Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Linkagery

More links... must post more links...

The best draft classes? Again, I'm not sure I like the methodology, but it's interesting enough.

National Football Post draft analysis: the top 100 prospects, ranking the various position classes, the top 30 underclassmen, draft prospects of Ohio State, top 10 quarterbacks, and there are more I'm missing. See also RealScout's top "5" (actually 7) picks. If those are the actual top 5 picks, I'll eat my VY jersey.

Left tackles don't really make that much more than other players, even other offensive linemen.

Forbes' NFL team valuations. As the Steelers saga shows, mileage really varies.

Albert Haynesworth beat the heck out of the Vikings. See also RealScouts re same. See also Baltimore's offensive performance, with Albert in and out.

Ryan Fowler, not happy Tulloch is starting at MLB. Yes, Player Game Analysis on Tulloch is STILL coming. In the meantime, Rick Gosselin had some nice words for #55.

Another Smart Football post, a couple vignettes. The most important one is "the rise of the terrible spread team." This is often paired with a poor quarterback, but not always so. See also why Auburn's offense isn't (wasn't) Tony Franklin's spread.

A wonderful breakdown of Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno's TD run against Arizona State. If only I weren't so lazy...

Baseball columnist Tom Boswell on why the NFL has a better postseason. Yes, this is undeniably true.

Yes, I praised Dan Hawkins in my last post, but Mike Leach still beats him. I wonder if he pulled his D&D typology from Cryptonomicon.

Jerry Jones: dealmaker. Another nice piece by Andrew Brandt.

Finally, ESPN's Big 10 reporter Adam Rittenberg followed around a couple Northwestern students as they prepared for the Michigan State game. For those of us who never played beyond the backyard level, it's somewhat revealing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Miscellanea

Time for another collection of none-too-timely link dumps of various things that caught my eye.

Dan Hawkins may not have had a great deal of success at Colorado, but as this profile shows that doesn't prevent him from being awesome.

Todd Reesing Awesomeness Watch: local reporter asking people on the street about Kansas football doesn't recognize the person he's talking to is the quarterback.

Paul Kuharsky took a look at the Titans-Texans 2004 draft-day trade that resulted in the Texans drafting Jason Babin. My immediate reaction that this was a clear Titans win is at least partially vindicated.

I should have posted this last night, but Matt Bowen wrote about the pluses and minuses of playing on Monday night from a player's perspective. Also from Bowen, the experience of playing on a team vastly better on one side of the ball than another.

Other people validating my opinion: Michael Lombardi writes: "I really feel that the LenDale White era is over in Tennessee. He is so slow and takes too long to hit the hole."

Andrew Brandt did a good little breakdown of the players involved in the potential Steelers sale. This info is a little dated, both because Druckenmiller's effort seems over and because he probably wouldn't get credit for the purchase now, but it's still a good look at the issues involved.

Interesting thing about the Titans this year: they went from a very young team last year to one of the older ones this year. A year of experience is part of this, as is bringing in retreads like Alge Crumpler and Jevon Kearse.

If Joey Harrington is indeed the worst QB ever, then when should the Lions have given up on him? I'll just say I'm really unconvinced by this.

The value of a safety: 2 points plus the ball. More, really, than a field goal, which is worth 3 points less giving up the ball.

People it's good to be: West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart, whose entire contract is virtually guaranteed. For lots of fun, read the contract for yourself.

Rick Gosselin points out the decline of LaDainian Tomlinson. It's arrested itself slightly the last couple weeks, but it's still happening. A truly bold, to the point of possibly crazy, team would have re-signed Michael Turner and traded Tomlinson. I know, only in Madden.

Finally, football geekery: the evolution of the zone blitz by Greg Cosell.

Book Review: The Genius

"A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein." Or so saith Joe Theismann, supposedly. Alas, David Harris's The Genius is a biography not of Norman Einstein, not even Albert Einstein, nor Mr. Theismann himself, but instead of the man of whom I believe Joe was speaking: Bill Walsh. "The Genius" was, of course, the sobriquet Walsh earned by virtue of his success with the 49ers, a previously sad-sack franchise he and new owner Eddie DeBartolo turned into a juggernaught for a decade and a half.

As far as biographies go, this is one. One of the heuristics I use for evaluating biographies, especially when I don't have really strong feelings about the book, is a look at sources and methods. Who wrote the book, and how did he write it? I wasn't too complimentary in my recent review of Cantor's Paul Brown bio because I have no idea how he wrote it. This seems to be Harris's second football book, after The League, which is currently sitting on my bar counter unread. No help there. So, how did he write The Genius? The most important resource is clearly Bill Walsh. Walsh let Harris use his personal collection of videos of him talking, including installing gameplans and speeches and talks he gave. Harris also conducted a number of interviews, the most important of which were with Walsh. If you're looking for context, then, The Genius is in the same semi-authorized genre also occuped by the new Warren Buffet bio, The Snowball. Harris also interviewed a number of other people-the ubiquitous Dick Vermeil, Sam Wyche, and a number of former 49er players and coaches, though Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott appear through their books and other media accounts, and other players, including Jerry Rice and Steve Young, and key figures Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. and Carmen Policy don't seem to have cooperated at all. The primary player sources seem to be Dwight Clark, Randy Cross, Brent Jones, and Keena Turner.

