Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Getting ... Closer

TechSideline has its game preview up. Their evaluation of the Wolfpack is fair, if not overly insightful. Here's the gist:
This one will be tight down to the end. It could very well be a battle of field goals between Brandon Pace and John Deraney. This battle should be won by Brandon Pace, who was 21-27 last season. Deraney was only 13-22.

The Hokies will hold a narrow lead late in the game. At that point, Tech will make a big play on either special teams or defense that will result in a late touchdown. After that, the Tech defense will not allow NC State past midfield to seal the game, and the Hokies will win by ten points in a game that was much closer than the final score.

Prediction: VT 23, NC State 13

Elsewhere, ESPN released its pre-season All-America team, which includes Mario Williams. Mario made CNNSI's team, too.

Two writers pick FSU as their flop in 2005.

News & Observer columnist Caulton Tudor offers up his pre-season top 25, and I highly recommend going through the necessary hassle ( in order to see this thing. First N&O writer JP Giglio voted Louisville #1 in his AP Poll ballot, and now we get this monstrosity from Tudor. Fresno State at #4, Auburn at #5, UTEP at #11, et cetera. Get a load of who's #1.

If the White Sox don't win the division, it's my fault.

Back on August 1st, I wrote:

...the Twins are done. Do you hear me, baseball gods? I am shaking my fist skyward and shouting in open defiance! The Twins are done!

I may have been drinking. Yeah, let's go with that.

Since that time, the gods have quite clearly decided to press the SMITE key. Repeatedly.

And *poof* goes the AL Central lead...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Seriously. The veer.

Here's a story about Darrell Blackman and his shiny head. Well. Not so much his shiny head.

Honestly, I can't figure out why these stories about NC State's running backs keep popping up, because as CFN has indicated, the RB corps isn't very good.

It features these four running backs, but apparently this sort of talent is common, as there are 48 schools in division 1-A that have better situations. Like San Diego State. BYU. Toledo. Illinois. The kinds of schools that are always out-recruiting everyone. They've got depth to burn. All 48 of them.

In other news...

I found this picture when I was looking for a Frank Beamer photo. I can't put my finger on it, but something about the picture is disturbing.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Game Week!

Here at last. I can see the light at end of the tunnel.

Charlotte Observer writer Ken Tysiac offers his conference predictions (Bug Me Not), which include standings, all-conference teams, and some individual superlatives.

He also pens the obligatory piece on the Virginia Tech special teams, although they weren't special in last year's NCSU/VT game:

N.C. State's special teams got the best of the Hokies. The Wolfpack scored on a 53-yard field goal by John Deraney and got into position for a touchdown when Virginia Tech punter Vinnie Burns lost a fumble at the Hokies' 5.

Virginia Tech's Brandon Pace missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt as time expired, and N.C. State won 17-16. The Hokies still made their mark with 107 yards on three Eddie Royal punt returns, but N.C. State's special teams edge was the difference in the game.

Frank Beamer, Head Instructor Guy:

Beamer is so well known for special teams that he authored the video on special teams for the Successful Coaching Instructional Series.

But does it have Fred McGriff's endorsement?

Also noteworthy and not really appreciated nationally: NC State's propensity for blocking kicks.

Virginia Tech's visit to N.C. State on Sunday features two of the nation's top kick-blocking teams. These are the Division I-A leaders in blocked kicks since 2000:

TeamBlocked Kicks
NC State35
Virginia Tech30
Air Force28
So. Mississippi 25
Kansas State 24
Louisville 21
Nebraska 20
Bowling Green18

First-Team All-ACC Quarterback: N/A?
The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Mike Harris wonders who is going to be the ACC's best quarterback.

Anyone have $50k lying around?
I have to make a belated mention of NC State's new press box, which was officially unveiled last week:

State's construction of 51 luxury suites and 1,004 club-level seats comes at a time professional sports markets such as Cleveland and Baltimore have become saturated with arena luxury suites that are starting to go unused at baseball, football and basketball games.

The pro trend has done little to curb the appetite for new construction by college football programs looking to tap into the luxury-box market. In the Big Ten, for example, Michigan hopes to add as many as 79 luxury suites, and Michigan State was scheduled to open 24 new suites this season as part of a $61 million renovation.

Oklahoma State and other college football programs already have sent delegations to Carter-Finley Stadium looking for tips and inspiration for their own expansion plans.

You might could say it's an improvement over the old press box. More photos here.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

BlogPoll Roundtable VI

Heismanpundit hosts the final Roundtable before the season begins. Here are my answers.

What criteria do you use to determine if a team and its players are good?

Specifically, I like to look at size and speed. Factors that make up a team's talent level. Are they undersized in a lot of places? How are they faring in the trenches? Is there breakaway speed at the skill positions? Are they capable of taking the other team completely out of its game?

Predictability is important in evaluating a coaching staff, and I don't necessarily connect how predictable a team is with its scheme. I pay extra attention to clock management during the late stages of each half, which I find to be poor in all too many instances. Are they calling timeouts too early? Saving a timeout for the offense when they shouldn't be? Great clock management is a sign of both good mid-week coaching and good in-game management.

I also like to look at when coaches decide to go for two. Is it too early?

If you could choose one coach to build an offensive system for your school, who would it be? Conversly, who would you choose to devise the defense? Why?

For the offensive side, I would take Ralph Friedgen. When he has the right talent under center--like when he was in Atlanta--his offenses are brilliant. He has done an excellent job at getting the most out of the hand he's been dealt at Maryland, and there aren't many guys in the profession who can make adjustments like he can. The extent of Friedgen's analytical approach to the game is very impressive to me.

For the defense, I'll cop out and go with Pete Carroll. Not a lot of DCs typically stick out to me, and it's hard to argue with what Carroll has done at Southern Cal.

