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mcandersonsharp.jpgLast week, I previewed the Orange Bowl by comparing passing stats for the Kansas Jayhawks and the Virginia Tech Hokies. I am doing this to occupy my mind in the lengthy interval between the last game of Kansas’ season and the bowl. And also, hopefully, to give myself some evidence of equality, if not superiority, on Kansas’ part, to keep me from worrying too much.

So today, we check out the running game for each team:

Kansas

The Jayhawks were good for 2,359 yards on the ground this year, with 29 TDs. The vast bulk of those scores came from two men – Big Brandon McAnderson put in 1,050 and 16, and speedy Jake Sharp got another 788 and 7. Reesing can run, but nobody’s going to need to put a spy on him. It’s all in the rhythm of Thunder and Lightning for Kansas.

Virginia Tech

brandon-ore.jpgSophomore Branden Ore went for 876 yards and 8 TDs, almost exactly half of what he managed as a Freshman. His only 100+ yard game came against in-state rival Virginia. QB Tyrod Taylor got his Vick on (sans dogs) and managed 431 yards with 6 TDs, but he’s not on the field for every offensive snap. VTech’s overall numbers on the ground were underwhelming: 1,736 yards, 21 TDs.

Again, this is a surprise to me. Tech averaged nearly 33 points per game, so who’s doing all of that scoring? I’m guessing the defensive comparison will be an eye-opener.

Advantage, Kansas.

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I’m going to simmer down the haters right quick by saying that I think Missouri got hosed. They proved they were a better team than Kansas a week and a half ago, and a second loss to Oklahoma doesn’t change that.

That said, I am also irrationally afraid that Kansas is going to get pantsed on national TV on New Year’s Day. If there’s one thing Kansas and Missouri fans can share this year, it’s that secret feeling of impending doom. In the backs of our minds, we know we got too good, too fast. Or too lucky, too fast. Whatever. For Kansas, there was no 8-4 or 9-3 harbinger. It was 6-6 with no bowl invite last season, and then 11-1 and the BCS a season later. It rings suspicious, it does…

So, rather than acting like a Cubs fan and claiming despair based on past experience, I’m going to try to use the statistics to bolster my sense of impending pantslessness.

We’ll start with…

glennon.jpg reesingmizzou.jpg tyrod.jpg

(The Orange Bowl sandwich: white bread between two slices of turkey)

Quarterbacks

The Hokies have been a two-headed monster this year, using both Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor. Glennon had 59% of the snaps and threw for 63% of the yards, including 11 of the 16 TDs through the air. Taylor has been decent with fewer snaps, but is clearly the more athletic option, running for 431 yards on the season and scoring more TDs on the ground than through the sky.

Team Totals: 58.9% completions, 2,585 yards, 16 TDs, 7 INTs

Kansas, on the other hand, is a one-man show. Spunky Todd Reesing has taken 93% of the snaps and hit for 32 TDs against 6 INTs. He has only 203 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, but his scrambling ability was on display at Colorado where he gashed the Buffs for 84 yards.

Team Totals: 64% completions, 3,534 yards, 35 TDs, 6 INTs

Hmm. The tale of the tape looks good for Kansas here. Of course, all of Reesing’s stats were aided by excellent offensive line play, which broke down a tad in the Missouri game. So the story becomes “if he has time, the kid can zip it”. Still, things are looking positive.

Next: Running Backs

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ku_fbc_mu_nk_10_t800.jpgI’m man enough to admit that my team got handed an ass-whoopin’ by a superior opponent. And really, we should probably thank the Tigers (if we didn’t hate them so darn much), since they spared us the embarassment of being exposed on an even bigger stage – the Big 12 title game.

I will say that I felt Kansas played a decent game. The Jayhawks proved that they are a great team, and that they have earned their success this season. But Missouri was just better.

The most obvious disparity was also the most crucial. The Tigers won the game on the line. You can talk about Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, and Tony Temple, but the Mizzou offensive line was alternately making walls and blowing holes for those excellent skill position players – without time to make moves, none of them would have been as effective.

Conversely, when Kansas had the ball, Todd Reesing did not have time to get comfortable, and Brandon McAnderson didn’t have anywhere to go after he pounded into the center of the black and gold defense. So there’s your game, right there.

So Missouri rightfully plays Oklahoma for a chance at BCS immortality next weekend in San Antonio. And Kansas waits to see where they slot into the bowl picture after an amazing one-loss season. It is instructive to note that prior to this, Mark Mangino had produced only one other winning season as a head coach – a meager 6-5 (3-5) two years ago that earned his team a trip to the Fort Worth bowl.

This postseason assignment should be…. significantly better, to say the least. As should Mangino’s next contract.

