Saturday, March 31, 2012

Catching up is wary of turkey vultures

Bacarri Rambo enjoys the breakfast of champions: As you might or might not have heard, Georgia is dealing with some not-insignificant suspensions right now. The story:

ATHENS, Ga. -- Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree will be suspended to start the 2012 season, a source at the University of Georgia confirmed to DawgNation Wednesday.

The news follows a report on Georgia's site,, that the two defensive starters had broken unnamed team rules and will miss anywhere from two to four games while serving their suspensions .

Rambo was suspended for the Bulldogs' opener against Boise State last season for an unnamed rules violation but still earned All-America honors while leading the SEC with eight interceptions. Ogletree missed six games last season with a broken foot but still ranked among the team's breakout stars on defense, leading Georgia in tackles in each of the last five games.

Georgia still hasn't confirmed anything but doesn't really need to anymore; Rambo's high school coach provided all the details Saturday, with the most interesting part being that the suspension is for four games and the most hilarious part being everything else:
Georgia's Bacarri Rambo failed a drug test after he inadvertently ate marijuana-laced brownies on a spring-break trip to Florida, his high school coach said Thursday. The All-American safety faces a four-game suspension at the start of next season.

Alan Ingram, Rambo's coach at Seminole County High School in Donalsonville, Ga., said the player told him the positive test occurred after he got back from a trip to Panama City, Fla., with two friends over the recent break.

''Two of 'em came back to the room, but the other kid got off with some other folks and came in later,'' Ingram told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. ''Bacarri was the first one up the next morning, went to the refrigerator and got a glass of milk, then saw a package on the counter with brownies in it. He ate two of the brownies and almost immediately started feeling funny. He got high off it. Then the other guy came in and told him, 'Hey, those aren't yours. I got them last night.'"
Derpity derp. I would find this laughable in an unfortunate sense rather than laughable in a stupid sense if not for the fact that Rambo was suspended for last year's opener against Boise for what Ingram called "another inadvertent brush with marijuana." I'm skeptical; avoiding weed isn't really that hard. It also might not be a coincidence that corner Branden Smith was arrested a couple weeks ago on his way to Panama City (hmmm) with a "baseball-sized package of marijuana" in his car, which got him a one-game suspension.

Speaking of which, Georgia is gonna start the season down three of its four starters in the secondary since Smith is out for one game, Rambo's out for four and corner Sanders Commings is out for two thanks to a "domestic dispute." That'd probably be more of a concern if the schedule didn't start out as follows: Buffalo, at Missouri, Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt. Daunting.

Al Golden is intrigued by your girth: I'm gonna go ahead and assume Miami's depth on the O-line is suboptimal:

What's more amusing to me than the poster-type thing itself is the ridiculousness of the physical specs listed. I mean, I realize Miami doesn't have a massive student body proportional to its typical football expectations, but there's no freakin' way anybody in the 230-240 range is gonna be a legitimate option on a D-I offensive line. Desperation apparently knows no limits other than the 6-foot-1 one, which would have been really inconvenient for David Molk if he'd have gone to Miami instead of winning the Rimington Award at Michigan last year.

Tee Shepard has a heart condition: What the headline says. The link is ESPN Insider (for some reason), but here's the quote(s) that kinda explains why the kid bailed on Notre Dame a couple weeks ago:
"I didn't know what to do next, so I dropped out of school. ...

“Right now I’m just working on my health. It’s not something that’s an issue, it’s just something I’ve got to get to the point where I can pass a physical again. My plan is to pick a new college in May. I’m not sure how the process works to go to another school, but I want to go somewhere closer to home.”
The thing nobody other than Shepard knows is exactly how serious his condition is; he says it's "not something that's an issue" but then says he can't pass a physical, and a heart condition isn't the kind of thing you can work off at the gym. So that's pretty confusing.

Regardless, it sounds like he's done at Notre Dame. He'll presumably be of interest to a lot of California-area schools if he gets himself cleared to play by a non-Dr. Nick-caliber doctor, but whether that happens is anyone's guess. Best of luck to him (don't be Hank Gathers plzkthx).

How will the players find their helmets? Just look at the picture:

Yeeeeaaaaaahhh. Those are pretty awful but do have enough of a background story that they make more sense than anything Nike's ever done:
... the Hokies will wear (the camoflauge helmet) for Military Appreciation Night on Sept. 22 against Bowling Green. Those helmets are part of the fundraiser Tech is doing with the Wounded Warrior Projects. The goal is to raise $25,000 for the foundation by selling camouflage hats at local bookstores and online.
It should be noted that Virginia Tech is one of the six military colleges in the country; they can do things with camo and whatnot and not have said things come across as totally stupid. But I'm envisioning the game usage going something like this:

On a related note, a billion points to the author of that story for his usage of "embiggen" in copy. I love it.

Insert Ohio joke here: You've seen this ridiculous-looking gentleman if you've ever watched an Ohio State game:

He is almost definitely an odd guy. This is DEFINITELY DEFINITELY an odd story:
Ohio State “super fan” Buck i Guy said on Tuesday that his friends saved his life after what he called a freak accident.

John Chubb said that while he was driving home from Pittsburgh after the Buckeyes’ win over Gonzaga, something flew toward his car while he was traveling along Interstate 79.

“Out of my peripheral vision, I (saw) something in our airspace, and it was a turkey,” Chubb said. “I’ve never seen anything like that, and I said, ‘Lonnie, do you see that big old bird?’ and bam, that’s the end of the story as I know it.”

Chubb said that the bird crashed through his windshield and knocked him unconscious.

According to Chubb, his friend, a retired Columbus firefighter, grabbed the steering wheel and brought the car to a stop.
LOLWUT? I don't even know what to say here other than to clarify that I have never trained turkey vultures. I swear.

Only in Alabama (or possibly Ohio): I'm not kidding about the Alabama thing:
... of the approximately 60 suggestions received from the public (for Montgomery's new eastside high school), Nick Saban High is on the list. It was among the many intriguing and thought-provoking ideas submitted.
But wait; there's more! The justification for not naming a high school after a college football coach who's widely regarded as a terrible human being and has never spent more than six years at any one place:
Montgomery Public Schools spokesman Tom Salter, who was on the naming committee, said he certainly learned a lot during the process. But when grilled about the potential of a Saban High, he chose his words carefully.

"As big as an Alabama fan as I am, it would likely not be an appropriate choice, especially this close to the Plains,” he said.
Great googly moogly. The amazing part isn't that Nick Saban High School apparently seemed like a reasonable proposal but that the only reason it got shot down was the potential for stabbiness in Auburn country. Translation: "'Round these parts, we don't give a damn 'bout cultural relevance. Roll Tide!"

The video that still haunts me: I'm not gonna lie: The headline "Girls' Generation Tigerhawk Connection Explained" excited me a lot. I mean ...

... yeah. This needs an explanation.

Sadly, the explanation linked above is not so much an explanation as it is some quality BHGP humor. Or maybe that's not sad; I dunno. My brain is no longer functioning because it's filled with Iowa-helmet-related nonsense.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wisconsin laughs at the idea of development

Hello. You might remember me from such activities as writing about football and working way too much. Perhaps we could get together some time and eat a bunch of caramels or talk about Wisconsin's quarterback situation given this week's newsy news:

Wisconsin has added another coveted quarterback transfer, as Danny O'Brien will suit up for the Badgers.

The team on Tuesday announced the signing of O'Brien after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported his arrival. Because O'Brien graduated from Maryland in three years, he will have two seasons of eligibility at Wisconsin and can play immediately.
BOOM TRACTOR BEAM'D. So much for that development thing I wrote about last week.

Upshot: Wisconsin will be starting a senior (in academic standing) quarterback with more than a year of starting experience for the third straight season. Think about that; there's no way that's ever happened before in the history of college football, right? Bret Bielema is turning the graduate-transfer exception* into his own personal cheat code.

