Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts on College Football: Week Four, 2009

Yes, I really should start doing these Saturday night, when the action is fresher in my mind. Oh well. Anyway, here's what Week 4 looked like to me.

South Carolina 16 - Ole Miss 10
Ole Miss is finally knocked off from its perch of the nation's most overrated team. Jevan Snead was lousy again, "surprising" people who should have known better.

Missouri 31 - Nevada 21
A much more competitive game earlier than it should have been, even considering that it was played in the Silver State. Mizzou was able to expand on their 12-7 halftime lead, but it was still a lackluster performance by the Tigers. Oh, and since I mentioned it during the game, Nevada's school promo reminded me of something colleges should remember: people like me will assume a promo that focuses around a single coed features one of the more attractive coeds at your school. If said coed is not particularly effective, your school will be reduced in esteem accordingly.

Wisconsin 38 - Michigan State 30
Wisconsin was up 38-17 in the 4th quarter, which accurately reflects how close this game was in my eyes. I had my eye more on other games.

Kansas 35 - Southern Miss 28
Like, for instance, this one. I still enjoy watching Kansas QB Todd Reesing, so long as he doesn't have to throw more than 15 yards downfield, which he simply doesn't have the arm to do effectively. He cost his team the ball attempting that in potential scoring territory this game. I thought Kansas would win this game by a broader margin, but they (again) didn't have the defense to do so.

South Florida 17 - Florida State 7
I have no idea what to make of the Seminoles, particularly since I missed the BYU game. Fumbles hurt them this game, and USF recovered from the Matt Grothe injury better than I thought they might with Daniels, but the Seminoles still should have won this game.

LSU 30 - Mississippi State 26
About all I saw of this game was the goalline stand by the Tigers at the end. I generally refuse to watch the Bulldogs at home on principle against cowbells. LSU feels like the next team headed for a fall, though like Jack Del Rio, Les Miles occasionally does well even though I think he's an idiot.

Ohio State 30 - Illinois 0
I spent more time than I should have on this game, which was a reasonably thorough and efficient grinding into the ground by the Buckeyes. I thought RB Brandon Saine was mostly overrated as a 5-star recruit, but he looked hugely impressive this game-maybe there was something to those injuries after all.

Virginia Tech 31 - Miami (FL) 7
I wonder what this game would have looked like if not played in the driving rain that hit much of the east coast this past weekend-Miami looked as discombobulated as Florida State had in the Canes' 22-0 win in Tallahassee in similar conditions in 2003. Jacory Harris was frequently inaccurate, and his receivers didn't do him many favors when he did actually get the ball near them. Actually, what most impressed me this game was how effective the Hokies were moving the ball-I didn't think they'd hit even the single deep pass they did, and they successfully pounded the ball on the ground.

Florida 41 - Kentucky 7
31-0 at the end of the first quarter, and this game was over. I have no comment on the Tebow injury, or whether or not he should have been in the game at that point.

Georgia 20 - Arizona State 17
It's tough to win road games against a half-way decent team when your quarterback completes 10 of 32 passes for 116 yards, even if you do get a pick-6.

Notre Dame 24 - Purdue 21
The most interesting part of this game may have been the timeout discussed in this Smart Football post.

Iowa 21 - Penn State 10
Penn State's bad OL came back to bite them earlier than I thought it would. They couldn't run the ball effectively, and Daryll Clark couldn't do what Michael Robinson did in their 12-1 season in 2005 and make the play on his own. Of course, the D also isn't nearly as good as it was that year, or else the 10 points might have been enough.

Stanford 34 - Washington 14
It really helps to have a quarterback who can throw the ball to help the running game-USC faced a stacked defense and couldn't run the ball effectively against UW, but Stanford's Toby Gerhart could. It was still refreshing, though, to see a game where both quarterbacks had a realistic chance of completing a pass more than 10 yards downfield successfully. I'm not sure what to make yet of Andrew Luck, Stanford QB-he seems to lock in on a single receiver far too often.

Houston 29 - Texas Tech 28
This game is dissected effectively in the Smart Football post linked in the Notre Dame-Purdue recap above (NewsToTom is my contribution)-the Red Raiders (counterintuitively?) should have run the ball more often than they did. I was disappointed in how low scoring this game was compared to the overall level of offensive performance, for which I blame the lack of big plays.

USC 27 - Washington State 6
This game was over at 20-0 less than 12 minutes in, but USC's offense sputtered after that and Wazzu disappointingly and surprisingly displayed minor signs of offensive competence in addition to the lack of complete defensive incompetence. Pity, as 2-10-level badness isn't nearly as attractive as last year's utter awfulness.

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

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball is now up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Football Outsiders

Scramble? Scramble.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Miscellanea

Yes, I'm behind and trying to catch up. Time to dump some more links.

