Sunday, October 31, 2010


Pretend, for a minute, that it's not the case that Miami didn't bring their A game to Charlottesville on Saturday. (What we saw could charitably be called their D game. If the prof is in a forgiving mood.) Forget for a sec that Jacory Harris got knocked out of the game. Ignore for a bit the lingering issues that tried to poke their head around the curtain and spoil the show, and will try to do so again in future games.

Rebuilding programs need to put something on display that looks like rebuilding. Otherwise you're just chucking bricks on a pile and hoping they become a house. The USC game was nice, but it was still a loss and it was way after midnight and not really on TV and it was a loss. Take the opposite of every "but" in that last sentence and you get the Miami game. Here is the full list of people that will care, even in the not-distant future, about Miami's horrible coverage breakdown on the Phillips touchdown or the gift-wrapped short field UVA was given on the final Payne one:


That goes for Mike London's recruiting targets in May 2011, the history books, and anyone else interested in the words "Virginia 24, Miami 19."

Also, bowl games (ohhhhh no it's the forbidden word) don't care much about either degree of difficulty or level of effort put in by the opponent. They're looking for one thing, and it's a yes-or-no answer. I told you that getting to a bowl would now officially require an upset win over Miami or VT plus three straight over Duke, Maryland, and BC; part one is achieved. Part two is to put together a long winning streak. And because forgetting about all that stuff above doesn't make it go away, that'll be the last time I mention bowl games until and unless both Duke and Maryland fall victim to the mighty Virginia onslaught. In that case I'll probably talk about it incessantly for a week.

The short term big picture (what? yes.) however, is where the impact of the win hits hardest. It was plainly obvious what kind of an emotional investment Mike London - and by extension, his players - had in this game, and oh, what confidence must there be now in the locker room? In two weeks, to go from being humiliated and piling on the humiliation by getting chewed out at the 50-yard line, to being exalted and piling on the adulation at the 50-yard line. I wish we could play Duke tomorrow.

Stuff that didn't fit....

- UVA fans are such a fickle lot, no? Before the season there was nothing but adoration for Jim Reid. He's been successful in the state of Virginia, by God, and he's a tough old football dude that garners equal parts love and respect. Now there are already mucho calls for his firing. Piling on the love before the defense even plays a snap and then calling for his head because the defense didn't, apparently, play well enough in the biggest win of the last couple seasons; the logic is thoroughly baffling. To quote Mike Scott: smh. It goes to show one thing: if you are from the state of Virginia or have connections there, UVA fans will probably overrate you.

- And no, I can't say I'm happy with the defense up to this point of the season either, but what was wrong with yesterday? Let me make a few points for you:

1) In the first three quarters, Miami gathered just 253 yards.
2) During that time, they ended drives on a punt or on downs more often than on a turnover. I make this point to counter the notion that we got lucky with all those picks.
3) It wasn't luck that knocked Harris out of the game. It was John-Kevin Dolce making a play, and a hell of one at that, to beat his blocker and make a perfect tackle.
4) It wasn't luck that Chase Minnifield intercepted two passes, it was being in the right place at the right time and making athletic plays.

- P.S. this is why Dolce needs to be a pass-rush specialist.

- Anyone else catch Lou Holtz's wicked backhanded compliment? "Virginia played great physical football. They didn't play like Virginia." Say wha?

- Anyone else think you couldn't have better timing for an interception than the play directly following a montage of your interceptions?

- I am a prophet, by the way. What were my keys to the game? Intercept passes and favor the run on offense. Some numbers: 5 interceptions; 46 runs against 27 passes, or nearly twice as many runs as throws. I did forget "brass balls of steel on fourth down." That would've been a good one to throw in. The message London sent on 4th-and-3 by going for it was priceless; the fact that the Miami secondary forgot to cover the tight end helped it sink in.

- Attention Virginia fans who wanted to scrap Marc Verica and name a freshman the starting quarterback: Thank God that Mike London doesn't listen to you because we would not be talking about a win.

Seriously: Verica played a beautiful game. The coaches deserve a lot of credit for that with an intelligent game plan designed to minimize Verica's opportunities to screw up. (And an interception on 3rd-and-long only helped to drive this point home; that one and the one about please just run the ball and punt rather than have Verica try and make a high-risk play.) But Verica had a terrific game. He found his receivers in the clutch and put perfect passes on target when he had to. What else can you ask?

- I have a different DVR setup right now than I used to; one which doesn't allow downloading things straight from the DVR to the computer. (What is the matter with you, AT&T? Why can't I put what I record onto my computer like I can with TiVo? Why do you hate freedom?) This is why there's no YouTube awesomeness yet. I've been itching to be able to do that. But I ought to be able to find a workaround. So I promise this game will have highlights available at some point.

- Edit: now with new last bullet! Sandmeistr reminded me of the bullet I meant to have and forgot. The pitchout at the end of the game, and the fumble on the play, is the source of much heartache among fans, given the ugly possibility of a turnover and a golden chance for Miami to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. I don't have a problem with it.

Remember, Miami was out of timeouts; if we could have gone to the victory formation and knelt, we would have. But there was too much time, and a play that didn't burn about four or five seconds would have required a punt. So the coaches had to try and burn that extra time, and failing that, at least wanted a little yardage. What are the odds of a fumble on that play? About what the odds might be of a blocked punt, or a punt return TD, or a Hail Mary pass? Plenty of other doomsday scenarios, and the blocked punt would be a major concern; if I were Miami, I'd have sent the house without worrying about a roughing-the-kicker penalty. If Lazor just runs it up the gut like they did before, Miami's ready for it and the play doesn't kill the time it should.

Yes, we got bailed out by the offsides penalty, but Jones probably fumbled in part because they were offside.


Fucking GREAT WIN today. Holy crap I love me some win.

But the Michigan game put me in a bad mood. Never waste a bad mood. Tomorrow (which is technically today) all kinds of nice words will be written, don't worry. Tonight I'm coming to the defense of the honor of UVA fans, while I'm still pissed off enough to feel like it matters and isn't just one of those things that gets thrown out into the intertubez to float around in the forgotten ether.

Here's SB Nation Atlanta (whatever Atlanta has to do with anything) and their douchey take on the hit that knocked Jacory Harris out of the game:

He landed on what appeared to be his neck and was taken into the locker room. The Canes are crumbling without him, as Virginia put together a touchdown drive and his backup just threw another pick of his own.

The reaction of Cavs fans in attendance is up for debate.

....insert Twitter reaction from below-mentioned CFB editor (and co-editor/author/whatever of uber-blog EDSBS)....

We’ll take the word of SB Nation’s college football editor over the mouthpiece of the bowl Miami will probably end up playing in as long as they stop doing silly stuff like losing to Virginia, but nice try, The Man.

What's the Twitter reaction? What have we done that is "up for debate"?

"Almost the whole time he was lying perfectly still, the HOOS were echoing."

Fuck, lady, were you even watching? I know you, the faithful fan, were, so you know well enough that

1) the initial OOOOs were reactions to the replay on the scoreboard
2) the next cheering was for our OWN injured player getting up and walking off
3) there was one numbnuts next to a sideline mic that hollered GO HOOS twice and was echoed by about four people.

SORRY WE HAVE AN OVERENTHUSIASTIC BORED GUY IN THE AUDIENCE. Any stupid putz watching the game could tell the only sound going on "almost the whole time he was lying perfectly still" was the announcers gasbagging about I don't even know what, and then would surely have taken note of the cheer that went up when Harris arose.