Describe your typical college fotoball Saturday.

If there is an NC State home game, I'm usually up early--no later than 10 am (much earlier if it's--groan--a noon game). We make sure to get the stadium grounds so that we have a good 2-3 hours to tailgate and then head into the stadium about 45 minutes before kickoff. I like to get to my seat early and catch the tail end of warmups because it helps calm my pre-game nerves. After the game, I race home in hopes of getting caught up on the day's action and catching whatever's left of the day's televised games.

If there isn't a home game, I'm parked on the couch all day. I sleep through College Gameday (If I'm up at, say, 10:45, i'm checking my watch every five minutes. Is it noon yet? Is it noon yet? Better to just sleep through it.) and give myself just enough time to roll from the bed to the couch. Since Lee Corso likes to blab on Gameday until 12:03, I usually check to see what's being shown on ESPN2 first, and that is often followed by a disdainful remark along the lines of, "Aw, man, not Penn State-[insert team here]!"

Once the games start, I make a point of doing as little as possible. I'll grab a drink and some snacks, settle in, erase from memory the lame noon Big Ten game on ESPN2, and enjoy the day. The best part is sitting there as the first wave of games start, thinking about all the games that are still to come over the course of the day. Knowing that more than 12 consecutive hours of televised college football lie ahead.

Damn, I am ready for September.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Why didn't I think of this?

Matt Leinart has a light load this semester:
The fifth-year senior will have plenty of time to focus on football in his final season. Leinart is enrolled in one class: Ballroom dancing will fulfill the final elective for his sociology degree, The Los Angeles Times reported.

"I put in my work to get my degree," he told the paper. "I came back for my fifth year, and I'm taking what's necessary for me to graduate. And that's two units."

NCAA rules require student-athletes to enroll in 12 semester or quarter hours unless they are in their final semester or quarter and are taking the courses needed to graduate.

Ah, the added luxury of a fifth year. I actually graduated in four--like a sucker.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Looking at the depth chart

Today, NC State's athletic department released a depth chart for the season opener against Virginia Tech.

Of note:

-- Darrell Blackman listed as the first string tailback, beating out Bobby Washington and Reggie Davis (not to mention Toney Baker and Andre Brown) for the job. This is probably just formality, though--someone has to start the game--because the Wolfpack will go with the dreaded RBBC. And it's gonna be one big freakin' committee.

-- Tramain Hall listed in the slot receiver spot, but we'll see him in the backfield as well. Hall had 65 catches in 2003 (Rivers senior season) and just 28 receptions in 2004 (the Jay Davis Effect). Must get T-Hall the ball.

-- Some surprises on the OL. Leroy Harris and Derek Morris are very good, but beyond them, there isn't a lot of experience. Dwayne Herndon was a defensive tackle last season; Kalani Heppe and James Newby have been reserves up to this point in their careers.

-- Curtis Crouch is humonstrous! Six-five, 354 pounds. A true freshman! Sweet merciful crap.

-- John Deraney will be handling all kicking duties again. Deraney has a huge leg, but made just 13 of 22 field goals in 2004.

-- Depth at defensive end concerns me a bit. Love the depth at DT, however.

-- Stephen Tulloch finally gets to play full time at linebacker, and he is going to be everywhere this year. I love watching this guy.

-- Secondary: it's all good at safety/rover, not so much. While technically not starters last year, AJ Davis and Marcus Hudson played a lot. Hudson in particular has a lot of experience, and his size makes him perfect for the bump-and-run defense State likes. Garland Heath (rover) has somewhat limited experience as a backup. Miguel Scott (free safety), a true sophomore, played in every game last season, but only saw about 10-15 snaps. Scott's backup--JJ Jones--has been a career special teams player.

-- Based on this depth chart, NC State could return eight starters on defense in 2006. Of course, Mario Williams is as good as gone...and there's no telling what else may happen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The NC State defense and turnovers forced

Greensboro News-Record writer Jim Young wonders about NC State's defense:

The Wolfpack finished the 2004 season ranked No. 1 nationally in total yardage yielded -- just 221.4 yards a game -- yet was 105th in turnovers forced -- just 15 in 11 games.

Which statistic is the lie? Which is the truth? Was the State defense a unit that suffocated opposing offenses for 60 minutes each game? Or was it a group of players who never quite made the big play at just the right time?

There's one reason why I don't completely trust the team statistics that are widely used today: many include some inherent biases (some more than others). Total defense measures pure yards allowed, but if your offense can't move the ball and/or turns it over a lot (there's something familiar sounding about that...), your opponents may be starting a lot of drives with a short field. Except in extreme cases, however, I'd guess that field position probably evens out over the course of the year, which is why I prefer total defense to scoring defense

Scoring defense is biased by turnovers made by the offense. It's hard to blame your defense for a pick six thrown by your quarterback (yet these TDs are counted when scoring def is calculated), or an opponent's drive that begins inside your red zone thanks to an untimely cough up.

Are they generally good indicators for aptitude? Definitely. But they aren't as useful once you get away from the margins...

The article goes on:

The widely held belief is that interception numbers are higher for teams that play zone defense, where players patrolling a certain area have a much easier time chasing down errant throws than do defensive backs who are locked in man-to-man coverage.

So why play so much man-to-man press coverage?

"The flip side of that is you're going to get a lot more sacks," Davis said. "When you're on the line of scrimmage, pressing, you're going to slow everything up. That quarterback's timing is going to be off."

In other words, while Davis and his defensive backfield mates are fasting (only nine interceptions last season), the defensive linemen are feasting (33 sacks, including 10 against Virginia Tech). One stat suffers as another blossoms.

