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Statistically Speaking: December 2005

Friday, December 30, 2005

NFL Week Seventeen Pigskin Pickin'

Last Week: 10-6
Overall: 160-78

Denver at San Diego
Winner: San Diego

New York Giants at Oakland
Winner: New York Giants

Arizona at Indianapolis
Winner: Indianapolis

Carolina at Atlanta
Winner: Atlanta

Cincinnati at Kansas City
Winner: Kansas City

Buffalo at New York Jets
Winner: Buffalo

Detroit at Pittsburgh
Winner: Pittsburgh

Baltimore at Cleveland
Winner: Cleveland

New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Winner: Tampa Bay

Seattle at Green Bay
Winner: Green Bay

Miami at New England
Winner: New England

Houston at San Francisco
Winner: San Francisco

Tennessee at Jacksonville
Winner: Jacksonville

Chicago at Minnesota
Winner: Minnesota

Washington at Philadelphia
Winner: Washington

St. Louis at Dallas
Winner: Dallas

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Fortnite of Football Frenzy and Fun Part III

Part I Record: 5-2
Part II Record: 3-1 with 2 to go

December 30th

Music City Bowl
Minnesota Vs. Virginia
Theme Song: 'Do That to Me One More Time' by The Captain and Tennille
For the 3rd time in 4 years the Golden Gophers will be playing in the prestigious Music City Bowl. The Gophers are undefeated in their previous 2 trips to Nashville, having beaten Arkansas in 2002 and Alabama last season. Laurence Maroney and Co. will run wild over the Wahoos.
Winner: Minnesota

Sun Bowl
Northwestern Vs. UCLA
Theme Song: 'Wild, Wild West' by The Escape Club
The Sun Bowl is shaping up to be an old-fashioned shootout. Both teams have very prolific offenses. UCLA ranks 7th nationally in scoring offense averaging 38.1 points per game while Northwestern ranks 32nd nationally in the same category with 31.8 points per game. Both teams are also horrendous on the defensive side of the ball. Northwestern ranks 102nd nationally in scoring defense allowing an average of 32.5 points per game and UCLA ranks 107th in the same category allowing 33.8 points per game. Get excited.
Winner: UCLA

Independence Bowl
Missouri Vs. South Carolina
Theme Song: 'Magic' by Olivia Newton-John
What else but the dark arts can explain South Carolina's sudden resurgence? Even with the OBC on board, many expected a year of growing pains as the offense adjusted to Spurrier's Cock N' Fire from Lou Holtz's Run-it-up-the-Gut. The Carolina offense has not been explosive, but The Cocks have kept games close and won most of these close games. Expect more of the same here.
Winner: South Carolina

Peach Bowl
Louisiana State Vs. Miami
Theme Song: 'Good Thing' by Fine Young Cannibals
This Peach Bowl certainly is a good thing. A match-up of 2 teams that could very well have won their respective conferences. However, without Jamarcus Russell at quarterback for LSU, the Hurricanes will blow through these Tigers.
Winner: Miami

December 31st

Meineke Car Care Bowl
NC State Vs. South Florida
Theme Song: 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' by Kim Wilde
When Chuck Amato came to Raleigh in 2000, he was supposed to raise the Wolfpack to a new level. He was to transform them from a mid-level BCS team to a conference title contender. Has he done that? Here's a quick comparison with his predecessor Mike O'Cain through both coaches first 6 seasons at NC State.

Amato's won/loss record: 45-28 .616
O'Cain's won/loss record: 35-34 .507
Amato's ACC won/loss record: 23-25
O'Cain's ACC won/loss record: 23-25
Amato's best conference record: 5-3
O'Cain's best conference record: 6-2
Year's above .500 in conference play for Amato: 1
Year's above .500 in conference play for O'Cain: 2
Draw your own conclusions.
Winner: NC State

Liberty Bowl
Fresno State Vs. Tulsa
Theme Song: 'Blame It On the Rain' by Milli Vanilli
In honor of the biggest frauds in music history, this song goes out to the biggest frauds in college football this season. They made us all believe with close losses on the road to Oregon and Southern Cal, but then the tape stopped and they lost to Nevada and Lowsyana Tech.
Winner: Fresno State

Houston Bowl
Iowa State Vs. Texas Christian
Theme Song: 'The Way It Is' by Bruce Hornsby and The Range
You go 10-1 overall and undefeated in conference play, and yet you're stuck playing in Houston on New Year's Eve? That's just the way it is if you don't play in one of the BCS conferences.
Winner: Texas Christian

January 2nd

Outback Bowl
Florida Vs. Iowa
Theme Song: 'Got My Mind Set On You' by George Harrison
This is what the Gators administration was humming last year at this time. Well, they got their man. Now they're stuck with him. His first season was not a rousing success, but it wasn't a real disappointment either. As has been discussed previously, Meyer's teams perform much better under his system in his second season. They'll get an early start against Iowa.
Winner: Florida

