Picking Football Winners… with Table Tennis Logic: LSU versus Clemson
(by Steve Hopkins)
It’s no surprise to anyone reading this post that my sport doesn’t make headlines in the US. Because of this, I like to find table tennis angles to most of the big sporting events. And, at this time, I’m announcing my TT-focused pick for the College Football National Championship.
Fans have some strange ways of picking winners in important games across all sports. Some cheer with their heart, having followed a team and developed an attachment over the course of a season. Others pull for underdogs or favorites and rely upon the experts and the betting lines and the resulting buzz. During Soccer’s World Cup, there were several stories about animals selecting winners including Paul the Octopus in Germany, Shaheen the camel in Dubai, and Marcus the pig in England. Many rely on commentators or Las Vegas to pick the winners for us (currently the Vegas odds are at 5.5 points in LSU’s favor). I’m actually not suggesting that this pick has more science behind it than the experts in Las Vegas, or that it will exceed the cuteness factor associated with selections by animals – but each of us has our own angle for maximizing the entertainment value of any event, and this is mine. I’m making my pick based upon something closer to my heart – how many table tennis tables each team has in their training facility and which of their players enjoy the sport.
Clemson has a player lounge in their football training facility that features two tables in a prominent location (both painted in team colors and with a big tiger paw across the middle). A year ago, I ran this table tennis logic analysis ahead of the College Football Championship game and determined that Clemson would upset the highly favored Alabama team (See that previous article here) based largely upon a 2 table to 1 table discrepancy in their respective training facilities. *I strongly believe that table tennis benefits everything from mobility to mental health and assists with eye-hand coordination and touch, so I picked Clemson over Alabama based upon Tigers having twice the opportunity to play table tennis (compared to their Crimson Tide opponents).
The analysis is tougher this year. LSU is also limited by a player lounge with only one table tennis table (the key to the downfall of Bama a year ago??!?). However, LSU’s best player, Quarterback Joe Burrows, and Punter Zach Von Rosenberg play ping pong a lot. In fact, in a recent Sports Illustrated article discussing Joe Burrow’s competitive nature, they note that after winning 10 games in a row against teammates, he was very frustrated that he had lost three in a row to the punter. Joe Burrow is the Heisman Trophy winner and Von Rosenberg is no athletic slouch either – he was a two-sport star who was drafted to play pro baseball before returning to college to play tight end and then ultimately switching positions to become one of the best punters in the SEC (Clemson – Watch out for that baseball arm in a potential trick play). Both players are great stories, both are important players, both are apparently big fans of the sport, and both are using this holiday break as an opportunity to relax with some table tennis. But this is a complex science and I have to make a decision soon (in time to get neat SEO results ahead of the game and in time to be ridiculed in Larry Hodge’s weekly table tennis blog).
That leaves me with a toss-up between the NUMBER OF TABLES analysis that won the day a year ago in the college championship game and the KEY PLAYER analysis (which I incorrectly relied upon in my Super Bowl pick last year). I’m going to stick with Clemson (by the narrowest of margins) and declare that per table tennis logic, their two bright orange tables will win the day. Besides, if the SI.com article is right, Burrow is on a three-game losing streak and sometimes sports is all about momentum!