The stupid thing is that Wisconsin doesn't even need a good quarterback in that offense ... although I guess that's kinda the draw. Being the hypothetical missing piece on what looks like an otherwise-BCS-caliber team is probably fairly enticing when the alternatives are Ole Miss and Vanderbilt and the like.

Whether O'Brien is actually that piece is another matter. There's a fat line between a guy like O'Brien and a guy like Russell Wilson, who was the reigning ACC player of the year and a career 58 percent passer with a ridiculous 76:26 touchdown-to-interception ratio in three years when he showed up. Wilson's quality was not debatable, thus the nationwide panting when NC State let him go and he became a de facto free agent. O'Brien's quality is not so definite.

Here are some numbers:

2010: 57 percent, 7.23 yards per attempt, 22 touchdowns, eight interceptions
2011: 56.4 percent, 6.19 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions

Gack. BTW, the depressed volume in 2011 was a direct product of crappy play; C.J. Brown started getting regular snaps around midseason and took over the nominal starting job for the final two games despite not being a particularly productive/efficient passer. But exactly how much of that crappy play was due to O'Brien inexplicably becoming awful and how much of it was due to Maryland just being a complete tire fire is unknowable. It's hard to reconcile last year's horrificness with the guy's talent and his production in 2010, when he was ACC freshman of the year. I mean, there's a reason a half-dozen or so BCS-conference programs were begging to get him on campus.

So ... nobody knows whether O'Brien is very good or very meh or somewhere/anywhere in between. Given last year's disaster and the new-offense thing, I'm guessing he'll be closer to the "meh" end of the starting-quarterback spectrum this year. That's not an insult as much as it is a realistic expectation; I find it unlikely that he's gonna absorb the playbook and set the all-time NCAA pass-efficiency record like Wilson did last season. He'll probably be closer to average, which should be adequate to keep Wisconsin at/near the top of the Big Ten but would be a pretty significant drop-off from Wilson's ridiculous numbers last year and the vastly underrated Scott Tolzien's numbers the year before (sixth in pass efficiency, second in completion percentage). The good news is that he'll have a fifth year available to him (if he wants it) in 2013, when he could plausibly be the best quarterback in the conference.

There's still some short-term significance, though, for the following reason (self-promoting blockquote ahoy):
Jon Budmayr has been The Next Guy since like 2008 and has accumulated 10 career passing attempts, none of which have come in the last 20 months due to a chronic nerve problem that flared up again recently and required surgery; he's out for spring ball. Same for alleged dual-threat guy Curt Phillips, whose ACLs are so flimsy that he should probably be playing for Purdue.

The leftovers are redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan, who was Wilson's nominal backup last season and went an unimpressive 6 for 15, and lightly recruited redshirt freshman Joel Stave. True freshman Bart Houston came guru-approved and would probably be a viable option if he didn't need shoulder surgery that's gonna keep him out until at least the start of the season.

So yeah ... that's not much of a depth chart.
Wisconsin's quarterback situation had season-cratering potential before the O'Brien thing. Budmayr and/or Phillips might be good, but there's no way to know given their complete lack of experience and general lack of functioning body parts, and starting a lightly recruited sophomore who's 6 for 15 in his career (with zero experience behind him) is something other than optimal. O'Brien immediately becomes a better option than anybody else on the roster just by (a) being healthy and (b) having experienced something resembling success at the college level. In other words, O'Brien's uncertainty > Budmayr's uncertainty > Brennan's uncertainty. This is why there's a (roughly) zero percent chance O'Brien's not starting come August.

I can't say what happens after that with much confidence; trying to guess whether the 2011 awesomeness or the 2010 blah was a more accurate indicator of what the guy's gonna do in a massively different system is an exercise in futility. What I can say with confidence is that Wisconsin's chances of a significant backslide are lower now than they were a week ago. That's not exactly "WOO ROSE BOWL" but is definitely worth something.

*Just to be clear, I am not advocating for the graduate-transfer rule to be overturned. It's a (gasp) well-meaning exception that's a legitimate benefit to the guys who use it to try to actually get a master's or whatever. In that sense, Wisconsin's accumulation of senior quarterbacks is not that important or think-of-the-children-y.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things that might or might not be accurate

So ... I spent Saturday afternoon watching Arizona football while my neck and forehead turned a color of red that only Brian Kelly could accurately reproduce. This is a problem where I live: No matter how hot it doesn't seem and how much cloud cover exists, any amount of time spent outside will result in horrifying things happening to your skin. I forget about this every March and then am immediately reminded.

Anyway, football: It happened (inasmuch as an hour of scripted, half-speed plays with occasional tackling can be described as "football"). I learned some things that might or might not be useful. I also talked to Rich Rodriguez briefly, which would have caused my head to explode four years ago and seemed a little surreal considering that I was standing on a community college football field. More on that later.

The most interesting observation: The offense was surprisingly competent, and the reason for that competence was almost entirely Matt Scott. He's gonna be pretty productive because he has two things that are extremely useful (and basically necessary) in that offense: the athleticism to be a threat on the zone read and the ability to throw accurately on the run. Honestly, I thought he looked more accurate when moving than setting his feet, which is pretty odd; the comparison I've come up with over the past few days is Tate Forcier. They have comparable speed, too, although Forcier is/was a little shiftier in terms of avoiding pressure. That said, it would take me more than one hand to count the number of big plays Scott produced Saturday (in only about 40 snaps) while rolling off the zone-read fake or GTFO-ing the pocket.

The thing he has that Forcier didn't is experience ... and when I say "experience," I'm talking about both the understanding of what to do on the zone read (which doesn't seem that complicated but apparently is since Rodriguez didn't trust Forcier to do it much) and the wisdom to not make totally nonsensical throws into seven people. It occurred to me the other day that Scott's five full games (and various other cameos) of experience are five more games than any of the starting QBs at Michigan had going into a season. That obviously counts for something.

The only guy/guys who looked as good as Scott were the running backs. Shockingly, this does not apply exclusively to Ka'Deem Carey. Daniel Jenkins was actually the first-team running back on most snaps and looked the part of a RichRod back, by which I mean he's pretty small but has some shiftiness and burst. Carey was the other guy out there with the nominal starters and looked about like he looked last year; Jenkins might have a little better vision based on my admittedly amateur and brief observations. I'm curious to see what the carry breakdown looks like between those two this year. I'm pretty sure they're both better than anybody RichRod was starting at Michigan other than Brandon Minor, who was hurt 97 percent of the time but was an inside-zone beast on the rare occasions when he was healthy.

Anyway, between Scott and the running backs and an O-line that looked moderately coherent except when the center was snapping the ball 5 feet to the left of the quarterback, I think the first year (on offense) will be less ugly than it's been at most/all of RichRod's other stops. I reserve the right to reassess the offensive line pending actual competition; it's kinda hard to get a good read when there's no real pass rush (because of the no-contact jersey for Scott) and the linebackers are still figuring out what gaps to fill (more on that shortly).

Also, the receivers should be fine. A Juron Criner type isn't necessary in this offense. Dan Buckner is the most physically endowed (hur hur) but probably won't get as many looks since he's an outside guy; I could easily see Austin Hill ending up with like 70 catches out of the slot.

As for the defense ... ummm ... man, I just don't know. Like I said a couple sentences ago, the linebackers looked pretty hesitant and not totally sure about what they were doing, but that's not surprising given that it was the fifth practice those guys had spent in the 3-3-5. And there's no way to make any definitive statements about the secondary given what the offense was doing. Most of the big-ish plays were due to Scott breaking containment, which may or may not be an actual issue for the D-line; again, it's hard to say in a DON'T-TOUCH-THAT-GUY situation.

If you're looking for something, I'd recommend being concerned about the D-line. The complete lack of pressure and/or penetration was an issue ...

