Friday, November 30, 2007

Sticking It to The BCS

I found this interesting.

I don’t know what to think about it really- other than the current talent allocation schematic in I-A stinks for C-USA/Sun Belt/Big West style teams. Almost any change has almost got to help Tulane.

It is clearly counterintuitive. In the sense that, for years, the lesser I-A teams have been complicit toward restricting scholarships. First they joined the BCS schools in a desire to control costs. Second, they see it as a way to level the playing field- spread out the talent. This guy argues the exact opposite- that you should democratize the process to achieve democratized results. To wit- the status quo favors large current powers- so change the status quo. Put another criteria in there: cost. Won't hurt the Alabamas competitively versus the C-USA program directly- but it will add a criteria to the status quo (a willingness to spend) that some schools might be willing to ante up to.

I dunno- but it does offer institutions a way to spend their way to a sort of excellence. But I’m not sure if the inherent, institutional disparaties between Applachian State and Yale that he illustrates are as great as those between LSU and Tulane. I mean, ASU isn’t in a cabal getting 95% of all the monies.

But I also think that just hinting at raising the expenses might force the BCS to compromise. I'm sure Alabama and LSU are not looking forward to fighting some sort of scholarship level war: 100, 150 schlorships- where would it end?

And I’m all about raising issues that cause the BCS pain: academic standards, recruiting limitations, adding "costs", anti-trust threats- to force concessions (see, for example, the fifth BCS game)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Liberating Myself

I have nothing intelligent to say about the death of Sean Taylor- so I refer you to Jerry's Wheelhouse- who are going to do a better job with that story than I could ever do. I will say- that contrary to the sentiment there- I think the Redskins should definitely play- for reasons somewhat similar to the ones here.

As to things I can do, this is the ballot I’m submitting to this week’s BlogPoll. I have decided to liberate myself- and give in to a dark fact. Frankly, I am convinced the SEC is head and shoulders above everyone else. With three weeks to prepare, LSU and Georgia would kill West Virginia and Missouri. I doubt anyone other than Ohio State could navigate the an SEC slate with fewer than two losses. So I’m voting that way:

1Georgia 2
2LSU 1
3West Virginia 4
4Missouri 2
5Ohio State 1
6Virginia Tech 2
7Oklahoma 3
8Florida 3
9Southern Cal 3
10Kansas 8
11Tennessee 4
12Boston College 5
13Arizona State 8
14Auburn 4
15Hawaii 7
16Illinois 3
17Clemson 3
18Texas 5
19Wisconsin 4
20Virginia 6
21Oregon 12
22Brigham Young 4
23Tulsa 2
24Central Florida--
25Arkansas 1

Dropped Out: Boise State (#16), Kentucky (#21).


Monday, November 26, 2007

Whither AJ

Under Andy Reid, the Philadelphia Eagles have had their faults. For one thing, they utterly define hubris. But they’ve won a lot of games too- and they’ve played this kind of quality entertaining road game against better teams through most of the era.

The Eagles show up and play pretty smart. The back-ups pressed into service are almost always credible and seem to know where to stand. They don’t turn it over. They make their kicks. On defense, the quality defensive secondary clamps down on your team's fave downfield threat. On offense, they understand that, in the pro game, to score 24+ on good defenses you have to throw the ball and throw it a lot- which they do- giving themselves at least a chance to score enough to win. They make you play well to beat them- execute your own football plays a dozen times without error, protect the ball, make your own kicks.

As a result, they get into a lot of games with teams, particularly on the road, that don’t necessarily come down to who is a better team, but rather who is more stupid or unlucky in the last ten minutes. Which, when Philadelphia is not the better outfit, is a better success scenario by definition. Unfortunately, last night, while the Eagles got into their “don’t be stupid” one-score game late, their quarterback was not up to the task.

That game, in a microcosm, is why AJ Feeley can’t stick in this League. He can make most of the throws, he can mange a game- but his risk-reward ratio just isn’t good (for one thing, more career picks than TDs). Frankly, I am not going crazy for AJ. Turnovers are the biggest non-talent factor in the NFL- and he generated and just dodged a bushel. He has skills to allow you to survive with him for a month or two- but a football season is ultimately about the numbers- and with Feeley mistakes add up.

