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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bowl Update #1

Hope for Penn State

Well Big Ten fans, the conference has a new chance for a win.  Florida has four - count 'em, four - starters out on injuries for the game v. Penn State: a cornerback, one offensive tackle and both defensive tackles. I don't think any team can hold up under that attrition.  The late nod goes to Penn State.

Boise State

I didn't get a chance to comment on this earlier, but Boise State was totally screwed by the bowl organizers.  They lost one game on a missed field goal to a talented Nevada team on the road and they end up playing in the Afterthought (Las Vegas) Bowl v. Utah. (The PAC-10 couldn't fill their bowl slot.)  This coming a year after the Broncos were matched up with TCU in the Children's Table Bowl.  Methinks the big institutions really, really do not want to play these guys.  I'm not a fan of the smurfs, but I feel bad for them.

Iowa v. Missouri Tonight

Big 12 fans will enjoy seeing Missouri stomp Iowa in tonight's Insight Bowl.  (I'm still trying to figure out why Nebraska is going to the Big 10 and Missouri is staying behind.  Maybe its just a matter of time.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Bowls

Normally, I'd talk a lot more about the PAC-10 than any other conference. With only four bowl-eligible teams, however, pickings are slim. Hard to see anyone but Stanford in the win column.

  • Washington (6-6, 5-4) v. Nebraska (10-3, 6-2) - The Huskies get a rematch against a Nebraska team that dismantled them 56-21 in September. On paper, this might be the most lopsided bowl match up of the year. A sharper Jake Locker will be worth about two more TD's for the Huskies. It will take a miracle to do anything more. One can only hope.  Pick: Nebraska.
  • Arizona (7-5, 4-5) v. Oklahoma State (10-2, 6-2) - Arizona lost its last four games.  Oklahoma State was picked for fifth and tied for the division title.  One team going up, the other going down.  Oklahoma State will score a ton of points on a weak Arizona defense.  Arizona should get some points, but not nearly enough. Oh, yeah, one more thing.  Arizona coach Mike Stoops is a dickhead. Look for him to rupture an aneurysm with his antics in the first quarter.  Pick: Oklahoma State.
  • Oregon (12-0, 9-0) v. Auburn (13-0, 8-0) - As posted earlier, I just can't see Oregon taking Auburn.  Pick:  Auburn.
  • Stanford (11-1, 8-1) v. Virginia Tech (11-2, 8-0) -  I keep coming to the same conclusions on this one.  Stanford's potent offense will score 40 points. Virginia Tech will get some points, but it will not be enough to stay close.  Pick: Stanford in a rout.

Big Ten
At first glance, I'm hard pressed to see the Big Ten winning any of their eight - yes, eight - bowl games.  I'm serious here.  The second glance isn't much better.  The Big Ten subscribes to the "bowl eligible" plan whereby you play just eight conference games and schedule out-of-conference patsies.  Whenever they play other major conference schools, they lose (Penn State to 'Bama, Iowa to Arizona, Illinois to Missouri, Minnesota to USC). OK, Wisconsin beat non-bowl eligible Arizona one home. The remaining five (oops, six: 6 + 5 = (Big) 10) conference teams played a total of zero quality non-conference games.  Despite the early season assessment that the Big Ten was weak, three teams (Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin) rose in the rankings because they had good records against mediocre or worse competition.  Voila, the Big Ten is a strong conference. Well, it's not. The only bowl wins possible for the Big Ten come in favorable match ups in which they face even less-deserving opponents. If then.  Here's the bowl breakdown:

