Archive for December, 2008

NYT: Evans Discussed English Paper with Recruit

December 31, 2008

Homerism continues to be fascinated by the intrigue surrounding the recruitment of OU commit Jamarkus McFarland.

Contrary to internet speculation, Thayer Evans, who wrote the controversial New York Times article on McFarland, did talk to the recruit about his salacious English class paper, according to an NYT report posted today. McFarland previously told Rivals.com that he didn’t know Evans had a copy of the paper.
No mention of allegations by the Texas athletic department that Evans had not contacted the school for comment.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Bowl Special

December 31, 2008

Boston College vs. Vanderbilt (+3.5)

Music City Bowl
Nashville, Tenn.
Dec. 31

Does Homerism think BC is a better team than Vandy? Absolutely. All things being equal, BC giving 3.5 points to Vanderbilt is a strong play. In that sense, I understand why the public is on BC by a three-to-one ratio. But the line hasn’t budged, and not all things are equal in this game. 
The Commodores are playing in their first postseason game in 26 years, and they’re doing it at a stadium that is less then five miles from their home field. On the other hand, BC’s loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC championship means goodbye, Orange Bowl, hello, New Year’s Eve in Nashville!
BC has won eight straight bowl games, but Homerism never puts much stock in those kinds of streaks. Especially not in this case, as the current coaching staff is in its second year. If you’re looking for who’s more motivated here, I’m going with Vandy and underrated coach Bobby Johnson.
Homerism Says: Commodores win straight up in a low-scoring game for fans of defensive, disciplined football.

NYT Writer Offers Lame Response

December 31, 2008

Thayer Evans, author of a controversial article on the recruitment of Oklahoma commit Jamarkus McFarland, didn’t provide much insight into the story behind the story today.

In a Dallas Morning News article on the Texas response to the brewing controversy, Evans said, “The article speaks for itself. We will continue to follow the story.”
A follow-up article sounds interesting, but we still know nothing about how everything came together.

*Chip Brown, a columnist for Rivals’ Orangebloods.com, has started digging into the story. Brown quotes McFarland’s uncle, Tony McFarland, who says his nephew wanted to attend Texas, but eventually capitulated to his mother’s desire for him to pick Oklahoma. Brown also quotes three unnamed sources who dispute the details of the hedonistic Texas victory party as described in a class paper by McFarland that Evans used in the NYT article.

To play devil’s advocate for a moment… The information from McFarland’s uncle in this article certainly provides a different perspective on the recruiting process. But where do his sympathies lie in all of this? Is he a Texas fan? And how close was he to his nephew during this process? The article says he spoke with his nephew, but was he ever present when Texas coaches were meeting the recruit his mother, either in person or on the phone? He talked to Will Muschamp at one point, according to the article, but that’s all we know.
Similarly, why is the opinion of McFarland’s uncle relevant to the NYT story, which was billed as an inside look at the experience of McFarland and his mother during his recruitment? It seems clear from the article that McFarland’s mother, Kashemeyia Adams, played a big part in the decision, steering her son to OU when he initially favored Texas and USC. Having McFarland’s uncle say that doesn’t provide much new information. 
Same with quotes from the anonymous sources who supposedly accompanied McFarland during OU-Texas weekend. They confirm what McFarland already has admitted–parts of his paper were made up. (Also, isn’t there something a little ironic about using anonymous sources to discredit the integrity of another journalist?)
Believe what you want, but Homerism still doesn’t see a good reason to believe anyone.

Nonstop Offense: Defensive Tempo

December 31, 2008

(This is the first in a series of articles analyzing the growing use of the no-huddle spread on college football.)

Previously, we tried to measure offensive tempo to determine how quickly teams ran offensive plays. While defenses have less direct effect on the pace of a game, it stands to reason that opponents’ offensive tempo can have an impact on a defense’s performance. However, as is the case with offenses, we seem to lack useful statistics to measure the pace at which defenses play—or, more aptly, the pace at which they are forced to play.
To gauge “defensive tempo,” Homerism derived a statistic based on the length of time per play for a defense. This reflects how quickly opposing offenses ran plays against a defense. To do so, Homerism subtracted teams’ total time of possession from the total minutes played for the season. For example, if a team played 12 games in 2008 (720 minutes) and had a total time of possession of 320 minutes, that team’s defense was on the field for 400 minutes on the year. Then, I divided that difference by the numbers of defensive plays in the season and adjusted that quotient to reflect average seconds per play.
Of the 120 FBS teams in college football, the average defensive tempo for 2008 is 26.773 seconds per play, with a median of 26.779. (Note that these numbers were calculated prior to the bowl season.) The top 10 in terms of quickest tempo:
Defensive Tempo (seconds/play)
1. Nevada (23.530)
2. UTEP (23.978)
3. Oklahoma State (24.017)
4. Marshall (24.057)
5. Rice (24.432)
6. Louisiana-Lafayette (24.767)
7. Arkansas State (24.781)
8. Idaho (24.896)
9. Buffalo (25.001)
10. Texas (25.048)
Given the prevalence of spread schemes and hurry-up offenses in the conference, the fact that two Big 12 teams can be found in this group makes sense. Additionally, half the conference ranks among the top 20.