I probably shouldn't even give this any airtime, since it's just a dumb throwaway observation by someone paying little to no attention. But never waste a bad mood. And hey, SB Nation Atlanta: never waste a chance for sweet sweet pageviews by getting some Youtube mileage out of the same hit that had you so weepy over the fortunes of an innocent college kid getting raucously cheered over by 40,000 delighted fans AMIRITE?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: October 30; 12:00 PM


History against the Hurricanes: 2-5

Last matchup: Miami 52, UVA 17; 11/7/09

Last week: UVA 48, EMU 21; Miami 33, UNC 10

Line: Miami by 15

Opposing blogs: The 7th Floor

Uniform combination: beats me, but for the first time this year it'll be something you've seen before unless the team takes the annoy-me-greatly route and wears white jerseys

You May Also Want To See, Because You Probably Won't On Saturday: Closing out the OB

Injury report:


WR Tim Smith
TE Joe Torchia


CB Chris Broadnax


OT Landon Bradley


CB Ras-I Dowling
RB Raynard Horne
WR Dontrelle Inman
OL Morgan Moses

Miami season preview here.

It'd be nice not to have this game right away after the Eastern game. There's something about a winning streak (or the chance to have one) that would've been appealing. Miami just out-talents UVA. But UVA is going to have to find a way to keep this one competitive. It's a biggish recruiting weekend with a number of visits of the official and unofficial variety taking place. From the information freely available, DE Horace Arkadie and WR Demetri Knowles will be in, along with two of the absolute most important targets, Demetrious Nicholson and Travis Hughes. Plus a number of current commits and a couple other names that are behind paywalls. Nicholson and Hughes alone would make this a big deal.


- Just be competitive and give the fans a reason not to leave. This game isn't even all about what goes in the win/loss column. Hughes and Nicholson are two of the biggest fish on that recruiting board, and this is the second-to-last home game of the year and possibly the last on real national TV. This team needs a major talent infusion, and making a competitive statement against Miami would go a long way toward that goal. That in itself would be a win. For the future. Think of the children.

- Step in front of things thrown by Jacory Harris. The most INT-prone quarterback UVA has yet seen this year comes to town this week. Harris is still a very dangerous quarterback, but he had a little bit of a wrong-color-jersey problem last year and he's shown so far that he hasn't fixed it. It's the one that that's really limiting him and the Miami offense. Further, Miami is the hardest team in the country against which to move the ball through the air. They have the lowest opposition QB rating, have intercepted 14 passes against three allowed touchdowns, and allow just 5.7 yards per pass play. You can't repeatedly sustain long scoring drives against a defense that stingy; you have to give yourself short fields. This is exactly the formula that Ohio State used to beat the Canes: pick off Harris, go 25 yards for the score instead of 75.

- Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. It'll result in plenty of punts, but punting from 4th and 3 is a lot better than getting picked off. Punting is one area where UVA can match Miami step for step; the Canes' Matt Bosher is belting the ball this year, but so is Jimmy Howell, and their return game isn't much better than ours, either. The play-calling should favor the run so as to give Marc Verica very little opportunity to make a facepalm-inducing heave somewhere; when in doubt, run and don't pass. When it's 2nd or 3rd-and-short, just pick up the first down and don't do crazy things. When it's 3rd-and-too-damn-long, discretion is the better part of valor; better a run that gives a slight field-position boost than a high-risk pass. This is the sort of fraidy-cat playcalling that's usually pretty unpopular with the fans, but in this case there's a perfect storm brewing that has potential to leave at least three and possibly more Marc Verica interceptions in its wake. I'm OK this week with avoiding that.


- Miami steps in front of things thrown by Marc Verica. As I've alluded to, Miami's amazing pass defense + Verica's penchant for interceptions = Bad. This is a scary matchup and I don't need to tell you what happens when Verica throws a lot of picks. It's bad for the scoreboard but even worse for the recruiting weekend.

- Fail to stop the run game. Which unfortunately has been the big problem. Miami already has an excellent set of receivers and a quarterback that runs hot and cold, but more hot. Let their running backs have a big day the way UVA couldn't stop the run against EMU and there won't be much in the way between Miami and a blowout.

- Do everything I say and get out-talented anyway. Frankly, Miami is the kind of good team and UVA is the kind of bad one where you can execute the game plan to perfection and still find yourself 14 points down at the end. The O-line is in flux and the defense is doing that thing where they make the ballcarrier look like an untippable sippy cup. It'll take more than just good execution to win. It'll take some mistakes from Miami.


The realistic best case is a close loss, but there's plenty of potential for something really embarrassing, too. Miami's defensive strength (the ability to shut down the pass and pick off opposing quarterbacks) matches up like a jigsaw piece with our major offensive weakness (Verica's frequent visits to Dumbinterceptionland), and that together matches up with the nightmare recruiting scenario: Verica pulled in the third quarter to a rousing chorus of boos from what remains of an angry crowd. If this happens I'm dropping every visitor at this game to red on the recruiting board.

But the saving grace here is that Miami hasn't been very impressive on the road. Harris' 4 picks against Ohio State, fighting off a spirited comeback attempt by Clemson, and a really blah offensive effort resulting in a 28-13 win at Duke. Only in the Pitt game did Miami really flash its dominance on the road. If they're capable of an even worse effort than the Duke one (though even then, they forced seven turnovers, five of which were interceptions) and if UVA comes out really fired up from start to finish.....well, these are big ifs. I don't usually give a score prediction, but I'll give one here to illustrate where on the spectrum between "moral victory" and "last year's 52-17 faceplant" we'll probably see here: Canes 38, UVA 17.


NC State 28, FSU 24 on Thursday (HA I am vindicated for keeping the Wolfies in my poll ballot)

Clemson @ Boston College, 12:00
Duke @ Navy, 3:30
Wake Forest @ Maryland, 3:30
North Carolina vs. William & Mary, 3:30

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

the hoops schedule

No, I don't believe it either, but it's true: basketball season begins in just a couple weeks. I thought we'd start basketball coverage around here with an overview of the OOC schedule. The ACC schedule will get covered in depth with team previews in January.

William & Mary

Colonial Athletic Association

Preseason conference poll: 8th of 12

'09-'10 record: 22-11 (12-6), T-3rd in CAA
'09-'10 postseason: NIT, first round
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .6635 (4th CAA, 117th nat'l)

Better or worse? Worse
Likelihood of a win: Bit better than decent

William & Mary plays in a tough conference where it's not easy to get ahead, but they did alright for themselves last year in earning an NIT bid. They'd have gone farther, but they had the misfortune of landing a matchup with an over-talented UNC team that was finally figuring out where they were supposed to be on a basketball court.

This year, the CAA media expects W&M to be leapfrogged by a few teams in the CAA. Befreckled wingman Quinn McDowell is the only of the top three scorers to return, but if you go by his roster picture he's still only 14 and doesn't shave. CAA teams like W&M are usually good enough to give bottom-tier ACC teams the jibblies, but it's a rebuilding season for the Tribe and therefore a good chance for UVA to get off on the right foot.


Atlantic Sun Conference

Preseason conference poll: 11th of 11

'09-'10 record: 6-23 (6-14), 9th in A-Sun
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .1829 (9th A-Sun, 280th nat'l)

Better or worse? Worse, somehow

Likelihood of a win: Near-lock

USC-Upstate: Because Northern South Carolina sounds weird. USC-U is a bad team in a bad conference with a worse offense. Only one player scored in double figures for the Spartans last season; he was a 7-foot-3 senior. Everyone left is 6'7" and below, meaning USC-U is one of the few teams that won't be able to take advantage of UVA's shallow frontcourt. This game shouldn't be any trouble.


Pacific-10 Conference

Preseason conference poll: Roughly 8th of 10 (the official poll isn't out yet, but some of the ballots are available)

'09-'10 record: 14-18 (7-11), T-8th in Pac-10
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .7069 (6th Pac-10, 103rd nat'l)

Better or worse? Likely worse
Likelihood of a win: 50/50

You remember Landry Fields, right? Skinny guy, lightning quick, scored way too damn many points in last year's matchup with Stanford? Fields scored a pretty disproportionate number of points for what turned out to be a pretty mediocre Stanford squad. The good news is he's gone. The bad news is, so are UVA's top two scorers from that game a year ago (Sylven Landesberg and Jeff Jones.) Stanford brings back Jeremy Green, who played Robin to Fields's Batman last year and now has to see if he can fit behind the drivers' seat of the Batmobile himself. This game will be much the same story as last year: stop the scorer, stop Stanford. It's a road game this time; Tony Bennett and co. are using it as a way to adjust to the time zones on the way out to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational.


