August 01, 2008

Stock Report

Like the stock market, college football wagering is all about value. In order to beat the system, the sports bettor must obviously locate teams whose true worth is incongruent with the perception of the gambling community at large. Fortunately, early season games are fertile ground for the savvy gambler, as the various teams have not developed a sufficient body of work from which strong conclusions can be drawn. As such, I have assembled my preliminary report of college football teams that seem to be undervalued or overvalued. This analysis, of course, is for informational purposes only and is not meant to condone gambling of any sort. With that disclaimer, here goes…

Undervalued

Virginia Tech- According to Stassen’s preseason consensus, which represents a simple average of the major annual publications (e.g., Phil Steele, USA Today, Athlon, etc.), Virginia Tech is rated at 20th nationally. This represents Tech’s lowest preseason ranking in five years and a departure from its top-ten preseason and postseason ranking last year. Based upon a superficial look at Tech’s roster, the reasons for this decrease are manifest. After all, (1) the Hokies are coming off a bowl loss to Kansas, (2) they lost all of their top running backs and receivers, (3) standout defensive players Brandon Flowers and Chris Ellis are now in the NFL and (4) a possible quarterback controversy looms between veteran Sean Glennon and sophomore and former hotshot recruit Tyrod Taylor.

Notwithstanding these factors, I believe that Tech will run roughshod through the ACC Coastal Division again, en route to another BCS bowl and top-10 finish. Why? For starters, Coach Frank Beamer has built this program into a national power with defense and special teams, as opposed to an explosive offense. While Tech has certainly seen its share of explosive skill position players come through Blacksburg, such as Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones (a/k/a “The Untouchables”), it has also proven that it can win without such players, as in 2005 and 2007. More importantly, defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s track record is astounding. From 2004-07, Foster’s vaunted “Lunch Pail Defense” has finished 4th, 1st, 1st and 4th in the nation- not just the ACC- in total defense. With outstanding defensive players such as Victor “Macho” Harris (great nickname, by the way) and Beamer’s customary special teams magic, the Hokies should be able to stifle the rest of the ACC without requiring an extraordinary offensive effort.

Nebraska- As indicated by Stassen, the general consensus (except for noted contrarian Phil Steele) is that Nebraska will finish either fourth or fifth in the Big 12 North. Under new coach Bo Pelini, however, I expect Herbie Husker to awaken from his slumber and challenge nouveau riche programs Missouri and Kansas for the division crown. In 2007, Nebraska brought shame to its proud Blackshirt tradition by surrendering 37.9 points per game, including 40 at home against Ball State, 65 against Colorado and a staggering 76 at Kansas. Despite the horrific performance of the defense, former head coach Bill Callahan’s West Coast offense actually performed admirably and several key performers return, most notably of which is tailback Marlon Lucky.

Although he proved to be a failure at coach, Callahan’s recruiting success at Nebraska was well documented. Nebraska’s roster is stocked with many promising recruits and, from a pure talent standpoint, there is no reason to believe that any team in the Big 12 North will be more skilled than the Huskers. In addition, during Pelini’s only year as defensive coordinator in Lincoln (2003), the Blackshirts finished second nationally in total defense at 14.46 points per game, compared to 45th in 2002 and 71st in 2004. Thus, it is reasonable to expect immediate and substantial improvement from the defense with Pelini at the helm. Given Nebraska’s overall raw talent vis-à-vis the rest of the league and the expected coaching upgrade, a New Years Day bowl appears to be an appropriate goal for Nebraska.

Iowa- It appears that the bloom is off the rose for Kirk Ferentz. After three consecutive top-ten finishes in 2002-2004, Iowa has regressed to the middle of the pack in the Big Ten over the past few years. In addition, Ferentz has presided over a recent spate of arrests and suspensions, including ongoing allegations that the Athletic Department attempted to cover up a rape by several players. Amid this firestorm of controversy off the field and Iowa’s recent struggles on the field, it is unsurprising that Iowa is a consensus 8th place pick in the Big Ten, per Stassen.

