July 12 was a big day in both college football and video-game land: EA Sports'
I'm also sure those who are truly serious about making the game as realistic as possible have manually created a 5-foot-11, 201-pound, right-handed senior quarterback (ratings numbers
I appreciate the Sam Keller reference right after I brought up EA Sports.
Wilson is already in much better shape than Keller simply because his new coach is not Bill Callahan. But I've noticed an interesting divide in public opinion since the former N.C. State quarterback decided to play his final season in Madison. There are those who see a potentially dreamy marriage, with a talented Wisconsin team that figured to have a major question mark at quarterback suddenly gaining a talented and accomplished three-year college starter. And then there are those who think the first group is putting far too much stock in a player who threw 14 interceptions last season and ranked just 62nd nationally in pass efficiency. Yes, he threw for 3,563 yards, but he did so while attempting 527 passes, which equals 6.76 yards per attempt. Newton, by comparison, averaged 10.19.
In recent years, yards per attempt has become an increasingly cited figure by advanced stats advocates, and there's no question teams that win a lot of games tend to have quarterbacks who excel in this department. (Eight of the top nine players in this category last season won at least 10 games.) But a quarterback is also dependent in large part on his supporting cast, and Wilson barely had one the past few seasons. The Wolfpack's leading rusher last season, Mustafa Greene, ran for 597 yards. Despite Wilson's
At Wisconsin, Wilson will have a pair of running backs (Montee Ball and James White) unlike any he had in Raleigh. Though the Badgers lost two All-America offensive linemen (Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt), his new line will still be a significant upgrade. He won't be asked to put the team on his shoulders, but rather to use his talent and experience to help push Wisconsin over the edge in big games. I don't expect him to replicate predecessor Scott Tolzien's 72.9 completion percentage or 165.9 efficiency rating, but he should throw for more yards than Tolzien's 2,459 and add an intriguing wrinkle with his mobility. He will not have a Newton year (few ever will), but if he picks up the playbook and takes to his new coaching staff, there's no reason he can't have a better season statistically and help the Badgers win their division.
If you want to guess what the backlash would be, just know that I received a whole lot more e-mails like Erich's than Phil's after that column -- and Erich's was one of the few clean enough to print. The vast majority of college football fans who want the NCAA to thoroughly demolish Ohio State viewed the school's light penalties as yet another thumbing-their-nose-at-the-rest-of-us moment from Gene Smith and Gordon Gee.
But the point of that column was that the jury can't sentence someone for murder if the prosecution only charged him with assault. It's not an ideal analogy, but you get the point. While I understand that angry USC fans feel Ohio State should get its own USC-level sanctions, the fact is the NCAA enforcement staff (the prosecution) did not levy as serious a charge against Ohio State (unethical conduct by a coach) as it did USC (Lack of Institutional Control by the school). No employee besides Tressel is mentioned in the violations. So it's hardly surprising the school feels Tressel should bear the sole burden for his crime.
Now, do I personally believe the punishment should end there? Of course not. It's an insult to our collective intelligence to think no one else on the Buckeyes' payroll -- an assistant coach, a manager, a graduate assistant, anyone -- "knew or should have known" (to use language from the USC case) that a significant portion of the team was hanging out at Ed Rife's tattoo place on weekends. Or that the compliance department was on top of all of Terrelle Pryor's "loaner" cars. Meanwhile, Gee and Smith have done a complete 180 on Tressel since that infamous press conference. Why push him out the door over the same crime for which you originally suspended him two games unless there's some additional reason for concern? The NCAA Committee on Infractions is not bound to follow precedent, and has discretion to impose whatever penalties it sees fit. Also, the people on that committee don't live in a vacuum. I'm sure they're aware of the public outcry over this case and may feel moved to act accordingly. But Ohio State was simply responding to the charges on paper, hence its "reasonable" -- if unsatisfying -- response.
I'll admit, A&M is one of those teams I'm instinctively inclined to dismiss relative to general expectations due to its long history of not achieving said expectations. So I was skeptical when I saw the Aggies popping up in the early preseason top 10 rankings. But in researching the Big 12 more closely, I have to say: A&M is stacked. While Oklahoma figures to have the most all-conference and All-America-caliber players, A&M is not that far behind. Mike Sherman's team has the conference's most proven running back (Cyrus Gray), an elite receiver (Jeff Fuller), two sophomore offensive linemen (tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews) who began blossoming into future stars last season, a standout defensive end (Tony Herod-Eddie), a dynamic cornerback/kick returner (Coryell Judie) and one of the league's top safeties (Trent Hunter).
