Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Absolutely ridiculous

A sports/halloween story from the Lexington paper today: "Is the Bear to blame?"
Mark Story goes with some "ghost hunters" with an "EMF" counter to see if there are ghosts in Commonwealth Stadium, and to find proof that Bear Bryant put a hex on the team when he left UK for A&M.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Quiz

Mankiw recently posted a link to The World's Smallest Political Quiz. I'd like to know, where do you rate?

I rated as a Libertarian, slightly to the right and slightly down toward the center.

The site also has some explanations as to what a Libertarian is. Most Americans are more Libertarian than they realize.

That Old Baylor Line

Saturday was one of the best football games I've ever taken part in. My classmates and I found great seats on the 45 yard line for the Battle of the Brazos between A&M and Baylor. Baylor was a 5 point underdog, and fought hard in the losing effort, 31-21.
It was a record crowd of 51,385 at Floyd Casey, about 40-45% of that were A&M fans.

Great atmosphere, and a close game. The real excitement came when Baylor was winning and Texas was getting blown out in Lubbock. "If Baylor wins, and Texas loses then Baylor will be in first place!"

All-America candidate Dominique Ziegler had 5 catches for 180 yards and a TD, and also almost threw a TD pass. Sadly, in the 4th quarter he dropped a pass on 2nd down that set up 3rd and long. QB1 Shawn Bell had to scramble for a first down, and got clobbered at the knee, which eventually led to tearing his ACL. This was the hit.He made a heroic comeback to try once more, but had to be carried off. He's a good guy, outspoken Christian, and owns several Baylor records. Gone for the season. He leaves as the #47 rated passer in NCAA Div 1, with a QB rating of 130.7.

Baylor kicked the backup QB off the team a couple weeks ago. That leaves a redshirt freshman to finish the year. Baylor is seriously looking at a 4-win season.

So, A&M is 8-1, Texas came back and beat Tech, and Kentucky is still looking at a bowl. Interesting time of year.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Little Lafayette Pride

My high school (Lafayette High) was a run-down place that no one really wanted to go to. It was uncool to be on the football team. It was cool to be in the marching band(!) The band had won 12 straight 4-A state titles, while the football team hadn't had a winning season in years. I knew plenty of good athletes who opted out of football to either play in the band, or participate in the School for Creative and Performing Arts, also at Lafayette.
Most of my friends on the football team played with broken arms, concussions, you name it, because there really wasn't anyone else they could put in, and they would win 2-3 games a year with only marching band parents watching the games. I wanted no part of that.

Lafayette was nicknamed "Laugh-at-it."

The cross-town rivals were football powerhouses, one school even had something called The 12th Man. It was cool to be on the football team in those schools. (All of these schools are 4-A, the largest classification in KY).

About the time I was graduating, Lafayette was finally renovated. This apparently brought a new spirit to the school. The basketball team won the state championship while I was in college, playing 7 black guys and 0 whites in the tourny (Lafayette is predominantly a white school). This seemed to foster a spirit of unity and pride.

They also hired a new football coach a few years ago, and he's turned the perennial losers into a powerhouse.
This year, I'm proud to announce that Lafayette went 10-0 in the regular season, capping the season with a win over Scott County (Joni's alma mater). They weren't even ranked until last week, that's how overlooked they were in the state. Now, they've got the top spot in the playoffs. Go get 'em Lafayette!

And the Generals go marching along!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What I Think/ What I Know

What I know: I heard Justin Timberlake's rap/song "My Love" on the radio for the first time last week.
"If I wrote you a symphony..." -- (you can see the entire music video on the website linked. Fast forward to 1:30. )
What I think: This is definitely the best jam on the radio right now. Sizzling hot. If there was a station that played this song 24/7, then I would listen to it 24/7. This jam has everything that I like in a good jam.

What I know: Earlier this season newspapers were talking about Baylor's potential 7 win season. Baylor has since gone 4-3 in those games.

What I think: Even a 6 win season would now be miraculous. Baylor is a perennial 5-6 win team, which is easy to do under the NCAA's new 12 game season.

What I know: Baylor beat Texas A&M in 3OT in 2004. The students stormed the field and carried the goalposts all the way back to campus. A&M is Baylor's archrival.

What I think: When you've only won 1 game against a team in 20 years, it probably shouldn't be considered a rivalry anymore.

What I know: A&M is favored in every statistical projection out there. The game is predicted to be close, but most Big 12 games have been for the two schools.

Here's a particularly crazy story from the Baylor-A&M rivalry, which began in 1899:

"As the years wore on, the rivalry only intensified. In 1926, Baylor and Texas A&M met on homecoming and a tragic legacy was born.

Texas A&M fan A.B. Sessums was killed during a melee following a bleacher-clearing brawl between Bear and Aggie supporters at the Cotton Palace Stadium in Waco.

