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Big East Football: Week One

For all intents and purposes, the college football season is here.


With that in mind, here's the schedule of games going down this weekend with Big East Conference implications.

As you'll notice, opening weekend provides quite the buffet of Big East football. From a season-opening conference game to a nationally televised slugfest between teams brandishing navy and gold, it's a pretty solid lineup of games from Thursday through Sunday evening.

And, of course, Cincy has the opportunity to play their way off ESPN's Bottom 10 bubble.

Big East Football: Week One
9.01.05Eastern Michigan v. CincinnatiCincinnati, OH7:00 PM
9.01.05Buffalo v. ConnecticutEast Hartford, CT7:30 PM
9.03.05Rutgers v. IllinoisCampaign, IL12:00 PM
9.03.05South Florida v. Penn StateState College, PAESPNU/ESPN+3:30 PM
9.03.05Notre Dame v. PittsburghPittsburgh, PAABC8:00 PM
9.04.05West Virginia v. SyracuseSyracuse, NYABC1:30 PM
9.04.05Louisville v. KentuckyLexington, KYESPN3:30 PM

Reasonable Out Of Conference BE Record (Week 1): 4-2
Optimistic Out Of Conference BE Record (Week 1): 5-1
Pessimistic Out of Conference BE Record (Week 1): 2-4

Clearly, the marquee matchup involving a Big East member this weekend is Notre Dame visiting Dave Wanndstedt and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh really needs to lay the wood to the Irish to put a tourniquet on all the "BCS Unworthy" talk. Plus, it'll be Step 1 in the eventual firing of Charlie Weis.

If you want more information on this game, I recommend reading either Pitt Sports Blather or The Blue-Gray Sky. They'll hook you up with what you need to know.

PSB is basically an excerpted news service with little blogger-driven commentary, while BGS makes you want to drive all across the country to slap every delusional Notre Dame supporter you can find.

Killer Kowalewski

Coach Greg Robinson has already tabbed Joe Kowalewski as one of Syracuse’s most important offensive threats for this upcoming season.

[Insert muffled groan here.]

Don’t get me wrong, I think tight ends are terrific offensive options, especially in a west coast-type system. However, when I hear that an offense is going to look to a tight end that isn’t Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates for significant production, I think skepticism is a reasonable emotional response.

Either that or outright surrender. One of the two. It’s a fine line, I suppose.

[Historical Perspective]
Kowalewski has far from distinguished himself over the four years he has suited up for the Orange. In and of itself, this really raises questions as to why Robinson believes that Kowalewski can become a primary target for Perry Patterson’s incomplete passes. However, it would be unreasonable to think that this means Kowalewski will all but fail to meet the expectations placed upon him for this season. Players do improve, but there are usually indications of this potential by examining historical output.

Cinderella stories are rare; there should be signposts somewhere along the way to generate a “eureka” moment.

The operative question, therefore, is whether Kowalewski has anchored any signposts in his marginal career. By examining these historical trends and applying them to reasonable, yet subjective premises, a clearer picture of what Kowalewski is actually capable of can be painted.

Joe Kowalewski - Career
GamesRec.YardsTD'sY/RecP/RecPRRt%Rec. Off.

Obviously, the above cannot totally gauge the total offensive benefit Kowalewski provided to the Syracuse offense over his career or what effect certain plays impacted how Kowalewski caught the ball. However, this should not stall the ability to generate an analysis since this data does show what Kowalewski did with the ball when he caught it. And when the purpose of an analysis is to question whether Kowalewski can be/was a productive player, a reasonable discussion can take place.

It’s pretty clear from the above data that Kowalewski has neither been a stud nor a dud as a receiving tight end. At 6'4" 250 pounds, however, there is a reasonable expectation that such a large target would be able to provide more offense than has previously been generated, especially on a team with so few consistent receivers.

There are a few things to like about Kowalewski from a strictly statistical perspective. Every year since 2002, Kowalewski has significantly raised the total percentage of offense he was contributing to the club. Whether this was the result of Pasqua-DeLeone giving Kowalewski more opportunities or Kowalewski simply taking advantage of the opportunities given to him is debatable. What isn't up for argument is how much more Kowalewski is contributing to the offense since his total number of receptions, receiving yards and percentage of contributed offense have all significantly risen since 2002.

What is disappointing about Kowalewski's career is the low number of touchdowns the big tight end has been able to accumulate. When Coach Robinson tabs Kowalewski as a significant cog to the Syracuse offensive machine, I read into that an indication that Robinson believes that Kowalewski can be a scoring threat. However, there's nothing in Kowalewski's resume to indicate this kind of ability. He seems to have all the physical attributes necessary to fight for the goal line, but has been unable to do so consistently over his career. Hence, the poor pass receiver rating.

Overall, I think the jury should still be out on whether Kowalewski will become the tight end Coach Robinson is leading everyone to believe. There has been a general increase in Kowalewski's production over the last year or so, but nothing in particular sticks out as indicating Kowalewski's superior talent as a receiving tight end.

To me, it looks as if 2005 will be more of the same from the Warners native. Enough production to lead you to believe that Kowalewski can become a decent target for receptions, but not enough production to lead you to believe that Kowalewski should be doing more than blocking 80% of the time.

Stuff That Steams My Clams

There are a lot of things that are really cool about college football. There are also a lot of things about the game that really stew my tomatoes. Most of it has nothing to do with the product on the field, but are so closely tied with the game itself that it is difficult to separate the two.

In no particular order, I’ve listed ten things that I feel tarnish the collegiate game.

1. Tim Brando
Two words describe this guy – abortion survivor.

There are very few people on television I believe have no business being there. Brando is one of them. Even if you can get past his SEC shilling and outright dismissal of the Big East Conference, there’s no way a sane human being can tolerate his short-bus influenced catchphrase – “fly in the ointment.”

What the hell is the ointment?
And the fly somehow upsets this ointment?

In a perfect world, the fly would be my fist and the ointment would be Brando’s face.

It’s really sad that this one guy ruins solid SEC afternoons on CBS.

2. Brent Musburger
Someone needs to reintroduce Musburger to cognizance, post-haste.

When your ability as a broadcaster has been reduced to a hardcore drinking game, it’s time to leave the booth and call it a career.

3. Tomahawk Chop
This has nothing to do with any political ideals I may or may not hold. This is all about the FSU band and their propensity for incessantly playing that damn Tomahawk Chop ditty over, and over, and over, and over, and over…

While we’re on the subject of infuriating songs, the USC band can stop playing that damn drone every time the Trojans snap the football. And to whoever is running the lion roar sound effect at Happy Valley, you’re also put on indefinite leave for pissing off everyone outside of State College.

4. The BYU Rule
This isn’t necessarily all about BYU, but they made it famous.

The BYU Rule is simple: if you’re from a non-BCS conference and manage to win 6 or so games in a row, you are required by law to start clamoring for a spot in the BCS national championship and claim that if you aren’t extended an invitation, that you will seek satisfaction in the fine courts of the United States.

My response to all these schools is simple: I don’t care.

5. NBC
NBC makes the YES Network look fair and balanced.

Every time I have to watch Notre Dame on NBC, I’m led to believe that the Fighting Irish have to drink Gatorade because Brady Quinn keeps turning the water into wine.

Notre Dame has never gotten beat on NBC; they simply didn’t win that day. I wish I could spin my life like that.

6. Weekday College Football Games
I have no tolerance for this nonsense.

When the game of football was passed down from the Mount of Pigskin, the disciples of the gridiron were given the following three Commandments to follow exclusively with the penalty of internet condemnation as a consequence of breach:

I. Thou shall watch parents live vicariously through their football playing high school children on Friday evenings;
II. Thou shall watch colleges eschew their institutional pursuit of education by playing football on Saturday afternoons; and
III. Thou shall watch current and future substance abusers beat each other to a pulp on the football gridiron Sunday afternoons.

