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Speaking of ugly

WHOA! Mid-SEASON:

Lane Kiffin fired

I knew his days were numbered after seeing the highlights of that one, but I thought it would happen at the end of the season. Things are getting nasty in LA.

Liveblogging the Pac-12 announcements

OK, here we go, the moment of truth for the conference:

  • All decisions were unanimous, says first speaker (Michael Crow, an ASU guy).
  • Larry Scott on now.
  • Going through all of his thank yous, blaw, blaw, blaw.
  • Talking about revenue sharing: We will have equal revenue sharing going forward, including TV revenue (sorry USC and UCLA). They will get a $2 Million bonus when it’s less than $170 total for the conference.
  • Cal and Stanford in the North as expected. Will be called North and South.
  • Talking about how balanced the two divisions will be and the importance of rivalry games.
  • Going with the 5-2-2. Cal will play USC and UCLA every year. WOW!
  • conference record, not division record, will determine who goes to the championship game.
  • No other sport will have divisions.
  • Basketball will have 18 game conference schedule.
  • Conference record will determine who gets to host the conference championship game as well. So no neutral site.
  • USC would not be eligible for conference championship games while their under sanctions from post-season.
  • Not going to rule out neutral site in the future, but Scott really likes the easy and guaranteed full stadiums of hosted games.
  • Scott’s trying to soft-sell the 5-2-2 as good for the Northwest schools, saying that they’ll play the SoCal schools every other year. I suspect what he means is that they’ll play one school from SoCal each year and thus each school they’ll only see every other year.
  • I can’t believe the NW schools bought into this. Obviously the compromise was to give them equal revenue sharing, but still, shocking to me.
  • Crow is saying that you can’t get the AD’s to be unanimous on anything but the CEO’s, well he doesn’t quite say while they’re different, but reading between the lines, they want to look united so they all vote on what they know will pass.
  • Scott reiterates that he fully expects USC and UCLA’s $2 Million bonus to be short term while they’re increasing TV revenue.
  • Utah will still have their revenue phased in as per their agreement when joining the conference.
  • Scott reiterating the value of the hosted conference championship game and the home fans well outweigh things like weather.
  • Note that revenue sharing doesn’t start until 2012-2013 year, i.e. the year of the new TV contracts.

OK, into stupid questions now. I’ll give commentary later…

Saturday Viewing: Stanford at Oregon

For those who listened to us lament that the Stanford-Oregon game on Oct. 2 would be starting after 11 p.m. Eastern time, good news! Not only has the start time been moved to 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, but it’ll also be the ESPN GameDay location Saturday morning.

Should be a nice showcase for two Pac-10 teams ranked in the top 10. Would be nice if the GameDay crew makes it to Berkeley some year, though…

Colorado to join conference in 2011

Well, Larry Scott pulled off another one. He managed to play enough hardball with the Big-12 to get Colorado into the conference next year.

You can read more details from Ted Miller.

It’ll be nice not to have a transitional year and get straight to the Pac-10 and the conference championship game. Other than that, it’s not a huge deal, although it’s nice to see Larry Scott continue to negotiate issues skill.

All that we need now is the division alignments. That will be a far larger and much more controversial deal and should be decided during the October Pac-10 meeting.

It’s official: Pac-12 here we come!

Well, ironically, the “Pac-12″ part isn’t official, no new name has been officially chosen, but the fact that the conference will have 12 teams, the traditional 10 plus Colorado (announced last week) and Utah (announced officially today), is official.

Other than that, we don’t know a whole lot yet.

One thing we do know is that the conference HAS NOT decided on how to split the divisions. This is a bit of a surprise considering the information that had Colorado AD indicating they had been promised that they’d be part of the Pac-12 South with the AZ and southern Cal schools. However, from what I’m reading, people have been over-stating the confidence of that fact.

I suspect this is a bit of the telephone game. Larry Scott indicated to the Colorado AD something like “he’ll push for it” or “it’s the most likely case” and the Colorado AD told his contacts that “it’s what I wanted and they are agreeable” and that got morphed into “Colorado was guaranteed it”. Or some similar scenario. Since there’s no official quote from either the Colorado AD or Scott, it’s hard to take those indications as gospel.

