Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More Sports Talk Radio Idiocy

Monday morning, the topic on Mayhem was "most hyped game while you were in college." A caller who went to Southern Miss piped in to offer up the '82 Bama-Southern Miss game, when Southern Miss ended Bama's 19-year unbeaten streak in Tuscaloosa. Beau Bock then asked whether this was the game when Brett Favre came out of the hospital to lead Southern Miss to the win. Let's count the problems with this statement:

1. Brett Favre was a senior at Southern Miss in 1990. He would have been in 8th grade when Southern Miss beat Bama in '82. Even with the Norse god attributes that Peter King assigns to Favre, he would have had a hard time beating the Tide as an 8th grader, although I'm sure he was a gunslinger even back then.

2. I'd hazard a guess that there are no active quarterbacks in the NFL who were playing college football in 1982.

3. Bock, lacking even the minimal analytical abilities required for sports talk radio hosts, is on the show essentially for the sole reason that he's been around forever and therefore should have some useful historical anecdotes to add to the program. If he thinks that Favre slayed Bear Bryant, then even that limited use is gone.

Gregg Easterbrook Blah Blah Blah

I remember a time when Tuesday Morning Quarterback used to be one of my most anticipated reads of the week during football season. When Easterbrook was on, his weekly columns were an oasis of fresh analysis in a desert of "Team X won because they were the tougher team" articles. At some point, however, Easterbrook ran out of fresh things to say, at which point his columns became an endless repetition of the same points:

Teams shouldn't go blitz-wacky.

Teams shouldn't go pass-wacky.

Coaches shouldn't wear too many layers in cold weather games.

Cheerbabes shouldn't wear too many layers ever.

I look forward to Easterbrook's pieces in The New Republic and the Atlantic Monthly, mainly because he does well when he moves from topic to topic and stays fresh. And I'll also admit that I never get tired of his frequent attacks on oversized SUVs. (You have to love someone who titles a major article [or, more precisely, whose editors title one of his articles] "AXLE OF EVIL: AMERICA'S TWISTED LOVE AFFAIR WITH SOCIOPATHIC CARS.") However, whereas Easterbrook can write one or two columns every year on how Humvees are the worst thing to happen to American roads since Billy Joel, 20-25 columns per year on the NFL just get stale. He gets repetitive and then, in order to stave off boredom, he comes up with ill-reasoned arguments. To wit, he leads off his NFC Preview with a paean to why pro coaches have it so much harder than college coaches. Gregg might want to confine his analysis in the future to subject that he knows just about everything else in the world other than college football. Here are his most problematic arguments:

An orangutan could compile a winning record and become bowl-eligible at Ohio State, Florida State, Texas and many other football-factory colleges.

Unfortunately, this means that John Mackovic has fewer mental faculties than an orangutan. (Peter and the rest of the Burnt Orange Nation are probably nodding furiously at this point.) It means that John Cooper was no longer a primate in 1999, nor was Earle Bruce in 1987. And Gregg is clearly unaware that Florida State had no football tradition to speak of when Bobby Bowden came from West Virginia in the 70s. The major problem with Easterbrook's argument is that he assumes that "football-factory college" are pre-ordained to be good, but the histories of just about every such college belie that point. Notre Dame has more advantages than any other program as a result of its fan base, tradition, and media exposure, but that didn't stop the Irish from having three non-winning seasons in a four-year stretch from 2001 to 2004. Yes, Texas has lots of natural advantages, but so do Texas A&M and Oklahoma and UT fans won't be happy if their program is behind those two.

Not only are the teams stacked in big-college football, the schedules are stacked: National title contender West Virginia plays seven home dates and five road games this season, for example. The cupcake teams that allow themselves to be clobbered at football-factory stadia for money reasons -- West Virginia will host Division I-AA Eastern Washington -- have just shy of zero chance of winning, giving every big-college coach several annual guaranteed Ws.

Gee, Gregg, do you really think that college football fans are so stupid that they would be happy with their coaches if those coaches beat all the pushovers on their schedules and then lose to every team that has roughly equal talent? Ask Michigan fans what they think of Michigan's 7-5 season last year, which was bolstered by gimme wins over Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana. Ask Florida fans about their feelings about Ron Zook.

Big-college coaching is a very sweet deal, plus coaches get treated like little gods, whereas at the NFL level the knives are always out.

Gregg, might I suggest you spend some time in Alabama? The notion that the knives are always out for NFL coaches, but not college coaches is so completely wrong, I don't even know where to begin to rebut it. How about the treatment that Mack Brown got for winning ten games per year at Texas, but not beating Oklahoma. How about Bill Curry and John Cooper getting fired, despite having excellent records, because they couldn't beat their arch-rivals? How about Miami fans running off Dennis Erickson because he didn't win national titles every year at Miami? Admittedly, the cases of Curry, Cooper, and Erickson are more complicated than I'm making them out to be, but the general point remains that there is a lot of pressure on college football coaches and the notion that they can't be criticized, even when winning ten or eleven games in a season, is flat-wrong.

In recent years, only a handful of football-factory coaches have been willing to accept offers to work in the pros. NFL owners always say they aren't pursuing college coaches because college coaches might not transition well to the professional environment. But the more basic reason is that most big-college coaches don't want NFL jobs. If you had a sure thing at a football factory, would you exchange it for a job with 20 percent annual turnover?

Easterbrook leaves out a very important factor when discussing why college coaches don't want to take the filthy lucre of the NFL: college and pro coaching emphasize different skills. Knowledge of x's and o's, while important in college football, is paramount in the NFL because of the relative evenness of the talent. In college, personality is more important, in part because of the importance of keeping fat cat alumni, but mainly because recruiting is so important. Pete Carroll's personality was wasted in the NFL, where boring, no-personality coaches rule the roost. In college, however, that personality allows him to bring in the sick amount of talent that has allowed USC to dominate the West since 2002. A coach like Jim Tressel wouldn't necessarily be a good fit in the NFL because his skills as a recruiter and his relationships with Ohio high school football coaches would be worthless. If Easterbrook spent any amount of time following college football instead of fawning over NFL cheerleaders named Crystal and Dakota or selectively noting every time a team converts a third-and-long against a blitzing opponent, he might understand these things.

Incidentally, Easterbrook does have a couple interesting observations about the Falcons, one of which has more merit than the other:

1. There's little reason to think that Mike Vick will be anything more than an average NFL quarterback. I chuckled this morning when the Mayhem in the AM crew were totally shocked that SI could pick the Falcons to go 7-9 this year. They are living in a "we love Arthur Blank and Rich McKay because they come on our show" bubble and don't seem to recognize that the Falcons were simply an average team last year. Last year, they were 12th in total offense, 14th in scoring offense, 22nd in total defense, 18th in scoring defense, and 13th in turnover margin. This was not a 10-6 team masquerading as an 8-8 team; this was an 8-8 team, full stop. They are good at running the ball and stopping opponents from throwing the ball. They are bad at passing the ball and stopping other teams from running the ball. (I laughed out loud at Mike Bell's argument that the Falcons shouldn't be behind the Bucs because Tampa's passing game is not good. Mike might need to be reminded that our expectations for Mike Vick's passing are so low that the Mayhem crew were busy showering him with praise on Monday morning for his performance against the Titans on Friday night. Vick's line in that game, you ask? 7/14 for 48 yards. That's 3.4 yards per attempt. Stellar stuff against a bad defense.) Maybe Grady Jackson and John Abraham will make the defensive line excellent again, but are they going to be worth two wins to get the team to the playoffs?