The legend grew, and stories passed down saying that a group of angered Aggies immediately raced back to College Station and hopped on a rail car bound for Waco with a howitzer in tow. But, as the legend goes, the National Guard met their advance and felled several trees across the tracks to stop the charge.

The truth behind the rumor is dubious, but the sentiment was not. Baylor president S.P. Brooks and Texas A&M president T.O. Walton signed an agreement on Dec. 8 of that year, ceasing all athletic contracts between the two schools. They wouldn't play another game until 1931."

What I think: A bunch of Baptists had no business taking on a bunch of howitzer-toting Corp Cadets. Non-Texas people, this is why you "Don't Mess With Texas." !!
What I know: Kentucky is still on track to win 6 games. They're favored to win on the road at MSU this weekend.

What I think: Rich Brooks' genius was in dropping Indiana from the schedule and padding it up with little schools because he knew KY would be playing Ole Miss and Mississippi State this season, 2 of the typically weakest teams in the conference.

What I know: Kentucky's defense is ranked last in the nation in yards given up, even after a bye week.
What I think: This Kentucky team is only slightly better than previous teams, and that's primarily because of better offensive line play (ie: fewer penalties). Again, it's easy to win 5-6 games when you can schedule 12 games, 3 of which are against small, weak opponents.

What I know: They have removed all of the fire alarms and smoke sensors in the basement of the Hankamer Building, which is where I work. Wires are exposed at all of the former sensor points.

What I think: This has to be a serious safety violation, and it'd be a great time to start a fire. Maybe I'll start one and blame it on the Aggie rivalry.

Fantasy Congress

Fantasy Football fan? Can't get enough?
Try playing Fantasy Congress. That's right, you get to draft a team of senators and congressmen and compete head-to-head in leagues. Join now while Congress is in recess!

My fantasy team features both Dennis Hastert AND Nancy Pelosi. Chet Edwards and former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne are also on my team. Can't go wrong! I figure Hastert will get me points in the upcoming "lame-duck" session of Congress.

Another thing that REALLY amused me this morning (thanks to Ryan for pointing this out):

Baylor has this tradition of all the freshman students running onto the field before the game to fire up the crowd and greet the players as they come from the locker room. These are called the Baylor Line.
Now you too can run out onto the field with the freshmen for the price of $250!!! That's right, this experience is being auctioned off on Baylor athletic's website! Notice how it has ZERO bids!
Baylor plays A&M this Saturday in what is Baylor's Super Bowl. A&M is favored by every single statistical predictor and by Vegas.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Friday Night Lights

You know what I'm going to do tonight? I'm going to watch my new show, while it's still on television. I like the drama, the intensity, the haunting music, and the hard-hitting football action.
For whatever reason, Tuesdays are my depressing days at school. Tuesday evenings usually have an hour available to spare for TV.

Rumor has it NBC is very close to dumping the show as it's very expensive (it's very well made and shot mostly outdoors), and very low in the ratings. But, that's because it runs up against Dancing With the Stars (much to the chagrin of my wife who would rather watch that instead).

It has a lot less... um, teenage socialization... and skin than the previews make it out to have. The pilot left me wondering "how can this show continue?" because it was kind of depressing and the main character was left paralyzed. But, week 2 was intriguing, and week 3 was even better. I want to know what happens to the coach, what happens to this team. I find myself rooting for them to win.

ESPN's TMQ suggests that FNL should be marketed more to women:
"Though "Friday Night Lights" has contact drills and running hills and football insider terminology such as "skinny post," the true subject of this series isn't sports. The true subject is teenagers under the pressure of contemporary life. The same scenes of tense family life, husband-wife strain and economic insecurity that turn off viewers who expected all-out sports action ought to give "Friday Night Lights" considerable appeal to women. Also, the show could be marketed to upper-income female viewers as a way for them to get in touch with an aspect of society that all the men around them care about but they don't understand. (Working-class women generally already understand football, it's the upper-income women who don't.) NBC, this show will soon be facing fourth-and-99! Market "Friday Night Lights" to women to save the series."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Reason #897 why I Hate MLB

41-year old Kenny Rogers may have cheated in both the ALCS and now the World Series.
"Thanks to Fox's TV cameras, America -- and likely the Cardinals watching in the visiting clubhouse -- learned that Rogers had a brown substance just below the thumb of his left hand. The stuff was there in the first inning, when Cardinals hitters apparently noticed some of Rogers' pitches doing interesting things. Then it was gone in the second inning. Hmmm. Was it pine tar? If so, then Rogers cheated. And if he cheated, then Rogers is working on quite a résumé: shoved a TV cameraman ... got caught with illegal goop on his hand ... ran his 2006 postseason scoreless streak to a previously un-Rogers-like 23 consecutive innings..."

"On Sunday night, an ESPN video analysis of Rogers' left hand during his previous starts during the '06 playoffs appears to show a similar substance. If it was dirt, no problem. The MLB rule book has nothing against dirt. The problem is, nobody actually inspected Rogers' hand."

