Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tulane @ Houston Preview

It is “Prediction Thursday”- and that means rolling out our 5-0 ATS mark for the year! This morning the New York Post tells us that if you take the Wave, you get +9.5 for your trouble- frankly, a pretty stiff line for a Cougar team that couldn’t take care of Rice in their building.

Houston is genuinely bad. First, they feature that sort of ghastly “rush defense” you associate with strength-deficient in the trenches C-USA defensive teams. Honestly, they are Tulane-level bad against the run. They have allowed 1572 yards on the ground- a shocking 5.0 yards per rush; we’re at 1194 total with a 4.5 average. You can imagine just how shoddy the Cougars are. (I suppose the Cougars have an alibi for a portion of the totals. Houston has played one more game- and it was against Miami.) Their pass defense does not look so bad on paper- but again, when teams can both run the football like that against you and habitually play from in front, they frequently eschew the pass. I bet the Cougars are suspect there as well.

There isn’t much to think about here really. Houston will score the usual- somewhere north of thirty points- their offense is undoubtedly efficient and the quarterback Kolb is a good player. You might remember: he was the guy who absolutely tortured us last year- throwing for three scores and 300 or so yards- while the Cougars rushed for another 250. I expect more of the same- except our defensive front is somewhat better than the disaster last year- and that might keep the Cougars to 150-175 yards rushing- which is still bad but maybe manageable.

I don’t think Tulane is going to put up the kind of offensive numbers they did last week. For one thing, Scelfo has to try and run the ball here- as Jovon is still the guy the Wave has the most confidence in- and I cannot imagine the Wave not having a huge rushing day if they commit to it. And the Wave needs to protect that “D”- and the best way to do that is rush the football and run that clock. I think Scelfo would like to try and run the ball 40 times- try & play a game in the 20s- or at least not the 40s. I also bet Scelfo is tempted to take the shackles off Ricard and see what he has... but I am not sure a shoot out is the best strategy against a team Tulane can run on and impose their will on offensively.

So that’s it. I do think Wave will crash a little off the exhausting Homecoming win- how can you expect the kids to come with that level of determination again this week? However, is Houston capable of back-to-back emotional, thudding fights like they played last week against in-state rival TCU? Emotionally, it is almost a wash. Plus, there is no home field advantage here (they draw worse than Tulane). Candidly, I almost think Tulane might be kind of impatient to get out there again.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tulane won this game. Okay, it isn’t exactly a toss-up- Houston is just about guaranteed to get to thirty and the Wave simply isn't. But I doubt Houston ought to be -9.5 over anyone. A good rule of thumb is if it wouldn’t surprise you if a particular team won- and you’re getting a touchdown or more- go with it.

I am actually pretty confident in the Wave in this spot- particularly if the Wave can run the ball and keep the number of Houston’s possessions down to where the Cougars will have to work to score 30 points. Hold the Cougars to 30 or so- and the 21-24 the Wave needs to cover seems very do-able. So, I like Tulane here- two weeks in a row! Give me the Wave and +9.5 points.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

NCAA Football Attendance

Just a quick word on attendance. The link for 2003 Football Attendance is here:

In 2003, Tulane averaged 25,635- and I sort of believe that number.

Just for comparison:

Southern Miss 28,645
Northwestern 28,765
Wake Forest 28, 273
UAB 23,575
Rice 20,512
Duke 20,026
Navy 29,851
ULL 13,995
ULM 11,298

The point is:

1. Our attendance is not particularly out of line with rational expectations- if anything, we are “smaller” in terms of bodies- both on campus and living alumni within 100 miles- than those institutions.

2. I really don’t think there is a consistent crowd of 30,000+ out there for Tulane- pretty much not matter what we do. It is a chimera. If Louisville, a monster compared to Tulane, barely gets 40,000, then how are we going to draw 33,000.

There are 40 schools out there that average 50,000 plus- and most of them are monsters that we’ll never be able to emulate. Ohio State, Penn State, etc. have only literally about a million people that attended these schools. Point to one of those 40 universities that Tulane even vaguely resembles.

I think we all need to sort of face that this attendance level is all there is- maybe 3-5K more. It is just that 25,000 looks bad rattling around the Dome- but 30,000 looks good in a place like Papa John Stadium.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

NCAA Graduation rates are out

NCAA graduation rates are out today for football. See the link here for info on Louisiana colleges:

Tulane is seventh in I-A- behind Vandy, Rice, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern and Wake. The seven were the only schools over 80%. Great job by our student athletes. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to play football and make grades at a place like Tulane.

LSU is 87th- astonishingly down from last year! Another black eye for our home.

There is just no excuse. None. You couldn’t run the LSU program at Syracuse or USC or UCLA or BYU. People would not stand for it- being held up to the rest of America as dumb rubes.