The 10 slowest:

Defensive Tempo (seconds/play)
111. Army
112. South Florida
113. Virginia
114. Miami (Florida)
115. Virginia Tech
116. Kentucky
117. Tennessee
118. Syracuse
119. South Carolina
120. Rutgers
Three teams from the SEC in the bottom 10 seem consistent with the perception that the conference is heavy on run-oriented, ground-it-out offenses. Another three SEC teams can be found in the next group of 10.
Is there a relationship between defensive tempo and productivity? Somewhat.
For example, the correlation between defensive tempo and yards per play is -0.349. The negative sign indicates that as time per play declines—or tempo increases—yards allowed per play tend to increase. A slightly stronger correlation of -0.382 exists between tempo and points allowed per second.
It’s tough to draw solid conclusions from the relationships as evidenced here, as a number of factors could boost defensive tempo. For example, defenses that face pass-heavy offenses are likely to exhibit quicker defensive tempo.
However, a demonstrable relationship between defensive tempo and performance does appear likely. Consequently, it’s not unreasonable to cut quick defensive teams some slack for supposed underperformance. Conversely, some defensive prowess could be attributed to slower defensive tempo.

Next up, we’ll take a look at ways to evaluate how a team’s offensive tempo affects its defensive performance.
Below are the national defensive tempo rankings from quickest to slowest:
Defensive Tempo (seconds per play)
Nevada 23.530

UTEP 23.978
Oklahoma State 24.017
Marshall 24.057
Rice 24.432
Louisiana-Lafayette 24.767
Arkansas State 24.781
Idaho 24.896
Buffalo 25.001
Texas 25.048
Kansas 25.192
Colorado State 25.212
Kansas State 25.239
Nebraska 25.278
Louisiana-Monroe 25.496
Wisconsin 25.510
Purdue 25.575
Texas Tech 25.592
Oklahoma 25.684
Arkansas 25.717
Michigan State 25.717
Missouri 25.717
West Virginia 25.726
California 25.799
Baylor 25.823
Utah 25.943
Iowa State 25.952
Boise State 25.982
UAB 25.997
Ball State 26.036
Central Michigan 26.045
North Texas 26.048
Akron 26.071
Arizona 26.089
Temple 26.093
Iowa 26.105
BYU 26.159
Ohio 26.215
Notre Dame 26.281
Boston College 26.350
Penn State 26.353
Eastern Michigan 26.394
UNLV 26.415
Hawai’i 26.440
Texas A&M 26.455
Pittsburgh 26.456
Utah State 26.479
Stanford 26.495
North Carolina State 26.511
Air Force 26.560
SMU 26.562
New Mexico 26.564
Bowling Green 26.576
Georgia Tech 26.580
Western Kentucky 26.593
Houston 26.626
Arizona State 26.728
East Carolina 26.773
Fresno State 26.773
North Carolina 26.778
TCU 26.779
Colorado 26.819
Southern Mississippi 26.864
San Diego State 26.867
Northwestern 26.873
Minnesota 26.893
Louisville 26.907
Oregon 27.017
Kent State 27.033
Western Michigan 27.038
Washington 27.079
Ohio State 27.092
UCLA 27.109
Louisiana Tech 27.123
Indiana 27.163
Oregon State 27.211
Duke 27.232
Washington State 27.234
Middle Tennessee 27.251
Navy 27.281
Memphis 27.295
Florida Atlantic 27.327
Florida International 27.336
Cincinnati 27.358
Alabama 27.384
Tulsa 27.444
Connecticut 27.496
Mississippi 27.501
Wake Forest 27.523
New Mexico State 27.554
Toledo 27.567
Wyoming 27.612
Florida State 27.629
LSU 27.657
Troy 27.672
Georgia 27.676
Miami (Ohio) 27.771
Vanderbilt 27.783
Clemson 27.791
Illinois 27.817
San Jose State 27.823
Michigan 27.853
Auburn 28.022
Mississippi State 28.105
Northern Illinois 28.137
Tulane 28.186
Florida 28.216
UCF 28.289
Maryland 28.298
USC 28.328
Army 28.402
South Florida 28.459
Virginia 28.519
Miami (Florida) 28.707
Virginia Tech 29.029
Kentucky 29.156
Tennessee 29.171
Syracuse 29.178
South Carolina 29.210
Rutgers 29.376

Median 26.779
Average 26.773

McFarland: It Won’t Die

December 30, 2008

More news in the Jamarkus McFarland-New York Times saga today, as Texas coach Mack Brown blasted the Gray Lady’s reporting.

