Wednesday, August 31, 2011

MAC Blogger Roundtable--Week 1

1) Lets start with the new blood. There are several new coaches in the conference, which coach was the best get and why? 

Darrell Hazell.  If Hazell had stayed around, I think he'd be coaching the Scarlet and Grey, and I think there's a decent chance he will be next year.  I like Hazell to effect an immediate improvement in an under performing team.

 2) Lets look at the old blood? Which coach is the most likely to be dumped after the season and which is most likely to be plucked away by a big AQ school? 

You know....I have a shocking prediction.  No MAC coach will be fired after this season.   How about that?  The only one I can see is Cubit, but the other coaches are all pretty new.  Almost every coach in the conference is in their first three years.

Now, as for being plucked away...Beckman, Hazell and Solich.  In that order.

 3) Which somewhat realistically winnable non conference game would give the MAC the most publicity? What are the odds of the MAC team winning that game 

The best opportunity will come on September 16, 2011, when the UT Rockets play the Boise State Broncos.  Boise is the darling of everyone's eye, and they have a legit shot at making the BCS game this year.  In fact, in a lot of ways, they have an odds-on shot.  For this to work, they need to beat Georgia in the opener, and then head to UT.  The Rockets are very tough at home, have a solid team, and the place will be rocking.  How about the Rockets be the ones to take Boise out of contention?

Odds:  22.76565%.

 4) What do you think of the UMass addition and how would you realign the divisions?

I'm for it.  I know people object to the football-only nature of their membership.  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.  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...

Finally, we will get some solid basketball dates out of UMASS just as we did with Temple.


Ball State


 5) Who wins the East and what is their key game along that journey 

Kent wins the East.  Their key win is in Athens on October 1.

 6) Who wins the West and what is their key game along that journey 

NIU wins the West.  Key win....Glass Bowl, November 1.

 7) Rank the teams first to last

  1. NIU
  2. UT
  3. WMU
  4. Kent
  5. Temple
  6. Miami
  7. OU
  8. CMU
  9. BG
  10. Ball State
  11. Buffalo
  12. EMU
  13. Akron

25 Questions about Vandalism

What is their body of work?

I have to believe that Idaho fans are feeling pretty good.  From 2001 to 2008, Idaho had 4 seasons with one win or two.  Not one was a winning season---a Dennis Erickson 4 win year was the high water mark.  In 2009, they went 8-5 and beat BG in the Humanitarian Bowl and while they fell back to 6-7 last season, they are clearly on the right vector.

In other news, they beat WMU in K-zoo 33-13 last year, in 2009 won 34-31 at NIU, and beat BG in the H-Bowl, leaving a three-game winning streak over the MAC.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?


Who are their statistical leaders returning?

QB Brian Reader was #9 in passing yards/game in a back up role.
K Trey Farquhar was #5 in kick scoring.
WR Justin Veltung was #10 in Kickoff returns.
P Bobby Cowan led the WAC in punting.
LB Robert Siavii was #8 in tackles, #6 in tackles for loss and #1 forcing 4 fumbles.
LB Tre'Shawn Robinson was #11 in tackles and #13 in TFL.

What is their turnover ratio?

It isn't great and it hasn't stopped them.  In fact, they were +2 last year and -8 in 2009 when they had their first winning record in the 2000's.


How is their QB Play?

Nathan Enderle, who is currently with the Chicago Bears, spent some time shredding people, but he is gone now.  They have a pretty good replacement, though.  He is senior Brian Reader and he did throw 70-some passes last year, completing a higher percentage than Enderle and having a higher QB efficiency rating, though you don't know about the game situations.  He did start 2 games as a sophomore.  On paper, he would appear to be well set to move in and wear Enderle's shoes.

What is their scoring and yards per play?

Their scoring was down to 26 ppg (from 32 the year before), but both those numbers are high water marks in recent history.  They averaged 5.5 yards per play last year, which is pretty good.

Can they run the ball?

They did not do a great job on the run last year (3.1 yards per rush), but they have 3 of their to 4 rushers back as well as a transfer from Arizona State.  In my opinion, a key to the game is if BG defends the run...if the Vandals establish the run, you are looking at a long night.

Do they pass the ball?

Their QB is new and they have two WRs injured, so this is at least a slightly open question.  Their identity certainly is as a team that can throw.

How is their run/pass balance?

Last year, they ran the ball on only 40% of their plays, which is a really pass-oriented offense.  Coach said they were more balanced in 2009.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

Last year they converted 43% which is really, really good.

Do they score in the red zone?

They had a high scoring percentage but a lot of field goals.  They averaged only 4 points per trip, which is not especially good.  Of course, that was last year.

Do they protect the quarterback?

They were sacked 45 times last year.  They did throw a ton of passes.  They were sacked on 7.5% of their passing attempts, which is pretty high.  (In fact, over 10% of their passing plays results in sacks or INTs).  Our blog swap did reveal that they are optimistic about their offensive line.

This is a team with a strong offensive history and some excellent playmakers.  They are not entirely healthy, and have a new QB who from all appearances is well prepared.  This is an good test right out of the box for our young defense.  To get anywhere, they will need to stop the run.


Topline: Scoring and yards per play.

Last year, they allowed 28 points per game, which is the best they have had in years.  They did, however, allow 5.9 yards per play, which is a lot, suggesting some good fortune in those scoring numbers.

Do they defend the run effectively?

They allowed 5.0 yards a rush last year, which is a lot.  (BG allowed 5.3).

Could they be passed on?

They allowed 60% completions and allowed a higher efficiency ranking than they gained, even with Enderle.  Their yard per game is held down by the number of rushing attempts against them.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

They did reasonably well, at 36%

Do they defend in the red zone?

They were excellent in the red zone (accounting for the points per game that are better than you might suspect).  They allowed less than 4 points per trip.

Do they pressure the QB?

They had 31 sacks, which given the small number of attempts against them, was pretty good.  They got sacks on 6.87% of passing attempts.

The defense certainly appears to have improved.  They are probably not as good as their scoring numbers indicate, however, and Phil Steele projects ongoing defensive line issues.  It may be that if the Falcons have a chance to show what the O-line can do, this will be it.

