Tuesday, December 16, 2014

College Football: Pick your coaching poison

Two schools, one that I root for and one that I follow since I did graduate from their university system, fired their football coaches recently.  While Michigan (who I root for) has slowly watched itself devolve over the past couple of decades from National power to B1G mediocrity there are signs that they are finally starting to understand the root-cause of the problem.

That said, Les Miles was always a pipe dream (why leave LSU?) and I've a feeling Jim Harbaugh might be as well. Although I'd be happy to have khaki walking around the UM sideline I still think he's more likely to entertain NFL offers first, after the 49ers (the NFL team I root for ironically) give him the boot after the season.

I realize that most Big Blue fans still harbor delusions of grandeur, but the reality is that Michigan football is in a rebuilding phase. Whoever the next coach is will need to understand that and also will need to understand how to bring a program back to glory in the face of some unrealistic expectations from boosters.  Oh, and then there's the evergreen shadow of Bo.

With that in mind I like the idea of Greg Schiano as the next head coach of the Maize and Blue. Yes, his tenure in Tampa Bay was a disaster but, before that, he resurrected Rutgers and took them just about as far as they could go given their resources.  Say this for Michigan, they are unrivaled when it comes to having resources so that still makes them a coveted job.

The second school, Houston, has just hired Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman as the coach who is tasked with fixing the mess caused by nice guy, but poor head coach, Tony Levine. In many ways the UH job is the Michigan job in miniature.

The program has history (although not as much as Michigan), they have had some success in the past (although again, not as much as Michigan) and they have a fan and booster base that's somewhat delusional.

For both schools, football history is stuck in the 80's. While Michigan dreams of the days when mighty Bo Schembechler prowled the sidelines and three yards and a cloud of dust, UH fans are still bitter over the implosion of the Southwest Conference and blame Baylor and certain politicians for their ultimate decline.

Michigan wants a "Michigan Man" while UH just wants offense. I've seen many a supporter talk about UH "lighting up the scoreboard again" with very little focus on actually winning.  And while lesser Houston sports writers have chastised UH for firing Levine, more reasoned thinkers realize that what was brewing over at Cullen Ave. was a disaster that needed to be fixed, fast.

I think the UH hire of Tom Herman was a good hire. I think he's got the coaching pedigree to turn the program around and really compete in the AAC, something Levine didn't have the coaching chops to do.  For Herman I think that job #1 will be: Don't lose the games you should win, be competitive in the one's you shouldn't, and don't do stupid things like lose to Texas State or UTSA.

However, even if Herman accomplishes that there will still be a broad cross-section of UH fans who won't be happy. These are the people who spend too much time in the echo chambers of UH football chat boards.  For Herman I have this bit of advice: Ignore them.  Even if you counter their arguments with facts and wins they still won't be happy.

For Michigan there's a tougher road to hoe. For one, the expectations and stakes are much higher. Secondly, even if Michigan's dreams come true and Harbaugh takes the reins (which, despite the fact I don't think Big Blue will get him, would be outstanding for the program and something I very much want to see) there's still the spectre of Ohio State and Urban Meyer in the distance.

My last days on a UH chat board were spent talking about football rivalries and which ones were 'hot' right now.  On my list I left off "The Game" because it's been a one-sided affair of late. Yes, Michigan and Ohio State fans still chirp about it but, on the National stage, it's pretty much a non-entity because Michigan has been an overwhelming loser for a while now.  When I pointed this out to a UH fan (again, facts) what proceeded to follow was an avalanche of insults of the "you don't know anything about football" type.

For the new Michigan coach and Herman, this will be the norm from a large portion of delusional fans.  In many cases I wonder if even wins will be enough to overcome that.  For Michigan I sure hope so.  For UH?  I don't think it ever will.

This goes a long way towards explaining why both programs are currently mired in mediocrity.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The 'screwing' of the Big XII - 2014 College Football Playoff edition.