Cotton Bowl
Alabama Vs. Texas Tech
Theme Song: 'The Tide Is High' by Blondie
Self-explanatory.
Winner: Alabama

Gator Bowl
Louisville Vs. Virginia Tech
Theme Song: 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' by U2
Frank Beamer is still seeking that elusive national championship, the only thing missing from his resume at Virginia Tech. Louisville is still searching for some national respectand recognition. After being blown out by South Florida and collapsing against West Virginia, the Ville faded from the national conscious. After this game, both will still be looking.
Winner: Virginia Tech

Capital One Bowl
Auburn Vs. Wisconsin
Theme Song: 'Physical' by Olivia Newton-John
Both teams will be very physical in this game. Auburn ranks 20th nationally in rushing yards per game and Wisconsin is 41st. Establishing the run is key to the success of both teams. Here's to you Mr. Alvarez, you've done a fine job at Wisconsin.
Winner: Auburn

Fiesta Bowl
Notre Dame Vs. Ohio State
Theme Song: 'We Are the World' by USA for Africa
A little ditty for the University of Football in America according to Tony Kornheiser that is more full of itself than Rick Rude. Go 9-2 against a tissue-soft schedule and you get into the BCS. Don't have any conference affiliation, have your own TV network, and give your coach an extension after 7 games on what he could possibly do next year. Here's hoping the Buckeyes curb-stomp the Irish.
Winner: Ohio State

Sugar Bowl
Georgia Vs. West Virginia
Theme Song: 'Didn't We Almost Have It All?' by Whitney Houston
A 1-point loss to Auburn and an injury to DJ Shockley are all that stands between the Dawgs and a possible undefeated season. West Virginia will keep this closer than most of the experts believe.
Winner: Georgia

Part IV will be up Tuesday.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Fortnite of Football Frenzy and Fun Part II

Part I Record: 4-2 with one more to go

December 27th

Champs Sports Bowl
Clemson Vs. Colorado
Theme Song: 'Don't You Want Me?' by The Human League
This 1982 tale of unrequitted love hits home for both the Tigers and Buffs. Tommy Bowden has taken his fair share of criticism at Clemson even though he has returned the program to a permanent bowl fixture and beaten Florida State twice in the last 3 years. In Boulder, Gary Barnett must be thinking the same thing. After leading the Buffs to 4 Big 12 North titles in 5 years, he was let go by the administration after the 70-3 loss to Texas in this year's Big 12 title game.
Winner: Clemson

Insight Bowl
Arizona State Vs. Rutgers
Theme Song: 'Celebration' by Kool & the Gang
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights, easily one of the worst programs in Division I football history, are off to only their 2nd ever bowl game. Who cares if they are double-digit dogs to a team playing what amounts to a home game in Phoenix? Almost any place in the country beats the hell out of New Jersey in late December.
Winner: Arizona State

December 28th

MPC Computers Bowl
Boise State Vs. Boston College
Theme Song: 'Let's Hear it for the Boy' by Deniece Williams
3 cheers for Dan Hawkins as he coaches his final game on the blue smurf turn in Boise before departing for Colorado. In his 5 seasons at the school, Hawkins has a record of 53-10 with 2 bowl wins and 4 WAC titles. Not only does he win, but his teams usually score a ton of points and are exciting to watch. Here's wishing him the best at Colorado.
Winner: Boston College

Alamo Bowl
Michigan Vs. Nebraska
Theme Song: 'Out of Touch' by Daryl Hall and John Oates
This Hall and Oates ditty is perfect for 2 programs out of touch with their past glories. For Michigan the 2005 season was out of touch with what most fans expected. 3 losses in the first 6 games doomed the Wolverines to a non-New Year's Day bowl for the firts time since reconstruction. For the Huskers, they have been out of touch since Frank Solich was let go. 2004 marked the first time they had not played in a bowl game since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They have returned to the postseason in 2005, albeit on a stage much smaller than the one they are accustomed to.
Winner: Michigan

December 29th

Emerald Bowl
Georgia Tech Vs. Utah
Theme Song: '(Just Like) Starting Over' by John Lennon
For the Utes, the loss of wunder-coach Urban Meyer and 1st overall pick Alex Smith meant a time of starting over. The Utes were able to have a successful season, but after destroying a BCS team in primetime last season in the Fiesta Bowl, a mid-afternoon showdown against a team coached by Chan Gailey is a testament to how much farther they must still go.
Winner: Georgia Tech

Holiday Bowl
Oklahoma Vs. Oregon
Theme Song: 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' by Simple Minds
Everyone wrote them off after a 2-3 start, but the Sooners won 5 out of their last 6 (with the one loss resulting from a series of bad officiating against Texas Tech) to gain some momentum heading into their bowl game. 40-5 is the combined record of the 4 teams that beat the Sooners this year. The Ducks have had a nice 10-1 season, but Oklahoma will announce their return to the national scene in this game.
Winner: Oklahoma

Part III coming soon.

