Saturday, April 30, 2011

MAC Suffers in NFL Draft

Giants Fan at Todays' NFL Draft...
The draft is over, and it was not a good day for the MAC.  The MAC had only 3 players drafted, its lowest since 1996, when only 1 player was drafted.

Two of the players were Temple Owls.  First was D-Tackle Muhammad Wilkinson, who went in the first round to the New York Jets.  The last first round pick from the MAC was two seasons ago when NIU's Larry English was drafted by the Chargers.

Jaiquawn Jarrett was then picked in the 2nd round by the Eagles, staying in the town where he attended college.  In 2009, the MAC had players go in the first and second, when English was picked (as above) and Louis Delmas was drafted, but not into the NFL, but rather, the Detroit Lions.

Last year, no MAC players was chosen until the 3rd.

Things were then quiet until the 5th round when Buffalo CB Josh Thomas was picked by the Cowboys.

This was not a huge surprise.  The ceiling was 4--I thought Nick Bellore had a shot at being drafted, but he was not.

Ordinarily, we would now watch the Internet to see what players might get shots as UDFAs or camp players.  But, with the lockout, there will be no such signings.

The Sun Belt had 5 players picked, including Troy's Jernel Jernigan.  C-USA had 6.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MAC Draft Preview

The Draft brings out the best in all of us
Amidst the NFL's chaos, the Draft now comes up tomorrow.  Let's take a look at what is ahead for the Mid-American Conference...the day has certainly changed since the heady days of the early 2000s.  It will likely be a very slow day for the MAC.  Last year, the MAC had 5 guys picked.  There have not been 4 picked since 1999, and I see that as the ceiling for this year.

The MAC does have a potential first rounder.  Temple's DE Muhammad Wilkinson is ranked among the top 20 players in the draft and is a likely first round pick.  He is the top-ranked non-AQ player in the draft (ESPN has him have to go to #36 to find the next one, who is TCU QB Andy Dalton.).

I think two other MAC players are locks to be drafted.  Jaiquawn Jarrett, also from Temple, should be drafted.  Jarrett is the second ranked S in the draft, and that should guarantee he gets a shot.

The other player I am fairly sure will be drafted is Josh Thomas of Buffalo.  This is, in a sense, kind of surprising to me, because he didn't get much notice in the MAC.  In fact, he wasn't All-MAC first, second, or third team, and yet he could be drafted?  His numbers are not eye-popping, but he also ran track, which has to get the NFL excited.   But, at the same time, you'd have to think a guy who was good enough to get this kind of notice would be All-MAC.

Anyway, the other guy who I think will be drafted late is Nick Bellore of CMU.  He is a two-time first-team All-MAC performer...

I do understand that FBS play doesn't necessarily translate to the NFL...Bellore is a good case in point.  In fact, when you look through the list of guys who are not likely to be drafted (Lainhart, Spann, Shannon, for example) and you just think, you can be a really good MAC player and not get a sniff at the NFL.

One final note...we usually look at this stuff in two phases, the draft, and then who gets a UDFA shot.  With the lockout chaos that is underway, it is not clear what will happen with that.  If the lockout is back in force, there will be no UDFA signings, though.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Future Falcon Shines in All-Star Game

Future Falcon D-lineman Hunter Maynard had a big day last week.  He was the south's defensive MVP in the North-South All-Star Game, which was played in Ohio Stadium on Friday.  He had 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 QB hurries, 1 caused fumble , and a total of 6 tackles.  A report on said that he was often double and triple teamed.  For reference, Maynard is from Columbus, and was once a Ball State verbal but re-opened things when Stan Parrish was let go.

The same report said Future Falcon C Alex Huettel also played well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Offensive efficiency

So, in the world of football, offensive efficiency has been a tough nut to crack.  Obviously, the objective of the game is crystal a team outscoring its opponents.  When evaluating one side of the ball, is the team contributing to winning games.

We can always look at scoring to get this answer.  (And, I note, we should take out defensive and special teams touchdowns when we do it.)