  • Iowa (7-5, 4-4) v. Missouri (10-2, 6-2) - Iowa lost last their last three games.  Missouri beat San Diego State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M; lost to Nebraska and Texas Tech (when Mizzou's QB had an exceptionally bad day).  Iowa also has two players (their top receiver and top running back) out on legal/discipline issues. The game will be over by the half.  Pick:  Missouri, no contest.
  • Illinois (6-6, 4-4) v. Baylor (7-5, 4-4) - Illinois beat Penn State (apparently Penn State had a lot of injuries, which is the only way short of an act of god that could make that possible.)   Baylor has only one (debatable) quality win over Texas.  Neither team is particularly interesting.  Baylor is somewhat overrated, losing to every quality team it played, including its last three versus Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.  Illinois is worse.  Pick:  Baylor in a close one.
  • Northwestern (7-5, 3-5) v. Texas Tech (7-5, 3-5) - Tech caught Missouri on a bad day for its only quality win and also beat Baylor.  Northwestern upset Iowa, it's one somewhat "quality" win, but that came during the Hawkeyes' end-of-season El Foldo.  This game is a poster child for bowls run amok.  Winning just three conference games should qualify you for watching the games on TV, not playing in them.  Northwestern is without QB Dan Persa, otherwise, they'd be the favorite.   Pick:  Texas Tech.
  • Penn State (7-5, 4-4) v. Florida (7-5, 4-4) - Penn State's refrain is familiar: play a quality opponent and you lose (Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State). No quality wins. None.  And Florida?  Uh, same story (losses to Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina).  Florida gets the nod because they lost to MORE quality opponents.  Pick: Florida.
  • Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) v. Alabama (9-3, 5-3) -  Alabama was competitive in all its big games this year but came up a bit short in each (South Carolina, LSU, Auburn).  Michigan State, on the other hand, is probably the single most overrated team in the nation. Michigan State's only hope for staving off disaster? Coach Mark Dantonio assisted under Alabama's Saban and has some familiarity with his system.  Pick:  Alabama will still crush them. 
  • Michigan (7-5, 3-5) v. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4) - Michigan benefits from scheduling: fatten up early on patsies, play one decent team and lose, win just three conference games.  They score a lot of points but give up just as many. Mississippi State is young but their coach has them playing within themselves on offense.  They're on an upward trajectory.  Michigan is going nowhere.  Pick: Mississippi State easily.
  • Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1) v. TCU (12-0, 8-0) - This is a tough one.  Wisconsin coasted on an easy end-of-season schedule (Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Northwestern) and earned style points for blowouts.  Arizona State should have beaten them in September at Camp Randall.  I can't help but think these guys have been untested all year.  TCU, on the other hand, has that ever suspect Mountain West schedule. The non-BCS chip on their shoulder means TCU really wants this one.  Overall, its a wonderfully classic match up of TCU's speed v. Wisconsin's brawn. I think TCU is tough enough, so I'm going with speed.  Pick:  TCU.
  • Ohio State (11-1, 7-1) v. Arkansas (10-2, 6-2) - Ohio State has really only played - and lost to - one quality team all year (Wisconsin).  I'm not sure their win over Miami (FL) counts for much. Arkansas, on the other hand, lost to 'Bama and Auburn, but beat Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU. Gotta go with that pedigree. Fortunately for the Buckeye faithful, Terrell Pryor and their other budding capitalists will get to play.  OSU's defense may keep it close, but it's not enough.  Pick: Arkansas.
    While it's difficult to believe that the Big Ten will lose all its bowl games, purely on odds alone, I'm thinking the best the conference can hope for is two wins.

    More Big Ten
    I read a week ago about the names for the Big Ten's two divisions:  Legends and Leaders.  Where do you even start?  Dumb? (Certainly.)  Meaningless? (Oh yeah.) Self-congratulatory? (Definitely.)  A total joke.  My money says they change the names.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    PAC-10 Uber Alles?

    Excellent analysis by Ted Miller on the PAC-10 v. the world.

    Best observation I didn't know: "That combination of nine conference games and tough nonconference scheduling also leads to this: No PAC-10 team played fewer than five road games this year. Seven played six -- including Oregon and Stanford -- and USC played seven.  Contrast that with other top-10 BCS programs: Auburn (four road games), Wisconsin (five), Ohio State (four), Arkansas (four), Michigan State (four), Oklahoma (five) and LSU (four)."

    Best quote: "There are 19 other bowl-eligible BCS conference teams that are 6-6 or 7-5. How many would not be bowl eligible if they played an extra conference game, another road game (or two), one fewer nonconference patsy and one more tough nonconference game?"

    Best conclusion from the column: "In other words, 5-7 in the PAC-10 is much different than it is in the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and ACC. That's what the non-biased Sagarin Ratings take note of when it rates the PAC-10 ahead of other conferences."

    Read the article. He raises some good points.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    What a Weekend!

