The Ocho

A home away from home for the college football fan who's tired of the talking heads not knowing what they're talking about.

Monday, October 01, 2007

lessons from week five...

1. LSU's main threat in the SEC West will be... Auburn. As much as I would like to have it otherwise, the apparent demise of Auburn was a bit premature. The Mississippi State loss can be attributed to shock from the South Florida home loss, but that isn't looking so bad anymore. Neither is the home victory over a suddenly dangerous Kansas State team which just hit Texas in the mouth. As far as other teams providing LSU a challenge, Florida has not proved they are a threat when they go on the road and Alabama is just too young to tame the Tigers. Other than Auburn, the road trip to Kentucky might be interesting.

2. South Florida is the best team in the state of Florida. After listening to a Saban press conference earlier this evening, it became evident why a team like South Florida has suddenly risen to prominence. Other than the typical excuse of less scholarships, Saban added the insight that South Florida is also allowed to recruit Prop 48 players whereas teams like Alabama, Florida State, and Miami are not provided this same luxury. Saban's own assessment of the nasty Bulls defense was that it had six players who would start for FSU (FSU's defense is playing at a near championship level this season). This does help explain the wacky Big East, where perennial doormats like Rutgers and Cincinatti are suddenly top 20 schools.

3. The best remaining under the radar squads are: Illinois, Kansas, and Cincinatti. As stated in Week One of our lessons, the Big Twelve North sports five teams who are certainly bowl worthy (Kansas State, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska in that order). Kansas State joins South Florida, Arizona State, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Boston College as teams that are now known commodities. Illinois, despite its win over Penn State (predicted along with the South Florida to win outright last week), remains unheralded as does Cincinatti, a team that only humiliated an Oregon State team that won 10 games last season by the score of 34-3. Kansas has a tough game this week against Kansas State. I think Kansas State wins it, but it will be VERY close.

4. Too much shall be made of the Oklahoma loss to Colorado. That was an upset in its purest form. If they played 40 times, Colorado might win twice. I rank it as the major upset from last week. The other ones that really shocked me were 1) Rutgers 34-24 loss to Maryland (I was quite sold on this Rutgers team) and 2) Florida's home loss to Auburn 20-17 (Meyer had never lost at home, and the Tigers appeared to be reeling).

5. Ohio State is a legitimate contender for the national title. In fact, I think they will play either LSU or USC for the title. I am thinking USC is going to lose at least one game in the Pac-10 as it is asking too much to go undefeated through a schedule containing landmine games with Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, and Oregon State. Ohio State, meanwhile, just has Wisconsion and a highly overrated Michigan squad. Ohio State's most difficult game in the Big 10 would be against Illinois.

6. Here's my view of the top 15 teams in the country right now:
1) LSU
2) Ohio State
3) USC
4) California
5) Oklahoma
6) South Florida
7) Oregon
8) Arizona State
9) Florida
10) Kansas State
11) Kentucky
12) Boston College
13) Missouri
14) Wisconsin
15) Kansas

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Texas v. UCF

I think I will abandon my prior format and just mention a few things I saw from the game:

- The passing game still seems stunted. Will the return of Billy Pittman also mean the return of a vertical passing game?

- I have never seen so many personal foul calls. Our defensive guys can't seem to help themselves. When they see a player going out-of-bounds, the Horns gotta hit him. It's ridiculous.

- I'll warrant the weather was bad and the balls were slippery, but Jamaal, hang on the the freaking football.

The sloppiness on both sides of the ball have held this team back. They still have three weeks to work it out before OU (who, by the way, is clicking on all cylinders). This week's game against Rice will provide an opportunity to work out the kinks. The Longhorns really need to win this game 66-3.

Academics and Football: Did Jim Delaney Have a Point?

In my last post, an interesting tidbit about the Big Ten came up: every member of the Big Ten is also a member of the Association of American Universities . Now, whether membership in this organization means that there are higher academic standards is debatable. The membership is by invitation only, and a stated focus on research doesn't necessarily mean higher academic standards. On the other hand, pretty much every school that is typically mentioned of having high academic standards in US News or any other source is on this list. Except for, you know, Notre Dame.

At any rate, without passing any judgment on what it means for football, here's the breakdown of how many schools from each conference are members of the AAU.

ACC: 4 of 12 - Maryland, Duke, UNC, and Virginia
Big 12: 7 of 12 - Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, and Texas A&M
Big East: 3 of 7 - Pitt, Rutgers, and Syracuse
Big Ten: 11 of 11
C-USA: 2 of 12 - Rice and Tulane
MAC: 1 of 13 - Buffalo
MWC: 0 of 9
Pac 10: 7 of 10 - Arizona, Cal, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Washington, and Oregon
SEC: 2 of 12- Florida and Vanderbilt
Sun Belt: 0 of 9 (including Western Kentucky)
WAC: 0 of 9

Now obviously, being a member of this doesn't preclude football greatness: our last 3 MNC winners are on this list (Florida, Texas, and USC). Also obviously, not being on the list doesn't mean football strength - every BCS conference has at least 2 members and the MWC, Sun Belt, and WAC all have none.

What I do find interesting, though, is if you apply this list to relative conference strength, especially on a yearly basis. For instance, the SEC is deemed the toughest conference, certainly by its fans, year in and year out, and it has the fewest members of any BCS conference. The Big East has risen to prominence of late, and has only three. On the other hand, the Pac 10 also seems to be gaining strength, and it has the second highest percentage of membership. The Big 12 also has more than half of its membership in the AAU.

