Yesterday I had my fantasy football draft. I think this was the hardest I ever had to work in selecting a team. My draft day strategy changed several times before draft day even arrived. I knew I had the 5th pick in the draft (we do it just like the NFL, based on the previous seasons won/lost record) so I had time to over analyze. In the league Iím in you have to pick 2 QB, 2 K, 2 Def, 4 RB, 5 WR/TE. So Gabbers, here is my draft in the order I picked them:
TE Jimmy Graham
WR Julio Jones
RB DeMarco Murray
RB Zac Stacy
RB Frank Gore
WR Michael Floyd
K Mason Crosby
QB Nick Foles
WR Reggie Wayne
QB Ben Roethlisberger
D New England
RB Bernard Pierce
K Greg Zuerlein
WR Marqise Lee
Notes: This draft was the first time I ever drafted 3 RB in a row.
Adrian Peterson was taken first
Jamaal Charles was taken second.
Peyton Manning taken third.
LeSean McCoy was taken fourth.
Marshawn Lynch was taken in the second round.
Seattle was the first defense taken and that was in the fourth round.
The main reason for writing this is discussion of who should play whom in the event the SEC does adopt a nine-game schedule, but I feel like I would be remiss if I did not have a full discussion of the issues involved in this. But in a fit of preseason enthusiasm, I wrote about some more global issues. †So if you're not interested in the SEC specifically, you still might be interested in this discussion.
As a preview, I expect to release the second part sometime this weekend (as early as Friday), and sometime early next week (as early as Sunday), I will release my preseason rankings. I believe there is some kind of MAC game a week from today, and then there are some games of real interest next Thursday, so I definitely plan to post by then. I think I know what my top 25 will be, but I want to try to have a somewhat presentable introduction to the season.
Iíve read in some places that itís inevitable that the SEC schedule will eventually move to 9 games. Iím not sure if thatís true though. That would mean an SEC champion who makes the national championship would play 10 games against SEC teams as well as two (additional) games against the top four teams in the country. With three additional games, thatís almost an NFL season. Others expect yet another game to be added since many anticipate itís inevitable for the four-team playoff to expand to eight.
So thatís one argument against. Another is the SEC teams place a high premium (literally) on home games. Thatís a lot of revenue lost if you take just one away. Teams like Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida have longstanding home and home series with in-state rivals. I suppose those could be made so that theyíre home games in the years where there are 5 road SEC games, but some programs want to try to get eight home games.
Another part of the argument against five road games is those teams are at a distinct disadvantage. Vanderbilt and Mississippi St. have been less than intimidating at times in recent years, but I wouldnít expect an easy win in either place anymore. Kentucky may be the closest thing to an easy win in the SEC now, but they seem to get good crowds that show up and influence the games in the seasons when the Wildcats are competitive.
There were good arguments against the SEC expanding to 14 teams though, and of course that happened anyway. So I wanted to consider some options the conference would have in that case.
The SEC has stated that a change if made will not take place until 2016, but the conversation should begin now about what to do in either scenario. Since adding Texas A&M and Missouri, this will be the first season where the intended rivalries will start taking place. For instance, it will be the first year Arkansas will play nearby Missouri rather than South Carolina, which never made any sense except to make Lou Holtz face his former team when Holtz coached the Gamecocks. The last two seasons maintained the existing rivalries and scheduled other game on an ad hoc basis.
I donít feel this is appropriate for a number of reasons. One is teams should be able to schedule out-of-conference opponents in advance. Part of the problem with the number of games played against FCS and bottom-rung FBS opponents is the result of such contracts being cancelled at the last moment. So one school pays the other a cancellation fee, which is then payed to a third school to come in for usually just one game that season.
Competitive FBS teams are rarely willing to do this, and other teams expect to be paid for the expected humiliation (which doesnít always pan out, of course, but they still get to keep the money). Sometimes the team that cancelled simply wanted to play another home game, so that might not result in a good match-up for them either. I think this is one of the reasons LSU started accepting these neutral-site games. Some recent last-minute attempts to land an opponent did not go well.