    What a tremendous week of great games: Auburn/Alabama, LSU/Arkansas, Boise State/Nevada, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State.

    It seems unlikely that Stanford will get to the Rose Bowl. Too bad. I think Wisconsin v. Stanford would be a great pairing - and in keeping with the PAC 10 - Big 10 tradition.  Instead, Stanford is more likely to end up playing Oklahoma or Nebraska in the Fiesta.  (Orange Bowl v. Virginia Tech is also an outside possibility.) Stanford matches up well against Wisconsin, being strongest defensively against the run and with an offense the likes of which Wisconsin has not seen all year. A-little-better-than-mediocre Iowa most resembles Stanford's style, and they played Wisconsin dead even. Either way, Stanford has an exciting array of possible marquee match ups (unless they get stuck with Connecticut in the Orange Bowl!)

    Assuming Oregon plays Auburn for the national championship, I'm picking Oregon to lose. Studying their game stats this year, I'm convinced the green smurfs are vulnerable - I just don't think they've got the requisite toughness on either side of the ball. Their offense was essentially shut down against Arizona State.  The one time I was impressed with their defense was the second half v. Stanford.  But even then they had help from mistake-prone Stanford.

    Arizona State
    Speaking of Arizona State, they must be the best five win team in the country. They've been close in just about every game they've played.  Wisconsin beat them with a blocked PAT. They out gained Oregon by a wide margin (but had seven turnovers, two directly for touchdowns). They played Stanford very, very close. The Sun Devils could easily be 9-2 right now. It just underscores how volatile a college football season can be. I understand they have most of their team back next year.  Look out.

    Northwestern is a poster child for scheduling your way into a bowl game. Yeah, they have seven wins, but just 3-5 in their conference.  Not just to pick on the Big 10, but I think any team that can't win half it's conference games doesn't deserve a post season celebration. Teams should not be rewarded for loading up on out-of-conference patsies.

    Conference Comparisons
    I read a good analysis from a San Jose blog.  The writer cited some stats regarding how the PAC-10's full round robin scheduling hurts the conference. The observations:
    • The SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 play four out-of-conference games: one BCS opponent, two mid-majors and one FCS.  The PAC-10 plays three out-of-conference games, including more BCS conference teams than anyone else, plus one more in-conference (BCS) game. That translates essentially to one more loss for half the PAC-10 teams compared to the other major conferences.  It affects rankings, it affects bowl bids. 
    • Jeff Sagarin, the oldest and most respect rating system, ranks the PAC-10 as #1. 
    • The PAC-10 has a higher win percentage in the BCS era than any other conference in BCS head to head out of conference games and against BCS top 25 teams.
    • This year the PAC-10 has the strongest out of conference performance, including the toughest out of conference schedule. The PAC-10 has 9 teams ranked in the top 15 in terms of strength of schedule.
    Sources (we're not making this stuff up):

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Big Game and More

    Big Game
    I do love college football. I was at the Big Game Saturday (Stanford at Cal) and got see old Memorial Stadium before the renovation. Counting Notre Dame, that makes two storied stadiums I've had the privilege of visiting this year. Memorial stadium is beautifully located (dug into a hillside overlooking San Francisco Bay) with a perfect bowl configuration that's fairly close to the field. Unfortunately, its so old there is no concourse, bladder breaks head for the Honey Buckets out back and it's cramped, cramped, cramped.  All 67,000 seats are wooden benches, no backs, and the bench in front of you is so close, you literally must stick your knees between the fans in front of you.

    I was impressed with the decorum of the Cal fans.  I expected worse, based on some bad actors last year in Stanford, but the Bears took it well (except for the Cal students who threw water bottles at those three celebrating Stanford students while the cops watched - and who then admonished the Stanford kids).  Too bad the Cal team wasn't as civilized before the game.

    Also, too bad the security didn't do the same after the game. They really, REALLY wanted to keep Stanford students off the field and cordoned off the end zone area where we sat with yellow caution tape and three deep in cops and stadium security.  Stanford fans found a way, however, and some Junior G-Men from stadium security were tackling a few of them on the field, including young women.  This is while dozens to hundreds of people streamed by.  Idiots. They finally gave up when the Stanford team came from mid field to gather near the end zone.

