Sunday, October 26, 2008

College Football Sunday Morning QB

Still two weeks until Duke crushes Presbyterian on college basketball’s opening day, so let’s take another look at the college football season. It may not be clear who is going to play for the national title, but we are starting to build up to some very big games.

Big 12

Texas beat Oklahoma St. 28-24. I was surprised to hear the normally flawless Stacey Dales appear awe-struck in the post game interview with Colt McCoy, asking what seemed like 7 final questions. “Oh, one more thing, what did you think when your defense played well?” “Oh, one more thing, what happened to your hand?” “Oh, one more thing, will you ask me to the prom?” He's just so darn cute after all, in a sort of made-for-tv movie about a QB growing up in the sixties kind of way. Yes folks, Colt McCoy has become the “Ah Shucks” QB of post-game interviews.

On the flip side, Oklahoma St. played a “Maybe we are the 2nd best team in the Big 12 game.” This certainly beats a “We blew a big lead again” game. Except it still wasn’t a win.

Next week Texas will face Texas Tech in Lubbock in a matchup of unbeaten teams. Texas Tech pulled off the 63-21 victory this week against Kansas. I tried to convince my wife that it wasn’t running up the score because Texas Tech is more than capable of blowing a 28 point lead. She pointed out that the lead was 49 points at the time I made this comment. Still, given that Kansas just went to a BCS bowl and won a national title in basketball, and the best thing to happen to Texas Tech in the last few years was the arrival and departure of Mr. Auto Parts Billboard, I have no problem with them running up the score on anyone. (Random Thought: If Texas Tech played Washington St., would they get to 100?)

After Texas beats Texas Tech next week, (oops, I mean after the last great match-up of undefeated teams in the regular season), we’ll have 3 fun matchups to determine 2nd place in the Big 12 South (between Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma St.) And then Texas will have the Big 12 title game to earn a national title shot. Am I naively overlooking the Texas game at Kansas or the rivalry game against Texas A&M? Eh.

By the way, did we suddenly get a windstorm in Kansas on Saturday? Oklahoma and Kansas St. combined for 83 points in the first half and then combined for only 10 in the second half. Bizarro world stat: Sam Bradford was 13 of 32 and his team scored 58 points. By the way, Choir Boy McCoy was 38 of 45 completing 84% of his passes against Oklahoma St. So I’m sorry, but I don’t see Bradford in the Heisman race unless Texas starts losing.


Seriously, what’s with all the high scores today? The following teams all scored at least 45 points: Florida, Georgia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M (and they aren’t very good), North Carolina (they supposedly have a ton of injuries), Rutgers (they’ve been having a terrible year), TCU, Kent St., and Troy.

Florida beat Kentucky 63-5 and Georgia beat LSU 52-38 setting up the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party. The winner will likely meet Alabama in the SEC championship game. I’m sure there will be some other big games in the SEC this fall, but given the way LSU has given up 50 points in back-to-back big games, and given that Vanderbilt just lost to Duke, nothing really stands out.

Big 10

And the season is over in the Big 10. Oh, sure there will be some games and a few upsets. But I agree with Kirk Herbstreit. Now that Penn St. has beaten Ohio St., Penn St. is going to go undefeated and play in the national championship game. The only thing that gives me pause is Daryll Clark getting pulled late in the game with an injury (?). (Honestly, is there anything more awkward than watching a teams starting QB cheer for the backup QB scoring a TD?) But assuming that doesn’t lead to any controversy, Penn St. will finally pay off for the Big Ten with a football national championship berth. Seriously, the Big Ten has put up with some horrible Nittany Lion basketball teams with the hope of a Penn St. football national title contender. It’s about time.

Borrowing from Gregg Easterbrook, here’s the Ohio St./Penn St. Sweet Play: Facing 3rd down deep in their own territory, Ohio St. lined up three WRs to the left side. Ohio St. was playing zone and Penn St. ran the outside receiver deep to clear out the deep coverage. The middle WR ran a slant route to create space to the inside. Finally, the inside WR ran a wheel route, running parallel to the line of scrimmage before cutting up field. This left one corner covering the wheel-route WR underneath. At this point, Terrelle Pryor broke to the outside and had a clear lane to run for a first down. The corner dropped his man and ran towards the line of scrimmage to tackle Pryor, but this left the wheel-route WR wide open. Pryor was looking down field, saw this, and threw a 53-yard pass. That was sweet. Plays like this are why Pryor is already one of my favorite QBs in the NFL and he isn’t even there yet. Honestly, Pryor is a running QB who looks to pass first, and the experience of focusing on the passing game while in college is going to make him a star for year’s to come.