At least the NFL suspends its cheaters. In MLB you're given ovations, allowed to keep your "records," and a spot in the hall of fame. Again, no apologies from Bud Selig, the man in charge.

It's like professional wrestling. I'd rather watch paint dry! I'm proud to boycott the MLB.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Kids in the Hall - Gavin

Hilarious first sketch with Gavin. He's the annoying kid in your neighborhood. I have classmates just like him.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Another reason why Republicans will lose the House, and maybe the Senate

Good article here. A little bit of background: Dick Armey accepted Christ while he was a Congressman. He's a Christian, and Newt Gingrich supposedly still isn't.

(Former House Majority Leader Dick) Armey accused Congressional Republicans of “blatant pandering to James Dobson” and “his gang of thugs,” whom Mr. Armey called “real nasty bullies” — arguments he reprised on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and in an open letter on the Web site organization FreedomWorks.

In an interview this week, Mr. Armey said catering to Dr. Dobson and his allies had led the party to abandon budget-cutting. And he said Christian conservatives could cost Republicans seats around the country, especially in Ohio.

“The Republicans are talking about things like gay marriage and so forth, and the Democrats are talking about the things people care about, like how do I pay my bills?” he said.

Mr. Armey, who identifies himself as an evangelical, said he was tired of Christian conservative leaders threatening that their supporters would stay away from the ballot box unless they got what they wanted....

and also a good quote from a former Bush staffer:

...“There is a bit of a battle between people who say, Hey, your tax cuts wrecked our war and people who say, Hey, your war wrecked our tax cuts,” said David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter who was among the war’s proponents.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's Good to Live in Texas (and Waco too).

Today I worked/attended Baylor and Waco's annual Economic Forecast Luncheon. The luncheon features some economic projections for the local, state, and national economies.

I'll sum up the key points:

1.) U.S. economy is doing fine. Things may slow some next year, but indicators are that the stock market will do well next year, short-term bonds may be a good place to put your money, and consumer confidence will remain steady.

2.) Texas' economy is doing great. Texas is the U.S.'s #1 exporter. Growth is good in all sectors. Waco is #1 in the nation in businesses securing new facilities and expanding current operations.
The most interesting stat: 42% of all U.S. business' investment is in the state of Texas. That's huge. Almost half of U.S. investment belongs to just 1 state.
Real annual GDP growth in Texas is projected at 4.29% for the next 5 years (vs. 3.62% for the U.S.).

3). Waco MSA (McLennan County) is doing well. 37 consecutive months of increasing employment. Retail sales have done well this year, and Christmas sales receipts are projected to be 5% higher than last year. Waco's per capita income is growing around the average for Texas MSAs.

Apparently, Waco is also immune to the burst of the housing bubble nationwide. There's still a growth in new housing starts and values have remained solid. This may slow a little, but not drastically.

The addition of Sanderson Farms will help boost employment and income in Waco. Further renovation of downtown and the addition of a new 5-star hotel would also help growth and development.

Since 2001, Dr. Kelly has been doing economic impact studies on Waco getting the G.W. Bush library. He used to believe Waco wouldn't get it. He now predicts that they will, and says he'd "be surprised" if they didn't get it. That would bring another huge revenue boon to Waco.
(He also said even if it ended up in Dallas, Waco would get some positive effects of it being at the center of 3 presidential libraries in Austin, Dallas, and College Station).

So, now maybe you know more than you did before. If you'd like to see the rest of the data and forecasts then you can borrow the fact book from me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why Today Was a Bad Day

On Sunday night, I had tenatively thought about making Tuesday (today) the second official Philip Rivers Day. You see, I picked Rivers back up and put him back into my lineup this week and he got me plenty of points in my wife's family's Fantasy Football League that I've yet to win a game in. (look up the earlier post on this if you missed it).

I've kind of let my other Yahoo and ESPN leagues go by the wayside, obsessed with owning the waiver wire and trading for the best possible combination of players I could get in this league alone. I'd come very close to winning a couple of times, and simply started the wrong quarterback twice that cost me wins both times.

But, by Sunday night after all my guys had played, I had a 34 point lead on my opponent. Said opponent had just 2 players playing on Monday: Thomas Jones and the Chicago Bears defense & special teams. I felt confident, but not cocky going into Monday night. The Bears would have to record a HUGE blowout (i thought) for me to lose.

Joni and I were busy with the Kiev concert and I wasn't able to see a score until 5:00 left in the 4th quarter. Low and behold, the Cards were up 23-10 and on their way to certain victory. Thomas Jones had done jack squat. I was going to win! My first league victory! Yay for all my hard work during the weeks leading up to this huge win! I would no longer be in last place! I was sooo happy!

