Sunday, January 11, 2009

TSF Final Poll

So in spite of the BCMess, TSF staff unanimously voted Utah #1, Florida #2 and Texas #3.

1 Utah (3) 75
2 Florida 72
3 Texas 69
4 USC 65
5 Oklahoma 62
6 Alabama 59
7 Oregon 51
7 TCU 51
9 Georgia 49
10 Penn State 48
11 Bosie State 47
12 Texas Tech 44
13 Ohio State 40
14 Virginia Tech 37
15 Mississippi 36
16 Cincinnati 31
17 Florida State 22
18 California 17
19 Oklahoma Stat 14
20 Oregon State 13
20 West Virginia 13
22 Missouri 12
23 Georgia Tech 11
23 Nebraska 11
25 Brigham Young 9

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Comparing the Automatic BCS Bid Conferences

At the end of the 2007 College Football season as well as at the beginning of the 2008 season, many of the pundits argued the ACC and the Big East scored the lowest in terms of collective conference strength, and they substantiated such arguments with solid facts. The ACC had performed atrociously in each of its BCS bowl appearances since the inception of the BCS. The only victory came at the hands of a Florida State win over Virginia Tech, who played in the Big East at the time and now plays in the ACC.

You can't help but cut the Big East some slack in this department. That conference has recently undergone a weakening by three of its powerhouse teams migrating the ACC: Boston College, Miami, and of course Virginia Tech. Considering the challenges that laid ahead of the Big East at the time of that transition, I think the Big East has made a good showing to at least hang on to their automatic BCS bid status.

The ACC, however, has no such excuse. At the time of the transition, the pundits gobbled up the hype and in some cases even began stacking the ACC next to the mighty SEC. The seasons that passed thereafter lead to quite a disappointment in how the ACC performed out of conference and during the bowl season. At the beginning of this season, I stated in a game preview that Virginia Tech should make its number one goal to win in the post season, wherever the post season took them. And of course by that I also suggested that all ACC teams should have had that goal. I have watched the ACC's out of conference performance this season very closely in the hopes of seeing a path towards the conference truly earning the status of which the pundits initially (and unduly) anointed the ACC at the time of its expansion.

I can't make it through a single posting on TSF without citing statistics, and I make no exception for this posting. I've compiled a set of standings in terms of wins and losses between each of the automatic bid conferences. I'm not trying to exclude non-automatic bid conferences for any reason other than this involved a lot of busy work. I don't have the fancy dancy searchable databases at the fingertips of professional commentators. I just compiled data for the automatic bid conferences because it seems a decent, although not perfect, way to compare these conferences. I did some of this by hand, so I apologize up front if there's a couple of errors. But for the most part, they have good data.

Overall Automatic Bid Conference Standings

Conference GP Total W Total L Total W %

SEC 19 11 8 58%
Big 12 22 12 10 55%
Pac 10 15 8 7 53%
ACC 26 13 13 50%
Big East 17 8 9 47%
Big Ten 16 6 10 38%

Let's first examine the overall record of the conferences. These standings include regular season and bowl season inter-conference play. To no real surprise, the SEC comes out on top, and the Big 12 comes in a close second. One surprise lies in who comes in third and fourth and by how many percentage points. This stat shows the Pac 10 to have a very good showing, only trailing the Big 12 by two percentage points. I think we can safely say that Pac 10 fans have been right call foul and claim themselves as an underrated conference this season. The ACC doesn't look too bad either, but this season's performance definitely leave some room for improvement. The Big East still has some headway to make to reestablishing themselves amongst the other automatic-bid'ers, and the Big Ten is hanging down in the basement. These standings give us a good birds eye view about how the conferences have performed with respect to each other, but let's take a further look at this in some different contexts.

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Regular Season Only

Conference GP Reg Season W Reg Season L Reg Season W %

ACC 19 11 8 58%
SEC 14 7 7 50%
Big Ten 10 5 5 50%
Big 12 16 8 8 50%
Big East 14 7 7 50%
Pac 10 11 4 7 36%

Here, we have the conference standings for games only played in the regular season, and this should make ACC fans proud. The ACC leads this category by 8 percentage points over the mighty SEC! I did expect that the ACC would perform better in this category than the previous, but I didn't think they'd come in first, and much less by 8 points. The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East all tie for the second, and the Pac 10 trails by a whopping 16 percentage points in last place. Maybe I need to retract that statement above about the Pac 10 fans saying their conference is underrated.

