In this space usually appears a snappy introduction, outlining some prefatory remarks before I hit the meat of the essay.
Well, there is no snappy introduction this week. Unless, of course, you count the prior two sentences as introductory.
Anyway . . . .
Notes & Commentary
- First, a brief note on the back-end of this ballot: it stinks. However, Oregon does not deserve to be ranked (I will not be swayed on this fact) and I can't think of another school -- with the mild exception of Pittsburgh -- that should have a number to the left of its name. And even Pittsburgh is pretty questionable.
- It seems like an incredible number of teams played freakishly tight games on Saturday. Whether this was the residue of just seeing good teams play poorly (such as Wisconsin) or actual indicia of significant chinks in a team's collective armor (Rutgers/Texas/Southern Cal), the actual cause is undeterminable at this time. Thus, there was little movement amongst teams that managed to win.
- This week's team to watch: Oklahoma. I also am very interested in whether Wake Forest is actually good or simply a placeholder for a spot between 20 and 25.
- Good bye, Missouri. Until the Tigers beat somebody in the next couple of weeks (or the back-end of the poll falls apart like every other week), Missouri is going to be on the outside looking in.
- Clemson takes a big drop, and deservedly so. And yes, I understand that ranking Clemson ahead of Virginia Tech smacks of indifference to Thursday night's blowout.
- Obviously this is a big shakedown weekend at the top of the ballot. I think West Virginia will win Thursday, and if they do, I may seriously consider moving Michigan and/or Ohio State back. It all depends on how the Mountaineers perform, I suppose.
When the Bearcats entered the Big East, Syracuse was a team UC officials saw as a drawing card because of the Orange's winning tradition. This is a program that won the national championship in 1959, has played in 23 bowl games, produced 42 All-Americans and ranked 13th nationally in total victories entering this season.And now Syracuse is in the midst of an 11 game Big East Conference losing streak.
Thanks, Paul Pasqualoni!
Now, on to the business du jour. To read the essays in their entirety, click on the highlighted text above the excerpted piece.
Syracuse Report Card: Cincinnati
It is not easy to lose 11 consecutive Big East Conference games.Poliquin: Syracuse Must Transition to 2007
Syracuse, in an apparent effort to disprove the idiom that "every dog has its day," managed to achieve such a feat Saturday against rapidly improving Cincinnati.
And now, a brief interlude from the seminal American comedy Animal House:Rahme: Syracuse Must Look to the FutureD-Day: War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.Bud Poliquin, the proverbial "half-empty" columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standard, apparently never heard the above-mentioned sage advice from Senator John "Bluto" Blutarsky. With Syracuse's 2006 bowl aspirations rapidly evaporating, Poliquin today called for Orange head coach Greg Robinson to employ a "cut-and-run" mentality and immediately re-tool for Syracuse's 2007 campaign.
Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.
Bluto: And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough . . .
Bluto: . . . the tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's go!
The passionate plea requested by Syracuse Post-Standard columnist Bud Poliquin has apparently found footing at the local Central New York daily.
In a meandering piece appearing in today's edition, acclaimed staff writer Dave Rahme argues that Syracuse neophyte head coach Greg Robinson must assimilate his young talent into the Orange playbook during the current Syracuse bye-week.
UPDATE: The Daily Orange, Syracuse University's famous student-run newspaper, featured a touching piece about Chris Sawyer in today's edition. It comes as no surprise that Chris influenced so many people in so many different ways in his brief, yet notable life.
Chris Sawyer, a 2004 graduate of Syracuse University, lost his battle with cancer yesterday and passed away.
During his residency at the university, Sawyer prowled the Carrier Dome sidelines, lending his substantial personality to the school's mascot -- Otto the Orange. Following his time on The Hill, Sawyer spent some time plying his trade as mascot to the Brockton Rox, an independent baseball team located in Brockton, Massachusetts.
During my time as an undergraduate I had the good fortune of getting to know Chris. Though our interactions were limited to football and basketball jaunts (as well as various social occasions), it was hard not to recognize how affable and open Chris was as a person. His interaction with fans of all makes and sizes was terrific, and outside the guise of Otto, his true-life personality was just as marked.
The authors of this notebook extend our condolences to Chris' family and friends. Should any information become available regarding donations made in Chris' honor, it will be posted here.