If a university’s football program has to play home games on a weekday night, they should be prepared for an eternity of college football purgatory as a consequence for their sins.

7. Pointless Out-of-Conference Games
If I want to watch a 1-AA team lace ‘em up, I’ll drive the 15 minutes down the road to watch Yale lose to whoever happens to be on the schedule that day.

There is no point in watching Kansas State shellac a 1-AA program that has 11 guys that play like the retarded kid from Radio.

Granted, you may be saying to yourself, “what about when the 1-AA club wins, like Rutgers losing to New Hampshire last year?”

So what. Rutgers sucks.

If you have a 1-A designation, you should play a 1-A schedule. It’s that simple. I don’t give a damn about how tough a conference schedule is or the need to schedule a guaranteed home game. Playing a lower division opponent does nothing for the game of college football, especially from a fan’s perspective.

8. Beano Cook
Army hasn’t been relevant for 60 years, and neither has Beano.

Half the time I can’t understand what the hell Beano is saying because he sounds like he’s talking with a medieval times-style turkey leg hanging from his jowls. The other half of the time he’s talking about things that either a) are no longer relevant; or b) only existed in the alternative reality that is Beano’s imagination.

9. JoePa Badgering Referees
Apparently, when you are issued an AARP card you are given a license to physically abuse people in black and white stripes.

It’s actually pretty cool watching JoePa on the sidelines on any given Saturday. You get to see the circle of life in action.

When we’re born, we’re docile little creatures that live only on the dependence of others. Then we start demanding independence through crankiness in an effort to control our own destiny. Then we mature and continue to do so until we peak. Then we get cranky in an effort to control our own destiny. Then we become docile little creatures that live only on the dependence of others.

Good news, Joe. Only one more stop to go. If I were you, I’d start shopping for a plot somewhere near where they buried your coaching career.

10. Boosters
You’re ruining football. Stop.

Well, I should probably clarify that a little. If you’re not a sanctioned booster operating within the framework of the NCAA rulebook, then you should stop ruining football. I have no tolerance for these jerks that are paying players and tarnishing the integrity of amateur athletics.
If you don’t stop, I’ll turn JoePa loose on you.

BlogPoll Roundtable #6

BlogPoll Roundtable, the brainchild of BlogPoll superhero Brian over at mgoblog, is an effort to generate discourse on a series of questions and issues currently applicable to the college football universe.

This edition of the BlogPoll Roundtable is hosted by To read responses of other bloggers to the roundtable questions, simply click here.

What criteria do you use to determine if a team and its players are good?
It’s difficult to answer this question without bifurcating the answer. Since there can be no absolute criteria for determining whether a team or a particular player is talented, any kind of analysis must turn on both subjective and objective reasoning, with the latter often influencing the former.

In terms of an objective analysis, the disparity between points scored and points yielded is a necessary stopping point when determining whether a team is “good.” Granted, this is very Pythagorean in nature, but it does give great indication as to the particular performance of one club compared to another. After this initial examination, the other signposts of note are ability to win on the road, head-to-head results, and the ability of a particular team to impose its offensive or defensive will on an opponent by sticking to its chosen philosophy.

When thinking about players objectively, the focus should be almost exclusively on per play production (points per play, yards per play, etc.) and the relative strength of the opponent attempting to stop (or defeat for that matter) that player. Also, it may be helpful to look at the percentage of offense or defense that the player is responsible for.

Subjective team analysis, as mentioned earlier, is premised on intuition buttressed by objective analysis. Often times, injury, fatigue and other intangibles are difficult to illustrate in an objective analysis. However, any kind of subjective formulation naturally takes these intangibles into account. The best way to illustrate this kind of evaluation is by asking the question “If Team A had Player B, and Variable C was not in play, would Team A or Player B beat or be better than Team D or Player E?”

A subjective player analysis would proceed in the same manner as a team analysis. Compared to another player, would a particular player be as, more, or less successful than the aforementioned footballer if they were competing in a neutral environment. For example, would Damien Rhodes be as successful as Reggie Bush if Rhodes had the same talent around him as Bush does?

If you could choose one coach to build an offensive system for your school, who would it be? Conversely, who would you choose to devise the defense? Why?
If there were only one offensive coach I could choose, it would be Tom Osborne.

[Enter muffled groans here.]

I have been and always will be a lifelong supporter of the option offense. I love it, and nobody was better at crafting and stubbornly sticking to the attack than Tom Osborne. The way Osborne was able to generate success with such an out of date offense in contemporary football times is a testament to his coaching ability.

Of course, if I had to choose a coach that is currently in the game of football, whether professional or collegiate, I’d go with Norm Chow. Chow’s resume speaks for itself. Everyone on the planet has seen his system, yet nobody can stop it. Furthermore, if you can make Ty Detmer a Heisman Trophy winner, you are the greatest offensive mind in the history of football.
If there were only one defensive coach I could choose, it would be Nick Saban.

The guy lives and breathes defense, and nobody seems to get as much out of his players as Saban does. Saban was able to use his progressive defensive philosophies to turn Michigan State and LSU into defensive stalwarts during his brief tenures, which makes his accomplishments all the more impressive. Plus, Saban has Syracuse roots, which is always nice.

If I was pressured to select a current college coach to tend to the Syracuse defense, I’d probably go with Ed Orgeron down at Mississippi. As another guy with Syracuse roots, his aggressive defensive attitude would fit perfectly on the Carrier Dome carpet. Granted, a lot of Orgeron’s talent may be attributed to Pete Carroll, but you can’t argue with the talent that Orgeron was able to develop on USC’s defensive line.

Describe your typical college football Saturday.
9:00 – Wake Up
9:01 – Commence rumination on how Syracuse will ruin the rest of my Saturday
12:00 – Football, preferably of the Orange variety
Rest of Day – Commence rumination on how Syracuse ruined the rest of my Saturday

Pointless Comparison

Entering Walter Reyes’ senior season in 2004, there was a deluge of rumor and commentary concerning the Struthers Strider and whether he would be donning the vaunted 44 jersey. Having the luxury of hindsight, had Reyes chosen to wear 44, his 2004 production would have fallen significantly below the expectations associated with the legacy of the number.

While there is little doubt that Reyes was not worthy of wearing 44 during 2004, the question still remains whether Reyes was worthy of donning the jersey entering the season. The question may not be timely, but it’s still one worth examining.

Well, maybe.

The real impetus for this examination is that I’m terrifically bored and this just happened to pop into my head.

Since the question presented is whether Walter Reyes was worthy of donning 44 going into his senior campaign, the best way to complete this examination is to select a triumvirate of Syracuse’s greatest 44’s and then compare Reyes’ 2003 season to each of these rushers’ “greatest” seasons. By comparing Reyes’ numbers to the signature seasons of each of these historic backs, it can be determined whether Reyes had sufficiently established himself amongst the pantheon of Syracuse excellence.

Selection of which rushers to use for this comparison was a fairly simple task. Choosing the particular seasons of each of these backs was much more difficult. Ultimately, I settled on using the following as high watermarks for 44 greatness: Jim Brown’s 1956 season, Ernie Davis’ 1961 season, and Floyd Little’s 1965 season. Of course, each of these rushers had multiple seasons of terrific production to choose from, but these three seasons seem to be, at least from my perception, the signature seasons for each rusher.

In crafting this examination, both rushing statistics and receiving statistics will be considered. As a running back contributes more than rushing yards to a team’s offensive production, it is necessary to consider both statistical categories.