Since I'm tired of looking at it in the bookmarks list, I'll link to part one of PFR's team of the decade for the 1980's. Part two is not up yet.

Also from PFR, another iteration of their method of evaluating quarterbacks. See also the rankings.

I know, I know, a spate of PFR links. But, that's what the bookmarks are giving me. This time, it's the intriguing series on passer personality types.

There's always a balance between theory and local knowledge in thinking about the evolution of rules. This post reflects an overemphasis of the former, and shows the detriments of lack of local knowledge. Not to toot my own horn too much, but the recent muff rule post is much better.

Year of Sports Death update: More fodder for my belief the league is out to break the players.

I know I just wrote non-positive things about Colt McCoy, but this breakdown of Texas's passing offense from Chris of Smart Football is still useful.

Gimmick alert: best players never to win appear in the Super Bowl, by position. It seems odd for me to think Mawae should be on this list, considering he's in my mind the poster child of "overrated because he plays in New York."

I approve: SI will be using FOIA to obtain CFB coaches' poll ballots.

Jack Bechta of NFP wrote about his client Curtis Buckley and the hit that helped keep him in the league. Dr. Z writes about this phenomenon in New Thinking Man's Guide, that coaches can be so enamored by one play they see the possibilities. This sort of confidence in a coach's own ability seems to be vital to success, but it too easily turns into this sort of team-harming hubris I talked about in Week 1 Audibles re Richie Incognito.

Also from Mr. Bechta, a look at what he as an agent goes through before cutdown day.

Finally, for now, Jason at PFR continued his AFL v. NFL series with 1964-66 Trends.

More catchup to do, but other things take priority-one post at Total Titans up tomorrow, I think, though.

UPDATE (9/23/09 1854 CT): Updated re Super Bowl players list.

Book Review: Bringing the Heat

In my circles, at least, I'd guess most people probably know Mark Bowden from his "security" books-most notably Black Hawk Down, but also Killing Pablo and Guests of the Ayatollah. It wasn't until he came out with The Best Game Ever, on the Giants-Colts championship (I'll get to it eventually), that I became aware he had previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and written a book about the team's tumultuous 1992 season entitled Bringing the Heat: A Pro Football Team's Quest for Glory, Fame, Immortality, and a Bigger Piece of the Action.

Bringing the Heat came as a little bit of a shock to the system after reading Bowden's other books. The sober tone I was used to isn't quite here-instead, it's more what you might expect from the (exaggerated) subtitle-the Eagles of that era were an interesting team. Buddy Ryan was gone as head coach, but the defense still bore his imprint and personality and was under the tutelage of the legendary Bud Carson, architect of the Steelers Steel Curtain defenses of the 1970's. The head coach, and former offensive coordinator, was Richie Kotite, who was extraordinarily beloved by the defense, for a definition of extraordinarily beloved that included "tolerated, at best, but more held in contempt along with his quarterback in Randall Cunningham." The Eagles were also discombobulated that season by the death in a car crash in the offseason of All-Pro defensive tackle Jerome Brown, but once again their season fizzled out in the early rounds of the playoffs-in this case, the divisional round in Dallas. If you were a writer like Bowden, you couldn't have asked for a better script.

And, befitting my view of him as a fine reporter, Bowden uses the access he had to the team to build a compelling portrait of just what a nutty team this Eagles squad was. Seth Joyner, whose intensity had previously been balanced by Brown's jocularity and ability to bring people together, comes across like just as much of an arrogant asshole as I thought he was as a player. Kotite sounds like a guy sitting on top of a powder keg, trying not to get blown up. We don't get great inner portraits of Kotite or Bud Carson or QB Randall Cunningham, which is a little disappointing, but we do get a good view of pretty much everything else that happens. Bringing the Heat even includes detailed play descriptions(!), undoubtedly derived from having a coach (assistant coaches Peter Guinta and Zeke Bratkowski are credited) break down the film and show exactly what happened and why, for key moments of various games. That's something you don't really see in any of the other books listed on the sidebar.

I don't know quite how Bowden's book compares to the best single-season books of a team, like Halberstam's legendary Breaks of the Game, but it sure beats the heck out of Next Man Up. The only question really, is how important is a book about a team over a decade and a half ago, before the NFL starter free agency. For me, the Eagles of that era were an intensely interesting team I didn't know much about, so Bringing the Heat was hugely interesting. For others who don't care as much about that team or who are looking for insights into the current game, I can't recommend Bringing the Heat quite as strongly aside from its general excellence at what it is.

Pet peeves: I'm not really sure Bowden knows much about football, but he uses his access ruthlessly, so that's not really important. As a book by a beat writer about a team during the time he covered it, you wouldn't expect a bibliography, and there isn't one. An index would have been hugely valuable, and I definitely would have referred to it even while reading the book, but of course there isn't one.