So what does this mean? Probably nothing. On the other hand, though it may not apply to Florida, Delaney was right on the money when he said the Big Ten schools have different academic priorities than the SEC schools. That difference could merely be the focus and funding given to research, and not necessarily mean higher academic standards and less cutting of corners for football players. Or it might mean he has a point. That's up to you to decide.

More College Football What-Ifs - Big Ten Edition

The innevitable annual article about Notre Dame joining a conference has begun:

This actually leads to some interesting questions, once of which is: does the Big Ten want to expand, and have an evermore increasingly incorrect title? Would expansion include a championship game? Would it help it's current non-conference record (1-1 against the Sun Belt right now, which is the same as the record against the Pac 10)? Assuming expansion happens, and it's not Notre Dame, what effect would it have on other conferences? Will they somehow manage to have a title game prior to December?

So, here are the possibilities:

A 12 team Big Ten (surely they'll have to come up with a new name, unless they start referring to the current bottom dwellers as the Little 2 - guess that would be Northwestern and Minnesota right now) would almost have to have a Structure similar to the SEC /Big 12 or the ACC. In other words, either you have 2 six team divisions, on a geographical basis, and play 3 other teams from the other division in a 2 year cycle, or you have the same 2 six team divisions, without that geographical distinction, one permanent interdivisional rival, and play the other 5 teams in some sort of rotating schedule. Currently, the Big Ten is set up for every team to have two permanent rivals (PSU has OSU and Mich. State, OSU has Mich. and PSU, etc., etc.).

Here's an idea, with ND, of how a geographical split would go, with East vs. West:
East: PSU, OSU, Mich, MSU, Purdue, ND
West: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern
Pluses for this: the Big Ten teams ND plays semi-regularly are all in its division, and it maintains some of the primary rivalries.
Downside: Much like putting Miami and FSU in separate divisions so (theoretically) they could meet again in the title game, the Big 2 (Mich and OSU) would knock each other out, with only Wisconsin (to round up the top 4 with PSU) in the other division. If you want to include Iowa and Purdue, you've got 4 better teams and 2 better teams (typically) split up.

So, how about non-geographical? Well, here are the lists of the current permanent rivals:
Illinois: Northwestern, Indiana
Indiana: Illinois, Purdue
Iowa: Minnesota, Wisconsin
Michigan: Michigan State, Ohio State
Michigan State: Michigan, Penn State
Minnesota: Iowa, Wisconsin
Northwestern: Illinois, Purdue
Ohio State: Michigan, Penn State
Penn State: Michigan State, Ohio State
Purdue: Indiana, Northwestern
Wisconsin: Iowa, Minnesota

The problem here is someone will have to lose "traditional rivals" for this to work, and other teams to keep theirs. Since PSU and ND would be the newcomers, and we want Michigan and OSU to be in seprate conferences, the line-up would be something like this:
Div. A: OSU, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, PSU, ND
Div. B: Mich, MSU, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern
Permanent rivals: OSU/Mich; PSU/MSU; Iowa/Illinois; Minnesota/Northwestern; Wisconsin/Indiana; ND/Purdue

This allows some balance in the divisions, maintains all the traditional rivals either within division or permanent rival, and also allows the current ND/Purdue game to be pretty regular, as well. It also creates some new divisional rivalries, with the Iowa/Illinois, Minn/NW, and Wisconsin/Indiana. This is the optimal setup, I think, for a 12 team Big Ten.

So, here's the Big Ten if ND joins, as I would see it - but what if not ND?

What are the other possibilities? The Big Ten is the only Division I conference to have all of its member institutions affiliated with the Association of American Universities, an invitation only grouping of schools meeting certain scholarship and research standards, and that is likely going to be a requirement. Also, a new TV market for the floundering Big Ten Network is also going to be a requirement. Current Big Ten bylaws, any expansion must either be in current Big Ten territory, or next to it. So, assuming this isn't changed to allow for a Texas or Colorado, what states can the Big Ten cherry pick from: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, as well as it's current states, PA, OH, MI, IN, IL, MN, WI, and IA. The leading contenders, according to, are Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, Nebraska, and Pitt. Texas has been mentioned, but it fails because of the geographical rule. Other teams in the area aren't considered, either because they don't bring enough market, new or otherwise, to the table (Iowa State, any MAC team, rising Western Kentucky), lack of competitiveness on the field (Navy, Army, the MAC teams - though almost every year the MAC teams get their vengeance on a Big Ten team), or strong conference ties elsewhere (Kentucky, Maryland, and ultimately, probably, Nebraska and Missouri). Other teams that might be interesting don't seem to get considered are Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia. It's hard to say that the Big East has that much die-hard loyalty, so perhaps a combination of no major new markets and that all three aren't members of the AAU, mentioned above.

Of all these teams, Rutgers and Pitt make the most sense. Syracuse just doesn't bring much to the table, and I think Nebraska and Missouri have too many ties to the Big 12. Rutgers brings the NYC market to the table, and Pitt brings longstanding ties with PSU, plus being in the heart of Big Ten country as it is. Both are AAU members, which, ironically, Notre Dame isn't.

Assuming, then, the Big Ten does expand, what happens to the new teams former conference. The Big East would likely want to get back up to 7 football teams, and the most likely option would be going after Marshall from the C-USA or trying for a current MAC team (Temple, Miami OH, Toledo or Bowling Green are possibilities). Obviously, former Big East member BC and current ACC member Maryland would be attractive, but I think both are pretty much off the radar. Picking from the MAC would actually allow the MAC to have an even number of teams again, and end what must be creative scheduling with 7 in the East and 6 in the West. Taking from the C-USA, though, would probably prompt them to try to pick up another team, and a pretty sensible target would be LA Tech, from the WAC. It would get the C-USA back up to 12, and would also allow LA Tech to cut a lot of costs, considering it's closest conference member is in New Mexico right now. Moreover, the WAC doesn't have a pesky divisional structure to keep balanced.

