Friday, December 30, 2005

Football 2005 In Review: Biggest Disappointments

Ripping college kids is easy, but not fun. I understand that they are young and doing the best they can. Yet they are still public figures. They knew that when they signed up. I’d like to think these critiques are pretty even-handed. All that said, here were my biggest disappointments from the past season.

1. Quinton Porter. I hedged all over the place during the summer (here and here) on whether or not he would have a good season. As you can read, I was rooting for a happy ending. It didn’t come. Some fans blame coaching. Other’s say he got a bum rap or was thrown to the wolves. I am now in the camp that he was never very good. His arm is weak. His poise and pocket presence never developed. It is hard for me to judge from a distance, but I never saw any signs of leadership. He made bone-headed mistakes when pressing. His fundamentals disappeared as the season wore on. He repeatedly threw to the check downs when he didn't have to. I could pile on for was that bad. Porter probably never should have started a game at the Heights given his understudies' subsequent records (12-2, 5-1 respectively). It was not his fault he was the starter (and the coaches’ decision on the starter is a much bigger issue). He started 17 games at BC so he cannot say he was never given a chance. The guy never put it all together.

2. Special Teams. If a unit is expected to be inconsistent and is inconsistent, can they be called a disappointment? I think so. Although our special teams have been bad before, some of the glaring problems could be overlooked due to our success returning the ball. This year our punt and kicking returns were down too. But those returns and Ayers kicks were the bright spots on Special Teams. The problems -- our kick coverage, our punt coverage, our punt protection and of course our field goal kicking. All were atrocious. Why can’t we find a place kicker who is not a head case? Why are will still allowing multiple blocked punts during a season and having clear protection breakdowns? How can 11 guys all be caught looking around on coverage against inferior teams? These questions are not new. BC fans have been asking them for four or five years. The players change, the problems don’t. As I said recapping the game, something needs to be done.

3. Chris Miller. Listing Miller as a disappointment might be unfair and point towards my own bias. I thought the kid was going to have a big year. We had only seen glimpses of his ability prior to the season and all indicators were good. Given the starting slot, I thought he would shine. He didn’t. After the BYU game he became a non-factor. He was mediocre blocker and dropped plenty of balls thrown his way. It is a shame, because we’ve used Tight Ends effectively in the past. I thought he was a diamond in the rough and would explode with Kashetta gone. This season proved that he had no upside and we saw the best he had…which was just okay.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Boise State

Watching this game for a second time was as confusing as the first viewing. The game never should have been as close as it was, yet how were we ahead with poor games from Trueblood, Marten, Silva, Tribble, Brown, and Miller? The coordinators called a good game for the most part, yet still did some questionable things. As I said yesterday, the thing that made it interesting was our specials teams. Here are my thoughts on each unit.

Offense: B+

I usually start with the offensive line in these evaluations. Usually it is all good news. In this game it wasn’t. The pass blocking was very good. Ryan had time to throw throughout most of the game. The run blocking was a mixed bag. Beekman and Cherilus played well. Ross played well too (aside from the bad snap). Trueblood and Marten did not. They both had a few ole blocks and did not clear out there men when pulling. I don’t know if it was because they were too slow for the smaller Boise guys or just tired, but their so so efforts killed some runs.

Miller and the other Tight Ends were non-factors. Miller let his man break free and tackle Whitworth on one early run. We did go with two tight end formations more than we normally do but it was all for the protection (which Purvis and Thompson looked good blocking).

The receivers were probably the best part of the offense. Blackmon was a man among boys in the open field. Will had mercurial career at the Heights. I am glad it all came together in this game. His instincts and ability to avoid tackles on his screen was Bush-like. Lester left his drops behind him. Once again, I am glad he went out strong. Gonzo -- great hands and routes on the TDs. I hope he has a big year next season.

The running backs provided their usual frustration. Neither broke anything long and had trouble making the initial tackler miss. I will give credit to Callender for making some key clock-killing runs in the fourth quarter. But Boise St. did everything to stop the run with a loaded box. (BSU’s scheme was actually pretty good in the second half. They loaded the box. If it was a run they aggressively crashed the gaps. Once they read pass, they dropped five and rushed three.) Both backs didn’t get much help on some of the blocking from the o-line. We also went away from the “I”…so they were hitting the holes without their lead blockers. Speaking of lead blockers, Mark Palmer played well. The way we used him reminded me of the Clemson game. We would leave him in there presumably to get BSU thinking run and then would send him out to the slot, or lined as a second Tight End. Glad to see him healthy, out of the doghouse and playing well.

Ryan’s numbers mixed, but I really thought he played well. His decision making was very good. His deep balls were great considering the weather. I felt he was only really off on six passes. He ran when he should have. He stayed cool on the bobbled snap. The INT was a bad call, but he got lucky on some other plays, so that evened out. The only thing I would have liked is for him to run more late in the game. BSU started dropping eight guys and no one was open. Matt continued to look pass when slideing for a two-yard gain would have kept the clocks moving. Matt has things to work on in the offseason, but he continues to do what he needs to do to win.

Bible called a good game. Other might doubt it, but look at the game logs and tell me which call he should take back. Boise showed how quickly they can score, so I don’t think we should have started killing clock earlier. Hell, I loved seeing us continue to go deep. The Hail Mary to Blackmon before the half was so un-BCish and so great. My only gripe with the passing in the second half was going max-protect. It protected Ryan but gave him no options on his throws. This is where play calling becomes a guessing game. Bible protected his QB and went with conservative passing while up 20. BSU, instead of pressuring, guessed correctly and dropped guys into coverage. As I said earlier, the Broncos did this all while effectively stopping the run with a loaded box. Both sides made adjustments…BSU’s were better. But overall Bible did well.

Defense: B+

This unit held one of the most explosive offenses in football to two touchdowns on their home field. But the day was not perfect.

I felt for Kiwi. He had a roller coaster season and he went out with a ho-hum game. He saw a variety of looks and seemed just a step too late the whole day. He still deserves credit for pursuing and for freeing up his linemates. Washington had a solid effort. Raji once again disrupted their running game. The big surprise was Larkin. He made some key tackles and showed the ability to fight through blocks and continue pursuit. He probably had his best game of the season…very encouraging for next season. One of the reasons I think the intensity of this group waivered in the second half is that the second unit was ineffective. Because Brace, Ramella, and Willis were only given spot duty, the starters played more than usual. The young ones have been very good this season, not sure why they had so much trouble Wednesday. The backups couldn’t get much penetration and were pulled quickly.

Henderson saved his best for last. The return was really heads up. He did a great job reading and reacting to the run. The only thing keeping it from a perfect game was not coming up with the INT on the final drive. Ricky Brown did not play as well. He got lost with the misdirection early and never got back on track. Dunbar was great. Yes, he got a stupid unsportsmanlike penalty, but the guy was all over the field. Toal was only in for part of the game and got pushed around on one key play. Pruitt also overreacted to the misdirection during his downs.

Williams had a great game (his tackle on Boise’s first fourth down was a key play from the first half). His counterpart did not. Tribble got picked on and was missing tackles. He also was beat of two deep plays…one for a TD and the other that put BSU on the 10. Silva also had a rough game. He is a great run supporter, but was lost in coverage more than once in this game. One example was right before Boise’s second TD. Zabransky play faked and had a man wide open in the end zone. Of course he overthrew him, but the receiver was Silva’s responsibility. You could even see Glasper correct Jamie after the play. Glasper shouldn’t have been pointed too many fingers since he should have helped Tribble on the first TD. Ryan made up for it with two picks. Anam had one of his better games. (I wonder if they will consider moving him to corner next year?)

Spaz had the team prepared and like I said, he held one of the best defenses in the country to two touchdowns. I think his plan was somewhat hurt by the young guys struggling. I was also disappointed to see senior guys like Brown bite on the misdirection (this surely was a pregame focus). The vanilla scheme was working for most of the game. We only blitzed once in the first half and were often dropping lineman into coverage and sending three. We only went to the blitz late in the game and it worked. It flustered Zabransky and helped keep them from scoring. Because it was so effective, it made me wonder: why didn’t we go to it more often and earlier in the game? I understand and even called for a conservative gameplan against a unique offense. Who knows? We won…but the successful blitzing late left me wondering if we could have completely shut them down with continued pressure.

Special teams: C-

First the good. Williams made some great plays as the gunner. Ohliger kicked without problems. Ayers booted some beauties.

The bad. Obviously the punt return for TD. Here is what I cannot figure out…on the return, Tribble, Silva, Dunbar, Glasper, Pruitt and Ayers all missed tackles. These guys are some of our smartest, most instinctive players. What happens on returns? Hell, Dunbar is usually crashing into anything that moves, yet with the game in question he was lackadaisical on this punt return. Are the coaches telling him to be patient? Are they telling him to maintain his lane to the extreme? Was it just a one-time unit meltdown? I don’t know. But I do know that it keeps happening. The players change. The opponents change. Yet we continue to allow big plays. I don’t know the solution because I don’t have access to the instructions. That return made this game closer than it should have been. When will we fix this?

