What is a ‘Playmaker?’

August 30, 2009

Homerism’s statement that OU “lacks an offensive playmaker” in my last post on the outlook for OU’s season stirred up some debate about OU’s personnel.

“Playmakers” are few and far between. Ninety-eight times out of 100, they’re undoubtedly the most dangerous guy on the field. Offensive coordinators fall all over themselves trying to get their playmakers the ball. Defensive coordinators stay up all night trying to figure out how to stop them. They can disarm you with their looks, or their hands, either way.
Think Reggie Bush, Rocket Ismail, Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin.
OU has plenty of talent, but no one who is in that pantheon right now. At least not yet.
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2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Missing Sooner Magic

August 29, 2009

OK, so we’ve covered the 2009 edition of the Sooners from head to toe, and Homerism has given them a clean bill of health. Honestly, I can’t find a thing wrong with this team. So sign the papers, punch the ticket to Pasadena, right?

As much as Homerism wants to, for some reason I just can’t bring myself to certify the Sooners as a legitimate national championship contender. Why? I’m not entirely sure.

Maybe it has something to do with depth issues. Maybe it’s the lack of an offensive playmaker. Maybe it’s all the new faces on the o-line.

I suspect, though, that it’s Sooner Magic—or a lack thereof—that’s holding me back.

In the ‘90s, even OU fans like me who grew up watching Barry Switzer’s squads hang half-a-hundred on overmatched Big 8 opponents had forgotten what success felt like. After such a sustained run of excellence, watching the Sooners stumble their way through an entire decade of something somewhere in between futility and calamity was downright tragic.

When head coach Bob Stoops arrived on the scene in Norman in 1999, the fact he was able to get OU bowl eligible seemed miraculous; bringing home a national championship the next year actually was.

Stoops quickly earned a reputation as a brash riverboat gambler whose teams played loose and were just as willing as their coach to dare to be great. The Sooners took chances that always paid off.
Sooner Magic was back. OU football was fun again.
Of course, with all the excitement surrounding OU’s resurgence under Stoops, Oklahoma fans forgot the decidedly less fun part of success: expectations. Suddenly, after an era in which falling to teams like San Diego State and Northwestern had become all too commonplace, losses to some of the best teams in the country turned into disasters once again. Undefeated seasons and national championships were the new standards.
Gradually, that old Sooner Magic started to fade. OU kept on winning, but at some point it started to seem more like not losing. Were the Sooners playing tight? A 7-6 record in games decided by 10 points or less since 2006 is one way to answer that question.
As fans, we don’t really get to see all the behind-the-scenes moments—practices, sideline skull sessions, team meetings—that really tell us about the mood of a team. Occasionally players may pop off to the press, but for the most part, they’re as well-trained in coachspeak as coaches themselves. All we have to go on is what we see on game day. Watching the Sooners lately, it’s easy to wonder if they’re actually enjoying themselves.
And that starts at the top. From his demeanor on the sidelines to the exercise in antipathy known as a Bob Stoops press conference, OU’s head coach doesn’t look like he’s having any fun.

Stoops doesn’t get paid to make people laugh, and football teams need lofty goals if they want to succeed. But maintaining high standards while preventing expectations from weighing a team down is a key part of the job description for an elite college football coach. Pro athletes may be able to handle the psychology of the spotlight on their own, but 18-year-old kids take their cues from their coach.

Even though Florida beat OU in last season’s national championship game, those looked like two pretty evenly matched teams. The Gators pulled it out through sheer will and being that much more aggressive when it mattered. This season, Florida brings back plenty of firepower. Man for man, though, OU is equally strong. Yet, if the Sooners want to get back to the top of the college football mountain, they need to get the Magic back.
Here’s hoping Stoops brings back some of his old tricks.
Prediction: 13-1, Big 12 champs, Fiesta Bowl win

Deceptive Defenses

August 29, 2009

At its core, playing defense in football is simply a matter of preventing the other team from moving the ball, right? I mean, if a team can consistently stop its opponents from advancing down the field, chances are it won’t be giving up many points.

Seems intuitive. Being the ever-inquisitive sports fan that I am, though, Homerism decided to test this assumption out. I crunched some numbers from 2007 and 2008, comparing every D-I teams’ yards allowed per play (YPP) with both points allowed per play (PPP) and points allowed per game (PPG). Sorry in advance for the coming geekage.

(As a side note, I tend to look at points allowed per play as a better indicator of defensive strength than points allowed per game, as PPP somewhat “washes out” the impact of factors such as offensive and defensive tempo.)

