In brief, generic form at FanHouse.
Archive for September, 2007
I was recently interviewed for a new weekly college football radio show. The show titled, The College Football Blog Weekly Radio Show, is now available for your listening pleasure.
You can check out my appearance following the USC game here. I’m interviewed a few minutes into the show after an Alabama and USC blogger have given their opinions on their perspective seasons.
Listening will prove that while I have a face for radio, I unfortunately also have the voice of … I don’t know, a puppeteer?
But it’s all just part of DXP’s plan for world domination (insert foreboding laughter here).
I’m a little late in catching this, but check out Roy Helu’s block on Nebraska’s game-winning TD last week.
With awareness and execution like that Helu probably just earned a few more snaps. Who says Callahan and Co. don’t play young guys.
It should also be noted that Anthony West was on the field for Ball State’s final drive.
The young guys might slowly be making a push.
Last Week: 5-6 (45%)
Season: 25-21 (54%)
Of the 6 losses last week, we lost 3 games by less than 3 points and 1 game in OT (Ala-Georgia). However, we are confident in a big rebound and even though our usual smoking hot ladies didn’t show up at our post-game party, we managed with some scraps courtesy of Dr. D’s class orientation party. Bottom line, the show goes on even if it isn’t smoking hot ladies but rather a young lady that required the offensive line to hold her up.
TEXAS (-14.5) over Kansas State: In case you forgot, last year Texas was overly-embarrassed at K. State and cost themselves any chance for a Big 12 or National Championship after Colt McCoy got hurt. Texas was up 41-0 last week on Rice in the second quarter and is starting to look stronger and stronger. KSU QB Josh Freeman just texted me and said that he is planning on not showing up for the game because he is fat and has 2 TDs and 4 INTs this year.
NEBRASKA (-21) over Iowa State: In an ‘ideal’ situation, we would be overlooking this game as Missouri is on deck. However, this is not an ‘ideal’ situation – but in case you didn’t know, I can look into the future and this vision came to me from the upcoming Sunday Bill Callahan Show with Jim Rose. Here is what will be said:
‘No Question Jim. These young men gave a tremendous effort Saturday and I can’t say enough about their preparation and hard work this week. It was just another outstanding performance from our Offense and I was proud of the way Coz rallied the defense and showed their toughness. We don’t take what defenses give us, we take what we want.’ -Bill Callahan Iowa State post-game interview with Jim Rose this upcoming Sunday
Hawaii (-25) over IDAHO: Hawaii has beaten Idaho (1-3) by an average of 48-10 the last 3 years and Heisman candidate QB Colt Brennan is averaging 421 ypg (77% completion) with 12 TDs and 1 INT this year. Idaho’s secondary gives up a 66 completion %. You don’t even need an elementary math IQ to figure this out.
TULSA (-20.5) over UAB: UAB is off a bigger slump-buster win than anybody who has ever visited Club Patrick’s in Lincoln after beating a 1AA opponent with 5 field goals to break an 8 game losing streak. Tulsa is averaging 508 yards/game this year and runs a no-huddle offense that hung tough with Oklahoma until the 4th quarter last week. This will be ugly.
Ohio State (-23) over MINNESOTA: Ohio State won their 22nd straight regular season game last week against Northwestern where they were so dominant that NW didn’t cross the 50 until almost the 4th quarter. New QB Boeckman leads the Big 10 at QB, ‘Beanie’ Wells is avg 6 yards/carry, and their top WR Robiskie has 5 TDs and averages over 21 yards/reception – oh and their Defense is #3 in college football. Minnesota is 1-3 and has the worst pass D in the country.
VA. TECH (-18) over N. Carolina: UNC has lost 18 straight games away from the state of N. Carolina and is coming off a blowout loss at S. Florida where their offense put up an impressive 164 yards. UNC Fr. QB threw 4 INTs and was sacked 4 times in that loss. V. Tech has been less than impressive this year and actually was out first-downed by William & Mary last week in a 44-3 win. At home, the Hokie defense (#11 in the country) and special teams should cover this one up much better than Michael Vick’s advisors.
