Meram is scoring some sweet-ass goals of late
This one can be found over at Bruce Ciskie's blog.
Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?
This will likely result in castigation and exile from the CFB blogosphere, but I have never read, let alone bought, Lindy's, Athlon, Steele, or any other of the midsummer bricks full of... er... stuff, I assume. Presumably the pages are not blank, but that's only a projection.
Is this an inexplicable omission or a rare moment of sanity in my life? This depends on your opinion of college football, I guess, but I've never really found the idea of paying for something produced by the same people who voluntarily publish Matt Hayes to be a good one. So The Sporting News is out. Lindy's, Athlon, and their ilk all seem to be like the Sporting News except more vapid, from what I've seen on the Internet. It's all the same thing: X is coming back, Y is leaving, the game against Z is on the road, oh my. This is just my perception, but it seems that the content of the preview mags is on essentially the same level as CFN's thorough-but-utterly-devoid- of-intelligence-or-use previews.
I will admit that EDSBS's constant pimping of Phil Steele's wackronyms, heavy breathing, and copious esoteric statistics has piqued my interest. If I run across it, I may purchase it.
What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?
For the last fifteen years you could have said "Notre Dame" and been absolutely correct twelve or thirteen times, but I've already covered that opinion before and others have already beat the ND sux drum, so I'll take a pass.
I have a general theory that serves as a heuristic when looking for overrated/underrated teams: find the extremes at either end of turnover margin. Since turnovers are both critical and relatively rare, teams that enjoyed hugely positive turnover margins a year ago are probably overrated and vice versa. The hand of chance has favored them and the likely reversion to the mean will catch any starry-eyed fans a nasty slap across the cheek. There are a couple of factors that can either mitigate or inflate the effect: quarterback experience and quarterback pressure, the two things that I think make a contribution to turnover margin that is something more than chance.
For example: USC was a staggering +21 a year ago. There's no way they even reach the Rose Bowl if Arizona State doesn't gift them five interceptions or Fresno State four. This year they lose third-year starter and sorta-good Matt Leniart; into his place walks a totally inexperienced freshman. A bunch of offensive linemen are also gone. I'd expect their turnover margin to plummet this year and their performance along with it. Now, there's a long way to plummet from THE BEST ONE LOSS TEAM IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY(!!!) to 10-3 or 9-4, but I'd put that as their baseline this year. They's overrated.
Also on the ominous-turnover-margin chopping block:
- TCU. I can't be bothered to look up who they return -- it's only SMQB's existence and USM affiliation that causes me to even acknowledge the existence of non-BCS teams after the Alamo Bowl -- but they led the nation with USC at +21 and did it in one fewer game.
- West Virginia, just for those of you looking for more anti-'Eer ammo. They were +14.
- Georgia. Plus 11 a year ago, now minus Shockley and possibly starting true freshman Matt Stafford. Yikes.
- Notre Dame was +10 a year ago and only lost 14 turnovers total. Just six fumbles lost is well below average.
- Not Florida. They were third but the return of longtime ladyback Chris Leak and most of a slavering, inhumane defense means they could well replicate their peformance or at least come near it. Ditto Wisconsin, with senior John Stocco returning along with eight defensive starters.
Turn the tables. Who is underrated?
Um. Argentina? Wrong football? Okay. I just want to point out that they did score a touchdown against Serbia & Montenegro, though they did miss the extra point.
All of a sudden I hate the turnover heuristic, since the team it points to most strongly as underrated is Ohio State. Damn damn damn. The only explanation that I can offer for the fact that OSU's badass defense only acquired twelve turnovers a year ago is that opposing offenses generally only got three chances each drive to give it away. There's no explanation for the sixteen fumbles lost, though, and since Troy Smith returns the chances of coming close to last year's paltry five interceptions are good. Of course, it's hard to be underrated when people are putting you in the top five without exception.
Despite that, I do think OSU is overrated, since they lost not only nine defensive starters but two first round picks on the other side of the ball. The heavily hyped OSU offense had the dual benefits of playing opposite that badass defense, which got the offense tons of opportunities in favorable field position, and playing out much of the season against crippled retard defenses. Michigan's eminently mediocre unit from a year ago was by far the best defense OSU saw after PSU. I would be surprised if Ginn & Co did not disappoint.
So that's not really an "underrated" pick, and I ain't saying Michigan. Must find someone... how about Wisconsin? They did obliterate Auburn a year ago, holding Kenny Irons and the rest of the high-powered Auburn offense to 236 yards. Eight starters from that young defense that performed very well against the run a year ago return, including monster defensive tackles Nick Hayden and Justin Ostrowski. Plus John Stocco went from loser to lethal a year ago, finishing in the top ten in passer efficiency. His blindside is protected by Joe Thomas, a projected top-five NFL draft pick.
There is the matter of repairing the putrid secondary and replacing... er... every offensive starter aside from Stocco and the two tackles. But an experienced quarterback and what should be a vicious front seven is a good start.
Which conference will be the best in 2006?
The Big Ten or the SEC or the ACC. Or the Big Twelve.
Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?