Consequently, I’m really not into this talk about starting AJ Feeley this week. The quarterback situation is pretty clear. There are three quarterback roles in football: franchise starter, credible back-up, heir apparent. They've drafted Kolb. He's the heir. Feeley played a nice game- but you can't say great with all the turnovers. He fills the "credible" back-up role. But this season is not about 2007; it is about 2008 now. Philadelphia gas got to find out if McNabb can play the franchise role. So he's got to play- they can’t let this question hang- even if it costs games now.

As to the Patriots, Madden kept saying the Eagles threw a “blueprint” out there. I dunno- it is hard to write this when Philadelphia has just been torched for 400 yards of offense and thirty-something points- but I sort of think the Eagles matched up well defensively with the Patriots. Like the Eagles, New England is sort of impatient on offense- particularly vis-à-vis rushing the football. The Pats know that very frequent success throwing is the key to scoring in this League- and can get to very frequent throwing real quick.

And the Eagles can defend that elite receiver better than most. They can put a pro-bowl corner (Sheppard) on Randy Moss- and roll that Hall of Fame safety to provide help- and still have another quality corner on the other side. Of course, that means your nickel corner and other defensive backs sans help are going to get torched all night- but it is sort of survivable in the absence of Randy Moss going bezerk and a lack of fear that a quality tailback will gouge your team all night.

So I’m not sure how many other teams can duplicate that sort of scheme- for the Eagles’ faults. they present you with depth and quality in the defensive backfield. Maybe Pittsburgh?

Bigger picture: After starting 1-3, the Eagles held a gauntlet of three more losses over their head: Dallas twice- and this game. Making the play-offs was always largely a function of having to steal one of those games- or to concoct a further scenario where Philadelphia could get in at 9-7, maybe 8-8. Well, they’re about out of opportunities to steal games. The next two games are tough (Seattle and the Giants)- but they’re at home and they matter- which at 1-3 was not a certainty. That is hard stuff. I'd be a lot more into the moral victory angle yesterday if the Eagles weren't tied with, say, Washington.

Two of next three is the fair goal- get square at 7-7- and try to back in with wins at New Orleans and home for Buffalo.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ahoy Pirates!

Tulane beat Rice outright- which means I took a loss last week. Again. Sigh, since the 3-1 start, I haven’t been too good- but a losing season isn’t locked in yet! I still have East Carolina -13 over Tulane left.

I can’t figure out that line. I mean, Tulane figures to the score the ball here? The Pirates aren’t bad on defense exactly. But the Wave has certainly taken a step forward with the football in recent games. For one thing, they are getting something out of the quarterback mix. It is hard to quantify, and it isn’t much- but that something doesn’t need to be much when added to young Forte’s monster season. Whatever, it is present. The point is: Tulane figures to get a respectable point total- and then you get to add almost two touchdowns to that?

I get a feeling Vegas looks at this game as a team with nothing to play for, going on the road, to play a team with a lot to play for. Plus, after Marshall, ECU figures to not look past anyone- and the week off, this late in the campaign, has to help.

None of that is encouraging- and I think it has taken a fair -7.5 choice into a ridiculous -13 point number. Frankly, Tulane just seems real engaged right now. The tailback has a lot to play for, the quarterbacks and coach too. To the rest of the world Tulane looks like a semi-busted outfit- but around here, they’re one win away from a darn credible four I-A win season (The Scelfo Standard) and solid finish. The Wave isn’t good exactly- but they seem to be having fun (spark and verve). I’m obviously not around the team much- but that stunt with the seniors versus UTEP- really changed the tone, gave them a rallying point. The Green Wave has been a looser, almost cocky bunch.

So yes, I think the Wave will play with determination, score a real authentic number- and the defense will continue its run of good defensive front play.

East Carolina is a good C-USA team- which means they will score. But to cover 13 points they need to really whip the Wave’s defense. The new clock rules and Forte’s determined running could cost ECU three possessions- preventing separation on the scoreboard, keeping the game in sight at all times.

Tulane has figured out how to turn Forte in to real points- and the defense is simply not a disaster. I just think the Pirates need something like 38-42 to cover here- and honestly, they might not get close to that sort of number. So I like the Wave- and I’ll take the 13.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who On Earth is Doak Walker?

The Doak Walker finalist list is out- and young Matt Forte did not make the list. It is disappointing. I mean, if this campaign isn't enough to get a mid-major player on the list, what is? Rushing for 2500 yards?