As expected, YPP demonstrated strong relationships with both PPP and PPG for both years. In 2008, YPP and PPP had a correlation of 0.91, while YPP and PPG had a correlation of 0.89. In 2007, both measures of correlation were 0.89.

(Click 2007 and 2008 to access the relevant data from each year.)

A regression analysis of the data yielded similar sets of equations that could be used to estimate PPP and PPG using YPP.

  • 2007 PPP = (0.115)*YPP – 0.239
  • 2007 PPG = (9.182)*YPP – 21.971
  • 2008 PPP = (0.131)*YPP – 0.319
  • 2008 PPG = (9.390)*YPP – 24.458

For example, Wake Forest allowed 4.6 yards per play in 2008, which yields expected values of 18.74 for PPG and 0.28 for PPP.

All of these equations demonstrated a coefficient of determination of roughly 0.80. As such, they can be used to explain about 80 percent of the variation in PPG or PPP in both years. Not bad.

In reality, the Demon Deacons gave up 18.3 PPG and 0.3 PPP in 2008, which are pretty close to what the models predicted. But what about the teams whose actual performances diverged significantly from what the models projected? We can group these teams into two opposing categories: “overperformers,” who actually allowed fewer points than expected, and “underperformers,” who gave up more than they should have.

Remember that the formula is used to project what should have happened in 2008. The projected points measures for each season depend on yards per play for that season only, and thus offer little in the way of predictive value for the following season, assuming YPP changes from year to year. In other words, the model can explain past performance and identify outliers relatively well, but it says little about what a team will do in the future.

However, it would be reasonable to expect “regression to the mean” in terms of conforming to the model in the following year. As such, if a team showed a substantial difference between its actual performance and its predicted performance, that gap would be expected to reverse itself and shrink the following year.

For instance, consider Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ spread between actual and predicted PPP in 2007 measured 0.083, which is equivalent to 2.30 standard deviations. The following season, that spread would be expected to shrink, which, in fact, it did. The Bearcats’ actual and predicted PPP in 2008 differed by 0.003, or 0.06 standard deviations.
What factors contribute to underperforming and overperforming on defense? The truth is that I have no idea.

Guest Column: MoMo Won’t Back Down

August 28, 2009

by MoMo

Style and Culture Writer
Blatant Homerism

(Editor’s note: Representing West Texas’ upper crust, MoMo is back to show Homerism’s readers how the other half lives. After an offseason spent wading through aisles of bourgeois bargain shoppers hoping to take a holiday on Saks Fifth Avenue’s misery, MoMo has plenty of unsolicited advice for the great unwashed.)

The 2010 college football season is almost underway. Many coaches and players are spewing their big game talk to the media in anticipation of a successful season. I love the hype that surrounds these idiots who take their teams out on a limb with overreaching statements and guarantees. They’re living by my personal credo: Never Back Down.

(For those of you who have been living in a cave the last two years, Never Back Down is a movie about a high school football player forced to move from Iowa to Orlando, a land-locked city where kids take surfboards to school. Our fish-out-of-water becomes embroiled in the Orlando “party-fighting” scene and must take down a gang of super-rich dudes who wear all black and play karate.)

No coach does NBD better than first-year Tennessee head man Lane Kiffin. Have you ever seen Kiffin back down? No, he has the stones to say what we’re all thinking. We all hate Tim Tebow, and we all think Urban Meyer has a ridiculous name. NBD is saying it before you’ve even collected your first win as a college head coach.

Here’s some MoMo inside info for you: Know who taught Lane Kiffin to NBD? Pete Carroll? His father Monte? Nope… The Nature Boy Ric Flair. There is no better NBD instructor than The Nature Boy. At 55 years young, Flair is still teaching young pups that, “You gotta walk down that aisle, and to be the best, you gotta beat the best… WOOOOO!”

Back in the day, Monte, Lane and I took my hand-me-down Gulfstream to New York to watch Hulk Hogan and The Nature Boy battle it out in Wrestlemania at Madison Square Garden. The Hulkster had Flair against the ropes, calling for the big boot to the face. Blinded by pain, Flair somehow managed to reverse the hold and maneuver into the figure-four leg lock, regaining the title!

We met up at Flair’s private table at The Limelight afterwards. Even though I was only eight or nine at the time, I’ll never forget watching Flair look little Lane in the eyes and say, “That’s what it takes to be the best. Now go out there and become the head coach of Tennessee and see how many recruiting violations you can commit! Oh, and one more thing, Never back down! WOOOOO!”

