Monday, December 5, 2016

College Football: The Good (And Bad) of the Bowl Schedule.

On Sunday everything was finalized for College Football.  The College Football Playoff Committee made their choices, which almost everyone declared to either be either the best or worst of all worlds, there is no middle ground. In all fairness however, this year, the strange and crazy year, provided the Committee with a no-win situation.

Should Penn State have been in the top 4? Possibly.  But they lost to Michigan 49-10 and they lost to Pitt 42-39.  Washington did get in, with one of the weakest strength of schedules you're likely to see in a top 4 team. Ohio State also got in, despite losing to Penn State.  Oklahoma was out, despite running the table in the Big XII but losing to Houston and Ohio State, the latter at home. Michigan got left out, despite beating up Penn State but losing to Iowa and Ohio State, both on the road.

As it stands though, this is your top six.

1. Alabama. (13-0) - No arguments here. Consistently the best team in the land, the defending champion, undefeated and almost unchallenged most of the year.

2. Clemson (12-1) - Again, no arguments. And while Virginia Tech made it close in the ACC Championship game this is the team most likely to have a shot at challenging Alabama.

3. Ohio State (11-1) - No 13th game for the Buckeyes because Penn State beat them and played for the B1G championship. It's hard to argue against them unless you believe that winning the conference is of the utmost importance.

4. Washington (12-1) - The Pac-12 champions whose out of conference schedule included Rutgers, Idaho and Portand State. That loss to USC doesn't bode well for their chances to beat Alabama.

5. Penn State (11-2) - The team with the strongest argument for inclusion due to their winning the B1G and beating Ohio State.  Except they lost badly to.....

6. Michigan (10-2) - Has a fringe argument, except they lost to Iowa and Ohio State. Still, had a good season.

But the big games happen later in the schedule.  First things first, this season is gifting us with 41(!!) bowl match-ups, a handful involving 5-7 teams which is a sure-fire sign we have too many bowls. The thing is, we keep adding bowls and not retracting, so there's going to come a time when we run out of 5-7 teams if this keeps up.

As with any bowl season there are some good games (on paper) some bad, and some downright ugly. Here are my initial thoughts.

Games to watch:

Las Vegas Bowl 
Houston vs. San Diego State University. 3:30 PM EST, December 17th

One of the pluses of ESPN ownership of multiple bowl games is that they're allowed to tweak the invitations among them to better the match-ups.  This is the case here. UH was originally slotted into the St. Petersburg Bowl, where they would have likely played Mississippi State. A mid-Decmeber match-up against Donnel Pumphrey and the Aztecs is much more interesting. The only caveat to this is that Houston might lack motivation.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
BYU vs. Wyoming. 9 PM EST, December 21st.

This should be a solid match-up pitting two well coached teams against one another in a game that's usually exciting.  Wyoming head-coach Craig Bohl has the Cowboys on the map in his first season of back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back FCS Championships at NDSU.

Popeye's Bahamas Bowl
Old Dominion vs. Eastern Michigan, 1PM EST December 23rd.

There are worse things you could do while wrapping presents than tuning into this game pitting two teams with no bowl history matching up in the Bahamas. You probably haven't seen these two teams play much, which is another reason to tune in.

Russell Athletic Bowl
West Virginia vs. Miami(Fl) 5:30 PM EST, December 28th.

Possibly the most entertaining head coaching match-up as newly extended Dana Holgerson of West Virginia takes on first year Miami coach Mark Richt. Richt did a good job with Miami this year and Dana has a defense. I'm thinking this is a competitive game if both teams are motivated.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.
Texas A&M vs. Kansas State. 9:00 PM EST, December 28th.

Any time you can get aTm playing a Big XII team it's a good thing.  This is also likely to be K-State coach Bill Snyder's last game so that's worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Valero Alamo Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Colorado. 9:00 PM EST, December 29th.

This game is typically a flat affair between two teams that had NY6 bowl hopes but got blasted in the championship game.  It's no different this year but I think these two former Big 8 rivals might decide that they don't want to lose this game.