Friday, December 23, 2005

NFL Week Sixteen Pigskin Pickin'

Last Week: 13-3
Overall: 150-72

Atlanta at Tampa Bay
Winner: Tampa Bay

Buffalo at Cincinnati
Winner: Cincinnati

Dallas at Carolina
Winner: Carolina

San Diego at Kansas City
Winner: Kansas City

Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Winner: Cleveland

Jacksonville at Houston
Winner: Jacksonville

New York Giants at Washington
Winner: Washington

Tennessee at Miami
Winner: Miami

Detroit at New Orleans
Winner: New Orleans

San Francisco at St. Louis
Winner: St. Louis

Philadelphia at Arizona
Winner: Philadelphia

Indianapolis at Seattle
Winner: Seattle

Oakland at Denver
Winner: Denver

Chicago at Green Bay
Winner: Chicago

Minnesota at Baltimore: Be wary when dome teams must brave the elements.
Winner: Baltimore

New England at New York Jets
Winner: New England

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Fortnite of Football Frenzy and Fun Part I

Alliteration has always held a special place in my heart. The 1980's are also near and dear to my soul. So without further adieu, I present Part I of my bowl preview. The theme, which I hope you will enjoy, is #1 pop hits from the 1980's.

December 20th

New Orleans Bowl
Arkansas State Vs. Southern Mississippi
Theme Song: 'Satisfied' by Richard Marx
This Richard Marx classic from 1989 is a perfect set-up for the first game of the bowl season. Arkansas State is satisfied that some other team besides North Texas is playing in the New Orleans Bowl. Since the Sun Belt football conference formed in 2001, the Mean Green have run roughshod over their Sun Belt brethren to the tune of 4 straight conference titles and 4 New Orleans Bowl berths. That all changed this season as Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, and Louisiana-Lafayette all shared the conference crown. Southern Mississippi, which is located in Hattiesburg, is satisfied to be the only team from the great state of Mississippi to be bowling this season. In all seriousness, Jeff Bower has done a tremendous job since taking over the Golden Eagles in 1990. He has lead them to 8 bowl games in the last 9 years and has not had a losing season since 1993.
Winner: Southern Mississippi

December 21st

GMAC Bowl
Toldeo Vs. UTEP
Theme Song: 'One More Try' by George Michael
This George Michael classic is what UTEP fans must be saying to Mike Price every time they see him. After being fired and embarrassed before he ever coached a game at Alabama, Price, like Marty Robbins, landed on his feet in the West Texas town of El Paso. In the 2 years Mike Price has coached the team, the Miners have won 16 games. In the previous 5 years before Price's arrival, the Miners had won 19 games. Here's hoping Mike Price gives it at least one more try for the UTEP Miners. As far as the game is concerned, Toledo is no pushover. The Miners better dig in, or they might get the shaft.
Winner: UTEP

December 22nd

Poinsettia Bowl
Colorado State Vs. Navy
Theme Song: 'Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) by Phil Collins
Many people probably thought Paul Johnson had lost his mind when he became the head coach of the Naval Academy in 2002. Johnson was coming from division I-AA power Georgia Southern, where he had won 2 national titles in 5 seasons (and played for a 3rd). His first season at Navy went as most people had expected. That is to say a 2-10 season, and what looked like a nigh-impossible rebuilding job ahead. But in 2003, the Academy won 8 games and played in a bowl for the first time since 1997. In 2004, they did even better, winning 10 games. Included among those 10 wins was a bowl victory over New Mexico. This season, the Academy is 7-4 and stands a good chance to defeat Colorado State for its second consecutive bowl win. Paul Johnson won't win any national titles at Navy, but he should be included in any conversation about the best current football coaches.
Winner: Navy

Las Vegas Bowl
California Vs. Brigham Young
Theme Song: 'Could've Been' by Tiffany
The Bears had high hopes when the season began. Those dreams were shattered when quarterback Nathan Longshore was lost for the season in the first game against Sacramento State. Without him, the Bears struggled through a 7-4 season. If Longshore had not gotten hurt, who knows what could have been?
Winner: California

December 23rd

Fort Worth Bowl
Houston Vs. Kansas
Theme Song: 'Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)' by Billy Ocean
This is a cop-out. I couldn't come up with a good 80's #1 hit for this game. The Jayhawks have a good rush defense, 3rd nationally in terms of yards allowed per game (88.1 yards per game), so they are showing no more love to the run.
Winner: Kansas

