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Posts Tagged ‘Oakland Raiders’

NFL Playoff Scenarios for Every Seed

In NFL on December 26, 2016 at 10:44 AM

I don’t talk about the NFL too much, but it’s always fun for me to analyze the playoff scenarios since there aren’t one-game playoffs and it’s much easier to tie on multiple levels with 16 games than 82 games.

I couldn’t figure this out last night without visiting a number of sites and wasting a lot of time, so I just wanted to let people know all the different playoff scenarios, not just who’s in and who’s out.

Discussions overlap, but I try to indicate which seed I’m talking about in the sections for the respective conferences.

The Tampa Bay scenario needed its own section, but if they make it they’ll be the sixth seed in the NFC. It’s probably more likely for the Buccaneers to play in snow on Sunday (which is a home game) than make the playoffs, but I thought it was interesting. You can skip it if you just want realistic scenarios.

afc
AFC

We know all the AFC playoff teams, but we don’t know the order very well.

1 – The Patriots have the #1 seed at the moment, but the Raiders could still get that if the Dolphins beat the Patriots and the Raiders beat the Broncos. The Raiders would win the tiebreaker based on common games.

2&5 – Even though Oakland still has a chance at the #1 seed, they could fall to the #5 seed with a loss and a Chiefs win (over San Diego).

3&4 – We already know that Pittsburgh will have the #3 seed and Houston will have the #4 seed.

6 – I mentioned how the Chiefs can move up to #2 (which comes with a bye), but they can also fall to #6 with a loss to San Diego and a Miami win over New England.

nfc
NFC

In the NFC, 8 teams are still alive for six spots.

1 – The Cowboys have clinched the #1 seed, but #2 is still up in the air.

2 – If the Falcons beat the Saints, they clinch the #2 seed. If they do not and the Lions (who currently have the #3 spot) beat the Packers next week, the Lions can take the #2 seed (regardless of whether they win tonight). If there is a tie, the Lions would win based on common games.

This might be common sense to most NFL fans, but just to explain, a team must win its division to be eligible to get higher than the #5 seed. The Giants can finish with a better record than the Falcons; but since the Cowboys have clinched the NFC East and the Falcons have clinched the NFC West, the Falcons are guaranteed a higher seed than the Giants.

So other than the Lions, the only other team who can take the #2 seed is the Seahawks. This is because if Seattle beats San Francisco, the Seahawks would finish 10-5-1, which puts them ahead of Atlanta if the Falcons lose to the Saints.

3 – If the Seahawks win, the only way an NFC North team can finish higher is if the Lions win tonight and next week (which would push Seattle down to #3). If the Seahawks lose, either Lions/Packers winner gets the #3 spot.

The reason the Lions haven’t clinched the division is that the Packers (at worst) both tie them and gain the tiebreaker with a win next week. (This is more applicable to the lower seeds, but…) Neither team has clinched the playoffs because (1) either can finish 9-7 and (2) the Redskins by beating the Giants would finish 9-6-1.

4 – Seattle will finish #4 at worst because the Seahawks HAVE clinched their division.

5 – The Giants have clinched the #5 seed. The worst they can finish is 10-6. The only team who can get to 10-6 and yet not win its division is the Lions, whom the Giants beat.

6 – So that last part is one scenario in which we resolve the #6 seed. (Basically it would mean the Lions win tonight and lose next week.) A Giants win over the Redskins would also guarantee the Lions a playoff spot even if Detroit loses both games.

A Giants win over the Redskins would also guarantee the Packers a playoff spot even if the Packers were to lose.

With a win by the Redskins, however, the Packers would be eliminated with one loss and the Lions would be eliminated with two losses. Either way, eliminating the Green Bay/Detroit loser would put Washington in the playoffs.

bucs
Tampa Bay

(The only way I could make this seem like it might be interesting to an average person was to talk to myself.)

Wait a minute. A win by the Giants makes the NFC North loser safe, and a win by the Redskins potentially puts the Redskins in place of the NFC North loser. How in the world does that leave room for Tampa Bay?

Well, I didn’t say what happens if NO ONE wins the Giants/Redskins game.

So the Bucs must win, and that game must end in a tie? That’s unlikely (the tie alone is about a 300-1 chance), but I guess stranger things have happened. Is that all?

Not even close.

In my opinion, 8-6-2 should beat 9-7 (8/14=57% and 9/16=56%), but ties count as half-wins, so it doesn’t. This means that there could be a three-way tie including Washington. To help Tampa Bay, the tie must include the Packers, which means Green Bay must beat Detroit. Also, the Lions need to lose tonight, but we’ll get to why at the end.

The Redskins would then lose the tiebreaker to Green Bay and Tampa Bay based on having the worst conference record of the 3. In this case, you start over the tie breaking procedure at the beginning with the two remaining teams. Head to head doesn’t work, neither does common opponents. You need to go to strength of victory (which means beating teams with better records… for some reason, they don’t care as much about losing to teams with bad records, which the Buccaneers did more of).

But don’t the Packers have a better strength of victory than the Buccaneers?

Why, yes they do, but if only four more games (other than the ones we covered) go the right way for the Bucs, that will change: San Francisco (whom the Bucs beat) beats Seattle, Indianapolis beats Jacksonville, Dallas beats Philadelphia, and Tennessee beats Houston. The last three games matter because the Packers beat the would-be losers of those games (and also beat the Lions way back in week 3).

This was a race where a horse won despite 999-1 odds, but it only happened because he was the only horse to finish the race. The other horses were doing so badly, the rider of the winner was able to get back on his horse and complete the course. The Bucs are facing about 30,000-1 odds according to ESPN.

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Updated NFL Relocation Proposals

In History, NFL, Realignment on January 30, 2016 at 7:33 PM

I don’t want to get right into it, because when you talk about this subject, it provokes a lot of gut reaction, so I’ll start with a little background.

Post-merger to 2002 Realignment

Beginning with the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there was a division known as the NFC West that included the Los Angeles Rams, the San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Atlanta Falcons.

Apart from the Saints, these teams had been in the Coastal Division with the Baltimore Colts, who I suppose were theoretically potential rivals to the Falcons, while the Saints were supposed to be potential rivals to the Cowboys.

Anyway, that all got scrambled with the merger, but it was decided Saints-Falcons was a better rivalry, partly because they joined the league only a year apart. The Cowboys were also a fairly new team but had already accelerated into a top team with one of the best hires ever, Tom Landry.

Of course, logically, one team was in the central United States and another was in the East. I guess it would have been more correct to call it the NFC West and South, but that would have been too wordy.

These four teams remained in this division until 2001, although tin 1995 it got even more ridiculous as the Rams moved to St. Louis and the expansion Panthers were added.

The 2001 NFL divisional alignment with 6 divisions.

The 2001 NFL divisional alignment with 6 divisions.

In the 2002 realignment, the Rams and 49ers only retained one divisional opponent apiece, and the Cardinals and the Bucs retained none.

