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June 29, 2012

The Strength of Schedule Conundrum

Filed under: Football,Non-con,Schedule — Chas @ 11:54 am

An aspect of the coming playoffs and how the top four teams will be determined will be the strength of schedule (SOS). Some are bigger proponents of how large it’s impact on the rankings should be than others.

There is a belief that if SOS is a significant enough component, then teams will schedule better in the non-con. At this point a lot of comparisons are being made to how the NCAA Basketball Tournament Selection Committee uses SOS in their evaluations.

The question really is, how much can and will teams increase their SOS when it comes down to controlling only 3 or 4 games on the schedule. And if so, just how much will SOS really be factored into the evaluations and rankings of the top-four teams by a selection committee.

In college basketball non-cons are mostly set in the off-season — by the coaches. That allows coaches to judge how their team will be for that season and adjust their non-con accordingly as harder or easier. It’s a dozen or so games with more flexibility to who to schedule and how much it can impact the SOS. A team can be “rewarded” or “punished” for playing a hard or easy non-con by the selection committee by their seeding or what happens to them on the bubble. There are enough teams in the Tournament to allow that kind of flexibility.

College football is not that way. Games are set years in advance without really being sure of the team’s ability on either side. It is set by an AD who is mainly concerned with filling key home dates and getting people to attend.

Any committee that is picking the top-four college football teams does not have the luxury of significantly rewarding or punishing a team based on their non-con SOS. There isn’t enough wiggle room for that.

Your power conference programs — and realistically that is where this is focused — want/need to have 7 home games for budget reasons almost every year. Assuming for an 8 or 9 game schedule, they generally need 2-3 of their available non-con games to be at home. The power conferences are going to need just as many guarantee games as before, worrying about how it impacts the SOS seems relatively minor.

The rise in 1-AA patsy games is a direct result in the number of teams that have to put together a profitable home schedule. The costs of paying for a guarantee game have risen noticeably because of the demand. The choice to get 1-A guarantee game these days is to either pay a lot or pay less but go on the road in a 2- or 3-1 deal. There’s a reason Pitt is going to Buffalo and Texas Tech will be playing at Texas State this year. The 1-AA option is simply a way to slightly increase the supply. To bring down the costs

The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 all do the 9-game conference schedule, in no small part because they want to bring down the costs (and scheduling headaches) for all conference members in how many games they need to get on the non-con. The Big 10 effectively has 9-games with it’s coming partnership with the Pac-12, while improving its SOS.

In theory the Pac-12 is positioned best to benefit from a strong SOS component, because they only need to schedule 2 more games after the conference and Big 10 match-up. And with only 2 games needing to be scheduled, they can afford to pay for guarantee games against low but not horrid teams.

The reduction in demand from Pac-12 schools should increase the available supply of teams from (whatever is left of the) WAC, MWC and part of the Sun Belt. That will likely be eliminated as teams make a greater effort to avoid 1-AA opponents and obvious SOS ding. Most teams still will not exceed  1 good non-con.

The 2004 Auburn Tigers — often cited as the classic example for the need of a playoff — had a non-con of The Citadel, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe that year (11-game schedule at that time). That, more than anything else, cost them their spot in the BCS. Playing patsies including a 1-AA team — and yes, there were reasons their schedule ended up that way. Yes, they ran the table in the SEC that year, but that wasn’t exactly the strongest year in the SEC. Only Georgia and Auburn finished the year with 2 or less losses. That was the SEC with a coaching line-up that included Croom, Shula, Zook, Cutliffe, Nutt. Tennessee was the only other SEC team to finish in the AP top-25. The Coaches Poll somehow put 7-5 Florida at #25 at the end. And yet, with the four-team playoff, Auburn would have been in the playoffs despite their non-con schedule.

The bigger impact on SOS will be the conference. The SEC, these days, can count on their conference to supply the punch to the schedule that will allow most of the schools to stick to a scheduling pattern that won’t look too different from their present one. Same with the Big 12, in no small part because of their 9-game schedule that allows them to play everyone in their conference.

The Pac-12 and ACC, may have other concerns. Both are not strong conferences in perception or in terms of most conference ranking evaluations. Both are dragged down by a couple really bad teams and a wide swath of mediocrity. As mentioned, though, the Pac-12 has taken a big step in dealing with that with their deal with the Big 10.

Obiviously, it’s been a bit worse in the ACC with FSU and Miami down in the mediocrity pool as well. Even in the ACC, there has been an adjustment. Moving to the 9-game conference schedule, was a start. FSU, Clemson and GT all have non-con rivalry games. Miami and BC regularly play at least one good non-con. As does Pitt and Syracuse. Even the other seven have made it a point to play one BCS program each year — which included the Big East. Losing one patsy game will help the overall SOS.

