Sports: Week 1 College Football Observations: Bama’s Good, Texas Is Unpredictable, And OU’s Offensive Line Is A Vulnerability

By tonight’s end, the first week of college football will be in the books for DI schools. With that, here are a few observations. Enjoy.

Observation 1: Alabama = ….just…damn.

Everyone in the country knew Alabama probably wouldn’t drop off too much from last season, but the defense was one area of concern entering this season in part because seven players from the Crimson Tide’s defense went in the 2017 NFL Draft, according to SaturdayDownSouth.com.

Everyone got their answer Saturday in the Tide’s 24-7 win over No. 3 Florida State. This was the fourth straight year the Crimson Tide recorded three sacks in their season-opening game. The most recent two were against the No. 20 teams in the nation.

That doesn’t bode well for Alabama’s next opponent, unranked Fresno State. Neither does the fact that the Tide haven’t slowed down off those performances, winning their last three week-2 matchups by a combined score of 116-20.

Week two should be a cakewalk for Alabama. In case you somehow thought Fresno State had a chance before…

Observation 2: Texas is too inconsistent to predict, both now and for the next two-to-three years.

In his Monday press conference, first-year Texas head coach Tom Herman said “We’re in this for the long haul.”

Herman was equally as candid about the depth of work needed in the program immediately after Saturday’s 51-41 loss to Maryland.

“If we all thought that we were going to come in here and in nine months, sprinkle some fairy dust on this team and think that we’ve arrived, then we’re wrong,” Herman said after the game.

Last year, the famous quote that came from broadcasters during Texas’ 2OT win over Notre Dame to start the season was “Texas, is, back folks.”

First, Texas isn’t.

Second, I’m not sure we’ll know in any one second when they are.

I don’t think that when Texas actually is “back,” there will be one defining moment when we know. I think we’ll look back at maybe a season, or a couple of them in a few years year, and realize “OK, Texas can legitimately contend this season.”

That’ll only happen if Tom Herman gets time though, something Texas fans and regents have historically been reluctant to allow. Still, looking back statistically at previous seasons, there really aren’t a lot of scoring trends that point to simple conclusions like “Texas needs to play better defense” or “They need to score more points” to be able to armchair-quarterback Texas to success.

Realistically, Texas just needs to play better.

If they give Tom Herman time to make the cultural-shift he’s curating work, then they’ll be back at Alabama’s level before long.

But it will take two to three years.

For now, I wouldn’t bother trying to predict what they’ll do until they do it, because Texas is just too unpredictable at the moment, and it’s impossible to say how long that will last.

Observation 3: Oklahoma’s offensive line might be a real vulnerability this season

This morning, I watched the replay of the first half of the game Saturday between UTEP and Oklahoma.

My opinion: Oklahoma kind of got away with one in that game.

Who knows, maybe I’ll eat what I’m about to say next week. Maybe Oklahoma will come out, drop the hammer against No. 2 Ohio State in the Horseshoe.

But watching that replay, the part before OU quarterback Baker Mayfield came out, that Oklahoma offensive line did not look very good. Here are some statistics to back that up.

UTEP had a sack and five tackles-for-loss against the Oklahoma offense. OU, ranked No. 7 in the nation going in, had a sack, and four tackles-for-loss against the UTEP offense.

Same number of sacks.
UTEP had more Tackles for loss.
OU had more points and got the win.

In the half I watched, UTEP got fairly regular pressure on Mayfield, who started off 16-16 passing and ended up going 19-20.

Still, this was the first time since 2014 Oklahoma has had fewer sacks than an opponent in a season-opening game, and won.

Last year, they were out-sacked 5-2 by No. 15 Houston, who pulled out the huge upset under the guidance of then-head coach and now conference-rival Tom Herman. Two weeks later hosted No. 3 Ohio State, losing 45-24 and again getting out-sacked, this time 3-1.

Now, Oklahoma only gets a week to prepare for a road-game against an Ohio State squad fresh off beating Indiana 49-21 behind senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who had 150 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions on 14-20 passing last year against Oklahoma.

Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe this week, the Sooners players will get a lot better from week one to week two just like many teams do after they’ve tasted actual gameplay for the first time in a season.

But I’m predicting Ohio State will win by at least 14 points, largely because their defensive line will rock Oklahoma’s offensive line.