NAVY (-2.5) over Air Force: I got lit up like a Mike Vick bong taking Navy to cover against Duke last week. Navy’s defense is the key to this game as they are giving up almost 300 yards per game through the air, which ranks near the bottom of the NCAA, but just 150 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile Air Force averages just 130 yards per game passing and both teams clearly prefer the run. This game looks a lot like last week with a weak passing team unable to capitalize on the opposing defense’s weakness. Navy will literally run away with this one.
TEXAS A&M (-16.5) over Baylor: Baylor is giving up just over 3 yards per rush and 115 yards per game, but face a huge step up in talent and competition this week facing an angry Texas A&M squad whose backup QB cost us an UNDER victory with 5 seconds left in the game last week against Miami. I’m not even sure we should count that as a loss. I mean, this isn’t the NFL, we should be having more fun predicting games and I’m just not having that much fun right now . . . sorry about that DXP readers, Cory McKeon was typing that last sentence while I was taking a leak. Where was I? Ah yes, Texas A&M taking out its frustrations on a Baylor squad that’s faced Texas St and Buffalo the past two weeks. A&M may cover by the end of the first quarter.
Kent (-1) over OHIO: Somehow Ohio is averaging 27 points per game on just 313 yards per game (98th in NCAA). They’ve done it with smoke, mirrors, and interlock systems on all team buses. This is a team that got 7 turnovers a week ago and failed to win. Meanwhile, Kent blew a 10 point lead at Akron last week while giving up the ball 4 times. I’m taking the more talented team in this game and if Kent doesn’t get at least 150 more yards of total offense, I won’t pick another game the rest of the year.
Temple (+6) over ARMY: You know you’ve hit rock-bottom when you lay down hard-earned cash on Temple. This team hasn’t won on the road since Dr. D started sneaking into sorority houses on the Indiana campus (2003 if you’re counting). However, this week they catch a very winnable road contest taking on an Army squad that averages 60 yards per game rushing, 258 yards of total offense, and a measly 13.75 points per game (116th in NCAA). Temple isn’t much better, but we’ll take the more experience squad in this one.
Chicken Little is alive and well in Husker Nation, so we decided to throw our own thoughts in the ring. I’m a little late to the party, as my invitation apparently got lost in the mail (Ahem), but hopefully my responses will add in some way to the ocean of opinions flooding the Big Red.
1) Assess the Huskers performance this season. What is going well, and what has surprised you?
Maybe more things are going well then most of Husker Nation would like to admit. Our special teams seemed much improved, although I’d still like to see us bust a long return. Cortney Grixby was apparently close last week, but those are the kind of plays that can turn games and even seasons. Another area that is going extremely well is our Red Zone offense. We have currently converted 17/18 (94.4%) red zone opportunities. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the one we failed to convert involved Joe Ganz or Beau Davis taking a knee to run out the clock against Nevada.
For me the biggest surprise is how poorly our offensive line has performed. This is the one area I expected to be much improved. Brett Byford had supposedly blossomed into a solid center, and Lydon Murtha was thought to have “found himself” in the offseason. Our lack of a running game, however, indicates we still have a long way to go before the pipeline is rebuilt. With the seeming lack of progress upfront, I wouldn’t be shocked (nor pleased) if we had to return to the JUCO ranks for another quality lineman. If not we will be counting on some supposedly talented, but inexperienced guys next season.
2) Let’s not sugar coat things; the Blackshirts are struggling. What do you think the issue is, and what needs to be done to rectify things this season?
I think a lack of heart and intensity is one of the major issues with the defense. No one seems to be willing to step up or get in guys’ faces. That creates a great deal of passivity among the Blackshirts.
A second problem looks to be the way the plays are called and signaled into the defense. Cosgrove wants to wait until the offensive personnel is set so that he can make the right situational substitutions and alignments. That’s fine in some respects, but also seems to account for the defensive players lining up, shifting and moving around as the offense puts the ball in play. It’s pretty tough to hold your line, let alone make progress up field, when you were never set in the first place. This one seems entirely correctable.
When you combine the above issues with a linebacking corps that has struggled to get off blocks, not only this year, but also in years past we are finding that offenses are gashing the middle of the Blackshirts.