I'm not buying it. I've taken a look at NC State's defensive numbers under Chuck Amato (since 2000), and I don't see a lot of support for the notion that more sacks means fewer INTs. But I'll get back to that in a minute. First, see the table below, which lists turnovers forced (national rank in parenthesis), turnover margin (although this is contingent on offense as much as defense), total defense national rank, scoring defense national rank, interceptions caught, and sacks.

Wolfpack Defense, Amato Era
YearTOV Forced (Rank)TOV Margin (Rank)Total Def RankScoring Def RankINTs (Rank)Sacks
200024 (45)+0.36 (39)667810 (76)32
200123 (47)+0.91 (13)47257 (99)28
200231 (28)+0.50 (35)141016 (36)48
200321 (84) +0.15 (53)898111 (79)??
200415 (105)-1.55 (114)1259 (85)33

Turnovers, Total Defense and Scoring Defense
I don't see any relationship between aggregate turnovers forced and total defense. NC State forced one fewer turnover in 2001 than it did in 2000, yet the defense improved from 66th to 47th in total defense. The rankings of each defense in the turnovers forced category don't match up really well with their corresponding rankings in total defense.

Could you say, generally, that a team that's mediocre at forcing TOVs will be mediocre by total defense standards, that a team which forces an above average number of turnovers will be above average in terms of total defense, and so on? That would definitely require a look at the rest of D-IA...

I also threw scoring defense into the table, because I thought, hey, maybe Amato's defenses allow more points when they force fewer turnovers. If that is true, there isn't much of a relationship there, either. Granted, the Amato defense that forced the most turnovers had the highest ranked scoring defense as well; but you'd think that since the defense forced a similar number of turnovers in 2000 and 2001, scoring defense would also be similar between those two seasons. And then there's the matter of the 2005 defense, which matched the 2001 defense's scoring defense rank despite generating eight fewer takeaways (and ranking considerably lower nationally).

What about sacks and INTs?
As far as Chuck Amato's defenses go, there is no indication of an inverse relationship between sacks and interceptions. NC State had 28 sacks in 2001 and just 7 interceptions--both figures are lower than NC State's 2004 totals, which are used as an example in the article for how sacks aversely affect INT totals.

Furthermore, in 2002, NC State had 48 sacks and 16 interceptions. Although the Wolfpack played 14 games that season, both their Sack/Game and INT/Game ratios are still considerably higher than in 2004 (or any other year in the Amato era, for that matter). A whole lot of sacks, a whole lot of INTs.

Man vs. Zone
The other point from the article--that zone defense is more conducive to generating interceptions than man-to-man--may have some merit. Except for 2002, NC State has been in the bottom half of D-IA in passes intercepted. That could be personnel, but it could very well be scheme. I should add that I wish NC State would play more zone; not because of any perceived positive relationship with interceptions, but because I think playing a lot of man-to-man exposes you to big plays more often than is necessary.

Take the Miami game last season, for instance. The Hurricanes used their superior talent and speed to completely torch NC State's man-to-man for over 40+ points. Did the Wolfpack adjust its scheme when the game began to get out of hand? No. And Brock Berlin kept on heaving it over the top.

Last Words
I fully understand the limitations of looking at one team's statistics over a mere five year period. It isn't my intent to deduce anything about college football defenses in general, but rather to examine the personality and trends of NC State's defense under Chuck Amato.

So are the lack of takeaways in 2004 a concern for NCSU in 2005? Not really, no. NC State has managed to generate at least 20 turnovers in each of Chuck Amato's other seasons, and since there is no doubting that 2004's defense was by far Amato's most talented group, we can hardly cite ineptitude as a reason for the low number of takeaways.

Does a lack of turnovers forced indicate a bad defense? Just in doing a quick scan of turnovers forced by other teams in 2004, I don't think there is any correlation. Several schools with good defenses struggled to force turnovers: Purdue (15 forced), Georgia (17), Virginia (16), Maryland (16), Ohio State (19), Wisconsin (20). And there are plenty of poor defenses that collected a lot of turnovers: Wyoming (29), Rutgers (28), Arizona (27), Nevada (27), Louisiana Tech (27).

What I'm sayin' is... Don't sweat the turnovers. They will come (but even if they don't, that doesn't mean we're doomed to a bad defense).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

BlogPoll Released

BlogPoll -- Week One (also viewable in Ye Olde Sidebar ---> )

It's not just the poll, of course. Brian hands out the first round of awards and dubious distinctions, which I can already tell is going to make for some good times over the course of the season.

All submissions are viewable here. The pre-season BlogPoll is not without its "huh?" submissions, so maybe I shouldn't have been so hard on that N&O guy. But giving him a break wouldn't have been nearly as much fun.

I like how the poll came out, although in a few cases it varies a lot from my ballot. NC State garnered more respect from the BlogPoll than from either of those other polls, and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who voted for the Wolfpack.

Twelve voters (including me) gave NCSU a spot on their ballots, typically in the 23-25 range. Sporting Fools went so far as to rank NC State 17th; I'm hoping they look brilliant by late September or thereabouts.

I felt a little guilty throwing NC State in at #24, but then I saw The Enlightened Spartan's ballot, which shamelessly ranks Michigan State 17th, three spots above rival Michigan. He gets the Joe Giglio Award for feloniously ignoring reality.

Monday, August 22, 2005

What have you

Sometimes you just gotta bust out the whoopin' stick. Four times, if necessary.

The White Sox ended their seven game skid right as I was about to go from the "this sucks" to the "we're doomed" stage. But the Sox are about to start a ten game road trip, so check back next week.

The Indians are going to win again today. This isn't cute anymore, Cleveland.

Woody Paige* is one of the first blowhards to insinuate that the White Sox aren't going to win the AL Central, and frankly I'm surprised that this hasn't come up a little more over the last few days.

