Around the NCAA

4 10 2010

SEC Sucks!

If Alabama runs through the SEC undefeated, how can you consider that the best conference in the land? There’s no way they would make it through the Pac-12 gauntlet unscathed. I have to give LSU props for scheduling like they’re a member of the Pac-12 by playing two BCS opponents in non-conference.

It also helps that Les Miles is the luckiest coach on the planet. Check out the end of the LSU game today. When they won the championship in 2007 they weren’t even the best team in the country and they got an invite to play in the BCS championship, but on their way they had an amazing game winning play against Auburn.

Here’s how the conference stacks up against the Pac-12 and by my account we have a 6-3 edge over them with three ties. This season Oregon smashed Tennessee and Colorado beat Georgia today! Even if we give Alabama the advantage over Oregon, that’s still 5-3 in favor of the Pac.

SEC Pac-12
Alabama Oregon
LSU < Arizona
Auburn < Utah
Florida Stanford
Arkansas > USC
South Carolina > UCLA
Ole Miss < Cal
Miss State < Oregon State
Kentucky < Washington
Tennessee < Arizona State
Vanderbilt Colorado
Georgia > WSU

Go Big Blue!

Rich Rodriguez is back and he has his best player since Pat White at West Virginia. Although Michigan barely escaped Indiana yesterday, Denard “Shoelace” Robinson is the most exciting player in the country and the last piece that the read-option offense has lacked. The defense will cost them a couple of games this year, but their offense can score at anytime with their big play potential. If the Heisman Trophy was awarded today he would win it. The award is supposed to go to the best player in the country, not the best player on the best team. Marc Ingram is a great player, but Alabama still would have gone undefeated without him. Toby Gerhart was the reason that Stanford was even competitive.

Hurt Locker

Last night we saw exactly why Jake locker was touted as the number one quarterback on Mel Kiper’s draft board. He led the Huskies to their first road win since 2007, dissected Monte Kiffin’s defense all night long, and finished with 410 yards of offense. All of Locker’s weapons (Chris Polk, Devin Aguilar, and Jermaine Kearse) dropped perfect passes in critical situations, but the strong-armed quarterback shook it off and continued to make plays. Whenever Sarkisian rolled Locker out of the pocket he looked unstoppable and those flashes of brilliance need to continue if the Huskies want to make a bowl game this year. The 4th and 10 play on the game winning drive was a thing of beauty and you can see other highlights here.

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Pac-10 Positive Outlook

30 08 2010

I can’t remember a time when the conference was as wide open as it is this year with seven teams legitimately competing for the championship. Some people have UCLA as a dark horse, but their offensive line has been decimated in the off-season from players leaving for missions, injuries, and now academic ineligibility.

I’m tired of ESPN plugging the SEC as the top conference in the country just because they signed a $2.0 billion deal to cover their games. That conference is always top heavy with a couple teams that can beat anyone, but they also have six bottom feeders that would be average in any BCS conference. I don’t think Florida or Alabama could go undefeated against the top 7 in the Pac-10, but both of them somehow came out of the SEC unscathed until the conference championship. If I was betting on these Pac-10 teams to win the conference championship it would be due to the reasons mentioned below.

Oregon

  • Darron Thomas will be a household name by the end of the year, but not because he’s being mentioned on the police blotter like a former Ducks QB. Oregon fans will tell you about how awesome he was in the spring game and that he’s a more accurate passer than Masoli.  He will also be playing behind a talented offensive line and a stronger LaMichael James. If he’s anything near Dennis Dixon 2.0 then the Ducks could repeat as conference champion.

Cal

  • This team has all of the pieces in place, but the one thing that will make them a contender for the championship is the bump in production that typically happens to Pac-10 quarterbacks. Joey Harrington, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, Derek Anderson and Sean Canfield all know what it’s like to trod with mediocrity for three years only to see things slow down like Neo in the Matrix during their senior season. Kevin Riley is capable with the weapons he has at his disposal which could push the Bears over the top.

Oregon State

  • The Beavers have as much firepower as any team in the conference, but this year they will combine that with increased production in the trenches. Last year’s team ranked 8th in the conference in sacks allowed and the defense ranked 9th in sacks. Ryan Katz will have a much smoother transition with a more experienced offensive line and defensively the new linebackers will be looking for Stephen Paea to create gaps for them by taking on double teams.

Arizona

  • This team is replacing their defensive coordinator, both starting defensive tackles and their entire linebacking corps, but their defensive ends (Brooks Reed & Ricky Elmore) will be the best pass-rushing tandem in the conference. Combined with the fact that they have one of the best secondaries in the conference, they’ll have a solid defense to match their powerful offense.

USC

  • There’s been coaching turnover, players transferring, and the distractions of Reggie Bushgate, but USC  still has the talent to contend for the Pac-10 championship. The best USC teams of the decade had monsters on the defensive line that could get to the quarterback with a four man rush which allowed the linebackers and secondary to create turnovers. Jurrell Casey is one of the top defensive tackles in the country and Armond Armstead has shown big upside at defensive end.

Stanford

  • Kirk Hirbstreit already put the dreaded curse on Stanford by predicting that they will win the Pac-10 championship, but Jim Harbaugh wants to know what his deal is for adding pressure to an under the radar Stanford team? They have the best quarterback in the Pac-10, but for them to compete for the Rose Bowl it will be because of their currently underrated stable of running backs Jeremy StewartTyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor. The Cardinal offensive line proved that they’re one of the best in the conference, but even moderate production from the ground game will allow Andrew Luck to do whatever he wants through the air.

