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.

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.