Anybody but the goddamned Sun Belt.
Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?
Well, we've discussed the improbable turnover margin of TCU, so not them. Can I say Illinois?
Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.
Mike Hart. Because Mike Hart is awesome.
As noted, yesterday's Insider(!) post was guaranteed to be 75% true, probably. Unionfutura was kind enough to email some clarifications and corrections to the assertions made in it, as some of them were dated. As follows:
- Camp commits for Hemingway and Allen are unlikely but decisions will probably come by the end of the summer.
- He does expect Washington and CA CB Michael Williams to commit at camp.
- On IL DT Josh Brent:
I think I'm wrong right now about Brent. All I know he really was happy to get a Michigan offer, plus I wouldn't worry about ND in this recruitment. I think the toughest battle will be with Illinois believe it or not.
Thanks to UF for the email.
A caution: there's a tendency to discount a source when it's wrong even once despite an excellent track record. Try to keep in mind that a 100% strike rate with this stuff is impossible, as situations change all the time.
Update: GBW is also claiming that Taurian Washington's commitment is imminent:
Note: In GBW's opinion, Taurian is the most like [sic] candidate for U-M's seventh-and-next verbal commitment ... keep him in mind during camp week.
That would be Ohio resident and inexplicable 'Canes fan Tony from Have You Met Tony?
6/14/2006 - Edmonton 4-3 Carolina - Carolina leads 3-2
This happened last night:
(Favorite bits of that thing, which I have committed to memory: the desperate roar from the crowd once Pisani gets in, the expression on the newly-liberated face of Staois, and Craig MacTavish making some sort of offensive gesture -- possibly six fingers for game six -- to a 'Canes fan in the stands, hopefully the child on the verge of tears. HT: Offwing. Also: "Pisani Scores: the Celebration").
And thus the Stanley Cup is cruelly ripped -- at least temporarily -- from the grasp of the only arena in the country in which the players have more teeth than the fans. The Stanley Cup Finals return to the league's northermost outpost, where 18,000-some banshees await the Hurricanes. Covered In Oil, as always, says it best: Suddenly, I'm Glad to Be Alive.
Hockey! AAAAAH!!!!!! HOCKEY!!!!! When Pisani intercepted that pass and was clearly in alone, I did something I cannot recall doing before: I leapt from my chair, fist-pump at the ready, awaiting the moment of truth. When the puck hit the twine the fist pumped, I leapt into the air, and unleashed a shameful torrent of overjoyed profanity directed at the wonderful Oilers, the shameful refs, the dastardly 'Canes, and ... ahem, swearing ... "you motherfucking NASCAR motherfuckers." I do apologize for the shameless regional stereotyping. Nonetheless, it was a good time.
Yesterday was validation time for the whole tantric sports idea, with Germany bashing shots off the bar or the keeper seemingly every six seconds against Poland until the frenzied crowd was ready to keel over from the shock of it all; Oliver Neuville's stoppage time winner set off the largest collective orgasm in Germany since David Hasselhoff was invented. That was preceded by Tunisia and Saudi Arabia's ridiculous 2-2 tie and followed by the Pisani shortie from heaven. At some point one has to shrug and say there's no accounting for taste: if yesterday didn't do it for you, nothing ever will.
No doubt various Southern readers will ruefully smile at my strange obsession with this weird Canadian game, but I'm telling you: watch game six. Try to find the bar in town that proudly advertises Labatt Blue or better still Kokanee*, find the CBC feed, and watch it from top to bottom.
*(In terms of "likelihood of having a bunch of mounties talkin' aboot boots and watchin' the game, eh," not in terms of flavor. All Canadian beers taste exactly like Budweiser.)
This is unverified voracity. MGoBlog is not responsible for any strident assertions made to friends that become terribly embarassing in retrospect. This post will self-destruct in five seconds. That out of the way, it's time to catch up on the murky prognostications of the insiders who pop up from time to time on BuckeyePlanet.
Resident silverback unionfutura says in one action-packed post he "thinks" that Dionte Allen will commit at camp and has convinced Taurian Washington to commit, and that Michigan "will" get both Ronald Johnson and CA CB Michael Williams. That's in line with the conventional wisdom on Johnson and Allen, but better than expected on Washington and Williams. Washington did just name a top three of UW, MSU, and Michigan that would seem to bode well for Michigan and Williams has repeatedly stated a top two of Michigan and Notre Dame.
Totally Unclear News
I mention this in the spirit of completeness, but the occasional tips that come my way have been very confused on five star defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale so take this even more lightly than usual. The OSU insiders are very confident on Barksdale. UF said at one point he'd be "shocked" if Barksdale did not go to OSU but is reportedly backing off that statement now that English is taking over Barksdale's recruitment. Overall, a mild grunt of disapproval but it sounds similar to the Boren recruitment of a year ago. Hopefully.
It's not like you were actually holding out hope that Alex Legion would recommit, but UF says "UCLA."
Colerain connection H&G says that Eugene Clifford is a "strong OSU lean."