In the end, I don’t see SOS — especially non-con SOS — being that big a factor in the selection of the top-four teams. Playing 1-AA teams will be reduced — and that is a good thing. I think the contracts will rise in how much teams pay for guarantee games — and getting out of those games will likewise include a larger buyout. Otherwise, don’t expect much change in the schedules by teams under a 4-team system.

It was a very busy day for Pitt yesterday, which is why I am only getting to this now.

The actual dates still need to be set. The home, away and home-and-home opponents are announced.

Home only games:

UConn, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, USF and Syracuse

Road only games:

Georgetown, Louisville, Providence, Rutgers and St. John’s

Home-and-home games:

Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and Villanova

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June 28, 2012

Once More Into the MAC

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 11:13 pm

I know. I know. Chryst develops players. Don’t get hung up on stars and who has offered. Look at the size. Right now it is just kind of funny at this point.

In addition to Tra’Von Chapman, Pitt added another verbal from Ohio. Carson Baker, an offensive tackle, who had offers from Toledo (man, the Rockets must be just about sick of this), Ohio and Buffalo opted for Pitt.

Measurables. Baker is 6-5 and anywhere from 270-315 pounds. No, really.

Rivals.com, 247 and ESPN.com all have Baker as un-starred, and un-evaluated. Scout.com actually gives him 2-stars. Of course Scout.com also lists Baker’s weight at 270 while the other 3 sites put him at 300-315.

Well, at least his high school coach is fond of him.

“He’s the best lineman I’ve ever coached,” said Fairborn coach Roy Thobe, who has been a high school coach in Ohio for 25 years. “And I’ve sent players to the Big Ten and Mid-American Conference.”

Um, I don’t suppose you could name some that you sent to the Big 10? I mean I found one DT who is at Indiana, but, um, yeah, Indiana football.

Looking like Chryst is determined to show he can really coach ’em up at certain spots.

Full post coming, but it just got reported that Tra’Von Chapman has pulled the trigger a couple days earlier than expected and given Pitt a verbal.

Okay, I’m not saying Tra’Von Chapman gave his verbal to Pitt a couple days earlier to bring Pitt fans back from the deep end over recruiting. But… I’m not saying he didn’t.

Chris Peak at PantherLair.com has been teasing news all morning.

And gets credit for breaking it first.

Everyone knew he was going to verbal to Pitt, it was just a matter of when.

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Losing OT Dorian Johnson to Penn Sate sucks.

There are no two ways around that.  Here was a four star recruit at a position of need for PITT, ranked either 13th or 23rd nationally at his position and after visiting PITT numerous times makes a spur of the moment decision to attend that school while riding in the car on his way back from a PSU visit.  It was a big swing and a miss for Paul Chryst.

PITT will have another good or bad day on Sunday, July 1st, when QB Tra’von Chapman, another four star, ranked 11th at a position of (big time!) need, makes his college choice.  Supposedly he’s been a strong PITT lean but the same could have been said for Johnson.  We await with bated breath, as do we for everyone’s superstar recruit #4 ranked WR Robert Foster who is probably good enough to start next season as a true FR.

Clairton’s four star WR Tyler Boyd is another prime prospect and right in our back yard.  IMO if we can land two of these four that will be a darn good start for Paul Chryst’s time at PITT but we are fighting heavyweight programs nationwide for these player’s services so it’s an uphill battle.

Now, I’m not one for blindly adhering to the ‘star’ ranking system and I’m on record about that,  but these four kids are Blue Chip players as defined by the offers they have received.  Look at the links provided above and you’ll see that these players are being recruited nationwide.

The bottom line is that there isn’t a laundry list of great four and five star recruits in the WPIAL each year any longer.  Jerry DiPaloa of the Tribune-Review has a good article on that this morning explaining how PITT has fared with recruiting these players in the past.  Not too bad actually.  Each of these highly ranked kids from our immediate area is an important recruit for PITT as it shows that we can compete with the big boys in the recruiting arena.

Chris Dokish of The Panther’s Prey wrote a long and detailed article on how he feels where the state of PITT’s recruiting is today.

As for my opinion Chryst’s recruiting so far? As much as I want Chryst to land all the big fish in the WPIAL/WPA area I think that might not happen and I truly can’t fault any kid and their parents who look at the PITT football program with a jaundiced eye right now.

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God bless, open records laws and states with decent FOIA-esque laws.

I reviewed the ND moving its non-football sports to the Big 12  fan fiction at the beginning of the week. Now we have the source for the “facts” in the story.

In a January memo to the Big 12 expansion committee, interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said Notre Dame is the only school the Big 12 could add that would “enhance the Big 12 value for television.”