... and led to a lot of linebackers eating blocks, which in turn led to a lot of 8-yard runs. That won't go well against Oregon/USC/Stanford/any decent offense.

FYI, Jeff Casteel wasn't made available to the media. Boo-urns. I should also note somewhere that both Adam Hall and Jake Fischer looked physically fine, which is obviously good news for guys coming off torn ACLs just eight months ago. Their health will be a benefit of an undetermined amount (yay for specificity).

Oh and I almost forgot this hilarious tidbit: John Bonano missed one PAT and had one blocked. Wwwhheeeeeeeeee!!! Just plan on being in the fetal position for all kicking-related activities.

Going back to Rodriguez, the guy seems the same but not the same. The mannerisms/tantrums are still there but aren't backed up by the same RAGE and desperation because ... I mean ... obviously. The stress level has gone down by about a billion orders of magnitude from the last time he was publicly visible. The fact that there were maybe 1,000 people (I estimated more like 800) in attendance for something that would've drawn 60,000 people in Tuscaloosa kinda demonstrates as much. It also demonstrates all that is good and bad about his current gig: The bar is set low because (a) almost nobody cares and (b) Arizona has never sustained anything above "meh" for an extended period of time.

At least he'll have time; I had a brief conversation with Greg Byrne before the game-type thing and realized right away that he's not at all of the belief that this program is in an add-water-for-instant-greatness position. IIRC, he actually used the phrase "give it time" (or something very similar) just before he stepped away. Related note: I'm a fan of Greg Byrne. The guy gets it as an AD. He does his work to identify quality coaches, puts the cash together to hire said coaches and knows how to market the department/programs. That's how you athletic director (woo noun verb).

So ... I think that pretty well covers it. You've just read the most extensive spring analysis of an about-to-go-5-7 team you'll ever read on this site (until I get to ASU).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring springiness has sprung (spring)

There's no real narrative to spring football. I/we only really pay attention because of the pure scarcity of actual football and the hope that I'll/we'll be able to glean something of value from a month of practice that's closer (from a time perspective) to the end of the last season than the beginning of the next one. That last thought is so depressing.

Anyway, the aforementioned stuff of value is still largely in the distance; it's freakin' March, so Steve Spurrier is like eight months away from picking a quarterback (think about it). That said, there's plenty of stuff that's become known because of obvious obviousness or coaches talking or dudes transferring or whatever.

This is where I write about that stuff so you know what you should, um, know. It's limited to what you should know rather than what's interesting to me since I'm pretty sure you don't care about Michigan's minor O-line adjustments and whatnot. You should also be thankful that I'm not Bleacher Report and therefore won't make you read this in an eyeball-gouging slideshow format featuring informative things like "The new-look Pac-12." Hooray.

The stuff:

Notre Dame has plenty of quarterbacks but no quarterback: My skepticism that Tommy Rees would start for pretty much an entire year and then eat bench in favor of somebody with zero meaningful experience is rapidly diminishing. Rees is obviously talented but alternates being making you say "wow" and "woooooooowww" (the latter one being not good), and he did way too much of the latter at the end of last season.

Andrew Hendrix is the obvious alternative and gets talked up primarily for his mobility, but the fact of the matter is that Brian Kelly needs a guy who can throw it downfield with some accuracy and preferably not to the other team. Everett Golson is a mystery outside of year-old spring-game footage that makes him appear to be Vince Young; that's probably not entirely accurate since he couldn't get on the field last year despite Brian Kelly's face spanning the color spectrum on a weekly basis. Requisite photo:


I'm intrigued by this quote:
"If we started the spring with page 50 of the playbook, Tommy would be ahead of everybody. So not to put him at a disadvantage but to give it an equal footing for all, we've kind of scaled it back so the spring, it's going to give all the quarterbacks, including a midyear in Gunner and of course the two young guys, an opportunity to truly compete for the position."
Gunner is, of course, Gunner Kiel, he of the many recruiting stars. If he plays, it won't be for his mobility.

My interpretation of that quote is as follows: "For the love of all that is holy and the avoidance of future brain aneurysms, someone please take the starting job from Tommy #$!@&% Rees." You don't eliminate a year's worth of experience and development (stuff that's kinda important for quarterbacks) unless the guys who don't have those things are preferable to the guy who does.

As for which guy that is (or if there is one), I have no idea. I don't think Kelly knows either; that's what spring's for.

BTW, I'm with ya if you're wondering how playing somebody with zero meaningful experience is going to somehow decrease the number of HEAD-ASPLODE mistakes that Rees has already made and presumably learned from. That's some interesting logic right there.

Barrett Jones is back but not back at tackle: In the Offensive Lineman Position Switch Spectrum, which ranges from "I couldn't possibly care less" to "that's kind of interesting," this one definitely falls closer to the "that's kind of interesting" end. Jones is almost definitely the best lineman in the country. I say "lineman" in the non-specific sense because he was one of the top two or three guards in the country two years ago and then probably the best left tackle in the country last year. He could've been a first-rounder if he'd left; instead, he's back at Alabama and making the incredibly odd switch from All-American tackle to center.

There are two reasons for this: the first is that he's obviously very smart and very versatile and the second is the existence Cyrus Kouandijo, an OMG recruit last year who flip-flopped from Auburn to Alabama on Signing Day and ended up getting some time at tackle as a true freshman, which isn't common. Kouandijo apparently is ready, italicized for emphasis. Nick Saban quote (I like to read it in a robotic, emotionless voice to give it a little more Saban-ness):

"We thought (Kouandjio) was a starter last year," Saban said. "Obviously he's a freshman, but he made tremendous progress. Obviously his injury set him back a little bit but he's worked very hard and made a good recovery.

"We think he can be a very, very good player. There's no experiment involved in Barrett playing center. That experiment was all done last year. He got a lot of reps and played some in games. I don't think there's any question about the fact he'll do a really good job."

So there ya go. As Graham Watson (you're no Dr. Saturday) recently pointed out, no player has ever won the Rimington Award after winning the Outland Trophy at another position.

Kellen Moore definitely doesn't have any eligibility left: I'm pretty sure about this since the guy started for four years and won 51 (!!!) games. Something to think about: Only one year (2007) separated the Moore and Jared Zabransky eras at Boise State. Jared freakin' Zabransky. That's how long Kellen Moore was awesome at Boise State.

He's gone now, which means Chris Petersen gets to be reminded of the unsettling uncertainty of a quarterback competition for the first time since Obama took office. Jared Southwick is pretty likely to be the guy coming out of camp since he has two years of (mostly irrelevant) experience and has put up good numbers in said irrelevant time. Keep in mind that the pre-Moore guys all sat and watched a ton of wins before taking over as upperclassmen; that seems to be Petersen's SOP. Southwick's taking most of the first-teams snaps right now, FWIW.

The other guys are redshirt freshman and former meh recruit Jimmy Laughrea and somewhat-more-touted true freshman Nick Patti, an Elite 11 guy out of Orlando who's got a little more speed/athleticism than the others and enrolled early.

YES SEC RUNNING BACKS oh wait not really: I'm not gonna lie: I'm pretty excited (maybe unreasonably so) about Marcus Lattimore coming back from his torn knee thing. Knile Davis is also pretty dang good and missed all of Arkansas's 11-2 season with a broken ankle. So fluffety fluff fluff ...
RB Marcus Lattimore, who is rehabilitating after surgery to repair torn knee ligaments, might not be lateral running for another month, coach Steve Spurrier said. Lattimore, who rushed for 818 yards in seven games before his injury, is expected to be full speed this fall.
A month?!? Unacceptable. I'm actually a little concerned if he's not even moving laterally yet and it's only five months (argh) til the start of the season; running backs kinda need knee mobility and whatnot. I will be a sad panda if my concerns are anything other than baseless seeing as how Lattimore is probably the best running back in the country and definitely the most physically ridonkulous running back I've seen since Adrian Peterson.

