The only reality football league where media types and Vegas sharps and a good share of the Cleveland Bar match football wits with the hoi polloi and in all in a judgment-free and supportive community is now off and running.
Week one’s all-play game is Georgia -2 at Clemson (Saturday 8pm, ABC).
The scoring is half points this week: the total points are four, your essay-pick is worth 1.5.
Submit your picks in the thread below.
Picks should be in an hour before kickoff. (more…)
Just had a few notes and they’re a little too big to tweet. Nothing happy, I’m afraid.
1. TRich still stops.
This was something we noticed from watching him at Alabama and last year too (mute before click). I’m moving past benefit of doubt, e.g., “he’s setting up his blockers.” T-Rich doesn’t attack holes. There is zero Marshawn Lynch in his game. No beast mode.
In this clip you’ll see him hesitate before a d-back attempts to tackle him. HE HIMSELF STOPS HIS MOMENTUM. This makes it 1000x easier for a smaller man to bring him down.
When you’re Trent’s size, your size/inertia/momenta/strength are why you were drafted third overall; not your elusiveness. Is there no coach in Berea to speak with him about this?
2. Attacking aggressive 3-4 defense not scary to good QB.
We’ve covered how good QBs exploit the cheats inheriting in a blitz-based defense.
What separates … elite quarterbacks from the pack?… It’s their reads, both defenses and progressions. They’ll recognize a blitz and punish it. You give them time to go through their progression, they’ll find the open guy. The thinking of ‘we can disguise where the rush is coming from with a 3-4′ is questionable. Most teams play a 3-4; all QBs have seen it, good QBs can read it.
While Luck felt some heat from the Browns’ pressure, I wouldn’t say it stopped Luck from getting the ball where he wanted it. (Eleven targets to Reggie Wayne in first half.)
3. Defense doesnt get to pick CB matchups: TY Hilton drew Joe Haden while Buster Skine got Reggie Wayne.
I’ve seen a lot comments about how Haden is CB1 and so CB2 doesn’t matter that much. Or how Skrine can just cover slot guys. The fallacy here is that OCs are just going to go along with that. Here’s the deal: OCs watch hours of film looking exactly for an ah-ha moment and then go to town. The Browns’ corps of 5-9 CB2s is a major ah-hah moment for opposing OCs. (Eleven targets to Reggie Wayne in first half.)
4. Alec Ogletree having great game for Rams in Denver.
Every time I look up he’s breaking up a pass or returning a fumble for a TD. His first half line (against the Broncos/Manning mind you): 6 Tackles, 4 Solos, 2 TFL, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 INT, and 1 TD.
As the prime of the wagering season approaches we all are embarked on finding an edge or if not, we should be. It is a search for value in trends. What datum is unseen and ripe for exploit? Or in my case… what nuggets of fool’s gold will Google search drop in front of me.
Coaches who do well against the spread. (Point spread, not spread offense.)
Coaches and coaching styles have so much to with outcome that I can’t stop mining this hole for clues on how to make it pay. Coaches aren’t supposed to care about spreads and there really aren’t many coaches who will tack on that last TD to cover your -24 wager on them because sportsmanship and peer review and generally don’t want to be a douche.
But yet there are some coaches who consistently beat their spreads.
We looked at ATS records as part of our coaching move evals last week. I got curious and wanted to see whether ATS records year-over-year are any kind of indicators for future performance. (Answer is kinda no.)
But then I wanted to see if anyone had beat the odds with three consecutive ATS above .500 records. The answer is there are two or two and and a half depending on whether Hugh Freeze counts.
Bill Snyder/K-State. The Wizard. You know he signed a new five year contract with K-State earlier this year? $15,000,000 in Manhattan, KS gets you quite a crib I’d imagine. (Actually, not really.) But who can say he isn’t worth it. In addition giving his name and his family’s name to the stadium (where the Wildcats have been .807 since 1990) he’s a coach who gets the most out of the talent on his teams. To the extent that it is measurable, Snyder is tops. Certainly he is tops among coaches born in the third age of middle earth before the dominion of Men. FootballStudyHall did a spiffy study matrixing the recruiting grades of incoming classes (apparent talent) against an objective measure of team quality (FO’s F/+ rating.). Snyder come out tops and his record against the spread reflects this: 23-9-1/.712 pct ATS last three years.