Look, It's Offense!
Over the weekend, NC State's first string offense looked good against the first string defense. Jay Davis finished the day 11-14 for 184 yards and a TD pass. Chuck Amato was prompted to refer to the defense as "Dairy Queen" because of the unit's soft (his term) performance.

Several of the running backs had a good scrimmage, which doesn't do much to clear the picture in the backfield. But that's definitely a good thing. Here's an article on NC State's glut at running back. Makes one feel good about State's chances to effectively replace that guy who carried the ball last year. You know, what's-his-name...

On a less trivial note, a jury sentenced Timothy Johnson--who killed two men at an NC State tailgate last season--to life in prison (he was eligible for the death penalty). A sad end to one part of this terrible saga, but the ordeal is not over--Timothy's brother could end up in court later this fall.

Putting Maple to Good Use
The NC State athletics department is in the process of installing a wood floor as part of renovations to Reynolds Coliseum. The wood will cover the entire surface area of the floor of the arena, not just the basketball court portion. The toll on the maple community was thusly high:

The new flooring - made from more than 2,000 Northern hard maple trees grown in upper Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada - was installed by Royalwood Associates, Inc., of Raleigh, which specializes in installing gymnasium floors for K-12 schools in the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia.

Fun with quotations:

The north side, for volleyball and wrestling matches. This portion of the gym will be surrounded on three sides by upper deck seating, creating a more intimate and louder environment for those sports. "The closeness of the fans should be advantageous for volleyball," said Wolfpack coach Mary Byrne.

Y'know what else would be advantageous for volleyball? Moving to the MEAC.

Defensive end Manny Lawson's 40+ inch vertical:


[* -- I flipped to ESPN News and Around the Horn was re-running. I wasn't watching the show on purpose. Really. My remote's batteries died.]

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Thank goodness for the BlogPoll

The pre-season AP Poll has been released, and while there isn't much in the way of surprises, there is one thing worth noting: Louisville received a first place vote.

The writer who voted Louisville number one? The News & Observer's Joe Giglio. We are offered the following as his logic for doing so:

Joe Giglio of the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., voted Louisville No. 1 after examining the schedules for all BCS conference teams. The Cardinals moved to the Big East this season.

"Louisville was the only one that I came up with as going undefeated," he said.

Not, "Brian Brohm is totally going to rock everyone's socks!" Not, "I think Louisville will have an improved defense to go with its ass-kicking offense." Not, "Have you seen Michael Bush in practice? Oh. My. God."

Instead, it's, "they're playing teams like 'Rutgers.' Ha ha, 'Rutgers.' What a hilarious name!" Okie dokie.

So because Louisville has essentially no big tests on its schedule, it should be ranked first. By virtue of something external to the actual Cardinals football team. For some reason, this is less than convincing.

I thought the polls were supposed to tell us who is better than who based on things like, you know, talent. I guess Joe is more interested in deciding which contender has the best chance for a big year based on strength of schedule.

Perhaps Bill Snyder has been on to something all these years.

Who's number two, Joe? Purdue? (Hey, did you hear? They don't play Michigan or Ohio State!)

The BlogPoll is foolishly attempting to inject some sense into this whole national poll thing:

Teams should be ranked without regard to future schedules. ... At all times it should be an approximate ranking who would beat who on a neutral field this year.

Comparing teams based on the merits of their respective rosters. It's going to be a long struggle for acceptance.


Edit 8-21-2005: Update! This post is originally from Saturday, but I'm going to change the time stamp in order to move it up.

In Sunday's N&O, Giglio's full ballot has been published:

Giglio's Top 25
1) Louisville14) Auburn
2) USC15) Oregon
3) Tennessee16) Boston College
4) Texas17) Georgia
5) Miami (FL)18) FSU
6) Iowa19) UCLA
7) Ohio State20) Oklahoma
8) Michigan21) Texas Tech
9) Texas A&M22) Pittsburgh
10) LSU23) Minnesota
11) Florida24) Alabama
12) Virginia Tech25) UTEP
13) Boise State

And here is what he said about it:
"After projecting the records for all of the teams in BCS conferences and selected others, I've come up with my preseason poll. It's based on what I think will happen this season. I'm not wedded to it. The teams will change, and likely by Sept. 5.

"Two quick thoughts: I don't think Louisville will lose a regular-season game. I do think Southern Cal will. Hence, my No. 1 vote."

-- Link

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Seven in a row

"When will the hurting stop?"


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Snap first, block later

The White Sox are off today, which means two things:

1) they can't lose
2) I'll be concentrating this post on football

Greensboro News-Record writer Jim Young has written a comforting piece on NC State's renewed OL depth:

With the addition of incoming freshmen as well as freshmen coming off their redshirt seasons, a junior college transfer, linemen coming back from injuries and even one player, Dwayne Herndon, switching over from the defensive side, offensive line coach Mike Barry now has a crowd assembled at position meetings.

"I look in the room and I think I'm in a stadium,'' he said. "I've got three deep there."
In fairness to Jay Davis, last season's offensive line situation didn't make life easy for him. Losing your center is bad enough (especially a stalwart like Jed Paulsen, who started for three years), but Paulsen's injury was only the beginning. Philip Rivers never had to deal with the mess that was NC State's offensive line in 2004.

In the Clemson game (one of several I'd love to have back), NC State had two lengthy touchdown passes negated on the same drive by illegal formation penalties because an offensive lineman was not properly lined up on the line of scrimmage. That lineman was one of the many replacements forced into action thanks to injury. At the time, I thought (okay, I still do) the penalties were cheap, but they illustrate the point. These things don't happen with experienced guys.

