Archive for the ‘Big 12’ Category

Sooners’ Title Hopes Gone Without Gresham

September 8, 2009

Even the most optimistic Oklahoma fans should start coming to grips with the reality that if the opening loss to BYU didn’t kill the Sooners’ hopes for a national championship, today’s news that superstar senior tight end Jermaine Gresham won’t play a down this season did.

OU’s lack of credible receiving threats became painfully obvious during the BYU game, as the Sooner wideouts struggled to get open, as well as to hold on to the ball when they did. Gresham, an ultra-talented wide receiver in a tight end’s body, would have injected a needed dose of explosiveness into the offense and provided a go-to target in crucial situations.
Gresham is just one player, but it’s not an overreaction to say he was vital to the OU passing game. His loss alone is going to cost Oklahoma at least one more game before the season ends.
(And that’s all before factoring in that the Sooners’ Heisman-winning quarterback will be sidelined for two or three more games.)
Not to be a downer, but there is no silver lining to this cloud. Youngsters will see more playing time, but that offers little solace for a team and fan base ready to win now.
Of course, the season is just a game old. Bob Stoops’ teams typically improve as the regular season goes on, and the OU coach and his staff have excelled in the past when forced to adjust on the fly. Don’t forget this is the same coach who won a Big 12 championship in 2006 after kicking his blue-chip quarterback off the team the day before the season started and losing one of the most dynamic running backs in college football history halfway through the year.

Guest Column: Return of the Wang

September 2, 2009

by Buffalo Wild Wang, M.D.

Head of Urology
Blatant Homerism

(Editor’s Note: It has been a long, hot offseason. If you thirst for Big 12 picks, come sip from the Wang. That’s right, Buffalo’s best urologist, Buffalo Wild Wang, returns this season to satisfy your cravings for Big 12 picks, albeit in an abbreviated format.)

The Wang would like to take the chance to thank Homerism for the chance to come back this year and enlighten you with my weekly Big 12 picks. As the Buffalo urological world becomes busier and busier for yours truly, my precious free time is dwindling away. Sorry, Wang lovers, but I only have time to pry myself away from my craft long enough to offer my insight into the OU game and one special Big 12 game each week. Duty calls.

BYU at Oklahoma (-22)
*Arlington, Texas

This game promises to be entertaining as these two potent offenses meet in the new Cowboy Stadium. Something tells me Jerry Jones won’t have to worry about too many punts ricocheting off the scoreboard this Saturday. Both teams will be lighting it up the old-fashioned way.

The Wang gave his thoughts on this game earlier this offseason. Not much has changed since then. Everyone points the finger at the OU offensive line as the potential weak spot on a stacked team, but it should be noted that BYU brings in four new o-linemen as well. Look for the Sooners to spend a good amount of time in the BYU backfield and Max Hall’s face. Sam Bradford has a great chance here to kickoff his repeat Heisman campaign against a top-25 team on national television, and I don’t see him disappointing. In the end, the Sooners are just too deep, athletic and strong for the Stormin’ Mormons. The Cougars will find the end zone some, but they won’t keep OU out.
The Pick: Dr. Wild Wang’s diagnosis is pain for the boys from Provo. OU rolls, 65-23.
Big 12 Game of the Week: Georgia at Oklahoma State (-6)

An early treat for college football fans, as these two teams from power conferences meet to kick the season off.

There has been plenty of talk about OSU being this year’s version of Texas Tech. I assume this means the “team du jour” picked to finish third in the Big 12 South? It is too farfetched to envision last year’s odd scenario playing itself out again this season. The Wang wouldn’t be completely shocked to see the Pokes take care of Texas in Stillwater, the Longhorns to win in Dallas, and the Sooners to triumph over OSU in Norman. But wouldn’t this mean another three-way tie in the South? Not if OSU finds a way to blow another game along the way, as seems to happen every year.
This week, however, Georgia rolls into Stillwater a new quarterback in tow, as Matt Stafford has escaped to greener pastures in Detroit. Oklahoma State promises to put plenty of points on the scoreboard this year with what is quite possibly the best offensive trio in the country. The Boone will be rockin’ for this out-of-conference showdown, which I expect to provide a big advantage for the Cowboys.
The Pick: Stick a feather in the Big 12’s cap. OSU takes down the Bulldogs, 38-17.