Special Teams:


Their returning punter led the WAC last season.

Punt Return?

It was not a strong point last year and is hard to project.


Their kicker, Trey Farquhar is on the Lou Groza list.  He is very accurate and has a career long of 54 yards and that was outside.  He was 14 of 17 inside 40 yards last year.


Bunch of touchbacks for this guy.

Kickoff Return?

They were strong last year, but with Veltung questionable, it takes a little hit.

Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

Well, a few things.  Idaho has an advantage in their home stadium, especially an odd environment like the Kibbie Dome.  They are looking at a bowl berth....if that's going to happen, they really need this win, even in a Boise-free WAC.  They are picked by Steele for 5th in the WAC, and if so, it certainly does not make them impossible to beat.  For BG, it is a test for how far the team has come from last year...on both sides of the ball, and mostly upfront.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Internet Reveals Idaho Injuries; Akey Upset

First, it has been no secret that Idaho had some injuries this year, we talked about it on our blog swap with today.  Things seemed to be coming around....until some guy posted on a message board that WR Preston Davis was out with a foot injury.  Apparently, this was something that the Vandals were hoping to keep quiet.

Akey was perturbed that the Davis injury was leaked on an Internet message board. The fifth-year coach, who normally is up front about injuries, said he didn’t want to tip off Bowling Green about it.
Read more:

Here's Akey's direct quote.
“I didn’t think we needed to let everyone know, but people who come to our practice evidently want to let everyone know about those things,” he said. “Our practices will be closed to the public until further notice. I can’t believe we would do this to ourselves.”
Read more:
Not gonna lie, it makes me smile a little.

Anyway, beyond Davis, the more serious injury is WR Justin Veltung who lead the team with 10 TDs last year.    He has a turf toe.  Akey (now unburdening his soul) says that they'd like to have him back "but that is more hopeful that realistic."

So, if nothing else, the internet in Moscow is a leaky sieve with at least one miscreant, and Idaho will be down 1-2 WRs tomorrow.

Vandal Blog Swap!

So, in a tradition that has spawned back two years or so, we are trying to go blog swaps with out of conference opponents--and maybe some in-conference games too.  The format is simple.  We are each other five questions and post them on the other's blog.

Here, we swap posts with Pat Hague of, an Idaho site that has excellent content on the Vandals.  I'd encourage you to check it out.....and, if you want, you can see how I answered his five questions.

1.  Idaho football had some pretty rough years before Akey arrived, had a really nice 09 season and finished just under 500 last year.  Do you think the Idaho fan base is satisfied with the vector the program is on?

Yes, most Vandal fans are satisfied with the direction the program is headed.  Most Vandal fans are also keenly aware of the work Robb Akey and his staff have done to rebuild this program at the Division 1A (FBS) level.  He inherited a program that was reeling, having churned through four head coaches in a four year period.  The team had essentially lost all faith in coaching at Idaho, and the program was in desperate need of a complete overhaul.

Coach Akey came in, cleaned house, and rebuilt the program from the ground up.  He told the fan base it would take about four years to get the program where it needs to be to compete at this level, and he now has what appears to be a solid program.  Going into his fifth year at the helm, Akey has created a “family” environment on a team that, prior to his arrival, had the look of anything but a family.  Like any family it isn’t perfect, but it is far better than it was.

The Idaho fan base can now realistically expect the team to compete for bowl invitations on a regular basis, rather than just hoping for a winning record from time to time.  This alone is a significant shift in the Idaho program, and can be attributed to what Akey and his staff have accomplished throughout the rebuilding process, and where they have to program headed now.

2.  Looking first at the offense...when we played in 09 you had an excellent attack, and last year you scored a little less and were less effective with the run.  What do you see for the offense with this year, especially with Enderle gone?  Are there high hopes for Ryan Bass?

In 2009 Idaho fans got to see what a good quarterback could do when operating behind an effective offensive line (which included a first round NFL draft pick in Mike Iupati and four seniors across the front), a pounding running attack with many options, and a wide receiving corps that could stretch a field when needed.  It was impressive.

Then last year Idaho struggled to move the ball behind a rebuilt and inexperienced offensive line, becoming one-dimensional – abandoning the run and focused almost exclusively on passing the ball.

This year Idaho’s success rests squarely on the shoulders of the offensive line, and it has the markings to be a good unit.  Bookended between senior tackles Matt Cleveland (6-4, 310 on the left side) and Tyrone Novikoff (6-7, 314 on the right), the Vandals return four starters across the front line.  Senior left guard Sam Tupua (6-2, 334) gives Idaho its most experience inside and an effective punch on the left side, while sophomore right guard Jordan Johnson (6-5, 315), who was thrown into battle last year at Nebraska, picked up valuable experience in five starts on the season.  Idaho will break in a rookie this fall, redshirt freshman center Mike Marboe (6-2, 305), but he comes to Idaho highly rated (ranked No.18 high school center by and has been impressive in spring and fall camp.  This unit should be more cohesive this fall.

If the line comes together, Idaho has a solid stable of tailbacks with a variety of strengths to again make the running game a key component of the offensive attack.  Seniors Princeton McCarty (three years in the starting rotation) and Kama Bailey (a speedy utility man that can line up at tailback or slot) bring a wealth of experience to the backfield and have good speed in the open field.  Junior Troy Vital is the wildcard here.  He came to Idaho with much hype out of Copperas Cove (Texas) and has been working into the rotation.  He’s shed about 20 pounds from his frame this season (now 6-2, 198), so it is uncertain exactly what his role is going into 2011.  What we expect, though, is to see more of him this year.  And then there is the heralded Ryan Bass, a 4-star prospect as a high school senior who signed with Arizona State and played as a true freshman.  This athlete seems to have it all;  explosive speed, agility in traffic, good size, and nice vision.  We anticipate seeing a lot of Bass this fall, but how the rotation with this entire group plays out remains to be seen.