The other thing that turned into a near choke were our returns in the second half. Will fumbled a punt (thank god for Jazzmen paying attention). Tribble and Blackmon both bobbled the wet balls on kick returns. They were probably pressing and the weather was bad. But this has happened in the past too. I think the time has come for a “hands” return man for when the weather is bad or when the game is tight. Sure it might take away the big play, but maybe someone like Toal wouldn’t get butterflies late in a close game. I don’t know who to use, but think a “hands” return man in tight situations is a valid solution.

Overall: B-

If you had told me the score before the game I probably would have been okay with it. But the way it played out left a bad taste in my mouth. I am happy that the Seniors went out with a win, but this game should never have been as close as it was. Regardless, it certainly beats losing.

Football 2005 In Review: Top Surprises

This is the start of my look back on the season. Let's begin with the positive: pleasant surprises.

1. B.J. Raji. Who knew? Before the season, I knew we needed the D-line to step up and fill big shoes. I thought Bell might be the guy or maybe even Willis. Instead Raji was outstanding. His play was one of those things that I would appreciate the more I watched the games in slow motion. He really took up a lot of space and helped us shut down many runners. He is amazingly agile for someone his size. And he has a Kiwi like motor to follow the play downfield. He doesn’t have Kiwi like endurance. But if we keep him fresh, he will be a force next season.

2. Jazzmen Williams. Our corners take a lot of flack. But they can only do what they are told and Williams worked within the system better than any corner of the Spaz era. He became an above average cover man, good run stopper and probably our most consistent tackler. Like Raji, I didn’t realize how good he was until I watched the games back.

3. The second-team Linebacking corp. A constant position of need finally became a position of depth this year. The first team get a lot of the accolades, but the second-team guys came in for long stretches and in my opinion were often better than the starters. Kudos to Spaz for leaving them in there. The backups still need to work on their coverage skills, but they were all monsters against the run. Dunbar got deserved pub towards the end of the season, but I think Francois and Pruitt were nearly as good. The defense loses a lot of important bodies this year, but these guys, Silva, Toal and Raji leave me very optimistic.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

“Can I look now?” Barely winning the no win

“…Tom O’Brien’s moral objection to games with anything but a score of around 24-17 should keep things close.”
-- Orson Swindle, Every Day Should Be Saturday

Wow. I’ve said it before and I will say it again -- being a BC fan is taking years off of my life. Actuaries should rerun their lifespan tables anytime someone lists BC as his favorite team.

The first half was a clinic. The fourth quarter an equal disaster. At first glance I don’t really fault the play calling. Boise St. is dangerous, so continuing to go for the knock-out punch via the passing game made some sense. The real reason this game was close was horrible special teams and some stupid penalties. Both have been common occurrences over the last five years. I am not calling for Petercuskie’s head. He is a good guy and a good recruiter, but I think our special teams finally need to be addressed this offseason. That may call for a coaching switch or just a change in how we approach special teams. The current system is not working. Our field position was horrible throughout the half and the 90-yard punt return was embarrassing.

After all the other bowl wins I felt a mix of excitement, completion and optimism. After this game I am just relieved that we avoided the ultimate embarrassment.

I’ll rewatch the game Thursday night and give my grades and second viewing thoughts. I’ll also give my end of the year reviews over the next few days.

Now I am off to see a cardiologist.

“Worcester with mountains”

For a game that didn’t have much juice, some recent developments are making things a little more interesting. The locals have not taking too kindly to the Boston media’s barbs -- the latest being the above quote about Worcester.

BC is also feeling slighted. I don’t think many bowl dinners turn into impromptu pep rallies for one team. Hopefully this will provide the right sort of spark.

BC will be without backup Jeff Burns. Jeff did make the trip…it seems he failed to mention his Christmas break arrest to the coaches before he got on the plane.

Disturbing trend

I couldn't see the basketball game last night. However, two things really are starting to worry me -- foul shooting and transition defense. The transition defense is nothing new. The guys will need to pick up the pace once ACC play gets underway. The foul shooting is more perplexing. Dudley used to be money from the line. He needs to fix his stroke if we are going to go far.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Links and thanks

The nice thing about the time between the final game and the bowls, is that the beat writers do some of their best feature work. Both the Herald and the Globe had some nice articles on different players and units this week. The best include a Herald piece on the offensive line and Vega’s article on Ray Henderson.

The Boise papers had a nice story on Dan Berglund. They also had a story on departing coach Dan Hawkins. I hope the split staff plays to BC’s advantage.

No one thought BC would travel to Idaho. Well I guess the people that are there are getting noticed.

Once again Ian wrote something I’ve been thinking and in a way that is much more eloquent than anything I could type. After the bowl game, I’ll give my take on bloggers vs. mainstream media, but for now I would just like to echo Ian’s sentiments in thanking Brian. He dreamed up the blogpoll and helped give us all a larger audience for the work we are doing. If you are reading this blog, I assume you are interested in many of the same things I am. If so, I highly recommend the blogs I link to on the right side. Many of them have contributed to this blog throughout the season and others provide some of the best writing on the web.

I would also like to acknowledge the Entropy Kid and the Evil Alchemist. They are two friends who were blogging long before I started. Their sustained success inspired me to start my own little blog. Much of what they write is more diary-like and probably too inside for people who don’t know them, but they are both funny guys and good writers.

I would like to also thank all my regular readers. I would probably write this stuff without an audience but the give and take via email and comments, the compliments and the notes of thanks have made this experience unbelievably satisfying. Hopefully I'll continue to be worth your time. Keep reading.

Finally, much thanks to my favorite non-reader -- my wife. She doesn’t read this blog and really doesn’t understand the fuss. Yet she has always been supportive of this outlet. I am lucky in so many ways, but having someone who doesn’t object when I say “I need to watch the game again for my notes” is really appreciated. I don’t know the secrets of life or marriage, but having a partner who understands you and gives you room for your passions, quirks and hobbies makes all the difference.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boise State preview

When this game was announced I thought BC would win easily. I hadn’t seen much of Boise St. but saw enough to know that the three best teams they played beat them. Reading more and looking back on their season, I hope BC is not taking this game for granted. The Broncos can beat BC. Here is how I see it playing out.

Offense -- what BC will do

I don’t want to get into a shootout on the blue turf, but I think BC will come out throwing. Here’s why -- Boise St. by design tries to stop the run and I think most of the receiver-DB matchups favor BC. Ryan can handle himself when asked to pass a lot. He threw more than 20 times in three of his four starts this season (which is a lot for a young QB under Bible and TOB). Although our Tight Ends have been a bit of a letdown this year, I think we’ll go to Miller throughout the game…he’ll cause mismatches and be able to release after blocking on the nine-man fronts. If things go according to plan, look for a heavy dose of run late in the game when the line will have worn on the smaller Boise St. defensive line.

Offense -- what BC should do

I know I might seem stubborn on boneheaded, but I would like to see us try to run early. Boise St. forces you into the pass. I think running successfully against their loaded box would be very deflating and take the crowd out. The game that I feel is most similar to this one -- Clemson (tough home crowd, unique offense) -- we won on the line of scrimmage and controlled the ball. That should be the gameplan for this game. Wear on them with both backs. Keep their offense off the field and pass on passing downs. Yes, it plays into their plan, but I think we have enough of a talent advantage to execute.

Defense -- what BC will do

We’ve mixed things up more than ever this season, but against the Broncos I see BC playing conventionally. This opponent demands patience, so the game will be won with the linebackers and DBs. Plus, I think our down lineman can create enough pressure without blitzes. I am also encouraged by the chance for Ray Henderson to shadow/spy Zabransky. Zabransky is a good quarterback, but has been know to press (which plays to Ray’s strength).

Defense -- what BC should do

BC has been strong against the run most of the season. Let’s hope they continue to hold strong this week, because if they shut down the run, I think they’ll start to tee off on Zabransky. Because of Boise St.’s inventive system, I do think BC should keep it simple (little blitzing, lots of zone). I really think the game will be won in the red zone. BC is known for “bending, not breaking” and has been successful in forcing field goals instead of TDs. The red zone success has been due to big plays and mixing things up with the short field. So when Boise gets close to scoring, hopefully Spaz will come up with a wrinkle or two.

Final Prediction:

The Broncos will be playing at home and for the last time under their popular head coach. But I think BC will be too much for them. It will really come down to the offense, since I don’t see this senior-led defensive unit blowing it in their last game. TOB is unfailingly predictable and he has shown he can get his staff and team ready for bowl games. I don’t see any reason to doubt him this year.

