Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is there parity in college sports?

Spring football is beginning again, and there are probably 125 teams that think they have a shot at winning the National Championship right now.  If there is one constant in college sports, it is the lack of parity.  How long has it been since Vanderbilt played in the Sugar Bowl?  Ever see Arizona in the Rose Bowl?  Have you ever seen Northwestern or Washington State in the final four?

The early rounds of the college basketball championship are fun to watch, but rarely does Cinderella actually dance with the prince. Only 5 schools have won 16 of the last 25 championships: Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Connecticut, and Florida.  This lack of parity has been broken up by Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan State, Maryland, UCLA, Syracuse and UNLV, the last so-called mid-major to win it all.

It's a little bit better in college football, beginning with the 1990 season 16 different schools have won the national title in the past 25 years, although there have been school like Colorado and Georgia Tech who only shared a title instead of being named an outright champion.  And then you have Alabama and their 4 titles since 1990.  However, a mid-major has not won a championship since 1984, and many now consider that one to be a fluke.

Parity may not seem like it's important to college sports, but it should be.  Parity leads to higher attendance, as a higher percentage of fan bases have real hope when the season begins.  For an example of what parity can do for sports, look no farther than the National Football League.  Even the New Orleans Saints, once the joke of the NFL, have won a Super Bowl.  The list of teams to never play in that game is a short one, only the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texas are on that list.  In the last 25 seasons, 23 of the NFL's 32 teams have at least played in the big game at least once with 14 different champions.  As a result, TV money has never been better.  Attendance is down slightly with technology, but most other sports leagues wish they had the NFLs gate problems.

All of the major sports leagues in North America have had good parity in the last 25 seasons with the notable exception of the NBA, which has had more runners up than champions and more teams not to appear in the finals than runners up.  This could also be a result of the lack of parity in college basketball.  

The most successful college teams, there are probably 10 of these schools, will see most of their quality players enter the NBA draft as underclassmen, many as freshmen.  This creates more scholarship opportunities than those schools who see most of their best players complete a full 4 years.  You will notice that the top recruits in high school basketball will list these 10 schools as their top choices, and it is rare that they will choose a school other than one of these 10.  

There are only 15 scholarships for a college basketball team.  In  a 4 year period, if Kentucky sees 3 freshmen enter the NBA draft every season, but Wyoming has all of their players play for a full four years, then Kentucky is going to have 9 more players pass through their program over a 4 year period than Wyoming does.  The odds are in favor of the schools that get kids to the NBA early.

There is one other anomaly in the NBA: 14 of the league's 30 teams do not qualify for the playoffs. Many of these teams will tank, or lose games intentionally to gain access to the 2 or 3 very talented players in the NBA draft each season. Many players who would be all-stars if they seasoned in college for a full four years will never succeed at the professional level. That is probably the main reason why the NBA has seen only 8 different champions in the last 25 years.

Yes, there have been only 14 NFL champions in the last 25 years, but there are only 32 teams in the league.  Almost half of your NFL cities have claimed a recent champion.  There are 120 Division 1 FBS programs.  About 14 percent of college football programs have recently won a share of the national title.  About 4 percent of college basketball programs have a recent champion.

While college sports has a different mission than professional sports, it would still be nice if Eastern Washington a chance to go all the way, instead of hoping for a 2nd round upset or a trip to the sweet 16.  I would be nice if Louisiana Tech played in the Sugar Bowl every now and again.  If this was possible now-a-days, perhaps there would less need for the NCAA's persnickety recruiting rules.  

Parity by US Sports League

National Football League since 1989-90 season.

Number of different Super Bowl Champions: 14
San Francisco 49ers (2), New York Giants (3), Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys (3), Green Bay Packers (2), Denver Broncos (2), Baltimore Ravens (2), St Louis Rams, New England Patriots (4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers (2), Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks

Most Championships since 1989-90 Season: New England Patriots (4)

Other teams to play in the Super Bowl but have not won since the 1989-90 season: 9:  (Some of these teams won the Super Bowl or a pre-Super Bowl Championship before 1989)
Buffalo Bills (4), San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans

Teams not to play in the Superbowl since 1989-90 season (Note, many of these teams won championships before 1989):  9
New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans

Major League Baseball since 1990 season, (considering 1994 post-season was canceled).