We also don’t know for sure there will be a conference championship game (although there will be) or whether the Pac-10 will setup their own TV network (I’d say it’s got a 70% likelihood). Additionally we don’t know if there will be 8 or 9 conference games. We also don’t know what year Colorado will be joining, although it’ll either be 2011 or 2012.

What we do know is that Utah will join in 2011, and that indicates that it’s likely that there will be an attempt to have Colorado come at the same time, however the Big-12 leaving early penalty might impact the decision away from what the Pac-12 would like.

I think I’ve said my peace on what I think is best for the conference, and if Cal can get in the South, my mind will rest easy with what has happened, even if I’m not a big proponent of it. We’ve gained two quality programs and although I’m no big fan of it, the benefits of a conference championship game are hard to ignore. However, if we end up in the North, I’ll be grumbling about it for a long time to come.

More, including possible extended grumbling, to come… (I’m sure)

Worst case scenarios

Well, it appears my worst fears have come to pass. Texas has declined the offer to join the Pac-10, thereby killing any chance of any other major Big-12 team from heading our way either. That leaves 3 likely possibilities:

  1. Pac-11: The “default” answer at this point is that nothing else happens, leaving the Pac-10 with 11 teams now that Colorado has officially joined.
  2. Pac-12 and Cal in South: The Pac-12 picks up one other team, everyone is assuming it’ll be Utah, but there are some other possibilities that could be pursued, particularly if Utah turns us down. In either case, the assumption is that the conference will be split north/south and Cal and Stanford/the new two with Colorado are the border teams. For this scenario, we’ll assume Cal and Stanford end up in the South and the new two end up in the North.
  3. Pac-12 and Cal in the North: Same as above but Cal and Stanford end up in the North and the new two end up in the South.

In my opinion, all three of these are a downgrade over what the conference has now, and only option #3 is anything but a disaster.

For what it is worth, both Denver and Salt Lake are at higher latitudes than Cal and Stanford, although they’re admittedly close (Berkeley is just south of latitude 38, Stanford is just north of lat 37 and Denver and SLC are north of 39 and 40 degrees respectively. To define close, by comparison Portland, Oregon is at 45 and LA is at 34). But as we all implicitly know, latitudes are likely to be one of the last things to decide the split up.

Here’s what I see as the “storyline”. When the teams met for their annual conference, the question of expansion came up and both the Pac-16 and Pac-12 were discussed. In the end both were approved. I’m absolutely confident that both Cal and Stanford were very clear that for the Pac-12 situation that they wanted to be in the South with USC and UCLA. The only question is whether Larry Scott talked them out of it. His point of course would be that we’d be far more likely to attract new teams if we paired them with USC and UCLA.

What’s the answer to whether Larry Scott talked them out of it? Nobody knows for sure, but the Colorado fans seem to think that they’d be paired with USC and UCLA. However, that could easily just be their hopes influencing their thoughts as much as any real info.

It also could be that no promises were made to Colorado, meaning they’d be put in the North if possible, but Larry Scott is keeping the USC/UCLA pairing in his back pocket for negotiations with Utah or whichever team makes team number 12. It might be that Colorado wasn’t insistent, but the next team will be.

So it’s very possible that the answer isn’t even known by insiders like Scott.

In either case, the Pac-11 stinks, stinks, stinks like replacing a toilet with a failed wax seal. Colorado by itself just isn’t worth the lost symmetry and all that made the Pac-10 awesome and we don’t gain anything meaningful like a conference championship game or a notably easier schedule. While the Pac-12 offers something more, a conference championship game and not having to play our difficult full round-robin, being paired with the north will stink worse than the Pac-11.

The north will get less respect and it’ll actually be the more difficult division, particularly if the UW rebound continues apace and UCLA can’t put it together. Plus we’ll lose out on our yearly games versus USC and UCLA. Sure the other teams don’t care about that as much as we do, but there’s no other way to look at it than Cal and Stanford are getting the shortest straw of the group.

Put Cal in the south and it’s closer to an equal situation as the current setup. Obviously we gain a fair amount in the conference championship game and the TV revenue upsides, but I like the round-robin myself. There’s ups and downs to either equation.

But think about this: What’s clear is that neither the north nor the south really want these two new teams. They both want Cal and Stanford. What does it mean when nobody wants the two teams that are supposedly brought in to improve the conference? Doesn’t that say something about whether this is inherently a good deal?