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ESPN College Pick’em selections, week 9; Texas Putting Big 12 On Notice

A 5-5 week last week kept me on the positive side of .500 for the season, leaving my record this year 43-37. The relieving news is that I can’t pick K-State this week, since they have a Bye week before welcoming the Baylor Bears to Manhattan next Thursday.

I wrote last week that if Texas won against either Kansas State or Iowa State, (which were their next two scheduled opponents at the time), I thought they would become a real recruiting force in the Big 12 again starting immediately.

I’m not going back on that.

Analysis

Kansas State went into Austin and got beat cleanly. Going into that game, the Longhorns were tied but ranked slightly below Iowa State in the Big 12 standings. Now, after their own win and Iowa State’s loss to #2 ranked Baylor last week, the ‘Horns are actually a game ahead of the Cyclones as they arrive in Iowa to play against them this week. Texas isn’t great on the road, but here’s an interesting statistic I found on ESPN.com.

Texas actually has scored the second fewest points in the conference, both in conference play and including nonconference play as well. Do you know which team is the only one who’s scored less? That would be last place Kansas, but that isn’t the interesting part. The interesting part is that Texas has won two straight in conference, including against then #10 ranked Oklahoma.

According to ESPN, if you look at the last two games for each Big 12 team, Texas is the only team that has won both of their last two games while averaging under 30 points per win. The teams above them in the Big 12 are TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Those teams average 42.5, 53.5. 45.5, and 59 points respectively.

Texas is winning games scoring half as many points as teams above them in the standings are, including against Oklahoma (Texas had a Bye week two weeks ago, so OU has played two games since that one, hence they’ve won their last two like Texas has). All they’ve needed to score was 23 points each week to compete.

To me, that says the whole conference needs to watch out. That doesn’t exclude Baylor, which is on their schedule in December. Iowa State, West Virginia and even FCS (division two) Lamar University have all scored over 25 points against Baylor.

That could be a real problem against a Texas team that only needs 23 points per week to win lately, especially if they come in having won today against Iowa State and then the next two weeks against Kansas and West Virginia.

With all that said, here are my picks. K-State has a Bye this week, so I’m free to actually objectively(ish) judge all 20 teams I’m picking winners from. As always, we’ll go from my “least confident” choices to my “most confident” ones.

Week 9 Picks 🙂

San Diego State on the road over Colorado State: I have no knowledge of either team, but San Diego State is the last of the two teams I remember being ranked, so I’m taking them.

Penn State at home over Illinois: Penn State continues to look strong this year, with a 6-2 record only blemished by loses in the first week to Temple (which was week 1, it happens) and to #1 Ohio State. I won’t pick against them until at least Nov. 21.

#11 Florida at home over Georgia: I’ve picked Georgia twice this year against good teams, and they’ve lost both. Sorry Georgia, but I don’t have any faith in y’all.

#19 Ole Miss on the road over Auburn: Ole Miss is a good team with a very tough schedule. I think they might loose two more games this year. This won’t be one of them.

Kentucky at home over Tennessee: Most ESPN users seem to be picking Tennessee, but I’m not so sure about the Volunteers. I think I’ll have to pick what appears to be an upset here.

California at home over USC: USC is such a hard team to predict this year! They’ve tested Notre Dame and outright beaten then #3 Utah, but they’ve also lost to Washington in their own stadium, so I’ll take my chances and pick California, though I know this one is a dangerous pick.

#9 Notre Dame on the road over #21 Temple: I like Temple’s coach, I watched him after the Penn State game and he seemed to make a lot of sense, but this Notre Dame team has played some stiff competition and is battle tested. I can’t definitively say the same for Temple. I think Penn State was an aberration, not a sign of their talent. This is the tiebreaker this week, so I pick the score to be 41-27 Irish.

#8 Stanford on the road over Washington State: Stanford has scored 104 points more than they’ve allowed, while Washington State has scored just 25 more than they’ve have. That’s a big difference, so I’m going with Stanford.

#12 Oklahoma State on the road over Texas Tech: Oklahoma State continues to impress, so I’m buying them. They might be a great pick to win the Big 12.

Texas on the road over Iowa State: Texas is tied with Oklahoma for the longest win streak in the conference outside of those three unbeaten teams at the top (TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma State). Iowa State has lost three straight. I’m betting Texas continues to build on the momentum they’ve developed.