Then, I saw the fumble returned for a TD. Then, the punt return for a TD while the Arizona offense crumbled. In our league, that's major points for the defense. Sure enough, that was enough to put my opponent over the top, and the game was lost for me. I lost in the 4th quarter of an improbable Arizona collapse!!!

So, now I'm really depressed about it. I totally relate to Dennis Green's meltdown in the press conference. I'd have beaten the table and gotten choked up too. I'd have fired my O-coordinator too. Losing like that is terrible. TERRIBLE!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

I sawed varsity's horns off!

Well, my predictions came true for my games, just even worse than I'd thought. Baylor put up a great offensive fight but lost by 32, and Kentucky never showed up (losing by much more than the 28 I predicted).

A&M delivered, 25-19! Easily the best football game I've ever been to, and the best atmosphere. The Aggies made all of the right second half adjustments and Missouri made some bad decisions. Missouri = talented, but A&M definitely has some players too. So, thanks to Ryan for an incredible day of Aggie history and glory.

For people who haven't been to College Station, you may not realize how it is. There are no cheerleaders or dressed up mascots, or even annoying pep bands. What you do have are thousands of Corps Cadets, and a student section of 40,000 doing synchronized, complicated cheers throughout the game, and an entire stadium decked out in maroon. I bet there was like 200 Missouri fans, squeezed into a tiny section of the stadium. The smallest visitor's section I've ever seen. As it should be!

And when they play the school's fight song, everyone rises, links arms and sways in rows. This simulates a giant saw, sawing off the horns of Texas' longhorn mascot. The rivalry is huge, and the entire fight song is against UT, which they refer to as t.u.

So, I also engaged in the sawing off of varsity's horns. This was by far my favorite part of the day. It just felt good.

There are so many other traditions and things that happen on gameday that I don't have time to write them here. But, if you ever have a chance to go to College Station for a game, you must do it! It was also the loudest outdoor stadium experience I've had (though I haven't had many).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday Plans!

Today, my friend Ryan is taking me to Kyle Field in College Station for Texas A&M vs. Missouri. This will be the biggest football game I've ever been to. One thing I've learned since moving down here is that A&M has more traditions and... unique... things attached to its football than any other school in the world. I'm excited to get to see it all up close and be a part of the 12th Man!

Missouri is ranked around #19 at 6-0. The Aggies are 5-1.

The Tapp Statistical Predictor says Missouri by 1 point. My gut says A&M by 7 (maybe even in OT). Good game!

So, last night I tried watching UK's Midnight Madness online, but our Clearwire connection isn't that great, so I got bits and pieces of clips but much of the audio. I got up early to go to campus and watch it there, but they've taken it down. :-(
I enjoyed Tubby's commentary during the scrimmage. I enjoy how Tubby has PROMISED that we'll have a great year, and that we'll be better than last year, and how everyone is much closer together as a team.

There is NO reason why this team can't AT LEAST get to the Final 4. Absolutely no reason at all. UK WILL beat Florida at Rupp this season, and maybe again in the SEC Tourny.

Kentucky football goes for a meaningless trip to LSU today. If I was the coach, I'd pull all of my starters and save them for meaningful Mississippi State next week. LSU by 28.

Baylor goes to Texas today for a meaningless game. Last year, Morriss did pull the starting QB. He should do it again. The #3 receiver is already suspended. If you have TBS or whatever channel it's on, check out Baylor's secondary vs. Colt McCoy, that might actually be a good matchup. Texas by 28.

Florida beats Auburn by 7.

Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Props to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee

I was quite happy and surprised when I saw the headline this morning:
"Microcredit pioneer gets Nobel for peace"

The committee must be smarter than I thought. This is the most thoughtful and creative awarding of the prize I've seen. Much better than giving it to a Yasser Arafat. I'd really like to do an internship with a microcredit agency this coming summer. The above link does a good job explaining what a microcredit bank is and how it works. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, is a pioneer that deserves the prize. He's done a lot to aleviate poverty and create opportunity in very poor parts of the world. "Yunus is credited by experts with a simple but revolutionary idea: that the poor can be as reliable as borrowers as the rich, but only if the rules of lending are rewritten to replace traditional risk management with the power of trust...
The bank now reports having 6.61 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women. Its loan recovery rate is a near- flawless 98.5 percent. Conventional banks in Bangladesh, which lend mainly to affluent families with collateral, have recovery rates of just 45 percent to 50 percent, according to Mustafizur Rahman, the research director at the Center for Policy Dialogue in Dhaka...
Grameen Bank has also helped transform attitudes toward women in Bangladesh, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, by giving them access to credit and better health and education, Rahman said. The Nobel citation described microcredit as a "liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions."

Very cool, check it out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Economics of Punting

When I started researching with point spread data it didn't take me long to find several papers, web sites, and analyses devoted purely to football. Even top economists analyzing things.