The memo, obtained by The Oklahoman through an Open Records request, was sent to the committee as an agenda for a late January teleconference.

The expansion committee is made up of Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Kansas State president Kirk Shulz.

Reading through the article, you can see where the Orangebloods story got each nugget.

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June 27, 2012

Tom Savage Gambles on Chryst

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 2:53 pm

The saga of Tom Savage is cautionary, sad, bad luck, poorly thought. Pick your descriptor. Here was one of the best dropback, pocket passing QB recruits in the class of 2009. He chose Rutgers because their offense fit, it was close to home, the chance for early playing time, the whole “team on the rise,” situation and relationship with the coaches.

Well he certainly got in there right away. Immediately being the starter. Even had a nice first year for a true freshman. Yeah, he made mistakes, but he also set the Big East record for passing yards and touchdown for a freshman.

In 2010, the Rutgers O-line was a mess. A big hot flaming mess. They struggled to run the ball (barely 100 ypg), and they couldn’t protect the QB — 61 QB sacks that year. Savage took a beating and was sidelined with rib and wrist injuries. Chas Dodd was forced into action. The more mobile Dodd did better on the field and Savage not only did not return to the field the rest of the year, he saw Schiano name Dodd the starter for 2011. Seeing that, and having NFL aspirations, Savage transferred.

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Let’s Talk Playoffs

Filed under: Football,Playoffs — Chas @ 10:39 am

Well, the meta-news in college football is that finally there is a system roughed out for a four-team playoff beginning for the 2014 season — two years away. And by roughed out, I mean roughed out. There are still a lot of details that are unknown with regards to how the selection will occur. Here are the basics:

— This plan is going to run for 12 years.

— There will be a selection committee tasked with choosing the best four teams. The size, composition, level of transparency all TBD (To Be Determined).

— Ranking  the four playoff teams will be based on win-loss record, strength of schedule (SOS), head-to-head record, and whether a team is a conference champion. Conference champion status is supposed to be of extra-emphasis. How much extra emphasis is placed on being a conference champion and how they determine SOS are still TBD.

— Playoffs will be held within the current bowl structure. The two annual semifinal games will be rotated between six bowls — Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and two others TBD (though, the Cotton is believed to be one of them). One semifinal will be held on December 31 and the other on January 1. Non-college football watching significant others will hate a New Years Eve game.

— The Championship game will be bid out to a host city/stadium annually. Actual name, TBD.

— The way the money will be divided, TBD.

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June 26, 2012

Summer League Rosters Filled

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Practice — Chas @ 11:16 am

Here’s the thing to keep in mind about Summer Leagues. They are great for building team chemistry because everyone stays in the Burgh for the summer and does stuff together. They provide fan excitement and anticipation for upcoming season because the fans get to see the players in an organized setting. They help the team, but not because they are playing in a summer league. It is because they get to practice with coaches and the team over the summer. Especially starting this year, as the NCAA allows some team practices in addition to the individualized workouts with the coaches.

They are not, however, predictors of team or even individual success in the actual season. A great game in the summer league does not mean the kid is ready to break out. Just as a bad night does not mean he’s regressed. These are not pick-up games but there is a lot more one-on-one and two-on-two play in the course of the game.

Having issued that caveat on the unbridled optimism that can rival spring football practices at times, Rivals.com has the rundown on the games from last night. James Robinson made his debut.

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Punter on the Commit List

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:50 am

It’s no secret that Pitt will need a punter and kicker for next year. They added a tall one with blood lines and for the Chryst regime, the ever important Wisconsin connection.

[Ryan] Winslow, 6-5, 205 pounds, averaged 40 yards per punt last season. His father George punted in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints.

Winslow is out of the Philly area. He had been trying to get a scholarship offer without much success.

“My dad encouraged me to shoot for a scholarship,” Ryan said Monday night. “But he also reminded me that they’re not that common [for specialists] and to be ready to compete as a walk-on, if it came to that.

“Deep down, I did feel I was good enough to get a scholarship, though I was starting to second-guess myself.”

Reason: Winslow recently attended kicking/punting camps at Boston College, Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern without getting a nibble. He made his Pitt stop Saturday, and it featured an individual tryout because he’d been unable to make an overall session because of scheduling conflict.

“The pressure was definitely there,” he said. “You just have to stay calm while being mentally tough, and make sure you hit the ball well. I got called into a meeting after I finished punting and maybe five minutes into it coach [Paul] Chryst was making an offer. Best feeling in the world.”

