Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Train Wreck that is the Big 12 North

Big 12 North (MAC Southwest) standings through Oct 24:

Willie and Friends 3-1
Iowa State 2-2
Phog U 1-2
Bugeaters 1-2
Dan Hawkins Farewell Tour 1-2
Missouri 0-3

MAC Southwest future games:
Oklahoma beats Kansas State
Missouri beats Colorado
Nebraska beats Baylor
Tech beats Kansas
Texas A&M beats Iowa State
Texas A&M beats Colorado
Oklahoma State beats Iowa State
Kansas State beats Kansas
Missouri beats Baylor
Oklahoma beats Nebraska
Iowa State beats Colorado
Kansas beats Nebraska
Kansas State beats Missouri
Missouri beats Iowa State
Oklahoma State beats Colorado
Nebraska beats Kansas State
Texas beats Kansas
Nebraska beats Colorado
Kansas beats Missouri

If I'm correct on this (I'm 12-8 straight up from my beginning of the year predictions, so I'm probably not), this means K-State wins the MAC Southwest title with a 5-3 conference record and a 7-5 overall record. Records throughout the Big 12 north would be:

KSU 5-3 / 7-5
Neb 4-4 / 7-5
ISU 3-5 / 6-6
KU 3-5 / 7-5
Mizzou 3-5 / 7-5
CU - 1-7 / 2-10

Just a couple of weird bounces of the ball and you could have :
1) KSU go 4-4, win the North Division, lose the Big 12 championship game and be 6-7, and not eligible for a bowl;
2) Colorado could go 4-1 in remaining conference play and also be in the same situation
3) KSU, Nebraska and KU could all be in a 3 way tie atop the North with 4-4 conference records. Take the above predictions, and alter three games: have KSU a) lose to KU; b) lose to Mizzou and c) beat Nebraska and you're there. I have not idea what the tiebreaker scenario is then.
4) Missouri has 4 Big 12 north games and a clash against Baylor left. They could run the table and win the Big 12 North after starting out 0-3.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

OSU vs Texas

Many folks out there are telling us that Oklahoma State really has a chance against Texas this week. After all, the game is being played in Stillwater! And it was really close last year! Let's take a step back and look at some things we call "facts" here at LandThieves:

a) Mack Brown is undefeated against Oklahoma State
b) During Brown's tenure at Texas, the Horns have outscored the Pokes 216-125 in 6 games in Austin.
c) During that same period, over 5 games, it's 219-117 in Stillwater. So according to my calculations, Texas wins by 15 points in Austin, but when the Pokes have home field advantage it's only 21 points?
d) Boone State has the 36 ranked scoring defense in the country. Texas has the 9th ranked scoring defense.
e) Texas has the #1 ranked scoring offense in the country. Oklahoma State has the 6th ranked scoring offense.
f) based upon won-loss record of current foes, the Pokes have played the 64th toughest schedule in the country. On the same criteria, the Horns have played the 40th toughest schedule.
g) according to Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings, Texas has played the 52nd toughest schedule, and Oklahoma State's schedule is 100th toughest.

So, in a nutshell, in this series during the past 11 years, 1) the home field advantage has meant nothing for the Pokes; 2) Texas is a better team statistically; 3) Texas has superior performance in spite of playing a tougher schedule to date.

All this analysis could go out the window considering the game is played by 20 year olds that occasionally get distracted with wine, women and schoolwork.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Sam should stay in school

Sam's getting surgery now and is expected to declare for the draft if all goes well. Last week, everyone was writing the "Sam should go pro" column. It’s easy to do. Here’s the alternative.