ESPN College Pick’em Selections, Week 8; Catching Up, And An Intriguing Matchup In Austin

Last week I forgot to post my picks. It was a chaotic week and I’ll try not to forget again this season. Here’s a brief summary of the last couple of weeks to catch you up.

Catching Up

Two weeks ago (in week 6) I had my best week of the season. I went 8-2 after successfully picking Texas over Oklahoma, and narrowly picking then #5 Utah over #23 California. I picked Georgia to win, but that became impossible when their star running back was injured on what I believe was the first play from scrimmage. I’ll be hoping the kid can come back soon.

Speaking of people who need a comeback, week 7 was more normal for my picks: I went 6-4 for the second time this season (week 2 was the other) even though it was my second highest point total in ESPN Pick’Em because of how I ranked the ones I was most confident of. I’m now 38-32 on the season.

I got my most confident pick wrong last week as OU came and slaughtered K-State, just down the road from where I write this, 55-0. That game was a perfect storm though, and few but the most rugged Wildcat’s fans probably picked that. OU was coming off a loss to Texas the week prior and was 6-0 under current coach Bob Stoops in the weeks following Red River Rivalry losses. Add in that Texas fans left about 3,000 seats on their side of the stadium empty, and Texas still won, and you had a high probability OU would roll into Manhattan a little pissed the heck off.

K-State, on the other hand, had come off two heartbreaking second-half comeback losses by ranked teams, Oklahoma State on the road and top 5 ranked TCU at home. So when the Wildcats came out flat, and OU came out strong, it’s hard to say I was completely surprised, though I’d never pick against my Wildcats. :). The bottom line though, having watched OU two straight weeks, is that I don’t think they are as good as they showed against K-State, and I don’t K-State is actually as bad as they looked against OU.

K-State Versus Texas Analysis

Now I get a chance to back up my point about picking K-State against anyone, because for the second straight week, ESPN is calling it’s users to pick the winner of a game featuring the Wildcats. This week they go into Austin, Texas to play a Longhorns team some think may be right at the turnaround point in their rebuilding efforts since longtime coach Mack Brown left following the 2013 season and Charlie Strong took over. That win against OU two weeks ago went a long way in securing the fanbases’ faith in Strong, and the coming weeks should give them even more reason to trust the process.

After K-State, they play Iowa State, who is ranked one spot above them in the Big 12 standings. If they win even one of the games against either ISU or KSU, they should blow through their next two games, which are against Big 12 bottom-dwellers Kansas and West Virginia.

As for this week’s game against K-State; it’s an intriguing one. K-State recently seems to have Texas’ number. They’re 7-1 against Texas dating back to 2006 when they injured Colt McCoy and ended Texas’ chances of repeating as National Champions the year after Vince Young’s historic game against USC (which is the best game I’ve ever watched as a sports fan). The Wildcats are also 1-0 against Charlie Strong, beating Texas last year 23-0, and shutting them out for the first time since OU did it in 2004, according to ESPN.

Still, Texas has had two weeks to plan for this one because of a BYE week last week, and after that dramatic win against OU, I’d bet Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is straight up sold-out against a K-State team that fans probably consider very beatable.

Still, I’m picking K-State. Head coach Bill Snyder knows what he has to do. I think K-State will come in and just relax after three straight games where they were underdogs against ranked teams.

So without further ado:

Week 8 Picks 🙂

Wisconsin on the road over Illinois: This is one of those “I know nothing about either team” picks, but Wisconsin did well for me earlier this year when I picked them over Nebraska in week 6, so why not watch them do it again :).

Ohio on the road over Buffalo: How did this matchup even get picked? I don’t think I’ve even heard of either team, but hey, I’ll go with Ohio. We’ll see what happens, but this is probably the pick I’m most likely to get wrong this week.

#23 Duke on the road over Virginia Tech: ….wait, Duke can’t have decent football AND good basketball…it’s against the rules! Meh, I’ll pick them, but I don’t think I quite believe they should be ranked just yet. Just saying…

Arizona at home over Washington State: My first home pick of the week goes Arizona. According to ESPN, they’ve only lost to ranked teams this season: UCLA and Stanford. I have no reason to believe WSU is as good as either.