Jim Brown - 1956 Season
Total Touches1589866.2413.49438.4%

Ernie Davis - 1961 Season
Total Touches1669805.9014.50633.2%

Floyd Little - 1965 Season
Total Touches21413136.13615.42137.97%

Walter Reyes - 2003 Season
Total Touches29117225.9221.43339.3%

What makes this examination unique is that the 44 jersey is usually issued to an incoming freshman. As such, the opportunity to judge whether a player is worthy of donning the jersey is very infrequent. Of course, all of the talk about 44-worthy backs becomes moot come mid-November when Syracuse officially retires the jersey during the South Florida game.

Wearing the 44 jersey indicates that a rusher is a significant value to the Syracuse football team and, generally, one of the most dominant backs in the game when examined through the vacuum of the college football universe.

Under this set of parameters, Reyes seems to fall just above the delineating mark between great running backs and 44-worthy running backs. It is close, but with the given data, it appears as if Reyes is at least close enough to the great Syracuse backs to have been a worthy candidate to don the jersey.

Even though Reyes appears to be 44-worthy, it’s not because his 2003 season is in the same league as Jim Brown’s 1956 season or the season Ernie Davis put together in 1961. The two latter rushers are in a league of their own, not only in the history of Syracuse football, but nationally as well. It’s simply amazing that Davis and Brown were able to generate around six yards and half a point every time they touched the football.

While all this may seem fairly pedestrian when viewed in the abstract, the enormity of Brown’s and Davis’ production become all the more impressive when you consider Reyes scored 20 touchdowns and compiled more than 1300 rushing yards in 2003 and couldn’t even approach Davis’ and Brown’s numbers. It’s not just number of yards and points scored that is important; it’s the value of each of these when put into their proper context of per play output since the characteristics of the college football season and offensive philosophy have changed so much in the last 50 years.

The controlling question, therefore, is how Reyes matches up with Floyd Little. Little was not the back that Davis and Brown were, but is still generally considered one of Syracuse’s greatest 44’s. If Reyes’ numbers at least approach Little’s then it wouldn’t be ludicrous to believe that Reyes could be considered a 44-worthy back.

Obviously, there is no single category that is determinative of whether a back can be considered worthy of 44, but there is one that should be considered a prerequisite – percentage of offense running through the back.

In 2003, Reyes is credited with contributing over 39% of Syracuse’s total points while in 1956, Little contributed about 38% to the Orange offense. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Reyes was a more effective back than Little, it does indicate the importance of Reyes in the Syracuse system. With percentages almost being equal (as well as overall statistical outputs) and given the premise that to be a 44-worthy back a rusher must contribute the same as another 44 back would, I'm led to believe that Reyes was at least in the same productive league as Floyd Little in 1965.

With all this in mind, it should be pretty clear that Reyes was worthy of wearing 44 in 2004. His 2003 season was not the greatest season ever put in by a Syracuse rusher (it may have been, however, the bookend to the greatest back-to-back seasons ever put together by a Syracuse rusher), but it was enough to put him in the conversation when speaking about the great seasons put in by Syracuse’s greatest rushers. Had this examination taken place one year ago, I don’t think it would have been ridiculous to think that Reyes would have tarnished the legacy of 44 by taking the number.

Thankfully, hindsight is 20/20.

Live From New York!

There is a ton of news coming out of Lampe today that is worth commenting on, but only one piece of information necessitates more than a simple acknowledgment of its existence.

Sowing a Seed.
Orange is in the Apple.

Without question, this is the most signficiant initiative the Syracuse athletic department has undertaken since the construction of the Carrier Dome.

And that may just be an understatement.

Despite the Orange's annual trip to New York for the Big East Basketball tournament, Syracuse has never attempted to reach out to NYC as a potential hot-bed for Orange enthusiasm. The City was always viewed as a college football wasteland, populated only by a few Notre Dame and Penn State fans. No school, especially one located four hours north, would be able to successfully market college football to a town dominated by the Jets and Giants.

Apparently, Dr. Gross never got this message. Or he chose to ignore it. One of the two. It's a fine line I suppose.

Whether or not Syracuse ultimately fails in its attempt to corral New York City is not important. What is important is that Syracuse is making an attempt to own New York City. The purpose isn't to bring new fans to the Syracuse table; it's to reach out to forgotten alumni and give a product to New York college football fans who are starved for the pigskin, whether a Syracuse supporter or not. Once it is determined that college football can survive in the Big Apple, then the focus can turn to making new Syracuse fans.

Why? It's simple.

Fans of football, not necessarily of a particular university, generate revenues for an athletic department because these individuals are more concerned with the game itself than the name on the front of the jersey. The game of football and the university's association with it drives their passion, not the superficial joy associated with name recognition or university identification. They'll stick with a university through thick and thin and follow it wherever it goes to play the game they love.

Once a passion for the game is delivered, then new fans can be brought to the Syracuse table because these people will recognize SU as the vehicle that brought them the joy they have for college pigskin. It's a two-step process dependent on the first step being firmly placed. The second step can only succeed as a residual to the first.

The question that flows naturally from this is whether Syracuse can accomplish this New York City task.

The answer is easy: hell no.

There's a better chance of that naked cowboy guy in Times Square actually getting a real job than Syracuse suddenly owning the most important city on the planet.

New York City is not a college football friendly place. Even Penn State and Notre Dame, two of the nation's more identifiable squads, have tenuous footholds in the NYC media. To think that Syracuse suddenly appearing on New York radio would raise Syracuse's stable of fans is fairly ridiculous.

As it stands right now, Syracuse doesn't hold a bad position in terms of brand recognition on a regional or nationwide level. With a football radio network encompassing 17 radio stations located throughout all of upstate New York and northern New Jersey, Syracuse is finding the ears of those people that are looking for their call. Throw in a television appearances that showcase almost all of Syracuse's football contests, and the Orange is definitely a fixture on the Northeast's consciousness, whether they want it or not.

But as mentioned earlier, the eventual success of owning NYC doesn't matter. It's the attempt that matters. NYC, on the whole, will never become an Orange town; hell it's not even a Red Storm town and they play in the heart of the city. What is important is attempting to find people in the metro area (like me) that are not within Syracuse's broadcast net on a weekly basis and reinvigorating our passion for alma mater.

Because we like football. And we're sick of watching Yale butcher it.

Playin' Genius

I have no crystal ball.

Or Miss Cleo subscription.

Or dog that barks once for a win and twice for a loss.

What I do have is the gunk betwixt my ears and the intuition that has failed me for the better part of my 25 years on this planet. It’s not ideal, but certainly better than flipping coins as a means for prognostication.

Well, maybe.

Anyways, without further ado, I proudly present Syracuse :: 44 :: Orange’s “Preseason Assumptions of How Syracuse Can Find Ways to Underachieve.”

Or, as others may call it, “A Pessimist’s Guide to Hating Your Alma Mater.”

9.04.05: vs. West Virginia
1:30 PM – ABC
Opponent Star Watch: Justin Gwaltney – RB

There is no chance in hell Syracuse wins this game. No chance. It seems like nobody plays as poorly on national television as Syracuse does, and given the Orange’s pitiful record in home openers, there is too much working against Syracuse to overcome a down Mountaineers club. If this game was played three weeks down the line, I’d almost put a Syracuse win in permanent marker. But since this game is stacking itself up as a must-win at the outset of the season, there’s a better chance of Matt Hale waving his Canadian flag on the sideline than Syracuse actually winning.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: Disappointment tempered by feigned hopefulness.

*Update*: Syracuse dogs it in the opener thereby further emphasizing my genius.