Earlier today the College Football Playoff Committee (a group that has done the impossible and made everyone yearn for the good ol' days of the B(C)S) released their final four:

1. Alabama
2, Oregon
3. Florida State
4. Ohio State.

At 5 & 6 respectively were Baylor and TCU which caused all hell to break loose on Twitter as the fans of the Big XII suddenly realized a couple of truths.....

1. Neither Baylor nor TCU were viewed as elite teams by most of the country.
2. The Big XII is not viewed as a top conference outside of the Big XII schools fan base.

Honestly, they shouldn't be taken all that seriously, at least this year.  Let's look at the standings:

1. Baylor 11-1 (Loss to W Virginia)
1. TCU 11-1 (Loss to Baylor)
3. Kansas State 9-3 (Losses to Baylor, TCU and Auburn)
4. Oklahoma 8-4 (Losses to Baylor, TCU, K-State and Oklahoma State)
5.Texas 6-6
6. West Virginia 7-5
7. Oklahoma State 6-6
8. Texas Tech 4-8
9. Kansas 3-9
10. Iowa State 2-10

Out of the top 4 teams, the only team with a win against a non-conference ranked opponent is TCU, who beat Minnesota in the game that had them ranked ahead of Baylor until the last week. For anyone below the top four, it's really pretty dismal.

Add the relatively soft schedules of Baylor and TCU to the problem that they didn't get to play in a championship game (something CFP chairman Jeff Long made mention of) and you have a body of work that's just not all that impressive.

While Big XII fans (and touts who obviously lost prop bets on either Baylor or TCU) bloviated about how poor the B1G was this year the reality didn't match the rhetoric.

Consider the B1G:

1. Ohio State 12-1 (Lost to Va Tech)
2. Wisconsin 10-3
3. Michigan State 10-2
4. Nebraska 9-3
5. Minnesota 8-4
6. Maryland 7-5
7. Rutgers 7-5
8. Iowa 7-5
9. Illinois 6-6
10. Penn State 6-6
11. Michigan 5-7
12. Northwestern 5-7
13. Indiana 4-8
14. Purdue 3-9

As you can see, there's no demonstrable advantage for the Big XII over the B1G and, except for one bad week at the beginning of the year, neither the B1G or the Big XII did anything to convince you that one is better than the other.

Think about it, neither conferrence really had a signature win over one of the top teams in the other power conferences, neither conference did much but knock each other around. Most of the conference teams signature wins over top 25 teams are in conference.

As a matter of fact, the only reason the B1G is terrible lie existed in the first place was because Ohio State lost to Va Tech way back in week two while Michigan State was losing to Oregon. It was a joke then and a joke now, and it's done the Big XII fan no favors because it's outing them as blind to the reality that their conference is one that teams are looking to abandon, not one that teams want to join.

In summary then, what happened today was neither a screw job or politics. It was the result of two teams not having the opportunity to make the same statement as the third.

Ohio State's 59-0 devastation of Wisconsin was the most impressive win of the day by any school. The Buckeyes destroyed a very good Badgers team who had just beaten a pretty good Nebraska team,

Oh, and before Baylor fans scream 'but Wisconsin lost to Northwestern' let me remind you that your Bears lost to a very pedestrian West Virginia team who only is 7-5 because they got to play against a soft Big XII schedule.

Don't get me wrong, I still think the College Football Playoff is flawed beyond repair. Leave it to the geniuses currently in charge of the sport to make a mess of it. I think that ESPN and their marriage is going to lead to a lot more of this in the future. I predict that there will be arguments like this every year because too many people lack the ability to take an honest look at their teams and admit that, as in the case of Baylor, what happened was, in fact, justified.

Monday, December 1, 2014

College Football: For Your Consideration.

It will never happen but.....

1. Oregon
2. Florida State
3. Alabama
4. TCU

5. Ohio State
6. Baylor.

I realize that ranking Alabama behind both Oregon AND Florida State is considered football blasphemy but....

