Friday, December 31, 2010

Alabama - Michigan State Capitol One Bowl Preview and Prediction

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban faces his old team the Spartans who are looking to add a 12th win to their record season.

When: Jan 1 1PM ET
Where: Citrus Bowl, FL (the old bowl name oddly enough)
Line: Alab -9.5 (open -10.5)

Here are three areas I always look at when making bowl picks.

Who Has The Better Team?
Despite Michigan State having an 11-1 record I have to go with Alabama because of the schedule they played.  The Tide played the 17th toughest schedule while the Spartans played the 65th best;  That schedule powered 'Bama to a number five Sagarin ranking.  Michigan State ranks 20th.

Despite losing nearly every starter from last year, the defense played very well again this season giving up only 14 points per game and less than 300 yards.  I see the offenses being about equal with both posting over 400 yards per game.
Edge: Alabama

Which Coach Will Have His Team Better Prepared?
Regarded as one of the best game planners in college football, Nick Saban is just 6-6 in bowl games.

Mark Dantonio has delivered the best season in Spartan history, but is just 1-3 in bowls overall and 0-3 at Michigan State having been an underdog all three times.
Edge: Slight Alabama

Which Team Will Be More Motivated?
I go back to that Sugar Bowl and have some worries about the Tide's motivation here. But this situation is different in that they are not coming directly off a loss to end their championship hopes.  Plus, Saban respects the Michigan State program having coached there.  I don't think he ever respected Utah.

Nobody gave Sparty much of a chance at the beginning of the season and the players turned that into a share of the Big 10 title with just one loss.  I am sure they feel slighted again as a double digit underdog to a three loss team.
Edge: Slight Michigan State

I think Alabama's talent edge will be the difference here especially on defense though Michigan State makes it a game until late.

Alabama 34 Michigan State 24
Confidence: 26

Florida - Penn State Outback Bowl Preview and Prediction

The Gators and Nittany Lions face off in the first of three SEC vs Big 10 New Years Day games.

When: Jan 1 1PM
Where: Just outside Ybor City, FL
Line: UF -7 (open -7)

Here are the three areas I look at it when making my bowl picks.

Who Has The Better Team?
The Gators have the better players, but have not played up to their capability for most of the season.  Despite its struggles, the offense has a very good 12.5 yards per point ratio.  The defense was not nearly as efficient as in years past especially in the redzone and despite allowing under 300 yards per game they gave up 21 points per game.

Florida's Sagarin rating was 27 aided by the 16th ranked strength of schedule.  Penn State was much worse coming in at number 50 with the 53rd ranked schedule.
Edge: Florida

Which Coach Will Have His Team Better Prepared?
Joe Paterno is one of the best in the business in getting his team prepared for bowl games with a 24-11-1 record.

But Urban Meyer is 6-1 in bowl games losing only to Michigan in Lloyd Carr's final game. 
Edge: Even

Which Team Will Be More Motivated?
This one is tough because the Florida situation is so unique - a great coach in his final game but does UF have the leadership to make sure they have prepared well enough with all the distractions?  They haven't all year.

On the other side Joe Paterno SAYS he is coming back, but honestly he is one bad illness from not and everyone knows the end is near. 
Edge: Even

Under normal circumstances, I would have Florida winning this game by two touchdowns but you just don't know how this Gator team is going to react to Urban's official retirement.  Also, Florida is missing three key defenders including top corner Janoris Jenkins. 

Still I think Meyer finds a way to win pulling out all the stops like he did against Georgia

Florida 27 Penn State 21
Confidence: 19

South Carolina-FSU Chick Fil A Bowl Preview and Prediction

After UNC's win over Tennessee, the ACC hopes to make it 2-0 against the SEC in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

When: Dec 31 7:30 PM ET
Where: ATL
Line: S. Car -3 (open -3)

Here are the three areas I look at for making bowl picks.

Who Has The Better Team?
FSU Offense Yards Per Point(YPP): 12.2
South Carolina Offense YPP: 12.3

Both of these teams have been very efficient on offense this season ranking near the top in yards per point (lower is better on offense). Considering how good these offenses have been late in the season I would expect a shootout.  I like yards per point because of the efficiency it captures on each side of the ball. Yards per play is good too, but doesn't take points scored/allowed into account.

FSU Defense YPP: 17.6
South Carolina Defense YPP: 15.6

The Gamecocks pass defense has had it troubles this year and it must be because the defensive backs are that bad in coverage. The front seven is one of the best in the SEC at tackles for loss so they are getting pressure on opposing QBs. FSU's defense has made huge strides in year one under Coordinator Mark Stoops. I still can't believe how bad the last few defenses were for Mickey Andrews after all those great units in years past.

S. Carolina Sagarin Rating: 17 with the 14th ranked strength of schedule
FSU Sagarin Rating: 19 with the 25th ranked strength of schedule

As expected, South Carolina played the tougher schedule, but playing Va Tech, UNC, and Miami in addition to a better than expected ACC Atlantic helped the Seminoles.
Edge: Even

Which Coach Will Have His Team Better Prepared?
Steve Spurrier is 7-9 in bowl games all time and 1-3 at South Carolina. He has been favored in three of his four bowl games as the Gamecocks head coach. I still think Spurrier is one of the best game planners when given time, but my trepidation about his teams performance in the bowl game is explained below.

Jimbo Fisher has never been the head coach in a bowl game so we really don't know what to expect.
Edge: Slight South Carolina

Which Team Will Be More Motivated?
I am going to give FSU the slight edge here even though they too lost in their conference championship game. I think the Seminoles program feels a lot more momentum with blowout wins over Miami and especially Florida coupled with a surging recruiting class.

It looked like to me South Carolina ALMOST quit in the SEC Championship Game. Tough to say because Auburn is so good, but I have my questions. Going back to Spurrier being such a good game planner above, his team has showed quit in bowl games in years past that gives me pause in how good his game plan will really show.
Edge: Slight FSU

Like many of the past Chick Fil A Bowl games (not the past two) this one should go right down to the wire.

I initially liked FSU in this game but with the uncertainty surrounding starting QB Christian Ponder I like the Gamecocks' odds. Jimbo Fisher has said Ponder will play but I worry about a re-injury putting him out again. The Seminoles come up just short on a long field goal attempt to win at the end.