More Blue Horeshoe

August 6, 2009

As promised earlier this week, Zach Rosenfield of AccuScore graciously agreed to enlighten us–with 79 percent accuracy–about how the 2009 season will play out. It’s long, but well worth the read.
Blatant Homerism: Before we discuss your outlook for the season, why don’t you tell us a little bit about AccuScore? What exactly does your firm do, and how do you put together your projections?

Zach Rosenfield: AccuScore.com is a premium site that is designed to give fans or sports investors every bit of information they might need. We are a statistical game-forecasting company that uses past performances and statistical history to forecast games. We built a simulation engine that simulates games one play at a time under real game conditions (110-plus variables) and then re-simulate the game 10,000 times. With that, we are able to get a complete forecast of players’ stats, final scores and the probability of various outcomes and margins of victory. In straight-up winners, we had 79 percent accuracy in college football last year and 67 percent in the NFL, which made us champions of the ESPN NFL Expert Pick Em League.

Our current partners include ESPN, Yahoo!, The Wall Street Journal, The Sporting News, NBC Sports, Versus, NY Post, San Diego Union Tribune, as well as more than a dozen local television affiliates nationwide.

We are a small company, which is a lot of fun because I get to wear many hats. I am an analyst for multiple sports, but college football is my primary focus. I oversee AccuScore’s various media campaigns, our editorial content that gets licensed and/or syndicated to multi-media outlets. I also work with Stephen Oh on the day-to-day business and strategies behind AccuScore.com.

BH: With all the annual turnover in college football as opposed to pro sports, it seems like it would be harder to put together accurate forecasts. Do you find this to be the case? Why or why not?

ZR: This is a good question and very fair. Although it would seem harder to forecast college games, turnover is not as high as you would think. Most players play a full three years before they move on to the next level. Also, very few players are original. Because of that, we can do an analysis to see what a player’s expectation is. We match that up with players from the past who are identical. It’s also important to remember that this is our business; it is what we do year round.

With quarterbacks changes, it is more challenging in the early part of the season to put together a projection. Quarterbacks play such a vital role in a game. But, if you look at the rest of the position players, most running backs average in and around the same yards per carry. Elite wide receivers are all living in the same statistical neighborhood. Our biggest challenge is to consistently improve our projections with conferences like the MAC, where data are harder to come by.

BH: Let’s get to your forecasts for the upcoming season. You recently said Oklahoma and Texas are your two favorite bets among the national championship futures. What stands out about these two plays?

ZR: Although things rarely go according to plan, if you are going to play “futures,” you have to really spend time looking at the landscape. And in doing so, you have to take a look at each conference and how things will most likely play out within them.

I know everyone loves USC, but if there is a sucker bet this year, that’s it. ‘SC starts a guy named Aaron Corp at quarterback who is very similar to what Jason White was before his first knee injury. (I live in L.A. and am very familiar with Corp’s game.) The Trojans also bring in a completely new set of linebackers and have two games where that will be a big issue–Ohio State and Oregon. Younger players like to go for the highlight hit and often lose their assignment when a quarterback scrambles. (Think Travis Lewis 3rd and 4 late in the fourth quarter last year against Texas.) Moreover, they have a very tough schedule, with road games at Ohio State, Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame and Arizona State. Assuming the Trojans are 80 percent favorites in all of those games, their probability of going undefeated is under 30 percent.

Oregon will not run the table, but the Ducks will be very good. Cal will be strong, but not elite. So I think it is safe to say the Pac-10 is eliminated and will not produce an undefeated team.

The same can be said for the ACC, where mediocrity will once again rule the day. Alabama can do us all a favor by beating Virginia Tech on September 5th to eliminate the ACC from the race. I am not going to waste your, my or your readers time talking about them… or the Big East. They are out.

