Archive for June, 2009

2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Let’s Get Real

June 27, 2009

(Editor’s note: This is the first piece in a multi-part preview of Oklahoma’s 2009 season.)
It’s not far from the penthouse to the outhouse, but it’s even shorter from the Fiesta Bowl to the Freedom Bowl.
(That’s really saying something, too, because the Freedom Bowl folded a ways back.)
With three straight BCS bowl appearances and seven this decade, Oklahoma isn’t too accustomed to sitting at the table by the kitchen. No, the Sooners may not win premier bowl games, but they excel at getting there. In fact, they’re tied with USC and Ohio St. for the most BCS appearances ever.
When you consider that OU isn’t quite the box office draw of Notre Dame or Ohio State, meaning that the Sooners are near the back of the line for at-large invitations, that’s a pretty good run.
I bring this up now because it’s not as easy as OU makes it look, and that’s something Sooner fans will need to keep in mind this year. Consider how good some of these programs have been recently and the disparity in BCS appearances against those of OU:
  • Georgia: 3
  • Florida: 5
  • LSU: 4
  • Texas: 3
  • Michigan: 4
So what? Well, it just goes to show how small the distance that separates the supposedly elite teams from the good ones actually is. For OU, that margin for error will be even slimmer in 2009.
The schedule? In a word, rough.
Depth? Thinner than Homer Simpson’s hairline in spots.
Bias? Strongly “anti-.”
The reality is that for each of OU’s pros, there’s an equally glaring con. No matter how much talent this OU team has, it’s hard to remember the deck being stacked against the Sooners like this in quite some time.
So, how should Sooner Nation calibrate its expectations this year? Well, get used to the idea that there will be no wiggle room. If OU wants to win a national championship in 2009, it will need to borrow the script from its 2000 title season–zero injuries, zero bad breaks and zero slip-ups.
Let’s get real, then. When your only option is perfection plus good fortune, that’s hard to live up to. Unfortunately, that probably means this team is closer to the Cotton Bowl than the Rose Bowl.

My Money is on Ole Miss

June 24, 2009

Wow. Just… Wow.

Fanhouse blogger Clay Travis gives us this sign of college football’s apocalypse: online betting service is offering odds on the next program to commit an NCAA violation.
With all the rumor and innuendo swirling around USC, it’s no surprise the Trojans are the favorite here. Like Every Day Should Be Saturday, I’d love to hear the rationale behind Michigan State at 12-1, though. Is there some kind of inside information going down there?
As an aside, how the hell would Vegas settle this? If you’ve been following the news lately, you know that most programs have already “committed” some kind of NCAA violation by the time you’ve finished your morning constitutional.

Bustin’ Out: John Clay

June 23, 2009

The latest in the long line of Badger backfield battering rams, Racine’s own John Clay inherits the mantle of Wisconsin workhorse this year from the departed P.J. Hill

In a disappointing 2008, Clay gave cheeseheads a reason to be optimistic about the future. The 250-pound redshirt sophomore punished opposing defenses for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. He ran for 884 yards and nine touchdowns on the season.
Unlike many young runners, Clay didn’t just show flashes of brilliance last year. He actually proved to be a reliable complement to Hill, running for nearly 70 yards per game. In an October win over Illinois that ended a four-game losing streak, Clay toted the rock 25 times for 88 yards. He followed that up with 14 carries for 111 yards and a score a week later in a one-point loss at Michigan State.
This year, the Baby Badgers enter a new cycle, with a starting lineup on offense that looks to be dominated by underclassmen. That doesn’t mean Wisconsin’s tried and true offensive philosophy of three yards and a cloud of dust will be revamped. Expect Bret Bielema to call Clay’s early and, most importantly, often in ’09. Homerism fully expects we’ll see the big fella on the all-Big Ten team in October as the conference’s leading rusher. 

Home Field Advantage

June 22, 2009

New post up on TaW on the top home field advantages in college football. Guess who came out on top?

On the Spot: Jeff Tedford

June 18, 2009

It has been a while, so Homerism’s younger set of loyal followers may not remember this. But California head coach Jeff Tedford was once the Next Big Thing.

