Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quick and Dirty Preview

It goes without saying that significant (in volume, if nothing else) previews are coming for football.  Kevin of College Football Zealots asked me to answer some questions about the team, and I am always ready to contribute uninformed opinions.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The Falcons are a very young team this year. Most of the offensive playmakers graduated and the defense also lost its strongest players, particularly at safety. The defensive line returns players who got a lot of snaps and would look to be a strong point, and I think we are strong at LB. While Freddie Barnes is gone, there is a lot of depth at WR.

The biggest issue facing the Falcons this year is obviously at QB. Tyler Sheehan took every meaningful snap last year. There are four players competing for the job, including a sophomore, two redshirt freshmen and a true freshmen. The ability of these QBs to be productive will be a key test.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

I believe the first major test will be Troy, the opening game of the season. Troy is a good program that BG managed to beat last year, but this game will be in Alabama, and with a young team opening the season on the road, it will be a very difficult test.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

The cop out answer is Michigan at the Big House, but in terms of games that matter, I worry about the game at Temple. We haven't played them in a few years. They have a very proficient running game, and we have a very un-proficent running defense in recent years. I think this will be a very tough challenge.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

LB Eugene "Champ" Fells probably does not get enough notice. Also, on the D-line, Angelo Magnone is a very solid player who has seen a lot of snaps who is below the radar.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

I'm going to say RB Willie Geter. He has never posted big numbers, partly because I don't think we have run blocked very effectively. If the running game comes around, and it will need to, he has the opportunity to have a good season.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Champ Fells. See above.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

There are really three answers here, but I think of them more as positions.

First, the running game needs to step up. That will be seen as Willie Geter, but involves his blockers and other RBs (John Pettigrew, notably) too.

Second, the D-line needs to step up. They carry the experience on the defense, and we have really suffered up front in recent years. If the defense is going to keep us in games, it will have to start with them.

Third, the QB position needs to develop by the MAC season and find someone who can manage our offense.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year (freshman, redshirt freshman or JUCO)?

Kamer Jordan is a JUCO WR who I believe can be very productive in our offense. Shaun Joplin (WR) also has huge playmaking upside.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year (freshman, redshirt freshman or JUCO)?

This one is a little tougher. I'm going to say D-lineman Jarius Campbell or D-back Jerry Gates, a true freshmen who could see time in our backfield, which returns only one starter.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

I haven't sat down and evaluated each game on the schedule, but on paper, as the season starts, .500 would be a successful season for this group.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thoughts on Run-Pass Balance, Part I

As you know if you have read this blog in the past, I am interested in the concept of run-pass balance.  Here's a brief summary of why it interests me.

For a long time, this has been understood strictly as an issue of playcalling.  You had to run and pass in reasonable proportions in order to keep the defense off balance.   But that doesn't really represent a balanced offense.

You don't have a balanced offense until you can run the ball well enough to force the defense to put guys into the box, and then have a passing offense that can take advantage.  Or, you don't have a balanced offense until you can pass the ball well enough to force the defense to put guys out of the box and then have a good enough running game to take advantage of that.

You can call all the running plays you want, if the defense can stop them with 7 guys in the box, you aren't getting anywhere.

You might see this with a roughly even play mix between running and passing.  But you might not.

The best example I can come up with is those NIU teams from the 2000's.  They had NFL quality RBs pounding the ball behind a really good line.  But, if you crept those safeties in, they would rip your heart out over the top with a 50 yard TD pass.

With that in mind, I have been taking a look at some of the statistics from last season in FBS.

Oddly, the first thing I would like to point to is actually an tangent.  Simply put, if you have to have imbalance, you want it to be on the running side.

(Note:  these stats are all sack-adjusted.  I moved sacks FROM running stats, where the NCAA puts them and into passing stats, where they belong.  This includes the rushes and the attempts.)