The Big 10 is once again going to annoy everyone, and with good reason. Behind only Florida, Penn State is the team with the highest probability of going undefeated, and it’s not because of they are talented. The Nittany Lions have a schedule that is just god awful, but if the giants start falling, there could be room for them in Pasadena. Personally, Penn State is not going to be that good, but neither are the majority of teams it plays. Ohio State poses the biggest threat.

(Speaking of the Buckeyes, Sooner fans should be rooting hard for USC when the Trojans go to Columbus. A USC victory knocks OSU out, and remember that USC is not good enough to run the table this year. Bank on it!)

Where does that leave us? SEC and Big 12. Although Sooner fans hold Tim Tebow in the same regard as Gordon Reese, we all must come to terms with the reality that Florida beat OU because Tebow was unflappable when it mattered most. Looking at 2009, the defense is back and even better. The Gators also got a gift on the schedule, not having to play Ole Miss or Alabama. Only a road game at LSU stands in their way, and we already project Florida as a 10-point favorite in that one. We think Ole Miss comes out of the West and could even be 12-0. The Rebels are winning our preliminary simulations against LSU and Alabama. By the way, Alabama is really going to struggle at quarterback.

So that leaves us with the Big 12. OU and Texas both control their own destiny, even though we are still in two-a-days. Take a look at UT’s schedule. If the Longhorns beat OU, then their game at OSU is their national semifinals. They get Tech early and have nothing late. Moreover, with the same cast of characters back in Austin this year, they are going to get a lot of PR. If Florida, Texas, USC and a Big 10 school go undefeated… Florida and Texas are in.

Oklahoma sets up perfectly, though. A non-conference schedule just tough enough to get attention, but not tough enough to bring a loss. OU and Texas will most likely be undefeated in Dallas, and the winner is a firm number two in both the human and computer polls. If OU wins, then we will once again be grateful that Mike Gundy has done a great job in Stillwater, because OSU will be a top-10 team–no matter the outcome against Texas. A win against OSU will propel OU in the BCS rankings in the exact same way it did in 2008.

BH: Are the Sooners going to go undefeated this year?

ZR: I can’t stress how hard it is to go undefeated mathematically with 13 games on the schedule, factoring in the Big 12 championship. However, behind Florida and Penn State, the Sooners have the best chance in our simulations to do so. This is where the math and the eye test collide. The reason why Texas is not higher is because both their games against OU and OSU are virtual toss-ups, give or take a percentage point either way. Two 50-50 games really hurt UT’s chances from a mathematical point of view. Our preliminary simulations show OU as an 81 percent favorite at home against OSU, thus bolstering their probability to third best among BCS conference teams.

BH: Any idea how this year’s OU team will perform statistically compared with last season?

ZR: It’s kind of fun to go back to the 2008 stat sheet and get misty eyed over the numbers Sam put up. I am not sure you will see numbers like that again for a long time. What was great about it was that the visuals matched the stat sheet. It’s important for Sooner fans to understand the reality of three new offensive linemen and a new wide receiving corps. It is going to take time to gel, and I imagine Kevin Wilson is going to use a lot of Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray to offset those growing pains.

For OU to have a real chance to play for it all, Brown and Murray must show up for all 12 games, not just the Saturday night games in early November. It is imperative that they run against Texas if they want to win in Dallas. As we saw last year, Sam can’t do it himself.

No running game = Praying OSU beats Texas.

BH: As an OU fan, I think depth at quarterback and offensive line are major causes for concern this season. How do your forecasts account for that?

ZR: Regarding QB, the Sooners are all in with Bradford. Period. Lose Sam and it’s basketball season. We are posting modest number from the running game based on the new offensive line. They will have to show us they can: 1) protect Sam; 2) open holes for the running backs. If OU outperforms its projected rushing yards in the their first four games, it might be on to something.

BH: Looking at the rest of the country, did anything really surprise you–teams you’re projecting to be better or worse than the average person would expect?

ZR: Penn State is one team, based on schedule and schedule only. We love Boise State. Also, expect big things from TCU and Ole Miss. Especially Ole Miss.

Georgia and Clemson will both be down, and we are projecting Virginia Tech to go 8-4.

BH: Have any futures or plays out there caught your eye in terms of sucker bets?