To rectify things the team just needs to be reminded to play hard and have fun. Listening to Corey McKeon’s comments it’s clear he is no longer having fun. When you stop having fun, your energy level drops and you essentially stop making plays. If I were in charge of the defense, I would sacrifice the poor scout team this week for the good of the season. I’d go back to running Oklahoma drills, goal line reps and other one-on-one hitting and tackling drills. The point is to remind the guys how fun it is to light somebody up. Send some scout team receivers over the middle and let the secondary guys get a bead on the them. Put the ball at the fifty and let two guys race and fight for it at midfield (a la the XFL kickoff). Anything just to increase the fun and aggressiveness of the defense. I believe much of the passivity I see relates to fear and a lack of confidence that relates to being exposed by USC. That fear has paralyzed the system. Guys are holding back out of fear of making mistakes. As a result, I’d introduce the Blackshirts to a new mantra:
“Mistakes are a necessary part of learning. No mistakes – no learning. I’ll make my mistakes fearlessly and aggressively. I’m not playing it safe, holding back, or looking for excuses. I’m going for it – I’ll accept whatever happens and move on. I don’t fear mistakes, I learn from them.”
3) Kevin Cosgrove is the target of a lot of criticism over the play of the Blackshirts. How will this play out?
I think the criticism will continue until we win a national title. This is a pretty educated guess based on what happened with Darlington and McBride during the 80s. Both of those guys were harassed for years because their system was ineffective against Oklahoma, Miami and Florida State. Those teams had a way of making our defenses look slow and unathletic. Ironically, the system magically improved when our defenses became faster and more athletic. The changes ultimately related to the types of players we brought in, rather than a change in philosophy or system. (Ed.- I realize we changed to the 4-3 in the early 90s, but still struggled against certain offenses until the talent caught up).
Unlike many I don’t think Cosgrove is on his way out during or after this season. Nor do I believe that would immediately rectify the concerns on D. If Callahan had any doubts about Cosgrove’s defensive philosophy he would have encouraged him to take the Vikings job last off-season. Do people really think he fires his best friend after said best friend decided to stay on just a year ago? Yes, coaching is a business, but friendships and staff continuity often supercede making tough business decisions. The wildcard could be a directive from Callahan’s boss asking for changes. God help Husker Nation if word leaks of such an edict.
4) You went into this season with some expectations. Has the start to this season changed your mind? Where do you see the Huskers at the end of the season?
The start has had little impact on my overall expectations. I thought we’d be 3-1 at this juncture in the season. I also thought the expectations of others were a little unrealistic given not only our situation, but also that of our opponents (e.g., Missouri’s home field advantage and returning QB). At best I envisioned 10-2. At worst 7-5. In the end we probably end up somewhere in between. But I fully expect the roller coaster ride to continue throughout the season. Yippee!!
5) There was a loud chorus of boos last weekend at Memorial Stadium. Your reaction? Is it okay to boo the Huskers under any circumstance?
I’m sort of indifferent to the booing. I think it flies in the face of our self-applied “greatest fans in college football” label, but that ship had sailed years ago. As a fan, I believe you are entitled to voice your displeasure and booing seems a legitimate option to many. Obviously I’d prefer all 85,000 simply went home and started a blog, but booing is definitely more immediately gratifying. College football is a major spectator sport. There is no way to separate the spectators from the action. If you want fans to cheer on your greatest deeds, you should also be prepared for them to chastise your worst. I also believe that a mentally well-conditioned athlete should be rather immune to fan reactions of any sort. If you are hearing and reacting to the boos, I’d question your focus on the task at hand. Which I suppose if you’ve read the rest of my responses I clearly am.
From the comments, Robert says:
“I can’t say I’m much of a fan of these measures…I think it is questionable that certain teams are more likely to rack up yards and be unable to score on a consistent basis. They may do it over a period of time, but I question that it is good for predicting the future performance. I’ll take the team that puts up the most yards.”
The only reason I post these measures is that they have consistently been shown to be better predictors of success in both the NFL and college football.