Capital One Orange Bowl
Michigan vs. Florida State. 8:00 PM EST, December 30th.

The first of the so-called 'NY6' bowls this one gives us a match-up between Florida State's offense, and Michigan's excellent defense. I'm expecting a low-scoring, hard hitting affair.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
LSU vs. Louisville, 11:00 AM EST, December 31st.

Wake up early on New Year's Eve and watch this. Lamar Jackson vs the LSU defense alone makes this potentially one of the better things in what has been a fairly crap 2016 to be honest.

Rose Bowl
USC vs. Penn State, 5:00 PM EST, January 2nd.

If nothing else, the Rose Bowl is the best of the bowl games just because.  Plus, this might be the last chance you get to see Adoree Jackson play college football. The setting is beautiful, so wake up early, watch the parade and get ready for college football as it's meant to be.

Games to miss: (I'll be watching most of these, so you don't have to)

St. Petersburg Bowl
Miami(OH) vs. Mississippi State. 11:00 AM, December 26th.

A bowl game pitting a team that went 0-6 before winning it's last six to become bowl eligible versus as 5-7 Bulldog team whose coach has mailed it in this year?  I would wake up early and possibly go to the malls to spend your Christmas money rather than watch this snoozer.

National Funding Holiday Bowl
Minnesota vs. Washington State. 7 PM EST, December 27th.

Two 6-6 teams that are ranked 88th and 89th in ARPI respectively. This is the most average, middle of the road bowl in possibly ever. Plus, I don't think Minnesota has the team speed to hang with Wazzu. I'm not expecting a very compelling game.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.
Baylor vs. Boise State. 10:15 PM EST, December 27th

Baylor should have declined a bowl invite and ended this disaster of a season. But, it's Baylor, so they didn't.  That doesn't mean that you should stay up late to watch this mess.

Belk Bowl
Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech. 5:30 PM EST, December 29th.

There's not a lot to get excited about in this pairing, as an overrated Arkansas team looks to get demolished by Virginia Tech. Unless, and this is more likely, neither team shows up very motivated.

Pure ugliness (I'm not even sure I'll be watching this one.)

Outback Bowl
Florida vs. Iowa. 1:00 PM EST, January 2nd.

A noon kick off the day after New Year's provides little reason to not sleep way in.  This is your last day of the holiday. Don't waste it watching this snoozer of a game.

Obviously also you're going to want to watch the College Football Playoff games, except for the late game played on December 31st. (Again, I'll be at home watching because I don't go out on amateur night)  I'll be back with full reviews of all the games in segments as we get closer to them.

Get some rest. It's going to be a long bowl season to cap off what was an entertaining year of College Football.

Friday, December 2, 2016

College Football: The CFP is designed to take the money and run.....unless.

There's starting to be a growing amount of writing suggesting that an expansion of the College Football Playoff, from 4 to 8 teams, is the 'fairest' way to go. The thought behind this being that with 5 power conferences and only 4 open slots there are always going to be deserving teams that, to be blunt, get the shaft.

While I agree with the expansion calls, I think that they don't go far enough.  If you want to make the playoff truly fair then you expand to a point that every conference champion gets in. Yes, I'm including Group of 5 conferences in this scenario. To get to that you would need to expand to (at least) 12 teams. Giving the Top 4 seeds byes and allowing the remaining 8 to play each other in week one.

This would leave you with 8 teams and off we go.

"THIS CANNOT HAPPEN!!!" those who run the bowls would say.  "What about academics?!?!" "What about the Holidays?!?!"

Of course, none of the people hollering those questions worry about it too much in terms of basketball, or soccer, or volleyball.

In fact, the only reason to not expand  the College Football Playoff is to continue to prop up an antiquated bowl system that's pilfering the athletic budgets of participating schools for profit.

It's time to sweep away the vestiges of the past, retire the old codgers wearing garish blazers and put the crumbling bowl system out of its misery.