I am not saying that Tulane, Duke etc. are total paragons of academic excellence, but at least school is not a fraud. Why can’t LSU run a program like Penn State? Is it so bankrupt internally that they don’t care about the future of the kids who wear purple on Saturday? No matter the depth of your love for LSU, you have to admit that is unacceptable.

Frankly, it just reinforces the worst prejudices about the South, our home: that our athletes, our neighbor’s sons, are fodder, that our public schools are largely athletic factories with minimal standards, that minority and poor students have no use if they can’t carry a football or hit with verve and fervor.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Tulane 59; #24 UAB 55

I kind of throw my hands up at this game, this tremendous 59-55 victory, Saturday. Sure, in my preview, I wrote the offense would wake up after subtle improvements a few weeks in a row. But I was talking 20-24 or so points- enough to cover and maybe not get embarrassed at Homecoming- not this detonation. Wow! Six touchdown passes? 400 yards passing? Crazy.

I am tempted, much like the Memphis game, to declare it a kind of outlier and draw no serious conclusions from it. Look, we’ve all seen a game like this.... it is the third inning and you look up and its already 11-8. And our beloved C-USA, let’s face it, has a tendency to produce cartoon-like numbers on occasion. But it is only a Blog, it isn’t my job on the line if I’m wrong, so let me make a few observations:

Leaving the the quarterback aside for now, the offense is not an altogether bad outfit. The wide receivers are a collection that many BCS schools would not be embarrassed to run out there. Jovon is a solid C-USA back- maybe even above average. The offensive line still cannot block the run consistently, particularly against the league's larger fronts, but the pass protection has been good to superb five games in a row- and that is the most important thing in a spread offense. But until Saturday, the play from the quarterback position has ranged from awful to bad. It was sort of like the key missing piece was put in, allowing the other ten guys to play to a higher level of competence.

One group that needs to be called out on the carpet a little is the UAB coaching staff. I realize the Blazers came into the game with little respect for Ricard- and put a defensive game plan out there that screamed "Beat us Lester!". But at some point in that fourth quarter, you have to admit Lester is kicking your butt, and help your defense a little. When a quarterback is carving you up like that, you must get the ball out of hands. You just have to.

If that means rushing six-seven guys play after play, do it. But change that game from where Ricard sits in the pocket seemingly forever and throws the ball down the field with a kind of impunity. Ricard was “making plays”- so force him to dump it off to the wide-outs and backs- make them “make plays” instead.

Both defenses were clearly shot in the fourth quarter- and both offenses had to play from behind with an eye on the clock possession after possession- a formula for lots of snaps, resultant yardage, and big fourth quarter numbers. I know the “even” time of possession would suggest that the defenses would be sort of fresh- but all afternoon both teams threw so much and produced so many first downs, the clock ostensibly never ran. Consequently, both teams ran a large number of plays.

I am not crazy optimistic about the rest of the season- still feels like 3-4 wins to me. I was always thought they would win one of the Houston, Army and Navy games- and have the potential to steal another. And I still imagine that is true- except you can move TCU into the steal-able catagory now as well. Our defense seems incapable of stopping people from scoring 40 points, so it is still hard to pick us to win in most spots. That’s a pretty demanding game plan for Scelfo, right? “Score seven touchdowns and you’ll probably be in it.” How does Scelfo sleep at night? You’d like to think if you score nine times at home you might not need a desperate effort to win.

Whither Ricard? Well, he was soooo much better than he’s ever been. If he had played anywhere, and I mean anywhere, near this level for a sustained period in the spring or summer, there would be no question as to who would start. Again, maybe he’s put enough of the offense together in his head that he can take advantage of the fact that the protections are first-rate, opposing teams really overplay the run against the Wave, and the wide outs both can get open and will catch it if you get it near them.

I am not ashamed to admit I don’t know the answer. While I feel confident that Ricard is not going to throw six touchdowns again this year, perhaps you can argue this was a turning point of sorts. If nothing else, it’ll get those safeties out of the box and give Jovon some room to rush again.

I imagine Ricard will still be up and down. For one thing, Ricard will never again see that passive UAB-look on defense with single coverage all day on the WRs. Houston will be coming at him- trying to turn him back into that turnover machine. That second safety is coming out of the box on first down. Can Ricard handle that- down after down of punishing defenses on check-downs and such, picking himself up off the ground again and again?

I still think they need to get Irvin a chance to play. It won’t be a popular opinion today- but the guy manages the offense real well- and deserves a longer look than he’s been getting. If anything, Ricard’s success gives them a kind of better opportunity to play Irvin should Ricard struggle; it won’t affect Ricard’s status as the number one guy.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Tulane Future

I have an aversion to coming on here and talking non-"football as played on the field" issues- but there has been a ton of interest lately in the Times-Picayune about the nature and future of Tulane football as a program.

I understand the frustrations with the coach, the recuiting, the support, etc. But all of these are tactical troubles sort of unrelated to a larger strategic orientation.

