Friday, September 21, 2012

Another college football post

Random thoughts on the last week or two of football and looking forward to this week. Last week was weird. To quote myself, "Dallas got crushed after looking great in week 1, USC lost to Stanford for the 4th straight year, A&M's top running back didn't play (and the fill-in only had 12 carries for 43 yards) yet the Aggies won by 45 points on the road, t.u. gave up 31 points to an SEC team yet won by 35 on the road, the Philly Eagles have turned the ball over 9 times in two games yet are 2-0, the Georgetown Eagles are undefeated and blowing people out, TCU struggled to beat Kansas, Kansas State struggled a bit with North Texas, Peyton Manning threw 3 interceptions in an 8 minute span... I think at this point, the only thing I know for sure is that Alabama is better than everyone everywhere. Every of the time." I should probably just stop there. But I won't.

A&M got off to a slow start but ended up doing exactly what they should do to a team of SMU's caliber. Johnny Manziel and the receivers made big, explosive plays like you'd expect out of this offense and the Wrecking Crew kept SMU's run and shoot attack in check all day. One thing to consider though is that their quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, formerly of the evil, devil beast Longhorns, is really, really bad. He was bad at Texas from the very first time he played significant minutes (turning the ball over 5 times against Alabama in a game that, for some odd reason, people thought he actually played well), and he was bad bad bad every time after that until he eventually left Austin and transferred to SMU. Well, he's still bad. 

One interesting stat I heard after that game: June Jones (SMU coach) has only seen his team go touchdown-less in three games in his entire coaching career, and last Saturday against A&M was one of them. That would suggest that this year's Wrecking Crew is, at a minimum, pretty good. Florida's 37 point outburst against Tennessee after only scoring 20 against A&M would also point to that. The season is young, but A&M currently ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense and 23rd nationally in yards per play defense, which are the two best defensive metrics in my opinion. (A&M has only played two games, while most teams at this point have played three. A&M also has not played an FCS school yet- they do this week- whereas many teams already have. My point? A&M's defensive (and offensive) rankings should all improve this weekend.)

Johnny Manziel, a.k.a. "Johnny Football," or "Johnny Freaking Football," had the first of what promises to be very many statistically impressive games, along with amazing highlight plays. If you ever have a few spare minutes, go look at his high school highlights on youtube. His best plays against SMU looked pretty much like those. He's innately slippery and hard to tackle. It's something that can't be taught, and he has it. Vince Young had it. Tony Romo has it. Not many people do. He's also incredibly fast and agile. If my memory serves me correctly, he ranked right up near the top of the Aggie team last year in all of their agility drills. That's a nice benefit for a quarterback. 

So when considering his performance, here are some numbers for you. He had over 400 total yards and accounted for six touchdowns. That has only been done one other time in Texas A&M history, by Reggie McNeal in 2005 (also against SMU, at Kyle Field). Reggie did it in his senior year, after four years of development. JFF did it in his second college game, on the road, in less than three quarters. 

Manziel has played two games now and still has not turned it over. His passer rating to start his career is higher than Ryan Tannehill's passer rating was in 2011. Tannehill was picked #8 in this year's NFL draft and is the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. I know it's early and the numbers don't mean much yet, but still, it is an impressive start. 

Assuming he stays healthy, Manziel will absolutely destroy just about every offensive record A&M has. From the "way too early to make projections file," here are some projections: if he just averages for his whole career what he's averaged in his first two games, which is not unreasonable at all considering the fact that his game one numbers were very pedestrian, he would pass for 12,600 yards and run for just under 5,000. That's assuming 13 games a year. That would make him the school's all-time leading passer and basically tied for the all-time leading rusher. Now, realistically, the running numbers should fall off as he becomes more comfortable as a passer. But the passing numbers should increase dramatically in this offense. 

Here are things to consider regarding that. In this offense, which is at least in part derived from Mike Leach's offense (A&M's offensive coordinatr is Kliff Kingsbury, who just so happened to be the first quarterback at Texas Tech to play under Leach), it takes a program a few years to really figure it out when they are switching to it from something drastically different. When Leach started at Tech, in year one, they only threw for 272 yards per game. In their first five games that year, Kingsbury threw nine interceptions and only had one game with a passer rating over 120. Two years later, as a senior, he passed for over 5000 yards and 45 touchdowns. There are plenty of other similar examples out there. We are seeing Manziel at what figures to be the worst part of his career. Barring injury, it should just get better and better as both he and the program overall learn the new system and learn how to execute it in different situations. The difference here is that Manziel is mobile. Sumlin and Kingsbury run a pass heave system that they perfected in Houston, but they didn't have the luxury of a mobile quarterback. The Aggies will incredibly hard to defend as Manziel figures out how to truly pass in this offense and then still uses his legs to convert third downs and keep defenses honest. A&M will be scary good over the next three years.