Another reason is recruiting. Letís say an SEC East team is recruiting a player from Texas. He might want to know how many games his family can travel to, so he would want to know how many times in the next four or five years that team might play at Texas A&M, at LSU, and at Arkansas. In some cases, the parents might care even more than the player. They might want to go to a certain number of games regardless; but in deciding between schools, how much travel to expect is a valid question.
To simplify matters, Iím going to explain three numbers for a scheduling format. The SEC currently operates a 6-1-1 format. This means there are six divisional games, one permanent interdivisional opponent, and one rotating interdivisional opponent. Under the current system, this means that for those opponents who are not permanent, they will only play a given team in the other division once every six years.
The Pac-12 has a nine-game schedule with fewer teams, so there are only two teams in the conference each year that a given team will not play. The format in the Pac-12, at least for the California teams, is 5-2-2. The format for the rest is 5-4, although due to the California teams all playing each other every year, this means that the four inland teams (Arizona, Arizona St., Colorado, and Utah) will play one Northern California team and three Pacific Northwest teams each year. The four Pacific Northwest teams will play three inland teams and one Southern California team each year.
To give you a hint as to Part II of this blog, Iím going to suggest a 6-2-1 format for the SEC (in the event it goes to nine games), so if you want, you can let me know what your favorite inter-divisional match-ups are.
IB) ďThe Same RulesĒ and Alternative Approaches
The head coach of Stanford, David Shaw, criticized the SEC for playing†cupcakes in November, presumably referring to the non-rivalry games played in SEC off-weeks. I donít understand why thatís a problem and having a late bye week isnít, but we donít have to go into that now.
To be fair, his team has every right to play a tough schedule, but thatís the only reason Stanford would have belonged in the conversation for the top four last year. Their loss to Utah would have taken a lot more to overcome than Alabamaís loss to Auburn after time expired. So if the SEC played the same number of conference games as the Pac-12, particularly if they are compared to a team with a competitive non-conference schedule (Alabama didnít really have one, apart from the opening game against Virginia Tech, but the Hokies were not very good last season), there goes Stanfordís argument. I doubt Shaw would see it as ďthe same rulesĒ if he actually got what he wanted and as a result two SEC teams made it ahead of a Stanford team who won the conference despite a loss.
It also annoys me that not playing nine conference games is considered backing down now. It used to be that you played 10 games in the whole regular season. So if we still stuck to that, it would mean that a team that went to a conference championship would play 0 games outside of conference before a bowl. Historically (until about 1970), a normal amount of games against your conference was six.
Before the SEC became the first team to expand to two divisions in 1992, it still only had seven conference games per team. The Pac-12 (then the Pac-10 of course) had some teams with only seven conference games as recently as 1985. Some teams in the ACC played only six conference games as recently as 1987.
So a more traditional balance between in-conference (8 with a possible 9th is still a lot more than 6 or 7) and out-of-conference is ďbacking downĒ now.
I think itís actually problematic to have fewer and fewer games that we can use to judge one conference against another, which can only fairly be done by looking at such games. Doing that, the SEC has typically done better than the Pac-12, including out-of-conference winning percentage overall, winning percentage against FCS teams, and winning percentage against BCS teams. This is including in years that were supposedly bad for the SEC but when the SEC had a lot of depth. I remember one year when Ed Oregon was the head coach of Ole Miss, the Rebels went undefeated out of conference and lost every game in conference.
Frankly, I would be happy if only the divisional games counted toward the race for the divisional title and six other games were at the discretion of the school. Maybe they should be encouraged to play at least two games against the other division, but if Florida were to play Florida St. and Miami in the same year, maybe even two additional SEC games wouldnít be necessary. On the other hand, if the Gators wanted to play LSU and Auburn every single year, their two most traditional SEC West rivals, they could. They would not necessarily have to rotate in Arkansas and Texas A&M, and the Aggies and Hogs might be just fine with that.