What does that list of people mean? You're getting a pretty good look, but not a complete one. Note the player sources are white guys, plus a Walsh crony (see Turner's bio, Stanford experience). This is actually a bit of a lead-in for one of the things I thought most interesting about Walsh. Like all head coaches then and still most of them now, Walsh was white. He'd grown up in a white neighborhood, and spent time in the lily-white profession of football coaching. For most people, that creates some sort of insuperable divide, and Walsh was one of the first, if not the very first, coaches to recognize that. To solve it, he brought in Berkeley sociology professor Harry Edwards as a sort of meta-counselor to help players adapt to a new life of wealth and celebrity in an autocratic regime.

Enough screwing around/meandering through this review... so, how was the book? Harris competently gives a description of Walsh's career, sometimes giving a blow-by-blow description of games and sometimes glossing over entire weeks (reading 10 years worth of "dramatic" game-by-game descriptions gets tedious, something Harris rightly recognizes). After finishing the book, and including the description of Walsh's open and notorious adultery (see Buffett above) and general neglect of his family, I'm starting to firm up my belief being a great football coach is incompatible with the rest of humanity is about. Walsh was, comparatively at least, acclaimed for his interest in stuff other than football, but his obsession with the game and its tumults is at odds with that reputation of his. That's something I would have like Harris to do a better job of addressing, and it's a good contrast to the Lombardi bio, where Maraniss writes about how Vince Lombardi liked to come home and veg out in front of the TV for an hour or so every night before going back to work. That's the sort of perfect anecdote, simultaneously humanizing and de-humanizing the revered figure.

Another nit: Harris's other primary source is the daily newspaper. This is fine for news, but the vicissitudes of the columnists with inches to fill blathering heated words about stuff they don't understand and have no insight into detracts from the book. This is particularly true with respect to the quarterback "controversy" between Walsh and Young that started about 1987 and didn't end until Montana was traded to the Chiefs (parentheses not meant to deny the existence of a genuine controversey for at least some of that time). But, Harris is a journalist, and they do tend to think of journalism as "the first draft of history" or somesuch. It is in some cases, of course, but I strongly doubt anybody will be citing my Vince Young posts in their book twenty years hence, nor should they, but I submit the big one was about as insightful as pretty much any newspaper column on the subject (i.e., hardly at all).

Anyway, if you want to know more about Bill Walsh, go ahead and read The Genius. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time, and some of them appear in the sidebar under "Book Reviews." Not un-recommended to NFL fans, but also not particularly recommended to non-NFL fans.

For another take, see the New York Times review.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Total Titans

I did a Q&A with a Colts blogger, which I posted last night over at Total Titans. I will also be liveblogging tomorrow night's Monday Night Football game between the Titans and Colts over at MVN. It'll probably be at MVN Outsider, but check Total Titans or the main page, and I'm sure there will be a link up.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Nine

Another Saturday, another week of games:

West Virginia 34 - Auburn 17
Auburn's offense was bad, is bad. They scored their 2 TD's, looked pretty decent early, then reverted to their normal suckiness. Meanwhile, Noel Devine had his first really good game of the year, ripping off big chunks of yardage off a crappy SEC defense. No, I don't think any more of Bill Stewart after watching this game.

Boise State 33 - San Jose State 16
Dull game, didn't get much of out it. Boise is a better team. The game was close for a while while I was watching, but Boise still looked better and eventually proved it.

Texas Tech 63 - Kansas 21
Alas, other commitments caused me to miss the first half of this game. TTU looked really impressive from what I did see, which wasn't much considering other games on and the non-close score. Reesing kept throwing INTs, which is the thing that happens when he has to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. Oh, his arms also are larger than mine, though not that much.

Indiana 21 - Northwestern 19
Noting this result, primarily. Northwestern's backup QB is pretty bad. I thought the Wildcats would win this game handily; I was wrong.

Wisconsin 27 - Illinois 17
This game's result, however, did not surprise me. Playing at home, Wisconsin is a better team. Illinois is also not that great, as losing at home to Minnesota would indicate.

Nebraska 32 - Baylor 20
Baylor still has moments of competence, but they're still a little bit from a good program. I like Art Briles, he can probably get them to that level, but even a lower Nebraska team is more talented and better right now.

Texas 28 - Oklahoma State 24
Can we please get the ACC off the ESPN2 mirror game and the B12 on? I really would have enjoyed watching this game, but instead got Florida State-Virginia Tech, which I didn't really bother to watch.

Michigan State 35 - Michigan 21
I have no idea how Michigan scored 21 points, because when I watched this game (admittedly, not that much), they didn't look like they'd score 21 points if they played UM 3 times.