So here's a peak into how the dominoes might fall in the wake of a Big Ten expansion. Of course, none of this would do anything about the fact that the Big Ten has just been embarrassing so far on the gridiron this year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Week 2 Review: Texas v. TCU

Well, the sky is no longer falling in Austin. The Longhorns finally came to play and pulled away from the Frogs in the second half. Some thoughts and ruminations from the game...


After a rough start, Colt McCoy made one of his best plays as a Horn to get the scoring started in the second half. Jamaal Charles also started slow, but finished with over 100 yards. Nate Jones is the beneficiary of all the attention Limas Sweed receives from the defense. Jones has 17 receptions in two games this year.

Unfortunately, the O-line took a hit this week with the elbow injury to Adam Ulotoski. The Horns are already thin on the line, and cannot afford any more injuries.


Hello Linebackers! Its good you could join the rest of the D on the field. Jared Norton and Rod Muckelroy lit up the field Saturday night. The D-line played well, limiting the Frog's running attack. The Frogs managed only 13 points, 7 of those coming on an interception return.


The Horns will need to play more like they performed in the second half in order to have success the rest of the year. Oklahoma has looked solid, and is the class of the Big 12 after 2 games. The Horns get a good test this week, traveling to Orlando for a game against UCF. The Longhorns will need to maintain their momentum from the second half of Saturday's game to compete with the Sooners later this year.

Monday, September 10, 2007

lessons from week two

1) If Wake Forest had Riley Skinner, they would have "upset" Nebraska this week. This does not bode well for the Huskers after USC has had to listen to everyone talk about how LSU and Oklahoma are so much better than them.
2) Kansas (yes, Kansas) is the real deal and will shock some teams in the Big 12 (think Nebraska and/or Missouri).
3) As advertised by Steve Spurrier prior to the start of the season, South Carolina is a legitimate contender in the SEC this year.
4) Rutgers is the best team in the Big East and the second best team just might be South Florida.
5) Notre Dame will not go 0-8 to start the season. Try 3-5.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Modest Proposal

With the impending rise of Western Kentucky to the ranks of Division I-A, the division will soon have 120 teams. With all the chaos of conference realignment, BCS or playoff arguments, and the general disorganization of Division I-A, I've come up with an idea of how to solve the problem. 15 8 team conferences, with a 16 seed playoff of the 15 conference champs and one at-large bid, to be determined by something approaching the current BCS rankings. Said rankings would also determine the seeding of the playoff. The conferences will be put together geographically, with as much balance as possible while also trying to maintain rivalries. This setup would provide a true conference champion, with only 7 conference games, allowing 5 games a year to be played against traditional rivals now shipped off to another conference and anyone else. I have attempted to maintain, where possble, the geographically based conference names, whether active or not, and even some Division I-AA conference names may crop up. Purely fantasy, I know, but here is my modest proposal for the realignment of Division I-A football.

So, with no further ado, here are my conferences for Division I-A football:

Big East: Buffalo, Syracuse, Army, U Conn, Boston College, Rutgers, Maryland, and Navy
Atlantic: Temple, Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Marshall, Virginia, Va Tech, and Kentucky
Ohio Valley: Akron, Ohio, Ohio State, Miami (OH), Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Toledo, and Kent State
Midwestern: Michigan, Mich State, Central Mich, Eastern Mich, Western Mich, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana
MAC: Ball State, Louisville, Illinois, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Western Kentucky
Blue Ridge:Duke, UNC, NC State, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, and Vanderbilt
Southeastern: Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Auburn, UAB, and Southern Miss
Sun Belt: Florida, FSU, UCF, USF, FIU, FAU, Miami (FL), and Troy
Southern: Ole Miss, Miss. State, Memphis, Arkansas, Arkansas State, LSU, Tulane, and La Tech
Bayou: ULaMo, ULaLa, Rice, Houston, UNT, SMU, Tulsa, and Baylor
Southwest: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU, UTEP, Oklahoma, Ok State, and Missouri
Great Plains: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Colorado State
Mountain West: Air Force, New Mexico, NM State, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, BYU, and Utah State
Big West: UNLV, Nevada, Idaho, Boise State, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, and Oregon State
WAC: Cal, Stanford, San Jose State, Fresno State, UCLA, USC, San Diego State, and Hawaii

Some preliminary comments on this arrangement. Yes, it does lead to some unbalanced conferences, with the Southeastern and Southwest being particularly brutal, and the Ohio Valley and Bayou being particularly easy for the one good to average team in them. However, even the two brutal conferences have only 4-5 teams that each year would be top flight, as opposed to the real SEC, with pretty much every team but the Mississippi teams (and maybe Vandy) being highly competitive this year. On the other hand, even the powder puff conferences are more reminiscent of the FSU ACC years of the early 90's, as opposed to the actual Sun Belt.

So there you go - one man's solution to the mess that is Division I-A football. Not that it will ever happen.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Texas vs. Arkansas State

Ouch. Nothing makes my heart swell with content like watching the Horns run out of the shotgun. GD still equals God Dammit. What follows is a mix of rational thought and hopeless delusion. Keep in mind, I attended the game, but have yet to watch the TV broadcast.