One of those economists is David Romer, whose theories we have looked at in my development class. Romer wrote a paper in 2005 that analyzed teams' decisions to punt on fourth down as opposed to going for it, and determining when it was a better idea to go for it than punt. His conclusion was that teams would be better off going for it on 4th-and-short than punting, and that this would greatly increase their chances of winning.

Romer used data from 700 NFL games, analyzing the first quarter of every game (a time when teams are historically least likely "to go for it"). He also analyzes teams' decisions to kick a field goal rather than going for it. Through statistical analysis, Romer is able to determine the chance a team has of scoring on a drive, based on their field position. Romer concludes that most teams lessen their chances of scoring (and thus, winning) by punting on 4th and short.

The odds of getting a first down and the benefit thereof outweighs the potential costs of turning the ball over on downs. He shows a significant increase in the chances of winning if a team goes for it on 4th-and-short in their opponents territory. Even on its
own 10-yard-line a team within three yards of a first down is marginally better off, on average, going for it.

In the 1,100 instances where teams had more to gain in Romer's estimation by going for it, they did so only 108 times, or less than 10 percent. Romer also tries to determine why coaches don't go for it more.
In Greg Mankiw's new Principles of Economics, 4th Edition (which I just received free for evaluation in the mail), there is an article on page 30 about Bill Belichick reading Romer's article. Belichick took Romer's advice in the 2004 Super Bowl, and went for it on 4th and short in the Patriot's own territory on the first drive of the game. Analysts called it an "instance of a coach's instinct triumphing over cold analysis," when in fact the opposite was true. Belichick listened to sound, proven statistical reasoning (he was an Economics major in college!) and threw "conventional wisdom" out the window.

Awesome. The New York Times said: Belichick "approaches his job...(and) every decision as a chance to perform better cost-benefit analysis than his peers do." Belichick even keeps in touch with one of his old economics professors.

Here's a very good ESPN article on Romer's paper that says
Bill Walsh is a believer too.

And here's a layman's commentary from ESPN Page 2's TMQ.

Bill Cowher remains skeptical:
"It's easy to sit there and apply a formula, but it's not always the easiest thing to do on a Sunday," Cowher said. "There's so much more involved with the game than just sitting there, looking at the numbers and saying, 'OK, these are my percentages, then I'm going to do it this way,' because that one time it doesn't work could cost your team a football game, and that's the thing a head coach has to live with, not the professor.

My favorite Cowher quote: "If we all listened to the professor, we may be all looking for professor jobs."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cool Story

Very cool, as in sub-zero cold. ESPN.com has a story about an arctic high school football team in northern Alaska whose nearest opponent is 450 miles away. Very interesting story.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Good News is Hard to Find

3 things to think about:

1.) The government of Belarus is cracking down on Christians. They've declared it illegal for a particular church to meet, and have ordered that the church hand over its building. The Christians in Belarus are uniting behind the church, fasting and praying while maintaining occupancy of the church building at all times. This situation cannot end well. Our church has partnered with a Belarussian pastor there, so they're asking everyone to pray and write letters. Think about that.

2.) As I've written before, things in Russia are getting tighter. At the same time a famous journalist is murdered, Russia appears to be readying for an all-out invasion of Georgia. Georgia's president is U.S.-educated and has brought principles of democracy, free markets, and anti-corruption campaigns into the country, all the while blasting Putin for his interference. They regularly deport Russian agents they believe are spying. After Georgia seized some agents last week, Russia suddenly got ticked. Georgia has since released the prisoners to the OECD, but Russia has shut off all communication and transportation between the countries. No one can come or go, except for the Georgians that Moscow is rounding up and deporting. No one can make wire transfers to banks either way, and the postal system has been shut down. Schools have been ordered to make lists of Georgian students, and Georgian businesses in Moscow have been closed by the government. For what purpose?
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Russia will likely withdrawal its (illegaly stationed) troops in Georgia by the end of the year. This would eliminate the possibility that Georgia could hold those soldiers hostage in the event of a fight. Today, Russia's defense minister hints that Russia would take military action if something happens in the breakaway territories (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) that Russia supports. Things happen all the time in those territories, it's a powder keg. Putin has already warned President Bush not to interfere. Bush himself has visited Georgia, as have many cabinet members in support of their own feeble democracy.
Another potential war in the Caucasus, and a poke in the eye of an American ally... think about that.

3. The world has thus far stood by and watched a madman build nuclear weapons in North Korea. When Bush and Team came to office, North Korea was at the top of the foreign policy agenda. Now there's nothing we can do. With $8 billion a month going down the drain in Iraq, and NATO slowly losing the battle against the Taliban, our resources are maxed out (along with our credit card).
China says it has terminated its "Communist brotherhood" with North Korea. Will they still say that a month from now, or a year from now? What exactly does that mean? Iran will soon be nuclear, and now maybe Hugo Chavez and other sworn enemies of the U.S. will start a new arms race.
Next year, a slowing economy along with increasing crises, rising oil prices, protectionist measures that could be taken by a newly elected Democratic congress, a Middle East getting edgy again....
The dollar could seriously devalue and make our fiscal situation much, much worse...