South Carolina 29 Florida State 27
Confidence: 10

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Georgia-UCF Liberty Bowl Preview and Prediction

The Bulldogs and the Knights of Central Florida tee it up on New Years Eve in the only SEC vs Non BCS matchup of the bowl season.

When: Dec 31 3:30 PM
Where: Memphis
Line: UGA -6.5 (open -7)

Who Has The Better Team?
Georgia Offense Yards Per Point(YPP): 11.5
Central Florida Offense YPP: 11.4

Both teams have very good offenses (not sure why Georgia fans are so upset at Mike Bobo) that are very efficient on offense. The Bulldogs do it primarily through the air while UCF does it more so on the ground. I like yards per point because of the efficiency it captures on each side of the ball. Yards per play is good too, but doesn't take points scored/allowed into account.

Georgia Defense YPP: 14.6
UCF Defense YPP: 17.2

The Bulldogs much maligned defense has had a lot of trouble stopping offenses when they don't generate a turnover. UCF's defense looks good on paper, but there is a reason why (see below)

UGA Sagarin Rating: 36 with the 35th ranked strength of schedule
UCF Sagarin Rating: 49 with the 108th ranked strength of schedule

I thought the Knights schedule would be bad, but 108th is really bad. Hard to make any statistical comparisons when UCF has only played one or two teams that could compete in the SEC.
Edge: UGA

Which Coach Will Have His Team Better Prepared?
Mark Richt is 7-2 in bowl games and has been favored in seven of his last eight. The bowl record is one reason why UGA fans usually have high hopes the following season because it is much easier to when the last time you saw your team they were winning.

George O'Leary is just 2-5 and 0-3 at UCF in bowls. O'Leary matched up against the Bulldogs eight times when he was at Georgia Tech winning three. He squared off against Richt just once though in 2001 losing 31-17.
Edge: UGA

Which Team Will Be More Motivated?
The SEC has 10 bowl tie-ins and the Liberty Bowl is the only one that does not face a BCS opponent. I don't think the UGA players really respect UCF and the Knights players haven't forgotten that they were overlooked by the SEC.
Edge: Central Florida

As motivated as UCF will be I do not think it is enough to overcome the huge talent advantage UGA has. Central Florida does not have one player that Georgia offered a scholarship too. Couple that with Mark Richt's excellent bowl record and I think the Bulldogs win going away. So much so that I give Georgia my highest confidence rank.

Georgia 35 Central Florida 24
Confidence: 35

Miami-Notre Dame Sun Bowl Prediction

The Hurricanes and Irish renew their rivalry in a bowl game that sold out in 36 hours.

When: Dec 31 2PM
Where: El Paso, Texas
Line: Miami -3 (open -3)

Below are the three key areas I look at in making my bowl picks.

Who Has The Better Team?
Miami Offense Yards Per Point(YPP): 15.6
Notre Dame Offense YPP: 14.7

Miami Defense YPP: 15.9
Notre Dame Defense YPP: 17.2

Miami has 110 yards per game advantage over their opponents but was only 7-5 on the season. This big of an advantage in total yards with a poor record usually means a team has an issue with turnovers. And sure enough the Hurricanes rank 78th nationally in turnover margin although Notre Dame is not a lot better at 73rd.  I like yards per point because of the efficiency it captures on each side of the ball.  Yards per play is good to, but doesn't take points scored/allowed into account.

Miami Sagarin Rating: 33rd with the 32nd ranked Strength of Schedule
Notre Dame Sagarin Rating: 27th with the 23rd ranked Strength of Schedule

The Fighting Irish's highly rated schedule is a bit of a surprise but unexpectedly good seasons from Stanford, Michigan State, and Army helped.
Edge: Even

Which Coach Will Have Their Team Better Prepared?
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly bowl record is 2-1 with all three games coming at Cincinnati; Kelly's team was favored in all three.

Miami will be going with interim coach Jeff Stoutland who took over for the fired Randy Shannon. Stoutland has never been a head coach at the FBS level. This Miami team is 0-2 in bowl games.
Edge: Notre Dame

Which Team Is More Motivated?
Miami fans are not going to like this but there is some evidence to back it up. I wonder how much fight the Hurricanes have for this game, especially if they fall behind. Once the ACC title was gone after the loss to VT, Miami didn't show a lot of emotion in a home game against South Florida they should have won. If Shannon is still coaching this game I think the emotion would be much stronger ala Lloyd Carr, but he isn't.

On the other side, Notre Dame is on a hot streak after a rocky start to the season on and off the field. This season is still disappointing, but a bowl win would get 2011 off to a good start.
Edge: Notre Dame

As much as I want Miami to win this game, I just don't think an interim coach with a team possibly unmotivated to play will. These Hurricane players never watched the Catholics vs Convicts games and don't look at Notre Dame as a marquee school. Also, the Irish will likely have a big home field advantage in El Paso due to the high Catholic population.

Notre Dame 27 Miami 21
Confidence: 17

Clemson-South Florida Meineke Car Care Bowl Prediction

The Tigers and Bulls square off in the second ACC vs Big East bowl with Clemson favored to notch a second ACC win.

When: Dec 31 12PM
Where: Charlotte, NC
Line: Clemson -5.5

Here are the three areas I always look at in bowl games to pick my winners.

Who Has The Better Team?
Clemson Offense YPP: 14.3
South Fla. Offense YPP: 13.3

Tiger fans should not be shocked to see that South Florida's offense has been more efficient than theirs this year, but Clemson 14.3 YPP is still a respectable number in the bowl lineup.

Clemson Defense YPP: 17.6
South Fla. Defense YPP: 15.8

The Tigers boast one of the nation's best defense led by Da'Quan Bowers who has punished opposing QBs all year. The Bulls have a decent defense, but it is not as good as years past under Jim Leavitt.

Clemson Sagarin Rating: 47
Clemson Strength of Sched: 37

South Fla Sagarin Rating: 64
South Fla. Strength of Sched: 79

Not surprisingly, Clemson has played the much tougher schedule with a game at Auburn (a game they should have won) really helping.
Egde: Clemson

Which Coach Will Have His Team Better Prepared?
Dabo Swinney is 1-1 in bowl games while his counterpart Skip Holtz is 1-3 (all at East Carolina).