Then a team like LSU would have less of a problem with playing Florida every year. As strong as both teams have been in the last decade or so, they have never made the SEC title in the same year. The same is true with Auburn and Georgia. More often than not, only the winner of the game has a decent chance to win their respective division.
Itís probably best LSU didnít have to play Florida again in 2006, just because they probably would not have made the title game even if they had won the SEC, but itís still a good example of what can happen. Arkansas lost one game in the division. LSU lost one game in the division. LSU beat Arkansas. Who made the title game? Arkansas. What? Well, that year, LSU had to play a Florida team that would go on to win the national championship, on the road I might add. Arkansas didnít play any particularly good team from the SEC East, but it didnít matter. One fewer conference loss meant the Hogs went.
For an example from the SEC East, Iíll go back to 1997, when LSU got its only victory against Spurrier when he was at Florida (the game was in Baton Rouge). LSU did not win the SEC West, but they lost to Auburn due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. Even though Florida beat Tennessee (which of course didnít have to play LSU or Auburn) and Auburn for good measure, the Volunteers went to the SEC title game instead and narrowly defeated Auburn before losing to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Despite what should have been an SEC East (if not SEC) title and despite handing Florida St. its only loss of the season for the second year in a row, Florida was relegated to the dreaded Citrus Bowl.
The NFL season is getting geared up as there are just two weeks left in the preseason and much to talk about. Time to get right to the notes (before I import any tables and crash the site again--whoops!).
In Philly, the big news last night was running back LeSean McCoyís thumb on Thursday night. Initially what could have been a break was released as a sprain and should shut him down until opening day. Huge positive news for Philadelphia and fantasy football owners. McCoy is one of the best running backs in the NFL but the fear of injury is always a concern.
Their opponents Friday night was Pittsburgh and their pair of ďDopesĒ in the backfield. Former Bucs and Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and last yearís top back LeíVeon Bell were arrested on Wednesday after a police officer on a motorcycle noticed the smell of marijuana and both were arrested after a traffic stop. The duo may now face discipline from the league and Pittsburgh may be shorthanded come opening day against Cleveland. Some nice preparation for the game, for sure.
Number one overall pick defensive end Jadeveon Clowney left practice Wednesday as he suffered an undisclosed injury but rumors were bouncing around it was a neck injury but not serious. That said, the kid has been fantastic to date. Moving from end in college to outside linebacker in the 3-4 under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennelís three time Super Bowl ring defense, Clowney has been explosive and disruptive to date. For Houston, they need to protect their investment and not rush him back. Clowney and J.J. Watt look like a dynamic pass rushing duo this season and beyond.
In Indianapolis, the Colts have to be wondering when running back Trent Richardson is going to break out. After trading a first round pick to Cleveland for the former #3 overall pick, Richardson did nothing but lose his job last season. With Vick Ballard injured and just a washed-up Ahmad Bradshaw behind Richardson, the Colts have a gaping hole on offense. They traded for Eagles back David Fluellen this week, but the undrafted free agent is likely just a depth option for the practice squad. The Colts are running out players like Zurlon Tipton, Deji Karim, and Daniel Herron at running back. Expect Indy to scour the waiver wire for some backs at cutdowns. Whoever thought Donald Brown would look so good and be missed?
The New York Jets lost their third and fourth round draft picks this week as cornerback Dexter McDougle and receiver Shaq Evans landed on injured reserve. The Jets were expected to lean on their rookies this season and losing two already does not bode well. Oft-injured former Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson has been out and the cornerback position has been so thin that safety Antonio Allen was moved to slot cornerback. For a team that had one of the best duos in football at cornerback in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, they now have flotsam and jetsam at the position. Wide receiver is not much better. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg (sorry Detroit fans to bring up that bad memory!) now has Eric Decker and...well, no one any good at receiver. David Nelson, Jeremy Kerley, Jacoby Ford, Greg Salas, and Stephen Hill look like a cutdown list, not a depth list.