A couple notes on the last two. After playing in the AFC for its inaugural year, Tampa Bay had joined the NFC Central in 1977. Arizona had started in the NFC East when that franchise was in St. Louis, moving in 1988.

In 2002, the Seahawks changed conferences and of course didn’t retain any divisional opponents either.

In the AFC, the Titans and Jaguars retained only one divisional opponent apiece, and the Colts retained none.

Changes in 2002.  Same key as 2001 with the two new divisions noted.  The North in both conferences was exclusively comprised of former Central teams.

Changes in 2002. Same key as 2001 with the two new divisions noted. The North in both conferences was exclusively comprised of former Central teams.

The point of all of this is to disabuse people of the notion that new rivalries can’t be formed fairly quickly and that we should not place teams into logical divisions.

The Effect of the Rams and Relocation

My primary proposal last time had the Rams in kind of a mid-South division with the Titans, Panthers, and Chiefs, so of course that idea is now obsolete.

I had thought since there were exactly four West coast teams, it made sense to put them all together, but there is a problem with that in the TV markets since the 49ers and Raiders are in the same market.

So when you have more than four teams, I think it makes sense to respect the idea that there should only be one CBS team and one Fox team in a given market. I didn’t see any reporting about this, but I suspect TV might have been one of the factors many owners switched from the Raiders-Chargers proposal to the Rams one.

Had the Raiders-Chargers proposal gone through, there would have been about six weeks where one of the two would have had to play a night game because every other week, CBS is restricted to one game on Sunday during the day. (You can get it down to six given that each team has a bye week, the two teams would play each other twice, and both networks have a doubleheader in Week 17.)

Accordingly, I have one proposal for the Chargers staying in San Diego and another in the event they move to Los Angeles.

The West

I know it was ancient history to some younger fans; but before realignment (as indicated above), the Seahawks played in the AFC against the Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs. I would preferably bring that back.

Why? The two closest locations to San Diego are going to be Inglewood, CA, and Glendale, AZ. I don’t agree with the idea that the Chargers shouldn’t be in a conference with either of those just because before 1970, they were in the AFL instead of the NFL.

Arizona also is in a situation that doesn’t make any sense, as can be seen on the current map.

I’ll admit that in recent years, the best intra-state rivalry in California has been the Raiders and the Chargers. However, a big reason for that is the large group of Raiders fans extending from the Bay Area to Southern California. I think the Rams moving and the Raiders staying (or perhaps moving to another state) will completely change that dynamic anyway.

If the Chargers move, I would just keep the current alignment as is. Besides, I think I have enough ideas that will challenge the status quo.

There could be an all-California division and everyone else if the Chargers move, but two reasons I don’t think that’s a good idea: (1) it would require two pairs of teams switching conferences, and (2) even if one shared market can be accommodated, two is probably pushing it.

So this is my proposal for the Western teams if either the teams stay put or it’s decided that to allow two Los Angeles teams in the same conference.

West 1

Messing with Texas

The Cowboys’ and Texans’ divisions don’t make a bit of sense, and I have no qualms about removing them from those divisions.

When the Houston Oilers still existed, they played the Steelers, Browns, and Bengals. The Texans playing the Jags, Colts, and Titans is better, but not that much better. It was really a collection of mismatches. The cities that were least appropriate for the central were removed, and the city that was least appropriate for the East was removed, and they were all put together.

The Colts are close to enough other teams that there is no reason to share a division with anyone south of Nashville for sure.

The Jaguars’ closest divisional opponent is 600 miles away even though 5 non-divisional teams are closer.

I get that Tennessee and Indianapolis worked because they were both kind of leftover mismatches and aren’t that far from one another, but the triangular divisional configuration is ridiculous.
As for the Cowboys, I have yet to see a real argument as to why that’s not a misfit that needs to be corrected. Why is it better than the Oilers in the AFC Central, the Falcons in the NFC West, the Cardinals in the NFC East, or the Bucs in the NFC Central? They were all used to it as well.

The NFL was correct in the late 1960s when it saw two teams in bordering states, the Cowboys and the Saints, and put them in the same division. Adding in a Houston team in somewhat comfortable driving distance or sub-60-minute flying distance from both only makes more sense. The Falcons would be a bit more removed, but Falcons-Saints was one thing the NFL got right in 1970. It would make no sense to undo it. Texas isn’t as close to Atlanta as Carolina of course, but it’s better than San Francisco, Los Angeles, or even St. Louis.

Given the Rams’ move back to Los Angeles, I can’t think of one alignment where I wouldn’t want this division.

Two Obvious Divisions

The first keeps together four teams that have been in the same division (which they shared with Tampa Bay years ago) since the merger: the NFC North (previously the NFC Central, or as Chris Berman calls it, the Norris Division), made up of Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, and Detroit.

The second one is the current NFC East minus the Cowboys. Their replacement is perfectly obvious on the map, the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is about 40 miles from Washington and about 100 miles from Philadelphia. Philadelphia is less than 100 miles from New York. I don’t think you can get a more ideal division than that.

It would mean Baltimore changing from the AFC to the NFC, but Baltimore was never an AFL city. Apart from some overlap with Steelers fans in rural Maryland, I think Baltimore fans encounter would-be rival NFC East fans a bit more often as well. This would also make it so that the rural Maryland/Northern West Virginia/Southern Pennsylvania/inland Northern Virginia area could have the Ravens on one network and the Steelers on another.

The More Traditional Approach

I used a different color scheme for these.

I used a different color scheme for these.

Obviously, the most traditional thing to do would be to leave everything the way it is, but one of the things I’m not in favor of is radical realignment. This would be blowing up all the existing divisions and conferences as if they never existed. When I talked about the western teams, I even talked about trying to limit the number of teams who change conferences.

I call it radical realignment because that was the name for the proposals in baseball after the strike when it was suggested that teams like the Mets and Yankees should be in the same league and no attention be paid to which franchises were traditionally in which league.

But anyway, I’ve said how I feel about the 8 western teams, the 4 teams of the current NFC North, the 4 teams of my proposed NFC South, and the 4 teams of my proposed NFC East.

I have mixed feelings about the other. The more traditional approach would start by leaving the current AFC East (Buffalo, New England, Jets, Miami) in tact.

That leaves Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Carolina, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay. I would just make the teams north of the Ohio River the AFC North and those to the south the AFC South.

The More Geographic Approach

East 2

You can figure out which one of the AFC East is not like the others. Miami isn’t so close to New York, and it’s even farther from Buffalo and New England.

So why not start by putting all the Florida teams into one division instead? None of them currently have rivalries that make sense anyway.

But they need another team. While the Falcons would be ideal, I’ve put them in the NFC South already to keep their rivalry with the Saints.