The next measure also seems pretty clear....yards per play is a key measure of how efficient an offense is.  Teams that gains yards should score.  When they don't...or when they score without getting yards, or out of proportion, then we might start to wonder why?  Turnovers, 3rd down plays, poor red zone execution---these could all be potential culprits.

So, people are trying to figure this out.

For example, the New York Times evaluated Oregon's offense on a yards per minute of possession metric.

Phil Steele has been weighing in over the past week on two other possible measures...points per play and yards per play.

Note:  I do know that the football outsiders probably have the best measure...they evaluate each play and the progress made toward a first down, and develop efficiency that way.  It requires play level datasets, however, which I don't have, so the search is on for meaning in aggregated data.

Also:  this is so much easier in basketball, where the Four Factors have kind of ended the debate.  I'm looking for something on that order here.

One of the risks we run when we have data is the irresistible urge to start dividing shit into other shit and then stroking our chin and looking thoughtfully at the ratios that result.  We may or may not have learned anything.

This is a long standing interest of mine, so I'm going to take some time during the off-season to dig into it.

So, we start.  I ran the MAC stats for the measures proposed above, just to see what we came up with.  Stats are MAC-only games, time of possession is rounded down in all cases (ie, seconds are eliminated) and we are using (contrary to my statement above) all scoring.

Here are the rankings for each team.

So, a few thoughts.

The reliability measure shows the number of places, in total, the rankings are.  So, on points per minute, the rankings are across 13 teams are off only six....and for points per play, there is only a difference of 2.

Conclusion:  There's not much to be gained by dividing points into other stuff.

We do see some differences on yards per point, and yards per minute.

Yards per minute is a measure I am not very enthusiastic about.  It might show what Oregon do with the cardio-offense, but it is only one way to win a game.  You can just as easily control the ball, score the same amount, and actually have a better shot at winning.

Next, a quick comparison how of teams rank in points scored vs. yards per play....who overachieved....who underachieved.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stroh Center!

Latest video taken of the Stroh Center...things definitely seem to be coming along....can't wait for Game 1.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Deal Done! The Minutemen are Coming!!

So, the deal is done.  It appeared obvious from the day it started last November, and now it has been consummated.  Massachusetts will play football in the MAC.

A few basic facts.

They start in 2012, but cannot compete for the title or a bowl game until '13.
They cannot compete for the CAA or FCS title in '11.
They will also play two home games and two away games against MAC teams in men's and women's basketball.

A couple of other notes.

First, this school has had a lot of success at the FCS level...and, my contention has always been that teams at the top levels of FCS could easily compete with teams near the bottom of FBS.  And UMass has clearly had success...

The maroon and white have captured 22 conference championships and appeared in eight NCAA FCS/I-AA Tournaments. Program highlights include winning the 1998 I-AA National Championship, playing in three national championship games and appearing in the postseason three times in the last decade. In 2010 UMass had seven alumni playing in the National Football League including second-round NFL Draft selection Vladimir Ducasse of the New York Jets.

They played UM the week before BG did this year and almost one; I am certain they are better this very minute than Temple was when they joined the MAC.

The other exciting thing is that UMass will be playing their home games (or almost all of them) at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots.  This is, at one leve, pretty amazing.  Foxboro is 90 miles away from Amherst...I highly doubt any D1 football team has ever consistently played so far from its home.  Anyway, there may be some transportation for UMass does show how badly UMass wants to be a FBS program.

I have been contacted by a UMass blog, Minutemen Nation...looks like a great addition to the MAC blog space.  They had a post today covering the initial announcement at Gillette today...  He starts the post with this line...

Today was arguably the greatest day in the history of UMass Athletics.

He also said this...

It was Holub who initially approached McCutcheon with the challenge of moving our football program to Division 1-A in an effort to increase the image of UMass as the flagship school of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

So, they're pumped.

I wrote yesterday, I think this is a good thing for the MAC...I don't have the issue for football-only members that others do...

Coach Clawson was trapped in a media scrum, and had this to say about the MAC's new addition

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Welcome UMass--Updated

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Tomorrow, the thing goes down.  Not that thing....the other thing.  You know.  With our friend....with the funny hat.