In Arizona, the Cardinals lost a key cog in their strong defense when veteran nose tackle Darnell Dockett went down with an ACL injury during a non-contact drill. He is out for the season and backup Frostee Rucker is just not comparable to Dockett in the middle of the defense. The Cards also signed veteran Isaac Sopoaga last seen being beat out by undrafted free agents for playing time in New England. Big loss for Arizona.
A 2012 second-round draft pick was released this week as the St. Louis Rams dumped oft-injured running back Isaiah Pead after he tore his ACL last week. Pead has had injuries, suspensions, crappy play, and sixth-round pick Zac Stacy making him obsolete in St. Louis. The question becomes whether anyone wants to take a chance on him and stash him for a year and see if he can bounce back next year. Quite the long-shot, though.
Of course, the biggest news (as far as ESPN was concerned) was Johnny Football was told he will ride the pine week one. Of course, a quarterback who played in the shotgun, had no playbook, and was late for practices and looked terrible all preseason really should have had no shot to play at all. Great news for career backup Brian Hoyer as he gets a shot to play at last. For Johnny Manziel, hopefully he gets his head on straight and buckles down and gets himself ready to play in the NFL. Of course, I said all along this guy is just another Tim Tebow...he has time to prove me wrong, but I am not counting on it.
Finally, in Cincinnati the Bengals signed linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a four-year $20 million extension paying him $7.6 million this year. Burfict was an undrafted free agent who signed for a $5,000 signing bonus as no other team wanted any part of the troubled and slow linebacker coming out of college. The Bengals got two fantastic seasons from the big run-stuffer at NFL minimum contract level before re-upping him wisely now. If Burfict played again at the minimum contract this year he would likely have been looking for a new address as a free agent this offseason.
Well, I had to start this week with a good pic...As College Football season nears, my Notre Dame Fighting Irish seem to have†a problem...
This past week news broke that Notre Dame had an internal investigation looking into allegations Academic Misconduct...When 4 players were noticeably absent at practice, it was easy to figure at least some of who was involved...LB/DE Ishaq Williams, CB† Keivarae Russell, WR Davaris Daniels,and LB Kendall Moore...Daniels had just come off of suspension for his GPA dropping...Moore, a 5th year senior has slipped on the depth chart during Spring and Summer...Russell is the top CB on the depth chart...And Williams, while not officially being a bust, has not lived up to expectations, and the Irish were hoping to see him reach his full potential this season...
The players have not been dismissed from the team or University...But they are being withheld from practice and games until the investigation complete...And while the Notre Dame haters are licking their chops, dying to blast us Irish fans who hang our hats on the academic standards, this is the same School that threw their starting QB out shortly before the start of last season for academic violations...
It is reported that a faculty member brought the allegations to the University, feeling that work turned in by these players (and possibly other students) was not their own...There is also speculation, but no confirmation that academic advisors could be involved...What makes me happy is the University took it seriously right away...They didn't try and hush it up, or sweep it under the rug, in the name of football...And the Athletic department, and head coach Brian Kelly put up no fight over...It's also reported that none of the coaching staff was aware of any of this until it was brought to their attention...(so far)...They are all in with finding out what happened and who the problem people are...
I really like what Brian Kelly had to say in his press conference Saturday...
Another sign of how serious Notre Dame is taking this...They brought in Maurice Clarett to speak with the staff, and players Sunday...
Shit, if there's a guy that knows about the pitfalls college athletes can fall into, it's him...Seriously, if you haven't seen the ESPN 30 for 30 about him and Jim Tressel, you have to see it...You'll gain a lot of respect for Clarett, and you'll lose even more for Tressel...What a fake, piece of shit that guy is!