This week, it's an easy game again South Carolina State. A&M is favored by 51 points, so this is the type of game you hope to pull your starters in the third quarter and get the backup quarterbacks some quality reps. 

As for other football news, Alabama is so much the best team in America right now that they shouldn't even be ranked #1. They should be ranked higher. Like -3 or something. 

Texas got a big win, and it's obvious that they are a much, much better team than they've been the last two years, but we still don't know too much about them, because their schedule has been brutally awful. The three teams they've played have only combined for ONE win against an FBS school so far this year. Still, they blew out the teams they're supposed to blow out. After their bye this week, they play four straight games they could easily lose, so we'll see just how good they are. 2-2 is pretty realistic for that stretch.

And now I'm tired of typing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Football is back! And so is my little blog...

Let's take a quick look back at week 1 in college football and a quick look ahead to week 2.

-I'll start with Texas A&M since they represent all that is good and holy in this world. The Aggies first game was postponed due to the hurricane, which was a giant let down for everyone (the cancellation, not the hurricane... the hurricane was just ok... I've had better). So... that's about it for looking back to week 1 for the Ags. I'll revisit them in a bit as I look to week 2.

-How about a little more SEC talk? South Carolina and Vanderbilt went about exactly the way I picture all SEC games going. Poor offense, good defense, low scoring, with the better team eventually winning. People always rave about the SEC defenses and use that a reason why A&M will supposedly get crushed, but I think a large part of the equation is just bad offense. Last year Alabama only played one team all season (Arkansas) that had a top 50 offense. ONE! Meanwhile, A&M played against 5 of the top 13. Some might say it's a chicken and egg scenario (Does the Big 12 have good offenses or bad defenses?) and maybe some  chicken and some egg in it (huh?), but the fact is, the SEC does NOT have dynamic offenses, outside of Arkansas and now, hopefully, A&M. 

-Alabama! SEC! SEC! It's just not fair. I'll just leave it at that. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, just go look at the first half play by play from their game against Michigan. They are this year's national champions, in my opinion.

-Florida, who I did watch closely since they are playing A&M this week, looked... ok. They were just ok as a team last year, and there's not much to suggest they'll improve this year. Which isn't to say they're bad, they just aren't on the level they used to be, and they are beatable. They do have athletes though. They also have what the French call a certain... I don't know what, but whatever it is, it comes from being a program that has been really good for a long time. They don't have much at quarterback though and that will cost them a few games this year. And their defense didn't play nearly as well as I thought it would.

Now, on to some non-SEC stuff.

-The Longhorns, who naturally represent all that is evil and dirty in this world, had an easy win against Wyoming. I didn't see it so I can't comment on much, but my opinion all summer on the Horns' prospects has been this: a very good defense, and an offense that will be better than last year, both running and passing, though still not explosive, which will lead to 9 (most likely) or 10 wins. I felt like this game somewhat went with my predictions. The running game does look better, and t.u. has a few good backs that are each different in style. Two running backs rushed for 100+, which I'm assuming hasn't happened in a very long time for them. The passing game led by Davis Ash still doesn't produce big plays, but at least he protected the ball. That right there is a big reason I see t.u. winning more games this year. I could certainly talk more about them but I feel very dirty right now so let's move on.

-OU looked pretty bad for three quarters against a bad team. Very interesting development. They are still a highly regarded team but I get the sense that they're just teetering on the edge of falling back down to normalcy. I think Bob Stoops is one of the best, so I'll be interested to see how they handle this season. The good news for them is that the Big 12 only has one other school that recruits as well as they do, so they still have as much talent as anyone, although West Virginia's offense appears to be in a league of its own.

-West Virginia came within one missed extra point of scoring 70 points in back to back games, dating back to last year's bowl game. I spent all summer rolling my eyes at how people were overrating WVU. People seemed to only look at the bowl game and assume that WVU scored 70 every week, when in reality they did have a few struggles here and there. Seeing them come right out of the gate this year has changed my opinion on them somewhat, and I now have them winning the Big 12. The only two teams that I think have a chance to slow them down are OU and Texas, and both of those teams have issues of their own. So I have WVU winning the conference with an 11-1 record. Full prediction below.