9.10.05: vs. Buffalo
3:30 PM – Time Warner 26
Opponent Star Watch: Nobody

Troy Nunes beat Buffalo 63-7 in 2000. With that said, Syracuse will never, ever lose to Buffalo. Ever.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: The Syracuse/Buffalo snow accumulation race is more fun.

*Update*: Buffalo dogs it in their 2005 Carrier Dome appearance thereby further emphasizing my genius.

9.17.05: vs. Virginia
12:00 PM – ESPN2
Opponent Star Watch: Marques Hagans – QB

This has all the makings of the yearly “Game Syracuse Shouldn’t Win, And Almost Doesn’t, But the Opponent Was Out Drinking the Night Before and Can’t Manage to Hold Off the Orange Rush.” Virginia embarrassed the Orange last season down in Charlottesville and probably would expect to do the same this season up in the Dome. Unfortunately for the ‘Hoos, it’s time for Coach Robinson’s new attacking defense to smother the snot out of Marcus Hagans and Al Groh’s Wali Lundy-led power running game.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: If Syracuse runs the table….

*Update*: Perry Patterson's first half incompetence and the defense's second half fatigue ultimately allow the Cavaliers to hold off a classic Orange Rush.

I may have been wrong, but only by the slimmest of margins.

10.1.05: at Florida State
3:30 PM – ABC
Opponent Star Watch: Wyatt Sexton – Savior

Forget about it. Even though Florida State has no idea who will be taking snaps for them this season, Syracuse just doesn’t have enough to walk into Doak and actually push the Seminoles around. With a defense that can still move around the field as good as anyone in the game, Florida State should torture a young Patterson-led passing game.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: Outright resignation.

*Update*: It didn't take a genius to realize that SU was going to get wrecked. Who would've thought that Syracuse would have actually had the first opportunity to score, though?

10.7.05: at Connecticut
8:00 PM – ESPN2
Opponent Star Watch: Terry Caulley – RB

Quintessential 50/50 game with the game falling on a short week following a Florida State massacre. Syracuse should win this game, but going on the road against an underdog never proves well for the Orange (read: Temple, Rutgers, me and 10 guys named Stephen Hawking). Despite Connecticut’s potentially porous defense and inexperienced passing attack, Syracuse win find a way to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: Wait ‘til basketball sea…oh, crap….

*Update*: Always being right is a difficult pill to swallow.

10.15.05: vs. Rutgers
12:00 PM – ESPN Regional
Opponent Star Watch: Brian Leonard – RB/FB

When Rutgers plays under the bubble, they lose. It’s that simple. With an 11-2 record against the Scarlet Blight in the Dome, there’s no chance in hell Rutgers slips past the Orange this season. Even last year when RU held a two-score lead with under 4:00 to play, Syracuse still dropped the hammer on the Scarlet Blight. The only question will be what stupid things Coach Schiano will say after the game in a vain attempt to salvage the sinking ship that is his coaching career.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: I pooped my pants.

*Update*: A few years back, Pitt manages to win in the Dome for the first time in 20 some-odd years. Now Rutgers decides it no longer wants to be smacked around under the bubble. This is unacceptable.

10.22.05: at Pittsburgh
12:00 – ESPN Regional
Opponent Star Watch: Greg Lee – WR

This is going to be bad. Real bad. I have no faith in Anthony Smith or any of the other jamokes Syracuse is throwing into its back four to stop Greg Lee or Joe DelSardo. Tyler Palko will have a field day carving up the Syracuse defense, despite the null value that is Pittsburgh running game. In the end, Dave Wanndstedt wins Round 1 of the Robinson/Wanndstedt Battle Royale in fairly convincing fashion.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: I never thought cold steel would feel so warm on my temple.

*Update*: Yup. I'm a bona fide super-genius.

10.29.05: vs. Cincinnati
12:00 PM – ESPN Regional
Opponent Star Watch: Mark Dantonio – Head Coach

Cincinnati graduated just about its entire starting roster last season and has far from reloaded. Granted, the last time Syracuse walked into Cincinnati the Bearcats managed to wax Troy Nunes & Co. But Nunes isn’t running the Syracuse offense into the ground anymore. Perry Patterson is. And he won’t lose to these ‘Cats this season.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: Light sobbing leading to acceptance of the state of Big East football.

*Update*: At this point, it may just be easier to start ranking which teams are worse than Syracuse rather than going through the arduous task of figuring out how far the Orange is from USC.

As for the game itself, it was nice to hear about a Syracuse performance reminiscent of the Troy Nunes era. Makes me feel like I'm back in college again, pissing away my future.

11.12.05: vs. South Florida
TBA – None Currently
Opponent Star Watch: Andre Hall - RB

Even with Syracuse’s panache for losing to the dregs of college football, SU will not lose this game. There is no way that Syracuse can lose on the day of 44’s retirement. If by some heroically ironic twist of fate the Orange did manage to lose, the City of Syracuse would burn at the hands of a Simpsons-style lynch mob.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: I think Syracuse just swept D-1A’s roster of “Bulls.”

*Update*: If anyone has a noose, I've got a large tree we can start hanging members of the coaching staff from.

This performance wasn't just bad, it was just horrific. I'd rather give myself dental care than have to watch that game again.

11.19.05: at Notre Dame
2:30 PM – NBC
Opponent Star Watch: Regis Philbin – Professional Yakker

This could be the season’s worst game to be viewed by a national television audience. I have no reason to believe Notre Dame will be any better than a .500 club this season and by the time these two clubs square off, Syracuse will have already resigned itself to looking ahead to next year. While neither team should be allowed to win this game, I think Syracuse might pull out the victory, if only because I look forward to hearing Irish Nation calling for the head of another head coach.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: So, which one of these teams is going to the Big Ten?

*Update*: Syracuse won the 1st quarter, so that's nice. Of course, Notre Dame pistol-whipped Syracuse for the other three periods, but that means very little.

11.26.05: at Louisville
TBA – None Currently
Opponent Star Watch: Brian Brohm – QB

The last time Louisville squared off against the Orange they won 30-20 and the game probably shouldn’t have been that close. Now, loaded with talent and national title hopes, Louisville is primed to lay a record-breaking offensive ass whooping on the Orange. If Syracuse wins this game, it’s only because a) Louisville sent their flu-ridden JV squad; or b) Syracuse has an undefeated season on the line and interim Head Coach Easter Bunny refuses to let the Orange lose.

Final Buzzer Emotional Response: Wait ‘til next ye… oh, crap….

*Update*: Worst. Season. Ever.

Final Record: 6-5 (3-4)
Final Assumptions:
· Damien Rhodes has a remarkable season.
· No bowl.
· Doogie Howser’s new television show gets cancelled within four weeks of its premiere.
· Fields v. Patterson debate rages.
· Disappointing basketball season erases disappointment of Syracuse football ’05.
· Uneventful recruiting season.

*Update*: The final assumptions ending up being about half right and about half wrong.
  • Damien Rhodes actually accumulated a pretty pedestrian season.
  • There was no bowl (and if there were, the bowl system would collapse upon itself in horror).
  • How I Met Your Mother is still on TV, and I actually like it a little bit.
  • It wouldn't be Syracuse football post-McNabb if there wasn't a QB battle. Predicting this controversy is like shooting fish in a barrell.
  • Syracuse is well on its way to a disappointing hoops year (damn you, Bucknell).
  • Well, the recruiting picture is still fuzzy, but the lack of big names giving oral committments should be an indication of a poor season on the horizon.

The Loud House?

Apparently, the Carrier Dome is supposed to provide Syracuse with an indomitable home-field advantage. Or at least this is the kind of drivel that is often passed on as fact nowadays.

