Saturday, September 13, 2014

Your Prodigal Ranter

Has returned! Well well well my friends, if my math is right, it's been 7 months and 12 days since my last post. The excuses are aplenty, but I will spare you so we can get right to it.

Since we were last together in this forum, a lot of shit has gone down - rather than spend countless words and pages recounting it, let's just do a quick snapshot. Since last year....

Texas football (yet again) underachieved, culminating in a much anticipated blowout to the hands of Oregon in some bowl I can no longer recall (Holiday?). 
Texas basketball OVERACHIEVED saving Rick Barnes his job and giving Texas bball fans (all 17 of us) reason to have hope. By the way, last year was Rick Barnes greatest coaching performance of his career. 
Texas whiffed on recruits, hired a new AD no one saw coming, fired their coach, made everyone believe Nick Satan was coming in when in reality he probably never was, and now we are fully entrenched in the Charlie Strong era (and I for one could not be happier). Does just about cover it???

Now that we're caught up, let's jump into present day. I'll start at a high level looking at this Texas program and where it is, and then drill down into positions and games.

THE Texas Longhorn Football Program
Think about where this program was one year ago today. In some ways, so much the same, but in other ways so very different. I would like to think that most fans would appreciate not only the fact that Charlie Strong is bringing a culture and mentality of hard work, accountability and family to this program, but also how difficult it is to instill such a culture when it's blatantly clear these things HAVE NOT existed in quite some time. This brings me to the word that Texas fans fear most: patience. If you can't handle patience, go root for a new team. Period. Embracing (much needed) change, means you embrace the process and time it takes to implement said change. As Vance Bedford said early in spring practice, "The train is coming, get on board or get out d'way."

The good news is you could see a change in game 1. Granted, it wasn't a world beater in North Texas, but you could see the difference in execution, especially on defense - swarming the ball, NOT missing tackles, playing with intensity, forcing turnovers. You could see it first hand. Then came the third quarter in the BYU game...and....well....we know how that worked out. Remember that P-word above? The BYU game was a stinging reminder of just how much of it we need.

One thing I took away from the BYU game was as excited as I am about having Charlie Strong here, I also realized I a) over estimated the mindset change that is occurring, and b) over estimated how talented this team is. Let's also be fair about one thing - this team has been DECIMATED by injuries on the offensive side of the ball and lack of depth is killing them. It's tough to be effective with that 2-headed monster at running back when you're playing with backups (and even backups to backups) everywhere else. Call it an excuse, I call it like it is.

So what about this weekend....and the "mighty" bruins.

UCLA at Texas
When I look at this match up, 3 key things stand out to me:
1. I truly believe Texas matches up much better with UCLA than they did with BYU. 
2. I have no idea where or how this team (Texas) is going to manufacture points.
3. Although UCAL hasn't put a full game together yet either, I have far more confidence in the Bruins being able to put it all together and play a complete game than I do in Texas' ability to do that - they have more experience and many areas, better players (especially at quarterback).

There is one silver lining in this game that will anchor any chances Texas may have at pulling an upset here and that's on the defensive line. UCLA's offensive line is mediocre at best. And I still contend that when it's all said and done, this Texas front 7 is and will be one of the best in the country. Say what you will about every other position group, the line and linebackers are top notch and many of them will be playing on Sundays. If they can get consistent pressure on Hundley and keep him from getting comfortable in the pocket, that will be where the chances will come from. BUT, they absolutely, positively cannot break containment. If I'm Hundley, I'm looking at what Hill from BYU did running the ball and I'm salivating. Hundley is a great runner and you'll see him make some plays, but Texas has to keep tabs on him. None of this 30-yard runs for TDs kind of bullshit.

Offensively? Rrriiiight. I don't know what to think about this UCLA defense: Against Virginia they scored 3 defensive touchdowns. Against Memphis (at home), they gave up 469 total yards and the second half was a draw. But again, let's not forget, this is college and getting 18-22 year olds pumped up for games against Memphis NOT on television is tough to do. Getting them pumped up for Jerry World games on prime time....not so much.