The passing attack takes on a new complexion this year as QB Brian Reader, a senior, gets his first shot as the starter.  He is good and probably would have started sooner had he not been backing up 5th round NFL draft pick Nathan Enderle the last two years.  He fully understands the system and his role as a leader on the team, and will have a nice array of targets to throw the ball to this fall.  Idaho uses the tightend heavily in the passing attack, and sophomores Taylor Elmo and Mike LaGrone will get plenty of looks.  Down the field, speedster Justin Veltung headlines a group that includes proven seniors in Preston Davis and Armauni Johnson.  There are also some new faces in the group – led by JC transfer Mike Smith – who could make an impact this fall as well.

The recipe for offensive success for Idaho is fairly simple.  If the offensive line is effective, Idaho should have a nice variety of weapons to choose from to have a potent offense again in 2011.

3.  Coach Clawson mentioned in his presser this week that the Vandal defense had been improving every year.  What can we expect to see?  Blitzing?  Base defense?  Strength stopping the run or the pass?

In the last four years Idaho’s defense has made strides, bringing in and developing better players at each position.  But depth was often lacking, and led to frustrating lapses or breakdowns during a game.  More to the point, there was a significant drop off from the first to second unit, making Idaho more vulnerable for big plays – as evidenced by what Bowling Green did to Idaho’s defense in 2009.

For 2011 the biggest improvement should be felt on the defensive line.  It is too early to tell who will emerge as “the best” along the front, but certainly senior defensive tackle Michael Cosgrove and junior rush end Benson Mayowa have to be at the top of the list.  Beyond those two, it isn’t so much who will top the chart at the other DL positions, but the fact that there is the size, strength, and speed throughout the chart to compete.  Several of the players expected to make an impact this fall will be young, but they still bring a lot to the table.

Out of Idaho’s base 4-3 alignment, the Vandals like to blitz and showed some interesting packages in spring camp.  But so much of that depends on the defensive line being disruptive and taking care of business.  If the DL is effective, look for Idaho to focus on stopping the run first with a linebacking unit that is the most veteran on the team.  Idaho lost a gem in senior  weakside linebacker Robert Siavii who went down for the year with a knee injury in spring camp (he is redshirting this year).  But  there is strength in this unit, led by senior middle linebacker Tre’Shawn Robinson and senior outside linebackers Homer Mauga, Korey Toomer, and Conrad Scheidt who are explosive to the ball and are effective as a run stoppers.

Where Idaho really needs to improve in 2011 is eliminating the big play.  So often in 2010 the Vandals would get opponents into 3rd and long situations, only to give up huge plays, and often through the air.  The breakdown would occur in all facets (DL, LB, and DB), but the results were too often disastrous.  With two seniors and two juniors set to start at cornerback and safety, Idaho should be better across the board in the defensive backfield.  Just as with the defensive line and linebackers, the drop-off from the first to second unit in the backfield should also be less substantial.  If the defensive line and linebackers can put on an effective rush, look for Idaho’s defensive backs to press more, show more nickel looks, and keep opposing receivers in front of them.

4.  I have seen in some media coverage that Idaho is having some injury issues in camp.  Can the Falcons expect to see a Vandal team at full strength?

For whatever reason, Idaho’s spring and fall camps seem to have resulted in more injuries than in years past.  During spring Idaho lost it’s top weakside linebacker (Robert Siavii) and also the top free safety (Thaad Thompson).  This fall the offensive line has been dealing with its own array of bumps and bruises, with three of Idaho’s top five linemen being held out of contact drills at one point.

But for most of the last two weeks the team has been practicing at full strength.  Barring an unforeseen setback, the team is expected to be at full strength for the season opener this Thursday night in Moscow.

5.  The WAC has probably undergone as much change as any conference...and will in coming years.  What do you see as the future for the WAC 

That is a good question, and a difficult one to answer.  Depending primarily on whether Texas A&M goes to the SEC or not, the results of that change would like touch off another massive conference realignment waterfall.  Depending on the scenario, the WAC could again be forced to bring in more members simply to remain viable.  Right now the conference is adding the University of Texas – San Antonio and Texas State as football playing members to replace Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada (all leaving for the MWC after this year).  Those two teams will join Idaho, Utah State, New Mexico State, San Jose State, and Louisiana Tech to form a seven-team football conference in 2012 (Seattle University, the University of Texas – Arlington, and the University of Denver also join in 2012 to give the conference 10 basketball members in 2012).

We know that the conference is not done adding new football members, and we anticipate at least two invitations being extended sometime in the next 12 months.

What can – and will – throw a wrench into any WAC expansion plans is another round of major conference realignment.  Louisiana Tech is the most eastern member of the conference and would have to be a serious consideration for Conference USA if that conference is raided.  Looking more westward, if members are plucked from the Mountain West again (such as Utah to the PAC-12 this year, TCU to the Big East in 2012, and BYU as an independent this year), several WAC schools could again be looked at to fill the void(s).

Until the next round of realignment occurs, we know the Western Athletic Conference will be looking to bolster its own football standing again.  They have no alternative.

Although the names of the new institutions are not “house-hold names,” the WAC has tapped into some sales markets with outstanding potential (Dallas, Denver, and Seattle among the top TV markets in the country) to start rebranding the conference.  The additions of these large schools (several with enrollments of over 30,000 students) in major cities were made to appeal to the networks and improve the WAC’s TV contract, but also to attract other new members who can further solidify the conference.

Predicting what the WAC membership will look like in five years is a difficult exercise, especially with so much potential change on the table.  What we do know is that the conference will continue to adapt to the changes, just as it has since it was formed in 1962.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Week One Blog Poll is out!!!