Three starters return for 2005: Derek Morris (a tOSU transfer) is a monstrous tackle who has been banged up a lot over the last few years, and he could be an All-ACC player if he manages a full season; Leroy Harris and John McKeon have over 40 career starts between them. That leaves a couple more spots to fill, and for now, anyway, there are plenty of bodies with which to fill them.

Night & Day
The offensive line situation still isn't ideal, but the impact of Chuck Amato's recruiting efforts are obvious. When he got here in 2000, we were severely lacking along both lines (there's a reason why Philip Rivers threw the ball 40 times a game as a freshman). Several years of poor recruiting had put too many undersized and unathletic guys in the trenches--Amato changed that, most notably on the defensive line. I watch tapes of games from 5-6 years ago and the contrast is striking.

It helps when guys like DeMario Pressley, Mario Williams, and Kyle Newell not only give you the time of day, but actually come play for you. Several years of good recruiting started peaking last year and should really pay off for the defensive line in 2005.

I wish I could say the same for the offensive line, but progress on that side has been decidedly slower. I'm in oh-my-god-two-weeks! optimism mode right now, though, and I think NC State will have a good, cohesive offensive line this season.

At the very least, NC State will be better suited to deal with injuries along the offensive front in 2005, should they have to fight the injury bug again.

A stronger offensive line will afford Jay Davis more time in the pocket and a better supporting run game--two things which hopefully show Jay that hey, this quarterback thing isn't so hard after all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Section Six Pre-Season Top 25

It's almost time for the first official BlogPoll to be released. And there are only a couple of weeks before the season starts. When I think for too long about the start of the season, I end up on the floor curled up in the fetal position hyperventilating into a paper bag. Can't we skip the rest of August? Is anyone going to miss it?

Anyway, here is my ballot for the pre-season BlogPoll. Comments welcome.

1) Southern Cal -- Naturally.
2) Texas -- Never gonna beat OU, but they are the second-best team in the country.
3) LSU -- QB issues be damned...I like this team.
4) Michigan -- The class of the Big Ten.
5) Tennessee -- Here for lack of a better choice...for some reason I'm thinking they could wind up big disappointments.

6) Florida -- Gators go from unlucky to lucky; Urban Meyer named Chancellor, Athletic Director, and Jesus, respectively.
7) Miami (FL) -- As far as I'm concerned, they're the favorites in the ACC.
8) Oklahoma -- Have as many holes to fill as FSU, but I can't put them any lower.
9) Ohio State -- Just don't make me watch.
10) Virginia Tech -- I'm a Vick skeptic for now.

11) Purdue -- I've been slowly coming around to the Boilermakers. This helped.
12) Louisville -- Will make themselves right at home in Big East country.
13) Iowa -- I think they're essentially on par with tOSU and Purdue.
14) Georgia -- So gonna beat Boise State. I mean, it's not even funny how they're gonna beat Boise State.
15) Texas A&M -- I will be seeing as much Reggie McNeal as possible.

16) Auburn -- I don't really know what to make of Auburn, but this feels about right.
17) Arizona State -- Plenty of potential, but they didn't show up against Cal or USC last year. They've got to prove they're contenders.
19) Florida State -- I have been down on the 'Noles all summer, which means they're likely to go undefeated. This is actually lower than I thought I'd put them.
20) Virginia -- Will make things interesting for Miami and VPI in the Coastal Division.

21) Cal -- I plead ignorance.
22) Boise State -- I'll admit it: I'm a hater.
23) Bowling Green -- Going to show Wisconsin what's what.
24) NC State -- Probably should run the veer.
25) Texas Tech -- I guess.

[Please bear with the incongruous looking BlogPoll dealie (generously provided by mgoblog) in the sidebar. I'll be tinkering with some CSS this weekend in the hopes of both redesigning this blog and making the poll fit in. So if I'm not here next week, you know what happened.]

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Help us, Ken Griffey, Jr., you're our only hope.

Brian Anderson gets the start in the outfield today, so he's replacing Timo Perez in the lineup, right?

Of course not! Anderson is starting in right field for Jermaine Dye and Timo gets another start in left.

It's Corpseball Month on the South Side...

Edit 11:39 PM EDT: White Sox manage lead going into 9th, then blow save. Timo currently holds player of the game status for scoring one run and knocking in two more.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Long time no see.

The Twins are coming to The Cell for the first time in a few months, and not only are they well behind the White Sox, they're not even in second place. I still have a hard time grasping this.

It's certainly not the first time in the last three years that this series has been relatively irrelevant to the division race, but for once it's a good thing for the Sox.

The best part about this 15 game cushion is I can actually relax--even with Jose Contreras pitching.

Earlier today, the White Sox made a couple of moves:
Prior to tonight's game vs. Minnesota, the Chicago White Sox placed outfielder Scott Podsednik on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Aug. 13) with a strained left adductor and purchased the contract of outfielder Brian Anderson from Class AAA Charlotte.

I'm excited to see Anderson play, but alas, Ozzie Guillen has seen fit to start Timo in left field. Worse, Timo is leading off. Double worse, Juan Uribe is batting second for some reason (apparently Aaron Rowand is better suited for the 7-hole than Uribe...). You're welcome, Minnesota.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

CNNSI: 2005 ACC Football Preview

Stewart Mandel offers his predicted ACC standings.

-- Mandel looks like he's thinking along lines similar to mine regarding the Atlantic Divsion (i.e., huge ass dogfight) since he predicts FSU to win the division with a 5-3 conference record. He expects NC State, BC, and Clemson each to go 4-4.

-- On Wake Forest:
At least they have one of the top punters in the country, Ryan Plackemeier.
When I played against the Deacs for the first time in NCAA Football 2006, I got a kick out of the fact that the punter was one of their three "impact players." I feel like they got the shaft on that one.