At the end of the day, for Texas, this game comes down to playing 4 complete quarters, playing with pride and intensity, and never giving up. I'd like to think we will see a vast improvement from last week, including opening up the play book a little bit more for Tyrone Swoopes. Let him loose - what's the worst that can happen?

I do believe UCLA fans are quite worried about this game and the potential of dashing their playoff hopes (which is not true, even if Texas wins). AND, I believe Texas has a chance to pull the upset...I just don't think they will. At the end of the day, until I see this team manufacture some points and sustain drives, I won't believe they can be effective at it.

UCLA - 26
Texas - 12

Other Notables Around the College Football Landscape
  • I'm not the smartest guy in the world of college football, but I know enough to know not to touch the S. Carolina/Georgia game. Given everything we know about both teams this year and in past years, isn't this the type of game that the Gamecocks would win....and Bulldogs would lose? If I'm Vegas this weekend (pay attention Yukon Cornelius), and I've got a couple of greyhounds in me, I'm laying $100 or so on the money line and taking the Old Ball Coach.
  • I know SEC fans are tired of Bob Stoops (I, for one, am not), but this Tennessee game will not be close. Don't be scared by the line - OU will win this game by 30+ points and continue their dominance over the SEC (and in turn, continue his jabs). 
  • I'm sorry, but if the Big 5 conferences are going to get to "set their own rules", I would hope that they would grow a pair of balls and set some standards in scheduling. Lamar, Kent State, Nichol State, College of Charleston, Citadel, Northwestern State, McNeese State...these are all teams that NO ONE in one of the Big 5 should be playing. 
  • My insistence on Michigan State upsetting Oregon looked great for about 3 quarters. I was SHOCKED to see MSU get taken to the woodshed in the fourth quarter - a quarter they typically own. Oregon is a good team. 
  • UPSET ALERT: East Carolina over Va Tech in Blacksburg. 
Those of you that listen to the podcast and generally know me know how much I LOOOOVE the NFL and everything about it. I cannot express how happy it makes me to have the NFL playing on Sunday afternoons. Every year I love it more and more and we're going on about 4 years now where my enjoyment for the pros has exceeded that of college. Mainly because every game is good. Well, almost every game. With that said....

Goodell has to go....
I'm not going to rehash the whole Ray Rice thing because Lord knows you've been inundated with it, but can you recall a bigger circus? This single event has exposed a disturbing level of arrogance, inconsistency, and dare I say incompetence. Now we wait for the sponsors (who are scared as hell too by the way...who WANTS to leave the NFL? No one) to start coming out one by one. We're going to see critical mass start to build here folks. I think what's most disturbing about this is clearly how little the NFL, Roger Goodell, anyone, seems to care or worry about domestic violence. I mean, it's ridiculous. If I'm one of those groups that helped Goodell and the League draft the "Domestic Violence Policy" just a few weeks ago, I'm looking at him like he's a lying, incompetent buffoon.