Number of different World Series champions: 14
Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays (2), Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees (5), Miami (Florida) Marlins (2), Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angles, Boston Red Sox (4), Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals (2), Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants (2)

Most Championships since 1990: New York Yankees (5)

Other teams to play in the World Series since 1990: 8
Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals

Teams not to appear in World Series since 1990: 7
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angleles Dodgers

National Hockey League since 1989-90 Season (2005 season was canceled)

Number of Different Champions: 14
Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins (3), Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils (3), Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche (2), Detroit Red Wings (4), Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks (2), Los Angeles Kings (2)

Most Championships since 1989-90 season: Detroit Red Wings (5)

Other teams to play in Stanley Cup Finals, but lose since 1989-90 season: 7
Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabers, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals

Teams not to appear in Stanley Cup Finals since 1989-90 season: 9
New York Islanders, Saint Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets II, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Winnepeg Jets I/Arizona Coyotes

National Basketball Association since 1990-91 season

Number of Different Champions: 8
Chicago Bulls (6), Houston Rockets (2), San Antonio Spurs (5), Los Angeles Lakers (5), Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat (2), Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks

Most Championships since 1990-91 season: Chicago Bulls (6)

Other teams to play in the NBA Finals but lose: 10
Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, New York Nicks, Orlando Magic, Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers

Teams not to appear in NBA finals since 1990-91 season: 12
Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets II, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets I/Pelicans, Toronto Raptors

Major League Soccer since it's beginning (Began in 1996)

Number of Different Champions: 8
DC United (4), Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards/Sporting Kansas City (2), San Jose Earthquakes I/Houston Dynamo (4), Los Angeles Galaxy (5), Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids

Most Championships: Los Angeles Galaxy (5)

Other teams to play in the MLS Cup final but lose: 3
New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Dallas Burn/FC Dallas, 

Teams not to appear in MLS Cup Finals: 7 (+2)
San Jose Earthquakes II, Montreal Impact, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, Orlando City*, New York City FC*

*Expansion teams in current season.

FBS College Football since 1990 season

Number of Different Champions: 16
Note: Multiple national champions were declared in 1990, 1991, 1997 and 2003

Colorado, Georgia Tech, Miami (2), Washington (2), Alabama (4), Florida State (3), Nebraska (3), Michigan, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio State (2), Louisiana State (2), USC (2), Texas, Florida (3), Auburn (2)

Most championships since 1990 season: Alabama 4

Note: because of BCS and multiple bowls and scenarios, it would be impractical to list all of the teams that had a chance to win a championship going into the bowls.  The college football playoff began in 2014 season and Alabama was the runner up.

Number of college teams not to win the national championship since the 1990 season: 104

Division 1 College Basketball since 1989-90 Season

Number of different champions: 14
Kentucky (3), North Carolina (3), Duke (4), Connecticut (4), Kansas, Louisville, Florida (2), Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan State, Maryland, UCLA,Syracuse, UNLV

Most Championships since since 1989-90 season: Duke, Connecticut (4)

Other schools to play in the championship game but lose: 6
Utah, Indiana, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Butler, Memphis

Number of Division I college basketball teams not to appear in the national championship final since the 1989-90 season 331

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Comments on the End of the College Football Season for Utah

Yes, I know that I am little late this year, as the football season ended long ago.  I am still waiting for the punishments from the BYU/Memphis fight and I was waiting for the coaching dust to settle, as it has not yet completely done so.

BYU

The Cougars had a disappointing season, winning 8 games for the third season in a row.  By most standards, that is a pretty good accomplishment, if there are a few great seasons mixed in.  BYU hasn't had a great season in a long time and some fans will not be happy until BYU finally gets into what is now called a New Year's 6 bowl game or better.

But BYU's sidelines this year looked like a scene from M*A*S*H.  Especially when Taysom Hill went down to a season-ending injury against Utah State.  Frankly, however, the defense was very porous, even without before that happened and it is likely that Utah State and Boise State would have still been losses even if Hill would have remained under center.