Thoughts on College Football: Week Three, 2009

Another edition of the week that was in college football in Tom's eyes. Despite my prediction, CFB viewing wasn't really much lighter than normal outside of the lackluster Saturday early games.

Miami 33 - Georgia Tech 17
This score flatters the Yellow Jackets a little-the Hurricanes had field goal difficulty in the red zone, but were still up 33-10 entering the fourth quarter, and that tally accurate reflects the level of play. Miami has had a lot of talent even during most of their recent down years, but now they definitely do and OC Mark Whipple has made a big difference-the mix of talent and coaching in CFB is pretty close to unstoppable. We'll have to see how QB Jacory Harris does when he doesn't have 5+ seconds to throw sooner or later, though.

Boise State 51 - Fresno State 34
Defense mostly optional, though Fresno's TDs generally came on big plays and not because of sustained work. Still, it was surprising to see how well the Bulldog OL stood up in comparison to Oregon's. It'd also be nice to see Fresno win a darned game they're competitive in against a good team-they haven't in the past 6 years.

Alabama 53 - North Texas 7
I didn't actually see any of this game, but while in an adult establishment, I saw three different TDs from this game on the three different halftime highlight shows. A good game for fans of the Crimson Tide but otherwise lame.

Washington 16 - USC 13
One of the things that's either incredibly frustrating or quite enjoyable about college football is the extreme importance of quarterbacking-Jake Locker is an outstanding college quarterback, and looks to my eyes much improved from 2007 after missing much of 2008, while USC backup QB Aaron Corp wasn't very good. I expected the Trojans to still be able to overwhelm UW with a running game and defense, but missing Joe McKnight and Taylor Mays hurt them on those fronts, and I'm still not sure Pete Carroll has the temperament to grind out Tressel-style wins.

Notre Dame 33 - Michigan State 30
I have a severe mental block that prevents me from thinking of Notre Dame as actually being good. Clausen is better protected and looks less like a scared emu than he did as a freshman, but I still don't think much of him as an actual skilled QB, and now he's down a wideout. Despite John Tenuta, I still think the defense is underachieving. MSU QB Cousins lost this game for his team by throwing an atrocious interception while driving for an OT-forcing FG or game-winning TD; see the comments re Locker immediately above.

Florida 23 - Tennessee 13
Florida had no deep threat, and Tim Tebow isn't a real QB. Jonathan Crompton still sucks, but you already knew that. Monterrio Hardesty looks like a real running back for the Vols.

Mississippi State 15 - Vanderbilt 3
Vanderbilt sucks, for reasons Chris Brown could tell you about. Mississippi State is hardly any better, but their QB at least didn't throw a costly red zone interception.

Auburn 41 - West Virginia 30
I don't really understand how Auburn scored 41 points this game, as their offense still looked pretty mediocre to me, and Chris Todd barely completed more than half his passes. West Virginia looks better than they were, as they went up 21-10 after 15 minutes and were pretty lame for most of the rest of the game.

Georgia 52 - Arkansas 41
Kind of like Arkansas this game, who faded late. Ryan Mallett needs more help from his teammates-if he had more mobility, he could be my favorite player after Jake Locker leads. Unfortunately, he made too many mistakes for his team to survive. Pity. I still refuse to believe Georgia is any good-believing bad things about the Razorbacks defense is too easy.

Texas 34 - Texas Tech 24
Last year, this was one of the most exciting games of the year. This year, it was laaame. Texas led for pretty much the entire game after Jordan Shipley's punt return TD midway through the first quarter, and it never felt like Texas Tech was going to make it that interesting. Alas, nor was Texas ever able to lay the beatdown I was expecting. Colt McCoy looks disappointing-maybe it was just the flu, but he seems to lack the fine edge of accuracy he had last year.

Back to the normal viewing schedule this week, I think.

Total Titans

I put up a post last night on the muff rule on fair catches, since the situation came up in this weekend's Texans-Titans game and I hadn't seen the actual text of the rule quoted anywhere.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Total Titans

New post up at Total Titans, this one a Q&A with Matt of DGDB&D as he answers our questions about the Texans. For those who don't mind foul language and who don't live in Mississippi, I also commend to you this post of Matt's about the Texans' game against the Jets.

Headed to Cash-vegas for this weekend's game, so a second half of the Q&A is doubtful and CFB viewing will be lighter than normal.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Football Outsiders

The latest edition of Scramble for the Ball has been posted. This is much more like what Scramble will look like going forward than the O/U plus fantasy extravaganzas of the previous two weeks, and thank goodness for that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Future All-Pros: How Hard Is It?

In September 1989, Sports Illustrated published an article by Dr. Z predicting the 1995 NFL All-Pro team. So, what I'm doing is pretty simple: looking at how good his picks were, and seeing how hard it would have been to predict the actual 1995 All-Pros.