    The Hit
    Gotta love Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  He's got size and he's not afraid to use it. Take a look at him decking Cal DB Sean Cattouse en route to a 58 yard run.  He's a horse. The best part was the way Luck seemed to pause momentarily before resuming his dash.  Admiring his work?

    Stanford's Bowl Hopes
    Still hoping for the Rose Bowl but the pollsters aren't helping.  Let's see, Stanford demolishes Cal in Berkeley and drops in the polls.  Thank god for the computer rankings. Somehow, folks back east seem to think that since the Big 10-1/2 has three one-loss teams then it must be a strong conference and worthy of high rankings. Of course, they don't all play one another.  For a great analysis on that, read Seattle PI columnist Ted Miller's take which follows.

    Ted Miller on PAC-10 v. the World
    "Over at the Pac-10, we're grinning. We're about to point out the Pac-10 plays a nine-game conference schedule, which automatically adds five losses to the conference, which, of course, hurts the conference's national perception, not to mention its number of bowl-eligible teams. Every other BCS conference plays eight, other than the eight-team Big East. But that’s not why we're grinning. We're grinning because the Big Ten and the Big 12 will do that soon, and then they'll find out the perception consequence of not giving your entire conference an extra win with a nonconference patsy. Of course, the savvy SEC will continue to play eight conference games, schedule weak nonconference opponents and then trumpet itself as super-awesome.

    Why is the Pac-10 No. 2 [conference]? Well, it's got the nation's No. 1 team in Oregon. It's got the nation's No. 6 team in Stanford, which many believe to be the nation's best one-loss team. And four of 10 teams are ranked. Are Iowa and Wisconsin good teams? Absolutely. But Iowa lost to Arizona, which has three Pac-10 defeats, and Wisconsin got a fluky one-point win at home over Arizona State, which is 2-5 in the Pac-10. The Pac-10 is 10-4 overall vs. other BCS conferences. It's ranked No. 1 by the Sagarin ratings, which for some reason don't believe stadium size is a true measure of a team or a conference. Even lowly Washington State is no longer the pushover it was the previous two seasons.

    Depth? Let's put it this way: The Pac-10 would love to match the team that ends up second to last in its conference versus the one that ends up in that spot anywhere else."

    Well said.  Bottom line, distribute an additional loss to half the teams in the other conferences. Interesting exercise, no?

    Here are my rankings using "who would win"(in head-to-head competition) speculation. I'm still unconvinced Boise State and TCU could stay undefeated with a tough conference schedule. Hey, it's an opinion.
    (BCS in parentheses):

     1    Oregon  (1)
     2    LSU (5)
     3    Alabama (11)
     4    Auburn  (2)
     5    Stanford (6)
     6    Boise State (4)
     7    Nebraska (15) (assuming a healthy and happy QB Martinez)
     8    Arkansas (12)
     9    TCU (3)
    10   Wisconsin (7)
    11   South Carolina (18)
    12   Oklahoma State  (9)
    13   Who cares?

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    The Polls

    Did a bit of research into who votes in the polls. Here's the breakdown by conference/state of both the sports writers and coaches poll.  The reader is left to draw his/her own conclusions:

                                          AP Sportswriters                 USA Today Coaches

    Big 10 States                         12                                            14

    SEC States                            14                                            15

    PAC 10 States                        6                                              6

    Down the Stretch Its Anybody's Ballgame

    Time to get Futbol Thots back on track

    Stanford's Bowl Prospects
    Despite just one loss and current #6 rank in the BCS, Stanford's hopes of getting to the Rose Bowl are virtually nil. If things stay as they are, the Rose Bowl will be obligated to take TCU or Boise State. Stanford's only hope, should they win out, would be for Auburn to lose, giving either BSU or TCU a chance to move into the championship game, whether or not they deserve it.  The other big bowls will pick teams from the SEC or Big 12 and/or someone from the east coast.  The Sugar Bowl is Stanford's other best hope...officials attended the Arizona State game (ouch!).  My bet, though, is that they go with an SEC team and TCU. Meanwhile, Michigan State is a likely Rose Bowl entry, a team that defintely does not deserve any ranking better than 15th, if that. 