Tedford first garnered attention for his success in coaching up quarterbacks as offensive coordinator at Fresno State and Oregon. In 2001, Cal brought Tedford in to replace Tom Holmoe–he of the 12-43 record as papa of the Golden Bears. It didn’t take long for Tedford to get the program turned in the right direction. Cal improved from 1-10 in Holmoe’s final season to 7-5 in 2002. Following five straight losing seasons prior to his arrival, the Bears have yet to finish under .500 since Tedford took over. Cal even finished in the top 10 of the major polls in 2004 after compiling a 10-2 record.
When you have that kind of success in the traditional college football deathtrap that is Berkeley, the football establishment takes notice. (Ask Steve Mariucci.) Aside from being reviled as a cro-magnon conformist by the local intelligentsia, you’re going heads up with UCLA and USC for the top talent in your home state. NFL franchises and name schools like Notre Dame began bandying the Cal wünderkind’s name about when searching for a new head coach.
Yet, Tedford passed on fame and fortune and opted to keep building at Cal. (Sometimes that’s a good idea; ask Steve Mariucci.) Count Homerism among the hordes of observers who expected Tedford to position his cubs as perennial contenders for the Pac-10 crown.
And, yet, Cal hasn’t really made the leap. The Bears tied USC for the conference title in 2006, but it wasn’t enough to put them in a BCS bowl game. The next year, Cal went 3-8 in Pac-10 play, good for seventh in the final standings. True, the Bears sport a respectable 59-30 overall record under Tedford.
Still, I get the feeling that the window for Tedford and his program is all but closed. They had the misfortune of timing their emergence with the Trojans’ re-emergence. Tedford’s stock certainly has slipped–when was the last time he was mentioned as a serious candidate for a big-time job?
If there is still hope for the Bears to paw their way to the next level, this would appear to be the time to capitalize. The Trojans sustained major losses to the NFL in the offseason and will be starting but a callow freshman at quarterback in 2009. Cal gets ‘SC at home and returns a talented squad that hung with Pete Carroll’s bunch last year.
We can’t all be champs. (Ask Steve Mariucci.) It could be that Tedford and Cal have maxed out.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Offseason Special

June 17, 2009

By Dr. Buffalo Wild Wang
(Editor’s Note: It’s been way too long since we’ve heard from Upstate New York’s top urologist. The good doctor has graciously offered time out from his busy schedule of urologizing to offer up his favorite plays of the upcoming season, before the point spreads are even set. Homerism previously posted his picks. All yours, Wang.)

After blowing Homerism away last year, The Wild Wang spent the entire offseason trying to negotiate a raise from our fearless leader. My plea fell on deaf ears and yours truly will yet again be working for free this season. (Ed.’s Note: You got your basket of teriyaki wings, if I recall correctly.) With that being said, let’s see if I can get off on the right foot with some early picks.

Tulsa at Tulane (Sept. 4th)

No better place to start than the hometown team. The Green Wave will look to start the 2009 season off on the right foot after suffering through a 2-10 record last year. The Golden Hurricane will bring their high-powered attack under Todd Graham to the Bayou with visions of adding another conference title. David Johnson may be gone, but the Wang is willing to bet that Graham has plenty of weapons waiting to step in. 

The Pick: Dr. Wang will take the Golden Hurricane in a route that easily covers the spread.

BYU vs. Oklahoma (Sept. 5th)

The first-ever football game to be played in Jerry Jones’ new playground features the Sooners against the Stormin’ Mormons. There will be plenty of points to come by in this game, which should be exciting for the Wild Wang and his wife, who plan on attending. BYU’s offense should keep the score somewhat close, allowing Sam Bradford a chance to kick off his repeat Heisman campaign in style. 
The Pick: I expect the Sooners to hit 60 in the game and win big.

Tulsa at Oklahoma (Sept. 19)

Seeing a trend here? Dr. Wang is trying to stay close to him in his preseason picks. The last time Tulsa matched up with the Sooners, OU came away with a 41-point victory. The Golden Hurricane did have some success against the Sooner D. I expect a similar game here, with both offenses moving the ball. This line should be big, and the Tulsa faithful will be looking for the upset. 
The Pick: The Wang will go with the ‘Cane to cover. OU pulls away late.

