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Just The Sports: 2006-11-12

Just The Sports

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Death of Bo Schembechler

On the eve of one of the biggest college football matchups in close to a decade featuring the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines, Glenn Edward "Bo" Schembechler, Michigan's most famous football coach, passed away at the age of 77 finally falling victim to the heart disease which had plagued him for most of his life. Schembechler was the head football coach in Ann Arbor from 1969-89 and during that team he was named Big Ten coach of the year seven times while compiling a 194-48-5 overall record and a 11-9-1 record against Ohio State not to mention Schembechler never experienced a losing season as a head football coach. Even though his death has come as a shock to the football world, has provided a rallying cry for Michigan football fans everywhere, and has signaled the end of the now aptly named band Dead Schembechlers, his death is not a surprise to his closest friends.

"Bo talked to me about dying right before the Michigan-Ohio State game since the last time we spoke, which was about two months ago," long-time Schembechler friend Texas Tech basketball head coach Bobby Knight said. "He said he might put it off if Michigan lost a game before the Ohio State game and didn't have so much pressure on them to win, but when it was certain that this game would be for a spot in the national championship game, I knew he wouldn't be sticking around. Bo just couldn't bring himself to watch Lloyd Carr try to coach in a big game with his hands tightly wrapped around his neck again."

"I tried to talk him about it," Knight added. "Tried everything I could to convince him Michigan had a legitimate shot to win. That's when he told me, 'Bobby, look who they have on their sideline and look who we have on our sideline. There's no way we're winning with Lloyd Carr.' The autopsy may say Bo died of heart failure, but I know the real truth. He just couldn't bear to watch his beloved Wolverines get blown out again because of incompetent coaching."

Schembechler always appeared to support Lloyd Carr by saying all the rights things, although family members and other friends have begun to suspect that he has come to regret the hiring of Carr. Increasingly, Bo was seen spelling Lloyd with 3 L's to signify the three losses Carr was averaging per season and also spent more and more time on the numerous "Fire Lloyd Carr" websites. Often times Schembechler could be hard mumbling in agreement to what he was reading.

Former sports commentator Keith Jackson was another friend of Schembechler's, in whom Schembechler confided his secret intentions. The two had formed an amiable relationship found between many long-time commentators and coaches and talked whenever their schedules allowed. "Well, Bo just did what Bo thought was right," Jackson stated. "After swearing me to secrecy, he told me that wearing Lloyd Carr was like watching a car accident you were powerless to stop. You knew it was going to be ugly and end badly, but you just couldn't bring yourself to tear your eyes away. At least now he won't have to watch Michigan get demolished tomorrow, thank goodness. It's probably better this way."


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Not Getting Your Money's Worth

When the Washington Redskins made Adam Archuleta the highest paid safety in the NFL with a $30 million contract over 6 years with $10 million in guaranteed money, they were probably hoping to get the Archuleta of 2005 who was involved in plays an average of only 5.6 yards past the line of scrimmage. Instead, what the Redskins have gotten has been far different from that. For whatever reason, Archuleta has not managed to have the defensive impact on plays this year that he had for the Rams last year and did not even start this past Sunday. Let's see what kind of impact Archuleta has had.

This season, for the plays I was able to chart, Archuleta has been involved in plays that ended in tackles where he either had a solo tackle or an assist one an average of 9.8 yards past the line of scrimmage, a far cry from his numbers of 2005. Pass coverage has never been a strong point of Archuleta's game and this season has been no different with his tackles coming an average of 15.5 yards beyond scrimmage. Stopping the run where Archuleta is self-admittedly better has not been that good either with those plays coming an average of 6.1 yards past the line of scrimmage.

As far as how well Archuleta has done involving himself in plays where he stops the opponent from having a successful play, the numbers again paint a depressing picture. On pass plays, the opponent has a success rate of 83.3%, with receivers gaining an extra 13.1 yards per successful play. Once again, Archuleta has been a little better on running plays, mostly because running plays are generally going to gain less yardage than pass plays. When Archuleta has made a run tackle, the opponents have already been successful 67.8% of the time with an average of 4.7 yards past what they needed for the run to be considered successful.

