Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chaos Theory Reigns

"...dealing with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in condition so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences."

That pretty much sums up this college football season thus far. I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse to have this much parity in the first year of the committee. But, I will tell you this, personally I'm glad it's humans duking this out. I'll get into this more below, but first....

Bizzare-o Longhorns:
Let me first say this: a win, is a win, is a win. And I will take any and all wins this season. Texas fans, trust me when I tell you this - you WANT a bowl game. You NEED a bowl game. 30 more days of practice is not a bad thing. I don't care what bowl it is - anything that extends this team's exposure to this coaching staff is a good thing.

I say bizzare-o because it's the first time this season we've seen the offense bail out the defense. While there are plenty of things to point and scowl at on the defensive side of the ball, let's recognize the steps the offense took. Swoopes and the second half he had was beyond promising (especially those last two throws). The O-line is starting to come together and you are truly sensing a report. Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray continue to be head scratchers at times, but if Swoopes is going to gain consistency in the passing game, that should open up.

Defensively, I don't think anyone saw that coming. Rumors from the inside (as in, people who know people, who know people) is that defensive coaches were NOT happy and were insisting to the players that the scheme was there, they simply did not execute. Well, the tape don't lie so I'm sure this was hashed out and emphasized this week. I believe Coach Bedford and Strong have more than earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to that side of the ball. Something tells me they'll be fine.

Ironically, Kstate has a similar style offense/team as  Iowa State (except better...much better). There are no real super stars on this Wildcat team, but they play so well as a team and Bill Snyder is still the purple wizard. I can assure you they will have some special teams wrinkles up their sleeves for this one. Here's why I like Texas though:
1. It's on the road, but NOT at night. Night games in Manhattan are horrible. Just ask every Texas team to play there over the last 5+ years, or Auburn this year. As much as I hate 11am games, I'll take it on this one.

2. The Iowa State showed me 2 key things that makes me feel more confident this week vs last: a) as mentioned above, the offense found a way to bail out the defense, and b) even though they are still making little, stupid, unforced errors, this time they found a way to overcome and win. That's worth it's weight in gold for a young team trying to come together.

I'm picking Texas here and I'll even go so far as to say this: If Texas wins this game, they are running the table. Everything is setting up nicely for this team to finish very strong. The schedule is tough, but not murderer's row, and will build a great deal of confidence.

Texas - 27
Kansas State - 22

**Interesting (sort of) facts about Texas' schedule this year: Texas has played 7 games. One of them has been outside the state of Texas (at Kansas back in late September). This week mark's the second game outside of the state of Texas all year (yep, in Kansas). After this weekend, Texas' remaining road games are at Tech and at Oklahoma State. So 3 games away from their home state all year: 2 in Kansas and one in Oklahoma. That's some good home cooking scheduling right there.

Other College Football Wisdom I Feel Like Dropping Up in Here:
Trouble in Aggie-Dise - Well that escalated quickly. While I am most certainly not an aggie sympathizer, I certainly know the feeling. Things have gone south very quickly for Kevin Sumlin and the vets down in College Station. Honestly though, this team has been as much a victim by expectations as anything else. Yes, they were grossly overrated after losing Mike Evans, an NFL offensive line, and Johnny Football. Let me be frank aggie fans - you didn't ever compete for a conference title, much less a division title when you had that veteran talent. How in the hell is anyone expected to replace all that and still compete? It's not aggie fan's fault though - this is the state of college football. The demise started early though: game 3 when Rice, although very unmatched talent wise, exposed some holes in that defense and were able to have success moving the ball. Then came the Arkansas game two games later that really opened eyes on said holes in the team (and by now, even the most "in-denial" of aggie fans knows they should have lost this game). Then came the current 3-game skid, the last game of which they simply gave up about 7 minutes into the game. Sumlin has some serious chemistry/team issues that he needs to fix, and fast. Luckily for the aggies, they get a bye week followed by a game against Louisiana-Monroe. They had better put it together because after that they close the season with Auburn, Missouri and LSU. At best this is an 8-4 team, very possibly 7-5.