1. Right now the Oregon loss to Arizona is looking way more impressive than the Alabama loss to Ole Miss.
2. Also, lest we forget, no matter how much we all want to root against them, Florida State is STILL undefeated.  That means something.
3. Yes, I know, Baylor beat TCU (barely) at home and they are holding that up as proof of case that they are the better team.  But, on a neutral field I think TCU holds on and wins. Head to head does matter, but it's not the be all, end all considering all of the factors involved.
4. If Ohio State, with a 3rd string QB, beats Wisconsin in the B1G Championship game they vault into the 4 spot for me.

Final thought on this issue:  The CFP Committee is going to screw this up.  Just watch.

Unrelated:  HOW has Michigan not terminated Brady Hoke & Co as of yet?

Unrelated II: The last time Nebraska released a coach coming off a 9 win season (Frank Solich) it ushered them into the Bill Callahan era.  Be careful what you wish for Corn Huskers.

Unrelated III: Just because you played football at the collegiate and professional level does not make you an expert on A. Fooball and B. What the fan base at a school you never attended is thinking.

Unrelated IV: Turn your radio off whatever local sports talk show you have in your town, on social media, unfollow and mute almost every local talker, analyst, etc.  Your College and professional football knowledge will increase almost immediate.

Unrelated V:  We're reminded that Not all coaching jobs are created equal.  Funny that Iowa is the place to remind us.

Championship game lines are out.  Or, at least, Championship game "week" lines are out since the Big XII is continuing the "one true champion" farce.  Early thoughts:  Oregon is way too high a favorite against Arizona if Solomon is healthy.  I'm thinking that La Tech on the money line (+13.5) might be the best beet of the day.  If SMU is going to win a game this season UConn is a good bet.  Florida State (-3) at Ga Tech feels low. Could be some value on the favorites if the lines stay the same.

Other than that?  Too early to tell.  Will be interesting to see the line for Baylor/K-State once we get a final status on Petty and the boards re-post.

Friday, November 28, 2014

LineSmithing: Nothing this week.

It's Thanksgiving.  So I'm taking the week off.

And while I think there are some fairly decent plays out this week, rivalry games are typically a mess.

So have a fun time and enjoy the Holiday weekend with your family.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Linesmithing: On a down week for College Football there is some opportunity.

It happens this time every year.  The week before Thanksgiving and many of the top schools are either taking bye weeks or playing cupcakes the week before their big holiday rivalry games.  So the SEC schedule this week is crap, as are much of the major conference schedules because most of the big games are happening next weekend.

To be fair, we're rolling off of four plus weeks with some amazing games and matchups. They all can't be riveting TV.

Lines I like:

1. Kansas State @ West Virginia University (-2.5): The bettors really want to like WVU and Dana Holgerson, but he's no Bill Snyder.  To me this game is pretty simple to analyze. The Wildcats don't make mistakes all that often, the Mountaineers do.  Pick: K-State on the money line for the mild upset.

2. UTEP @ Rice (-7): First off, I like touchdown favorites/underdogs. Especially if I can get a "ties win" edge from the house. In live betting a "push" is often refunded so your potential ROI is slightly higher.  That said, I'm a big fan of UTEP here. Their last win on the road (a 34-0 shellacking of UTSA) was their best win of the season. Rice has been a disappointment this year. Pick: UTEP to cover.

3. Kansas @ OU (-25): To me, this one is fairly simple.  OU has been struggling offensively of late and the Jayhawks have played much better since ridding themselves of the anchor that was Charlie Weis. Pick: Jayhawks to cover.

4. Tulsa @ Houston (-20): I think it's pretty obvious by now that Cougar Head Coach Levine is overmatched in most games. The Golden Hurricane are pretty bad but I think 20 points is a lot to ask of the mess that is the UH offense. Pick: Tulsa to cover.

5. Arizona @ Utah (-4): Put simply, I think the Wildcats are a better team. I also think the "Muss" is overrated as a home-field advantage. Pick: Wildcats on the money line for the mild upset.