DEFENSE
Predicted DEs: Bruce Smith, BUF; Reggie White, PHI
Actual DEs: Bruce Smith, BUF; Reggie White, GB
Pretty easy, apparently, at least if you judge him only by the defensive ends. Both White and Smith were NFL stars in 1989 and Z expected they'd have enough in the tank at 34 and 32 to still be on top, and they did.

Predicted DTs: Jerome Brown, PHI; Marc Spindler, jr. at Pitt
Actual DTs: Chester McGlockton, OAK; John Randle, MIN
RIP, Jerome Brown, who was an outstanding DT for the Eagles before losing his life in a car accident in 1992. Spindler, predicted by Z at the first DT taken in '91, ended up a 3rd round pick in the 1990 draft, and played 10 games, 4 starts, for the Jets in 1995.

In September 1989, John Randle was entering his final year at Texas A&M-Kingsville, but would go undrafted in 1990. The Vikings signed him as an undrafted free agent, he made the team, had 9.5 sacks in 1991, and spent the decade as a disruptive, though unsound pass rusher from the DT position. The college player he should have taken was Chester McGlockton, then at Clemson, who would be a first round draft pick by the Raiders and have 7.5 sacks in 1995.

Predicted OLBs: Tim Harris, GB; Cornelius Bennett, BUF
Actual OLBs: Bryce Paup, BUF; Greg Lloyd, PIT
Lame, 3-4 OLBs. Harris must have looked like a comer, with 13.5 sacks in 1988 and another 19.5 in 1989, but dropped off. He did have 17 for the 49ers in 1992, but left for the Eagles the next year before returning to the 49ers. He had 4 sacks in 10 games in 1995, his last year. Bennett had been an All-Pro in 1988, but, while he had a number of good years, would never again reach that honor.

In 1989, Paup was entering his final year at Northern Iowa, after which he would be a 6th round pick by the Packers. He joined the Bills as a free agent before 1995 and led the NFL in sacks with 17.5. Greg Lloyd was already in the NFL in 1989, entering his 3rd year with the Steelers and would have 7 sacks in his first year as a starter. 1995 would be his third straight year as an All-Pro and member of one of the league's best defenses.

Predicted MLB: Percy Snow, sr. at Michigan State
Actual MLB: Ken Norton, SF
Snow would be a first round pick by the Chiefs in 1990, but per Wiki, wrecked his knee riding a moped in training camp in 1991 and was out of the NFL after 1993.

In 1989, Ken Norton Jr. was entering his second year in the NFL and first year as a starter after being a second round pick of the Cowboys in 1988.

Predicted CBs: Rod Woodson, PIT; Eric Thomas, CIN
Actual CBs: Eric Davis, SF; Aeneas Williams, ARI
Woodson ended up tearing his ACL in the first game of the 1995 season and missed the rest of the regular season, though he did return for the Super Bowl. He'd been an All-Pro in each of 1992-94, so it's not unreasonable to give it Z credit for this pick. He'd never make an All-Pro again as a CB, though he would at FS as a Raider in 2002. Thomas had made the Pro Bowl after 1988 thanks to 7 interceptions, but would never earn any postseason honors again. He appeared in 14 games for the Broncos in 1995 in his final NFL season.

Eric Davis fits the profile of guys Z missed-guys still in college at small schools. In this case, it was Jacksonville State, after which he'd be a 2nd round pick of the 49ers in 1990. Similarly, Aeneas Williams was at Southern, and would be a 3rd round pick of the Cardinals in 1991.

Predicted Ss: Bennie Blades, DET (SS); Mark Carrier, sr. at USC (FS)
Actuals Ss: Darren Woodson, DAL (SS); Merton Hanks, SF (FS)
Bennie Blades would start 16 games for the Lions in 1995, but never quite lived up to the promise he'd showed that led the Lions to make him the 3rd overall pick in the 1988 NFL draft out of Miami, only making 1 Pro Bowl. Carrier would be an instant splash, leading the NFL with 10 interceptions after being the 6th overall pick by the Bears in 1990, but again never reached the elite level of excellence.

One of the issues with picking All-Pro members six years out is that many of the picks, particularly in the second, are younger players. For instance, Darren Woodson would spend three more years at Arizona State before the Cowboys took him in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft. Similarly, Merton Hanks had two more years at Iowa before he was a 5th round pick by the 49ers in 1991.

OFFENSE
Predicted WRs: Michael Irvin, DAL; Andre Hastings, sr. in high school
Actual WRs: Herman Moore, DET; Jerry Rice, SF
Irvin would be an All-Pro just once in his career, after leading the NFL in yards in 1991. He had an excellent year in 1995, setting career highs with 111 receptions, 1603 yards, and 10 TDs, but didn't make All-Pro. Andre Hastings would attend Georgia and be a 3rd round pick by the Steelers in 1993. He stepped into Rod Woodson's shoes as a punt returner in '95, and also had 48 receptions despite not starting any games.