College Football Rankings 2011

Results for Week 1

# School Points/blog SD Delta
1 Alabama Crimson Tide (42) 24.33 2.21 --
2 Oklahoma Sooners (39) 24.01 1.28 --
3 Oregon Ducks (7) 22.39 1.44 --
4 Boise St. Broncos (1) 19.32 4.17 --
5 Florida St. Seminoles (2) 19.26 2.84 --
6 LSU Tigers 18.87 3.93 --
7 Stanford Cardinal (1) 18.33 3.83 --
8 Wisconsin Badgers 17.20 3.52 --
9 Nebraska Cornhuskers 15.95 3.67 --
10 Texas A&M Aggies 15.49 3.92 --
11 Virginia Tech Hokies 14.54 4.34 --
12 South Carolina Gamecocks 14.22 3.23 --
13 Oklahoma St. Cowboys 14.04 4.64 --
14 Arkansas Razorbacks 11.95 4.11 --
15 TCU Horned Frogs 11.30 4.65 --
16 Michigan St. Spartans 8.01 4.38 --
17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 7.97 4.85 --
18 Georgia Bulldogs 7.41 5.00 --
19 Ohio St. Buckeyes 6.59 4.50 --
20 Mississippi St. Bulldogs 5.30 4.43 --
21 West Virginia Mountaineers 4.64 3.86 --
22 Missouri Tigers 4.29 3.79 --
23 Florida Gators 4.15 4.51 --
24 Auburn Tigers (1) 2.89 4.42 --
25 USC Trojans 2.62 3.64 --
Others Receiving Votes: Texas Longhorns | Penn St. Nittany Lions | Arizona St. Sun Devils | Utah Utes | Pittsburgh Panthers | Houston Cougars | Iowa Hawkeyes | Michigan Wolverines | BYU Cougars | Nevada Wolf Pack | South Florida Bulls | Central Florida Knights | Clemson Tigers | Miami Hurricanes | Air Force Falcons | Northern Illinois Huskies | Tennessee Volunteers | Mississippi Rebels | Vanderbilt Commodores | Boston College Eagles | Northwestern Wildcats | Southern Miss. Golden Eagles | Iowa St. Cyclones | SMU Mustangs | Kentucky Wildcats | Texas Tech Red Raiders | Colorado Buffaloes | San Diego St. Aztecs | Akron Zips | Washington Huskies | N.C. State Wolfpack | Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets | Arizona Wildcats | Troy Trojans | Cincinnati Bearcats | Ohio Bobcats | Tulsa Golden Hurricane | North Carolina Tar Heels | ULM Warhawks | Florida Atlantic Owls | Oregon St. Beavers | Hawaii Warriors | Navy Midshipmen | Dixie State Rebels | UAB Blazers | Baylor Bears
Updated: Aug 29, 2011 10:23 AM EDT
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Rankings 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Venue

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Thursday's game is the venue...the Kibbie Dome, in Moscow, Idaho.  I feel pretty safe in saying that there is not another stadium like it anywhere in college football.  Here, based on research on the Internet, primarily on wikipedia (back off, this isn't a term paper), is the Kibbie Dome story.

In fact, I think that between the Kibbie Dome and the blue turf, Idaho has cornered the market on unique football venues.

Here's a picture of the Kibbie Dome today.

OK.  Not really.  But, if I was an Idaho fan, this is the kind of thing I would do.

Here is what it really looks like today.

It looks small because this picture was taken from an airplane.  Coach Clawson said it looks like a Campbell's soup can cut in half.  And it does.

Anyway, what is fascinating is that for the first four years, it was an outdoor stadium.  Mr. Kibbie was a construction executive who attended the U of I for one month before leaving due to hardship.  So, they took the outdoor stadium, and built a dome over it...

Doyt Dome, anyone?  The original roof was engineered wood products and the whole thing won an architectural award.

From wikipedia.
The Kibbie Dome's roof spans 400 feet (122 m) from sideline-to-sideline, and its maximum height is 150 feet (45 m) above the hashmarks. (Holt Arena, on the campus of Idaho State University in Pocatello, has an opposite geometry
It does make for an usual situation.  Check this out.  As you can see, the endline is not very far from what I would hope is a padded wall.  And look at the goalposts.  There is no central standard....the goal post extends out from the wall.  I just have to believe that for a road team throwing a vertical route into the back of the end zone, there has to be an adjustment to make.  You just aren't used to a wall looming there...even if it is padded.

It is the smallest venue in FBS.  They also play basketball in here as well.

A few other images....

The Catch that Broke our Hearts

Humanitarian Bowl, 2009.

So who are these Vandals...

We checked into this back before the Humanitarian Bowl, and as a public service, we're re-running this look at the University of Idaho.

First, Vandals is a kick-ass nickname.  Love it.

Second, they do have a blog that appears to be run by their student paper--Vandal Nation.  They have been kind enough to link here, so head on over and check out their site.  It is a pretty good blog.

I always like to look at a school's famous graduates....and there's plenty to work with here.  Sarah Palin AND Deep Throat....yes, those are two different people.  Allow me to elaborate.

Yes, Sarah (Heath) Palin did graduate from the University of Idaho.  I don't know if anyone at that time had any idea that she would end up "going rogue" and hijacking a major political party, or for that matter, that she would write a book (yeah, I know, that was a joke, OK??), but I'm gonna guess they didn't.

Also, Mark Felt, who was the Deep Throat source to Woodward and Bernstein.  He was always, as it turns out, a Vandal.

Who else?  Here's an interesting one.  There was a guy named Holden Bowler who attended Idaho.  He had been working on the docks or something with a guy named Jerry Salinger, and Salinger promised to name a character after him in his novel.  Which, I hope you are aware, he did.

Also, Mark Schlereth, owner of 3 Super Bowl rings, known on ESPN as "Stink" for his habit of peeing in his football pants before games.

Decathelete Dan O'Brien....Vandal.
Packer great Jerry Kramer...Vandal.

Beyond that, and an apparent stranglehold on Idaho politics, there are numerous other athletes, and dignitaries, including a wicked Danish shot putter.

The school was founded until 1889 and until 1963 was the ONLY university in the state.  (This boggles the mind).  Despite being a land grant university, the school has 11,000 students or so.  It is located in Moscow, right on the border with Washington, and is only 8 miles from Washington State University.

Skiing was dropped as a varsity sport in 1972.

Anyway, that's a little bit about the University of Idaho.  More will be done in the coming days to examine their football team, in the meantime, if you have to go rogue, at least wear a helmet.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pre-season Blog Poll....Roll Tide

The Blog Poll is back!!!  We're on SB Nation's a draft ballot, let me know if you have any suggestions.  Poll will come out on Monday this year.  A couple notes...I see turmoil in Columbus and I like Nebraska in the Big 10 a lot.  Boise could easily be in a BCS game with a win over Georgia.  LSU is ranked low based on yesterday's arrests, though I am not sure yet how that will impact the team.