There has been a ton written about home-field advantage and whether or not playing in one's home stadium actually has a quantitatively negative impact on an opponent's ability to play the game of football. While provocative, I'm not particularly interested in dissecting such assertions. What I am interested in is examining how Syracuse has fared at the Carrier Dome with a special eye focused on the Orange's performance in home openers.

The methodology behind this examination is simple: look at the total number of home games Syracuse has played in the Carrier Dome and place wins and losses into different analytical categories. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Maybe a few days down the line I'll take a look at how Syracuse has fared at home compared to how the other members of the Big East have done on their home turf. But for now, I'm just looking at how Syracuse has done on its own artificial carpet.

Note: The assembled data is courtesy of James Howell. His diligence is very much appreciated.


1980 - 2004: Syracuse Home Records
Home Games102442.699
Big East Home Games37110.771
Home Openers14110.560
Season Home Openers550.500

If there is a team that starts off worse at home than Syracuse, please step forward. How is it possible that a team that wins virtually 70% of its home games has no discernible advantage when playing an opponent as a home opener? Simply unbelievable.

I was a bit surprised to see Syracuse's Big East home winning percentage so high. I'll try to explain why I was surprised and what the reasons may be for such a high rate of victory.

Going into this examination, I had assumed that Syracuse's luxury of having perennial bottom feeders Temple and Rutgers at the Dome every other year would dramatically raise Syracuse's overall Big East winning percentage. However, I also thought that these virtual victories would be balanced by losses to Virginia Tech and Miami losses. Thus, the eventual outcome of Syracuse's home Big East rate of victory would be determined by games against Boston College, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia. With that in mind, I assumed that Syracuse would beat those teams at home a few more times than the opponent would top Syracuse, putting the Big East home winning percentage somewhere around .600 or so.

Boy was I wrong. To have a winning percentage approaching .800, Syracuse must've been dominating the middle of the Big East pack as well as scratching out victories against the conference's top teams on a semi-regular basis. That 20 year stretch of whacking Pittsburgh as well as BC's ineptitude in the Carrier Dome significantly impacted the rate of Syracuse's home dominance.

With an eye turned toward Syracuse's home/season opener against West Virginia, some interesting variables will be at play. Syracuse has fared pretty poorly in season home openers, yet has dominated (in a broader sense) its home Big East games.

Which variable will control on September 4th?

BlogPoll: Week One

"Every generation needs a new revolution."
- Thomas Jefferson

"You say you want a revolution...."
- The Beatles

"Outta my way, jerkass!"
- Homer J. Simpson

And with those three quotes of perfect applicability, I proudly present mgoblog's Blogpoll.

It may not be a traditional "renverse la presse," but at least there'll be more clutter on the internet, and in the end, that's the most important thing.

It doesn't take Stephen Hawking twitching in his wheelchair to realize that this blog has been hopelessly dedicated to presenting original content. With this in mind, I'm torn on how to approach my participation in this poll.

Ideally, I'd like to develop a rating system similar in nature to what Sagarin and Massey have concocted. Through a modified examination ofPythagoreann points disparity and strength of schedule, I think a meaningful rating system could be developed.

However, as of this moment I have no idea where to start.

So what I'm left with is a pseudo-subjective methodology buttressed by looselyaffiliatedd data. It's a power poll of sorts, but not with hardfast rules of slotting. It's not ideal, but until I can sit down and make some smoke bellow from my ears, this is the vehicle I'm using.

BlogPoll: Week One
1.Southern California0-0
3.Virginia Tech0-0
9.Louisiana State0-0
12.Ohio State0-0
13.Texas A&M0-0
15.Boise State0-0
16.Fresno State0-0
18.Arizona State0-0
20.Texas Tech0-0
21.Florida State0-0
25.Boston College0-0

1. Southern California
I'd take SC to win the NFC West this year by at least two games.

2. Texas
I'm not sure I'm really satisfied with Texas in the two hole. I really wanted to put Virginia Tech in this position, but I really felt that Vince Young has more "X Factor Winnability"than Marcus Vick.

3. Virginia Tech
I really like Tech this season, despite the loss of so much senior talent from last season. The defense could be one of the ten best in the country and Frank Beamer always seems to have a cupboard full of slashing backs. This is the only team in the country that I think matches up pretty well with SC on both sides of the football.

4. Tennessee
The way I have initially slotted teams, UT is shaping up to be the most disappointing team in my poll submission. Personally, I don't think there's a chance in hell that Phil Fulmer will beat Georgia, Florida, or Steve Spurrier this season. However, since the BlogPoll works on a premise of not considering future schedules and anticipated wins and losses, I'm stuck putting UT in the three hole only because Fulmer has a team he should dominate with. But he won't.

5. Iowa
Two Words: Kirk Ferentz.
Fourteen More: Will Kirk Ferentz find somebody to throw and run the ball efficiently this season?

Even with the question marks on offense this season, you can't bet against Kirk Ferentz. You just can't. He's the like Favre - any time you think there's no chance in hell that success is possible, he does nothing but exceed expectations.

6. Oklahoma
Solid defense.
Adequate offense.
Above-average talent.
Overhyped, yet ahead-of-the-mean workhorse RB.

7. Michigan
Behind Reggie Bush, Mike Hart might just be the second best running back in the country. And that's not even the reason to slot Michigan seven - it's the big jamokes they have on both lines.

8. Louisville
A lot has been inked about UL's offense, but the reason they've been able to turn heads the last few years has been a defense solidly within the nation's top 15. There has been turnover this season, but not enough for me to believe they aren't one of the best 10 teams in the country right now.

Added note: Sleeper Heisman Pick-Brian Brohm.

9. Louisiana State
I really like Les Miles. He has done more with less while out at Oklahoma State battling it out in the Big 12 South. Now that he has a truckload of talent to work with, he's set to blow the doors off the SEC. I would have slotted LSU higher, but I'm not yet sold on JaMarcus Russell running the show for the Tigers.

10. Florida
I like Chris Leak.
I like Urban Meyer.
I like defenses that create turnovers.
I like linebackers that average about 6'3", 230 and can blitz like crazy with a pretty solid secondary.
I like Andre Caldwell.
I don't like not having any idea who the hell is running the rock.

11. Miami
Was there a bigger disappointment over the last two years than Brock Berlin? God, what a loser.

I really don't think this Miami team will be better than they were last year. The defense is experienced, especially in the secondary, but the only guy on the offensive side of the ball that makes me cheer is Greg Olsen at tight end. Granted, there is a ton of potential, but until they trot this team out onto the field, I'm really not sure that this is a top ten team.

12. Ohio State
If Troy Smith/Justin Zwick can get Santonio Holmes and Teddy Ginn the ball, I would really fall in love with this squad because Tressel has a national championship defense. However, I think Zwick/Smith aren't guys that can win the Buckeyes games; they're the reason that OSU will lose games this season. I'm also not sold on Haw/Pittman being stud backs this season.

13. Texas A&M
Why not?

Reggie McNeal deserves to play for a top 15 team, and there is enough offensively around him to let McNeal take them here if he chooses. It's just a shame McNeal can't play any defense, because if A&M doesn't have a good summer focusing on stopping the football, Reggie is going to have to score about 35 points a game.

14. Georgia
UGA is probably better than this. In fact, I know that they are. Just look at the names: Shockley, Brown, Minter, etc. They can play football. I just don't think they know how to win enough football games. Plus, I am sick and tired of them burning me every friggin' year.

15. Boise State
I would have absolute faith in Coach Hawkins to run this country, nevermind just a football team.

Boise is going to score a million points this season, and if they beat Georgia convincingly, I'm move BSU into my top five. I like them that much this season.