Meanwhile in non-Buckeye land, AP and LA Daily News reporter Scott Wolf has a blog and isn't shy about unverifying some voracity of his own. He says that Marc Tyler is committing to USC. In a second post, he says it's happening today. In the words of one of his "Oaks Christian spies" and in compliance with unofficial all-uncomplimentary-ND-quotes-must-be-replicated MGoBlog policy:
``He's not going to Notre Dame. He said it's boring out there. He wants to be closer to his family. I'm 99 percent certain he will go to USC.''
Wolf also reports that Oaks Christian safety Marshall Jones is only seriously considering Oregon and USC; he then posts a follow-up that says it's USC. Email tipster Mike Kimball says that the Jones and Tyler assertions were published in the Daily News, so you probably want to take them more seriously than the rest of this stuff.
This post is guaranteed to be 75% true. Probably.
Update: Tyler did pick USC, so Wolf's 1/1.
Red Line Report continues its runup to the NHL draft with a column on the top defensemen from Kyle Woodlief. As you might expect from the earlier mock draft, Woodlief is extremely high on both sophomore-to-be Mark Mitera and incoming freshman Chris Summers, ranking them fifth and third respectively. Woodlief on Summers:
Summers is vastly underrated, but there's much to like about his game. Start with excellent footwork, strong hockey smarts, and good puck moving skills, and add in a nasty streak and a penchant for big hits. Summers plays the game hard and is a team-first guy at all times.
And on Mitera:
Mark Mitera is, like Summers, frequently overlooked since he's not flashy. But he is big and physical, and plays a sound defensive game. Mitera needs to make his decisions faster in puck movement, but he's an intelligent kid who works hard on his game and has made steady incremental progress.
Less happily, Blog That Yost Built brings news that '08 recruit AJ Jenks has signed with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. Insert standard complaining about the OHL being pure evil in ice hockey form here. Hopefully this counts as Michigan's NCAA-mandated painful offseason departure and we'll be allowed to hold onto Johnson, Hensick, and Hunwick. (Zach MacVoy does not count as painful.)
...but in a backhanded way.
Real soccer-mad nations have a set of distinguishing characteristics: a tendency to shut down whenever the national team even thinks about playing a friendly versus Malta, hordes of singing, face-painted-like-the-flag partisans, and hysterical overreaction to all things at all times. If this was an actual soccer-mad nation, something like Tuesday's 0-3 bitchslap at the hands of the Czechs would be met with headline sizes usually reserved for the outbreak of a World War. ESPN.com would put up a poll discussing the proper punishment for Bruce Arena:
A. Placed in stocks and spanked on ABC by Marv Albert
B. Fired, re-hired, fired again, re-hired again, and then shot.
C. Testicles make fantastic voyage through wood-chipper
D. Put in a room with Dick Vitale, Marcelo Balboa, Stephen A. Smith, and Bill Walton
E. Forced to watch a tape of the game
E would win, as the horror of it would far outstrip even option D.
So it's a mixed blessing that the USA is in no way, shape, or form soccer-ma-- what's this? Do I hear a storm, even a small one, of petulant bitching? Indeed, I do. there are two main themes: "Reality Czech" and "We Waited Four Years For This?"
The latter camp seems to think that soccer evaporates for four years and re-emerges for the World Cup, ignoring the whole qualifying process. That in and of itself is progress of a sort since the USA has gone from scraping a Miracle-on-Grass team of college kids and naturalized foreigners together to the number one team in CONCACAF and a guaranteed entry in World Cups from here to eternity.
Pats on the back for everyone, then, but the guy who guided the team through the last eight years of competency probably needs a result against Italy to prevent a "Fire Bruce" campaign. In almost any other country in the world he'd be a guaranteed goner mere weeks after his fawning coverage in the NYT and everywhere else. This too is progress of a sort, but not the sort that gets you to the second round.
A note on soccer fandom. Perhaps I should have made this clear earlier: I am perhaps the very definition of the undiscerning sports fan. I gave up the ghost a few years ago when I sat at least moderately enraptured by a bunch of dudes riding bikes. I am now resigned to the fact that I'll watch nearly anything that can be vaguely defined as athletic competition as long as there's a chance there might be some nut with a flag and painted face screaming incomprehensibly.
It's actually worse than that, since the aforementioned is not a necessary component. Nor is... well... anything. I am notably silent on the offensive notion of nonstop poker on ESPN because I like televised poker. (There but for the grace of God go you.)
So be gentle with your barbed comments, as I am clearly handicapped.
A second note on the goddamned Mexicans. This is not like a collegiate bowl game featuring some also-ran from your conference. Mexico, despite being the USA's bitch for the past eight years, is seeded by FIFA and their stupid, stupid minds. Thus, instead of Ghana, Italy, and the Czechs they get candy fluffy soft group: Portugal, Iran, Angola. Mexican WC victories only further the Mexican lead over the US. And that's not even getting into the whole "Osama Bin Laden" chants in their country which is smelly and poor or their attempted murder of Cobi Jones or their freakin' ponytails.
You hate Mexico. You root against Mexico. You call the INS on anyone you see rooting for Mexico even if you know damn well they're a citizen, because someone should be told. There will be no discussion.