Buffalo at Temple (Sept. 26)

Buffalo fans were elated this offseason when program savior Turner Gill turned down the Syracuse job to return to the Queen City. Chuck Barkley, on the other hand, wasn’t too happy when his Auburn Tigers snubbed Gill. This was one of the best games of the college football season last year, as the Bulls won on a last-second Hail Mary. There will be a new signal caller for Buffalo this year who will have to step in for the departed Drew Willy. Temple is better, but it still stinks. Once the Owls lose the season opener to the Villanova Wildcats, the rest of the season will be downhill. The Bulls will continue what the ‘Cats start. 
The Pick: Buffalo covers at the Linc.

Texas A&M at Oklahoma State (Nov. 14th)

The Aggies make a trip to the newly renovated T. Boone Pickens Stadium. The Pokes should have a pretty solid squad this year, once again giving OSU fans the hopes that they may be able to crack the top three in the Big 12 South. While I don’t expect them to be able to compete with OU and Texas yet again, I do think they handle this game against a less than stellar A&M team quite easily. These are just the kind of games where OSU rolls, before succumbing to the real teams in the schedule. 
The Pick: Pokes big.

Oklahoma vs. Nebraska (Dec. 5)

*Big 12 Championship game at JerryWorld
Dr. Wang foresees a third Dallas trip for the Sooners this season and a chance for a four-peat as Big 12 champs. I tend to agree with Homerism and think the Sooners will be lucky to escape Lincoln with a win. That being said, the Big 12 championship game belongs to Stoops and the Sooners. Having previous experience at a new stadium can’t hurt either. It may give OU that much more of an advantage. What really matters here, though, is that OU is just the better team. The Sooners will show it here in a big win.
The Pick: Four straight.

With Murray, Believe it When You See It

June 16, 2009

Turf toes. Kneecaps. Hamstrings. It seems like there has been no shortage of DeMarco Murray‘s body parts conspiring to keep him out of the OU lineup.

The past two seasons, an assortment of maladies have prevented the junior running back from finishing the season with the Sooners. Most recently, surgery on his hamstring knocked Murray out of the BCS title game against Florida earlier this year. However, in an interview published in today’s Daily Oklahoman, Murray declared himself “100 percent” for the upcoming season, stating that he has no hesitations about his health.

Obviously, Homerism likes what he’s hearing from the Sooners’ talented runner. I’d caution OU fans about getting their hopes up too quickly, though.

Similar assurances were given heading into last season. Murray put up outstanding numbers, going over 1,000 yards rushing while scoring a total of 18 touchdowns. Yet, anyone who compared Number 7 of 2008 with the dynamic tailback we saw out on the field in 2007 could tell something was holding him back. Something about the way Murray ran just seemed off–not as much burst, less authority, missing his breakaway speed. His yards per carry, a good measure of explosiveness, dipped slightly from 6.0 in ’07 to 5.6 in ’08. Overall, the stats remained stellar, but his play suggested he had yet to fully shake off the lingering effects of knee surgery.

The ultimate proof came in the ’08 Red River Shootout, when the Longhorn defense bottled Murray for six yards on seven carries. It was a far cry from the electric performance Murray gave in ’07, when he went for almost 130 yards on 17 attempts, an average of 7.5 yards per carry. His first RRS appearance also produced an exhilarating third quarter touchdown run that proved to be the turning point in the game. The second time around against UT, Murray looked like a shell of his gamebreaking former self.

Murray did appear to be coming around as the ’08 season wore on. He eventually began to break off long runs, such as his 70-yard touchdown gallop versus Texas A&M. He showed off some receiving skills that were missing in his first season, catching 31 balls for 395 yards and four TDs. Also, Murray proved to be a more powerful back in short yardage than Homerism expected.

That’s all well and good, but the Sooners need a playmaker in the backfield. Especially with OU’s losses at wide receiver. As good as Murray’s running mate Chris Brown is, he’s a move-the-chains back. Murray has to be a home run hitter. After another offseason rehabbing, let’s hope he really gets his swing back.

USC (Finally) Comments on Investigation

June 12, 2009

USC has decided to speak out about the investigation into improper benefits allegedly received by Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. ESPN blogger Ted Miller is right when he says there’s no breaking news in the statements from university official Todd Dickey and athletic director Mike Garrett. To Homerism, the biggest takeaway is that USC is claiming accusers Lloyd Lake and Louis Johnson are lying about the school declining to interview them. Also, note that USC appears to have initiated its internal investigation after the allegations were made and the NCAA had opened its own inquiry. From a compliance standpoint, that may not sit well with the Association.

From a purely tactical standpoint, I would have done this much sooner. At this point, it appears as though the media pontificating about the case finally goaded the Trojans into addressing its stance on the charges. 
If there’s one major issue that USC should have in its favor here, it’s credibility. Yet, by refusing to give any insight on its position, the school ceded some of that advantage, in my opinion. It’s kind of like that detective rule of thumb about guilty people sleeping soundly when they’re caught, while innocents scream their heads off. On top of all that, the delay in responding smacks of crisis management 101 strategies for dealing with a scandal.
In theory, public opinion should matter little to the NCAA. Good luck selling that now, though, seeing as Alabama got nailed today for a textbook scandal–not exactly flat-screen TVs and rent-free housing, as has been alleged in the USC case. If USC is cleared of wrongdoing, the Trojans better have damn good, irrefutable evidence that their accusers are lying. Otherwise, conspiracy theorists will have a field day, and the public will view this as the ultimate proof of the Association’s panty-waist “authority.”

One Justin In, One Justin Out

June 12, 2009

Carey Murdock of Sooner Scoop is reporting that Bob Stoops has confirmed that heralded freshman defensive end Justin Chaisson has enrolled at OU and is on campus. Also, Stoops said sophomore running back Justin Johnson has left the team.

Stoops has issued a statement regarding Chaisson’s status: 

“We have thoroughly reviewed the facts and disposition of any and all allegations against Justin as determined by the independent assessment of the district attorney’s office and the court system. Based on their investigation of the facts, all allegations of the use of any weapon have been dismissed and are not the basis of any charge against or plea by him. Our decision is appropriately based on the independent determination and action of the district attorney’s office and the court system.

“We take these matters of conduct very seriously. Justin fully understands our expectations and his responsibilities of exemplary behavior and professional counseling. He knows the consequences if he does not meet those requirements.”

Floyd’s Downfall

June 10, 2009

Today’s news that Tim Floyd has resigned as USC head basketball coach could be interpreted a number of ways in relation to the allegations against the Trojan athletic department:

1. He really feels he “can no longer offer the level of enthusiasm to (his) duties that is deserved by the university.” (By the way, Floyd’s statement reads like he hasn’t written anything since he was 18.)
2. Floyd did what he has been accused of.
3. The USC brass is making Floyd the fall guy for the current scandal. His ouster is a gesture to the NCAA in an effort to take some heat off the athletic department. Note the tacked-on comments from Todd Dickey, USC’s senior vice president of administration, regarding USC’s participation in the ongoing investigation. It’s probably the most in-depth statement yet from the university about the investigation.
4. A combination of 2 and 3.
As to how all this relates to the USC football program, the answer is, Who knows?
Obviously, this smacks of damage control on the part of ‘SC. If the Southern Cal athletic department is on the hook for the dreaded “lack of institutional control,” jettisoning Floyd at this point could provide a signal of how athletic director Mike Garrett and the school’s administration intend to address the potential NCAA charges. Specifically, Floyd himself was corrupt, but his transgressions don’t reflect a systemic problem with the school’s athletic department. Now that Floyd is out of the picture, USC should be allowed to carry on as usual. (Read: Hands off the football team.)
Whether or not the NCAA would buy that argument, though, is an entirely different matter. For example, if Floyd’s departure signifies a veiled admission of his guilt, would that lend credence to the notion that agents and runners also were patronizing the football sidelines and locker room? What about the fact that the alleged rules violations supposedly took place within a relatively short timeframe? Such inferences may not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be enough for the NCAA.
Whatever the case may be, Floyd’s unceremonious departure from Troy makes him look guilty as hell. It doesn’t exactly look too swell for USC football, either.