    Big 10-1/2
    Now, go figure that this conference, a clearly mediocre product this year with no national contender, will get two (are they allowed to have three?) in the BCS (Wisconsin, on balance a far more worthy team than Michigan State, despite the head to head result, will be the other). Meanwhile, Stanford, a team in the mix when pundits ask about the best one-loss team in the country, will likely have to settle for the Alamo Bowl. Seems to me the Bowls would be better served inviting Boise State to the Sugar or Orange Bowl, and ignore the minor league entries from the ACC and Big East, thereby clearing the way for the PAC to play in the Rose Bowl.  It won't happen, of course.

    Biggest Losers of the Week
    Boise State and TCU stock took a nose dive, their strength of schedule plummeting with Oregon State's shellacking at the hands of the worst team in the PAC and Utah's drubbing at Notre Dame.  (By the same token, Stanford's stock goes up, if only incrementally).  At least, that's what I thought until I thought about it for a moment.  The polls don't really look at strength of schedule. Bottom line: far too much emphasis is put on won-loss record, particularly if a team is undefeated. That only makes sense in playoff scenarios - which of course make polls moot. When deciding national champions by committee, you must look closely at strength of schedule.  It's the only way to accurately answer "who would win" when most of the top teams don't actually play each other. When they do play each other, they should be rewarded, not penalized. My ranking below reflects that approach.

    Biggest Winners of the Week
    Boise State and TCU. As stated previously, the polls don't care much about strength of schedule. Cowed by past "outrages," once you lose, you're toast in the polls.

    National Championship
    Auburn will not be going to the BCS championship game.  They will lose one more game. If not to Alabama, then to South Carolina.

    My Rankings (BCS Ranking)

     1   Auburn (2 )  Placeholder: I think they're going to lose.
     2   Oregon (1)   I'm still not convinced of these guys
     3   LSU (5)
    4    Alabama (11)
    5    Arkansas (13)
    6    Nebraska (8)
    7    Boise State (4)
    8    Stanford (6)
    9    TCU (3)
    10  Wisconsin (7)
    11  South Carolina (17)
    12  Oklahoma State  (10)
    Anything after this doesn't matter

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Stanford/USC, Oregon State/Arizona and more.


    • First, let's play catchup and comment on last week's game. Oregon was the better team v. Stanford. Yes, there were a lot of "if's" such as Stanford fumbling on the goal line, penalties on just about every key play in the 4th quarter and a nasty helmet to helmet hit on receiver Owusu in which the refs looked the other way.  (So much for the emphasis on safety in the game.)  With Owusu out, Stanford was missing their top two receivers.  All that said, Oregon wasn't dealing with such issues because they were better that day. 
    • This week, Stanford-USC was the most entertaining game I've seen this year.  Both teams played well. USC exploited weaknesses in Stanford's secondary. They had no choice -- they couldn't run the ball on Stanford.  Stanford had a more balanced attack throughout.  I had the impression after last week and through most of this game that the near-deified Jim Harbaugh was getting out-coached.  (Harken back one week: his team was totally unprepared for Oregon's onside kick, which helped turn the momentum.)  But the final Stanford drive was a thing of beauty.  With a minute left, Stanford took what USC would give them, firing short 10 yard buttonhook routes over the middle.  A reception means you get the yardage.  Contrast this with Arizona who, with the clock winding down against OSU, would throw small flare passes to their running backs or ends and let them make the yardage after the catch. Stanford did what fit their personnel.  Masterful.  
    • A lot of attention has been paid hereabouts about Stanford's ineffectual secondary.  Against Notre Dame, the secondary looked at least average, but Barkley lit 'em up. Why? Stanford's pass rush got to Notre Dame's QB early and regularly. They were unable to get to Barkley last night, giving him plenty of time to find an open man. Even the best secondary will falter under those conditions.  
      • Kudos to USC coach Lane Kiffin.  He could have used his last timeout in an attempt to "freeze" Stanford placekicker Nate Whitaker.  He didn't.  Apparently, he believes his role is to coach during the week and let the players play on Saturday, eschewing the psych-out mind games from the bench.  Bravo!

