Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Phil Steele on the Falcons---Optimists Look Away

If you are a college football fan, you have to love the Phil Steele Football preview.  It is, hands down, the best of its kind.  How many times have you read in a "name brand" preview about the contributions a player is likely to make....knowing he left school in February.

You don't get that kind of thing from Phil.  You get nothing but smart and thoughtful analysis, an absolute butt-load of stats, and you get an accurate idea of what to expect.  Phil's predictions are consistently the best.

So, with that in mind, we look at what he had to say about the Falcons...and, you know, hope he's wrong.  Because he is calling for a tough year for BG.

A couple notes.

First, he didn't think much of BG last year, and we exceeded his expectations.

Second, Steele has a couple formulas he applies.  For example, teams which lose significant numbers of players are likely to be worse the next year.   Also, teams that benefit from huge turnover margins tend to have bad years the next year.

Anyway, first and foremost, the Falcons are young.  He projects us tied for 5th in the East, with Akron and Miami.  Some other parts of his projection.'

He ranks us tied for #9 at QB and #8 at RB.  (As in 9th best QB and 8th best QB in the MAC).
On every other measure on the regular teams, he has us 11th:

  • WR
  • OL
  • DL
  • LB
  • DB

OK, so if that actually comes true, I think we can all agree we are in trouble.  Will it?  That is why they play the games.

In particular, I think he is underrating our WRs.  While they have not done much on a stat sheet, I believe that we have some good players ready to emerge---especially Kamer Jordan and Shaun Joplin.

Similarly, though less so, I believe the O-line will be a little better than he suggests.  We have good players back up there and I think we will see an improvement.

This is dangerously close to my own preview, but it is too early for that.  Some other observations from Phil:

On power rankings, we rank a little higher than the #5 in the East he sees for us.  The reason is that BG does not play Akron this year, and therefore has, in general, a tougher road to travel than our conference opponents.

We are, based on his calculations, the most inexperienced team in the MAC.  In fact, we are #118 out of 120 in the FBS.  We have 41 returning O-Line starts, where a solid number is somewhere in the 60s or 70s.  We return only 21% of our offensive yards and 44% of our tackles.  You get the idea.

A team where we are in experience has an 81% chance of having a weaker or same record.  The six teams in that boat are OK St, East Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, BG, and one of our opponents, Troy.

We are playing the 79th toughest schedule in the country.

BTW, the MAC is the 11th toughest conference, ahead of only the Sun Belt.

Anyway, that's the grim story from Phil Steele.  On paper, it is hard to argue with any of it.  If we have players who are capable of doing more, no one has seen it yet.  I believe Coach Clawson has the program on the right track, and we will see this year how resourceful he can be.

Friday, June 25, 2010

BG Garners 2nd Football Verbal

BG has its 2nd Football verbal.  It is Matt Johnson of Bishop McDevitt HS in McDevitt, PA.  From this article, it seems like he had some higher hopes, but only had offers from BG and Temple, and decided to take the sure thing rather than be left with nothing if he waited.

It will be interesting to track how the QB recruiting issue goes.  Coach Clawson has said that we will recruit a QB every year to make sure we don't end up in the situation we are in this year, where we essentially had no experienced players to replace Tyler Sheehan.

At 6'0" 190, Johnson has some eye-popping numbers from his sophomore and junior seasons.

In two years as a starter Johnson has thrown for 4,940 yards and 59 touchdowns. He’s completed 65 percent of his passes and thrown just 18 interceptions in 437 attempts. His career NCAA quarterback rating is a stunning 196.49.

So, welcome to BG, Matt Johnson.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Falcons in the Big 33 Game

The Big 33 game features High School All-Stars from Ohio and Pennsylvania.  It is a pretty big deal, and if you check out their website, you'll see that there are a bunch of alumni who have gone big from the game.  This year, BG had one of the stars, TE Tyler Beck.  Beck is from PA, and he had 7 catches for 77 yards in the game---7 catches led the game.

We lost a starter at TE, too, so if he's ready, perhaps he will get some playing time.

Also in the game was Darius Gilbert, from Hamilton.    No word how he did, but if he anyone saw, I'd be interested in hearing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sheehan Cut....

The Texans cut Tyler Sheehan this morning.  I'm sure he's disappointed, and perhaps he will get another shot elsewhere.  For my money, he earned a shot, which is better than so many others, and he will always be a true Falcon warrior, and this doesn't detract from it one bit.  I especially remember how he took on the role of running QB his junior year, even though that wasn't his style.  Anyway, best of luck Tyler.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy day for football fans

The day is here!  I picked up the Phil Steele preview on the way home tonight.  I'm now prepared for a long night wallow in delicious minutiae.  Smiles all around!

Realigning the Conferences and MAC Bowl Relationships

The Blade has some comments today from AD Greg Christopher, who weighs in on one impact on the MAC from the conference realignment, and that impacts bowl arrangements.