The problems at Tulane are generational. It is going to take a generational focus to solve them. In the late 1960s, the landscape of college football changed- tilting the balance largely in favor of large schools with enormous resources. Everything since has largely happened to reward these large schools and a few lucky hanger-ons: the super conferences, the BCS, the disparate television deals, the wholesale dismissal of academic dignity.

Accordingly, I mostly reject the comparison of Tulane to places like Stanford or BYU. You want true comparables for Tulane? Try Emery or Washington & Lee or William & Mary or the Coast Guard Academy or the University of Chicago or VMI- schools that faced this brave new world, trapped on the outside looking in and blanched- perhaps rightfully- at the requirements. The flotsam and jetsam- the Rices and Tulanes and SMUs and Tulsas- have shown determination to survive.

Tulane has had four winning season in the past eight campaigns- and won a pair of Bowl games. Does anyone honestly believe that another series of coaching changes, or JUCOs, or a marching band, or playing one more game or less at Gormley, or a student body where 3,000 attend the game versus 1,000, would change that- other than marginally? Or sell 5,000 more tickets?

Second, the idea that Tulane is “plan-less”, or has not given a tremendous amount of thought to the nature of its football program is totally incorrect. Almost ludicrous. This is a multi-million dollar business run by grown-ups. Tulane has four goals: find a coach that can get them to a decent bowl game every 4-5 years, play most seasons around 3-7 wins, graduate tons of players, and run a program that causes zero off-field problems and embarrassments.

And you know what, they are meeting these goals- while steadily making progress toward putting the program on a more solid financial footing.

But these are the tactical issues- and a lot of thought gets bogged down here.

Since the late 60’s Tulane has had very few periods of sustained success, albeit limited, as 1997-2004. Maybe these folks at Tulane are doing what can be expected. You can’t show me anyone who has done much better here- has everyone been incompetent for 30 or so years at Tulane? I can show you folks at Tulane who were much worse though. Many in fact.

To fix Tulane's more general competitiveness issue, again, is a generational repair. It also has nothing to do with the day-to-day travails of the Scelfo regime- as long as he’s fulfilling the four goals laid out above.

The sorts of answers we are looking for are more strategic than tactical:

It means taking the 25 years required to grow the league. In ten years, C-USA has made great strides. Today, it is a good a league than the Big East- particularly at the top. In 15 more years, I bet it will have closed the gap substantially on the ACC.

• It means a decade or more long debate about a stadium and facilities.

• It means realizing this out-of-state student body that awful Louisiana schooling forces Tulane to recruit, coupled with subsequent alumni dispersal due to the stagnant nature of Louisiana’s economy, is a real problem to the growth of a fan base. And whoo- there is no easy solution to that one coming in the next ten years.

• It means slowly forcing the NCAA to re-emphasize competition as a keystone to further growth. The NFL and NCAA basketball are not so wildly popular, growing at the expense of college football, because the teams are so disparate in ability. The exact opposite is true. Competition breeds interest.

And so on…

Thursday, October 21, 2004

UAB @ Tulane Preview

Today we are faced with yet another cruel reality- assuming that incompetent idiot Scelfo can even find the Gormley with the bus. If you charily search through multiple articles titled “Choke” and “Damn Yankees”, you find that the NY Post spots Tulane eighteen points- sharply up from sixteen earlier in the week.

Now, I thought the past two weeks’ selections were pretty obvious. ECU should not be favored by a score over, say, Jesuit High School. And hanging with Memphis was a practical impossibility- which made it easy to grab the Tigers. Nevertheless, this week is perplexing- as this line is very fair. This is a real threat to the 4-0 “picks against the spread” start.

The Memphis game, with its enormous spread, was a psychological exercise- did Memphis have the will to hang 50 or so points necessary on the Wave to cover the 24? This spread still has a psychological portion to it- but it also suggests that someone in Vegas thinks the Wave might not just get utterly rolled in this spot.

Probably because Tulane played the Blazers pretty well last year. Normally, teams that inflict horrific whippings on Tulane feature players that the Wave flat out cannot handle in the trenches- for example, Memphis the past two years. I sense that is not how the Blazers will try to attack Scelfo- straightforwardly bludgeoning the young Wave into submission. That just isn’t their offense.

I have no doubt UAB will have a Memphis-style field day on our defense. If TCU couldn’t hold them under 35, I really doubt Tulane will. Tulane cannot stop either the run or pass at this point. But since our line and ‘backers might not be totally physically overwhelmed here against their rushing attack, the Blazers might not have a grotesque number at the end- maybe more like 35 points than 45? So the question to me is can the Greenies get to the 21-24 points we’ll probably need to cover in this spot?