Soccer Interlude---Good on Ya, Falcons!

As you know, this blog primarily covers football and men's basketball, but we occasionally veer off into other Falcon topics when big news happens, and that is what is going on now....congrats to the men's soccer team for their 2-0 win over #9 Michigan at the Mick last night.  I love seeing the crowd there and the fans on the field.  Men's soccer has had some hard times recently, and I'm thrilled for our guys.  Check on for extensive coverage...note that both BG goals were career firsts for the players who scored them!

Game by game predictions...occult version

So, now, on the eve of the season, I sit down and try to predict how BG will do in each game this season.  Then, when the season is over we'll take a second look, assess the damage, agree what a fool I am, and then move on.

These tough years are the worst.  I'd like to think we can win every game, and I'd like to think that as we pick up the pace through the year, we will beat Temple at home or pull off the upset at KSU.  Honestly, though, I think that BG is going to have a tough year again.  We will be better, but we do not have many easy games on the schedule, I think we will be hard pressed to break through.

While I think our players are better, this team remains very, very young.  And, our young guys are playing.  28 of the 46 players on our two-deep are freshmen or sophomores.  Many of them have not played at all.  So, while they are good, they are not experienced.  Secondly, while I think our O-line is better, I am not sure how much better, and until I am, I am worried about whether they are just improved or whether they will be good.

So we will look at this a couple of ways.  First, here, in all my darkness, is my prediction for the season, with a short capsule for each game.  I'm going 5-7 and 3-5 in the MAC.

9/1/2011 at Idaho   L

This game appears to be winnable, but a young team on the road in a hostile environment is a tough assignment.  I think Idaho picks up the win.

9/10/2011 Morgan State   W

BG wins this game against FCS team that was picked to be 6th in the MEAC.

9/17/2011 Wyoming    W

I like BG to win this one at home.  They are much like BG--they were 3-9 and while they are on an upward vector, they are also still building and I think BG wins.  Plus, Cowboy OC Gregg Brandon struggled in the Doyt in his last years, and he cannot get this out of his head.

 9/24/2011 * at Miami L

This is one I would like to think we would win.  Miami caught a lot of breaks last year in winning the title.  At the same time, they have a new coach I like a lot, and a strong defense that could be a tough matchup for us.  We almost beat them last year, so maybe we weren't that far apart, but on their home field I think Miami wins.

10/1 at West Virginia  L

Mountaineers too much.

10/8/2011 * at Western Michigan  L

Western will be a tough game.  If you are going to say that we have a shot at Miami because we almost beat them, what do you say about WMU, who torched us on our field?  Western is a strong team and we'd be very pleased if we pulled this one off.

10/15/2011 * Toledo  L

I hate picking us to lose to Toledo, especially at home.  Having said that, last year's game was not close, and I don't know if we have closed the gap enough.  Certainly, if BG starts to look like they are gelling than this is an opportunity to really get up for a game and show what you can do.

10/22/2011 * Temple W

BG nearly beat Temple on the road last year, and this is one I like us to pick up.  While I think Temple is a good MAC team, they may not be as good as last year, especially on defense, and I think BG can pick this win up.

10/29/2011 * at Kent State L

I like Kent to win the East and defend the Dix in this game.

11/8/2011 * Northern Illinois L

I think NIU is the best team in the MAC and they will be too much for the young Falcons.

11/16/2011 * Ohio  W

Perhaps the biggest upset, I think BG is playing better at this point. OU is also very young, and BG grinds out a win at the Doyt.  This is the game where BG shows that it is on the way back.

11/25/2011 * at Buffalo W

Buffalo in November.  Nice.  Buffalo is one of two teams in the East I have picked behind BG so I like the Falcons to pick up a frozen road win.

In my view, that's on the optimistic side of what I think will happen.

Alternative scenario #1:

If you want to finish .500, keep all those wins and add (say) Idaho.

Alternative scenario #2:

If you want to make a bowl game, keep those 6 wins and add Miami or Kent.

Alternative scenario #3:

If you want to start looking for a very tall bridge to jump off, figure OU is too much for BG, the team is dispirited or beaten up and Buffalo wins at home and Temple wins a game they should be favored in.  BG finishes with a second 10 loss season under this scenario.

Obviously, nothing always goes right or always goes wrong, which is how I end up at 5-7.  Having said that, I think scenario #3 is a lot more likely than scenario #2....and probably than scenario #1.

I do think we are on the right track.  However, I think that Falcons fans should have cautious expectations this year.  Having said that, I would be thrilled to be wrong.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Depth Chart Review

John Wagner on the Blade's Falcon Fodder has a discussion of the depth chart for the Idaho game, which has not been released online yet.  He looked at how it shook out, and I'm not going to steal his thunder...hop over and see what he has to say and then come back and I'll comment.

K?  We good?  A few comments.

It sounds like we plan on using a lot of depth this year...and the depth chart was built on the idea of a set 11, but I'm sure (for example) we will be in 4-WR and empty sets quite a bit, meaning that even guys who are not in the starting lineup will see the field.

Having said that, a big surprise was true freshman Anthon Samuel making his way into the top 4 at TB. He's a true freshman and is passing some guys with time in the program (he wasn't even here for spring practice) so it is a good sign to see him making an impact this quickly.  IIRC, Coach made some comment about him being our TB on the future when we signed him.

Ronnie Goble ended up with the last starting D-End position.

We discussed QB and LB in the blog yesterday.

Last time coach talked, he said Keith Morgan had the lead for the Rover position, but the depth chart shows BooBoo Gates getting the spot.  I was a little surprised that Morgan was ahead of Gates in the first place, and I'd like to think if Gates is solid here, Morgan could get on the field at CB again, at least in nickel and dime packages.

We are starting two SO and two R-FR in the d-backfield.   (That's out of 5...there is one co-starter).  Leacock did hold onto his starting job.

Finally on special teams, Kyle Burkhardt won the kicking word on our recruited kicker.  Jerry Phillips will kickoff and Brian Schmeidebush did end up winning the punting job, which is kind of what I expected the whole time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Clawson kicks off presser season

Coach Clawson held his first weekly presser today, and here are the results, based on my listening, and quoting some media sources.