Clemson has been favored in both of Swinney's bowl games. Holtz is 1-2 in bowl games as an underdog.
Edge: Even

Which Team Is More Motivated?
Both teams are coming off losses in their last regular season game. Rumors have been swirling as to possible staff changes at Clemson especially on the offensive side of the ball, but I don't see this as a reason for a lack of enthusiasm in bowl preparation.
Edge: Even

The Tigers defense will keep them in this game and force second half turnovers that the offense turns into points.

Clemson 21 South Florida 17
Confidence: 16

Paul Hewitt Discusses Upcoming Game vs Mercer

Georgia Tech faces the Mercer Bears this Friday at home looking to bounce back from a 62-57 loss to Siena last week.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tennessee - North Carolina Music City Bowl Prediction

The Volunteers and Tar Heels face off Thursday in the first of two ACC vs SEC bowl games.

The Music City Bowl should be a great game that goes down to the wire. Here are the three keys to determining bowl winners in my mind.

Who Has The Better Team?
UNC Offense Yards Per Point: 15.9
Tennessee Offense Yds Per Point: 13.7

For offense, a lower yards per point is better. The Volunteers offense has been much more efficient this than North Carolina scoring touchdowns as opposed to field goals and turning opponent turnovers into points.

UNC Defense Yards Per Point: 14.6
Tennessee Defense Yds Per Point: 15.4

Again, Tennessee has the more efficient defense (higher is better) giving up a point for every 15 yards.

UNC Sagarin Rating: 41
UNC Strength of Schedule: 34

Tennessee Sagarin: 54
Tennessee SOS: 43

One would think playing in the SEC the Volunteers would have the much more difficult schedule, but the Tar Heels played LSU in the non-conference as well as two of the top teams in the ACC Atlantic - FSU and NC State. UT's stats advantage is somewhat negated by the lesser strength of schedule.
Edge: Even

Which Coach Will Have His Team Better Prepared?
Butch Davis is 4-2 in bowl games, but 0-2 at North Carolina. Derek Dooley is 1-0 in bowl games with the win coming while he was at Louisiana Tech so we don't have a lot of data on him. 
Edge: Even

Which Team Has More Motivation?
The Tar Heels were rocked with suspensions to begin the year and slowly got a few players back as the year went on. It would have been easy to mail it in when hopes of an ACC title were dashed yet they never showed any quit in the season.

Tennessee's bowl hopes looked dead in October, but a strong finish got the 6-6 Vols into the post season.
Edge: Even

This bowl game could be one of the best this season with two very evenly matched teams. Bettors have moved the line from Tennessee +2 to a pick'em in some spots indicating the Vols have taken a lot of the action. Although the Vols will have a home crowd advantage, I think North Carolina has the better resume of wins and losses.

North Carolina 24 Tennessee 23
Confidence Rank: 9 of 35

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

UGA Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham Interview

On 680 The Fan in Atlanta discussing the season and the upcoming game against Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.

(I know it is a week old, but with many people out of town I thought some might have missed it)

Audio Download

Monday, December 27, 2010

Paul Johnson Quotes After Loss To Air Force In Independence Bowl

“Air Force played a very good game. I said before the game started that the team that won the turnover battle is going to win the game and that is what happened. The way the game was going I knew both teams were not going to have the ball many times and I knew that.”

“We started the second half and we put together a great drive and then we fumbled the ball on the 3-yard line. It was kind of a microcosm of our season. Then we come in and have a defensive series and hold them, fumble again, go out and hold them. Then fumble again. It is hard to overcome all of those mistakes.”
“It is very disappointing. At the start of the third quarter I thought we had the game right where we wanted it. They got a touchdown and go up 14-7, but to their credit we didn’t get it in. We fumbled the ball.”
“We had to go to our back up returner, and he didn’t have it. He misjudged the first one and then he probably lost confidence after that. He has been the back-up returner all year and it is just one of those things. We had our chances, so don’t lay the loss on him.”

More quotes from GT Players, Air Force Coaches and Players

NC State - West Virginia Champs Sports Bowl Preview and Prediction

Continuing the bowl prediction series with the Champs Sports Bowl featuring NC State and West Virginia focusing on the three areas I think are most important. 

Who Has The Better Team?
NC State: 8-4, 29th in Sagarin, 45th Strength of Schedule
W. Virginia: 9-3, 30th in Sagarin, 73rd Strength of Schedule

Wolfpack Yards Per Point: 12.5 Offense (lower # is better), 14.9 Defense (higher # is better)
Mountaineers Yds Per Point: 14.2 Offense, 19.4 (3rd best of bowl teams)

State played the much tougher schedule and had the better offense, but the defensive edge clearly goes to West Virginia.
Edge: Even

Which Coach Will Have His Team More Prepared In A Bowl Game?
Tom O'Brien is a sizzling 6-2 in bowl games, but lost his last one two seasons ago.  It also must be noted that O'Brien faced lesser competition many times at Boston College as his Eagles were passed over by better bowls because of their lack of traveling fans. 

Bill Stewart is 2-1 in bowl games including a blowout of Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl after replacing Rich Rodriguez. 
Edge: Even

Which Team Is More Motivated?
I don't really see much of an edge for either team.  Both teams have reasons to not be motivated as both missed out on opportunities to win their conference but blew it.  West Virginia players may have been surprised in finding out that next season will be Stewart's last and his replacement has already been named, but that seems very far off to 18-22 year olds.
Edge: Even

Well, usually I see a clear advantage somewhere, but this game looks to be one of the most even bowl matchups this season.  In the end,  I think West Virginia's defense giving up just 13 points per game on the season will be the difference.

West Virginia 27 NC State 21

Georgia Tech - Air Force Independence Bowl Preview and Prediction

The ACC gets their bowl season started Monday when Georgia Tech takes on Air Force of the Mountain West Conference in the Independence Bowl.

Here is a preview of the game looking at the areas I think are important in bowl games.