There are a lot of real questions that BYU fans should be asking after this season.  Most importantly, how does BYU end up with a quartet of walk-ons behind Taysom Hill?  In all truth, BYU paid the football equivelent last season of driving without a good insurance policy.  If this happens again, regardless of the final outcome of the season, the head coach should be forced out.  Even though Stewart did an OK job of leading the team for 4 more wins, the personnel management was inexcusable.

I would expect 2015, with the powerhouses on BYU's schedule, will end up in the Cougars first losing season since 2004.  I would also expect it to be Bronco Mendenhall's last season in Provo if this happens.

Utah

Speaking of inexcusable, how is it that Utah lost both coordinators after having their best season since joining the PAC-12?  I understand that Sitake was looking for better stability for his family while Dave Christensen probably wasn't a good fit for Utah.  That is likely why Kyle Whittingham still hasn't named their successors, he really needs assistants coaches who are a good fit for the uniqueness of coaching in Utah.  Most likely, I expect that KW will promote Aaron Roderick and Morgan Scalley, find a place for Dave Peck (the outgoing Bingham High head coach) and then look for two alumni to join the staff.

The season could have been better, however, with more consistency on offense, especially out of the quarterback position.  But that was about the only real disappointment out of 2014.  All other aspects of their game, especially the Special Teams, worked very well.  And I would expect that 2015 will be even better.

Utah State

Utah State's motto for the 2014 season was "The Climb Continues."  The Aggies did not continue the climb in 2014.  They were also bitten by the injury bug, but still managed to win 10 games, after a bowl win.  However, the most telling game of the season was 21-14 loss at Arkansas State.  I won't say a lot else about this season, other than to ask one question.  If USU has really turned the corner, when are they going to get beyond BYU?  Did they look past Arkansas State because they were looking forward to BYU?  Was winning the Wagon Wheel more important that beating Colorado State and winning the conference?  Beating BYU was great.  But it is not the most important thing that USU football can do every season.  USU will not finish the climb until they can realize this.  Maybe having BYU last in 2015 will be the difference.

Weber State

There were only 2 wins for the third season in a row at Weber State, and now we can claim the years after Ron McBride's retirement as darker than the years after Sark Arslenian's move to Fort Collins.  Hopefully, it doesn't last as long.  But this season, all phases of the game were better, and Weber State wasn't exactly blown away like they were in 2013.  Also, 2014's schedule was a bit on the tough side, as they were burdened with 4 of the first 5 games on the road and with the tougher part of the Big Sky Conference to play.  The 2015 schedule is a little bit more realistic and WSU has a good chance at finishing above .500.

Southern Utah

There was a lot of turnover on the SUU staff in 2014, and it showed on the field.  By the end of the season, at least the offense was clicking.  The defense, well, they miss Justin Ena a lot in Cedar City.  The prospects for a good 2015 will rest in turning the defense around and keeping the offensive momentum going.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why promotion/relegation won't work in the US.

While the college football season is finishing about how I expected it to, and because I have nothing of quality to add to the conversation until it is all over, I am changing the subject for this week's entry.

Promotion/Relegation is something that is familiar to sports fans in Europe, it is not something that is practiced here in the United States.  Although some suggest that this could be part of the answer for College Football, it has never been tried or suggested at the professional level. 

This is how it works.  We will use the English Premier League as an example.  When the football (soccer) season is over in the EPL, the three worst teams in the EPL are relegated to the Football Championship League to play next season.  In the meantime, the two best teams plus the winner of a playoff between teams #4-7 are promoted to the EPL.  For the record, even though the Football Championship League is technically a minor league, it does not a developmental league like the baseball minor leagues, the 20 teams in that league are independent.

Therefore, it would be like demoting the worst team from the American League, the Texas Rangers, and the worst team in the National League, the Arizona Diamondbacks to the AAA level and promoting the best team from the International League, the Syracuse Nationals and the best team from the Pacific Coast League, the Las Vegas 51s.

This sounds like a great idea, at first.  What better way to stop your favorite NBA team from tanking than the threat of being placed in the NBA-DL next season?  Waiting for an NFL franchise in your town?  Well, if you hometown teams wins the minor league championship, you get the the opportunity to move up with it.