Final Score: BC 35, Boise St. 20.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Boise bits

Here are a few things to digest while you wait to open your presents.

As part of their College Football Preview, looked at some of the offenses changing college football, including Boise St. The Bronco play featured is more gimmicky. I doubt we will see it, but it shows you their goal is often misdirection.

Here is an article on our bowl travels. I think most BC fans would have been fine if TOB never got to check Idaho off of his list.

Beekman got the star treatment in the Globe Friday. Everyone talks about the other guys, but I think Beekman had the best year of all our lineman. I might even say he was our best player on the offensive side of the ball.

As Brian brought all the bloggers together this summer, a few stood out for their unique takes on the game. Two from the West Coast proclaimed an offensive revolution taking place and had Boise St. right in the middle of it all. The turning point was going to be the Broncos' upset of Georgia in Athens. As you know, Georgia stomped the WAC attack. Paul (and many Dawg fans) took much glee in this. Here are a few of his takeaways from that game. Much of this is very relevant to our game.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Crushing the Crimson

BC took care of business Thursday with a 89-55 win over Harvard. Sean Williams logged only 12 minutes and reportedly looked awkward. He'll get back in the flow soon. The only thing that really jumped out at me were the turnovers (24). This team made so many smart passes last year. What is going on this season? Look at the stats -- it is not all Rice and Hinnant's fault.

Christmas cards

Courtesy Eagle Wolverine

Play design

Disclaimers firsts:
1. I have never seen the current BC playbook or spoken to any coaches or players about this. This is all based on my own analysis. I could be WAY off base here (but I don’t think I am).
2. I am a blogger and clearly not a graphic artist (however, please note the bluefield.)
3. Any critics who might write: “you couldn’t do it”, “easier said than done”, “I’d like to see you call a game, make a throw blah blah blah…” Please. I can’t do it or I would be there. That doesn’t mean I can’t comment on what is going on.
Disclaimers complete.

The two BC camps agree on one thing -- no one likes our offensive coordinator Dana Bible. I have taken Bible to task many times, but I think he is much better than most people realize. Two things changed my mind on Bible: watching the offense excel with Paul Peterson under center and rewatching and logging the games on Tivo this season. There are still times when Bible’s playcalling drives me up the wall. I also question his contribution over who should start. But on play design, he is not bad.

Like many offenses, Bible’s is very dependent upon the quarterback. Quinton Porter apologists said that Bible’s offense is just too complex for a college QB to digest. I disagree. I think his system is perfect for a smart QB who can make decisions and can throw downfield.

The reason I think our system is QB friendly -- routes. We have our wideouts and tight ends run many of the same routes combinations over and over. We just disguise the looks with different formations and personnel groupings.

Here is BC’s standard I formation. Now I have the defense in a conventional 4-3, but Boise often will load up the box with as many as nine people. BC is known for being run first, so the “I” already puts us at an advantage on passing plays. The defense is thinking pass second.

This play calls for the tight end to run a deep route along side the wide receiver (who is also running a downfield route). The other wideout is running a crossing pattern. Now, here is where I think things get simple. BC will run this combo out of many formations. No tight end, three wide: two will go together deep while the other one crosses. Shotgun, with one back and a tight end: two will go deep together while the other one crosses. Play action: two will go deep together while the other one crosses. Each requires that the quarterback knows the variable or intricacy, but the progressions and reads are the same.

This route combo is one of our bread and butters. I like that it keeps things simple for the quarterback. I also appreciate that it can be effective against various types of defenses. If the other team blitzes, the crossing route becomes hot. If they zone, the QB can hit the crossing guy between defenders. Two guys always stay home, so protection is usually pretty good.

Because the crossing route is so inviting and not designed to be a big play, Bible critics scream when a short pass gets dumped to Lester or Gonzo crossing the middle on third and long. “Sure it is good for five yards, but we needed nine!” This is where the quarterback factor is important.

The crossing route is the easy play, but the big play is downfield. Now, I don’t know why Porter didn’t go downfield more often. Maybe arm strength. Maybe confidence. Regardless, this play is really limited if you take out the two downfield routes. The beauty of the guys running downfield is twofold: it often clears space for the crossing route and the downfield guys can play off of one another and either get one WR wide open or at least give them both space.

The biggest difference with Matt Ryan in the game, is that he could stay in the pocket and deliver downfield. Boise is going to challenge us to throw and throw fast. This combination should be called a lot. If Ryan can hang in there, he can make some big plays downfield.

Last minute links

Collegehoopsnet thinks Al is underrated.

Toal is working his way back. He wants and hopes to play in the bowl.

EagleTalon has been enterprising with this Ralph Wiggum BC image. We’ll see whose lawyers call first: BC’s or Matt Groening's.

Recruiting is ugly and awkward. This is just the latest example.

Assistant strength coach Russ DeRosa was featured in this article.

In alumni news, former Tight End Peter Casparriello took part in the new Flutie Wheaties commercial.

After a falling out in Minnesota, Hovan is back to his old form in Tampa.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Stop the insanity

Darren Rovell wrote a great article about bowl ticket sales. If big schools like Wisconsin can’t sell tickets for the Capital One bowl than I think it is time to take a look at the whole process (BTW, I think BC could have sold more than 8,000 tickets to the Capital One bowl).

Three problems with the current bowl situation:
1. Conference affiliations make destinations seem stale to fans. As evidence by Wisconsin, I think most of the Big Ten schools are tired of Central Florida on New Years. I've heard Georgia fans say the same thing about the Outback bowl. There is a need to mix it up. If Wisconsin was going to central Florida for the first time in 10 years instead of the fifth time, things might be different.

2. The greater emphasis on the BCS has made the second and third tier bowls less desirable. All we hear is BCS, BCS. No wonder everything else seems second rate. The only time a fan base gets excited about a second tier bowl is if they haven't been to one in a while. To all the other schools with National Title hopes, Orlando or Tampa or San Antonio feel like your team underachieved.

3. Finally, it is just not worth the money to travel to some of these games. Why spend a couple thousand dollars (bringing a few people from the Midwest to Florida or say sending one person from Boston to Boise) when you can see the game from the comfort of your own home? I love seeing games in person. But I have a price and I am in a two income, no kids house. I imagine bowl game travel will become even less of an option next year when I am a parent.

Repeat after me: playoffs!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Graduation schmaduation

The latest NCAA data on graduation rates was just released. (Here is BC’s breakdown.) I am glad that we are inline with our peer institutions and ahead of the pack in football, but let me state this -- this stuff should never impact scholarships or access to postseason play!!! Why you ask? Too much time has passed. The lead class in this sample began school in 1995. That is one year behind my start date and I am nearly 30. Should today’s 18-year-olds be impacted by what happened a decade ago? Think of how many coaches have since moved on. BC had a different coach in 1995.

In the whole scheme of things, I don’t think not graduating players is criminal. In my opinion it pails when compared to accepting booster money or playing while academically ineligible. If someone has a chance at a free education and doesn’t walk away with a diploma, shame on them. Not the school.

If the NCAA wants to make grad rates relevant, they should tie fines or bans to the most recent senior class. And who are we kidding, if any penalties are ever linked to scholarships and bowls, you’ll see graduation rates skyrocket (probably through nefarious ways.)

Silent protest? Apathy? Or both?

BC returned 1,100 tickets to the MPC Bowl. No official word, but the assumption is the school sold 900 tickets for the game and it appears fell 600 tickets short of their projected mark. Being off by 600 tickets when you sell 20,000 is no big deal. However, when it means you fell short of your goal by 40%, it is a big mistake. So what happened? The ticket office has been selling tickets to bowl games for seven years now…surely they have pretty good estimates at this point. My guess? (And this is pure speculation) They fell way short in their “donation drive.” I am sure they had a pretty good showing for the donations last year and thought people would support the school this year at a similar rate. Maybe at an even slightly higher rate since BC had to assume that fewer fans would travel to Boise.

If the donation drive was the reason behind the shortfall, what does that say and what can be done?

It says: “I want nothing to do with this bowl.” My personal feelings may skew my take, but I really think BC fans were disappointed in this process. Regardless of which TOB camp you are in, donating tickets to this game would be endorsing its existence and BC’s participation in it. Every other bowl that BC has been in under TOB could be rationalized by a fan in one way or another. This one really can’t. Having an 8 win, east coast team in Boise on Dec. 28th at 4:30 EST is pointless. If this is the best BC and the ACC can do, then things clearly need to be reworked. So my interpretation is that most BC fans don’t care about this game and the diehards were too angry to bail the Athletic department out.

