting to open presents on Christmas Eve. Okay, and so week zero football for me if my team's not playing. I don't want to spoil it. I don't want to dilute the excitement of week one football with some weeks zero football with some preseason football. So I've been holding out. And this Saturday, I'm watching every game. I will be locked in. There's no one in the country more excited than me this week. And my productivity, Mike, I apologize, but it's not going to be at an all time high.

Mike Lewis 1:12

Fair enough. I'm not gonna I'm not even gonna look, there were a couple of games. We'll come back to Nebraska when we talk about college football this week. Now I will you know, I gotta do the shout out as the little fanboy the aligned I dominated against Wyoming but we'll we'll let it go from there. Okay, day two bandit. Vandy looked really good against Hawaii also, from what I heard. So, we talked about this literally a week ago about what happens if Vanderbilt and Illinois start off three and we're off to a good start. Okay, so Doug, we're gonna you know, just to get us moving. Before we move into look, we're on the eve of football, really. And so we'll spend the bulk of the time this week on college and pro football. But it's also a major, you know, there's significant stuff happening in the culture and in sports as well. I think the biggest story is the Serena Williams, I guess will some will say farewell tour at at the US Open.T he thing that's notable about the Serena Williams story to myself is that it is a you start to understand it in terms of how important Serena is, let's say to the media and to the sport itself. Maybe you know, we discussed a little bit that it's kind of interesting how much popular appeal she has, given how few people actually watch tennis. But when someone like Serena steps away, everything from the ESPN of the world, the tennis world, they all come together, and it's essentially the US Open is a Serena Williams tribute that they're hoping stays alive as long as possible.

Doug Battle 2:54

It's a Serena Williams tribute it reminds me of Kobe Bryant's farewell tour, his last NBA season where it seemed as though as much as was going on in the NBA with LeBron and the Cavs really submitting themselves as a championship favorite and contender with the Golden State Warriors, of course, being a dynasty. And yet, I remember that last game of the season, where the warriors were going to set the record for most wins in an NBA regular season. And everyone was tuned in to the Lakers game, the Lakers were not playoff bound, it was coviz last game all year, the storylines were really maybe not about the best player at the time, or the best depth, certainly not the best team at the time. But the legacy player, the goat going out, and Serena Williams is in that same position right now. For tennis. It's hard to imagine someone taking up the mantle in the way that she has a brand that big, and it makes sense for Serena Williams to be the story, particularly in women's tennis.

Mike Lewis 3:54

Yeah, and it's, you know, when you watch the details, it's sort of fascinating to watch. They're playing it up on both sides, right? I think Serena is daughter was even wearing the beads that Serena wore during her first US Open victory. And so this is like I said, it's it's one of the greatest of all time being, you know, pushed out there by Nike. In some ways, you know, regardless of whether or not you're a tennis fan if you're a student of sports marketing, this is a classic case study. You know, Kobe Bryant's a great example. Michael Jordan's another example. This is this is one of those very special moments that sports in ends up being exactly the same as popular culture. Doug's speaking of popular culture, Chris Rock was offered the hosting duties for the NEXT Academy Awards. And Chris Rock said no.

Doug Battle 4:49

I think that physically his body can't take it. I think you for per minute on stage, he's taken a toll and you add up an hour of or maybe two, three hours of screen time for Chris Rock on an award show. I don't know that anyone could take that kind of that's like putting someone in the ring. With Mayweather of course Mayweather is dancing around you the whole time. So perhaps a more aggressive offensive boxing style. You get the picture, though. I don't know if this rock can take it. I don't know how much of it's hard to tell, with all this pop culture stories. If you know how much of it's legit. How much did they really want them? Or was this kind of staged was the whole thing staged in the first place last year? It seemed like it at the time. After further review, it seemed like it wasn't I don't know I what this story who knows what's going on? I personally would have been more likely to tune in with Chris Rock on stage, though there's no doubt about it.

Mike Lewis 5:47

Well, and that's it, right? That's the point. So we the Oscars used to be something that 50 60 million people would watch. Right? It was the celebration of the movie industry. When the movie industry was out at the theaters. And you know, movies were more of an event rather than just another product that that streamed last year, but the ratings had fallen to about 10 11 million people per Oscars episode. Last year, this whole thing blew up and blew up on Twitter. And suddenly they were back to 1516, maybe 18 million folks watching. So in some ways, the Oscars, it was the most obvious pick to do. Right. You they actually had to ask Chris Rock and they're probably thinking this is going to be this is going to be easy. This is gonna be like Saturday Night Live skits all night long. And in some ways, it would make Chris Rock the biggest star of the moment as well. I mean, so I thought it was interesting. I think it was obvious that they asked him I thought it was interesting that he turned it down. Maybe he looks at this and goes, you know, I got all the money in the world. I got more than enough fame. I don't need this kind of circus.

Doug Battle 6:58

Yeah, like I said, I have no idea. I'm kind of surprised they didn't offer a co hosting gig to Chris Rock. And Will Smith just to really make things interesting for audiences. But nevertheless,

Mike Lewis 7:08

Doug, how about this? Chris Rock co hosting with The Rock standing next to him? Yeah?

Doug Battle 7:17

There we go. Yeah, I don't know. I'll say is I I think that last year set the bar for what it's going to take for people to have interest in the Oscars, and that is enormous controversy. Shocking happenings on stage. I wouldn't be shocked to see more kind of staged out repeats of last year, it would get pretty gimmicky pretty quickly, I would imagine but also, I'm sure if you look at the social media engagement rates for the show when things were going as planned and then when they weren't that the engagement was through the roof at that point. So there's some learnings there for the marketing team for the award shows. And I think that controversy is the way to go I think that's why they went after Chris Rock and I think Chris Rock turning it down. It's got us talking about the Oscars. So if nothing else there in the conversation again.