2. The Falcons tend to mortgage their future to acquire name players. I don't know that I totally buy this argument, since draft picks, even picks in the middle of the first round, are something of a crapshoot. Trading a pick for Peerless Price was obviously a mistake, but that's because the Falcons underestimated the importance of Price transitioning from a #2 receiver in Buffalo to a #1 receiver in Atlanta. Trading for John Abraham is different because there are no such concerns. Easterbrook argues that "[w]hen a team wants to get rid of a player, usually there is a reason," but in the case of Abraham, the reasons were most likely that the Jets were rebuilding and therefore didn't need to pay for a star in his prime. They are also moving to a 3-4 defense, which means that they would have been fools to pay a lot of money to a 4-3 defensive end. Abraham did have a lot of value for the Falcons, as well as the Seahawks, who tried like hell to acquire him.

As for the Lelie trade, the Falcons didn't give up a draft pick, as Easterbrook claims. They gave up T.J. Duckett, who isn't a good fit in the Falcons' offense and who has been rendered expendable by Jerious Norwood. That said, there are problems with the deal. Lelie is a fast receiver who isn't very good in traffic. Given Mike Vick's accuracy issues, a receiver has to be willing to go get the ball in traffic, something that Brian Finneran could do. Lelie could be for Vick was Andre Davis was for him at Virginia Tech: a deep threat who allows Vick to show off his nuclear-powered arm. However, the Falcons' playbook is a bad fit for Vick and it will be a bad fit for Lelie, who isn't good at the patterns that are utilized most frequently by the Falcons.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Five Outlandish Predictions, the Sequel

Last summer, my friend Ben and I shared "BOLD PREDICTIONS" before the season, some of which turned out to be quite solid (Louisville will lose two games, Notre Dame finishes in the Top 25, etc.) and some of which were "Dewey Defeats Truman"-esque (USC's defense will be better than their offense by midseason, Texas A&M will win the Big XII South, etc.) Anyway, we exchanged lists again this weekend and I'm starting to worry that Ben and I think too much alike now. We used to have some heated e-mail debates to take the edge off of another day of billing hours. Some of the better topics included:

1. Do pitchers take steroids? I vehemently disagreed with this notion, which Ben used to defend Barry Bonds, and as it turns out, I was wrong.

2. Which is a better head coaching job: Florida or Pitt? I'll stand by my pick of the Florida job. (Now you see why, when I wanted an outlandish pick, I went to Ben.)

3. Could Georgia win the national title in 2003? I never drop this memory, and it also taught me that it never hurts to argue that a team isn't going to win the national title because the odds are always in your favor.

4. Is the spread offense dead? We probably both claim victory on this one. I take the position that the spread is alive and well, especially the run-based version used by Texas and West Virginia last year, but Texas Tech is doing well with the passing version. Ben narrowly defines the spread as the short passing system used by Purdue in the late 90s and also claims victory because Purdue's offense is in the toilet and every fanbase now hates the bubble screen.

5. Is Larry Coker one of the top coaches in college football? I'll stand by the tape of the Miami-Georgia Tech game from last year.

Anyway, when I saw Ben's picks, I was equal-parts mortified and amused, because I agreed with all of them and strongly considered making a couple of them myself, such as Kentucky going bowling. We're also in agreement on the merits of the Climpsun Tigers this year, which ought to set off riots of joy on Lake Hartwell.

Anyway, here are Ben's picks:

1. Last year I said that Butch Davis would be coaching Texas this year if Mack did not beat OU. Fell on my face on that one, but I think he is the top coaching prospect out there and will end up at either Miami or Arizona St. Miami if they do not win their division at the very least and Arizona St. is clearly in disarray right now.

2. Kentucky, yes Kentucky, will come perilously close to making a bowl and saving Brooks' job, at least for one year. I think they beat Ole Miss at home and the way their schedule breaks, 4 wins should be against crap foes, including Vandy. That means their game vs. Miss. St. will really mean a lot.

3. 4 coaches in the Pac-10 will be out of a job at year's end (40% of the league), or almost half of the league and Oregon, Cal and USC will be light years ahead of everybody else. Wash St., Arizona St., Stanford and UCLA - they will be atrocious.

[Ed. - I actually think that Stanford will be pretty decent this year, at least by scoring a lot of points.]

4. Colorado will win the Big 12 North. Nebraska will be humiliated in their opener vs. SC and it will spiral downhill from there (delusionary momentum from beating a crap Michigan team).

[Ed. - I can't disagree with this, with the only caveat being that I'm not sure that CU will pick up Dan Hawkins' offense fully in year one. Their defense should be very good...or at least it's very good on the Playstation.]

5. Clemson will win the ACC. In what will be a down year for the league, Clemson will have no chance of playing for a National title, but will win the ACC and placate the fans who want Bowden's head.

6. WVU will lose two games this year. Two out of the following three will be losses - Maryland, Louisville, Rutgers.

7. Finally, Miss. State beats So. Carolina on Thursday, Spurier has never won in Starkville and that tradition will continue. Georgia wins the East and will have a chance to play for the National Title if they win the SEC Championship game.

Here are mine:

1. Baylor goes to a bowl game. Guy Morriss is doing a good job there. (I was shocked to find out when reading the Steele Testament that they took Oklahoma to overtime in Norman.) I'm interested to see how their Texas Tech imitation looks on offense. The one problem is that they play Wazzu on the road and TCU at home in the non-conference schedule, so they won't get four free wins. Incidentally, Indiana is also going bowling this year. Look at their schedule; 6-0 is a strong possibility (before they finish 7-5).

2. Matthew Stafford redshirts this year. Take it from the guy who thought that Blake Barnes would be starting midway through last season. (Incidentally, from what I'm hearing about Eric Ainge, Jonathan Crompton might be taking snaps for the Vols by October.)

3. LSU wins at Auburn. Everyone is picking Auburn to win the West and my inherent skepticism is high. Both teams lose a lot on their lines, but I have a good feeling about Jamarcus this year. I think he takes a big step. The pressure of Matt Flynn's Peach Bowl performance will be good for him.

4. Iowa beats Ohio State and Michigan and goes to the Rose Bowl. I like their lines better than Michigan or Ohio State's, plus they have the senior quarterback.

5. Neither Florida team in the ACC wins their division. Say hi to a Virginia Tech-Clemson ACC Championship game that is ABC's worst nightmare and thousands of Toby Keith fans' wet dream.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Here we go again...