A year ago in CFB, the most relevant offensive statistics in terms of winning percentage were:
1. Scoreability Index
2. Third Down Efficiency
3. Total Offense
4. Scoring Offense
5. Yds/Pass Attempt
6. Passing Efficiency
7. Rushing Offense
8. Fourth Down Efficiency
9. Passing Offense
10. Time of Possession
In addition, we are already seeing the same thing in terms of the Scoreabililty Index vs. Total Offense in 2007.
Right now teams that are in the Top 20 in the Scoreability Index have a combined record of 67-10 for a winning percentage of .863. Teams ranked in the Top 20 in total offense have a combined record of 61-16, or a winning percentage of just .788.
By saying, “I’ll take the team that puts up the most yards” – you’re going to be stuck with the likes of Louisville (#1 in total offense, 2-2 record), Tulsa, BYU, Minnesota, New Mexico State, Ball State, and Arkansas all of whom are ranked in the Top 20 in Total Offense.
Interestingly, none of those teams is currently ranked in the Top 20 in the Scoreability Index.
The strength of the Scoreability Index lies in the fact that it is influenced by other variables. This makes it a great barometer of team success. It is a function of many team-wide factors, including general offensive strength, defense and special teams proficiency, turnover differential and Red Zone offense.
Total offense on the other hand, means less as a stand alone variable. Just ask Steve Kragthorpe.
Might as well take a quick look at how Nebraska is stacking up in terms of our offensive and defensive efficiency, thus far in 2007.
Remember offensive efficiency is measured by way of the Scoreability Index. The Scoreability Index is obtained by dividing a team’s total yards by total points scored, yielding Yards Per Point Scored. A team that ranks high on the Scoreability Index has the offense that scores most efficiently, marching off a relatively small number of yards for every point it scores.
Nebraska currently has a Scoreability Index of 13.68 which ranks 56th nationally. That means Nebraska is currently scoring one touchdown for every 82 yards of offense they generate. To put this in perspective, a year ago we scored on TD for every 81 yards of offense we generated, so we can call that a wash.
When looking at how the Big 12 stacks up, you might be surprised.
2. Texas A&M
4. Kansas State
6. Texas Tech
9. Oklahoma State
12. Iowa State
Nebraska has just the 8th most efficient offense in the conference. Interestingly that puts the Huskers just one spot below the high powered offense of Missouri. Things should be interesting in two weeks.
Defensive efficiency is measured by way of the Bendability Index. This is the first stat that chronicles the phenomenon of the “bend-but-don’t-break” defense. The Bendability Index is obtained by dividing a team’s total yards allowed by total points allowed, yielding Yards Per Point Allowed. A team that ranks high on the Bendability Index has the defense that opponents must work hardest to score upon.
You can probably guess how ugly this one is. Nebraska currently has a Bendability Index of 14.03. So far, Nebraska’s opponents have had to march just 84 yards to score the equivalent of a single touchdown. A year ago the Blackshirts forced teams to generate 108 yards of offense to score the equivalent of one TD. For those claiming this is the “worst Husker defense I have ever seen” you’d be almost right in terms of defensive efficiency. Cosgrove’s 2004 defense was actually worse. That team had a Bendability Index of 13.72 and opponents needed just 82 yards of offense to score the equivalent of one TD. This year’s totals would, however, rank as the second least efficient defense since the Osborne Era began.
When looking at the Big 12, things are darn right ugly. All I can say is thank God for Iowa State.
5. Kansas State
7. Texas A&M
9. Oklahoma State
10. Texas Tech
12. Iowa State
But after looking at these numbers I actually feel better about the defense and worse about the offense. While Sam Keller and the offense are racking up yards, we aren’t putting up enough points to show for all of that work. That type of inefficiency will come back to haunt us in conference play. Especially if we are going to have to outscore everyone.
Defensively we are obviously bad, but most of the teams going all the way back to the Osborne era had a game or two where the defense imploded. Those games impacted the overall defensive efficiency of the team, but didn’t necessarily result in losses. At the very worst, if the defensive numbers continue at this rate we should finish somewhere between the 2002 team and the 2004 team. In other words, we could expect about six wins. Ouch.
You won’t see much analysis of the Ball State game. I couldn’t watch it and suffered through a horrible internet connection trying to listen to Jim Rose tell me how great Ball State was. Crappy day all around.
Oh, and did we really need a celebration like that after the miss?