Mike Gundy/Ok-State. The other superlative coach is still better known as a minor internet meme. Mike Gundy is 23-10 ATS last three years. But back in 2007 a reporter was critical of one of his players and Gundy went after the reporter in person and with vigor as as eloquently captured by Spencer Hall:
In car crashes and other moments of extreme significance to survival, time becomes very plastic, slowing down to a geological crawl, like when your wife is attempting to pick out the proper desk lamp at IKEA or during any baseball game. We can only assume that the hummingbird of time slowed to a millipede’s creep during the rant, since we think the focus of Gundy’s overcaffeineated stare is [the reporter] herself, sitting in the room and taking her thrashing in person.
That was a long time ago and if anything probably helped bring his team together. In other words, not really a big deal. But as long as Gundy is perceived more as “hair-gel aficionado” than really good coach, then _I_ perceive his underrated stature as a value play worth picking up on.
But while those two are at the top there are other coaches where it’s usually profitable to ride along side. In looking at ATS record for the last three years, here are bullets that I’m keeping in the mag.
- Hugh Freeze/Ole Miss is 24-10 ATS in the last three years but it’s split between schools I just can’t put him with Snyder and Gundy. At least not in this piece; in my mind he’s already there.
- Stanford has been way over .500 ATS last three years (22-9-2 /.667), but Jim Harbaugh was still coach in 2010. David Shaw/Stanford looks great (15-6-1) but it’s only two years. We’ve seen many coaches unable to beat Vegas three years in a row.
- Same for James Franklin/Vandy. He took a 2-10 team over in 2010 and has gone 15-7 ATS since, but still.. no three consecutive years on the record. Doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned your notice.
- Art Briles/Baylor is over .500. Not as dominating as I’d have expected but always on our list of coaches we like.
Staying on the theme of looking for edges off the trail, let’s take a stroll around some other, less well-covered, conferences and see what we see. Yes, imo, Pac-12 is a less-well-covered conference.
Sun Belt Players I like
Kolton Browning/ULM. A four year starter at QB who won at Arkansas last year, took Auburn into OT, stayed within a TD of Baylor is just someone I like. A likely replacement for my Ryan Aplin affections. (more…)
Welcome to Cheddar Bay Reality Football, 2013.
Entering its fifth year, Cheddar Bay is now well-established as the pre-eminent football game on the internet. For this year Frowns has handed the operations to me and my goal is to maintain the excellence and fun from the past years.
The Cheddar Bay Concept: a study in elegance.
The game was devised by Frowns in 2009 with the idea that since so many people wager on football in some form or otherwise pay so much attention to the game anyway, why not pool their thoughts regarding the best football bet every week and why. Then that community could all profit from tribal knowledge and at that same time have friendly competition among respected peers. The corollary benefit is its superiority to fantasy football: you’re never in the insane position of rooting for a Roethlisberger TD against the Browns because he’s your fantasy QB. Instead you’ll wind up finding and adopting a new pet inevitably culminating in your joining me in touting Willie Taggart for any future Browns head coaching vacancy.
Frowns captures the essence perfectly:
Reality football in its most basic form is what some folks would call a pool or a pick-em league. When done correctly, reality football is all the fun of fantasy football plus much more, with none of fantasy’s meaningless restrictions and useless distractions. Reality football means never having to worry about where a team’s playbook happened to end up at the end of a scoring drive, or whose number was called for a score. In reality football, any player can be yours, or not, every week. Injuries can’t wreck reality football seasons, nor can the vagaries of a randomly determined draft order. And reality football means only watching the games you want to watch.