What can be done: I would love to interpret this apathy and/or anger as mandate to start a playoff. It is not. It is a low point for the BC fan culture. You can chicken or egg our travel rep all day long, but the problem with the BC fan culture is that the team and game is not first with the majority of our fans. The BC football experience is about the party and the big teams. We are not the only school that faces this challenge. But if we are going to change the culture to a passionate, fired up, any time any place crowd, it needs to start with the Athletic Department. They are doing small things like getting people into games early and supporting the super fans. Next step -- encourage passion in the stands. The “down in front” crowd kills the atmosphere on gamedays. Passion should be nurtured. Maybe this offseason send out a survey that asks people about their game experience and if they would like to move to a different section. If the crazies are all together, the passion will spread. Another suggestion: Aggressively market travel packages. A recorded message is fine, but I bet personal calls from Gene D. would go a lot further. Someone has to figuratively knock on every door and plead with the fans. There are plenty of people that love BC football who don’t receive anything back. A little outreach would go a long way. Final suggestion -- subsidize bowl travel for fans willing to go. Rutgers is doing it. It may be the only way to shake our reputation. Not that we should pay people to go to Orlando, but a place like Boise? Damn right BC should help anyone willing to travel across country and root for the team.

These were just a few half baked thoughts. Style of play and scheduling would obviously have a greater impact than my ideas (but I don't see either of those things changing). There are many potential solutions. The point is clear -- BC needs to do something different next year to put Boise behind us.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Meet Sean Williams

Great news: Sean Williams is cleared to play and should make an immediate impact.

What he did was stupid. But I am attributing it to freshman immaturity. I’ve read many reports and received many emails about Sean and I think he will put this behind him. He could’ve bolted this team and gone to schools that are more “player friendly.” But he served his punishment, did what the school asked, and worked on his game and attitude. Sean has a good family structure. I thank them for helping him through this and encouraging him to go back to BC.

Now every BC fan is talking about Williams as the second coming. He is still only the third or fourth most important player on this team. He is very raw offensively. Last year he looked lost at times on the court. He had real problems with ball handling. While athletic, he was not great running the floor.

All that said -- he is a monster defensively. His Bambi like awkwardness masks a ferocious shot blocker. His presence alters games and covers a lot of our current lineup’s defensive short-comings. He was also improving on the boards as his freshmen year progressed. Sean’s leaping ability and agility to adjust his body in the air is unmatched in college basketball. He gives Skinner another man to add to our short bench. He is not Okafor yet, but BC doesn’t need him to be. All he has to do is stand under the basket alter shots and get rebounds. If he can average 8 points, 8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks a night BC can win the ACC.

Texas Southern thoughts

It is hard to give a true evaluation of this team based on the Texas Southern game. But here are my few takeaways.

Good rebounding effort. After another lackadaisical effort in the first ten minutes, the transition defense improved. The team did a much better job pressuring the ball. Solid minutes from McLain and Haynes. Craig Smith’s defense -- which included a steal and four blocks.

Rice’s running the point. He is still too careless with the ball and now seems to be thinking too much. He is a shooter, yet is passing up open looks. He should not be getting so many minutes at PG. (Who would’ve thought we’d miss Hailey so much?) I am still hoping he will come around and become more comfortable running the flex and knowing when he needs to shoot. Oates' defense. He was getting beat off the dribble by some real stiffs. If Oates is in, we should be playing zone. That is the only way to compensate for his inability to move. Dudley’s free throw shooting. It has now been off two straight games. He was our must clutch shooter from the line. He needs to get back on track. Smith’s foul trouble (seniors should know better and be more careful.)

A good game overall. These Christmas break games should help the team work out the kinks.

Judgment day links

The fate of this season’s basketball team will be determined in a Massachusetts court today. If Sean Williams is allowed to return, this team has the talent and balance to make the Final Four. If he doesn’t come back, the team should still make the tournament, but will have a hard time escaping the second round again.

Speaking of basketball players with eventful offseasons, Akida McLain played well again. His upside is promising.

In this article, the AJC takes another look at the ACC bowl issues.

PaulWesterdawg wrote this travelogue for Tech’s visit to Boise. Sadly some of it will probably be familiar to us in two weeks.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Smoke filled mistake

It looks like the ACC will take a bigger role next year in figuring out which school goes to which bowl. As Ian said earlier this week, it won’t make that much of a difference. Swofford is not going to bite the hand that feeds him. If a North Carolina team is available, they will go to the bowl in Charlotte. If Clemson is wanted by a bowl committee the Tigers will be there. This new backroom method will really be a game of musical chairs between BC, Georgia Tech and Virginia. The whole thing will still leave a good portion of ACC fans gripping about the bowls.

I’ve already made my case for the playoff system and my concept (11 conference winners, 5 at large, home games until the finals all played in December) is the longest of long shots. There are many reasons why it won’t happen, but some of the biggest reasons are that the major conferences don’t want a playoff. Yet the BCS conferences are not on the same level come bowl season. The Big Ten, Big XII, and SEC are filled with schools that travel well and have the best bowl associations. The Pac 10’s bowl deals are impacted by its geography and they are not in the mix with any bowl east of El Paso. The Big East is just happy to still have its Gator Bowl and BCS access. The new ACC doesn’t have enough second-tier agreement to satisfy its newer, deeper conference. Because of its need for new agreements and the lack of good destinations, the ACC should begin championing a playoff. It is going to take someone on the inside of the BCS to break it up. The SEC, Big Ten and Big XII would have to give up too much. The Pac 10 and Big East are constantly whining about lack of respect, so this would play to their desire to settle things on the field. But to really break up the BCS and move to a playoff, a conference with real TV power and 12 teams will have to take the lead. This is the ACC's chance to change college sports again.

What does the ACC have to lose? We never get two teams in the current BCS. We can’t get into a better bowl agreement with the second tier bowls. Half of our conference doesn’t travel well. All those things would become less important under a playoff. The ACC has nothing to lose, yet has the credibility that the Big East doesn’t have. The Pac 10 could get some attention, but they have been hesitant to embrace change.

If the conference doesn’t want to lead the charge on a playoff they need to do two things.

1. Create clear bowl criteria. I-AA wins should not count. Also throw in the caveat that a team cannot get selected for a better bowl ahead of a team that it trails by more than one game in the conference standings (that would have put NC State behind BC and Georgia Tech).

2. Create new bowls on the east coast. Ian mentioned Savannah or Charleston as destinations. Both offer a lot of appeal (I am not sure about stadiums). But the two most obvious choices are a game at Fedex Field and/or a game in Fenway. Fedex is a natural location with three conference members having huge alumni bases in the D.C. area. It also is more appealing to the rest of the conference than San Francisco or Boise. Sure it is bound to be cold, but not much colder than the aforementioned Boise.

Fenway is a tougher sell. It is really small and would be very cold. The reason I keep floating it as an idea is because I think the Red Sox would be willing (they are trying to break into college sports marketing and are willing to rent the park out for any other occasion), I think the novelty would generate some buzz, and I think this would be the perfect backup bowl for BC.

My playoffs are pipe dreams. The new bowls are more doable. But one thing is clear -- it is going to take more than backroom politics to make ACC fans happy about the football postseason.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Guest Blogger: Sexy Results Returns

You're coming off a dominant performance in the Tire Bowl. A steady series of above average seasons and some recruiting buzz has you thinking big about the upcoming season. The season gets off to a good start, but you still can't beat the conference heavyweights. No matter, you are solidly in the Top 25 all season and finish the year with an 8-3 record. Then bowls season comes around. Your retread status at some bowls and poor travel rep hurts. One by one, you see teams you beat get invited to better games. Then the nightmare scenario comes true -- you accept an invite to the MPC Computers Bowl. BC 2005? Yes, but also UVA 2004. To give us the do's and mostly don'ts of surviving the no win bowl, I've asked Ian from Sexy Results to guest blog again. Plus he might be the only blogger who has seen Boise in person AND watched more than a half of BC football this year.

1. UVA lost in Boise last year. How can a team, coaching staff and fan base get excited about this trip and avoid what happened to you guys? Is there anything that can justify this trip? No one goes. No money is made. All this for an extra 12 practices?

Although Bill predicted this almost to the letter, I’m assuming that this isn’t what most BC fans had in my mind when the team went to the presumably greener pastures of the ACC. Thursday night games? Gimmick bowls? You’re probably wondering why they didn’t just stay in the Big East to reduce travel costs.

Before you head to the ACC head offices with your pitchforks and torches, you have to realize that although the conference has unquestionably shed its reputation of “FSU and eight other guys,” it’s still not at a position of power come bowling season. I’m sure you’re proud of the fact that BC has a well-balanced athletic program in spite of its academic standards and small enrollment. So are the people at UVA, Duke, GT, Wake and UNC. While that’s the kind of stuff that looks good in an application brochure, it’s murder for a conference that’s looking to increase its bowl profile. Half of the teams in the conference couldn’t “travel well” even if they tried, not to mention that its reputation as an NFL factory is the only thing distracting people from the fact that Miami has a baffling inability to fill its own stadium.