Mike Lewis 8:16

Okay, Doug. So moving forward. College football about to really hit us in earnest to enormous games this week. I know which one's probably the top of your agenda Georgia versus Oregon. At Ohio State vs Notre Dame I think my understanding is that I don't know what the line is on the on the Georgia Oregon game but I think the line came in where Ohio State was pretty significant favorites over Notre Dame which is you know, in an interesting star for number I think it's number two versus number five. It's a happy time of year for us. So you know in some ways I'm not sure exactly how to start the conversation farming wants to just go okay Doug college football, go!

Doug Battle 9:06

That's all you got to say Mike. Yeah, the lines for these games for how hyped they've been in the media and how even it feels. I think the Georgia Oregon game as a 17 and a half minus 17 and a half in favor of Georgia. Of course. That seems for for three verse 11, Oregon, a team that knocked off Ohio State last year, Ohio State a team that everyone thinks is going to be world beaters in 2022. That seems kind of crazy to me. And the Ohio State Notre Dame that's a two v. five so that's an even closer matchup in terms of rankings. If anything, it shows how stark the parity contrast is in college football where these top three teams, it's widely believed that there's a large drop off once you go from three to four. We're in from from there on. And so when you've got to three, verse five, and the line is double digits are along those lines, and you've got to, or two verse five, or you know, three, verse 11, or whatever it is, and it's 17 and a half point spread, that tells me my that, at least the perception is changing, and college football, where it used to be maybe a three point spread, for a number one team versus the number 12 team in the country. Now you got to two or three of the five, and it's double digits, the drop off is huge. That's the perception. If Notre Dame or Oregon can pull off the upset this weekend. I personally think it's probably a good thing for college football. But if if the spread you know, both these teams cover if Georgia and Ohio State cover, I think that the storylines on ESPN all year, they might as well just only cover three or four teams, because in everyone's mind, those are the only teams in the running Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State and then maybe some wildcard maybe it is Notre Dame, maybe it's Clemson we'll see. Beyond that. It doesn't seem like there's a lot of competition. Or let me say teams that can compete with those top three.

Mike Lewis 11:09

Well, in look, Doug, I'm gonna ask you this question. I honestly don't remember what was the score of that Georgia, Michigan game last year in the playoff?

Doug Battle 11:18

It was bad. I'm looking it up. So I don't say this wrong.

Mike Lewis 11:22

And at that point, Michigan was the number two and Georgia was the number three, right? Yeah, it was 34 to 11. And I think it's just it's more of the same, right? It's the college football world really is. And we were talking last week about a couple of mega conferences. But at this point, you know, it's hard for college football fans to get their head around that Alabama and Georgia are not going to be dominant right that the SEC the top of the SEC is not going to be dominant. It's almost like there's a question mark about Ohio State. And it is interesting that when you get to number five in the polls, right and I think I've seen I think Notre Dame's five in some of the polls I think it was it seemed like Texas a&m Five and other polls thatthe drop off is there that the assumption is that college football will again be a two three probably not four team battle till the end.

Doug Battle 12:22

Yeah, it certainly feels that way. And like I said, if Oregon word upset Georgia or if Notre Dame were to upset Ohio State, I think at that point, everyone feels like okay, we're in the hunt. This thing isn't as isn't as unfair to us as we thought it was.Top 15 teams have a chance. I remember Cam Newton's year at Auburn, I think Auburn had to begin the season was maybe in the 20s as far as the ranking or late teens, of course, finished the season with the National Championship number one, that's got to be the last time we've seen that big of a jump from preseason rankings to the end of the season. It feels like you know, I mentioned earlier Those years were in the NBA, where it felt like the Golden State Warriors are gonna be in the finals, the Cavs are gonna run the east with Lebron, you kind of knew the championship before the season started. And everything else was a fight for third place. That's how college football has seen. Of course, it's a fight for fifth place for that spot outside of the playoffs, or maybe even fourth place, which is the team that usually gets smoked in the first round. We saw it with Michigan State. And the first year the college football playoff last year we saw it with Michigan, of course they were ranked higher. But they weren't one of those teams. And I think everyone knew it. I don't think they were favored in that game against Georgia as far as the spread, even though they were the highest ranked team. So I think, you know, Notre Dame is an interesting one because they have a new head coach.

Mike Lewis 13:44

Oregon to me, they also have a new head coach and that the spread probably reflects that. But in my opinion, the Oregon Georgia matchup is an interesting one because as someone who's followed Georgia for a long time, one of Georgia's main advantages is Intel, and preparation. And in this game, the head coach of the opposing team, to Georgia is a former Georgia assistant. And his scheme as far as the offense is a wildcard his you know how they're gonna use their talent. The Georgia coaches don't know they don't have film of that team. And so and Notre Dame, you could say the same thing with Ohio State going up against a team with a new head coach, I think they probably have a better idea of what to expect, but I would actually put the defending national champions in my Georgia Bulldogs on upset alert week one. I think Bo Nix is a player for Oregon who he's either going to throw four interceptions in that game or he's gonna throw for 400 yards. There's no in between with him. He's never played behind an offensive line. Oregon's a team that's got five returning starters for a team that was a semifinalist for the award for best offensive line a year ago. And so I would that 70 and a half point spread. I don't I mean, I'm I've kind of been scratching my head on that one, but I think Georgia is gonna be a phenomenal team this year, but I I think those first two, you know, I think that game of those two is the one I expect to be closer, we'll see what happens. But for college football fans, having these marquee matchups in week one is so exciting. It's such a difference from seeing the Old Kent State versus Alabama, of course, I think Alabama plays like Utah State or something like that this week, next week, they have Texas beginning the season with some real competition is a good thing for college football, in my opinion.