Reality football is a chess match every week. Fantasy football is spinning a roulette wheel once at the beginning of the season, with a few even more meaningless roulette spins as the season wears on, depending on how crappy your first spin went (“Do I start Roy Helu or Deion Branch at flex this week?” /chews own face off). One is no more “wagering” than the other, yet the NFL itself relentlessly promotes fantasy — which requires exponentially less skill and analytical ability than the alternative — because the NFL wants you to be stupid so it can control you.
And of course, there’s also the fact that no one should wager a dime on a football game if he can’t come up with at least 100 words to explain why.
CHEDDAR BAY 2013 RULES AND REGISTRATION
I can’t remember more a year with more coaching changes in college football. Several are Cheddar* favorites from last year.
History shows that Cheddar favorites often make an immediate difference at their new teams. It pays to be up on who has moved where. Hello-old-friend-from-Arky-St-and-now-at-Ole-Miss Hugh Freeze. You-were-quite-awesome-at-Houston-I-bet-you’ll-do-well-at-TAMU Kevin Sumlin. Oh you too Urbz.
Of course they’re not all homeruns. >>>
Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss was 10-3 ATS last year and the Rebels figure to be harder to get value with in Vegas this year; although I intend to try. Meanwhile Chow and Weis were both 4-8 ATS and that seems high.
Anyway, as part of my Cheddar pre-season prep, I like to take a look at this year’s coaching changes, identify the Warlocks and the Shurmurs, and make sure I know who is coaching where. This year there look to be quite a few warlocks and potential warlocks in new places.
The biggest coaching trade-ups.
1. Wisconsin. Gary Andersen from Utah State.
This here is the best coaching hire of the year and Wisconsin figures to take a big step up. You made money if you rode USU last year, 11-1-1 ATS. If you watched their games you came away impressed at how hard USU worked and their sense of team. Andersen’s teams had been doing that for years.
2. Purdue. Darrell Hazell from Kent State.
I learned a hard lesson in coaching evaluations last year when I took UBuffalo -3.5 over Kent and cited Jeff Quinn’s experience as OC for Brian Kelly as a reason. Whoo boy was that stupid on its own. When you layer on that Darrell Hazell has six years as a Jim Tressel assistant plus a couple stints at Oberlin and it all adds up to the worst essay pick of the year in a season full of bad essay picks. (Minus three.. and a half??? Cripes.) Kent wound up 11-3 ATS. I didn’t hate Danny Hope at Purdue but I didn’t love him and I can’t imagine I’d choose to play for him if I had options. Hazell on the other hand… he could be a star. Definitely keep an eye on Purdue’s early games before jumping on-board.
Honorable mention, Colorado. Mike MacIntyre from San Jose.
All I know is SJSU made me money the last two years. He took over a 2-10 team and last year they’re 11-2 ATS. I’m not sure the Buffs will see a big improvement this year though. Just too much stank on that program to wash it off in one year. But next year I’d expect Colorado to be where Arizona State is this year: on the rise.
Which segues neatly to….
Addition by subtraction: The Todd Graham Trophy
As well as Sumlin and Freeze turned out for TAMU and Ole Miss, they weren’t replacing zombies. Contrast that to Todd Graham who inherited a Dennis Erickson team that had quit the year before and now has Arizona State (8-4-1 ATS) playing sparkly ball. Here’s this year’s list of train wrecks being cleared. These teams figure to show the most improvement year-over-year. (more…)
If you didn’t care to plow through the back and forth in the comments of the last post, here is a summary and the essence of the exchange between Frowns and me yesterday.
I’d have to buy an upgraded GoAnimate account for our convo to be greater than 180 characters a slice and to have different characters. But I think it works as is.
In one of my first posts here, I shared that I’m not a Bernie fan.
… Love my Browns fans but Kosar is your Herpes flare-up. Your bad sweater. Your eighth Jim Beam. Really sometimes makes it hard to co-exist.
But one thing I have said and will always say about Bernie: he was as good at reading defenses and playcalling as any QB ever. He truly knows the game. He probably offers more from an offensive perspective than any commentator I’ve ever heard. His pre-occupation with telling us the defense’s scheme after each play is probably a turn-off for some. I love it. The fact that he’s not doing network play-by-play or coaching has everything to do with non-football idiosyncrasies; nothing to do with the fact of his football knowledge.