I don't feel the same sense of anticipation for Chelsea-Barca III (or technically, Chelsea-Barca IV if we include the 2000 Champions League quarterfinal) because the teams are meeting in the groups stage and are huge favorites to move on to the knock-out stage, but the presence of Werder Bremen spices up the plot a little, since the Germans were unlucky not to knock Juve out last year and will pose a stern test for Barca or Chelsea if one side dominates the other in their two matches. Barca drew Bremen in the group stage last year and took six points, but were somewhat lucky to win 2-0 in the road leg. I'll also admit that I wasn't nervous when the draw came out because I was figuring that Barca's sterling pre-season form (4-0 over Espanyol, 4-0 over Bayern Munich) meant that the side cannot be knocked out in a six-game group format, but the team was pegged back to reality by Sevilla on Friday, so who knows. This team shouldn't have any defensive frailties with Puyol, Marquez, Thuram, and Zambrotta in the back, but they sure conceded a ton of chances and goals in a game in which they started most of their first-choice lineup.

The other group that interests me is the Lyon-Madrid-Dynamo Kiev pairing, which, like Group A, has a very strong top two and then a third team lurking that will pose problems if one of the top teams dominates the other.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Charles Rogers will have his vengeance, in this life or the next: the 2006 Charles Rogers Theorem

Wouldn’t you have liked to have known before last season that Iowa, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee were all going to lose 5+ games and finish significantly below their pre-season rankings? Wouldn’t that have been a great chance to impress the girl of your dreams after she just finished a blistering set for Crucial Taunt? (Yes, I just finished watching Wayne’s World.) Well, here’s your chance at enlightenment: the 2006 application of the Charles Rogers Theorem.

(For your reading enjoyment, here are the 2005 and 2004 versions. Other than labeling Cal and Auburn as overrated in 2004, I’m not embarrassed by these columns at all, and isn’t that what we all strive for in writing?)

The Theorem is named after the Detroit Lions’ oft-injured wide receiver because his 2002 Michigan State team illustrated the two parts of the Theorem perfectly:

1. The team played better at the end of the season than they did over the first 10 games. It’s a basic precept of psychology that human beings overrate the importance of the most recent evidence in making evaluations. Think about how many previews mention a team’s late season results specifically. Think about how many times a bowl victory is referred to as a “springboard” for a team for the following season. Think about how few times the bowl victory actually acts as a springboard. For instance, LSU, Ohio State, Florida State, Tennessee, Michigan, and Florida have all won national titles in the past decade without the mystical power of a bowl win as a springboard. Did West Virginia’s pounding at the hands of Florida State in the 1/1/05 Gator Bowl stop them from having arguably the best season in school history the following season? What was Penn State’s big springboard for the 2005 season? Conversely, how much did Tennessee’s big Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M mean? Or Iowa’s dramatic win over LSU in the Citrus Bowl?

You may think that bowl wins are like this, but they aren't.

2. The team has an imbalance between their skill position players and their offensive and defensive lines and/or an imbalance between a great offense and a poor defense. Most college football fans and writers watch the ball on just about every play. As a result, they tend to think almost exclusively about skill position players, especially offensive skill position players, when evaluating teams in the summer. When was the last time you read a write-up of a team that mentioned its dominant lines? Just look at this year’s pre-season #1, Ohio State. Do you see any mention of the fact that they have to replace their front seven? (OK, people do mention it, but then they rank OSU #1 anyway, which shows you how seriously defense is actually taken.) Or take West Virginia, which has been the subject of numerous heavy pettings from the media because of Pat White and Steve Slaton, ignoring new tackles and many new faces on a defense that was not so great to begin with.
So which teams are certain to take a big dive this year? I’m glad you asked…

More important than ESPN lets on.

Category One – Red Flag – won last two games (at least) and an imbalance between skill position and lines or between offense and defense:

Florida – I was fantasizing about writing this paragraph during the Outback Bowl last year. (That’s what marriage will do to you.) The theorem was invented to handle teams like the Gators. Imbalance between offensive skill positions and line? How about dreamy-eyed Chris Leak, freshstud (homoerotic term used tongue in cheek...I feel so much more comedic on a second beer) Tim Tebow, and some fancy receivers on the one hand, with four new starters on the offensive line on the other. And then add in the fact that they played their two best games in the finale against Florida State (a truly misleading 34-7 score, since the Gators were outgained in the game) and then the bowl win over Iowa, covering their cover-your-eyes performances against Alabama, LSU, Vandy, and South Carolina in the meat of the schedule. The only factors saving them from true Charles Rogers oblivion are a great defensive line and Urban Meyer’s track record in year twos. I’ll go on record as saying that no one will remember that track record (with a statistically insignificant sample size of two) come November.

You know I'm right.

Category Two – Yellow Flag – went 1-1 in final two games with an imbalance between skill positions and lines or between offense and defense:

Auburn – I’m a stuck record on the Tigers, or at least I have been since Brian at MGoBlog rated them #1. (I see Auburn at #1 pre-season and I immediately think of 1984, the first year I was rooting for El Tigres after moving to Macon, a year in which the Tigers went 0-2 out of the gate and finished 9-4. And then I think of ’85, when I was still an Auburn fanatic after having been teased like the red-headed child I was, and the Tigers parlayed a pre-season #1 ranking into an 8-4 season. My favorite memory from that season is my Dad buying me a sweet Auburn hat, me wearing it to school the following Monday, and the other kids stealing it and tearing the brim, leading me to come home awash in tears. And where the hell was I, anyway?) Auburn seems overrated because they definitely have the imbalance – returning QB and star TB, but new tackles and defensive line – and the only factor preventing a full-on Auburn orgy in the media is that pesky loss to Wisconsin in the Citrus Bowl.

Why, Bo, why?

LSU – I guess no one is going to win the West this year, because the theorem flags LSU, as well. The stable of quarterbacks and running backs return, as well as the criminally underused receivers, but LSU has three new starters on each of its lines this year. Their final two games confuse and frighten the “my memory extends for two games” knuckle-draggers in the media: “They lost 34-14 to Georgia…and then beat Miami the same stadium? Keyrock is very confused!!!” A top ten ranking seems a little much for a team replacing so much on the lines.

My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know - if a team wins their bowl game 40-3, they must be great!!!

Louisville – I was surprised to see the Cards pop up on the Theorem’s radar this year, since I have joined the Phil Steele-led revanchist backlash against West Virginia by tabbing Louisville as a team to watch, but lo and behold, the Cards return Brian Brohm (flashy quarterback!) and Michael Bush (thunderous running back!), but replace three offensive linemen and three of four defensive linemen. Maybe the Big East is just going to suck this year, like they were supposed to last year (and actually did, other than one night in Atlanta).