Pacific-10 Conference

Preseason conference poll: Almost certainly 1st of 10

'09-'10 record: 26-10 (11-7)
'09-'10 postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .9149 (2nd Pac-10, 30th nat'l)

Better or worse? Better
Likelihood of a win: Slim and none, and Slim is saddling up

U-Dub lost their leading scorer from last year, Quincy Pondexter, and it's not likely to matter. This is a deep, veteran outfit. From the 10-man rotation they used last year, they return eight, and should be able to easily integrate a couple of newcomers in seven-foot transfer Aziz N'Diaye and freshman Terence Ross, who turned down both those K schools - you know, Kentucky and Kansas - to stay in the Northwest and go to Washington. The sampling of ballots all agreed: this looks like Washington's year in the Pac-10. The Huskies are UVA's first test at the Maui Invitational and the only way UVA gets out with a win is if UW is looking ahead to a likely showdown with Kentucky. Even then it might end up just being the kind of close win for Washington that irritates fans.


Big Ten Conference

Preseason conference poll: No poll yet, but probably around 5th or 6th of 11

'09-'10 record: 21-14 (9-9), 6th in Big Ten
'09-'10 postseason: NCAA first round
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .9123 (5th Big Ten, 32nd nat'l)

Better or worse? A little bit better
Likelihood of a win: Small

Minnesota was also the Hoos' opponent for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge two years ago. Of the nine players UVA trotted out back then, only one will make the trip to Minneapolis this time - that'd be Mike Scott. (Sammy Zeglinski is also still on the team, but his knee injury will keep him out of this one.)

Minny, on the other hand, is similar to Washington: a deep, balanced rotation that didn't lose much. There isn't quite as much talent as Washington, but Blake Hoffarber is all set for a full season of driving Big Ten fans crazy by nailing three-pointers at the worst possible times and making opposing fans wonder how this guy can be allowed to play college ball for what seems like seven years. And the media, of course, will get plenty of mileage out of the Ralph Sampson III storyline. The Gophers should be expected to handle UVA, and by this point in the season there's a good likelihood the team will carry a losing record.


Big South Conference

Preseason conference poll: 9th of 10

'09-'10 record: 19-12 (13-5), 2nd in Big South
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .3175 (2nd Big South, 228th nat'l)

Better or worse? Worse. Way the hell worse.
Likelihood of a win: Very, very large

UVA plays this game after an early opener to the conference schedule in Blacksburg; it's the last before Finals break and kicks off a full month at home after a tough couple weeks of travel. There's the distinct possibility that this game will be needed to break a losing streak as long as six games; fortunately, Radford is just the group to do it. Practically the whole team from last year is gone, especially the big Belarussian, Artsiom Parakhouski. In their place will be a patchwork of freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and transfers. How many games the Highlanders win is a big mystery, but "not many" is a safe bet. So is "not this one."


Preseason conference poll: Dead last

'09-'10 record: 16-16 (7-11); T-8th in Pac-10
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .6351 (9th Pac-10, 126th nat'l)

Better or worse? Worse
Likelihood of a win: Slightly north of 50/50

Look at this like the Auburn game from last year: a chance to match up with the worst of another high-major conference and see how we do. Oregon has a new coach this year after a goofy coaching search, Stage 1 of which entailed identifying the nation's top coaches (Tom Izzo, for example), and backing up the dump trucks full of Phil Knight's money. That failed.

After realizing that lots of money and pretty pine trees weren't enough to buy someone's loyalty, they sheepishly hired a very successful mid-major coach like everyone else. With a new coach and system and about half of last year's major contributors gone, Oregon faces the usual challenges in a rebuilding project. Being a year ahead and playing the game at home should give UVA an edge here.

Norfolk State

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: 6th of 11

'09-'10 record: 11-19 (9-7), 4th in MEAC
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .2258 (4th MEAC, 263rd nat'l)

Better or worse? Probably about the same
Likelihood of a win: Exceptional

The MEAC is one of the worst conferences in basketball. Being a middling MEAC team means you're pretty much cannon fodder. How bad is the MEAC? Morgan State dominates the everloving crap out of the conference, and the article detailing the preseason poll notes with pride that they "recorded several non-conference victories last year." It goes on to list their victims, which include (you'll be duly impressed) Albany, Manhattan, Towson, and East Tennessee State.

OK, so Morgan State is alright. NSU is no Morgan State. This is one of those "just take your money and your ass-whooping" games.



Preseason conference poll: N/A

'09-'10 record: 17-14
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .4639 (185th nat'l)

Better or worse? Likely worse
Likelihood of a win: Big

If this were 1958 this'd be the marquee matchup on the schedule. As it is this is Seattle's second year of their return to D-I competition. They had a winning record last year and I was surprised to learn that they didn't even do it against a slate of Division II opponents, which is the approach some brand-new D-I schools will take.

In what must be a first for a team in its first year of D-I competition (or first year back in 30 years) Seattle lost a player to the NBA draft early. Charles Garcia must've been a heck of a player. But the Redhawks mostly have the ability to fill the gap with veterans; nevertheless, we're not talking about high-major talent here. They didn't run around beating up on D-II teams (and they even beat Utah last year) but they lost some questionable games, too. This, too, should be a comfortable win.

Iowa State

Big 12 Conference

Preseason conference poll: 12th

'09-'10 record: 15-17 (4-12), T-9th in Big 12
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .8068 (9th Big 12, 71st nat'l)

Better or worse? Much, much worse
Likelihood of a win: Fairly large

Oregon, without the Phil Knight money or sparkling new arena. ISU has a new coach, too, although they went the "distinguished alum" route, and they suffered the usual mass exodus to various parts of the basketball globe. Picking up the pieces won't be easy, and their path to success is going to be a lot longer and harder. This year, they should (along with, hopefully, Oregon) provide the evidence that UVA has advanced past "worst of the high-major" status. That Pomeroy rating suggests a smallish level of respectability; it's very similar to UVA's. That's not going to be present this year.


Southeastern Conference

Preseason conference poll: 5th of 6 in SEC West

'09-'10 record: 11-20 (2-14), 12th in SEC
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .4700 (12th SEC, 182nd nat'l)

Better or worse? Can't be much worse
Likelihood of a win: 50/50ish

The BCS Conference Rehab Club Tour continues. If only we had Iowa for the Challenge. LSU was awful awful awful last year and will probably be better if only because it's hard to get worse than 2-14. But like UVA, the Tigers are probably at least a year away from getting serious. Their top two scorers graduated and transferred to Nebraska(!), respectively. Most of the rest of the team returns, but that was the bad part of the team, and freshman help will be limited. Another good yardstick game.


Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: 9th of 11

'09-'10 record: 7-25 (6-10), T-8th in MEAC
'09-'10 postseason: none
'09-'10 Pomeroy: .0460 (11th MEAC, 339th nat'l)

Better or worse? It really doesn't matter
Likelihood of a win: Lockiest of locks

There were 347 D-I basketball teams in 2009-2010. Let me repeat where Howard stood in the KenPom ratings: 339th. Everything said under Norfolk State applies here, except magnify the horriblitude by a large factor of your choice.


Let's break this down a little bit in a different way:


William & Mary
Norfolk State
possibly Chaminade


Iowa State
probably Oklahoma


possibly Wichita State

You can do the math about how that might turn out, but a schedule that looks chock full of tough games really isn't, thanks to the crappiness of once-good teams like LSU and Oregon. The Maui Invitational, of course, is a bit of a wild card. It's crammed with ridiculously good teams, most of which we won't see. Washington will steamroll us, and Kentucky will steamroll Oklahoma, setting up a likely matchup with the Sooners. They sort of fall into the category with ISU and all them. A win there almost certainly means a date with Missouri Valley favorite Wichita State, which UVA is not yet equipped for. Two Maui losses in a row means bring on Chaminade and all those storylines, although probably with not so bad a result this time.

