Friday, September 28, 2012

Catching up prefers the 45-yard line

Oh what a surprise: Former big-time QB recruit Paul Jones is done at Penn State:
Paul Jones, a quarterback-turned-tight end, has left Penn State's football team for personal reasons, according to coach Bill O'Brien.

"He will no longer be on the Penn State football team," O'Brien said before Wednesday's practice.
Jones was a top-10 quarterback recruit a couple years ago, redshirted as a freshman, was academically ineligible as a redshirt freshman and then got passed on the depth chart at the end of fall camp by freshman Steven Bench, which resulted in a move to tight end that probably wasn't a great sign for his future. That said, he and Bench were the only quarterback-type guys on the roster; when Matt McGloin leaves after this season, the depth chart will consist of Bench, incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg (a borderline five-star) and air. So the quarterback depth will be basically like every other position's depth at Penn State, which is to say nonexistent.

Standard Penn State-departure-upshot paragraph: They're now down 13 scholarship players, none of whom can really be replaced in recruiting since the classes are limited to 15 guys and about that same number will be graduating each year. According to Black Shoe Diaries, they'll be at 56 returning scholarship players (plus recruits) entering 2013, and they'll probably be under the NCAA-mandated 2014 limit of 65 just due to standard attrition (like what happened with Jones). In other words, Penn State might have about 50 players by 2017.

Speaking of Penn State: Matt McGloin NO LIKE STANDARD QUESTION:
McGloin took … well … offense to a question about the offense near the end of his weekly teleconference with reporters Wednesday.

The exchange went as follows:

Reporter: “Matt, is this offense better than last year's?”

McGloin: “(Laughs.) What kind of a question is that, man? You can't compare the two. It's two different philosophies. The coaches have done different things. All I'm saying is that I'm happy to be in this offense this year. This is where I'm at and we're doing a great job with it so far.

“Who asked that question?” he added. “Who asked that question?”

Reporter: “Josh. Josh Moyer of Nittany Nation.”

McGloin: “Come on, dude, asking stuff like that. (Pause.) All right, we're done here.”
I don't get it. "Is this offense better than last year's?" seems like a totally reasonable and answerable question that can't possibly be the most outrageous thing Matt McGloin has been asked in the past six months considering ... well ... ya know.

No more Paddle People: The crazies in the Oklahoma State student section with ginormous paddle-type things haz a sad:

Also disallowed by the Big 12: clapping, yelling, hollerin', standing, sitting, etc. Lame.

Playoffs playoffs talkin' bout playoffs (kind of): There's apparently been some progress on that hypothetical seventh BCS-type bowl, which will probably part of the playoff rotation and will definitely provide some additional access for everybody outside the five major conferences since that was the point of adding it:
Industry sources told that the as-yet unsold, unnamed bowl would be worth approximately $20 million in the TV market, $60 million less than the top tier Rose and (pending deal with the) Champions bowl. But the money is less of a factor than the new bowl's creation itself, which will give access to the five current non-BCS conferences, including the Big East, beginning with the first playoff year in 2014.

BCS commissioners said last week they would consider adding a seventh bowl to the current six-bowl rotation.

It hasn't been determined how the $20 million would be split between the highest-ranked non-BCS school and a supposed runner-up from a major conference. What the commissioners are considering is essentially legitimizing the reconfigured Big East going forward with a bowl that sources say will be part of the national semifinal rotation as well.
Upshot: The Big East, Mountain West, etc., will have direct access to something resembling a BCS bowl (with the opponent being a major-conference runner-up) but will get less money than the legit conferences since the bowl itself will be worth less via its partnership with a bunch of non-legit conferences. Fair enough. It's probably appropriate that the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl will be pulling in way more than the Orange Bowl (which will have the ACC champion and either Notre Dame or a major-conference runner-up), which in turn will be pulling in about twice whatever this new bowl will be pulling in. BTW, assuming the Champions Bowl ends up rotating between the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl (as rumored), the Chick-fil-A Bowl (probably) and Unnamed New Bowl will represent the remainder of the seven-game field. It's unknown as of right now whether either of the latter two games will have contractual tie-ins with specific conferences for their runners-up, although ESPN is reporting that Unnamed New Bowl will "likely" feature a team from either the Big 12 or Pac-12.

Also unknown: How is a two-semifinals-into-seven-sites rotation gonna work? I'm guessing the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl will end up hosting a game one of every three years or something since they've both indicated that they'd prefer that in order to make more money from their non-playoff TV deals, which is absurd.

Of course: Harvey Updyke surrendered this week for psychological testing after a bond hearing was requested due to his "confrontation" (presumably with an eagle or perhaps an oak tree) at a hardware store. I'm far less surprised that he needs psychological testing than that the state of Alabama just figured out that he needs psychological testing. I mean, seriously. Srsly.

Way to paint: This is the field at Minnesota-Crookston:


It's funny because it's true: This is from The Onion but could be from anyone who has watched ESPN in the last two years:
It remains unclear whether ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz went on a lengthy, bigoted tangent against Muslims during an on-air segment, sources at the network reported earlier today.

“From what I could tell, he either said something derogatory about Muslims or just told me how much he likes roast beef,” said fellow analyst Mark May, who noted that Holtz kept spitting — apparently out of anger — throughout the incomprehensible diatribe.
The Onion wins. The Onion always wins.

The most disturbing thing ever: This is (a) Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and (b) now burned into my retinas:

I don't know, man. I don't even want to know.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The most West Virginia thing ever

Part of an ongoing series that has previously featured the most Kentucky thing ever and the most Arkansas thing ever:

Calling it "light-hearted" doesn't make it not true.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The end of Michigan-Notre Dame

The Michigan-Notre Dame series is over (or, more specifically, will be after 2014):
Michigan is the first casualty of Notre Dame's new arrangement with the ACC. The Fighting Irish notified the Wolverines that they are exercising a three-year out in their series contract, meaning the last meeting between the historic rivals will occur in 2014.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Associated Press obtained a letter Tuesday from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan AD David Brandon, canceling the games from 2015 to 2017.
Lame, Notre Dame. Lame.

I wrote about this a couple weeks ago when Notre Dame did the ACC thing, with this being the takeaway:
... don't be surprised if the 2017 Michigan-Notre Dame game is the last one for a while.
It would've been if ND hadn't exercised the above-referenced out clause, officially ending things three years early and giving me a sad face.

I mean, I understand things from Notre Dame's standpoint -- playing two or three pretty decent ACC teams a year along with USC and Stanford and Navy (an occassionally competitive team) cumulatively represents a more competitive schedule than a lot of teams are gonna be playing -- but why bail on Michigan to play Stanford and NC State (or whoever)? There's something to be said for nationally relevant/interesting games, especially that one, which because of its history has been hyped/promoted disproportionately to the quality of the two teams for the last many years. That attention is a good thing for the programs; giving it up for a guaranteed-once-every-few-years spot in the Orange Bowl and some games with Stanford isn't. Notre Dame national brand yadda yadda.

The only good news from a Michigan standpoint: variety. There's a not-microscopic portion of the fanbase that's gotten bored (for lack of a better word) with Notre Dame since that series often comes at the expense of any other legitimate nonconference ones. The MoneyFest with Alabama notwithstanding, Michigan hasn't played a major-conference team of any consequence since getting annihilated by Oregon in '07 and doesn't have one on the near-future schedule (unless you wanna count one-offs with Oregon State and Colorado in 2015 and '16). Actually getting one of those teams might be problematic, though, since (a) most that would be of interest have already filled their schedules for the next few years and (b) Michigan needs to find a team that'll come to Ann Arbor in even-numbered years to offset a Big Ten schedule that includes Nebraska and Ohio State on the same home-road rotation. I'll pass on a Bama rematch, BTW, unless it's for a national title in like 2014 or after Nick Saban has descended into the afterlife.

Also good news: ummm ... uhhh ... yeah. There isn't any. There are only people who think there's good news because they choose not to acknowledge the benefits of having a game that has ALL OF THE HISTORY, generates a laughably generous amount of national coverage and usually results in the overrating of the winner, which has been Michigan more times than not over the last decade.

In summary: Boo-urns.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 4: Winning is good and stuff

LSU survival: So ... that was a lot closer than it shoulda been. Auburn was typical Auburn on offense -- 2.9 yards a carry from the running game and under 100 yards and two picks from Kiehl Frazier -- but got enough stops on defense and enough help from LSU (via untimely penalties, similarly untimely turnovers and a stupidly untimely missed field goal) to turn what probably should have been a standard 22-3 LSU win into a necktie-loosening 12-10 one. There wasn't anything in particular LSU did poorly other than turn the ball over at the worst possible times, with one fumble ending a drive at the Auburn 2-yard line and another leading directly to Auburn's only touchdown. I don't know if there's much to take away from that other than the revelation that LSU's offense, despite having a pretty good quarterback and being really good at just trucking people en route to 200-ish rushing yards (188 against Auburn), is still prone to some meh performances and thus reliance on the defense, which would be problematic if the defense weren't one of the best in the country. Translation: LSU isn't quite as good as Bama. Nobody's quite as good as Bama.