Georgia 52 - LSU 38
Most college announcers are annoying yappers, blathering on about heart, intensity, desire, etc. Then there's Gary Danielson, Jedi Master. He was almost completely ON this game. He called a play about 8 times, including two Georgia TD's, and was right every single time. He points out good blocks after the first look, bad angles taken by defensive players. Frankly, he made almost every other announcer, NFL and college, look like the abject idiot schlub they are. After he called the second TD, Verne Lundquist asked him something along the lines of if he was tired of showing up other announcers.

Oh, I suppose I should say something about the actual game. Danielson's love for QBs rivals Jaworski's at times, but Stafford looked pretty good. Moreno reminded me why I love him so. LSU doesn't have much of a QB, and their pass D really isn't that good-they do miss both CBs a lot, but I like their rushing game, particularly Charles Scott.

Missouri 58 - Colorado 0
Ha ha, Colorado is bad. Daniel started by completing his first 13 passes, by which point it was 21-0 and the game was over.

Alabama 29 - Tennessee 9
The Vols suddenly did not morph into a decent team for this game. Alabama did not suddenly start being Tennessee-type terrible. Didn't see much of this game, because there wasn't much worth paying attention to.

Penn State 13 - Ohio State 6
I did see a lot of this game, which wasn't too dissimilar from what I thought. I thought both teams would have a little more success offensively, but not a lot more. tOSU found it really hard to move the ball-they simply don't have WRs like Holmes and Ginn who could stretch the defenses, and Pryor's not good enough at throwing the ball to do it without that. The offensive line also wasn't able to do a lot to create holes for Wells. PSU's overall team speed also caught Pryor much faster than did MSU's when he tried to run with the ball on his own. PSU-eh, didn't pay a huge amount of attention. The TD came off a Pryor fumble, but that still counts. PSU also made it into FG territory three times, more than the Buckeyes did. This was my first extended look at Nittany Lion QB Daryl Clark, and I wasn't particularly impressed with him. Sure, he's better than Morelli, but the offense is driven by the running game, same as the Buckeyes.

USC 17 - Arizona 10 (in progress, 4Q 15:00)
I don't understand why USC isn't dominating this game, given how laughably bad Arizona is, particularly when they try to pass. I blame QB Mark Sanchez, mostly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Total Titans; Advance the Cause of Science

I have a new post up on Total Titans, with the Friday injury report. Good news: MVN appears to be posting properly, and publishing an entry doesn't result in a timeout or error message. Bad: my entries are on GMT for no apparent reason, and it doesn't look like I can change this. Really screws up my "getting a post up every day" check, given I post at times like this and Drexel posts in the morning.

Oh, advancing the cause of science? Got an email from John Spinda, who's working on his Ph.D. dissertation on sports fans, their perception of other fans, and the effect of winning on fan behavior. He's asked NFL fans to fill out a brief online survey, which can be found here. I've taken it, and you should, too.

Book Review: The Maisel Report

Given how terrible The Paolantonio Report was, it was with trepidation I elected to read the college football counterpart thereto, Ivan Maisel's The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions (both takeoffs, apparently, of The Stark Truth, which I haven't read). It's definitely made in the same model as Paolantonio's book, but, befitting Maisel's status as perhaps the preeminent national college football reporter as opposed to Paolantonio being a talking head studio host, substantially better. Maisel's opinions are generally reasonably thought-out and well-considered, and there's nothing as aggressively dumb as Paolantonio's argument as to why the 1985 Chicago Bears are overrated I outlined in my review of that book.

That is, until you get to Maisel's listing of underrated and overrated players. The most egregious example of the phenomenon is Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech's most underrated player is Clint Castleberry, who played for one year in 1942. Bobby Dodd dubbed him in his (Dodd's) autobiography a future multiple All-American and best RB in Tech history. Now, though, he's lost to the sands of time, a theme common to many of Maisel's underrated players. The Yellow Jackets' "most overrated" player, though, is Reggie Ball. Yes, the very same Reggie Ball widely known as the worst four year starter in college football history. It's difficult for me to see Ball as possibly overrated, and Maisel makes no argument to the contrary, only that Ball wasn't very good. Penn State's most overrated player is another good example of the same-Anthony Morelli. He was, in a great triumph of optimism over reality, the great hope of PSU fans, that is, until he started actually playing, when Nittany Lion fans quickly realized he wasn't actually any good, a fact now recognized by all and sundry. The underrated people are in some cases a useful reminder or introduction to previously notable players, but overall the section is clearly the weakest of the book.

So, is it worth a read? Like many ESPN projects, it's a little gimmicky-argumentative books like these are a little dumb, don't do much to provoke good conversation, and are too related to a sports radio-type dumb environment for my purposes, even if, like this one, they're generally well done. I'm glad I didn't spend any money on it, but it didn't take me long to read and wasn't an egregious waste of my time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review: Paul Brown (Cantor)

For a while, for anybody interested in learning more about Paul Brown, your only option was Brown's autobiography. In the past couple months, though, two new biographies of the man were published. I'll get around to the other at some point, eventually, but the first of those I read was Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football by George Cantor.