If "winning" is so important for MVP style awards- these other three characters all play for three of the most disappointing teams in the country this year. Michigan wins eight games no matter who plays TB there. We don't win any- let alone four- without Forte.

Also, the season isn't over. What if Forte goes for 300 yet again this weekend- picks up a third “national” style player of the week award- leads Tulane to a big conference upset and a fifth win on a club most pundits picked to win two at best? Longshot of course- but not a crazy one. No Pirate fan would pass out from surprise.

Okay, McFadden, Hart and Rice are all superior unreal players. Period. There is no lay-up argument to replace one with Forte.

But these awards break "ties" in favor of power leagues and past resumes. Yes, all three of these guys were superior players last year as well; Forte was a semi-plus C-USA back who missed games. I am not arguing that any of these three guys ought not be on the list- but since college football intelegensia can't break the habit of breaking ties blindly via assessing past accomplishments and participation in a BCS League- just simply stop. Voters ought to be given all the options. Forte isn’t the best running back in the college- but he is arguably the most valuable. And I do wish we had some sort of clue of just what a mid-major player needs to do to get considered: rush for 3000 yards? what if Matt actually levitated through force of will and flew for fifty TDs? would that then be enough?

Of course, NFL teams could care less what the press and college hanger-ons thinks of these guys as college players- so it isn't costing Matt anything. At this point, Matt is all about the combines and all-star games. The LSU game aside, he's a "competition" risk- so he's going to have to prove he can run, lift, practice, play etc. like and with the power league guys. If I were him, I'd be breaking in my track shoes for the 40 now.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Not Too Bad People

Well, I missed another one this week- as Tulane just rolled 45-31 past the Rice Owls. Now, I can assure you, I get no angina whatsoever from Tulane winning football games. None. At the Eagles’ game yesterday, I glowed like a light bulb (partly due to Bourbon- try Woodford Reserve next time you're out), listening to those Pitt and Penn State fans grouse around me.

The win at Rice- particularly coupled with the consecutive win over UTEP- is a good one for a mid-major rebuilding wholesale: literally (Katrina) and figuratively (new coach and quarterback). If Tulane can beat bottom quartile programs consistently- and winning two in a row convincingly is a trend of sorts in that direction- then that is powerful evidence the Green Wave is not a bottom quartile program either. Plus, you gotta think recruiting at 3-5 in C-USA is a lot easier than something like 1-7.

I wholly rejected the premise that there was not three-four I-A win talent on this roster (here and here); my angst with the Toledo regime on field was predicated on that fact. I was surprised they beat UTEP- but I’m not surprised they’ve taken solid steps to save the season. I wrote in my preview that all those folks in the press picking Tulane eleventh, twelfth, twelfth were being lazy- that the Wave was NOT a bottom 25 team last year- and ought not be, with a similar talent level- again this year.

Scelfo, with a similar group, won four I-A games- a decent 4-6 in games ex-LSU and ex-Auburn. Short of an unexpected win next week- they’re just not going to get to the “Scelfo standard”- period. It makes the ‘nauts crazy to have standards and logical, concrete comparisons- but they’re not about accountability. They’re about Ba’al worship.

I’m not churlish. For the on-field stuff, if you now want to move Coach up to a gentlemen’s “C” now: great, very fair. Frankly, it would be peevish to not acknowledge the season looks better now than it did when November started. Toledo has done a better job- which is all I asked for: clean up the penalties, find a way to turn Forte into actual points, get the quarterback position coached up or change the mix (really anything than passively absorb failure), etc. The idea of playing the seniors last week seemingly was brilliant- the team obviously took a real emotional lift from that stunt: spark and verve!

But it also would be trenchant to not acknowledge that, while the team is up, it is up- albeit not marginally- from something like “a real mess that committed endless key fouls and procedure penalties”.

Going forward… I dunno. The League stinks- winning six games with an I-AA softie thrown in there would not require a miracle. And I am convinced that a Tulane coach doing even an average job should win 4-7 games and get to a bowl game now and then.

But I am into managing expectations here. Today, there are only two plus C-USA positions on the whole roster: the tailback and defensive line. It is a long way until the next campaign- but what unit projects as a C-USA plus for 2008?

I guess maybe the o-line: really, a nice surprise this season, right? Some would say the quarterback (beats me though? Hard for a quarterback to come in and be a plus in our big number League from his first start)- maybe the new tailback (some are high on that collective too).