Who Has The Better Team?
The Falcons come into Shreveport with an 8-4 record while Tech was just 6-6.  You might think playing in the MWC the Air Force Academy would have a much lower strength of schedule, but playing at (and nearly beating) Oklahoma in the non-conference helped out.  The AFA had a strength of schedule of 67 to Georgia Tech's 64.  The better record lifts AFA to a Sagarin rating of 38 compared to 67 for Georgia Tech.

Air Force's defense ranks in the middle of the pack for defensive efficiency for bowl teams allowing a point for every 15.64 yards.  Ga. Tech allows one point for every 13.97 yards ranking near the bottom.

On offense, again the Falcons have been more efficient than the Yellow Jackets.  The AFA scores a point for every 13.67 yards while Tech again ranks near the bottom of bowl teams at 15.03 yards.
Edge: Air Force

Which Coach Gets The Team Prepared Better?
Troy Calhoun is 1-2 in bowl games at the Academy.  Paul Johnson is 2-4 in bowl games, including two straight losses at Georgia Tech.  Tech has scored just 17 total points in two bowl games under Johnson despite averaging around 30 points per game during the regular season.

These coaches have a familiarity with each other having faced off in 2007 when Johnson beat Calhoun and Air Force in his last year at Navy.  Air Force plays the Naval Academy and Johnson's offense every year finally beating the Mids this season after seven straight losses holding them to just six points.  Johnson was 5-1 against Air Force in his time at Navy winning the final five in a row.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Which Team Is More Motivated?
Most of these AFA players were not around for any of the losses to Johnson and after winning the Commander In Chief trophy this season beating two option teams they have confidence they can do it again. 

Up until this week I didn't see much motivation advantage on either side. But after seeing three GT players will be suspended for the first half after missing curfew I wonder about the Jackets focus.  They better be focused or else Air Force will embarrass them as Johnson warned them before the first bowl practice.  Johnson knows how hard this AFA team will play first hand.  Still, I am not sure the message as sunk in as the Falcons don't the cache of a Virginia Tech or UGA the only two opponents Tech has truly appeared motivated to play this season.
Edge: Air Force

Air Force 34 Georgia Tech 27

If you want to find out more about how Air Force matches up with Georgia Tech, check out the Q&A I did with Air Force Beat Writer Frank Schwab.

JUCO Recruiting Pays Dividends, Causes More Programs To Look Into

Recruiting JUCO players used to be frowned upon because the theory was you could not build a program and win consistently by cycling through players every two years.

But in recent years, JUCO players have paid huge dividends to teams winning championships. Alabama used JUCO player Terrance Cody to lift their defense to a new level and a BCS Championship last year. This year, Auburn's Cam Newton was the best player in the nation and has the Tigers in the title game.

Looking over this list at of their all-JUCO team reveals some very prominent names in college football this season. JUCO seems to pay the biggest dividends on the defensive line where Auburn's Nick Fairley leads a wrecking crew of other all conference selections.

Even teams who have not typically recruited the JUCO ranks like Georgia are getting into the act because of the immediate impact they have seen with their rivals.

Rodney Garner, UGA recruiting coordinator:

“I don’t know that there’s a re-emergence [of junior college recruiting] necessarily. I think there’s just some schools that rely on JCs more than others. It’s a matter of philosophy really.”

The Bulldogs did sign four JC transfers in 2007, however. Three of those players – defensive linemen Corvey Irvin and Jarius Wynn and offensive lineman Vince Vance – became starters and went on to NFL careers.

“We use JCs to supplement at positions where we may be deficient,” Garner said. “But we haven’t delved into it heavily. If you do that, then it changes your whole recruiting cycle. It just depends on your needs in a given year.”

The drawback to many JC players is academics as it was out of high school.  Also, it can be hard to gauge how much an impact they will have when watching their performance against much lesser competition.  

But as long as players like Cody and Newton have the impact they do I think programs will continue to delve more into the JUCO ranks.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top Defensive Backs 2011 NFL Draft

LSU's Patrick Peterson comes in a #2 in the list of defensive backs currently eligible for the NFL Draft.

Clemson places two players on the list.

Georgia Tech-Air Force Preview: Q&A With AFA Beat Writer

To get more insight into Georgia Tech's Independence Bowl opponent, the Air Force Falcons, I contacted the home town beat writer Frank Schwab.  I asked Frank about Air Force's multiple offensive formations, how bowl preparation was going, and the task of facing the nation's top rushing offense among other things.

Q; How much have you heard from the Air Force staff and players about breaking the AFA losing streak against Paul Johnson?

A: To be honest, not much. They know the history and how well Johnson did against Air Force, but it isn't a motivating factor for them. Troy Calhoun was involved in only one of those games, in 2007. Only a handful of players participated in that game. If there's any animosity, it's probably more from the fans than anyone in the game.
Q: What key players could be out due to injury?
A: The key question mark is fullback Jared Tew. He was a first-team all-conference preseason pick, and broke his fibula in mid-October. He says he will be ready to go, but the coaches still want to see what he can do when they get to Shreveport. Another injury that isn't as high profile but very important is safety Brian Lindsay. He broke his collarbone in October and might play in this game. That would be a huge boost because he is a true in-the-box safety and would be a key player given the matchup. The one area the Falcons should be concerned about is defensive line. They lost starting end Zach Payne and key reserve nose guard Bradley Connor to injuries in the regular-season finale, and neither is expected to play.
Q: Air Force runs a similar offense to Georgia Tech but will line up in other formations as well.  How much flexbone will we see versus "traditional" offensive sets?

A: Air Force prides itself on multiple formations. In fact, you won't see the same formation many times in any game. The Falcons are a bit miscast as a straight triple-option team. It's a staple of their offense, but they also heavily use zone-blocking runs as a major part of their offense. One of the things I'm sure Georgia Tech has spent a lot of time on is figuring out Air Force's many different formations.
Q: The Falcons have not played since November 20.  Have they been practicing the entire time?  Will the extra time off hurt their timing in the option?

