Monday, April 26, 2010

Draft Wrap-Up

The NFL draft has come and gone, and for the most part, PSU players did well.  Granted, perhaps not as well as die hard fans would like to see, and some feel Clark might have been slighted, but hey, we still managed more draftees than OSU!

Players taken (round/overall):

Jared Odrick DT 1/28
Sean Lee LB 2/55
Navarro Bowman LB 3/91
Andrew Quarless TE 5/154
Mickey Shuler TE 7/214
Josh Hull LB 7/254

Darryl Clark was initially rumored to have signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh, but subsequent reports have him headed to the Redskins.

For the Big Ten Conference, here's how the teams did [(x)= first rounders]:

Iowa- 6 (1)
Penn State- 6 (1)
Ohio State 4
Indiana- 3
Illinois- 3
THEM- 3 (1)
Northwestern- 3
Wisconsin- 2
Minnesota- 2
Michigan State- 1
Purdue- 1

And on the BWI Board, GutCheck did some five year research . . .
Over the past five years/drafts, here are the numbers for the Big Ten/Eleven/Twelve/Fourteen:
School - Five Year Total - Five Year Average

Ohio State - 30 - 6
Penn State - 24 - 4.8
Michigan - 21 - 4.2
Notre Dame - 19 - 3.8
Iowa - 18 - 3.6
Wisconsin - 16 - 3.2
Purdue - 13 - 2.6
Michigan State - 11 - 2.2
Minnesota - 8 - 1.6
Illinois - 8 - 1.6
Northwestern - 6 - 1.2
Indiana - 6 - 1.2

So, here are the surprises that I see in those figures:
1. Wow! Illinois is low, for having "super-recruiters" on their staff. Equal to Minnesota.
2. Iowa and Wisconsin always seem to get more out of less, and this supports that general impression.
3. Michigan State is not a player. They have been sending fewer players to the league than Purdue!

Here are the things that are not surprising:
1. Ohio State has had the most talent, as we have seen them put the best team on the field.
2. Penn State is "back", as indicated by leading Michigan, ND and all other conference members except OSU - even if our totals still don't exceed the numbers that we sent to the league in the '90's and '80's.
3. Michigan - lower than expected, and dropping like a rock.

What are your thoughts on the draft?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Feeling Blue?

Blue won the annual scrimmage, beating White 17-3.  But the game did little to alleviate my anxiety regarding the upcoming season.  Granted, the usual cautions are valid here--this was not a real game by any stroke of the imagination and was little more than a glorified practice.  Yet, as a fan, you hope to see glimmers of hope, and at least basic competency.

Two glimmers of hope brightened the gray day as true freshman and early enrollee Paul Jones hooked up with Shawney Kersey twice for the game's only touchdowns.  Of all the quarterbacks, Jones seemed to be the most accurate and poised, but then he may have been the one with the least pressure on him to perform.  It is also probably unfair to gauge performance on a sampling of 8-18 passes (McGloin had the most attempts) but we fans have nothing else to base our evaluations on.  And while the coaches have the advantage of seeing these kids day to day, I don't think you can underestimate the value of a player who performs well in a game setting.  What good is a kid who shines in practice but flounders during games?  But I digress.

The performance of Jones even got Brent Musberger into the debate as the veteran announcer was duly impressed and looked to see this kid perform this fall.  Do not hold your breath, Brent.  (OK, he's not my favorite announcer so maybe you can if you want to.)  Seriously, he is still about two injuries and possible a mini-stroke away from seeing serious playing time this season.  Joe is not going to play a freshman when there are upperclassman who have been in the system, albeit with minimal to no playing time, available and with pulses.

The offensive line wasn't awful, but it was far from good.  Running holes were rare and they gave up five sacks, although in this scrimmage, just touching the QB counted as a tackle.  Part of their performance can be written off as a work in progress.  Wisniewski, who played center last year, moved to guard and Doug Klopacz was the first string center.  Offensive lines take time to gel so we'll give them a pass at this point.

Chaz Powell moved to CB and missed a great opportunity at a pick that could have gone for six the other way.

The defense appears to be fundamentally sound and I think they will be capable of keeping us in most games this season, even if our offense is overmatched.

The kicking game is a bit of a concern.  The punts were lousy to say the least, the final stats propped up by virtue of no rush or returns and a lot of rolling after they hit on the ground.  Wagner hit a 46 yarder, and Soldner hit a 36 yarder, but missed another attempt from 32 yards.  Anthony Fera did not play along with Zordich for disciplinary reasons.

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Year; New Rules

It's that time of year again . . . when the NCAA rules committee gets together and decides how they can further ruin the game of football.  Seriously.  Why do we need so many rule changes?  Does anyone else think these guys sit around trying to dream up ways of justifying their jobs?

Here are this year's updates for 2011 from ESPN:
Eye black with messages and wedge blocks will be banned from college football this fall, and taunting in the field of play will start costing teams points in 2011.

One year after the NFL banned wedge blocking on kickoffs because of safety concerns, the NCAA followed the lead. The new rule says that when the team receiving a kickoff has more than two players standing within two yards of one another, shoulder to shoulder, it will be assessed a 15-yard penalty -- even if there is no contact between the teams.

The reason: NCAA studies have shown that 20 percent of all injuries occurring on kickoffs result in concussions.

20 % of all injuries on kickoffs?  How many injuries are there on kickoffs?  And how many are due specifically to wedge blocking?  I don't know, but if the NFL banned it, so be it.  If the justification is safety, I guess I can't argue too vehemently.