With a resume like that it is no wonder why the Redskins decided to give Troy Vincent a go at safety even if he is not a Freak of Training like Adam.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Mannings And The Palmers

A story that received little national publicity and one I was only aware of because I actually saw it happened involved a little re-writing of the NCAA record books. Against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer amassed enough passing yards for he and his brother, Carson, to become the most prolific passing brothers to ever play college football, surpassing Peyton and Eli Manning. With cumulative passing yards not really giving an indication of how good quarterbacks actually are (see: Testaverde, Vinny), I decided to compare the respective brother duo's college career to see who has really been the better passing brother duo. Sadly, I could not find box scores for the 1994 season so the comparison is really 2 Palmer brothers to 1.75 Manning brothers.

Not to spoil the suspense I built with that intro, but the two brother duos are pretty comparable with no clear winner in the battle, except for one category. For the games I looked at, the Mannings are a little better in terms of completion percentage than the Palmers (61.6% to 60.0%), not exactly a huge advantage. Also, the Mannings average more passing yards a game, but that is only because they threw more passes per game as well. In talking about yards per pass attempt, both the Mannings and the Palmers average 7.7 yards per pass attempt. The one statistic the Mannings clearly won was in the amount of touchdowns they scored per game, averaging 14.7 points per game on a combination of passing and rushing touchdowns to the Palmers' 12.2 points per game.

Maybe with Peyton's freshman season added into the mix, the outcome of this heavyweight bout would have been different. If I ever get my hand on the box scores, then we will find out.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm On A Satire Binge

Two white University of North Carolina students, Bobby Parker and Jason Lang, were both shocked and dismayed as well angered that the 6-foot tall black guy they picked up on their team was the worst basketball player they have ever seen who was over the age of 8.

The two roommates had been looking forward to a basketball expedition all day and upon entering Woollen Gym, they quickly called next on a court where they figured they could beat either team with guys who were only decent basketball players. While they were waiting, they were joined by two other guys who asked to be on their team, leaving the two to look for a fifth. Since the game before them was being held up by 27 successive foul calls on game point, the two were not worried about finding someone else to play with them. If push came to shove, both Parker and Lang agreed that they could just pick up someone from the losing squad.

Then they were asked by a 5'6 Asian guy who identified himself as John if they needed a fifth. "Just looking at this guy I was like no way, man, you've got to be kidding me," Parker said. "After he asked me, I mumbled something ambiguous hoping he would take the hint and just find another court to play on, but he didn't. He just stayed around and started doing these weird stretches."

Right when the game they were waiting to end ended, Parker and Lang both spotted Mike Robinson, a freshman at UNC, who was actually lost and looking for Fetzer Gym where he had a class the next day and had wandered into Woollen hoping to find someone to give him directions. "When we saw him, we both had the same idea," Parker recall. "We didn't even need to say anything so I asked him to play and he said yeah. Six foot tall black guy or five foot-six inch Asian guy? You do the math."

Robinson agreed to be on their team hoping that by accepting their offer he would be able to parlay a quick game into concise directions. Luckily for John, one guy from the winning team left allowing him to be picked up. Then the game began.

"The first time we got the ball I passed it right to Mike," Parker stated, "because I wanted to see what he could do. Well, I saw all right. He dribbled once, picked up the ball to pass, and then dribbled again. All I could do was look on in disbelief. The worst part is he acted surprised when the other team called him for double dribbling."

"I thought he was just playing around, trying to hustle someone like Woody Harrelson in White Men Can't Jump," Lang added. "So when I was being double-teamed I passed it to him. That's when he, and I am not making this up, took off running to the basket and threw up what I can only hope was a shot. What I really wanted to do was say to him, 'Dude, you know you're black, right?'"

Meanwhile John scored 8 of his team's 12 points to lead his squad to victory, making Parker and Lang doubly regretful for passing up the chance to have John on their team. "I didn't even know Asians could play basketball," Lang said. "I thought they only cared about sports with horizontal nets. Who knew?"

Mike Robinson later admitted that that was only his fifth time playing basketball and he actually preferred playing tennis. He ended up not getting directions to Fetzer Gym.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Manning Asks For New Wide Receivers

After another overthrown pass nestled gently in the arms of an opponent leading to yet another interception for Eli Manning, he started thinking it would be a good idea if the Giants acquired 10-foot tall wide receivers.