But there is a very good reason why this will never happen in the United States, even in Major League Soccer.  It's called politics.

In the US, we have the nicest facilities on the planet.  We are not like Europe, where they will put billions into facilities for the Olympic Games just to see them waste away in just a little over a decade.  When we put taxpayer dollars into a facility, we expect it to be fill to capacity every game day.  The average per game attendance in Major League Baseball is around 30,000.  At the AAA level, it's 6,000.  Do you think any city will put millions of taxpayer dollars into stadiums under the risk that attendance will fall by 80% if the star player blows a knee?  That type of spending will cause problems on Election Day.  No city in America is sport-crazy enough to see 30,000 fans show up for a minor league team.

It may be just like the example I provided above.  Would people in Phoenix really be happy about losing out to Las Vegas? 

Fans may eventually understand that this is part of the game, and many fair-weather fans will find other bandwagons to jump on.  But if US leagues adopt Promotion/Relegation, we can expect that teams will have to find another way to finance the building of facilities.  In the EPL, some teams like Chelsea, play in stadiums that are many decades old.  Their stadium was built in late 1800s, and has been expanded, improved and modernized as the years have rolled on.  But no public dollars have been involved.  While not every stadium in Europe has been built without help from taxpayers, it is rare that this happens here in the US, while it is common in Europe.

This may sound like a godsend to those against public financing of ballparks, the business community may morn.  Chambers of commerce love having their city defined as a major league city.  Many business deals are made on the baselines and sidelines.  For many cities in America, their team is the only game in town.  And for some cities, their teams are a source of public pride and positive publicity.  For that reason, there will always be pressure on cities to pour money into sports venues and keep their cities at major league levels.

Potential Cities for Relegation Leagues by Sport.

NFL
Los Angeles
Portland
Columbus
Salt Lake City
Orlando
San Antonio
Sacramento
Oklahoma City
Virginia Beach
Memphis
Raleigh
Larger NFL Markets like New York, Chicago, Houston

MLB
Indianapolis*
Charlotte*
Nashville*
Buffalo*
New Orleans*
Montreal
Vancouver
Portland
Columbus*
Calgary
Salt Lake City*
Edmonton
Ottawa
Winnepeg
Orlando
San Antonio
Sacramento*
Oklahoma City*
(*Denotes city with AAA baseball team)
Also larger MLB markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston

NBA
Tampa
Pittsburgh
Seattle
Kansas City
San Deigo
Baltimore
Cincinnati
Nashville
Buffalo
Montreal
Vancouver
Columbus
Calgary
Edmonton
Ottawa
Winnepeg
Jacksonville
Rahleigh

NHL
Houston
Atlanta
Cleveland
Seattle
Kansas City
San Diego
Baltimore
Cincinnati
Indianapolis
Milwaukee
Charlotte
New Orleans
Portland
Salt Lake City
Plus larger NHL markets such as New York, Chicago and Toronto

MLS
Phoenix
Detroit
Minneapolis
Tamps
St. Louis
Cleveland
Pittsburgh
San Diego
Baltimore
Cincinnati
Indianapolis
Milwaukee
Charlotte
Nashville
Buffalo
New Orleans
Calgary
Edmonton
San Antonio
Sacramento
Plus larger markets in MLS like Houston and Chicago

For reference, football (soccer) teams in the London Area (12)

English Premier League (6)
Arsenal
Chelsea
Crystal Palace
Queen's Park Rangers
Tottenham
West Ham United

Football League Championship (5)
Brentford
Charleton Athletic
Fullham
Milwall
Watford

League One (1)
Leyton Orient

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is it time for Bronco Mendenhall to Go?

Before you read anything else you should know, even though I have no inside information, I am confident that Bronco Mendenall will not get fired after this season. Gary Crowton had three losing seasons before he was asked to quit.  Bronco Mendenhall deserves at least that.  I have read rumors in chat rooms, but nothing credible indicating that boosters are beginning to withhold their support of the program.