There's also this:
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said running back Knile Davis is “100 percent and completely healed” nearly seven months after the fractured ankle he sustained last summer.

But is Davis ready for contact when the Razorbacks open spring drills Wednesday afternoon?

That still hasn’t been determined. ... Petrino said Davis will get plenty of work during the spring but couldn’t say if he’ll see live contact.

I see. Amusing/interesting tidbit:

Petrino said there has been plenty of proof in Davis’ progress during the team’s pre-spring testing, which leads into spring practice.

Davis already has set personal bests in a couple of categories, including a 40-yard dash time (4.33 seconds) he ran last week.

Petrino said it is the top time on the team.

Mmmmkay. To be fair, Davis might actually be that fast; he's also recovering from a broken ankle and supposedly just ran what would have been one of the five fastest times at the combine. Take that with as many salt licks as you like.

Oregon is having a make-believe quarterback competition: Bryan Bennett is going to start no matter how much Chip Kelly tries to convince everybody that there's an actual competition. The Oregon running game went from ridiculous to utterly horrifying with him in the game last year because of his ability to break stuff big; he's more of a young Jeremiah Masoli than a young Darron Thomas, who was always somewhat overrated as a runner and somewhat underrated as a passer. Bennett definitely hasn't shown Thomas' consistency in the passing game (albeit in limited attempts) but averaged 8.7 yards (!) a carry last year and produced 43 points per start, which is ... umm ... good. Oregon averaged just over 46 for the season, BTW.

Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota is the Thomas clone at 6-foot-4 and was allegedly The Greatest Athlete in the History of Ever while dominating the high school football hotbed of Hawaii. It's entirely possible that he'll get some playing time in a developmental-type role that could hypothetically become more significant if Bennett's 2011 awesomeness turns out to be a sample-size misrepresentation. I don't expect that to happen given what I saw with my own eyes from the Bennett/DeAnthony Thomas/Kenjon Barner backfield last year (keep in mind that LaMichael James didn't play in two of Bennett's three games).

Wisconsin might have to actually develop a young quarterback: The Russell Wilson think worked out pretty awesomely but leaves a gaping experience hole at quarterback. Jon Budmayr has been The Next Guy since like 2008 and has accumulated 10 career passing attempts, none of which have come in the last 20 months due to a chronic nerve problem that flared up again recently and required surgery; he's out for spring ball. Same for alleged dual-threat guy Curt Phillips, whose ACLs are so flimsy that he should probably be playing for Purdue.

The leftovers are redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan, who was Wilson's nominal backup last season and went an unimpressive 6 for 15, and lightly recruited redshirt freshman Joel Stave. True freshman Bart Houston came guru-approved and would probably be a viable option if he didn't need shoulder surgery that's gonna keep him out until at least the start of the season.

So yeah ... that's not much of a depth chart. Even the guys who might be good if they're healthy -- which they aren't as of right now -- have a combined 19 career attempts. That's not as big of an issue in the Wisconsin offense as it would be in some offenses, but it's still an issue of some degree for a team that's had an irritatingly effective upperclassman running things for about the last five years.

The reason I wrote "might have to actually develop a young quarterback" in the headline-type thing above is this:

Ex-Maryland QB Danny O'Brien will visit the Wisconsin campus and likely attend a spring practice session on Saturday, according to a Wisconsin State Journal source. O'Brien is set to graduate this spring and has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

O'Brien would be a significant upgrade over everybody on the roster, even if those everybodies were all healthy. His hypothetical transfer = problem solved. What's much less certain is whether he'll pick Wisconsin since he's also visited Ole Miss and Penn State in the last couple weeks. If he doesn't, the Budmayr/Phillips situation becomes far more problematic and Brennan's development (or lack thereof) becomes far more noteworthy.

Mike Stoops can probably still coach defense: This topic is here for a reason. The 2011 Arizona defense is the reason. Relevant numbers: 110th in yardage, 67th in rushing, 106th in pass efficiency and 107th in scoring.

That said, Oklahoma is not Arizona in terms of talent. Last year's Arizona wasn't even Arizona in terms of talent: The Angry ACL God went ham on UA last fall, taking out linebacker Jake Fischer, safety Adam Hall and defensive tackle Willie Mobley before the season. That destruction combined with the graduation of three really good defensive end/outside linebacker types resulted in the complete and utter black hole of suckitude that eventually cost Stoops his job.

Before that, though, things weren't so bad:

2010: 33rd in yardage, 41st in scoring
2009: 25th in yardage, 53rd in scoring
2008: 24th in yardage, 33rd in scoring

That's ... like ... pretty good, actually, which is kinda crazy considering the train wreck that was last season. And Stoops was really good the first time around at Oklahoma: After his first year, OU's defenses finished in the top 10 in yardage every year thereafter until he left for Arizona.

The defensive talent this year isn't quite what it was back in 2002 but is still way better than what he was usually working with at UA; that's why Oklahoma expects national championships and Arizona expects to maybe possible one day think about playing in the Rose Bowl if the Mayan calendar is aligned just right. What I mean is that the expectations are raised accordingly, so 25th in yardage/53rd in scoring isn't "pretty good" anymore.

I suppose there's not much to be learned in spring other than "Stoops is doin' some good pointin' out there," but getting the secondary to look like something other than a sieve by the time the spring game rolls around would be a sign of progress.

Speaking of Arizona: There's a spring game in the Phoenix metro area scheduled for this weekend; I'll be there in a professional capacity and will relay any observations of note afterward.

I'm mostly interested to see exactly how much of the offense has been installed and whether Matt Scott (a) does anything other than wear bubble wrap and (b) looks like he has any idea of how to run the zone read, which isn't as easy as it looks. Competency at quarterback is an amazing thing that would probably allow Arizona to not have the negative-infinity turnover margins that killed RichRod's Michigan teams. KaDeem Carey's role and the O-line's zone-blocking coherence (or lack thereof) also will be noted, as will the deployment status of the 3-3-5, which will be of particular interest to me given AAAARRRRGHGHGHGH.

FOOTBALL WOO!!! Just because:

That's all for now. I will now sleep to ensure that Saturday's observations are reported in a readable format rather than "andasdf that's soopo azzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Catching up obviously needs an "M" hologram

Because, I mean, obviously: Michigan and Notre Dame announced this week that this year's game will be another under-the-lights edition, which is thoroughly unsurprising given last year's awesomeness and the accompanying ratings bonanza (check out this chart that shows the top six highest-rated games of the year).

It's also not that big a deal since it's at Notre Dame -- the night games there are slightly more frequent than they are in Ann Arbor -- but it'll be the first Michigan-Notre Dame night game in South Bend since way back in 1990. In case you're under the age of 30, that's when ND was actually good (zing!).

Tee Shepard is no mas: Speaking of Notre Dame, there might be some depth issues in the secondary this year. Tee Shepard, arguably the top cornerback recruit in the country, enrolled in school early and lasted all of two months before withdrawing and heading home to NorCal this week. Details are a little sketchy:
Shepard's dad Ray told me today his son is back because of health issues.

Ray Shepard would not tell me what happened to his son, but did tell me he hopes Tee will be cleared to resume working out sometime in May or June.

I was told Tee was expected to challenge for a starting spot in the Fighting Irish secondary, but he will not return to Notre Dame.

Shepard is undecided as to where he will play this season. He's just focusing on his health for now.
That's ... umm ... odd. He shouldn't have much trouble finding a spot when he's ready to play again (assume he's healthy enough in the relatively near future). Totally baseless speculation has him considering Houston because of his cousin, top-100 receiver recruit Deontay Greenberry, who was committed to Notre Dame all winter and then flipped to Houston on Signing Day. We'll see.

As for Notre Dame, there are now four scholarship corners on the roster, none of whom will ever look for the ball under any circumstances since they play for Notre Dame.