Win your conference, or make the playoff as an at-large team or your season's done, period. Then you don't have to worry about 5-7 teams making it into bowls or whether or not Texas would accept a bid. Then you don't have to moan and complain that a 5-7 team is playing a 6-6 team in the Havana Cigar Bowl.

All you have to worry about is the 12 teams that qualified to make it into the post-season.

Purists will say that this "cheapens the regular season" which is bunk. Conference titles still matter, as do overall win/loss records, especially when it comes to out of conference scheduling for at-large teams. In other words, teams that schedule hard, and have so-called "good" losses on their records and come in second in their conference would be rewarded over Baylor who plays schools barely able to field a good roster. (This is assuming Baylor football isn't barred from ever participating, which they should be, to remove temptation.)

Despite all of this I'm here to predict that nothing is going to change, at least not until the current CFP deal runs it's course in 2024, and maybe not even then. The reason is simple.

In order to drive change in college football you have to have a scenario where a helmet school is on the blunt end of a CFP snub.  Ohio State this year would be a prime example. Were the Buckeyes to be left out of the playoff in favor of a Penn State, or Wisconsin, B1G Champion then you might see some upheaval. If Alabama lost to Florida (snicker) in the SEC Championship and got snubbed then you might hear some grumbling. In fact, you would certainly hear some grumbling then because all of those Auburn, Florida, aTm, LSU, and Miss State fans would lose their main reason for shouting "S! E! C!" every time the Tide does something good.

You wanna gripe about "cheapening the regular season"?  This is going to be your year.

Because Ohio State lost to Penn State in the regular season and, if the latter wins, the former is a shoe-in to be included in the CFP regardless.  In short, what happened in the regular season didn't matter one bit because the committee *thinks* that OSU is the better team.

They know this because they've been watching football for a long time, and have been involved with it. If you question them they appeal back to that authority that you just don't have.

And this year they're going to be 100% wrong, and the year after that, and the year after that etc.

Even firing Larry Culpepper won't change that reality.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

College Football: Bring on the Championship Games. (FunBelt Excluded)

In the minds of many, the upcoming weekend is the best of the College Football season.  No, it's not the beginning of the CFP (which, this year, is 100% certain to get it 100% wrong) but the weekend when most conferences crown their annual champion leading to many locker room celebration and the triggering of bonus payout clauses in coaching contracts.

Yay money!

Currently there are two (2) of the Ten (10) FBS conferences that don't have a championship game. Fortunately for one of them (Big XII) the annual Bedlam matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is a de-facto Championship since they are the only two teams with either zero (OU) or 1 (OSU) conference loss.  There will be no "co-champions" in the Big XII this year.  What's going to keep them out of the CFP is that, no matter who wins, the eventual conference champion is going to have 2 losses overall, with no OOC marquee wins to show for it.

As for the SunBelt?  Sorry guys.  Better luck next year.  Appalachian State has already claimed at least a share of the crown, they just don't know who, if anyone, they will be sharing it with. Both Troy and Arkansas State have games this weekend that determine which of them, or if both of them, can join the Mountaineers at the top.

Unfortunately, again this week, the SEC gives us yet another week when their premier team (Alabama) finds a walkover opponent (Florida).   All that's missing is a 6-7 figure payment from Tuscaloosa to Gainesville as an incentive for the latter to get rolled by the Tide.

On to the games. (Note: MOST (not all) of these games are neutral site games. Be sure to check on that before you dive in.  In many cases I've factored that in even if I didn't mention it here)

MAC: Western Michigan (-18.5) @ Ohio. Not enough credit is given to Frank Solich who continues to win, at Ohio, at the pace he won at Nebraska before being summarily dismissed by a team that hasn't been the same since. He is an underrated coach who seems to be happy in his current role.  The same can't be said for P.J. Fleck, who is a poor-man's Tom Herman who is now facing, for the first time, real, honest-to-goodness speculation that he's going to be rowing the boat elsewhere next season. (Oregon would be a GREAT fit IMO).

A few years back I remember a Houston team, then coached by Kevin Sumlin, who walked into their conference championship game with rumors swirling that their head coach was departing. The result was a blowout of an unfocused, unprepared Cougar squad by a well-coached Southern Miss team.