December 24th

Hawaii Bowl
Central Florida Vs. Nevada
Theme Song: 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes
The Golden Knights from Central Florida lost their conference title game to Tulsa and were punished by being forced to take a trip to Hawaii. Sometimes life is not fair. I wish them the best in this tragic development. What better place to escape to than the islands?
Winner: Central Florida

December 26th
Motor City Bowl
Akron Vs. Memphis
Theme Song: 'Like a Virgin' by Madonna
This is Akron's first bowl game. In celebration of this fact, here is some gratuitous footage of Madonna writhing around on stage at the MTV video awards in 1984. Enjoy.
Winner: Memphis

I'll be back in a few days with Part II.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

NFL Week Fifteen Pigskin Pickin'

Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 137-69

Tampa Bay at New England
Winner: New England

Kansas City at New York Giants
Winner: Kansas City

Denver at Buffalo
Winner: Denver

Arizona at Houston
Winner: Arizona

Seattle at Tennessee
Winner: Seattle

San Diego at Indianapolis
Winner: Indianapolis

Pittsburgh at Minnesota
Winner: Pittsburgh

New York Jets at Miami
Winner: Miami

Philadelphia at St. Louis
Winner: Philadelphia

San Francisco at Jacksonville
Winner: Jacksonville

Carolina at New Orleans
Winner: Carolina

Cincinnati at Detroit
Winner: Cincinnati

Cleveland at Oakland
Winner: Cleveland

Dallas at Washington
Winner: Washington

Atlanta at Chicago
Winner: Chicago

Green Bay at Baltimore
Winner: Baltimore

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bush League

With a record of 1-12, the Houston Texans are currently the frontrunner for the top pick in next spring's NFL Draft. Conventional wisdom says they should draft Reggie Bush, a running back from Southern Cal, whom many believe to be a once-a-generation talent. Could one player possibly make that much of a difference? In order to answer that question lets first take a look at the #1 picks of the last 10 drafts and the top running back picks of the last 10 drafts, followed by a comparison of the two players with whom Bush is most frequently compared; Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders.

1996
#1 pick: Keyshawn Johnson, Wide Receiver, drafted by the New York Jets
Keyshawn had a solid rookie season catching 63 passes for 844 yards and 8 touchdowns. However, the Jets actually regressed from 3-13 in 1995 to 1-15 in 1996. Keyshawn would prove to be a vital piece of the best Jets team of the last 20 years; the 1998 incarnation. However, that Jets team also had the services of a rejuvenated Vinny Testaverde, the 2nd ranked defense (in terms of points allowed), and a Hall-of-Fame coach. Throughout his career, Keyshawn has been a steady above-average receiver, who has at times clashed with his coaches.
#1 running back: Lawrence Phillips, drafted by the St. Louis Rams 6th overall
The troubled Lawrence Phillips played just one and a half seasons for the Rams and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in 1996 and 3.5 per carry in 1997. An absolute bust, Phillips played just 3 seasons in the NFL and played no part in the Rams becoming a great team in 1999.

1997
#1 pick: Orlando Pace, Offensive Tackle, drafted by the St. Louis Rams
Pace has played a pivotal role in the Rams rise from doormat to dynamo. However, it didn't happen overnight. In 1997, the Rams finished 5-11, and in 1998 they finished 4-12. It wasn't until they added Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt in 1999 that the offense spiked.
#1 running back: Warrick Dunn, drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs 12th overall
Dunn's arrival coincided with the Bucs late 90's rise from obscurity. However, although he enjoyed several solid seasons in Tampa, it was the earlier drafts of defensive players
John Lynch, Warren Sapp, and Derrick Brooks that formed the foundation for the Bucs improvement.

1998
#1 pick: Peyton Manning, Quarterback, drafted by the Indianapolis Colts
A definite keeper. Contrary to what some talking heads will have you believe, Peyton is the best quarterback in the league. He struggled some his first year throwing 28 interceptions, but the Colts have been in the top 5 in points scored in 6 of the last 7 seasons. Manning has made 5 (soon to be 6) Pro Bowls in that span.
#1 running back: Curtis Enis, drafted by the Chicago Bears 5th overall
The epitome of a bust. Enis lasted 3 seasons and rushed for only 1497 yards in his career.

1999
#1 pick: Tim Couch, Quarterback, drafted by the Cleveland Browns
Even though all top picks are drafted by bad teams, Couch had the misfortune of being drafted by an expansion team. After seeing the previous 2 expansion franchises take the league by storm in their first seasons, the NFL made sure it wouldn't happen again. Couch was surrounded by poor talent his first few seasons in Cleveland, but in his 4th season the Browns made the playoffs. However, it was Kelly Holcomb who put up better stats and started the teams playoff game. Couch would play one more inconsistent season in Cleveland and is presently out of football.
#1 running back: Edgerrin James, drafted by the Indianapolis Colts 4th overall
James is a bona-fide Hall-of-Fame candidate who along with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison has made the Colts a dynamic offensive team for the better part of 7 seasons.