God is sovereign over all these things. Think about that.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Football Predictions

Some pretty intense games this weekend. Of course Tommy Tuberville is right, the SEC gets hosed because it has too many good teams so they can't all go undefeated. A team like WVU who plays mostly cupcakes and is able to keep its starters really healthy has a better chance at the BCS Championship than a school like Auburn or Florida. College football would be the greatest sport if it wasn't for the last few weeks of bowls, when it becomes the dumbest thing you've ever seen. It'd be easy to make perfect, but Tuberville is right: money outweighs perfection.
Hi, I'm Mike Archer. I used to be known as a defensive guru, but now my defense is second only to Ball State University in total yards given up. Boy, it'd be nice if we kept Steve Spurrier from running the score up on us. One time (1993), I coached a KY defense that intercepted Spurrier's Florida team a whopping 7 times. Somehow though, our offense found a way to lose...

Tapp Statistical Prediction: SC by a field goal. (my gut feeling says SC by 17).

Hi, my name is C.J. Wilson. I'm Baylor's outspoken CB and All-American candidate. I help lead a defense that is #1 in the nation in forced turnovers, and I have 4 INTs already. I need to get a couple more at Colorado if we're going to win. Vegas picks us to lose by 5. However, the prediction average has us winning by like 1. If we don't beat Colorado then we're looking at a 4-win season, which is much less than what people expected from us seniors.

Tapp Statistical Prediction: Colorado by 2. (my gut feeling says Baylor by 4).

Every major statistical prediction says that Florida beats LSU. I like JaMarcus Russell and LSU in every way. They'd have beaten Auburn were it not for some really bad refereeing in both halves. Tough to call.

I also like Tennessee to beat Georgia. I don't think Georgia can generate enough offense. But, what do I know?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Texas Tech's Mike Leach is NOT a genius: A tribute to Hal Mumme and LaVell Edwards

This post is for Ryan.
One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing TV commentators talk about the "genius" of Mike Leach's system at Texas Tech. Last week I heard them talk about how coaches have converged on Lubbock to learn all they can from Leach. How this "new" spread offensive system is now sweeping the nation.
Football commentators make for bad journalists.

Even Tech's media guide says Leach is "arguably one of the most innovative offensive coaches in the country."

Let's not forget who Leach coached under from 1992-1998, the guy who trained him how to implement this system that has brought him so much fame and fortune: Hal Mumme.

Again from the media guide: "Under Mumme and Leach, the Kentucky offense set 6 NCAA records, 41 SEC records, and 122 school records in 22 games." (prior to his stint at UK, Leach was also under Mumme at Valdosta State).
But, the system didn't originate with Mumme either. Leach graduated from BYU in 1983. BYU was considered NCAA Champion in 1984. Gee, what did their offensive system look like?

Well, LaVell Edwards was coach. From Wikipedia:
"His offensive scheme was passing-dominated. He started coaching in a era when college football offenses were dominated by strong running attacks. His quarterbacks threw over 11,000 passes for more than 100,000 yards and 635 touchdowns.
  • His teams led the nation in passing offense 8 times
  • His teams led the nation in total offense 5 times
  • His teams led the nation in scoring offense 3 times
A little more insight takes us back to 1989: " Leach was one of two applicants for an open position at Iowa Wesleyan, which finished 0-10 the year before in 1988. New head coach Hal Mumme called him and arranged to meet him in person for the first time at BYU's spring football camp in 1989"

I remember clearly that when Mumme was first hired at UK he gave an interview about where he got the idea for his offensive system. He said that he was at a coach's conference when someone said "Someone ought to go out to BYU and write down what they're doing there. It's really amazing."

Mumme went to BYU and learned all he could about LaVell Edwards' system. He implemented it play-for-play.

After UK hit probation under Mumme and he left in disgrace, he ended up at little-known New Mexico State University. In his first year they lost every single game they played. This year, Mumme has turned it around, going 2-2 with a close lost to UTEP last week.

Mumme's NMSU team boasts the #1 offense in the nation with 535 yards per game and the #1 QB in the nation (Chase Holbrook) with 1706 yards passing. Texas Tech, on the other hand, is #15, with 432.80 yards per game.

You don't hear the commentators mention it, nor are people banging on Mumme's door. But, give the man some credit.

The thing about Mumme's teams I couldn't stand while he was at UK was their terrible defense. Indeed, NMSU's defense is #79 in the nation, with 348.25 ypg given up. (BTW--Kentucky's defense is now #118, terrible).