Category Three – Slightly Lighter Shade of Yellow Flag – went 2-0 in final two games, but no imbalance between skill positions and lines or between offense and defense:

Ohio State – It’s always easy to call the pre-season #1 overrated, since you can’t really be wrong, but I’ll do it anyway. The Bucks have a major offense/defense imbalance and their two best performances last year came in the last two games, against the two winningest programs in college football, no less, which helps in the overration (the new English!) process. What’s saving them from a fate worse than having to do number two at a bar at 1:45 a.m. is a great offensive line and some returning experience at defensive tackle. 10-2 seems to be about right for the Bucks.

Nebraska – No team better exemplified the second part of the Theorem last year than Nebraska. They were an exceedingly average football team last year until the final two games, when they destroyed Colorado in Boulder and then nipped a disinterested Michigan team in San Antonio. They are certainly not as good as the team that we flawed humans remember. They have three starters back on the offensive line and two on the defensive line, including the highly-competent Adam Carriker, who has restored Nebraska’s tradition of terrifying Caucasian defensive ends. They seem overrated to me, but they don’t quite scream it from the rooftops.

Thrilled by angry white guy coming from the edge.

Clemson – I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself, but I’m pretty high on the orange overalled freaks from the Upcountry this year. They did play much better in their final three games, as is their custom when the Tigers have to save their coach’s job so he doesn’t have too much time and Google on his hands to figure out where those rumors about his daughter started. (This and this [NSFW] will bring you up to speed if you don’t know about one of the best internet rumors ever.)

The most scrutinized picture in Clemson history.

However, they have a new quarterback, which holds down their overrated quotient, and they return the entire offensive line and both defensive ends. I feel a lot stronger that Nebraska is overrated as compared to Clemson.

West Virginia – They wouldn’t be nearly as highly ranked as they are if Georgia would have paid attention during the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl. That said, they do return three of five on the offensive line and two of three on the defensive line, so they don’t fit the theorem perfectly, although they are still being identified solely on the basis of the merits of Pat White and Steve Slaton who, last I checked, cannot block or tackle. My belief that they are overrated comes from the Sugar Bowl, combined with being unimpressed by their defense last year.

Category Four – Joseph and his Amazing Technicolored Flag – I don’t know what to make of this team:

Penn State – In favor of the conclusion that they’re overrated, we have the facts that they return their runners and receivers and they won their last two games. Against the conclusion that they’re overrated, we have the facts that they have a new quarterback (so they must not be any good) and they weren’t necessarily better in their last two games than they were for the rest of the year. And then you have further shades of gray because Penn State followed their last good season (accomplished with veteran offensive and defensive lines) with two years of craptastic performances, but on the other hand, JoePa seems to have finally accepted his own limitations and devolved the locus of decision-making to quality coordinators, just like his buddy Saint Bobby…before he replaced Mark Richt with Fredo Bowden. (If Jeff is Fredo, then who is Michael?)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


In a move that didn't really surprise anyone, yet still apparently caused a stern reaction on the Dawgvent (according to Bruce Feldman, who quotes SuthnDawg, whom we must presume is the canary in the mine that is DawgNation public opinion), Joe Tereshinski is going to be starting under center for Georgia against Western Kentucky. The more I thought about Georgia's prospects for this year when doing my initial top 25 poll last week, the more bullish I was on the notion that Tereshinski was the obvious choice and that Georgia would do quite well with him under center. Here are my reasons:

1. Georgia isn't starting chopped Matt Suhey under center. I'm just not buying Paul Westerdawg's argument that JTIII is Greg Talley to Matt Stafford's Eric Zeier. JTIII, people forget, was a four-star recruit (per Rivals) and might have been higher if he wasn't a Dawg Lifer and had instead extended out his recruitment until Signing Day. I can't say that I remember Talley's recruitment, other than the fact that he came from Valdosta, as did Buck Belue, so obviously, Georgia was headed for a national title in 1990 when Talley was paired with a star freshman running back from a small Georgia high school. Talley threw for 871 yards and four touchdowns as the starter for much of 1990, so it wasn't as if he lit the world on fire. But wait, you say, JTIII wasn't exactly a world-beater against Florida last year...

2. JTIII's performances in 2005 aren't a good indication of what he'll do in 2006. Remember the last look we had at D.J. Shockley in 2004? He was busy doing his best to give the game away against Tech in Athens. He threw a nice deep ball (to Sean Bailey, if I recall correctly) at the end of the first half, and then couldn't manage a first down in the second half. It was all the bad things about Shockley in one half: indecisiveness, leading to hurried throws while falling backwards against pressure. David Greene had to make a heroic return to drive the team for a field goal to pull Shockley's chestnuts out of the fire. It was this memory of an inept Shockley keeping my brother and I from getting out of a cold rain that led me to opine last season that Blake Barnes would be the starter for Georgia by the end of the season. I didn't buy Mark Richt's argument that Shockley would be much better running an offense tailored to his skills, instead of the Greene offense. As is obvious now, I was wrong. Fast-forward to this year, when the same pessimism surrounds JTIII. Our last memory of him is the performance against Florida, but it bears recognition that JTIII was placed in an impossible position.

There's a great cover story in this month's Atlantic Monthly making the point that we have essentially beaten Al Qaeda. Their operations have been significantly curtailed and decentralized, their leadership are hiding in caves in Pakistan, and they have been unable to come close to duplicating their attacks on 9/11. The point of the story was that the greater risk for the United States now is overreacting to Al Qaeda by taking excessive countermeasures (spending $5B in response to the anthrax threat to the mail service, for instance), rather than Al Qaeda attacks themselves. Mark Richt would do well to read this article, because his play-calling against Florida last year was analogous in that the damage to Georgia was found more in his reaction to starting his back-up quarterback by throwing almost exclusively on obvious passing downs. If Mark can avoid such a fate this year, then JTIII will look much better.

It also stands to reason that JTIII, just like Shockley, will look better in an offense that is designed to his talents. Shockley looked good in the shotgun offense that Richt tweaked last year, and JTIII did not look as good in that offense. Even though Georgia probably used different plays in the Florida game last year, the offense was still used to practicing the Shockley offense. This year, JTIII will be running some version of the David Greene offense. If JTIII can make decisions and throw as accurately as Greene (not impossible), then Georgia will be fine and then they can start Stafford as a true sophomore, which would be a better situation.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Blogpoll 1 - The Aftermath

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

I’ve said this before, but I think the most overrated team in the Blogpoll is Auburn. I was on the Auburn bandwagon for much of the offseason, but they now seem to me to be a team that is overrated by virtue of the fact that they played their best football at the end of last season. Auburn historically does not do well when subject to high expectations, nor do teams picked to win the SEC typically live up to expectations. Everyone seems enamored with Brandon Cox and he did play better and better as last season wore on, but am I the only one who thinks that losing both of his tackles, as well as all of his receivers other than Courtney Taylor, will cause a regression? Maybe not an Eric Ainge regression, but at least a Drew Tate or Chad Henne regression? And no one wants to pay attention to the fact that Auburn lost the majority of their front seven from last year and they can’t quite reload like Georgia or LSU because they don’t have the same depth of talent. Auburn should be good this year, but don’t be shocked at all if they end up 9-3.