A: They have not been practicing the entire time - there was plenty of time away from football, practicing about twice a week since the end of the season, and then from Dec. 15-21 they were on military leave, something normal college football teams don't have to deal with ( . But I don't think it will affect them too much. They'll get a full week of practice in down in Shreveport and should be ready to go.
Q: How is Air Force's defense preparing for the Yellow Jackets offense?  Are they scrimmaging against the first string offense? Are they practicing without a football to plan for the speed they will see?
A: Nothing really unusual that way. They're used to playing fast teams - Georgia Tech isn't faster than TCU or Oklahoma, maybe not Utah either, and Air Force didn't change their practices too much for them. They'll do some minor things, like give the scout defense the snap count and things like that, but it's mostly a normal practice. The Falcons rarely play teams that aren't bigger or faster, except when they play Army and Navy, so it's not that big of a deal to them.
Q: Air Force ranks near the top nationally in passing defense, but near the bottom in rush defense.  How much does this worry the defensive coaching staff going up against the nation's top rushing offense in Georgia Tech?

A: Huge concern. The Falcons haven't been great in the front seven this year, and the injuries on the defensive line don't help. The strength of the defense is the secondary and creating turnovers (although that hasn't happened as much this year) and both are neutralized by the Yellow Jackets' offense. It's a matchup that doesn't seem to suit the Falcons well.
Q: What must the Falcons do to win this game? What can they not do to avoid the upset?
A: I think the Falcons can win the game by passing the ball, as odd as that sounds. I think they have a huge edge at quarterback, as far as the passing game goes. Tim Jefferson can throw the ball well enough, and Air Force has good talent at receiver, so I think a couple of long passes could swing the game in the Falcons' favor. The one matchup that should concern them is facing a similar offense with bigger and faster athletes than they see when Army or Navy run it. Air Force has to be at a peak intensity to match Georgia Tech's advantages. Also, Air Force needs to avoid a bad first quarter. That has been an issue this year.
Q: Finally, do you have a prediction for the game?

A: No prediction, aside from a very fast game. I know a lot of people are pretty high on Air Force in this game, especially with Nesbitt seemingly out, but it'll be a close game. Think it's a tough one to call.

Air Force Beat at the Colorado Springs Gazette

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ohio State Suspensions And Curious Sentence Are Driven By Money

The Buckeyes got into trouble from players selling items for money and got out of serious trouble because of the money they will bring to the Sugar Bowl, ESPN, and the Big 10.

Five Ohio State players, including starting QB Terrelle Pryor will be suspended for the first 5 games next season after the NCAA found they had football paraphernalia given to them.

Violations are nothing new in Columbus.  Since 2000, Ohio State has committed 375 plus secondary violations without a sanction levied by the NCAA.

But with a Sugar Bowl still remaining this season, why didn't the NCAA not suspend the players beginning with the bowl game?

Here is the explanation:
The decision from the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff does not include a withholding condition for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The withholding condition was suspended and the student-athletes will be eligible to play in the bowl game Jan. 4 based on several factors.

These include the acknowledgment the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred, Lennon said.

NCAA policy allows suspending withholding penalties for a championship or bowl game if it was reasonable at the time the student-athletes were not aware they were committing violations, along with considering the specific circumstances of each situation. In addition, there must not be any competitive advantage related to the violations, and the student-athletes must have eligibility remaining.

The policy for suspending withholding conditions for bowl games or NCAA championship competition recognizes the unique opportunity these events provide at the end of a season, and they are evaluated differently from a withholding perspective. In this instance, the facts are consistent with the established policy, Lennon said.

The real explanation is that the Sugar Bowl and its title sponsor, Allstate, as well as ESPN had a lot of money to lose if four key Ohio State players were not going to play in the bowl game.

The excuse about not being aware of the violations is laughable. Its all about money, just like it was when the players sold the items.

And why the five game amount for next season by the NCAA?  Well, a sixth game would ruin the Big 10 home opener for conference newcomer Nebraska.  I doubt Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delaney sat idly by when the sentences were being discussed.  He knew he had to protect that game for the Big 10's coming out party.

All of these players are draft eligible the following season and may decide to move onto the NFL where the real money is made.

Money was at the root of the Ohio State suspensions and at the root of sentence.

Time line of Ohio State violations

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours: Georgia Tech Loses 4 To Academics For Independence Bowl (Updated)

First it was the amazing loss to Kansas, then some unfortunate bounces against Clemson, then Joshua Nesbitt gets at Virginia Tech, then a missed extra point at Georgia, and now this.

Georgia Tech will be without starters Stephen Hill, Mario Edwards and backups Robert Hall and Anthony Barnes for the Independence Bowl game versus Air Force.

Barnes departure was not a surprise as he told the coaches he would be leaving the team before bowl practice to focus on his future after Tech having already graduated from the Institute.  Hall has also graduated and both were taking post graduate courses and simply did not pass enough classes in the fall semester to be eligible for the bowl.

Edwards has also played his final game at Tech and freshman Isiah Johnson will likely step into his spot.  The two have battled all season for the starting position so the senior's loss will be felt more in the depth where nickel back Rashaad Reid will likely step into the backup role.  

The biggest loss by far is Hill who gave the Jackets their only deep threat in the passing game.  Although the sophomore had a very disappointing season he was beginning to come on late in the year showing glimpses of what we thought we would see every week.

My thinking is that the disappointing season on the field for Hill distracted him from the classroom.  Things weren't going his way in football and he simply lost focus on the other things he needed to take care of.

Academic suspensions are nothing new at Tech.  Flunk gate nearly doomed the 2003 season, but the Yellow Jackets still managed to become bowl eligible and beat two ranked teams (Auburn, Maryland) that season. 

I would think Hill would have a good chance at playing next season because he was suspended due to Georgia Tech, and not NCAA regulations, indicating he is not far from eligibility.

In future years there will be recruits Tech cannot pursue due to academics and players lost in bowls due to grades. A lot of things have not gone Tech's way this season and this is just one more adding insult to injury.