Texas Tech has the #33 defense at 287.40 YPG. So, maybe Leach has figured out how to incorporate good defense into his system. You'll never hear his defense mentioned on TV, however.
Sadly, Edwards died in 2000. But, if he were still alive I doubt anyone would give him credit. Few gave him credit when Mumme first popularized the wide open "Air Raid" at Kentucky. I remember that most commentators back then disliked it as a novelty, probably because UK's defensive effort was seen as so poor (no one has done much better there since Mumme), and they never won a bowl game against run-oriented teams.

But this blog will give credit where credit is due: First to LaVell Edwards, then to Hal Mumme, and lastly to Mike Leach.

The Definition of Insanity

Will someone please, please tell me what our strategy for winning in Afghanistan is? What about our strategy for fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Do we even care about the 2nd question anymore?

Last night, I watched PBS Frontline's "Return of the Taliban."

(You can watch it online for free). If you care about the war on terror, fighting Al Qaeda, and our soldiers then you probably want to watch this NOW. Here's a review in the NY Times.

Frontline is always hard-hitting in their interviews with all of the key players, and their use of local Pakistani journalists to go where foreigners aren't allowed. One such journalist was killed (probably by the Pakistani government) after exposing that it was the U.S. who was orchestrating attacks on Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, instead of the Pakistani army.

The reality is this: Al Qaeda and the Taliban freely operate in Northern Pakistan. Pakistan hasn't arrested any Taliban, and their intelligence service is made up of Taliban supporters.

Will someone please get me the phone # of Perviz Musharraf's publicist? He does a great PR job. I mean, this guy gets a free photo op at the White House, billions in aid, and even gets to be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as if he's America's best friend. The man even has a book tour. Shame on us all.
Last week, this same friend sold out our troops by signing a treaty with al Qaeda-friendly warlords.

The treaties between Pakistan's government and "tribal warlords," which President Perviz Musharaf pushed in Washington last week are all farces. (the documentary was filmed long before last week but it looked at previous similar treaties).

Pakistan's tactic is this: You warlords sign a treaty that says you'll lay down your arms and not support Al Qaeda. In return, we will leave you alone.

The tribal warlords that aren't loyal to Al Qaeda have all been assassinated over the past couple years.

Someone please tell me: why President Bush is okay with this? Please tell me why he keeps giving even more aid and weapons ($5 billion!) to a Pakistani government whose intelligence service heavily supports the Taliban.

The result: After the Pakistan army surrendered Waziristan last week:
al Qaeda's flag was run up the flagpole of abandoned military checkpoints, and the Taliban began looting leftover small arms. The Taliban also held a "parade" in the streets of Miranshah. Clearly, they view their "truce" with Pakistan as a victory. It is trumpeted as such on jihadist websites."

During one "treaty signing" Pakistan's top general is videotaped giving a speech to Taliban members denouncing the U.S. and its war, and says that making such a treaty was to keep the U.S. from invading Pakistani territory. He says "why do you think America wanted to invade Afghanistan? Were any of the hijackers from Afghanistan? They have other motives. Look at Iraq." These Taliban were all later given money from the government to pay off "debts" that some of the tribal leaders "owed" Al Qaeda.

Musharraf claims that "Pakistani people are against terrorism," but hundreds of thousands march in protest of the U.S. almost monthly, and many have privately donated millions in dollars and jewelry to Al Qaeda for the war against the U.S..

Can someone tell me what the difference is between this and Vietnam? Seems to me that in Vietnam, our troops fought a guerilla war by staying on one side of the border while the enemy on the other side just kept getting stronger and sending more troops in. It's the same in Pakistan. Thousands of recruits join up every day and are free to arm, train, and then enter Afghanistan at will. Money flows freely to them from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc...

Can someone please tell me why this isn't a campaign issue? Why don't I hear either side saying "Why don't we have a clear strategy for victory in the war on al Qaeda?"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The State of Kentucky Basketball

A friend of mine just found a DVD game called “NCAA Basketball Trivia.” You know it’s basketball season when you start having dreams about it. That’s been me the past several nights, but they’ve all been bad dreams.

I had one dream that I went to the funeral of one of the former Texas Western players. Pat Riley and I were the only white people at the funeral. Riley made some really nice speech about Texas Westerns’ contribution to basketball, and about not judging Adolph Rupp to harshly. In the dream, I befriended the dead player’s mother and had to help her around in her wheelchair and such. Nolan Richardson was there and made some speech about the difference between UTEP fans who celebrate life and Kentucky fans who still wish they'd have won the game in 1966. My dreams are NEVER that vivid or logical, so I figured it must be some sort of message.

The scary part about the dream was that Kentucky Basketball was referred to in past tense. There was this feeling that it used to be great, but now it wasn’t. That made me very very sad. I woke up depressed.

I’ve had some other dreams about the Cats not being better than 17th overall this year. The dreams started after Kentucky signed Mike Williams from England. Yet another 7-foot guy who is “all potential.” 7-foot, 270 pounds this guy should dominate. He instead averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds.