They still don't get it: Prepare to facepalm ...
A new poll released Friday shows Pennsylvania's registered voters favor renaming Penn State's football stadium in honor of longtime coach Joe Paterno, who died in January.

The Quinnipiac University survey found that 46 percent of those polled thought the school should rename Beaver Stadium, while 40 percent were opposed.

... aaaand go! Please explain me to how anyone with a brain could consider this to be an appropriate time to put Joe Paterno's name on a huge and public-facing thing at Penn State, especially a thing that's currently named after a former governor of Pennsylvania (the spectacularly named James Beaver from way back in the old-timey-mustache days). Please note that this poll was not exclusive to moronic college students and actually got its most lopsided support numbers from people who are "very or somewhat interested in college football" or over age 65. Argh.

Perhaps this should be revisited in 10 years, when it'll be a little easier (in theory) to zoom out and consider exactly how Joe Paterno should be remembered/recognized at Penn State. Until then, the same-as-always takeaway is this: People are stupid.

She didn't make it: Barring an Iowa-tailback-level depth-chart cratering, women's soccer player Mo Isom won't be kicking for LSU this year:

“We reviewed her skill, the things she can do and do well,” LSU coach Les Miles. “We kind of felt like there’s four guys on the team right now that would be ahead of anybody that tried out the other day, including Mo. I told her that today.”

“She’s going to go back and concentrate on extra points and field goals. She did not want to take that she couldn’t make the team. She said, 'Do I get another opportunity if I get a lot better?’ I said ‘Sure.’”

Miles also made a comment about the kicker needing be capable of making a tackle, but I kinda doubt that'd be an issue if she were really the best kicker since last year's kickoff guy (Drew Alleman) has one career tackle listed in the NCAA database. Kicking is kicking; there are just guys better than her, which is fine. I have nothing snarky to add here.

You know you want it: ESPN published its obligatory "Rich Rodriguez starting over" piece the other day and actually got some pretty good stuff out of Ivan Maisel. It's a lot deeper than most of the typical spring-practice fluff pieces, probably because RichRod will tell you whatever you want to know and let you watch whatever you want to watch (even to his own detriment). There's some behind-the-scenes stuff from staff meetings and some quotes that fall slightly outside the range of coachspeak; the whole thing's worth a read. Teaser quote:
"I have to remind myself it's the first spring," Rodriguez said. "This is the sixth place I've put the system in. I've learned to be more patient in installation. Today is the simplest first day. My hope is we don't have to sacrifice tempo. People say teach them slowly. But it's always easier to slow down than it is to speed up."
One more amusing tidbit: The UA coaching staff has a swear jar that requires a $1-per-word contribution. Rodriguez either isn't participating or is just redirecting his salary straight to the jar.

A totally reasonable purchase: Darren McFadden has a lot of money. I know he has a lot of money not because I googled the details of his massive contract but because he apparently had $90,000 to spend on this thing:

That's a diamond-and-sapphire-loaded hologram pendant that displays the Arkansas logo and/or his pro number, depending on the viewing angle.

I'm not sure whether I'm more amazed that a holographic logo pendant made out of diamonds exists or that somebody paid $90,000 to have it made and presumably wear it. Mind-bottling.



That image of The OBC is now burned into my retinas right next to the horrifying image of the old lady from "There's Something About Mary." This could only be worse if Charlie Weis were involved; thank God he's in Kansas and not somewhere hot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

North Carolina gets the Ohio State treatment

This happened and is kinda newsworthy (insert fist-shaking image here regarding my workload yesterday):

The NCAA has placed North Carolina's football program on three years' probation and banned it from the 2012 postseason, the governing body announced Monday.

The school already had imposed several penalties, including vacating all 16 wins for 2008 and 2009, reducing nine scholarships over the next three academic years and putting the program on two years of probation.

But the NCAA didn't stop at UNC's self-imposed penalties, finding that the school was responsible for violations including academic fraud, impermissible agent benefits, participation by ineligible players and a failure to monitor the football program.

Insert standard post-verdict complaint here:
"We are very disappointed in the committee's findings and we disagree," Blake's attorney, William Beaver, said. "I'm disappointed in any process where the accuser is also the investigator, prosecutor and judge and jury. It's not reasonable."
Meh. It is what it is. Also, please move "said" to immediately after the first part of the quote kthx. #analcopyeditor

So ... vacated wins, three years of moderate scholarship reductions (three per year) and a one-year postseason ban. Sounds moderately familiar, yes? Those are almost the exact same penalties (in terms of both category and volume) Ohio State got smacked with in December.

I find that interesting for a number of reasons, foremost of which is that Jim Tressel was documented as having covered up violations he had direct knowledge of whereas Butch Davis was never named or implicated in the whole John Blake thing; that apparently wasn't a consideration for the NCAA. Also of note in Ohio State's case: the dealer-car fuzziness, the Sugar Bowl debacle and the general "lol NCAA" attitude deployed by Gene Smith throughout the entire process. Maybe UNC's academic-fraud thing was considered roughly equivalent? I dunno. Tressel and Blake did get similar show-cause penalties, though, and at a zoomed-out level, the shenanigans were similar: craploads of impermissible benefits, a coach (or assistant coach) indirectly involved in said benefits and a general philosophy of "it's all good." I think it's safe to say that the NCAA has established a punishment baseline for that scenario.

The damage-assessment difference is this: Ohio State replaced Jim Tressel with Urban Meyer, who might be a step down by default (can't do any better against Michigan unless he literally never loses) but could theoretically be just as good or even better (argh). North Carolina went from "becoming one of the three best programs in the ACC with arguably the best coach" to ... ummm ... something slightly less than that with Butch Davis not around. Larry Fedora was a fine hire but probably isn't Butch Davis. There are reasons North Carolina has had only a handful of good seasons in the past bazillion years, and losing the guy who was succeeding and building something that defied all that history represents a penalty that can't really be quantified.

I find it unlikely that a one-year bowl ban is gonna have any real effect in UNC's recruiting given that this came out after Signing Day; anybody who commits going forward won't even be on campus until after the bowl ban has run its course. There's also minimal damage done by losing three scholarships a year, although depth will take a slight hit in about 2014-16, making Fedora's job a little tougher. At the end of the day, it's all about Davis and the loss of the momentum (or "cachet" or whatever you wanna call it) the program had built over the previous three years. When people write about the "hard lessons" learned from all this, they're really talking about one lesson that's useless now: Don't hire John Blake. Doing so cost Butch Davis a lot.

The look-on-the-bright-side angle is this: Even with the NCAA stuff, Fedora is still starting from a better spot than Davis, who took over a disaster of a program that John Bunting "led" to one winning season in six years. And with the on-field product being pretty much irrelevant this year, Fedora's got a year to put things in place and start establishing whatever it is he wants to do, with the only expectation being that UNC looks decent enough to keep recruiting at something resembling the last guy's level (I don't think Davis ever got enough credit for the absurd amount of NFL-caliber talent on that roster considering, you know, it's North Carolina and not Florida State). That's doable, as is developing that talent sufficiently to keep UNC in the "regular bowl team and occasional division contender" category in the not-that-great ACC. Actually doing those things is another matter, obviously.

Davis actually did those things, which is why (barring Fedora turning into the East Coast version of Mike Leach) his possibly necessary firing was far more meaningful than the handful of lost scholarships or the bowl ban for what'll probably be a 7-5 team or the essentially meaningless vacated wins. I say "possibly necessary" only because I think the school thought it was necessary from a PR standpoint even though Davis was not penalized at all by the NCAA and was not named or referenced in any way in the allegations. Keeping him would have been justifiable from a legal standpoint and almost certainly beneficial from a football standpoint, but it didn't happen because of Yahoo's power and the academia brow-furrowing that I'm sure carries more weight at UNC than it does at Ohio State.