Siena 62 Georgia Tech 57: Paul Hewitt Post Game and Some Stats To Ponder

-Under Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech is now 31-83 (27%) on the road.
-The Yellow Jackets were 2.5 point favorites at Siena Wednesday Night.
-Tech shot 100% from the foul line (5-5) yet the point disparity was 13 points as Siena hit 18 of 27
-Siena had almost as many offensive rebounds (17) as defensive
-Georgia Tech, who has struggled in 3 pt defense all year, held Siena to 2 for 13 shooting
-But the Jackets were only 4 for 22 themselves
-More than 1/3 of Tech's field goal attempts (62) were three point attempts for a team shooting just 27%
-Brian Oliver led the team in minutes (33) and had the worst shooting night (3-14), just like the UGA game
-Meanwhile, Kam Holsey who had a nice game vs Richmond played just 4 minutes with 1 shot
-Siena was 3-6 coming into the game with an RPI of 151
-Siena was without 2nd leading scorer Clarence Jackson
-Siena's attendance was 7,468 which was 700 more patrons than GT had for the UGA game
TAKEAWAY: Georgia Tech gets to the free throw line just 5 times compared to 27 for Siena

Paul Hewitt's Post Game Comments

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Despite Disappointing Season Alabama Still Had One Of Nation's Best Defenses

Yesterday, I posted the most efficient offenses of all the bowl teams.  Today, it is the defenses turn.  Again we use yards per point (YPP) as a measure but the opposite holds true for defense: the higher your yards to point average the better your defense is.  A high YPP on defense indicates you are holding teams to field goals or generating turnovers before points are scored.  Here are the most efficient defenses in the bowl games:

Team Defense YPP
MISOU 22.82
ALAB 20.56
WVIRG 19.44
BOIST 19.42
IOWA 19.05
OHIST 18.92
TCU 18.89
STAN 18.17
CONN 17.82
ORE 17.82
VATCH 17.79
TXAM 17.58
FSU 17.57
CLEM 17.55
NOTRE 17.24
CENFL 17.23
MISST 17.15
NEB 17.14
LSU 16.70
OKLA 16.65
NAVY 16.65
NEV 16.53
MCHST 16.41
UTAH 16.15
MIAMI 15.92
MD 15.82
SOFLA 15.80
AIRFC 15.64
WISC 15.62
SOCAR 15.57
BCOLL 15.51
ARZ 15.42
TENN 15.38
PENST 15.38
KANST 15.15
SDST 15.12
PITT 15.08
HAW 15.06
TXTCH 14.97
SYR 14.92
OKLST 14.87
NCST 14.86
ARK 14.84
NWEST 14.79
NCAR 14.63
GEO 14.62
MIAOH 14.60
AUB 14.47
TULSA 14.44
BAY 14.10
ILL 14.07
FLA 13.97
GATCH 13.97
SMU 13.78
MTENN 13.69
FLINT 13.59
TOL 13.18
WASH 12.93
ARMY 12.81
MICH 12.80
KENTY 12.10
ECAR 11.07

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wisconsin, Oregon Have Nation's Most Efficient Offenses

One stat used to measure a team's efficiency on offense is yards per point (YPP). The lower amount of yards per point the better. This means the offense is turning drives into points and especially touchdowns. It also means the offense is getting good field position and turning that into points. A high yards per point usually means a team is moving the ball but not scoring points; either field goals are being scored or turnovers are negating points.

Most Efficient Bowl Offenses in YPP

Team Offense YPP
WISC 10.43
ORE 11.00
BOIST 11.16
MD 11.24
KANST 11.30
TCU 11.33
UTAH 11.37
CENFL 11.42
OHIST 11.44
GEO 11.54
VATCH 11.63
STAN 11.63
AUB 11.68
ECAR 11.72
LSU 11.72
OKLST 12.04
ILL 12.05
CONN 12.12
FSU 12.24
SOCAR 12.34
ARMY 12.37
FLA 12.46
NCST 12.51
NEV 12.58
ALAB 12.61
HAW 12.67
NEB 12.73
TULSA 12.75
SDST 12.87
MCHST 13.05
IOWA 13.10
TOL 13.12
NAVY 13.14
ARK 13.17
OKLA 13.25
KENTY 13.25
SOFLA 13.29
MISOU 13.30
AIRFC 13.67
TENN 13.71
MTENN 13.97
PITT 14.04
WVIRG 14.17
TXAM 14.18
TXTCH 14.22
FLINT 14.27
CLEM 14.31
MICH 14.62
MISST 14.63
SYR 14.73
BAY 14.74
NOTRE 14.74
ARZ 15.01
GATCH 15.03
PENST 15.23
NWEST 15.52
MIAMI 15.62
SMU 15.65
NCAR 15.90
WASH 16.50
BCOLL 16.55
MIAOH 17.13

Auburn-Alabama By Far The Most Watched Game in 2010

SEC Championship: Auburn-South Carolina
Boise State-Virginia Tech
Big 12 Championship: Nebraska-Oklahoma
Alabama-South Carolina
NOTE: * = Regionalized telecast featured Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and Notre Dame-USC

Alabama-Auburn Most Watched, CBS Tops College Football Ratings

Georgia Tech - Air Force Is A Family Affair

Brothers will be squaring off in the Independence Bowl when Tech's Roddy Jones will play younger brother Darius Jones of Air Force.

Their father, Rod Jones, was on Barnhart & Durham last week talking about the matchup.  Listening to Rod it is easy to see why he has two sons playing FBS football at institutions with high academic standards.

Audio Link

Air Force Head Coach Troy Calhoun Talks Georgia Tech, Independence Bowl

Calhoun lost his only meeting with Paul Johnson in 2007 when Johnson was at the Naval Academy.  Johnson went 5-1 against the Air Force Academy, but his Tech team is three point underdogs to the Falcons.

Audio Download

Ohio State's "Motivation" Against The SEC, Arkansas In The Sugar Bowl

The Buckeyes are 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games.  Jim Tressel is 0-3.

Tressel tried to fire up his team during bowl preparation by reading them an email from an Arkansas fan who said the Buckeyes could not compete with the mighty SEC.

Ohio State has tried these motivational techniques before.  After their 41-14 loss to Florida in the 2007 BCS Championship Game, they changed the combination locks on the football facilities to match those numbers 4-1-1-4.  What did that get them?  A 38-24 butt whipping by LSU the next season in the BCS Championship Game.

Again this year, Buckeyes are saying they are tired of the losing streak to the SEC.  

Does this mean they are less motivated to win bowl games against other conferences? 