Okay, so college football. You know, it's, it's always an interesting thing. I mean, it's evolved in a way. I mean, it used to be probably much more variation throughout the season, right? Where you could actually see people come from that maybe not nowhere, but from, you know, less than the top 10. And we've, we've definitely seen this concentration of power at the top of the SEC. And that's been essentially the equivalent of the top of college football with you know, the Oklahoma's in the Clemson's jumping in now and then. But, you know, college football is also kind of tough to get your head around, because there's so many, there's so many teams, any stories that and you know that I tend to kind of focus on sort of stories and you know, at the NFL, I always focus on the quarterback narratives. At the College Football level, I tend to think about the teams. I'll tell you a couple of teams that I'm really interested in, and they're not necessarily the top teams out there. One of them definitely isn't. USC with Lincoln Riley. Been a little bit down. I think the PAC 10 is a little bit soft this year, I think Utah is favored. Does PAC 10 Does the USC start to make a move back to national prominence. And the other one, and I don't know how you're gonna react to when I throw this one out there. Doug, when I was a kid, Nebraska was a powerhouse. You know, it was like, you know, the idea of like these big ol and I don't even know how true this was. But these big old Nebraska farm boys, you get some running, running back like Mike Rozier in and you just roll up and down the field. Nebraska is, I think, nearly at the point where they have transitioned from being a historical power to a team that used to be a historical power.

Yeah, they're not in the top 25. Of course, it's the preseason top 25. So it's purely based on speculation, but that is a team that has fallen off in perception. You start to think and NIL and the current landscape of college football doesn't lend itself as well to a school like Nebraska. Whereas USC, being in Los Angeles, being in that media market over there, they're well positioned to... They're a sleeping giant, they've got the big name head coach, they've been recruiting like crazy. I've seen projections for them to make a national championship this season. I'm not saying that's going to happen. I think it's a little bit premature to start saying those types of things without having seen them play but they've got the Caleb Williams, who a lot of people who think is going to be a Heisman caliber quarterback, Lincoln Riley and his dynamic offense they're playing in a league that lends itself to those types of offenses. I think USC is the sleeping giant that is most likely to awake this season. I think Tennessee is one that I've thought about having gone to some games and Neyland Stadium, that fan base. I mean, it is so loud in there it is ruckus before a big game, and you know, they're gonna lose. And it's been that way for 10 years, it seems. But they they hold their own. I have some respect for that fan base. And they're right there, as long as their teams in the mix. This year is a year where Tennessee is starting to finally get some hype. So that's a sleeping giant, I'm keeping an eye on of course, Notre Dame being in the playoff hunt, and having that opening game against Ohio State. If they lose that, I think the perception is they're still Notre Dame. And by that I mean the Notre Dame of the last 10 years like it's just right there but can never get over the hump. But vice versa for Ohio State and so a lot on the line with that one. Going down the list of the top 25 some of the technical playoff contenders that maybe aren't thought of as football powerhouses, Utah right there in the top 10 Baylor another one. Really a remarkable story at Baylor were lost all these scholarships, all kinds of penalties not too long ago. two head coaches later, they're a perennial top 10 football team. They're winners of the big 12 and contenders again for the big 12. I think a lot of people assume Oklahoma is going to run away with that conference just because they're Oklahoma. They are quick to forget or Texas by the way, who's another Sleeping Giant on the rise. quick to forget what Baylor did a year ago. I think people We'll point to some of the departures at Baylor. I know that their quarterback, their number one receiver and their number one running back are bad or have left Excuse me. But Baylor's last year, the quarterback was out for a while second string came in, he looked even better to me than the last guy. So I actually think that's a team that's replacing the quarterback and is well positioned to contend and compete within the big 12. And of course, at that point, you're contending for a playoff spot. So you go down this list. And I think, you know, like you said, it's less about players. I haven't named any names this entire time. Partially to make a point, but also partially because it's, it's natural. With college sports, you think of these team brands, you think Alabama, they're going to be good, it doesn't matter who their core, Bryce young could go down. And we'd still, Bama would still be the favorites to make the playoff. It's not about these individual players. It's about the team brands about the coaching. And that's typically, I think coaches are the common denominator and recruiting that keep these teams Great. That's why we've seen Alabama go on the run that they've been on. That's why Ohio State's consistently been in the mix like they have. And that's why, you know, my alma mater, Georgia, has been on the rise and is coming off a national championship.

Well, let's, let's sort of pinpoint a couple of teams out there, Utah and Baylor. Yeah, those are a couple of interesting programs, especially. And look, you know, I'm always gonna take, you know, I think you get sort of more fixed on it, it's probably healthier, you care more about what's going to happen on field, I tend to look at more of this as the business side of the issue in the fandom side of the issue. Utah and Baylor are got to be really interesting stories with what we're seeing in terms of conference realignment, right? And so they're not, you know, are these are those two teams, that would really like an invitation to you know, if I'm right, and we see this consolidation of a big 10, you know, 20 team league and an SEC, 20 team league, are those programs that would make the cut. And, you know, if this is all gonna go down, you know, I think tech what Texas and Oklahoma, trying to go to the SEC in 2024, I think scheduled for 2025, UCLA and USC moving to the big 10. You know, I think there's some obvious ones out there, you know, Washington, right, Washington probably going to end up at the big 10 Clemson probably going to end up in the SEC against speculation. But it would make sense, Utah, and Baylor if their top programs, maybe they get the invite, right. So in some ways, these are programs playing for future. We talked power five now. We're going to be talking power two and a few years. Right.

Right. Like I've said before, it's the AFC and the NFC and everybody else is the XFL, or European Football League. That's how college football is feeling. And you look on the field. And it makes sense. I mean, we've talked earlier about the disparity in college football between these top programs, I think Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State, I think you can easily say each team has at least 10 future NFL starters on they're starting 22 At least, and probably closer to 20 than 10 for each of those teams. For a team like Baylor to be competitive or to be in the mix is just so impressive to me. Looking at their resources, looking at the size of the school, looking at the NFL potential in a town like Waco, of course, Utah, probably a similar situation as far as the market. And na di I'm always impressed by these schools. I don't know how you can you know, like, let's say Baylor gets the invite into either the big 10 or the SEC, or Utah. How do you expect to win? You're used to winning the big 12 or competing with Oklahoma for the big 12 are the Pac Pac 12 For PAC 10 for Utah? How do you expect to go from that to competing with Alabama, Georgia, Texas a&m The schools whose resources are that much more ahead of yours? You're that much more of an underdog?