And you know what, I sort of think they will. Although the recent schedule has featured bruising losses, the offense has haltingly made some progress. Ricard has been merely “kind of bad”- not “close your eyes bad”. Some of that is the pass protection has been very good two weeks in a row- and the wide outs have stepped up and made some quality catches- helping the young QB out. And I imagine Tulane might be able to block this UAB front seven more than a little bit. Once more, the kids seem to do better against quick defensive fronts than ones that feature brute strength. That, coupled with Tulane being in the game a little longer than we were versus Memphis- means the backs should have a USM-style rushing day rather than a Memphis-style one.

If they can do that, I can easily imagine the Wave scoring 14-17 points while the game is competitive- and throw in a garbage time score- you are near that 20-24 magic point number.

That is a lot of “if’s”: block our rushing game, Ricard not "blink your eyes incredulously" bad, etc. But there is enough here to keep the Homecoming game competitive until the second half. Gingerly- as the sharp line move worries me- let’s play the Wave for the second time this year- and take those 18 points.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Speaking Truth Means Jail.

In the course of human events, sometimes you have to reveal a Truth so important that it might require you to go to jail. This post apparently violates this important law:

Tulane said yesterday that Nick Cannon, QB, is out for the season.

Speaking of relationships, here is one that probably has to end. Everyone seems to think Cannon is a great kid. And as far as I am concerned he can stay around Tulane forever.

But this is the third year in a row he is hurt- and the few times he is healthy he hasn't been very good.

If this kid wants to play football, he ought to transfer. Just because he can't play I-A doesn't mean that he couldn't play college football at I-AA or wherever- if it is still important to him.

A change of scenery would be a good thing for his football career. Go somewhere he can realistically expect to play if healthy. Here he starts as the "hurt 5th QB who isn't very good". There simply has to be a better place for him to start than that label, right?

I bet that is not exactly a unique insight around Tulane either. So, at this point, I am not sure he is helping himself or Tulane.

Mike IV Returns to Baton Rouge


It is with a cheery heart that I am glad to announce that I will be escorting the Skull of Mike IV to the Ole Miss @ LSU game on 11/20/04 in Baton Rouge.

While Mike IV has departed this life, The Skull is very excited to return to Baton Rouge. Very excited.

The Skull’s Schedule (assuming 7PM kick off):

10AM Fund-raiser with the 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery, Louisiana National Guard. Support Tulane athletics by getting your photo taken for a small donation. An excellent opening to “dress up” the Skull like a girl, or Tulane fan, or tugboat captain.

1:30 PM- Skull parades back out into the parking lot, scrubbed with chlorine to keep it from stinking, and ceremoniously placed in the bowling ball bag I keep it in. Depart for Baton Rouge.

4PM- Skull arrives at game location and is majestically decorated with Gaylord Hotels’ ballcap- to salute the Gaylord Hotel Bowl- the Tigers’ exciting probable Bowl destination. We will be parked in something called “The Fairway”?

4:10PM- Green Kool-Aid poured on Skull in sign of respect. Toothpaste distributed along with hygiene pamphlets I stole from National Guard Dental Clinic. Tailgate begins.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"Carolina!" or "The Eagles Reign of Terror Continues"

The increasingly cruel master of all we survey, the Philadelphia Eagles gradually appear more and more disinterested as they seemingly effortlessly pummel our foul adversaries.

It is kind of weird, isn’t it? Here come the Carolina Panthers- the NFC Champions!-rolling into the Linc. The Eagles are presented with a chance to avenge their recent mortification at their hands last year in the championship game. Yet, less like a vengeful Khan, but perhaps more like a bored municipal servant at the DMV, the Eagles disposed of the seemingly inconsequential task presented them Sunday- by about half way through the 2nd quarter. The Eagles are only the seventh team in NFL history to win their first five games by 10 or more points. I can’t imagine other teams have done it so effortlessly- and totally without style.

Carolina must have thought they got hit by a truck. They really did not play that badly- and they still got crushed: shut out for 58 minutes, endless turnovers, a jaded Eagles team dominating them for quarters at a time. At the half, ostensibly just to keep his team somewhat engaged, Reid called for an on-side kick. It worked of course. Everything is working now. It is unbelievable at times. The ‘skins can’t completed nine passes in an entire game- and we’re trying and executing on-side kicks.

Other than TO in the first half, the Eagles did not play particularly well on offense. They turned a pair of first half 50-yard plus passes to our blinding star into ten points. However, Philadelphia could not run the ball (Westbrook only had 20 or so yards until his big garbage time run) or generate a consistent passing attack. Some of that is due to the fact that they only ran 47 plays. 47 plays! I would love to know the last time a team ran 47 plays and ended up with thirty points.

They got up 13-0 in a hurry- and with Carolina not putting any pressure on the defense whatsoever- well, Donovan and the group seemed content to play “conservatively”. We can be gentle because it is hard to assess style points when you win by 22. It was kind of like they were asleep.

That is sort of the point. Even when dispassionate, the Eagles can score thirty and are probably two scores better than anyone in the NFC right now.