The beauty of this schedule is that it should do an excellent job of telling us just how prepared this team is for the rigors of the ACC lineup. Here's the results of the ACC poll and how many games against each team:

1. Duke (2)
2. Virginia Tech (2)
3. North Carolina (1, home)
4. NC State (1, home)
5. Florida State (1, road)
6. Maryland (2)
7. Clemson (1, home)
8. Miami (1, road)
9. Georgia Tech (2)
10. Boston College (2)
11. Virginia
12. Wake Forest (1, road)

There's real potential there. Two games against VT is a given; two against Duke, well, it's our turn for the slaughter, I guess. But two against the 9 and 10 teams, and some easier road matchups, sets up well. If the media is right about our 11 opponents (but hopefully not about us), then that could be a good setup for a surprise or two.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

soapboxing: rooting for the laundry

Soapboxing is an occasional series that prairie-dogs up out of the ground whenever I have something to get off my chest. This would be one of those times. I can do this because it's my blog. Warning: stream-of-consciousness (probably long) and occasional yet purposeful tangents ahead.

Who do you root for? (OK, fine: for whom?) This is a Virginia Cavaliers-focused blog, so the answer might seem obvious. Gee, dumbass, I root for UVA. So do you, so do I, so do all those people we argue with on message boards and sit next to in the stands and everything. It's what we have in common.

Sometimes, I'm not even sure we have that. You want UVA to win this game; I want UVA to win this game. Stipulated. Now: why? Another question that probably seems silly to you.

Over the past few weeks, Marc Verica has taken quite a beating, both in cyberspace and in the real world, on Saturdays in the stadium. This is a Pope-is-Catholic kind of surprise; his play has wavered between adequate and subpar, and the team is losing. Death, taxes, and the quarterback bearing a disproportionate share of the blame; if Mark Twain had been alive in the age of ESPN he'd surely have added this third certainty in life. Verica has been booed; worse, his departure from the field has been cheered. Online he's been called an asshole. He's been called worse. His name has been treated like an unspeakable curse word. Are UVA fans unique in this respect? Not an ounce. The backup quarterback is usually the most popular person on the team, but that's true from coast to coast.


The Detroit Tigers just re-signed their starting third baseman, Brandon Inge. Inge is a rarity: a player who'll likely spend his whole (quite long) career with one professional team. A player who wants to. Inge debuted in 2001, and gutted out the miserable 2003 season when the Tigers received all the wrong kinds of attention for their hideously bad 43-119 season. (I did not have to look those numbers up, and I will swear by their truthfulness.) He worked his way up from catcher-by-necessity to third baseman, stuck it out when the Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera to play his position, got it back when Cabrera moved to first base, and has just taken a hometown discount to remain a Tiger; he'll be 35 or 36 at the end of the contract. This is the kind of behavior that earns you a fierce loyalty from the Detroit fanbase.

This, too, is not unique. I like to think, however, that it's stronger in Detroit than anywhere else. Detroit is not a place that most people are willing to adopt as a home or develop a loyalty to; do so, and Detroit fans will reward you unconditionally. Most Detroit fans.

Inge, you see, is no Hall-of-Famer. He's made just one All-Star Game appearance, and in doing so he became just the eighth player in the history of the Home Run Derby not to grace the bleachers with even a single baseball. Inge holds the Tigers' record for career strikeouts; a really impressive feat considering he's played just half the games of Tiger greats like Al Kaline and Ty Cobb. He's a .250 hitter at best, and though he has some pop he's not in the upper half of major-league third basemen with the bat. The glove is another story; there, he's one of the best.

Not enough for a smallish faction of Tiger fans, whose hatred for Inge is at least as burning and irrational as the love shown him by the rest of the stadium cranks. I posed a question to one of them as we discussed the Inge re-signing; this particular fan had such an extreme dislike for Inge he blurted that he'd rather have anyone (emphasis his) as the Tigers third baseman than Inge - give him Matt Stairs, he said. Even Matt Stairs would be better than than that no-hitting piece of crap Brandon Inge.

Matt Stairs is 42 and batted .194 in 2009, and would be slightly less effective than a dead manatee as a glove man at third base.

The question I posed was this: Do you want to see the Tigers win the World Series, or is it good enough if nine faceless, anonymous guys who happen to be wearing a jersey with the Tigers' logo on it win instead? The answer was longer and delivered in a manner easily imagined with the voice of R. Lee Ermey, but it was basically a wordy way of saying the latter and boiled down to this: It's the pros, not college. Just win, baby.


Just win, baby. USC just won in 2004 and 2005, making repeat trips to the national title game. Florida State didn't do quite as much winning in 2006 and 2007, but the record books for both USC's 2005 season and FSU's '06 and '07 show the same number: Zero. It's possible to take Vince Lombardi's maxim - "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" - to harmful extremes. It cost one team a national championship and one coach the all-time wins record; it would be hard to imagine a greater cost of ignoring the "peripheral" stuff. Unless you threw a Heisman Trophy into the conversation, too.

So winning can be tainted. Winning can be more satisfying and less satisfying. We could probably agree that if the school's strength and conditioning program took a page out of East Germany's playbook and turned women into near-men, and men into Ivan Drago, any wins that would result would be worthless to us. Worse than worthless. College or pros, this holds true.

But as with every issue in sports - even the numbers on the scoreboard - gray areas abound. What kind of win you're happy with surely does not hold true for 100% of the fanbase; there is your fourth Twain-esque certainty. And so I ask again: why do you want UVA to win? Glory for the school? Your son or daughter is playing? You have since you were six and have no answer except that you can't imagine it any other way?

I submit to you that for some people, the answer - not the one they'd give, the real answer, the one rooted in psychology and Freud and Rorschach tests and all of that - is purely selfish. They'd hem and haw and tell you things like "that's why you play the game" but the root is selfish. Just win, baby. Al Davis can get away with it; it's his team. For the rest of us, we root because that's the hometown team or the alma mater and it makes us feel good when they win. The adrenaline actually flows. So do the endorphins. I'm no biology major, but that's the truth. And then we get to brag. How terrific is that? We have something to feel proud about and we like to let our friends know it, just as we do when we achieve things on our own. At least in college, there is a personal touch. You chose that school, you went there too, and by God you chose right, at least on this particular Saturday.

That selfishness is there in all of us; the problem is that for some of us, it's all there is. There's no interest in who or how. There is only the win or the loss. Accept nothing less than the win. It's a laudable idea, corrupted. We aren't the ones winning or losing. It matters little what we accept. We can only affect that on a very macro level; too many losing seasons and we stop giving them money. Any more than that and you're just being obnoxious. It leads to a lot of very annoying things. Who cares about Marc Verica, or the work he's put in to get to the top of the depth chart, or the dues he's paid, or the leadership that his team looks to him for? No, gratification is what's important. The coaches should play Ross Metheny. He's the future. That is, until he's the present, and then eventually he's the past and just an obstacle in the way, just like Verica even though he's still playing.

And the cycle continues. Mark my words, if the team is scuffling in 2013, the same people who demanded more Ross Metheny will be demanding much less Ross Metheny.

But this leads us back to the original question: Who do you root for? What do you root for? Do you want this football team to win, or do you want any football team to win as long as they wear the orange and blue and there's a V-Sabre on their helmet? When the Tigers take the field next April, I want them to win because I've always wanted them to win, and because - selfishly - I'm happy when they do. And I want them to win because Brandon Inge, and other loyal Tigers who bust their butt for the team, deserve it. I will still want them to win if Inge is traded, just as I still wanted them to win after trading Curtis Granderson. But Austin Jackson - Granderson's replacement - has a few years of catching up to do.