And while I’m at this, a rebuttal is in order for Peter at Burnt Orange Nation. I am one of the voters who put Virginia Tech in my top ten and I’ll defend that decision any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Tech is the reverse of Auburn, in that they lose their quarterback and running back from last year, but return a significant amount of talent on both lines. Then, let’s add in the fact that Tech was better than Auburn last year and has a better coach. Tech has all the talent to have a great defense, including the best linebacker corps in the country. (If they were Penn State or Ohio State, the media would be unable to shut up about their linebackers, especially if Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall were white.) The offense will be functional, if not great. Marcus Vick became the face of that program because of his name and tendency to wave guns at fast food patrons, but he certainly isn’t irreplaceable. This Tech team seems a lot like the ’04 version that was not touted heading into the season and then won the ACC in their first year in the conference. And Peter needs to look at VT’s schedule if he thinks they’re going to lose 4-5 games. The non-conference schedule is a joke and they don’t play Florida State. Barring an upset, the roadies at Miami and BC and the home games against Clemson and Georgia Tech are the only challenges. This team doesn’t have to be very good to go 10-2.

Please forgive me for saying nice things about the Hokies.

Riddle me this: Virginia Tech killed West Virginia in Morgantown last year; Virginia Tech returns ten starters while WVU returns 13; and so WVU is in everyone’s top ten, while VT is outside of a lot of top 25s. In what world does that make sense? And how can this be anything other than backlash against the Hokies because their quarterback last year was a schmuck?

2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

I am strongly, strongly against ranking teams on the basis of schedule because it rewards teams for playing weak opponents and it creates self-fulfilling prophecies. West Virginia is a classic example. Numerous writers are picking them #1, even though no rational observer could think that WVU would beat Ohio State or USC on a neutral field. Thus, WVU gets an initial advantage on the basis of playing in the crappy Big East and because pollsters are loathe to drop highly-ranked teams unless they lose, WVU will stay high in the rankings as teams with better schedules beat up on one another. Purdue last year was another classic example; most writers who had them ranked highly inevitably started their discussions of Purdue by mentioning the fact that they didn’t play Michigan or Ohio State. How’d that work out for them?

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Georgia. I’m taking a significant risk, especially since I think they have a big risk of losing in Columbia early, which will leave them little wiggle room when the schedule gets harder later in the year. If injuries hit on the offensive line, then this team is screwed. There’s going to be at least one instance this season when Tra Battle will fall for a fake and leave a receiver open deep and I’ll smack myself in the forehead, saying “you ranked THIS team #4?” And that’s before we get to the fact that they might end up starting a true freshman.

More of this, please.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

What I hate about polls is that they’re subject to all sorts of human perception problems, especially recency (overrating the most recent pieces of evidence). I think that there are also built-in biases for popular teams, Notre Dame, most prominently, but there are others, including my alma mater. There is also the annoying tendency of voters to place teams on a conveyor belt and blindly move them up when they don’t lose, without taking into account the fact that a loss to a higher ranked team doesn’t necessarily mean that a team should move down. Personally, I liked the old BCS system of giving the human polls 50% weight and an average of several computer polls 50% weight. I would also let the computers take margin of victory into account again, capping the bonus at 28 points. My system, to paraphrase Churchill, is the worst…except for all the other ones. Ideally, we would have a four-team playoff and the polls would be slightly less important.

...and one optional bonus question, not related to blogpolls at all...

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

At the end of the 2002 Michigan-Ohio State game, John Navarre looks off of Braylon Edwards and finds Ron Bellamy on the right side of the end zone. Michigan beats Ohio State 15-14 and ends their quest for a perfect season. This would entail the following joys:

a. A major case of schadenfreude by ending the arch-rival’s perfect season on the final play of the final game.

b. Columbus is burned to the ground.

Not quite the loss that the firebombing of Tokyo was.

c. Jim Tressel’s hostile takeover of the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry at the expense of Lloyd Carr would be blunted, if not destroyed, and Michigan wouldn’t be losing in-state recruits to Ohio State (a truly dangerous omen for the future, unless it’s a short-lived result of Lloyd’s impending retirement and will be erased when Jeff Tedford starts recruiting for Michigan).

d. Ohio State still hasn’t won a national title since 1968 or played for one in a bowl game since 1979.

e. Meet the new 2002 national champions: the Georgia Bulldogs.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My Top 25

1 Southern Cal 25
2 Texas 24
3 Ohio State 23
4 Georgia 22
5 Iowa 21
6 Cal 20
7 Virginia Tech 19
8 Auburn 18
9 Louisville 17
10 Notre Dame 16
11 Oklahoma 15
12 Florida 14
13 Louisiana State 13
14 Clemson 12
15 Miami (Florida) 11
16 Florida State 10
17 Michigan 9
18 Tennessee 8
19 West Virginia 7
20 Oregon 6
21 Arkansas 5
22 Texas Tech 4
23 Arizona State 3
24 Boston College 2
25 Penn State 1

Dropped Out:

And some explanation

I took USC #1 because it's a wide open year and in such circumstances, I'll go with the team that has recruited the best over the past five years and has the best coaching staff. USC certainly has more talent than anyone else and they might not have the best coaching staff, but they're braintrust is pretty good. The offense will regress a little, but the defense will have better depth this year as a result of their injuries last year and will make up for the offensive regression. Plus, the concept of defense is such an anathema in the Pac Ten that the Trojans have a comparative advantage simply by virtue of the fact that they have large angry men who can tackle. I'm not buying the analogy to '03 Miami at all, first because USC has a good QB option other than their overrated product of Evangel Christian and more importantly, because USC isn't coached by college football's version of Bill Guthridge.

I'm unsatisfied with Texas at #2, but I think that the new QB is coming into an ideal situation in terms of the supporting cast and a manageable schedule. The defense ought to be very, very good and that will carry the Horns.

I'm also unsatisfied with Ohio State at #3 because they have some significant Charles Rogers Theorem potential, but I do like Troy Smith and their running game and Tressel has never had anything but a good defense at OSU. Bucks fans should be much less concerned with defensive losses than they would be if they were replacing nine starters on offense. (I think that Florida State is similar in that regard.)

Why Georgia at #4? Because the defense has been consistently excellent under Mark Richt, because there are worse scenarios than picking between a 5th year senior and a ballyhooed freshman under center, and because the team ought to be able to run the ball well. I'm also shying away from Auburn because they were picked to win the SEC and no team has been picked to win the SEC and actually won the league since 1996, if I recall correctly. Tennessee was the favorite at this time last year. Plus, Auburn, like Clemson, is noted for vulnerability when a lot is expected of them.

My concern with Iowa is that they always suck in September and their biggest game of the year - the home date with Ohio State - is in late September. I don't trust them to start strong, but they do have a lot returning and I'm a big Drew Tate fan. 10-1 with a loss to the Bucks seems like a strong possibility.