His coach very unwisely says "Mike is a guy that's going to be loved by UK no matter how many points he scores." Great, just what we need. We were 22-13 last year, only 9-7 in the SEC. We looked about the worst I’d ever seen.

"I really try not to think of last year," senior leader Bobby Perry said. "I know we didn't do as well as we should. We didn't have a ‘successful’ season as far as Kentucky's basketball standard. But we just focused on this year."

"We just didn't play together as a team," (Smith) said. "There was no real fluidness or flow to our offense pretty much all year long. We always seemed herky-jerky."
(gee, who’s fault is that???)

I’m sick of having project players. Tubby is kind of like the old man who has a garage full of “projects” that he’s going to get around to working on “one of these days.” 50% of the guys we sign seem to end up transferring or quitting anyway. Tubby loves his 7-footers, which is why we have to replenish the roster with Williams. How did the others pan out? Shagari transferred, Wukash is terrible, and Jared Carter is still a raw “project.”

We go into this season still without a proven power forward. Last year’s “project,” PF Rekalin Sims, transferred. We’re trying hard to get Patrick Patterson for next year. We’ve struck out on the 15 other guys we had ahead of Patterson. The message is clear: no one wants to play power forward at UK. They’d rather play at Texas A&M. Besides Patterson, we’ve got one more guy we think will commit. All of these guys will be at Midnight Madness in a couple weeks.

So, our top PF freshman may actually be a walk-on who took a year off of organized ball. He was slightly touted.

The other downside is that there weren’t any major changes on the coaching staff this year. Tubby promised to shake everything up, but instead we just keep on with the same tired group. Shawn Finney returns after failing as a head coach. I’ve heard that Finney was the best recruiter while he was at UK. We’ll see. We do have a new strength coach, so maybe our guys won’t be so soft.

The upside is our freshman class:

Highly touted guards that are all winners. We’ve not had a talented classic, pass-first, make-good-decisions point guard since 1999. Maybe one of these guys will be The One.

And Perry Stevenson, who averaged a triple double in high school. He’s 6-9, and reminds me of Jules Camara. (Camara was a Tubby project who actually got worse as he got older. Now he’s playing pro ball in Iran).

We also return 2 veteran McDonalds All-Americans. (That’s still the only achievement they have on their resume). Morris needs to dominate (maybe the new strength coach will help?), and Crawford needs to score. Put up, period.

Ramel Bradley needs to keep his mouth shut. I don’t think he’ll run the point effectively, but we’ll see.

Can Tubby do better with this group than he’s done the past couple of years? Can he finally get some quality production from “projects” like Orbzut, Carter, Bobby Perry, and Sheray Thomas?

CAN WE BEAT FLORIDA??? Tennessee??

These are what my nightmares are made of.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Is Nothing Sacred or Safe?

"Gunman enters a one room schoolhouse in an Amish community..." How much more horrible can you get? This is insanity. What is more remote or safer from violence than a one-room schoolhouse in an Amish community?

I'm seriously 100% for homeschooling now. It's apparently the only way left to keep your kids safe.

A Blessed Weekend

So, Joni and I have been heading up a study in our Lifegroup about finances and using your money wisely and for God's glory. We've been strictly sticking to a budget for the first time. We allot like $20 a month for eating out (mostly Wendy's), and allot very little to entertainment expenses. Well, last week we hit the spending limit with about a week left in the month. But, we stuck with our budget. Then this weekend we got two huge gifts.

Gift 1: Because of her 1 year anniversary at her workplace, her bosses gave us 2 free tickets to the production of Hamlet at Baylor, and dinner at Logan's Road House. Logan's alone was more than we could have afforded in a couple of months! Hamlet was great.

My previous Hamlet experience included being made to read it in high school without really understanding what was going on, and hearing it explained in the movie Renaissance Man. I had never seen the movies.

But, I totally understood 95% of everything happening on stage. The jokes were funny, the acting was incredible. If a person speaks it correctly, with the correct accents and emphases, it really is easy to understand. It features such good one-liners as:
"Frailty, thy name is woman!"

So, go see a good production of Hamlet sometime.

Gift 2: One of Joni's friends invited us to the Baylor-Kansas State game on Saturday. Not just any seats, but VIP seats. We got to park right next to the stadium in a personalized parking space, and had seats on the 50 yard line in a covered section where they serve all you can eat food. It was sausage penne, with either red or alfredo sauce, salad, various candies and all the Dr. Pepper you could drink. Oh yeah! The very first time I set foot in Baylor's stadium, I knew I wanted to one day be invited to a VIP area. So, I can check that life goal off the list!

Baylor won, by the way. A huge must-win for them if they want to get to 5 wins. They looked really sloppy and have a horrible offensive coordinator, but it was a good game nonetheless.

So, my point is that God is good. If you're faithful to Him with your finances, He'll find ways to bless. It's the only thing God challenges us to test Him on (Malachi 3:10), and it's true.