Confession: for somebody who reads a reasonable amount of history, I'm not much of a fan of biography as a genre. Biographies, as a general rule, tend to two extremes: first, a straight narrative of a person's life, which may work reasonably well, but doesn't provide for the sort of insight into a person that a biography needs to succeed. The opposite end of the spectrum, alas, is the biographer falls in love with his subject, to the point where every single thing the subject does is worth of reporting, even the humdrum and the dull (The Last Lion: Alone is perhaps the ultimate example of this). With these twin pratfalls, it's no surprise to me that biographies are frequently dull.

And, I'm sad to say that Cantor's Brown bio falls firmly into the first camp. The book is a competent, but not particularly detailed, timeline of Brown's coaching career. It provides approximately no insight into Brown as a person, his philosophy of coaching, or what spurred him to do what he did. Frankly, the most useful part of the book may be the list at the back of Brown's records at each stop in his coaching career. Worse, for a nonfiction book, it provides absolutely no sources. Did Cantor make up everything in the book up? I don't think so, but I really don't know. I have no idea if Cantor, a veteran sportswriter, wrote this entire book from memory, consulted his personal notebooks, perused newspaper archives, interviewed a lot of people, read other books, or what. I don't know if he read Brown's autobiography, even. Paul Brown isn't particularly bad, but it's, well, bad in a dull way-not particularly interesting to read, nor insightful, nor informative. Hopefully Paul Brown: The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Football's Most Innovative Coach will be better.

Total Titans

I may or may not have a new post up at Total Titans asking for questions about the Colts for our Q&A this week. The observant may realize that I don't mention who the Q&A will be with. That's because I don't know. If the post isn't there, it's because clicking "Publish" on MVN results in a post vanishing into the ether instead of the post being published.

This post brought to you by the pass targets post I wanted to write tonight but couldn't because Total Titans' archives seem to have disappeared.

UPDATE: Well, the post isn't showing up on Total Titans, or via the direct link, but is available under my name. Have I mentioned before that new returns to me on the redesign are deeply, deeply negative? Because, well, they are. I'll have to check traffic numbers-it wouldn't surprise me to see us down 50% from the month before the redesign to after, and early returns on comment traffic are even worse. If only they'd done the redesign in like February, I could cheerfully ignore the site for a month, but, no, they had to do it in a month I'd like to actually write posts. Ok, enough whining for now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Eight

Another fall Saturday, another week of college football pretty much over.

TCU 32 - BYU 7
Well, this result came as a surprise to me. I didn't think BYU was great-the game against UW wasn't as close as the 28-27 score made it seem, but was still closer than a great team would have been. Still, I thought they'd win this game. TCU really got great pressure on Max Hall pretty consistently, and he wasn't able to (i) do what Sam Bradford did by going over the top or (ii) find the underneath guy consistently. I was also hugely impressed by TCU's offense. Watching them against Oklahoma, I didn't think much of them; against BYU, a whole different story, as they took advantage of the defensive pressure and Cougar turnovers.

Florida State 26 - N.C. State 17
Well, I paid a little bit of attention to this game, so I feel obligated to mention it. Uh, I don't really like Tom O'Brien, and maybe FSU now is half-decent?

Boise State 27 - Hawaii 7
Not as close as the score indicates, as Boise State really dominated from beginning to end. Hawaii's much worse this year than they were last year, and they weren't that great last year.

Texas Tech 43 - Texas A&M 25
I like watching the Red Raiders on offense, but less than I used to-less unique now. The defense still seems pretty mediocre, though-a couple losses appears likely.

Northwestern 48 - Purdue 26
I really should have realized before now Purdue is pretty bad this year. I knew Curtis Painter wasn't much, but I figured they'd muddle their way through to 7 wins like they seem to do lately. Right now, that doesn't look like it'll be the case. Maybe I'll also have to re-evaluate Northwestern as well, since I was ready to write them off as a total fluke after they lost to Michigan State last week.

Georgia Tech 21 - Clemson 17
Looking at this score, you might think these teams had offenses. You'd be wrong-each team got a score at least gifted to them by defense. This game is more like a net 7-3 game than 21-17. I still need to sit down and watch GaTech for an extended look, to see how Paul Johnson's option attack is faring, but that won't happen for a while.

Virginia 16 - North Carolina 13 (OT)
This was the lowest priority of the 2:30 CT games for me, but just goes to show how weird of a team UVA is. Losing 31-3 to Duke, then upsetting a pretty decent Tar Heel team?

Ohio State 45 - Michigan State 7
Then again, you think you know something about a team, then something totally weird happens. A previously moribund Buckeye offense, who put up 9 points against Purdue the previous week, looks absolutely awesome in East Lansing and just kills the Spartans. The Buckeyes put up 21 in the first quarter, and the game was completely over.