But eye black messages?  OK, perhaps they are in bad taste.  Aren't mullets?  And tattoos?  Lady Gaga?  Shouldn't the schools/coach decide what is appropriate?  Why do we feel the need to protect the feelings of a few by making everyone elses life miserable (obviously I am not a fan of the politically correct movement, nor would my life be miserable without eye black messages.)  As it stands now, individual schools can rule on kids accused of rape, theft, and what have you, but the NCAA decides its going to crack down on eye black messages.  Way to go guys.  I feel the game has gotten better already thanks to your hard work!

Beginning in 2011, live-ball penalties will be assessed from the spot of the foul and eliminate the score. Examples include players finishing touchdown runs by high-stepping into the end zone or pointing the ball toward an opponent.

"If it's close to diving into the end zone, most likely it would be ruled that the act ended while in the end zone. We'll be lenient," Parry said. "It's really if it's really bad, for example, if a guy flips the bird at the 10 or high-steps backwards into the end zone or starts a forward roll at the 3-yard line."
Oh, if Dave Parry is in charge, then everything will be okay.  We won't have to worry about the rules being interpreted differently . . .

Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, chair of the rules committee, has heard concerns from other coaches about both the consistent application and severity of the rule.

I wonder why?  Parry says it will be just fine. 

Is this really a pressing issue?  The celebration penalty is probably already thrown too often.  These are college kids playing an emotional game.  Can't we reserve the penalty for vulgar demonstrations or clear in the face taunting?

Or, if we insist on punishing this behavior, then let the score count but suspend the kid for one game pending a video review by the teams athletic directors.  In the cited case involving LSU where no penalty was demonstrated on video, then the suspension would be waived.  But why take points off the board for a well executed play just because someone's feelings are hurt from taunting.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not advocating kids dancing around making asses of themselves after scoring.  But pointing a finger other than the niddle one or doing a little high step into the endzone is simply not worth taking a touchdown off the board for.

Hey rules committee?  Lighten up, Francis.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Big Ten Football: Before and After Penn State

It's that time of year . . . I'm bored.  I started musing about Penn State joining the Big Ten 17 seasons ago amidst rumors of expansion.  I don't want to debate whether the Big Ten has been good/bad for PSU football, or PSU sports in general, or God forbid academics and research.  It is all, um, academic anyway, since PSU is not going anywhere else in the foreseeable future.  But I did wonder, has joining the Big Ten been good for Big Ten football???  After all, a lot of sports rhetoric has focused on the Big Ten being "down" as a conference, fueled by epic out of conference losses and poor bowl game performances.

So I sat down and compared all the Big Ten teams for the past 17 years (1993-2009) versus the previous 17 seasons (1976-1992.)  I used the AP poll since the BCS system was not around for the vast majority of those years.  I chose the AP poll because the data was easy to access.  I looked at how many times teams were ranked in the top 20 and the top 10.  Note:  the AP poll only ranked 20 teams up until the mid-late eighties.This data includes only Top 20 rankings.  (In case you are wondering, only two teams were ranked in the 21-25 slots between 1976 and 1992.  But after 1993, 9 teams were ranked in the 21-25 range.)

I also looked at the average AP rank and how that changed--the Delta.  A negative delta indicates that the team has fallen in rank since PSU joined the conference.  For teams that weren't ranked during either period, a fudge factor of 30 was inserted for comparison purposes, but keep in mind the actual rank could be much worse than that.  This fudge factor of 30 was not included in overal rank comparisons at the bottom of the chart.
TeamBig 10Big 11
Top 20Top10AVG AP RankTop 20Top 10AVG AP RankDelta
Penn State1186.711610.0-3.3
Michigan State4113.01111.51.5
Ohio State11411.314106.94.4

As far as PSU is concerned, entering the conference had little effect--11 appearances either way, but our overall ranking in those 11 polls was slightly LOWER after joining the conference.  Minnesota, Northwestern and Minnesota benefitted the most by virture of the fact that none of them appeared in the AP Top 20 the 17 seasons before PSU joined.  Conversely, Indiana has not been ranked in the final AP poll since PSU joined the conference (and interestingly is the only Big Ten football team not to have ever defeated Penn State.

As a conference, there have been 5 more appearances in the Top 20 and one more Top 10 appearance since PSU joined, but overall, the actual rank has been slightly lower by 0.4.

Of teams that had rankings in both time periods, Ohio State has fared the best, increasing their overall rank by 4.4 places, while THEM has fared the worst, dropping by the same #1 and conceding the most appearances title to the Bucks.

What I found most surprising is that Penn State's numbers--11 appearances in both scenarios--includes the dark years of 2000-01 and 2003-04.  Even those dark years considered, the numbers are surprisingly similar.

I included Penn State's numbers in both pre- and post-joining to keep the number of teams the same.  But if we drop Penn State out of the conference #'s in 1976-1992, the conference had an overall AP ranking of 12.8 and the conference alone without PSU in 1993-2009 ranked an average of 12.6.  Penn State's inclusion in the numbers makes the conferences performance look better in the first 17 years (12.0 vs. 12.8) but had less effect in the last 17 years (12.4 vs 12.6).

Can we conclude much from this?  Probably not.  PSU joining the conference has not seriosuly hurt the overall numbers.  It has certainly helped Big Ten recruiting in the East, and opened up substantial markets for the Big Ten Network.

But none of this data takes into account the changes in college football in general.  For instance, you wouldn't see teams like Utah and Boise State ranked very often if at all in the 1976-1993 period, whereas such rankings are not unusual now.  Parity has affected the landscape of college football in every conference.  In the Big Ten, Northwestern was ranked for the first time in decades.  Is that because Penn State joined?  Probably not.  But it makes it more difficult for teams like Illinois and Indiana to get ranked, and even traditional powers like THEM are feeling the pinch when it comes to rankings.  Iowa has had fewer appearances in the final AP poll since PSU joined, but has made more out of them by being ranked higher.  Does beating PSU year after year make them look better to AP voters?  Who knows?