2000:
#1 pick: Courtney Brown, Defensive End, drafted by the Cleveland Browns
Another Browns draft pick gone awry. Brown accumulated only 17 sacks in his 5 seasons in Cleveland.

#1 running back: Jamal Lewis, drafted by the Baltimore Ravens 5th overall
Lewis rushed for over 1000 yards in his rookie year when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. However, the strength of that Ravens team was its defense which was historically great. This is not to diminish anything Lewis has done, as he would rush for over 2000 yards in 2003, but he is clearly on the downhill slope of his career. Lewis has rushed for only 638 yards with only a 3.1 average per attempt. When running bakcs go, they go quickly. This should serve as a warning to whichever team happens to draft Reggie Bush not to oveuse him. Lewis is only 26 and is likely finished as a productive runner.

2001
#1 pick: Michael Vick, Quarterback, drafted by the Atlanta Falcons
Vick is one of the most controversial players to rate in NFL history. As a starting quarterback, he has a very gaudy winning percentage, and he is a great runner. However, excluding 2002, his passing has been subpar. Still, he is young (25), has a large upside, and his versatility makes him difficult to defend.
#1 running back: LaDainian Tomlinson, drafted by the San Diego Chargers 5th overall
Tomlinson has been widely regarded as one of the league's best backs since he started playing. I'm not going to dispute that claim. However, the Chargers did not start winning consistently until their quarterback situation improved.

2002
#1 pick: David Carr, Quarterback, drafted by the Houston Texans
Much like Tim Couch, Carr was drafted by an expansion team. With no line to protect him, Carr has been hit more often than a bong at a Cheech and Chong double feature. Carr has talent and their is some offensive talent (Andre Johnson and Domanick Davis) around him. With more blocking, Carr could perhaps develop into a solid NFL quarterback.
#1 running back: William Green, drafted by the Cleveland Browns 16th overall
Another Cleveland Brown bust. Green has never topped the 887 yards he rushed for in his rookie campaign, and his career yards per carry average is a feeble 3.7.

2003
#1 pick: Carson Palmer, Quarterback, drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals
It seems as though the Bangals have hit a homerun with this pick. Teaming with 3 members of the Bengals 2001 draft class (Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson, and TJ Houshmandzadeh), Palmer is having a Pro Bowl season and helping the Bengals on their march to the playoffs.

#1 running back: Willis McGahee, drafted by the Buffalo Bills 23rd overall
McGahee had a decent rookie campaign rushing for over 1000 yards with a 4.0 yards per carry average. He has regressed somewhat this year to 3.8 yards per carry, but has again gone over 1000 yards. Two solid but unspectacular seasons for a great college back. It should be noted that McGahee did blow out his knee 4 months before he was drafted in the Fiesta Bowl.

2004
#1 pick: Eli Manning, Quarterback, drafted by the San Diego Chargers
Manning had one of the worst rookie years imaginable, but has turned things around somewhat in his 2nd year. Although Eli will get a lion's share of credit for the Giants' improvment this season, it is the defense that has carried the Giants.

#1 running back: Steven Jackson, drafted by the St. Louis Rams 24th overall
Marshall Faulk's replacement has performed admirably this season running for over 900 yards and catching 40 passes. If Marc Bulger had played the entire season, his numbers would probably be better since teams would have to focus more on the passing game.

2005
#1 pick: Alex Smith, Quarterback, drafted by the San Francisco 49ers
Smith has sucked to put it mildly. A big goose egg in the touchdown column, 9 interceptions, and a pathetic 4.8 yards per pass attempt highlight Smith's rookie season.

#1 running back: Ronnie Brown, drafted by the Miami Dolphins 2nd overall
Brown has had a very good rookie campaing. Currently he has 841 rushing yards and a 4.5 yards per carry average. Nick Saban appears to have this team headed in the right direction, and Brown could play an integral role on the next Dolphins' playoff team.

Of all the #1 overall picks, there have been 2 busts (Couch and Brown), 2 potential Hall-of-Famers (Manning and Pace), 1 Pro Bowl caliber player (Johnson), 2 above average players (Vick and Johnson) and 3 who the jury is still out on (Carr, Manning, and Smith). My money is on Carr and Manning being average and Smith being a bust. Of all the top drafted running backs, there have been 3 busts (Phillips, Enis, and Green), 2 potential Hall-of-Famers (James and Tomlinson), 2 Pro Bowl caliber player (Dunn and Lewis), and 3 who the jury is still out on (McGahee, Jackson, and Brown). I think Jackson is the best of the lot. Interpret the numbers as you wish, but realize that there is a very real chance that the top pick or top running back drafted has a substantial chance of being a bust.