The lead story is that Matt Schilz is the starting QB.  Coach had high praise for Trent Hurley, who he said "got so good so quickly."  Coach also went on to reiterate that he figures we will need to QBs this year, and not based on any kind of plan to share time, but just based on history.

Coach said it was a very difficult decision.  I'm not sure if this is just coachspeak or not, but here is what he said, as quoted in the Sentinel.

“You can compare all the numbers and all the stats and at the end it comes down to a gut feeling over who gives your football team the best chance to win,” Clawson said. “This was a very, very hard decision. I have been involved in a number of these quarterback decisions ... and this is one of the more difficult ones and it’s for good reasons."
This is a good problem to have, of course.  You have to figure that if Schilz has improved since last year, and I think he showed the stuff to be a good one.  If he gets comfortable in the pocket, it will make  a big difference.  I don't think this is a surprise.  I thought he had the upper hand or at least that our coaches would think he did.

Also, Matt Johnson and Malik Stokes, both true freshman, are also looking good.

At TB, there are still 4 guys competing for the job....and that does not include Erique Geiger.  My observation would be that we are "deep" at TB, but not necessarily good.  The positive is that whoever gets in there will know the pressure is on...and coach says they have different strengths, which means they could be used situationally.

We are strong and deep at WR...and the WRs have been made better because they are getting better balls in practice to catch.  Also, depth is helpful here because these guys are perfect for special teams.

He said we have 4 strong LBs who will all play.  Of course, Woods and Swan were strong favorites to start coming in, and then DJ Lynch and Gabe Martin (both R-FR) are co-starters are the other side.  Coach sounded very pleased with the development of those two players.

The secondary is still playing itself out....he didn't have much more to say about that, except that our players are good but young, and they will be stepping onto the field for the first time (many of them) a week from today.

He said that we only have a couple guys who played in the Humanitarian Bowl against Idaho...and that you don't really want to be looking for payback for a game that was two years ago.  He did talk quite a bit about the Kibbie Dome, which we will look at in the days to come.  Interesting place.

Special Teams Preview

So, our season preview lands us on the special teams.  This has been a struggle for the team for years, stretching back into the Brandon era and continuing in the Clawson era.

The most visible manifestation of this is placekicking.  It is a simple fact that sometimes, a FG is vital to winning.  Sometimes it puts the game out of reach, and sometimes it can win the game.  BG lost two games, in fact, last season, based on struggles with FG kicking.  BG was last in the MAC in FGs made and FG%.  We made only 5 FGs for the year and missed 8.  Our longest FG of the season was 34 yards.  We were 12th in PAT% as well, with 4 missed.  I can't remember the exact words, but Coach Clawson said something like "our inability to make a field goal is embarrassing."

The response to that was recruiting a kicker, something that Coach Clawson was mentioning when Fall Camp started.  However, since then, all the reports from camp have only mentioned the two incumbent kickers, and not the recruit but Tate is listed as the leader on the depth chart in the media guide.  I don't know what is up with that, if anything.  Hopefully, one of them will improve enough to give us some consistent placekicking.  Even the confidence you can drill a FG inside 40 yards would be huge in late game situations.

Punting was not an issue last year, as Bryan Wright came down from Ann Arbor and saved our bacon.  He was third in the MAC.  He's gone, now, and I think everyone assumed the Findlay transfer Brian Schmeidebusch would be the guy based on his numbers there, but he is listed behind Jerry Phillips on the depth chart.  Phillips has been around the program for a while, and actually lost the job to Wright last season, so I think, in fairness, you have to list punting as a question mark until we see something...finished in the top teams in the MAC would not seem likely, but you never know.

Kickoff returns were awful last year.  BG was last in the MAC.  We've certainly recruited speed, and I'd like to think we have a shot at improving this number.  We averaged about 18 yards, but BooBoo Gates averaged 24 and a TD.  He will be back there with Jovon Leacock (based on the depth chart), who didn't return any last year.  Either way, I'm not so worried about starting at the 28 or the 32 as I am about the occasional ability to give our offense a short field to work with.

Punt returns were very good.  BG was second in the MAC and had 2 TDs.  (The whole conference only had 6).  Eugene Cooper had 95% of our returns, and he's back, so this appears to be a position of strength.

In terms of kickoff coverage, we were 4th in the MAC, which again is pretty good.  As we get stronger on defense, we should improve here as well.  We did get nice depth out of Bryan Wright last year (63 per kickoff and 11 TBs), so we will have to see what our new kickers are able to produce.  Again, this can really matter.  Nothing kills momentum like getting a score and then giving up a big kickoff return.

As mentioned above, BG was third in net punting.  We had one blocked punt.

Special teams has been a frustrating element of our program since the very early days of Urban Meyer, when we were assassins on special teams.  They have been inconsistent and sometimes downright bad, and it has cost us games, even last season.  They did improve, however, last year, based on research conducted by the International Centre for Special Teams Research.  FG and punting remain concerns until we see something to indicate they are under control.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Falcon Preview---Defense

I was thinking about these previews, and I just wanted to capture one thought, so Falcon fans remembered where last season ended.  In the last two games of the season, BG was down 19-0 and 27-0 before they made a first down.  UT and WMU--two teams we play this year, lit our defense up mercilessly.

I talked yesterday about how the offense looks this year (I am optimistic we will improve, though perhaps not big time), and now we need to look at the defense, which also had severe issues last year.  (see above....and below).
  • Scoring defense:  (100th)  out of 120
  • Rushing Defense (112th)
  • Total Defense (102nd)
  • Pass Efficiency Defense (91st)
  • Sacks (T-94th)
So, there were some issues here, too.  That teams returns 7 starters, which is pretty good, and (as you will below) hopes to fill in some of the gaps in the secondary.  I am also optimistic the defense will be better, and I think the ceiling for improvement is actually a little higher here than on offense.

It is no secret that the major weakness for our defense has been an inability to stop the run.  This, in turn, has been caused by a lack of playmakers on the D-line, and poor tackling in open space.  Just to illustrate, here are the last 5 seasons on yards per carry (the best measure of run defense) and our rank in the same category.  These are MAC games only.