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mu-ku-borderwar.gif

This is always a big game for people in Kansas and Missouri. It’s usually just for bragging rights, though. This year it’s for a shot at the Big 12 title and eventually, hopefully, the national title. But it’s always been a big deal, ever since John Brown hacked a few pro-slavery settlers to death and William Quantrill rode across the border to burn Lawrence to the ground. The administrators of the two schools want us to call it something less violent, like the Border Showdown. But fuck that – it’s always been called the war.

Missouri’s only loss came at Oklahoma. Kansas only dipped into Big XII South territory once, with a close win over Texas A&M. For either team, a win would be a chance to move on to next week and prove that they can, in fact, get past Stoops and his big-money Sooners, the presumptive South representative in the Big 12 title game. For two coaches who have spent almost their entire careers on the hot seat, it’s heady stuff indeed.

It’s also the battle of the magically delicious QBs, as both Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing are under 6 feet tall.

The game, which was supposed to be played in Lawrence, in the ancient Memorial Stadium, has been moved to massive Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, almost smack dab between the two schools. KC has always been something of a neutral zone for partisans of the two schools, and the stands should be full of people who have waited a lifetime for a game this big.

The recruiting bonanza that both schools will reap from this game is huge. In a typically power-deficient North division, these two programs could be setting themselves up for big battles for big stakes for the next decade.

Regardless of which team is left standing after this Saturday, this is an exciting leap forward for two teams that have used the scraps other schools throw away to build winning programs. Can they continue to win with the college football equivalent of the Bad News Bears? Watch the top of the standings carefully in the next few weeks for the answer.

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The short-lived and much-mourned website SECpoon.com had more to say about this issue than I ever could, so I’ll just make one observation and then forge ahead.

There are ‘Cocks, Bammers, and an old ball coach. What else can a conference ask for?

Here are your SEC Porn Name All-Stars:

Offense

Casey Dick – QB – Arkansas
Billy Tapp – QB – Ole Miss
Dylan Dickey – QB – Tennessee
Joe Cox – QB – Georgia

Orlando Gunn – RB – LSU
Taurus Young – RB – Mississippi State
Ryan Rearden – RB – Georgia
Jacob Vane – FB – Alabama

Sean Penix – WR – Arkansas
Luster Lewis – WR – Auburn
Lance Long – WR – Mississippi State
Ian Harding – WR – LSU
Dickie Lyons, Jr. – WR – Kentucky
Rod Coleman – WR – Arkansas
Foxy Foxworth – TE – South Carolina
Tim Fugger – TE – Vanderbilt
Keith Zinger – TE – LSU

DeMarcus Love – OL – Arkansas
Ben Harden – OL – Georgia
Zipp Duncan – OL – Kentucky
T-Bob Hebert – OL – LSU
Ryan Broadhead – OL – South Carolina
King Dunlap – OL – Auburn
Jim Tartt – OL – Florida

Defense

Jazzmen Guy – DL – Mississippi State
Steve Stone – DL – Vanderbilt
Pep Levingston – DL – LSU
Brandon Fanney – DL – Alabama
Kikko Logan – DL – Vanderbilt

Wesley Woodyard – LB – Kentucky
Dakota Walker – LB – South Carolina
Rico McCoy – LB – Tennessee
Courtney Harden – LB – Auburn
Trey Trip – LB – Ole Miss
Ryan Powers – LB – Arkansas

Ramon Broadway – DB – Arkansas
Corey Reamer – DB – Alabama
Mike Hunt – DB – Mississippi State
Bram Cannon – DB – Tennessee
Rowdy Francis – DB – Georgia
Aairon Savage – DB – Auburn

Special Teams
Orion Hall – P – Tennessee
Tyler Steelman – K – Arkansas
Logan Love – KR – Tennessee
Vince Vance – LS – Georgia

The only thing left at this point is Independents, so let’s cross our fingers that the few and the… awful… have some decent names for us.

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mortensenfumble.jpgThe headline of this post is an admission. Yes, I realize that Kansas is not really ready for prime time, not yet. The Jayhawks are #3 in the BCS, and that accomplishment is real and should not be diminished. But either of the teams tabbed 1/2 could beat Kansas, as could several teams ranked below.

But anyone expecting Kansas fans to feel bad about going 10-0 without facing Texas or Oklahoma in conference obviously has no grasp of the historical magnitude of this season of unexpected success. The current start has not been equaled by any Kansas team in over a century. We’re talking pre-helmet days, and coaches who remembered the Civil War clearly. If KU handles business when Iowa State visits Lawrence next week, it will be the best start ever on Mount Oread. Ever.