You Big Blue Game of the Week:

Maryland @ Michigan (-5): Coming off a horrible win against Northwestern, in which the offense showed little while the defense played well. You might think that Michigan has a chance here.  However, Big Blue's best defensive player (#57 Clark) proved himself an idiot by (allegedly) hitting a woman and has been summarily dismissed from the team. It was a rare occasion where Hoke & Company did the right thing for the program long-term but which could have short-term consequences.  Pick: Maryland to cover.

Other thoughts:

1. UCLA/USC is probably the best game of the week but I'm uncomfortable with UCLA but, right now, the line is UCLA -3.5 which is usually a no-go for me. That said, it's a game I will be watching.

2. With opponents like Stamford, Eastern Kentucky, Charleston Southern and South Alabama the SEC is largely must-miss TV this weekend. They justify playing these patsies due to what they say is the hardest conference schedule in all the land but, this year, that really doesn't seem to be true. Despite their teams being deeply flawed, they're still getting a reputation bump in the CFP rankings. I'm not saying this is wrong, just that it is.

3. SMU has yet to win a game this year. I highly doubt that this will be the week they break through.

4. The highest O/U is Colorado @ Oregon holding at 72.5. Take the under. Oregon will score but Colorado's offense is the worst in the Pac 12.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thoughts: College Football Playoffs, NFL Player Discipline and Kentucky's Men's Basketball Team.

Last night on Twitter I posted this question:

Less Credibility Right Now: NFL player disciplinary process or College Football Playoff Committee? Discuss

I'm going to be honest. It's pretty close.

When you're having to perform advanced logic-gymnastic routines to explain your top four something is wrong.

I've been against how the CFP Committee has been ranking the teams for a while now. It's just gotten worse this week.  The CFP definitely has an SEC bias, despite there being rising evidence that the conference is down this year.

This is a mess.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida State
4. Mississippi State
5. TCU
6. Ohio State
7. Baylor
8. Ole Miss
10. Georgia

1. I get that Alabama has all of the myth and mystery behind them, but they lost to Ole Miss.
2. I'm a fan of Oregon as well, but they lost.
3. The undefeated, defending B(C)S champions are ranked 3rd?
4. Not only did the Bulldogs look inept against 'Bama, but the game wasn't close.

The most disturbing thing is that we're obviously dealing with an entirely subjective process here. There is no objectivity.

For all of it's flaws at least the B(C)S tried to inject some level of data into their numbers.  And the Group of 5 treatment is shameful. 

My rankings:

1. Florida State
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. Baylor
5. Ohio State
6. Mississippi State
7. TCU
9. Ole Miss
10. Wisconsin

Also, I would have Marshall ranked somewhere around 20-25. At some point, winning has to matter folks.

Either Roger Goodell must go, or the entire punishment system needs to be re-thought.

This is a mess, and it's a mess created by a man with an out-sized ego and no self-awareness or understanding of how all of this is making him look.

Viewing himself as the White Knight of the NFL has not gone smoothly for Goodell as he's been reminded that, ultimately, it's the owners who pay his salary. Even more troubling is that he seems untethered from any concept of fairness, and has now decided to level punishment based on potential future actions (as he sees them) rather than on the actual crime committed. (In Peterson's case, a plea-bargained misdemeanor.)

There is no semblance of due-process or respect for the collective bargaining agreement, not even a modicum of fairness in the Goodell courtroom and a league that's spinning out of control right now. What we have now is a dual system of punishment that's largely based on two things.

1. Whether or not pictures or video exist.
2. Just how outraged the media, activist groups have decided to be.

That's not justice, it's a freak-show.

Forget losing, will anyone get within double digits of this Kentucky team?

Last night's dominance against the 5th ranked Jayhawks was very, very impressive.  Sure there are injuries and many things that can derail a teams (projected) dream season, but if this team stays healthy they are going to be a handful for anyone in the country.

Kansas tried to hard, in my opinion, to continually drive the ball in the land and get UK into foul trouble. All they got for their troubles were a lot of blocks and fast breaks the other way.  The team that eventually challenges UK (and there will be 1 or 2, I'm sure) will be the team that shoots lights out from behind the arch.

Until then (to quote Uncle Verne) My Goodness!

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