College football is evolving right now. Only time will tell if this season is a blip on the radar or the beginning of irrelevance in Provo. It seems that the college football powers are willing to go on a spending spree right now, and no one knows where it will end. But sooner or later, it will end.  It has to.  The mission of every university involves creating professionals in something other than sports. Some do this by with research while others focus on teaching. As I read about Boise State's plans to provide stipends for the full cost of education, I wondered how they would pay for it. I quote this this paper.

"Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools spent more than $91,000 per athlete compared with just over $13,000 per student. Yet students across the country faced steep tuition hikes and increased fees."

This type of spending is not happening at BYU. According to this Department of Education website, BYU spends about 23,000 per football player. The total cost of education at BYU for football player would probably add significantly to this total, but BYU may still be the model of efficiency in college football. And, it is still considered a tuition bargain, even for non-LDS athletes. According to the site, in the 2012-2013 school year, BYU athletics earned five millions dollar profit. They have about 8,000 left for each student athlete.  BYU may drop out of an arms race, if it comes to that, but most likely they can absorb the extra costs.

The real problems for BYU are on the field this year. They are not only mired in a 4-game losing streak, they are losing games in ways that are rare. BYU doesn't often give up 2nd half leads and lose, but that has happened twice this year. They are not often out-coached by Utah State or Boise State. I can't remember the last time BYU gave up 31 points in the 2nd quarter alone. It has indeed been surreal.

There are other cracks in the wall right now.  Attendance is down this season, and sellouts against out-of-state teams are becoming rare.

This hasn't been the only disappointing season in Provo, recently. BYU exceeded expectations in 2006,  when they won the conference championship and had a dominating win against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Things were looking up and fans knew that BYU would join rival Utah as a BCS buster.  Every season since has seen disappointment in one degree or another. BYU has been good, and some-times, scary good. But they have failed to turn the corner to greatness.

The question real question is, what are the problems in Provo and why can't teams that are coached by Bronco turn the corner? There is no doubt that BYU, at best, has been in decline since 2009 and the debate is how steep has that decline been. This year, BYU has been plagued with injuries, and that has led to at least 2 of the 4 losses this season. The other 2 losses can clearly be blamed upon the coaching staff and a lack of preparation for those games.

Even when Mendenhall was winning 10 games per season, this was still an issue. Back to the 2009 season, BYU was well prepared for their opener and won a close game against Oklahoma on a neutral field. Then, later that same season, they were blown out by Florida State at home. Yes, it was Florida State, but it wasn't one of their better seasons once all was said and done. And even though BYU went 11-2 in 2009, finishing with an overtime win over Utah and a dominating Las Vegas Bowl victory over Oregon State, it wasn't all it promised to be after that afternoon was over in Arlington. TCU won the Mountain West Championship that year and then played in the Fiesta Bowl and lost to Boise State.

BYU fans have been waiting for that moment of their own for years, but it was always gone to someone else. It was Utah, at first, followed by Boise State then Hawaii, and then TCU. All rivals to some degree, but never BYU. They never busted the BCS and will have to wait another season or two to bust the new playoff. But it's not as if there has not been inconsistency in Provo. Every year begins with promise, and every season has it's degree of sadness.

If there is one thing that you can count on from a Bronco Mendenhall team, it is at least two unprepared, under-coached games every single season. It has happened at least twice every season, Bronco has stepped to his post-game podium and said, "sorry, that was my bad." As a results, it's always next year. And perhaps Cougar fans have had enough.

While this year's performance, or Brocno's history may not warrant dismissal, it is certainly not going to get the program to the level that many fans crave. You might be in the Big 12, but if you win the conference championship, you won't be playing for the national championship.  Because your two losses will disqualify you.  And if you can't get a national championship in the Big 12, you definitely won't get one as an independent. It won't work as member of the Mountain West and it won't work as a member of the AAC. It just won't work.  A national champion has to be ready to play every single week without fail.  No excuses.  You have to win.

If you are satisfied with just conference championships, then BYU should join a conference. They will win one every once in a while with Mendenhall at the helm.  Probably enough for fans to happy.  If you want to win a national championship, then you need a coach that will have his team properly prepared every single Saturday without fail and without excuse. Conference affiliation or independent.  Every Saturday means every single one from September to November.