For those of you who don't remember, Jerry Rice was an All-Pro in 1988 and would be in 1989, as well as every other year from 1986 to 1996 except 1991. In the fall of 1989, Moore would be at the University of Virginia, out of which he was the 10th pick in the 1991 draft by the Lions. He set an NFL record with 123 receptions in 1995 in the Lions' run-and-shoot attack, in case you're wondering how he beat out Irvin for All-Pro honors.

Predicted TE: Derek Brown, soph. at Notre Dame
Actual TE: Ben Coates, NE
Brown would end up a first round draft pick by the Giants in 1992, but never started for them and missed the entire 1995 season with a preseason injury. His only year as a starter would be 1996 for the Jaguars, during which he would have 17 of his 43 career receptions.

As to Coates, see what I said about the safeties and small colleges. Bledsoe's favorite target was a 5th round draft pick out of Livingstone in 1991. There are, in fact, two other players out of Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC.

Predicted OTs: Bruce Armstrong, NE; Paul Gruber, TB
Actual OTs: Willie Roaf, NO; Lomas Brown, DET
Armstrong really wasn't a bad choice; he'd earn one of his six Pro Bowl berths in 1995 and be named 1st team all-conference by Pro Football Weekly. Gruber was the 4th overall selection in the 1988 draft and would go on to start 183 games for Tampa before retiring after 1999, but never earned any real post-season honors.

In 1989, Lomas Brown was entering his 5th straight year as the Lions' left tackle. 1995 was his only year as an All-Pro, but he did make 7 straight Pro Bowls from 1990-96 blocking for Barry Sanders. Willie Roaf wouldn't be drafted until 1993 out of Louisiana Tech by the local Saints, but would quickly be recognized as among the league's best and 1995 would be his second All-Pro nod.

Predicted OGs: Tom Newberry, LARM; Ed King, soph. at Auburn
Acutal OGs: Randall McDaniel, MIN; Nate Newton, DAL
Newberry was entering his fourth year and was coming off being an All-Pro. He'd start 15 games as a Steeler in 1995, but he was 33 and it was his final year in the NFL. Ed King was a 2nd round pick by the Browns in 1991 and started 15 games each of his first two years, but only 2 in 1993, didn't play in 1994, and appeared in only a single game for the Saints in 1995.

In 1989, Newton, a former undrafted free agent, was entering his 4th year with the Cowboys, but wouldn't earn any leaguewide recognition until 1992. In retrospect, McDaniel seems like an obvious choice. A 1988 first round draft choice who started 14 games as a rookie, he'd make his first Pro Bowl following the 1989 season and his first All-Pro team after the 1990 season, and regular appearances thereafter.

Predicted C: Bob Whitfield, fr. at Stanford
Actual C: Dermontti Dawson, PIT
In his description of Whitfield, Z refers to him as a "converted tackle." Well, that proved to be his NFL position, and he started 16 games for the Falcons in 1995 as their left tackle. His sole postseason recognition came in the form of a Pro Bowl nod after the Falcons went 14-2 in 1998.

In 1989, Dawson (who would have a great shot at making the Hall of Fame if he wasn't a center) was another guy who fit the McDaniel-style profile. He was a second round pick in 1988, and 1989 was his first season as a starter. It took a while to earn any nods, but he did end up making 7 Pro Bowls and 6 All-Pro teams.

Predicted QB: Randall Cunningham, PHI
Actual QB: Brett Favre, GB
Ah, Randall, Randall, Randall. The "Ultimate Weapon" who never quite highlighted his talent. I'll probably be writing more about him in a week or two, so I won't say too much, only that his sole All-Pro nod came after he led the 1998 Vikings in a return from NFL oblivion.

I don't want to say much about Favre, so I'll note that he was a junior at Southern Miss and would be drafted by the Falcons in 1991.

Predicted RBs: Barry Sanders, DET; Rodney Hampton, jr. at Georgia
Actual RBs: Barry Sanders, DET; Emmitt Smith, DAL
Yay on Sanders; on Hampton v Smith, wrong SEC back who'd be a #1 pick in 1990.

Predicted K/P: Chris Gardocki, soph. at Clemson
Actual K/P: Morten Andersen, ATL (K); Darren Bennett, SD (P)
Well, a year off on Gardocki, who would be All-Pro as a punter in 1996. Minus the brief period of Michael Koenen, nobody has really tried a combined K/P since the Saints wasted a first round pick on Russell Erxleben. Andersen had made All-Pro teams in 1986 and '87. Had he called it, Darren Bennett would have been Z's greatest success, seeing as how he was an Australian who made his NFL debut as a 30 year old in 1995.