Well, a couple of quick comments, one sort of tongue in cheek. I mean, in some ways we well, lead. I think they're both actually tongue in cheek. Missouri might be the case study. Right. Missouri was relatively competitive for a few years in the big 12. And as I think settled to a place of mediocrity in the SEC,

Doug Battle 24:33

I think mediocrity might be a gentle and kind way of terming that.

Mike Lewis 24:39

Okay, that's, that's fair enough. The other one is when you mentioned NIHL. I mean, it's very strange what the college station has turned out to be the hottest and IRL market in the country. And so, you know, one of the things I think almost everyone's looking forward to it is Alabama vs Texas a&m a&m ranked preseason six in five or six in the polls going in against number one Alabama. That's got to be one to circle for the SEC fans.

It's absolutely one to circle. I just realized my laptop is dying and plugging something in here so don't mind me it's absolutely one to circle. And now this is this Alabama fans.

We're obviously moving to video and profiles.

You can actually see these things. Alabama's Alabama fans have had this one circle since losing to Texas a&m A year ago. They're sick of hearing about they're sick of losing recruits to a&m. They're sick of hearing about how you know how a&m How Jimbo was the first saving assistant to defeat Nick Saban. They played on an College Station A year ago this year. It's an Alabama I'll say before the season, I've said it for a while. I think Alabama is going to have their way with Texas a&m this year. Next, an angry Nick Saban team is not what you want. I know that from watching SEC football for a long time. But a&m Again, they're like they're proof of I think what it takes to move into a big conference and succeed. The resources to bring in a top they've got

They've got to be the absolute best case study of it right? Because I think the perception was always that they were the second brand in the state of Texas by getting to the SEC first I think they've actually in the Texas fans would say no, they will eventually switch back. But at this point, a&m is the premier program in Texas.

I mean, Texas has to look at the model that Texas a&m has set because for me growing up Texas a&m, they were like the clippers and Texas was like the Lakers. So for for Texas a&m to become the dominant Texas team, the team that's beating Alabama, the team that's getting the top recruits. After transitioning, they're the polar opposite of Missouri, they went from not winning conference championships. In one conference moving into the SEC, and being contenders Missouri complete opposite. Like I said before, they're setting the model for these teams like Texas, if Oregon were to move into the big 10 or Washington, you got to look at what Texas a&m has been able to do. You've got to look at the resources they've had. And that's where I'm going back with Baylor schools like Baylor schools like Utah, I don't know that you can, like I don't know that you can recruit at that level. I don't know that you can hire head coaches at that level, and be able to pull off what Texas a&m has. With that said, this is a make it or break it year for a&m. In my opinion, they've been dominant in recruiting, I think that Texas is going to catch up. I think that Alabama is already catching up. And they're at a point much like Georgia was a year or two ago, where they're not likely to have the stronghold on recruiting for forever. Some of these other schools are figuring out what they're doing and figuring out they can do that too. They've got the talent right now. They've defeated Bama whites, but it was an eight and four season are they able to take that next step make it to an SEC championship game and into the playoff? We'll find out this year.

Have they determined what the what the divisions are going to look like in the SEC when Texas and Oklahoma come over? I don't know that they have. I mean do you separate Texas and Texas a&m?

Doug Battle 28:28

Well again it's also odd now because it's an east and west situation but the schools that are coming in are primarily West

Mike Lewis 28:37

geography and college sports means nothing right? You know, again, USC going out to Rutgers for a Tuesday evening volleyball game it's oh yeah,

we might as well add Washington, you know, not to the big 10 but to the SEC Southeastern Conference it makes all the sense in the world to me. But yeah, with the way things are set up in so many of the schools being west of the SEC, it's hard to imagine them continuing an SEC east and west program where you're splitting you know, Texas is coming into the East to make it even that doesn't make sense to me I could see them completely realigning with Auburn in the east and Alabama and the eastern Georgia and the east and Alabama or Georgia in Florida and the and and LSU Texas, Texas a&m, it almost becomes the SEC and the big 12 Again that have look really close to that if you do it that way or they just don't do it regionally set it up what they think is fair because obviously Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Auburn in the same division would be quite the talent, you know, but that's the way the West has been for quite some time and I think that LSU and Auburn fans would say you Georgia is due for that and Florida is due for that they've had a cakewalk now they've got to play the big boys in the regular season

and I mean, we've talked a bunch about the, you know, the difference in the strategies, the big 10 seeming and going after TV markets in the SEC after football brands, just the you know, even that speculation of Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and Florida in the east. That'll get a college football fans excited. I mean, it might fill them with dread in, you know, Gainesville and Athens. You know, Satan's not going to go on forever. So I mean, some some dread in the state of Alabama as well. It's not like it's I mean, the big 10 has been relatively unbalanced with the West in the East. But when you start going through Well, Texas, Texas a&m LSU, you know, powerful, powerful. It's interesting. Yeah.

