Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tulane Season Prediction

I have already written that I do not think Tulane figures as most national figures predict: one of the country’s biggest train wrecks.

Much of that is predicated on the offense, which I can see as being pretty okay (in the C-USA sense). There is a formula and players here to score. There is some experience and competence at the quarterback position. Ryan Griffin is not Case Keenum or G.J. Kinne- but you easily project him into the next tier of quaterbacks already (high completion percentage, good TD/INT ratio). Casey Robottom features an important skill set for C-USA- run the X-receiver route, get a sliver of separation in a few steps and catch the resultant ball in traffic. Should Ryan be able to get the ball consistently, Robottom is a credible all League candidate. Banks at least looks like a successful C-USA perimeter attack player (athletic, quick rather than fast)- and he too will be well served by having the accurate, pitch and catch C-USA quarterback.

Even better, the offensive line might be the best collective in Toledo’s tenure. The tackles are actual quality C-USA players (although there is zero depth). There might be a semi-serviceable mix of adequate inside too once Tulane figures out who is healthy. True, moving Joey Ray into the starting line-up removes the one competent guy providing interior depth-and that is a problem that bites Tulane every year. But this collective did block good portions of the second half of last season (UTEP, Rice, SMU)... figure largely the same cast can block the bottom seven, eight teams on the schedule this year.

I think LT Hendrickson is the best player on the team- but RB Payten Jason is arguably the most talented player. Yes, he can’t seem to get healthy. But add him into the mix at running back, and like the o-line, there is a whole lot of increasingly adequate there at RB too.

I just feel there is an average C-USA offensive team looking to break out here.

I’m not as sanguine about the defense. This switch to looking to play more nickel (that is my interpretation of an active move to a 4-2-5 on first down) is, in part, confidence in the big talent upgrade the kid from Duke (Trent Mackey) seems to be bringing at ILB.

It also just as much a failure to believe Tulane has “enough” linebackers to play it straight. That position is a real mess right now. Plus, there are simply doubts the existing base coverage personnel (the top four DBs) can handle the plethora of perimeter skill players that C-USA produces- so Tulane needs to get more corners out there.

On paper, the defensive backs look a little faster-and certainly the party line seems they are going to use the extra ration of on-field DBs to press the play a little more. This new defense might be a better utilization of talent- but it isn’t a move from a position of strength. And subtracting on field LBs probably does zero to stop the woes against the run (mitigated by the fact that C-USA really isn’t about keeping teams under 130 yards of rushing). The DL doesn't seem like a bunch of stuffers either.

Still, if there were a proven orchestrator of offensive talent, a regime with a history of developing quarterbacks and C-USA skill players, I might put Tulane down as a “surprise team”- a team that might win three, four games more than expected. Then add in a schedule that sort of insulates against utter disaster. Assuming offensive competence- Rice, Army and SE Louisiana on the home slate is almost a three game head start on .500. There are another four or five games where a Tulane point total of 28ish will keep them in position to steal a pair.

But I’m just not sure Coach Toledo is up to the challenge any more. I mean, will he commit the snaps to his best chance to score 35 points- the three dozen plus pass plays needed to score big in the League? The quarterback Griffin had development time last year, but who on staff is a proven converter of development into actual capacity at any skill position? Also, while I like the offense to be competent, but who is the breakout skill player, the Toledo recruit, who translates into first team C-USA that can make the offense actually good?

If Bowden were the coach, I’d put down six plus, Scelfo would get five. Toldeo... I’d be pretty indifferent with an over/under of 3.5 Let's say 4-8, with real upside potential if either Griffin or the defensive transfers improves quicker than expected.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

General Stuff

Some general stuff for today...

First, the BlogPoll is out. Due to the weird formatting issues I'm having, I'm merely providing the link right here. (Formatting issues fixed! Results now below!)

SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

Results for Week 1

# School Points/blog SD Delta
1 Alabama Crimson Tide (77) 24.0 3.49 --
2 Ohio St. Buckeyes (15) 22.5 4.21 --
3 Boise St. Broncos (3) 20.7 3.67 --
4 Florida Gators (1) 20.2 4.10 --
5 Texas Longhorns (3) 20.0 4.52 --
6 Oklahoma Sooners (3) 18.0 6.18 --
7 TCU Horned Frogs 17.8 4.90 --
8 Virginia Tech Hokies 17.4 4.84 --
9 Nebraska Cornhuskers 15.6 4.78 --
10 Iowa Hawkeyes 15.2 4.44 --
11 Oregon Ducks 14.3 4.72 --
12 Miami Hurricanes 12.3 4.54 --
13 Wisconsin Badgers 12.2 5.22 --
14 Pittsburgh Panthers 8.5 5.16 --
15 Penn St. Nittany Lions 7.8 4.65 --
16 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 7.7 5.23 --
17 North Carolina Tar Heels 7.0 5.30 --
18 Arkansas Razorbacks 6.8 4.54 --
19 USC Trojans 6.5 6.65 --
20 LSU Tigers 5.9 4.75 --
21 Georgia Bulldogs 5.9 5.01 --
22 Florida St. Seminoles 5.6 4.64 --
23 Auburn Tigers 5.6 5.35 --
24 Oregon St. Beavers 3.6 4.27 --
25 Utah Utes 2.6 3.52 --
Others Receiving Votes: West Virginia Mountaineers | Cincinnati Bearcats | Houston Cougars | Connecticut Huskies | Stanford Cardinal | Arizona Wildcats | BYU Cougars | South Carolina Gamecocks | Notre Dame Fighting Irish | Clemson Tigers | Boston College Eagles | Ball St. Cardinals | Baylor Bears | Washington Huskies | Missouri Tigers | California Golden Bears | Arkansas St. Red Wolves | Bowling Green Falcons | Central Florida Knights | Army Black Knights | Texas A&M Aggies | Colorado St. Rams | Colorado Buffaloes | Dixie State Rebels | Buffalo Bulls | Washington St. Cougars | Air Force Falcons | Southern Miss. Golden Eagles | Akron Zips | Navy Midshipmen | Central Michigan Chippewas | Oklahoma St. Cowboys | Arizona St. Sun Devils | UNLV Rebels | Michigan St. Spartans | Troy Trojans | Wyoming Cowboys | Eastern Michigan Eagles | Duke Blue Devils | Texas Tech Red Raiders | Tulane Green Wave | Syracuse Orange | UTEP Miners | Florida Atlantic Owls | South Florida Bulls | Northwestern Wildcats | Nevada Wolf Pack | Mississippi Rebels | SMU Mustangs | Middle Tenn. St. Blue Raiders | East Carolina Pirates | Rutgers Scarlet Knights | San Jose St. Spartans | Temple Owls | Fla. International Golden Panthers | San Diego St. Aztecs | Ohio Bobcats | Idaho Vandals | UAB Blazers
Updated: Aug 23, 2010 10:30 AM EDT

SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »

In the end, the collective will be embarrassed for missing on USC and Notre Dame. Also, note some nut voted for Tulane. It was not me.

Also, the Poll receives some love here: Better Than AP and Coaches Polls? You Bet!
The AP Poll has been around forever, well, OK, since 1936. The USA Today/Coaches Poll is now attached to the BCS's crystal ball. But in all honesty, neither poll can measure up to the BlogPoll in terms of fairness and expertise.

The BlogPoll? What the heck is that, you ask.

It has, over the past few years, become part of the conversation in the college football landscape. The BlogPoll is voted on by some of the most respected and knowledgeable bloggers who cover the sport.
Second, the first Prediction Thursday will be September 2- just before the home game with Southeastern Louisiana. That will put the season prediction on tap for August 26.

Third, this Matthew Stafford video has gone viral- but still a good watch for those who love football. Stick with it, it gets better and better:


Monday, August 23, 2010


Below I have posted my 2010 pre-season ballot for this year's BlogPoll. The poll should be out this afternoon.

Some housekeeping first. The poll has moved from CBS Sports over to SB Nation. I gather there were two reasons for this. First, it fits better at SB Nation- probably the leading sports blog "collector" concern. Second, CBS Sports might be a more prestigious address- but they weren't doing much to promote the product.