The MAC has a 3:30 presser tomorrow with the University of Massachusetts, presumably to announce that UMASS will transition to the FBS and play football in the MAC.  This has been rumored since December, though it always appeared very, very likely.

We can anticipate the UMASS will come in as a football-only school, like Temple is.  Whether the MAC gets scheduling preference for basketball--as they did with Temple--remains to be seen.

MAC fans typically despise the football-only arrangement.  I have heard the quote that Temple is "sleeping on the couch."  Well, OK.  But here in the real world, we have to know this.  I cannot imagine that either school wants to move all their sports to the MAC---both for competitive reasons and for travel.  Both have strong basketball commitments, and the A-10 is a top flight conference.  (UMASS plays in the CAA for football.)

And, by the way, do you think the MAC wants to be sending its baseball teams to Amherst, MA.  Didn't think so.

It is still good for the MAC.  First, if for no other reason, we are getting to an even number of teams, which means 7 in each division, which is logistically much more manageable.  (At times under these circumstances the MAC has decided not to count intra-division games, but that isn't the plan this time, IIRC).  And, UMASS can raise the competitive level of the conference, as Temple has and will.  It gives us bigger geography.

Is UMASS just using us as a stepping stone, ala Marshall and UCF.  Honest to god, who isn't?.  We're all in it for ourselves.  Who's using who?  Got me...


First, Elton Alexander of the PD is reporting that UMass will have the same deal as Temple and will be required to schedule MAC teams in basketball.

Second, and perhaps the biggest issue to BG fans, would be the issue of divisions.  UMASS is clearly a team for the MAC East, which means that one of the East teams has to go...and they're looking at the MAC's perpetual division-movers, the BG Falcons.  There is some web scuttlebutt that the conference might go North-South, so that remains to be seen.

I don't really care if BG is in the East or West....I like playing Miami every year and we already play Toledo every year.  I thought we were getting a good thing going with Buffalo, and Miami is a natural rival.  Now, we pick up NIU and the Michigan schools along with Ball State.  All in all, I guess I like the East better but it isn't a big deal.

Problem comes with basketball.  You would have both non-basketball teams in the same division, meaning that you either play basketball with unmatched divisions (seemingly a logistical nightmare, at least the way games are scheduled today), or you have a team play in one division in football and one in basketball...for example, BG could play in the West for football and the East for basketball.  That seems illogical, but there's no real reason why it couldn't work....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Game Report

So, the Spring game is done, and the sports we follow here are pretty buttoned up until Fall camp starts for the football team.  A few observations from watching....

First, as always, when you scrimmage yourself, you cannot always tell if success is good play or poor execution.  With that in mind...

Coach Clawson said after the game that the defensive line is clearly ahead of the offensive line, and that was very much true.  The first half was dominated by the defense or a putrid performance by the offense however you look at it.  Our QBs weren't getting the ball out, and when they did they were not accurate and the pocket was collapsing.  The running game was completely dominated.

In all fairness, there were ridiculous gale force winds, not that such a thing could never happen in the Fall.

Football begins up front, and BG will be much more competitive if they can stop the run, so the development of the defensive line is really important to the team being competitive.  Ted Ouellette is really coming on, and there were two potential regulars not playing due to injury.  Merely adding the ability to stop the run and pressure the passer would improve this team a lot.

The flip side is that while Coach says that the offensive line has made some progress, it has work to do.  The code there is that while we have added depth, the offensive line still has a ways to go.  Similar to the defensive line, the single thing that would bring this offense around would be the line, and it sounds like we are not there yet.

The offense played much better in the second half.  Coach said that was because we went to more max-protect routes, which gave our QBs time to work.  Both of them ripped off some big plays, though I thought Schilz was stronger.  When he got in rhythm he was very effective.  In fact, I was outright impressed by his arm strength on a couple of passes, something I forgot about and/or didn't see last year.

Hurley was also good in spots.  He took off and ran a lot, which might not be something he would do so much if they could tackle him.  On the other hand, he is from Pittsburgh.  He's got great size and is athletic.

It would appear that the challenge for the team would be to be able to get a wider-repertoire.  I don't think we are going to compete when we are mostly in max protect.