Still, it's possible the Aggies could field a better team and not improve on last year's 9-4 mark. The 2010 team got hot (six straight wins) but overachieved. A&M finished 24th in
Jeez. I haven't seen this much confidence emanating from Aggieland since right before Dennis Franchione switched up the offense on poor Reggie McNeal. We don't condone gambling in these parts, but sure, feel free to rub this in my face if A&M wins the Big 12. Let me say this, though: Don't sleep on Missouri. The Tigers are being overlooked almost as much as the Ags are being overhyped.
I'm guessing it can only hurt, not help. If Utah were to go in and win the Pac-12 in its first season, it would be a great story for that program, but I doubt it would cause people to take the next undefeated Mountain West champion any more seriously than they already did. But if the Utes -- who went 33-6 the past three seasons -- come in and go 5-7, you better believe we'll be hearing about it, particularly from SEC country. The fans in Alabama who got so unhealthily obsessed with Boise State last year can just copy and paste those e-mails and add a line at the top that says: "See!"
Of course, that's not fair. It would be one thing if we could take Utah's undefeated 2008 team or even TCU's Rose Bowl championship team from last year and stick it in the Pac-12 to see what would happen. Then we'd have an apples-to-apples comparison. But every team and every season is different. Utah, lest we forget, suffered some bumps last season (blowout losses to TCU, Notre Dame and Boise State), and while this year's team should be slightly improved, it wouldn't necessarily go undefeated if it were still in the MWC. No one ever claimed the Mountain West or the WAC was as strong top-to-bottom as a league like the Pac-12. The argument that comes up every year, and is virtually impossible to answer, is whether a particularly dominant team like last year's TCU squad was one of the two best teams in the country in that given season. How Utah fares this year will do nothing to settle that question, but some may view it that way if the Utes lay an egg.
You've got two different coaches with two different backgrounds walking into two completely different situations. Holgorsen's offensive acumen is unquestioned, and many feel he can come in and have similar success to what he had at Oklahoma State thanks in part to the presence of talented quarterback Geno Smith. Count me among those who fully expect the Mountaineers to produce a high-flying offense this season, though perhaps not to the lofty standard Holgorsen set at Oklahoma State. The concern with Holgorsen isn't his offense, but whether he's really ready to run a program.
The concern with Graham is the opposite. He's a proven head coach, going 43-23 at Rice and Tulsa, and while he put up big offensive numbers, it's hard to say how much of that was him and how much was having guys like Gus Malzahn, Herb Hand (now at Vanderbilt) and Chad Morris (now at Clemson) as his offensive coordinators. Graham has hired another respected coordinator, former Rich Rodriguez understudy Calvin Magee, but the players Dave Wannstedt recruited for his traditional, pro-style offense may be ill-suited for the hurry-up, shotgun attack Graham and Magee have planned. It won't be quite as messy as when Magee got to Michigan, thanks to the presence of an experienced quarterback (Tino Sunseri), but I'd be highly surprised if the Panthers put up 40 points a game.
Of the two, I have more confidence in West Virginia. But like most years, no one in the Big East stands out as a true front-runner.
I've heard from several ticked off Spartans fans, though not a great amount. Who's to say TCU wouldn't have delivered the same New Year's beheading, but in front of three times as many
I'd definitely be ticked off about the latter part. That's the TV equivalent of trying to find your favorite team's game on the radio while driving and only being able to pick up the opposing team's station. Even if the announcers remain mostly neutral, you'll be subjected to 700 Longhorn-themed ads and in-game promotions. I wouldn't worry about the financials too much. ESPN is simply shifting one of its ABC-allotted broadcasts to the Longhorn Network, so the opponent will get the same cut, regardless. It tells you something about just how much ESPN is investing in this thing that it not only gave up a network window, but, according to reports, basically made a trade with the conference's cable partner, Fox, that will allow Fox to move a 2012 Big 12 game to its mother channel.
And that's the part that should really be troubling not just to Big 12 fans, but to college football fans everywhere. From the moment this 20-year, $300 million deal was announced, it's been astounding just how deeply the company is getting into bed with one of the schools it covers journalistically. Granted, conflicts of interest are unavoidable in sports media these days. This website is owned by a company (Time Warner) that holds the rights to NBA, PGA and NASCAR programming. But ESPN isn't just testing the separation between church and state with Texas; there isn't one. Case in point: The ever-popular
I don't know. Was it marriage? I sure hope not. So far I'm enjoying it much more than