Colt McCoy started the game 8 for 8 with two touchdowns, and the Longhorn offense appeared unstoppable. And then the offense stopped. Jamaal Charles' talent continues to be wasted on running out of the shotgun formation. Don't get me wrong, I do not long for the days of the power I. Charles is not durable enough to run it up the middle 30 times a game. At the same time, starting flat-footed seven yards deep in the backfield makes no sense. Charles had to break several tackles just to gain 5 yards. The Horns ran the ball 38 times, 20 of those runs were for two yards or less. The Horns had four opportunities to score from the 3 yard line, and could not get the ball across the goalline. That is inexcusable.

Colt spent the balance of his evening throwing into coverage or throwing into impossibly tight windows. He routinely missed wide-open receivers. He didn't over- or under-throw them, he just didn't see them. McCoy did miss a wide-open Nate Jones while scrambling, a completion would have resulted in another TD.

Lots of work is needed to prepare for TCU.


It is hard to beat up on the defense too much. Yes they gave up a lot of yardage, but ultimately they held the Indians to 13 points. The line played well, and at times put pressure on the quarterback. Most of the ground yardage came on long scrambles rather than running plays designed for the running back. The secondary play was merely adequate. The young secondary played off of the receivers, giving Arkansas State many yards underneath the coverage. The linebackers, unfortunately, were non-existent. Even when a backer made a big play, it seems a roughing or face-mask penalty wiped out the loss.

The worst news is the injury to Brian Orakpo. He is doubtful for Saturday, and Eddie Jones will have to play in his place. The good news, Jones had the Horns lone interception on the evening.


Special teams was probably the best unit. Kick-offs consistently reached the goalline. Punt and kick returns were decent and on two occasions set the offense up with great field position. McCoy pulled one trick out of the bag, using a quick-kick on 4th down twice. Each time the ball was downed inside the opponent's 20 yardline.


Needless to say, given the Horns were out rushed, out passed, and out-possessed, there has been a lot of negative prognostication. I am not ready to abandon ship just yet, but there is a lot of room for improvement. I'll hold off burying this team for the season until after the TCU game.

McCoy will have to improve his passes and make better decisions. The running game needs improvement, but that may not be possible until the offensive line comes together and develops a push-em around attitude. The defense will need to tighten up and eliminate needless penalties that extend drives.

In the end, the score wasn't pretty, but the Horns were also two plays away from winning 35-13, and maybe we aren't hearing as much chatter this week. Certainly, a good outing against TCU will put a lot of the doubt to rest for the time being. TCU is already a popular pick, so in a sense the Horns may feel like the underdogs at home. Let's see how they react.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Three More Wins, and Other Thoughts from this Week

After last night, with FSU's new Jimbo Fisher made offense still falling flat and the resulting loss to Clemson, Joe Paterno is two wins (and two FSU losses) away from pulling even with Bobby Bowden for the winningest Division I-A football coach. 3 from claiming it outright again. And yes, I said Divison I-A. I don't believe in the new FBS/FCS nomenclature - if it were just a matter of opting into a bowl system or a playoff, that'd be one thing. But it's a difference between 85 scholarships and 63 scholarships, so I don't have any problem with the I-A/I-AA breakdown.

That being said, what a game between Michigan and Appalachian State. Before focusing too much on the divisional differences, this is not as big of an upset as Temple over Virginia Tech in 1998, or pretty much any Sun Belt team except for Troy beating any BCS conference opponent. Appalachian State is the two-time defending I-AA champion. It owned a 14 game winning streak going into the Big House, longer than the any Division I-A team walking into the season. 3 of its last 4 losses were to Division I-A teams. But wow. We've seen over the past two seasons more losses by I-A teams to I-AA teams than ever before, which is just a sign of growing parity between the divisions, let alone between the BCS and the non-BCS teams. Western Kentucky moving up to Division I-A? I think ASU, one of their primary rivals, is ready to make the jump to the Sun Belt with them. Imagine Middle Tennessee State going into the Big House and coming out with a win? You can't, can you? Anyway, kudos to the Mountaineers, and I hope you don't let this lead to a post-win ahngover, like TCU did with Oklahoma and SMU two years ago.

The first week of the season is funny. Experienced teams with experienced coaches sometimes fall flat, while teams that enter the season with a big question mark seem to shine. With the acknowledgment that you can only take so much from one week, here are my thoughts so far:

1. The underachievers of the week
a. Texas, beware of the Horned Frog. 117 yards rushing against Arkansas State? Really?
b. Auburn, desperately seeking offense. K State was up 13-9 so far into the 4th quarter that I actually texted my condolences to one of my fellow contributors to this blog. This could be a sign that Ron Prince has Kansas State back. It could be a sign that Auburn really missed Brad Lester, held out for academic reasons. Or it could be a sign that the Bulls of USF may be coming out of Jordan-Hare with a win.
c. Michigan. Nuff said

2. The "I don't know what it means cause the opponent was that bad" teams of the week
Penn State, Florida, Ohio State, Boise State, Louisville, Rutgers,Oklahoma, Texas A&M, USC, Hawaii

3. Most overrated teams (I think)
Oklahoma State, Tennessee

4. Biggest surprises of the week (excepting Michigan)
a. ECU at Virginia Tech - whether it was due to all the emotion surrounding this game, Skip Logan doing a tremendous rebuilding job, or the supposed cream of the ACC being not all that impressive, no one expected this game to be as close as it was. If it was just emotion, hopefully that has passed. Otherwise, it may be a long year for the Hokies.
b. Wyoming over Virginia. Wow, bet the Cavaliers wished they had their $2 million a year back, huh? That's a lot of money for a string of 5, 6, and 7 win seasons, but starting off the year with a loss against a non-BCS opponent wasn't part of the deal, I bet. Yes, the Mountain West is probably the best non-BCS conference. And yes, Wyoming has been up and down but generally better the past couple of seasons. But 20 points? Wow - not looking good for the ACC this year.
c. UCF over NC State. Tom O'Brien - feeling nostalgic for Chestnut Hill now?