In other words, his form is too unpleasant for our PC world to overcome the fact of his substance. Sportscasting requires cold truths be couched diplomatically or better yet not said out loud but alluded to. And certainly without a Yompton accent. What I’m saying is: when was the last time a national announcer spoke truthfully in a critical way? Or more simply, an announcer who says pretty much what you’re thinking?
Sadly and ironically, Peter King has decided to pick this as his rare moment to speak critically — although with seemingly no review of Bernie’s actual broadcast — and has decided the Browns/WKYC must fire* Bernie.
It is sad and absurd and a fact of the world we’re living in.
Setting it up.
Bernie called the Thursday night Browns/Rams game and since the Browns were at home, their announcers were shown nationally via NFL.com’s Pre-season Live package. So if you’re a Rams fan not watching on St. Louis local team, you were hearing Jim Donovan and Bernie Kosar call the game.
In the course of the fourth quarter Bernie took shots at the Rams’ third string QB, Kellen Clemens and their receiving corps.
Jeff Fisher reacted strongly to the criticism of his players by a Cleveland personality broadcasting on a Cleveland local station. That’s fine, coach has players’ backs. Fine.
[It has now been reported by Tony Grossi that Fisher asked reporters to ask him about Kosar. In other words, this was a set-up by Fisher. (Go to 2:50 mark here.) This allows his WRs to hear criticism and simultaneously establishes Fisher as a coach who has his players’ back. Bernie is collateral damage here. And that’s leaving out Fisher’s needless comment about Bernie’s past ‘issues.’]
But now Peter King has decided to pile on and wants Bernie fired. See tweets, right.
You are a horse’s ass, Peter King.
Today we’re going to review Bernie’s work on its substance. Let’s see if by criticizing Bernie’s “judgement,” King is actually uncomfortable with Bernie’s lack of obfuscation. Oh sorry, see what I just did there almost by reflex? I prettied up a statement when I meant to say simply: King can’t handle truth if it’s not wrapped in package without soft edges lest someone poke an eye out.
For the rest of us, it’s refreshing to have a commenter who is not a slave to maintenance of future access for either new sports websites (King) or film-room one-on-ones (Gruden).
Not needing to kiss everyone’s ass leads to interesting commentary.
What Bernie said… about Sam Bradford.
Missed in the kerfuffle is Kosar’s honest praise of Sam Bradford. Sam Bradford looks good, Bernie says he looks good. Sam Bradford’s line looks bad, Bernie says his line looks bad. Sam Bradford’s receivers drop passes, Bernie says his receivers aren’t good. This isn’t hard. Here’s a transcript of the second quarter where Bernie talks Bradford.
2Q/14:14 Bradford dropped pass by Pettis.
Just rushing three, horrible job by the offensive line, and beautiful throw by Sam Bradford under pressure. He’s at the crossroads of career and needs to take the next step to get where his athleticism says he should be.
2Q/14:09 Bradford dropped pass by Austin.
Again nice job by Bradford standing in against pressure. It wasn’t overthrown, Austin has to make that catch in the NFL. I can see why Sam’s been struggling watching how bad these receivers are. Those are two outstanding throws those last two.
I.e., the Rams are punting due to two dropped passes on perfect throws under pressure. Peter King translation: “Were you drinking?” Frankly, I hope Bernie sues King. The intent to injure is there as is the record. If King hasn’t libeled Kosar, the word has no meaning.
2Q/12:51 Bradford long completion to Givens.
There’s gonna be a lot of grumpy defensive coaches here. That’s just base cover 3. There should be a weak safety in the middle of the field there. Beautiful throw by Sam Bradford, that’s awesome.
2Q/10:59 Bradford TD pass to Givens.
Sam had the guy open in the flat for the easy touchdown. He purposely throws this high to get it over the linebackers. This is perfect accuracy. I love watching him throw the ball. That was a fantastic series.
If Bernie’s a punch-drunk fool when talking about Kellen Clemens, then his statements about Bradford must also be dismissed, no? Yes? PK? Starwood-Frequent-Traveller? Comment?
