Happy birthday, Mick.
Daily Archives: July 26, 2019
Funny, but it didn’t surprise me in the least to see Stokes listed first there.
Just when you think there aren’t any more classic Mike Leach stories to tell, along comes a new one ($$).
In addition to helping his boss Hal Mumme set offensive records at Iowa Wesleyan, Leach had proven to be quite adept at his new job, doubling as the school’s SID and spreading the gospel about the Tigers. The 28-year-old Leach even got them mentioned in USA Today several times. The only problem was the school’s Director of Public Relations who oversaw Leach’s job as the SID didn’t appreciate the national attention from USA Today. In her mind, the SID was supposed to write a press release about the game’s outcome, and because this was in the days before email, Leach was to mail that release to the papers around the state. Her system made no sense, Leach thought. The mail wouldn’t go out until Monday and the papers wouldn’t receive it until Tuesday or Wednesday. By the time they got the score, statistics and information on the game, it was no longer relevant. Because the information was so untimely, they wouldn’t write a story.
Leach had a better idea, he says.
He’d call the main newspapers locally with their score from Saturday so that their readers — and Iowa Wesleyan’s recruiting targets — would know how the team did.
The Tigers were breaking all kinds of school records and led the nation in passing.
“I kept reaching out to the USA Today, and soon they began writing about us,” Leach said. “Well, someone tells her that her school is in the USA Today and she gets all flustered. She calls me screaming: ‘How dare you contact the USA Today?’
“Mike, I know you’ve been talking to other newspapers, and that’s bullshit. I told you that you have to write a press release and mail it out, so that it’s fair for everyone. So everyone gets the information at the same time. It’s not fair to the weekly newspapers. I know for a fact there was an article in the USA Today about Iowa Wesleyan.”
That manages to explain so much about Leach as well as the kind of people embedded in college athletics administration.
I had no idea he created the term “Air-Raid”, either.
While we ‘uns are on the subject, if in the back of your mind you question the optimism shown by some projecting Gator prowess this season, allow this SI.com piece to calm you.
How could Florida fall short of nine wins in 2019? Let me count the ways.
- Luck. “Let’s examine last year a little closer. Florida went 3-0 in games decided by one score, and that’s not including a 37-27 win over Vanderbilt in which the Gators trailed 21-3 in the second quarter and Vandy star tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn left due to injury in the first half. Florida had the seventh-best turnover margin in the country (+12), however that was aided by recovering an insane 75% of opponent’s fumbles. That’s the big reason why Bill Connelly’s expected turnover margin for the Gators was 5.2, so definitely expect regression in that department this season. Additionally, all of those takeaways were a major help to the offense, as the Gators ranked sixth in average starting field position.”
- You know who be gone. “Florida returns a good amount of production on both sides of the ball, but the one position that features huge turnover is the offensive line. The Gators have to replace four offensive linemen that racked up a whopping 141 starts. Those four (Martez Ivey, Jawaan Taylor, Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson) started a combined 51 games last season.”
- Felipe Franks loves a challenge. “When Franks was pressured, though, positive developments rarely happened. He completed 25.3% of his throws (which was dead-last among qualified Power 5 quarterbacks) and had a 62.3 passer rating (53 out of 64), per ESPN’s David Hale. Breaking in four new starters along the offensive line will open things up for opposing pass rushers.”
- Third and Grantham. “But with Grantham loving to dial up blitzes often, that made Florida’s defense vulnerable to explosive plays (68th in IsoPPP in 2018) and third-down conversions (53rd). The Gators will be a force on defense, but ultimately one of the best ways to become elite is to limit big plays. Under Grantham, defenses tend to be more “boom or bust,” as Florida’s defense made big plays, but also surrendered them (tied for 51st in plays allowed for at least 40 yards).”
Sure, you can’t expect all of those problems to kick in — not that I would complain if they did — but as conclusions go, “The Gators would likely need Franks to play like a borderline Heisman candidate, and I don’t think he has that in him when being protected by a revamped offensive line” is certainly one we should be able to live with.
I knew there was a reason I felt good this morning.
What player compensation is to many of you, conference realignment is to me. Anathema.
Realignment has proven itself to be a money-grubbing chase that’s destroyed some of the classic rivalries of my youth, like Oklahoma-Nebraska, stretched conferences in absurd geographic attempts to add television markets regardless of the mediocrity they’re forced to absorb (well played, ACC and Big Ten) and created a scheduling mess in the SEC that the conference is still struggling with almost a decade later.
But Jim Delany did earn a $20 million bonus, so there’s that. But I digress.