-- On NC State:
The Wolfpack managed to go 5-6 last year despite fielding the nation's top-ranked defense (221.3 yards per game). Any improvement at all from the quarterback position should be enough for Chuck Amato's team to return to a bowl game, though it remains to be seen whether Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and the rest of the defense will be quite so successful without coordinator Reggie Herring, who left for Arkansas.
A good quick summary, but don't get me started about Herring.

-- Mandel picks VPI to win the Coastal Division, although he does predict a couple of losses for the Hokies. Despite Miami's question marks, I still like them a little better than Virginia Tech. If Marcus Vick proves he can be a consistent passer, though, I'll change my tune.

-- Same old question posed to Al Groh's team: who gon' catch dat ball?

-- On North Carolina:
John Bunting got off the hot seat last season with a bowl berth and win over Miami, but he may find himself right back on it playing a non-conference slate that includes Utah, Louisville and Wisconsin, and doing it without four-year QB Darian Durant.
Hide the missus for that game in Louisville. Yikes. I think the Heels could actually beat Wisconsin; in fact, I hope th-- Whoa, I can't believe I started typing that.

-- Six wins for GT, which is perfectly realistic, because as many of us learned first hand last year, there is only so much that a defense can do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Six runs in three games against the Yankees. Two wins. Just another series.

After squeaking by the Yanks 2-1 on Tuesday, the Sox stole another one in extra innings today. In the 10th inning, Juan Uribe tripled off of Mariano Rivera (!!) and later scored on a Scotty Pods grounder to second base.

"Uribe can't hit a guy who throws junk," Guillen said. "And then he hits a triple against the toughest pitcher in baseball."
-- Recap

Even though the White Sox won the series, I feel a little discouraged. It's one thing if Mike Mussina (game one starter) shuts you down, but Shawn Chacon? Aaron Small? The Sox tend to do poorly against pitchers they're seeing for the first time, so maybe that's it...

Of course, Ozzie Guillen went with the scrubs today (Chris Widger at C, Pablo Ozuna at 2B, Greg Blum at 3B), and Timo Perez was the freakin' DH for the first two games. That didn't exactly help the run scoring process.

The White Sox desperately need another bat--there have been rumors about Ken Griffey, Jr., but I don't see that happening.

Chicago heads to Boston on Friday, then returns home to say hello to the Twins for the first time in a few months. Hopefully someone can take a look at Scott Podsednik when the team gets back to Chicago, because he appears to be broken. I don't think the Brewers have a return policy; I'll have to check the receipt.

Monday, August 08, 2005

BlogPoll Roundtable V

The fifth BlogPoll Roundtable is being hosted by mgoblog. Let's do dis ting...

Tell the world where the teams you know the most about should be ranked and why.

I'll start with Alabama. I like the Tide for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Alabama is returning nine guys from a defense that was second in the country in total defense last year. The defense was also second in pass efficiency defense, and the entire secondary returns. For another thing, Brodie Croyle is going to manage to stay healthy this year. He really, really means it this time.

So kudos to the Coaches' Poll for ranking a team coming off a 6-6 season, but sticking 'em in at 24 is not enough. Alabama should be in the 18-20 range.

Now, to get back to more familiar territory: NC State. NC State isn't going to show up in any pre-season rankings, and I don't have a problem with people taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the quarterback spot. But there are several reasons to expect a bounce-back year for the Wolfpack, and I personally think the team is worthy of a ranking at the tail end of the top 25. Here are some things that I've mentioned previously but are pertinent here:

  • Led by one of the best defenses in the country, NC State out-gained 10 of 11 opponents in 2004. The Pack lost two last-minute heart-breakers, and blew leads in a pair of other games. The defense will have to replace its entire secondary, but all four defensive line starters--including preseason All-American DE Mario Williams--return. The unit may not be brilliant in '05, but it will be very, very good.

  • Quarterback Jay Davis was awful in 2004, but it wasn't for a lack of skill position players. The Wolfpack returns a talented stable of running backs, a good pass-catching tight end in TJ Williams, and receivers who--on the rare occasions where the ball is delivered to them accurately--can break a game open. I said it before last season and I'll say it again now: for this team to be successful, Jay Davis needs merely to be adequate.

  • Thirty-two turnovers, 15 takeaways last year. Such a negative turnover margin is absurd, and you won't see it again. NC State lost 16 of 23 fumbles in 2004 (70%). If you consider that each team should have a roughly 50-50 chance of recovering a fumble, State was unlucky.

  • Virginia Tech went 7-1 in the ACC en route to the conference title last year. That loss? To the Wolfpack in Blacksburg. There is talent in Raleigh, and I like to at least entertain the idea that, this year, Jay Davis won't hold them back.

Since 2000, Florida State hasn't come anywhere near finishing in the top five, and that's not going to change this year. I've been down on FSU throughout the offseason; part of that is probably wishful thinking, but mostly it's because I think the 'Noles have some serious concerns.

Florida State returns a mere nine starters from 2004--four from the offense, five from the defense. Wyatt Sexton's unfortunate offseason has forced the Seminoles to start an inexperienced quarterback who'll be throwing to a brand new starting WR corps. On the other side of the ball, FSU is replacing 3/4 DL starters and 3/4 starters in the secondary.

It's hardly a crisis, because FSU will be inserting a lot of talented guys into those starting spots, but they'll lack experience. There is a good chance that the defense regresses, which is something Florida State can ill afford. Sixty-third in passing yards and 50th in rushing yards in 2004, I don't expect a lot of improvement from the offense in '05. While the running game should be better, the passing game will stagnate for the reasons noted above.

I'd rank FSU in the 14-16 range.