  • Of the 10 offensive linemen listed on the Sooner depth chart, 8 return next year. Let’s presume that’s a good thing. Honestly, a unit that works together under our offensive coaches can’t help but get better.
  • Two receivers graduate at the end of this year, Hands of Stone Tonnell and All conference fullback/guard/center/tight end Brody Eldridge. These two offensive weapons have combined for 15 catches for and 2 TD through seven games. Everyone else returns.
  • This similar topic was discussed ad nauseum when Matt Leinart stuck around. And when Peyton Manning stuck around. It worked well for one, hasn’t seemed to for the other.
  • Legacy - Sam needs to determine what his goals are. Is his goal to make it to the NFL? Or is to make it IN the NFL. There is tons of data out there that says that the longer you stay in school as an NFL quarterback, the better chance you have at success. Leave school early, and he could be like other underclassmen: Jamarcus Russell, Vince Young, Alex Smith, Rex Grossman, Quincy Carter, Michael Vick, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, Tommy Maddox, Jeff George. He could beat the odds and be Ben Roethlisberger or Drew Bledsoe. Jury's still out on Aaron Rodgers. This isn't the Sooner in me talking. Other people say this, too.
  • Rick Gosselin breaks it down in terms of number of pass attempts. Disregard the thesis of the column that Brady Quinn is a safe pick.
  • Sam has thrown 893 passes in 2+ years, so he's relatively inexperienced compared to many college passers entering the NFL>.
  • Money. It’s going to be there regardless, whether it’s via insurance or NFL signing bonus. How many millions is enough?
  • There are two schools of thought; 1) why take unnecessary toll on your body for the scholly money only; 2) why start working for a living any sooner than you have to.

For a quarterback, there are several indicators that seem to contribute to success long term in the NFL: 1) play four years of college; 2) get lots of pass attempts at the collegiate level; 3) warm the bench for a couple of years while you mature and get used to the pace of the game. Sam can't control who he's drafted by - unless he wants to go all Eli Manning / John Elway on someone - but he can control how many reps he gets in college.

Sam, take it from a veteran. You've got the rest of your life to work. Enjoy college a little bit longer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sloppy Football

The AP story refers to the Texas-OU game as "sloppy" and Mack B referred to it as a defensive struggle like the SEC.

Let's compare a couple of marquee games:

Plays / Turnovers/ Pen Yds:

Game A: 131 / 6 / 173
Game B: 151 / 8 / 228
Game C: 131 / 4 / 108
Game D: 111 / 2 / 109

Game A is the classic Alabama / South Carolina game, B is the Horns / Sooners, and C is Razorbacks / Gators. Game D is the Florida / LSU game from Oct 10.

I won't dispute that the grade of SEC ball overall is superior to the Big 12 this year, I don't even think that's up for debate. What I do want to draw attention to is the number of plays in a game. the OU-Texas game had 15% higher number of plays. There were more opportunities for penalties and turnovers. Texas-OU had 40 more snaps in their game than Florida - LSU from the prior week.

I would propose that the pace of play in the OU-TX game led to a higher rate of penalties and turnovers, and that respect of the foes defense and control freakish nature of the coaches led to a slower pace in the SEC games referenced.

Was the game a little sloppy, you bet. I would say it kept me on the edge of my seat, but that's not true. I was standing the entire time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Candidates to replace Stoops

Since many of you are clamoring for Stoops hide after the 3-3 start to the year, I thought we would take a few minutes to examine the potential replacements.

Oklahoma ties

  • Josh Heupel - he hasn't even been a unit coordinator, but he was like a coach on the field for two years. The last time we hired a position coach with on coordinating experience, it didn't turn out so well.
  • Kevin Sumlin - 2-0 against Big 12 schools this year, but winless against UTEP.
  • Mike Stoops - Sooner program hasn't been the same since he left. Surely the losing record over 5 years is an aberration, and he'd be a juggernaut at OU right after we canned his brother.
  • Mark Mangino - this is a no-brainer. Mangino is the first coach to win 40 games at Lawrence and have a winning record since Bert Kennedy hit that milestone. In 1909. Never mind that many believe that Heupel changed all Mangino's plays in the 2000 march to the championship.
  • Mike Shanahan - Coached for one year at OU in the 70s. Been living off of Switzer's rep ever since. Immediately available. I bet he'd turn down the Dallas Cowboy job for a chance to coach in Norman again. hasn't coached at the collegiate level since 1983.
  • Mike Leach - instrumental in recruiting Josh Heupel, which was key in turning around the program. Some say he's taken Tech to new heights, other say he's just scheduled easier non conference foes.