With all that being said, just because a bowl game in Boise or San Francisco exists, that doesn’t mean you need to send a team there. Look, I’d love to visit San Francisco some time, but a matchup against a Mountain West also-ran is not going to convince me to go in December. And I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way. SF is a lovely city, but it’s also expensive, the homeless are legendarily aggressive in their panhandling, there’s not a whole lot that will interest the average college football fan, and oh yeah, it’s on the other side of the freakin’ country. The final insult is that it’s played in a stadium that requires both teams to be on the same sideline. Really, with all this in mind, how many more GT or UVA fans are showing up because it’s in Frisco instead of Oahu?

But the Emerald Bowl is like Xanadu compared to Boise. If you asked ten people who weren’t familiar with college football where the worst place to hold a bowl game would be, how many would come up with Boise in less than five guesses? Nothing about it makes sense: it’s remote, there’s nothing to do and oh yeah, it’s Idaho in December. Some apologists try to argue that there’s skiing, but how many football fans are realistically going to go hit the slopes? This would be a far more valid argument if the game was taking place near Aspen or Jackson Hole, but as far as I know, Boise’s not one of the premier places for skiing anyway. What would be the downside to moving this game to Denver or even Calgary? West Virginia’s got good skiing too. We’ve seen the blue field a million times, because BSU has proven that they’re more than happy to play a Tuesday night game if it means that they can show off their paper tiger program. It’ll be interesting to see if BSU’s inevitably lowered profile after the departure of Dan Hawkins will cause this bowl to fold.

So anyways, the ACC guarantees that two teams in its conference will have enraged fanbases just because of the locations of their bowl. It’s almost as if not going at all is better. Even when other conferences have gimmick bowls, at least they’re somewhere in the vicinity of the conference itself. Would it be at all possible to have a lower-tier bowl in somewhere like Charleston, SC? What about Savannah?

Worse yet, it looks like the real Gang of Six be playing musical chairs for this bowl for years to come. Until proven otherwise, VT, Miami and FSU will likely have the BCS, Peach and Gator on lock. That leaves a team with the best case scenario of the Champs Sports Bowl. And let’s face it: unless one of the Gang of Six finishes more than two games above a team like Clemson, Maryland or NC State, they’ll take the latter every time. While the Meineke Car Care bowl has had some pretty good luck (UVA/WVU sold out, as did UNC/BC), they might as well be called the NC Invitational from now on. UVA/Pitt was responsible for an attendance of 53,000…pretty good for a bowl game of this stature, but 20,000 less than the other two. Truth is, unless you get WVU as your Big East rep, they’re not going to fill the stands. So any NC school (or Clemson, considering SC’s proximity to Charlotte) with six or more wins is likely to get the nod here.

And that leaves us to fight it out. If this scenario doesn’t inspire your team to get to the ACC Championship at all costs, I don’t know what will.

But, you’re still going to Boise so we might as well deal with reality. For reasons I’ll explain later, this is not as dire of a no-win situation as it was for UVA last year. Other than the extra practices and the dubious bowl-streak inflation, the only real benefit to this game is that you’re pissed off. Don’t discount this. Before we were shipped off to Boise last year, UVA was officially invited to the Champs Sports Bowl, but we had to turn it down because it conflicted with exams. GT took our place and are finding out now that karma’s a bitch. Had we gone to the Champs Sports Bowl, I doubt we’d really bring the masses out; it’s just another season of mild disappointment capped with a lower-tier bowl in Florida with a corporate name.

But having been relegated to bowl season’s Siberia, UVA’s normally lethargic fans mobilized. Hitting rock bottom will do that. Bill, you’ll probably find next year that every time you want to write about how mad you are at something BC does administratively with football, you can just use the word “Boise.” And that became a mantra this year for people who wanted to stir up enthusiasm for the Hoos. The moment the Music City Bowl announced its intention to take an ACC team, the names of the bowl officials were posted on The Sabre, and fans were urged to e-mail them and write about how much we wanted to go to Nashville. When UVA got the nod, the Bowl people said that our school put together the most impressive package, and they were particularly pleased with our fans coming out in full force on the mailing front. Trust me, I think the “sluggish” pace of UVA ticket sales has been exaggerated. You’ll see our colors there, but there’s a chance that people would’ve bought them through Ticketmaster.

In the end, none of this happens if we didn’t go to Boise. So if the thought of going off to Idaho despite being ranked tears at your soul, you’ll think of us next time you’re wavering in your support of BC.

2. You saw Boise St. get kicked around by a real BCS team (Georgia). I know this is a different time and place, but do you think they can beat BC?

I hope you’re not expecting me to predict a BC blowout because of what happened in Athens this year. While stunning to watch, Boise’s beatdown was actually rather predictable. The other two times BSU opened their season on the road in the SEC, they were waxed by Arkansas and SC, teams with far less talent than the 2005 Bulldogs. The 48-13 score isn’t so much indicative of the talent gap so much as the fact that Dan Hawkins all but admitted that Jared Zabransky was nervous a whore in church for the biggest game in school history. You turn the ball over six times by yourself, and this score can’t help but happen. The fact that it was only 48-13 is actually a testament to Boise.

Really, if you’re the type of team that worries about losing to Boise any year, you probably can’t be assured a victory. This is pretty much the same Bronco squad that you’ve seen the last five or so years. With all this in mind, this is not the complete and utter no-win situation that UVA faced last year. We were set up; everyone wanted Fresno to beat us. Even though UVA and BC have the same ranking and record, y’all experienced nowhere near the inseason hype that we did. Until mid-October, we were considered a darkhorse for the national championship game (this was when VT and Miami were still considered “down”), and we controlled our own destiny until the Miami game in late November. We lost two of our last three games, and did not beat one ranked team all year. The media was laughing at us anyway, and then we had to go play Fresno, which Shanoff types love to fellate for their ability to take out questionable BCS teams. UVA actually jumped out to a decent lead, but we collapsed late. Although Marques Hagans claimed he was so pissed that he just wanted to walk home, this looked like a game that UVA wanted to win, but didn’t want to work particularly hard for it.

On the other hand, BC’s considered a more solid, quiet team. In UVA’s 2004 wins, we steamrolled teams, while BC tends to have a more business-like approach. By losing to FSU relatively early, the hype died down quickly. UVA’s schedule played out in a way that made us look like a disappointment, even though 8-3 was probably what we should’ve expected. BC seems like more of a team that met its expectations and just got jobbed. In the minds of football writers, somehow, UVA deserved to get punished.

Also, in the event that BC doesn’t win, it will probably look more understandable. Although Boise’s not exactly a stone’s throw away from C-ville, it was still technically a neutral site. In essence, BC is playing an away game against a team that’s won something like 30-straight games on the Smurf Turf. Add the whole “win one for the Gipper” angle with Dan Hawkins coaching his last game. Once again, UVA seemed like they deserved to get punished, while BC runs up against an unfortunate circumstance.

I think BC will probably come out on top, because they don’t seem to have any glaring weakness. That is, unless you want to throw Quinton Porter back in. Boise actually handled UGA’s running game pretty well, but was hopelessly outmatched by the oversized receivers. It seemed like half the touchdowns were the result of bombs. TOB may be concerned about getting into a shootout with Boise, because that’s their style. But if Ryan’s accurate and you can force some turnovers, being aggressive is the way to go considering BSU has one of the nation’s worst pass defenses. Or, if you need some comfort, check out the size differential of your O-line and their D-line.

Good luck…and let’s hope that NC State gets what they deserve next time they play a DI-AA team to get six wins.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sad but true

I give to the BC fund every year. I don’t contribute to the Flynn Fund and would never buy tickets for a game I didn’t plan on attending as a “donation.” I don’t begrudge others who do and don’t want to get on a soap box about either issue. But I would like to point out the experience of one BC message board poster who did buy and “donate” his MPC Bowl tickets. After generously helping BC out, he was hit with an additional $10 service fee. I am sure if/when he asks, the school will wave the charge, and it could be a legitimate oversight, but this is just another example of what is wrong with some of these contrived bowls.

Worth your time

Periodically I like to point out things other guys do that I enjoyed, even if they are not BC-related. Here are some of the more recent examples:

Paul tipped me off to ‘Bama fans tracking their team jet. Yes it is pathetic, but I know something like this would spark endless threads on the BC message boards. Isn’t modern technology wonderful?

This is a little older, but I’ve been meaning to point out a post on StateFansNation about misinterpreting data. Applicable to many fan arguments (including my take on BC sports).