If Ohio State beats Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl (which I think they will), it won't because of a fan email read aloud. It will be because they are the better, more prepared team.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cool Time Lapse Video Of Snow Removal From Univ. of Minnesota Stadium

For tonight's game between the Bears and the Vikings.....with music!

Holiday Gifts For SEC Basketball Teams

From the Yahoo CBB Blog:

Georgia: A blowout win to soothe coach Mark Fox's nerves. Five of Georgia's six wins have come by three points or less and all eight of the Bulldogs' games have been decided by single digits.

Yeah, but I think it is a pretty good trait to be winning so many close games. This kind of experience will be very helpful in February and March.

Kentucky: A reversal on the NCAA's decision to declare Enes Kanter permanently ineligible. The Wildcats suddenly become title contenders if the Turkish freshman provides rebounding, interior defense and back-to-the-basket scoring.

Free Enes

Holiday Gifts For ACC Basketball Teams

From the Yahoo CBB Blog:

Duke: A favorable prognosis on point guard Kyrie Irving's toe injury. With him, the Blue Devils are a clear favorite to win the national title. Without him, they're just one of many contenders.  

Hopefully Santa will find it in his heart to spread such blessings on the Duke basketball program.

Georgia Tech: A booster wealthy enough to pay coach Paul Hewitt's reported $7 million buyout. There's a good chance the underachieving Yellowjackets might have made a coaching change last year were it not for Hewitt's buyout being so large.

Ouch for Hewitt and ouch for YELLOW JACKETS fans (not Yellowjackets)

North Carolina: A new starting point guard. Larry Drew II has looked slightly better since the victory over Kentucky, but the Tar Heels better hope Kendall Marshall is the long term answer.

Double ouch if you are Larry Drew

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Georgia Basketball Moves To 7-2 After Win Over Arkansas State

Some observations from the box score:
1) UGA had a much better shooting night hitting 50.9% of their field goals while holding Arkansas State to 39.6%. The only thing that kept the Red Wolves in the game was seven three pointers made.

2) The Bulldogs forced 14 Arkansas State turnovers while only giving it up eight times themselves. Mark Fox's team also had an astounding 20 assists.

3) Arkansas St had a terrible night at the free throw line hitting just 10 of 19.

The Hoop Dawg Blog has a good writeup on the game.

Troy Punter Makes Rick Ross Jealous

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Paul Hewitt Gets A Big Win: How Georgia Tech Upset Richmond

The Yellow Jackets came into Saturday's game against the 8-2 Richmond Spiders as a 6 point underdog, but came away with a 13 point win because of three big improvements made from a year ago.

Richmond vs Georgia Tech Pre-Game

Tech's free throw shooting has been near the bottom of the ACC in recent years, but has vastly improved this season and by hitting 23 of 29 sealed the win late in the second half.

Another big reason Paul Hewitt's team was able to win so convincingly was their domination of the boards. Tech allowed just three offensive rebounds from 31 Richmond missed shots. This is with a team who has just three players total taller than 6'6". The Jackets are rebounding even better than a team one year ago that featured two NBA Draft picks in the front line.

Richmond came into the game at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas shooting an unreal 50.2% from the floor or a 57.8% eFG% when the value of three pointers are factored in. Tech's defense was able to limit the Spiders to just 39% from the field and a 46.1% eFG%.

Despite the overall good defensive effort, Tech still needs to improve on their three point defense having allowed the Spiders to nail 7 out of 20 from long range.

On an individual player side, sophomore Mfon Udofia had a great game ending with a +15 plus/minus rating. Udofia came to Tech very highly rated, but has struggled thus far. Another player who has seen reduced playing time recently, Glen Rice, had a great night too ending with a +15 rating and a team high three assists.

Paul Hewitt finally saw the type of play he has been hoping for all year and still thinks this team can make the NCAA Tournament if they continue to play like they did Saturday and I don't see why not either.

Tech coach Paul Hewitt said the overall effort pleased him, and even with a slow start to the season feels he has an NCAA Tournament team.

“It will be tough," Hewitt said. "I’m not sure honestly yet how well we will do. I mean I think we’ve got a chance to be one of the better teams in the league but we’ve got maybe three or four non-conference games to get ready and those games are important. I felt today was really the first time we played like a Georgia Tech team. I felt we played with a level of confidence and a good defense, especially in the second half, cause Richmond is a very good team.

Georgia Tech 67 Richmond 54

Over Signing: This Message Was Not Approved LSU and Les Miles

ESPN's Outside The Lines did a segment on the over signing going on in college football and especially the SEC with a not too flattering spotlight on LSU and Les Miles.

The SEC is by far the biggest offender of this practice as the piece illustrates, but even schools like Georgia who have not over signed may be held back because their competition is.   I know several Bulldog fans who think this is holding them back right now.

Simply speaking the more players you sign, the more chances you have to get it right.

Les Miles is not alone in this practice; he got unlucky that ESPN decided to shine the light more so on him. Ole Miss is also mentioned for their signing of 37 players on National Signing Day a few years back and Houston Nutt even mocked it in the press conference later that day.

The SEC is trying to curtail the practice by limiting schools to just 28 signees per year, even though you can still only enroll 25. The conference is readily admitted several signees per school (except Vandy) are not going to qualify each year.

Nick Saban has also been criticized for signing more than he had spots for but has successfully managed it thus far, if you ask him, though others disagree.

Sadly, over signing is not new in college athletics. You can go all the way back to 1963 when over signing caused a founding member of the SEC, Georgia Tech, to leave the conference.

I don't think this practice is going to stop and I don't see any top recruits being steered away from an LSU, Ole Miss, or Alabama because of this.  Most of them think "it won't happen to me", just like most of them think they will play in the pros even though statistics show otherwise. has a lot of great info over the world of college recruiting

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paul Hewitt On His Georgia Tech Team: "I Didn’t Really Learn A Lot”

That was the comment the Yellow Jackets head coach gave to the ACC Sports Journal in reference to the tough November schedule that featured UTEP, Syracuse, and Northwestern in a four day span. 

The article starts off with a point I have begun to make about attendance that could ultimately force Ga. Tech Athletic Director Dan Radakovich to make a decision on Hewitt's future.