Quarterback Issues

Up in College Park, Sam Hollenbach has emerged as the favorite for the starting quarterback job:
"To me," coach Ralph Friedgen said, "it's Sam's job to lose. He needs to go out there and play with confidence."

Joel Statham and Jordan Steffy saw most of the PT last season, but neither was effective.

It looks like there could be a QB competition going on in Atlanta, as well:
Even though Ball is a two-year starter, there also is concern about the quarterback position. Gailey opened up the competition in the spring, and Ball defending his starting job. Gailey says it is still possible that a young quarterback -- Taylor Bennett or Kyle Manley -- could share time with Ball.

Ball completed only 49.7 percent of his passes last year while throwing 18 interceptions and 16 touchdown passes.

Ball put up numbers worse than my NCAA 2005 QB. It's going to be another long year for ACC quarterbacks...

And what of NC State? Jay Davis has been getting a fair amount of praise lately:
Meanwhile, in seven-on-seven, it was Jay Davis to Lamart Barrett. Jay Davis to Sterling Hicks. Jay Davis to T.J. Williams. Jay Davis to Brian Clark ... In other words - Jay looked pretty sharp today.

Okay, so you have to take these athletic department rubber-stamped tidbits with a grain of salt, but after last season I'm desperate for anything remotely positive regarding Davis.

From an earlier practice diary:
We've had officials out there for the last two days, which is a little unusual this early in the season. False starts are obviously a point of emphasis. Every time one is called, the perpetrator has to run to the opposite endzone and back.

This is not surprising considering the Wolfpack finished 115th in the country in fewest penalties per game (they averaged a little over nine per game).

One hundred and forteenth in turnover margin, 115th in penalties. I'd rather gouge out my eyes with a fork than endure that again.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Out On A Limb

Terry Bowden previews the ACC here. His predictions match the predictions made by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association exactly. Maybe he's just adding his thoughts to the media predictions...

This is one tough conference that doesn't have to look up to any other league in college football.

Because we're good enough, we're smart enough, and doggone it, people like us.

Regarding Wake Forest:
On offense, all-time leading rusher Chris Barclay will rush for 1,000 yards for the third straight year, and there is enough depth on defense for the Demon Deacons to hold on for a few more close wins instead of losses.

Wake Forest is one of the few teams returning some legitimate experience at quarterback and that will help them improve their poor passing game. The problem, as usual, is defense--the Deacs were 84th in pass defense last season and they're replacing both of their starting corners. I'd like to see Wake get over the hump and start winning the close games, but unlike ol' Terry, I don't think the defense will make enough progress to allow them to do so. Still, watch out, Nebraska.

On Virginia:
Virginia just doesn't bring the same defensive intensity as the league's elite teams.

If you're making a pre-season list of legitimate concerns for your team, this should be down around #645.

The Cavs' defense played so flippantly in 2004 that it was only good enough for a pathetic top twenty ranking in total defense.

Two-thirds Through

I did this back in early June at the one-third mark in the season, and here is another update. The charts compare each player's PECOTA projection, numbers through 54 games, and numbers through 109 games. For the hitters, their splits (Avg/OBP/SLG) are shown; for the pitchers, it's just ERA.

White Sox Hitters
PlayerPECOTA Projection1/3 Season 2/3 Season
Aaron Rowand.290/.341/.482.290/.350/.435.287/.340/.410
Paul Konerko.276/.353/.494.230/.342/.476.265/.364/.505
Jermaine Dye.256/.332/.449.240/.287/.470.271/.333/.504
Scotty Pods.278/.342/.416.289/.369/.322.285/.352/.343
Tad Iguchi.300/.345/.425**.294/.345/.435.290/.358/.446
Joe Crede.266/.321/.459.227/.290/.395.248/.300/.433
Carl Everett.273/.338/.444.247/.306/.424.259/.310/.456
Juan Uribe.269/.316/.444.247/.273/.383.244/.282/.343
AJ Pierzynski.277/.327/.430.255/.325/.443.274/.327/.485
Willie Harris.262/.333/.368.275/.373/.275.217/.287/.228
Chris Widger???.347/.396/.551.260/.324/.417
Big Hurt.274/.399/.529.167/.375/.167.219/.315/.590

** -- Iguchi projection taken from this Harball Times article

A third of the way through the season, Chicago was 8th in the AL in runs scored, 10th in batting average, 9th in OBP, and 8th in SLG. Through two-thirds of the season, the Sox have improved to 6th in runs scored and 6th in slugging, but have dropped to 11th in both batting average and on-base percentage.

The White Sox lead the AL in stolen bases (shocker, I know), but they could take a page or two from Tampa Bay. The D-Rays are an impressive 107-135 (79%) on stolen base attempts, compared to Chicago's 113-163 (69%).

I was hoping that Timo wouldn't be on the roster at this point, but alas. At least he's hitting over .200 now. I understand his intangibles are having a career year.

Paully, Jermaine Dye, and AJ Pierzynski have made notable improvements during June and July. Konerko hit .315/.388/.500 in July. Dye's 54-game numbers reflect his poor April, but really, he's hit well since May.

Rowand, Pods, Iguchi, and Uribe have stayed consistent. Scotty Pods isn't getting on base quite as often, but he's got that slugging percentage up 20 points! Still waiting for Scotty's first homerun.

I continue to be impressed by the Iguchi projection from the Harball Times. That deserves another mention.

Here are the pitchers:

White Sox Pitchers
PlayerPECOTA Proj ERA1/3 Season ERA 2/3 Season ERA
Mark Buehrle4.473.072.79
Jon Garland5.053.403.40
Freddy Garcia4.553.533.83
Jose Contreras4.913.274.41
El Duque4.354.154.69
Luis Vizcaino4.916.043.81
Dustin Hermanson5.091.131.67
Damaso Marte3.992.143.15
Cliff Politte4.791.771.89
Neal Cotts4.933.002.18
Shingo Takatsu*4.546.915.97

* -- no longer with the Big Club.