16. Fresno State
A lot of people smarter than me really like Fresno this season. And that's good enough for a preseason poll.

17. Auburn
I really can't see how a team that took so many lumps from early-entry and graduation can possibly be in the top 15. This team relied so much on guys no longer in orange and blue that they should be about an above-average SEC club.

18. Arizona State
This was a toss-up for me. Number 18, by hell or high water, was going to be either ASU or Cal. Tough luck, Bears (even though I have officially gotten on the Marshawn Lynch bandwagon). Having fallen victim to "UGA Disease" as of late, unless ASU gets on the field and proves me wrong, they should be closer to leaving the poll than dominating it.

19. Pittsburgh
I like Greg Lee.
I like Tyler Palko.
I like Dave's mustache.
I like a defense with seven returning starters that will get better under Dave's direction.
I like Pitt.

20. Texas Tech
I really wish Tech would play on the East Coast so I'm not stuck watching only highlights of eight-passing touchdown games.

21. Florida State
Will be out of the poll soon, so no commentary is warranted. It's like staring at nothing but question marks and holes that might be filled with someone having talent.

22. Virginia
Another "UGA Disease" team.

Al Groh is a terrific recruiter. However, he seems to have more brainfarts on gameday than anyone else in a major conference. Marcus Hagans has a chance to be a pretty resourceful QB (think Bryan Randall with better pocket decisionmaking skills), and the defense is jacked up with talent at linebacker (Brooks and Parham).

23. Purdue
You tell me.

24. Colorado
Last year, Gary Barnett kept things together despite the circus his own sleeziness created. Now that nobody gives a damn about the Buffs, expect CU to start pounding the football like the days of old.

25. Boston College
I really didn't want to rank BC. I really think BC could end up in the bottom third of the ACC this year when things start playing out.

But who else do you rank here? Oregon? Oregon State? Penn State? Notre Dame? None of those teams deserved to be ranked yet either. So, BC gets the spot until they gracious give it to some other team that has no business being ranked.

P is for Pythagorized

After authoring this essay, I decided to engage in some hardcore rumination. Nothing earth shattering, but interesting nonetheless.

Considering the Syracuse football squad "overachieved" in 2004 by a single game, I was curious as to what the legacy of Paul Pasqualoni would be when viewed through the lens of the Pythagorean Model.

The Pythagorean Model, for the uniniated, creates a forecasting of the final record of a particular club by examining the differential between points scored and points scored against. It was created by uber genius Bill James, but has been applied to many sports by uber geeky James clones. Essentially, the model creates a benchmark that each team should reach. If the benchmark is not reached, a team is deemed to have underperformed; if the benchmark is surpassed, a team is deemed to have overperformed.

Got it? Great.

Special thanks goes out to James Howell for compiling all the record and points data. Without his diligent efforts, this affirmation of Pasqualoni's ineptitude would never had occurred.

Note: Unlike my previous post regarding the Pythagorean Model, the following includes post-season numbers.

Paul Pasqualoni - Pythagorized!

The record on Pasqualoni is really perplexing.

At the outset of Pasqualoni's tenure, Syracuse was the consummate overachiever. It would natually be assumed that a team would go through some growing pains under the watchful eye of an immature head coach. However, Syracuse never had that problem. With overachievement values in each of Pasqualoni's first four seasons, Coach P found ways to wins games he shouldn't have.

And then, for some unknown reason, it all evaporated at precisely the time it shouldn't have.

From 1995 up until 2001 Syracuse became chronic underachievers. Generally, it is reasonable to believe that teams tend to go into underachieving slumps when a team is unable to put great athletes onto the field. This may be due to poor recruiting, injuries, or other associated variables.

However, from 1995 through 2000, Syracuse may have had its strongest and most resiliant crop of pure athletes since the glory days of Ben Schwatzwalder. With McNabb, Johnson, Konrad, Mungro, and the rest, Syracuse's underachievement can't be blamed on lack of talent. There's only one explanation.

Congratulations, Coach P!

Now, this isn't saying that Coach P didn't put together nice seasons from 1995 through 2000. He did. Over that period, P went 48-24 for a .667 winning percentage. However, what the Pythagorean Model shows is that things should have been better virtually every year during that time.

Imagine the position Syracuse would have been in had those teams won just one more game each season. That's how powerhouses stay at the top; those teams are not plagued with long streaks of underachievement.

To be brutally honest, I don't particularly care whether Perry Patterson or Joe Fields is given the right to take snaps for the Orange this season. Neither of these guys has a skill set that would make you believe that when either walks onto the field, the team has a better chance for victory.

To put this situation into its proper context, I submit the following analogy for review: it's like having to choose between eating tuna and peanut butter on wheat for lunch instead of tuna and ketchup on rye.

It's going to suck. And you know it. But you need to eat.

Instead of engaging in a subjective critique of each quarterback, I've decided to simply present some hard data on each passer and draw some conclusions from that. There are enough outlets on the web and in the traditional print media where subjective critiques of each quarterback have been made. There is no reason to contribute more of the same clutter to the debate.

To paint a proper potrait of a passer, a slew of data should be considered. Included in this data sample is, unfortunately, passer rating. Passer rating, as I have alluded to in previous essays, is a method for quantifying production that I am not totally satisfied with because of some of the inherent flaws in the formula. If you are curious with why I'm anti-passer rating, consider the following:

  • Plays having the quarterback being sacked are not considered when compiling the rating. Sacks, in their very nature, are model tools of inefficiency, and any formula that attempts to value efficiency should take into consideration loss yardage due to sacks.

  • Another problem with the formula is that rushing yards gained or lost by a quarterback do not result in a rise or fall in passer rating. Considering the value a scrambling quarterback can have on an offense's ability to move the football and avoid sacks, compiled rushing yards should be implemented into the calculation. This problem could be resolved by replacing yards per attempt with yards per play as one of the rating's components. By counting sacks and rushing attempts (in addition to passes actually thrown) as plays, a clearer portrait of production can be illustrated.

Anyways, back to things that aren't located on a tangent.

While neither Patterson or Fields has accumulated a large pool of data to draw some concrete conclusions, they have provided enough statistical output to at least forecast the overall productive value of each passer.

The data below originates from the 2004 season. This is for two reasons: a) Fields wasn't on the team in 2003; and b) Patterson never attempted a pass in 2003.

Quarterback Comparison - Fields v. Patterson
J. Fields29131921344.8286.6213.448.20710.34591.131
P. Patterson289168185171058.1316.4052.422.1453.460113.005

The first thing that comes to mind when looking at these numbers is something along the lines of "these guys play division 1-A football?" If these guys were appearing at the Apollo Theater, that clown with the broom would've made an entrance a long time ago.

The second thing that comes mind is that even though Patterson and Fields are almost equally bad, the numbers appear to lean toward Patterson.

The most important thing for a quarterback to be in any system (but especially in a west coast system) is efficient. Statistics that are emblematic of efficiency are: completion percentage, interception percentage, and points per attempt. Quarterbacks that tend to excel in each of these categories will, more often than not, create longer drives for an offense allowing for the maximization of scoring potential.

In all but points per attempt, Patterson was the clear favorite over Fields. While Fields did not lag far behind in completion percentage, his fate was sealed with his terrible interception percentage value.

The very nature of interceptions is inefficient - they instantly stop an offense's ability to score. Interceptions yield yards-gained meaningless because they did not generate any points. Thus, the best way for an offense to be successful is to trot out a quarterback less prone to throwing interceptions. Therefore, Perry Patterson must be the obvious choice over Fields.

As for things that drop coins into Fields' jar, some comments regarding points per pass attempt are in order.