And at that point, I think you start to see nine in three seasons from Alabama and Georgia. And I think that you could be nine and three and be the best team in the country when divisions are that loaded. And so that's where college football is changing. I again, I think it's for the better. From a fan standpoint, from an entertainment standpoint. I personally don't like watching Georgia and Alabama play can stay in Utah, stay in Savannah State for five of their games, and then play Missouri Vanderbilt, Kentucky. teams that are technically in the SEC technically competitive, but clearly don't have the same resources and then have one or two games and an entire season. An entire regular season that are competitive. You look at Georgia schedule. You look at Alabama schedule, you look at Ohio State's schedule, they might have to lose a bowl games every single year where that's why at Georgia Richt got fired after a 10 win season because he lost the only two games that mattered to anybody, the only to lose a bowl games were lost. It's basically a winless season in the minds of fans that want to see a team compete. I think that's how it's been in Alabama, Georgia. And I don't see college football staying in that way with these mega conferences. I like it. I like the NFL model where they're every week, you can lose that game, you can win that game as a Giants fan. I've seen my team lose more. But I've also seen my team in recent years, have a bad season. And there's so much more parity in professional football, where you can hang with the chiefs, you can beat the chiefs on any given week, because there's more parity within the league, I think there's going to be more parity within the SEC, when you bring in schools like Texas, that have the resources that Alabama have. That's a hot topic. I know a lot of people have been saying, hey, Texas can't compete in the SEC, I disagree. I think they've got the resources and maybe even more than a&m has had. And I think in the long run, it's a matter of time before that Sleeping Giant awakes?

Well, the structure is probably going to have to change. Right. So the the college football structure of, you know, a championship game and then a, you know, going to a 14 playoff. I think you're right that winning the SEC is going to be a it's going to be a nine and three or it's going to be attended to type of thing, year in year out. I mean, like, in some ways you're right. Again, I my speculation has always been we're going to see more power and concentration at the top and we're going to see, you know, we're going to see a lot of teams, Illinois, Mississippi, Mississippi states are going to struggle, the Vanderbilts are going to struggle struggle, but it's going to be like it's going to be a different sport. Okay, so Doug, moving along. Let's talk. Let's talk NFL kind of quickly. So we did a massive preview of the NFL forecasting based on quarterback movements and quarterback, something I call QB wins. One of the things we're going to do this season, to keep me honest, we're going to look we're going to trial by fire. So I talked about this QB winds metric a few episodes back, there's stuff on the website at WWW dot fandom analytics forecast for all the teams, we're going to do a comparison of my forecasts, which are relatively, it's a sophisticated statistic, but it's a relatively simple forecast against the simulations that ESPN and the NFL at, well, I should say, do. The way this was going to be done just to sort of lay out the ground rules. And it might be you could say that might be a little bit unfair because ESPN and the NFL are doing game by game simulations. But each week of the season, I'll update the spreadsheet, I'll update the winning percentage for each of the clubs against my predicted overall season win percentage and ESPN and the NFL. And you can call me out and mock me if I'm getting my you know, getting it handed to me by the by the simulations, or this can be one of these kind of heroic victories. We'll see how it plays out. Now, that's a little bit of a preview in terms of where we're going to do and what we're going to do in terms of the coverage. NFL is all about quarterbacks and But let me start out by sort of giving you an excuse for why I might end up being wrong about a couple of teams here. I liked the Cleveland Browns far more than ESPN and the NFL. Now we've got an 11 game suspension. I'm not going to update my forecast though, Doug, these were all generated the, you know, I looked at the I looked at their forecasts at the same time I did mine. I'm just gonna roll with it. Right, because injuries happen. You know, you got to be robust to the randomness out there. But, you know, the preseason has led to some movement at the quarterback position. The Deshaun Watson suspension, the biggest one the most impactful one for my forecast. But there's been some, like, some interesting movements, the Panthers the Steelers, what are your thoughts on the NFL preseason? What we're where we're at?

Well, first off, Mike, I want to say the boldest prediction you've ever made is predicting the Cleveland Browns to have as successful as season without with an 11 game suspension as they were going to have with six to eight games whatever we were thinking it's not too late to change that I was going to ask you for your sake to change it.

I could change it but it doesn't seem fair. It's...

Doug Battle 36:20

The season hasn't started.

Mike Lewis 36:22

Okay every

Doug Battle 36:24

I mean

Mike Lewis 36:26

Oh, okay. So my current plan is to not change the forecast. But Doug might make me see common sense and I may if I if I change the forecast i What

Doug Battle 36:37

Do you have them at 9.9 wins - a 10 win year with Jacoby percent at quarterback and Cleveland,

Mike Lewis 36:44

five, get the five with five games or six sorry, six games of Deshaun Watson.

Doug Battle 36:49

So they're gonna win all six of those. And they just gotta win for other games.

Mike Lewis 36:54

Like I say it's my quest for fairness across the forecast. But

I respect the commitment to the principles that have been instilled in you Mike as far as being fair, as good sportsmanship. That's what we like to see. quarterbacks stories Jimmy G staying in San Fran, it looks like at right now that's always changing. It seems as though he's been on the trade block for my entire life.

There's always rumors never been any reports of offers for Jimmy G though.

No. And that's what's interesting to me about it. It's always been like, yeah, Jimmy G a team like the giants will take them if Trey Lance starts. Well, I told you maybe a week or two ago as the Giants guy. I think I don't know that the marginal difference between Daniel Jones and Jimmy G is significant enough to give up draft picks. And risk I would almost rather tank and take have I think that's a good

I think that might be the problem that people look at Jimmy G is this kind of good quarterback but not a difference maker. So they don't want to give up anything. They feel like they can go out and they can sign a Mitch Trubisky and free agency kind of thing.

Well, that or you could if you're the Giants, for example, and let's say Daniel Jones bless I actually personally I'm more bullish on Daniel Jones and the majority of the media and fan base in New York. Let's say Daniel Jones is a bust. If you're the Giants, would you rather go eight and eight with Jimmy G missed the playoffs and have the number 16 pick in the draft? Or would you rather give Daniel Jones a shot, win three games so worst case scenario and have the number two pick in the draft and get a top quarterback next year and have a chance we've talked about it a million times in the NFL. quarterbacks are the difference between contenders and non contenders. It doesn't feel like there's a team in the NFL that is a Jimmy G away in college. It can be that way. We've had years and point for Georgia watching competitors. I remember Alabama when they got Jacob Coker from Florida State he was a backup at Florida State. They were basically a Jimmy G away they needed a guy that can just make the easy throws that could check down if you run the offense, not turn the ball over too much and manage the game. Because their defense and their run game their skill players were so good that they were going to win a championship with just that the NFL. There's so much parity across the league at other areas on the field. Quarterback is the one place where there's such a huge, drastic difference from one team to the next. No team is a Jimmy G away from a Super Bowl right now.