Frequent reader Tom sent a message on Monday asking whether I thought Syracuse was under or overachieving this season. Rather than enter a lengthy discussion describing my position (which, of course, will be left for the close of the 2006 Orange campaign), I decided to put together a Pythagorean Win Theorem table charting how Syracuse and its Big East brethren have performed thus far this season.
For the uninitiated, Bill James' Pythagorean Win Theorem projects how a team should perform by weighing points/runs scored against points/runs against. Instead of using actual point values this year, however, I'm using the values generated through my efficiency formulae. Inherently, James' methodology works on a theoretical level; there's no reason the inputs should vary from that platform.
TOB -- Total Offensive Benefit
TDB -- Total Defensive Benefit
A W/L -- Actual won/loss record
A W/L% -- Actual winning percentage
P W/L -- Pythagorean Win Theorem won/loss record
P W/L% -- Pythagorean Win Theorm winning percentage
Margin -- Difference between actual and Pythagorean won/loss record
Margin % -- Difference between actual and Pythagorean winning percentage
Pythagorean Win Theorem -- Big East (Through 10.22.06)
|Team||TOB||TDB||A W/L||A W/L%||P W/L||P W/L%||Margin||Margin %|
2. West Virginia
(Matt Glaude not pictured. Thankfully.)
In an effort to provide context to these aforementioned pieces, I provided brief analyses over at the Syracuse FanHouse. As a public service to everyone that is not reading the FanHouse on a daily basis, I've excerpted these essays below.
Orange Offensive Approach: Run, Don't Pass, to Victory
The recipe for victory is created through various ingredients. For some, the difference between triumph and failure turns on the success of and emphasis on an offense's passing attack. For others, it is efficiency in the running game that serves as a team's "tipping point."Syracuse Improves While it Regresses
Syracuse, in both theoretical approach and functional strategy, falls into the latter category. Unfortunately, not every observer of the Orange football program recognizes that fact.
The concepts of regression and progression rest on principles of relativity and context. When analyzed through a prism of improper context, incorrect presumptions reach viral capacity.As an aside, many readers have emailed asking when I'm going to catalogue player trangressions that have taken place within the Connecticut football program much like I have with the Huskies basketball program.
Bud Poliquin, columnist and resident windbag of the Syracuse Post-Standard, has found confusion in an area of sound statistical principle. Responding to Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb's piece in today's edition, Poliquin fails to recognize the progression the Syracuse football program has made in less than 12 months. . . .
The short answer is "eventually." To be honest, so many Connecticut gridders are getting pinched these days that I'm having trouble keeping up.
2006-2007 Big East Pre-season Rookie of the Year
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Orange fans, but income freshman and universally acclaimed Basketball Jesus Paul Harris was tabbed by league coaches as this season’s pre-season Rookie of the Year:
Syracuse's Harris was ranked in the top 10 nationally by some recruiting services. The 6-5 forward was a second team selection on the USA Today All-USA Team. He played on the USA Junior Select Team at the 2006 Nike Hoop Summit. Harris has already been picked as the national newcomer of the year by Blue Ribbon and Athlon magazines.2006-2007 Pre-season All-Big East Team
Unsurprisingly, the Orange placed only one player on the pre-season all-conference squad: Terrance Roberts. He was not, obviously, a unanimous selection.
Eric Devendorf, Syracuse’s sophomore shooting guard and resident body paint exhibitionist, was tabbed as an honorable mention selection.
2006-2007 Big East Pre-season Poll
The coaches have spoken: Syracuse should remain competitive in 2006-2007.
Unlike the league’s beat writers, the Big East fraternity of coaches picked Syracuse to finish the regular season in the third position. The Orange also received a first-place vote, which is more than Connecticut received. As the press release notes:
Syracuse was picked for third place with 182 points, just one point ahead of Marquette. The Orange, who have won the last two BIG EAST Championships Presented by Aeropostale, finished 23-12 last season. This year, SU returns four starters but must replace guard Gerry McNamara, who graduated.A .pdf version of the 2006-2007 Big East Conference media guide can be accessed here.
"The undeserving maintain power by promoting hysteria."
- Frank Herbert
- Boise State continues to stand flat until the Broncos beat someone of consequence and/or the apocalypse happens above them.
- I feel really, really good about that top five.
- Six through 11, however, are messing with my universe. On my initial ballot, I had: Tennessee, Texas, Florida, California, Louisville, and Clemson. Collin's ballot went: Auburn, Louisville, Tennessee Florida, California, and Clemson. To be honest, if any of these teams were to square off on the football field at 3 PM today, I would have no idea which teams would be favorites. A loss or notable victory by any of these teams would significantly assist in the ranking.