Everyone is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief that Ohio St. won’t be playing in the national title game, but I still hope they play in the Rose Bowl (in the Penn St. national title scenario.) That’s because Ohio St. has built a solid reputation as a college football villain. After being blown out in the last two title games, everyone hates them. And that’s always good for creating a big game atmosphere.

While I’m on the Big Ten, Javon Ringer is the inverse Rashard Mendenhall. I.e., when Mendenhall was drafted, NFL teams loved the fact that he had carried so few times in his college career. They aren’t going to like the tread on Ringer’s tires. Of course, Mendenhall had a season ending injury in his first game as an NFL starter, so maybe if Ringer is the inverse Mendenhall, that’s actually a good thing.

Ok, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Minnesota, since I’m probably one of five people to have watched their games. They are irrelevant in the national picture, but they are proof that sometimes a team gets an inordinate number of breaks. For example, Minnesota misses Penn St. and Michigan St. on the schedule this year. As further evidence, Purdue was forced to play a RB at QB this week. (This is not to be confused with Virginia Tech which was forced to play a WR at QB.) Thanks to Purdue’s complete inability to pass, Minnesota won at Purdue for the first time in 18 years. Hooray.

Big East

Thanks to Rutgers win against Pittsburgh, everyone in the conference now has 2 losses. Seriously, West Virginia might be the only team in the Top 25 this week. The good news is that since 6 teams have 2 losses, (West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Louisville, South Florida, and Cincinnati), someone is going to eventually emerge as a decent team. Or they won’t. Oh who cares?


Undefeated Utah faces one-loss TCU on November 6th and one-loss BYU on November 22nd. Those games should be good.


With parity worse than the Big East, and teams like Maryland that are ridiculously unpredictable, almost no games are big games. But I’m foolishly going to predict that since Florida St. and Maryland each have one conference loss that their game on November 22nd could be big. Oh who am I kidding? When Virginia can lose 31-3 to Duke and still lead one of the ACC divisions, there’s nothing to look forward to here.

Pac 10

Arizona played USC with first place in the Pac-10 on the line.

Sour Play 1: With 6 minutes left in the game and trailing by 7 points, Arizona faced 4th and 1 inch near midfield. Arizona tried a QB sneak and lost about a foot, turning the ball over. At this point announcer Petros Papadakis said, “Arizona doesn’t really strike me as a QB sneak team.” I still don’t know what this means.

Sour Play 2: With 3 minutes left in the game and trailing by 7 points, Arizona faced 3rd and 10. They called for a bubble screen to a WR. It gained zero yards. Arizona coaches apparently did not watch the Texas vs Oklahoma St. game earlier in the day when Oklahoma St. did the same thing and lost. Arizona punted on 4th down and Gregg Easterbrook would have written “Game Over” in his notebook. I’m now done cribbing from his writing style.

Bizarre Ending: USC punted to Arizona one last time as time expired, and Arizona returned the ball into USC territory, drawing a bench-on-the-field penalty on USC. But apparently this is a deadball foul in college so the game was over instead of giving Arizona one un-timed down. Weird.

Now USC, Oregon, Oregon St., and Cal each have one-loss in conference. Cal faces all three of the teams over the next three weeks. And Oregon and Oregon St. will face off to end the season. The Pac 10 might sneak out a 2nd BCS team by the time this thing is done.

Final Note

Why do you watch SportsCenter? For stupid facts like this: Navy ran 77 times Saturday and didn’t attempt a single pass. That deserves a wow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It’s Basketball Season!

Quick News

This article points out something I said in May: This year’s Georgetown team could look a lot like last year’s Syracuse team. Georgetown might be talented enough to beat anyone, but they have absolutely no depth.

Illinois is apparently going to have a lot more chemistry this year. From the wife of this blogger, “That’s like telling a woman she has a great personality.” Honestly, nothing could crush my hope for the season more than this article.

There seems to be some law that someone on Louisville has to get injured early in the year before making a triumphant return. This year it is Terrence Williams.

I almost never read other blogs, and I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a sincere apology to several deserving people who I haven’t added to my links yet. But one link I did add was Rush the Court. They’ve spent some time recently talking about the teams that held Early March Madness. I’m still surprised that Illinois came up with the early practice idea.

Regular March Madness starts today. I’m sure Rush the Court and others will have in depth coverage. In the meantime, here’s my mini-preview of the season.