ZR: This is a fun question. I feel like Clark in Clear and Present Danger telling Jack Ryan to “try the Lindo brand.”

If by “sucker bets” you mean the player is a fool for betting on it, as I mentioed before, I urge you to take USC at 8-1 to win the national championship. If you enjoy ripping your tickets mid-race and muttering, then you will just love that USC future.

I also think Florida at +175 is a lame bet designed to lighten your wallet. You might as well bet on a lightly raced three year old to win the Kentucky Derby at 2-to-1 while breaking from the 20 hole…. Oh, wait… Nevermind!

If you are talking about “Oh my God, that must be a mistake,” I would take a look at OU -125 for over 10 wins. Ten wins is a push! Basically, you are getting odds that the Sooners will go better than 9-3.

The other is Texas -150 for over 10 wins. I mean this has to be a mistake, right? But it’s not. Texas is not going 9-3, and I don’t mind laying the odds on this gimme.

For all of our sweet future over-under win total picks, we wrote a pretty detailed article. This is valuable AccuScore information, so you have to be a member to read it in its entirety.

BH: If you had to pick a team to make it to the championship game other than Florida, OU or Texas, who would it be?

ZR: Gee, thanks for mucking up my rhythm with this one. I was in a nice groove prior to that question…(long pause)…USC. They would be the most likely one-loss team to make it to Pasadena if Florida, OU or Texas work really hard to screw it up.

Linking Up: August 2

August 2, 2009
Odds and ends from around the Web:

*Kirk Bohls wonders if the Big 12 is overrated. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 coaches tooted their own horn at the conference media day this week. It’s a tired debate, but this issue is likely to burn pretty hot this season. The perception that the media put too much stock in the Big 12 in 2008 will dog the league all year. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 will get mad props for its perfect bowl record.

*Dr. Saturday just wrapped up a week of Big 12 preview articles, including:
Unfortunately, I have to agree with the Doc that Texas should be considered the frontrunner. I’ll have my own Big 12 and national preview stuff coming up soon.
*The Orlando Sentinel has been doing some interesting work the effects of the economy on college sports. This list of the top earning athletic departments illustrates what a good job athletic director Joe Castiglione and the rest of the OU athletic department do in terms of fielding competitive programs despite resource disadvantages. Chris at Smart Football tries to get to the bottom of why Southern teams tend to generate so much dough.
*Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com decided this would be a good time to devote a week to pissing people off. First, he decided to rank each program based on performance this decade–an exercise that fans always evaluate reasonably. When you get to the top four or five, it’s splitting hairs in my book. However, seeing as there’s still a year left to go in the 2000s, it seems like people should reserve their outrage for a little while.
On the heels of the L.A. Times report about USC’s use of an outside consultant, Dodd also questioned why the Trojans have yet to feel the wrath of the NCAA. I guess the most obvious answer would be that we really don’t know exactly what the Association is investigating, as well as the evidence being supplied to counter the accusations being leveled against ‘SC.

No Change to Big 12 Tiebreaker

May 7, 2009

The Big 12 coaches voted against altering its controversial tiebreaker rules. 

Top 2010 Talent in Big 12?

May 1, 2009

If you put any stock in this kind of thing, ESPN’s Todd McShay thinks the Big 12 is going to be loaded with NFL-ready players this season.

McShay’s 2010 mock draft pegs Big 12 players in nine of the top 10 spots. Eight of those nine players reside in the Big 12 South. Four are Sooners.

Think of Them as the Anti-AIG

April 7, 2009

Get your pitchforks ready, mighty Texas populists!

With America’s attention fixed upon a crisis abroad, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and president William Powers Jr. used the opportunity Monday to sneak through more than $40,000 in unearned bonuses to the football team’s assistant coaches. The performance measure the coaches supposedly met? Winning the Big 12 championship.
Head coach Mack Brown did not receive his bonus, but it’s unclear whether his assistant will follow their boss’ lead. Next week, Dodds and Powers are scheduled to meet to rubber stamp men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes’ bones for reaching the Sweet 16 in 2009. The Longhorn hoopsters lost to Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but Dodds said it was clear that Barnes was denied the opportunity to earn the bonus by some borderline officiating that went against his team in the last minute of the game.
*In other news out of Austin, Kirk Bohls is reporting that the ‘Horns have decided to remove their asterisk-ensconced claim to the 2008 Big 12 championship. Apparently, Brown was unaware of the placard and asked to have it removed. Seriously, though–who thought that was a good idea?