- Rutgers' smackaroo of Pittsburgh vaults the Scarlet Knights. I honestly thought Pitt would destroy Rutgers. As it turns out, I'm straight up mentally ill.
- Hello, South Carolina! Enjoy your seven-day stay in the poll.
- I still think Boston College is playing with an empty deck of cards. The wins are fairly unimpressive -- save a victory of a then-imploding Clemson team -- and the loss (N.C. State) is totally unforgiveable.
- I don't like Missouri, but Collin does.
- Team to Watch: Texas A&M
- Best game of last week: Harvard v. Princeton. If everyone isn't watching Ivy League action, you're missing out.
Hidden amongst the card catalogs and reference items on the Library of Congress website is arguably the coolest search engine created: the prints & photographs online catalog. Maintaining an online database of approximately 65% of the Division's holdings, the online mechanism still produces about one million total images.
Luckily, Syracuse University has maintained both a storied athletic history and boasts one of the more attractive and historic campuses in the country. A quick perusal of the images produced through a "syracuse university" search yielded the following results:
- Archbold Stadium on a blustery college football afternoon;
- A view from, assumingly, Mt. Olympus down to the university proper (circa 1909);
Copies of images listed in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog can be purchased from the Library of Congress Photoduplication Service. Given the unique nature of the items housed in the Library of Congress, such prints are terrific additions to any Syracuse fan's personal collection.
Sitrus nerds agree: Matt Glaude is adorable.
(Matt Glaude not pictured. Thankfully.)
Syracuse Offense Remains Mediocre
In 2005, Perry Patterson and his Orange offensive cohorts redefined offensive inefficiency. Generating a measly 127.917 points of Total Offensive Benefit, the Syracuse offense effectively created the circumstances for an historic 1-10 campaign.Orange Defense Regresses to BIG EAST Cellar
Following the dismissal of former offensive coordinator Brian Pariani, Brian White -- late of the University of Wisconsin -- was to install a trimmed-down version of the West Coast Offense. Designed for comprehension, the attack was to feature a combination power running attack and receiving patterns emphasizing both short slants and outs along with field-stretching "Go" routes. . . .
Over Syracuse's last three games, the Orange defensive unit has yielded an average of 495.67 yards per game. In the midst of this stretch of pathetic defensive incompetence stands West Virginia's incredible 457-yard rushing effort against the Saltine Warriors.Suspend Syracuse Captain Perry Patterson
Unsurprisingly, Orange Nation is becoming progressively dissatisfied with Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson's strategy, preparation, and in-game coaching. . . .
Attention Perry Patterson: Your captaincy is a sham.
In what can only be described as pathetic, Perry Patterson – quarterback and captain of the Syracuse Orange – displayed his affection for the West Virginia faithful Saturday by giving them the "One-fingered Salute."
In a contrived effort to atone for his gesture, Patterson provided the media with a pathetic exhibition of tired rhetoric . . . .
Taking a cue from our friend Peter Griffin, and seeing as I am presented with this public forum, and there are many things lately that are upsetting in the world of college athletics, I’m going to air my grievances like I’m at a Festivus Party.
Does anybody really know how the hell this works? It still boggles my mind that computers determine who plays in the National Championship game. Like we don’t have people who can figure this out with votes, or maybe there is even a better way. 1-AA football has a playoff system. No problems. Adding a playoff will only create more games and more $$$, which as we all know makes the world and college football go round. The system works with the computers, but it could work better and eliminate a lot of questions.
This guy should have been fired, or more admirably should have resigned from his position. This brawl was clearly the last straw in this tumultuous year at The U. Larry should have seen the writing on the wall and left with some dignity and honor. Now he’ll probably be fired in January, and no one wants to be fired. He should go do TV or something for a couple of years and then come back to a struggling, but prominent program. I hear Comcast has an opening for a color man to broadcast Miami Football games.