My Cal pick is based solely on the assumption that Jeff Tedford cannot have a crap QB for two straight years. My comment about Pac Ten defenses was a little unfair, at least in the sense that Cal has a pretty good defense as well.

I might be going out on a limb with this Virginia Tech pick, but the Hokies are a very dangerous team when they are getting no hype and let's be honest, the lack of expectation for them is nothing more than an assumption that no one can replace Marcus Vick. Uh, did you see the Miami game last year? Tech's strength has always been their defense and they ought to have a very good defense this year. I feel quite good taking them to win the ACC.

Rationally speaking, Auburn ought to be the pick in the SEC. I'm simply going with historical factors to conclude that they'll be good, but not great. Aren't we due for an Auburn-Georgia SEC Title Game at some point?

I like Louisville at #9 because I'm very confident that they'll beat WVU at home and that they'll score a ton of points. They'll get outscored once or twice by an opponent that has its way with their suspect defense, but I wouldn't want to rely on my team being the one to do that.

Notre Dame? See: Louisville.

Oklahoma? Who the hell knows. Without a passing game, they'll go 8-4 again. If Paul Thompson gets it under center and the offense is properly adapted for his talents, then they're a major threat because of their defense. However, OU had a whole off-season last year to mold an offense around Thompson and that experiment lasted all of two quarters.

Florida has enormous Charles Rogers potential. No offensive line, deceptive finish in 2005, shiny new quarterbacks and receivers, sign me up. I would have them lower if not for the fact that their defense will keep them in games. I am not expecting big things offensively in year two under Urban Meyer.

I'd have LSU in the top five if I had more faith in Les Miles. I just can't shake the image of him trying to call a timeout after an interception in the Tennessee game last year. He's either telepathically ahead of his time or in over his head at LSU, but protected by the fact that Nick Saban left him a motherload of talent.

Clemson scares me because they, like Florida, had a deceptive finish last year and Tommy Bowden only does just enough to keep his job each year, but they return a ton of talent and replacing Charlie Whitehurst ain't like replacing Danny Wuerrfel. I'm very anxious to see if the C.J. Spiller hype is for real.

Miami...whatever. Good defense, no running backs, huge losses on the offensive line, possible program in freefall. I really hope that they look good this year because college football is better when Miami is good, but I'm pessimistic. Miami leads off the roll of programs that used to be better and now convey the feeling that they have doddering coaches who squander their talent. That roll includes FSU, Michigan, and Tennessee. Their talent will win them nine games in the regular season, but they each have flaws (Jeff Bowden, Lloyd's end-game insanity, Fulmer's loyalty) that will keep them from winning more.

Not much to say about the rest...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Here's a Headline I'd Prefer Not to Read Again

Confessions of a Football Junkie: NCAA Should Copy NFL

Russell, I'm normally willing to cut any University of Michigan grad some slack. I'm also willing to cut the Pro Football Prospectus writers some slack because the Prospectus is simply outstanding, as evidenced by the fact that I've been lugging it to the gym with me at 6 a.m. for the past couple weeks so I can read about the Denver defensive line or Mike Vick's terrible footwork while trying not to vomit my dinner from the night before. (On the latter point, the PFP writers watched some footage of Vick on coaches tape with Ron Jaworski and Jaws pointed out that Vick often fails to even drop back in a straight line. As a result, he creates pressure even when the offensive line does its job. Go Falcons!)

That said, Levine is way, way wrong when he posits that college football should mimic the NFL with respect to management of the clock. As Levine points out, the average college game has significantly more snaps than the average NFL game. Thus, while the NFL crams as many commercials as possible into a 3:15 window (as epitomized by the much beloved score-commercials-kickoff-commercials sequence that has driven me from being a regular NFL watcher...well, that and marriage), college football games take longer, but they entail less commercial time proportionately and more actual football content, which, surprisingly enough, is what I want to see when I turn the TV on. College games do have longer halftimes than the pros (20 minutes as compared to 12), but I'd much rather deal with commercials crammed into one block that allows me to run errands for 20 minutes (or squeeze in a game of FIFA or, this season, change a diaper and clean off vomit from my Tyrone Butterfield jersey) instead of having them spaced out throughout a game.

What's most annoying about the changes to the college clock-keeping rules is not simply that the NCAA is trying to shorten the game, but instead that the NCAA is shortening the game by reducing the number of plays, while still retaining the bloated halftime and the lengthy commercial breaks that makes the official in the red hat at the 25-yard line less popular in college stadia than Fidel Castro in South Florida. The pie chart reflecting time spent during college football games is going to reflect a greater share on commercials and less on actual football this year. I try not to be a pollyanna by ignoring that the commercials pay for the games, but is it too much to ask that college football not follow the lead of the rapacious, soulless beast that is the NFL?

Yes, we really need to shorten the game so we can see more of this. I'll just start saving for my child's therapy now.

Levine also damages his credibility with this paragraph:

However, reason doesn’t always apply, especially with an organization that refuses to allow a championship playoff (citing additional missed class time for the players from the handful of schools that would be involved) yet passes over the objections of its coachs a rule extending the season to 12 games for every school.

The NCAA does allow championship playoffs in all of the divisions below I-A. The obstacle to the playoff comes from the major conference teams that make the decisions on the sport's post-season structure (such as by forming and running the BCS). In fact, one of the reasons that these schools oppose a playoff is that they would likely cede control over the revenue created by such a playoff to the NCAA, which would then distribute that revenue broadly to teams that had no hand in creating the revenue in the first place.

This time, the short, short version

I have a lovely, long post on the Braves ready to go yesterday and then Blogger ate it. That's what I get for not using Microsoft Word. Anyway, here is the Cliff Notes version:

1. The team, warts and all, is one torrid two-week stretch (something like 11-2) from being a serious threat to make the playoffs.

2. With this pitching staff, an 11-2 stretch is highly unlikely.

3. The top of the 7th on Wednesday was miserable, as a result of: (a) a walk-happy set of relievers who issued free passes to the dregs of the Philly lineup; (b) the temperature approximating the surface of the sun; and (c) a jackass in a lavender golf shirt who knocked over my beer and didn't turn around to apologize or offer me a new one. Just a vortex of crap.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

103 Teams Should Revise Their Goals...

Stewart Mandel has proclaimed that the national champ is going to be one of 16 listed teams. So LSU, Florida, and Georgia, you can revise your goals down accordingly because you're on Stewie's shitlist. LSU, you're replacing too much on the lines and your schedule is too hard. Florida, Stewart is apparently unaware that you're replacing even more on the offensive line than LSU is, but nevertheless, your schedule is also too challenging. Georgia, you're apparently going to be starting Matthew Stafford, so you're out as well. What's that you say? South Carolina is on Mandel's Sweet Sixteen list of national title contenders and they're replacing a lot on both lines? And they have significantly less talent than LSU, Florida, or Georgia? And they were 7-5 last year? And they play roughly the same rigorous SEC slate, with Clemson tacked on at the end at Death Valley for good measure? Wait, are you saying that...there's a flaw in Mandel's reasoning? His own "logic" contradicts itself? But that can't be right; he's paid to know these things and to come up with consistent arguments.