-Baylor looked great. I know, I know, it was just SMU that they played, but the fact is, they racked up over 600 yards of offense despite losing the Heisman Trophy winner, a wide receiver that went in the first round of the NFL draft, and a running back that set the all-time single season rushing record for their school last year. You'd expect a drop-off, but there was none. I've been high on Baylor this off-season. I have still had them as an 8 or 9 win team even without RG3, because they are still with Art Briles. Briles is an evil genius, and I think we're really going to see that this year as their offense is almost as good as it was last year. Baylor has done a great job of re-inventing themselves, branding themselves as a "cool" football team, wearing flashy uniforms (their basketball team does as well), and having a superstar to help the image. Even with an atrocious defense last year, Baylor won 10 games. This year, they lose a little on offense but their defense should slightly improve, and I have them going 9-3. 

-I can't go without a quick mention of the Houston game against Texas State. WOW. So Houston goes 12-1 last year, loses their coach to Texas A&M, and promptly loses their first game, in which they were favored by about 35 points to a team that just started playing FBS football. All I know is that after seeing that score pop up, I immediately felt even better about the fact that Kevin Sumlin is A&M's coach, because for them to crumble like that in the first game without Sumlin tells me that Sumlin was the key ingredient in Houston's success. Another interesting note from that game is that in the days following, Houston's offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt resigned. After one game. It's somewhat reminiscent of how Kevin Sumlin, who coached at A&M in 2002, got his first opportunity to be an offensive coordinator. A&M's offense was struggling badly under Dino Babers, and in the middle of the season, R.C. Slocum demoted Babers and promoted Sumlin, and just like that, A&M's offense improved. Scoring went up by 50%, and A&M ended up beating #1 ranked Oklahoma in one of the most memorable games ever at Kyle Field. 10 years later, Sumlin has now ascended to one of the highest levels you can reach, and back at the school he just left, the same thing is essentially happening ... something something circle of life.

Looking ahead to Week 2, from the viewpoint of a degenerate gambler:

-A&M (-2) vs. Florida: I can't really say too much that hasn't already been said about this game. Being the featured game of the week on ESPN, having College Gameday there, it's been talked about plenty. A&M new quarterback, A&M no depth at defensive line, Florida two quarterbacks, A&M home field advantage, blah blah blah. So I'll just go for the old journalistic trick of attempting to make connections to similar situations in the past. Here goes.

In 1989, R.C. Slocum took over and in his very first game, he hosted a top 10 SEC opponent. A&M was coming off of a 7 win season. And in an "I'm here to be reckoned with" statement game, he led his Ags to a 28-16 victory and went on to have a hall of fame coaching career.

Now, Sumlin inherits a team coming off of a 7 win season, and opens the year with a traditional SEC powerhouse at Kyle Field.

The fact is, even with the fact that A&M hasn't played a game yet and Florida has, Sumlin can still come in and make a big, fat statement to the SEC and all of college football and win this first game.

I was a student when A&M's offense was sputtering so badly in 2002 that R.C. demoted Babers mid-season and promoted Sumlin, and Sumlin, with the exact same players and playbook, increased our scoring average by over 50% and led us to an upset of the #1 team in the nation. He's a badass and he has been for a LONG time. He's not going to let the fact that this is the first game affect anything. He's going to go out and lead the team and have them ready. We may win, we may not, but we'll be ready.

In that LSU game in 1989, A&M's Larry Horton returned the opening kickoff of the game for a touchdown. How sweet would it be if Trey Williams did the exact same thing this Saturday...

I believe Sumlin is THE man for our program, and he will announce as much by leading us to a win over Florida. My official pick: A&M- 27, Florida, 24. (It's not one I'd bet on though)

Other gambling picks for the week:

I really like Georgia (-2.5) over Mizzou. 

I like Michigan (-21) over Air Force (assuming Air Force still isn't allowed to use planes).

I like Ohio State (-18) over Central Florida.

I like Miami (+7) over Kansas State, and would probably also throw a bet down on the moneyline for Miami, because I think there's a great shot they'll win the game.

I like Iowa State (+5) over Iowa and again, would consider a moneyline bet on ISU.

I like New Mexico (+38) against t.u. I think t.u. will easily win, of course, but they don't have the type of offense to cover very many 38 point spreads.

I like Louisiana Tech (-3.5) over Houston. 