Say they get two of those three spots as pluses- seems fair- but largely where they are now. Thinking back to teams in this League that made leaps of three-four wins in a single off-season, they almost always entered the off-season with two plus positions from the previous campaign (one almost always the quarterback too) and added another plus unit or two.

But it is all rank speculation until we see the new quarterback line up in the spring. It is just hard to win five or more in this League without good, high number quarterback play- and it is also hard to get that sort of consistent play from a guy making his initial starts.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Little Owl

Here in Manhattan- there is a charming little Mediterranean place called The Little Owl. I doubt it is in honor of Rice University- but I think fondly of it just the same. Frankly, all Tulane fans feel a little fond sympathy for Rice- a football program that is the twin star to Tulane's.

There is an old saying- that if the horse throws you, you get right back on. Perhaps it is the spirit of humility that opens one to learning and improvement. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I whiffed badly last week. I need learning and lots of improvement. Tulane scored 14 more points than I thought they would- and allowed 14 fewer. I got smoked.

I did not see that sort of game coming. Last week’s effort would beat all but the very best C-USA teams. Thus, this week’s puzzler is presented. We know what we’re going to get from Rice- a mediocre, three up, three down, C-USA team for the better part of six games now. Unfortunately playing as well as they probably can, the Owls are right out of “second tier C-USA team casting”: tons of offense, can’t stop anyone. The Owls feel a lot like UTEP- featuring a quarterback capable of the big numbers, good skill players, really lousy defense. If Tulane plays back to last week’s effort, they probably win again. If they play back to most other efforts, they probably can’t keep up. The New York Post is confused, perhaps doubtful- and puts Rice -2 over Tulane.

I’m confused, perhaps doubtful too. Miss a game by three scores- and one must re-assess. As I wrote above: Rice is what Rice is. But is Tulane’s effort last week for real and true; did they solve the Rosetta stone all at once?

To me- that is choice here. If last week’s UTEP game is now the “new” Green Wave- then they win. Tulane will have moved up in class, Rice probably won’t match that move up right out of thin air. If instead the effort was simply Tulane’s best game or two of the season, a game hard to duplicate, this game is a problem. If true, Tulane probably can’t keep Rice from the cartoon numbers we saw against other quality C-USA offenses: SMU, Tulsa- or keep up.

I am stuck on the latter idea: if you play twelve games one of them is gonna be your best. Maybe last week was it? I have no evidence- but gut.

Clearly the Wave played with spark and verve last week. But it just feels a lot went right last week- not luck, but the mix of events was real good. Frankly, UTEP didn’t look all that interested- flat- for long stretches, Tulane hit on a real magic quarterback mix, the defense played its best half since LSU, they got a high tempo emotional effort.

To win this game, they need to hit on a similar mix of events. Could happen. I wouldn’t be surprised. Since Houston, they’ve only played two stinkers. The real answer here is “pass this game”: Vegas has a fair spread, Tulane is a real mystery.

That is no fun. Rice was horrid out of the box for about a month- but has been a .500 conference team since then- with a good win on the road at USM. That is the rub. Right now, the Owls are .500 League team; Tulane might be if last week’s effort is repeatable. You pay a two point penalty to get the “sure” versus the “might” is this true toss-up- but a game that feels like it’ll be in the 30s makes the deuce easier to stomach. I’ll give the two- but really, play this game 50 times, Tulane wins it 24.

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Monday, November 12, 2007


Gosh, the Eagles win yesterday seems to have brought cynics out everywhere. The PDN writes: you know that game last week between the Patriots and the Colts, that everybody said was like a midseason Super Bowl? This wasn't like that.

But not for Frank! People, it is still whipping the stupid Redskins. It NEVER gets old. As much as I want to dial off the V-Chip of hate and caring on this 2007 Eagles’ campaign, I never tire of defeating loathsome NFC Rivals. Oh, I detest Gibbs and their churlish, unattractive fans. Doesn't Coach look fey throwing the challenge flag above? Ending the Redskins season’s larger relevance- for most intents and purposes- makes me happy, lifts the gloom. I mean, for one afternoon, it is like “Yo Giants! You’re next.”