The Panthers are the logical choice here. They would maintain their series with the Bucs, but it would add a team in between in Jacksonville. I know the Jags haven’t had a good season in a while, but it could evolve into something like the Saints-Falcons rivalry with two franchises of a similar age in the same general part of the football landscape. This arrangement would have the added bonus of making it so the Florida television map doesn’t look like a Jackson Pollock painting (see below).

florida pollock

This would require the AFC East to add a fourth team, and the remaining team closest to the coast is the Steelers, who seemingly could develop a natural rivalry with Buffalo and already have had a competitive rivalry with the Patriots, although not in the same division of course.

This would leave sort of a Ohio River division centered around Cincinnati, with the Titans to the South, the Browns to the Northeast, and the Colts to the Northwest.

Appendix

I’m done. I just wanted to post some television maps of Florida from last season if you didn’t get my Pollock remark and picture. They’re not even consistent. Sometimes West Palm Beach goes with Miami, sometimes it goes with the panhandle or the rest of the country. Sometimes Ft. Myers goes with Tampa, sometimes it goes with Miami.

florida tv 2

florida tv 3

florida tv 4

florida tv 5

florida tv 6

florida tv

Rams, Raiders, and Relocation

In NFL on January 22, 2016 at 7:57 PM

I started this off with a couple of observations after watching the Jeff Fisher interview after a welcoming party for the Rams. I eventually got around to adding some other topics based on my knowledge of the NFL in the 1990s and since, including some of the major figures around both Fisher, the Rams organization, and relocation.

Jeff Fisher is from the Los Angeles area and actually coached the Rams as a defensive coordinator in 1991. After the Rams fell from 11-5 with a conference championship appearance in 1989 to 5-11 in 1990, Fisher’s hiring was directly overseen by the late owner Georgia Frontiere, and he was actually supposed to be the heir to John Robinson. However, rather than turning things around, the Rams got even worse, going just 3-13.

Robinson resigned, and Fisher was not retained by the new head coach Chuck Knox, the last to coach the Rams in Southern California (Knox also coached the Rams from 1973 to 1977 when they were actually in Los Angeles).

This page chronicles Fisher’s experience with the Rams during the 1991 season and in the immediate aftermath:

I couldn't find a picture of Fisher as an assistant coach, but this was just a few years before.

I couldn’t find a picture of Fisher as an assistant coach, but this was just a few years before.

After Knox also failed to turn things around (his best season was 6-10 in 1992), Frontiere would orchestrate the move to St. Louis, the city of her birth.

I had forgotten that Fisher was also the coach of the Oilers when they went through the relocation process (They initially moved to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis as a temporary location, but there was little local fan interest since they knew the Oilers would not be their team). He had taken Jack Pardee’s place as head coach during the 1994 season (he was retained despite a 1-5 record after Pardee had started 1-9) and moved with the team after the 1996 season.

To give some additional perspective to how long ago this was, when Fisher took the defensive coordinator job in Houston, he replaced Buddy Ryan, famous for coaching the great Bears defense 30 years ago (he also happens to be the father of Rex and Rob if you were wondering). Coincidentally, Fisher had played for Ryan in Chicago and worked as his assistant in Philadelphia.

I have another blog planned where I modify my position on realignment given the NFL’s relocation approval for the Rams (effective immediately) and the Chargers (which is undetermined and may not take place at all).

In looking at the map, I thought it was interesting that both the Rams and the Oilers (now Titans) moved to the same basic part of the country. More on that in a moment.

Fisher coached in that area 19 of the past 20 seasons (he did not coach in 2011), so he expressed some mixed feelings about the move. I thought it was decent of him to mention in local press conferences the fans that the team is leaving behind and how they got to enjoy two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl win.

The Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl (January 2000) win was over Jeff Fisher’s Titans.

The Rams made two other Super Bowls in franchise history: Super Bowl XIV in January 1980 when they lost to the Steelers (after what would be their last year in Los Angeles proper) and Super Bowl XXXVI in January 2002 when they lost to the Patriots (in the Patriots’ first Super Bowl win). The Rams last made the playoffs in 2004.

Between the Ohio River and the southern edge of the Florida panhandle and between the eastern border of Texas and the Atlantic Ocean, there was previously only one team, the Atlanta Falcons. So all of a sudden there were two teams between Kansas City and Atlanta in roughly neighboring fan areas.

The area that had no teams before  the 1990s relocation is covered by the black lines on the left.  The gray box that is added on the right adds the area that had only one team.

The area that had no teams before the 1990s relocation is covered by the black lines on the left. The gray box that is added on the right adds the area that had only one team.

I’m curious about how this played into fan support, financing, etc. It also could have had something to do with the NFL allowing the Rams to move back. Maybe the St. Louis market being unexploited doesn’t seem like such a problem with all the relatively close teams.

The two new teams to populate the greater area I mentioned before (but slightly to the east of Atlanta) were 1995 expansion teams Carolina and Jacksonville. Jacksonville was a surprise winner over St. Louis, Baltimore, and Memphis. In recent years, there have been rumors about the Jaguars possibly relocating, and St. Louis has been suggested as a possibility. Jacksonville is the fourth-smallest TV market in the NFL, ahead of only Green Bay (which was the only smaller market in 1995), Buffalo, and New Orleans.

St. Louis had given the Rams a very friendly lease before there was so much popular sentiment against public financing and of course before the global financial crisis that took place in 2008, the year of Frontiere’s death. Part of that agreement was for the city to maintain a top-tier stadium, meaning it had to be among the top 8 in the NFL even though St. Louis would have only been the 19th NFL TV market had the other Los Angeles stadium project been approved instead.

So the unwillingness/inability of St. Louis to do that does not, in my opinion, rule out potential relocation there by another franchise. Places like Houston, Baltimore, and Cleveland changed course after their original teams left (the current Browns team was really an expansion team even though we’re supposed to pretend it wasn’t), so the same could happen. Not that it would have to be in the top 8 (which shouldn’t be expected of a city that size anyway). It is concerning, however, that despite being in the middle of the pack in performance and despite the fans knowing relocation might be imminent, St. Louis was dead last in attendance in the NFL last year. More people per game went to see the Vikings, who play at a college stadium outdoors (which, to be fair, seems nice considering), even though there was room for 14,000 fewer people.

The view from the home plate side of Oakland Coliseum.  It is nostalgic to see a baseball diamond when you watch on TV, although it would annoy me as a fan.

The view from the home plate side of Oakland Coliseum. It is nostalgic to see a baseball diamond when you watch on TV, although it would annoy me as a fan.

On a related note, no one seems to care about the Raiders’ ongoing stadium problems. I guess the NFL still regards that franchise as the enemy even though Al Davis (the other owner who abandoned the L.A.) has also passed away. (Among many perceived slights to the league, Davis had moved the team to L.A. despite losing 22-0 when the proposal was submitted to the other owners.) USA Today technically ranked the Oakland Coliseum second to last, but the author wrote last place Soldier Field wasn’t really the worst but was being ranked last because it used to be nice. I’m sure that’s a comfort to the Raiders.

Ryan, Robinson, and Knox are all still alive and over 80 years old. Those guys were emblematic of football to me when I was young, so I’m happy to know they’re still around; and it was fun to refresh my memory of them.