The defense is clearly exceeding expectations. The past five games they have allowed: 17, 16, 13, nine and eight points respectively- and at least 22 of those points were scored after the game ceased to be competitive. The defense line raises all sorts of problems- and the young cover guys, backed by the best safety combination in the league, are playing wonderfully. Teams can run the ball against Philadelphia, but nowhere near as bad as last year. And I mercifully will not rehash the argument that it doesn’t really matter much.

There is crazy talk of 14-15 wins now. I still can’t see that. We have too many short weeks- too many games against desperate teams trying to make the play-offs while we maintain a multiple game lead. But there is still no compelling evidence that the Eagles won’t win this division by three-plus games.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Tulane v. Memphis wrap up

I watched most of the tape yesterday at work. Unlike ECU, this Memphis team is so much better than us I am not sure how much you can take from it. We are not ready to play this sort of team yet. Much like last year, their offense physically dominated the Wave front seven. That, coupled with the fact that the Memphis back Williams is a real nifty player, meant that the Wave was increasingly in trouble as the day went on. Going into the season, Memphis & Louisville appeared to be two outfits where the Wave could not compete bodily up front on defense- so it really isn’t surprising to see Memphis just dictate.

But I did not think our effort was all that bad: on the road, a hopeless underdog. The only thing that upset me was the awful 40 yard touchdown Memphis threw- seconds before the half. That cannot happen.

As I blogged below, I wanted to see three things out of the Wave in this spot: make it competitive for a half- particularly on defense (14 points allowed- seven of which were stupid), see Ricard show a little life (done), and play decent special teams (ragged). Accordingly, it wasn’t a lost afternoon. If Ricard plays like that, or a little better, they can hang with both Army and Houston. The offensive line struggled run blocking- but again this is a strong Tiger front that was loaded up to stop the run. The pass protection was the best it has been this year. In fact the whole passing game- quarterback, pass protection, and wide outs- played their best game by far. In fact, that is two games in a row where you can upgrade the offense from "horrible" to "sort of okay and bad at times". Improvement!

Maybe Ricards’ 15-for-31, 226 yards can potentially grow to 19-for-35 for 275 against Army and Houston’s soft back seven and poor pass rush. The Wave can win with that on offense- and that is all we are looking for this year- an offensive script we can take into 2005.

I am not going to comment on the coach’s future prospects- other than to assure everyone once again Scelfo is not going anywhere. The Tulane administration simply does not share your visions of repeat 6-9 win seasons. They think it is impossible: with crowds around 15,000, a scattered alumni base, a league with few attractions for prospective football athletes, and an in-state recruiting monster absorbing most of the in-state talent. They do see a coach that they feel can get them to a decent bowl game every 4-5 years, play most seasons around 4-6 wins, graduate tons of players and run a program that causes zero off-field problems and embarrassments. If those are not your four priorities- then you better get used to them regardless- or you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Go Brave Turtles!

Reading this, I find myself continually reflecting on the Tulane offense.

Go turtles!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Tulane @ Memphis Preview

Due to long-standing tradition, it is "Prediction Thursday".

Other than the enormous number, there is not much to recommend Tulane +23.5 over Memphis. I cannot remember being so pessimistic about the Wave’s chances against a team that was not a Texas-style college football power.

Memphis beat the Wave horribly last year- and I imagine they will again this year. While our defensive front seven is better than 2003, they are not improved enough to handle this attack. The Tigers ought to be able to run the ball well- and worse, unlike USM, have a quarterback who should to be able to exploit that fact.

We’re talking a 450+ yards of offense and “hang a number of Memphis’ choosing” on the scoreboard kind of day. Forty points? Fifty? Only Memphis coach Tommy West knows. Consequently, I know that DeAngelo Williams has a great chance at a second straight C-USA player of the week award. Don’t forget, the Wave defense will be spending the entire game on the field too.

As bad as that is, the worse part is that Tulane will be hard pressed to match the nine points they scored last year. The Wave didn’t rush the ball well when ECU stacked the line of scrimmage. I shudder to think how Jovon will run it with Memphis stacking it. Obviously, our passing attack is... well you pick the word(s). I like “ruinous”. Or “Prone to Unpleasant Turnovers”.

With this big a spread, you are getting a kind of acknowledgment from Vegas that this game is less an exercise in competitiveness and more an exercise in a psychology of sorts. I mean, if you think that Memphis will relax enough and Scelfo will keep throwing, trying to score down 30 points, to get a garbage time score.... Put it this way- if the Wave can get to, say 17, you’re getting a whole lot of points. Memphis would have to score six touchdowns or so to cover.
Since I think Tulane will neither score ten nor prevent Memphis from scoring six times, I am trying to run my record to 4-0 by taking the Tigers and giving Tulane the points.

Given that I don’t think is a real football game per se, we are kind of reduced to seeing what we can take out of this effort:

• I’d like to see the Wave play a competitive half on the defensive front. I can’t see them not wearing down in a big way- but I’d like to see the linemen, particularly the young ones, dig in and compete. This is a great chance to play everyone up front- see what you’ve got.

