Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Teams

I guess that title could apply to a whole bunch of teams out there, but I'm referring to Okie State and Texas....we'll get to that in a second.

Quick Reactions from Last Weekend...
  • And how about those Longhorns. In the interest of full disclosure, that Mountaineer team sure did look flat after that TCU game, but that's why you play the games. This defense continues to play at such a consistently high level which is great. They have continuously shut down big-time offenses this year. Very pleased with that. And offensively, thank God for our second quarter scoring barrage because yet again they came out VERY flat in the 3rd quarter. All in all a great confidence-building win for this team. And a great way to go into the last quarter of the season. 
  • I admit I've been very up and very down on Swoopes this year (who hasn't??), but I'm pretty convinced that this kid simply isn't going to develop into a significantly better play caller. Until we're able to get another quarterback in there to really learn the offense and take over we are going to struggle offensively. I was calling for Herd early, but I really like that he's likely going to keep that redshirt on this year - plus with some newcomers coming in, we'll have REAL competition at the QB position. Swoopes is a good athlete and we could do a hell of a lot worse, but I don't think we're too far from his ceiling. 
  • That whole third quarter phenomenon is really concerning to me. I mean, every game...
  • Big win by the aggies and really a good bounce back game. Aggie fan may not admit to this, but Sumlin REEEEAAAALLLY needed that game. 
  • I don't want to take anything away from the Aggies because they came out ON FIRE and laid it to Auburn early, but those last 2 turnovers were shocking. Those were unforced errors - those fumbles had nothing to do with Aggie defense. But that's why we play the games and the Aggies capitalized. 
  • Thanks for playing Notre Dame, if you'll step off the stage over here, Susan will show you to your consolation bowl. Can't lose that game like that. 
  • That was an exciting game in Baton Rouge last Saturday, but these teams are still rebuilding/loading and it showed. Quarterback play was pretty poor by both teams. And let's be honest - LSU pissed that game away in the last 50 seconds. Once Bama tied it up at the end, I think everyone watching new LSU was done. 
A Tale of THESE Two Teams....
Oklahoma State is a on 3-game losing streak as they head into the toughest part of their schedule...and none have been close. Their opponents in that stretch were TCU, W. Virginia, and Kansas State - the best of the best in the conference. After Texas they get Baylor and Oklahoma. What does this tell you? This is their best chance to pick up that sixth win and become bowl eligible.

Texas is riding a 2-game winning streak heading into Stillwater - with their biggest win of the season coming last week against the Mountaineers. After this game, Texas gets TCU on Thanksgiving night. What does this tell you? This is their best chance to pick up that sixth win and become bowl eligible.

While on paper these are mediocre teams playing for a meaningless bowl (which is all true), in the trenches, this is the most important game for both of these teams. Some would call this a must-win for both of these teams. Stillwater is a tough place to play and it's going to be really, really cold. These fans don't give two shits about rankings or bowls right now - they just care about getting back in the win column....AND of course, beating Texas. That's worth a lot and makes this game a tough one to call. These two teams are two very different trajectories though. And while Okie State is coming off of a bye week with time to regroup, Texas is also coming off the momentum of that big win. And honestly, I'll take that. I think the Texas defense helps keep this Cowboy team in check while the Texas running game will help control things offensively. I'm seeing a very close, pretty ugly dog fight here.

Texas - 26
Oklahoma State - 24

Other Thoughts on This Weekend...
  • As much as I'd like to see Minnesota upset Ohio State, I just don't see it. 
  • Based on what I've seen this season, I really don't think Alabama should be able to hang with MSU. But, I'm sure Saban will have something up his sleeve and I think it's a good game. But give me Bulldogs all the way. 
  • Chances Dan Mullen bolts for Florida at season's end: 55%
  • I have nothing logical to back this up with, but I think Tech makes this game very, VERY close against OU this afternoon.
  • I get the sense that Georgia is going get way more "up" for this game than Auburn - the Tigers have some confidence/mental issues going on here. They need to really step up their defense - a healthy and rested Todd Gurley is going to be a real test. I think Georgia wins this one by double digits. 
  • Very interesting game in College Station. I have no idea what to think about Missouri. Based on what I saw last week I have to give the Aggies the advantage here. If they can replicate that, they'll blow Mizzou out of the stadium. 
  • Once. Just this once I will root for Miami. I think everything about FSU is dirty. And I think they are the weakest of the four teams (I don't care which other 3 you put in there). Just this once. 
  • If you're looking for an NFL game to watch this weekend - check out the Sunday nighter with Tom Brady and Patriots visiting Indianapolis. 
That's what I got. Enjoy the weekend. 

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