Slightly less memorable was Pardee, who as an aside played for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M before being a Ram as a player. Unfortunately, he passed away a few days shy of his 77th birthday in 2013.

Other blogs related to Los Angeles relocation:
Before Announcement
After Announcement

Reaction to the Los Angeles NFL Announcement

In NFL on January 16, 2016 at 2:19 PM

Since I weighed in before the decision was made, I felt it was right to respond now.

Again, I’m going to talk about my personal reaction and the reasons why (in the first two sections below) as well as the implications for football fans more generally.

Saints vs. Rams

I don’t like the Rams. I never have liked the Rams. I don’t feel as negatively toward them as I did between 1988 and 2001 though. 1988 was the first full football season I remember watching, and 2001 was the Saints’ last year in the NFC West, which used to comprise the Saints, Falcons, 49ers, and Rams.

2000 was an especially big year in the rivalry. The Rams and Saints played three times from November 26 to December 30. They split the regular-season matchups, with the road team winning each game. Then the Saints narrowly won in the wild card round of the playoffs, New Orleans’ first playoff win as a franchise.

Brian Milne of the New Orleans Saints recovers a muffed punt to secure the Saints win over the Rams in the Wild Card Round in 2000.

Brian Milne of the New Orleans Saints recovers a muffed punt to secure the Saints win over the St. Louis Rams in the Wild Card Round in 2000.

Even though realignment took place after the following season, there were a lot of feelings that carried over. Cultural and geographic factors also helped intensify the rivalry with the Rams being in St. Louis instead of Los Angeles. New Orleans is the one large primarily Catholic city in the Deep South; but of course Missouri was a border state in Civil War times, and St. Louis has a long Catholic tradition as well. It’s not uncommon for people to travel from one to the other for college, work, and family reasons.

Many Saints fans also have a feeling of rivalry with the Cowboys even though (except for a couple of seasons in the 1960s) the Saints and Cowboys have not been in the same division, so it’s not like realignment necessarily changes everyone’s feelings.

I will say that I disliked the Rams the least among the four NFC West teams before they moved to St. Louis and also in their first couple of years there. The Saints’ #1 enemy has been and still is the Falcons, but the team that kept winning the division in the late 80s and early 90s was the 49ers.

That’s not to say there was no animosity though. The Rams and Saints often vied for a wild card spot in the same seasons. In 1988, for instance, the Saints, Rams, and 49ers all finished 10-6. Due to tie-breakers, the 49ers won the division, the Rams got a wild card spot (of only two that were available), and the Saints stayed home. (San Francisco went on to win the Super Bowl over Cincinnati.)

In 1989, a loss to the 49ers dropped the Saints to 1-4. They would rally to finish 9-7, but again, this was not good enough to get one of the two wild card spots. An overtime loss to the Rams in late November ultimately cost the Saints a playoff spot. The 49ers would return to the Super Bowl as NFC champions after beating the Rams in the championship game.

The Saints again had a rough start in 1990, with Bobby Hebert off of the team. They were only 5-7 going into the last four games, two of which were against the Rams and the other against the 49ers. They won all three of those divisional games, including beating the Rams with a Morten Andersen field goal in the final game. Even though this was the worst New Orleans season since 1986, it was the first year of the six-team playoff, and the Saints made it in as the third wild card.

So when you’re competitive with teams that are playing for and winning conference championships and Super Bowls while you don’t even make the playoffs (partly because you had to play those teams multiple times), that can build up a dislike of those other teams.

Even though the Rams would not make the playoffs again until 1999 (when they won the Super Bowl over Tennessee), it wasn’t like there was no history before that. I remember trying to boycott the Saints when Jim Everett played for them. I could not stand him when he played for the Rams, and I refused to change my mind about him.

More Personal Feelings on the Move

I do feel a little bit bad for the St. Louis area, which has now lost two teams in my memory. I guess the NFL thinks the fans can just distribute themselves to other teams. Of course Los Angeles went as a largely untapped market for over 20 years, so I guess the NFL doesn’t see it as a huge problem.

Maybe one day there can be a gigantic new stadium somewhere between St. Louis and Memphis and everyone in that middle region can have a team to share. Maybe there will be some advance in transportation that allows people to get there at 100 miles per hour. Here is a map of where St. Louis is (the clear star in the middle) relative to the interstate highway system and other NFL teams.

St. Louis

If it had to be one team (although the Chargers may still come later), I was hoping it was going to be an AFC team.

Even though (as I explained in the last blog on this issue) it’s better to be in a secondary market than a primary market, I would have gotten to see the Chiefs, my favorite AFC team, more. I would have seen them play the Chargers or Raiders twice. I may see some of those games still, but if they’re on in the afternoon and the Rams are on in the afternoon, NFL rules prevent another game from being on television at that time.

Also, if the Saints are playing at the same time as the Rams, I won’t see them. If the Saints are playing a day game and Fox doesn’t have a doubleheader, I also will be almost guaranteed not to see the Saints. The only possible exceptions to the latter item are the two times per year that the Saints will host an AFC team (which makes it a CBS game).

As I said last time, the Chargers are the only one of the three applicants I have ever cheered for even a little bit. So not only are the Chargers not the home team now (at least not for the time being), Los Angeles is also no longer a secondary market for them.

Television tends to favor games involving a team’s divisional rivals. I have no interest in seeing the Seahawks or 49ers more often. I’ve never minded the Cardinals (another team that was previously in St. Louis) and actually am hoping they win the NFC in these playoffs, but that’s not much of a comfort. But if they stay good and Patrick Peterson and Tyran Mathieu keep playing for them, maybe they’ll solidify their spot as my #4 team (I also like the Dolphins, not that I’d see them much regardless).

The main positive is I am more likely to see the Saints when they actually play the Rams. You play teams in your conference more than you play the teams from outside of your conference (an average of once every two years vs. an average of once every four years). I might even try to save up and go to a game if the Saints come to town.

Fan Bases and History

The Rams do have a lot more history in Los Angeles than the other two options. The Raiders were only in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, although they did get a lot of followers from that time. The Chargers were only in Los Angeles in 1960, but still being in Southern California resulted in them still having a lot of fans that aren’t too far away.

I mentioned last time that a lot of the support for the Rams has dried up, but I also mentioned fans around here can be kind of fickle. I’m sure many of the people who only recently became Chargers fans can now easily become Rams fans. Even longstanding Raiders fans may cheer for the Rams at least when it doesn’t hurt or distract from the Raiders.

I’m not sure about all the people who claim to be fans of the Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, etc.; but it probably depends on whether those teams are any good in a given season. It also helps fans to move away from those teams the more removed they get from their last Super Bowl. (I know the Cowboys were a long time ago, but not as long ago as the last time Los Angeles had an NFL team.)

The NFL left the door open to a second team with the Chargers. With the elimination of the Raiders from consideration though, that avoids the huge headache of sorting out two teams of the same conference in one market, which has never been done before.