With the spread offense taking the conference by storm, the national media is down on Big 12 defenses. Yet, the Oklahoma Sooners defense really knows NBD.

I caught up with OU head coach Bob Stoops at Fashion Week in Milan earlier this year, and I asked him where his team learned to get NBD. The legendary coach offered up four simple words, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

“Do you think Turbo and Ozone were intimidated when Kelly’s dad tried to shut down the rec center, just because he wanted her to go to Princeton and give up her dreams of dancing in Paris?,” Stoops asked me, his voice reaching a fever pitch. “Hell no! They had a dance-off that literally shut down a bulldozer!”

Hey, BYU, NBDers Gerald McCoy and Auston English are polishing up their dancing shoes, getting ready to tap dance on some Mormons in Dallas. Y’all ain’t ready! Y’all ain’t ready!

Last up is TV titan Lee Corso, who really knows how to Never Back Down. Year in and year out, he plays the fool for College Football GameDay, and he’s totally fine with being the heel every week. For most regular GameDay viewers, Corso’s only redeeming quality is that he could be Mel Brooks’ identical twin.

Listen up, kids. If you’re looking for a role model, Corso does an exceptional job of Never Backing Down. No matter how many times he gets fired as a coach, no matter how many times he comes off like a douche on national television, no matter how many times he fails to realize the joke is on him, he gets right back up and gets ready to do it all over again. Well, actually it’s pretty sad. Corso is almost the real-life version of Michael Scott.

With the mouths of college football players, coaches and even TV personalities writing checks that their butts can’t hope to cash, I’m ready for the season to get started. I hope they all remember to Never Back Down.

How to Beat OU

August 27, 2009

I have a new post on how to beat OU up on Phil Steele’s site.

Pistols to the Sky!

August 26, 2009

Few things leave Homerism speechless, but this is one. Sounds like Stillwater is going to be rockin’ this fall.

John Martin and whoever else thought this was a good idea, I can’t thank you enough for blessing the college football blogosphere with this.

College Fantasizing

August 26, 2009

Unfortunately, we’re talking about the less fun fantasizing here. Homerism’s roster in the Official GatorsFirst.com League is below. Here’s hoping the offensive fireworks in the Big 12 match last year. (Note the complete slow play I pulled off with my last pick!)

SoonerGonnaGetcha
QB – Robert Griffin, Baylor
RB – Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB – Victor Anderson, Louisville
WR – Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
WR – Kerry Meier, Kansas
WR – Tramain Swindall, Texas Tech
TE – Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
K – Jimmy Stevens, Oklahoma
Defense – Virginia Tech
Reserves:
Jay Finley, RB, Baylor
Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson
Mike Kafka, QB, Northwestern
Oklahoma Defense
Greg Paulus, QB, Syracuse

National Communists Against Athletes (No, Really)

August 25, 2009

If we are to believe Mike Balogun, Stalin, McCarthy and the Spanish Inquisition have nothing on the NCAA.

By way of background for the uninitiated, Balogun is in the process of suing the NCAA for unexpectedly revoking his eligibility a few weeks back related to issues arising from his participation in a semi-pro football league. At issue in the case has been whether or not Balogun played in the league after his 21st birthday. If so, the 25-year-old linebacker would be ineligible this season.

Admittedly, Homerism is no legal scholar. However, something about the Association’s version of “due process” as depicted in Balogun’s petition to the Cleveland County District Court seems a little off to me. The timeline of the case:

-May 2008: NCAA reviews Balogun’s involvement with the North American Football League and clears him to play at Oklahoma as a junior.

-January 2009: Intrepid college football gumshoe Thom Brenneman reveals on national TV during the BCS title game broadcast that Balogun played semi-pro football. (Shows what spending five minutes with Tim Tebow can do for you.) Although this should come as a surprise to no one at NCAA headquarters, seeing as Balogun’s eligibility already has been certified, the amateurism authorities decide they want another bite at the apple.

-March 2009: With its balls firmly trapped in the Association’s vice grip thanks to Kelvin Sampson, Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn, the OU compliance department rounds up one of Balogun’s former assistant coaches, who states he thinks Balogun played after his 21st birthday. Meanwhile, OU also hands over affidavits from Balogun and his former team’s owner in which both contradict the coach’s recollection. Plus, the league’s ex-commissioner tells OU compliance that records show Balogun didn’t play in the league during the time in question and that the information being presented against Balogun–internet box scores–is unreliable.

-July 2009: Balogun appears before NCAA investigators yet again to discuss his status.

-August 2009: Balogun is ruled ineligible.