While the trend line is obviously negative for Iowa, I think that the Hawkeyes are primed for a bounce back year in 2008 for several reasons. The primary reason is the remaining talent level. Ferentz has continued to recruit well as the program has slipped from its 2002-04 level, especially along the offensive line. In many ways, Iowa’s offensive line resembled Notre Dame’s offensive line last year, as highly touted, but inexperienced, players struggled to develop cohesiveness. I expect the talented Hawkeye offensive line, as well as second year quarterback Jake Christiansen, to improve significantly this year. In light of the soft early schedule (Maine, FIU and the annual “Cy-Hawk” rivalry at Iowa State), the team should be able establish early momentum and gain some much needed momentum heading into the Big Ten season. The Hawkeyes aren’t going to unseat Ohio State as the conference champion, but count on them to rally behind the embattled Ferentz and put together a strong 8 or 9 win season.

Overvalued

Texas Tech- This year’s trendy pick seems to be that Texas Tech will overtake Texas and/or Oklahoma in the Big 12 South. According to many pundits, the Red Raiders have upgraded their defensive talent to a competitive level which, combined with their explosive offense led by Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, will enable them to reach double digits wins.

Although I do not doubt that Tech will score points in bunches under head coach and buccaneer aficionado Mike Leach, I have not seen any probative evidence to suggest that their defense will improve. A cursory review of the Scout or Rivals recruiting rankings shows that Tech remains well behind their traditional South division superiors in terms of talent. Furthermore, while the Raiders will play their usual slate of out of conference tomato cans, they must visit Oklahoma and Kansas, along with tough home games against Texas and Nebraska. Until proven otherwise, therefore, I cannot take this team seriously as a contender in the Big 12.

West Virginia- Per Stassen again, every preseason magazine predicts West Virginia to finish first in the Big East. The Mountaineers will be led again by standout quarterback Pat White, who returns for his 12th year in Morgantown, and sophomore sensation Noel Devine at running back. Additionally, with three children at age 20, the precocious Devine is on pace to challenge such breeding legends as Shawn Kemp and Calvin Murphy. Despite this offensive star power, however, I believe that West Virginia’s preseason hype, like Devine’s offspring, is illegitimate.

Following Rich Rodriguez’s well publicized jump to Michigan in the offseason, West Virginia turned to assistant Bill Stewart as head coach. While Stewart has some prior experience and he will benefit from a soft schedule in 2008, the balance of power in the Big East appears to have already shifted. The offense loses star running back Steve Slaton, folk hero Owen Schmitt and dynamic receiver Darius Reynaud, while the defense loses multiple contributors on the line and secondary. Moreover, even though West Virginia has shown a willingness offer a scholarship to anyone with a pulse, including, inter alia, Devine, Pacman Jones, Chris Henry and convicted armed robber/current backup linebacker Pat Lazear, former coach Rodriguez has left somewhat of an empty cupboard beyond the starting unit. Given White’s propensity for injury, a suspect defense, an increased workload on the diminutive Devine and the aforementioned coaching change, it should be a relaxed autumn for the couch arson investigation team of the Morgantown Police Department.

9 comments:

touchdowndog said...

the author of this post leaves no doubt as to reason he/she wrote it.sensationalism,bigotry,racism,and plain stupidity. have you reasearch the fact that devine's parents died at early age and that he has attempted to lead others down a righteous path?? your individual attacks against devine has nothing,absolutely nothing,about the football team attempting to win games and/or playing on the team. you seem to be one pathetic person craving attention,

kevin said...

How dare Mike question the decision making ability of a person who had a full ride scholarship, and potentially a professional football career ahead of him, but couldn't stop himself and realize that he should probably take 20 seconds to tear open a condom and not risk bringing a baby into the world.

And then he did it again, with a different mother, before even leaving for college.

And then he did it again.

So, touchdowndog, you can act all high and mighty and accuse others of racism and bigotry, but I'll judge Devine based on his actions. He can say all the nice things he wants, and host all the nice camps, and smile to the cameras, but he has a CLEAR track record of poor decision making. He has shown nothing to change that.