The running game also improved in the second half though dismal for the whole game.  If anyone really emerged out of our 4-man rotation it was Jamel Martin, who showed explosive moves a couple of times.  I though Pettigrew and Hopgood also had a couple nice moments when they were able to get some space.

Finally, on the defense, I thought we tackled much better.  Obviously this has to happen against real competition, but I thought I saw more fundamental open field tackles than I saw in the know the kind, where the defender gets the ankles and brings the runner down in unspectacular but solid fashion.

And we made a FG.  I was all like, OMG!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Elton Alexander: Interesting post on MAC Coaching...Ramsey Update

I don't always think Elton Alexander thinks he is right in how he covers MAC sports....he has the college beat for the Plain Dealer...but he published a pretty interesting article about MAC Coaches yesterday.

The premise is this:  the teams with the most consistent success in the MAC have hired their coaches from within as opposed to from outside.  These coaches have been successful because they know what it takes to win in the MAC, where budget cuts are commonplace.

As examples, he cites:

  • Keith Dambrot
  • Charlie Coles
  • Geno Ford
  • Steve Hawkins

As for success, he notes:

Those programs have been the MAC's best for the last seven years; and seven of the last eight MAC Players of the Year have come from those four teams.

Finally, the evil genius lets us into his mind for a minute...

"Being familiar with the league, from the inside, is very important," Coles said. "The MAC is so different. We're so close [geographically], for the most part. It is not the normal league. You have four or five rivals, and the way it's set up now with divisions, you play most of them back-to-back.

"Unless you have gone through that, just knowing the lay of the land, knowing what you're up against going into Ohio University or Kent, or Akron, there's a tough go of it.

"I've seen a lot of guys come in over the years [who] underestimated what it took to win in this league. You have got to know what you are getting into; you can't just think you know."

That's a very interesting quote....essentially, it says that the MAC is a very tough conference to win in, despite the fact that it is not highly rated.  And I think he's probably right...a coach at a stronger conference might think it is easy to come in and make your bones in the MAC...but this appears to indicate otherwise.


Charlie Coles?  An assistant.  I had forgotten all about that.  It is hard to imagine.


In three of the four cases, the assistant coaches in question took over for coaches who left after succeeding for greener pastures.  In other words, they ascended from within at a time when the program was strong.

Only Keith Dambrot took over for a coach who was fired (Hipsher).

My only point is that it is much harder to promote from within when you decide the program has to change directions and you blow it up.

If there is an exception to the rule, it is Ohio U.  They have 2 conference championships in the period in question with two coaches (O'Shea and Groce) neither of whom had MAC experience.

They even had the lion's share of the division winners through that time, with BG, Buffalo, and NIU stealing one here and there...UT had one too, but they were coached by Stan Joplin who had a long tenure in the MAC.

Looked at in this light, you would have to take a close look at MAC hiring models.  If you are blowing up your program, you would want to find someone with MAC experience, even if they weren't at your school.

For example, Mark Montgomery coached for 5 years at CMU before heading to MSU and then to that going to allow him to beat this trend. (The only other example of this strategy is not as good....Ernie Ziegler did coach for one year at BG earlier in his career).

Anyway, small samples can be deceiving, and anybody can do something for the first time...but, I think it is a pretty thought-provoking piece.  You hate to think of the MAC being that in-bred, but perhaps that is what is required to win here.

It is probably something for MAC fans to think about when they want that "sexy" new hire...the name you know might be the best choice.

UPDATE:  As if in comment, Charles Ramsey, who was an assistant at EMU for 3 seasons early in his career, was fired by the school today.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

College Basketball....2010-11

This was, for me, a very enjoyable college basketball season...more so than normal.  I attribute it to a few different things (maybe four) coming together at about the same time...

The first was the Falcon team I love.  It was certainly a very bad start to the season, and just when I was despairing and thinking that the program had not moved forward past where it was when Dakich left, the team showed how it could play, and we had a little mid-winter lift.  True, that streak ended up being the exception to the rule, sandwiched as it was by two pretty weak periods of play.  But it was a lift nonetheless, and it was exciting to be playing meaningful MAC games into the second round of East games...and, exciting to think that, in fact, we might be on the upswing again, though that is (as I have written) far from certain.