5. "I've got the first game at Div I-A blues", or, "Here's your wake-up call, sir"
a. Rice's David Bailiff, who lost to Div. I-AA Nicholls State. At least his team last year, the Texas State Bobcats, had the same result last year - a loss by two to Nicholls State.
b. UNT's Todd Dodge. 48 wins in a row at a high school? Well, at least that's within 22 of the margin of victory against the Sooners. Ouch.
c. Minnesota's Tim Brewster. No, the Gophers didn't get blown out. Yes, Bowling Green has the makings of being competitive in the MAC this year. But the Big 10 doesn't schedule MAC teams to lose to them. It's like losing to a Division I-AA team . . ., oh, never mind. For the all excitement and energy Brewster brought on board, there's going to need to be some results soon.

6. Coaching hot seat.
Lloyd Carr (though he shouldn't be, at least until he loses to Ohio State again). Mike Stoops (the Desert Spread isn't working). Sylvester Crooms (MSU will make history by also being the first SEC team to fire an African American head coach). Ted Roof (C'mon, Spurrier could win at Duke. Wait, that was before FSU, Miami, Virginia Tech, and BC were in the ACC, huh? Never mind - it is Duke, after all.)

Early predictions for Week 2
TCU over Texas, unless the Longhorns can find an offense.
PSU over ND, unless the Irish can find an offense.
LSU over Va Tech, unless the Hokies can find an offense. (Notice a theme here?)
Oregon over Michigan, unless the Wolverines can pull themselves off the floor after last week.

Upset special of the week
BYU over UCLA. I still don't buy into Karl Dorrell, and a win over Stanford and Motor Mough Harbaugh doesn't mean anything. BYU tuned up against the Wildcats, and will shock the Bruins this Saturday.

week one

Aside from learning that Michigan's defense needs some REAL work, what else can be gleaned from week one of the season?

1) Notre Dame shall be irrelevant all year (NOT Georgia Tech is a legitimate national title contender).
2) Oklahoma State is not as good as advertised (NOT Georgia is better than advertised).
3) The Big 12 North will be a slugfest this year because the teams are actually good (5 teams have a legitimate chance of going bowling; Iowa State should be the doormat of the league).
4) If Week One performances dictate reality, there is no way in hell Texas is 18 points better than TCU (Indeed, TCU would have drilled Texas if they played last week).
5) FSU will be much improved at the end of the season

Here is what to look for this year:
1) Florida will defend their national title -- I have no idea why people think this team will suddenly go in the tank after Tebow's impressive mop up duty as a freshman. Remember, this guy was recruited at Florida as much for his cannon arm as for his mobility. Granted, the defense lost some big name starters, but this is Florida. The Gators will have a strong shot at repeating as SEC Champions, and I would place them as moderate favorites over LSU to do just that.
2) Oklahoma has finally reloaded -- it may have been a nobody, but this team looked scary efficient. They could have easily scored 100+ if they had not called off the dogs. Look for them to reclaim dominance in the Big 12 South.
3) USC and California are the only true players in the Pac-1o race. Look for UCLA, despite a cosmetically acceptable performance against Stanford, to go in the tank. BYU will take down the Bruins this weekend, and there is a moderate possibility the Dorrell era will come to a surprising close at the end of the year.
4) Michigan can still win the Big 10. Despite the monumental loss, this team still returns as strong an offensive core as anyone in the nation. Play that game 1000 times and Michigan wins 999 times.
5) Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia all deserve spots in the top 10. If Mike Teel can pass this year, watch out for Rutgers.
6) The ACC has no teams capable of winning a national title. In what should be an ugly year for the conference, look for Boston College, Virginia Tech, or Georgia Tech to nab the conference title. Miami (FL) will likely once again emerge as the cream of the ACC starting next year.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My picks for the 2007 season

Big 12


Texas A&M
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech


Kansas State
Iowa State

Championship game: Texas over Nebraska

For starters, I really like the Aggies this year. But I hate their schedule. The Ags play at Oklahoma, Tech, Missouri, and Nebraska. In addition, there is the early season non-conference game at Miami. Even if the Ags manage to go 2-2 on the road in the Big 12, they could still end up in third in the South, again. Texas and Oklahoma are close, but until I see Sam Bradford in game action, I can't give Oklahoma the edge. Nebraska is the best team in the North, but the champion comes out of the South again this year.

Big 11

Ohio State
Penn State
Michigan State

Michigan needs to get it done this year. Chad Henne and Mike Hart are finally seniors, and another loss to Ohio State could spell doom for Lloyd Carr. Wisconsin finished last year 12-1 with the lone loss to Michigan. Nevertheless, I am not quite ready to jump on the Bielma bandwagon. Ohio State and Penn State could flip-flop, given the Lions get both the Buckeyes and the Badgers at home this year. My surprise team is Illinois. The Illini are still a few years away, but they played in some close games last year. Look for them to win (and probably lose) some games they shouldn't this year.



Mississippi State
Ole Miss


South Carolina

Championship game: LSU over Tennessee

I really like LSU this year. The Tigers are stout on defense, and should have an adequate offense. Their schedule sets up well too. Florida will take a step back this year, leaving room for Tennessee to win the East. And yes, the SEC is the best conference in the nation. Now let's never speak of it again.

Big East

West Virginia
South Florida

This conference is very competitive at the top. Just like last year, expect USF to win a stunner or two. West Virginia is strong on offense, but suspect on defense. I wouldn't be surprised if any of the top four schools wins the conference.