I'm unsure what I'd do in the same situation but won't spend much time worrying about it since it doesn't matter at all. What matters: The program took a significant hit from this whole debacle despite the NCAA stuff turning out to be relatively benign, but because the NCAA stuff turned out to be relatively benign, the exact significance of that hit is up to Larry Fedora.
. . . . .

Postscript thought on NCAA shenanigans and my preference to write about football rather than people doing stupid things:

That is all.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Catching up wears a hilariously extravagant ring

WOO TEMPLE! Yes. Temple.
NEW YORK -- Nearly a decade after Temple's moribund football program was pushed out of the Big East, the revitalized Owls are rejoining the conference -- and bringing along their potent men's basketball team.

Temple football played in the Mid-American Conference last season, while all other programs, including men's basketball, are in the Atlantic 10. The Owls will pay an exit fee of $6 million to the MAC and $1 million to the A-10, with the Big East providing financial assistance in the form of future revenue distributions.
Great googly moogly: The Big East is dishing out an unknown amount of future revenue entirely to get Temple's 2012 football team. Mind-bottling. To repeat what I said roughly a week ago, I can't believe we're talking about a nominal BCS conference buying Temple, especially when that same sort of kickback could've bought Boise State for 2012 and eliminated the need for Temple as anything other than long-term insurance against defections (thus no buyout).

Anyway, the Big East will now include the following teams next season: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple and USF. Gack.

Bonus amusing excerpt:
Temple was a Big East member in football only from 1991 to 2004 but was forced out because the program was one of the worst in major college football. The Owls failed to meet minimum requirements for membership, most notably in attendance, facilities and fielding a competitive team.
What else is there? Al Golden should really be getting a cut of that $7 million.

The legend of Dillon Baxter: Ah, Dillon Baxter. It's so unfortunate that playing college football requires following general college-student guidelines:
Troubled running back Dillon Baxter has been dismissed from San Diego State University, according to a report.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Wednesday that the former USC tailback was kicked off the team, quoting Aztecs coach Rocky Long as saying he was "no longer part of the program" for "various reasons."

He had been suspended from spring practice last week but was still supposed to be a part of the team after sitting out the 2012 season per NCAA transfer guidelines. But Baxter will not be back with SDSU at any point, according to the report.
Baxter was an uber recruit a couple years ago thanks to a head-asploding highlight video and was all the rage last spring as 2011's version of The Next Reggie Bush. He then got 12 touches in four games at USC before various shenanigans got him suspended by for the rest of the year. Details:
While at USC, the ex-San Diego prep star ran into a number of off-field problems, including his acceptance of a golf-cart ride by an NFL agent and a suspension for misconduct during fall camp. He also frequently complained about his lack of playing time before not making the trip to Notre Dame last October and subsequently leaving the team the following week.

One thing Baxter always did do was apologize for his actions and remark that he was a changed man, calling himself a "knucklehead" and mentioning multiple times that he had learned from his mistakes -- only to commit the same sort of mistakes shortly afterward.
Motion for an official nickname of "Knucklehead" passes. Obligatory video:


I'm not sure Bill O'Brien understands the rules: This is a very odd response from Bill O'Brien in a relatively standard Q&A with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (not sure why the AJC is interviewing Penn State's coach, but whatever);
Q: Your opinion of over-signing?

A: “We’re in the process of evaluating our roster right now. We’re trying to get a real hold on what exactly our needs are for next year. And then, at that point, we’ll make a decision on whether we’ll do what you’re talking about. There’s some definite advantages in doing that. Right now, we haven’t made a decision on whether we’re headed in that direction.”
Ummm .. yeah. The Big Ten has a limit of 25 enrollees per recruiting year; you can sign up to 28, but that only applies if three or more players enroll early and therefore can be backdated to the previous year's class (assuming that one had 22 players or fewer). You can't just cut a bunch of guys you don't like and then replace them with a ginormous recruiting class unless you're Nick Saban. I'm pretty sure he should know that given that coaches have to pass an NCAA recruiting test when they get hired.

At least the actual recruiting part doesn't seem to be a problem: Penn State already has commitments from three relatively big-time 2013 dudes, including four-star QB Christian Hackenberg, and is almost definitely gonna get a commitment from in-state five-star tight end Adam Breneman when he announces on Friday.

This is surprising inasmuch as I thought Penn State was gonna be a de facto leper for about the next five years; apparently not. The actuality of the situation is obviously good news for everybody who wants the Big Ten Whatever Division to have the talent distributed among more than one school, which is basically everybody outside the state of Ohio. Whether that talent actually results in a good team remains to be seen and depends largely on the complete unknown that is O'Brien's development ability. We'll know in about five years.

She probably kicks like a girl: So ... this LSU women's soccer goalie is trying out for the football team. Standard intro:
Tuesday was the first day of LSU walk-on tryouts, and the most famous female athlete in Baton Rouge — a girl-next-door beauty and homecoming queen whose face has appeared on billboards and recruiting posters — put on a helmet and attempted numerous field goals and kickoffs.
Surprisingly, this is not your standard girl-trying-out-for-football story. This not-so-little lady apparently has a huge leg -- she reportedly hit a not-teed-up 51-yard field goal last year and is getting kickoffs to or near the goal line -- and has overcome some presumably awful depression after her LSU-fan father committed suicide a couple years ago in the face of some serious IRS charges.

The story's worth a read regardless of whether or not she makes the team, which would be swell if it didn't mean we'd all be forced to suffer through the same feel-good feature repeated every week by every media outlet in existence.

Insert Tate Forcier joke here: This is actually from almost two months ago but (a) went totally unnoticed when it happened and (b) became relevant again today for reasons I will explain momentarily:
Just confirmed that Tate Forcier is done at San Jose State. The former Michigan starter has withdrawn from school, according to a source close to the situation.

I spoke with Forcier’s father, Michael, who said there were a lot of issues, including family financial concerns (Forcier was not on scholarship).

“He’s not going to continue. There’s too much pressure, too much stress. ...

“We have a family business (a bus and limousine service). It hasn’t been a good year, like for a lot of people. Tate’s helping us out right now, in fact. ...

“It wasn’t a clean thing, like he didn’t like school. He loves football and he loves San JoseState. He has a lot going on in his life and wants to take time and find it."
Those explanations are all pretty odd and vague and therefore appropriate since "odd" and "vague" accurately describe everything surrounding Tate Forcier's personal life. It seems safe to assume that he's done with college football.

The sad thing is that I wouldn't have even known about this if not for Joe Schad's tweet Thursday morning:
Former UM QB Tate Forcier says he’s training w Jeff Garcia in San Diego; there are a few CFL teams interested.
There are supposedly a few CFL teams interested. Hard to believe it's only been two and a half years since this:

Good times.

Kyle Padron headed to Eastern Washington: What the headline says. Padron threw for a bajillion yards (roughly) with 31 touchdowns and 14 picks for SMU in 2010, then flamed out spectacularly in the season opener last year with two picks in four passes. That was basically the end of his season and SMU career; J.J. McDermott took his starting job and won five straight games, and while McDermott's out of eligibility, Garrett Gilbert is in the process of transferring from Texas and should be eligible to play immediately due to the grad-school loophole. Sticking at SMU would give Padron pretty limited senior-year options (beat out Gilbert or eat bench, essentially).

FYI, Eastern Washington has a pretty good FCS program that won a national championship in 2010 thanks mostly to (coincidence alert) Bo Levi Mitchell, who transferred from SMU before Padron took over and threw for about 400 yards a game. Padron would probably be satisfied with a similar fate.

Pat Fitzgerald is hilarious: No other coach could possibly use this word combination and be taken seriously (this is a comment regarding bowl eligibility, obviously):
"I'm not for five-win teams even being able to receive a waiver. That's tough noogies. If you have a losing record, you are out. A .500 record should be the benchmark."
Yessssssss. Hat tip to MGoBlog.

What if they like porridge? This is ... ummm ... different:
The seriousness of new Illinois coach Tim Beckman's disciplinary methods were quickly introduced when porridge was set in front of many players.