Overall Automatic Bid Conference Standings Bowl Season Only

Conf GP Bowl Season W Bowl Season L Bowl Season W %

Pac 10 4 4 0 100%
SEC 5 4 1 80%
Big 12 4 3 1 75%
Big East 3 1 2 33%
ACC 7 2 5 29%
Big Ten 8 2 6 25%

These standings only include bowl season contests. Continuing the Pac 10's schizophrenic storyline, they blow everybody else out of the water by running the table in all their bowl season games. That's impressive. So my conclusion about the Pac 10 is they deserve the award for most streaky conference amongst the automatic bid'ers. The SEC of course still holds it's own, along with the Big 12, but the percentages drop drastically after that. The Big East, ACC, and Big Ten performed quite poorly in the bowl season. The ACC has had this as an Achilles heel since the inception of the BCS. Virginia Tech did its part this year, so we Hokie fans have good reason to be proud. Hopefully, we'll get another bowl victory next year, but against a more reputable conference like the SEC or the Big 12. But what happened to Miami? I think their game against Cal may have made for the worst display of clock management, in both halves, that I have every witnessed in my entire football (college or pro) watching life! Then, Boston College drops one to Vanderbilt? I know Vanderbuild hails from the SEC, but come on, they aren't LSU or Auburn. Georgia Tech definitely had their hands full against LSU, but they should have at least made it into the end zone. Clemson put up a good fight against Nebraska, but couldn't pull out the W. But let's hand it to Florida State for punishing Wisconsin for bailing on the Hokies' inter-conference matchup. Then again, the game that replaced it, versus Nebraska, went pretty well. Getting back to the standings, the ACC played the inverse role of the Pac 10 this season: great in the regular season and poor in the bowl season. If the ACC wants to earn more recognition, it needs to improve its bowl season play considerably. Performing will in the regular season definitely has its value, but the bowl season has the most visibility and the most emphasized chatter between the pundits.

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Overall
excluding points differential of a single possession

Conference GP Total W Total L Total W %

ACC 18 11 7 61%
SEC 15 9 6 60%
Big Ten 10 5 5 50%
Big 12 17 8 9 47%
Pac 10 10 4 6 40%
Big East 10 3 7 30%

So I decided to list the standings of the automatic bid'ers again, but this time with a twist. I removed all the games that ended in a score differential of one possession. Think about this. Those games really could have gone either way, and the clock played a significant role in who earned the W. So in this category, the ACC just barely squeaks by the SEC with the highest win percentage. This shows that the ACC, despite some key losses, may have the poise to come out on top of all the other conferences if it makes a few adjustments and pulls out wins in those close games that go down to the final possession. I don't mean to undermine the value of a team that demonstrates time after time that it can win the close games. That is very important, and let's face, it makes for the most exiting type of football. All this stated, the ACC just may have a break out season in 2009 or 2010.

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Regular Season Only
excluding points differential of a single possession

Conf GP Reg Season W Reg Season L Reg Season W %

Big Ten 4 4 0 100%
ACC 10 8 2 80%
SEC 10 5 5 50%
Big 12 9 4 5 44%
Pac 10 11 4 5 36%
Big East 9 2 7 22%

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Bowl Season Only
excluding points differential of a single possession

Conf GP Bowl Season W Bowl Season L Bowl Season W %

Big East 1 1 0 100%
Pac 10 1 1 0 100%
SEC 4 3 1 75%
Big Ten 6 2 4 33%
ACC 3 1 2 33%
Big 12 1 0 1 0%

In conclusion, I think the ACC did make a positive step towards strengthening the conference name. A strong regular season of inter-conference play definitely has boosted the perception of strength of the ACC. The poor bowl season performance will most likely overshadow the strong regular season, however, but there is a positive side to that. If you know your conference has strengthened, but you opponents don't quite recognize it, they may not see you coming, and that may be worth a major upset or two in '09 in favor of the ACC.

Lastly, this table includes all the games I used in these standings for your reference. And as always, LET'S GO HOKIES!