Dallas Morning News writer Chuck Carlton’s reporting of Brown’s response is somewhat unclear: “Neither Brown nor Texas athletic spokesman John Bianco said they were contacted by the Times for comment before publication.” To Homerism, that means Brown and Bianco did not say they were contacted for comment. That doesn’t mean they said they were not contacted for comment.
Semantics aside, I’m assuming Brown and Bianco said NYT didn’t approach UT for comment for the story. If true, that’s absolutely inexcusable. How this would have made it into print without attempting to get the Texas side of the story is beyond me.
LSU and Tigers head coach Les Miles came off pretty poorly in the article. It would be interesting to hear the Mad Hatter weigh in.
UPDATE: McFarland’s high school coach, John Outlaw, declined to comment on the story, according to the Lufkin Daily News.

Even More McFarland

December 29, 2008

The scandalous recruitment of stud defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland took yet another odd twist today, as the Oklahoma commit said parts of a school paper quoted in a New York Times article detailing his experience had been “spiced up.”

According to the eye-popping NYT article by Thayer Evans, McFarland had written that he attended an orgy of drugs, booze and “women romancing each other” for Texas fans following the Longhorns win over OU in October. In an interview with Rivals.com today, the standout from Lufkin, Tex., claimed Evans had obtained the paper without McFarland’s knowledge and that parts of the essay had been exaggerated.
Recruiting scandal aside, this makes for a very odd case of journalism whodunit. It seems mind-boggling that NYT would publish such controversial excerpts from a high school student’s paper without his permission, let alone without first verifying the information in some way. McFarland’s comments to Rivals also indicate that the “majority” of the paper was accurate, but declines to say what was embellished. Does that mean the hosts charged for the drugs? Was same-sex action actually not going down? The whole thing is just so perplexing.
Could it be that McFarland is having a little buyer’s remorse after seeing the reaction that the story has generated? After all, if true, the events detailed in his essay could put him in hot water with the NCAA. Note that McFarland and his mother are not disputing any other part of the article. 
Or, did Evans get a little over-stimulated by the debauchery laid out in McFarland’s paper, causing him to forgo the very basics of Journalism 101? It seems so obvious that this story would stir up a Texas-sized hornets nest. How could any reporter blunder that badly? Likewise, where were the NYT editors in all of this?
I wish I could tell you who to believe in this whole sordid affair. As is the case with most salacious recruiting gossip, Homerism advises his readers that they’re best off trusting no one.

More McFarland

December 28, 2008

Not surprisingly, The New York Times’ article on the recruiting of Jamarkus McFarland has continued to generate loads of buzz around the blogosphere. The Texas reaction is predictable: the Longhorns want blood–and dates and names. Check out the detailed rant from Orangebloods publisher Geoff Ketchum if you’re looking for the basic idea. Other more detached media observers are hailing Thayer Evans’ piece as “captivating journalism,” in the words of Chicago Sun-Times blogger Kevin Allen. (Yahoo!/Rivals blogger Dr. Saturday’s take can be found here.)

Obviously, Homerism loves that OU landed such a big-time recruit. I also love that Texas comes off, well, like Texas in the article. I think the visceral reaction from UT faithful about the quality of journalism reflected in the article is relatively unfounded. Having worked in the mainstream media, I can attest that the fact-checking process at major outlets is pretty rigorous, especially when it comes to in-depth pieces like this one. Evans followed McFarland for six months, so editors are going to demand pretty extensive verification and corroboration in those kinds of cases. In fact, given the serious nature of some of the events detailed in the story, Evans’ editors should be fired if they failed to do their most diligent of due diligence for this article.
I do have a major concern, however. The article makes no mention of an attempt to elicit comment from the programs involved. I’d bet that NYT received the cold shoulder from athletic departments, who aren’t allowed to comment on potential recruits under NCAA regulations. Even so, there should be some mention of that in the article. Of course, all the parties involved may have confirmed Evans’ reporting. Either way, I’d hope that Evans and his editors clarify this matter at some point. (All that said, I’d put my trust in the professionalism and integrity of NYT over Barking Carnival and Burnt Orange Nation any day.)
In the end, there’s a delicious feeling of “just desserts” for Longhorn nation in all of this. OU certainly has a sordid history of scandal and cheating that is undeniable, and the Sooners’ rivals love to jump all over even a hint of impropriety. If Texas sycophants plan to go around slinging unsubstantiated accusations and rumors about OU and Sooner players, as was certainly the case with McFarland, they better make sure their own house is in order first. Sucks when it happens to you, huh, Bevo?