Chaos Theory Continued - Continuing my pontification from above on chaos theory, let me put this in very simple terms: there are currently 4 undefeated teams (3 if you remove Marshall from the discussion). Two of those teams (Ole Miss and MSU) will play each other at season's end and so all things being equal, this will bring us down to two undefeated teams. Now, let's look at the current 1-loss teams "in the hunt": Georgia, Michigan State, Kansas State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Auburn, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona Sate, TCU and Ohio State. Whew. That's a lot. In the interest of fairness and acknowledging the fact that the season doesn't end today: MANY of these teams still have to play each other thereby reducing the number. However, the point is this: parity is stronger in college football today than it's been in years. And it just happens to be the first year of a human committee. I, for one, love it. Regardless of the outcome, I'll be happy with the process. I'm sure things will get a little clearer, but it's not like any of these teams have fallen ass-backwards into 5 or 6 wins.

My Top 5 and Not-So-Sure Predictions:
If I were on the committee and had to pick my 5 top teams as of today, here's how I would pick.
1. FSU (I hate these guys, AND think they're the first team out of the final four)
2. Mississippi State (waaaaaay more confident in them than their counterparts)
3. Ole Misse (They got 2 losses in them still so this won't last)
4. Oregon (They still have the best quarterback in the game and that's worth a lot)
5. Notre Dame (Slightly edging out MSU - I don't like them, but respect the schedule they play year in and year out).

Both Miss State and Ole Miss are losing a game. Auburn and Bama are each losing another game. TCU loses 2 more games. Michigan State will replace one of the Mississippi schools in here when they win out and beat OSU. That is all. 

NFL Notes:
Random thoughts, ramblings and general observations across the league....

Really? Those Same Dallas Cowboys? - Yes...those same Dallas Cowboys. Even the biggest of Cowboy haters has to acknowledge that at this point, this team is for real. Give Rod Marinelli a TON of credit for putting these defensive guys in positions to maximize success. They were supposed to be horrendous on this side of the ball and they have played great. Couple that with the commitment to the running game (about time). I'm pleasantly surprised to see Murry holding up with the load he's carrying - he's a back who seems to get stronger and stronger as the game goes on (PS - he's in a contract year as well. That's going work out alright). The only thing they need to be worried about is Colt McCoy coming in and upsetting them on Monday night.

History Being Made - And It's fun to see - No matter if you love or hate Peyton Manning, it's always fun to see history being made in major sports. Ripken, Kareem, Strahan, Phelps, Gretzky, (all of these in my general sports-watching lifetime) and many more. And now Manning. He may not have the rings that Montana, Brady or even Eli have, but he is unequivocally one of the best. Ever. The thing is, when all is said and done, he's going to have a lot more than this. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Manning play throughout the years. You can't help but to root for him to get one more ring to close it out. Ironically, it's amazing to watch Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, where Peyton started his career. He's got a much better lot than Peyton had starting out, but man he looks like the real deal. Some of that good mojo.

Someone Should Write a Country Song... - About the Houston Texans. Man, that is a heartbreaking team to watch right now. I really root for them and want them to be successful, but I'm pretty sure they are cursed. I do think Fitzpatrick gets an unfair amount of the criticism (comes with the territory of NFL QB). He's no all pro, no one is suggesting that, but there have been key fumbles late in the game over the last 2 weeks by guys not named Ryan Fitzpatrick. Watching Brian Cushing try and play pass coverage is painful. They are short some key pieces, but they are so close to being significantly better. You know what? The Houston Texans are the NFL's version of the Texas Longhorns. New coach. New mentality. Quarterback who no one expected (or necessarily wanted) is solidified at the helm. Pretty good defense that gives up too many yards in spurts. Offense that's figuring it all out - some really talented players just not gelling. It's the same damn team. I like the Texans, I really do, but it's tough to watch that sometimes.