Well, getting back to my forecast just for a second. Jimmy G is sort of a he's actually a complexity and all this for me. So if he stays, you know, I'm not a fan of rookie quarterbacks. Statistically. You know, when I look at what rookie quarterbacks tend to do, they tend to be minus three type, wind contributions. And so my 49 This forecast is very much based on an idea of a rookie coming in and performing like travel, you know, like Zach Wilson or Trevor Lawrence, you know, from the last couple of years, not a not a Jimmy G. So that's the other one where I'm in a little bit of a danger if they don't actually move him off that roster. Did that. Is he off the roster or is it he's still there, right?

Doug Battle 40:23

He's still there. He's in he's in San Fran and like no

Mike Lewis 40:27

relation that they might actually wave him for perhaps some sort of salary cap reasons.

Right? I'm sure there would be a reason for that. But when you've got a young guy that isn't proven. The 40 Niners are a team that's a Jimmy G away from making the playoffs. So they they could be they could end up in a situation where tre Lance busts they got Jimmy G wait in the wings to keep them competitive. I think it's a gamble to just totally let them go. But again, in today's NFL, it might be better to miss the playoffs and get a higher draft pick than to be strapped to mediocrity for another year. That quarterback position or given

with the 40 Niners did that would be an absolutely brutal thing to do right to take a totally unproven guy give up on him relatively quickly. Again, fascinating move for the 40 Niners to take someone that unproven. You know again, what a great story to watch go out and what else, you know, sort of move along fairly quickly because we're going to talk a lot of NFL this season. Baker Mayfield wins the Panthers champ. I love it.

Yeah, love to see that I my biggest disappointment Carolina's Matt corral, injured out for the season. My prediction earlier I gotta walk back on was that the Panthers would have three starting quarterbacks throughout the year this year. I guess it's just going to be to now I don't know part of me feels like Mayfield might actually be the guy and Carolina. I don't like Matt rule as a head coach. I don't like their offensive coordinator, former head coach the New York Giants. So I don't know that he's set up to succeed. But Sam darnold in that same situation, I think could be a lot worse. That's my personal take. I know you see those two is pretty much dead even. We'll see what happens there. Another interesting quarterback story. This offseason that I've followed has been Justin fields. We've talked about him a million times. He's got a pretty good free preseason. Looking at you know, we don't like rookie quarterbacks. How do we feel about sophomore year, quarterbacks might?

Usually we see usually we see an improvement. Dog I can't get behind it in terms of preseason numbers. Again, I I will watch if the bears are on TV. I will be tuning in because I'm fascinated by by fields, right, the amount of media hype and the absolutely disastrous statistical profile from the first year. I can't it's I can't look away, to be honest with you. But I also can't get hyped up at all about a preseason result. You know, at all. I can't do it.

Yeah. And that takes me back a year ago. Jacob Eason at one point in the preseason led the NFL and QBR. And as a longtime anyone who's listened to any of my podcast for the longest time knows that I've been a supporter and follower of his career. I was feeling pretty optimistic. He doesn't even stay in the NFL for the entire season. So that goes to show quarterback play in the preseason can be misleading. On the flip side, I remember Victor Cruz scoring three touchdowns and one of his first games in the preseason and saying, Hey, I think the Giants might have might have something with this undrafted, free agent guy. And as it turns out, that was just the beginning of many, many breakout performances throughout that first year of his career, and an excellent career for the New York Giants. So Justin fields. I think the verdicts still out on a mics. I get the impression that Mike has given up on Justin fields as a prospect.

No, not not at all. He is one of my favorite things to watch. Like, like I said, I bet Baylor based on the data. And again, I don't want to come across as a hater. I don't think Justin fields is going to if you asked me to put a wager on it, and we can put a wager on this duck. I don't think there's much hope for fields. I mean, statistically, it was so awful, but I find his storyline completely, completely fascinating. Doug, let me ask you before and I'll answer your question. Okay. I think they talk about Justin fields in Chicago, a multiple of maybe 10 times more than they talk about Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville. It's almost like he's been forgotten, where fields is still kind of prime time.

It's like Fields was the number one pick and there was a time when I thought fields would be the number one pick because I thought he was the more Our talented prospect. Of course, his some of his medical issues contributed to him falling in the draft last year. But also, you look at Chicago as a market. You look at the bears with their history, a fan base that's been just dying for an elite quarterback prospect. They think they got one, Jacksonville. On the other hand, I don't know where the two teams rank on your fandom rankings specifically, I'm under the impression that Jacksonville is

10 for the bears and about 30 is for Jacksonville. Right. So

I think the media coverage also reflects that. But the question I was going to ask you, Mike, Justin fields or Trey Lance, who would you be more likely to take a gamble on if you're put if you're buying stock and one of these players, I got a fantasy draft coming up. Part of me wants to take a flyer on fields in case in case he does what he did in his second year in college, which was make a huge jump and become an elite quarterback just like that.

