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Arcane CFB preview.

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You pretty much don’t want to bet against these two.

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.

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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.

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Spencer Hall hilarity aside… Mike Gundy does really good work in Stillwater.

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.

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    The Franklin vs. Freeze opener in a week is must-see.

If you want to pick through the ATS data to see how your coach or team has fared:  here is 2012; here is 2011; here is 2010.

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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.

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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…)

The year of the college coaching change.

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Who will be this year’s Hugh Freeze?

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.

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Chow and Weis haven’t been terrific for Hawaii and Kansas.

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Of course they’re not all homeruns. >>>

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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.

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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.

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If Andersen brings USU’s guts to Wiscy, look out.

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.

3.  South Florida.  Willie Taggart from WKU.
Taggart’s just my favorite moving-on-up college coach and I’ve beat that drum enough on comment boards that even I’m tired of the subject.

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….

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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…)

On the inherent unfairness of sanctions.

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Who paid for the sins of Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll?  Fourth rounder, Matt Barkley.

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 high celebrity 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?

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Don’t expect Chip Kelly to lose sleep over Oregon sanctions.

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.

Will Lyles, recipient of $25,000 in ‘scouting fees’ from the U of O with LaMichael James in 2009.

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.

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How/whom to punish? (more…)

Redemption for Quentin Groves.

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Down goes JaMarcus.

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Quentin Groves had a nice day at camp yesterday.  He’s shaping up as a fascinating story to me.  He got on my radar with a YouTube clip I found when I was doing the college bands post.

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[No really.  Click that YouTube link.  I’ll wait.]

Groves was quite the star for Auburn.  The Jags traded up to take him in the second round.  Now he’s on his fourth team in five years and this might be his last shot.  We’re all about learning from mistakes and love redemption stories here at Kanick.  So we’re pulling hard for Groves because the guy was on top of the world just a couple years ago.  We want to him to get back there.

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Chronology of fail. disappointment. non-meeting of expectations.

Groves came into Jacksonville with Derrick Harvey and the idea was instant pass-rush.  Didn’t work out.  Harvey* held out and is now out of the league.  Groves was shipped to the Raiders for a fifth rounder two years later and here’s the report from the time:

… Groves failed to get a sack last year while starting seven games.  He had two in his rookie season.  Groves played in every game his first two seasons and played significantly on special teams.  He might have had trouble making the final roster this season.

Groves was a kind of tweener in Jacksonville; he struggled at both defensive end and linebacker as he couldn’t duplicate the pass-rushing ability he showed at Auburn, where he tied for the school’s sacks record with 26.  At 6 feet 3 and 264 pounds, he couldn’t overpower offensive tackles.  When he tried to speed rush, he typically was blocked past the quarterback.

And also this from Oakland getting their fans up to speed on the Raiders’ new tweener:

In two years with the Jags, Groves had just 2.5 sacks.  The Jaguars were expecting Groves to be a pass rushing presence, but in 2009, in seven starts, he provided little and the team ultimately ended at the bottom of the league with a total of 14 sacks.

The faint praise preceding him carried through into Raiders camp with at least one writer predicting he’d be cut from the Raiders before the 2010 season: (more…)

Top 5 marching bands.

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Spoiler alert: TBDBITL fares well.

I think the marching band component to college football is very special and vastly underrated.  So I was glad to get busy with this; it’s a project I’ve wanted to take on for some time.

I set out to do a “Best Fight Songs” list and we’re going to do that.  But I found that best fight song is less interesting than the broader ‘best band’ question.

For instance, I think UGA’s Glory, Glory and Tennessee’s Rocky Top are tip top fight songs.  But do they have ‘background music’ pieces that add to the atmosphere?  They may and I admit I’m not completely up to speed on all schools’ songs.  The converse is the school whose fight song is meh, but their background music works,, that’s Florida to me.  (I like the ‘Go Gators’ thing and at the same time could see how many wouldn’t.)  Texas A&M marches great but not sure the music measures up.

It presents an interesting subject to tackle.

Warning:  I’m not going to be objective about this.  I am going to wrap a veneer of a objectivity around it with a framework of metrics to evaluate the bands.  But I’m confident Ohio State will measure out #1.

But still there are a LOT of GREAT bands out there.  Here’s the loose set of characteristics I’m trying to take into account:

  • Precision marching;
  • Precision execution;
  • Terrific and beloved songs;
  • Stadium entrance;
  • Cadence.

They all contribute but don’t totally cover the main evaluation criterion:  what’s the band’s contribution to a memorable stadium experience?  That’s a soft opinion call and I’ve got no problem making it.

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Honorable mentions.

UPDATE:  UMass Minuteman Marching Band is a force I didn’t know about.  Hustle Belt ranks them tops in the MAC:

They are one of only four marching bands from outside the major athletic conferences to win the John Philip Sousa Foundation’s prestigious Sudler Trophy, which has been described as “the Heisman Trophy of the collegiate band world.” If you care even the slightest about marching bands, you owe it to yourself to seize any chance you get to see this band perform.

Here they are in the Big House.

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I took a hard look at several contenders.

Texas Longhorn Band.  “The Showband of the South.”

4027dc_8266b12a9c38317d92e7965d8f8c5d53First off, I’m not docking marching bands for cheesy uniforms.  Texas’ cowboy hats plus fringy buckskin… hey it’s a signature brand.  Not my style but I will guess that UT alums love it.  And that’s the idea:  they’re not performing for some Ohio guy in New Hampshire.  Their audience is the student body, alumni, and Longhorn fans.