Now let's compare Bush to Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders. Sayers was a silky smooth runner who averaged 5 yards per carry over his career for the Chicago Bears. However, his career only last for 5 seasons from 1965-1969. From 1970-1971, he played in only 4 games because of injury. However, in the 5 seasons he did play, he was electrifying. He rushed foe over 1000 yards twice (in 14 game seasons) and averaged over 5 yards per rush in every year but 1967. For all his rushing exploits, his teams were never anything better than mediocre. Here's the year-by-year record for Sayers 5 year peak.

1965: 9-5
1966: 5-7-2
1967: 7-6-1
1968: 7-7
1969: 1-13

The Bears never made the playoffs in Sayers' 5 peak seasons. If you're curious, they didn't make it in the 2 years when he was hurt either.

Barry Sanders was another smooth runner who had the potential of going the distance every time he touched the ball. Sanders rushed for over 1000 yards in each of his 10 seasons and average 5 yards per carry over his career with the Detroit Lions. Here's the Lions record for Sanders' 10 year career.

1989: 7-9
1990: 6-10
1991: 12-4
1992: 5-11
1993: 10-6
1994: 9-7
1995: 10-6
1996: 5-11
1997: 9-7
1998: 5-11

The Lions made the playoffs in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995. However, aside from 1991 when they reached the NFC Championship game, they never won a playoff game.

What does this tell us? Even a player with the talent of Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders does not guarantee success for a team if they are surrounded with second-rate talent.

What then should the Texans do? They should trade down from the #1 spot and acquire more draft picks. The Texans need to improve both offensively and defensively. They are 28th in points per game and 30th in points allowed per game. Additionally, one of their best players is a running back. No matter how talented Reggie Bush is, would he be a substantial upgrade over Domanick Davis? Not in my opinion. If the Texans draft Reggie Bush, it would be like taking a beat up Pinto with $1000 rims and replacing them with $1500 rims. It's still a Pinto. End of story. The Texans should trade down and rebuild their offense in the trenches; along the offensive line.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Pats on the Back and Mea Culpas

It's time to take a look back at the college football season that was and see how my preseason predictions went.

Good Calls:

1) In my very first post, I had the Tennessee Vols pegged as highly overrated. I said their luck would change this year and it did. Last season, they were 6-1 in games decided by 7 points or less. This season, they were only 3-3 in games decided by 7 points or less.

2) In my post on potential darkhorses, I said Iowa State had a good chance of winning the Big 12 North division. Going into the finale against Kansas, they controlled their own destiny, but fell to the Jayhawks in OT.

3) In that same post I said Oregon would rebound. They went 10-1, with their only blemish coming to Southern Cal.

Bad Calls:

1) I said Pittsburgh was a potential darkhorse in the Big East. They didn't qualify for a bowl game.

2) I said Purdue would contend for the Big 10 championsip. They too failed to qualify for a bowl game.

Average Calls:

1) I said Clemson could contend for the ACC's Atlantic Division championship. They beat Florida State and took Miami and Boston College to OT before losing. If they had not lost to Wake Forest they would have played in the first ever ACC Championship Game.

2) I said Florida would win the SEC East. They beat their 3 main rivals, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida State. However, they lost to South Carolina and missed out on the SEC Championship Game thanks to that defeat.

3) I said Fresno State had a chance to crash the BCS party. Prior to Thanksgiving, their only losses were by 3 points to 10-1 Oregon and by 8 points to undefeated Southern Cal (both on the road). However, they lost any good will generated by those close defeats in losing consecutive games to WAC foes Nevada and Louisiana Tech.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Anti-Holy Roller or The Frivolous Foist