Anyway the new site has a good look to it- and a lot more good blogs voting. It is encouraging. I was an inaugural voter years ago- and I'm impressed how it has grown. The most obvious alumni is here- Dr. Saturday. But page through the blogs- some good work being done.

I like Nebraska as a surprise outfit this year. If you had to pick a team almost guaranteed to be in its conference championship game- the 'huskers would be at the top of the list. Texas and Missouri are home games, no Oklahoma.

Conversely, I don't like Florida State- they will disappear from the national top 25 by September 12 (@ Oklahoma).

Southern Cal has many distractions- but Oregon, Cal and the Irish are home games. 10-2 almost seems like a floor.

The Irish sneak in. They have top forty talent, a better coach and a manageable schedule. There are eight wins there.

Houston is my pick for C-USA champion- a traditional automatic vote on this C-USA representing blog. Temple might be the most likely team in the country to win nine games- and I think they get ten.

Down year for the Big East. I love Miami's talent- my ACC pick. They have a brutal early season three-in-a-row on the road: Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Clemson- but watch, they'll get two. Florida State and Virginia Tech are home games. Outside of the SEC, they might be the only team in the country that can lose three and still be Top Ten.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Even More Accountability

This year's pre-season BlogPoll is on tap. No link yet- some bugs are apparently being worked out, as well as a new host other than CBS Sports.

Now, Frank Helps You Think It All Out is about nothing if not accountability.

So before we submit this year’s pre-season BlogPoll, continued respect to the readership means a look at how last year’s pre-season picks turned out. (2008 look back is here)

This is my ballot top fifteen from last year- versus the final AP:

Rank Team
1 Florida (finished #3)
2 Texas (2)
3 Alabama (1)
4 Southern Cal (22)
5 Mississippi (20)
6 Penn State (9)
7 Oklahoma (others receiving votes)
8 Boise State (4)
9 LSU (17)
10 Georgia (others receiving votes)
11 Utah (18)
12 Miami (Florida) (19)
13 Ohio State (5)
14 North Carolina (others receiving votes)
15 Oregon (11)

Not too bad, right. Top three was pretty status quo, but it worked.

Oklahoma was the big miss- but Georgia and LSU missed the Top 15 only by generating too many inter-SEC losses. Put your hand in the air if you think they were much worse than the AP's final number 14 (Nebraska) and 15 (Pittsburgh).

Miami was my touted surprise- and Randy Shannon's group was for a little while.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

More Gloom Than Normal

E-mailed to me this morning. More gloom and doom from College Football News: picking the Green Wave to go 1-11, ranking them 119 out of 120 programs.
Three years into the Bob Toledo experiment, the Green Wave is no closer to respectability, going 9-27 under his watch. While it would be easy to suggest a change at the top, the reality is that there’s no quick fix for a program sorely lacking in talent and fan support. Every decade or so, Tulane catches lightning in a bottle and plays in a bowl game. Unfortunately for Toledo, he may not be around when college football’s version of an eclipse occurs.

The Green Wave wasn’t just bad during last year’s 3-9 campaign. It was among the country’s worst schools, getting out scored by an average of 36-16. After showing a pulse with back-to-back wins over McNeese State and Army, Tulane finished 1-7, scoring an average of just 10 points in those seven defeats. The offense was impotent. The defense was a sieve. The future is bleak, especially now that next-level RB Andre Anderson and WR Jeremy Williams have run out of eligibility.

Tulane is pinning its hopes on young QB Ryan Griffin, who impressed down the stretch as a redshirt freshman. Three times in November, he threw for at least 200 yards and two touchdown passes, sparking a moribund attack. Whether it was Shaun King, J.P. Losman, or Patrick Ramsey, the Green Wave has always had a quality, pro-caliber quarterback on hand when it was playing well. It’s cautiously optimistic that Griffin can be that type of much-needed catalyst. He’ll have to be because the balance of the roster is thin, even by Conference USA standards.
I’ve already gone on record saying Tulane will be bad- but not that bad.

But it is a little galling to read these repeated negative, Armageddon-style musings from the very same websites and chat boards that, against all evidence, so lauded Coach Toledo and utterly hammered us dissenters four years ago. Jeez people, how many years before your guy wins some football games?