Alabama 24 - Ole Miss 20
Alabama, aside from the 31-0 half against Georgia, continues to leave me non-plussed. They were fairly dominating after a sluggish start, then get outscored 17-0 in the second half. Wilson's not a bad QB, Coffee's not a bad RB, but this team to me looks vulnerable. The trip to Red Stick in November feels like a pretty sure loss to me right now, and it wouldn't surprise me to see them drop another game-maybe the Iron Bowl again. I wonder if those two would be enough to put the Nicktator on the hot seat, particularly if that latter hypothetical defeat costs them the SEC West.

Penn State 46 - Michigan 17
Ah, finally a score that is deceptively not-close, as the Wolverines took a 17-7 first half lead and were tied in the third quarter before the wheels came off. And come off they did, as PSU's offense found the holes in Michigan's defense, and Brandon Minor started carrying more like he was Brandon Minor instead of "not-Brandon-Minor-but-good" like he was in the first half.

Oregon State 34 - Washington 13
A little bit of an interlude game-Washington's QB, Not Jake Locker, made a couple decent downfield throws, but overall the Huskies really aren't that good, especially on defense.

Texas 56 - Missouri 31
Four minutes into the game, I said I'd take Texas -16.5. They actually went up 35-0 before Mizzou kicked a FG to end the first half, and the Tigers pointlessly won the second half. This was a really, really impressive performance by the Longhorns on both offense and defense. McCoy did pretty much whatever he wanted, and the defensive line pressured Chase Daniel into oblivion. I knew by beating OU Texas was pretty good, and this was a #1-type performance.

LSU 24 - South Carolina 17
Why isn't LSU better? I know, they have inexperienced rotating quarterbacks, but there's enough overall talent on the field this game shouldn't have been that close. A couple costly drops hurt, but I can't help but think that my "Les Miles sucks" theory is the reason.

I saw a little bit of a couple other games, but not enough to say anything on them. Too bad, so sad.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Review: The Fifty-Year Seduction

In my review of The Missing Ring by Keith Dunnavant, I said that it wouldn't let it dissuade me from acquiring and reading the same author's The Fifty-Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football, from the Birth of the Modern NCAA to the Creation of the BCS. Well, I have now so acquired and read The Fifty-Year Seduction, and am pleased to say that I made the correct decision in not letting my opinion of The Missing Ring and its premise dissuade me. As I hoped, the subtitle is somewhat overwrought-what Dunnavant produced is instead an excellent journalistic history of college football's relationship with television, from the earliest days of the medium through the book's 2004 publication. I felt like I had a good idea of college football's history from the mid-1980's to the present, but after reading this book, that grasp really only extended back about 15 years. I learned a tremendous deal about the environment that led to the seminal Board of Regents v. NCAA court case, and it's effect on television contracts, conferences, and athletic departments in general. If I wanted to (and I both do and don't), I'd now write some extended commentary on the practical antitrust implications of Board of Regents, but I'll spare you. Instead, I will simply recommend The Fifty-Year Seduction to anyone who thinks they might be interested in reading it.

Total Titans

The MVN redesign has been completed. Naturally, as is seemingly a requirement of all redesigns, links were broken. At least in this case it's only links to all old posts, and the site itself, which you can now find at http://mvn.com/totaltitans/. All posts since Tuesday have also apparently disappeared into the ether, which makes me glad I didn't bother writing what I planned on.

Since we won't be using this place as a backup, I'll be posting some of my own original content. I have a couple book reviews written, plus I've been putting off a linkage post because of the potential takeover.

UPDATE (10/17/08 2152 CT): Updated Total Titans link, since I had it wrong earlier. Editorial commentary deleted.

UPDATE #2 (10/17/08 2209 CT): Injury report posted. If the post looks ugly, that's because MVN's new software is a fucking piece of crap that won't display my post properly. If there's no actual post there, it's because MVN's new software is a fucking piece of crap. If I'm swearing a lot this post, it's because my early review of MVN's new software is that it's a fucking piece of crap and I'm frustrated.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Temporary Home of Total Titans?

MVN's previously scheduled maintenance may (or may not) be happening in the next couple days. If so, that may mean outages over at Total Titans. In that case, content that would normally appear over at Total Titans will be appearing here.

Thoughts on College Football: Week Seven

Another week of college football is almost over, so it's time to talk about what I've seen.

Wake Forest 12 - Clemson 7
There are these games where I watch them, I don't pay much attention to what I'm seeing, and, the game having ended, I have little idea of what I've seen. And so it was with this game. Clemson QB Cullen Harper played poorly, that much I remember for sure. Wake sputtered offensively most of the game. Games like this are part of why I started doing this little project, so I had more of a record and an idea of what I'd seen, but it doesn't solve this problem.

Texas 45 - Oklahoma 35
I admit it, I was wrong. Boomer Sooner let me down. Bradford, I thought, played pretty well, but was betrayed by his teammates. Phil Loadholt absolutely doesn't have the feet to play LT at the NFL level, and probably not RT either-he looks like a guard to me. Oklahoma's defense didn't make enough plays. I wonder if Bob Stoops is overrated as a coach, or at least falls into the Tressel/Carr category of a great/good recruiter who actually isn't that great at football coaching. Texas... I still don't trust Mack Brown, Colt McCoy didn't have a great game, they don't have a running game, but they still did enough to win this game. Still, it wouldn't surprise me to see Boomer Sooner finish the rest of the year without any more wins and make the B12 championship game over UT.

Toledo 13 - Michigan 10
Didn't see much of this game, as I concentrated my attention on UT-OU described above, but what I saw was Toledo throwing short passes and UM's offense being non-productive. Looking at the box score, that was an accurate representation of the game as a whole.

Minnesota 27 - Illinois 20
I saw even less of this than of Michigan-Toledo, so I have nothing insightful to say, only noting that, pre-season, this is a shocking result. Last year's Rose Bowl participant losing to a 1-11 team. Note Minnesota is now bowl-eligible; that has to be this week's sign of the apocalypse.

Kansas 30 - Colorado 14
As a sign of how concentrated on OU-UT/lazy I was, I saw only about three plays from this game despite it featuring Todd Reesing.

Ohio State 16 - Purdue 3
Ohio State: defense yes, offense still doubtful. The Buckeyes' sole TD came off a blocked punt, and such drives as there were bogged down in the red zone. The game against PSU should be a good chance for the Nittany Lions to end their losing streak in Columbus as they appear to have both an offense and a defense.

North Carolina 29 - Notre Dame 24
In Jimmah we trusted, with Jimmah we busted. Two reasonably well-matched teams, though I can't help but think with a healthy T.J. Yates this game isn't as close as it was.

Georgia 24 - Tennessee 14
I don't know what it is, but Georgia this year bores me. They're good, but last year I enjoyed watching them play, but don't this year. They remind me of an NBA team-good at times, but too often seemingly disinterested.

Penn State 48 - Wisconsin 7
This game was almost as close as the score indicated. Wisconsin may still make the Outback Bowl, but they looked a long, long way from the Nittany Lions tonight in all phases of the game.

Oklahoma State 28 - Missouri 23
A game that was surprisingly close throughout, and surprisingly low-scoring in the first half. Chase Daniel ruined his Heisman campaign with a couple poor interceptions, and Zac Robinson actually looked like a legit quarterback. I'm not sure Mizzou has a very good defense, so I still doubt Robinson, but he made all the plays, and didn't make the bad plays, tonight.

Florida 51 - LSU 21
Remember when we thought LSU had a defense? Like 6 hours ago? Giving up 20 points to Auburn was somewhat of a warning sign, but credit for that could be given to Tuberville and a rivalry game closer than expected is not a surprise (except when it is, of course). Nevertheless, LSU this game looked like a team with three new starters in the secondary, including particularly both of its cornerbacks.

Oregon 14 - UCLA 0 (in progress, halftime)
A late night treat for fans of poor quarterback play, if that's your thing.

Linkagery

Time for another collection of miscellaneous links, something on which I remain way the heck behind.

Something from the rest of my life: a disquisition on personal seat licenses, from Saul Levmore, Dean of the University of Chicago Law School.

The Titans now have a Ring of Honor, which I saw on my visit to LP Field.

National Football Post is a great site because of the legit info on insiders who matter, like Andrew Brandt's description of working with Drew Rosenhaus.

Michael Oriard on whether or not you should care about NFL injuries. Slate article, so be noted.

Goodell interview. With Rovell, so be noted. See also this W$J interview with Roger Rex, which has more actual content.

Matt Bowen on safety play in man coverage. Nothing real special, but useful as a primer for the unfamiliar. See also his piece on fire zones, which is one of the easiest ways to distinguish between somebody who knows what they're doing and somebody like me who doesn't know anything.

More awesomeness from Smart Football, on late game clock management.

Matt Bowen breaks down what an NFL work week looks like for a player.

Darren Rovell points out something fairly obvious: especially in the current economic climate, NFL franchises really aren't worth what Forbes says they are.

Love for Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing, one of my favorite players in college football this year.

Finally, for this little post, statistical quirkiness: college teams with 0 completions, including the Army Black Knights in their 17-13 win today.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Total Titans

I have another post up, re-examining my previous post on how the Titans wouldn't win 10 games in 2008. I'm reminded of the line "Predictions are hard, especially about the future."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Six

Six weeks of college football in the books, and we're starting to get a decent read on teams.

Pittsburgh 26 - South Florida 21
I refuse to believe that a team coached by Dave Wannstedt, whom I almost always refer to by his wonderful nickname of Wannstache, can possibly be good. But, this Panthers team is a blown lead against Bowling Green short of undefeated after knocking off the Bulls. The Bulls, in this game, lived up to a friend's description of them as "the dumbest team in the country," with any number of boneless plays, and, unlike the Jayhawks, the Panthers took advantage of USF QB Matt Grothe's attempts to give them the football.

Utah 31 - Oregon State 28
The Utes looked much better than USC did last Thursday, not really getting blown off the ball on either offense or defense. This game, these two teams looked like they were about the same level. Ute QB Bryan Johnson was like he was the Michigan game-stretches of reasonably competent play, but also looking awful for stretches, and his team's offensive performance was the same.

Penn State 20 - Purdue 6
Snore. The Lions are clearly better than Purdue. This game looks almost close, but the Boilermakers were never in any real danger of winning this game.

Michigan State 16 - Iowa 13
The Hawkeyes got a late TD, to make things interesting, but only appeared to have slightly more than a non-zero chance of winning for most of the game. Iowa-Purdue should be an epic borefest.

Kansas 35 - Iowa State 33
The biggest WTF early result of the day was Iowa State up 20-0 at the half, and that score was not undeserved. A sign of the crazy momentum involved in CFB, though, is that Kansas had erased that deficit by the time the third quarter turned into the fourth, took a lead, then survived when the Cyclones missed a 2-pt conversion. The Cyclones were less able to take advantage of the Jayhawks' weakness at OT, but the lack of general ability on defense was again apparent, as is the lack of a reliable target on offense other than backup QB Kerry Meier. KU should still make a bowl, but they're a far cry from the top 4 teams in the B12.

Oklahoma 49 - Baylor 17
Boomer Sooner rolled on, taking a 28-0 lead in the first 15 minutes and rendering the last 3 quarters boring stat-padding and glorified practice. Next week's Red River Shootout will be the Sooners' first (and possibly only) real test of the regular season.

Notre Dame 28 - Stanford 21
I hate Notre Dame, but there's no way they're not making another bowl game they're going to get crushed in, so there is that, at least.

Illinois 45 - Michigan 20
Michigan really isn't that good this year. Their defense, in particular, is one you can make big plays against. The only problem with this game is the Illini's dependence on high-risk passes, which worked this game and against Mizzou, but didn't get completed against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Florida State 41 - Miami(FL) 39
I don't really have anything interesting to say about this game, just wanted to note how the mighty have fallen.

Alabama 17 - Kentucky 14
Ah, the vagaries of quarterback play in college football. John Parker Wilson was very good last week in the Tide's big win against Georgia, but couldn't hit the broad side of barn for most of this game (unless that barn was located about 8 feet over his receiver's head). If Kentucky was any good, they'd have won this game.

Vanderbilt 14 - Auburn 13
If Auburn had an offense, they'd have won this game. If Auburn had an offense, they wouldn't be Auburn c. 2008. The winning margin came on a missed extra point. Vandy will get killed by a complete team, but this year, who the hell knows who that is. I'm penciling in 4 losses for them, but they may catch lightning in a bottle c. 1995 Northwestern.

North Carolina 38 - UConn 12
UConn's backup QB <<<< UNC's backup QB. Also, YouCon needs to learn how to not get punts blocked. In my picks this weekend (all ATS), this was the only game I missed.

Texas 38 - Colorado 14
This game was, at least, marginally more interesting than the Oklahoma-Baylor game earlier in the day. Marginally. I'll be watching the Red River Shootout with great attention next week, but this game was largely overtaken by the much more interesting games taking place at the same time.

Arizona 48 - Washington 14
Washington, particularly UW without Jake Locker, is really, really, really, really awful. UA -21.5 was an easy call.

Ohio State 20 - Wisconsin 17
Man, I wish Ohio State didn't keep screwing the pooch in big games, because they've actually been pretty good. They weren't elite last year, and laid an enormous egg against USC, but they're pretty good again this year. I had them, in my informal and unofficial rankings, in the 15-18 range along with Kansas, before this game, but after this I'm more inclined to move them up to 9-12. I really should start doing rankings of my own.

Missouri 52 - Nebraska 17
It was Thanksgiving weekend of 2001. The Huskers were undefeated, ranked #2, and playing in Boulder against the home Buffaloes. The Buffs took an early lead, then kept scoring. And scoring. And scoring. But, though they were up 35-7 early in the second quarter, to me watching the game from several states away, they looked incredibly vulnerable, as though they were waiting for the Huskers to make a play. That never happened, though, and the Huskers haven't been the same program since. In particular, that feared defense, the Blackshirts have been sloppy. The nadir was probably last year's game against Kansas, giving up 76 points to them being more than the Huskers ever scored against the Jayhawks. This time, though, Mizzou just killed them, and TD at the end of the game doesn't change the fact that the Tigers could have pretty much named their margin.

And, such is the week that was in college football from my perch.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thoughts on College Football: Week Five

Still better late than never, thoughts on what I watched of the fifth week of the 2008 college football season.