I like Nebraska (-6) over UCLA. 

That's it. I may add some over/unders but haven't really looked at them yet. Last week, I didn't post picks here but I went 5-2 on picks against the spread posted on another website. They were:

Baylor (-9)- win
Baylor (OVER)- win
Michigan (+14)- loss
Boise (UNDER)- win
Stanford (-24)- loss
Texas State (+36)- win
Wyoming (+31.5)- win

Oh, and I almost forgot. I was going to make a couple predictions. Official prediction for A&M is 8-4 and has been all along for me. Bama wins the SEC and the whole country and maybe even plays an all-star football team from the USSR and beats them too to win the world. In the Big 12, which I still feel most knowledgeable about, I'm going with WVU at 1 loss, OU, t.u., and Baylor with 3 losses, TCU, KSU, and OSU right behind them, and ISU, KU, and Tech all struggling with only 1 or 2 conference wins. I haven't added all that up to make sure the math works, but something in that general vicinity is my prediction.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tiger Woods Analysis

I'm a Tiger fan, and I follow the tour pretty closely, so even though I know Tiger won a tournament and hasn't been awful, it also seems like he hasn't been that good necessarily. But is that true? Here are some numbers and some analysis.

So, many of you know, though many would be surprised, that Tiger ranks #3 in adjusted scoring average on Tour. Based on the missed cut, the poor Masters and Players, you'd think it would be worse, right? But no, overall, his scoring average is good.

So I looked at total driving. I know that after his win earlier this year, he was leading in total driving, but after his last three tournaments, where it seemed like he kind of lost it, I figured he had plummeted. But not so. He stillranks #3 on tour in total driving. 

So, when I looked at that, I thought to myself, well, putting is probably really hurting him, because all the talk is about how he just doesn't putt well anymore, etc... but anyway, he ranks 19th on Tour this year in strokes gained putting. Very good. In 8 foot putting, he's 54th. Not great, but not terrible. But just looking back to, say, 2009, he was 74th. In other years, he's been even worse. Not the automatic putter everyone thought. It just felt that way. So he's right in line with "Old Tiger" when it comes to putting.

I thought maybe scrambling had gotten worse for Tiger, but so far, he's doing ok. 34th this year, though again, he had several top 20 seasons in years past. He's #31 in sand saves this year. Again, pretty good.

So in looking for other areas where he's not up to his past standards, I did find a couple. In "birdie or better from the rough," Tiger is well off his old pace. He had several years in the 2000's where he was top 20 in that category, while this year, he's 84th. I included this one simply because I always felt like that was one of the huge advantages Tiger had over the field. He could go hit it a long way, and even if it was in thick rough, it seemed like no one could even approach his ability when it came to still being able to muscle the ball out of that rough and get it within birdie range. It seemed like that alone would usually get him a couple strokes per tournament over the field, and he isn't getting those right now.

In birdie % from 175-200 yards, Tiger is 40th. Not horrible, but he led the Tour in that one and was always top 20 in earlier years. In approaches from 175-200 and from 200+, he ranks pretty high, top 25 if I recall correctly. So he's still one of the best with his longer irons.

In approaches from the rough from 150-175, he's 114th this year whereas in years past, he had some very high finishes.

Driving distance is also down. The difference comes from using a 3 wood rather than driver, but still, he's only at 281 this year. He's been at 287-290 in many other years, and was even at 300+ in other years. He can still get it out there with the driver (he ranks 10th in "% of yardage covered on par 5 tee shots), but he's been dialing back off the tee to stay in the fairway.

Tiger is 19th in bogey avoidance. Again, that's actually really good, but he had a handful of seasons where he led the tour in the past.

Tiger is in the 90's this year on par 5 scoring. I figured that is really what's costing him, but I was surprised to see that he actually hasn't done as well at that as you would think in the past. He's only been top 10 once, and has had several years outside the top 40. Still, so far this year that has cost him some strokes.

Finally, in approach distance from inside 100 yards, Tiger is only 120th this year. That may be his biggest "issue," if you want to call it that. He led the tour in this category a couple times, and has never been worse than average, until this year. Not sure why. He also is doing very poorly from 100-125 yards, ranking like 140th this year, while he was in the top 7 every single year from 2003-2007. 