Yeah.  3 of the last 5 years have been pretty bad, and the other two were on the high end of average, but certainly nothing to brag about.  And, the two most recent years have been the worst during this period.  This sets the tone for everything.  When you don't stop the run, your d-backs start to move into the box, and then teams go right over our heard (as we saw in last year's final two games).

One of the reasons I have some optimism is that I think the Falcons will be much stronger on the line.  It will start in the middle, where Chris Jones was very strong last year, and is joined by Jarius Campbell and Ted Oulette, giving the team a 3-way rotation that is needed on the inside of the line.  They were also able to move Kevin Moore (formerly Alvarado) from tackle to end, getting another player onto the field and really leaving just one of the end spots as an open question.  Obviously, this has to be demonstrated, but I think the line will be much stronger than in the past two years, somewhere in the upper middle part of the MAC.

And if the Falcons can stop the run in base defense, everything else will get easier.

BG's linebackers should be a strength--especially if they are not being blocked by the offense's o-lineman.  Dwayne Woods was 2nd team All-MAC last year, and if he is healthy will be a force in the middle.  Paul Swan looks to really be coming around on the strong side, and Keith Morgan is moving up to play rover.  There is some depth (albeit young) but if they have a shot to do their thing, I believe our LBs can be very productive.

Which takes us to the backfield, which was as patched up last year as the o-line was...with walk ons and a JUCO WR playing back there.  The players who played this year and competing for their jobs, which is a good sign on its own.  We have some young talent moving into place, but they are still very young.  Best case scenario here is that BG's line gets pressure on the QB from base, the LBs can support coverage, and with some help, the d-backs can be effective.  I would worry if BG gets into situations where it has to blitz heavily to get pressure.  The future is probably pretty good in the secondary, but for now, young players are going to be tested a lot early.

I do think the defense will be stronger, and if this team succeeds, I believe it will be because the offense is a little better and the defense is "more better."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh happy day!!

Coach Orr goes Twitter-Crazy

Coach Orr woke up this morning in a mood to tweet.  Here's what he wrote as a report following the foreign trip to Canada....

Obviously, you know the source.  If player X was dreadful in Toronto, it isn't going to make a tweet.  Still, a couple notes.

First, Cam Black has the ability to transform our offense and our team if he plays like he showed he could in spots last year.  With both Black and Calhoun on the inside, we are very difficult to match up with.  If Calhoun can play the other team's 4, we become much better.

Second, if BG can effectively play man to man defense, it will make a huge difference in our ability to survive conference play.  We have been consistently beaten on the outside in our zone, and if we have the ability to play both styles, we broaden the range of teams we can compete with.  Every year, coach starts the season saying we want to play both, but we end up almost exclusively in zone.  Let's hope this is the year we do both.

Falcon Football Preview: The Offense

After about 10 years with an identity as an offensive football team, last year the Falcons turned that around a little and became known as an inoffensive football team. The tale of woe (FBS rankings...out of 120 teams).:
  • 100th in scoring offense
  • 120th in rushing offense.
  • 115th in total offense
  • 105th in pass efficiency (we were 51st in passing yards, but that was based on volume of attempts).
  • 107th in sacks allowed
You get the idea.  A pretty rough year and it could have been worse.  We actually outscored our offensive performance.

So, what happened?  A lot of people will point to the QB position, but I think it is pretty clear....the problems at the offensive line prevented us from knowing how good our QBs were.  Schilz was effective early, and then as the line fell apart, his productivity fell.  He may or may not be a great QB, but you can't tell based on the way he had to play.

He was also a R-FR starting D1 for the first time.  In this post, I compared his freshman numbers to Zac Dysert, who has, I think we can agree, turned into a pretty good QB.

Running is another example.  Willie Geter was almost always dodging tackles before he hit the line of scrimmage.  If we had a worse RB, we'd have had an even worse running attack--and that was, mathematically possible.

It was simply an impossible year for our O-line.  They were thin to start with, and then tackle Blaec Walker had a career-ending injury and our best lineman, Scott Lewis was injured in camp and Ben Bojicic, was injured and out for a few games.  At some points, the Falcons had a player who had converted from D-line during the spring, a player who converted from d-line during the season, and a true freshman on the line.  Starters Donahue and Toresso both graduated, but some players are coming up and two JUCO players were added.

The reports from camp are that the line is playing better, but what else are they going to say?  And, there have been some reports of the D-line dominating the O-line.  Even in the spring game, BG had to go to max protect to get a passing game going.

I fully expect the O-line to be better this year.  Even just keeping Bojicic healthy the whole way will help immensely.  Other players are gaining experience and they are used to playing next to each other, which is vital on the o-line.

(For some reason, we left a big hole in our offensive line recruiting.   The year Bojicic came in, there were only two, and the other one is not with the program.)  That's counter, in fact, to the way we played during the halcyon days of the Meyer/Brandon era, a time in which we put two lineman in the NFL but 0 QBs or WRs).

Even if the line is better, the question is, how much better?  I think the question will determine how far BG's offense can go.  Without stronger run blocking, BG is likely to still suffer at the RB position, no matter how good their new RBs turn out to be--but, none of them has proven to be as strong as Geter is.  If they don't get holes, than BG will struggle to run the ball.

And all that will make it very difficult to pass, regardless of who the QB is.  Teams won't need to load the box, which will make the numbers game work against us, and if there is no protection for the QB, then they will find it difficult to find open receivers.

Now, that's pretty negative.  On the plus side, BG has a deep and experienced WR corps....if the QB has time, then BG has the ability to move the ball.  If the running game can go anywhere at all, we get a little more dangerous.  At QB, Schilz was effective last year until the line fell apart, but has to shake off a freshman season where he was injured and a human tackling dummy for much of the year.  Coach said he had quick feet and didn't trust the pocket as the season went along, which is natural when a QB gets hit as much as he did. Trent Hurley, R-FR, has looked good at times as well, and could earn some playing time.

One thing we can be sure about.  Every time Schilz or Hurley throws a pick or misses an open receiver, fans will want the other one brought in.  Cannot be avoided.

Either way, if BG doesn't win more battles up front, it won't matter who plays QB and WR.