#15 Texas A&M on the road over #24 Ole Miss: I successfully picked A&M’s loss to Alabama last week, but that wasn’t an indictment on them. I’m a big Kevin Sumlin fan: he’s a good coach and he seems to make a lot of sense when he speaks in interviews. I think he’ll get that team ready, and I think Texas A&M is actually really good, as much as the Longhorns fan in me hates to say it.

#6 Clemson on the road over Miami (FL): This one is simple for me. Miami is good, but Clemson is better. Watch me eat those words later 😛

#3 Utah on the road over USC: I actually picked USC to win last week against Notre Dame, but I don’t think Utah is a big enough rivalry (if it’s one at all) to get them fired up, plus Utah looks good this year. I’m slowing starting to buy their legitimacy. This is the tiebreaker in ESPN Pick’em this week, so I predict a final score of 45-35.

Mississippi State at home over Kentucky: I don’t know much about either team here either, I promise that’s my last one this week lol, but their only to losses came, ironically, to teams each ranked #14 at the time: LSU in week 2, and Texas A&M in week 5. They shouldn’t be ashamed of either loss.

#25 Pittsburg on the road over Syracuse: It’s hard for me to ever know what to do with Pittsburg, but Syracuse just isn’t very good. Still, neither team seems to have played anyone legendary or anything, so this is a hard one to pick.

Kansas State on the road over Texas: I love Austin more than I love any place anywhere, but I think this will be the last chance K-State has to beat Texas while they’re in rebuild mode. So go Cats!!!! 🙂

ESPN College Pick’em Selections Week 6; Horns To Cause Chaos, K-State To Follow, Georgia To Rebound

I’m learning this season that the whole “pick with your heart” approach to picking football teams in games just isn’t real effective.

This season, for the first time ever, I decided to play ESPN’s College Pick’em. I’ve never participated in any formal type of game like that and that inexperience shows. My record this season through 50 picks is 24-26 (right Vs. wrong respectively).

Like I said, clearly “picking with your heart” isn’t something I’m very good at yet apparently. Picking based on who I think the better teams are hasn’t helped me improve much more either.

That might leave one to wonder where the disconnect is? Do I just have no clue on college football, or is it maybe something more?

Arrogant as it may be, I’m willing to say it’s a mix of both, but mostly the later. This college football season has been weird! Just how weird, you ask? Let me just point out two things we’ve seen so far to give you a little perspective:

-Penn State lost to Temple in week 1. That hadn’t happened in 74 years, according to ESPN.

-Alabama went into the game last week against Georgia as underdogs. That was the first time they weren’t favored in more than 70 games.

Closer to home, in a game I watched and shot the highlight video for, K-State went into Stillwater, Oklahoma, and lost their starting quarterback in the first half. They had to move a young man named Kody Cook over from wide receiver, and he kept them in the game until he also was injured. The Wildcats damn near won with a wide receiver playing quarterback on the road against a top 25 ranked team.

In other words, to quote one of my favorite commercial campaigns: “Mayhem is everywhere.”

So I pray my fellow college football fan, and all the connoisseurs out there that may stumble on my humble little page, might forgive me just a bit as I learn what nobody else really seems to know how to do either: predict Mayhem.

College football has narrowly avoided total chaos so far. Maybe it’s the kid in me who loves Austin more than any place on earth, or the naive Wildcats fan who believes last year’s loss to Auburn was closer than it looked, which compels me to make these picks.

Either way, we are nothing if we are not true to who we are, and I am driven by my heart in all I do. So here are my picks for week 6 of college football, based on the match-ups provided by ESPN. This is how I’ll do it every week from here on out through the rest of the college football season. Before I start though, I’m adding one for the raw fun of it, and for pride’s sake.

I’m picking K-State at home over #2 TCU. Final Score: 28-24. #FreeJustinSilmon #ThatDefenseTho #Mayhem 😉

Here are the ESPN ones 🙂

Texas at home over #10 Oklahoma– This is as true of a rivalry as exists in all of sports, and you never know what will happen in them. Rumor has it there are more than 3,000 unsold tickets on the Texas side of the Cotton Bowl. I’m counting on the Longhorns coming out and showing up their fanbase. Plus if they loose, Charlie Strong may not have another chance to beat OU as Longhorns’ head coach.