Pac 10

Oregon State
Arizona State
Washington State

USC is the team to beat again, and their schedule sets up pretty well for them. There are potential stumbling blocks with games at Nebraska and at Cal. UCLA continues to improve and can build on a season ending win over USC last year.



Florida State
Boston College
Wake Forest
NC State


Va Tech
Ga Tech
North Carolina

Championship game: Va Tech over Florida St.

The ACC is an interesting conference this year. Look for the return of Florida State to national prominence. There is a lot of excitement at the Carolina schools, with the hiring of Butch Davis at UNC and Tom O'brien at NC State, but those schools will struggle. Miami also has a new coach. It is hard to pick against Va Tech, given they will play this season riding a wave of emotion. They will be tested early out of conference, with a road game at LSU.

BCS Bowls:

BCS Championship: USC v. LSU

Rose Bowl: Michigan v. UCLA

Sugar Bowl: Tennessee v. Wisconsin

Fiesta Bowl: Texas V. West Virginia

Orange Bowl: Va Tech v. Oklahoma

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007 Texas Season Preview

The 2006 Texas football season started with promise but ended with disappointment. The fear of a Vince Young hangover was temporarily put to rest by the emergence of Colt McCoy at quarterback. Unfortunately, an injury to McCoy derailed a Big 12 winning season and cost the Longhorns a third consecutive trip to a BCS bowl. The issues that dogged the Longhorns at the end of last season remain questions for the upcoming year: health at the QB position, the efficiency of the running attack, and a suspect secondary. Can the Longhorns answer these lingering question en route to another BCS appearance, or will the ghosts of last year continue to haunt Texas?


The 2005 Texas team featured the most prolific offense in NCAA history. The 2006 team could not match that output, but thanks to the success of McCoy was able to put up points. The running game started strong, but faltered down the stretch. The offensive line lost three starters to the NFL, but the receiving corps return every starter and almost every backup.

The Quarterbacks

No one could have predicted McCoy's success as a freshman. McCoy's emergence was at once a blessing and a curse. The Longhorns passing game produced above expectations, but the depth chart took a hit with Jevan Snead opting to transfer to Ole Miss. The Longhorns even missed out on prize recruit John Brantley, who chose to sit three years behind Tim Tebow rather than three years behind McCoy. McCoy set a school-record with 29 passing touchdowns and threw for over 2500 yards. The Longhorns hope McCoy can avoid injury again and avoid a sophomore slump.

The Horns need McCoy to stay healthy, because of the aforementioned transfer of Snead, Texas is left with two freshman backups who have never taken a college snap. Sherrod Harris should win the back-up job, but suffered a strained MCL at practice. Coaches hope he will be healthy for the opener against the Arkansas State Blanks. Third string belongs to the dynamic John Chiles - who will be difficult to keep off the field, at QB or otherwise. CJ Kinne is being redshirted this year.

The Running Backs

Frequent readers of this blog know how big a fan I am of Jamaal Charles. He is lightening quick, but needs to prove he is durable enough to carry 30 times a game. Chris Ogbonnaya will spell Charles and may be the featured short-yardage back. Coaches are also high on Vondrell McGee.

When the Horns use a full-back, it will be Luke Tiemann and Antwann Cobb. Defensive tackle Derek Lokey will be used at full-back in short yardage and goalline situations. Lokey was a monster in this role until he broke his leg in the Nebraska game last year. The goalline offense fell off sharply after Lokey went down. The Henry Melton experiment is over too. Once he returns from his suspension, Melton will be limited to defensive end duty.

The Offensive Line

The O-line will be rebuilding this year, and therefore is a cause for concern on the 40 acres. The Horns lost three linemen to graduation. Most important of these is Kasey Studdard, who brought 100% attitude to the position. The O-line will be helped with the return of Cedric Dockery, who is returning early from an ACL tear. Tony Hills, Jr. has been solid at tackle and sophomore Adam Ulatoski had a good freshman year. Dallas Griffin will step in at center, and Charlie Tanner or Chris Hall will have to step up at the other guard position. The Horns also have a number of talented freshman who may see playing time.

This O-line doesn't feature the talent of the 2005 line, but will be relied upon to give Colt time to find his receivers. Speaking of...

The Receiving Corp

This is hands down the best receiving group, top to bottom, of Mack Brown's tenure, and may be the best receiving group in the country. Yes, this group is better than the Williams, Johnson, and Thomas group of the early 2000s. Every receiver from last year is back, led by big-play receiver Limas Sweed. Lining up with Sweed are speedster Billy Pittman and 24 year old Quan Cosby. Nate Jones, Jordan Shipley, and George Walker are the second team receivers.

Many Longhorn faithful are excited about the development of Jermichael Finley at tight end. The Longhorns are in need of a dependable receiving tight end since the departure of David Thomas. Finley definitely needs to improve on his blocking though. Junior Peter Ullman is the other tight end for the rare occasion the Longhorns line up in a two tight-end formation.


The departure of Gene Chizik led to the promotion of Duane Akina to Defensive Coordinator. While Chizik engineered the defense that won the BCS Championship in 2005, many Longhorn fans were unhappy with the performance of the defense last year. Despite the presence of a Thorpe award winner and two other NFL caliber players, last years pass defense was ranked 99th in the NCAA. Grumbling on the 40 Acres seems to lead to the conclusion that Chizik and Akina were not always on the same page. Akina seems to prefer an aggressive defense whereas Chizik favored a conservative scheme. The Longhorns have a strong front 7, and Akina's new-fangled blitzing attack will have to take the pressure off of the secondary.