I think the Raiders are settled in Northern California, and the Chargers are settled in Southern California. So if the Chargers move, I think their San Diego fans are less likely to give up on them. If they don’t move, they’ll likely still have some fans in the outlying areas of Los Angeles who will support them.

I will be interested to see if support for the Raiders dissipates in Southern California. I think some of the Northern and Eastern parts of the Bay Area would have felt really abandoned by the NFL since the 49ers moved to the suburbs south of San Francisco.

Which NFL Team(s) Make Sense for the L.A. Fan Base?

In NFL on January 5, 2016 at 8:29 PM

My (not especially numerous) regular readers know that I’m not a huge NFL fan, but I do at least follow major news items of all the major sports: football, baseball, basketball, hockey to some extent.
Although obviously most of my posts are about college football, I’ve also written previously about conference and divisional realignment in the NFL.

If you didn’t know, three teams have submitted applications to the NFL to relocate to the Los Angeles area.

All three teams were previously in the Los Angeles area. The Rams and Raiders moved to St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, after the 1994 season. (The Rams were originally in Cleveland, and the Raiders were originally in Oakland before moving to Los Angeles.) The Chargers had moved to San Diego after playing their inaugural season in 1960 in Los Angeles.

I’m from Louisiana (that’s why I came up with the name Bayou Blogger), but I’ve lived in Southern California since 2004, so I feel qualified to comment about the potential relocation of a team or multiple teams to the Los Angeles area. I’m going to split this into two parts. In the first, I’ll talk about NFL TV rules and why I (and probably other fans of outside teams) would prefer the status quo.

Why I’m Against Any Relocation (and non-fans of the three teams should be as well)

Since I’m not a big fan of any of them (more on that below) I would rather none of the teams moved here because of the NFL television policy that punishes you for having a local team.

For instance, I recently traveled back to the New Orleans area and was not able to watch the Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals game because it came on at the same time as the Jacksonville Jaguars played the Saints. If it were Week 1, I might have been happy with the Saints game, but I’d rather watch a game with major playoff implications than a game between two teams who are certain to miss the playoffs. The former turned out not to be a good game anyway, but that’s beside the point.

If I were in a secondary market like Baton Rouge or Los Angeles (Los Angeles is a secondary market for the Chargers), I would generally get the closest NFL team (it would be guaranteed if they’re on the road), but it wouldn’t rule out games on other networks at the same time.

It’s even worse when the same market has two teams, as the Bay Area does (at least for the time being). I’ll give an example from a few weeks ago. In Week 12 of the NFL season, the Raiders played in the morning (10 a.m. PST), and the 49ers played in the afternoon. It didn’t matter who was on any other channel or how bad the Raiders and 49ers were, the Bay Area got the Raiders in the morning on one network and the 49ers in the afternoon on the other network. Neither network was allowed to have a doubleheader that day.

What does that mean? When you’re not in a primary market, one of the two networks (CBS and FOX) gets a doubleheader, meaning a morning and afternoon game (or on the East Coast an early afternoon and late afternoon game), every week. The other network can only show one game but is allowed to choose between morning and afternoon. The two networks alternate in Weeks 1 to 16, and are both allowed doubleheaders in Week 17.

So had I been in the Bay Area on that day, I simply wouldn’t have watched an NFL game in either time slot. Therefore, I ESPECIALLY don’t want Los Angeles to have two teams.

One more note about doubleheaders: In the Saints-Jaguars example I gave, that was contractually a CBS game since the AFC team was on the road (I have no idea why the contract follows the road team). Had CBS had a doubleheader that week, both FOX and CBS could have shown an early game (although I still wouldn’t have gotten to see the Cardinals-Packers game). Since CBS did not have a doubleheader, fans could only see a total of two games during the day.

In sum, having one team limits the ability for me to see games involving other teams, and having two teams would limit that even more.

My Feelings and General Local Feelings about the Teams

So other than the fact that I don’t want us to have any teams, I’ll also mention that the only one of the three I’ve never actively disliked is the Chargers. I liked Marty Schottenheimer, I liked LaDanian Tomlinson, and I liked Drew Brees. I haven’t liked them as much since all of those people moved on, but unless I wanted them to lose to help out the Chiefs or the Dolphins (my two favorite AFC teams), I was never really against them. So I would go to a game if it were affordable (not likely), and I probably would want them to win most of the time.

I never liked the Raiders much at all. The whole bad-boy image never appealed to me. I didn’t mind them when Gruden was the coach, but they became the same dysfunctional franchise shortly after he left. The Rams were rivals of the Saints in the NFC West before realignment, so I never liked them either, although I did prefer them to the 49ers. Both teams have been pretty much irrelevant for several years, so lately I’ve been more indifferent. I still don’t imagine becoming a supporter of either.

Since moving here, I’ve lived in the area to the East of Los Angeles. I was surprised by how much loyalty people still had to the Raiders in particular. Whether people are from Los Angeles or not, that’s the team a clear plurality cheer for. It may have even been a majority of local NFL fans.

Favorite teams based on Facebook profiles by county in 2014.

Favorite teams based on Facebook profiles by county in 2014.

Since the Rams had played in Anaheim for many years, the only people I encountered who were Rams fans had lived in or very near to Orange County (which sits along the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles Counties) when the Rams still played there. The only exception is I have a neighbor now who flies a Rams flag. I do live closer to Anaheim than to Los Angeles, but it’s unusual to see anything Rams-related unless I’m going toward Orange County. I was still a bit surprised with the level of support I saw.

The Raiders seemingly had much more support in 2013.  I'm not sure if there is a difference in methodology.

The Raiders seemingly had much more support in 2013. I’m not sure if there is a difference in methodology.

I heard or saw very little about the Chargers until the last few years. I think Los Angeles was given secondary market status almost immediately when the other teams moved, but I guess it took a while for people to warm up to them. A few years ago, they got a contract with one of the local FM stations to broadcast their games. Right about that time, I noticed increased coverage of them in the news, but they’ve still been second fiddle to the Raiders. I don’t hear or see any reference to the Rams in the local media.

Occasionally the 49ers are mentioned, I guess because they’re in California and a fair number of people have moved between the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area. According to Twitter, every county in California contains more 49ers fans than Raiders fans, although the other maps disagree.

Twitter provided the only map I could find that gives more details than the respective top team in each county, and the Rams were not even in the top 3. That being said, there are still a decent number of Rams in the area.

Twitter just looked at how many people followed the teams on Twitter, but there aren't huge differences.

Twitter just looked at how many people followed the teams on Twitter, but there aren’t huge differences.

Counties with most Rams fans based on population and Twitter percentages (rounded to nearest 1000):
1. St. Louis County, MO 350,000
2. Los Angeles County, CA 200,000
3. St. Charles County, MO 142,000
4. St. Louis City, MO 128,000 (based on the percentage of St. Louis County)
5. Madison County, IL 95,000
6. Jefferson County, MO 95,000
7. St. Clair County, IL 89,000
8. Orange County, CA 62,000
9. Riverside County, CA 38,000
10. San Bernardino County, CA 37,000

The New York Times did a baseball map by ZIP code, which I think would be more informative, but I could not find anyone who did that for the NFL.