There really are two:

First, the Humanitarian Bowl is current a WAC-MAC tie-in.  That made sense when Boise--the bowl host--was in the WAC, so the article says that logic dictates a new partner for the Humanitarian Bowl.  I don't really see why.  Or, more accurately, I don't see a MORE logical partner, other than the Mountain West, which would only be better for the MAC.  The WAC is severely impacted by the loss of Boise, and becomes a much weaker conference.  However, even if you stay with the WAC, they have plenty of teams in close enough proximity to Boise to make it work, and certainly closer proximity than any other conference.  And if you are only jiggering the conferences because Boise might actually play in the Humanitarian Bowl, I think you have to concede that is unlikely.

Second, the article presents the chance that the MAC could face Nebraska at some time.  Even more likely, however, is that a 12-team Big 10 is more likely to be able to produce a bowl-eligible team for the Motor City Bowl, which they have done only twice, and that Bowl game can become more of what is was supposed to be all along.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Modest Proposal

As I was looking back at the statistics used to measure college football over the past couple of months, I noticed a couple of deficiencies in how things are tracked--specifically for offensive players.

I would like to (modestly) propose two new statistics which would be easy to track and provide a much more solid understanding of what a player has accomplished.  Just to be clear...I think these should appear right in the boxscore next to all the other stats.

1.  Individual First Downs

The basic unit of a football offense is the first down.  Obviously, touchdowns are more important, but first downs lead to touchdowns.  I think if you knew that a particular player was earning a significant number of the team's first downs, it would increase the perception of the contribution.  For example, I believe that Freddie Barnes, in addition to his 155 catches, contributed a significant number of 3rd down conversions for the team.  Once you had this number, you could divide it into the the total offensive first downs for the team (as well as passing and rushing first downs) and get a relative contribution number.

2.  20+ plays

This is another factor that I think is really important.  A 20 yard play is significant, both in terms of real estate but also in terms of momentum and energy.  This doesn't get adequately covered in the LONG category, because that gives you only their longest play, and no idea of how frequently such a play occurred.  It could be captured in average, but might not, especially for a receiver.  This stat could also be aggregated for the team, and that would seem to present us with a new way to evaluate how a team moves the ball and who contributed.

Just two humble and modest suggestions.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Football APR News is good

When Coach Brandon left Bowling Green, one of the things that was on the list to get fixed was the team's APR, which was pretty sad and had caused the program to lose scholarships.

The first returns are in, and the Clawson regime seems to be turning things around.

The single year APR for football jumped from 912 in 2007-08 to 960 for the 2008-09 reporting year, ranking third among all Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools. The multi-year rate climbed 11 points from 920 in 2007-08 to 931 for the 2008-09 reporting year, ranking among the top 30 increases in the country.
Third in the MAC is a good measure.  Nice job to everyone who worked hard for this.

I have always said that in the MAC, there is no reason to choose between winning and academic performance.  You can do both, and that expectation is clear for our program.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Thoughts on Run-Pass Balance, Part II

So, a couple days ago I wrote about run-pass balance, starting with the extreme ends---teams with playcalling mixes of 60% run or 60% pass.  Now, let's look at what happens when teams have more "balanced" playcalling patterns.

First, let's look at teams that "lean" to the run--meaning they run the ball between 50-60% of the time.  There were 46 teams in this category, and 21 of them scored above league average.  Clearly, if the most productive position to be in is to run the ball effectively 60% of the time or more, then this is second best.  Even so, being in this group is no guarantee of success.  In fact, in the aggregate, it scores just slight above the national average.

Boise is the best team in the group in terms of scoring.  Unlike the more extreme running group, running effectively is not much of a key indicator.  Teams with yards per running play more than 10% above the FBS average scored about FBS average 7 times out of 12. Teams between 4% and 8% above outscored the FBS average 10 times out of 10.

Finally, we get to the teams that passed the ball between 40% and 50%.  There were 45 of them and only 17 were above the FBS average.  This is 37.8%, which is slightly worse than the teams that passed the ball more than 60% of the time.  These teams were, in aggregate, more than one point below the FBS average.  On these measures, this is the category you don't want to be in.

It doesn't mean you cannot succeed...UC was in this grouping, as was Texas.

(As an aside, I would have thought in the beginning that this would have been an attractive category.)

To conclude:

  • I started off looking at this because I believe that play mix is not the best way to measure balance.  
  • I was a little surprised to find out that it does matter a little--teams with run-heavy play mixes are more likely to score more than teams with pass-heavy play mixes.
  • However, with the exception of teams running the ball more than 60% of the time, there does not appear to be any category which produces teams even scoring above the FBS average.

Next, I will look at yards per play balance, which (I theorize) is the better indicator.