I think the offense will be better...we won't rank near the bottom in all those categories again.  And who knows where the ceiling football players can change a lot.  If I had to project the most likely scenario however, I would say that it is that the offense will go from bad to average, and hope the defense (see tomorrow) improves enough to help bring games into the winning range.

Monday, August 22, 2011

BG Finishes 2-1 in the Land of Peameal Bacon

The Falcons cruised to an easy win over Phase I hoops, a Canadian developmental program.   BG won 80-64 by holding Phase I scoreless for most of the second half of the game.  And now the clock begins to run...November 11, the opener at the Stroh Center.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

MAC Preview

Welcome to the start of the pre-season run up to the opening of Falcon football.  We start with a MAC preview....then we'll zoom in on BG, looking at offense, defense, special teams and then a game by game call and what we can expect.

So, the MAC.  I think it is safe to say that things are pretty wide open as it relates to the overall title.  NIU and UT both look to be very high quality teams, and WMU is apparently good as well, while in the East, there are four teams that could win it.  Given Miami's shocker in the title game last year, you really have 7 teams (out of 12) who have a very legitimate shot at winning the whole thing.

So, with no fear and virtually no chance at being right, I dive into the prediction of what to expect in the MAC this year.


There are 4 very evenly matched teams in the East.   Below, I will examine each of them...make the case for them winning, and then saying why I am or am not picking them.

1.  Kent

The case:  Kent was never as far behind as they looked, lost a lot of close games and they return a very strong team up front.  Their new coach will take an underachieving team and have immediate results, almost in the Urban Meyer vein.

2.  Temple

The case:  Despite big graduation losses, Al Golden left lots of talent which I think Steve Addazio will know how to use.  They are set even if Pierce is not healthy, and Mike Gerardi is underrated at QB.

Why not #1:  Temple lost a lot of defensive stars from the conference's second best defense, and the fall off is enough to cost them the title.  However, they end the season with Kent at the Linc.

3.  Miami

The case:  They were the media's pick.  They have the best QB in the East and a very strong defense.  They have 17 guys back from last year's title team.  They have a new coach, and a guy who will be a good one, and you just start to think they have the ability to do it again.

Why not #1:  They had a huge turnover advantage last year and won a bunch of close games, something that Phil Steele will tell you is difficult to replicate.  They don't look to be able to run the ball very well, and they have a relatively tough schedule, especially in cross-over land.

4.  Ohio U.

The case:  Phil Steele not only picks them #1 but says they will finish #34 in the country based on the easiest schedule in the MAC.  They got the most 1st place picks in the MAC media poll, but still finished 3rd, which means that at least some people agree with me...this team is overrated.  Anyway, the case for them is that they were 8-5 last year and their games against last year's weak East teams are the same games everyone else plays.

Why not #1:  They are breaking in a new QB, have major defensive issues and don't have the offense to outpace a weak defense.  While their O-line might look good, they have a very low number of accumulated starts among them.  Also, in the MAC, just because teams were poor last year does not mean they will be this year.

5. BG

The case:  Miami did it.

Why not #1:  While I expect BG to be improved this year and think the program is on the track to success, this year is going to be tough.  BG has a very difficult cross-over schedule, and even though the defense will be stronger, it will still be very young and the O-line is very unsettled--should be better, but I don't know how high the ceiling is.  If everything breaks right, this could change, but I don't think this is the year for BG to challenge for the title.

6.  Buffalo

The case:  Miami did it.

Why not #1:  I think Quinn will do well in Buffalo, but they are similar to BG...weak on the O-line, weak in the defensive secondary, and not enough horses to compete this year.

7.  Akron

The case:  Not applicable.

Why not #1: Akron lost a lot of players from a bad team...making them young and weak.  They have a long way to go to be competitive, even in the East.


In the West, things are a little more settled, in that I really think there are two team with a shot at winning and maybe one dark horse.

1.  NIU

The case:  I really like NIU.  They had a ridiculous offensive juggernaut last year and bring huge amounts of offensive talent back, including the MAC's best QB and a very solid line.  Even if the defense is weaker, they can score enough to win.  They had the best defense in the MAC last year---they didn't need it.  After last year's disappointment, they get the job done this year.

Why not #1:  Well, they have a new Coach, no one knows how that will click.  Also, they will not be a solid on defense.  They have to replace more starters than any other team in the MAC.

2.  UT

The case:  They were the media's choice as well as Phil Steele's.  Beckman has very quickly assembled a very good football team up there.  Steele says their schedule is slightly better than NIU's and they have 18 starters back.  They play NIU at the Glass Bowl.  I'm picking NIU, but this one is very close.

Why not #1:  They might be strong, but they are not as good as NIU.  They are solid and deep at QB, but Harnish is better and while they didn't lost a lot of players, they did lose some key defensive players.

3.  WMU

The case:  Steele actually has them as co-favorite with UT and says they will be one of the most improved teams in the country.  They have a very strong QB and return the MAC's top WR.  They have the best special teams in the West, and they were 5-3 in the MAC last year.

Why not #1:  Steele is pinning a lot of hope on Tevin Drake at RB and I'm not sure he's shown enough to put that kind of weight on his shoulders.  Their defense isn't that strong, and they play UT and NIU on the road.  Also, Cubit seems to have a history of underachieving and I have yet to be convinced he is a complete coach.

4.  CMU

The case:  CMU fans were ready to part company with Dan Enos after only one year, but I think you'll see him turn things around.  They have to be better---and they have a strong QB and WR and....well, Miami did it.

Why not?:  The Chips will be better, but their defense will limit their upside--especially when they have to face the offenses in the West.  Their O-line could struggle too.

5. BSU

The case:  They could finish ahead of CMU...I don't see a higher run.  They have a new coach, and he might be able to harness the team's underperformance from the Parrish years and make a run.

Why not?:  Just too far to climb in this division.

6. EMU

The case:  They have to compete eventually.  Right?  They have Ron English and Mike Hart coaching....someday, things have to turn around.  Miami did it.

Why not?:  Someday EMU will be competitive.  Honestly.

Championship....The West champion should be the favorite and since I have NIU, I like them to win the Title.  They should have won last year and they make it up this year.

Going to Bowls....