Friday, August 13, 2010


It has always been sort of accepted gospel that Tulane erred in not offering its top football job to Rich Rodriguez.

But I wonder. His record on pure on-field success gets increasingly muddied- that 3-13 Big Ten mark ain’t too good people. His off field issues are increasingly problematic as well. Here is a guy whose departure from West Virginia merits an entire Wiki entry!
The announcement of his departure came just four months after Rodriguez last renegotiated his contract with West Virginia, and was made despite his stated long-term commitment to the Mountaineers. The contract included a $4 million buyout if he left WVU within one year of the August 2007 signing date....

On December 27, 2007, West Virginia University filed a motion for declaratory judgment in Monongalia County Circuit Court, asking the court to find that Rodriguez's contract with the University was valid, that WVU had not breached that contract, and that Rodriguez had breached it. Subsequently, on January 18, 2008, WVU added a count of breach of contract after Rodriguez allegedly failed to pay the first installment of the $4 million liquidated damages clause...

Rodriguez and WVU agreed to settle the lawsuit. The terms of the settlement stated that the University of Michigan would pay $2.5 million of the settlement. Rodriguez is required to pay WVU the remaining $1.5 million in three installments of $500,000 each, spread over three years starting in January, 2010.
The mixed on-field record at West Virginia and Michigan has to make one wonder about the impact at Tulane- a place that has real competitive problems (rather than lavish amenities) and looking, at the time, at looming “issues”: the "shut football down" review and Katrina. Let’s explore with today’s Detroit News:
The odds don't look good. The troubling news never stops. New athletic director David Brandon publicly and repeatedly supports his coach, but adds this season is "huge" for the future of Michigan football. Of course, that means it's huge for the future of Rodriguez.

Michigan faces five major violations, and now there are similar allegations stemming from Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia.
That is the rub. The NCAA feels they have identified a pattern of malfeasance started, exported and replicated. Patterns of misbehavior are bad.

With RichRod’s lapses, would you have wanted him the face of Tulane during a review or Katrina? Big risk. Those were eight years of trouble. Football at Tulane might not have survived a trial for “an atmosphere of lack of institutional control”. There were a myriad of enemies of the program out in force looking for a catalyst.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Up From Disaster

From an off-season prediction standpoint, this off-season has been a hard one for the Tulane faithful. Forecasters have been brutal to the Green Wave. A bevy of national publications pick Tulane to be truly horrible. Sports Illustrated reportedly has them dead last- in the entire country! The Orlando Sentinal has them 116 out of 120 BCS Division outfits. Lindy, Athlon, TSN, USA Today and Phil Steele have Tulane picked for last in C-USA West:

It is an easy slur; Tulane is arguably a mess. The coach is a clear mistake. Recruiting is poor. But leaving my own season forecast aside (appearing on August 26th), I am pretty sure Tulane will be up from utter rock bottom this year.

Frankly, I think Ryan Griffin is a plus C-USA quarterback- and in the most quarterback friendly League going, that kind of insures you against utter disaster.

People who rave about Griffin’s physical size (6’5”, 210-ish) and very good arm are largely betraying their ignorance of how C-USA football works. Obviously, they are nice to have- but the traditional NFL-style "potential" metrics don’t mean as much here. I mean, Chase Clement was never an NFL prospect.

And neither were Richard Irvin and Scott Elliott- two guys with marginal physical skills. But they were “quarterbacky”. That means this League really rewards guys who can possess the ball via the air-put the ball up 45 times, complete 65%, minimal turnovers, hit tons of easy-to-moderate throws versus a few hard ones.

Throwing the ball a lot means two things. Your team generates more negative-to-zero yard plays on first down than peers and short-yardage situations become normally riskier. All things being equal, it is easier to pick up two yards as a good running team than as a good passing team.

The C-USA quarterback minimizes those two drawbacks by hitting a high percentage of throws (getting positive first down yards 70% of the time, picking up a lot of those third and 2’s). Who really cares if a C-USA quarterback can throw a 25 yard deep out? Who can protect that play in this League consistently?