Not-Even-Half-Way-Through-Season-Predictions - Essentially, wild ass guesses because it's fun and I've got NFL on my mind..
- Philly beast out Dallas for NFC East title - but both make playoffs.
- Green Bay thrives, Detroit does not - Packers in playoffs, Lions fall short... again
- NFC South: you tell me. I say New Orleans claws it's way back (while Carolina hovers around .500) and takes the South title, and playoff spot.
- San Francisco misses the playoffs.
- Arizona wins division and Seattle picks up second wild card (Dallas getting the first).
- Seattle is in conference finals against Philly.
- This one-game separation between New England and Buffalo will not last.
- Steve Smith is officially at the top of the "I need to do something nice for this guy" holiday list of one Joe Flacco. Those dudes are ballin'.
- AFC North: in reality and in feel - everyone is in it. I can literally make a case for why any one of these teams can claw their way to a division title, or wild card birth.
- I predicted Houston to get a wild card, but they're going to have to do a serious 180. If I'm Houston fan I'm terrified of Zack Mettenberger. Point being - at what point can Indy go into semi-cruise control. They will have run away with this thing by the half-way point.
- I like San Diego's grittiness, and they can still make this interesting (11 minutes to go in game as I type this), but this division is going to Denver on a silver platter.
- I have to think the 2 wild cards in the AFC are San Diego and anyone from the the ACF North.
- Atlanta, NY (both), San Francisco, and Miami - all teams that will be looking for a new head coach heading into 2015.

Have a great weekend - look for the podcast late Friday/early Saturday at http://wisdomofthewannabes.blogspot.com/

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Growing Pains

Even though I'm writing this on a Friday night, I still feel compelled to say - Uuuuggggghhh! Look, I knew we were going to experience quite a few transition/growing pains, and the injuries/suspensions sure as hell don't help. But man, when the little things are so apparent it's maddening.

No one thought Texas would hold Baylor's offense scoreless for 2+ quarters. But sadly, I figured our offense would score at least some points. Again, Uuuuuugggggghhh. It's never good when I'm the second caller on the post-game call in show (which I was and have been more than once).

It's silly to try and dissect this too much because it's pretty simple: Almost everyone on our offense not name Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown are backups, or youngsters with dick for experience. Obviously that's a tough haul for anyone, but shit man, these guys are supposed to be good, 2-3 deep. Right??? This explains why I was cursing Mack's name during that game. I'm sorry, but he was stealing money in that last year and a half of his contract. He didn't do dick.

With all of that said, we can't avoid the Red River Shootout/Rivalry/etc.

Texas vs. OU
I don't know what to say here. See last week. The only thing that's different is that... well...it's Texas/OU. But that doesn't bode well for this offense. I'll be the first to say that I was praising Swoopes' progress early, but I think the ceiling is close, if not right there. His throws to open receivers, on short routes, with no pressure were ridiculous. If he was rattled by Baylor, how the hell is he going to respond in this environment? I know legends are made here at the Cotton Bowl, but I can't say I'm optimistic right now. Not at all.

Defensively, I think you keep doing what you're doing. Come out very aggressive - stack that box and keep Perine and that running attack in check. Make Knight beat you throwing the ball. This means a lot of man coverage in the slot and on the outside, but we've got the horses to do it...within reason. What gets masked in the fog of frustration is that this defense is spectacular. Reminds of the years when Muschamp was D-Coordinator and he'd get so mad at the offensive staff (rightfully so). If the offense can manufacture some points some how (rrriiight), it's a whole other story. Either way, my heart says "this is the week Texas puts it together and executes the details and pulls the upset". My brain says "don't even watch this shit dude".  Yet again, Texas gives up a bunch of points late in 3rd, and most of 4th quarters.

OU - 26
Texas - 13

Around the Nation - Point/Counter Point
This little schtick allows me to argue why both teams could win...so either way I'm right!


Ole Miss at Texas A&M:
Why the Aggies will win - First and foremost, this just feels like a game where the Aggies will come out on fire and run away with it. But, Ole Miss is a really good team and will put up a fight. But damn, you have to think the Aggie's aren't going to drop all those passes. Right? I'm not saying they win that game last week, but it's a different story of half of those were caught/converted. Plus, can Ole Miss handle  and sustain this kind of success? They got their huge win and were impressive, but how long did they celebrate that?