Anyway, the above indicates to me that once their Missouri fan base vanishes, the Rams would be a team without a clear geographic fan base, similar to the Mets, Jets, and Clippers.

Some people say that the Chargers will have to start their local fan base from scratch. That’s not really true, especially not if you compare the Rams’ numbers above. I don’t think they would have much more trouble attracting local interest than the Rams would, although I do think the remaining Rams fans are more loyal fans than the local Chargers fans are. Still, it would be hard to see the Rams being the more popular team even if the Raiders stayed in Oakland.

Counties with most Chargers supporters, using the same calculation as above:
1. San Diego 1,512,000
2. Los Angeles 684,000
3. Orange 227,000
4. Riverside 224,000
5. San Bernardino 146,000

The Raiders fan base is too widespread for me to figure out where the largest support is statewide without a lot of work, but I’ll just compare the Raiders’ numbers to the Chargers’ top 5 (these are also the most Raiders-supporting counties of Southern California):
1. Los Angeles 910,000
2. Orange 193,000
3. Riverside 157,000
4. San Bernardino 154,000
5. San Diego 122,000

Unless the other team turns out to be great, I see the shared stadium with the Raiders working out about how the Clippers and Lakers originally worked in the Staples Center. Even with much cheaper tickets in the same venue, people just didn’t care about the Clippers.

If it’s the Rams and Chargers sharing the stadium, I don’t think things would be as lopsided. Also, I think it’s better for the two teams to be in different conferences. I don’t think that interferes as much with crossover fans.

This is a map of second-favorite teams by county according to Twitter, which makes 49ers fans seem more common than Facebook does.

This is a map of second-favorite teams by county according to Twitter, which makes 49ers fans seem more common than Facebook does.

We have a lot of fairweather fans in this area. I don’t really like it, but I think it does speak to the ability of fans to potentially support two teams. There has been a recent migration of fans from the Angels to the Dodgers, for instance. There isn’t that much local support for the NHL to know for sure, but I suspect the same thing about Ducks fans becoming Kings fans when the latter started winning Stanley Cups. I think the Clippers draw more from unaffiliated or relocated fans than from Lakers fans (someone who moved from Boston or New York would much more likely support the Clippers), but some Lakers fans probably do support the Clippers for the time being. Since they have almost never been good at the same time, there isn’t such a rivalry as to prohibit that.

For whatever reason, there is quite a rivalry between Chargers fans and Raiders fans, so that’s one situation where I don’t think fans would be as likely to cross over regardless of how good the teams are. However, it appears those two have much less work to do than the Rams would in getting their support to high enough levels in the area.

Back To the Future: High-School Championship

In High School, History, Me on December 12, 2014 at 3:30 PM
This isn't the classification in question, but it was the best picture I could find of the trophy.

This isn’t the classification in question, but it was the best picture I could find of the trophy.

I haven’t written about high school sports since high school, but I had to comment about the high school I went to winning its first state championship since 1960. Hopefully it’s an interesting story. Some may know or be able to figure out the school, but I’ll avoid mentioning names.

What made it even stranger is that in watching the clips posted online (I subscribed to nola.com’s YouTube channel mostly for LSU content a while back), I saw a familiar face. It was the coach who had left my school in 1996. I honestly thought I was imagining things until I heard his name. He didn’t look much older either.

I’ll just call him Coach M. Since he left for a rival school, he wasn’t exactly my favorite person at the time. He did not do particularly well at that other school and had gone into other lines of work, although he had returned briefly to my school as an assistant at some point between the two stints. I would find out this was his first season back as head coach.

The administrators who were there while I was a student were all gone, so I guess that helped lessen any misgivings as well. Still, I’m sure some were skeptical he could just pick up where he had left off as a head coach. An NFL situation I thought of was Art Shell’s ill-fated return to the Raiders. Unlike Shell, however, it seems that Coach M had really kept up with the game.

I also compared it to Jim Mora (Sr.), who also left the Saints rather suddenly when I was in high school, coming back to the Saints and at least going to the Super Bowl in his first season.

Mora presided over a lot of improvement in New Orleans but was not able to win a playoff game with the Saints (although the Saints did have a first-round bye one season).

Coach M had won playoff games but had come up short on at least a couple of occasions in the semifinals. I mentioned the prior state championship had been in 1960. That was before the Saints even came into existence.

One difference is in recent years, the Saints did better than had ever done before. They won a few playoff games, won the Super Bowl one season, and made the conference championship in yet another season. But I’m pretty sure my junior year (two seasons after Coach M left) was the last time my high school had made the state semifinals. So I guess that all helps you imagine why it was so surreal.

After a bit of an upset in the quarterfinals (#6 over #3 on the road), it looked like it might be another year where they made it to the semifinals and fell short, which happened three times while I was there.

The last two games were remarkable too. In the last few seasons, my high school played really well against a rival school from the same district but ultimately came up short in both the regular season and the playoffs. That school was seeded #2 and had won the previous two state championships, as well as the district championships, and was undefeated. Somehow my school had them on the defensive all right, and my school prevailed,

In the finals, my school played a school that had 26 state titles. That school also did not exist in 1960. To be fair, it is a smaller school, so it wasn’t in the same classification in most of those years.

It was a low-scoring game with a lot of turnovers, but it seemed that the school that was used to state championships would pull it out when that school took a 14-7 lead into halftime (after a long drive to end that half) and still led 14-10 after the third quarter.

A number of second-half drives by both teams had stalled (or ended in turnovers) right outside of field-goal range, and obviously one ended in field-goal range. The other team got as close as the 25-yard line, but apparently that wasn’t quite a comfortable enough distance.

The player of the game was a running back, so the success my school had was mostly on the ground. But somehow with about 9 minutes to play, they drew up and completed a long touchdown pass of 45 yards. The team only had 112 yards of passing the entire game, including that play, against 217 rushing yards.

A combination of running down the clock and good defense took care of the rest of the game.

Normally you get more used to things like this after you find out, but due to the result, it’s only gotten more surreal since seeing that video. What adds to it is I ran (without much success) on the cross-country team in high school, and when I graduated we had never won a state championship in that sport. This was not the cross-country team’s first state title since I graduated; but it still adds to my feeling of disbelief to know my school holds what I consider the two biggest state titles of the fall, both of which seemed so elusive 10-20 years ago.

How I Would Re-Align the NFL

In NFL, Realignment on November 19, 2013 at 8:11 PM

As most of you know, I usually talk about college football, so if that’s what you’re here for, feel free to check out the LSU/Texas A&M Rivalry blog.

I know most people don’t talk about NFL Realignment since the teams haven’t changed in a while, but I just think it would make sense. I think there are a lot of fans who end up watching weird games because many of the divisions don’t fit well on the map. I don’t think anyone will listen to me, but I thought it was nice to think about. Let me just start out with a map of how I think it should look, and I’ll have some discussion below.