Along that note, what the heck is going on with sportsmanship in college? I suppose it has always been there, but it just seems in the last couple of seasons that people are going buck wild. Marcus Vick, formally of Virginia Tech comes to mind. After shooting the old one finger salute down in Morgantown, he proceeded to stop on the back of the leg and then take a step on a Louisville player. That has to hurt like a bitch. There is the current Miami-FIU brawl. There is Tony Skinn on George Mason last year hitting a Hofstra player right in the cash and prizes. This stuff has got to stop in college sports. Keep your hands (and feet and cleats and helmets and shot clocks) to yourself. Oh, and if stuff goes down, grow some balls and suspend your kids for an appropriate length regardless of who is upcoming on your schedule. Suspending them for Duke is not a punishment.
I give Randy Edsall some credit, when he sees his players doing something wrong he comes down on them. But the university is wrong in the way they deal with discipline. Consistency is what every deliberative body should strive for. UConn decides the punishment based on how good you are at basketball. Case in point: AJ Price and Marcus Williams. Both did the same thing. Marcus gets a 6 month suspension, AJ gets 12. Marcus was the starting point guard. AJ was sidelined the previous season with a medical condition. Uh… please tell me I’m not the only one that sees this and things it is really wrong. Equal punishment for the crime is what HAS to happen in college. You have to or you disgrace your institution.
Hey, we’re all in the blogging business or you wouldn’t be reading this. Do us a favor though? If you are going to call us idiots at least leave your name. Show you believe in what you are saying, even if you are terribly and tragically wrong. I’ll at least listen to you then.
The New NCAA Football Clock Rules
Yeah I was all pissed off when I heard about these changes. Granted you blink after kickoff and it is already down to 14:25 remaining in the first quarter. However, it really doesn’t change the game that much. Coaches don’t alter their strategies any more then they did before when the clock ticks down. I’m actually glad being that Syracuse is riddled with injuries that the games are shorter because everyone plays a 12 game schedule now. Even the most seasoned athletic body can get hurt in college, therefore people need to drop the clock as an excuse for anything. I was wrong, Dave Wannstedt was right.
That is all from me for now. I feel better. I can’t believe you wasted precious minutes of your life reading this. Hopefully it didn’t make you more stupid. Then again... maybe it did.
In an effort to keep the momentum going (and to provide some context at the end of the season), below appears efficiency values at approximately the mid-point of the 2006 season. There have been notable changes -- especially with Syracuse -- and probably deserve more attention than what I will give them.
Please note: It should be kept in mind that Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia have only played six games this season; the rest of the BIG EAST has played seven contests. As I have not adjusted the values, comparing the raw Total Offensive/Defensive Benefit values is inappropriate. Rather, pay special attention to the Scoring Efficiency Factor and Drive Efficiency Factor values. They are more indicative of just how good or bad a team has performed relative to the rest of the conference.
[Data: Offensive Efficiency]
|2006 Big East: Offensive Efficiency|
SEF = Scoring Efficiency Factor
DEF = Drive Efficiency Factor
TOB = Total Offensive Benefit
[Woefully Truncated Analysis]
To be published.
Eds. Note: Syracuse-related analysis to appear on the Syracuse FanHouse.
[Data: Defensive Efficiency]
|2006 Big East: Defensive Efficiency|
SEF = Scoring Efficiency Factor
DEF = Drive Efficiency Factor
TOB = Total Defensive Benefit
[Woefully Truncated Analysis]
To be published.
Eds. Note: Syracuse-related analysis appears on the Syracuse FanHouse. It can be found here.
Then, more people joined this notebook. The stereotype was further etched into stone-cold reality.
Now, well, there's at least one more Syracuse-oriented voice on the internet: Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. Providing a mix of Syracuse material and national commentary, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician provides a somewhat regular discussion of all things Orange.
With that said, onto this edition of the Roundtable.
1. Which coaches are clearly on the hot seat at this point? Who is surprisingly not?
I think at this juncture there are three coaches that definitely need to dust off their resumes: John Bunting, Larry Coker, and John L. Smith.
North Carolina has been absolutely atrocious this season, seeing only a lone victory against 1-AA Furman (a team that Carolina trailed for most of the game). With Bunting at the helm of Carolina's sinking ship over the last few years, he is bookmarked for a late-December exit.
Even with the recruiting class that Bunting has assembled for next season.
Coker's inclusion on this list is a no-brainer. Unacceptable results on the football field -- all despite solid recruiting efforts -- were compounded immeasurably following the Miami-Florida International brouhaha on Saturday. Coker is an excellent coach, but his true value lies as an assistant rather than a head coach.
Even without the brawl, quite frankly, Coker may have been out on the street following the close of this season anyway.