Anyways, I don’t know if it’s because of Connecticut’s move back to the Big East (a rare example of a conference jump driven by basketball rather than football) or that it’s simply July, or, more likely both, but there’s been plenty of pundit chatter about realignment of late, perhaps headlined by it being featured at The Athletic.
I’ve ignored most of it, because it’s a dreary subject for me, but then Stewart Mandel had to weigh in on the future of realignment ($$) and I couldn’t resist because I was curious what he might have to say about the Georgia program, which, as we all know, never has quite measured up on the national stage in Mandel’s opinion, forged as it is in the wisdom of 100 random Montanans.
Well, I have good news of a sort for you. Georgia is moving up in his estimation. As an example, at one point he refers to “brand-name foes like Georgia, Clemson and Florida State”.
Then there’s his discussion of this:
From a purely business standpoint, the most profitable move the biggest brand-name programs could make is to divorce themselves from the lower-tier brands in their own conferences that they are essentially subsidizing. Break off from the NCAA — in football only — and form a Premier League of sorts with the bluebloods from the other power conferences.
That culminates in this chart of what Mandel describes as “an exclusive league of the 24-32 most recognizable programs”.
On the one hand, Georgia. On the other… Tennessee?
Now, before you go there, I, like others, happen to think there are a lot of holes in the concept, but in terms of recognition, it looks like Mandel and Montana are warming up to that program in Athens. All it took was moving from the Middle Ages to the Gilded Age to get there.
One other takeaway from that Connelly piece is this bit about Tennessee’s offense:
Guarantano pulled off Herbert-esque numbers despite living life with one of the worst run games imaginable.
Not even including sacks, 32.6% of Tennessee’s rushes were stuffed at or behind the line, worst in FBS. Only 41% of the carries gained at least 4 yards (119th). The Vols ran the ball constantly (and predictably) on early downs — their run rate was 64% on standard downs, nearly 5 percentage points higher than the national average — and all it produced were lots of second-and-11s and heavy pass rushes when Guarantano was looking to make up ground.
When he had time to pass, though, he did well. His passer rating was 152.0 on second downs and 150.4 on third downs with between 4 and 9 yards to go.
New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is one of the better coaches in America when it comes to crafting a system around the standout talent he has at his disposal. Sometimes that means a run-heavy approach, and sometimes it means a lot of passing. With Guarantano and almost his entire receiving corps back (including a hell of a wideout trio in Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings and Josh Palmer), I’m guessing Chaney leans toward the latter.
The run game won’t be any better, if for no other reason than it’s highly unlikely the UT offensive line will be any better. Jim Chaney’s got a bunch of lemons, so we’ll see what his lemonade making skills manage to whip up.
This is a fun read from Bill Connelly and there’s a quick take from it I’d like to share with you.
One premise of his is that 2018 was essentially the opposite of 2007, which still remains, in my humble opinion, college football’s greatest season of the BCS era.
There’s always wackiness beneath the surface, but the national title race, the most direct source of entertainment, wasn’t all that entertaining.
Only four teams ranked in the top two in the AP poll at some point during the season: Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia. For reference, seven did in 2017, and there was an average of 5.8 over the past six years. Not since 2009, when Alabama, Texas and Florida took over as the top three in Week 4 and squatted on those spots for the rest of the regular season (Alabama and Texas played for the title), have we had such a by-the-book title race.
By bringing this up, am I attempting to jinx us into a wild title race this fall? You betcha. Remember the amazing 2007 season, which featured a decade’s worth of surprise contenders and plot twists? That year featured 11 different top-two teams. The 2008 season featured nine. I’d settle for seven this year.
Are we entering a time of the super program, when a handful of teams have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack? Or was 2018 simply an anomaly?
David Hale thinks it’s the former, and that we’re already well within it.
David’s conclusion is that it’s problematic for college football in that it’s a recipe for fan fatigue. If so — and, to be fair, that’s something that’s yet to register in TV ratings — what exactly can college football do about it?
Not much, I’m afraid. The knee jerk response is to suggest expansion of the CFP, but if these programs have truly separated themselves from the remaining 126 or so others, then all expansion does is postpone the inevitable. Sure, four additional teams will have the opportunity to chase their postseason dreams, but if you’re not an Alabama or Clemson, what’s gonna change when you face them in the quarterfinals?
Throw up your hands, blow up the CFP and take us back to the chaos of the bowl game era? For a variety of reasons (read: money) that ain’t gonna happen.
The only thing I can come up with is cutting the scholarship limits down from 85 to, say, 65. That would serve to spread the wealth more equitably. More parity would mean more chances for regular season upsets that would affect the shape of the playoff field and might also serve to reduce the gap David charts between the cream and the merely upper tier.
Then again, if all you really care about in the end is seeing college football’s very best programs face off for a national title, is the current state of affairs troubling?