Match Winner Loser Season W Points L Points Differential
Iowa vs. Pittsburgh Big East Big Ten Regular 21 20 1
West Virginia vs. North Carolina Big East ACC Bowl 31 30 1
Mississippi vs. Wake Forest ACC Big 12 Regular 30 28 2
Vanderbilt vs. Boston College SEC ACC Bowl 16 14 2
Tennessee vs. UCLA SEC Pac 10 Regular 27 24 3
Kansas vs. South Florida Big East SEC Regular 37 34 3
Vanderbilt vs. Duke ACC SEC Regular 10 7 3
Baylor vs. Connecticut Big East Big 12 Regular 31 28 3
Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State Pac 10 Big East Bowl 3 0 3
Ohio State vs. Texas Big 12 Big Ten Bowl 24 21 3
West Virginia vs. Colorado Big 12 Big East Regular 17 14 3
Rutgers vs. NC State Big East ACC Regular 33 29 4
Northwestern vs. Duke Big Ten ACC Regular 24 20 4
Nebraska vs. Clemson Big 12 ACC Bowl 26 21 5
Virginia Tech vs. Nebraska ACC Big 12 Regular 35 30 5
Oregon vs. Purdue Pac 10 Big Ten Regular 32 26 6
Miami vs. California Pac 10 ACC Bowl 24 17 7
Michigan State vs. California Pac 10 Big Ten Regular 38 31 7
Northwestern vs. Missouri Big 12 Big Ten Bowl 30 23 7
California vs. Maryland ACC Pac 10 Regular 35 27 8
Kansas State vs. Louisville Big East Big 12 Regular 38 29 9
Oklahoma vs. Florida SEC Big 12 Bowl 24 14 10
Illinois vs. Missouri Big 12 Big Ten Regular 52 42 10
Oregon vs. Oklahoma State Pac 10 Big 12 Bowl 42 31 11
Iowa State vs. Iowa Big Ten Big 12 Regular 17 5 12
Michigan State vs. Georgia SEC Big Ten Bowl 24 12 12
Vanderbilt vs. Wake Forest ACC SEC Regular 23 10 13
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati ACC Big East Bowl 20 7 13
Penn State vs. USC Pac 10 Big Ten Bowl 38 24 14
Kansas vs. Oklahoma Big 12 SEC Regular 45 31 14
Georgia vs. Arizona State SEC Pac 10 Regular 27 10 17
South Carolina vs. Clemson ACC SEC Regular 31 14 17
Auburn vs. West Virginia Big East SEC Regular 34 17 17
Miami vs. Texas A&M ACC Big 12 Regular 41 23 18
Colorado vs. Florida State ACC Big 12 Regular 39 21 18
Syracuse vs. Northwestern Big Ten Big East Regular 30 10 20
Iowa vs. South Carolina Big Ten SEC Bowl 31 10 21
Minnesota vs. Kansas Big 12 Big Ten Bowl 42 21 21
Miami vs. Florida SEC ACC Regular 26 3 23
Alabama vs. Clemson SEC ACC Regular 34 10 24
Kentucky vs. Louisville SEC Big East Regular 27 2 25
Connecticut vs. North Carolina ACC Big East Regular 38 12 26
Cincinnati vs. Oklahoma Big 12 Big East Regular 52 26 26
Oklahoma State vs. Washington State Big 12 Pac 10 Regular 39 13 26
Washington State vs. Baylor Big 12 Pac 10 Regular 45 17 28
Wisconsin vs. Florida State ACC Big Ten Bowl 42 13 29
Florida vs. Florida State SEC ACC Regular 45 15 30
Oregon State vs. Penn State Big Ten Pac 10 Regular 45 14 31
Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech ACC Big 12 Regular 38 7 31
North Carolina vs. Rutgers ACC Big East Regular 44 12 32
Ohio State vs. USC Pac 10 Big Ten Regular 35 3 32
South Carolina vs. NC State SEC ACC Regular 34 0 34
Georgia Tech vs. LSU SEC ACC Bowl 38 3 35
Virginia vs. Connecticut Big East ACC Regular 45 10 35
Oklahoma vs. Washington Big 12 Pac 10 Regular 55 14 41
Arkansas vs. Texas Big 12 SEC Regular 52 10 42
Penn State vs. Syracuse Big Ten Big East Regular 55 13 42
Virginia vs. USC Pac 10 ACC Regular 52 7 45

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

TSF now on Twitter!

That's right. Now you can follow EhhTee's mindless tweets on all things Hokie on Twitter. "Kids these days with their rap music -- Their hippin' and their hoppin'. They don't know what the jazz music is all about."