Each division has its own color, except both of the East divisions are included in the (darker) blue area.

Each division has its own color, except both of the East divisions are included in the (darker) blue area.

Edit: I made a picture of the current divisions to show how silly it is by contrast: http://imgur.com/P0o616N

NFC South
New Orleans
Atlanta
Jacksonville
Tampa Bay

The Saints and Falcons, rivals since the Saints’ first season in 1967 (which was the Falcons’ second season), stay together. It makes a lot of sense to break up the current AFC South. A division stretching from Jacksonville to Houston to Indianapolis for the sake of keeping everyone in the same conference was silly. If it’s not immediately obvious, I’ll explain why the Dolphins were left out below, but I thought at least two of the Florida teams should stay together. Tampa Bay has already been playing in the same division with Atlanta and New Orleans.

NFC East
Philadelphia
Washington
New York
Baltimore

I know the first three teams are used to playing the Cowboys, but I think they’ll get over it. It just makes too much sense in my opinion to have Baltimore playing Washington and Philadelphia in particular.

I can only really talk about my own experiences as a Saints fan in how I look at such changes. I did have a bit of nostalgia for the regular 49ers games over the weekend, but it just didn’t have much to it beyond football. Atlanta, on the other hand, goes a lot deeper. If you’re in New Orleans, you probably know people in Atlanta or from Atlanta. There is a lot of overlap of the two fan bases, not only in moving from one city to the other but also in places like Alabama. When the Rams moved to St. Louis, that instantly added a lot of fuel to the rivalry because even though it’s not as close as East Coast cities, St. Louis is still considered a nearby big city and there was a lot of interplay between Rams fans and Saints fans.

Anyway, you get over playing an opponent just because you’re used to it. I think with the logical passions that would develop in the actual geographic area, the Cowboys would be forgotten fairly easily.

As for the Ravens, I think the fact that Cleveland and Cincinnati were not natural rivals added to the intensity of the rivalry with the Steelers. But if you remember, that developed fairly quickly. It hasn’t even been 20 years since football returned to Baltimore.

The NFC North (Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit) should remain the same.

NFC West
Dallas
Denver
Arizona
Houston

A lot of people in Texas don’t seem to have noticed they have another team yet. Maybe by having the Texans play the Cowboys, people will realize this. I thought it was a really good fit to combine the two Texas teams with the two Mountain time zone teams. The Cardinals are technically in the Mountain time zone all year, but I do realize they’re two hours off for the first couple of months of the season since most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Other than habit, I don’t see how it makes sense to have two teams in Texas and insist they play in two different conferences and also to have two teams in Missouri and insist they play in two different conferences. Since Texas makes a lot more sense with Arizona, I decided to put that pair in this division.

AFC North
Pittsburgh
Cleveland
Cincinnati
Indianapolis

Basically, you have the two Ohio teams, and then you add a team from either side of the state. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati have been playing one another as long as I remember. I clearly remember the Houston Oilers being in that division. Other than trying to break up the AFC East or NFC North, there is no other place that makes sense for the Colts.

AFC Central
St. Louis
Tennessee
Kansas City
Carolina

I just mentioned the old AFC Central (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Houston), but I couldn’t think of a better name for this one. St. Louis and Kansas City are naturals, and Tennessee and Carolina are more leftovers, but that could be a good rivalry too. Tennessee does border North Carolina. I also toyed with trying to put everyone but Kansas City in some kind of Southern division, but ultimately either the AFC North or one of the Eastern divisions was going to need a Southeastern team, so I went with the Dolphins since they’re already in the AFC East. They’re all in the in-between zone between the North/Midwest and the Deep South.

AFC East
New England
New York
Buffalo
Miami

Like the NFC North, this one remains the same. I already explained why I decided to leave Miami here. It’s the only spot on the map that doesn’t make any sense, but I couldn’t see any logical way to change this.

AFC Pacific
Seattle
San Francisco
San Diego
Oakland

The 49ers preceded the AFL by only about 10 years, and the rest were all AFL teams. I know the 49ers have been in the NFC the whole time, but Seattle would be back where they belong, in my opinion. The 49ers and Seahawks are already familiar with each other from recent years, and I think it would be fun seeing the rivalry between the Seahawks and Raiders renewed. Chargers/Seahawks won’t get anyone excited, but San Diego will still be playing Oakland, and San Francisco would be an added bonus. I think that would make up for the loss of Denver (a good ways away from San Diego anyway), and Kansas City was never the best fit with the West Coast teams.

Based on the discussion in the comments, I have a compromise map. I don’t think it works as well, but I would also favor it over the current divisional alignment.

NFLTeamsMap

Week 6 Review and SEChiefs

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game, Rivalry on October 8, 2013 at 4:05 PM

1 – Points Mississippi St. defeated LSU by in 1999 (LSU finished 3-8, and Miss. St. finished 10-2; this is the only Miss St. win over LSU since the 1991 season). This season’s game was also 1 point shy of the record combined score in the series.

3 – consecutive SEC games for LSU that the two teams combined for the second-highest point total in the all-time series: Auburn (56 points, second of 48 meetings), Georgia (85 points, second of 30 meetings), Mississippi St. (85 points, second of 107 meetings). Going back to the Ole Miss game last season (76 points, second of 101 meetings), it’s 4 SEC games out of 5.

26 – Wins by LSU over Miss. St. in the past 29 seasons. The Bulldogs had won 5 in a row before that.

27 – LSU home games since losing to Florida, 13-3, in 2009. LSU’s only loss in those games was the last-minute loss to Alabama last season.

32 – Years since Georgia beat South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida in the same season. They’ve never beaten all three AND LSU in the same season, although they did beat Florida, South Carolina, and LSU in 2004.

Getting back to the LSU/Mississippi St. game, giving up 26 points is hardly embarrassing, but that doesn’t fairly represent how bad the LSU defense looked for most of the game. They couldn’t penetrate into Miss. St.’s backfield; and when they did, it didn’t matter too much, because then they couldn’t tackle.

Dak Prescott (a Louisiana native) can run, but he’s not Johnny Manziel. LSU seemed to give him way too much room to manœuvre out of fear of a big play. Prescott ran for 103 yards and threw for 106. LSU did a little better with tackling Tyler Russell, who ran for negative yardage overall despite a 15-yard scamper, but Russell threw for 146 yards. 468 total yards given up against Miss. St. is a problem, especially after giving up over 400 yards to Auburn and nearly 500 to Georgia.

The Bulldogs were only 4/11 on third downs and had two failed fourth-down conversions. Still, it was worrying that the score was 28-26 just under three minutes into the second half.