• On offense, I cannot imagine any of the quarterbacks having anything other than a pathetic day- but again, the line blocked USM pretty well for stretches. I don’t think we’ll be able to run it a lick here with eight guys in the box all day- but maybe they can protect the passer a little? Make some plays on third down and long?

• Play a tight game on the special teams- make the kicks, cover the kicks, and return the kicks. I think the specials might be the key to stealing a game later this year- and after a pretty strong 2003 they are, other than the punter, back to being indifferent or bad (the actual place kicking)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Gibbs gets fired

I for one can't wait for the press conference where Gibbs is terminated.

"12 and 20," Snyder intones (Vinnie like a toady right beside him- panting), "is not where we want to be. Therefor I am relieving Coach Gibbs from his duties, and Vinnie will begin the re-animation procedure of George Allen tomorrow morning. We will be fusing Allen's frozen head onto the body of Joe Bugel- who still has two years remaining on his contract."

NFC East Update (October 12, 2004)

Now if you're a Redskins' fan, you gotta figure, Sunday night, at the half, you're feeling pretty good about things. Okay, Baltimore ain't too good on offense, but the 'skins defense looks fairly strong- playing for once with alacrity and passion (hmmmm..... am I the only one that thinks the skins' look an awful more disciplined on defense without Arrington being able to free-lance all over the place). And yeah, okay, the Redskins' offense is horrible, but God bless'em, they punched it in when they had a chance. That's 10 points for the "O" at the half- add another potential ten in the second half- and this is an impressive 20-6 or so win against a Ravens football team no one would be surprised make the play-offs. Your mind fitfully wanders.... win this one and I know our "D" can handle the mess the Bears call an offense next week. That gets the men to 3-3.

We can make a run from 3-3! We have Gibbs after all!

But this is Washington- and has ill-disciplined losing oh so deeply ingrained in them. Couldn't you almost see the resultant fumble and return for a touchdown as Brunell ran for his life. Yo! Mark! This is the National Football League- or "NFL" for short. If you are running from blind-side pressure, you first priority is protect the football- not try to throw some pass that probably has no chance to be caught anyway. You are a veteran for crying out loud. I mean, we can maybe survive your grotesque 13-for-29 for 83 yards- but we certainly cannot have idiotic turnovers. Right Mark? Isn't Portis putting the ball on the ground enough just by himself?

Then throw in the traditional semi-monthly kicking play disaster, and all ingredients are in place for yet another crushing home loss.

The coach, yet again this week, bluntly deserves a lot of blame. On that kick return you can watch the Redskins blow containment after that rather weak fake. Again, blowing coverage lanes stops being excusable on a team around about, oh say, varsity high school football. I shudder to think of my titanic furor had that happened at Queen Of Peace. And what is with this offense? There are clearly some talent issues here, but the skill position players ought not to be this bad. Seriously, I am this close to taking it upon myself to fly to Washington and call Portis out- particularly since no one in Washington seems to have the guts to. Seriously, it is embarrassing our precious League- and I will not stand for it.

It was Gibbs himself who pointed to Brunell and said pay this guy $20 million over the next two years. Gibbs definitely pulled the trigger on Portis- who unequivocally really hasn’t been good. You can hear the rumblings that he was a product of that great tailback producing system in Denver- and nothing more- and the great Joe Gibbs got taken. They even gave up an extra draft pick. Shudder.

But hey, this is Washington, where there has been zero accountability demanded by both the fans and organization for a long time. Another stupid loss and another week with zero changes. Would it kill Gibbs to waive a guy on that punt coverage team for example- to drive some sense of on-field responsibility into these guys? But no. The same losers will be rolled out there for seemingly 100th Sunday in a row in Chicago- where they will in all probability lose again to a bad Bears team they ought to whip.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Pirate bring woe and gloom

Well, the Wave covered- moving me to 3-0 on the season- but....

What can you really say? Although the blog generated a record number of outraged e-mails. One thing that is great about outraged e-mails from Tulanians is that they are spelled and punctuated correctly- despite the venom.

This is the first loss this year that hurts really. Before the season, I picked Tulane to win 3-maybe 4 games- and the four win projection was based on sweeping ECU, A&M and Army. Frankly, this the first loss that potentially turns this season from a bad one to a disaster.

I don’t know really know exactly what to post. I don’t think Tulane is very good- but I must admit I did not think they were capable of losing a game in such dispiriting fashion- a real gutbuster. Was that Scelfo's finest hour or what? He really cannot coach any more games like that or I will have a stroke.

Seriously, did anyone understand our offensive approach at all Saturday? The bizarre quarterback rotation strategy? I want Irvin to play more- but I really can think of no more confidence/rhythm- sucking approach than that “system”. It was so clearly horrible I sometimes think I missed the point somehow?