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June 25, 2012

Classic Comebacks: 1970 Backyard Brawl

Filed under: Football,History — Chas @ 4:29 pm

While not as disastrous as the Dave Hart era of Pitt football, the Carl DePasqua period that came right before Johnny Majors I was hardly stellar. A 13-29 record over 4 years and only one season at .500. Pitt under DePasqua effectively peaked halfway through the second season. Pitt had reached 5-1, before riding a 4 game losing streak to 5-5. Those were followed up with 3-8 and 1-10 seasons and Pitt’s 3d coach in 7 years.

Still, if there is one thing that lingers — and vaguely redeems — from the DePasqua era, it is the 1970 Backyard Brawl which also served as Pitt’s homecoming. A game that saw Pitt come back from 35-8 to win 36-35 (hat tip to EDSBS).

In two parts. Part One:

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Ah, what is expansiopocolypse without the idea of Notre Dame making a move?

Last week, my favorite Big 12-based “throw-shit-against-the-wall” expansiopocolypse outlet, Chip Brown of Rivals.com’s Orangebloods had his latest. It was the big card: Notre Dame.

Two sources in the Big 12 said Wednesday the possibility of Notre Dame moving its Olympic sports out of the Big East and into the Big 12 is becoming more and more likely.

Speculation is growing among those sources that an announcement could come from South Bend before the end of the summer.

As part of such a move, Notre Dame, which has a contract with NBC to televise its home football games through the 2015 season, would agree to play up to six football games against Big 12 competition (but most likely three or so to start with), sources tell Orangebloods.com.

Notre Dame would maintain its independence in football … for now.

As far as speculative fiction goes, it was something of a doozy.  Reading the piece as a whole you can see it a couple ways.

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Picking Up One, Losing Another

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:46 am

Well, the good news is Pitt picked up another recruit. The bad news is missing (again) on another very important recruit.

I’ll start with the positives. Titus Howard out of Clairton gave his verbal. The defensive back/wide receiver has good size, and he might be able to help bring in a big WR target in his teammate Tyler Boyd.

“I am going to try to get him there,” Howard said.

Howard, 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, was on campus with many of his teammates, helping Clairton win a championship at Pitt’s seven-on-seven camp.

Clairton defeated Thomas Jefferson, 25-20, in the title game.

Howard said he considered waiting until after the season to make a decision.

“But it felt right today, and I ended up doing it,” he said. “I like their program. I love being around the coaches. Coach (Paul) Chryst was really excited. He said he can’t wait.”

His size, of course, is up for debate.  Rivals.com lists him at 6-2, 165 pounds and says he’s a 2-star cornerback. 247 Sports also says 2-star cornerback, but lists him at 6-1, 170 pounds. Scout.com has him as a 3-star recruit, but has him at safety and puts him at 6-3, 180 pounds. ESPN.com doesn’t have a ranking for him at this time, but lists him as a cornerback and puts his size at 6-2, 160 pounds. To recap. He’s anywhere from 6-1 to 6-3 and 160 to 180 pounds.

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June 22, 2012

USA U18 and James Robinson Finish With Gold

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 11:31 am

Sorry, I’m a day late on everything. Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday. Couple that with closing arguments in the Sandusky trial, and I just didn’t want to be near a computer to avoid any co-mingling of events. (It made much more sense in my head.)

The USA U18 team finished off host Brazil in a rematch, 81-56. Brazil was the only team able to stay within 30 points of the USA team during the week — losing by 19 and 27. The USA team pulled away in the second half, but for a good chunk of the game Brazil kept it tight.

Brazil pulled to within five, 18-13, but James Robinson (DeMatha Catholic H.S./Mitchellville, Md.) drove down the middle twice for layups, and Rasheed Sulaimon (Strake Jesuit College Prep/Houston, Texas) converted a steal into a layup in the quarter’s final seconds to push the U.S. advantage to 24-16 after one quarter of action.

The half ended with Brazil down only 6. The USA team opened it up in the second half, and it was never in doubt.

 

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June 20, 2012

The Ohio Run Continues

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 3:19 pm

Is it just me or does the Big 33 game seem to to go in spurts where Ohio or Pennsylvania dominates for a stretch and then it switches to the other side. I don’t feel like looking it up to confirm or not. Just noting that Ohio has now won four straight.

The most important thing is that none of the incoming Pitt players were injured in the game or practices leading up to it. Though, Rushel Shell gave some a scare (check the 8:55 time stamp) when he was tackled during the game. Rushel Shell was contained most of the game. J.P. Holtz had a touchdown catch, and Mike Capara recovered a fumble on defense.

Before the game there was a selection of key college coaches in attendance that took part in the press conference. This included OSU’s Urban Meyer, PSU’s Bill O’Brien, Paul Chryst and Temple’s Steve Addazio. (Cinci continues to get no respect.) Amazingly it seems they got through it without a question about the Pitt-Penn State game.

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