Regional Ties

  • Art Briles - never beaten Texas. Can't keep his quarterback healthy either, which can be a contributor to success, from what I understand.
  • Todd Graham - knows Texas high school football, since he coached there earlier this decade. 1-0 against Bronco Mendenhall, but 0-2 in Conference USA championship games.
  • Major Applewhite - Texas did alright hiring one of our former QBs back in the day. Very inexperienced.

Many of you are tired of losing to Texas. Here's a list of coaches that are undefeated against Texas (not all-inclusive).

  • Bob Toledo - 2-0 against Texas, outscoring them 115-34. Also undefeated against Texas A&M. Unfortunately, he's also winless against the following schools: Alabama-Birmingham, Army, East Carolina.
  • Mike Belotti - 1-0 against Texas, but now retired.
  • Ron Prince - 1-0 against Mack Brown. Available as soon as the Virgina staff gets fired at the end of the season.

Others want a big splash from a national name, let's look at the options:

  • Ty Willingham - known for turning around programs. If you want to go that direction.
  • Nick Saban - Never been at one post for longer than 5 years. After 3 years, he's due for a change. Conversely, he's 0-1 against Texas, and 0-2 against Nebraska, being outscored 105-24 by the Bugeaters.
  • Brian Kelly - is 27-6 at Cincinnati. On the downside, he's doing this in the Big East. His record while at Central Michigan and Cincy against BCS auto qualifiers: 2-9, with the both wins coming against Oregon State.
  • Pete Carroll / Urban Meyer - I'm sure these gentlemen are tired of staying in state and recruiting top notch talent without ever getting on a plane. I bet both are tired of being so close to the water, they probably wish to be closer to the fruited plains.
  • Charlie Strong - Very successful d-coordinator of Florida. I'm sure the Oklahoma Sooner faithful will embrace his interracial marriage. Push my skepticism of Sooner football fans open-mindedness aside, I think he's one of the more viable candidates for a head coaching job.
  • Chris Petersen - let's take a look at his predecessors. Dirk Koetter was 26-10 at Boise State and 40-34 at Arizona State. Dan Hawkins was 53-11 at Boise and 15-28 since. Petersen is 41-4 at Boise. Was he really the reason his two predecessors were successful, or is it just that he's in the WAC? How much do you want to pay to find out?

Let's face it. You can't name a single coach that you can guarantee 1) would come to Norman; 2) would have better results than Coach Stoops; 3) will run a clean program. How do you know you're going to get an upgrade. Texas was convinced they could do better than Fred Akers 73% winning percentage. Twelve years and two coaches later, they got what they wanted. LSU ran off Mike Archer for winning 60% of his games and 14 years later got their man in Nick Saban. Stoops has won 80.5% of his games. Not many are going to improve on that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Postgame thoughts

Texas won a hard fought game. I tip my foam Sooner Schooner hat to them.

At the beginning of this year, I thought the Horns would win this game, as a result of a more experienced offensive line. I picked them to win in my Big 12 preview. Those picks were made prior to 1) realizing just how far the dropoff would be from last year's o-line to this years; 2) Jermaine Gresham getting hurt; 3) Sam Bradford getting hurt. If you would have told me at 800 am Sat morning that a) Bradford would get hurt in the first quarter; b) the Sooners would have five turnovers; c) have negative rushing yards, I probably wouldn't have even got in the car to go down to the Cotton Bowl.