And now we have the Adrian Peterson issue that just broke late Friday where he allegedly beat his son with a "switch". On one hand, I say, and.... But on the other hand, I am hearing there are some disturbing pictures that show MUCH more than just a spanking. Then you throw in the Greg Hardy situation and you've got a shit storm on your hands. 30 days....Goodell is forced to step down within 30 days. That's my take. Now, on to the games.
  • Don't worry Packers fans - you'll be fine. 
  • I'm predicting a pretty bad fantasy year for Andre's Johnson this year (sigh). 
  • Speaking of fantasy, between Ray Rice and what I'm sure will be Adrian Peterson's suspensions - that's going to throw a wrench into some teams this year. Glad I have neither. 
  • One more thing on Ray Rice and Goodell - this idiot's botching of this is all of a sudden making Rice (in some demented ways) look like a f'ng victim. My gosh. And someone needs to get his wife away from him (faaaar away) so she can understand this shit isn't normal, nor is it typically a one-time incident. (heavier sigh). 
  • It's way early, injuries haven't started to mount and we don't know what a lot of these teams are made of....but I feel safe saying Seattle has to be a top pick to go to the Super Bowl again. 
  • 2 Teams that will improve the most from last year: Atlanta and Houston.
  • 2 Teams that will decline the most from last year: Kansas City and St. Louis.
  • 2 Surprise playoff teams this year: Houston and Miami.  
  • For you Dallas fans out there - what in the world do you have to look forward to in the coming 1-3 years?
Non-Sports Thoughts for the Week
  • I wonder if we will have another President anytime soon that will not be a complete train wreck. 
  • I'm not sure if these stupid political ads a reflection on the ignorance and arrogance of the candidates, or on the people who vote them in. (Really heavy sigh). 
  • Dear People who have a hard on for "going to war to wipe out ISIS": what exactly do you think is going to happen? Based on everything you know about the decade-long extravaganza in Iraq, what would you say we do? Lob bombs and missiles? Ok, where? I think these assholes WANT to pull us into another ground war because they know, above all else, the last 2-front, decade-long war so grossly depleted our resources (and economy) that it's a real issue - and getting the US pulled into another long, drawn-out battle will only further deplete those resources (which by the way is one of our greatest advantages over most other nations). I don't like those assholes anymore than anyone else - but hear and understand this: THERE IS NO WAR TO BE WON IN THE MIDDLE EAST. THERE IS NO VISION OR REALITY OF "VICTORY". 
  •   You people and your love affair with your new iphones is funny....
Enjoy the "fall-like" weekend folks. It's a great day for chili, beer, football and maybe some illegal gambling. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Super Strong Extravaganza

My my my, how things have changed since we were last together. A new regime on the 40 acres, Peyton Manning entering "no he de'ent" territory, Rick Barnes giving the coaching performance of his career, and Pete Carroll is in a Super Bowl. That's quite a lot...where shall we begin?

I'm sure you won't hear that enough over the next 6-9 months (or buy the T-shirts) all seriousness, I know this is "old news", but this is a great thing for this program. People wanted a regime change, new mentality, new culture - well, that what we got. The more I got removed from the actual news of the change, the more I liked this move. Young, energetic, experienced, hard-nosed and trusts his instincts and methods. More importantly, he's 100% about football and football players.

My expectations are next to zero when it comes to this first recruiting class - and I'm sure there will be some players who won't take kindly to the new world order, but that's ok. That's part of it. This program needs a drill Sergeant right now and this team will be better because of it. The structure and discipline that he's bringing will do wonders - now maybe if a player is struggling to make his grades, they'll find out a little earlier than a week after grades come out.

I have no predictions or expectations about the coming year - it's ludicrous to even suggest it. But I do believe that regardless of the record next year, Texas fans are going to like the type of effort these players are giving. I expect a slow start - which could get ugly with games against BYU and UCLA early - but by the end of the year this team is gelling. I'm a big fan of this hire.

Super Manning Bowl:
Let's be honest, the season Peyton Manning has been quite spectacular. It's only fitting that he ends up in the big game this year, especially after last year's debacle. When you look at the injuries this team has endure over the season, especially with not having Miller on the defense, it's impressive how they've continued to play at such a high level. This is a team with a bunch of players who have bought into the system and know how to do their job. This should be a hell of a challenge for Manning and company. Side note - does anyone else ever get the feeling that John Fox is just along for this ride? I love the guy, but I can't help thinking that every time I see him.

On the flip side, so Pete Carroll is really in the Super Bowl? Huh. Either way, he's got himself a hell of a team here. Obviously the defense is what gets the props on this team and rightfully so. That IS this game - number 1 offense vs number 1 defense. It doesn't get much better than that. As much as I'd like to see Manning get another Super Bowl, and as good as Denver is, I'm not calling this a for-sure Denver win. Seattle is more than equipped to beat Denver. With all the talk about the defense, if Seattle is going to pull this out Russell Wilson is going to have to make a play with his arm. I'm not saying he can't or won't do it, but I do believe it comes down to that. In the last handful of games his passing statistics went way down, but they've also got Lynch who's been a beast since the midway point, and a defense that can give you easy points - so Wilson hasn't had to be great. But you still wonder. He made some great plays in that title game, but he also had some questionable decision making. I expect Lynch will have a big game, regardless of the outcome.