(For proof of just how stupid this entire scenario is in the first place, note that the conference’s former commissioner says Balogun never received any remuneration for playing. In fact, Balogun himself had to pay a referee fee just to participate.)

Aside from the fact that Mike is apparently a common nickname for “Ademola,” I found this passage to be possibly the most interesting part of the brief:

“Despite being provided with (information contrary to the claim that Balogun played semi-pro football after the age of 21), Defendants [the NCAA] continued to furtively investigate Balogun’s amateur status and certification for several months without advising Balogun of the existence of the investigation and without advising him as to the witnesses interviewed or the materials gathered during the investigation. In addition, at no time during this investigation did Defendants advise Balogun that he had the right to have his interests represented during this investigation.”

OK, for purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside the bizarre standards of proof the NCAA appears to be using in Balogun’s case. Instead, let’s focus strictly on the Association’s process of adjudication, which looks like it would be best described as “railroading.” Stealing a page out of the Gestapo’s playbook, it appears as though justice NCAA-style means conducting ongoing covert investigations of college athletes, denying the accused access to the evidence against them and ignoring the principle of double (and even triple) jeopardy.

Today came word that the NCAA is working with Balogun’s lawyer to potentially achieve an out-of-court resolution. I hope it works out for Balogun’s sake, but you can’t help wondering if the Association would benefit from having its day in court.

Linking Up: August 22

August 23, 2009

Musings while wondering why boxing always goes down “after dark”…

-Mike Balogun’s lawyer says his client is approaching a compromise with the NCAA that would be a “win-win” for all parties involved. What exactly does the NCAA have to win in this case?

-The Skinny says License to Wed is one of the top 10 comedies of this decade. Homerism says I’d rather ride a bike without a seat for 90 minutes than subject myself to that.

-Remember how the Associated Press removed its poll from the BCS process because the writers all of a sudden got religion about “creating” the news instead of reporting it? Would love to know why they even continue to publish it if that’s truly the case. If the AP poll names a different champ at the end of the season–as was the case in 2003–wouldn’t that “make” news? Funny thing is, I think the writers poll actually has more credibility.
Joe Buck Live returns September 22! Guests include Andrew Dice Clay, Rex Ryan and Mike Tyson.
-Every time Vince Young drops back to throw, Tim Tebow drops a spot in the NFL draft. I don’t think there is one good thing to be said about VY’s performance in Friday night’s preseason game against Dallas. Seriously, after watching him play two preseason games so far this year, I can’t envision any circumstance in which I’d put him in an NFL game that didn’t involve a four-touchdown lead and less than five minutes to play.
Young is one of the five best college football players I’ve ever seen, but he is a testament to the vast differences between the college and pro games for a quarterback. He certainly has attitude issues, but his real problems start with his skills as a passer. You just can’t “turn” a guy into an NFL-caliber thrower. Doesn’t happen.
-Homerism’s ranking of USC at number two in my preseason power poll has generated some discussion among his six or seven loyal readers. Yes, I understand that the Trojans will have a freshman at quarterback this year. Yes, I know Pete Carroll has a whole new defense coming in this year.
Read the explanation of my preseason ranking process carefully, though. I happen to think USC drops two or three games this season. How I see the season playing out is irrelevant, though. The factors working against USC–mainly a number of tough road games–bear no weight on these rankings. If you lined up the Trojans any of the 120 D-I teams on a completely neutral field in Mongolia, I’d favor USC right now over everyone other than Florida.
-Season one of my OU dynasty in NCAA 2010 ended today with the Sooners drilling Florida, 28-14, in the BCS title game. Three turnovers marred Tim Tebow’s final college game. So OU has that going for it.
-I really like the Saints this year.
-Homerism will be participating in a college fantasy football league this season sponsored by my homies over at GatorsFirst. We’re drafting on Monday night. If anyone has any advice, feel free to shoot it my way. While I love talking fantasy sports, few things are more boring than listening to people talk about their own fantasy teams. I’ll probably run down the draft results on Tuesday or Wednesday, at which point I’ll make a call as to whether or not I should give it much play during the regular season. If it sounds like something you’re interested in reading about, make your opinion known. Thanks.

Don’t Look at Me

August 22, 2009

Florida State is claiming no ill intention in its inquiry into Mike Balogun’s eligibility. According to the Daily Oklahoman, however, Balogun’s court filings say the Seminoles gradually worked the question of the linebacker’s status up the compliance food chain.

So, FSU’s compliance department contacted OU looking for help with Corey Surrency’s case, huh? Plausible, but seems a little fishy to me.