So while he's still doing a lot of things well (some surprisingly well and much better than you'd think based on what people say about his game), the things that appear to be keeping him from being dominant like he used to be are that he isn't quite dominating the par 5s like he used to, he isn't quite as deadly on those approach shots from the rough as he used to be, and he isn't quite as accurate on those 50-125 yard approach shots as he used to be.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book review: "The Big Miss," by Hank Haney

I am a huge golf fan, a huge Tiger Woods fan, a big Hank Haney fan, and I know how to read (sort of), so when Haney wrote a book about Tiger Woods playing golf, that was right up my alley So here are my thoughts, for what they're worth:

-You have to give Haney some credibility, simply because of his time spent with Tiger. That said, you also still have to remember that his is just one view. I don't doubt for a second that Tiger's personality is just as Haney described- distant, aloof, selfish, etc.- but Haney seems like a very sensitive dude after reading the whole book, and it seems like maybe he wasn't the right personality type to "get" Tiger, or also to be really liked by Tiger.

-On that same note, one thing you definitely pick up on throughout the book is a surprising level of insecurity on Haney's part. There are myriad mentions, in different forms, of how bothered he was by criticisms and comparisons and such. You would think a guy as successful as Haney, and Haney was VERY successful, both before Tiger and with Tiger, would be a little more thick skinned. Haney tried several times to claim that he and Tiger have similar outlooks and both have the same mental makeup in certain ways, but in my opinion, that was more a case of Haney trying to convince himself it was true, trying to keep up with Tiger. Fact is, Tiger is a unique personality and casts a huge shadow, and despite the fact that Haney dealt with it for 6 years and in many ways handled it well, I get the sense that Haney was just desperate for Tiger's approval the whole time and since he never got the public validation from Tiger, he wrote the book to try get validation from everyone else. He even has a whole chapter devoted to convincing people that Tiger was just as good under Haney as he was under Harmon. He put waaaay too much effort into comparing himself to Harmon. Like I said, I was surprised at how insecure Haney seems to be. 

-The chapter about the US Open at Torrey Pines (the one Tiger won despite playing with a torn ACL and two stress fractures in his leg) is awesome. Very cool to hear the details about the injury, the weeks leading up to it, and everything that went into that amazing performance. My favorite part of the book, by far.

-Overall, it was also a very good look into such a unique guy like Tiger Woods. In my lifetime (I'm 32), I basically feel like there are two guys who are wired differently than the rest of humanity, but who are wired the same as each other. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. I've read a ton about MJ, and love seeing how that type of person goes about becoming the best of all time. Very interesting to hear about all of Tiger's flaws, which Haney fairly points out are also part of the reason he's such a great golfer. There are also plenty of cool "here's how good Tiger Woods is" stories, which I love. I love following greatness and I love hearing about just how great the greatest are. 

-Even if you take everything Hank says as gospel, and it may be, you can't honestly say you're surprised at what you hear. OF COURSE Tiger is a messed up dude. He's been famous since adolescence, and fame like that can be a curse. That said, I have no idea (and honestly kind of doubt) if Tiger is quite as jerky as Hank sometimes makes him out to be. I think it was more a case of Haney being a different personality type than Tiger, but obviously I am just guessing here. 

-Hank does a good job of still, even while criticizing Tiger, pointing out that he believes Tiger is the greatest of all time. It was also interesting to hear of Tiger's struggles. Struggles on the range, struggles on the course, struggles with trusting certain parts of his game, etc. While it's cool to admire greatness, it's also cool to hear that the great ones have struggles to overcome. 

-All told, I liked both Tiger and Haney before all this, and I still like them both fine now. I never had any illusions that Tiger was a normal, friendly guy. I always actually like the fact that he doesn't "play the game" and isn't afraid to admit that he only wants to win- period. So I still respect Tiger as a golfer like I always have, and still have the "fan" part of me that would love to hang out with him, but also still have the rational part of me that knows that he's probably pretty much a selfish jerk. I'm mature enough to separate those out and still be as big a Tiger fan as there is when he's playing. As for Hank, I like him more in some ways after reading the book, and in some ways I think he's whiny and insecure. But no matter. I like him. I still love watching the Haney Project. I'm a loyal guy, and once I like someone, I pretty much like them forever. And these days, I'm so obsessed with golf, that I like everyone associated with it. 

If you're a golf fan, you should read this book.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Here's another funny example of people using the word "literally" wrong.

I was listening to the Baylor broadcast of their basketball game against Texas on Saturday. As Texas got the ball for the first time, apparently one of Baylor's defenders was guarding Longhorn J'Covan Brown very closely. So closely, in fact, that Baylor's color commentator said something along these lines: "You can see early on what Baylor's strategy is with J'Covan Brown, as the Baylor defender was literally in Brown's uniform with him."