COMMENTARY
I don't really have much to say about this-Z's methodology was for the most part fairly reasonable, with the exceptions noted above. It would be an interesting exercise to pick the 2015 NFL All-Pro team, and I'm sure I'd make many of the same errors Z made. It's one of those tasks you could spend an awful lot of time on, or just pump and dump from looking at lists of recent high draft picks, All-Pro teams, and highly-rated college prospects. I'll have to consider it, but until then, I hope you enjoyed this little comparative retrospective.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thoughts on College Football: Week Two, 2009

It's time for another edition of the week that was in college football in Tom's eyes, this time for Week 2.

Georgia Tech 30 - Clemson 27
There are two groups of people. The first are those who watched all of this game. These people saw a fairly close and competitive game The second consists of those who watched the first bit of this game, then started watching NFL football. These people saw Georgia Tech dominate and are extraordinarily confused about how Clemson actually scored points, let alone recovered from an early deficit. As you might guess from what I wrote Thursday night, I fall into the latter group of people.

Toledo 54 - Colorado 38
I continued my stretch of watching only the second half of ESPN's Friday night game with this contest, so I missed Buffaloes RB Scott's great first half. What I did see was the Rockets go up and down the field with the greatest of ease against a ghastly defense, the nadir of which was a simple QB keeper up the middle for 61 yards. It looked like Forcier's TD run the next day, minus the juke move that made it impressive.

Penn State 28 - Syracuse 7
Didn't see much of this game, but from what I did the scoreline doesn't accurately reflect the Nittany Lions' level of dominance. Not a surprise here.

Central Michigan 29 - Michigan State 27
I missed the 4th quarter of this game, so as with GaTech-Clemson, my impression is skewed by the partial viewing. What I did see tells me Michigan State was a better team with an inferior quarterback. I'll have to pay more attention to MSU some later week.

North Carolina 12 - UConn 10
Another game where I missed the 4th quarter, so I missed UNC's actual offense. As was the case with Jevan Snead last week, I looked for signs from NC QB T.J. Yates of the passer I enjoyed watching and thought was good last season, and they were few and far between. I also tried paying attention to UNC DT Marvin Austin, but didn't see much from him, not that I'm any good at evaluating DT play.

Florida 56 - Troy 6
This was actually a pretty competitive game for a quarter and a half, thanks in part to some Gator turnovers, but there was no way the Trojans could stand up for very long to a team as good as the Gators.

Houston 45 - Oklahoma State 35
Ha hah, Coog Morning Zoo beat you! Some luck involved on a 4&G pass deflected to a WR, but this was a legitimately close game. The one thing I was surprised the most about was Oklahoma State's long periods of offensive mediocrity-Houston was up 24-7 at halftime and doing a pretty good job defensively against a Cowboy offense I thought would be better than that.

Michigan 38 - Notre Dame 34
This seems to have been a good weekend for me when it comes to missing important parts of games. I turned this game off at 31-20 Michigan, thinking it was over, and was surprised to later see that the score was ND 34 - Michigan 31. I saw a little bit of this game, but really don't have much to say about it.

UCLA 19 - Tennessee 15
Jonathan Crompton is a terrible, terrible quarterback. Not exactly news, but still important. I'm not sure UCLA is any good, but that's fine.

LSU 23 - Vanderbilt 9
I only saw a little of this game, but LSU is still a better team than Vanderbilt. This is not news.

Georgia 41 - South Carolina 37
There's something very odd and in some way deeply disconcerting about 78 points being scored in a Georgia-South Carolina game. This is the sort of game that's supposed to end up 16-12 with two missed XPs and 4 missed FGs if there's a lot of offensive success. Very weird game early on, as Georgia hardly had any offensive possessions between a kickoff return for a score and fumbling a kickoff return.

USC 18 - Ohio State 15
This game will be included in Football Outsiders' Audibles tomorrow. I'll add a link to that Monday evening.

Oregon 38 - Purdue 36
The Boilermakers +12 was the easiest line of the weekend for those who spend money on gambling, a number that does not include yours truly. The Boilermakers really outplayed the Ducks the first two plus quarters, but Oregon had two defensive touchdowns to keep them in the game and got their offense on track late. Purdue's problem is at the quarterback position-too many to the other team, and not enough to his own team.

Oregon State 23 - UNLV 21
One of these teams is a Pac-10 team, and one of these teams is not. Yet, the game was about as even as the Oregon-Purdue game. I'm beginning to think that, sans Cal, this could be a very down year for the Pac-10.

Yes, I know this probably isn't as long as most recaps, and it seems thin to me for as much CFB as I watched this weekend, but that is the week that was in college football in my eyes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Football Outsiders

The latest version of Scramble for the Ball is finally up. Yes, we really do expect to have it up Wednesdays starting next week.