Those who followed the rules, arriving at classes 10 minutes early and never missing a rep during winter workouts, were treated to steak and eggs at the "All-In Banquet." Those who missed a beat were treated to an Oliver Twist breakfast.

Twenty-one players earned the steak and eggs. Beckman, who clearly wants to set a tone of accountability in his first season, ate at the porridge table after missing a workout to speak at an alumni event.
Outstanding. Pizza would be a better college-kid motivator (at least from my experiences) but probably lacks the nutritional qualities of steak and eggs. I have no idea what porridge tastes like; I assume it's not good.

Please explain this ring: This has no relevance to anything current but was posted on some random website I stumbled across and needs to be shared:

That's Florida tight end Trey Burton's ring from the Gator Bowl. The Gator Bowl. The freakin' Gator Bowl. I have nothing else to add here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Tucson is lacking entertainment alternatives

Hoo boy, this sounds not good (beware extended blockquote):

Tucson Police Department officers arrested four UA football players after a fight at the home of five UA students early Friday morning.

According to police reports, sophomore cornerback Jourdon Grandon, sophomore offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele and sophomore offensive lineman Eric Bender were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing in the first degree and assault, and sophomore safety Jared Tevis was arrested on trespassing charges. ...

According to police records, residents asked Tevis and the other players to leave because they were not invited. One of the men responded by shoving one of the women backwards. The man was later identified as former safety Joshua Robbins. After being shoved, the resident slapped Robbins, who then proceeded to punch her in the face — starting a brawl between the football players and members of the party.

The players left after the brawl, but before leaving said, “We will be back with our homies.” A short time later, the players returned “in a group of between 10 and 30,” and a man later identified as sophomore offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele forcibly entered the home and “began punching everybody he could reach,” according to the report, including the resident who was initially assaulted and her brother.

People at the party told officers the UA players entered the home and began assaulting male members of the party while several women attempted to stop another fight from happening. One woman was pushed up against the wall by Robbins. Robbins continued to push other female guests and residents.

Members of the party identified Grandon after he “punched a female guest in her face with a closed fist and began punching other females in the face.” Tevis was also present during the altercation, but none of the victims observed him assaulting anyone.

Hilarious malfeasance bolded for emphasis. Visual interpretation:

Fat Tony = Fabbiens Ebbele. Creepy ninja in white suit = Jared Tevis. Jourdon Grandon lacks an appropriate comparison other than possibly Sean Connery circa 1987:

Insert kitchen joke here.

A little non-snark perspective: Ebbele was the starting left tackle last year, Grandon was a part-time starter headed for a full-time job at corner, Tevis was listed as a backup at safety and Bender was an unknown quantity. I use the past tense for those guys because ... I mean ... obviously. I'll be amazed if Ebbele and Grandon are still on the roster come fall camp unless the official version of the story changes dramatically; their losses (especially Ebbele's) wouldn't be insignificant.

On a directly related note, karma hates Rich Rodriguez. For whatever reason, hiring him portends immediate awfulness that is not at all his fault but is definitely going to happen. I can only assume that every goldfish he's ever owned died after 12 hours and he has that one really irritating canker sore that never totally goes away. Yeesh.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The annual thing where I embarrass myself

I just made the stunning realization that it's March (!), which is fantastic for many reasons but mostly because it means two entire months have been removed from the awful chasm that exists between the end of one football season and the beginning of the next (also known as spring football). The time: It's passing. Hooray for that.

So yeah ... spring football. It starts in like a week. That means many glorious things but also means I should probably go back and do that thing where I look at last year's predictions and how perfectly right/horrifically wrong they were. This will undoubtedly be humiliating but must be done for the sake of establishing just how little attention should be paid to everything I say/write/publish/tweet/whatever.

I did this two years ago and came out at the Lou Holtz end of the accuracy spectrum; I got 4 1/2 points out of 13. Just as a refresher, accurate predictions get one point, sort-of-correct predictions get a half-point and crappy predictions get none. It's not that complicated. It also doesn't seem that difficult but apparently is since going back and reading large chunks of the stuff I wrote in the preseason induces the following reaction:

My disbelief speaks Spanish. I can't explain it.