That was one time I really regretted having to listen on the radio. Would have loved to see that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

December/January wrap up, random stuff

First, a deer season wrap up. The deer hunting was pretty lame in Llano this year. I'm sure the drought and then the October rain had something to do with it, but I only saw one deer all year that was bigger than 4 points (a 9 pointer that I let walk), and basically never saw a big doe all season.

Nevertheless, I did get some meat for the freezer on my last hunting weekend of the year, killing a young spike. I also found some really cool scrapes this year, which is always fun.

Anyway, I hunted 4 weekends in Llano this year, along with a trip to Kansas with Dad to chase a bigger deer. Unfortunately we had no luck there either, but it was a ton of fun regardless.

Now for a few tear-filled football thoughts. Sadly, I was right in my thoughts about the A&M-t.u. game in the sense that sure enough, t.u.'s offense was wretched and horrible and the only way A&M could lose was to turn the ball over. Sure enough, A&M turned the ball over too much and lost a game they never should have lost to a far inferior team. Very, very disappointing for me personally, as that game ranked #2 all time for me in games I desperately wanted A&M to win. The '99 Bonfire game was #1 on that list, and as logic would dictate, since A&M won the game in '99, this game in 2011 was the single most disappointing sports event of my life, and I have watched and loved sports (far too passionately) for a long, long time. I've just never been so despondent and forlorn (The phrase "despondent and forlorn" is something I use quite often because it sounds funny and eloquent at the same time. I stole it from comedian Dennis Regan, who is Brian Regan's brother.). So yeah, seriously one of the worst nights of my 32 years on this earth, as far as the final outcome is concerned. It didn't help that Cyrus Gray didn't get to play. Based on the football season as a whole (including the injuries and the heartbreaking losses) and the early results from basketball as well, it seems that as a trade off for going to the SEC, A&M had to sacrifice their 2011-12 seasons to the gods of bitter teasips. I suppose it might end up being a good trade in the long run, but it's been painful this year.

I had a lot of other football thoughts over the last two months but now they are escaping me. Perhaps I'll find the time and energy to add them later.

For Christmas this year we spent Christmas Eve at Molly's mom's house, along with Paul. Then the next morning we went and opened presents at my parents' house before heading to San Antonio for lunch with Gran Gran. Rebecca, Adam, and Annika were all there, as well as Uncle Bill.

The hunting trip to Kansas was my big present so I didn't get many physical presents from Mom and Dad, but I did get a book or two, a movie, a gun case type thing, and from Molly I got some nice shoes, a nice shirt, a replica of Kyle Field, and a few other things.

For New Year's Eve, we went to Travis and Kim's, and had a lot of fun with our little group of 8. Bethany and Sarah went home early to feed babies, but the rest of us stayed and tried some various tasty (and not so tasty) alcoholic concoctions. Helpful tip: there's really no need to ever drink anything called "moonshine."

A lot of the time in between all of these things has been spent watching tons of football, and I do believe that this year, taking the whole of both college and pro football (heck, and Texas high school football, with Jonathan Gray and Trey Williams), has been an incredible year of football. We've gotten to see both incredible defense (Bama) and the continued evolution of spread offenses that has led to insanely high scoring games like the Alamo Bowl (and basically every other game played by Baylor), with lots of amazing close games in both college and pro football. I really think that, taking out my disappointment over A&M's 7-6 season, this has been probably the most enjoyable football season, from my perspective as a fan with pretty broad interest, of my entire life. Wisconsin/Oregon, Baylor/Washington, WVU/Clemson, Georgia/MichSt, OkSt/Stanford, Michigan/VT, and on and on and on were great theater, and those are just the bowl games. Here's hoping 2012 is just as exciting.

Here are some quick, random football thoughts that I've had recently, many of which could warrant several paragraphs but for now will just be quick hitters:

-RGIII was amazing and deserved the Heisman, but what really stands out to me when I look at Baylor's stats is running back Terrance Ganaway. He only ran for 295 yards last year, then out of nowhere, ran for over 1500 yards to easily lead the conference. Very impressive year.

-With the 12 games schedules, bowls, and conference championships, a decent team will play a minimum of 13 and sometimes 14 games in a season. 10 wins used to be a benchmark of a really good season. It appears that that is no longer the case. Proof: 23 of the 25 teams that finished ranked this year won at least 10 games. So basically, winning 10 games is akin to finishing ranked. It used to mean you only lost 1 or 2 games all year and finished in the top 10. Now you can have a 10 win season that included 4 losses. There's nothing special about that. I think the new benchmark for a really good season should be 11 or 12 wins.