But more than a whole host of World Series wins, I want a team worth rooting for. I don't just want UVA to win, I want Marc Verica to win. I want Keith Payne and Ras-I Dowling and Dontrelle Inman to win. That means not sacrificing 13 senior seasons for the nebulous possibility of what could be a better chance to win next year. It means drawing a line between discussing the ups and downs of individual performances, and using the downs as an excuse to shove the player aside. It means rooting for what you've got instead of trying to discard that in favor of what might be. I'm disappointed in the segment of the fanbase that wants the shiny new toy at the expense of the present. It's the brattiest, most selfish kids that are the most demanding at the toy store; in a sense, there's a strong resemblance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

weekend review

Short update this week as far as the recruiting board goes. Just the addition of WR Timmy Keith and some readability fixes.

The depth chart is a lot more interesting. The bad news there is that I'm not gonna put in the actual changes til later in the week. The good news is that intrigue abounds. It's an intriguing web of intrigue.

- First off, Morgan Moses is now so huge, and awesome at football, that he's the starter at not one, but two positions. The whole right side of the line is his. Tackle and guard.

Lot of ORs running around, as in "Morgan Moses OR Oday Aboushi" at right tackle. Right guard is "Morgan Moses OR B.J. Cabbell," and left tackle is "Oday Aboushi OR Landon Bradley." The interpretation is clear: If Bradley can play and be effective with a huge cast on his hand (following his hand surgery) that turns it into a club, then Bradley will start at LT, Aboushi at RT, and Moses at RG. If not, Aboushi moves to LT, Moses mans the other tackle spot, and Cabbell hangs on to his starting gig for one more week.

Either way, the writing that was on the wall a couple weeks ago is thisclose to collecting on its promise: Cabbell will be a backup sooner rather than later, and Moses is getting his job. Bradley was a whipping boy of mine last year, but his play has improved to a level resembling acceptable. I like Moses better at guard, which is his obvious long-term home. I don't have much of a preference for this week, having not the faintest idea how comfortable Bradley can be without the ability to grip with one hand. It's his right hand, which speeds his return - a left tackle could never protect the edge without his left hand.

- Linebacker is another fun story. Aaron Taliaferro is on the outside now - the strong side backup behind Laroy Reynolds. Is Mr. Lazarus (so nicknamed in camp because of his rise from the dead) headed back to the figurative tomb? Darnell Carter moves over to replace Taliaferro as the half-starter in the middle with Steve Greer.

Editorial: I'd like to see more time for Greer. He wasn't the team's leading tackler as a freshman for nothing. Teams don't run around the edge on Virginia for nothing. The tackles aren't being missed in the middle.


Newsy stuff this week is one item only: RIP Fran Crippen. Former UVA swimmer and older brother of current UVA swimmer Claire Crippen. His death during a 10K swim race in the UAE is all over the news.

Perhaps a former swimmer who's been to that part of the world (me, if you're unclear) can clarify a few things for curious readers?

First, I'm not going to place as much blame on FINA (the worldwide governing body for swimming) as the media is looking to. Water that's too warm is really hard to come by. Swim meets are typically held in cold-ass water, because cold water is faster. Warm water relaxes the muscles. The temperature of open-water events obviously isn't controlled, but having regulations for swimming in water that's too warm is like having regulations for ski hills that aren't steep enough. Bad for competition, bad for your times, why would you worry about it? It's likely the strongest amount of blame should be placed on the meet organizers for a lack of decent safety procedures.

After all, your average marathon has tons of precautions against health issues. A 10K swim race is eons more demanding than a marathon. It's like an Ironman Triathlon. Blame, if you must call it that, can fall squarely on Crippen's shoulders for continuing despite not feeling well, but besides the shortest of the shortest of sprints, full-body fatigue is par for the course for swimmers. It's not like basketball or football where you can be subbed out. Just you and your body, and if you don't drag yourself out of the pool after an event - especially a distance event - with every muscle burning like hellfire, then you didn't swim hard enough. You get out and never want to move again. Laying on the pool deck in just your swimsuit for the rest of your life sounds just fine. Crippen can't have been expected to know the difference between the extreme fatigue he'd normally feel at the end of a 10K and life-threatening exhaustion.

Which is why FINA and the Emiratis are being total dicks about this. Callously blaming it on "overexertion." Yes, it's probably true. But if they were real swimming officials they'd know overexertion is pretty much normal. The whole field was overexerting themselves.

As for the water temperature, again with the dickitude in insisting the water was "only" 84 degrees. As if there's this huge lifesaving difference in the three degrees between that and the 87 degrees that the swimmers are saying. I've been to the UAE. On a ship, which wouldn't you know, we made it our business to know what the water temperature was. (You have to in order to keep the machinery running properly.) In the Persian Gulf itself, the water temps were in the mid-90s; close to shore and in-port, they never dropped below 100. 102, 103, usually. Granted, I was there in July, not October. Granted, Fujairah, where the event was held (not Dubai, as the reports sometimes claim), is outside the Gulf - that makes a difference, the water is warmer, saltier, and way grodier and jellyfishier inside. All the same, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if an official inquest finds the water was above 90. It's the fucking desert.


Alright, let's move on and check in on the senior seasons. Here in Michigan, it's already playoff time for the high schoolers. (Go GP South Blue Devils.) One more week of games and that'll be true for Pennsylvania, too. Maryland and North Carolina, two more weeks; Virginia, three. We'll keep you updated throughout, of course.

L.C. Bird 14, Clover Hill 13: Bird puts the ball in the hands of their running backs for the most part (Anthony Harris only threw five passes and completed three), but when they trailed 13-0 in the second half they turned to their best athlete. Harris scored both Bird touchdowns, the winner on fourth down, and Bird pulled out the win with a goal-line stand.

Dinwiddie 33, Petersburg 21: Kevin Green came out on the short end of a good old-fashioned quarterback duel. Green ran for 127 yards and two TDs and completed 17-of-36 for 160 more, plus another touchdown. He was also picked off twice in the loss; the winning QB, whose stats were equally gaudy, is VT commit Chris Hall.

Phoebus 37, Hampton 12: Caleb Taylor's defense held David Watford in check. Watford was just 5-of-18 passing. He ran for an early touchdown to cut the score to 10-6, and threw another one in garbage time.

H.D. Woodson 22, Ballou 20: Darius Redman helped to seal a big upset by intercepting a pass with 90 seconds left. Then he nearly blew it by getting greedy and trying to return it for six; the ball was stripped and Redman had to go back on defense. D'oh. Time for a little coaching moment. Redman also caught an 8-yard touchdown pass.

Hermitage 48, Douglas Freeman 0 (Diamonte Bailey)
I.C. Norcom 48, Granby 7 (Kameron Mack)
Cox 22, First Colonial 20 (Ross Burbank)
Green Run 34, First Colonial 28 (David Dean)
Bethel 42, Menchville 10 (Clifton Richardson)
Episcopal 19, St. Christopher's 15 (Thompson Brown)
Landon (Md.) 22, St. S/St. A 0 (Darius Lee)
Damascus 35, Northwood 16 (Brandon Phelps)
Stone Bridge 50, Langley 10 (Rob Burns)
Good Counsel 37, St. John's 14 (Vincent Croce)
DeMatha 39, Bishop O'Connell 17 (Jordan Lomax, Kelby Johnson)
Independence 62, Rocky River 17 (Adrian Gamble)
Mt. Lebanon 27, Peters Township 16 (Tim Cwalina)

That is it for now. Later in the week: basketball! That time of year. Weird, huh? Football season announces its presence in such a way that it's impossible to miss, even if you try. Basketball season goes "um, hi."

Wait, no. That's not it for now. Also there is the AP poll study, in which the appearance of bias grows steadily stronger. Teaser: only three of 25 teams did not get any regional help, and the West Coast voters are off the hook this week. See the archive page for the rest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

i guess i can't be angry

I sure was at halftime, and the 50-odd yarder that EMU busted off early in the second half didn't help my mood.