The Clemens stuff. (more…)
It’s always unwise to read too much into pre-season football. I fell into that trap three years ago when Jake Delhomme* executed a uniquely remarkable crispness in running the Browns’ offense against Green Bay. Sure it was one drive. BUT HEY. It had the look of a bona-fide pro offense. Optimism ensued.
Welp. Mangini wound up fired at the end of the season; Packers won the Super Bowl.
So much for early pre-season games.
That being said…
Jeff Fisher is building an interesting team in St. Louis. Interesting meaning, “good, maybe really good.” They will be a good checkpoint on the progress thus far, especially on the offensive side.
As I wrote this post, I became struck at how they’ve improved five starting positions in the off-season.
(Thus I find the piece doesn’t know if it’s a game preview or off-season review or juxtaposition of the Rams’ aggressive, attacking offseason against the Browns’ Dick Jauron defense off-season; I feel I should warn you of it’s rambling tendency going in.)
They’re definitely top five on my list of non-Browns teams I like.
More front four luv.
Well the Rams have built an impressive front four too. They were tops in sacks. Both ends were over ten sacks (Long, 11.5; Quinn, 10.5). They’ve invested in their front with Brockers, Quinn, Long all firsties. If Brockers shows the same improvement from rookie to sophomore as Quinn did, this could be as good a front four as any in the league.
But sacks are a deceptive stat because the DBs need to be covering to give the time to the rushers. On the corners the Rams have a big-money guy on one side with Cortland Finnegan. But unlike the Browns, they’ve got their CB2 with the best rookie from last year’s draft, Janoris Jenkins. I had a chance to watch some Rams last year, Jenkins jumps off your screen. Check him out tonite, he’s a revelation.
Rams rookies to watch: Austin, Ogletree, McDonald. Also Barrett Jones and Ray Ray Armstrong.
The Rams show three starters on their depth chart from this years draft. Far be it for me to point out here that the Browns have zero rookie starters in spite of their commitment to building through the draft. The point is: productive draft.
I’ve covered Austin in some detail. Let me be clear on Tavon Austin: I’m not saying and never said he doesn’t have a chance to be good. I said and say that I wouldn’t use a top 10 pick on him. All water under the bridge now, I’m looking forward to seeing him play.
Ogletree has been talked up in training camp. It will be interesting to see just how good he is now.
Guest post today from an Oregon Duck fan we met on through our friends at FishDuck, Don Gilman. He approaches the NCAA question from a different angle: rather than debate the future of mega-conferences and the corrupting influences of TV and sponsor money, he just looks at the problems of how sanctions are administered, whether the right people are punished, whether the current system serves as a deterrent. With respect to Johnny Manziel: we (seem to) have a
highcelebrity profile college athlete who wants not for money and who is cognizant of the current rules and who knows the damage he can cause to his school, friends, teammates. And he pissed on all of them. The righteousness of the rules themselves is a separate issue. Manziel (seems to have) willfully broke(n) NCAA rules, rules all other athletes must abide by, and on a large scale. The point Gilman makes here is that the probable recipients of his punishment will be his current teammates and isn't that unfair?
Sanctions. You either love them or hate them. We love them when the teams we hate get leveled by them, and hate them when teams we love get the same treatment. Ironic, isn’t it? But there is something inherently unfair about the way sanctions are carried out, no matter what team we are rooting for.
I began thinking of this a few years ago when USC was still in the midst of a bowl ban, and thought of it some more last year while watching Matt Barkley and the Trojans in their downward spiral. Now, a lot of why they were losing had to do with poor coaching and a seemingly lackluster attitude about playing a full four quarters, but there was also no doubt in my mind: the lack of scholarship players was also taking its toll, especially in the latter portion of the year when injuries and fatigue were wearing players down.