For a further example, the malfunctioning V-Chip is my head makes me enjoy this sort of reporting:
A Washington blitz had created an opportunity; there were three defenders in on McNabb, all of them suddenly irrelevant when the quarterback wristed a toss over their heads. Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh had an angle on Westbrook as the ramble began, but center Jamaal Jackson saw McIntosh coming and yelled the name of right guard Shawn Andrews. Andrews later explained that he knows to look back inside if he hears Jackson call his name. Andrews looked back, and McIntosh was vaporized.

"I pinned back and gave him what we call 'chicken,' " Andrews said. " 'Chicken' is when you thump a guy, real good."
The old maxim certainly rings true: winning always helps. Winning means that McNabb limped a little more forward- generated some big plays late, keeps that old risk-reward thing (4 TD passes versus one turnover) going. Postgame, McNabb and Reid proclaimed they “love” each other; locker room crises are defused for another week- buying time for the regime. Losing meant cries for Kolb and organizational chaos. I know what I vote for.

But I am a realist. Other than McNabb’s halting progress, no immediate 2007 concerns seem fixed. Still, if the season is now largely about finding out if McNabb can move forward- and resume both his role as franchise quarterback and trusted executor of Reid’s vision- then you can’t mark this sort of win down. As to the more immediate 2007 impact, well, Philadelphia is an okay team. Washington is probably okay too- but a loss to Dallas might move them back to doormat status right quick. But more likely, Philadelphia and Washington are both seven-eight win teams; they split. Seems fair.

Following up on the thought above, if you can’t mark the win down, you can’t mark it up too much either. I am not losing perspective; one thing I have learned about the NFC East is that as long as Joe Gibbs is in charge on the other sideline, you have more than a fighting chance. Unfortunately, some in Washington are coming to the same conclusion. But we can hope Gibbs will be back next year with no tangible advances in his medication.

Something always seems to work against the Redskins late: too many men on the field penalties, willfully taking the ball out of the hands of your most effective player in the red zone over and over again, poor time out management. You endlessly get this sort of horrid karma: the one time to safely take the delay penalty, save a time out, is when you botch the on field personnel for a chip shot field goal. Move it back five yards. Who cares? But the Redskins can’t even commit lucky delay penalties correctly.

Anyway, the Eagles have a chance to make their resurgence from September “bad” to November “sort mediocre” official this Sunday. Beat Miami as an eleven point colossus- and they present a pretty respectable 5-3 mark for an ersatz half a season. That is something positive before the schedule goes from hard to ridiculous in December. A semi-disappointing 8-8 with a solid story at quarterback is a whole lot better than a 5-11 Kolb-time meltdown- and this win was a step in that direction.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Get Bent Auburn! You Too Toledo!

I have come to report progress. Of a sort.

And not simply the riotous good news that greeted the Green Wave family this morning: Get bent Auburn! Don’t come to our house without your jock. The true Tulanian- having been beat about his head since birth by SEC outfits- revels in telling our overly resourced Division brethren to stuff it.

No, I report progress of a sort. Increasing, the ennui is disapating- and Toledo-nauts increasingly admit Coach is having a terrible season.

The Tulane program is, vis-à-vis our I-A peers, underfunded and underappreciated and handicapped. But, while many loathed Scelfo, wrung their hands at his name, Scelfo categorically proved for a decade, short of a gigantic hurricane, that it was possible to win 4-7 games every year, graduate a ton of players and run a program largely free from off-field embarrassment. That is not good- but it ain’t hopeless. Scelfo won, with a very similar roster, four I-A games last year- and would have gotten a fifth had he played a I-AA team instead of Auburn. That is not good- but it ain’t hopeless. You cannot, fairly, use any part of Scelfo’s win-loss record to excuse this pending Toledo directed one, two-win disaster.

The university can’t quit on Toledo. But fairly, Coach has to do better. Part of getting better is honestly assessing your progress. For instance, a new coach’s immediately job is to elevate the level with which the current talent plays.

So far- by any objective measure- Toledo has utterly and completely failed that first test. Period. You can excuse one win- but not defend one win.

But a measure of man’s character is how he reacts and improves. He could quit whinging to the papers about absolutely everything and take stock of his own work. His “idiot” predecessor cajoled four I-A wins from this mob, and four plus wins from many similar mobs: ask why? be curious.

Also fortunately, the bigger tests haven’t been given yet- particularly his own recruiting and program building efforts.

No one should think Tulane is hopeless. Again, it is absolutely possible for an "okay" coach to consistently win four-five games here even with the poor level of overall support. Frankly, we’ve seen it done for the better part of a decade now with two coaches: Scelfo and St. Tommy Bowden. The last ten years here have only produced one 2-win “hopeless” campaign- and that was Katrina.