      Oregon State v. Arizona
      • Another immensely entertaining game.  Both teams deserve to be ranked. Local columnist Jon Wilner ranked OSU 10th after yesterday and he has a case (although I wouldn't have ranked them quite that high). Their losses are to #3 Boise State and #4 TCU. Try to find a team in any of the other major conferences who play a non-conference schedule like that.
      • In fact, only the computer ratings consistently recognize the tougher schedules of the PAC in general.  For example, here's the Sagarin ratings where the PAC has 5 of the top 11 positions.  Note the Strength of Schedule numbers. The non-emotional computer ratings reward teams for facing tough competition, unlike the pollsters who only care about your number of losses, whether or not you have the equivalent of a community college non-conference schedule.
      • On that note, gotta wonder if Utah will suddenly drop in its rankings next year when they start playing the PAC schedule. 
      • Random thought:  USC would beat half the currently ranked teams.

      • Doff of the cap to Michigan State for sticking it to Michigan (with condolences to my friend, Michigan grad Doug in Seattle, and thumbs up to my other friend Doug in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has a family legacy going with Michigan State graduates).
      • Gotta wonder #2: Do we really believe Ohio State has earned the title as currently the best team in the country? They beat Miami, a team that now, after a blowout loss to Florida State, looks run-of-the-mill. Their other wins?  Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Ho Hum.  On the other hand, Nebraska has a similar cupcake schedule, but I have to admit I was impressed watching them dismantle Washington on the road. 
      • Best observation of the week, also from Jon Wilner of the Mercury News: Quick Big Ten aside: In the wake of Miami’s loss, I was thinking: What’s the best team that a Big Ten team has beaten? (I mean, besides all those MAC powerhouses.) It has to be either Miami, Notre Dame or Arizona State, which speaks for itself …

      Thursday, September 30, 2010

      Thoughts on Notre Dame and Three Best Games of the Week

      Notre Dame

      I recently returned from South Bend after watching Stanford dismantle Notre Dame.  Satisfying.  Stanford looked good but not spectacular, although an objective observer would probably have concluded that there was no way Notre Dame would ever beat this team.  Some other thoughts:

      • Notre Dame fans are knowledgeable and classy.  There, I said it. I've heard this before (I understand Nebraska has a similar reputation) and I can vouch for the folks in South Bend on Saturday, from the parking lot attendant to the ushers to the fans themselves.
      • It was eerily subdued walking across campus to the game. I asked an ND fan in the bathroom if it's always this quiet.  He said, "no" mentioning that he noticed the same thing.  I figure its partly that the fans see the writing on the wall for this season (its a "rebuilding year") and maybe they also expected to get whomped.
      • Fun to see ND's hall of fame honorees on the old stadium wall:  Paul Hornung, John Huarte, Alan Page, Nick Buoniconti, et al.  (When they expanded some years back, they just extended the bowl upwards, creating a concourse underneath that still exposes the old brick facade.)
      • More Stadium: A classic college sports venue. Our seats in the upper bowl were spartan, weathered wood benches with the numbers paint-stenciled on. They were also spaced wide so as to give lots of butt room. Nice touch.  There is no jumbo-tron in ND stadium.  Two basic scoreboards up top at either end with a small screen for score updates --no replays.  Touchdown Jesus was clearly visible as we entered through the tunnel. Stadium photos forthcoming.

      Three Best

      • Stanford v. Oregon.  Need I say more?  The most highly anticipated PAC game of the year so far. Gearhart ran them bowlegged last year and Luck lit 'em up long. This year, the running game isn't quite so good but Luck is better. Plus Stanford's defense is much improved.  I'm psyched.
      • Texas v. Oklahoma. Always a big one, but interesting this year because neither team has performed as advertised.  Could sort out the pretender(s).
      • Arizona State v. Oregon State. Not in the national spotlight, but these are two teams that bear watching.  Oregon State always starts slow and this year is no exception, at least as far as their record (1-2) is concerned.  But they lost in competitive games v. highly ranked Boise State and TCU. Give them points for tough scheduling while other programs load up on FCS teams. Arizona State could have beaten Oregon if not for turnovers and they darn near beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall.  Many thought the Washington Huskies would be the surprise PAC team this year, but right now it looks like ASU may have a shot at laying claim to that moniker. Is Dennis Erickson finally ready to break out in Tempe?