As ridiculous as it is that they are playing this game in Jersey in February, at least it doesn't really give either team an advantage one way or another. Sure Denver plays in the Rockies, but this is pretty cold. Combine the legend of "Manning in cold weather" and Seattle's performance/record on the road and you've got a pretty evenly matched pairing. I have to give a slight edge to Denver here of course. While I do believe Seattle will be able to exploit some things in the Denver defense, I think Manning will be able to figure out that secondary just enough times to make a difference. Lower scoring than if this game were in Arizona or Houston (where it should be).

What it will take for Denver to win...
1) Peyton, Peyton and more Peyton. This won't be about making big, long bomb throws (we're beyond in the Manning's world). It's about dinking, dunking and keeping the ball moving down field. The more than can keep that Seattle defense on the field - and back on their heels - the more they will chip away at that confidence and that's when big breakdowns happen.

2) Tame the Beast - absolutely, positively cannot let Lynch go off. If that happens, start crying now Broncos fans. Make Lynch suffer when he touches the ball....and keep his YPC under 3 and Denver will be in prime position to dominate this game.

3) Kick it up a notch - pardon the horrible pun, but this could go for both teams. Sounds like the weather is going to cooperate more than expected, but it will only get colder as the game goes on. That usually spells the kicking game being pretty important. Make your field goals, and pin Seattle deep. Seattle's offense isn't near the level of Denver's, we know that, but if you give them a short field, they'll make you pay. Kicker may be one of the most important positions in this game.

What it will take for Seattle to win...
1) Counter to number 2 above - Unleash the Beast. I'll put it in the simplest terms I can: If Lynch gets 130+ yards, I'm calling it here. Seattle will win this game. And let's not forget one thing - Denver's defense isn't near as good as San Francisco's and Lynch had a pretty good game there. Keep that in mind. PLUS, we've seen how he performs after a bye week. He is unequivocally the key to this game.

2) Seattle's QB is going to have to play like a QB - I don't say this to dog Wilson. Obviously he's been effective, albeit a little inconsistent, especially down the stretch of the season. But let's be fair: he does enough to move the chains and help his team win. We don't expect him to be Peyton, not even close, but at some point, if the Hawks are going to win this game, he's going to have to make a big play or two with his arm. Not saying he can't do it, we know he can, he just hasn't done it (or had to do it) since late in the season.

3) Get to Manning - We all know what happens when Manning has time and isn't disrupted. He makes you pay. Seattle is going to have to get pressure on him, disrupt his timing and get him on his back. Even if you aren't sacking him, make him know you are there. The good news for Seattle fans is they have the defense to do it. Granted, Denver's O-line is playing GREAT right now and they won't make it easy on Seattle, but if that Seahawk defense can get to Peyton and simply disrupt his timing with 3-4 rushers, it's going to be very hard for Denver to win.

What does it all mean...
At the end of the day it comes down to this. I*think* Seattle has the weapons to make enough plays to beat this Denver team, and I think they have the defense to keep the high-flying machine at bay. BUT, I *know* Denver has the weapons to make big plays and I certainly know what their QB is capable of. So I'm going with what I'm pretty sure I know vs what I think.

Denver - 27
Seattle - 21

I'd love to get into the Running Horns, but don't have time. I'll just say this - Rick Barnes is having the best coaching performance of his career with a bunch of no-name misfits (predominately underclassmen too). No one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to play this team right now. They could be very, very dangerous in the tournament. BIG game today at the Drum with Kansas coming to town. They don't even have to win to impress today. Just compete.

Going to be hard for Patterson to make a change after this season.

Enjoy the big game tomorrow.