The LSU defense does deserve some credit for playing better under pressure–and for playing well toward the end of the game–but this game could have been a lot closer for a lot longer. Miss. St. made two fairly short field goals (one 22-yarder, one 35-yarder) and missed a 42-yarder. If Miss. St. had a decent field-goal kicker (which arguably accounted for the three extra points Georgia had to end the game two Saturdays ago) and made just a few more good plays. (I’m not taking anything away from LSU’s kicker, but the Georgia guy is incredible.)

I’m expecting a slightly more typical SEC game next week, when the Gators visit Baton Rouge. (Here is the LSU/Florida rivalry blog, if you’re interested. I think that’s the most popular feature of this blog.) I will be very concerned if Florida starts scoring at the rate Miss. St. did for the first 33 minutes on Saturday though. I don’t trust the LSU offense to keep up with something like that against the Florida defense. Playing from behind still isn’t our game, as the Georgia game showed.

Mentioning that Georgia kicker reminded me of Ryan Succop, formerly South Carolina’s kicker, now of the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. I also couldn’t help but notice that the Chiefs had Dustin Colquitt, punter from Tennessee, Dexter McCluster, running back and kick returner from Ole Miss, and Dwayne Bowe, wide receiver from LSU. Those are all recognizable positions, and it almost seems like yesterday when each player was playing in the SEC. They didn’t all overlap, but it seemed like it.

Too bad former Alabama QB Brodie Croyle couldn’t make it as a Chief (or NFL player in general), then it could be even more like an SEC all-star team. Former Tennessee QB Tyler Bray did play extensively in Kansas City’s last pre-season game but has been inactive for all of the regular-season games. Chase Daniel is the current #2 QB. Although he didn’t play in the SEC, his alma mater Missouri does. In other backup QB SEC news, Matt Flynn, who led LSU to the 2007 BCS championship, has been released by the Raiders, the Chiefs’ next opponent.

Alabama/Texas A&M Pre-Game; W(h)ither Texas and USC?

In College Football, Rankings Commentary on September 13, 2013 at 8:24 PM

Before I start, I wanted to share a couple of things.

Even non-LSU and non-ESPN fans seem to be highly amused by this video. Apparently, this was released at least two weeks ago, but I happened to catch it while watching SportsCenter yesterday while my car was in the shop and found it hilarious.

This isn’t really relevant to anything, but it was a game in Texas on Thursday (TCU @ Texas Tech). I wasn’t interested enough to turn the game on, but this was different.
foxtech_medium

large_white_box_grayborder

Alabama/Texas A&M Pre-Game

Getting to more serious matters, the first thing on everyone’s mind at the moment is Alabama/A&M, and I’m glad LSU doesn’t have to play either this early in the season. Not that this makes up for the uneven scheduling as far as inter-divisional games.

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I’m picking Alabama. In short, I’ll take competent offense + really good defense over really good offense + seemingly non-existent defense.

Restricting my comments to his abilities on the field, the main problem I see with Manziel is he’s not a two-way player. The offensive prowess of Rice and Sam Houston St. notwithstanding, you can’t justify giving up a combined 59 points and 899 yards of total offense in those two games.

As an aside, I’m not sure what’s going on with SEC defenses. Georgia and South Carolina don’t seem to have any defenses to speak of either. That’s half of the top 6 SEC teams from last year.

McCarron is over-rated (there are several quarterbacks that I believe could have the same or better record based on Nick and the teams he’s had recently), but I would venture to say Florida’s offense might even look competent against the Aggie defense.

Speaking of Saban, I saw his grumpy press conference. Sorry to ask about how the preparation is going, your highness. That’s the kind of question that can even be asked as a head coach is walking onto the field. “We’re going to put the distractions behind us and be ready to play.” I don’t understand what’s so difficult about that.

The game will be in College Station, but no one other than Les Miles has beaten Alabama two games in a row over the past few seasons; and he needed overtime to do it in 2011. Don’t remind me about anything that happened after that.

Also, I think Texas A&M is particularly vulnerable to the adjustments I would expect Saban to make. No one could quite prepare for the Aggies by game time last year, but there shouldn’t be the same adjustment period this year, at least not for the players who played defense last year. After the first half, the Aggies lost to Florida 10-0. After the respective first quarters, they lost to LSU 24-10 and to Alabama 24-9.

Yes, Alabama had more trouble initially than LSU or Florida did last year (hence the loss), but Texas A&M will probably be more reliant on the run than last year, and that’s good news for the Tide as well.

Compare the Sam Houston St. game this year with the one last year. Manziel had 13.4 yards per pass last season and only 10.1 yards per pass this season. The only reason I thought to look for that number was the fact that 4 of the Aggies’ top 6 receivers from last season are no longer on the team. Maybe the new receivers will be just as good at some point this season, but September 14 is a little early to expect that.

However, I’d be perfectly happy to see Alabama lose as usual. I don’t think they have anyone to realistically lose to apart from A&M and LSU. I hope I’m wrong.

W(h)ither Texas and USC?

Just to mention a couple of other teams, I’m not sure how to explain Texas and USC in recent years. They sure have fallen a long way from the 2005 BCS title game.

Mack Brown was always a better recruiter than coach, in my opinion, but I don’t know how the original McCoy/Shipley team didn’t lead to the recruits necessary to succeed since then. Maybe it’s not having Muschamp around on the other side of the ball. Something has gone terribly wrong if you give up 40 points to a team Virginia held to 16, especially when you’re loaded with returning starters. The Cavaliers gave up 59 to Oregon, by the way.

USC was the opposite problem. They only managed 7 points against Washington St. at home. Auburn (which didn’t even receive a vote in either major poll to start the year) scored 31 points against the Cougars. The Trojans’ average in this series the last 7 meetings had been 45.4 points. It seems there is something going on there that can’t just be chalked up to probation.

Now it’s easy to say Kiffin just isn’t a good head coach (living in Southern California, I might have heard that once or twice), but they went 10-2 in 2011 and finished even better than they started: after the bye week, they looked great for the remaining seven games, winning all but the one against Oregon by at least 2 touchdowns and only losing to Stanford after three overtimes. That doesn’t happen if you can’t coach.

Kiffin’s performances at Tennessee and the Raiders were actually underrated in my opinion. He won two more games than the Vols had won in Fullmer’s last year, and Dooley wasn’t able to match that win total in any of his three seasons.

Kiffin didn’t do very well with the Raiders, winning only ¼ of the games while head coach there (5-15), but in the shape that team was in after trying to bring back the early 1990s with Art Shell, I thought there was more improvement than the record indicated. Seven of Kiffin’s losses with the Raiders were by a touchdown or less. When Shell went 2-14 in 2006, only four of his losses were by a touchdown or less.

All I can think is that Kiffin has difficulty planning for the long-term as head coach. I think this is more vital in college than in the NFL. There is no guarantee you’re going to have a large number of known quantities from one season to the next in the NFL. I never see this printed anywhere, but I’d like to see the number of returning starters that NFL teams have from year to year. Anyway, even though offensive coordinators are often more involved than a defensive head coach, maybe Pete Carroll kept tabs on long-term recruiting goals at USC.