Oregon State 27 - USC 21
A couple surprises for this game. First, I thought there was no way Pete Carroll wouldn't have has team ready for another trip to Corvallis, after losing their in their last visit two years ago. Second, OrSU's offensive and defensive lines held their own, at least, for the entire game against those same USC units that had dominated Ohio State in that blowout. Not a surprise: Mark Sanchez isn't a great quarterback.

UConn 26 - Louisville 21
I'm a Georgetown alum and fan. I hate UConn's basketball team, and Jim Calhoun. But, that hate doesn't carry over to UConn's football team. In this game, UConn seemed absolutely sunk after Tyler Lorenzen went out with an injury, and after Louisville went up 21-10 in the 3rd quarter, I assumed there was no way the Huskies could come back. Naturally, I once again underestimated Steve Kragthorpe's team-destroying ability, and the Cardinals' slide continued as they blew the lead.

Ohio State 34 - Minnesota 21
I spent a decent amount of time watching this game, and learned approximately nothing about each team. The final margin is . . . deceptively close, as the Buckeyes dominated this game. Pryor looked ok, Beanie Wells looked reasonably healthy, and a bunch of blah.

North Carolina 28 - Miami(FL) 24
A better game than expected-I thought UNC, another school I hate in basketball but not in football, was sunk when QB T.J. Yates went down, but they benched Paulus and Cameron Sexton threw 2 4th quarter TD passes to rally the Heels. This game also featured perhaps the week's most dramatic ending, as UNC turned a potential game-winning TD into a game-saving INT with :05 left.

Michigan State 42 - Indiana 29
A defensive optional first half, particularly the end of the second quarter, with two scores in the last two minutes. MSU's a better team than the Hoosiers. This game also featured, though I wasn't watching when it happened, a 97 yard TD pass turned into 2 points for the Spartans as IU was flagged for holding in the end zone. In a game that the Spartans led by 5, that's a pretty big turnaround.

Michigan 27 - Wisconsin 25
Ah, the joy/aggravation of college football. The Badgers DOMINATED the first half, forcing 5 Wolverine turnovers, and going in with a 19-0 halftime lead. And, then, kerphlut, for most of the second half-the previously moribund Michigan offense suddenly started gaining yards, Wisconsin stopped gaining yards, and a pick-6 provided the go-ahead score. The Badgers did recover to tie the game, with an apparent 2-point conversion, but were flagged for an awful illegal formation penalty and were unsuccessful from 5 yards further out.

Florida State 39 - Colorado 21
I haven't noted it yet, but I had a horrible week picking games. This was one of those I missed. I finally start doubting the Seminoles, and they beat decisively a less talented opponent. Sigh.

Auburn 14 - Tennessee 12
I'd like to nominate Auburn as the most overrated BCS team in the top 25. They had a surprisingly strong showing against LSU, but have otherwise shown almost no signs of competence, particularly on offense. So it was again this game-one good drive, and they sputtered around. A quality team would've beaten the Vols by 30.

Oklahoma 35 - TCU 10
If I did a poll, the Sooners would be my #1 team-they have stretches where they look so incredibly dominant on offense and defense. TCU did a good job to bottle up the run game, so Sam Bradford threw deep, and successfully-Oklahoma looked for a while like my Madden team, it was that ugly. They seemed to have a lot of problem covering for delayed blitzes, though, and Sam Bradford ate dirt for the first times this year. They're not unbeatable (they might go out and lay an egg like USC did-they've done it in the past), but they look it at times.

LSU 34 - Mississippi State 24
WTF? Seriously, WTF? How does a team as talented as LSU give up 24 points to a team as offensively challenged as Mississippi State? I know, the Tigers had some defensive line injuries, but give me a break. For the record, I'm not nearly as sold on Jarret Lee as many people seem to be-for LSU to be really successful, I think they need a QB at least as good as Matt Flynn was last year, and I see Lee being at most 75% of the way there.

Alabama 41 - Georgia 30
Ignore the final score-this game was Tide 31 - Dawgs 0 at the half. I suspected Georgia was overrated, despite having them #1 in my head six weeks ago, and this game proved it. I'm now on the Crimson Tide bandwagon, at least for a while-I don't know what Saban does, aside from work all the time, and I still don't like his overrecruitment, but the man can coach college football. The game where he goes back to LSU is going to be absolutely epic.

Penn State 38 - Illinois 24
Another game where I don't really feel like I learned anything. Illinois looks to me like a Glen Mason-era Minnesota team-4-4 or 5-3 in the conference, beats the bad teams, loses not particularly close to the heavyweights, and goes off to the Music City Bowl. This isn't a bad outcome for Illini fans, compared to the doom of recent years. As for the Nittany Lions, I still don't feel confident in how good they are.

And that was the week that was in college football in my eyes.

Total Titans

I have a new post up on Total Titans, looking at White, Johnson, and running back success rate in the context of usage. This is the post I mentioned when I posted RB Success Rate.