The difference here is that I think P.J. Fleck is a better coach than Sumlin.  It will be close, because Solich can coach, but I think Fleck gets the conference crown that has heretofore eluded Kevin Sumlin.

Western Michigan 38 Ohio 30.

Pick:  Ohio to cover +18.5 

PAC 12: Colorado @ Washington (-7.5). Except for developing issues unwrapping a Trojan, this has been a dream season for the Huskies. But Colorado has been stellar as well, before breaking against the same team.  (OK, sorry).  But while Colorado has a "happy to be here" factor working for it Washington enters this game with some real pressure.  The consensus for the Huskies is "win, and you're in" to the College Football Playoff. Head Coach Chris Peterson is no stranger to big game situations, but he's typically come into them as an underdog when he was in charge at Boise State. We honestly have zero frame of reference for the Mike McIntyre coached Buffalo because, to be honest, this is the first truly "big" game they have played in almost a decade.

If anything, the common opponent litmus test (which is somewhat useless in college football but I'll mention it anyway) tells us that Washington has been better against the same, excepting the aforementioned Trojans. Washington is better at QB, RB, WR, O-line, TE, DB, DL, LB and Special Teams. Colorado should be playing fast and loose.

Washington is listed as the Home team but this is really a neutral-site game.

Colorado 24 Washington 28.

Pick: Colorado to cover +7.5 and the UNDER.

American: Temple @ Navy (-3). The conventional wisdom surrounding the Group of 5 teams is that if Western Michigan wins, then the Broncos are the shoo-in to receive the New Year's Six guarantee. The fly in the ointment here is Navy, who have a better resume than does WMU and who play in a tougher conference to boot. In fact, head's up on a neutral field, there are few that would probably take WMU over the Mid-Shipmen. And I can guarantee you there are fewer Power 5 teams who would rather face the latter over the former to boot.

Temple is a team that started off rough, with a loss to Army, but which rebounded nicely once conference play started. They also avoided playing Houston this year, which helped them a lot. One problem for Temple is that they're suffering the curse of good G5 teams. Head Coach Matt Rhule is suddenly a hot commodity for P5 programs looking to upgrade.

Navy's Triple option offense is difficult to prepare for, unless you have an extended period to prepare. Temple, unfortunately, doesn't.  But I think their defense is just good enough to keep this game from morphing into a blowout early, provided the players and coaches haven't been too busy pondering life without Rhule.

Temple 27 Navy 34

Pick: Navy to Cover -3.

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky (-9.5). There was a (brief) time when C-USA was the unquestioned premier Group of 5 conference in the land. They had Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, and (briefly) TCU.  Winning this league meant that you had a very, very good football team and they had a stronger argument of being the "sixth" power conference than the American does today.

Sadly, the last round of expansion gutted them, they picked up the dregs of other conferences and soldier on without much exposure and one of the worst television contracts in college football. People forget that these two teams played each other, back in early October, with Tech taking a 55-52 win over the Hilltoppers, AT Western Kentucky.

That was the last game Western Kentucky lost however, as the team, coached by Jeff Brohm, went on a tear and started playing their best football at the right time. Meanwhile, the Skip Holtz coached Bulldogs did what Skip Holtz teams do and faltered down the stretch, losing an inexplicable game to Southern Mississippi last week. Were they looking ahead?

I don't think so.

La Tech 24 Western Kentucky 42

Pick: Western Kentucky to cover -9.5.

Mountain West:  San Diego State University (-6.5) @ Wyoming. Let's talk for a minute about last week.  It's never good for a conference, especially one that's been hyped as being "all that" all year to have their two "best" teams housed at identical moments right before they match up in the championship game. But that's what happened as SDSU got humiliated by Colorado State 63-31 and Wyoming got hammered 56-35 by New Mexico.

These teams played each other two games prior, with Wyoming winning by one point, 34-33
 at home.  Prior to that however the Cowboys lost 66-69 to UNLV at the Big Craps Table in Las Vegas.  It's safe to say that neither team has done much to distinguish itself.

Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl, formerly of NDSU-multiple-FCS-National-Championships fame, is a good football coach who knows how to prepare his team for big games. The Aztec's Rocky Long doesn't have that pedigree, and early returns show that focus is a problem.  What the Aztec's do have going for them is Donnel Pumphrey, the best running back in the country you might not have heard of, or seen.

Wyoming doesn't have that kind of game-breaking ability, but they did gift the college football world with the safety dance which was one of the better things to come out of the football season.  Add to that the fact they're very well coached, and I think we have a game that's much, much closer than the odds-makers think.

SDSU 35 Wyoming 32.

Pick: Wyoming to cover +6.5

Bedlam (Big XII de-facto Championship game) Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (-11.5) Since 1999, when Bob Stoops took over as HC of OU, this series has tilted heavily toward the Sooners and the scores have traditionally not been all that close. In fact, the recent trends for this game are that when the Sooners win, they win big and when the Cowboys win, they win close. Sure, there are aberrations (2011's 44-10 shellacking of OU by OSU for example) but on balance those trends hold.

Bedlam is also a "rivalry" game that's decidedly one-sided, with OU holding a 85-18-7 advantage. Over 110 games that equates to an OSU win every six years. To be fair however, OSU has done better in recent years, taking seven of the last 23 games. That equates to a win every 3 1/2 years.  So OSU has gotten better, and when they have talent they are fairly competitive with the Sooners.

This year I think the Cowboys have some talent, especially on offense.  And the Sooners, despite having a good season, are not what they once were on defense.  Of course, the Cowboys aren't getting the turnovers they once did so my gut-feeling is that this is going to be a shootout.  But not a crazy, bet the rent on the over kind. (the O/U number for this game is currently around 77 depending on the book)

OSU 42 OU 49

Pick: Oklahoma State to cover +11.5  Maybe throw a little at the OVER but not much.

SEC: Alabama (-24) @ Florida. The SEC (L)East is weak. So weak that they offered up Florida, a team absent a college offense, as a sacrificial lamb to the fighting Sabans. There's really not much to say about this game except that it's going to be on TV, and it will (likely) be the last SEC game called by Verne Lundquist.  It's a shame he didn't get a better one. Maybe the Gators will surprise, but I can't see how.

Bama 35 Florida 3.

Pick: So many touts talk about "5 star" and "4 star" games etc. For me this is a 1/100th star game. If you must, Bama to cover -24, and take the UNDER (currently at 41) because this is going to be a one-handed offensive game.

ACC: Clemson (-10) @ Virginia Tech. Almost a mirror image of the Pac-12 Championship game, except that Clemson, the team with everything to lose, has been involved in the CFP before.

New Head Coach Justin Fuente took his act from Memphis and did just about the best job you can replacing a legend. The old saying in coaching: "You don't want to be the man who replaces the man, you want to replace the man who replaced the man" (Hi, Tom Herman) seems to not apply to Fuente early.

Of course, the difference between Frank Beemer and Mack Brown is that the former left his successor with some talent to work with, while the latter did not. Also, Fuente doesn't have prominent donors calling him a "coordinator" due primarily to his skin-tone wither. It just does to show how some schools, despite having a resource advantage, can be a cess-pool while others, with less resources, might not be.

Clemson, on the other hand, has everything. Resources, talent, a committed head coach.  Everything except a dominant performance this year. This is a team that's been so good, it's hard to imagine that they're catching shade of not blowing out opponents by 50 every week.

As good as the Hokies have been, I think they get a lesson here in just how good they're going to have to be in order to beat the likes of Clemson and Florida State.

Clemson 38 Virginia Tech 13

Pick: Clemson to cover -10

B1G: Wisconsin (-2.5) @ Penn State. This is not the B1G championship game you were looking for. That was actually played last week when Ohio State rode 3-Wilton Speight turnovers, and some untimely Wolverine defensive lapses, to a win.  Because, title-game aside, the question of who the best team in the B1G is was answered in the Horseshoe.