Even BYU fans who are apologists for Bronco Mendenhall probably understand this principle.  Either you learn to look past this, or you support your team whatever may come.  For me, you don't need to win every game, but there is no excuse for not be ready to play every week.  I think that fans should accept nothing less.

Is there someone who can have his team ready to play every week? Is there someone who can meet the standards of the LDS Church and have the Cougars ready every single Saturday without fail? There probably is. But if Bronco were to leave now, many fans may wish for Kalani Sitaki, but BYU may end up with Dave Campo (yes, the former Dallas Cowboy coach is an LDS church member who is currently the Defensive Coordinator at Kansas.).  BYU may end up hiring someone you would not expect, someone who doesn't come from the traditional college path of being a coordinator before becoming a coach, but who understands that his team need to be ready and knows how to get them there.

BYU will have to open their pockets as well as the hearts to get the man they need. Are they prepared to do that? They have the money. Is now the time? If it is, don't be surprised that a mission call is found for Bronco. There are some high profile mission president openings coming this year. Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Oakland, Sydney. It would make one heck of a headline.

However,  I expect Bronco to stay another year or two. And while he is here, expect more of the same. His teams will beat who they should, they just won't win enough games to win a championship.  And yes, there will be a couple of stinkers every season where Bronco steps to the mike and falls on his sword.

Turning the Corner

Turning the corner describes the week that was in college football in Utah this week.  Please read on.

Boise State 55 BYU 30

BYU fans are not used to seeing their team lose like this.  In fact, BYU fans are used to seeing their Cougars dish it out in games like this one, so much so that it could be a GEICO commercial.  There was nothing that Bronco Mendenhall's defense could do to stop the Bronco attack.  I will have more about the state of the BYU football program in a follow-up post.

Predicted outcome
Worst Case 5-7
Best Case 7-5

Projected Win
Savannah State

Projected Loss
California

Toss Up
Middle Tennessee
UNLV

Utah 24 USC 21

You could expect that Utah would beat the Trojans at home, but USC is still USC and this was not an easy win for the Utes.  If they are to win the South Division, no wins from this point forward will be easy.  But this game was fun to watch, even though there were some missed opportunities by both teams.  There were mistakes made, but that didn't happen at the end of the game.  It will be fun watching Utah, Arizona and Arizona State break up the current log jam at the top of the division.

Predicted Outcome
Worst Case 7-5
Best Case 11-1

Projected Wins
Colorado

Toss Up
Arizona State
Oregon
Stanford
Arizona

Utah State 35 UNLV 20

The rallying cry in Logan right now could be, "our 4th String QB is better than your 4th string QB."  Matt Wells is certainly not one to use injuries as an excuse.  Of course that comes from the proper preparation of backups.  Your 4th stringers would certainly do well if they were prepared to take over when those in front of them go down to injury.

Predicted finish 8-4

Projected wins
Hawaii
Wyoming
New Mexico
San Jose State

Projected loss
Boise State

Don't have time to wallow in the misery of our FCS teams this week.  But I will note that Southern Utah took it to North Dakota last weekend.  There is hope that Weber State will finish with a win after all.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

If it weren't for the Utes...

It it were not for the Utes, the last weekend in the state would have been a complete disaster. 

BYU (4-3)

The dream season is turning into a nightmare.  BYU has overcome mid-season swoons before.  And they may do so again.  Perhaps Boise State will look past them?  Yea, right, and someday I will dunk over Karl Malone.  Nobody looks past BYU, even when they are struggling.  The Cougars are currently riding a 3-game losing streak and it look like it will be longer.  Three game losing streaks have happened in the Bronco Era, but not this late in the season.  The last time BYU lost 4 in a row was 1993.  But they still won the conference championship that year.  The last time BYU lost 5 in a row...1968 where the team had a 7-game losing streak.  That was the season BYU was the target of civil rights protests.  BYU fans are not used to this kind of futility.  Does that mean that they are spoiled?