I guess, I don't really have much to say about this yet...Mainly because we know very little...I just know that I'm happy with how Notre Dame is handling it so far...As more information comes out, I may change my mind...I mean these are the guys that thought Manti Te'o had a girlfriend they never saw, then gave him a football to bury with her when she died, you know, whenever he got back to Hawaii to bury her pretend body!
Iím not doing specific rankings of the teams, but I do think the winner of the LSU/Alabama game will be the most likely SEC West champion. After that, they go in order of teams I think are most likely to win the division.
Since 2003, the top three teams of the SEC West, Alabama, Auburn and LSU, combined for 6 national championships, 3 national runners-up (including Auburnís undefeated campaign in 2004), and 8 conference championships, including the last five in a row.† Only once in that time (Arkansas in 2006) did another team win the division.† In that year, LSU beat Arkansas; but the loss to SEC East (and eventual BCS) Champions Florida kept the Tigers from winning the division.
The Tigers have some rebuilding to do on offense, as I mentioned†in January, but there is a strong foundation. Despite the loss of two of their three best running backs from last season, Kenny Hilliard will probably resume his #2 role from 2012 if not challenge Terrence Magee for the top spot. The offensive line should be strong again with only one significant loss, guard Trai Turner. There are five returning starters on offense, all in blocking positions, but there are twelve other lettermen returning and a strong recruiting class.
The question marks are at quarterback (where the Tigers lose veteran Zach Mettenberger) and wide receiver (three WRís were drafted, including the two top receivers; the third receiver was a running back not among those returning).
Admittedly, the opening game against Wisconsin (Aug. 30 in Houston) could be an ugly, boring game; but at least by October, the Tigers will likely have developed a passing game successful in keeping opposing defenses off-balance.
No defense in college football is going to be perfect, but the Tigers only had two defenders taken in the draft and will have seven returning starters, so the defense should be much more experienced than last season. 3/4 of the defensive lettermen return from last season, so there should be some depth as well. This will likely be an LSU team more in the mold of 2010-12, but I wouldnít expect it to have to win a game with 6 offensive points again.
All three LSU kickers return from last season.
Like LSU, the Tide returns 12 starters and does not return its quarterback. So why are they ranked so much higher?
To put it simply, TJ Yeldon and Amari Cooper. I suppose it also helps that offense always gets more attention in preseason rankings, and Alabama has still won three national championships since the last time LSU won one.
LSU may end up with more rushing yards and a better quarterback, but you get more attention if you have one go-to running back even though LSU has done pretty well in rotating running backs in the past.
I do think Alabama may be the better team in SeptemberĖit helps for a new quarterback to start out with a reliable targetĖ but of course what will really matter is which team is better in November.
You might have forgotten, but this team was one play away from winning the national championship.
On offense, three of the four leading ball handlers return from last season among 8 returning offensive starters. There are some more significant losses on defense (6 returning starters), but the offense is used to having to pick up some slack from time to time anyway.
I donít factor this into my rankings, but the schedule may be the biggest obstacle in repeating for the SEC West title. Auburn has to play Georgia (on the road) and South Carolina in inter-divisional play and also has to go on the road to play Alabama, Ole Miss, and Mississippi st. It does get LSU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas at home.
I donít think the Rebels will go to their first SEC Championship game this season, but no one expected Missouri to make their first last season, so I guess itís possible if LSU, auburn, and Alabama beat each other up enough (and possibly lose to lower teams or SEC East teams).
Other than Donte Moncrief, the top players statistically on offense return, although there will be some starters to replace. The defense will return 9 starters.
After being one of the top teams in the SEC West in 2012, the Aggies will probably continue to slide down the list. ďJohnny FootballĒ is gone (have I mentioned I hate that nickname?), as are Mike Evans and Ben Melena.
The Aggies do return 14 starters, but most of them on the defensive side of the ball, which has been underwhelming of late.
Mississippi St.†returns 16 starters from a bowl-winning team last year, so they may surpass the Aggies.
Arkansas†may be bringing up the rear in the SEC West again as the Hogs return 14 starters from a fairly poor performance last season.