In any case, let’s just hope that scenario #3 works out because everything else is a significant downgrade from where I sit.

Big News!

If you think the big news on Thursday June 10th, 2010 is that USC is getting a two-year post-season ban and losing 20 30 scholarships over a yet unknown period of 3 years, you are absolutely, moronically wrong (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

The Big News is that Colorado has officially joined the Pac-10.

Thirty years from now, the USC news will be a footnote, the Pac-10 expansion will be a key moment in the conference.

People have asked what I think about the “Pac-16″ (or I’ve heard it referred to as the SAT (surf and turf) conference) and I haven’t completed a post on the subject because I can’t make up my mind. But here’s what I am confident of, I have no interest in the Pac-12 with Colorado and Utah. That scenario loses all that is special about the Pac-10 with its round-robin and natural rivalries without gaining enough in return. So I guess at this point, I just became a proponent of the Pac-16 since the only alternative is either the Pac-12 or even worse, the Pac-11, now that the Colorado announcement is official.

As for the Pac-16, I like the fact that we’re looking at a Pac-8 division in the conference. That’ll work out nicely. I like the fact that the conference championship game will help us in publicity as a conference. I also like the fact that we’ll get access to the Big-12 bowl lineup which is far better than the Pac-10.

However, there are some downsides. We end up losing some bowl slots in bowls that formerly had both a Pac-10 and Big-12 alignment. They’re not going to keep two slots, so the combined conference will lose a spot. If it was only one bowl, but it’s 2 1/2: Alamo, Holiday, and Sun every other year. Add that to the fact that there’s going to be a whole lot of extra competition for those bowl slots and it’s at least a bit worrisome that perhaps the added bowls won’t be enough to improve the situation for the existing Pac-10 teams. I’d want to see the bowls be forced to pick fairly based on team success and not just “pick in order”, which gets very complicated with a two division conference.

I’m also VERY against conference games against the other half that COUNT (and I can’t emphasize this enough) for who is the division champion. I’d love to play Texas every few years, but I most definitely don’t like the idea that the year that we play Texas in Texas ends up being the year we’d otherwise win the Pac-8 division except for that loss sinking us. The same goes for Oklahoma. No, it better be just the 7 games in the division that determine the division winner. I hate, hate, HATE how the current 12 team conferences do it and it’ll be even worse with 8 teams because at most there will only be 2 out-of-division conference games and there’s just no way to “balance” those games so that it doesn’t unduly affect the division standings.

So, from where I sit, if we either only play 7 conference games or if we play 8 or 9 but only the 7 within the division count for the division standings and our new bowl alignments are significantly better than our current alignments (so much so that even though we’ve got these extra teams and lost a few spots, we’re in better shape), then I’d be happy if the Pac-16 came to pass.

Particularly now that the deed is done with Colorado and expansion is officially underway.

Minor news

Word on the street is that USC has been hit with a two-year bowl ban, starting in 2010 and 20 lost scholarships over a yet undisclosed period of years (likely either 2 or 4) Update on 6/11 at noon: when the official report came out yesterday afternoon it turns out it was 30 over 3 years, which means no more than 15 new signees each year and no more than 75 total for the next 3 years (end update). It’ll also have to vacate its wins in 2004.

Some people think this is big news, but other than the Bears having a slightly better shot at winning the Pac-10 and going to the Rose Bowl the next couple years, I don’t think it means much. It’s not enough to effect USC’s program overall. The recruits who have yet to commit are very unlikely to be effected. Plus, particularly if the 20 30 scholarships are over 4 3 years, it’s not going to prevent USC from getting many recruits. Over 2 years may have a larger effect.

So from where I sit, USC will be back to it’s dominant position in two three years time, unless Kiffen turns out to be a bust (which I don’t think he will).

Revenue Sharing

It’s not written from an unbiased or Cal perspective, but I think it’s a very important article to read: Washington AD Scott Woodward pushes for Pac-10 schools to share all revenue.