You Don’t Need a Trophy to Call Yourself a Champion

April 6, 2009
Like all governing bodies in every level of competitive athletics, the Big 12 conference has protocols for determining its champion in football every year. They’re pretty clear, and there are no asterisks or co-champs or ties.
By all accounts, Oklahoma trounced Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in December to win the league crown. All accounts save one, I guess.

Tim Griffin, the Big 12 blogger for ESPN.com who also writes for the San Antonio Express-News, shares that Texas has claimed an asterisk-emblazoned title of its own for 2008. (Here’s a picture from inside UT’s training facility if you need proof.)

OK, Mack Brown and Co. think they got jobbed out of a conference title. Homerism understands that, and it’s not like the Longhorns don’t have somewhat of a point. So, what’s the point of the asterisk? If that’s the statement you’re trying to make, what’s the point in going half way?

More Power

March 7, 2009

Blog Statistically Speaking posted an interesting article this week on the Standard Deviation Power Index (SDPI) scores within the Big 12 in 2008. The SDPI can be used to compare teams within a conference. For Sooner fans, it’s worth a look for a perspective on just how good OU’s offense really was last year. It also shows how much of a liability the defense was all year.

On the Spot: Mike Leach

February 27, 2009

2008 was supposed to be the year Texas Tech made the leap. Contrarian offensive guru Mike Leach had all the pieces in place for the Air Raid attack to flourish. The move in midseason 2007 to put Ruffin McNeil in charge seemingly transformed Tech’s defense overnight. Coming off a strong finish the year before, numerous preseason prognostications put the Red Raiders in the top 10.

By many measures, Leach’s team had its best year in 2008 since he arrived in Lubbock. Tech tied with Oklahoma and Texas for the Big 12 South division crown. The Raiders beat the Longhorns in one of the most exciting games of the season. Offensive stars Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree received numerous individual accolades. Tech ended the year with an 11-2 record and ranked No. 12 in both major polls.
In the aggregate, it all sounds pretty good. Yet, what really made the Red Raiders of 2008 any different from their predecessors under Leach?
  • Tech pasted a tissue-soft out-of-conference schedule of Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU and Massachusetts. Nothing new about that.
  • The Raiders pulled off a big win in Lubbock over a quality opponent–Texas, in this case. Seen that one before.
  • Leach’s O rolled up some gaudy numbers. Old hat at this point.
  • Tech’s allegedly improved D gave up points in bunches. Very familiar.
  • Despite a supposedly newfound toughness, the Raiders were outmuscled–badly–by more physical opponents Oklahoma and Ole Miss. Same old story.
The brutal beating administered by the Rebels in the Cotton Bowl seemed particularly telling, as Ole Miss moved the ball at will against Tech’s sieve-like defense. Leach’s team looked soft, small and defensively undisciplined that day. That certainly didn’t seem any different from the past.
In reality, about the best thing that can be said for 2008 is that in a top-heavy conference, Tech didn’t drop any games to clearly inferior opponents. It’s a step forward for sure. However, the Raiders’ performances in their losses suggested that underneath the shiny record, little had changed.
It may seem nit-picky to criticize a team coming off arguably its best season ever. It is. Such is life for the country’s top college football programs. And for all the hype about Leach’s wacky persona and innovative, no-holds-barred offense, last season did little in Homerism’s eyes to alter the perception of Tech’s place below the powers in college football’s pecking order. And the gap remains relatively wide.
Especially after the soap opera that played out as he negotiated a new contract this offseason, the pressure should be on Leach to put together a team that looks and feels like a national title contender. If not 2009, then it needs to happen pretty soon. It’s easy to lose patience with a novelty act, no matter how many copies of Geronimo’s death certificate he may own.