The Defensive Line

Once again, the Horns should feature a dominant D-line. NFL scouts are salivating over DT Frank Okam. He is a big, big man. Although the defense had issues against the pass, the run defense performed well due in part to the presence of Okam. The line will be bolstered by the return of Derek Lokey. Roy Miller, who played well in place of the injured Lokey last year, and Ben Alexander will rotate in with Okam and Lokey.

Despite the departure of Brian Robinson and Tim Crowder, there should be no drop-off at the end position. Juniors Brian Orakpo and Aaron Lewis each saw significant playing time last year. Orakpo has NFL talent, and Lewis is a bulldog. Former goal line back Henry Melton will be a backup after he returns from suspension. Lamar Houston is also a suitable backup. The Longhorns were excited about true freshman Andre Jones, but his availability is in question after some off-season legal troubles.

The Linebackers

Despite the performance of the secondary last year, the linebackers may have been the most disappointing unit. The linebacker position is loaded with talent, but they rarely made an impact in games last year. Some of the lack of stellar play may have been the result of injury, as Drew Kelson and Roderick Muckelroy each dealt with injuries throughout the season. Kelson has been moved back to the secondary, but Muckelroy returns along with the rest of the unit from last year. Rashad Bobino will anchor the middle and fan favorite Robert Killebrew will play outside along with Muck. The second team unit is also formidable. Scott Derry is back. He started for most of last year, and may have been the most dependable linebacker. Longhorn coaches are high on both Jared Norton and Sergio Kindle. Kindle will have to wait three games to return to the field due to off the field issues. Once he does return, the Longhorns will have two full linebacking units to rotate during game play.

The Secondary

The secondary can't play much worse than last year, but can they be any better? The troubles against the pass were perplexing, given the talent on display. Recall the last two Thorpe Award winners wore burnt orange. Akina was in charge of the secondary, and was given credit for turning Michael Huff and Aaron Ross into great defensive backs. Once again, he has talent to work with. The success of the pass defense will depend on his being able to coach up that talent.

The secondary will benefit from the return of Marcus Griffin, twin brother of former standout Michael. Drew Kelson will move back to the secondary to lend experience, though he may also see time at linebacker. Cornerbacks Brandon Foster and Ryan Palmer have been patiently biding their time behind Griffin (Michael), Ross, and Tarrel Brown. Now is their time to shine. If Foster and Palmer falter, a talented crop of newcomers await their chance to show what they can do. Look for Chykie Brown, Deon Beasley, Curtis Brown, and Ben Wells to get some playing time.

Given the lack of experience, the secondary is the unit with the biggest question mark hanging over it. Akina will have earned his stripes if he can return the passing defense to dominance.

Special Teams

New kick-off rules will put a greater emphasis on the return game across the nation. The Longhorns will continue to use Quan Cosby as a return man, but don't be surprised to see Jamaal Charles returning as well.

Ryan Bailey has parlayed his game winning heroics in Lincoln into a starting job, and will do the kicking on field goals. The Longhorns also have Hunter Lawrence and Trevor Gerland returning to help with punts and kick-offs. The kicking game should be solid.

The Longhorns are often over-looked for their kicking defense. Since 2000, the Longhorns have blocked more kicks and punts than any other team. The Horns will look to keep the pressure on the opposition.

Fearless Predictions

Despite the emergence of Colt McCoy as a blossoming star, I can't feel as confident about this team as years past. This team needs to re-establish its identity with the run game. That will be difficult to do with the losses on the offensive line. The mystery of the passing defense needs to be solved as well.

That said, this is a team capable of winning the conference championship, but contending for a national championship is too much to ask. The schedule sets up nicely for the Horns. They play TCU, Nebraska, and Texas Tech at home. However, the Horns play dangerous Oklahoma State and Texas A&M on the road. There is also the annual game in Dallas against the Sooners. I look for this team to go 10-2, with the losses to either Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., or A&M.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ah... The Fall is almost upon us.

Let the trashtalking begin!

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Alabama Coaching Conundrum

So, once again, the brain trust in Tuscaloosa is looking for a new coach (the fifth one in as many years), and have already been spurned by Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia. Now whether it was WVU's ability to must a decent counter-offer, or the tears shed by his wife at the thought of leaving cosmopolitan Morgantown for Tuscaloosa, or the absolute disregard Bama has for its coaches is hard to say. But here are some reasons why Bama has built the bed its currently lying in, and why I'll be surprised if any good coach in anything approaching a good situation will uproot to pace the fields at Bryant Denny Stadium:

1. The treatment of Mike Shula
Was Shula a great coach? No, though he certainly was the son of one. But he didn't deserve to be fired after this 6-6 season. Why, you might ask? Well, I'll tell you. Shula had been coaching since 2003, and prior to this season, had compiled a 20-17 record. When Shula took over for Mike Price (more on him later), Alabama was on NCAA probation. That same probation ended, well, gee whiz, it HASN'T ended yet. In fact, it will end next year. Now, not everyone can pull a Terry Bowden and rattle off the first (before 2004) undefeated season in the history of their school. But to have been a coach entirely during a probation, have a 10 win season, and be over .500 at the end of those 4 seasons should have been good enough. It wasn't, and due to losing 4 in a row to Auburn (who have gone 8-5, 13-0, 9-3, and 10-2 those seasons), he's gone, and any new coach should be leery about jumping into the mix.