That said, Penn State went and messed up the apple cart by squeaking out a win over an Ohio State team that didn't react well to the white out.  That game should serve as a reminder to all: It's hard, damn hard, to win a conference game on the road against a better-than-average team.

So that leaves us with the 3rd and 4th best teams in the conference, meeting up to play for the trophy, while Ohio State (probably) beats them both our for the B1G's slot in the CFP as the committee again moves the goalposts to a different location to benefit helmet schools.  C'est la vie folks.

What this game does promise to provide is a pretty stiff defensive challenge for both teams. Amazingly, the O/U for this game currently rests at around 47, making that play just about the best line I've seen all year.

I'm predicting a FG fest, with maybe a TD (or two) sprinkled in for good measure, maybe even of the defensive or special teams variety.

Wisky 16 Penn State 6

Pick: Wisky to cover -2.5 and the UNDER. (Which probably means the game will go over by the 2nd period)

Other games of some interest....

Fun Belt/Sun Belt.

Remember I stated that the Sun Belt didn't have a championship game and that both Troy and Arkansas State had a chance for co-titles.  Yeah, I think they both get there but one school has a much tougher (and less tragic) road.

Troy (-7) @ Georgia Southern. The Eagles of Ga. Southern had a new coach this year, Tyson Summers, who inherited a lot of young talent from former HC, and current Tuland head man, Willie Fritz.  Still, Troy.  Troy 38 Georgia Southern 24.  Pick: Troy to cover -7.

Arkansas State (-24) @ Texas State. Earlier in the season Texas State had a tragic bus crash that injured one player and 5 others. Fortunately, the injuries were minor but it was a fitting symbol for the Bobcats season, where they are widely regarded as the worst FBS program. Here's hoping they turn it around next year because San Marcos is a great town, what Austin used to before it morphed into the pit it is today.  Arkansas State 49 TxSt 10. Arkansas State to cover -24.

One last pick:

Big XII: Kansas State @ Texas Christian University (-4.5).  To my mind this is potentially the best line of the week. This is, essentially, Bill Snyder's last regular season game and you know the players want to send him out with a win. Add to this the fact that TCU is one of the more disappointing teams in CFB this year?  K-State 27 TCU 24. Pick K-State on the ML.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Houston Texans: Time to Either Blow up the Mess or Send your Money Elsewhere.

"We're still 6-5 and in 1st place in the Division"

"We had a chance to win"

"All we need to do is make the playoffs and then who knows?"

These are the things mediocre teams say to their fan base in attempts to convince them that things are OK. To be honest, in most cases they're probably trying to convince themselves.

But if you believe that everything is A-OK with the National Football League Franchise currently doing business on Kirby Drive in Houston Texas then you're just as much a part of the problem as they are.

This team is a mess. The front office is a mess, the coaching staff is a mess, player/personnel decision-making is a mess, the coaching is a mess, the roster is a mess, the defense is a mess, the quarterback is a (devolving) mess. The Houston Texans, as an organization, are a mess.

Their only saving grace?

They play in the AFC South which contains three franchises that are even bigger messes right now.

But the gap is narrowing.  It's down to one game actually as the Titans improved to 5-6 vs the Texans 6-5. The two teams still have another head-to-head game to play.

The problems are almost too many to list.  But let's give it a shot.

Coaching - Head Coach Bill O'Brien seems completely incapable of either making a creative game plan on offense, or adjusting much during the game. If you take away the runs on 1st and 2nd down this team is clueless. In fact, the highest point total they've had this year is 24 points. 24.  The defense doesn't have an excuse either, despite missing JJ Watt due to back surgery they still have what we've been promised is a cast of talented players. The coaching staff consistently has major problems nullifying what opposing teams do well.  Good defensive staffs can usually do this.

Players - Despite what you hear in local media, this is not an especially talented, or deep, roster. General Manager Rick Smith is starting to hurt the team due to his seeming inability to find NFL quality players in any round other than 1 & 7. The list of bad 2nd and 3rd round draft picks in this team's history is longer than the amount of current drafted players on the roster.