And yes, bearing children at his age and in his position is a BAD decision. He is a college football player who has very limited abilities to make money because of NCAA rules. His children are forced to spend at least 9 months away from their father, which puts extra stress on mother(s) (plural) and further takes away from the mothers' ability to earn wages. Thus, the mothers are stressed out, the children do not get to enjoy a father for the better part of their early youth, and society is likely forced to shoulder the burden of feeding and raising the young children. Touchdowndog, you may not think that not wrapping up is as bad as getting in a fight or smoking weed, but it's one of the worst decisions because it harms selfless, choiceless children. Its not robbing a bank or getting in a fight, but terrible decisions (plural) nonetheless. (as far as his parents passing when he was young, that's a tragedy and I sympathize. But doesn't the fact that he grew up without a father make his decision making even more questionable?)

I'm not saying Devine can't summon his inner most Josh Hamilton and turn things around, but considering Devine just had another baby 9 months ago, I'll believe all his talk and smiles when he can keep his ardvark out of the ant hole for a while.

Which makes Mike even more justified to question West Virginia's judgment to grant Devine a scholarship. Packman and Henry might simply have angry-drunk issues. But Devine has shown terrible judgment. What happens when a booster or agent approaches Devine and offers him a wad of cash? He's already shown very poor judgment in the past, which indicates he'll do it again. Even worse, now he NEEDS the money because of previous decisions, so the odds are skewed even more.

And it's all VERY relevant in a football discussion. When Devine makes a bad decision (accepts money from an agent, cheats on a test, throws a game at the request of a gambler, various poor judgment- likely non-criminal decisions), he gets benched, or gets suspended, the football program has to forfeit a victory, or worse, the whold damn athletic department gets put on probation. I'm pretty sure that when there is a large possibility that your best player will do something causing him to miss one or more games during the year, that is pretty damn relevant to a discussion about the number of games the team will win during the season.

Get off your high horse touchdowndog, and send your buddy Devine a box of condoms, some diapers, and a swingset.

Greaton said...

Kevin,

I thought the catholics didn't believe in condoms? Hell if he was a white, married male, you all would be praising him for adding to the Catholic surplus population. Fortunately for Devine, in two years or less, he will be able to support his children in ways that a blogger could only imagine. Write what you feel, it's your right. But I don't think that Devine would or should be stung be your idiocy. You think Notre Shame will win a game this year? Charlie "Fatty Tuna" Weiss is ten times the curse Noel Devine's virility could ever be on football team. The stats speak for themselves.

Charlie's buffet said...

Cute blog. Can you please add a disclaimer mentioning that Notre Dame falls in the overvalued category every year for the past decade?

Best regards,

The 90's, the 2000's, USC, Michigan, Boston College, Louisiana State, Ohio State, Oregon State, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Colorado fans.

kevin said...

Greaton- I'm sorry, where again was race or religion found in anything that Mike or I wrote? And again, I'm sorry: Making babies at a time in your life when you have none, zilch, zero ability to take care of or support them is an absolutely great idea.

This is as true for rich, catholic white kids as it is for any other race or demographic.

Prove your intelligence by refuting my point instead of calling out my idiocy.

There is a difference between being a bad person and a bad decision maker. Devine seems like a decent person, but terrible decision maker. And if you think he should be banking on an NFL paycheck to support his 3 children, I hope Maurice Clarett is writing him letters from prison about the importance of obtaining injury insurance and making good decisions (i.e. the opposite of accepting money, leaving early, and challenging the NFL).

And we probably agree on Weis. I can only judge him by his performance, and it's been poor.

Mike said...

Wow...I had no idea my comments would spark such a firestorm. I thought I was having a little fun with this stock report, but I obviously touched a nerve.

Of course, I'm not going to apologize for anything because there's nothing untruthful or offensive in my post. Devine does have multiple children out of wedlock and, while I'm sure there are some lovely articles out there about how he cares for his kids, that doesn't mean that he has made good decisions.

Finally, since this was a stock report, let's size up some of these witty retorts, beginning with Greaton:

1. Charlie "Fatty Tuna" Weiss- you spelled Weis wrong and "Fatty Tuna" redundant because Parcells is also fat.

2. Notre Shame- think of that one yourself or did you have help?

3. Devine's salary vis-a-vis a blogger- Blogging isn't my career.

As for "Charlie's buffet":

1. Great user name- Fat jokes are so clever.

2. Ending your comment with "signed"- Nice to see that you only have the ability to express yourself in ways that are acceptable on Jim Rome show.