#21 Oklahoma State on the road over West Virginia– Not sure if Oklahoma State scored so much last week because K-State couldn’t stop a pass, or if it was because they’re really good, but WVU just lost stud safety Karl Joseph, so I don’t see it going any better for them than it did for K-State.

#13 Northwestern on the road over #18 Michigan– I think Michigan is a little overrated, and it’s not as hard to win in Ann Arbor as it used to be.

#5 Utah at home over #23 California– California nearly lost to Texas earlier this season, and Texas is 1-4, so you do the math against a 4-0 team.

#12 Florida State at home over Miami (FL)– I don’t know a lot about either team, so I’ll take the ranked one here.

#11 Florida Gators on the road over Missouri– Missouri has been good since moving to the SEC, even though they were a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big 12. Still, Florida seems to be pulling it together, so I have them.

#25 Boise State on the road over Colorado State– I have no idea what to think of Boise State honestly. I picked them in the only game selected that involved them (week 2 against BYU) and they lost that game, but I have no reason to think CSU has a shot here against a ranked team. Watch them win and me eat those words next week 😉

#19 Georgia on the road over Tennessee– Georgia’s only loss was against an enraged Alabama team. I think they’ll rebound strong against a 2-3 Vols team

Penn State at home over Indiana– This one is as much of a toss-up as exists, besides maybe the final game I have to pick this week, but Penn State’s only loss was a weird loss to Temple that I talked about earlier. They’ll be fine.

Wisconsin on the road over Nebraska– This is the ultimate toss-up, but I live in Kansas, and I’m bitter at teams that left the Big 12 in recent memory, which includes 2-3 Nebraska.

The Purchases We Make; A Story About Coffee

In fall semester 2013 I took a Principles of Advertising class here at K-State. It was tough, partly because the professor was only beginning his post at the university with that specific class. It was his first, and it was my first semester back after taking three and a half years off to fulfill other interests.

In his class we took Vals surveys. These surveys, he explained, would give us some insight into how we individually tended to make purchasing decisions. In a sense, it’s a sort of financial personality profile. It groups each test taker in two of eight categories, a primary and a secondary “Vals Type,” and provides the participant with a description of what it says about how they tend to choose what to buy. This can give companies valuable insight into how to target them as advertisers. If you’re curious about yours, click the word link.

I printed mine, and have kept it every since. I refer to it often, both because I love such things and because it has proven accurate time and time again. Here’s an example.

The Conundrum Of The Coffee Order

This morning, my favorite coffee shop on the planet, Mozart’s Coffee Roasters in Austin, Texas, posted a fascinating photo of a bunch of boxes on their Facebook page. The caption talked about how you could email one of their people who would help you order coffee and have it delivered to you wherever you were. According to their post, you could subscribe to get coffee weekly, biweekly, monthly, or “as often as you need!”

This immediately tempted me. It’s my favorite coffee shop in the world, something I feel like I can actually say because I’ve consumed coffee in shops in at least one state besides that of my birth and in one other country. That’s another discussion all together though.

Still, I have great coffee! I love the Sumatra roast sold by both Starbucks and Caribou coffee shops here in town, and Manhattan, KS actually has some great local coffee too, such as Radina’s and the recently opened Arrow Coffee. As much as I love Mozart’s down in Austin, it was hard to say definitively that the extra cost and hassle of waiting on coffee would be worth it just to have coffee from there. So why was I tempted?

That’s when I remembered my Vals profile, and the answer became clear.

My primary type labeled me as an “Innovator.” The description is long, but here’s one excerpt:

“Image is important to Innovators, not as evidence of status or power but as an expression of their taste, independence, and personality…Their possessions and recreation reflect a cultivated taste for the finer things in life.”

So I understand why I’m tempted to deal with all the extra hassle and cost, even if the benefits aren’t particularly noticeable in the actual product itself. I consciously realize that maybe I just like the idea of being able to sit on my couch one day soon and think “yeah, I have my coffee custom shipped, from my favorite coffee shop in the world.” Quite selfishly perhaps, I immediately realize I think such a daydream would be amazing if it were made true. Not because it will be expensive, though potentially it might be, but because when I brew that stuff at home for guests, it’ll be an accurate representation of who I am. Not cooler or less cool than anyone who does it differently, but rather just different; more unique, and off the beaten bath. That’s pretty much how I like to think of my life.

Apparently I’m easier to understand than I realize.

Vals wins again.