Offense - In short, the Texans barely have one. They rank 30th in total yards, 30th in passing, are near the bottom in points. The only thing this team does well is run the ball (5th in rushing) but they can't score because they are 29th in points. Much of this is due to the horrible play of high-priced free agent quarterback Brock Osweiler who is 27th in the league in total QBR, For the Texans, this is a historically awful offense, reminiscent of the expansion-era offenses.

Fans - You read that correctly, the fans themselves are a big part of the problem for this team. They're a problem because they keep spending money buying tickets, renewing season tickets, and generally supporting this hot-mess of mediocrity that stays the exact same year after year.

You want to improve this luke-warm pile of porridge that masquerades as a team that wants to "compete for and win Super Bowls"?

Start finding better ways to spend your Sundays, and more constructive uses for your season-ticket money. Stop buying jerseys etc. It's not enough to just show up and boo loudly. Bob McNair doesn't care because he's already got you money and is happy being mediocre while his kids spend it.

The only way to drive change, to force this team to get a new front office, revamp the roster and find a quality coaching staff, is to start threatening Cal's children't inheritance. That means it's time for Texans fans to show the team some tough love, by ignoring them in the same manner they did the Rockets and Astros when they weren't trying to build winners.

Don't worry, even if you purchased a PSL you can buy back in should the team get good again.

Consider it a fan intervention.  It's tough, but it has to be done.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

College Football: Takeaways from the first CFP Committee Top 25

First things first:

Until you get to the final rankings, the CFP Top 25 is a rather useless attempt at attention-seeking by the CFP Committee who are trying to manufacture conversation in a sport that really doesn't need the help.  While the College Football Playoff is an improvement over the B(C)S, the weekly dog-and-pony show that is the CFP Top 25 is not.

Second, where the initial CFP rankings DO provide some insight is into the minds of the CFP committee for the current year. It lets us know who they value (or undervalue) and where their irrational biases are going to lie in the coming year.  After the first set of rankings, we know a few things.

 1. It really is Alabama and everyone else. It's so bad that a 20 point loss to Alabama isn't treated as a loss at all to the committee. See aTm at number 4 over what many people think is a better Washington team at number 5.

 2. The committee hears the "S-E-C!!" chants. It really is the saddest chant in the world. Basically it's every other school screaming "We're living vicariously off of Alabama's glory!" but it's a thing now and the committee obviously agrees. Case in point: Auburn's best win is over an Ole Miss team that we only think is good because of one solid half against Alabama (see point 1) yet they're ranked #9.

3. For some schools, the eye test doesn't matter. Michigan has looked much better than Clemson, but the latter is #2. The reason for this is because Clemson's schedule, to date, has been much tougher than Big Blue's.

4. Beating Ohio State is viewed VERY favorably. How else do you justify putting a pedestrian Penn State team at #9?  Outside of that, they've been drilled by every good team they've played.

5. It's better to be a middling Power 5 team than an excellent Group of 5 team. Florida State (5-3) has lost to every good team that it's played. Yet they are ranked one spot above undefeated Western Michigan. Based on this criteria, had Houston stayed unbeaten, they would have been ranked somewhere around 16, even IF they beat Louisville.

6. On that note, the system is hopelessly flawed and always will be. There is no group of 5 representation on the committee, a committee whose sole purpose is to ensure the top conferences, outside of the token NY Six bowl bid for the top ranked G5 conference champ, have a hammer-lock on the CFP.

7. The rankings, are a success. I'm not the only one talking about it. College Football is going mad over the items above and so are all of the media/talking heads.  This will be the last time I mention it until the final poll however. I'm going to let the games play out and not worry about what some insulated panel of football Courtesans think about who the best teams are.

8. Until we get to a system where either every conference champion gets a slot (with two at large) or we move to 4-16 team super-conferences who break away fully from the NCAA we're going to have this mess. It will be best to just watch the games and enjoy college football for the show it is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Houston Texans: So? What now? (27-9 Edition)

There are several ways to react to a thorough beat-down of the type the Denver Broncos put on the Houston Texans last night.