We all want more than four, five, six wins- but the rational among us know that, with this level of university support, consistent Bowl seasons are not a lay-up. But even the most pessimistic can’t defend this product Toledo is generating. Only a true Toledo-naut can.

It is unfortunate. A coach only gets one first on-field impression. But Scelfo proved a poorly resourced, okay coach can produce non-disaster seasons. I’d like to see Toledo step up to that challenge before I laud him without evidence of real, tangible on-field progress.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Mining" For Decency

Tulane was a one score underdog last week- the first stupid line in awhile. Any student of Tulane football knew that was a real tricky match-up for Tulane- a game where real C-USA quarterback firepower had a chance to overwhelm a grind it out offensive approach. Tulane had no real way to either stop Tulsa from going for thirty-plus or to score thirty themselves.

Consequently, it was a stone lay-up. This week’s game feels a little more tricky. Tulsa was a clear step up in class; UTEP not so much. And the New York Post puts UTEP -4.5 over Tulane.

The step down in class from Tulsa stems mainly from one fact. The Miners are an utter, UAB-level, disaster on defense. Unlike last week, Forte figures to run utterly wild again. The 200 yards he hung up against the Blazers seems like a fair expectation.

While the defense is underachieving like crazy, the Miners’ offense is, like Tulsa, a slick C-USA operation that can score a ton. Trevor Vittatoe is only a RS freshman- and I honestly haven’t seen him play a lick- but his 21 TDs versus 3 interceptions is that sort of risk-reward ratio one associates with quality C-USA quarterback play. Again, like Tulsa, they present an array of skill position players that Tulane has zero hope of containing. We all know what a quality C-USA passing attack does to the Tulane defense: Houston (34), SMU (34), Tulsa (49).

My problem here is that I imagine Tulane will play well on offense: semi-competent quarterback play plus a big day from Matt Forte. But, unless Forte goes for 300, Tulane hasn’t been able to generate four scores all season against C-USA or Army.

And I think they need five- just to be in it late. I know these guys lost to Rice last week- but Tulane can’t score 30, let alone 56. And the Miners can score at least 40 if they need to.

Forget matching that idiot Scelfo’s four I-A wins with a similar roster plus Auburn last year. Toledo-nauts have been reduced to cheering the fact that we don’t get blown out by conference opponents! Much. And that hypothesis will get put to the sore test this weekend- as UTEP could really go nuts here and hang on Tulane its second straight bad loss. Look for a little more fight- a more competitive game- that still leaves Tulane on the short double digits at the end. I’ll give the 4.5 to Tulane.

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Monday, November 05, 2007


The Dallas Cowboys put a thorough whomping the Eagles last night- from the first play of scrimmage until the last. There were many horrors. Philadelphia spotted them fourteen first half points off mindless, unforced errors by McNabb. That unfortunateness- combined with a sharp performance by Tony Romo- resulted in a game over early in the second half. Right now, Dallas has the better quarterback- and their front people, on both sides of the ball, are better, frankly tougher and more engaged, than the Eagles’ squad. Julius Jones, along with the tight end position, really played superbly: reacting to the Eagles looks, blocking the right people or ambling to the right places on the field on hot routes, catching the ball and getting up-field. Dallas had only one dumb turnover- promptly given right back to them by McNabb. Stronger up front, better quarterback, bright skill-position pay, win the turnover battle… many ingredients for a rough night for Philadelphia.

Rarely, nothing is really as bad as a blow out looks. To paraphrase an old saying the the NFL: you are what record says you are. And the Eagles’ record is 3-3 since their poor start. Six weeks of okay is a trend of sorts. Looking at the Eagles record so far- they’ve largely beaten the bad outfits (Jets, Vikes), lost to the winning teams (Dallas, Washington, Giants, Packers), and played a little “any given Sunday” (Bears, Lions). Beat the bad teams, lose to the good ones- play .500 for better than a month… feels like okay, mediocre, win one- lose one.

I picked the Eagles to win nine games this season- a little less than the national consensus- largely cause I could never shake the feeling that this is still year two of rebuilding from the 6-10 disaster in 2005. As evidence of the said rebuilding, I offer a semi-obvious observation: the little impact talent the Eagles have tried to add via the draft the past two years. One reason there are no young impact players, particularly on offense, is the Eagles haven’t tried to select any.