Best Case (7-5)
Worst Case (5-7)

Probable Losses
Boise State
California

Probable Win
Savanah State

Toss Up
Middle Tennessee
UNLV

Utah (5-1)

Has Utah finally turned the corner in the PAC-12.  I think that will be obvious by the end of the season.  And you certainly won't need little 'ol me to tell that has happened.  The hardest stretch of the season now approaches.  USC, Oregon, Arizona are among the coming games.  To me, however, it certainly seems that Utah has learned some lessons and people in the PAC-12 should take them seriously.

Predicted Outcome
Best Case 10-2
Worst Case 6-6

Probable Wins
Colorado

Probable Losses
Stanford

Toss Up
USC
Oregon
Arizona State
Arizona


Utah State (4-3)


I had a hunch that the high flying Aggies would come back to Earth in Fort Collins.  Colorado State is the most improved team in the MWC this season.  This was a game that they needed to take seriously.  That did not happen and perhaps a chance at a MWC championship this year faded into the Rocky Mountain air.  But USU is still going bowling, and possibly going to Hawaii.  That is one heck of a consolation prize.

Projected Finish 8-4

Projected wins
Hawaii
Wyoming
New Mexico
San Jose State

Projected loss
Boise State

Weber State (0-7)

No one expected that WSU would go to Bozeman and win, let alone keep the game close.  It is probably WSU's 3rd moral victory of the season.  There may be one or two real ones very soon.

Projected Finish
Best Case 3-9
Worst Case 2-10

Probable Wins
North Dakota
Northern Colorado

Probable Loss
Northern Arizona

Toss Up
Idaho State

Southern Utah (1-7)

Idaho State is for real!!!  Well, not really, but they are better and someone forgot to tell Ed Lamb and company.  At least BYU fans have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Projected Finish 2-11


Probable Win
North Dakota

Probable Losses
Montana
Northern Arizona
Sacramento State

Sunday, October 12, 2014

This weekend did little to change my mind.

The Utes were off this week, while the only winner in the state was the Utah State Aggies. 

BYU Cougars (2-4)

Although Christian Stewart did a better job as the starting quarterback than I thought he would, BYU still lost.  But you can't really blame the inexperienced senior.  He was hampered by inconsistent play calling and a weak defensive scheme.  BYU could not hold onto a 4th quarter lead, but this time, there was no answer for the surge the other team put together.

I hope that no one still believes that BYU would have been unbeaten if Taysom Hill would have remained healthy.  I doubt that a perfect season will happen for BYU while Bronco Mendenhall is head coach.  He's a good coach, but he's not a great coach.  I'm not certain he has the ability to transcend to the next level.

Predicted Outcome
Best Case 8-4
Worst Case 6-6

Probable Losses

Boise State
California

Probable Wins
UNLV
Savanah State

Toss Up
Nevada
Middle Tennessee

Utah Utes (4-1)

They had the week off.  However, the PAC-12 has been the most unpredictable this season.  That could leave them (the PAC-12) out of the playoff this year.

Predicted Outcome
Best Case 8-4
Worst Case 5-7

Probable Wins

Oregon State
Colorado

Probable Losses
Arizona State
Arizona
Stanford

Toss Up

USC
Oregon

Utah State (4-2)

The Aggies avoided the post-big-win letdown.  They pounced on Falcon mistakes and built a big early lead and cruised to the finish line.  Just don't expect the rest of the conference season to be this easy.  The next game, at Colorado State, will define the rest of the season.

Projected finish
Best Case 9-3
Worst Case 8-4

Projected wins
Hawaii
Wyoming
New Mexico
San Jose State

Toss Up

Colorado State

Projected Loss
Boise State

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (1-6)

No upset this weekend in Cedar City.  We will see about next weekend.


Predicted Finish
Best Case 5-7
Worst Case 3-9

Probable Wins
Idaho State
North Dakota

Probable Losses

Montana

Toss Up
Sacramento State
Northern Arizona

Weber State Wildcats (0-6)

Have the Wildcats touched bottom and are they working their way back.  The answer is  yes, but the results aren't showing in the win column, yet.  That should change in the coming weeks.

Predicted Finish
Best Case 4-8
Worst Case 3-9

Probable Wins
North Dakota
Northern Colorado
Idaho State

Probable Losses

Montana State
Northern Arizona

Toss Up
Portland State