EDIT (9/12 2037 CT): Fixed link. I swear all I did was copy it from FO.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Total Titans

Should have mentioned this, but I did a liveblog for tonight's PIT-TEN game. I'll also be doing a recap later tonight, and will update this post with that when I do.

UPDATE: Recap post should be up.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Thoughts on College Football: Week One, 2009

As I did last year, I'll do brief recaps and observations of what I saw from what college football I saw in 2009. This is for Week 1.

South Carolina 7 - NC State 3
The state of quarterbacking in college football is often parlous, and rarely were there more reminders of that than in this "kickoff" game. That's actually what's most surprising to me about Spurrier's return to the college ranks, the inability to develop another decent signal caller. Yes, his UF guys were mostly "system" guys, but "system" guys like Chase Daniel and Graham Harrell were still good college quarterbacks.

Utah 35 - Utah State 17
The Utes are much better than the Aggies, this much I could see. Little more than that did I really see.

Boise State 19 - Oregon 8
Most famous, of course, for the brawl at the end, but by far the most impressive aspect of this game was the way the Bronco defensive line tore apart the Ducks' rebuilt front five. If you can't keep the defense out of the backfield, it doesn't matter if you're a creative offensive guy like Chip Kelly or a dullard. This game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated-the Broncos had 4 FGAs that resulted in a total of 3 points. Not too, too shocking in college, but something that may cost them down the line.

Tulsa 37 - Tulane 13
I half-paid attention to most of the second half of this game, which is well ahead my threshold level of game inclusion here. I note the Yahoo box score and recap fail to list the game's attendance-probably a wise move, as the Superdome appeared empty enough for it to be an MLS game.

Ohio State 29 - Navy 27
Here's what I don't get about Ohio State-their offensive line has trouble run blocking. It's not like this is new-they've had trouble at this for the entire Tressel era, and have been dependent on good running backs like Clarett in 2002 and Beanie Wells of late to turn smaller spaces into larger gains. My feeling the Buckeyes are overrated by at least 10 spots at 6th was confirmed by this game. The Middies do present somewhat of an interesting challenge for a first game, though, as younger players seem to do the worst job of playing the kind of disciplined assignment football you need against an option attack.

Minnesota 23 - Syracuse 20 (OT)
Any game Greg Paulus loses is a good one. Any game Greg Paulus loses where he makes a costly mistake, like throwing a bad interception in OT, is even better.

Iowa 17 - Northern Iowa 16
This wouldn't have been that big an upset-with 9/9/9 approaching, it seems almost fitting that the Panthers last defeated the Hawkeyes 111 years ago. I will say this may be the first game I've ever seen where the losing team had two FGAs blocked in the last :07. The Panthers cost themselves a shot at a closer FGA by clock mismanagement.

USC 56 - San Jose State 3
Early on, I said this looked like a 17-0 Trojan win. Barkley was spraying his passes early, and the Spartan defense was doing enough to contain, as best it could, the USC rushing attack. That didn't last too long, as Barkley got over what were apparently jitters and played more effectively, and USC got its expected romp.

Michigan 31 - Western Michigan 7
I wish I'd listened to the MGoPodcast before watching this game-the MAC fans were pretty accurate with their prediction as to WMU's fate, though they like me probably would be surprised with Hiller's lack of productivity during the interesting portion of this game. Denard Robinson looks like he can run, and Tate Forcier for UM has some mobility and can throw. To the extent RichRod's offense depends on a QB, the Wolverines should be 1000% better this season.

Oklahoma State 24 - Georgia 10
A less prolific offensive output than I expected out of the Cowboys, though I guess this is the same team that put up "only" 39 points against Washington State in the early part of last season. The defensive performance, while not hugely surprising considering the Dawgs were replacing their top QB, RB, and WR, was still a very pleasant surprise.

Missouri 37 - Illinois 9
Did Juice Williams forget how to play QB in the offseason? Was Arrelious Benn really that important? Does Illinois know how to play defense? The answers to those questions right now seem to be "Maybe," "Apparently," and "No." Mizzou sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert was impressive, but seemed to have a pretty easy day.

Stanford 39 - Washington State 13
Yes, another 39-13 game involving the Cougars. I think the Cardinal would take a repeat of the Cowboys' season. I check in on this game mainly because it was in HD and the UGA-OkSU game wasn't (at least for me), and I was curious to see how Oliver Luck was and if Wazzu was nearly as awful as they were last year. To answer the last first, they're still not very good, but probably won't be as comically awful as they were last year. Luck Spawn, from what I saw (I bailed fairly early for BYU-OU), looked reasonable for a RS freshman in his first start.