But it's against the rules to be mad at your team for winning 48-21. Just can't do it. After three weeks where nothing went right, watching the team break away and make some plays was refreshing. You're not going to believe me, and that's OK, but I swear I knew Terence Fells-Danzer was going to take that kickoff to the house about seven yards after he caught it. (I wish I could call it a product of vastly improved special teams, but a return like that has a lot more to do with how shitty EMU is.)

So it's Optimism Time, yay. Well, you are allowed to be a little bit concerned for the future even after a win, especially when the run defense is gashed time and time again. Credit where credit's due: if there's such a thing as halftime adjustments, they worked and the defense played up to expectations in the second half. But they're just too....I dunno....blockable, most of the time. I was re-watching the game to see if I could find anyone out of position on some of these long runs. Seems like a likely explanation, what with our OLBs all learning new positions. It didn't seem to be a problem. Tackling and shedding blocks was the problem. On a play that went for 13 yards and let EMU out from the shadow of their own end zone, Aaron Taliaferro was in prime position to make the tackle at the line, and totally whiffed. (Interestingly, on that play he was the outside linebacker.) On the long runs, the problem wasn't so much a lack of pursuit, as a lack of aggressive pursuit. Guys are letting themselves get chopped to the ground, and the line isn't being disruptive.

It's troubling, because these are mostly the same guys that allowed 5 yards per play last year, which was good for 30th in the country. 30th is pretty good for a 3-9 team. Now they're allowing almost a yard extra, good for 82nd. That's despite the presence of two of the country's most godawful teams on the schedule. The revival of the offense is why we might see more wins this year, despite the beating Marc Verica takes from the fans.

No change on the outlook for the rest of the season, really. I mean, did you expect one? Other than if we lost, I mean. A loss would have meant playing out the string to 2-10 in front of family and friends, about 1,500 of them each week. The win gives reporters something to talk about in that UVA can finally say they beat a I-A team.....whatever, EMU barely qualifies. And it means Miami will still smash our face, and then we can finally watch some competitive, winnable games, and no I still don't consider Maryland a "good team" even at 5-2, they're still beatable too.

Stuff that didn't fit:

- Hey, the fake punt again. That's a really cool-looking play, and it was even better to watch Ron English call timeout so he could get busy earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. He must've watched the tape from USC and then forgotten about the aftermath. I don't mind using it against Eastern Michigan, no. I don't think it's a waste of a play, I think it's the coaches looking at the tape, checking out how EMU plays punts, and deciding they're ripe for the fake. They'll keep doing it if teams keep sending the house like that.

- Perry Jones looks decent, but Keith Payne ought to be the feature back.

- Special teams were all-around excellent. Besides earning a QB rating of 900.4, Jimmy Howell had an excellent day punting, averaging 44.3 yards with two inside the 20, zero touchbacks, and only one return for just four yards. The punt team had a banner day.

- Don't forget to take a look at my poll ballot, below. Because, let the record show that that was submitted before the BCS copycats also put Auburn on top of their poll.

blogpoll ballot: week 8

Well. If you looked with a discerning eye, Oregon probably jumped out at you the hardest. So that probably requires a little explanation, given that conventional wisdom calls Oregon the best in the country. Why is Oregon 7th when they will be #1 everywhere - including the eventual results of this poll? A couple reasons:

1) We're voting on resumes up to this point, not on who we think is the actual best team in the country. Oregon would probably smoke Auburn right now. The media polls don't resume-vote. If I were an AP voter, I'd put Oregon #1 too.

2) My system isn't nice to teams with bye weeks. (See: Boise State and their two byes.) MSU and TCU took advantage of not having a bye to leapfrog higher than I'd put them if I were ranking by "who would beat whom." They'll get theirs.

3) Missouri? Well. First, consider the records of their respective opposition: 17-33 (Oregon) vs. 29-21 (Missouri.) No contest. Oregon's third-best win is a whupping of 2-5 Tennessee; Missouri's is a very solid 26-0 win over a considerably better Colorado team. (If you doubt that Colorado is that much better than Tennessee, take a gander at Georgia's schedule.) Missouri's sixth-best game is a win over 5-2 San Diego State; Oregon played New Mexico. 72-0 is certainly a drubbing, but I tend to be more impressed by degree of difficulty rather than end result. SDSU will be going bowling; New Mexico would lose to at least half of the teams in I-AA, they're that horrible.

Fact is, should they both end up undefeated, Missouri will have a far stronger resume than Oregon. It's stronger now. Their non-conference schedule is light-years better. (It's not Oregon's fault Tennessee and New Mexico suck ass, but they do.) I'm totally comfortable ranking Missouri higher than Oregon.

The rest of the ballot seems logical enough, except for my mild surprise that Nevada made it back on. A rare example of a bye week team going up rather than down. I guess it's not too surprising. Michigan took the bye week hit and their strength of schedule took a major beating thanks to the suckitude of UConn and Notre Dame, as well as Iowa's loss. The other contenders are Hawaii (extra loss and a couple unconvincing wins hurt) and Baylor (just, no.)

Edit: this is the new and improved second edition, which, per very logical suggestion, drops Alabama a few notches. Also drops MSU a couple places, because that would have put them #2. No team that beat Florida Atlantic by 13 is the #2 team in the nation.

Comments, as always, strongly invited. A strong argument in favor of getting rid of NC State and/or Nevada will find traction, as long as it doesn't involve Syracuse or West Virginia. I was charitable just to include Syracuse in the calculations this week, and the system bombed them. WVU likewise, you know, for losing to Syracuse.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

game preview: Eastern Michigan

Date/Time: October 23, 6:00


History against the Eagles: First matchup

Last week: UNC 44, UVA 10; EMU 31, Ball State 28

Line: UVA by 23.5 (!)

Opposing blogs: I very much doubt it

Uniform combination: Don't know. Actually I don't even think London has announced it. Given the assed-out performance of last week, I'd guess they come out in simple blue and white.

Injury report: None, since it's not an ACC game. But you know about Joe Torchia, Tim Smith, and Landon Bradley.

EMU season preview

Last week, the ACC Roundtable asked what games left on the schedule were must-wins. If a game against a horrible team following a three-game losing streak that was punctuated by a five-touchdown loss during Homecoming to a big rival doesn't qualify, nothing does. It's a must-win, a damn-well-better-not-lose, whatever. Eastern is one of the worst defensive teams in the land and has only intercepted two passes all season, a great recipe to get Marc Verica back on track if nothing else.


- Contain Alex Gillett. Most of EMU's offensive talent is contained in their sophomore quarterback. Running back Dwayne Priest would also be one to watch for, but he's missed the last two games with an injury and probably won't play against Virginia. So Gillett it is. There isn't a particular offensive identity at EMU; the Eagles will run what it takes to get yardage, and last week against Ball State that meant 35 carries for Gillett. He's very scrambly. If he's kept in the pocket, Eastern has no run game.

- Quick-strike offense. If the playcalling is bold enough, the chance is there to ensure this game is over by halftime. UVA could grind out a few scores by running the ball - Eastern's allowed 23 rushing TDs, most of any team in the country - but they do have a couple defensive playmakers in the front seven. There's nothing in the defensive backfield, though. This is just the matchup to bring back Verica's confidence, and letting him bomb away and throw a few touchdowns is the way to do it.


- Keep up the breakdowns in the pass coverage. Gillett has a few targets worth keeping an eye on; tight end Ben Thayer was last week's Mackey Award TE of the Week with two TDs against Ball State. And WR Kinsman Thomas is a viable threat. A team that has no run game and no defense is naturally going to want to put it in the air a lot and make a shootout of it. The pass defense has been atrocious of late, with supposedly veteran all-stars making terrible mistakes, and tackling poorly to boot. EMU loves the big play, because they can't put together a lot of smaller positive ones, and it's how they scored more against Ohio State than most of OSU's opponents. It's also how they came back from three touchdowns down to beat Ball State. Eastern will look to find 30, 40, 70 yards at a time. The defense can't allow that the way they have been.