Now, I'm going to digress into a couple of shoulda-woulda-couldas.
  1. In the first quarter, Landry Jones throws a beautiful long pass to Cameron Kinney. Kinney jumps up over Curtis Brown, extends his arms - and the ball goes through his hands and hits him in the helmet. Incomplete pass, and Jimmy Stevens misses a 45 yard field goal into the wind. If he catches that pass, it's first and goal inside the give, and three plays later Jimmy could have make a much shorter field goal.
  2. The Sooners DOMINATED the first quarter. And led 6-0 at the end of it. I thought the game was lost in the first quarter, when the Sooners had such an edge, but the edge didn't translate to points.
  3. The hurry up offense needs to stop. The time of possession in this game was 34:32 Texas to 25:28 Sooners. In the first quarter, the Sooners had the ball 9:48 seconds to the Horns 5:12 seconds. The remaining 45 minutes of game time, the time of possession was 29:20 for Texas, and 15:40 seconds for the Sooners. As long as we can't: a) run the ball (3.9 ypc through, 66th in NCAA just ahead of Kent State, but behind Ohio), and b) convert 3rd downs (32 for 88 is 84th in Division 1-A), we need to not routinely snap the ball with 19 seconds left on the play clock.
  4. The Baylor Bears have a run package where they take one of their defensive lineman and put him in at fullback. The Sooners need to do the same iwth Gerald McCoy on short yardage downs.
  5. On Broyles TD catch and run, Brandon Caleb makes two crucial blocks that help Broyles make it all the way to the end zone.
  6. The Sooner defense changed at half-time. They seemed to play mroe straight-up in the second half. At least from a lineup perspective. They seemed to not be moving around as much, and didn't seem to blitz as often. That probably was in part due to: a) half time adjustments and an effort to give Texas a different look; b) Longhorns snapping the ball more quickly and not allowing as much pre-snap movement; c) different looks given by the Horns.
  7. The Sooner D did a great job of containing Shipley yesterday.
  8. I realized in watching the game on the DVR that Brody Eldgridge played left guard yesterday. It's just another evidence of how bad the o-line is that our all-conference fullback and backup tightend has now played two different positions on the interior line thus far.
  9. The Sooners were 0-5 on 3rd down conversions in the second half.
  10. Keenan Clayton drops two different almost certain pick sixes during the second quarter.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rope a Dope Works in 2nd quarter

I mentioned to a friend accompanying me to the game that the rope-a-dope was not a successful football strategy. However, in the second quarter, it did work.

Here are the Sooner possessions in the 2nd quarter:

1:16 TOP, 4 plays, 24 yards; fumble at the Texas 24
1:10 TOP, 4 plays, 10 yards; punt
1:25 TOP, 5 plays, 17 yards; punt
fumble on kickoff return
1:53 TOP, 3 plays, -13 yards; punt

That's 5 minutes and change of game time, 16 play, 38 yards and 2 turnovers.

Amazingly, the Sooners gave up only 3 points in this sequence, in spite of the Horns having five possessions, with an average starting point of their own 49.

On each of the five possession, the Horns crossed into Sooner territory, with the following results: one FG, one fumble, and a sack at the end of the half. Three of the possessions ended with the Horns being driven back to the 50 of on their own side of the field.

Folks, that's defense.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sam Bradford is Second, no matter what

It's been a crazy week at LandThieves HQ. Work is quite hectic and it's impairing my ability to obsess about the Red River Rivalry. To keep it all in perspective, here's a bit from Sam, who's hopefully the hero tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No1 Hook Em, Barry Switzer

For you youngsters out there, Mack was an offensive coordinator for Oklahoma in 1984. Coached some kid named Aikman for a year. Right before this picture, Brown says, "If you don't flash the Horns, I'm putting that picture I have of you and Marcus Dupree on facebook."

No 2 Hook Em, Madonna

Madonna had a wild night with Fred Akers and Edwin Simmons in 1984 during her first tour, and had been a Longhorn fan ever since.

No 3 Hook Em Bill Clinton

I'm expecting a call from Hillary's publicist, wanting to know how I ranked Bill six spots ahead of her.

No 4 Hook Em Paul Gleason

Goofy scene from 80s movie, The Breakfast Club. If you mess with the bull, you get the Horns. Who knew John Hughes was a Longhorn fan?

No 5 Hook Em, Barack Obama

The first time I saw this photo, I thought it looked so awkward it must be a photoshop. Further research found it on the Austin American Statesman website, courtesy of O's trip to Austin for the debates last year. He's clearly flashing, "I'm not George Bush, and I want the Nobel Peace Prize."