(Please tell me that Mandel doesn't think that South Carolina is a more likely bet than Florida, Georgia, or LSU because they lost five games last year and several prior national champions lost five games en route to their title-winning seasons. I'd like to think that Northwestern grads have a firmer grasp of basic probability than that.)

Leaving aside my faux shock that South Carolina is one of two SEC teams with a chance to win the national title, here are my other problems with the article:

1. Texas can't win the national title because no team has won with a freshman quarterback. That's technically true, but plenty of teams have won with weak quarterback play. If Alabama could win a title with sophomore Jay Barker, who was as useless in 1992 as tits on a bull, under center, then Texas could win with Jevan Snead or Colt McCoy. Is it unreasonable to think that McCoy or Snead couldn't live up to the level of Craig Krenzel? And West Virginia is the chic pick this year, based on their 11-1 performance last year with a freshman quarterback.

2. If the odds of an MWC team playing in the Fiesta Bowl are unlikely (Mandel's rationale for omitting TCU), then doesn't that mean that Utah should be off of the list as well? If Utah couldn't get close to the national title game when they were mangling every one of their opponents in 2004, then how would a presumably inferior Utah team make it to the title game in '06?

3. If schedule concerns prevent Georgia, LSU, Florida, or Oregon from national title consideration, then why is Michigan on the list when UM has road games against preseason #1 Ohio State, #3 Notre Dame, and #19 Penn State, along with a home game against #17 Iowa? Or Georgia Tech, which has Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami, and Georgia on the slate and, unlike Michigan, has Reggie Ball under center?

4. Two years ago, Mandel wrote an incisive piece in's preseason spread about how the common thread for all recent national champions was a dominant defense. Why has he totally disregarded that one nugget of wisdom now?

5. What in the holy hell is Nebraska doing on that list?

World Cup Deja Vu

After spending a month this summer whining about every Dave O'Brien misstep like seemingly every other soccer fan in the blogiverse, I felt almost like Guns 'n' Roses had gotten back together (with a sane W. Axl Rose) when ESPN trotted O'Brien back out for the MLS All-Stars v. Chelsea match on Saturday. It was a treat that I didn't expect to enjoy again, but lo and behold, there it was. Here were my favorites:

1. Naturally, O'Brien completely overrated the importance of the MLS All-Stars beating a Chelsea side that has just started their pre-season training and were busy partying with the LA glitterati earlier in the week. Leaving aside the fact that the weather was extremely hot (thus further penalizing the team whose players are just coming off of vacation) and the pitch was horrible (thus reducing the game to a typical, MLS error-fest), this was a pre-season game for Chelsea. Does anyone think for a second that NFL players care who wins pre-season games? So then why would we care that Chelsea was beaten in a pre-season game?

Kudos, by the way, to Ives Galarcep for this solid piece on the complete overreaction of MLS to the game. MLS will never convince hardcore soccer fans like me to watch when they engage in juvenile displays like shooting off confetti and awarding a trophy after beating an English team in pre-season training. Incidentally, while we're on the subject, I have three reasons for following international soccer, but not MLS:

a. The great attraction to international soccer is the atmosphere of the games. MLS isn't close to the singing, screaming, and passion of a Premier League match.

b. There is no team in Atlanta. Cheering against New York teams will only get me so far.

c. The level of play just isn't the same. The ball doesn't move around as fast and the passing isn't as accurate. That said, I could get past this fact if points a and b were resolved.

Where was I? Oh yeah, complaining about Dave O'Brien...

2. He expressed amazement that Chelsea played John Terry up front at the end of the game and opined that Mourinho was doing so because it was pre-season and he was letting Terry have some fun. If O'Brien had bothered to watch last year's Champions League tie between Chelsea and Barcelona (you might want to look into that whole Champions League thing, John), he would have seen Terry playing up front when Chelsea were about to be eliminated. Playing Terry up front when the Blues are behind is nothing new.

3. He stated that the whistling in the crowd when MLS's keeper was delaying a goal kick at the end of the game represented MLS fans enjoying the product and wanting to see more action. Uh, it could be that...or it could be the universal response of fans of the trailing team when the opposing keeper takes his time on a goal kick.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I know this will shock and amaze all of you...

But I heard something really stupid on sports radio this morning driving into work. I was listening to 680 during one of 790's interminable commercial breaks and Perry Laurentino, in his infinite wisdom, decided that the NCAA is hypocritical for putting pressure on South Carolina to take the Confederate flag off of their capitol building, while at the same time endorsing "slavery" in the form of refusing to allow college athletes to be paid. Let's compare and contrast two hypothetical people and decide which of the two of them is a victim of "slavery":

Person A - forcibly kidnapped from his home, brought across the ocean in shackles, given a new name, compelled to perform backbreaking labor for the rest of his life with no possibility of being allowed to do anything else, and often separated from the rest of his family.

Person B - lavished with attention to commit to a certain school; received free education, room and board, and food for four years; received free exposure to increase his chances to make a fortune in the NFL; and was one of the most popular men on campus with a limitless supply of good-looking girls throwing themselves at him.

Not to be excessively serious or anything, but it's really insulting that the term "slavery" has been devalued so much that it can be used to describe an experience as coveted as that of a college football player.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I Just Can't Resist

Troy Smith: takes money from a booster, gets suspended for meaningless Alamo Bowl and then opener against Miami (OH).

Rhett Bomar: takes money from a booster, gets booted off Oklahoma's team.

And while we're discussing discipline, how about a cheer for Tommy Tuberville for suspending two significant linebackers for three games. When I first read the, I immediately assumed that the first three games for Auburn were going to be against team that the Tigers could beat with blindfolds. Instead, it turns out that game three is the LSU game, the game that has decided the West for the past three years. And Tommy didn't even suspend his players for taking money from boosters or other NCAA infractions, but instead for a DUI and an MIP.

And one other thought: ESPN's poll question this morning is "Is major college football corrupt?" Let's see the next time an NFL star is arrested for hiring someone to kill his pregnant wife or trafficking drugs whether the same question is asked about the NFL, shall we? I just don't see what's corrupt about the system working properly.

Not sports, but...

In honor of the dead period in sports after the World Cup and before college football, I give you, thanks to Cracked Magazine and YouTube, Will Ferrell's ten best SNL skits. I would personally put the "I drive a Dodge Stratus!!!" skit at #1, but that's minor. You can't argue with James Bond trying not to lose it as Ferrell repeatedly impales Chris Parnell with a trident (thus laying the groundwork for the trident's appearance in Anchorman, because tridents are inherently funny. Speaking of which, it's always fun to watch Mike Myers' old SNL skits and realize how many of the themes of the Austin Powers movies were evident years before they made it to the big screen.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Watch out, it's the head-butt dance!