BYU 14 - Oklahoma 13
Why oh why can't Oklahoma have a decent backup quarterback? Jason White got hurt, and they were ass. And again. Rhett Bomar transferred on the verge of the season, and they were ass. Sam Bradford got hurt against Texas Tech two years ago, and they were ass. Sam Bradford got hurt again tonight, and they were again ass. The offensive line really struggled again, showing the same weaknesses against zone blitzing their veteran counterparts displayed last year in the game against TCU. BYU, OTOH, while not as talented as the Sooners, was much better coached, and that's what made the difference in the game.

Alabama 34 - Virginia Tech 24
It was about the start of this game that I mostly bailed on football for two hours for soccer, namely the US's World Cup qualifier against El Salvador (another one 9/9 at 7 PM ET against Trinidad & Tobago, ESPN Classic), so I didn't see as much of this game as I otherwise would have. What I did see, though, was Alabama imposing its will against VaTech both offensively and defensively, which didn't really come as that much of a surprise.

Cal 52 - Maryland 13
Well, I admit the scoreline is a little flattering. To the Terps, who were never in this game at all. The Golden Bears started their season exactly the way they should have, comfortably destroying a team that was expected to be inferior.

LSU 31 - Washington 23
A game simultaneously both closer and not as close as it appears from the scoreline. Not as close, because the Huskies scored a TD as time expired. Closer, because, as inspiration for this Dr. Saturday wrote in Life on the Margins, UW "wasted" a lot of yards. The big question about this game is whether LSU is LSU, or whether they're just another team. If the Tigers are the vintage Tigers, than Jake Locker and the Lockerettes look to be among the most improved teams in college football this year, and should be a fine option for late night viewing.

Ole Miss 45 - Memphis 14
Pay no attention to that final scoreline, as the Rebels put up four fourth quarter scores to make this one seem much less competitive than it was. Wes Bunting is right-Jevan Snead looked no better than Jevan Snead at the beginning of 2008, and maybe not even that good. A very disappointing opening performance by someone who could be vying for the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Cincinnati 47 - Rutgers 15
Much like Illinois, Rutgers looked like a team unready for its preseason hype from certain quarters. Like Mizzou, the Bearcats looked like a team ready to pick up where they left off last season and not where they were expected to be this season. RU's sign of success came early, when they scored on a 20 play, 83 yard drive that included multiple 4th down conversions. When that's what you need to put 7 on the board, it's probably going to be a long day, and indeed it was.

Miami (FL) 38 - Florida State 34
While watching this game, I was chatting with somebody who's more of a fan of the NFL game, and it was clear watching this game (as it really is during most every college game) that the pro game is played on a vastly different, and superior, level. Still, after a somewhat craptastic first half, this turned out to be a very entertaining game. The Hurricanes were very impressive-not on defense, mind you, but offensively. Jacory Harris looks like a real player, and Cooper and James are the best tandem they've had in the backfield in probably a good 8-10 years. I wasn't much of a fan back in the day, especially the Erickson era, but something just feels right about seeing Miami with serious talent carrying the ball.

And such is the week that was in college football in my view.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Site News

Unproductive weekend, which means football is back, plus it's time to put the video game system away for 4 months. I hope to have three posts tomorrow-one here/Total Titans, one book review, and a CFB weekend review, but hoped to have at least the first two of those up this weekend. Ah, well, LSATYD.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Total Titans

Two posts up on Total Titans about the Titans' roster cuts.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Site News; Football Outsiders

Those of you who are regular readers of Football Outsiders may have noticed today's new Scramble for the Ball, the first of the 2009 football season, co-authored by Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower, aka yours truly.

So, yes, this is the start of a trend-Mike and I will be co-writing Scramble this year. I'll also be writing two team chapters in next year's edition of Pro Football Prospectus/Football Outsiders Almanac, on the Titans and the Jaguars. Beyond that, I know I'll be contributing to Audibles, the weekly compilation of the best of the FO staff mailing list, so check for that every Monday, and maybe other stuff too.

What, you may ask, does this mean for this little enterprise? Hopefully, no effect, or maybe even a positive effect. I'll continue to write here, as well as for Total Titans. In fact, because I'll have to be actively following two teams and writing, I'll actually have to get off my duff more than I have in past seasons. The real content crush here will come next offseason, when writing book chapters, and I already write irregularly and infrequently in the March-May/June period.

I'll be linking to future Scrambles the way I link to Total Titans posts, as well as any other pieces I write, but not to Audibles.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Site News

Watched head never gets eaten by ants; announcement delayed again, or why I pretty much stick to my own thing. New Total Titans post up tomorrow evening-ish, likely, along with announcement. I'm sure you're all on tenterhooks.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Site News

Announcement delayed until tomorrow, but the computer issues were resolved Gordian-knot style, so actual posting may resume tomorrow as well.