No 6 Hook Em, Michelle Obama

It's subtle, but look at the left hand.

No 7 Hook Em, Yasser Arafat

New 4th meaning to this hand signal, "I'd like to apply for the Nobel Peace Prize, please."

No 8 Hook Em, Ahmadminejad

Mahmoud Ahminejad, photographed in Tom Hicks' suite at the 2005 National Championship game.

Hook Em No 9, Hillary Clinton

9. As indicated earlier, this signal could mean a) Hook Em Horns; b) I'm a devil worshiper; c) I love you. In this instance, Hillary is professing her love for the devil if she could carry Texas.

No 10 Hook Em Rick Perry

Traitorious Aggie Rick Perry sells out out alma mater for votes.

No 11 Hook Em, Pat Robertson

11. I believe Pat was praying for Vince Young to learn how to read a defense.

Top 12 Celebrities - or somesuch - Flashing Hook Em

Today we're starting a Top 12 countdown of various political and entertainment figures flashing the hook 'em sign. Some may actually be using sign language to signal a loved one, or indicating Satanic worship. Could be all three. Let's have some fun and not overanalyze, shall we?

12. Marion Berry, former DC mayor, would have fit in well with 2007 Longhorn team.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Middle of the Field

As I thought about yesterday's loss to Miami, I realized that the Sooner coaching staff is treating Landry Jones like Nate Hybl or Paul Thompson. For those uninitiated, Nate Hybl and Paul Thompson were rarely allowed to throw the ball in the middle of the field. I don't have any stats to back this up, it just seemed like the passing attack with them as either side to side, or if down the field, it was fades. All stuff that was pretty low risk.

After having this thought, I watched the game again. Jones was 1-3 while throwing between the hashmarks on Saturday night. On the other 2/3 of the field, he was 17-27.

On the other side of the ball, the Sooners weak spot - for years it seems - has been defending the middle of the field. We are so determined to stop the run that we're susceptible to play action passes, where you get the ball over the second level of defenders. Conversely, Miami, which really loaded up the box in the second half, was not tested in this area. Are they that strong up the middle? I don't know.

After all this weeping and gnashing of teeth, the Sooners have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, and they're four points away from being undefeated.

Injuries and their impact on the offense

With Broyles out with a fractured shoulder blade, the Sooners are left without another playmaker. To understand this, consider the following stat:

In 2008, the Sooners passed for 4,891 yards, with 4,208 of those yards going to receivers and tight ends. With the eligibility completion (Iglesias, Johson, Chaney) and injuries (Gresham, Broyles), the Sooners have lost 4,005, or 95%, of those yards. Add in four o-lineman gone, and the starting QB on the shelf, and that's a lot ot make up for.

That being said, the offense scored 20 points. But it should have been enough to get us a W, if the D makes a couple of stops.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tale of the Tape - Aggies vs Hogs

Work and family schedules precluded me giving this proper coverage earlier this week, but I wanted to do a little preview of a game involving two of the most dysfunctional and loyal fan bases in college football, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