Why the Rebels will win - Ole Miss' victory was undeniably impressive. It wasn't like they got a bunch of breaks. They hung tough the entire game - they had to come back a couple of times if memory serves. This looked like a different Ole Miss team. This will be a challenge indeed for both teams, but I'll take Sumlin coming off of a loss, at home, at night. I'm going with Aggie's by 10 points. Side note (and slight jab at the Aggie's) - aren't you guys an agricultural school? What are the chances you'll have to replace the turf AGAIN after the rain and then the game this weekend? As Chris Carter would say, C'mon Man...

Auburn at Mississippi State:
Why the Tigers will win - Nick Marshall is a better passer this year and still just as dangerous with his feet. Everyone knows he's a great runner, but his passing skills and confidence have improved and the Bulldogs have to respect that now. This Auburn team is still very tough. Yes they had that nail biter in Manhattan, Kansas that they should have frankly lost. But I can tell you first hand that that is a tough son-of-a-bitch place to play. The Tigers still have a prolific offense and can move the ball at will more times than not.

Why the Bulldogs will win - 2 words: Dak Presscot. He can give this Auburn defense some fits. He can take over this game and I'm not sure Auburn has what it takes to stop him. If the Bulldogs can come out with the same level of physical play and confidence they had against the Aggies, they can most certainly win this game.

TCU at Baylor:
Why Baylor will win - The million dollar question is this; did Texas (wait for it...) expose some kinks with the Bears? Or did the Bears simply have a down day? If TCU can dial up defensive play like Texas did (no tall order, remember, Texas is really good on that side of the ball), they have a real shot here. But like I said when Texas played Baylor, if the Bears can get into rhythm, it's over very quick and I would expect they could get into a rhythm in their own house. Based on what we know, it's hard to envision Bryce Petty having another poor throwing performance like he did in Austin. I'm playing the averages here, but after last week I can see Baylor turning the dial back to computer game mode.

Why TCU will win - I'll be the first one to admit, I had TCU as a bottom dweller in the conference this year. Obviously that is not the case. And much like Ole Miss over Alabama, that win against the Sooners was damn impressive. They tried, tried and tried again to hand the game to Oklahoma, but they kept clawing back. Very impressive win and if they can sustain that focus and intensity they most certainly have a shot here. Boykin is playing very well and although that dual-threat QB thing is great, it's also a little nerve racking when your QB is your leading rusher as well. I like the Horned Frogs' chances here, but I don't see Baylor being held down like they were last week for most of the game.

LSU at Florida:
Why LSU will win - I have no idea. This is a match up of "hey, we're in the SEC and are historic programs, but we are pretty damn bad this year" teams. Let's be honest, neither of these teams have the horses they once had. It's a toss up.

Why Florida will win - See above.

Oregon at UCLA:
Why Oregon will win - UCLA has an abysmal defense. They gave up over 600 yards to Arizona State (with their backup QB) and we saw what happened against Utah. Just think what the best QB in the country will do. I don't think this is close. Plus, neither of these teams has an O-line worth a shit, but because the Bruins have no defense, it won't affect Oregon as much as it will UCLA.

Why UCLA will win - If Oregon shits they bed as they did against Arizona, maybe, there's a chance. UCLA is going to have play flawless football, and they are at home which is in advantage. Although teams like this tend to play better coming off of a loss, remember Oregon is coming off of a loss too. I just honestly don't see it, but hey, it's college football and anything can happen.