In an otherwise forgettable matchup between a 2-10 and 4-8 team, one of the most amazing plays and subsequent rulings I have ever seen happened on ESPN last night. If you don't know about the infamous 'Holy Roller' or 'Immaculate Deception' play, read about it here. But I digress. The scene Sunday night at Lambeau Field was as follows: Green Bay had the ball 1st and 10 inside their own 1 yard line after the Lions turned the ball over on downs and Green Bay committed a false start on 1st down resulting in perhaps the shortest penalty in history. The score is tied at 13 and there is about 7 minutes to go in the game. Brett Favre hands off to Samkon Gado, who is about to be tackled in the endzone by Lions Linebacker Earl Holmes. As he is falling to the ground, Gado appears at first glance to intentionally fumble the ball forward and out of the endzone where it is recovered at the 1 yard line by Packers Fullback Vonta Leach (who incidentally started this whole chain of events by blocking no one on the play). After a lengthy discussion, the referees rule this intentional fumble a forward pass and call Gado for intentional grounding resulting in a safety and giving the Lions a 15-13 lead with an ensuing free kick to come. There is also a holding call on Green Bay Tackle Mark Tauscher that is going to be controversial as well in a moment. However, Mike Sherman throws his red challenge flag, and although this play cannot be challenged the officials have another conference call where they change their initial ruling. They now rule that since Gado is behind the line of scrimage and out of the 'pocket' he is afforded the same advantages as any quarterback and any pass he throws simply has to make it back to the line of scrimage to avoid intentional grounding. There are some serious issues in regards to fair competition with this ruling. Since the play was an obvious run, I doubt any officials were looking for any illegal men (linemen) downfield who may have been blocking. While a call for such a penalty in this situation would not have resulted in a safety, the simple fact that officials are not looking for the call sets bad precendent on the off chance that the 'pass' is complete and a long gain ensues. Furthermore, there is a rule in place to protect passers in the NFL. From the NFL rulebook: "Officials are to blow the play dead as soon as the quarterback is clearly in the grasp and control of any tackler, and his safety is in jeopardy." This rule is designed to prevent quarterbacks from being held up by one pass rusher and then summarily drilled by another. If Gado is afforded the same luxury as Favre when he is out of the pocket, he should also be called in the grasp when it is obvious his forward progress has been stopped and he is on the way down. Now back to the aforementioned holding call. Although replays showed the hold by Tauscher clearly occurred in the endzone, officials ruled it happened at the 1 yard line. Any hold in the endzone would result in a safety, but the hold at the 1 yard line would simply have resulted in a new record for shortest penalty in NFL history. Taking the only option afforded them, the Lions declined the holding penalty and when the smoke cleared, it was 2nd and 10 from the 1 yard line. Green Bay eventually got a first down and got out of the shadow of their own goal line. Even though they did not win the game on this drive, they would go on to win in overtime on a Ryan Longwell Field Goal. It is highly likely that the officials' decision cost the Lions the game. Further proof that the NFL is the greatest spectator sport. Could you have been entertained as much by 2 NBA or MLB teams who were just playing out the string?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

NFL Week Fourteen Pigskin Pickin'

Last Week: 15-1
Overall: 128-62

Chicago at Pittsburgh
Winner: Pittsburgh

Houston at Tennessee
Winner: Tennessee

Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Winner: Indianapolis

New England at Buffalo: The Bills are a different team at Rich Stadium.
Winner: Buffalo

Oakland at New York Jets
Winner: Oakland

Cleveland at Cincinnati
Winner: Cincinnati

Tampa Bay at Carolina
Winner: Carolina

St. Louis at Minnesota
Winner: Minnesota

San Francisco at Seattle
Winner: Seattle

New York Giants at Philadelphia
Winner: New York Giants

Washington at Arizona
Winner: Arizona

Kansas City at Dallas
Winner: Kansas City

Miami at San Diego
Winner: San Diego

Baltimore at Denver
Winner: Denver

Detroit at Green Bay
Winner: Detroit

New Orleans at Atlanta
Winner: Atlanta

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blog Poll Week 15

1. Texas (12-0)-- Dropped 70 on the Buffs. (LW 2)
2. Southern Cal (12-0)-- Hopefully the Rose Bowl lives up to the hype. (LW 1)
3. Penn St. (10-1)-- Septuagenarian Bowl versus Mr. Bowden. (LW 3)
4. Miami (9-2)-- Peach Bowl against an humbled LSU team. (LW 6)
5. Ohio St. (9-2)-- Ready to knock off the Irish. (LW 7)
6. Auburn (9-2)-- Gonna send Barry Alvarez home a loser. (LW 8)
7. Georgia (10-2)-- Intriguing game against West Virginia. (LW 12)
8. Virginia Tech (10-2)-- Hokies return to Jacksonville. (LW 4)
9. Oregon (10-1)-- Battle of the OU's in the Holiday Bowl. (LW 9)
10. Louisiana St. (10-2)-- Have to settle for the Peach Bowl. (LW 5)
11. Notre Dame (9-2)-- Gonna get stomped by an OSU in Tempe just like 5 years ago. (LW 11)
12. Alabama (9-2)-- Strength versus strength against Texas Tech. (LW 13)
13. West Virginia (10-1)-- A worthy opponent for the Bulldogs. (LW 14)
14. TCU (10-1)-- Headed to Houston. (LW 15)
15. Louisville (9-2)-- Offense will be put to the test against VT. (LW 16)
16. Michigan (7-4)-- Remember the Alamo. (LW 17)
17. UCLA (9-2)-- The Great Pretender. (LW 10)
18. Wisconsin (9-3)-- Tough closer for Barry Alvarez. (LW 18)
19. Florida (8-3)-- Outback Bowl. (LW 19)
20. Texas Tech (9-2)-- Prove it game against 'Bama in the Cotton Bowl. (LW 20)
21. Oklahoma (7-4)-- Real chance to knock of the Ducks. (LW 21)
22. Boston College (8-3)-- Shipped of to Boise. (LW 22)
23. Iowa (7-4)-- Outback Bowl. (LW 23)
24. Clemson (7-4)-- Maybe they'll take a side trip to Disney World. (LW 25)
25. South Carolina (7-4)-- Abe Simpson: "I'll be long dead in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Mizzoura." (LW NR)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Ball Guy