You have to love the French. (Wait, did I just say that?) One month after losing the World Cup Final, they've turned Zizou's headbutt into a song. And the lyrics...I hope they're as funny in French as they are in English:

Watch out, it's the head-butt dance!
(Head-butt, head-butt)
Head-butt to the right
(Head-butt, head-butt)
Head-butt to the left
(Head-butt, head-butt)

Go, Bleus, Go!
Zidane, he hit [him], Zidane, he slapped (him)
(Head-butt, head-butt. Head-butt, head-butt)

The guido, he was hurt
Zidane hit (him)
The Italian is not doing well
Zidane slapped (him)
The referee saw it on TV
Zidane hit (him)
But we lost the World Cup
We had a good laugh anyway

I'm envisioning a Martrez Milner-inspired "Do the Bobble!" at some point this season.

Falcons Stuff

I highly recommend this piece ($) by Len Pasquarelli on the Falcons. A few thoughts:

1. I've always been an advocate of speed over size on the defensive line, mainly as a reaction against Michigan's never-ending parade of bulky converted fullbacks and linebackers who get too big and slow and are good for nothing more than occupying blockers as opposing quarterbacks spend days picking out holes in zone coverage. Watching Michigan at noon and then Florida State at 3:30 on many Saturdays drove this point home with maximum impact, as the Noles have always had 280-pound DTs and 250-pound DEs and they create great pressure against opposing passers with a four-man rush, but are still violently abusive against opposing runners. It got to the point that I was trying to telepathically convince Mickey Andrews that his life would not be complete without moving to Ann Arbor and eating at Zingerman's on a daily basis.

Anyway, this leads me to the Falcons because the major issue facing the team right now is that their defensive line does seem a little undersized and that has been assigned as a reason why the team was so dreadful at stopping the run last year. It has also been argued that the John Abraham acquisition was a mistake because Abraham isn't great against the run. I'm not buying that for a couple reasons. First, the safeties were the biggest problem in terms of run defense last year because they permitted a host of plays to go from the six-yard variety to the soul-crushing 25-yard variety. They made Samkon Gado look like Earl Campbell. This year, the safeties won't look like confused Red Army soldiers on June 22, 1941, wondering whether or not they can fire back at the German hordes overrunning their positions. So we have that going for us, which is nice. Second, I trust Rich McKay, Jim Mora, and Ed Donatell to make good decisions with the defense and the fact that they have not brought in a jumbo DT is reassuring. (If the run defense problems remain, then we may regret not taking Gabe Watson with our third round pick...unless Jerious Norwood is running rampant on a regular basis.) Third, the defense was beset with injuries last year. I hate to use injuries as an excuse because most teams have them, but the Falcons were particularly hit by a wave of injuries in the front seven, so their epic struggles against the run last year might not be a sign of things to come. Fourth and finally, because NFL offenses are so pass-o-centric, weakness against the run is not that important in the NFL unless it forces a defense to commit more defenders to the box and thereby weakens the pass defense. I can't remember specifics about the Falcons' games in the second half of the season last year, but I wonder if the struggles against the run were, at least in part, the Falcons overcompensating for a poor pass defense?

2. I trust Pasquarelli's judgment on Mike Vick because Len has never bought into the Vick cult like many star-worshipping analysts, so his endorsement of Vick's footwork is very encouraging. Vick has often gotten away with poor mechanics, mainly because he's such a physical specimen that he doesn't need to have proper form to rocket the ball forward, but if he's listening to Bill Musgrave (who, incidentally, had a bizarre side-armed delivery at Oregon, so having him preach mechanics is a little odd) and is putting his feet in the right spots, then his accuracy will improve and we'll all have a Coke and a smile.

3. I don't like what I'm hearing about Michael Jenkins. My concern is that he's going to end up being a great athlete who never quite understood the technique required for being a great receiver. You hate to brand a player after three years, but a first round pick doesn't get forever to develop and if Jenkins hasn't shown improvement at the end of this year, then we're going to have to brand the decision to draft him as a mistake. Then again, it does help to keep telling myself that it takes a while for receivers to develop in the NFL.

4. Pasquarelli doesn't cover this in his article, but if Jimmy Williams can be brought up to speed on the Falcons' scheme in a relatively reasonable amount of time, I'm very excited to see how he looks opposite Deangelo Hall.

5. Taking the temperature of the Falcons' fan base, it seems that there is a lot of excitement for this team this year. The practice at Piedmont Park sold out in a matter of hours. The team that sometimes couldn't get more than 30,000 to its home games is now selling 7,500 tickets to an outdoor practice in August in hours. Falcons talk has also dominated the airwaves, in part because 790 is obsessed with the team and sometimes seems as if they've forgotten that college football is the straw that stirs the drink in this market, but it might be true that the Falcons are beginning to get close to college football in terms of fan interest. Countering all of this is the fact that I got off of the waiting list for season tickets this year after about three years of being on the list, so there are evidently a number of fans who did not renew their seats. This is obviously not a good fall for me to be going to eight games, so I declined to buy the tickets, but it was interesting that the list appears to be shortening.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Things I thought about last night while being instructed to "breathe in to the sensation" during relaxation time at birthing classes last night

It will be a good thing if this baby arrives on September 16 and I miss the Michigan-Notre Dame game. I can already picture endless shots of the Notre Dame band mugging for the cameras as Michigan wets the bed yet again. Where was I the last time Michigan won its road opener? Oh yeah, in an Applebee's in Winston Salem in 1999 when they gutted out an 18-13 win over a 6-5 Syracuse team. 18 points against Syracuse with Tom Brady at quarterback. At least we now have a new offensive coordinator...oh shit! Wait a second, wasn't the lady on the CD just saying that I need to breathe out all my tensions? I need a new subject...

I'm glad I wasn't at the Ted this weekend for the Mets' coronation. Wait, that's not relaxing either...

Champions League Final. Champions League Final. Champions League Final. Ahhh...

I would be a lot angrier at Michael Adams for Ned Flanders-izing Georgia tailgating if I was going to be able to go to Georgia games this fall. Isn't tailgating, almost by definition, supposed to involve drinking? This is the South, is it not?...

I wonder what it would be like to be pregnant? What would I use to divert my attention while in labor? Make the wife sing "Hail to the Victors" over and over again? Would I ask her to recount every Braves game we've ever attended? And if I could take only one tape with me to the delivery room to watch while giving birth, would I go with a movie? Raiders of the Lost Ark, perhaps? A montage of Borat skits from Da Ali G Show?

Does anyone else find it funny that the SEC Championship Game was contested last year between a school with the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as a fight song and a school whose first superintendent was none other than William Tecumseh Sherman? And am I inconsistent for defending the firebombing of Japan and not liking Sherman? Do I need to re-evaluate my opinions of Sherman?...


Time to wake up? But I was just starting to have fun...