-Jeff Fuller finally put it together for A&M in his final two games, against Texas and Northwestern. He fought injuries all season and somehow that also led to lots of drops, but he came back with two straight 100 yard games to end his career. I was one who was on his side all season. Lots of Aggie fans bailed on him. Glad to see him go out on a high note.

-Don't be shocked when Ryan Tannehill goes high- very high- in the NFL draft this year. I've said it before and it's coming true. One draft expert this week already said he's a likely top 10 pick. Do I think he's that great? No, I really don't. I like him and think he has some real potential, but personally I don't see him being worth a top 10 pick. The thing is, the NFL has gone full-on crazy with quarterbacks, and has proven over and over that they are just dying to give away their money and overpay. As soon as last year's first round concluded, I knew Ryan Tannehill would go very high in this year's draft, because teams proved that they will value quarterbacks over any other position, even if they aren't that great (Christian Ponder). Bill Simmons of ESPN has a thing where he always talks about how basketball teams need a G.M. of common sense. So many stupid moves get made, so much money gets thrown at average players or old players or unproven players, there's no common sense involved. Same thing applies in the NFL with quarterbacks. Nothing against Tannehill, but he'll likely be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

-A&M's new defensive coordinator will apparently be running a 4-3 defense. Like many Aggies who grew up on the days of the Wrecking Crew and the 3-4 defense, I'm a little sad to say goodbye to the 3-4 (actually a lot sad), but the good news is, much like offenses, defenses are quite multiple these days, and in all honesty, most of the time, the casual fan won't really notice a difference, and the obvious truth is that we just want the defense to be good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A&M-t.u. tidbits and football talk

I'm not even going to go into any depth about how big a game this is (despite both teams' mediocre records) and how special this rivalry is (very) and all the happy memories I have of A&M vs. t.u. on Thanksgiving night (many), because there's just too much to say if I go down those roads. I could go on and on and on... so I won't. I will, however, share some numbers that I find interesting and a little bit on how I *think* the game will unfold.

So, in no particular order and with no particular format in mind, here goes.

-Ryan Swope has already broken A&M's single season record for catches and yards, and is one touchdown away from tying the record for touchdown catches. He has one year left, and has become a heck of a weapon for A&M.

-Jeff Fuller, despite having a very bad run of dropped passes this year, has still put up numbers that would be solid if they were coming from someone who hadn't been expected to do so much more. With two games to play, he has 56 catches and over 600 yards. Not anywhere near what we expected out of him, but not as bad as many Aggie fans think.

-Cyrus Gray might play... or might not. Nobody knows, and I think that's exactly how Mike Sherman wants it at this point. But the Aggies need him. He's only the third Aggie ever to have back to back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, and he did it both times despite sharing time in the backfield with Christine Michael. He blocks well, runs well, catches the ball well, and is a team leader. If he's unable to go, A&M's chances go down greatly.

-For the Horns, who have had a lot of good running backs but have not had much success there in the last few years, they are fighting injuries at the position. I have no idea how hurt they are, but as far as I know, none of them are 100%. Texas hasn't had a 1,000 yard rusher in a few years, and unless Malcom Brown can go off in his last three games, they'll be shut out again in that category.


Texas: Defense. They lead the conference in basically every category. They are the best defense A&M has played this year and it's not even close. That said, they can still be torched. OU passed for 300 yards on them... in the first half. They're good, but they aren't Alabama or LSU.

A&M: Moving the ball on offense. A&M is going to set the all-time school record for total offense and for scoring offense. That said, they still disappear for stretches and have had well-documented problems putting points on the board in the second half of games this year.


Texas: Passing the ball on offense. It's pretty amazing that Texas is this bad, considering their recruiting power. They are #9 (out of 10) in the conference in passing efficiency, and are the only team in the conference who has thrown as many interceptions as they have touchdowns. Their quarterbacks get sacked a lot and are inaccurate.

A&M: Turnover margin. Even after having their best game of the year last Saturday against Kansas, A&M still ranks dead last in the conference in forcing turnovers. Also, red zone defense. In 2010, A&M ranked 4th in the country in red zone defense. 2011? 92nd.