Really? Kansas State? Really. Mind-blowing stat: Oklahoma had been 14-0 against ranked teams (ranked teams!) at home under Bob Stoops until Saturday night. Whether the end of that says more about Oklahoma's mediocrity or Kansas State's goodness remains to be seen; there's probably some of both. Oklahoma finished with a very meh (for Oklahoma) 396 total yards and three turnovers, all of which were devastating: one was a fumble returned for a touchdown, one was a pick that produced a K-State touchdown on the ensuing drive and one was a fumbled snap (by Blake Bell) at the K-State 2-yard line that ended a probable touchdown drive. Does that make Oklahoma the better team since K-State needed three turnovers to win by five? Maybe. It's close, though, which is saying something since Oklahoma is Oklahoma and Kansas State is Kansas State. It should be noted that K-State racked up 213 rushing yards at almost five yards a carry, and between that and the strip-sack fumble that went for a touchdown, K-State was overall just better on the lines. In closing, Bill Snyder is a wizard. As for Oklahoma, the defense is better but not good enough to take a team built around a dominant passing game to the Big 12 title. NEED MOAR OFFENSE.

Florida State point asplosion: Clemson scoring 39 points wasn't enirely surprising since (a) Clemson's passing game is really good, (b) last year's game was a 35-30 thing in which Clemson put up almost 450 total yards and (c) Florida State's secondary isn't that good, especially with Greg Reid gone due to legal shenanigans. What was surprising: Great googly moogly 667 yards! And 287 rushing yards! For reference, Florida State had 29 rushing yards against Clemson last year and finished the season 104th in rushing yards per game. The Chris Thompson/James Wilder Jr. combo is just destroying people right now; throw in E.J. Manuel getting about 50 yards and a bunch of first downs a game (and therefore eliminating a lot of the variability in his accuracy) and there's a legit offense to behold. BTW, Manuel was pretty good in the passing game, too: He ended up 27 for 35 for 380 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, albeit against a Clemson secondary that's been in the fetal position ever since the Orange Bowl. So Florida State's good. How good? I dunno yet. The secondary is a concern but might not be relevant since the front seven is just utterly dominant and there's probably not a team on the schedule that's comparable to Clemson in terms of passing-game ability. It's pretty hard to envision FSU losing before November, when there's a trip to Va. Tech and a home game against Florida in the span of three weeks.

Oregon defense go boom: There are basically two extant interpretations of the Oregon-Arizona game, one from people who didn't watch the game and one from people who did. The first: Oregon won 49-0 lol Arizona blows. The second: Arizona hung with Oregon for three quarters, blew three red-zone chances (including a fourth-and-goal from the 3) in the first half that could have made things really interesting and then got Oregon'd in the fourth quarter. The latter one is the accurate one, obviously. UA really should have been in that game til the end but just couldn't finish drives; Matt Scott went from uber accurate through three games to crappy against Oregon, albeit partially due to some really good coverage from the Oregon secondary and a lot of long(-ish)-yardage situations generated by UA getting 3.1 yards a carry. Cumulatively, those two things say a lot about Oregon's defense, which is better than probably anybody would've given it credit for before Saturday night. Marcus Mariota's not Darron Thomas yet but might not have to be if (a) the defense is really that good and (b) USC is really only gonna score 27-ish points per game against legit defenses.

Hilarious Play of the Week: Bryan Bennett gets a C- for execution and an A+ for productivity:

Wha??? Colt Lyerla got credit for that touchdown, BTW.

Random Oregon State reappearance: Oregon State is 2-0 -- with legitimate wins over Wisconsin and UCLA -- despite being 114th in the country in rushing yards and obviously not being the Fightin' Rodgerses anymore. There are two reasons for that. The first: Sean Mannion has turned into (or has been turned into) Brandon Weeden; the guy's averaging almost 330 yards right now after two games against actual teams with actual defenses. The second: Oregon State is second in the country in rushing yards allowed after going against Montee Ball and Johnathan Franklin, the latter of whom came into the game leading the country in rushing at about 240 yards a game. I don't know that Oregon State's really that good; I do know Oregon State is a lot better than last year's version of Oregon State, which went 3-9. The schedule lines up favorably enough that 5-1 looks possible/probable, and at that point a bowl game is almost guaranteed since the regular-season finale is the rescheduled game against Nicholls State. The question is whether "bowl game" means "Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl" or "Alamo Bowl." I'm skeptical that the latter is realistic but reserve the right to reconsider if Oregon State beats Arizona next week.

South Carolina's pretty good: I've been trying to decide whether I was more impressed with South Carolina's passing game or defense; I'm leaning toward the latter. Mizzou (with James Franklin) finished with 255 total yards and 12 first downs while punting seven times. South Carolina could've stopped playing offense with 10 minutes left in the second quarter and had no chance of losing. They didn't stop; they barely even let Mizzou have the ball since Marcus Lattimore was doing his usual Marcus Lattimore thing and Connor Shaw was going 20 for 21 (!!!) for 249 yards with two touchdowns and no picks to go along with 41 rushing yards. To be fair, Mizzou made things really easy for him (at least early in the game) by dropping a safety in the middle, bringing everybody else up to try to stop Lattimore and leaving the middle of the field hilariously wide open for the tight ends. This was the sequence immediately leading up to Lattimore's first touchdown:
Missouri 42: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 7 yards
Missouri 35: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 10 yards
Missouri 25: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 15 yards
Missouri 10: Marcus Lattimore rush for no gain
Missouri 10: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 9 yards
Wwwhheeeee! That ended shortly thereafter but resulted in South Carolina receivers running free in the secondary, which didn't go any better. BTW, Mizzou's a pretty decent team but is probably headed for 6-6. South Carolina's pretty good but has an absurd three-week stretch coming up against Georgia, LSU (in Baton Rouge) and Florida (in Gainesville), which is basically what's gonna determine whether South Carolina's a legit title contender or this year's version of 2011 Arkansas, by which I mean a pretty good SEC team that'll end up somewhere in the vicinity of 9-3 and playing in the Cotton Bowl.

Non-Touchdown Punt Return of the Week: This is South Carolina's Ace Sanders breaking about eleventeen tackles and then getting screwed out of a touchdown because the field is 53 yards wide instead of 54 yards wide.

Lame, guys who designed the first football field. Lame.

Boise State isn't Boise State: Remember Kellen Moore? Yeah ... man. Boise State's offense is not good at all. The Thursday night game against BYU would have been a shutout loss if not for D-lineman Michael Atkinson picking off a pass and running it back for Boise's only points of the game, a game BYU probably still would've won if not for the inexplicable decision to go for two when down by one with three minutes left, no timeouts left and Boise being incapable of kicking a field goal. The Michigan State game can be written off (to some extent) to Michigan State just having a really good defense; the stats as a whole can't be written off, and the stats say ... ummm ... yikes. Boise is 93rd in pass efficiency, 77th in rushing yards, 94th in total yards and 107th (!!!) in scoring. Not good. Obligatory gif:

LSUFreek wins the internets. LSUFreek always wins the internets.

The end of BuffQuest: That post about Colorado maybe being the worst Pac-12 team in the history of ever had a shelf life of about three days since Colorado somehow came back from 17 points down with eight minutes left to beat Washington State on the road. Upshot: Washington State is now officially the worst team in the Pac-12 despite having a couple wins against that's-not-a-real-team teams; Colorado is just really bad (like 1-11 bad). I was kinda looking forward to seeing just how bad but will have to wait for the end of the season now since I can't justify keeping track of the awfulness of a team that's actually won a conference game.

UL-Monroe craziness: It's becoming more and more evident that UL-Monroe is actually, like, good (relatively good). Beating Arkansas + taking Auburn to overtime + leading Baylor in the fourth quarter = good. I mean, those teams are all pretty meh from a BCS-conference standpoint but are all decent (I think), and after those three games, UL-Monroe is 15th in the country in total yards and 39th in scoring offense despite starting a redshirt freshman quarterback. It should be noted that the aforementioned redshirt freshman quarterback has done the following: 307 passing yards a game, eight touchdowns, two picks, 59 rushing yards a game and three rushing touchdowns. Wow. BTW, UL-Monroe went 3-5 in Sun Belt play last year and lost its three games against real teams by a cumulative score of 117-34. In other words, Todd Berry is gonna end up winning one of those Some Famous Guy Coach of the Year awards.

Game of the Week? I gotta go with Miami-Georgia Tech. Miami led 19-0 (for some reason), gave up 36 straight points (!), scored 17 straight points in the final 19 minutes to force overtime, then won by stopping Georgia Tech on a fourth-and-inches option keeper in OT and busting a touchdown run on the ensuing series. To the video:

Clutch. Also, the ACC is the ACC and makes no sense because everybody (except Florida State) is capable of both murdering and getting blown out by everybody else.