Gunslinger tells ESPN to shut up…again. ESPN is really dumbing down a lot of their coverage and programming, yet at the same time they keep hiring good guys like Kenpom. Please don’t go all Sports Guy on us Ken?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Overachieving? Underachieving? Lucky? Unlucky?

Did BC underachieve this year? My heart says yes. I keep thinking that the UNC loss should be a win. But realizing breaks go both ways, I thought I would try to be more objective about how many games this team should have won. A good raw indicator in W-L record is point differential. Point differential is nothing new (I even used it as a gauge last year) and it doesn’t account for things like strength of schedule or style of play or even an extra game. But at the end of the day, it gives you an idea if a team was unlucky and could’ve/should’ve won more games based on its performance, or if a team got lucky repeatedly.

Before we get to BC’s differential, here is a frame of reference:

TeamRecordPoint Differential
Penn State10-1206
West Virginia10-1168
Notre Dame9-2160
Ohio State9-2195
Florida State8-493

As you can see USC and Texas are far ahead of pack. The other BCS teams are in the same range. The real outlier is Florida State, but as we know they stumbled their way into the ACC championship and pulled things together when the BCS was on the line.

So where does BC stand? Should we have won more games this season? Based on point differential it looks like 8-3 is about right. Take a look at other 8-3 teams.

TeamRecordPoint Differential

Aside from a very lucky Nevada team, they are all in the same ballpark. And the only other BCS conference team with an 8-3 mark (Florida) had a point differential closest to ours.

BTW, here is the info on Boise State.

TeamRecordPoint Differential
Boise State9-3158

I am not trying to be an apologist for BC’s record. It has been over a month and I still have a hard time letting go of the UNC loss. But if you take the dispassionate, numbers perspective, it looks like the good luck evens out. So for every UNC loss, there were a few things that went our way (like Wake or Clemson). 8-3 is what this team is and deserved to be.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Just a little off…again

I feel as good as you can about two straight losses. Because I don’t think the team played well in either game and nearly pulled both out. Things are just a little off…the free throw shooting…the rotations and line ups are just not jelling yet…Dudley and Smith have not been on on the same night…the transition defense is still missing. Fix any of those things and BC will be very good. Here are my likes and dislikes from last night:

Craig Smith had a monster game and really bounced back from his clunker in the Garden. The things that made a difference -- better shot selection, better rebounding and steals. Craig has quick feet and good hands, so he can get around a guy and break up the entry pass. He was doing it well last night. He also jabbed his hands in a few passing lanes. He still had too many turnovers, but his overall game was much better. Craig looked frustrated about fouling out, but I think he’ll just have to adjust to the less physical style in the ACC.

The defense (except for the transition). I’ll get to the transition later, but first the positives. The team was in the 2-3 for long stretches of the game. It helped cover up Oates deficiencies and really made a difference in the rebounding. They were also much more aggressive clogging the passing lanes. That has been a staple of Al’s teams. Last night it resulted in nine steals. A good showing. They are also blocking more shots than I would have expected. No one has filled Williams' presence but nice effort on that front. McClain made a big difference right away on the defensive side of the ball. Dudley did not have a great night and but did a good job helping out Oates with the double teams down low. Smith, as previously mentioned, was great on the boards.

The shot selection was very good. Dudley was off, but everyone else really moved the ball well to find good shots. Finding holes for easy baskets in the Maryland defense -- which is more sound than much of the conference -- is encouraging.

Rice running the point. It is still too early to tell if he just needs to learn the system or is not a natural point guard, but he has been ineffective the last two games running the offense. Why isn’t Hinnant with the ball? You have one of the most experienced point guards in the country, who knows your offense and is very careful with the ball and you are wasting him at the 2 spot! Rice is tiny but it looks like his natural position is the shooting guard. If you want to get him experience, do it in garbage time. These growing pains better pay off at the end of the season.

Free throw shooting. A really bad night. I don’t think it cost us the game in a sense, because Maryland missed 10 from the line too. But these are wasted opportunities. Hopefully things will return to form soon.

Late game management. The team deserves credit for clawing back and forcing the bad pass with 2.2 left. But an all too familiar errant pass came out of the inbound. The team got bounced in the last two tournaments with sloppy late game passes and it needs to end.

Finally -- transition defense. Maryland is hardly the showtime Lakers. There is no excuse for how many easy baskets this teams gives up. They did a better job getting back in this game, but still have a way to go. The real culprits are Hinnant, Dudley and Marshall. Marshall loafed a couple times getting back. Rice ran hard, but was often alone. I know they are tired because of the short bench, but someone has to get it in their heads how this is killing them.

A loss is a loss. Fortunately there is another nice little stretch here to get healthy. I think this team will be much stronger come February and can still be a threat to win the ACC tourney and run deep into the NCAAs.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Links and Maryland mini-preview

Here's a story on Flutie's rebirth in Buffalo.

In this article, Mike Shalin provides a series of thumbnails on the ACC teams.

The Idaho papers are already starting their BC coverage.

Maryland Mini-preview

The pregame talk has focused on the return of Akida McClain. I am not expecting much. Partly because it is his first game back and partly because he wasn't that much of a factor last season. If he can play defense he will get long minutes. Regardless, he adds another body to the rotation, which should help Dudley and Smith.

Maryland is a tough team but a much better matchup for BC. They don't have the versatility that Michigan State had and they don't have the front line guys to shut down Dudley and Smith. The key for BC will be defensive rebounding and keeping Maryland from hitting too many threes.

As the first ACC road game, this is a great test. It is also the first test after a big loss. How will the team respond? I expect them to step up and prove they can win in the ACC and without Sean Williams.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Buffs under the bus

I was at BC in the mid-90s and could fill this blog with numerous scandalous and potentially libelous stories about all the athletic teams. But at the end of the day, it is just not my style. However, I can’t get enough of other people doing it to their schools -- so welcome to Mendelnation. Jeff starts us off with a little player gambling and teases about more to come. I don’t know Jeff, but my cousin does, so I think there is probably more truth to his stories than most CU fans would like to believe. I’ll wait to see what else he has to say. Maybe Jeff will ask me to guest blog when CU hires TOB.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Good seats still available

It looks like BC is not the only school with a travel problem. To make matters worse, Virginia got the invite after telling Music City it would bring more fans than Georgia Tech (whose base is less than four hours away).

This is good news for BC as we’ve just become more desirable than the Cavs when the bowls play musical chairs next year.

When will Williams return?

There seems to be mass confusion about when BC shot blocker Sean Williams can return. It is looking like it might be as late as Jan 17. I feel for Sean. He is serving his punishment, but he deserves a straight answer.

As for the team, I will stick to what I said yesterday: they can be a Top 10 team without Williams. However, they need to play much better defense to do so.

Playoff proposal

Gene D came out in support of a playoff. His concept is an 8 team, post bowl tournament. I like that he is in support of a playoff, but this is far from the format I would prefer. I want something that would start right after the season and replace the current bowl system.

My concept would be simple enough:
-- 11 automatic bids for the conference winners
-- Five at-large bids selected by a committee
-- The first two rounds would be home games based on tournament seeding. The semifinals could be a double-header from a neutral site (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar or Orange Bowls).
-- The Final would rotate through the same spots as the regionals and take place New Year’s day.

This would crown a true champion, provide the occasional Cinderella moment when a Sun Belt or MAC team upsets a power, and would probably bring in more TV money than the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The first two rounds of home games would quell the critics who always cite travel concerns and costs. I also think this would get rid of a lot of the money losing bowl clutter. Teams not in the tournament would be free to go to any bowl they wanted. However, since all the bowls would now be relegated to NIT status, I imagine that only a few worthy ones would survive.

This will never fly because the coaches want the bowls. The bowl system covers up a lot of warts. After disappointing seasons, coaches can still say “we went to a bowl and blah, blah…” Even if you expand my proposed field to 32 teams, you would still fall well short of the number of teams that go to bowls now. The ADs are always saying the University Presidents don’t want the playoff. They talk about the long season and students suffering. Nonsense. The other divisions have playoffs. The fact that they are floating a post bowl playoff format, shows the ADs are unconcerned about the student athlete. A post bowl playoff would extend the season to February! Students would miss much more school time. In the pre-bowl playoff format over 100 schools would be done by December.

Don't listen to the "study time" spin. The old boy network just wants to preserve their little door prize that is the bowl system and horde the current TV money. An eight team format is a good first step but we need to go much, much further.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Michigan State loss -- my take

Tough loss Tuesday. Others came out saying BC is a flawed team and this exposed them. I sort of agree with that, but let me list the positives here first: BC hung with a Final Four team on a night where the Spartans shot the lights out, almost won with a mediocre effort on defense and with major mistakes from the team’s second best player. Jared Dudley is one of the five best players in the country and looks unstoppable in the low post. The team calmly overcame two huge deficits. That is it for the positives.