You can go faux tough-guy like Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla (Who himself would fold like a cheap pizza box if Osweiler ever came at him with fire in his eyes)

You can go cliche (in an online story full of type-setting errors, grammatical errors etc.)

You can go disappointed parent angry (Which, aside from confirming National sources for local stories, is all this guy does these days)

Or you can go somewhat poetic (I say somewhat because it's clear Wilson and football are only slightly acquainted.)

In between bouts of deep depression and fits of anger (or worse, for the team, resignation) you could forgive Texans fan for ignoring all of this and deciding that there are better things to do on Sunday. In short: You could go numb. You'll find your brisket moment however, it might have been the Fumbleception, or it might come in the future.

But a franchise that is interested in actually winning playoff games and championships wouldn't. They wouldn't stand pat as week after week the head coach says "This was on me" and "We have to play better" and the $72MM quarterback stands in front of cameras stating "I have to play better".

It wouldn't continue to employ a GM whose built a roster slightly better than the Browns, Titans and Bears of the world, but nowhere near competitive against the Broncos, Patriots, Vikings, Steelers et al. It wouldn't keep around a GM who seemingly is clueless in talent evaluation, who has consistently fielded in order: An offensive line that is below average, cornerbacks and safeties who have trouble both in coverage and run support, linebackers who are, to put it delicately, slow. And a D-line who, absent JJ Watt, spends more time getting pushed around than pushing people around.

And we haven't even gotten to a quarterback who has trouble throwing the ball further than 4 yards down the field, TE's who are not especially good at either running routes, catching passes or run blocking, and WR's who, as a unit, cannot run a complex route tree and separate from coverage. At least the special teams last night didn't have their now once-per-game meltdown.

By any metric this Texans team is low on talent. To deny that is to deny that the on-the-road-against-good-football-teams beat-downs are becoming routine.  The Texans didn't just lose last night, they got beaten. Beaten in every aspect of the game. Only the fact that the Broncos are stubbornly choosing to start Trevor Simien kept them from getting trucked by 40 or more.

The difference though, is that Denver does have talent across the board. They have enough talent that they can afford to sit and wait on Simien to develop as a quarterback, to grow through playing.  Because if he messes up, the defense is good enough to cover that up.

The Texans just aren't talented enough to win despite having a QB who is seemingly allergic to completing the vertical pass right now.  To be fair though, he's not being given much of an opportunity to complete down the field passes because the Texans have implemented a game plan full of three step drops and quick releases. They have to do this because the O-line can't slow down the rush enough to allow routes to develop downfield.

The worst news is that it's going to get worse, because Derek Newton (who I've been critical of in the past but who was having a good year, when healthy, to this point) went down last night with what is apparently two torn patella tendons. That's a brutal injury and I hope the best for Mr. Newton. It's certainly season ending, I'm a little worried it could be career ending for him.

One thing for sure, last night's game was a season-ender for the Texans, in terms of being a contender. They might still make the playoffs only because the AFC South is a raging dumpster fire of bad football.  But they might not, because the Jaguars are looking better of late and I still think they end up winning the thing at 9-7.

But even if the Texans DO win and make the playoffs, do you have any faith that they can beat a team that's playoff caliber?  Right now the only team with a current winning record is the Chiefs, who sit at 4-2 and might still be the 4th best team in their division. At the maximum they're the 3rd. And the Texans beat them at home, in a game where they still had a ton of players out with injury, including their best player, Running back Jamaal Charles.

The Texans will go to the press after this game and say all of the rote things. They'll say that they "need to play better" and remark on how Denver (and Minnesota, and the Patriots) are "good teams" and that they believe they can beat anyone in the league if they just play good football and "execute their game plan".

Here's the problem with those talking points. It's becoming increasingly obvious that they're not true. It's also becoming increasingly obvious that things are not going to change as long as Bob McNair is making money hand over fist.  So enjoy it Texans fans, a future full of 8-8 with a handful of dumpster fires against good teams whenever you play them.

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