So don’t talk to Kansas fans about not playing the Longhorns or Sooners – we don’t want to hear it. This time last year, we couldn’t beat Baylor on the road, but 2007 has brought us an unblemished road record in tough environs – K State, Colorado, Texas A&M. Why we even survived OSU despite Boone Pickens blabbering through the entire third quarter of the televised game on Saturday. A team nobody thought much of has never wilted under the pressure of televised games or mounting expectations. This is a magical team for natives of the Sunflower State.

If Kansas is not for real, we will know – either when the Jayhawks face Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium in two weeks, or thereafter if/when they play in the Big 12 Championship game. Then all those fans of the status quo can smile smugly into their beers and say “I told you so”. But for now – stick it.

Kansas is 10-0.

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briscoenebraska.jpgI’ve never experienced college football vertigo before. It’s actually kind of disquieting. To see my team, which I have suffered with during most of my adult life, is in the top five of every poll, sitting right behind the likes of Ohio State, LSU, and Oklahoma. I thought I’d feel giddy, but I’m actually a little dizzy and scared.

Don’t get me wrong – putting the hurt on Nebraska for a change was sweet – but there’s still so much season left, with a trap game looming in Stillwater next weekend, and our longtime nemesis Missouri at the end of the road. Now that there’s something to play for, it’s all very nerve-wracking.

Of course, this version of Nebraska is like New Coke. A snazzy new flavor demanded by no one, and generally considered to be inferior to the classic red and white label. You’d think that would take some of the pleasure out of beating them, but when you’ve been on the receiving end of the beatings for 36 of the past 38, you sop it up like gravy, let me tell you. And slapping around a former Raiders coach pleases Kansans pretty well, also.

Sadly, I didn’t get to watch the game. It was not deemed interesting enough to be shown on the East Coast, so I had to settle for catching highlights on the big screen television at the bowling alley. Yep, went bowling with my family during the game. Maybe there’s something metaphorical there – bowling for a BCS bowl.

Everyone was spectacular, though my dad called and complained bitterly about Aqib Talib getting roasted by Maurice Purify for some long plays that led to Nebraska’s 39 points. Hopefully Mangino and his cast of goats turned heroes will figure out how to disguise that weakness in succeeding contests.

Remaining games: @Oklahoma State, Iowa State at home, Missouri at neutral Arrowhead Stadium in KC.

Whew!

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You’d think a conference boasting Trojans and Beavers would yield a little more talent. But I had to really scour the rosters to come up with enough WRs to fill the slate this week. Thank goodness for Washington State, is all I can say.

In a related note, there’s no USC QB controversy here – John David Booty is our choice until Mark Sanchez embraces the nickname “Dirty”. But It’s shocking the state the USC roster is in – without Booty, they would have been shut out.

Here are your Pac Ten Porn Name All-Stars:

Offense
John David Booty – QB – USC
Nate Longshore – QB – Cal
Bryan Van Meter – QB – Cal

Terry Longbons – RB – Arizona
Tracy Slocum – RB – Cal
Skyler Jessen – RB – Washington State
Michael Pitre – FB – UCLA

Rod Rivera – WR – Arizona
Randy Johnson – WR – Washington State
Aaron McVein – WR – Oregon
Brandon Powers – WR – Oregon State
Matt Sledge – WR – Washington State
Reid Forrest – WR – Washington State
Romeo Savant – TE – Washington
Ed Dickson – TE – Oregon

Wider McAndrews – OL – Oregon State
Joe Longacre – OL – Arizona
Brandon Rodd – OL – Arizona State
Ryan Pohl – OL – Oregon State
Andy Levitre – OL – Oregon State
Ryan Bush – OL – Washington
Brian De La Puente – OL – Cal

Defense

Darius Savage – DL – UCLA
Nick Wood – DL – Washington
Cutter Rains – DL – Washington State
Brandon Bair – DL – Oregon
Chris Horn – DL – Stanford
Hayden Piper – DL – Oregon

Greg Van Hoesen – LB – Cal
Joey LaRocque – LB – Oregon State
E.J. Savannah – LB – Washington
D.J. Holt – LB – Cal
Eric Rider – LB – Oregon State
Keith Pankey – LB – Oregon State

Chris Baloney – DB – Arizona State
Brandon Hardin – DB – Oregon State
Glenn Love – DB – UCLA
Kenny Long – DB – Stanford
Angelo Fobbs-Valentino – DB – Arizona State
Sean Cattouse – DB – Cal

Special Teams
Jared Ballman – P – Washington
Morgan Flint – K – Oregon
Greg Laybourn – KR – Oregon State
Adam Speer – LS – Oregon State

Now, I acknowledge that Cutter Rains sounds more like a soap star, or one of Rick and AJ’s buds on Simon & Simon, but you have to work with what you’re given in this genre. Honestly, the fact that there’s a lineman with the first name Wider makes up for just about every weak name on this list, in my humble opinion.