Yet Another Preview

Flash Forward: You’ll be watching your team play in January against a team from the lower end of your conference. The opponent will have hit 5 of 7 three pointers and as a result you will be freaking out. If we lose this game, it is going to kill our seed! Come on, you can’t afford to lose here guys! I know you are better than this!

This behavior is inevitable. Every autumn I tell myself to sit back, relax, and enjoy the season. Don’t take the games too seriously. But by January, it has all flipped. Every game counts for your national ranking. A single loss can move you from 33 to 42 on the S-curve. A single win can mean the difference between being a “lock” and a “bubble” team.

Don’t you see the incredible ramifications of this game between UNC-Wilmington and George Mason! We beat UNC-Wilmington. If they win, they move back into the top 100. We’re 3-5 against the top 100 right now, and 4-5 sounds a lot better.

OK, maybe you aren’t quite that obsessed, but if you found this website, there’s a good chance you are.

This is why November games are one of my personal moments of bliss. There’s nothing like a true cupcake (not to be confused with a CAA, MVC, or WCC team) to keep indigestion to a minimum.

Sure the stadium is half empty. Who are these people by the way? You know who I’m talking about. The people who only show up for the weekend conference games. Thank goodness for the student section. Thank goodness for the band. So what’s the trendy song going to be this year? You know, what’s this year’s “Shake it like a Polaroid picture” song?

I could spend this space telling you how I like the early season to see the freshman. But according to the scouts, there are no Michael Beasley type players this year so my McDonald’s All-American watch is likely to be scaled back this year. But I still want to see if that 6’1” skinny kid can knock down wide open threes. And I want to find out that the 6’10” center has hands of stone. I mean, I was hoping he’d be good, but we’ll probably need his fouls at some point.

And I’m always curious which players have taken their game to the next level. On that note, Luke Winn has a nice article picking this year’s likely emerging stars. Basketball Prospectus will likely have an even deeper season preview. And I think Ken Pomeroy’s theory is right. Role players stay role players. The only emerging stars are players that didn’t get adequate minutes early on, but who have always been productive. In other words, if the freshman on your team didn’t ever make you say “Wow” when he was on the court, he probably never will. But I enjoy looking for that diamond in the rough (otherwise known as the statistical anomaly) anyhow.

But I have a more selfish reason for liking the early season games. I just like to see my team win. This just in, when the Illini went 37-2, that was really fun. Yes, they didn’t win it all, but 37 times I had a Revel-in-the-Glory-Evening.

Revel-in-the-Glory-Evening (Definition): When you stay up til 12:45 hoping to catch 15 seconds of highlights even though you’ve already seen that same set of highlights twice. Inevitably, all SportsCenter does is show your box score and you freak out because you are not getting the last hour of your life back and they just spend 30 minutes talking about hot stove baseball.

Side note: Ball State finally cracked a top 25 poll in football, and they didn’t even get a highlight on SportsCenter on Saturday night. Hey, maybe the game wasn’t televised, but that sucks.

Preseason Tournaments

Last year I published the brackets for all the preseason tournaments. But I hate to be redundant and Rush the Court has already posted the key brackets here. Specifically, they have Coaches vs Cancer, the NIT, Maui, Old Spice, Anaheim, the Legends, and the CBE.

They missed the following:
Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Paradise Jam

And there are a few other tournaments I still couldn’t find the brackets for, namely the Rainbow Classic, Las Vegas Invitational, South Padre Island Invitational, Philly Classic, Global Sports Classic, Chicago Invitational Challenge, Glenn Wilkes Classic, Cancun Challenge, Charleston Classic, ect. Note that many of these other tournaments have “bonus” home games for the BCS schools and/or brackets with no more than four teams.

I will be attending the Old Spice Classic in person this year. The field is absolutely stacked with Georgetown, Maryland, Tennessee, Michigan St., Oklahoma St., Gonzaga, Siena, and Wichita St. Sadly for those of us in DC, because of the bracketing, the odds of Georgetown and Maryland meeting are only about 1 in 4. I’ll be back once the season starts with more comments on the live games. In the meantime, I leave you with a conference-by-conference look at the preseason tournaments:

Preseason Tournaments (BCS Teams)

Purdue – Preseason NIT
Indiana – Maui Invitational
Michigan St. – Old Spice Classic
Wisconsin – Paradise Jam
Michigan – Coaches vs Cancer
Illinois – South Padre Island Invitational
Iowa – Las Vegas Invitational
Penn St. – Philly Classic
Northwestern – None
Ohio St. – None
Minnesota – None (NABC Classic is all at home and not really a tournament. I’m not counting these types of “tournaments”. Minnesota also has a game against Louisville in Vegas, but again this is not really a tournament. Games in Big Ten / ACC Challenge are also not a tournament.)