  • There were 19 FBS teams that ran the ball 60% of the time or more.  This is about 1 in 6 FBS teams.
  • 15 of those teams scored about the FBS average for points per game.
  • On the four that didn't, two of them ran the ball 60% of the time despite that their running games were putrid.  (Both Army and New Mexico State ran the ball that often despite that their running yards per play was less than 90% of the FBS average).
  • The other two who were below the FBS average for scoring but ran the ball 60% of the time were within a point of the FBS scoring average.
  • From the MAC, Temple and NIU fall in this category.

It appears from this that if you can run the ball 60% of the time and be at or above the FBS average for yards per play, you have a good chance of scoring effectively.  Remember, we're only talking averages here.  It does not require an exemplary running game.

Let's look at teams that pass the ball more than 60% of the time.

  • There were 10 teams in this category.  6 of them were below the FBS average in points.  Only two, (Houston and Texas Tech) were more than 10 points over the average.
  • Miami and New Mexico were both significantly below the average, and, like Army and New Mexico State, they were passing the ball often but lousy at it.
  • BG is also in this category, and the Falcons were 1 point over the FBS average.

So, it would appear if you want to have playcalling imbalance, it is better to have it on the running side.

Next:  the teams in the middle.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Some Early Season Falcon Football Rankings

Well, here in the doldrums of summer, there are a couple of rankings in for the Falcon football team.

The College Gridiron 360 blog (an excellent product of the Orlando Sentinel) ranks BG #96 out of 120 FBS teams.  This doesn't sound too good, but in fact it is higher than five other MAC teams, projecting a mid-conference finish for the Falcons.  This is pretty sad.

EMU was the lowest ranked team in all of FBS, with Miami (117), Toledo (111), Ball State (106), Buffalo (98).

Meanwhile, the Sporting News ranks BG #66, which, frankly, given what we have coming back, is pretty hard to buy.  Only Temple is ranked higher in the MAC.  I'm not saying we won't be any good, but on paper (which is all anyone has to work with), we don't really stack up well given the losses we had last year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First 2011 Football Verbal

With a tip of the hat to, the Falcons have their first football verbal.  His name is Alex Huettel and he is entering his senior season at Pickerington North.  He is a Center....6'4" and 275, and as with most lineman, information on him is hard to track down.  He was all conference last year (first team) and had offers from about a half dozen MAC schools.

He joins Jarius Campbell and TE Alex Bayer as Pickerington North players in the Falcon program.

Welcome to BG, Mr. Huettel.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Realigning the Conferences

Apropos of nothing, I wanted to weigh in quickly on the college football realignment that is going on, first with some ideas about how it might impact the MAC, and then with some general thoughts.

The last time this happened, there was a lot of chatter through the MAC, and while there has been some this time, it seems to be less.  Last time, people were talking about MAC teams moving UP into a BCS conference, notably the Big East.  Teams mentioned included Toledo and Miami.  Obviously, with recent success, Buffalo might start to think that way, and, for that matter, Akron has some new facilities and is in a quasi-metro area.

This time, however, is different.  This is not about people moving up into the big is about the big conferences consolidating their hold on college football.

If you count Conference USA as a step up (and you might), well, that might be a possibility.

The scenario everyone talks about is 4 super conferences with 64 teams.  Meaning that Big East football goes away along with the Big 12, and you end up with an Eastern Conference (the ACC), Southern (the SEC), Midwest (the Big "10"), and West (the Pac 10).

Right now, the 6 BCS conferences have 65 teams in them.  So, once the chairs are rearranged and the music stops, it looks like they are set for teams.  Could Utah or BYU move up?  Sure, but far more likely is the MWC absorbing Boise and putting the WAC into minor league status.

I don't think any C-USA teams are moving up.  The C-USA could, however, do what the MWC can do, which would be to cherry pick a couple MAC teams and become the AAA level of the FBS.  This would appear to me to be the biggest risk facing the MAC today, and I would suggest the Buffalo, UT, and Akron would be the most likely targets to step up because of their presence in metro areas.