Big drum + Bevo = memorable.  I don’t think you can look at a band like Texas without including other ‘non-band-specific’ elements that contribute to the production.  Bevo counts.


Texas Fight is a good song.  Who doesn’t love a trombone stealing the show.  It’s got tradition, it’s associated with some great teams, it’s instantly recognizable.  Big points.  Add in Eyes of Texas, a great alma mater, and that’s a powerful one-two punch.

In the end, I couldn’t get Texas into the top five because I’m not sure their marching is on par.  Like, good effort on the Script Texas, but I can’t really read it.  Hey.  Austin people.  Straighten me out if I’m way off base.

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Clearing the decks.

Two quick hits today:  John Clayton, bad GM; random pro-day draft prospect biases.

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Clayton proposes bad deal for Dolphins.

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You think?

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So let me get this straight:  Clayton is pimping a deal for the Dolphins to replace their anchor LT, Jake Long, with an under-achieving 28 year old on a one year 9.8mm contract that they’ll have to figure out a way to extend against their hopelessly back-loaded cap structure.  And on top of the huge contract that the Dolphins can’t afford, they should give up one of their second round picks?

#Jackass

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Talk about ‘all-in’ for 2013.

There is a better solution we’ll get to, but first:

What do you mean ‘back-loaded contract structure’ Kanick?

You heard that the Dolphins signed Mike Wallace for 60mm, right?  Ellerbe for 35mm?  But did you notice that both of those contracts are carrying only 1mm against their cap this year?  What happens to the rest of the contract?

It gets pushed out, of course.  Check out how the 2013 ‘all-in’ contract shenanigans will affect the Dolphins’ 2014 contract sitch to the left. –>

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Get the idea?  Re-signing/extending Branden Albert might be a bitch.  John Clayton.  Ass.

But Clayton is correct that the Dolphins’ two second round picks could become most useful.  As we reviewed in our piece last week, the Dolphins could also do this:

Browns’ #6 and #68 (3rd) for Dolphins’ #12, #42 (2nd), and #82 (3rd).

In so doing, they can be assured a top 10 LT (from the Joeckel/Fisher/Johnson crop) and sign him to a rookie contract.  In other words:  for the same draft pick and less money the Dolphins can get a comparable/better/younger LT by swapping picks with the Browns.

Meantime, we get the CB we want (Xavier Rhodes) and who knows what TE (Eifert??) might slip into the middle of the second round.

Let’s bang this drum.

John Clayton:  get your head out of your ass.

Will drafting this guy shut everyone up on the QB talk?

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Miscellaneous draft prospect chatter.

Walter Football is tracking the pro days here.  Some memory is being jogged looking through these.  Here’s some random takes on the names so far.  Will have a part two on this at the end of the month.

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Tyler Wilson.  I prefer to go to war with Weeden and whatever can be picked up cheaply.  (Unless it’s Mallett whom I support picking up with a 4th rounder.)  But if forced to choose between Tyler Bray and Tyler Wilson, I take Wilson.

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Got $8? Buy ‘Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.’

Spoiler: Harvard comes from behind to tie Yale.

Had some cycles today and teed up a favorite movie/documentary on this snowy day and I want to share it with you.

Coming straight to the point and not to oversell this:  Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is the best sports movie/documentary I’ve ever seen.

The Crimson’s classically ironic headline provided the title.

“Rafferty’s no-frills annotated replay is the best football movie I’ve ever seen: A particular day in history becomes a moment out of time.” — Village Voice.

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Where to begin?

Harvard-Yale is of course a fantastic rivalry in everything.  The football game, ‘The Game,’ is the pinnacle.  But since they’re never in the elite echelon, not much notice is paid nationally.  However in 1968, both teams were undefeated.  Yale, with Calvin Hill, was ranked 16th in the country and the clear favorite.  The better team.  Had never been behind in a game all year.

Harvard recovers fumble on their own 14, down 16, with 3:34 to go.  Inexplicable time-outs, bizarre penalties, haughty Yalies, unexpected stars emerge; heroic plays ensue.  Harvard scores 16 points in the final 42 seconds for the tie.*

This documentary consists of players’ reminiscences cut with actual game footage.  It is elegant in its simplicity.  The story of the game in itself is magnificent.  The narration by the participants is sublime.

Yale QB Brian Dowling (St. Ignatius!) had lost only one game since the sixth grade: the 63 City Championship to Benedictine. (His collarbone was broken and he didn’t play the second half of that game.)

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Interesting
Fascinating characters.

The game is one thing.  The old players, though, are what makes this film remarkable.

I was struck by the diversity of personalities.  You’ve got quirky, you’ve got the ‘good shits,’  You’ve got saintly (not meant in disparaging/sarcastic way.. one guy’s goodness of soul jumped through the screen to me).  And you’ve got a stereotype Ivy elitist, straight from central casting.

Frank Champi, Harvard backup QB.  “I love to throw the ball.  I love throwing things.  Baseballs, javelins, footballs.  To this day I’ll go out in a field and throw the ball.  I just love the aesthetics of throwing something and watching it fly.”

Pat Conway, Harvard cornerback.  A couple years before 68, he quit Harvard, joined the Marines, was at Khe Sanh, came back to Harvard, and brings unique perspective.

JP Goldsmith, Yale safety.  Just a thoughtful, intelligent, classy guy.  You can’t get enough of him.  “I got a lot more out of Yale football than it ever got out of me.”  He’s the saint referenced above.

Mike Bouscaren, Yale linebacker.  He’s the elitist stereotype.  Wonderfully unaware.  You’ll see. (more…)