Fields' .207 points per pass attempt was by no means spectacular. However, it was better than Patterson's output, and when one considers that the more points each pass attempt generates is better for an offense's chances for success, Fields' ability cannot be denied. Unfortunately, I believe that Fields' value is deceiving and can be reasoned away.

Since Fields' statistics were derived from such a small data pool, a full picture of production is difficult to create. Looking at Fields' and Patterson's yards per attempt, completion percentage, and interception percentage values, I believe that had Fields generated more passing attempts, his points per attempt may have declined to the same level of Patterson.

Essentially, there's no way Fields could have kept up with his touchdown rate with the number of interceptions he was projected to throw as well as the number of incompletions he would have tossed had Pasqualoni let him continue to flush the 2004 season down the drain.

There is one other thing that needs to be discussed that is directly related to efficiency but not depicted in the above data - the ability to run the football. In 2004, Fields had 22 rushing attempts for -8 yards and no touchdowns; Patterson had 72 attempts for 143 yards and 3 scores. It doesn't take a genius to realize that -8 yards per rush is not attractive from a production standpoint. Advantage: Patterson.

As I noted in the preface to this essay, no inquiry would be made as to the subjective values of each quarterback. I was concerned only with productive output, not the ability to throw a 12-yard slant or how comfortable a quarterback looks in the pocket. Clearly, these are important things to consider when choosing which passer should take snaps this season.

However, with respect to the numbers provided above, I think there is no question that Patterson should be the starting quarterback over Fields when SU laces 'em up on September 4th in the Dome.

Pythagorean Mayhem

The crown jewel to anyone interested in alternative statistics is Bill James' Pythagorean Theorem. It's like the holy grail for those utterly disinterested with the belief in intangibles materially effecting the outcome of a contest.

Most of the work done in pythagoras has been limited to baseball and, to a smaller extent, hoops. If you're interested at all in studying the Pythagorean Method for these sports, I would strongly suggest checking out Ken Pomeroy on the web or pick up Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract.

With attribution out of the way, it's time to focus on pythagoras and football, specifically the college variety. As noted earlier, there has been very little research done on football pythagoras and what has been completed is mostly associated with the NFL. However, what has been completed does serve as a suitable model to apply to the college football game.

Instead of going into a drawn out discussion of how the Pythagorean Method works or why it is important, I will simply present data and some analysis. If you are interested in learning more about the method, check out this Football Project essay or peruse this article by Football Outsiders.

A lot of people use the Pythagorean Method to determine "lucky" and "unlucky" teams. I have never been a fan of that phraseology. I prefer to use this method to determine which teams "underachieved" and those that "overachieved." It's essentially semantics, but using the latter language seems to impart onto a team control over its own destiny.

The below data represents information derived from the 2004 season. The pythagora applied to this data is derived from the NFL model. Therefore, the accuracy of the resultant values will not be as close to perfect as it could be. However, the values will be reasonable enough that a meaningful analysis can take place.

I have limited the accumulated data to those teams who played in the six power conferences in 2004. This was done for two reasons: a) I don't care about Troy State (at least until someone can convince me otherwise); and b) I don't feel like punching the numbers right now for those other conferences. I'll eventually get around to it, but until I do, the only available data will be from the Big Six.

So, you won't see Louisville and you won't see Boise State. Well, at least for the moment.

PF = Points For
PA = Points Against
AW/L = Actual Won/Loss Record
AW/L% = Actual Won/Loss Percentage
PW/L = Predicted Won/Loss Record
PW/L% = Predicted Won/Loss Percentage
DIF = Difference between Actual and Predicted Won/Loss Record (in parantheticals) and in Percentage

Pythagorean Method - 2004/5 Season
Okie St.3802687-4.6368-3.696(-1)/-0.06


Org. St.2822736-5.5456-5.519(0)/0.026
S. Car2432296-5.5456-5.535(0)/0.01
Ole Miss2152784-7.3644-7.352(0)/0.012
Miss St.1732803-8.2733-8.242(0)/0.031

The big overachievers in 2004 were:
1. Colorado
2. North Carolina
3. Michigan
4. Wisconsin
5. Arizona State

The big underachievers in 2004 were:
1. Penn State
2. Alabama
3. Purdue
4. Stanford/Arkansas
5. North Carolina State

Why did these teams perform the way they did? Well, that's a topic for another time.

Syracuse Perspective
Probably the most important thing to glean from this data set is that things should've been worst last year than they actually were.

Congratulations, Coach P!

Even with pitiful offensive production, Syracuse was able to play enough defense in key situations to keep itself in enough games (Purdue & Virginia aside) to potentially win.

Not bad, considering everyone assumed that the 2004 Syracuse squad underachieved last season.

Parity Index

There is one question that is bound to rile up even the most casual college football fan: Which conference is the most competitive?

Well, that's an interesting question and the answer depends solely on the context of the question itself.

The way this essay will approach the presented question is by determining the parity, or non-parity for that matter, associated with each Division 1-A football conference. Through an examination of parity, several valuable insights may be made, including:
  • What conferences are most prone to parity thus making each conference game all that more important;
  • Perspective can be given to "upsets" by placing them in the context of the conference they occur in; and
  • Insights may be made as to relationship between parity and the intangibles associated with each D-1A football conference.

For more information on the parity index check out Ken Pomeroy's recent essay on subject as applied to college basketball. The game may be different, but the principles behind the index are still applicable to this discussion.

What you'll find below is the parity index values for all D-1A football conferences for the 2004 season. The closer the number is to 0, the closer the conference was to being a complete model of parity. The larger the number, the less fun it was to be stuck watching conference games on regional television.

Parity Index - 2004
ConferenceParity Index
Big 1025.5613
Big 1224.4738
Sun Belt22.3357
Big East21.8217

There are a couple surprises here that are worth noting.

The first is that the PAC-10's high Parity Index value is due almost exclusively to USC running roughshod through the conference and Washington, well, not. When there is a large discrepancy between the top and bottom of a conference, there will naturally be shown a dearth of parity.

Secondly, I find the SEC's high placement a little odd. Like most football junkies, I usually am of the opinion that year in and year out the SEC has the most talented football teams in the country. Working under that assumption, it is reasonable to believe that the SEC's Parity Index value would be closer to where the Big 12 finished up because the conference's elite teams, ideally, would be splitting the games between each other.

What ended up occuring was that since the SEC had six teams finish with three or fewer wins, the discrepancy between the basement of the conference and the penthouse was exacerbated to the point where any kind of perceived parity was simply the result of inherently misplaced assumptions. Tennesse and Auburn all but dominated their conference foes leaving me to wonder whether fans juxtaposed a slew of good games for actual parity.

Next, to all the Big East and Conference USA fans out there, Maalox thanks you for your continued patronage. You're now free to move back from the edge of your seat.

Finally, a note on the Big 12 and the ACC. If these two conferences shape up the way they did last season from a parity standpoint, these will be the conferences to watch each week in 2005. With the combustible combination of solid ball clubs and a relatively high Parity Index value, the opportunity for meaningful upsets are palpable.

You couldn't ask for more as a college football fan.

Colossus Rhodes

Trivia: What stands six feet tall, weighs 215 pounds, and is pictured to the right?

Answer: The most potent weapon in the Big East Conference.

It is finally time for Damien Rhodes to shine. For three years, Rhodes has had to sit behind Walter Reyes and patiently wait his turn. Rhodes has always had all the tools necessary to dominate the game except for one: seniority.

Well, Rhodes now has within his grasp the one attribute he was lacking. Given Damien's prominent arsenal of talents, it seems as if the only way to stop Rhodes is to let Rhodes stop himself.