How'd they get the name? Arkansas: After an undefeated season in 1909, Coach Hugo Bezdek referred to his team as a "wild band of Razorbacks" and the name caught on. Hog fans have NOT caught on to the fact that they've only had one undefeated season since 1909, in 1964 when Barry Switzer was an assistant and Boss Hog Jerry Jones was a player on the team. Cash Machine U: It's Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University. While some believe that the Aggies moniker is Greek for "abuser of sheep", that is just a rumor. It's a tribute to the school's agricultural roots. Gearheads just doesn't roll off the tongue, so they went with Aggies. Edge: Aggies.
Returning Starters: Texas A&M 10 on offense / 6 on defense; Arkansas 8 on offense / 10 on defense. Edge: Arkansas
NFL Passing Yards by Alums: Arkansas 41,090; A&M 9,157. I'm excluding former Razorback Tarvaris Jackson from this tally, as he transferred to Alabama State and improved the quarterback play at both schools. Edge: Arkansas, courtesy of Buffalo Bill great Joe Ferguson.
NFL Draft History: Arkansas 243; Texas A&M: 258. Edge: Arkansas
Best NFL Player: Arkansas: Pat Summerall; Texas A&M: Yale Lary. Edge: Arkansas. I went with Summerall over NFL HOFs Lance Allworth and Dan Hampton because Summerall wins the Best Voice and Best Recovering Alchololic portion of the contest as well. Both schools have fairly storied college fb programs, but not many elite NFLers come out of the pack. If you disagree, see Mcelroy, Leeland. Edge: Arkansas
Hot/Cold: Arkansas: Cold. The Hogs have allowed 77 points in two games against 1-A opponents. Texas A&M: Overheated. Courtesy of the mediocre defenses played by the Aggies, Cash Machine U is hot, but cool faster than a plate of scrambled eggs. Edge: Aggies.
Random Stat: The defensive ranking of A&M foes year-to-date: 107, 117, 116. Arkansas is a veritable defensive juggernaut at 91. Edge: Aggies
Random Stat 2: Texas A&I has more NFL Hall of Famers than Texas A&M. Gene Upshaw and Darrell Green starred for Texas A&I back in the day. Edge: Arkansas
How we see it: this game has fluctuated between a pick'em and Arkansas as a 1 point favorite. Arkansas is 1-2, but has played teams you've heard of in Alabama and Georgia. For some reason, I think Arkansas is going to win this, though I'll be pulling for the Aggies. The battle of the Aggies and Hogs in the seats will be an interesting part of the game as well. Prediction: Arkansas

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hurricanes Preview

How's they get the name: The Hurricanes found their moniker in 1926 prior to their first game. The game has been postponed by a hurricane. A Miami football player, Porter Norris, suggested the team be named the Hurricanes. Presumably, Porter did not graduate with a language arts degree.
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense
NFL passing yards by alums: 125,231 by quarterbacks
Draft History:313 draftees

Hot/Cold: Frigid. The Canes were left cold and wet after a arse-whooping at the hands of the Virginia Tech Hokies last week.
The Skinny: these are not your father's Miami Hurricanes. Actually, if you're in your twenties and reading this, and your father is a Miami Hurricane, you probably don't know it anyway. Pardon me, I digress. "The U" as it's become known, was one of the premier programs from 1983 - 2003, and had a remarkable run 14 year of first round NFLers from 1995-2008. In 2001, former OU and OSU assistant Larry Coker took over the reigns from Butch Davis, won a national championship his first season, then drove the wagon in the ditch. Randy Shannon has uprighted the wagon, tricked it up with some hydraulics, a sound system and some sweet spinners and the Hurricanes are on their way back to being a top 10 programs
Random stat: According to the Miami game notes, "Of the 20 seniors on this year's squad, eight have already earned degrees, while the remaining 11 are all on course to graduate either in December of 2009 or May of 2010." Apparently the missing senior was contributing to the media guide.
Random stat 2: The Sooners have not beaten Miami FL in South Florida since 1975.
Random stat 3: Of Oklahoma's 11 offensive starters for last year's NCG, 2 are starting Saturday night (Chris Brown and Trent Williams) and only one of those at the same position (Williams).
How we see it: I see the Sooners prevailing in a close one. I think the pass rush and the zone blitzing by the Sooners will put pressure on Jacory Harris, and the defense should prevail over an improving Canes offense. On the other side of the ball, the U is just not the U of old. The Canes stats are distorted somewhat due to timing - they've played three conference games so far, not a string of cupcakes - but they currently rank 86th in rushing defense and 89th in pass efficiency defense. Gone are the days of a punt returning weaving through a punt coverage unit, the Canes rank 117th in punt returns, averaging 2 yards per return. While the Sooners are not as dominant offensively as they were last year, they still have the offensive firepower with Broyles and Murray, and Jones is quite serviceable as a backup QB.