St. John’s – Preseason NIT
Notre Dame – Maui Invitational
Georgetown – Old Spice Classic
Providence – Anaheim Classic
Pittsburgh – Legends Classic
Syracuse – CBE Classic
Seton Hall – Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Connecticut – Paradise Jam
Cincinnati – Global Sports Classic
West Virginia – Las Vegas Invitational
Villanova – Philly Classic
Marquette – Chicago Invitational Challenge
DePaul – Las Vegas Classic
South Florida – San Juan Shootout (Note: I shouldn’t count this since this tournament is now a glorified semi-home 3 game tournament for USF, but the field was good last year so I’ll still count if for now.)
Louisville – None
Rutgers - None

Boston College – Preseason NIT
North Carolina – Maui Invitational
Duke – Coaches vs Cancer
Maryland – Old Spice Classic
Wake Forest – Anaheim Classic
Virginia Tech – Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Miami – Paradise Jam
Florida St. – Global Sports Classic
Clemson – Charleston Classic
Georgia Tech – None
NC State – None
Virginia – None

Oklahoma – Preseason NIT
Texas – Maui Invitational
Oklahoma St. – Old Spice Classic
Baylor – Anaheim Classic
Texas Tech – Legends Classic
Texas A&M – South Padre Island Invitational
Kansas – CBE Classic
Missouri – Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Kansas St. – Las Vegas Invitational
Colorado – Rainbow Classic
Iowa St. – None
Nebraska – None

Arizona – Preseason NIT
Oregon – Maui Invitational
UCLA – Coaches vs Cancer
Arizona St. – Anaheim Classic
Washington St. – Legends Classic
Washington – CBE Classic
USC – Puerto Rico Tip-Off
California – Global Sports Classic
Stanford – None
Oregon St. – None

Georgia – Preseason NIT
Alabama – Maui Invitational
Tennessee – Old Spice Classic
Mississippi St. – Legends Classic
Florida – CBE Classic
Kentucky – Las Vegas Invitational
Auburn – Chicago Invitational Challenge
Vanderbilt – Cancun Challenge
Ole Miss – Glenn Wilkes Classic
Arkansas – None
South Carolina – None
LSU – None

Note: Even though I’ve only listed the BCS teams, the real winners in these events are usually the MWC, MVC, and A10 teams who often have their best shot to earn national credibility by beating the BCS teams on a neutral court.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Snoozing through September

Maybe the Appalachian St. upset last year set the bar too high, but I’ve been completely bored with the college football season this year. The USC and Georgia upsets last weekend finally caught my attention, but I really haven’t watched many games or even looked at the numbers. So as I try to update my own brain, let’s look at the college football results for the last month and see what I’ve missed.

Who's terrible?
So far BCS teams have lost to 20 non-BCS teams.
(Note: I'm counting Notre Dame as a BCS school today.)

BCS teams have lost to BYU (twice), UNLV (twice), Fresno St. (twice), Navy (twice), East Carolina (twice), Boise St., Utah, and TCU. None of these losses seems critically embarassing, (although the East Carolina losses are starting to look a little worse.) Arizona also lost to a New Mexico squad that got crushed by Tulsa, but because of the border rivalry, I'll let that one slide.

That leaves six candidates for most embarassing non-conference loss of the year:

6) Ball St. beat Indiana 42-20. Ball St. seems to have a good team this year. They also beat Navy and Akron who pulled other BCS upsets. (Or perhaps I should say "had a good team". The injury to WR Dante Love was certainly tragic.) But you never want to get crushed by a MAC school in your own state.

5) Louisiana Tech beat Mississippi St. 22-14. Seems like we've been down this road before with Mississippi St.

4) Bowling Green beat Pittsburgh 27-17. It turns out Pittsburgh shouldn't be ranked.

3) Akron beat Syracuse 48-28. What's worse, the quality of opponents Syracuse has lost to? Or the way Washington St. has been blown out this year. Tough call.

2) Middle Tennessee beat Maryland 24-14. The same Middle Tennessee team got blown out by Troy and Arkansas St. After this loss, you had to think Ralph Friedgen was going to lose his job. Then Maryland went and beat California and won at Clemson. Maryland definitely gets the "not showing up" award for this loss.