Anyway ... show? Show.
1. Alabama will win it all. Oklahoma's the safe pick and will probably go undefeated, but I'm going with Bama on the assumption that the quarterback play will be decent, Trent Richardson will be borderline dominant and the defense will reach or exceed its typical level of awesomeness (just look at the depth chart and then think about who the coach is).
Schwing. I deserve some freakin' bonus points for that ridiculousness but will settle for the one point I'm allotted based on the totally arbitrary scoring system I set up.
2. Landry Jones will win the Heisman. I was hinting at this the other day in my post about the modern-day Heisman criteria and the near-exclusive emphasis on guys whose teams end up in the national title game. Landry Jones will put up gigantic numbers as the star quarterback for a team that's starting at No. 1 and will probably stay there all season (or at least until the title game); he's gotta be the favorite. Andrew Luck might be the awesomest quarterback since Peyton Manning or whoever, but I think he's gonna be victimized (for lack of a better word) by the same thought process Manning was back in '97: He's so hyped and so highly regarded that it's gonna be hard to impress/excite people. I mean, it's hard to envision his numbers being any better than they were last year, when he barely edged out LaMichael James to finish second after Stanford went 11-1.
Not so much. I was right about Andrew Luck not winning but was totally wrong about Landry Jones and would've put about 60 guys ahead of RGIII on a hypothetical preseason ballot. Zero points.
3. Texas will bounce back massively. To be specific, Texas will go 9-3. ... Garrett Gilbert will be better, the defense will still be good and the talent will still match up with anybody in the country. With Nebraska off the schedule and only three legitimately good teams on it, I'm seeing a significant turnaround and a top-tier-ish bowl game.
Ehhh ... no. Texas went 7-5 in the regular season, which was at least in part due to Garrett Gilbert being so bad that he got benched and ended up transferring, and any bowl with one mediocre 7-5 team playing another mediocre 7-5 team does not qualify as "top-tier-ish." Zero points.
4. Auburn will be OK. Gotta put my proverbial money where my mouth is: I'll say Auburn finishes 7-5 and somewhere near the bottom of the polls. I just can't envision a nuclear implosion at the level of 5-7, which is what the sports books are saying. Yeah, the schedule is really hard, but all that stuff I wrote about Gus Malzahn and Michael Dyer and Ted Roof has to mean something ... right?
Indeed: Auburn finished exactly 7-5 despite playing a laughably difficult schedule and getting killed by most of the legitimately good teams on it. WOO GIMME A POINT PLZKTHX. Side note: All three of the guys mentioned above are now gone, which is kinda crazy.
5. Michigan will finish 8-4. I came to this highly scientific conclusion by averaging out my worst-case scenario (6-6) and my best-case scenario (10-2). The problem is that anything in that range is entirely possible, because nobody has any idea exactly how much the defense will improve under hypothetical savior Greg Mattison and how much the offense will drop off now that Rich Rodriguez is analyzing stuff on CBS rather than calling plays. My guesses: "quite a bit" and "some but not a lot." ... I'm gonna write a little more on Michigan on Friday, but since it's not Friday and this is the spot for predictions, I'm going with 8-4.
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL WWWWHHHHEEEEEEEEE!!! BTW, I'm giving myself half a point for the best-case-scenario bit and the stuff about the offense and the defense and basically being right about everything other than the record. I'm satisfied with that trade.
6. Arizona State will go 9-3 and play in the Pac-12 title game. In short, ASU is the best of a mediocre crop in the Pac-12 South. I'm tentatively optimistic about Brock Osweiler and a loaded group of receivers ... the offense will be somewhere between good and excellent. The defense should be fine, but it's depressing to think about how much better it could be with Lawrence Guy (NFL draft), Omar Bolden (torn ACL) and Brandon Magee (torn Achilles). Guh. Anyway, with Arizona having no O-line and just as many injuries on defense, Utah losing a bunch of key pieces on both sides of the ball and UCLA and Colorado being ... umm ... UCLA and Colorado, the division title is there for the taking. I'm calling nine wins, a second loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game and a contract extension for Dennis Erickson (please note that my predictions do not necessarily represent what I think would be best for the program).
Ummm ... no. I was actually right about pretty much everything in the non-bolded portion (especially the "division title is there for the taking" part) but had no idea ASU planned to end its season in October, which made that 9-3 prediction look pretty awful. I don't think I can claim any points for this one.
7. Notre Dame will finish 10-2 and play in a BCS game. Insert Lou Holtz/Beano Cook senility reference here. I've been sold for a long time on Brian Kelly, and I think this is the year he puts it all together at Notre Dame. If Dayne Crist stays healthy and Michael Floyd stays sober, they should both put up ridiculous numbers as the offense takes the Brian Kelly Leap to Dominance. The defense will be slightly improved to the point of being above average, and that should be more than sufficient given the expected offensive awesomeness. Caveat: The first four games are tough (South Florida, under the lights at Michigan, Michigan State and at Pitt). But if ND somehow gets through that stretch 4-0 or even 3-1, a BCS game is a virtual lock. Seriously -- just try to find two losses in the back half of the schedule.
This site shall heretofore be known as Forever Thaturday.
8. Oregon will go 11-1 and win the Pac-12. I'm of the opinion that Oregon is head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, so this isn't exactly a huge leap of faith. To make things a little more interesting, I'll throw this out there: Oregon's one loss won't be to Stanford or LSU. Neither of those teams will be able to keep up. And I've already ruled out ASU, so I'm talking about a legitimate upset, like maybe USC or Oregon State or Arizona (think about how close UA was to winning in Tucson two years ago). The offense will still be really good overall, but consistency will be a little harder to come by this year with a mostly overhauled O-line, and one bad game (like last year's ugly one against Cal) will be the difference between perfection and the Rose Bowl.
Oregon finished 10-2, lost to USC, beat Stanford, won the Pac-12 and played in the Rose Bowl. In other words, I was wrong about the LSU game and right about literally everything else, which is good enough for a point in my book (and my book is the only once that matters since I'm doing the scoring).
9. Wisconsin will win the Big Ten. It's basically a Wisconsin-Nebraska battle unless Ohio State comes together in remarkable fashion or Brady Hoke continues to poop gold at Michigan, and with an absolute juggernaut of a running game and possibly the best quarterback in the conference (must be nice to lose a good senior starter and somehow get better at the position), I gotta go with Wisconsin. ... Running the table isn't out of the question, but there are enough pretty good teams in the Big Ten that I don't see anybody getting through unscathed.
Point me, please.
10. Ohio State will be closer to typical Ohio State than apocalyptic Ohio State. After years of Tresselball and excruciating (for me) wins over Michigan that all seem the same when zoomed out, it's hard to imagine/remember anything different. It is possible that Ohio State will be, like, not good this year: There are only four starters back from last year's defense, the quarterback spot is a complete mystery, the offensive line has underachieved for the past several years and the two biggest offensive weapons are both sitting out the first half of the season. But of those first five games, only two -- at Miami and home for Michigan State -- are even remotely losable, and the rest of the schedule is a bunch of crap along with a road game at Nebraska, a home game against Wisconsin and The Game in Ann Arbor. In other words, 7-5 seems like the absolute worst-case scenario, and 10 wins is probably more likely than seven. My prediction: 9-3. If that somehow includes a loss to Michigan, the celebration at my house will last for months.
I begrudgingly accept zero points. Also: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
11. Miami will be about as mediocre as last season's Miami. I just said this like a day and a half ago, but I'll repeat it here anyway: Miami will be decent. The suspensions are all minor enough that by Week 5 -- when 2-2 is basically the worst-case scenario -- everyone will be available, and the ACC is as mediocre as ever beyond Florida State and Virginia Tech. Miami just needs four wins against the gooey middle of the conference to lock up a spot in a bowl game (any bowl game), which seems totally doable and would be a fine start for Al Golden. That would also slightly delay the debate about whether Miami will actually have a program in 2012 and beyond.
Miami finished 6-6 (and turned down a bowl invite) a year after going 6-6. I'm pretty sure that qualifies as "decent" and am positive it qualifies as "about as mediocre as last season's Miami." One point.
12. Florida State will win the ACC but won't be quite ready for the national title: As mentioned above, the ACC is as uninspiring as ever and should be a cakewalk for Florida State and Virginia Tech in their respective divisions. It's that game against Oklahoma on September 17 (and possibly a trip to Florida in November) that makes things dicey. I love FSU's defense this year, but the offense is a massive question mark; nobody really knows what E.J. Manuel is gonna bring to the table, and none of the skill-position guys jump out. It's hard to run the table without some bread-and-butter options on offense; the only comparable team to win a title in recent history was 2007 LSU, and that required a crazy, not-repeatable string of events that saw a two-loss team get into the national title game. The guess here is that Florida State loses to Oklahoma but then rolls through the ACC, beats Va. Tech in the conference championship game and makes the short trip to the Orange Bowl at 12-1.
Settle down, me. Florida State was actually really close to going 11-1 (there were three devastating ACC losses by a combined 11 points) but instead finished 8-4, which is much closer to "meh" than "rolls through the ACC." Zero points.
13. Arkansas will be this year's (relative) disappointment. Three new starters on the offensive line (including both tackles), a new interior D-line, a quarterback who has basically played one career game and a star running back who's out for the season. According to brilliant people like Rick Reilly, that formula equals national championship. According to me, that formula equals ... ummm ... something well short of a national championship. There are enough tough games (at Alabama, against Texas A&M in Arlington, Auburn and South Carolina at home, at LSU) that I just can't see anything better than 9-3. The official prediction: 8-4 and a mediocre bowl game.
Not so much; Arkansas went 11-2, finished fifth and would've played in a BCS game if not for the two-team-per-conference deal. I'm clearly no Rick Reilly.
14. Boise State will run the table again. As is the norm for Boise, the first game is the toughest one: If they can get past a good-on-paper Georgia team in Atlanta on Saturday, chalk up another trip to the Fiesta Bowl and an honorary seat in New York for Kellen Moore. The Mountain West is a little tougher than the WAC, but it won't matter this year, especially with TCU in somewhat of a rebuilding mode and having to play on the smurf turf on November 12.
Derp. Stupid TCU.
15. Some absolutely ridiculous and sure-to-be-wrong bowl guesses: I have no idea why I'm doing this, but here goes: Wisconsin will play Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Boise State will play Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, Florida State will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, West Virginia will play Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and Alabama will play (and beat) Oklahoma in the BCS championship game. And then I will cry because it will be eight months until football again.
I absolutely nailed the Rose Bowl and got half of both the Orange Bowl and the championship game; the others weren't even close, although I'm still not sure why Boise didn't get picked for an at-large spot ahead of Virginia Tech. Anyway, this seems like an appropriate spot for a half-point distribution.

So ... the tally goes as follows: 1, 0, 0, 1, 0.5, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0.5. According to the calculator-esque functionality of my brain, that's an amazing six points out of a possible 15, which ... ummm ... I'd rather not think about it as a percentage other than to point out that it's a slight improvement from the patheticness I produced two years ago. So that's nice. There was also the "Alabama will win it all" thing that I'll definitely bring up too often for the next several years.

To reiterate:
... interpret that success/crappiness rate as you will. If it makes you feel any better, I still have complete confidence that what you read here is more insightful and accurate than what you'll get from Lou Holtz and Mark May, which is basically the equivalent of saying "this hamburger isn't filet mignon but is better than dog crap."
That's pretty much my site motto. Gotta set the bar high.
Powered by Blogger.