      Final Thought

      The PAC is on the radar of many sportswriters this year. It will be interesting to see how they react when the conference starts cannibalizing itself, as happens every year. Will the conference be punished for having depth? (Wazzu excluded of course.)

      Sunday, September 19, 2010

      Futbol Thots 2010 Debut

      I figure that if I'm going to be a blowhard, I should make it official.  Welcome to the inaugural Futbol Thots blog. I'm hoping this format will allow a more open exchange with my friends.

      First stop, the PAC:
      • "Stanford 41, Wake Forest 10" read my text to family while at the game.  I had to add "At the half!"  There wasn't a weak point in any aspect of the Stanford game. (Of course, they were playing Wake Forest). QB Luck is stupendous physically, already NFL caliber, combining arm strength with a deft touch.  The running back by committee thing is working well, with more speed in the backfield.  Yet, I am wary and can't help but feel they are untested, at least for the upper tier. Harbaugh appears to be an exceptional coach who has instilled physical toughness in a QB oriented team.  That could be very potent in the PAC. Also, his recruiting classes are consistently high quality. 
      • The other thing going for Stanford is an improved defense. First, he brought in a defensive coordinator from the NFL. Second, he played at Michigan and I think that helped Stanford prepare for Wake Forest's attack, which somewhat resembles a triple option.  I'll be at the Notre Dame game next week, way up in the corner with the other red shirts.  Should be fun!
      • Felt bad for Washington Huskies' thrashing at the hands of Nebraska. Word is how bad Locker looked. Some pundits comment that he's still not used to Sarkisian's pro-set offense.  May be true, but Nebraska's defense threw a blanket over Locker's receivers. I don't think there was much he could do. Nebraska looked "scary-good" and freshman QB Martinez is exceptionally poised and wicked-fast.
      • Arizona v. Iowa. Number two team in the Big 10-1/2 v. #4 or #5 in the PAC. Heard plenty about how Iowa blew the game.  Garbage. I watched the game. Arizona had a few big run backs on special teams, something the press and the commentators harped on as if to say Arizona didn't deserve the game.  Yet Iowa benefited from an Arizona fumble on their 6 yard line and, late in the game, a fumble and interception that gifted two TD's to Iowa to tie the game. Then, as Arizona is finishing off an impressive winning drive with time running down, I heard the commentators say that Iowa has the best defensive line in the country.  Huh? I'm not sure what game these guys were watching.  All told, Iowa benefited from 12 Arizona penalties for 103 yards plus 3 Arizona turnovers (which, as I pointed out, led to a net gain of 20 Iowa points) and Arizona out gained Iowa by 20% in total offense.  Arizona was the better team Saturday, hands down. 
      • After watching Cal's debacle v. Nevada, I mentioned to my friend, Doug, that Cal is the biggest head-case of a team since Bowling Green State University in the 1970's (under coach Don Nehlen interestingly enough).  Could fall on QB Riley's shoulders, but I noticed the same thing with Longstreet over center. Could be Tedford or the type of players he recruits.  Hard to say.
      • In an interesting take on Wisconsin's home squeaker over expected PAC-10 doormat Arizona State, a sportswriter lauded Wisconsin for their "resolve." May be true, but Wisconsin had a bit of luck too: they narrowly avoided an ASU TD at the end of the first half, blocked the tying PAT on a play that can only be described as "blown assignment-flukey", and benefited from a key stupid personal foul on ASU when it looked like the Sun Devils might be able to get the ball back and another crack at the win. Bottom line, it works both ways and if Wisconsin is indeed a #11 team, it should have pasted ASU at home. (Apologies to my friend Steve for this rant!)
      Other Stuff:
      • Interesting survey of past undeserving Heisman winners.  1975 is the one that sticks out in my mind. Chuck Muncie deserved it hands down.
      • Why is Michigan ranked?  Why is Notre Dame still receiving votes?
      • Urban Meyer Felon Count Watch:  in what could become a regular feature, this writer notes that Pope Urban's program has produced 30 felons.  Should compare it alongside his placement of kids in the NFL, no? 
      • Random-Observation-of-the-Week: the second tier conferences in the west are better than similar conferences in the east. More to elaborate in future posts.