Derpity Derp of the Week: This is Orwin Smith returning/not returning a kickoff for a safety:

Derpity derp indeed.

Player of the Week: Nevada running back Stepfon Jefferson had 170 rushing yards, 76 receiving yards and seven touchdowns (SEVEN TOUCHDOWNS AAAHHHHH) against Hawaii. Seven touchdowns equals awards and stuff. Cobi Hamilton probably deserves something for catching 10 passes for an SEC-record 303 yards (lol) and three touchdowns for Arkansas in Saturday's loss to Rutgers. Receiver of the Week? Sure.

Alas: Michigan State was about nine minutes away from doing the most Michigan State thing ever; Eastern Michigan led 7-6 near the end of the third quarter (LOLWUT) before State got a field goal, a touchdown, a fourth-down stop and a let's-make-this-score-look-slightly-less-pathetic touchdown to survive against one of the five worst teams in the country. That thing I said about Michigan and the Big Ten? Yeah. Oh, and Sparty moved up a combined three spots in the two polls, which represents verification (not that it was needed) that nobody actually pays attention to anything that happens.

The Big East is so awful: The Big Ten's got nothin' on the Big East. The best team in the conference: Louisville, which beat Florida International by a touchdown Saturday. The second-best team in the conference: probably Rutgers but possibly South Florida, which lost to Ball State by four. And then there's UConn, which just lost to Western Michigan for the second straight year. I know.

Appropriately Assembled Highlight Video of the Week: Sigh.

I repeat: Sigh.

Post-Week 4 top 10: There's a pretty significant gap between Bama and the next three/four (all of which are comparable at this point) and a similarly significant gap between those three/four and everybody else. That said, I feel a little better about the teams at the bottom this week; most of them have wins of some credibility and enough of a body of work at this point that they can reasonably be called "good" or "very good" or "worthy of consideration for the top 10," at least, which is all that really matters. And yeah, I'm copping out at the bottom. As always, this is an expectation-of-performance-based top 10 and makes no effort to be transitive or predictive of final rankings etcetera etcetera.

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Oregon
4. Florida State
5. USC
6. West Virginia
7. Georgia
 8. South Carolina
 9. Clemson
T10. Oklahoma
T10. Notre Dame

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sad/angry pandas

It was probably 2008 when I became convinced that Notre Dame Stadium exists -- during Michigan games only -- underneath a cartoon-esque raincloud that never actually moves and creates a permafrost-type slop resulting in turnover-filled, generally unwatchable football; Yakety Sax and Denard Amazingness were just requisite exceptions to the rule. My opinion has changed little, obviously.

Obviously. Ughghghghgh.
. . . . .

I spent most of Saturday night trying to decide whether it's worse to get completely and utterly obliterated or play reasonably well overall, finish with a positive yardage differential and lose solely/exclusively because of HEAD-ASPLODING turnovers that result in HEAD ASPLOSION. I settled on the former; at least the latter provides some reasons for optimism and the law-of-averages expectation that the worst-quarterbacked game in the history of quarterbacking probably won't happen again.

So ... yeah. Michigan lost by six to a legitimate top-15 team on the road despite finishing -4 in turnovers, having four straight passes picked off at one point, missing a field goal and (on a related note) scoring a total of six points in five trips inside the Notre Dame 20. The performance on all the plays that weren't disasters was fine; stupid disasters.

Commence Denard/Al Borges Fury Allocation Project. And don't worry; there's plenty of fury to be allocated. A summary of the aforementioned disasters: (a) a series that started at the Notre Dame 10 after a pick and lost 15 yards, resulting in a missed field goal, (b) an OMG WUT halfback pass on first-and-goal on the following drive that got picked at the goal line, (c) a inexplicable throw to a double-covered Jeremy Gallon that could've been picked by either of the Notre Dame dudes standing in front of him, (d) a back-foot throw to an open receiver in the middle of the field that went five yards over that guy's head and directly to a pair of guys in coverage and (e) a Denard fumble on a veer-option keeper as Michigan was running it down Notre Dame's throat on the first possession after halftime.

The two early first-and-goal series were the most aggravating because they resulted in a game that probably should have been 10-0 Michigan instead being scoreless (and then 3-0 and then 10-0 after Notre Dame yanked Everett Golson (more on that momentarily) and went to Turnover Tommy Rees).

The playcalls on the first series: a toss left to Toussaint (which Michigan never runs because the linemen don't pull very well and pitch plays are timing-based things that aren't worth the effort when the veer option is more effective) for a loss of two yards, a coverage sack on a second-and-12 that had "get back into a makeable third-down distance" written all over it and another sack on a third-and-15 that had "set up a makeable field goal and by God please don't take a sack" written all over it. The second "series" was the AARRGHGH Vincent Smith pick on another first-down pitch play that got blown up by Manti Te'o because that's what Manti Te'o does.

It's worth noting that this came at the end of a drive on which Denard went 5 for 6 for 59 yards and had three carries for 18 yards. Y U NO LET DENARD SCORE TOUCHDOWN??? Because of that, I was doing this ...

... in Borges' general direction all night.

That said ... man. Denard. I can't blame Borges when guys are open and Denard is overthrowing them by five yards or when guys are covered and Denard is just throwing it to defensive players because hey why not. Denard was almost solely to blame for pretty much all the profanity-inducing events after the first two. I do think he got put in some tough situations where he was being asked to throw into inevitable face-eating pressure a little more than he should've been ...

... but that's something he's been able to do with some success this year and should be able to do against a team with a secondary held together by rubber bands and paper mache and some dudes Brian Kelly pulled out of the band. So the passing-game playcalling could've been better; Denard should have been better. There were guys open for most of the night, which was evident because Denard was finding them on the regular when he wasn't do mind-bottlingly awful things. Even with the four picks he finished 13 of 24 for 138 yards, and that latter number would've been a lot higher if Devin Gardner had bailed him out on a pretty swell double-post-pattern dealie that got Gardner basically uncovered 40 yards downfield but ended with a slightly-high-and-behind-him throw going through his hands.

BTW, Michigan went for 189 rushing yards (sacks excluded) and 5.1 yards a carry against a front seven that's allegedly and statistically one of the best in the country. The veer option returned, there was useful jet-sweep motion that played off said veer-option stuff and there was a well-set-up Gardner throwback bomb on the second play of the game that got Michigan a big chunk of yards on what should have been a scoring drive. The gameplan wasn't terrible except for the few things that were.

So ... Denard/Al Borges Fury Allocation Project complete. Result: Everybody wins, by which I mean everybody loses (kind of).

Going back to the reasons-for-optimism reference a bunch of paragraphs ago, the running game (especially if the veer option is back for good) is definitely one of those. A more significant one of those: the D-line (and the front seven as a whole).

Notre Dame did nothing on offense for a large majority of the night; both of the scoring drives in the first half started in Michigan territory, and holding a decent offensive team to 239 total yards, three real points and two turnovers seems, like, pretty good. It's not insignificant that Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, George Atkinson and Everett Golson combined for 92 yards on 30 carries; the massive front-seven improvement I was hoping for might have actually happened (or at least might be happening). The holes were constricted, the linebackers filled with authoritah, the safeties cleaned up everything that was supposed to go outside, etc. Sadly, that alleged front-seven improvement produced zero sacks and mostly let Rees do whatever he wanted. I'll still take it considering what I saw against Alabama and Air Force.

Speaking of which, from a Notre Dame standpoint, I don't get the Golson/Rees thing. Golson looked terrible; he ended up 3 for 8 with two picks, zero rushing yards and one first down on five drives before getting pulled. The NBC guys kept talking about how turnovers are a "point of emphasis" (or something) for Kelly this year, which is pretty hard to reconcile with a returning starter at quarterback getting benched in favor a redshirt freshman who might be really good a couple years from now but is going to do some disastrous things if for no other reason than his freshman-ness. It's gonna be hard to justify not giving Rees regular snaps (at the very least) considering (a) his performances so far this season and (b) the certainty that Notre Dame is gonna have to score some points against Oklahoma and USC and maybe a couple other teams with decent offenses. The front seven is good but isn't Alabama's; there will be games requiring non-gift touchdowns. I'm not totally sold on Return to Glory XIV ... yet. But I'm not totally sold on USC/Oklahoma/Stanford, either, and winning even one of those three would be sufficient for 10-2 and a BCS game and some deserving fellating of Brian Kelly after two years of this:

Anyway, Michigan's defense: It's not bad, which yay. I didn't expect it to be bad seeing as how Greg Mattison is amazeballs but have seen bad defenses in the recent past and still have the eyeball scars to show for it. Expectations (on that side of the ball) upgraded incrementally.

The offense ... ehhh. I just don't know. There was no soul-crushing physical domination along the lines of Bama-induced DEATH; again, Notre Dame is not Bama. There was just the awfulness that Denard and Borges are cumulatively obligated to produce about twice a year despite all indications prior to Saturday night being that the passing game in general had improved to some not-insignificant degree. I'm gonna assume that poopfest was the exception since most teams don't have three quality 300-pound D-linemen and Manti Te'o to commit to the run and thus the ability to drop seven guys into coverage and still get some pressure, but there's a saying about assumptions making something something. Denard is never gonna be the Cade McNown/Jason Campbell-type passer Borges needs him to be for the offense to be operating at optimal levels; the question is whether he can be close to that (or Borges can meet him a little closer to halfway) against most of the rest of the schedule, in which case Michigan is probably the best team in the Big Ten.

Yeah. Srsly. Just look around: The Big Ten is a crater with no signs of life and tumbleweed doing its tumbleweed thing. The survivor of the Michigan-Michigan State-Nebraska battle royale is probably going to the Rose Bowl seeing as how Wisconsin has decided to play the season without an O-line and Purdue is Purdue and that's pretty much the extent of the (eligible) competition.

In that regard, the Notre Dame game really means nothing except for the delusional people who figured Michigan was gonna win every remaining game so impressively that a rematch with Bama for ALL OF THE MARBLES would be feasible, which lol no. This year's goal: roses.

Still ... I mean ... that. My soul hurt a little. And it hurt both a little more (from a human-interest standpoint) and a little less (from a STABBY STAB STAB standpoint) after Denard went and did this:
"I want to say sorry to everybody who watched football, watched Michigan football and whoever follows Michigan football, I want to say sorry and it won't happen no more. I am going to be accountable for the rest of the season. I'll tell you that much.

"Most disappointed I've been in I don't know how long, the 22 years I've been living, this is the most disappointed I've been in myself."
Maaaaaaan. It's OK, man. It's OK.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Catching up is the mac daddy of popsicles

That's the ticket: Wisconsin is yanking Danny O'Brien:
Redshirt freshman quarterback Joel Stave will get his first start for Wisconsin on Saturday against UTEP, Badgers coach Bret Bielema confirmed after practice Thursday.

Stave replaced Danny O'Brien in the second half of last week's win against Utah State, completing 2 of 6 passes for 15 yards in a 16-14 win. 
Oh ... OK. O'Brien has been decent this year -- a lot better than the O-line by default -- although he was as crappy as the rest of the offense against Utah State, going 5 for 10 for 63 yards. Still, Stave was even worse; his only real contribution (other than the two meaningless completions) was handing off to Montee Ball on every play of Wisconsin's one second-half touchdown drive, and that's his only game experience to date after coming in last year as a preferred walk-on. I'm not sure what O'Brien's done to warrant a benching in favor of a guy who's probably gonna be less effective in the short term; maybe there's an assumption that things can't get any worse? I dunno. Things could get worse if the running game continues to be nonexistent and the quarterback play goes from respectable to bad.

Man down for TCU: Waymon James is done for the year:
TCU's leading rusher, Waymon James, will miss the rest of the season for the 17th-ranked Horned Frogs because of a knee injury.

School spokesman Mark Cohen said Wednesday that James has a season-ending injury.
James and Matthew Tucker have been splitting carries almost 50-50 for a while now (Ed Wesley also got an equal number last year but has since graduated); James has 19 carries so far this year, Tucker has 17. James has averaged more per carry in both of the last two seasons but doesn't represent a significant talent upgrade from Tucker, who should be more than adequate as a full-time-ish guy. I say "full-time-ish" because TCU obviously prefers to rotate its backs to some extent. Freshman B.J. Catalon has 15 carries already and will probably pick up some of those that had been going to James, albeit not as many as Tucker (Gary Patterson has readily acknowledged as much). Either way, the running game shouldn't be downgraded significantly as long as Tucker is healthy; it's really the depth that's now an issue.

It's probably worth noting here that Casey Pachall leads the country in pass efficiency right now and was quietly very good last year. The question is whether he can keep doing that against the real teams TCU has to play this year, especially if the offense gets a little less balanced (due to the aforementioned injuries) and a little more reliant on Pachall going for 300 yards and three touchdowns to keep up with the West Virginias/Oklahomas/Oklahoma States/Baylors of the world.

A very informative presser: The video of Lane Kiffin's 29-second press briefing, which ended in hilarious fashion when somebody asked about in injury (OMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN):

I bet the USC beat is amazing and not at all aggravating. FWIW, I don't think Kiffin should be required to answer injury-related questions but do think he should be required to not be such a #$(*#@! when reporters try to do their jobs.

BTW, this might be the best non-Onion headline ever:
USC coach Kiffin talks to media without incident

Nebraska dudes be gone or back: The bad news first:
Zaire Anderson, the junior newcomer who received his first start at linebacker this past Saturday, has torn the ACL in his right knee and is done for the season.

Bo Pelini told reporters that an MRI showed the tear.
Anderson was a juco transfer over the offseason; Nebraska expects him to get a medical redshirt and have two years of eligibility left going forward.

The good news:
Nebraska sophomore defensive tackle Chase Rome has returned to the team a week after leaving.

Huskers coach Bo Pelini said Thursday that Rome has been practicing with the team all week and will be available for Saturday's game against Idaho State.

Rome left the team following a Sept. 8 loss to UCLA, and Pelini said last week that the lineman's "personal goals and personal perception of where he should be on this football team doesn't match the team goals."
Rome was a nominal starter who will presumably be back in the D-line rotation right away. That's obviously helpful seeing as how depth was a definite issue there with Rome gone, although the front seven was pretty uninspiring even with him in there. I'm not sure whether his return and Anderson's loss are cumulatively any better than a net zero for the defense.

The not-good-but-not-unexpected news:
Former Nebraska offensive lineman Tyler Moore informed Florida head coach Will Muschamp Thursday of his intention to transfer to Florida, according to Brian Moore, Tyler's father.
Moore was a true freshman starter at left tackle last year but left school right before the start of the season and wasn't really expected back. FYI, Moore's from the Tampa area and reportedly wanted to be closer to home, which explains the Florida/Florida State interest. He'll take a redshirt this year and have three years of eligibility left starting in 2013, when he'll have a pretty good shot at taking over Florida's left tackle job.

Worst game ever? Buffalo quarterback Alex Zordich went 4 for 22 with a touchdown and two picks Wednesday night against Kent State. That's really bad; the touchdown is the one thing that saves him from having arguably the worst stat line of any quarterback in modern history.

According to The Mathlete (who has ALL OF THE DATA), that you-don't-want-that-record record goes to Kansas quarterback Brian Luke, who put up the following line in a 19-3 loss to a not-that-great Oklahoma team in 2005: 11 for 30 for 86 yards with no touchdowns and three picks to go along with -40 rushing yards. Yeah.

MOAR TEAMS: The Big East wants them:
New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed Thursday that the conference wants to add a 14th member for football, and is planning to have a championship game after next season.

Aresco spoke with reporters Thursday night before Connecticut's football game with Massachusetts.

"We're looking at a 14th," he said. "I'm not talking about which ones. There are some obvious candidates, but we're not talking about raiding anyone and there are some independents that might potentially want to be a member."
Those "obvious candidates": (a) BYU and (b) Army and Air Force, with all three being a possibility if the Big East wants to be perfectly set up for a Mountain West-style split in about five years.

Whether any/all of those schools want in is another matter; according to Brett McMurphy, all three have already turned down the Big East within the last year. But that was before the Big East had a worthwhile TV deal, which will probably exist within the next 60 days (that's when ESPN's negotiating window closes). That's a significant variable in the financial equation that could/will justify some reconsideration and probably motivate at least one of the aforementioned schools to sign up to be part of the Big East's West (or whatever) Division.

Of course there are tweaks: The playoff-type thing has existed for three months and therefore must be modified so as to avoid staleness and whatnot:
Conference commissioners are considering the possibility of adding another game to be part of the semifinal rotation for the new college football playoff.

The postseason plan approved by university presidents in June called for the national semifinals to rotate among six bowl sites. ...  The plan might be tweaked to give teams that don't make the playoff more chances to play in high revenue games.
Upshot: There might be five non-playoff BCS games rather than four so as to increase access for the schools/conferences that are legally obligated to complain about a lack of access. Whatever; nobody's really gonna care about those four or five games anyway.

He's only like $24 million short: This is impressive, even for John L. Smith:
Arkansas coach John L. Smith is trying to wipe away $25.7 million in debt in bankruptcy court and hang onto $1.2 million in retirement accounts and some personal property.

Smith was coaching Louisville when he began investing in real estate, which he has said was profitable until land values took a nosedive. Smith filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Sept. 6, and court papers filed Wednesday detail the depth of his financial losses.

Smith, 63, listed just $300 in cash on hand and $500 in his checking account in a court filing Wednesday, according to USA Today.
That $850,000 salary just doesn't go as far as it used to.

Speaking of Arkansas: Word on the interwebs is that the guys at Arkansas who hire/fire coaches there are intrigued by Butch Davis and would like to subscribe to his newsletter:
According to sources, Davis, the former Arkansas Razorbacks defensive end from Springdale, has had plenty of support from prominent boosters and trustees as Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long surveys the land for a new head coach.
As noted, Davis is an Arkansas alum. He also escaped the UNC cratering without any NCAA penalties since there was no documentation of his involvement in the agent/tutoring shenanigans, making him a plausible candidate for the various jobs that come open in December, one of which will be at Arkansas.

FWIW, I don't think the North Carolina stuff is gonna be much of a hindrance for him; the SEC exists. Being almost 62 by the time next season rolls around might be more of an issue. And as for Arkansas, the list of better-than-Davis candidates will be way shorter than the list of definitely-not-better-than-Davis ones that will be topped (bottomed?) by John L. Smith.

Better juice boxes, too: I ... uhh ... I dunno:
(Rich Rodriguez) gets animated as he explains one of the first things he did upon arrival, another important part of Arizona's football culture that needed changing:

“I don’t want to give out average Popsicles,” he said. “We give out them bomb Popsicles. You know, the ones as a kid you love to have?”

He goes on to describe the familiar red, white and blue rocket-shaped treats, provided to players after practices, and adds:

“These things are the mac daddy of Popsicles,” Rodriguez continued. “We’re giving out BCS-level, playoff-bound rocket Popsicles. And if they come out with a better one, we’re going to get a better Popsicle."
Rich Rodriguez: master motivator.

How did I miss this: Wisconsin-Whitewater lost Saturday. This is newsworthy because Wisconsin-Whitewater had won 46 straight games en route to three straight D-III titles. This was the fourth-and-19 play that allowed Buffalo State to keep its final drive alive and score the winning touchdown (the only touchdown of the 7-6 game) a couple plays later with about 30 seconds left:

WOW. That's a hook-and-double-lateral, with the second lateral being the difference between "game over" and "oh hai 20 more yards." Well played, Buffalo State coaching staff.

LOL media: There is an AP story that exists about Texas Tech's "turnaround" on defense, which seems pretty remarkable on a very superficial level: According to the raw stats, Tech is second nationally at 120 yards allowed per game and eighth nationally at 10 points allowed per game. TUBERVILLE LOVEFEST SUCK IT LEACH.

The problem: Texas Tech has thus far played Northwestern State (an FCS team), Texas State (a provisional FBS team) and New Mexico (just a bad team). Allowing 10 points a game to that assortment of awfulness means nothing. Evidence: Last year's version of Texas Tech, which finished 114th in yards allowed and 117th in points allowed, gave up an average of 11.5 points (albeit on 334 yards) in its first two games against ... umm ... Texas State and New Mexico.

More awesome stats: Geno Smith has as many touchdowns as incompletions (nine of each). I bet that ridiculousness doesn't last as long as RGIII's did last year, though; he had more touchdowns than incompletions until the fourth quarter of Week 4, when Baylor lost to Kansas State.

Even more awesome stats: Via Matt Hinton's Twitter feed: "Through three weeks, Texas is averaging 49 points on 514 yards per game and neither number ranks in the top half of the Big 12." Ummm ...

The most Tennessee thing ever: Srsly:

I know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Seriously, how bad is Colorado?

There was a series of MGoBlog posts last year titled "GopherQuest," which was only a quest in a sense that Minnesota was apparently on a quest to be the worst team (relative to the competition) in Big Ten history. Srsly; there were numbers to back that up until which point Minnesota arose from the dead to beat Iowa at the end of October and then, for no particular reason (other than Ron Zook being Ron Zook), beat Illinois by 20 in the last game of the year.

This is relevant because this year's version of Colorado is probably worse; I mentioned this the other day but decided it was worthy of its own post because of the pure awfulness of the numbers.

Just from an early-season-comparison standpoint, Minnesota's nonconference schedule last year included an inexplicable two-point loss to USC in the opener, a loss to a really, really bad New Mexico State team, a win (!) over Miami (Ohio) and a 13-point loss to North Dakota State. That's bad. Colorado this year has lost by a touchdown to Colorado State (which went out the next week and lost by two touchdowns to North Dakota State), a two-point loss to Sacramento State (which had just lost by 40 to a still-awful New Mexico State team) and a 55-point loss to Fresno State that was 48-0 midway through the second quarter. I mean ... yeah.

But the question isn't really whether Colorado is worse than last year's version of Minnesota, which somehow ended up with three wins (Colorado almost can't do that this year with nonconference play done); the question is this: Seriously, how bad is Colorado? What I'm interested in are some opponent-adjusted performance numbers that can be compared to those of other teams to help answer that question.

The raw numbers are as bad as expected: Colorado is 113th in total offense, 105th in scoring offense, 106th in total defense, 112th in scoring defense, 104th in rushing offense, 114th in pass efficiency, 94th in rushing defense (woo), 119th in pass efficiency defense and 94th in turnover margin.

Considering that those stats have been accumulated against (a) two non-BCS-conference teams and one average FCS team and (b) an assortment of teams that have compiled blowout losses to the likes of North Dakota State and New Mexico State, the adjusted numbers probably shouldn't be much (if any) better.

So ... here are Colorado's FEI numbers (as a reminder, FEI strips out garbage-time possessions and adjusts for schedule strength as well as fluky things like good drives that end with turnovers by including per-play and per-drive yardage and field position in its formula): 106th in offensive efficiency and 101st in defensive efficiency. For reference, the offensive efficiency of -.715 means Colorado's offense is about as far below average as Oregon's is above average, and the defensive efficiency of .460 means Colorado's defense is about as far below average as Texas A&M/Kansas State/ASU are above average. There are a couple problems with the to-date FEI numbers, though, with the first being that they aren't entirely adjusted for opponent quality until Week 7 (to make that number meaningful since everybody starts at 0-0) and the second being that games against FCS teams aren't included, so that craptacular loss to Sacramento State isn't factored in at all. So those numbers aren't totally credible yet.

The only advanced numbers that'll be inclusive of that Sacramento State loss are Sagarin's, which aren't of as much value as FEI's for the exact opposite reason FEI's are valuable: They're based almost entirely on results and opponent quality rather than actual performance data. But they are what they are, and what they are is inclusive of FCS teams/info.

153. Colorado       51.62       0-3       58.79 (134)

Key: The number to the far left is the actual ranking (51.62 is the value that produced that ranking); the number to the far right is the strength-of-schedule value/ranking.

Reaction: Yeesh. FYI, there are only five non-provisional FBS teams statistically worse than Colorado, and all of them are the dregs of the dregs. Statistically, Colorado is by far the worst major-conference team in the country.

Interestingly, the only team that's close in terms of both FEI and Sagarin is Washington State, which is 96th in FEI and 90th in Sagarin and just so happens to be Colorado's opponent this week. After that, the schedule gets, like, a lot harder. All of the following eight teams are currently ranked in the top 35 in both rankings except for Washington, which might actually be the third-best team in the Pac-12 but hasn't really indicated it thus far (in part due to the misfortune of playing LSU).

And that brings me back to the original question, which isn't "how bad has Colorado been statistically through three games" but "how bad is Colorado relative to its peers (both current and historical)?" The answer to the second question is obviously related to the first (especially since that's all the data that's available right now), but some projection/comparisons are necessary. And projection/comparisons based on the aforementioned remaining schedule is pretty horrifying.

FEI has a "remaining mean wins" calculation that includes the to-date FEI data laid across each team's remaining schedule to come up with basically an expected number of wins. Colorado's remaining mean wins: 1.0. And that's optimistic seeing as how (as mentioned above) FEI doesn't factor in the Sacramento State loss. A winless year looks likely barring massive improvement at ... I dunno ... something.

As for what that means in a historical context, the baseline for Pac-10/Pac-12 awfulness has to be the '09 Washington State team; the '08 one was comparably bad but got a couple wins, one of which was against winless and Jake Locker-less Washington in the last game of the year. The '09 team won one game (that against SMU in overtime), didn't lose any conference game by fewer than 13 points, got collectively outscored 462-144 and got collectively outgained by 3,161 yards. To make that a little more interpretable, Washington State's "average" result that year was a 39-12 loss featuring a yardage differential of 512-249 -- and those numbers were worse when filtered down to just the conference games. Also, Wazzu finished 117th in FEI that year thanks to an offense that was an 118th, a defense that was 96th and special teams that were 120th (out of 120). That team was cramazingly bad.

Is Colorado that bad? Maybe. The loss to Sacramento State would be worthy of some arbitrary number of cramazing points, but the overall data would render the comparison between that game and a win over a crappy 2009 SMU team largely insignificant. As of right now, Colorado is, on average, getting outscored 40-20 and outgained 480-290; as was the case with Wazzu in '09, those numbers will undoubtedly get worse seeing as how Oregon and USC aren't Colorado State and Sacramento State.

To get to an '09 Wazzu level of awfulness, Colorado would need to be 28 percent worse in terms of scoring margin and about 38 percent worse in terms of yardage differential in conference play than it's been through three games. Seems plausible given the upcoming quality-of-opponent increase, especially since the one game thus far against a not-totally-terrible team (Fresno State) ended 69-14 and with Colorado getting outgained 665-278.

So yeah, it could happen. Might as well, IMO; better to be historically terrible and get noticed (by me, at least) than be just regularly terrible. Right?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ain't no stoppin' us now

The Arkansas/YouTube version of that full-of-awesome Kentucky gif:

I'm undecided about whether that is more horrifying or inspiring; I'm leaning toward the former. It's just so awful. Speaking of which, a billion arbitrary and meaningless Forever Saturday points if you watched more than 45 continuous seconds of any portion of that thing OH GOOD GOD THERE ARE MORE ON HER YOUTUBE PAGE AAAAHHHHHH.

That's an Arkansas Razorback right there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week 3: Explanations needed plzkthx

USC ownage: So ... that happened. USC =/= Alabama. Matt Barkley just finished his career 0 for 4 against Stanford, which is Stanford. The lesson: Having ridonkulous skill-position guys all over the place doesn't matter much when the O-line is getting manhandled to the point that the quarterback can't do anything except get eaten; that's the difference right now between USC and the aforementioned SEC teams, which are now unquestionably the two best teams in the country (again). To be fair, the USC O-line wasn't entirely at fault; the coaches just never adjusted to Stanford sending guys unblocked through the A-gaps over and over and over and over and over (against USC's backup/freshman center, BTW, who was in because All-American Khaled Holmes had his ankle destroyed last week). That's how a team with first-round picks at quarterback and both outside receiver spots ends up getting shut out for an entire half and finishing with 14 points. I still don't think Stanford's particularly good -- needing that fourth-quarter field goal to beat San Jose State at home a couple weeks ago is still, um, concerning -- but gotta acknowledge a win over USC, even if it apparently happens every year (sometimes inexplicably). As for USC, everything is still possible pending two wins over Oregon. Obviously, LSU and Bama can't both go undefeated, and I dunno if there's gonna be a ton of interest in seeing The Rematch Part IV after whoever wins The Rematch Part III ends up as the only unbeaten (again, pending Oregon). Also, Barkley's probably still gonna win the Heisman and be the first pick in the draft and yadda yadda yadda; I think he'll be OK. I just don't know if he's gonna get enough help to do the thing he really wanted to do this year.

Virginia Tech nonsense: Wha??? I just watched Pitt rack up 537 yards and beat Virginia Tech by 18. Pitt. The same Pitt that got dominated two weeks ago by Youngstown State (srsly) and then got obliterated by Cincinnati last week. They had 27 points all season coming in. Virginia Tech was 17th in the country in total defense coming in. I don't even know, man. Pitt never should have been blown-out-by-an-FCS-team awful but apparently was before that, which I guess was closer to what everybody was expecting from a Paul Chryst-coached team with Ray Graham at running back. BTW, Graham had 94 yards and a couple touchdowns and was probably Pitt's second-best running back; true freshman Russell Shell (a relatively big-time recruit) had 157 yards and looked pretty dang good. Logan Thomas looked whatever is the opposite of pretty dang good: He finished 14 for 31 with a touchdown and three picks and really did nothing other than throw the ball to places it shouldn't have been thrown, which was problematic since the Va. Tech defense was about equally terrible. Whether all that stuff means Pitt has had a revelation and is now good or Virginia Tech just played the worst game ever remains to be seen. Again: I don't even know, man.

Related transitive nonsense: Youngstown State >>> Virginia Tech > Georgia Tech > Virginia. Youngstown State wins the ACC Coastal.

Yay Notre Dame? I'm undecided about whether Notre Dame's defense is legitimately good or Michigan's State offense is just awful; I'm leaning toward the latter based on two real games (Boise State being the other) of data for MSU, most of it bad. LeVeon Bell is a truck but has a mediocre O-line in front of him, and Andrew Maxwell just isn't good (yet). It probably isn't helping that MSU's receivers are noobs with zero meaningful experience and apparently can't get open against a secondary made of guys who are even more noob-y. Speaking of which, I do think Notre Dame will have some trouble against teams that can throw the ball even a little (USC and Oklahoma, to be specific), although the front seven will offset the secondary's mediocrity to some extent. The offense is gonna have to be a little better, which means the quarterback play is gonna have to be a little better (fortunate bomb to John Goodman notwithstanding). Everett Golson's numbers: 14 for 32 for 5.2 yards per attempt to go along with seven rushing yards. It'd be very interesting to know what Brian Kelly woulda done if Michigan State's offense weren't totally incompetent and Notre Dame had actually needed points in the fourth quarter. Regardless, ND is 3-0 and might actually be BCS-worthy given what's known (or isn't) about the rest of the allegedly good teams on the schedule. Commence "Return to Glory" columns.

Wisconsin confirmation: There's no question anymore: Wisconsin just isn't very good. Needing to rally from 11 down in the second half and then needing Utah State to miss a chip-shot field-goal attempt on the last play of the game would be pretty concerning in and of itself even without the pile of not-so-good evidence that had already accumulated via a similar five-point win over Northern Iowa and a loss to Oregon State, a team that went 3-9 last year. Some numbers: Wisconsin is 96th in rushing yards (!!!), 117th in passing yards, 116th in total offense and 115th in scoring offense. So I know why they aren't any good (from a numbers standpoint) but don't really know why. I mean, Wisconsin has been basically the same team for about the last 15 years; the offense went up a couple degrees of awesomeness with Paul Chryst calling plays and Russell Wilson at QB but shouldn't be completely and totally incompetent without those guys given that Montee Ball and about half the O-line are back. The Wisconsin gameplan doesn't require mind-blowingly brilliant playcalling. So I don't know. Another thing I don't know: How in the holy hell is this team ranked? Did anybody actually watch any of the aforementioned games? No? I see.

The Big Ten blows: A depressing rundown of the Big Ten's allegedly good teams other than Michigan that I didn't mention in the previous two way-too-lengthy paragraphs: Ohio State (playing at home) needed an oops-I-forgot-about-that-guy touchdown in the final minutes to beat Cal, which is probably the seventh-best team in the Pac-12. And that's it. The Big Ten's highest ranked teams are Ohio State (16th in the AP poll) and Michigan (18th in the coaches' poll). Guh. The only good thing about that: The Rose Bowl is totally within driving distance.

Weirdest Ending of the Ever: OMG HOLY WAR INSANITY:

I'm totally for serious about the insanity. I'm also totally having 2005 Alamo Bowl-related seizures right now.

Get out da way: Alabama. Wow. It was 24-0 at the half and 38-0 about four minutes later, at which point I stopped paying attention because it was the least competitive game on TV. Tyler Wilson would not have made a difference; Bama averaged almost seven yards a play (!) and finished with almost 450 yards despite yanking its starters about midway through the third quarter. It was a paddlin'. It was a paddlin' of historic proportions seeing as how Arkansas hadn't been shut out at home since 1966 (whoa) and ended up with its lowest yardage total (139) in at least 10 years. BTW, that stuff I said about Arkansas maybe still belonging somewhere in the top 25: yeah no. Also, that stuff Brent Musberger said when Alabama was pooping on Michigan about how Bama wouldn't have a "real" test until Arkansas: yeah no. At least Michigan, like, scored points and was competitive-ish for a few drives.

Touchdown surprise! Florida haz offense? Uhhh ... I guess so. Going for 336 rushing yards, 555 total yards and a not-fluky 37 points against a pretty decent Tennessee defense qualifies as offense. Florida is averaging 232 rushing yards a game right now, with Mike Gillislee getting almost exactly half of that. Jeff Driskell basically just has to hand off a lot and not do anything disastrous with any of his 17 throws a game; he hasn't thrown more than 20 passes in any of Florida's three games, and none of those were run-out-the-clock-type blowouts. So Florida is basically Wisconsin. As for Tennessee, the passing game is pretty good, but whether that's gonna be sufficient to get this team more than about seven wins is debatable given an October schedule -- at Georgia, at Mississippi State, Alabama, at South Carolina -- that's utterly horrifying.

Sun Belt FTW: Louisiana-Monroe is basically the sixth-best team in the SEC. Srsly. The Arkansas win could've been written off to Arkansas being a tire fire but then was sorta confirmed by the Auburn game, which went to overtime and finished almost dead even in yardage. I'm guessing that says more about the middle of the SEC than it says about Louisiana-Monroe, a team that went 3-5 in the Sun Belt last year and is starting a redshirt freshman quarterback. The middle of the SEC = the middle of the Big Ten. BTW, Kiehl Frazier didn't get way better after Auburn stopped tipping its plays: He went 10 for 18 for 130 yards with a touchdown and a pick and ran for all of eight yards. Woo.

Related Play of the Week: This is Western Kentucky (trailing by one) going for two and the win against Kentucky:


Crazily amazingly cramazingly awful: Great googly moogly: Colorado might be the worst team that has ever existed. Fresno State (Fresno State!) led 35-0 after 12 minutes Saturday, led 55-7 a quarter later, had its starters out of the game by halftime and finished with a 665-278 advantage in total yards. Read that sentence again. Cramazing. And I can't even say I'm surprised seeing as how Colorado got outgained by 125 yards last week by Sacramento State. A mostly rhetorical question: How did this team win three games last year?

Way to finish, Louisville: Louisville led 36-7 at halftime Saturday. This is only worth noting because Louisville led 39-34 with about 30 seconds left when this happened:


Random trivia question: Name the only team in the country with three wins over BCS-conference teams.

Answer to random trivia question: Northwestern. I know. Those three wins: Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College.

Player of the Week/Hilarious Geno Smith Line of the Week: The usual: 34 for 39 for 411 yards and five touchdowns. And in the "playing against real teams" category: Florida State's Chris Thompson had nine carries for 197 yards (!!!) and two touchdowns against Wake Forest. That's, like, a lot of yards per carry.

Nice turnout pffffft: Miami's home opener drew a pretty an announced crowd of 39,345 and an actual crowd of about 714:


Check that guy's blood pressure, stat: Bo Pelini went to the hospital at halftime Saturday with what was reportedly the flu. Or possibly a heart attack.

Probably a heart attack.

Post-Week 3 top 10: So ... USC. Here's the thing about USC (and, to a lesser extent, Virginia Tech): There's enough noise in the data at this point that the "Team X has a win over Team Y and therefore must be better than Team Y" method of ballot construction isn't applicable without needing some help from M.C. Escher (it really isn't applicable ever). There's some useful info that can be gleaned from three weeks of performance-centric data/observations; there's a lot less that can be gleaned from any individual result. Translation: IMO, USC is still better than Stanford (and everybody else except the obvious teams at the top). There's just not a team outside the top three that I think would beat USC on a neutral field more times than not; that's it.

As always, keep in mind that this is a purely qualitative/performance-based top 10 and makes no effort to be (a) transitive or (b) predictive of actual rankings. I do what I want (whateva).

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Oregon
4. USC
5. Florida State
6. West Virginia
7. Georgia
8. Oklahoma
9. Clemson
10. Stanford

What I like best

There's really nothing to write about a 50-point win over an in-name-only FBS team that has (statistically speaking) the worst offense in the country and a defense that's only marginally better. Those games don't get column-type things; they get entertaining gifs that are probably more indicative of the on-field happenings than any words would be. See?

Wwwhheeeee!!! There was pleasant comfortability and laughter and the kind of all-around good times that are nice to have once a year or so. There was also Denard.
. . . . .

For reasons that will be explained momentarily, I will now -- for the first and probably only time ever -- blockquote A.A. Milne:
“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
There was a moment. A moment.

Here's the thing about Denard: He's always the fastest dude on the field. Always. There's never a point at which any observant person thinks, "Is he gonna outrun that guy?" There's only, "Is he gonna get past that guy?" The rest is a formality.

There was a moment Saturday. It was a moment that was largely meaningless since it was only part of one of Michigan's eleventy billion touchdowns and therefore wasn't at all relevant to the outcome. It was a moment that didn't even exist for the people who weren't paying attention or didn't have the same viewing angle I did or whatever. It was the moment that was better than what was going to happen because it was confirmation that the what-was-going-to-happen thing was, in fact, going to happen since Denard is always the fastest dude on the field. The rest was a formality.

The "ERMAGHERD DEHRNERD" moment in video form (at the 2:38/2:39 mark) ...

... and in spectacular photographic form (via MGoBlue):

Watching Denard be amazing is a very good thing to do. The moment just before the Denard-be-amazing thing produces amazingness is better.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Runnin' the option in Hurricane Katrina

Editor's note: Some variation of this post will appear every year at about this time because ... I mean ... obviously.

The Michigan State-Notre Dame game carries a real significance for some people (most of them either Catholic or living in the Upper Midwest). Not for me. For all of eternity -- as long as they're playing, anyway (argh ACC blurgh) -- it shall be known at Forever Saturday as The Mike Valenti Game.

For reference, it was 2006 and Notre Dame had just rallied from 16 down in the fourth quarter to hand MSU one of its typically hilarious and devastating losses as mouth-breathing Spartan slappy and Detroit radio host Mike Valenti watched from the slappy seats in an epic downpour that might have been related to a biblical plague (research pending). The following Monday morning, amazing happened in the form of a 15-minute rant that must live on for posterity's sake.

The perfect summary, courtesy of Notre Dame blog The House That Rock Built:
It's ... amazing. Crazy amazing. Cramazing. Holy hell, stop reading this and just listen to it. In one of his more lucid moments, he demands the coaching staff be replaced by Teddy Ruxpin and HR Pufnstuf. Then he starts saying some really weird shit.
Seriously. It's cramazing. Listen to it. Now.

You're welcome.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Catching up is lacking knee ligaments

I'm so surprised: Robert Marve has a torn ACL. Of course he does.
Purdue quarterback Robert Marve has re-torn the ACL in his left knee and will be out at least a few weeks.

It's the third torn ACL of Marve's injury-riddled college career.

"It's significant enough to hold him out for a while," Purdue coach Danny Hope said Tuesday. "It is torn, but we anticipate him making an attempt to come back and play this season," Hope said.
Ehhh maybe. I'm skeptical. Regardless, his career's gonna be over after this season; this is his sixth year because of the two previous ACL blowouts.

Marve started the opener with returning starter Caleb TerBush suspended but then was meh last week against Notre Dame and got replaced by TerBush after getting hurt in the fourth quarter. So TerBush has his job back, basically, which means Purdue might be a little more run-heavy and probably will be equally mediocre on offense. And in the inevitable event that TerBush gets his knee struck down in AIRBHG fashion, Purdue will still have Rob Henry, who was the starter (another similarly average one) in 2010 until he tore his ACL.

Upshot: Expectations for Purdue should change minimally. Remarkably, this might be the best eligible team in the division (pending Wisconsin becoming Wisconsin again). Interpret that as you will.

Knees would be helpful: Oregon safety John Boyett (a first-team All-Pac-12 dude) and guard Carson York are both done for the year:
Boyett revealed to his hometown newspaper earlier this week that he'll need surgery to repair patellar tendons in both knees. The injury will end his career with the Ducks unless Oregon successfully petitions the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility.
York hurt his right kneecap during Oregon's 42-25 win over Fresno State last weekend. He told news reporters he would undergo surgery Tuesday but his season was over.
Yeesh; those are significant losses seeing as how both were three-year starters, one on a O-line that lost two guys from last season and one in a secondary that lost its other safety/rover.

IMO, Boyett is the less replaceable of the two. York actually had his knee screwed up in the Rose Bowl last year and wasn't a certainty at the start of the season, which allowed for some contingency planning. There's also probably more depth at guard than at safety: Nick Cody (another All-Pac-12-caliber player) and former starting right tackle Ryan Clanton are listed as the starters after some York-related preseason shuffling, and backup Hammani Stevens has played sufficient minutes to be an adequate fill-in if necessary. Boyett, though ... yeah. He led Oregon with 108 tackles last year -- he had 17 (!!!) in the Rose Bowl -- and is obviously the only player with meaningful experience at his position since he's started there for the entirety of his career. Avery Patterson, who played a lot of nickel corner last year, is the nominal backup and presumptive replacement. He'll probably be OK but not an All-American like Boyett might have been.

Penn State is out of players: For serious. See?
Starting wide receiver Shawney Kersey, Penn State's most experienced player at the position, has left the team for "personal reasons," the Nittany Lions announced on Twitter.

The redshirt junior started the first two games this season and had six receptions for 44 yards.
Kersey was Penn State's leading returning receiver coming into the year (with four career catches woo) and third-leading receiver this year through two games (with a slightly-more-impressive six catches, as mentioned above). Allen Robinson has looked pretty good as the de facto No. 1 guy, but past Robinson and slot guy Alex Kenney, there's basically nothing ... as is the case at most positions for Penn State. According to ESPN, true freshman Trevor Williams and senior Brandon Moseby-Felder (seven career catches) will be the next guys on the field with Kersey gone. There will definitely be a drop-off of some degree; it definitely won't matter.

This comment from the above-linked story pretty well summarizes my thoughts:
Admire those players that stay, but harbor no ill will to those who don't want to deal with this ever-deepening cesspool.
 Cesspool indeed. 