With respect to Smith, he's a certified lunatic. Sure, Michigan State has underachieved during Smith's tenure, but the real reason Smith is gone is because he is a social incompetent assumingly under the delusion that he will someday take over the world much like that mouse on Pinky and the Brain.
2. Pick three of the undefeated teams and state your case as to why they wonÂt run the table.
Despite Rutgers' rapid improvement over the last two seasons, the Scarlet Knights are playing with smoke and mirrors in 2006. Rutgers has arguably played the weakest schedule amongst the remaining undefeated, yet have struggled in spots they should have prevailed without equivocation (South Florida and North Carolina).
I wholly expect Rutgers to put a number in the loss column this weak against Pittsburgh. The Panthers are underrated as a football squad and the Scarlet Knights have yet to see such a diversified offensive attack this season. Plus, Pittsburgh is well equipped to punch Ray Rice and Company directly in the jaw, an act that has yet to occur this year.
With that said, Rutgers should drop like a glass-jawed prize fighter.
This is Michigan's year. It has to be.
The Wolverine defense, unlike in years past, is a freakish blend of size, power, and speed. Michigan has been demolishing everything in its wake this year, shoving Penn State aside and handling a solid Wisconsin team. Combined with Mike Hart and a now reliable Chad Henne, Michigan shows a balanced unit in all facets of the game.
If this is Michigan's dream season, which I think it might be, knocking off Ohio State at the Horseshoe and derailing Troy Smith's Heisman candidacy appears to be the story that needs to be written.
This, of course, is all based on nothing more than anticipation and not whether Ohio State is actually the better team, which they are.
I'm still on the fence who I like in this game. West Virginia may have the best rushing attack in the country. Louisville, with the addition of Brian Brohm, may have the most diversified and efficient passing attack in the game.
Something has to give.
And since the NCAA has done away with ties, somebody is going down.
[Eds. Note: I know this is a cop out pick combining Louisville and West Virginia, but does anyone actually see California knocking off Southern California or Boise State losing to anything left on that schedule?]
3. Which conference is playing the best football right now?
This is an admittedly homer pick, but I need to throw my support behind the BIG EAST.
In past years watching BIG EAST conference football was simply a necessary act to scout Syracuse's opponents. Now sporting four legitimate top 25 clubs -- West Virginia, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers -- three of which are undefeated, the BIG EAST has become "must see" television.
Moreover, given West Virginia and Louisville's talents, I would take those clubs against any team in the country.
It has taken a few years, but once again the BIG EAST has fielded competitive squads. Even the conference's weakest clubs in 2005 have found respectability this year. All in all, the BIG EAST stacks up as well as any conference in the country.
If anybody writes "ACC" as their answer here, I am going to explode the internet. Any conference that is winless against the BIG EAST -- save Wake Forest's victories over Connecticut and Syracuse -- deserves absolutely no respect.
4. Which team is playing above and beyond your expectations this season?
Finally, a question right in my wheelhouse. The answer, of course, is Syracuse.
2005 was a heroically pathetic year for the Orange. Putting together the nation's worst offense and accumulating its worst record in over 20 years, the Syracuse football program was dead to rights last season. The spring recruiting season saw little immediate help migrating to The Hill and word out of spring ball and summer conditioning was eerily similar to that permeating out of the Manley complex in mid-to-late 2004.
And now Syracuse sits at the .500 mark midway through its 2006 campaign. Sporting wins over Wyoming, Miami (OH), and Illinois -- three teams that Syracuse likely would have fell to last season -- and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against Wake Forest and Iowa, Syracuse is roughly three games more victorious at this point in the season than I thought it would be in August.
Plus, the Orange offense doesn't totally stink. Which isworthyy of recognition in any improvement-oriented ballot.
5. Which team is crashing and burning in regards to your expectations?
A fairly easy schedule combined with a king's ransom worth of talent has regressed into a group of thugs engaging in fisticuffs with a university that exists on the college football map only because its football team engaged in fisticuffs with Miami.
6. Is your pre-season BCS championship game prediction still alive?
Last week I failed to sumbit a ballot. The reason for the failure to vote was not for lacking of memory, but rather because I essentially saw one game last weekend: Pittsburgh at Syracuse. With such a limited resume of games viewed, I thought it better to refrain from submitting a ballot than tainting the poll with uneducated drivel. Thus, the "delta" value in the below ballot is somewhat deceiving.
Here's What I Know