Jimmy said...

Welcome Mountaineer fans. Good to have you around. You might be taking umbrage for the wrong reasons. I'd love to hear how and why your hopes for the 2008 season are so optimistic? Not why we're so wrong to pour salt on an apparent open wound.

Looking at things objectively, you have to be a bit weary of matching expectations. Your offensive genius of a coach bolted, 50% of your electric backfield is gone, your non-conference schedule (to your credit) is brutal with Auburn at home and traveling to Boulder, the heart and soul leader of the team (Schmitt) is in the pros, and the defense, which hasn't been that great, returns 4 starters. Yikes. Pat White and Noel Devine are capable of great things, but it seems like you'll be hanging on the edge of your seat for a bunch of 41-38 type barnburners.

I, and the rest of us writers, will be the first to call a spade a spade when it comes to the current state of ND football. Nobody is trying to blow sunshine up anyone's ass. We frankly don't know what to expect, but we feel confident that last year was rock bottom. I have significant questions about Charlie's coaching ability and I sure hope he convinces me otherwise.

As for ND being overrated, you have a valid point that could have been fleshed out with some more thought. Do I think they deserve and should be preseason ranked #19 by Phil Steele? Absolutely not. But that guy has to sell magazines and that choice, along with plenty of others, go against the grain and stir the pot of discussion. The Irish have a long way to go to earning respect both with the way they play and compete.

The Irish shouldn't enter the rankings until they beat NC in Chapel Hill, improving to 6-0, unless they are dominating opponents in early 90s fashion.

Come on back Country Roads. I've got Oct. 23rd circled on my calendar as must-see football.

Zachary said...

You need to add PITT to the overvalued list. I don't get the hype!! They are milking that ugly 13-9 win over WVU at the end of the year for all it is worth. They lost to the same Navy team that Notre Dame lost to last year. They finished with a 5-7 record that was padded with wins over the likes of Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, and Grambling. Not to mention they are still coached by Wannstedt!

Doug said...

Mike,

Great post. I agree with you on all of these picks, especially Nebraska. Are we really prepared to just put the Huskers down for a loss against the likes of Missouri and Kansas?? Really?? Last time I checked, Nebraska had more "material" (as Beano Cook would say) than both those programs combined, so it won't surprise me if Nebraska is a major "surprise" team this year. Bo Pelini is an outstanding coach with an impressive resume, and I expect the Huskers to be much better than people expect. Pelini understands the culture of Nebraska football, and I think he is going to get them back to that mentally tough blue collar mentality that has always defined Nebraska.

On the West Virginia topic, I completely agree on your assessment of the Mountaineers, and I'm saying that as someone who has a ton of respect for what their athletic programs have achieved. West Virginia is without question the most underrated athletic department in the country. They've won 2 BCS bowls in the last five years, and they've also been to 3 Sweet 16s in the last 5 years. As a Notre Dame fan, I would kill to have that kind of success, and we haven't approached anything of that caliber since the 1970s.

But as we head into a new era with a new coach, I think there is reason to question whether the Mountaineers can sustain their success. They have had extraordinary success under Rodriguez, and I don't think he will easily be replaced.

No one on this blog is sugarcoating ND in any way. Charlie Weis has done nothing significant at Notre Dame, and no one is disputing that. He stunk up the joint in back to back bowl games, he had a horrific third season, and hasn't had anything closely resembling a quality defense in any of his three years at Notre Dame.

However, there's absolutely no reason to have ND in the overvalued category at this point. Who is overrating ND?? They aren't ranked, and most experts are expecting 6-7 wins out of them. I don't see how they can be overvalued if they aren't valued highly to begin with. The point of Mike's post was to point out teams that are expected to do well this year but maybe are not quite as good as advertised. There are usually several teams that are ranked way too high in the preseason, and Mike has done an excellent job pointing out some of the potential candidates this year.