Other Random Musings, Thoughts and General Shenanigans Around the Country
  • You all know how much I hate polls in college sports, especially football, but this past weekend has taken it to new heights. And, the SEC bias/love fest/homer-ism, whatever you want to call it is stronger than it's been in a while, even with the league being down. Indulge me with just a few examples: Last week Ole Miss was ranked 14th (or somewhere around there). They get a home win (impressive as it may be) over an Alabama team that has proven to be clearly down compared with recent years, and now they are number 3? Really? They are the third best team in the country? What if they lose to the Aggies by double digits (which is highly possible)? You know what, they won't be the third best team in the country now will they? Let's take another example: Arizona was UN-FREAKING-RANKED last week, they go in and beat Oregon by a touch down and now they are a top 10 team? Really? So here's my question: isn't this an indictment on the voters and process? What if Arizona gets beaten badly by a not-so-good USC team, will they then be unranked again? Can we PLEASE just do away with these things? At least until after the teams are 1 game past the midway point? Saying this team or that team is the second best team in the country at any point before mid October is a complete joke and general guessing game. Teams can't be the second or third best team in the country if they aren't consistent, right? 
  • The point is this - there's too much good product and parity on the fields to continuously muddy it up with these stupid polls. It's time for them to go away altogether, or be completely revamped. Here's what we know about the vast majority of teams in the country in any given season: they are going to have ups and downs. And guess what, just because a team loses a game doesn't mean they suck. Winning all of your games is hard to do. Teams with 1, 2 and sometimes even 3 losses in a season can still be very, very good teams. So please, for the love of everything Holy, can we sprinkle in some intelligence into this thing? Please? 
  • And do we really, truly believe that the second, third and fourth best teams in the country are Auburn, Ole Miss and MSU? Hey guess what ESPN, Sports Illustrated and everyone else, there are whole lot of other really good teams across the country that aren't in the gulf-coast states. Take this to the bank: Ole Miss, Auburn, MSU will each have at least 1 loss if not 2. Bet the house on it. 
  • And while I'm bitching about everything wrong with College Football, let's take a little look at the Todd Gurly situation in Georgia. Guess who, deep down inside, doesn't give 2 shits about being suspended 2, 3 or even more games this year? Todd Gurly. And you know why? Because there's plenty of film on him and what he can do for NFL teams to know he can be successful at the next level. The NCAA needs Gurly a hell of a lot more than Gurly needs the NCAA and therein lies the wrinkle. Is Gurly a victim? Hell no, but it would appear he's a selfish guy who lacks respect for the rules and has questionable judgement and decision making skills. Is the rule stupid? Yes. Should the rule go away or be changed? Yes. But until then, it's still the rules. Until either the NCAA changes their rules/stance on this, or until the NFL will start punishing these kinds of acts at the next level, this will continue to be a frustrating and mind numbing circle of stupidity. 
  • Georgia at Missouri - the "someone has to win the SEC east" bowl. 
  • We'll see how long Fedora gets in Chapel Hill, but here's one for you: After a year or two in the studio, don't be surprised to see Mack Brown get some consideration to return to the Tar Heels. Of course assuming Fedora can't turn this thing around. They are...underachieving this year to say the least. 
  • Speaking of Mack Brown - thanks a pant load for leaving the cupboard full of a bunch of entitled, under developed stoners here in Austin. Appreciate that. And I don't care how "sick and tired you are of hearing how soft Texas is" - you created this. This is on YOUR legacy. Guess who else doesn't like hearing it? EVERY F'NG FAN HERE IN AUSTIN! But alas, this is what we are left with. 30 minutes after Vance Bedford got a hold of this defense they were immensely better than the last few years under Mack. 
  • Geez, you think I'm a little bitter this week??? 
NFL Matchups and Predictions
  • Oh, so I guess the Patriots don't suck now? That was a pretty convincing win over the Bengals who clearly did not come in prepared. Look for the Pats to continue their run against Buffalo this weekend. Pats by a touchdown.
  • The Titans appear to be one of those teams that in a free fall with no clue how to climb out of it. Couple that with just about zero explosive players, and the starting QB out and that spells Jacksonville getting their first win of the year in Nashville. Look for Tennessee to say f'k it and play Mettenberger to see what they got in the rookie. I can assure you Charlie Whitehurst cannot get 'er done. 
  • Hey Denver - this is one of those days where you can get Peyton some rest. I'm just saying. I mean...it's the Jets.
  • Carolina gets the unfortunate job of getting the Bengals in bounce back mode. Give the Panthers credit, even with the loss of some key pieces they are still playing at a pretty high level. Although Cincy won't have AJ Green, I think they have the pieces and focus to get the job done. 
  • The stealthiest team in the league has to be San Diego right now. Phillip Rivers continues to defy the age thing and seems to be getting better. They'll continue to be stealthy this weekend as they get the Raiders. They'll destroy them in this game, but no one will pay much attention because, well, it's the Raiders. 
  • Dallas is over achieving. They are proving the critics wrong so far (including this one). But in Seattle? With the Seahawks coming off of a pretty lame performance in Washington? I smell an ass whoopin' here. 
That's all I got gang - enjoy the weekend.