Washington

  • The Huskies have the most balanced offense in the Pac-10, but if they’re going to compete for the championship it will be due to a scrappy defense that creates turnovers. Nick Holt has seven returning starters which should translate into a better understanding of his schemes. With two all-conference calibur players in cornerback Desmond Trufant and linebacker Mason Foster, I’m anticipating a much more aggressive campaign from the Huskies.

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QB Ratings in the Pac-12

6 08 2010

I got this idea from the Bill Simmons Sportsguy podcast about rating the NFL teams with a blue-chip rating. They evaluated teams in the NFL based on a point system that Mike Lombardi came up with. I like the term “Blue Chip” because this is the preferred nomenclature for the cream of the crop high school recruits in the country. I’ll be working on my blue chip team ratings in the next couple of days, but while I was searching for the formula online I stumbled upon a QB predictor rating that ESPN uses to predict the success of quarterbacks in the NFL.

The formula takes into account three statistics: Career starts, completion percentage and touchdown-interception ratio. The theory is that experience, accuracy and production versus mistakes can provide substantive indicators for college quarterbacks.

The formula for BCS quarterbacks
(Career Starts x 0.5) + [(Career completion pct. – 60)x5] +[(Career TD/INT ratio – 2.25)x10]

I wanted to see how our Pac-10 QB’s stack up this year so I decided to plug all of their numbers into an excel chart. I added the two newest QB’s in the conference from Colorado and Utah, but I also wanted to see how our QB’s stack up against the top QB’s in the country. There’s been a lot of hype in the off-season about Jake Locker and Andrew Luck so this might be something that factors into their draft status next April.

The biggest surprise to most people will probably be Jake Locker low on this list, but I’ve seen him play at least a dozen times and despite him possessing elite athleticism he doesn’t read defenses quickly or check down as fast as other QB’s in the conference. His accuracy (58.2% in 2009) is the biggest reason that his rating is so low and will need to be above 60% this year to make the Husky offense dangerous.

Looking more closely at Andrew Luck’s rating, you can see that his 56% completion percentage from 2009 needs improvement. For the most part he was consistent, but in the two games that Toby Gerhart struggled to run the ball (Cal & Oregon St) he went 22-60 for 36% completion percentage in losing efforts. I’ve already stated in my conference projections that I think he will have a more difficult time passing the ball this year, but I still think he’s the best quarterback in the conference.

Here are the other top quarterbacks in the country with Greg McElroy being the Leader of the Pac with a great passing percentage and TD/INT ratio. I used his career stats, but his completion percentage in garbage time in 2007 and 2008 inflated his numbers almost five percent. Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State and Christian Ponder of Florida State have 22 starts a piece to go along with solid, but unspectacular completion percentages and TD/INT ratios, but they have better numbers than some of the Pac-10 quarterbacks. Ryan Mallett being at the bottom of this list came as a surprise to me, because he’s regarded as the third best quarterback in the country behind Locker and Luck.

As you can see from this chart, only Nick Foles of Arizona stacks up well with the other top quarterbacks in the country, but Andrew Luck and Jordan Wynn of Utah are right on the cusp. There’s going to be some exciting football to be played in the conference this year with strong quarterbacks and uncertainties in multiple secondaries.

Here’s what some notable NFL players  rated heading into the draft

cores of First-Round Quarterbacks, 1997-2008
Group I: Strong likelihood of success
Player School Draft year Score
Matt Leinart USC 2006 64.04
Philip Rivers NC State 2004 48.44
Tim Couch Kentucky 1999 47.64
Alex Smith Utah 2005 44.88
Aaron Rodgers California 2005 40.58
Peyton Manning Tennessee 1998 39.47
Jason Campbell Auburn 2005 38.75
Byron Leftwich Marshall 2003 36.39
Ben Roethlisberger Miami (Ohio) 2004 33.85
Chad Pennington Marshall 2000 33.53
Daunte Culpepper Central Florida 1999 30.00
David Carr Fresno State 2002 23.97
Joe Flacco Delaware 2008 23.92
Eli Manning Ole Miss 2004 23.14
Donovan McNabb Syracuse 1999 21.62
Group II: Hit-or-Miss
Player School Draft year Score
Brady Quinn Notre Dame 2007 18.93
JaMarcus Russell LSU 2007 18.64
Rex Grossman Florida 2003 18.39
Vince Young Texas 2006 18.21
Carson Palmer USC 2003 16.35
Matt Ryan Boston College 2008 9.14
Patrick Ramsey Tulane 2002 9.06
J.P. Losman Tulane 2004 7.86
Jay Cutler Vanderbilt 2006 2.39
Group III: Busts
Player School Draft year Score
Akili Smith Oregon 1999 0.00
Cade McNown UCLA 1999 -6.41
Joey Harrington Oregon 2002 -6.85
Michael Vick Virginia Tech 2001 -11.32
Ryan Leaf Washington St. 1998 -16.92
Jim Druckenmiller Virginia Tech 1997 -20.25
Kyle Boller California 2003 -50.67

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Consummate the Marriage

17 06 2010

It couldn’t be more fitting that the 2nd plural wife that the Pac-12 has taken this off-season is with the Utah Utes. If the ski bunnies aren’t enough of an incentive to get people flying out to watch games, then maybe you’ve ignored their performance on the field this decade.

They went undefeated in bowl games from 1999-2009 beating USC, Alabama, Cal, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh along the way. They are one of only two teams (Boise St is the other) to have multiple undefeated seasons in the decade (2005 and 2008). The Leader of the Pac will release their conference rankings sometime next week and I’m expecting the Utes to be in the top half of the conference. In the meantime we’ll have to teach some of their snow bunnies how to surf.

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