Just click on the Twitter link to the right to follow along!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Game Review - VT vs. Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl

With 8:25 left in the Orange Bowl, Virginia Tech held a 20-7 lead but the Cincinnati Bearcats had just marched down the field from their own 48 yard line to the Hokie 4 yard line and had converted on a key 4th down. A touchdown here would close the gap to 20-14 with a lot of time left and it appeared that the Bearcats had found a chink in the Hokie defense's armor -  their first since the opening drive where Cincinnati glided downfield for their only score of the game to that point. The momentum of the game hung in the balance and it was the strength of both teams on the field. 

First down - Bearcat QB Tony Pike ran for his life from Hokie DE Orion Martin (playing one of the finest games of his career) and had to fling the ball to WR Mardy Gilyard who was blanketed by Kam Chancellor but just barely missed dragging a toe for the completion in the end zone. Pike impressed me with his elusiveness all game.

Second down - Pike tried to beat whip Cody Grimm with a fade pass to WR Marcus Barnett but Grimm played Barnett facing the ball and forced the throw to the back of the end zone where it sailed out of bounds.

Third down - Cincinnati RB John Goebel took a draw play down to the 1 yard line where he was stopped by tackles John Graves and Taco Thompson.

Fourth down and the game - All week, Cincinnati had worked on this play. It was a bootleg that started out as a fake to the left and then Pike would wheel around and run to the pylon at the sideline on the right. Pike is 6'6" tall but by no means slow, as he had avoided and outrun Hokie defenders all game. As Pike wheeled, Hokie CB Stephan Virgil charged upfield, maintaining outside leverage and forcing Pike to cut back in towards the end zone instead of running to the pylon like he wanted. Redshirt freshman LB Barquell Rivers was starting his first game and had gotten nice drops in his pass coverage and shown good instincts all game, but was being blocked pretty easily. Here at the goal line he charged down the line of scrimmage, reading the play. As Pike made his cut, Rivers squared up and made a picture-perfect hit - head up, arms wrapping and driving with his legs - at the 1 yard line. Instead of his momentum carrying him into the end zone, Pike was stopped cold and it allowed the rest of the swarm to arrive and bury him for no gain. 

At this point my Calm and Beloved Reader, despite having watched noble and phenomenal goal line stands from this defense for years (most notably against Auburn in the 2004 Sugar Bowl), a tear ran down my cheek. For people who hadn't watched the Hokies much, there encapsulated in four downs was the essence of Virginia Tech. When the game is on the line, no matter who is out there (in this case replacements for Brett Warren and All-ACC DE Jason Worilds), the Hokie defense always is going to put on their hard hats and go to work. That is the Lunchpail. They will defend that end zone with a ferocity that takes other teams by surprise. And in this case, they stopped the Bearcats and sealed the game for the Hokies.

And just as exciting - look at the group of defenders involved in that sequence - Martin, Chancellor, Grimm, Graves, Thompson, Virgil and Rivers. All but Martin are returning for 2009. Wow.

Now I would be remiss if I didn't give some credit to the Hokie offense in this game as well. In the opening sequence, after the Bearcats cruised in for the opening score on their first drive, the defense needed time for Coach Foster to make his adjustments. In steps the Hokie offense, which marched right back down the field to the Cincinnati 9 yard line. Unfortunately, Dustin Keys, who battled the flu leading up to the game missed a 26 yarder which blew a real opportunity for Tech. 

But Coach Foster had time to make his adjustments and the Bearcat offense was slowed down for much of the rest of the first half. Meanwhile, Hokie QB Tyrod Taylor worked his usual magic and dazzled the crowd with an amazing mix of runs and passes. He was able to scramble on third down for a 17 yard TD run to tie the game at 7. And then came the first crucial sequence in the game.

With first and 10 at midfield, Taylor dropped back and looked to his right. The deep safety screwed up and didn't get as deep as Dyrell Roberts who streaked down the right seam completely open for a TD. Miraculously, Taylor decided to toss a jump ball to Jarrett Boykin on the right sideline, who can win those battles one-on-one, but the safety that screwed up on Roberts, was easily able to get over and make the pick. Taylor had several incompletions on the night, but this throw to Boykin was only the 2nd misread I saw him make the entire game.

Following the pick, the Bearcats were able to dink and dunk their way down to the Hokie 8 yard line when Tony Pike rolled out to his left and saw what he thought was a wide-open Dominick Goodman who had slipped behind the Hokie zone in the LEFT corner of the end zone. Stephan Virgil who was playing corner on the RIGHT, followed his man all the way across the field and then left him behind to dash in and jump in front of the ball intended for Goodman. Virgil got his foot in bounds to intercept the ball and end the Cincinnati threat. 