Now the negatives. Craig Smith played liked crap. I am glad that Vega took this angle, because that is all I could think about as Dickie V. moaned that BC needed to get Smith more involved. I know Vitale only has one eye, but was he watching the same game I was? Smith was very good in the first half. In the second he was terrible. His rebounding suffered. He was forcing bad shots. He turned the ball over. And he was trying to play face up to the basket. That is not his game. He needs to work the boards and make good passes. His points will come. Others were killing him for his foul shooting. I won’t. I expect it at this point. BC shouldn’t expect him to be Larry Bird from the line. They should expect him to be a smart player in the post.

The second thing that hurt was the transition defense. BC got killed here. Just lacking effort and composure. No one got back in time. By the time we started pressuring the inbounds MSU had already made their run.

Lack of adjustments hurt too. I like Al and have given him a pass for years on in game management. I thought he let this one slip away last night. Why didn’t we play more 2-3? It was working and it was the only way to cover up Oates defensively. He was doing an okay job when he didn't have to guard anyone down low and could work the boards. If he is in there for long strenches, the 2-3 is the only way we can help him defensively.

Overall, one loss does not ruin the season. How the team bounces back against Maryland will be a much better indicator of how this year will go.

Now let me dispel something that Bob Ryan and Andy Katz said -- that BC is not a top 10 team without Sean Williams. I don’t agree. Williams was a raw role player on last year’s team that got into the top 10. Dudley and Smith alone have enough talent to carry this team. But they both need to play smart and hard every night. Dudley has so far. Smith hasn’t. This core group accomplished a lot without Sean Williams last year. This team sans Sean Williams almost beat Michigan State on a night where the Spartans weren’t missing anything. Now suddenly they are not good? I like Katz and Ryan but I think they are slighting the guys out there. I think the team lacks a sense of urgency, but if anything, this game made me feel better about the season. We’ll see if I am still feeling the same way after we play the Terps.

Blogpoll roundtable

It’s been a while since I had a moment or two to participate in a blogpoll roundtable. I liked Ryan’s questions, so here goes:

Q1. Why your school? Did you go to school there? Were you legacy, did you pick it for academics, for the football team, the party reputation?

I went to high school at a boarding school in rural Connecticut. When it came time to apply to college I knew what I wanted -- a bigger school in a city. The summer before my Senior Year, my mom and I set out on a road trip to tour seemingly every city campus in the Northeast. BC was our first stop. It was a beautiful summer day and the campus looked great. Not many students were around, but the ones there looked like me. That might not seem like a big deal, but once you start looking at the top schools in the Northeast, you’d be surprised at how few white, catholic, preppy kids there are walking around. As we got in the car, I said to my mom that “I could see myself here.” I applied early a few months later and the rest is history. It was probably the best decision I made. I received a wonderful, well-rounded education. I got to cover big-time college sports. I made some wonderful friendships. And most importantly I met my wife. She is clearly the best thing that ever happened to me (and for those of you who think I am sucking up to her, please note that she does not read this blog). Most of my regular readers now know my love for the school. Our first baby eagle is due in less than two months. I am pressing for her to come home in our BC onezy (sp?). (While we are on the subject of BC, I should thank my parents for picking up the tab. But look at it from their perspective. If they hadn’t sent me to the Heights, I wouldn’t have met my wife. Without her, I would probably be living in my parent’s basement and hogging their phone line while waiting on hold for Mike & the Mad Dog. I’d say $120,000 is a small price to pay to get your son out of the house, marry a wonderful girl and provide your first grandchild.)

Q2. Name a player or two who had "THE GAME" against your school. I'm talking about a guy who simply dominated your team and all you could do was tip your cap and say, "Wow."

Michael Vick. This is easy. His 84 yard scramble was the most amazing play I’ve ever seen against BC. This is a football roundtable, but I also have to mention Allen Iverson. He was easily the fastest player I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. His explosiveness running the open court without the ball shocked me. I believe my actual words were "holy shit."

Q3. There are games that I have no interest in but I watch simply to see a certain guy play. What players from this season do you do the same for?

I think Reggie Bush is good, but he doesn’t do it for me (there, I said it). I was in Vegas for the Fresno State game and me and a friend of mine were the only ones in the sports book rooting against 'SC. I guess I am just sick of the whole squad at this point. I hope Vince Young does something amazing in Pasadena, just to take down the Trojan hype for a day or two. But back to the question. I flip like crazy during non-BC games. Not for one player. Just to get a feel for what is going on in games.

Q4. A few weeks ago we were asked who the best player to suit up for our school was. I'm curious who your favorite player to ever suit up for your school is? Certainly doesn't have to be a superstar, or even a starter.

I like this question, because it just gives me another reason to relink to my Paul Peterson tribute.

Pure speculation

Earlier this year the guys at EDSBS captured the dynamic of message board contingents. What they didn’t mention were the short-hand terms and recurring themes and gimmicks that each team board develops. For example, anytime a college coach is fired a band of TOB haters from Eagle Action run over to that school’s message board and start pimping O’Brien as a successor. The feeling is that TOB is too good to get fired from BC, so they are stuck with him until someone else hires him away. Needless to say, TOB is still at BC.

So today, when Colorado fired Gary Barnett the usual suspect pleaded their case at the CU board. Yet, this time and clearly independent of their efforts, I think TOB might end up in Boulder.


With that out of the way, let me tell you why I think CU and TOB might look under each other’s respective hoods. TOB has accomplished a lot at BC, but is not headed towards that Legend, Icon status at the school. In fact, as the reaction to Boise shows, there is a large portion of the fan base that is bored with him and his results. He is comfortable at BC, but has flirted/floated his name out for other jobs in the past (Georgia Tech and Washington just last year). He and his wife are empty nesters and at 57 his window of opportunity for another big job is getting smaller and smaller. He has no formal ties to CU, but the Washington process shows he would strongly consider going out West. At CU he could make more money and recruit a different type of student athlete. TOB is an ACC guy, but I think CU’s got a easier path to success in the Big XII North than BC does in the ACC Atlantic.

Why would CU want TOB? This is a bit tougher. Athletic Directors and Presidents love the old Marine. Boosters don’t (at least that was the word out of UW and Georgia Tech). However, he has an established track record of cleaning up messes and running a clean program. That might not win titles, but it might be what CU needs after their last two coaches.

Will he end up in Boulder? A core of BC fans would love to see it. I don’t think it is likely, but I could see it happening. As I have often stated, I am torn on the guy. Maybe a change of scenery is what he and BC could both use.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

TOB's ballot

Participating in a poll this season has been eye opening. I realized how hard it is to get an accurate read on all the top teams. It is equally difficult to create your personal measuring stick and then stick with it consistently throughout the season. Now, more than ever, I am strongly in favor of a playoff. That being said, my ballot had no impact on the national picture. TOB’s did. Gunslinger’s tipped me off to the public coaches ballots and I thought I would take a closer look at our head coach’s.

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Penn State
4. Oregon
5. Virginia Tech
6. Georgia
7. Miami (Florida)
8. Ohio State
9. Louisiana State
10. Auburn
11. Notre Dame
12. Texas Tech
13. West Virginia
14. Alabama
15. TCU
16. Florida
17. Florida State
18. Boston College
19. UCLA
20. Wisconsin
21. Louisville
22. Michigan
23. Georgia Tech
24. Iowa
25. Clemson

TOB’s is not totally out of line with my ballot or even the eventual coaches and AP polls. However, his bias shows through...raising some questionable calls.

The first is Virginia Tech at No. 5. They were coming off a horrible loss and I am not sure what rational he is using. In head-to-head I would put them behind Georgia and Miami. Maybe he is looking at overall record or teams he knows well. Who knows? Maybe he just feels they were the best team he faced this year. I think they are good, but not Top 5 good. ACC bias at play here, in my opinion.

The next questionable call is Notre Dame at No. 11. I’ve been sliding them of late too as their earlier accomplishments seem less impressive, but it looks worse coming from the BC coach than a BC blogger. The ND obsession among the BC fans bothers me…and it makes it worse when it seems like our coach feeds it. I feel like resubmitting my ballot just to separate myself from this perception.

He then moves West Virginia to No 13. WVU is 10-1. Yes, we know the Big East is terrible, but the Mountaineers probably don’t deserve this slight. It also comes off like a grudge, especially when you consider Louisville at 21 -- five places behind their slot in the coaches poll.

TOB also gave really high marks to Florida State. Conference champion, yes. Top 20 team? Not yet (in my opinion).

TOB’s ballot was not a travesty. Other coaches really messed up or were extremely inconsistent. TOB seemed pretty straight forward -- ACC favoritism and little respect for the Big East. But seeing personal bias come into play with people who are directly impacted by the outcome of these polls is disconcerting. A selection committee would have its bias too, but at least their subjectivity would be overcome by the eventual results on the field.