So long, Chase Rome: In more "disappointing Big Ten teams losing starters"-related news:
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has announced that starting defensive tackle Chase Rome has left the team.

Pelini told reporters after practice Wednesday that Rome's "personal goals and personal perception of where he should be on this football team doesn't match the team goals."
I have no idea what that means; Rome was already a nominal starter. Maybe he wanted less of a rotation-type situation with Thad Randle? Maybe he was not totally thrilled with the talk about Nebraska switching to a 3-4 over after the disaster that was the UCLA game? I dunno.

Regardless, he's gone now, which presumably leaves Randle as the full-time starter next to Baker Steinkuhler. Depth might be an issue. Also potentially an issue: Nebraska's defense in general. Whether Rome was good or not, he was obviously better than the alternatives, and last year's not-so-good performances have become totally craptacular ones so far this year. The Ohio State/Wisconsin/Northwestern/Michigan/Michigan State stretch will be ... umm ... telling.

LSU update: Tajh Jones won't be back this year:
LSU will play the remainder of the season without Tahj Jones, one of its most experienced linebackers, as well as three other players, coach Les Miles confirmed Wednesday.

Miles was asked about reports concerning the players' academic eligibility during Wednesday morning's SEC coaches teleconference.

Although he did not disclose specific details, Miles acknowledged that Jones, offensive lineman Evan Washington, tight end Tyler Edwards and linebacker D.J. Welter would not play this season.

"Those guys will not play this year," Miles said. "I don't know if I can tell you specifics."
Jones is the only one of those guys who's of relevance in the short term; he was a projected starter at strongside linebacker going into camp, then was beaten out by Luke Muncie before being ruled academically ineligible a few days prior to the the opener. That ruling was assumed at the time to be a done-for-the-season thing but was also being appealed; the appeal apparently was denied.

The issue isn't so much a lineup-related one (Muncie is fine) as a depth one since there's so little experience behind the starters, especially at the outside spots. I'm guessing LSU will get by.

Making Friends In The Media 101: So ...USC beat writer Scott Wolf of the L.A. Daily News wrote this the other day:

USC kicker Andre Heidari underwent surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus in his knee and will be sidelined about three weeks.

Heidari suffered the injury in the season opener against Hawaii and did not accompany USC to its game against Syracuse on Saturday. Walk-on Alex Wood filled in for Heidari and kicked six extra points.
OK. Kicker got hurt yadda yadda. Pretty innocuous, yes?
Kiffin is not addressing injuries this season. USC also announced in August a policy barring the media from reporting strategy or injury-related news observed during in-season practices.

The Daily News report did not cite practice-related information.

Still, USC has barred Daily News reporter Scott Wolf from attending practice for two weeks and will not issue him a credential for the Trojans' Sept. 22 game against California at the Coliseum, said Gene Warnick, sports editor for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
Wha? LANE KIFFIN Y U DOUCHY? Upholding a rule (albeit a stupid one) is one thing; being an asshole just to be an asshole is another. Fortunately, the local sports editors flipped out appropriately, which resulted in the ban ending pretty much immediately:
I was informed earlier this evening that I would be allowed to return to USC football practices after a two-day ban for writing that kicker Andre Heidari underwent knee surgery.

Sports editors from the Daily News, Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register spoke with USC athletic director Pat Haden today. Talks continue on the practice policies.
So that's that. If I were the L.A. Daily News, my contingency plan would've been pulling Wolf and all other USC-related coverage for the rest of the year and blanketing UCLA like whoa. Why cover a program that apparently has no interest in being covered? Would've been easy to pin it on USC's lack of cooperation with the media, which would've gotten an amusing comment out of Jim Mora Jr. if nothing else.

This sounds bad: There have been some shenanigans goin' on at Mississippi State:
Byron De'Vinner, the 7-on-7 summer league football coach in Nashville who said Tuesday that he witnessed a booster give Mississippi State freshman defensive back Will Redmond money, told ESPN on Wednesday the same booster told him he provided benefits to "five or six" Mississippi State athletes

De'Vinner said Redmond told him it was former Mississippi State wide receivers coach Angelo Mirando who introduced Redmond to booster Robert Denton Herring, whom he claims provided cash and clothing to the player.

Mirando resigned Aug. 19, citing "unforeseen personal issues."

 Mississippi State has been working with the NCAA to examine a "potential recruiting irregularity" over the past several months, but has declined to provide further details since Mirando resigned.

According to documents provided to the Clarion-Ledger on Aug. 28, a Mississippi State booster was found to have had "impermissible contact" with a recruit and may have engaged in other NCAA rules violations. The school has since disassociated with Herring.
Yeeeaaahhh. Whether those shenanigans can/will be pinned on anybody other than Mirando, Herring and the players is unknown, but it might not really matter; the NCAA is now making coaches (and the institutions themselves) responsible for everything that happens among their staff members, which means Dan Mullen and Mississippi State are looking at an NCAA paddlin' via scholarship reductions and vacated wins once a few of the referenced guys are ruled ineligible.

Speaking of Mississippi State: Auburn's offense is either less or more of a disaster than I thought, depending on your opinion of this:
Senior defensive back Corey Broomfield and senior linebacker Cam Lawrence have said after MSU's 28-10 victory over Auburn University Saturday that they were sure what the Tigers offense was calling from the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped.

"We do a great job of preparing and we knew what the play was before they ever ran them," Broomfield said. "That's not a joke. We knew what they were doing, where the ball was going and who was getting it before the ball was snapped."

Lawrence had a team-high 10 tackles Saturday with 1.5 tackles for a loss and a sack of Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier. The Bulldogs middle linebacker said after the game he saw in Frazier's early demeanor that their pressure had gotten to him.

"It makes our job as coaches so much easier when Cam Lawrence is signaling over his head every time they were calling a pass," MSU co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Geoff Collins said Monday.
I bet. What's crazy is that Auburn's O-coordinator isn't some noob; it's Scot Loeffler, who was Temple's offensive coordinator last year after becoming an elite quarterbacks coach with Florida, the Detroit Lions and Michigan (where he started as a grad assistant). How does that happen? And why would Mississippi State acknowledge it? That seems like the kind of valuable info you'd wanna stick in your back pocket and pull out at a convenient time, like perhaps next year against Auburn.

Also crazy: Auburn didn't even know after watching the tape:
"I'm not aware. We can rectify that problem," Auburn coach Gene Chizik after Wednesday's practice.
Guh. Anyway, Frazier completed one pass in the first half and had 18 passing yards through three quarters last week. Whether that was more on him or more on Mississippi State knowing Auburn's playcalls remains to be seen; I'm leaning toward the former since Auburn has now gone two straight SEC games without an offensive touchdown. Either way, Loeffler and Chizik have some work to do or some Cam Newtons to purchase.

Is this news? New Mexico State is gonna give it a go as an independent:
New Mexico State will join fellow WAC football orphan Idaho in playing the 2013 season as a football independent.

In an open letter titled "Conference Update" issued Wednesday by NMSU athletic director McKinley Boston, Boston confirms that the Aggies will become the sixth FBS independent, joining Idaho, Notre Dame, BYU, Army and Navy.
Minus a conference invite (which New Mexico State desperately wanted but didn't get), the only alternative was dropping down to the FCS, which would make infinitely more sense but obviously isn't happening since NMSU and Idaho are so "committed" to Division I football. Blurgh.

The problems for NMSU are the same as they are for Idaho. The first: Who's gonna be on the schedule other than Idaho/New Mexico State, a couple FCS schools and a couple regional rivals? The second: Where's the money gonna come from with no conference revenue payouts and no realistic options for distributing content outside a conference deal?

As for the first, Boston's letter indicated that NMSU already has nine games scheduled for next year. Getting to 12 in 2013 probably won't be that difficult; it's the years further into the future that'll be of more concern with other conferences expanding. And buying sacrificial lambs won't be a desirable option since the athletic department won't have any money. This is a quote from Idaho's athletic director:
"If it doesn’t look like we can secure a schedule for us at the FBS level, then we’re going to have to make other decisions. We’re being aggressive in looking at options there. We’ll see what happens."
As for the second, this is also a quote from Idaho's athletic director (regarding the viability of independence):
"Definitely short term. I don’t see us going beyond two years."
I don't know if there's a realistic home for either school anywhere in the FBS, which means I also don't know what happens in 2013. FCS? Probably. Why not do it now? My thoughts exactly.

Weird numbers: Tennessee hasn't had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher or 100-yard receiver in any of the last five games against Florida, all of which were losses. Also, Derek Dooley is 0-11 against ranked teams at Tennessee. Also also, Will Muschamp is 0-5 against ranked teams at Florida. SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE, VERNE LUNDQUIST.

Why does this exist? This is Tyler Bray's tattoo:

I'm gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was drunk, which is likely.

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