Ryan Griffin is that sort of guy. I like him more than any Tulane quarterback prospect since JP Losman. Griffin’s numbers are here- and there is a lot to absolutely love. First, in the games where Tulane could even sort of block people (forget UCF), he has got the completion percentage up near 70%. He is throwing 30-ish times a game with few turnovers.

Improve those numbers just a shade, a mere shade, and you have a that All C-USA style quarterback- and Tulane fans know what sort of monster numbers flow from that designation. Even better, for once Bob Toledo sort of developed a quarterback, giving him a healthy view of the elephant, refusing to remove him even under duress and struggles. A red-shirt sophomore, three years in the program... that is a guy designed to move forward.

Looking at the Tulane schedule, put your hand in the air if you would be surprised if Griffin through up eight games of something like 28-40, 280-320 yards, 2-4 TDs? Maybe a game or two were he just goes C-USA style bonkers (400 yards, 4-5 TDs)?

Tulane ain’t going 1-11, bottom five in the country, with this guy at quarterback. They are going to score four touchdowns more often than not- and that is a lot of games to simply be in touch on the scoreboard to lose repeatedly and badly.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Magnolia League

A secret fantasy of a segment of the Tulane population, particularly strong in the 1960s and 1970s, is the formation of a Magnolia League.
The effort to create a Southern athletic conference originated during the 1950s. Harvie Branscomb, then-chancellor at Vanderbilt University…. called a meeting with the presidents of other Southern private universities in the late 1950s — Southern Methodist University (SMU), Rice University, Duke University, and Tulane University — where Branscomb suggested they try to establish a new sports conference where small, academically inclined private schools could compete.

In the early 1960s, the idea for the "Magnolia Conference" gained popularity. In 1963, Tulane was frustrated by its enabling competition notwithstanding within the Southeastern Conference schools since many of the schools had lower academic expectations for football and they considered withdrawing from the SEC to compete with schools with similar aims. According to the “Rice Thresher”, the era was a time when "the academic disparity between show-me-the-money schools and the schools less inclined to compromise academics was just beginning to become more evident." The "Magnolia Conference" had the vision to "maintain high-end Division I budgets and schedules, while avoiding some of the crasser extremes of the big business of college sports".
I’ve always been sort of tickled by this idea- and I’m not sure it is completely far fetched. For one thing, the next step after the consolidation of the BCS Leagues is the expulsion of the weaker members. The real threat of four regional based super Leagues isn’t to Tulane exactly; the Green Wave is resource poor and will remain so no matter what the Pac-10 or Big Twelve does. The threat is to Duke and Vanderbilt- second class football citizens that cannot generate the revenues and wins of large state universities. Trust me, Vandy will find there is a price where their peers will drop them.

That being said, it is a pipe dream for football for now. There will be still one more shake out in BCS football to come- and I don’t know if there will be enough losers to populate an eight team southern non-crass football conference. But there are enough teams now to support an ancillary experiment in basketball.

In Philadelphia, there is the Big Five- a committed round-robin between Villanova, Temple, LaSalle, St. Joseph’s and Pennsylvania.

It works, because like any good conference affiliation, the schools have enough in common to generate some heat (in the case of the Big Five, geography). I’d like to see some sort of informal Big Five-style Magnolia League. The juice would be both geography and similar non-crass athletic program generated.

Create two four team divisions- and have each Magnolia League member commit to three games in December within its grouping. I mean, I’ve seen enough of Lamar and Nichols State- so we’re looking at almost immediate upgrade with fun programs and instant rivalries. Then, top it off with a holiday championship tournament in Atlanta, New Orleans or Washington.

There are a ton of programs to invite to participate- capped at two from any given League (assigned to the separate divisions): Richmond. Wofford. William and Mary. Navy. Rice. St. Louis.

The League might even get lucky, promise two of the three League games at home each year, and get a Vanderbilt or Georgia Tech to join up. They probably don’t mind a pair of guaranteed home games and a single regional road trip.

The branding of such a League almost does itself. How fast would a national HBC brand like Grambling or religious-oriented Liberty sign up? The reason they would kill to get in is that there would be juice here- the Magnolia League.

And think of the wonderful angst generated in programs not invited? There is real potential here.

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