Short answer of how football revenue is shared:

  • All bowl revenue is split evenly between all teams
  • Pac-10 conference game TV revenue is split 30%/30%/40% between the home/away/rest of the conference (so each non-participating team gets 5% and each participating team gets 30%)
  • Pac-10 conference games, the home team gives the away team $200k in ticket revenue and keeps the rest (most of the time)
  • Pac-10 rivalry games, (Big Game, Civil War, etc.) split ticket revenue equally between the two schools
  • Non-conference games the teams keep their own money for both ticket and TV revenue (of course the contract with the non-conference opponent will determine how that money is split between the two teams)

Interesting stuff and pretty fair if I must say.

New Pac-10 Commissioner

A few days ago the Pac-10 announced Larry Scott as the replacement for Tom Hansen as Pac-10 commissioner. I’ve done a little research in the last few days on Scott and here are my thoughts:

  1. He definitely seems to have the kind of intensity and charisma that the Pac-10 needs from its commissioner.
  2. It sounds like he is a risk taker.
  3. It seems he has absolutely no experience with college sports nor any sport outside of tennis.
  4. However it seems he recognizes he has a lot to learn.
  5. He knows a lot about securing sponsorship and TV contracts for leagues that are not an “easy sell”.
  6. There’s no doubt that his experience with women’s tennis means he’s being asked to take a balanced approach to sports in the conference.

Overall, I don’t know if it was the “right” pick, but I think it was a right-minded pick. The conference realizes the Pac-10 isn’t the easiest sell but also realizes it has a lot to offer. It realizes that it needs someone bold and energetic.

And it made sure it hired someone who met those characteristics.

The “catch” is that it is someone who’s a duck out of water now. For some people, that’s not a problem at all, in fact, it’s a strength. They get to see our problems with a fresh set of eyes. However, there are some people who have a passion for a specific thing and when you take them out of that environment, they cease to have the characteristics that came from their passion.

That’s the risk with Scott, he’s a tennis guy. Was he good at promoting tennis because he’s good at promoting lower-tier sports or because he loves tennis so much? Really, no one will be able to answer that question until the 2010 TV contracts and bowl arrangements come out, and that’s at the very earliest.

Overall, I’m taking an optimistic wait and see attitude.

Reviewing the Pac-10 bowl performances

Well all 6 Pac-10 bowl games are now finished and I thought it would be appropriate to review the conferences performance. Overall the conference was 4-2 with UCLA losing to BYU on a last minute blocked field-goal and ASU losing to Texas rather handily in the Holiday Bowl. Two of the wins were blowouts, USC over Illinois and Oregon over South Florida. Finally, both Cal and Oregon St. spotted their opponent an early lead before taking control of the game in the 2nd half.

I think that speaks very well of the Pac-10 and re-enforces what I thought the relative quality of each of the bowl teams was. ASU, although they had an impressive season, was more consistent than they were good. They could beat a mediocre team every time, but they never showed the ability to beat a good team like USC or Oregon at their prime. It was no surprise that they fell short against a strong Texas team. UCLA was the worst of the bowl teams without question and it was a miracle they were 6-6. The only reason they managed that was because they were gifted a number of victories they didn’t deserve. Fate finally bit them back when a game they probably deserved to win didn’t go their way at the last minute. Nevertheless, the fact that they were in a close game against a on-again, off-again Mountain West team says volumes.

I’ll have more analysis of the actual strength of each conference after the last of the bowls are completed, but for the moment I’ll go so far to say that the Pac-10, although not the best, was one of the better BCS conferences in 2007, both during the season and in their bowl games.

USC loss good for Cal?

I said earlier that the USC loss was bad for the Pac-10. I still believe that. It’ll hurt, albeit slightly, the Pac-10’s reputation as we lose a marque program at the top of the rankings. The more marque teams we have towards the top of the rankings the better for our national reputation as a conference.

But national reputation is only a small aspect of what Cal fans should care about. Really we care about how the Bears do, not how the Pac-10 does. So, the question remains, is the USC loss good for Cal? Danzig points to an article at Addicted To Quack where the author suggests the loss is good for Oregon, is the same true for Cal?

While I wouldn’t have phrased it the same way they did, I think it’s mostly accurate, with a few glaring errors. Basically, there are two ways to get to a BCS bowl game: win the conference or get an at-large bid. Computing the at-large possibilities is nearly impossible because it’s a delicate balance between the BCS rankings and the specific bowls and what teams appeal to them, so I’ll ignore that aspect at first and come back to it.