In the big picture, I just find myself sad at what we are seeing.  This is all being driven by the desire to make more money, and to get larger footprints for things like The Big Ten Network.  From a competitive standpoint, and from a fan's standpoint, college football is incredibly compelling right now, and only risks becoming less so with these changes.

The thing that sets college football apart is that the regular season matters.  Every game matters.  You don't get second chances.

This is slowly going to go away.  For example, a 16-team Big 10 would have 4 divisions of 4 teams, with a semi-final and a final.  (Oh yeah, remember how a tourney would be too many games for the student athletes to handle?  Guess not?  The real objection:  a tourney would not be carried on the Big Ten Network....or the existence of the NCAA.  You pick).

Once you have that, then the regular season begins to take on less meaning.  The OSU-Michigan game will diminish in drama, as both teams will likely be in the "post-season" most times, win or lose.  From a fan's standpoint, I just think it will be less appealing.  (They wouldn't put those two teams in the same division would they?)

Not that we won't watch.  Because we will.

So, back to the MAC.  Let's say C-USA wanted to go to 16 as well.  With 12 now, they could look to Buffalo, UT, Akron, and let's charitably say that instead of Miami they grab Navy, Troy, Florida Atlantic or Florida International to bulk up their Southern presence.  (Could Temple transfer their football-only presence into C-USA?)

That leaves the MAC with...

  • BG
  • Temple
  • CMU
  • EMU
  • WMU
  • NIU
  • Ball State
  • Kent
  • OU
  • Miami

Which is a couple south of what is needed to have a conference championship game under current rules.  I suppose at that point, the MAC could raid the Sun Belt for a couple teams, but at the end of the day, under that scenario, I think we're on the road to relegation to third-class status or even FCS.

I know that the argument will be made that the teams need other FBS teams to fill out their schedules.  A couple points on that.  First, that is based on the existing structure (requiring a certain number of games against FBS competition, rules that the big schools can change anytime they feel like it), and second, because the larger conferences will have less need for games to fill the schedule out, and less need for patsies, because they will have internal playoff structures that will determine who plays in BCS bowls and for the BCS title.

This is a Bowling Green blog.  I don't see anyway we have any appeal to any conference other than the MAC.  I have always said that the best thing for Bowling Green is to play in a MAC that is intact as it is today and that is improving and getting better.  I still think that.

I wonder if the MAC wouldn't jump in and try to get to 16 teams itself, as a way to keep all its teams on board.  Army, Navy, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee?  North Florida is looking to be FCS, is that an option?  Could this happen?

Much speculation, but here is the final take away.  The rich and powerful schools are going to do what they have always done, only in a more brazen and less subtle way than before.  They are going to use their power and money to get more of both for themselves, and we can only fight over the stuff they didn't want.  I don't believe that it ends with the MAC in a better position, and as always seems to be the case, we find ourselves hoping we can just stay in the position we are in.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Anderson Arena Good-bye

I have been meaning to write my good-bye to Anderson Arena, and probably will eventually.  However, for now, I don't really need to, because Christopher Gross of The Key wrote as good a history as can be written.  Anderson Arena deserves a great tribute.  This is it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Does Running Help a Team Score in the Red Zone

I've heard people say for a long time that you have to be able to run well to score in the red zone. It always seemed to be intuitively true. Passing games rely on space, and you can't stretch the field vertically in the red zone (as much), and so, it seems logical that you would need to be able to run the ball....where you MAKE space with lineman clearing it.

I decided to test this idea. I took the red zone scoring data for every team in FBS and put it into a spreadsheet, along with their running yards per play, passing yards per play, and total yards per play. These are sack-adjusted, meaning sacks count against passing yards and not running yards, which is how official stats are done.

More notes.  I then broke teams into quartiles by their yards per play passing, running, and in total.  So, Pass 1 is the top quartile of passing teams, Pass 2 is the second quartile, etc.

Finally, I don't really believe in using red zone percentage, because it counts a FG and a TD as the same thing.  I prefer to use points per RZ Trip.  For each of calculation, I don't use the XP.  A TD is worth 6 and the FG is worth 3.