1) Arkansas St. beat Texas A&M 18-14. The main reason I label this the worst upset of the year is that this was not the way Mike Sherman wanted to start his tenure as head coach. A school with Texas A&M's reputation just can't lose to a Sun Belt squad. Yes Arkansas St. has some talent, but they also lost to Memphis and Souther Miss. Just a horrible start to the year, and this could be the start of an epicly bad season at A&M.

Also terrible:
-Washington is winless but they almost beat BYU, (see excessive celebration flag), so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
-Washington St. is regularly giving up 50 points.
-Virginia just lost to Duke and might have the driver's seat for last place in the ACC.
-Rutgers has been shockingly non-competitive.
-Tennessee is off to a horrible start, but they aren't a terrible team.
-UCLA had injuries to the top 2 QBs, so I'll give them that.

Conference Report Card

5 Weeks into the season, 35% or 23 of 66 BCS teams have 0 wins against BCS teams.

These include: Texas Tech, Kansas, Nebraska, Kansas St., Iowa St., Texas A&M, Boston College, NC State, Virginia, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Rutgers, Tennesse, Arkansas, Mississippi St., Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Washington St., and Washington.

Despite this Texas Tech, Kansas, and Wisconsin are ranked in the AP poll.

Is the Big 12 good or bad this year? Probably good right? They have lots of teams ranked in the AP poll. They must be doing something right. Let's look at the non-conference schedule. The Big 12 is the only conference where the non-conference schedule is completely finished. What have we learned?

Big 12 Resume
Beat Illinois, Arkansas, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Washington, Washington St. (twice)
Lost to USF, Connecticut, Wake Forest, Florida St., Virginia Tech, Louisville, Iowa, Miami, UNLV, and Arkansas St.

Umm, yeah. That sure screams domination to me. Two wins against Washington St. Wow. So do you think Oklahoma is better than LSU or USC or USF? Well, why not. Well let's compare the conferences:

BCS wins, BCS losses, losses to non-BCS teams
2-1-0 Notre Dame
5-4-1 SEC
8-7-3 ACC
7-8-2 Big 12
6-7-2 Big Ten
6-6-5 Big East
5-6-7 Pac10

If you want to look at these numbers and tell me that one conference is definitively better than another, more power to you. Let's look more closely:

Big Ten Resume
Comment: Until Oregon St. beat USC, this looked like a pretty pathetic slate of non-conference victories.
Beat Oregon St., Duke, Iowa St., Syracuse (twice)
Went 1-2 against Notre Dame
Lost to USC, Missouri, California, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Utah, and Ball St.

Pac10 Resume
Comment: The Pac10 lost a slew of games to MWC and WAC teams. Only a dominant effort against the Big 10 prevents the non-conference season from being a total disaster.
Beat Ohio St., Michigan St., Purdue, Tennessee, Virginia
Lost to Oklahoma, Penn St., Georgia, Maryland, Oklahoma St., Baylor, BYU (twice), Boise St., TCU, Fresno St., UNLV, New Mexico
3 Non-Conference BCS games left, all against Notre Dame

Big East Resume
Comments: Plenty of embarrassing non-conference losses. Who would have thought that recent Big East additions UConn and USF would be carrying the league?
Beat Kansas, Kansas St., NC State, Iowa, Baylor, Virginia
Lost to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Penn St., Northwestern, North Carolina, Colorado, Fresno St., Navy, East Carolina, Bowling Green, Akron
4 Non-Conference BCS games left, 2 against Notre Dame, one against Auburn, one against North Carolina.

ACC Resume
Comment: Not nearly as bad as people were saying early in the year when Clemson lost to Alabama and Virginia Tech lost to East Carolina.
Beat California, Nebraska, Colorado, Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Baylor, Texas A&M, Rutgers
Lost to Alabama, Florida, USC, USF, South Carolina, Connecticut, Northwestern, Navy, East Carolina, Middle Tenn.
8 Games Left Including 2 games against Notre Dame, 2 games against Vanderbilt, UConn, and the SEC/ACC rivalries (Florida St. vs Florida, Georgia Tech vs Georgia, anc Clemson vs South Carolina.)

SEC Resume
Comment: Yep, the SEC is the top conference. I guess.
Beat Clemson, Miami, Arizona St., NC State, Louisville
Lost to Texas, Wake Forest, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Lousiana Tech
6 Games Left Including West Virginia, Duke, Wake Forest and the SEC/ACC rivalries.