Some things to read

This is an interesting look at bowl payouts vs. estimated expenses. The ACC pools its money, so no schools lose money, but you’d think with all these smart people running around some one would ask “why are we participating in so many lousy, expensive bowls?”

Once again BC distinguished itself with strong academic and graduation rankings. The article mentions future punishment for schools that don’t graduate their kids. That is a hollow threat and will just lead to more academic manipulation (ballroom dancing, anyone?).

The guys are saying all the right things about Boise.

While in Boise they’ll get to practice indoors a little. The cold might be a factor for many visitors, but I don’t expect it to impact BC much.

Here’s a nice profile on Tyrese Rice.

Finally, BC has a great hockey program. I rarely mention it here, since I am far from a hockey expert and see 0 college hockey in Atlanta. But I will give credit where it is due -- two BC players made the U.S. Junior Team.

Let's see what we are made of

How good is Michigan State? They were a preseason favorite yet have lost two games and squeaked out two others. They are obviously well coached. However Tom Izzo keeps setting up these early season death marches for the Spartans. Once again they will have played a series of major and strong mid-major foes before the start of Big Ten play.

How good is BC? Unlike the Izzo, Skinner likes to ease his teams into January. BC survived a few scares already this season. Tonight’s game will be their first matchup against a ranked opponent.

Keys to the game for BC:

Defending Paul Davis. The Spartan big man is coming into his own. This is a game where the loss of Sean Williams really impacts BC’s strategy. My guess is that they will put Oates on him early and see how he handles the pressure. If he is ineffective, then look for Craig to get the call. That would still be a mismatch, but Craig has the strength to keep him off the boards. Another key to stopping Davis -- pressure the passers. BC has been good with clogging passing lanes. They will need even more of that tonight.

Slow the pace. Like BC, Michigan State can play fast or slow. I think a slower game helps BC. The Spartans have been very efficient on offense this year. Given them extra chances is probably a losing proposition.

Win the turnover battle. Simple enough, but I really think ball handling will be the key to the game. Arizona nearly stole their game against MSU (on a night where they were cold) with ball hawking.

This will be my first time to see the team this year. Check in tomorrow for my first impressions.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Blogpoll ballot

Not much movement on my blogpoll ballot from last week. In the real polls, the losses around BC didn't impact the Eagles standing much (Coaches, AP). If you were sick of the "bowl streak" talking point, look for a lot of quotes regarding "staying ranked all year" in the lead up to the MPC Bowl.

Games I watched:
Va Tech-Florida State 80%

1. Southern Cal
2. Texas
3. Penn State
4. Oregon
5. Ohio State
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Miami (Florida)
9. Notre Dame
10. West Virginia
11. Louisiana State
12. Alabama
13. TCU
14. Louisville
15. Virginia Tech
16. Florida
17. Boston College
18. Clemson
19. Texas Tech
20. Wisconsin
21. South Carolina
22. Michigan
23. Iowa
24. UCLA
25. Florida State

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Road to nowhere

The nightmare came true: BC is headed to Boise. I can’t say I am totally surprised. I saw this coming in the summer.

This is a huge disappointment. I don’t blame the players.

I certainly don’t blame the fans. Yes, we have a lousy travel reputation. But we’ve never had an exciting destination to excite the fan base. If BC goes to a big bowl, we will travel.

I don’t blame the ACC. It is the conferences job to put these agreements together. They can’t handcuff the bowl committees. If they make selections too restrictive, they’ll be left with a series of undesirable destinations.

The blame for this bowl falls solely on the coaching staff. The highly questionable decision to start Quinton Porter for the North Carolina game and then leaving him in there deep into the second half cost BC the game. If BC wins that game they are in the ACC Championship and probably in a better bowl.

I will whine about this for a long time. I assume the players might too. The reality is the BC community needs to suck it up and go kick Boise State’s ass. Going to this game is a debacle. Losing is would be an utter disaster.

One last piece of advice to the BC Sports Information office: stop pushing the “bowl streak” to the media. Most diehard fans are sick of it, fans with any understanding of the game see through it and casual fans are going to start mocking it now that Boise is included on the illustrious bowl streak list.

Likes and dislikes: Sacred Heart win

These "closer than they should be" games are a common occurance for Al. I am not bothered by general. There are usually some good things and bad things to take away from them. Here are my likes and dislikes

Likes: Craig Smith’s rebounding. We need this. Even if Sean Williams comes back, Craig is going to need to carry the load on the boards. So far, so good.

Jared Dudley’s foul shooting. Even when he is off (I’ll get to that in a moment), he can make up for it from the line.

John Oates’ contribution. Calling him the new Nate is a backhanded compliment if I have ever heard one. But being serviceable is good enough for now. Oates allows Craig and Jared to play their natural positions.

Dislikes: Dudley forcing things on a cold night. His shots need to come close to the basket, not from the 3-point line. If he doesn’t have it, he needs to make the extra pass or get to the hoop.

The three point attempts and tempo. As I have said, this is not our style of play. We need to slow it down and work for good shots.

The short bench. This was expected. Also, Al always has a small rotation. But against a team like Sacred Heart, we should be resting the guys. We controlled the game, but never put them away, so everyone logged long minutes. McClain’s return should help, but we need Williams back.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Clothes make the fan

Attention Bowl Organizers: the guy in whale pants is from BC!

Ticket sales are the biggest obstacle hurting BC’s travel reputation. However, as my wife and I were walking around Fernandina Beach today, I realized another handicap -- fan garb. You’ll see the typical BC fan wear casual/preppy clothes to a game. This may include a BC hat or shirt, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone outfitted in head to toe in maroon and gold. And a day before the game, I doubt you’d find a family of four all wearing color-coordinated, officially-licensed Eagle gear. Why does this matter? Well seeing the streets of Amelia Island crawling with Hokie fans announcing their presence with garish clothing (including -- believe it or not -- Zubaz) creates a perception with the locals: “we are Virginia Tech fans and we are here to buy food, drinks and more ugly t-shirts.”

Wine and cheesers from schools like BC or UVA might laugh at these collar-down types, but at least shops and restaurants can trace their dollars back to Blacksburg (or Tallahassee or Clemson, etc.). So if we get invited to a real bowl this season, BC fans need to obnoxiously announce “we are BC” in our dress and act. Hopefully word will get back to the Bowl Committee or the Visitor and Convention Bureaus that “those funny talking Boston fans sure spent some money.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Links from Jacksonville

Greetings from Jacksonville. Well, actually right outside the city on Amelia Island. Believe it or not, my being here at the same time as the inaugural ACC Championship is purely coincidental. (We are here for my wife’s company retreat.) Seeing the Hokie fans check in this morning -- knowing that BC would be here if Matt Ryan started the UNC game -- added to the bittersweet aspect of this season.

There is very little buzz around town about this game. Maybe it will build by Saturday. Here is an article on pros and cons of the game.

Kiwi made the AFCA Coaches’ All-American Team. Congrats.

Kiwi did not win the ACC player of the year or even the defensive player of the year. Those honors went to Chris Barclay D’Qwell Jackson respectively.

Here is a Q&A with John Swofford. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to have a real leader and advocate as the Conference Commissioner.

Earlier this week former BC Jack Concannon died. BC grad Bob Ryan had a nice write up on his life and career.

BC is crawling up CNNSI's basketball power rankings.

Much ado about nothing

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi took Boston College to task in Thursday’s paper. Not a really surprising angle: BC selling out. Much has already been made of this on the BC message boards and by other bloggers. I didn’t give the piece much thought. The selling out viewpoint has been beaten into the ground for years and old-time fans have been complaining about parking and ticket prices forever. I don’t think this is news or even worth complaining about. College sports have been big business for decades and BC was never the driving force in that move. People can long for the good ol’ days, but as Billy Joel said “the good ol’ days weren’t always good. Tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

My advice to the current fans upset with the ticket prices and hefty donations – stop going. Really. I live and die with this team and see nearly every play at minimal cost. Obviously it easier to say when you live in another part of the country, but if I lived in Boston and felt BC was charging too much, I would just stay home. Market forces will adjust. If BC can’t sell tickets at their target price, they’ll come back down.

As far as the Flynn Fund…I give to BC every year, but never to the booster clubs. I might someday, but for now I think the money is better spent in the general university endowment.

I think it is safe to say that I am more emotionally and financially invested in Boston College than Joan Vennochi will ever be. I love the school and the teams. If I felt the program and/or school changed dramatically or turned its back on me, I would be sad. But life would go on. There are plenty of teams and schools to support. At the end of the day BC needs us more than we need them. Let the market dictate the fair price, not whining in the Boston Globe.