Run TD % is the percentage of touchdowns gained by running the ball.

So, let's look at what that yielded.

A few notes.  First, it does not appear to matter if you are quartile 1 or 2.  What appears to matter is that you are in the top half of the teams in each area.  If you are, by and large, you score just as well in the red zone as anyone else.

The overall range is a lot narrower than I would have thought.  The lowest is 4.4 points per trip and the highest is 5.1 points per trip.

The percentages have similar issues....the lowest is 78.5% and the highest is 85.3%.

One bottom line conclusion...teams score in the red zone, even if they are lousy on offense.  In fact, I always had some idea that the defense picked up a small advantage in the red zone, but that does not appear to be the case.

Our ultimate question was whether you score better in the red zone with a running team.  As you can see below, as long as you are in the top half of the category, is really doesn't matter very much.  In fact, the most points per red zone trip came from the top passing teams, followed by the best defensive teams.

Top running teams were barely over the FBS average, in fact.  If you are going to be bad at something, it is better to be bad at running--in quartiles 3 and 4, running ranks ahead of the other two.  But, again, these differences are pretty small.

In my view, the final analysis is that as long as you are proficient at moving the ball somehow, you can score in the redzone.  It does not require a strong running game---it is just as easy to do it with passing ot even just having a good yards per play.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Falcons Announce Third and Fourth Signees for Men's Hoops

The Falcons announced they have signed two players for the coming season.  The first was one I wrote about a couple days ago--Torian Oglesby, who will play in the post and is a transfer from Mott Community College.

Here's some more info on him....

Under the tutelage of Coach Steve Schmidt, Oglesby lead Mott CC to a 26-4 record overall, including a record of 15-1 in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association. The Bears defeated Glen Oaks CC 77-73 for the MCCAA Tournament Championship and he was named to the Eastern Conference All-Defensive Team and third team all-Eastern conference. He played in all 30 games for Mott, averaging 10.0 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds, while shooting 63.9 percent from the field. Oglesby also blocked 34 shots and added 41 steals. 
The other one is new...welcome Anthony Henderson of Toledo Start to the Falcons for this Fall.  He is a 6'2" guard who averaged a sick 27 points a game last year.  He was all-state, Blade POY, City League POY and District co-POY.

Here's what Coach Orr had to say about him....
He has the ability to score in a lot of different ways. But he is unselfish and can create plays with the ball for himself or for his teammates. One thing we really like about him is his playmaking ability in late shot clock situations. He’s a good finisher and can play both guard spots. He’s young and he has huge upside still.” 

They join Craig Sealey and Cameron Black II from the early signing period to make up the Falcons four-man recruiting class.

It would not surprise me to see Oglesby get starts in the post.  McElroy doesn't look like a post player to me and Black may be raw and not used to playing against guys his size.

Henderson joins a guard position where there is lots of depth...Jaku, Brown, Crawford, Eggers, etc.

I do like the look of these guys.  Next year's team may struggle due to a lack of seasoned big men, but I think there is a good chance we could be really good to open Stroh the year after that.

Great Story on Freddie Barnes From Chicago Sun-Times

By now we have all heard the story of Freddie Barnes--his childhood, and how he came to get where he was this weekend, which was the Chicago Bears.  We've heard the story, but I hope we haven't gotten used to it, or that it hasn't lost its significance.  Click, read and enjoy.  Good stuff for a Monday morning.

Read it.  Go tackle your own stuff.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Falcons INK Juco Commit for Men's Hoops

The Falcons have received a verbal commitment from Torian Oglesby, a 6'7" Forward from Saginaw Valley Buena Vista and Mott Community College.

Oglesby averaged 10 point and 8 boards his second season at Mott.  He also shot 64% and his team won 55 games in two seasons. According to this article, he played little basketball in high school, and was raw when he got to Mott.  This would mean that he could have a big upside as he continues to learn the game.