Next week, we’ve finally reached the SEC. Are they really, inch-for-inch, the best conference in America?

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mcandersonpugh.jpgI promised to be a believer if Kansas came back from a two-game road swing undefeated, so here I am, in the unaccustomed position of believing that a Kansas football team can and should win every game they play in.

Some will look at the final score of 19-11 and say it was closer than it should be, but it really wasn’t. A&M only started to make progress when Kansas shifted to the chickenshit prevent in the fourth quarter. I understand the desire to protect against the big play, but when you’ve dominated a team so completely on the defensive side of the ball, is it wise to change your approach? Evidence says no, even though the Jayhawks won.

Much was made, and rightly so, of the fact that Kansas has recruited Texans who are winning in their home state when necessary. But the game ball goes to Lawrence, Kansas native Brandon McAnderson. The Senior Fullback turned power runner gashed A&M for 21 carries, 183 yards, and 2 TDs. Even after a 30-yard run, the 235 pounder would lower his shoulder and dish out a lick to the unfortunate db who tried to tackle him (click on the thumbnail above for photographic evidence).

Kansas as a team showed great discipline, committing few penalties and zero turnovers against a good defensive unit. Kerry Meier did very little, so I’ll spare you my look inside his numbers and reiterate that perhaps it’s time to use the backup QB as a decoy from time to time.

Nebraska is up next. Obviously this isn’t your father’s Nebraska, or even your slightly older brother’s Nebraska, but they can get frisky, so I hope Mangino keeps the colts settled down and focused on the prize – a season-ending matchup with Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium for (hopefully) all of the Big 12 North marbles. At least the game is in Lawrence this year.

I could get used to this.

(Some of you may be wondering why I’m doing game recaps. I don’t usually do this. First of all – it’s my alma mater, Second – 8-0 only happens in basketball, Third – Don’t act like you watched the Kansas game and already knew all of this. Fuckin’ Liars.)

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bcstrophy.jpgI won’t lie. As much as I try to be flexible and open-minded, I hate change. When the NCAA started monkeying with the nomenclature of Division I football, I thought it was stupid. I felt that everyone knew and understood the old way. I felt it was a valid concept. I felt like it was some sort of nod to political correctness (“We don’t see you as lesser football teams, just teams that get to play for a real national championship, so let’s use that!”).

Now, honestly, I’m not quite as certain.

Initially, this looked like double-speak. It was taking something clear (to me) and replacing it with something confusing. The two terms are still a bit clunky and the acronyms are too similar at first glance to work very well as identifiers, but after reading the NCAA rationale for the change, I have to admit that the attempt was probably a good idea. Here’s a quote from the NCAA document abolishing the 1-A, 1-AA, and 1-AAA monikers:

In supporting the new labels, it was noted that Division I-A conferences attempt to brand each individual conference during the regular football season and seldom have used the Division I-A label. Division I-AA institutions and conferences tend to use references to Division I-AA football more often, but find the term confusing and misapplied by the public, boosters and media when referring not only their football programs but their overall athletics programs. The label Division I-AAA has no meaning beyond noting that the institution or conference does not sponsor football and elimination of its use should have no detrimental impact.

[document]

That… errr… makes sense. Having a 1-AAA label to denote the absence of the sport in question does, in fact, seem stupid. I also have to admit that I occasionally mistakenly applied the 1-AA tag to a school’s basketball program where it had no business being, or confused it with Division II.

1aatrophy.jpgSo, in theory, I must now admit that I accept the change. It’s pretty clear when you see the labels fully written out – One group of schools plays postseason bowl games, the other plays a championship tournament. No sweat.

But the whole FBS/FCS thing has to go. I realize “subdivision” is accurate, but it’s a mouthful. And a reader coming across either term in print has to stop and say “Wait, if it has a ‘B’, it’s 1-A, and if it has a ‘C’, it’s 1-AA.” In that way, it hasn’t really done away with the offending terms, it has simply caused writers and readers to break out the decoder ring on a daily basis. As a method for shortening an unwieldy three-word label, the acronym approach isn’t working. For one thing, we know we’re talking football, so let’s drop the “F”.

I admit, I’m not sure how to solve the problem. I don’t want the NCAA to create yet another term for next season – that would be even more confusing. So, given the label we already have, what can we use for shorthand? Bowl vs. Champ? It just sounds so informal. In a way, calling one subdivision “Championship” really underlines the fact that the Bowl system doesn’t produce a true champion, and I can’t imagine that’s what the NCAA wanted.

I think the greatest minds of the blogosphere can work this out. Let’s hear your ideas in the comment field.

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