Typically in the game of football, quarterbacks get too much credit for leading their teams to wins and too much blame causing their teams to lose. However, in the case of Georgia Tech football, its almost impossible to assign too much blame on Reggie Ball. Not since Byron Leftwich, has a player been carried more by the team he played for. Georgia Tech went 7-4 almost entirely on the strength of their defense. The Yellow Jackets rank 16th nationally in scoring defense, giving up an average of 18.5 point per game. If you remove the debacle against Virginia Tech, they drop down to 15.2 points per game. They are 10th nationally in yards per game, allowing a scant 296 per contest. They are also 17th nationally in yards per play giving up an average of 4.6 yards per play. While not perfect indicators of how well a defense has played, points, yardage, and yards per play are probably the three best indicators of performance at the college level where there is a dearth of advanced stats like the ones you might find at Football Outsiders.

If the defense is this good, why has Georgia Tech lost 4 games? Look no further than the other side of the Ball. Georgia Tech is 99th in scoring offense averaging a paltry 19.3 points per game. They are 81st in yards per game with 352. So who bears the responsibility for this offensive ineptitude? All the evidence points squarely at Reggie Ball. Consider this, Georgia Tech is 48th nationally in rushing yards per game with 156 per contest. Hardly dominant, but at least in the top half of Division I teams. They are 90th in passing yards per game averaging 190 per contest. So why does Georgia Tech struggle so much in the pasing game? Reggie Ball's horrible accuracy is to blame.

In my opinion, completion percentage is a highly overrated statistic. Short dump offs in the flat can drive up a quarterback's completion percentage and not do much at all to help a team win games. That is why yards per pass attempt is a much better measure of a quarterback's passing ability. However, Division I quarterbacks need to complete more than half the passes they throw. For the season, Reggie Ball has a completion percentage of 48%. He has completed 164 passes, and has thrown 178 incompletions. Out of 121 Division I quarterbacks who have thrown more than 100 passes, he ranks 116th in completion percentage. Only Allan Evridge (Kansas State), Perry Patterson Jr. (Syracuse), Austen Everson (Ohio), Erik Ainge (Tennessee), and Carl Meadows (Troy) have a worse completion percentage. What makes Reggie's inaccuracy mind-boggling is the presence of Calvin Johnson. Only a sophomore, Johnson is an All-American wide receiver. Defenses also typically double his side of the field; a practice that should lead to easier throws to Tech's other receivers.

Of course, even a quarterback with a low completion percentage can do other things to help his team win. Take the case of Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson. Robinson is not a great passer (he completed a little less than 52% of his passes), but he tossed more touchdowns than interceptions: 16 to 9 (as opposed to 10 and 10 for Ball), and also ran well: 137 rushes for 855 yards, 6.2 average per rush, and 11 touchdowns. Many people similarly believe Ball is a good running quarterback. He's not. Ball rushed 87 times for 429 yards (a 4.9 average) and 4 touchdowns.

In the home loss to NC State, the offense managed only 14 points. In the home victory over Clemson, the offense managed only 10 points. In the home loss to Georgia, the offense managed only 7 points. In the road win at Miami, the offense scored only 14 points. In the two games where the defense struggled (at Virginia Tech and at Virginia), the offense managed a combined 24 points. If Georgia Tech had gotten just average production from the quarterback position they could have finished 9-2. As it stands, a solid defensive performance will be wasted as Tech travels to San Francisco for the prestigious Emerald Bowl.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

NFL Week Thirteen Pigskin Pickin'

Last Week: 10-6
Overall: 113-61

Buffalo at Miami
Winner: Miami

Atlanta at Carolina
Winner: Carolina

Dallas at New York Giants
Winner: New York Giants

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: If the Bengals win, they have a 2 game division lead.
Winner: Cincinnati

Green Bay at Chicago
Winner: Chicago

Houston at Baltimore
Winner: Baltimore

Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Winner: Tampa Bay

Jacksonville at Cleveland: Winter Wonderland.
Winner: Cleveland

Minnesota at Detroit
Winner: Minnesota

Tennessee at Indianapolis
Winner: Indianapolis

Arizona at San Francisco: Very quietly, Kurt Warner has had 3 good games in a row since returning to the starting lineup.
Winner: Arizona

Washington at St. Louis: How many gamblers and fantasy football players will be jumping off buildings after taking Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick against a real NFL defense, and not the NCAA-caliber Texans?
Winner: Washington

New York Jets at New England
Winner: New England

Denver at Kansas City
Winner: Kansas City

Oakland at San Diego
Winner: San Diego

Seattle at Philadelphia
Winner: Seattle
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