Also, I want them to throw more and run more spread offense- but you know, right now the best part of this football team is running the football. Period. How can the best (well, not "best", let's say consistent?) offensive player on the team get only seventeen carries? Jovon’s numbers weren’t all that good- but sometimes you got to run to run it. The wideouts played well- but we got the requisite killer turnovers from the quarterbacking position. Don’t want to go through any game without a few interceptions, right? Quarterback is still a big net minus. Did you see one thing you are confident that Ricard or Irvin could do next week?

The offensive line had a mixed day- frankly the first half was not good- their worst since the first half against MSU. But they picked themselves up a bit later. Down multiple scores, having to pass protect when the other team knows have to throw, they dug in and protected the quarterback. Actually, I thought they pass-protected pretty well- but ECU really stuffed the box and we could not move them and rush the football consistently- although again I do think we abandoned the run too quickly. But bottom line, ECU is brutal on defense, and the nice drive at the end in crunch-time doesn’t begin to excuse the mess that rolled out there in the first half.

Point is, no one really played well on offense. It was shoddy. I almost think you sort of have to throw it out from an evaluation stand point- when everything is bad it is hard to sort out what might be working underneath- if anything.

I don’t want to really say much about the two-point conversion. It was stupid. Period. This is not high school. It is Division I-A. You always take a free point- particularly when it helps you.

The defense scored some points- made some plays. But if you score 25 points on the road against a terrible offensive team like ECU, even if the "D" and special teams scored a lot of it, you like to think your defense can make that stand-up.

So what can you say here either? Our DL is not mature enough that at times opposing teams can’t push it around. Our linebacking is not very good outside of Cannon. And with one exception, our corners aren’t good either. Plus, our D plays with so much pressure on them. They are on the field all the time. How can we play an entire college football game and only run 55 plays on offense? Someone explain that to me.

From a larger standpoint, it is a crippling loss. It is no lay-up they’ll get to three wins- although I sort of think they will. But at least now we sort of see the year for what it needs to be. I read somewhere that only two teams in the nations have more “aggregate years” returning- which is code for we are starting a ton of young players. I really think the two lines are going to be much better in 2005-6; I cannot remember when we had so many big underclassmen who look like they can play C-USA; it is a shame we don't have a fewer older guys to provide immediate impact. One of the QBs will emerge- or at least play better than this.

Last year, the kids did not quit on themselves- and I sense they won’t this year. They’ll beat Army and upset someone else- like UAB last year. I still believe they’ll get to three wins this year and be Bowl eligible in 2005.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Tulane @ East Carolina Preview

I have been on a bit of a roll picking the Wave lately. 2-0 this year and I believe five of the last six dating back to last year. So far in 2004, I have picked against them twice- and the Wave has failed to cover. We are faced with a similar call this week. ECU is -4 over Tulane in the New York Post this morning. Remember, there is no shame in being a four point ‘dog to CBS Sportsline “next-to-worst” team in I-A- but there is probably some shame in losing the actual game.

I thought the Mississippi State game was largely about the Bulldogs and their game effort as opposed to Tulane; I think the sort of opposite is true here. The Pirates have stunk, stink, and will stink. The Wave is the football team that has the chance to improve this Saturday and pick up win #2.

Candidly, the line is indicative of the zero confidence Vegas has in our passing game to literally generate anything other than dreadful turnovers. But this is the first I-A game this season I approach with a little confidence.

I imagine ECU will attack us on defense very similar to the Southern Miss plan. They’ll stuff the box with like a million guys- trying to take away the run- and let Ricard feed them seemingly endless turnovers and incompletions. But I expect we’ll be able to run it anyway. Jovon had had two very solid games in a row and the line blocked very well against a dependable USM rush defense. No matter what ECU does the Wave will have a big game on the ground: 150+ yards.

Also, I tend to think we’ll be able to protect Ricard too. Our pass protection was respectable against USM for large stretches. I don’t think ECU can cover our wide outs consistently- particularly the slot/TE-style players we can and will throw at them in bunches. The point is all the conditions are there: a productive rushing attack, good protection, guys that ought to be open and a bad defense- for a QB to have a good day. If Ricard is going to get it, Saturday is going to be good a day as any.

Accordingly, I think we might get something out of passing game finally. I just hope Scelfo let’s our kid “play” quarterback. These “confidence building” throws and this limited offense needs to stop now. He’s never going to be an 18-for 25, 280 yards kind of guy anyway. Ricard’s a lot of good things- but “a real polished thrower” ain’t one of them. I’ll take 14-for-25 with a turnover or two- if he can generate a few thirty-forty yard plays down the field- with that arm and our capable wide receivers.