- Mentally. I have no idea what the state of mind of the team would be after a humiliation like that. But they'd better rebound. It's Mike London's first real test as a motivator. EMU doesn't need motivation; the idea of going on a winning streak after breaking an 18-game losing streak should be plenty. The Eagles will be (dreadfully sorry about this) flying high. It's the program's first trip to Virginia, the 1,000th game in EMU history, and they're in a similar rebuilding position, only a year ahead. A couple mental breakdowns early; a close game with a sparse, restless, booing crowd; suddenly you'll have a lot of very, very fired-up men in green and a lot of lost confidence on the good guy sideline, and I don't want to know what happens after that.


Sturm und drang aside, this really should go well. Not for nothing does Sagarin have EMU ranked below 61 I-AA teams, 15 of which have a losing record. This is a very, very bad team, and despite the playmakers scattered thinly around the Eagles' roster, the outcome will depend almost entirely on how few mistakes UVA makes.

It's possible, of course, to have a bad win. That would be one in which the two freshmen QBs, Metheny and Rocco, don't get any field time. (Or get field time because Verica finally fell completely to pieces.) Let's hope we don't see that. But mark my words, it will be a win. Because the alternative is the worst loss in living memory - worse, yes, than William & Mary.


Duke @ Virginia Tech, 12:00
Maryland @ Boston College, 1:00
Georgia Tech @ Clemson, 3:30
North Carolina @ Miami, 7:30

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

projecting the future

Ever do a metric butt-ton of work for a really simple conclusion? Then you'll love blogging. Today, since this week represents the halfway point of the season, we attempt to project the second half. It'd have taken about 15 minutes if I just whipped out the ol' rectal extraction tables - 5 minutes with the calculator and 10 typing the post - but I thought I'd get all scientific and use the Sagarin ratings instead.

Here's the way-too-complex methodology: Sagarin, see, assigns a rating to each team. These can be used to predict the outcomes of any game; you take the rating of the two teams, add 3.5 to the home team's rating, subtract the lesser number from the greater, and you get the point spread. UVA's rating is 64.69, Eastern Michigan's is 49.73, give UVA an extra 3.5 for being the home team, and UVA is favored, according to Sagarin, by about 18.5 points.

What that doesn't do is give you a percentage chance of winning, which is what I was really after. So I decided to make it hard on myself. I calculated the projected margin of victory (PMOV) for each of UVA's remaining games:

UVA over EMU by 18.46
Miami over UVA by 13.08
UVA over Duke by 4.61
Maryland over UVA by 1.25
Boston College over UVA by 3.46
Virginia Tech over UVA by 19.06

And then I compared those to every game played this season and their PMOVs, +/- 1 for the three smaller PMOVs and +/- 2 for the three larger so as to have a better sample size.** For example, 64 of this season's games had a PMOV between 3.61 and 5.61, the search margin for the Duke game. 49 of those ended in victory for the chalk and 15 of them ended in an upset. So I consider the Duke game to be a 77% chance of victory for UVA.***

Using that methodology, here are our chances of winning the next six games on the schedule:

Eastern Michigan: 100%
Miami: 3%
Duke: 77%
Maryland: 37%
Boston College: 22%
Virginia Tech: 0%

Nobody so far this season has pulled off an upset, when facing an 18-point PMOV. So for all intents and purposes (hey! grammar lesson: it's not "for all intensive purposes", so if I catch any of you people saying it like that I will slap you with a fish) it would take a miracle to beat VT or lose to EMU. I let the 100%s stand in the next step.

Which you ought to be familiar with: there are 16 possible outcomes from the four up-in-the-air games, and here they are:

Win all four: 0.19%

Win three, lose to BC: 0.67%
Win three, lose to Md.: 0.32%
Win three, lose to Duke: 0.06% (the least likely of all outcomes)
Win three, lose to Miami: 6.08%

Beat Miami/Duke, lose to Md./BC: 1.14%
Beat Miami/BC, lose to Duke/Md.: 0.10%
Beat Md./BC, lose to Miami/Duke: 1.82%
Beat Miami/Md., lose to Duke/BC: 0.20%
Beat Duke/BC, lose to Miami/Md.: 10.35%
Beat Duke/Md., lose to Miami/BC: 21.56%

Lose three, beat BC: 3.09%
Lose three, beat Md.: 6.44%
Lose three, beat Duke: 36.70% (the most likely of all outcomes)
Lose three, beat Miami: 0.34%

Lose all four: 10.96%

Add them all up and you get the following percentages (these include the so-called guaranteed win and loss against EMU and VT):

Chances of finishing 3-9: 10.96%
Chances of finishing 4-8: 46.57%
Chances of finishing 5-7: 35.15%
Chances of finishing 6-6: 7.12%
Chances of finishing 7-5: 0.19%

The standard caveats of rounding and adding up to 100 apply.

So there you have it: the projected finish at this point is 4-8, with a very decent chance of getting to 5-7.

Of course, if the BC game was at home it'd be a totally different story: they are ranked only 0.04 points below us, meaning that home-field advantage is the entire difference. And BC crowds have been known to be notoriously small; there probably won't be 3.5 points worth of difference at Chestnut Hill. Just one of many, many ways real life interferes with the cold, unfeeling mosaic of numbers. So take it for what it's worth to you.

**Yes, every bloody damn game. I have a special talent for deciding to do things that I think will take X time, and finding they really take X+N time, where N is a number somewhat north of twice X.

***I'm aware of the circular nature of this: these games are the sole determining factor in these ratings, so I'm applying the ratings to their own component parts. But the results were sufficiently bell-curvy, in that there were fewer upsets the greater the PMOV, so I went with it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the recruit: Brandon Phelps

Name: Brandon Phelps
Position: CB
Hometown: Damascus, MD
School: Damascus
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 175

ESPN: 80; four stars; #7 CB; USA #132
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #20 CB; MD #3; USA #184
Scout: three stars; #58 WR

Other offers: Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Penn State, LSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, West Virginia, UCLA, Pittsburgh, many others

Brandon Phelps is, not to overstate the matter too much, the most important recruit of this class by a long shot. He'll be slotted at a position of immense need, and judging by the offers he got, he brings immense talent to the position. Phelps has already contributed mightily to UVA simply by verballing up: his commitment to UVA over ten zillion other offers cemented the Mike London Can Hella Recruit belief.

Phelps is nominally a two-way player and a hell of a good one; UVA wants him at cornerback because there will be exactly four on the team following the season's final whistle, one of whom really ought to be a safety. Other schools recruited him as a receiver. Not that he won't be a damn good cornerback; in fact, that's mostly all he does these days after straining a hip flexor in Damascus's second game of the year. Damascus is undefeated, and there's enough talent on that team to make up for his absence on offense, so Phelps has focused on defense this year.

His recruitment was a little bit strange, but in the best way possible. Holding enough scholarship offers to choke an elephant, Phelps talked in late June about taking visits everywhere and needing a while to make a decision. Five days later, Phelps was sitting in the family car, talking over his visit with London with his parents (who both happen to be UVA alums.) Out of the car he went, knocked on London's door again, and five seconds later London had made the biggest catch of his recruiting career. In fact, in terms of sheer volume and quantity of offers, Phelps just might be the biggest recruit UVA's ever landed. Even more so than Ahmad Brooks.

The scouting services certainly give him plenty of love, even despite ESPN's application of the UVA bonus in dropping him from an 81 to an 80. Even Scout's far less enthusiastic review (middling three stars) is useful; it's as a wide receiver, and it's a perfect highlight as to why Phelps was usually recruited at cornerback. He's got perfect size for the position, and ESPN's only beef is the occasional lack of "sudden, explosive top end speed or change-of-direction." The rest of the review glows with words like "wonderful athlete," "quick feet and fluid hips," "excellent technique in man-to-man," etc., etc. The whole thing would almost be embarrassingly over-the-top if it weren't backed up by piles of offers from the cream of the crop.