So there's so much hype on both of these guys, but the hype is very different. So tre lands is like, almost treated as this legend, right. But it's something that no one's ever actually seen play fields has been this, this guy where there's just so many excuses, right? It's like, the offensive coordinator was bad the coach. He's had too many move, you know, so many offensive coordinators in so many years. So I think I actually just, you know, I'm reluctant to say this. But I think that it's almost like tre lands is the pick, sort of in the same way that a guy that is a top high school prospect and then gets injured while you know getting ready for his college basketball season. It's sort of the great unknown, right? It's all upside, where there's enough information about about fields that and again, I could be wrong if I'm wrong. God fields has so much potential to be a star in this league because the media loves him fields could just X absolutely explode. But I go with Trey lands just because I don't know I don't have any data.

I disagree. But I will say the trailing situation with Jimmy G. It reminds me so much of Patrick mahomes situation behind Alex Smith for the Kansas City Chiefs. Alex Smith was more than solid. He was a very good quarterback for that chiefs team. And he read of course, an offensive mastermind. The Chiefs draft mahomes Sit him for a year people are starting to think okay, is he a bust? What's going on? And then they let Alex Smith go without mahomes ever playing? We're thinking did they know something we don't know. They've been in practice. You know. I mean, Andy Reid's been in the NFL for a very long time. At that point. He knows when he has something special part of me wonders with the 40 Niners complete confidence and letting Jimmy G go are trading him when that was the move that they were going to make. It goes to show that that coaching staff that front office, they think they have something they've been watching, they've been paying attention, and they're either completely wrong, or they're just taking a huge gamble, or they've got something really, really special like mahomes, that in retrospect, it's going to look silly that we're even having this discussion, because if we had the same discussion on mahomes, there's Alex Smith, years back, of course, that would not have aged well.

No, no. And look, look, I'm not you know, we're just predicting, right? Yeah, we're using data to make predictions, we could very well be wrong. And frankly, it's, you know, where it's actually kind of interesting, Doug, sort of folks that are sitting in the world of fans, right guys that are not working for a team or running for scouts, we actually have so much in so much less information. Right? It's actually kind of shocking. In a way how poorly the NFL front offices do with quarterback drafting, right? I mean, and we see this every like we were just talking Baker Mayfield and Sam darnold. Pick number one and pick number three from what was it 2018. Now these neither of these guys has any potential, any real value, right? But at the time they were viewed you take a quarterback number three, the fan base is thinking you have a Hall of Famer. Right, but you definitely have a guy that's going to play in multiple Pro Bowls. You know, who was the who was the kid that went to Arizona? Before Kyler Murray. I think he was like Josh Rosen UCLA, like pick number 10 basically out of the league in a couple of years, maybe he's still hanging on here or there but you know, how do they how do they miss so badly on some of these folks when there's a lot of videotape tape, there's performances at the combine and they've had the chance to you know, shake his hand see if he has a, you know, big enough hand size. look in his eye what They miss a lot. So, you know, again, Trey lands Justin fields. Great, great, great entertainment going forward.

Doug Battle 50:07

It's great entertainment. The last quarterback story I want to talk about this week is the Tennessee Titans. Ryan Tannehill has been solid for them and he's been a huge part in Tennessee becoming a big time contender in the NFL a team that during the regular season has seemed to be the best team in the league on numerous occasions. In recent years. They took a flyer on Malik Willis out of liberty and this year's draft Willis, a guy that I know a lot of fan bases. I know this Falcons fans would have been excited to have him. I know the Washington Football Team, R-Word, Commanders would have also been excited to have him as well.

Mike Lewis 50:44

The Washington Football Team, R-word Commanders?

Doug Battle 50:48

As I was talking, I was trying to think of what their name was. And at first it was R-Word - no = that Commanders Football Team, so I had to go through all of them just verbally. I'm going to start calling them...

Mike Lewis 51:00

I like it. I think that's what we're gonna do from here. Yeah, the Washington football team.

Our word commanders would have loved to have them and I know some fans of that. The Washington football team or would commanders who would have been thrilled. But the Washington football team, our word commander's did not take him. The Tennessee Titans did the Tennessee Titans. That's a team that I think a lot of NFL fans, I think a lot of analysts would watch and say, hey, they're an elite quarterback away. The fan base making comparisons to Lamar Jackson, Michael Vick with Malik Willis in his running ability as well as the cannon for an arm that he has this preseason. I've seen a lot of coverage. I don't know if I've seen any players highlights more than Malik Willis not because he's had so many but because anytime you'll you'll watch a Titans. You watch ESPN, and they show the highlights of the Titans game. It'll be all Malik Willis. And then at the end, they'll show the stat sheet and then he went seven for 20 for 90 yards and a touchdown and an interception. You would have watched the highlights thinking he was the next Michael Vick. And so that's a guy getting a lot of hype. He's right behind Ryan Tannehill. You can imagine if things aren't going great for the Titans at any point that fan base is going to be getting excited. And again, we talked about a team isn't a Jimmy Garoppolo away. The Titans certainly aren't. But Tannehill seems more similar to Jimmy Garoppolo than to a Tom Brady or an Aaron Rodgers. And so if the Titans are in a position where they feel like Malik Willis could be that guy or he's developing to become that guy, at what point do they make the switch? What happens with Tannehill? What happens with the Tennessee Titans in their their race or you know their competition for a Super Bowl bid. I'm keeping an eye on that one as well. So many stories across the NFL all seeming the quarterback stories, college football, it's more about the brand. I love both. I'm excited that it's football season.

Okay, Doug, to wrap things up today, going to a and again, we're moving towards a, you know, always going to be available on audio for the podcast, but we're going to increasingly add some verbal sub visual elements to the verbal elements. And, you know, big point of emphasis at the our marketing at the Emory marketing analytics center, the fandom analytics project is our annual survey two years in of fandom, and I tend to think of it as very much a something that he actually even goes a little bit beyond sports to really an indicator of where the culture is that recently started to publish the results from the 2022 survey. And no, I wanted to show you a couple of the charts just to you know, it will increasingly talk about this. And so we're we'll we'll probably have for every episode of the podcast, we'll have one or two charts, I think it's interesting stuff, a little bit of a little bit of fodder for folks that, you know, want to go beyond the games and just think about how sports fits into American culture. So the the picture I'm showing you is the sports fandom rates in 2022 versus 2021. And so in 2022, and then the survey was taken well, we'll talk about when the survey was taken. I mean, it's 51% of the respondents and 2021 indicated they were fans, and that thing there are six or seven in terms of how much they'd like sports on a seven point scale, versus only 39% in 2022. Doug, I want to get your reaction to this, but I was when I first saw it and I've sort of talked myself into what's going on. And I think it makes them I think I understand it. But I was shocked by that that declined.