Taylor showed his poise by coming back from the pick to lead the team 54 yards in 2:23 and set-up a Dustin Keys FG who bounced back himself from his earlier miss. The only issue I saw here was a repeated use of the Greg Boone TE hitch route. It worked great twice in a row and then Stinespring called it again and it was totally covered, forcing Taylor to throw the ball away. I will give Stinespring great credit for not only calling his best game of the season (breaking tendency and throwing on 1st down in the first half was fantastic), but also having the offense execute better than it had for most of the year. However, he still demonstrates a true lack of game "sense". A perfect play after running two successful TE hitch routes in that situation would have been a pump fake to Boone and then hit a WR in the zone behind him for a big play. Also, the only catches Boone had in the game were on this drive. With a weapon like Greg Boone at 280 lbs, the Hokies should utilize him in the passing game at various times throughout a contest.

But I don't want to take away from the execution point here. The offensive line stood up and owned the Bearcats from the second quarter on. Recognize that this Bearcat defense entered the game 26th in total defense, 28th in scoring defense and 13th in rushing defense! And the Hokies went for 398 yards including 258 on the ground. That took execution and what made it even more impressive was the insertion of yet another first time starter. If the question headed into the game was Jaymes Brooks at RG, the answer is "Yes". He lined up across from 2007 All-America DT Terrill Byrd most of the night and only got beat twice. That is just sick. Most of Darren Evans big runs were cuts behind Brooks either back to the middle or to the right. The future is very bright for Brooks who wasn't always getting the biggest push off the ball, but he was better at controlling his man than Marshman ever was.

The execution continued in the third quarter as the Hokies added a FG on their opening drive (which gave the Hokie record for FG's in a season to Dustin Keys with 23 of them) and the defense contained the Bearcats to a total of 39 yards. 

Then at the beginning of the 4th quarter, Orion Martin showed why he has gone from a walk-on to a likely NFL Draft choice. Martin read the misdirection screen pass and dove in front of the RB to grab the ball inches above the turf. This is a 260 lb defensive end, laying out and making an interception. That sort of thing gets noticed in the league. And in this case it led to a short field for the offense, which converted it into a touchdown on a brilliant 6 yard run by Evans, where he beat two guys by himself to score and make it 20-7 Hokies.

Of course you've read above what happened on the goal line stand later in the quarter, and the score held-up for the big Hokie win. Tony Pike entered the game having thrown 7 interceptions all season, and the Hokies took him for 5 picks (4 if you look at the box score, but how they took that interception away from Kam after the replay will forever boggle my mind). The offense held an almost 2:1 advantage in time of possession. It was in all aspects the greatest performance of the season for Virginia Tech.

Now before we run off and start screaming about national titles in 2009 and all sorts of other silliness, let's get a reality check. This Bearcat team came out of the weakest BCS conference - the Big East. They were crushed by a true national power in Oklahoma and this was their first bowl game on a huge stage like the Orange Bowl. There are a lot of guys that Ohio State didn't want playing on that Cincinnati team, so let that balance our excitement a little.

That said, the Bearcats were a very well-coached and athletic team with 10 seniors on the defense. But what's even more impressive about this win is that the Hokies were missing three starters from their ACC Championship game victory and still won this one decisively. In fact, between the 2008 Orange Bowl and 2009 Orange Bowl a total of 8 STARTERS were kicked off the team, were declared ineligible or got injured and ended their season - Branden Ore, Brandon Dillard, Zach Luckett, Kenny Lewis, Davon Morgan, Nick Marshman, Brett Warren and Jason Worilds. 

Despite those losses, these Hokies won the ACC Coastal Division, the ACC Championship and the 2009 Orange Bowl. I have bashed the offense repeatedly all year, but in their final game they rose to the occasion to match an impressive performance from the defense. This is a victory and a season to truly savor and we can't wait to see how the 2009 recruiting class shakes up following this win. Until then, we will shift our focus to Tech basketball which begins its ACC season today against Duke. As always,

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

2009 Hokie Football!!!!!!

Tickets are going to be hard to come by next season, friends. The Hokies played like it was, in fact, a new year. Full write-up to come soon after a 20-7 victory in the Orange Bowl over the Cincinnati Bearcats. 

GOOOOOOOOO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
2009 ACC and Orange Bowl Champions!