The second was the emotions stirred by the last games at Anderson Arena.  I've written on this enough already, too, but I think I appreciated the game more because I was seeing it for the last time in the place that has defined it for me throughout my entire life.  So, I think I appreciated what the game means to me more in this context, as a goodbye, but also as a salute to so many memories.

The third is, oddly, ESPNU.  I know that the four-letter network is not known for being appreciated by mid-major fans, but it did guarantee to me that on most winter nights, I could tune in and see a mid-major basketball game being played by some athletes who love the game.  Many people have been writing that the UConn-Butler final proves that fans should not watch regular season college basketball....that only the post-season matters.  I would say two things.  First, you might just love the game.  But, fine, we're talking casual fans.  And I understand (and agree) that watching Big 10 games where most teams will get in the tournament with an average regular season does render the games less dramatic.

Not so in your one-bid conferences.  These are year-long cage matches that are eventually settled in the conference tournament, but there are no real consolation prizes, and when that much is at stake, seeding matters, and the regular season matters.  ESPNU helped me see games in this sphere that would never have been on TV before, and I enjoyed it.

Finally, the last thing that made this season so great was  Published by Kyle Whelliston, this side is nothing less than the spiritual home of mid-major basketball, written by our poet laureate.  In case you are not familiar, for the last seven seasons Kyle has seen 100 mid-major games, much of the time funded by his readers.  What has emerged is a stunning travelogue of the places and people that make this little part of the world special--and all the more special for the obscurity they work in.

The blog is stunning, filled with incredible writing that is funny and smart.  The soul-searching pieces when Kyle was let go by ESPN are downright inspirational to anyone who thinks they are at a crossroads and trying to figure out what really matters and what is spiritual junk anyone who is asking who he is.

I also read the book (One Beautiful Season) which is a collection of the posts from the Year 7 blog.  I highly recommend has a million books like this, but not basketball.

Midmajority publishes from November 1 until the last mid-major team is knocked from the NCAA tournament...which was late the last two years.  The final post is called the Epilogue, and this year's is especially moving, an amazing 9,000 words on the season that just passed.

Part of that is because this is the last year on the road and Kyle is taking a one-year sabbatical.  He details his reasons in the epilogue, which is must read.  As unsustainable as it was, midmajority has a great run, and let's hope it keeps moving forward in meaningful if new ways.

So for all those reasons, I had a great 2010-11 season.  I certainly grew to appreciate the game more than I have in many years.  Thanks to everyone who made it so.  

Monday, April 04, 2011

Today, we are all Bulldogs...

Bring home the title to the Mid-Major nation...we are behind you, heart and soul.

Go Butler Go!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Quick Scrimmage Report

On a day that certainly feels more right for football than baseball, just a quick report after listening to Coach Clawson's comments after a full-scale tackle football scrimmage by the Falcons.

First, right now, the top WRs are Jordan, Hodges and Cooper.  However, Shaun Joplin, an uber-talented player who has been working his way into our system, had a killer scrimmage.  He had a couple of good grabs, and a huge catch and run in a two-minute drill.  From what we have always heard, he has game-changing skills, and makes us much harder to cover.  He adds a lot if he contributes this year, and with most of our WRs being seniors, he can easily be a featured guy next season.

Coach was also happy with how our RB position is going.  Jordan Hopgood is back from last year, but he singled out John Pettigrew as having a good day.  Pettigrew is a true junior who played a little as a freshman and then seemed to disappear a little last year, and was, in fact, passed by Hopgood who came here at WR. So, he seems to be re-emerging.  Coach also mentions R-Fr. Erique Geiger and Jamel Martin as being potential contributors.

In the end, look for a RB by committee approach for the Falcons, and a lot of "internal competition."

Finally, coach was happy with the O-line, which he said played as a unit during the scrimmage.  It is no secret to BG's season...BG must play better on both sides of the line, run and stop the run, and that will open up things so we can see what we have at QB.

If you want to watch it for yourself, you can click here...