Last year while watching Barkley play (yes, I am admitting I felt badly for a Trojan), I was struck by the unfairness of the punishments the NCAA seems fond of dishing out. Just like Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas, Barkley was and is a class-act, a good guy, an honest guy, someone who really didn’t deserve to be punished by the bad behavior of someone else. But it was Barkley — and not Reggie Bush or Pete Carroll — who was paying the price for their mistakes. Just like Mariota and Thomas, not to mention all the other Ducks players, would have paid the price for the mistakes of Chip Kelly and Willie Lyles had Oregon gotten whacked harder.
Think Chip Kelly is going to lose sleep over the now minor sanctions leveled against U of O? Think again. I can’t imagine the ol’ Chipper is going to do more than shrug his shoulders and move on with his life. While Lyles’ reputation has certainly been torn apart, there is nothing of direct consequence that is going to happen to him, and he certainly won’t be losing any sleep either. So, just like USC and Matt Barkley, the brunt of the punishments will fall on honorable young men who have done nothing to deserve it.
How/whom to punish? (more…)
What in the fey-ook is going on in Cincy? They are killing me by staying on my radar in ways that have me saying, “Damn, wish that were my team.” You know it’s beyond the beyond when I’m tapping Pacman Jones for cutest father-daughter picture (from of a field of 18). Every day there’s a new story with the Bengals doing something smart.
We’ve covered the Bengals running at 4-3 and also how they’re building a great front four and a particularly tall and pass deflecting/altering one. I’m on record as being a Mike Zimmer fan; Jay Gruden knows his business. But the hits keep coming and it’s time to catalogue everything the Bengals are doing right.
Drafted Margus Hunt.
Look at the measurables (6′ 8″, 4.60 40, 38 bench reps) and Margus Hunt just oozes 5-tech DE in a 3-4. Bengals already have Dunlap (6′ 6″) and Johnson (6′ 7″) at DE. Bengals didn’t have a need there really (although M. Johnson’s franchise tag might signal his departure next year), they simply decided to take the single most unique athlete in the draft. Now then, thus far in camp the Bengals have not been using Hunt with the #1s and indications are that the learning curve will be steep. But as we knew or are learning, that’s true for all rookie DEs, even top 10 picks.
Going big in the secondary.
George Iloka (6′ 4″) is now showing as a starter on the Bengal’s depth chart. No need to bang the tall d-backfield gong here again, you all know where I am on that. Though he played FS at Boise, Iloka is playing strong safety for the Bengals. They signed Taylor Mays last year; drafted Dre Kirkpatrick last year; plus Iloka… these are big d-backs. If the Bengals wanted, they could roll out the second longest d-backfield in the league: Kirkpatrick (6′ 2″), Mays (6′ 3″), Iloka (6′ 4″), Leon Hall (5′ 11″).
Looks like a Bengals fifth round pick is starting along with Bengals fourth rounders Peko and Atkins and Boling. That’s how you build through the draft. Or not.
Forgotten Orson Charles, now starting FB.
I was pretty big on Orson Charles when he came out of UGA last year. I expected he’d challenge the incumbent Jermaine Gresham (first rd, 22nd overall, 2010) and he did have four starts last year. Not bad for a fourth round rookie. But for this camp, the Bengals went ahead and drafted the top-rated TE in the draft. Like the Hunt pick, it wasn’t a need selection; it was a ‘how can we not accept the riches bestowed upon us by the draft gods’ pick. So where does that leave Charles? Starting at fullback and reportedly looking great.
Looks like another fourth round pick starting for the Bengals along with Peko and Atkins and Boling and fifth rounder Iloka. That’s how you build through the draft.
You can talk about being aggressive or you can actually be aggressive. You can practice the mindset. Marvin Lewis has chosen option “B” by running the Oklahoma drill.
While flag-football enthusiasts decry the “dangerous and archaic” drill, there are still some coaches who have had success with it and still run it or modified versions of it.
Not shown, Browns on stationary bikes.
Injury risks? Cripes. Hey. Pollyanna. Injuries happen. So while the Browns spew buzzwords of attacking aggressive play while dressing their players in bubble-wrap; the Bengals (and Buckeyes) are actually doing it in practice. My money is with Urban (and Lewis) on this: you are what you practice.
Three deep at TE. (more…)