"I don't know why we haven't thought of this before, to be honest," Manning said in a post-game interview, trying his hardest to deflect blame for his two turnovers against the Bears. "Maybe [GM] Ernie [Accorsi] is getting lazy since he is retiring next year and all, but he knows or should know that I like to overthrow even the tallest wide receivers by a good two or three feet so it only makes sense that he go and get me some taller receivers. I'm pretty sure it is his job to make the Giants better and yet he's not doing anything to make me a better quarterback. Yao Ming's at least nine feet, right? Ernie should go after him."

When told that Yao Ming was only 7'5, Manning said oh and admitted that he would probably end up overthrowing him, too, and that Ernie Accorsi should go after someone at least a couple feet taller.

New York Giants head coach is fully aware of Manning's propensity to badly overthrow his wide receivers even on the simplest pass patterns and has thought about talking to Manning about it. However, the fact the Giants do not have a legitimate back-up quarterback makes any threat to bench Manning an impotent one. The one time he did threaten to bench Eli Manning to put Jared Lorenzen into the game, he couldn't even finish the statement with a straight face. Both he and Eli Manning begin laughing uncontrollably at the thought of the "Hefty Lefty" being entrusted to run the Giants offense.

"I really have no choice but to blame our receivers for not being tall enough," Coughlin said in the same press enterview. "Since Eli is a Manning, he's pretty much impervious to any sort of harsh criticism so it can't be his fault. It has to be our receiver because Eli has 'it' and they don't have 'it' like the Mannings do."

New York Giants wide receiver, 6'5 Plaxico Burress who is Manning's most consistently overthrow wide receiver, was understandably a little hurt that Manning had said he wanted new wide receivers, but conceded that if Manning wants to have the completion percentage of at least an average NFL quarterback, he would do a lot better with 10-foot tall wide receivers.

"Before I got to the Giants, I thought I was pretty tall," Burress said. "I mean, I'm pretty much taller than every defensive back in the league and I thought I could catch any jump ball my quarterback threw. But not Eli's throws. Those are like fifteen feet in the air. To be honest, I started wondering if I was really as tall as I thought I was and I had myself re-measured just to make sure I'm 6'5. It turns out I am.

"Perhaps when those new 10-foot tall receivers talk trash about the opposing team's secondary, they won't be made to look like fools by a quarterback who can't get them the ball."


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde: The Michigan St. Story 2003-2006

There are a lot of adjectives-none of them complimentary-that can be used to describe John L. Smith's four year tenure as head coach of the Michigan State Spartans, but no adjective is more applicable than to describe the teams under Smith's leadership as inconsistent. Usually, Michigan State had the habit of playing either up or down to their competition, beating a top ranked team one week only to lose to a below-.500 squad the next. Not only that, but they would play one half like a real football team and then the second one like a Pop Warner team full of unathletic, uncoordinated little kids.

Taking the first half-second half observation a step further, I looked at those Michigan State teams and see if the first half of their seasons were significantly better than the second half of their seasons. For those seasons in which Michigan State played an odd number of games, I always included half of the games plus one in the first half and classified the other games as being part of the second half.

It turns out that there were significant differences between Michigan St. in the first halves of seasons and Michigan St. in the second halves of seasons. For the offense, all of the significant differences had to do with passing: attempts, yards per pass attempt, and yards per catch. All of these differences are easily explained. Whereas Michigan State averaged 9.5 more points per game than their competition in the first halves of seasons, they averaged 5.4 points per game less than their opponents so they were forced to pass more in an attempt to come back to win those games. The difference in yards per pass attempt (8.0 to 6.5) and yards per catch (12.4 to 10.9) showed that those extra pass attempts did nothing to help the teams.

The significant differences in defense go hand in hand with the ones on offense. Against Michigan State in the second half, opponents passed less and ran more, indicating they were doing more to protect their lead and run out the clock than they were to score more points. Also, Michigan State did a horrible job of stopping the run in the second halves of seasons, both in terms of total yards (123.0 yards per game to 179.0 yards per game) and yards per rush (3.6 to 4.4). Needless to say, they gave up a whole lot more points in the second halves of the four seasons (22.3 points per game to 31.9 points per game).

After I completed this study and looked back at the results, I wondered if the data were not being skewed by the fact that most teams schedule their easiest opponents in the first halves of seasons. To avoid this problem, I eliminated the teams I deemed "cupcakes" and ran the test again. The results did not change so Michigan St. wasn't just inconsistent from play to play and from half to half and from game to game, but they were also inconsistent from the first half of their season to the second.