So I am secure that Ricard will play his best game this year. The fall back to this position is that I think this is a spot, for the first time, where Scelfo will go and get him if the Wave struggles. This game is different than MSU and USM. We probably weren’t going to win those games even with Teevens calling the plays, right? But this game is almost a “must have”, if the Wave entertains any hope of five wins or so, so I think he might be more aggressive with Irvin. I feel Irvin ought to be playing anyway- so this is kind of a free plus in some respects. If they can protect Irvin and run the ball, he’s ought to be a QB that can really exploit that. He is an 18-for-25 kind of guy- and frankly he just might manage the offense better right now. Let’s put it this way, if you see Irvin, Scelfo will immediately move away from this “run-first” offense Tulane currently runs.

Of course, I always turn to the Skull of Mike IV for his insights on our defense. It has mighty powers. The Skull senses the Pirates are more than controllable on offense. Our offense ought to possess the ball pretty well, and anyway I don’t believe the Pirates rush the football well enough to really wear us out. Look, our defense is not great, and unfortunately Teevens is busy with the Irish this week and not available to fix it this week- but I do not think ECU is scoring, say, four touchdowns in this spot. In fact, they might not get to 20-24 points.

If the game is in the teens: 17-14, 20-14, etc. you totally have to love the Wave getting four. They don’t really have to do much to cover, right? Plus, I like a lot of intangibles here. The Wave has only played once in four weeks- they ought to be rested, healthy and well-prepared. East Carolina isn’t exactly an intimidating place to play. And the biggest intangible of all: the Pirates are real awful.

I actually think Tulane wins this game outright. It feels a lot like the UAB game last year- a game where we went on the road, played solid defense, ran the ball effectively, got a few plays out of Losman, and let the Blazers pretty much hand us the game. I am confident that if Tulane plays said defense, runs the ball and gets anything out of Ricard, the Pirates will do their part and screw up again and again. Look for ECU to turn it over a few times and commit at least two terrible penalties. Take the Green Wave and take those four points.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Queen of Peace

You can totally follow America’s favorite team right here:

Our Lady of Victory,
Victorious daughter of the Father,
Victorious Mother of the Son,
Victorious Spouse of the Holy Spirit,
Victorious servant of the Holy Trinity
Victorious in your Immaculate Conception,
Victorious in crushing the serpent's head,
Victorious in your glorious Assumption,
Victorious in the angels who remained faithful,
Victorious in the happiness of the saints,
Victorious in the message of the prophets,
Victorious in the testimony of the patriarchs,
Victorious in the zeal of the apostles,
Victorious under your many titles,

Pray for us, blessed Lady of Victory.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Friday, October 01, 2004

LSU-The Skull of Mike IV

Look, I know I make a lot of LSU alumni upset and angry. Again, I am sorry if I hurt your feelings. I would just say, conversely, that you are hanging out, getting visibly upset and writing me hate mail- on a Tulane friendly website! Candidly, why are you even here? Focus on your work or something. On ne peut avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre.

Now, unlike yesterday, when I had time to play- I have to trade today and I am very, very busy. So listen up.

Yes, I bought the skull of Mike IV during an auction and used it as a fund-raising “prop” at the Manhattan Club for Tulane. And I probably ought have realized it is a bit sensitive to LSU alumni that it is in my possession. But as stated tediously below, it is my money. If you have serious objections to me possessing it- contact the party that auctioned this frankly intriguing, unordinary piece of memorabilia on eBay. Their website is here:

Secondly, bottom line, LSU is supporting fund-raising for a cage for its mascot while at the same time- Bottom line part 2: LSU is cutting funding for the two programs that encourage members of Louisiana National Guard/Reserve to enroll in college.

This is why you people did not “get” that “F” from the Sporting News- concerning the general classiness of your program. I assure you Tiger fans- your university earned/earns/will earn that “F” every single day. Think about that- an independent, unbiased source: “The Sporting News”- not Frank- says your programs are a disgrace to college athletics.

Just stop reading for a minute and think about that. We all joke around and all that- but that is a serious accusation- and bluntly- one well deserved.

As I have written before, you couldn’t run the LSU program at Syracuse or USC or UCLA or Bringham Young. People would not stand for it. I am not saying these places are paragons of academic excellence, but at least school there is not a fraud. Why can’t LSU run a program like Penn State? Is it so bankrupt internally that they don’t care about the future of the kids who wear purple on Saturday? You can’t argue that they do- when the big-time LSU men’s programs have years where not one graduates.

Think about that for a second. Think about what an astounding achievement that is- an entire class where not one person can make the standards to graduate a below average state school? No matter the depth of your love for LSU, you have to admit that is unacceptable.

That is why, as a Louisiana tax-payer, I can’t stand LSU. It has nothing to do with football. Tiger fans just reinforce the worst prejudices about the South, our home: that our athletes, our neighbor’s sons, are fodder, that our public schools are largely athletic factories with minimal standards, that minority and poor students have no use if they can’t carry a football or hit with verve and fervor.

I wish another state’s university was labeled by TSN, ipso de facto, as the worst in terms of conduct and dignity. I am tired of it.