The simple way to end up in a BCS bowl game is to win the Pac-10. Anyone with half a brain can tell you, every time your main competition for the title loses, it increases your chances of winning the crown. In that sense, there is no doubt: USC losing is good for Cal. It sets up two situations. 1. If Cal loses to USC, it only takes one other USC loss for Cal to still win the conference. 2. It ensures that with a USC victory, Cal could lose up to two other games and still beat USC for the title. There’s too many permeatations at this point to deliniate them all, but the short matter of it is that if Cal beats UCLA, ASU and USC, it seems pretty unlikely that Cal won’t win the conference. Those teams, along with Oregon, are likely to lose one more and I just don’t see Cal losing to OSU, UW AND Stanford, which is what it would take for our 4 competitors to beat us out in that scenario. So, every way around the block, a USC loss, is good for Cal.

Going back to the at-large bid, there are two scenarios that likely get Cal to a BCS game (note that undefeated means we win the conference, so isn’t included here):

  1. The Pac-10 champ goes to the BCS championship game and Cal has two or less losses: People often bring up the 2004 season as why a two-loss team wouldn’t get an at-large bid. What those people forget is that we have an additional BCS bowl these days now that the BCS championship game is separate from the 4 BCS bowl games (originally it rotated between the 4). That additional bowl added two at-large spots. Additionally, 2004 was a year where there was a non-BCS team that qualified for a BCS spot. That doesn’t look to be the case this year clearing up a 3rd spot that was not available in 2004. Add in that Notre Dame is already not BCS eligible and I’m confident that a two-loss Cal will go to the Rose Bowl if the Pac-10 champ goes to the BCS championship game. Now that I’ve laid all the ground work, this is the lone scenario that the USC loss hurt. There’s probably only 3 teams with even a remote shot at the title game, Cal, USC and Oregon. Oregon is a long-shot although winning out, including beating USC, would do it with key losses from teams like Ohio State (and Cal). Since this scenario assumes it isn’t Cal in the BCS title game, a USC loss means the most likely candidate for a Pac-10 BCS title game just lost a good portion of their shot at it. Saying it again: this is the one area where USC’s lost was bad.
  2. No Pac-10 team in title game, Cal only has one loss: The reason to differentiate this one from above is because in this scenario, the Pac-10 champion will go to the Rose Bowl (since they didn’t go to the title game). This hurts Cal because the other three BCS bowls have a lot less interest in Cal than the Rose Bowl does. My thought is that it’ll likely take a one-loss Cal to get a bid to a non-Rose Bowl BCS game. This scenario didn’t take a hit, because it has nothing to do with USC. It has everything to do with Cal only losing one more game and somehow not winning the conference crown despite that.

So there we have it. 2 ways to get there that break down into 3 scenarios. One scenario just got better, one scenario just got a bit worse (although it should be noted that a one-loss USC was BCS title game bound before they lost to UCLA) and a last scenario that is unaffected. Personally I think the good scenario out-weighs the bad because more than anything, I want Cal to win the Pac-10 with out that stinking “co” to be at the front of the Champions part.

Final answer: yes, it was good for Cal.

Bad weekend for Pac-10

As much as I’m a happy guy that USC got knocked off by Stanford, it was bad for the Pac-10. While it SHOULD mean that the Pac-10 is so strong from top to bottom that even one of the worst teams can beat one of the best teams, that’s not the way it is seen across the nation. It’ll be seen as “the Pac-10 is soft”.

Going across town to the Rose Bowl, UCLA laid an egg against Notre Dame. In fairness to UCLA, although it it something that no one outside of the Pac-10 will ever know, UCLA played most of the game with a walk-on freshman QB who was playing in his first meaningful situation. His turnovers were what pretty much sunk UCLA. Nevertheless, across the nation, this will be seen as “one of the ‘better’ Pac-10 teams got beat by the horribly pathetic and winless Notre Dame!?! Those Pac-10 teams… just as soft as we thought.”

So as much as I’m a closet Notre Dame fan (an occupational hazard of being Catholic) and I think UCLA deserves to be stomped on AND I look forward to knock USC off of their pedestal… let’s make sure we temper that joy with the knowlege that his will be a bad thing for Cal and the Pac-10’s reputation across the nation. Said another way, while it’s still a 50/50 proposition, the likelihood of a GameDay visit to Berkeley on November 10th just took a hit.