2. Dennis Franchione's jump to A&M
What happened that a move to Texas A&M, even with looming probation, was more attractive than staying in Tuscaloosa? I guess it was Alabama fans and boosters. 7-5 and 10-3 in his two years there, Franchione probably would've been able to continue winning, even with the limitations. He's been able to cobble together a mostly successful team, in a Texas recruiting field where he ranks at least fourth (behind OU, UT, and LSU), and possible behind Texas Tech and TCU in recent years, as the most attractive destination for Texas high school players. Meanwhile, in Alabama, aside from the few who have a love affair with some other state's schools, the number one (depending on family affiliation) is always going to be Auburn or Alabama. Trust me, no high schooler in the state decides he'd rather play for Troy or UAB - if it's a Bama family, Bama is the target. Whether it was just a preference for Texas, or whether it was the pressure cooker (and completely unreasonable expectations for the past 25 years) at Bama, Coach Fran chose A&M, much to the delight of Auburn fans year in and year out.

3. Mike Dubose: You can bang 'em, as long as you win
Let's face facts: Dubose faced a sexual harassment situation in 1999, but kept his job because he went 10-3 and beat Auburn. He lost his job the next year due to a 3-8 season, not morality issues. All his dalliances did was get Mike Price fired for his evening with the stripper before he coached a single down.

4. The Rival Problem (or the Cooper Conundrum)
John Cooper got fired from Ohio State for not beating Michigan. Lloyd Carr is under fire in some quarters for not being able to beat Ohio State, and Mack Brown was under a lot of fire until 2005 for his problems with OU. So, as we can see, a coach with an impeccable record at a school not hamstrung by multiple years of probation can face problems when he can't beat the rivals. Now take Bama, which is still on probation, and definitely playing second fiddle to Auburn since the Stallings era, and imagine the difficulty in trying to build a program back to what it's been while facing a desire for immediate success. A new chef isn't going to turn ground check into Kobe beef - what do you expect, Bama fans?

5. Instant Gratification
Tom Osborne coached for 21 years at Nebraska before winning a NC. Joe Paterno coached for 16 at PSU before his first. Bobby Bowden coached for 16 years at FSU before getting one. Lou Holtz had a 19 year career before winning the big one at ND. The Bear had been at Bama for only 4 years before winning one, but he'd been a head coach for 16 years altogether at that point. Let's look at Bama's post-Bear coaches to see why, just maybe, the lack of patience may be working against them:
Ray Perkins: 4 years at Bama, 0 years total prior
Bill Curry: 3 years at Bama, 7 years total prior (winning record at Bama, just couldn't beat pesky Auburn)
Gene Stallings: 7 years at Bama, 7 years total prior (and oh, there were some major NCAA problems during Stallings era)
Mike Dubose: 4 years at Bama, 0 years total prior
Dennis Franchione: 2 years at Bama, 11 years total prior
Mike Price: 2 minutes at Bama (never coached a game, so experience doesn't really matter)
Mike Shula: 4 years at Bama, 0 years total prior

Amazing how the guys who had prior experience had winning records as coaches at Bama. Even Shula did well compared to Perkins or Dubose, but Curry and Shula, while having overall winning records, couldn't beat the Tigers.

So Bama, enjoy your situation - let's see what other rising coach you can wear out in the next three-four years. Don't be surprised if there aren't many takers. But hey, Miami's already hired a coach, so maybe Bernie Kosar is still available . . .

Monday, November 20, 2006

The best argument for a playoff

I've never been a playoff guy, and still am not, but the last three years have provided compelling reasons to support one. In '04, an average Oklahoma team that probably shouldn't've been ranked was voted into the NC game. Then, in the last two years, we've seen 3 #1 vs. #2 matchups. Two of them - last year's Rose Bowl and this past weekend's Michigan -tOSU game - have featured games in which the teams combined for an average of 80 points. 80 points is not a championship game. 80 points is a reflection of media bias. The system in I-A football is theoretically superior to March Madness or any such silliness, but we've now apparently found the 200 biggest idiots in the world to make the voting decisions.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rutgers: the MNC?

Ah, God bless Rutgers, for completely fouling up the BCS, no matter what happens from this point. After watching the thrilling Louisville at Rutgers (first half, Louisville blowout; second half, Louisville shut out, Rutgers scores 21 unanswered points for the win), I am convinced of a couple of things:

1. If Rutgers goes undefeated, it should be in the BCS Championship Game. Why? We're at the point that, at most, there will be 3 unbeatens at the end of the season. Boise State. The winner of Ohio State-Michigan (assuming both are unbeaten by Nov. 18, which, after last week, may not be so certain). And Rutgers, which controls its own destiny now. If the general consensus had been that an unbeaten Louisville or WVU should be in it, how can Rutgers not be included, if it manages this feat?

2. That doesn't mean that they will. Unfortunately, without a lot of help from the humans, an unbeaten Rutgers may be lower ranked in the BCS ratings than not only Texas, Florida, and Auburn (if all three win out), but also the loser of Ohio State-Michigan. Talk about needing to scrap the system - an unbeaten from a BCS conference being shut out? Heads will roll.

Come on, voters - if Louisville deserved it, Rutgers would too. Go Scarlet Knights! Keep on winning.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The NFL Draft and conferences: By the #s

Here are the number of players taken in the NFL draft from the years 2002-2006 (that would correspond with the 2001-2005 college seasons)

SEC - 169
Big 10 - 142
ACC - 133*
Pac 10 - 104
Big 12 - 83
Big East - 30*
*Miami and VaTech counted in ACC.

During that time, there have been 10 participants in the BCS NC game. 4 have come from the Big XII, 2 from the Pac 10, 2 from Miami, now in the ACC but in the Big East both times it appeared, and 1 each from the Big 10 and SEC.

Draw your own conclusions.