The Yellow Jackets averaged 5,675 fans in their first five home games. The building seats 9,191. That’s 62 percent, which is a great shooting percentage but a terrible capacity figure.There were 2,000 empty seats for the Georgia game. So what if both teams had RPIs that read like RIPs. It was Georgia-Georgia Tech. They sell out for volleyball, for Dodd’s sake.

But Hewitt's remains upbeat about what his team can do despite the slow start to the season.

“We are a team that is good enough to be one of the better teams in our league,” Hewitt said. “We’re a team that’s good enough to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Our margin for error isn’t as big as it was, but that doesn’t stop you from being able to accomplish your goals. We just have to stay focused on that. That’s all.”

Georgia Tech takes on a 8-2 Richmond team today in the Bahamas and then will face the team Hewitt used to lead, Sienna, on Wednesday.

Here is Hewitt's pre game comments about Richmond

NFL Draft: Top 15 Senior Defensive Lineman - Another Highly Rated Tar Heel Defender

Once again, a Tar Heel tops the list.  But this prospect, Robert Quinn, did not play a down this season due to NCAA and school violations.

The other top two prospects are from the SEC.  1 from Alabama, 1 from Auburn.  

NFL Draft: Top 10 Senior Linebackers

North Carolina's Bruce Carter tops SI's list of senior linebackers. 

Also nice to see Boston College's Mark Herzlich on the list as well after battling back from cancer.

The SEC has two top 10 linebackers, but that list will grow as juniors declare for the Draft.

Georgia Tech's Bowl Preparation Balancing Act

Only one bowl game truly matters, the BCS Championship, but every fan wants to see their team finish the season on a high note.  Georgia Tech wants to end a disappointing 2010 season with a winning record and snap a five game bowl losing streak.  But gaining a head start on next season could lead to much more than one win.

How does Tech balance the bowl preparation for Air Force while utilizing the extra time to give young players more reps in hopes of making a bigger impact next season?

Continue reading my article at

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recruiting Rankings: Georgia Tech vs Richmond Basketball

Richmond has an 8-2 record on the season including a win over Purdue.  The Spiders are doing it mostly with after thoughts in the recruiting process.   Ironically enough their top scorer, Kevin Anderson, is from Duluth, Ga though he was not offered by Tech or UGA.  Below are the individual player recruiting rankings.  The teams will square off 5PM as part of the Battle of Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. 

Richmond Recruiting Rankings From
Dan Geriot - 2 star
Kevin Hovde - NR

Kevin Anderson - 3 star (from Duluth, Ga)
Justin Harper - 2 star
Conor Smith - 1 star
Kevin Smith - NR

Darrius Garrett - 3 star
Josh Dunkier - 2 star
Francis-Cedric Martel - 2 star

Greg Robbins - 3 star
Darien Brothers - 2 star

Cedrick Lindsay - 3 star
Derrick Williams - 2 star

Richmond's total recruiting stars = 25 or 2.27 (per player rated)

Georgia Tech Recruiting Rankings
Maurice Miller - 4 star
Lance Storrs - 3 star

Iman Shumpert - 4 star

Kam Holsey - 4 star
Mfon Udofia - 4 star
Glen Rice - 4 star
Brian Oliver - 3 star
Daniel Miller - 3 star

Jason Morris - 4 star
Nate Hicks - 2 star

Georgia Tech total recruiting stars = 35 or 3.5 (per player rated)
(corrected Oliver, D. Miller rankings from 4 to 3 star)

Bowl Records By Coach

ACC Coaches Bowl Records
SEC Coaches Bowl Records

Big 10
Jim Tressel, 5-4
Kirk Ferentz 5-3
Joe Paterno 24-11-1
Bret Bielema 2-2
Mark Dantonio 1-3
Rich Rodriguez 2-3
Pat Fitzgerald 0-2
Ron Zook 0-3

Despite many critics and lack of success against the SEC (0-3), Tressel actually has a winning bowl record.  Of course Joe Paterno has by far the most bowl appearances, but he has also done very well in those games.

Big 12
Bob Stoops 5-6
Mike Sherman 0-1
Tommy Tuberville 6-3
Art Briles 0-3
Mike Gundy 2-2
Bo Pelini 3-0
Gary Pinkel 4-3
Bill Snyder 6-5

Like Tressel, Bob Stoops has taken a lot of heat for his BCS flops but overall he has a somewhat respectable 5-6 record.  Bo Pelini's record includes a win as an interim coach for Nebraska and the Cornhuskers then promptly hired Bill Callahan.

Pac 10
Chip Kelly 0-1
Mike Stoops 1-1
Jim Harbaugh 0-1
Steve Sarkisian 0-0

The Pac 10 only got four bowl bids and that included 6-6 Washington, but more surprising is the four bowl appearances by the coaches in these bowl games.

Big East
Dave Wannstedt 1-1
Bill Stewart 2-1
Skip Holtz 1-3
Randy Edsall 3-1
Charlie Strong 0-1
Doug Marrone, 0-0

UConn is one of the biggest underdogs in the bowl season, but Randy Edsall has a very good 3-1 record.  A note of caution though because the Huskies have yet to play a team like Oklahoma in bowl game.

Gary Patterson, TCU, 5-4
Kyle Wittingham, Utah, 5-0
Bronco Mendenhall, BYU, 3-2
Troy Calhoun, Air Force, 1-2
Brady Hoke, San Diego St, 1-2
Todd Graham, Tulsa, 2-1
June Jones, SMU, 5-2
Mike Price, UTEP, 3-4
George O'Leary, UCF, 2-5
Larry Fedora, So Miss, 1-1
Ruffin McNeil, East Carolina, 1-0
Chris Petersen, Boise St, 2-2
Chris Ault, Nevada, 1-6
Pat Hill, Fresno St, 4-6
Greg McMackin, Hawaii, 0-1
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame, 2-1
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy, 1-2
Rich Ellerson, Army, 0-0
Frank Solich, Ohio, 2-5
Mike Haywood, Miami(OH), 0-0
Jerry Kill, N. Illinois, 0-2
Tim Beckman, Toledo, 0-0
Rick Stockstill, MTSU, 1-1
Larry Blakeney, Troy, 1-3
Mario Cristobal, FIU, 0-0