Only DT Bunkley- last year’s first rounder- probably fairly figured as a contributor now of this early selection collective: OT Winston Justice, DE Chris Gocong (now a LB project), QB Kevin Kolb, DE Victor Abiamiri, LB Bradley Stewart, RB Tony Hunt. None of these guys is a bust yet- but they are either all projects or without a place to play. The Eagles last two drafts- the seven picks in the first three rounds itemized above- have, however logically, put the team in a situation where even wild success selecting talent means one or two guys at most can currently contribute. Maybe this will work out, but if you draft for the future that much, you can’t expect to be adding impact talent now.

That is hurting them now. Good teams figure they can win merely by controlling Westbrook and hoping McNabb continues to limp along.

So, add it up: a .500 team, saddled with a poor start, that has rightly or wrongly deferred its impact young players’ potential contributions... and well, I guess that does it for this 2007 version of the Eagles. There is still a lot of season yet- so the focus can’t shift to “next year” yet. Enough time for that in December.

But there is one rebuilding question that has to be addressed now. Cries for Kevin Kolb are not helpful. McNabb and the Eagles have not been good together for almost three years now; the only period of sustained success has been with Jeff Garcia. At 3-5, there need to be changes. Some sort of decision needs to be made- is McNabb done as a franchise quarterback? You can’t take a quarterback with your first pick- and let him languish if the incumbent is merely kind of okay for years at a time. This decision that can only be made clearer by giving McNabb every single possible look, every possible throw left. Forget evaluating Kolb; we’re stuck with him by virtue of his draft spot. It is McNabb that needs to be judged.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Golden Hurricane Can Go For Forty

Tough beat last week. The kid makes the field goal- stretching a hypothetical Tulane lead to nine- and I get a cover at -1.5 even if Memphis scores again. Alas, miss it- and lose. Anyway, this morning, the New York Post puts Tulsa -6 over Tulane. After weeks of tricky lines, this week we are presented with the first lay-up ATS since Mississippi State & Houston.

That line is not irrational- after all, Tulsa probably deserved to lose last week versus a bad Mustang outfit. The spread anticipates a sort of typical football game breaking out Saturday. Figure Tulsa is better than Tulane- but if Forte ravages their very bad rushing defense for north of 150 yards- it would be hard, in a traditional sense, for Tulsa to accumulate enough possessions and TOP to guarantee separation on the scoreboard.

But, I don’t know. Frankly, we’ve seen this game this year already. Yes, Tulane is not a debacle. But this season we’ve learned that, if you wanted to design a team to torment the Green Wave, make them look like a debacle, it would look something like Houston, right? A team that can throw the ball at will at our struggling back seven and block our okay-plus defensive front. A team that can score a point total- 35+ if need be- that Tulane’s run-first offense can’t hope to match. A team that is a step up in overall class.

Unfortunately for Tulane, Tulsa is a lot like Houston. The Golden Hurricane is right out of C-USA central casting- beginning with a big number quarterback, Paul Smith, who averages north of 350 yards (!!!) passing a game. There are a ton of C-USA style skill position players who can generate ridiculous numbers. I doubt the Wave can consistently cover and stop one key guy- let alone three/four.

Now, Tulsa did struggle last week- but that is sort of actually helpful: keeps the Golden Hurricane focused, keeps this line under one score. And I’m not fooled. A flat week aside, Tulsa is a clear step up from the recent collection of conference teams (plus Army) that have populated the schedule. Take out Oklahoma, they are a darn consistent 5-2. CBS carries them as one of the top half of teams in college football in their power poll. Neither of those facts is true of, say, UAB nor SMU.

Tulsa is “very bad against the run in general”. But it is still an open question whether they are “very bad against the run when they can focus on stopping it while totally ignoring the passing game”. Plus, since Tulsa figures to go for a big number here; Tulane must try to score some points. With the whole Tulsa defense in the box, Tulane needing to score points, I imagine the Wave has to try and throw it more than usual from the get go. I’m not optimistic.

Candidly, that Tulsa offense is a top notch, scary C-USA outfit. Tulane can’t stop Paul Smith, can’t prevent five-six TDS, simply can’t keep up here- just a bad match-up. Tulsa scores big and wins big. Consequently, I’ll take Tulsa and give six.

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