On the plus side, USC looks very beatable come November 10th in Berkeley and that Rose Bowl is looking better and better.

UPDATE: With Cal and ASU being Pac-10’s only two undefeated teams, the October 27th matchup in Tempe is shaping up to be another big one. (Cal has OSU at home and UCLA in the Rose Bowl while ASU has Washington at home and then a bye, all games that the two should win.)

Looking around the Pac

Now that the traditional non-conference weeks of the season is over I’m going to start up a weekly item on the state of the Pac-10.

  • The two frauds of the conference, albeit at different levels, were both exposed to be frauds. Of course no one expected Arizona to be one of the best in the conference, but there were a number who put them as the top of the 2nd tier teams. After their loses to BYU and more distressingly New Mexico AT HOME, they’re clearly back at the bottom of the barrel. If Arizona doesn’t turn it around before September is done, Stoops will need to buy stock in HP for all the resumes he’ll be printing up. Arizona’s boosters aren’t going to be satisfied with another November run that barely gets Arizona bowl eligible.
  • The other fraud is of course UCLA. Their ranking leading up to this week was inexplicable. Just about every pundit admitted that UCLA was over-rated, but it never seemed to matter in the actual rankings. Everyone knew but didn’t want to admit it to themselves. Of course their drop from number 11 to number 30 after their 44-6 beat-down from winless Utah is proof that the voters knew but didn’t want to admit it.
  • The positive surprise of the conference, at least to me, is Washington, even after the loss at home to Ohio State. Nobody expected Washington to amount to anything and it was only overly optimistic thoughts that led people to think they could upset Ohio State, so I don’t see that loss as a disappointment. Before the season began people thought they’d likely start the season, 1-6 and even that one win wasn’t a guarantee. They’ve already got 2 wins under their belt and there’s good reason they can win 2 of the next 4 and have the worst part of their schedule behind them. With the exception of the Cal game, there’s not reason to think they couldn’t win everyone of the rest of their 6 games.
  • Oregon looks to be good, but they’re still a wildcard in my book. I’ve always thought highly of them and their talent, but they’ve had consistency problems. The fact that they beat an emotionally devestated Michigan and a usually stout but suspect Fresno State doesn’t impress me… yet. Of course it’s definitely looking like the Cal vs. Oregon game in two weeks is going to be a very important game. Just don’t be surprised if Cal comes away with just as convincing a win as they did last year. Oregon hasn’t proven themselves to me yet.
  • Arizona State is the other big wildcard in my book. The difference to me is that ASU doesn’t have the hype that Oregon does. They could be every bit as good as Cal and Oregon or they could be weaker than Washington and OSU. Unfortunately they play all the worst teams in the conference first so unless they proof themselves to be as much of a fraud as UCLA by losing early, we won’t know anything about them until they play Cal at the end of October.
  • Will the real Oregon State stand up please? So which team is the “real” OSU? Is it the team that handled the same Utah team that destroyed UCLA or is the team that got hanlded by a middle of the road Cincinati team? Or perhaps their win of I-AA Idaho State, despite a score in the 60’s, doesn’t mean anything. So far they look like the standard Oregon State: Strong enough to beat just about anyone in the conference when the chips fall right (and they love the spoiler role) but not good enough to win on a consistant basis.
  • Washington State seems to be similar to Oregon State although a notch lower on the totem pole. I expect them to come up with one signature win and that’s about the end of it. Let’s put it this way, I’m glad Cal has them at home, just like with Oregon State. That said, I’m not expecting them to play in a bowl, although they just might sneak into bowl eligibility with a 6-6 record.
  • Wrapping up the last couple teams, USC continues to be the team to beat. I don’t know if they have what it takes to go undefeated this year, particularly with how many strong or dangerous teams there are in the Pac-10, but they’re still the favorites to win the Pac-10 until/unless Oregon, Cal or potentially ASU upset them (the rest of the teams, even if they can pull the upset, couldn’t win the Pac-10).
  • Finally, Stanford… has Arizona gotten so bad to lift Stanford out of the basement? It’s hard to tell because from all appearances, San Jose State stinks and one can’t determine much from Stanford’s “lauded” victory over them. All I can say is that they’re not good. I’m not sure that they’re 1-11 bad, but I still see a 3-4 win ceiling for them. The trees will consider 4 wins a success.