Unfortunately for the other members of the Big East, there doesn't appear to be a self-destruct button on this missile.

There are no real good ways to easily quantify runningback production. Since backs touch the ball in so many different ways (option pitch, straight carry, receptions out of the backfield, etc.) generating an efficiency standard akin to passer rating (which I am not sold on as an adequate method) or pass receiver rating is almost impossible.

So the obvious question is how does an analysis proceed and can a meaningful analysis proceed.

Well, the answers are as follows: "We'll see" and "hopefully."

In an effort to keep my sanity, I will be limiting my data to only a few individuals: perceived national leaders at the running back position for 2004 and a select few Big East backs who were considered "quality" backfield athletes. By using this small sample size as individuals to set the benchmark for "star quality," at least a reasonable analysis can be made as to where Rhodes matched up to the nation as a back in 2004. This can then be used a predictive model for Rhodes' contribution to the Orange in 2005.

As for the data generated, I eschewed statistics pertaining to "per game" output. Such data is often skewed toward backs who are able to generate a lot of meaningless yards generated in blowouts and other associated game situations. By focusing on "per touch" statistics, a clearer potrait of a back's value can be determined because they are more indicative of an athletes contribution to an offense on a per play basis.

For example, if a back generates a 1,500 yard season but fails to score, what is the value of that back? More specifically, what are the value of those yards?

Essentially, it's a question of the efficiency of the carries a back receives and what the yards generated by those carries means to a team's total point production. Since, the object of a football game is to win (which inherently means that a team must outscore its opponent), each play an offense runs must generate points. So, a fortiori, every carry a back receives should generate points and those backs that generate the most points per touch are the most valuable to a team's offense.

Without further ado, here is the accumulated data.

There are three types of data sets below:
1. Career statistics for Damien Rhodes;
2. Perceived national studs for 2004; and
3. Perceived Big East studs for 2004.

As noted before, I have not included guys like Carnell Williams, Reggie Brown, Cedric Benson, or Mike Hart. This isn't because I don't think they are/were great collegiate backs, it's just a matter of not wanting to go blind on numbers and having to go through the arduous task of writing the code so these numbers could be visible on the web.

This essay was never intended to place Rhodes in a dogmatic ranking of 2004's best running backs. The purpose was simply to compare Rhodes to some "great" backs to determine if he could be considered in the same breath as these runners. Since the data below was enough for a reasonable analysis to take place for the issue presented, I have accordingly limited it.

So, if you have any questions or comments regarding the accumulated data (or the associated analysis), direct them to the comment field below the essay.

Y/RA = Yards per Rushing Attempt
P/RA = Points per Rushing Attempt
Y/Rec = Yards per Reception
P/Rec = Points per Reception
PRt = Pass Receiver Rating

Statistics for Damien Rhodes
Damien Rhodes - Career

Damien Rhodes - 2004 Season

Damien Rhodes - 2003 Season

Damien Rhodes - 2002 Season

2004 National Studs
Reggie Bush (USC) - 2004 Season

Adrian Peterson (OU) - 2004 Season

J.J. Arrington (Cal) - 2004 Season

2004 Big East Studs
Cornell Brockington (UCONN) - 2004 Season

Brian Leonard (Rutgers) - 2004 Season

Kay-Jay Harris (WVU) - 2004 Season

First, Damien Rhodes has had a very nice career. Even with the abysmal 2003 season where he was injured and hobbling around, Rhodes has very respectable "per touch" numbers. While his overall statistics are not overwhelming, generating above five yards and almost a third of a point per carry places Rhodes right with the national elite. This of course leads to a secondary point - where would Rhodes be had he had a complete 2003 season.

The only reasonable answer is "I don't know." With Coach P still running his system, it's impossible to know for certain whether Rhodes could have bolstered his numbers enough in 2003 to significantly impact his overall career production values.

Secondly, Rhodes was a stud in 2004.

There, I said it. And I'm not taking it back.

With the exception of Reggie Bush (Aside: After looking at his production numbers, there is no question that he should've won the Heisman.), Rhodes was every bit the back that national studs were, if not more.

The numbers here don't lie.

Rhodes did not have the per rush average of Peterson or Arrington, but Rhodes made more of his carries count. With a points per rush average approaching .4, Rhodes was contributing more efficiently to the Syracuse offense than another of the other listed backs, including Reggie Bush. All three listed back may have had better per rush averages and scored more rushing touchdowns, but Rhodes got more value out of his rushes, and that's what ultimately matters.

Look at it this way. Each time Rhodes rushed the football, he was more valuable to Syracuse than the other three Heisman candidates were to their teams. Had Rhodes generated the number of carries Peterson or Arrington did, there's no question that Rhodes would have been mentioned before these runners as the nation's most elite. It's that simple.

From a receiving standpoint, Bush stands heads and shoulders above Rhodes, but Rhodes stands light years above Peterson and Arrington. Granted, this may be attributable to the style of offense run by a particular club. Certain offenses, naturally, are more conducive to putting backs into a position to score points or generate useful yardage. However, in an analysis like this which attempts to determine how complete a back is and how much he can contribute to his team's offense, the ability to receive the ball is paramount. Rhodes, unlike Peterson or Arrington, brought to the field a more complete skill set.

Comparing Rhodes to his Big East brethern is almost pointless. Understanding that Rhodes was amongst the nation's elite already throws him to toward the head of the pack in the Big East. However, there are a few comments to be made.

How about Kay-Jay Harris?
Where was his kudos?

He wasn't quite Reggie Bush in 2004, but he was damn close. Those in Morgantown knew of his value, but it's a real shame he did not generate the kind of national publicity he deserved. It takes a special kind of back to generate over a third of a point per carry and almost a full point per reception. To make this less, abstract, here are some more understandable was to think of Harris' impact in 2004.

If Harris got 20 carries a game (probably not all that possible in Rodriguez's offense), he'd generate over a touchdown a game.

If Harris got two receptions a game (very probable), he'd be contributing to West Virginia almost another 2 points.

With this in mind, and all the yardage and time of possession generated by Harris' contributions, Harris would, each game, be worth about 10 points a game.

10 points! A game!

That kind of output is generally only seen from quarterbacks and exceptional receivers like Larry Fitzgerald. It's really mind boggling.

As for the other two runners listed, they don't hold a candle to Rhodes' ability. Cornell Brockington is a one-dimensional back unable to match Rhodes' rushing production numbers, which is Brockington's forte. So much for UConn tagging Brockington as Big East's best back in 2004. Brian Leonard caught a ton of passes last season, but they were worth the lint in your pocket. Once again, Rhodes' production outpaces his Big East counterpart.

When you think studly Big East runners in 2004, the list has to start and end with Damien Rhodes.

Without question, Damien Rhodes was one of the nation's most productive backs last season and should be considered amongst the nation's elite. The number of points Rhodes can produce each time he touches the ball is as good, if not better, than most of those running backs considered stars in the collegiate game.

In a more abstract sense, Rhodes appears poised to have a monstrous season. With the west coast offense being implemented this season, there's no reason to believe that Rhodes' contributions will diminish. The only reasonable belief is that his production to the Orange could skyrocket because of, not in spite of, Robinson's new offensive methodology. With a system that utilizes all of the talents a back like Rhodes brings to the table, there is no question that Damien could put up a Bush-esque season. Accordingly, there is a very good chance Orange Nation could be looking at one of the greatest backs ever produced on The Hill, and that's saying a lot.

The biggest hurdle for Damien is getting the national pundits to genearte some hype for Damien's ability to generate offense. He's already among the nation's elite, it's just a matter of overcoming name recognition and the pitiful record Syracuse will amass this season.


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