I am disgusted. I am flabbergasted. It's not right, Mike. I don't know what's happening in this country. But I can say with boots on the ground, at least in the Djinn you know the millennial generation and Gen Z I don't meet a lot of people that are as big into sports as I used to, I don't meet, I meet a lot of people that really don't care. A lot of guys that are kind of the demographic, you'd think, Oh, this guy is probably a football guy. This guy probably wants to talk about football, no interest whatsoever. More and more. And I don't know, you know, I do notice the consumption trends have changed as far as cable television is not something that hardly anybody consumes my age. Tick tock in real short form entertainment. I don't know that an entire sports game can hold anyone's attention. I know that for me growing up, it was baseball, I had a hard time watching a whole baseball game. I know a lot of people that feel like that about basketball and football, it's like they need a different form of stimulation. Maybe if there was some viral Tiktok, it would it would be a different story. But a three hour long piece of content with commercials in between isn't worth anyone's time. I don't know how much of it's that, of course, there's the political aspect of sports. Of course, there's changing consumer trends, changing consumer interest. Mike, what do you attribute this to?

Well, let me add one more thing. So I want to key on one thing that you said because the other the chart that I'm showing you actually has two elements. One is the rate of fandom on the other side of the chart is the rate of folks that are basically what I'm terming sports athletics. So people that essentially rate that they have no interest in sports. That number went from 8% and 2021, to 2022. So you noted that a lot of folks your age, a lot of guys your age, just don't care about sports. And so when I look at these two things, it does seem to be this this trend of apathy. And I think I think you nailed some of the big macroscopic trends of you know, folks are moving away from cable TV, I actually thought that we would see a rebound post COVID, when people were able to start to come together and watch the games, again, maybe a little bit back in the workplace. So they could talk about the the games, you know, people are going to school alive. One of the things that I think I'm picking up on this, though, I ended up looking at data on the national mood. So data on things like the the future of the country, or the satisfaction with how things are going. And 2022 is actually significantly lower on those metrics than 2021 is. And so I tend to think that sports is relatively, the factors you discussed, are creating a little bit of weakness. But I've begun to think that it's like this is something more than just sports is how engaged you are with the culture. And when people are not engaged with the culture. They don't have confidence in institutions, they don't think the country is on the right track. And you ask them a question of, are you a sports fan? You know, maybe you get the answer of No, I'm not into any of that stuff.

Doug Battle 58:00

Interesting, very interesting. I don't like it though. Like I said, and hey, if no one else is watching this weekend, I will be the last fan standing for college football, professional football coming up as well. Sports fans.

Mike Lewis 58:16

Well, we've got about two minutes left here. So I want to show you one other chart. And this is fandom by sport in 2022. And what is listed here is the percentage of folks that say they are a fan versus the percentage of folks that say they're apathetic to that sport. And so the leader here is football with 40% of folks saying their fans 28% saying they don't care. As we move in, I'll do these in order 28% of the audience are basketball fans. 24% are baseball fans. 14% are fans of hockey. So I guess we don't have a big for sports anymore. We got a big three sports or maybe we got a big one sport, kind of a medium to sport, soccer 13% fandom rates eSports 11%. And the two Olympic Games 23% of the sample said they were fans of it. I'll let you guys go to the video to look at the apathy rates because they're sort of off the charts for some of these sports. Does this make sense to you in terms of where you think folks are in terms of specific games?

Doug Battle 59:25

Yes, and no. I mean, it's, again, I'm flabbergasted. That's the only word that comes to mind that there are for seven of the eight sports. There are more people who are completely apathetic, don't care whatsoever about anything than football. Yeah, then consider themselves to be fans. That is just very striking, a very striking number. And I would love to see these numbers from 10 years ago, 20 years ago, but I can't imagine that it's ever been this much apathy towards so many sports from the American public. I'd love to see other countries as far as how, of course soccer or football is going to stand differently and probably be the equivalent of our football. But basketball, for example, has the perceptions been that it's been on the rise globally with the NBA making such a point? To appeal to a broader audience, I'd love to see how that you know how that's shaping overseas what the apathy level is. But apathy could could not be higher, in my opinion, for how much goes into promoting sports, how big a part of our society sports are in our culture.

Mike Lewis 1:00:37

And I think again, it shows the strain that we've been seeing over the last two years, we've talked about it 100 times that we're becoming a more segmented audience as Americans where there's not kind of a unifier. There's not are there are fewer unifiers there are less than less unifiers and everyone's one. There's there's one unifier and his name is Tom Brady, and he plays in Tampa, right?

Doug Battle 1:01:06

Yeah, I mean, I guess I guess so. So that takes us to an hour Mike, but I'm fascinated by this. And if you're listening, you can find the graphic. It'll be on Phantom as well as our YouTube channel, which I'm putting this video on. So if you're not already watching, follow and subscribe. They're false in subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. We appreciate your support, and appreciate you listening. Hope you give us some feedback on our new video content as I will be working very hard to make that as excellent as it can be. We're starting it with some experimentation but wanting to do a great job and provide great resources for Mike's following. Soappreciate you listening, follow us. Subscribe, give feedback. I'm out Mamba out.

Mike Lewis 1:01:59

Thank you, Doug. And thanks to everyone who's listening as well and, as always much more content at Till next week.


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