As far as his career at UVA, well, like I said, there will be four returning scholarship cornerbacks next year. As with Jordan Lomax, playing time is available immediately. And when I wrote that about Lomax, Devin Wallace hadn't yet proven himself eminently leapfroggable on the depth chart with a rash of poor tackling. Assuming no early enrollees, the spring depth chart at corner is Chase Minnifield, Devin Wallace, two redshirt frosh, and a host of walkons. There's absolutely no reason to believe that Phelps and Lomax won't be in the mix from the get-go. They'll likely have to prove themselves unready in order to be left out of the conversation. Lomax might have a slightly higher initial readiness because he's not currently injured and DeMatha players seem to be ready sooner than most, but Phelps's ceiling is close to unlimited. Top student, top athlete - all we need to rebuild this program is about thirty more Brandon Phelpses.

Monday, October 18, 2010

weekend review

I was sorely tempted to take all the recruiting board prospects that are considering both UVA and UNC and drop 'em into the red category. I mean, Travis Hughes had it in his head that UVA had no future until the USC game; did this Saturday convince you that the future is sunshine and oranges? I resisted the urge, however, in favor of calm, rational decision making, which is way less fun. So the recruiting board stays the same this week.

I did give the depth chart a once-over, though. The O-line shuffle continues; actually, it shuffled before the game and I didn't fix it because it was pretty close to game time by the time that was announced, and Friday is my self-allowed day off. Changes for this week:

- Morgan Moses is your new starter at right tackle, as I'm sure you noticed. Backing him up is Aaron Van Kuiken; Sean Cascarano backs up Oday Aboushi on the left side.

- Luke Bowanko moves back to guard to back up B.J. Cabbell.

- Billy Schautz steps in as a backup DE for Jeremiah Mathis, who is now an emergency tight end. That's a temporary arrangement; after the season, I'm moving Mathis back to DE.

Quarterback does not change, as London has announced Marc Verica's job is safe, at least for this week. Obviously an unpopular move, but - I cannot stress this enough - the right one. If there were an exactly equal chance of winning a game with one of the freshmen, then it would make sense to start up a platoon between Metheny and Rocco, and see if one can separate from the other. It would not make sense to pick one or the other. Suppose you choose incorrectly and that becomes evident either this fall or next year; you've wasted a golden chance.

But a QB platoon is a pretty poor way to win a football game. In 99% of QB platoons, the whole is less than the sum of the two parts. Marc Verica would have to be a tremendously awful quarterback to be worse than a platoon of two freshmen that can't separate themselves from each other, one of whom drops snaps. Metheny did that twice against UNC. And London has hinted that the freshmen really don't have full grasp of the offense.

“We called a couple formations opposite of what the signal was,” London said. “So there’s issues that all of them have, and the one right now that’s best to run the offense is the one that started the game.

“So this week in practice we’ll continue to keep evaluating them. Maybe the young guy or the other quarterbacks can make the right calls and eliminate the quarterback-center exchange issues and all that. But for the most part, the guy that’s got the most significant reps is the guy that right now is the No. 1 quarterback. And like I said, every day next week is an evaluation day with all of these guys, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”

I have serious doubts that the full playbook is in effect for the freshmen, when they come into the game. One or the other, or both, are messing it up. The coaches' job is to win games, not sacrifice games this year for a slightly better chance at winning next year. UVA fans need not worry that London is blind to Verica's many miscues; London sounds like he's more than painfully aware of them and doesn't have a choice.


Anyway, let's move on to what the future holds. Or what the present holds for our future. Or something. Going to arrange it a little differently this week. First, articles where our guy gets a mention; then, all the rest of the scores.

St. Christopher's 28, Bishop Ireton 20: Thompson Brown blocked an Ireton extra point.

Petersburg 31, Hopewell 21: Kevin Green rushed for 100 yards (including a 66-yard TD run), passed for 145 on 9-of-14, threw a touchdown pass, and ran for two more.

Hermitage 43, J.R. Tucker 0 (Diamonte Bailey)
L.C. Bird 34, James River 10 (Anthony Harris)
I.C. Norcom 20, Churchland 14 (Kameron Mack)
Ocean Lakes 43, Green Run 0 (David Dean)
Hampton 63, Bethel 7 (David Watford)
Bullis (MD) 42, St. S/St. A 31 (Darius Lee)
Phoebus 44, Menchville 6 (Caleb Taylor and Clifton Richardson)
Cox 14, Tallwood 0 (Ross Burbank)
Damascus 27, Sherwood 20 (Brandon Phelps)
Stone Bridge 28, James Madison 10 (Rob Burns)
Good Counsel 42, Paul VI 0 (Vincent Croce)
H.D. Woodson 20, McKinley 15 (Darius Redman)
DeMatha 21, St. John's 14 (Jordan Lomax/Kelby Johnson)
South Mecklenburg 42, Independence 35 (Adrian Gamble)
Archbishop Spalding 39, Boys' Latin 29 (Marco Jones)
Mt. Lebanon 21, Bethel Park 7 (Tim Cwalina)


I've been working on a basketball depth chart similar to the football one. It's not easy to get it the way I want it, because basketball positions are a lot more fluid than football. The vast majority of the roster will show up at two different positions at some point in the season. It's not any easier when Sammy Zeglinski gets to have knee surgery. Going into a season suddenly without your veteran point guard is a scary proposition. It seems a safe bet that if he misses this season, he'd be awarded a sixth year, but I think from a program-development standpoint it's a lot better if he can return this year. I'm not holding my breath though. Jontel Evans and Billy Baron just got a lot more important.

Oh, and the AP poll study page is updated with the latest. Very interesting week, with Alabama losing; the voters got a chance to stray off the beaten path. The results are enlightening. Teams got an average of one-third of a rank boost from their regional voters. Whether that's significant, I'm not sure, but it's the strongest regional bias yet. Pac-10 voters were totally in the tank for Oregon State - I think the trend at the end of the day will be that Pac-10 voters are especially prone to overrating the daylights out of the less-known West Coast contenders. But it was Big Ten voters that took the crown for most regionally biased this time around.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

blogpoll ballot, week 7

The machine broke this week and spit out some pretty weird results, so I had to apply some common sense. Even with common sense applied, it's one of those weeks where I'd rather just rank 20 and call it a day. But the teams that didn't make the cut are just really weak. Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, USC, Miami - well, Nevada's WAC-snack schedule looks pretty bad when you start losing to it. And I remain relatively unimpressed with Nebraska as compared to everyone else, which means that beating them is also less exciting. But at least the Horns are back in the conversation.

Other things which might look weird to discerning eyes:

- NC State lost at a very inconvenient time, but VT's rise gives them a boost. Plus, GT is a very solid win and UCF is actually looking like a better opponent than it used to. But mainly, I looked at the teams just outside the top 25 and none of them really jumped out.

- Michigan isn't going to be a popular pick to be ranked, but they did only ever lose to top-10 teams. I'm probably still overrating Indiana and therefore the value of beating them, but whatever.

- Arizona is way the hell below Iowa, which would be weird if Arizona hadn't spent the last few weeks looking horribly unimpressive. 10-9 over Cal? 24-7 over a 1-6 WSU team? (Possibly the most competitive 1-6 team out there, but still.)

- Mississippi State sure took a flying leap up the rankings, which surprised the hell out of me, but I'm OK with it for now. They've been competitive in their two losses to the #1 and #2 teams on the ballot, and they deserve a reward for knocking off Florida and Georgia. I think they'll drop sooner or later, but for now, why not?

- Oklahoma got hurt a bit by having a bye week - the system is a little biased against teams with byes and in favor of those who've played a full schedule. I'm OK with that, though, because isn't 7-0 better than 6-0?

Anyway, this is still not a ballot I'm totally onboard with, so a little corrective input is always welcome.