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Bowl Special

December 27, 2008

Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech (PK)
Independence Bowl
Shreveport, La.
Dec. 28

Talk about a dog of a game. This has to rank up there with the Rice-Western Michigan game in the Texas Bowl when it comes to the least compelling match-up of the bowl season.
From a handicapping standpoint, though, it’s pretty enticing. Homerism isn’t going to pretend like he knows anything about either team. I do know that the game is being played about an hour away from La. Tech’s home in Ruston, where the Bulldogs went 5-1 this year. That’s good enough for me–sometimes, it’s better not to overthink.
Homerism Says: Tech.

Nonstop Offense: Seconds Per Play

December 27, 2008

Following up on the previous article on offensive tempo, below are the national offensive tempo rankings in terms of average seconds per play. The teams are listed in order from quickest to slowest. 

Offensive Tempo (seconds per play)
Oregon 19.920
Houston 20.781
Troy 21.479
Oklahoma 22.316
Tulsa 22.819
Missouri 22.936
Northwestern 23.446
Indiana 23.456
Southern Mississippi 23.791
Kansas State 23.804
Central Michigan 24.140
Illinois 24.360
Texas Tech 24.577
Western Michigan 24.589
Florida Atlantic 24.593
Kansas 24.644
Colorado 24.649
Florida International 24.654
Purdue 24.693
Rice 24.714
Akron 24.767
San Diego State 24.813
North Texas 24.972
Michigan 25.177
Middle Tennessee 25.313
UCF 25.318
Virginia 25.431
Louisiana Tech 25.503
South Florida 25.550
Eastern Michigan 25.581
Maryland 25.594
Nevada 25.781
Boise State 25.785
New Mexico State 25.813
Kent State 25.857
BYU 25.875
Texas A&M 25.909
Cincinnati 26.000
Air Force 26.128
Duke 26.160
LSU 26.214
Baylor 26.223
Memphis 26.250
Temple 26.253
Kentucky 26.270
Bowling Green 26.300
New Mexico 26.348
Iowa State 26.403
Auburn 26.453
Utah State 26.495
Miami (Ohio) 26.529
Wyoming 26.640
Oregon State 26.662
Washington 26.745
Wake Forest 26.758
UCLA 26.761
Michigan State 26.787
TCU 26.872
South Carolina 26.886
East Carolina 26.897
Toledo 26.914
Buffalo 26.952
California 27.104
Marshall 27.126
Syracuse 27.133
Louisville 27.147
Texas 27.174
UNLV 27.267
Tulane 27.267
Oklahoma State 27.290
Arkansas 27.309
Miami (Florida) 27.311
Clemson 27.338
Notre Dame 27.362
USC 27.362
Arizona State 27.368
Idaho 27.417
Fresno State 27.497
Louisiana-Lafayette 27.553
North Carolina 27.573
Wisconsin 27.574
Minnesota 27.597
Mississippi State 27.677
Utah 27.728
UTEP 27.745
Mississippi 27.775
Arizona 27.794
Boston College 27.891
Connecticut 27.898
Stanford 27.910
San Jose State 27.920
Ohio 27.930
Washington State 27.988
North Carolina State 28.013
Penn State 28.017
Ball State 28.091
Pittsburgh 28.123
Western Kentucky 28.144
SMU 28.301
Colorado State 28.303
Rutgers 28.556
West Virginia 28.588
Hawai’i 28.615
Tennessee 28.640
Florida State 28.655
Nebraska 28.885
UAB 29.056
Louisiana-Monroe 29.080
Iowa 29.156
Florida 29.367
Vanderbilt 29.369
Virginia Tech 29.509
Army 29.668
Georgia 29.707
Alabama 29.898
Arkansas State 29.958
Georgia Tech 30.222
Ohio State 30.467
Navy 30.640
Northern Illinois 31.074

Median 26.905
Average 26.712

McFarland to OU

December 26, 2008

Big news in the recruiting world, as highly touted defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland has committed to Oklahoma. The story was broken in The New York Times of all places.

Thayer Evans’ piece is sure to set off fireworks in Austin, as the Longhorns don’t come off very well in the article. McFarland’s recruitment already had turned pretty ugly, with blogosphere reports of cheating by the Sooners firing around the internet. UT blog Barking Carnival had offered this doozie about a week ago, strongly implying that OU’s coaching staff had paid off McFarland’s family. (Here’s the blogger’s reaction to the NYT article.)
Whichever side of the story you want to believe, this saga surely will serve to fan the flames in this already tense rivalry.