The Sox continue to lead the American League in earned run average.

I wrote this back in June...

Mark Buehrle continues to garner absolutely no respect from PECOTA, but that's okay. He outperformed his projection last year, and he'll do it again this year. The other guys...who knows.
At this point, I think it's a good bet that Garcia and Garland will also outperform their projections. Most of the bullpen still looks good, too.

Gotta give some credit to Luis Vizcaino for turning his season around over the last two months. Cliff Politte and Superstar Reliever Neal Cotts have continued to do a good job, as has Dustin Hermanson.

Chicago has the best runs scored-runs allowed differential in the AL, though the ridiculous Oakland A's are closing the gap quickly.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

It's almost that time again...

DBR Previews NC State Hoops

Duke Basketball Report posted a a positive preview of NC State's 2005-2006 basketball team.

A few points from the piece:

Coach Sendek has assembled a team for the 2005-2006 season that has extremely experienced leadership in four returning starters and outstanding young talent that should more than fill the Pack’s need to get better in the frontcourt. Two fifth-year seniors, a senior and a junior with international playing experience gained while representing his country will handle the ball for the Wolfpack and create a significant edge in experience and ball-handling over most ACC opponents, with the possible exception of Boston College.

The Pack should also have as much balance in scoring as any team in the ACC, with five returning players having averaged between 7.4 ppg and 9.8 ppg last season. Depending upon the development and contributions of its young frontcourt talent, State could be a much better team on the national level than might be expected of a team without any returning double-digit scorers that just lost the multi-talented Julius Hodge.

The effect of losing Julius Hodge on NC State’s fortunes in 2005-2006 is uncertain, though “The Jules of Harlem” was undoubtedly a great and versatile college player. Without Hodge, the Pack still should be an exceptional ball-handling team with established strength or solid potential at every position combined with experienced leadership.

Julius Hodge's departure has left a gaping hole in the starting lineup, and I have expressed concern about what will happen when the guys used to lighter workloads are forced to pick up the slack. I don't think anyone realizes just how large of a factor Hodge was last season. After I crunched the numbers last season, I was surprised to find that Hodge carried his team like no other player in the conference.

There's no question that the Wolfpack returns a good bit of talent and experience--as DBR noted in the preview, State has a bunch of upperclassmen who will handle the ball this year. But also noteworthy is that NC State doesn't return anyone who averaged double-digits in '04-'05, and while DBR is kind to compliment NC State for its "balance" in this area, the lack of secondary scorers present another problem for the post-Hodge era.

Just how much did Hodge factor into NC State's offense? See the chart below, which lists every player in the ACC who used at least 25% of his team's possessions. If you need an explanation for %Poss or O Rtg, see here.

Highest Workloads, 2004-2005
(minimum 500 minutes played)
PlayerTeam%PossO RtgMin/G
Julius HodgeNCSU2811734.6
Sean MayUNC27.512326.8
Alexander JohnsonFSU26.88517.5
Sharrod FordClem26.610529.1
Anthony HarrisMia26.310129.6
Al ThorntonFSU26.110718
Guillermo DiazMia25.811634.3

As you can see, no one played a larger role for his team than Hodge. An average player is expected to use about 20% of his team's possessions when he is on the court (100%/5 players), but Hodge and the other guys on this list are well above that mark. Some of them--Hodge, May, Ford, Thornton, Diaz--should be using that many possesions, but Harris and Johnson probably shouldn't.

Hodge's offensive rating is second only to May's, and both numbers are impressive considering the high %Poss. The more possessions a player uses, the less efficient he tends to be, and the more his O Rtg tends to suffer. Not so for the cream of the crop, however, and that is what makes those players special.

Hodge's possessions represent a large chunk of production that will be redistributed. Only one other player on NC State's roster used more than 20% of the team's possessions when on the court (Cedric Simmons), meaning everyone else on the team used a below-average amount of possessions. Engin Atsur, for instance, used a meager 15% of State's possessions when he was on the court (which was often). Ilian Evtimov--the "quarterback"--only used about 17%.

It's going to be massively (massively!) important for the young guys to pick up the scoring, because I don't think the experienced upperclassmen who are lauded by DBR--Evtimov, Atsur, Bethel--are up to the challenge. Bottom line: the older guys rock the intangibles and play like role players. Because, you know, they are role players. That may sound like a criticism of those guys, but I don't mean it in that way. They may be unspectacular, but they're reliable, and that is important.

Likely it will be the team's freshmen and sophomores who make or break the season. I think there is a good chance that the offense regresses this season...I just hope it isn't a significant regression.

DBR is right--the 'Pack has potential at every position on the floor. The question is, will Hodge's absense spur the players to realize that potential, or will they buckle under the larger demand for production?

Monday, August 01, 2005


Mark Buehrle's streak of consecutive starts with at least 6 IP ended with a 6th inning ejection today, which is kind of disappointing but is a much cooler way to break the streak than, say, allowing eight runs in 3 and 2/3rds.

The ejection didn't matter in the grand scheme of things because the Sox won anyway. Despite Luis Vizcaino getting the call at the game's most important juncture. Despite another lineup that featured Timo in the leadoff spot.

At this point, it's obvious Timo has some incriminating documents of some kind--the question comes down to the nature of said documents.

The sweep of the Orioles, coupled with Boston's sweep of Minnesota over the weekend, leaves the Twins 15 games back, in a tie for second with Cleveland, and sans Torii Hunter for a long time.

Forget what I said earlier; the Twins are done. Do you hear me, baseball gods? I am shaking my fist skyward and shouting in open defiance! The Twins are done!