Texas: They aren't a horrible running team. They have a group of running backs that are decent, though not great. If A&M can stop the run, they should win fairly easily. And you'd think A&M has a chance of doing that, as A&M ranks 5th in the nation in yards per carry defense.

A&M: The offensive line for the Ags has been very good this year, and it needs to play well against a good Texas defense. A&M has only allowed 7 sacks all year and has gotten roughly 2,000 yards from the two-headed monster at tailback.

Texas: This year it is well known that they will run a handful of trick plays and are constantly trying to create confusion for opposing defenses by using lot of pre-snap shifting and motion. With a short week for the Aggie defense to prepare, A&M must be focused and mistake-free when getting set before each snap.

A&M: The Aggies have been dropping passes all year. WAY too many. Not just Jeff Fuller, either. All of them. A&M must clean this up, because against a solid defense like Texas, you can't miss out on any chance to make a play.


-A&M and Texas both have a punt return touchdown this year. A&M also has a blocked field goal for a touchdown. I'm not sure if Texas has any other special teams touchdowns.

-A&M and Texas both have excellent kickers. Both teams can feel very confident about at least getting three points once they get inside the 30 yard line.

-Games involving Texas A&M have more plays run than any other team in America. A&M is #2 in the nation in total plays per game on offense, and second to last in the nation in total plays per game faced on defense.

-Meaningless, but interesting: Texas opponents this year have only missed one field goal.

-Texas is average, and A&M is below average, when it comes to penalties.

-A&M is 12th in the country in yards per rush, while Texas is 35th.

-On the flip side, A&M and Texas defense are both in the top 15 nationally in yards per rush defense.

-Texas is 6th in the country in yards per pass defense. A&M's offense is is 58th in yards per pass. Advantage Texas.

-A&M's yards per pass defense is ranked 73rd, while Texas' offense is 67th.

-A&M leads the nation in total sacks and sacks per game.

-A&M gets sacked once every 63 passes it tries. Texas gets sacked once every 12. A&M sacks their opponent once every 11 passes. That, along with the stat above, are advantage A&M.

-Texas is 104th in the nation in opponent's kickoff return average.

-Texas is 16th in the country in 3rd down defense. A&M is 19th in the country in 3rd down offense. Push.

-A&M is 81st in the country in 3rd down defense. Texas is 33rd in the country in 3rd down offense.

-A&M is 22nd in the country in offensive yards per play. Texas is 9th in the country in defensive yards per play allowed.

-Texas is 67th in the country in offensive yards per play. A&M is 33rd in the country in defensive yards per play allowed.

-Texas has not had a play all year that gained over 60 yards.


Well, A&M is favored by about 7. And they're favored for a reason. Texas is a very flawed team, at least offensively. That said, A&M has been a big disappointment, as we all know. If A&M had won 3 of these close games and were 9-2, they'd be favored by 15-20.

So that said, A&M should win, at least if Cyrus is able to play. It should go down this way: Texas struggles to move the ball and struggles to score. When they are forced to pass, A&M pressures the QB and Texas is unable to do much. On the other side, A&M will have a tough time as well, but since A&M actually does have a credible offense, both running and passing, it will be good for a few scoring drives. If all goes like the stats say they should, I'd say A&M should win, maybe 24-13 or something.

Obviously anything can happen in college football. That's proven every week. One thing I'm confident of is that this will be a fairly low scoring game. If you're a betting man, bet the under (I think it's 54). I find it very unlikely that this score will even approach 50.

For A&M, I think this game will come down to Tannehill's ability to avoid turning the ball over, and our receivers' ability to catch the ball. If A&M does those things, I think the Ags win. If not, it's anybody's game.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A&M-Mizzou pictures

So I rented a super fancy, expensive camera lens that I can't afford to buy and brought it to the A&M-Mizzou game last Saturday. This was a Canon 100-400 mm lens, L series. I have always been into sports photography, and so for this game I bought tickets in the end zone bleachers to try to get some good shots. Here are the best ones.

 I like the gentle caress of Lamothe's hiney by Fuller in this next one:

 Got lucky with this picture, as you can see exactly where Tanny is throwing it:

 This, and the cropped version following, would have been so much better if not for the people behind Cyrus in the picture. He would have stood out against the concrete but kind of disappears with the maroon background:

 This one is cool:

 Fuller looks like a giant compared to the little corner:

 And to prove his giant-ness, he sat on him:

 Here's a sequence with Swope, from snap to catch:

 Hate to include this, but these last ones are the game winning touchdown by Mizzou: