Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pac-10 Football - Team by Team Commentary

Oregon - They were overachieving this whole year. They have a good team but their QBs are dropping like flies. You can't expect a team to compete for the conference title without a quarterback. They were eventually gonna go down, it was a matter of time. The advantage they have though is that the system really supports any young QB with limited passing skills. But thats not enough. I expect 3-4 conference losses.

Cal - One bad game, I still think we're gonna finish top 3 in the pac-10. Riley is good, the one pick was unfortunate, but he rarely throws picks anyways, its absolutely nothing to worry about. I review Cal after every game in my other topic, so I don't need to keep talking about em here. Long story short, alot of talent at many positions, a lot of veteren leadership, and hard lessons learned form the past, will all equal success. I only expect 2-4 conference losses. Our pass D is what needs to pick it up. Its not as bad as UCLA's, but its not good at all. We have enough support from everyone else though to make up for it partially.

Arizona State - Very good team with big exploitable weaknesses. They have a very experienced QB who can be effective when given time in the pocket, and a good RB in nance. But the O-line doesn't do **** for them. All teams have to do is what georgia did. Bullrush the O-line, bump the receivers, bring the saftey's up, and they are shut down. They also had some big injuries in the linebacker position. I'm not sure what their status is. They are clearly very well coached, but they can get beat. I expect 1-3 conference losses for them.

Arizona - This is an underrated team in the conference and could surprise a lot of people. Tuitama is a very good senior quarterback. The least his QB rating has been this season is 120, its at 151 right now, and he actually gets a good amount of attempts too. They put in a new offensive system starting last year, and once tuitama got used to it, they started winning. They were 3-1 in their last 4 games, and started 3-1 this year. Thomas, Turner, and Dean are all very good receivers. Grigsby has been a good runningback, but I dont know how he'll be against some better defenses. But this passing attack is one to be scared of. They'll finish at least top 5 in the conference, behind Cal, ASU, USC, and Oregon. They might even upset one of those teams. They could upset Cal, our pass defense is weak.

UCLA - They suck. They had 2 stud defensive tackles that stop the run by themselves, they have good linebackers, an experienced corner, and a 5 star freshman safety. Their run defense is decent but the pass defense is atrocious. When this team brings their A game, they might be decent, but they don't play hard, they have too many injuries, I dont follow them closely enough to predict a turnaround, but for now, they aren't gonna beat anyone with a decent QB, that means Fresno, U Dub, Cal, ASU, USC, and maybe Oregon. This is why they got torched by Max Hall and Tuitama.

Oregon State - Moevao is a decent quarterback. He makes a lot of mistakes, but he does a lot of good also. They should've beaten stanford in the opener, but **** happens. They could've easily been 2-1 Ovr and 1-0 in pac-10 before really starting conference play. I'm not gonna be quick to judgement about them yet, their biggest loss was to Penn State, I think they have a lot of hope, maybe even upset a team. I expect a middle of the pack finish, if not slightly better.

Stanford - They are definately in the lower half of the conference. I think they return more starters than any other team in the pac-10. The problem is, they are really that good. Gerhart is a solid runningback, but Pritchard at QB needs to get better for them to be succesful. I don't think he's at that level yet. They are going to get destroyed by the better teams in the conference.

Washington - In their defense, they played Oregon, BYU, and Oklahoma. Two of those teams are BCS caliber. They got screwed against BYU, so don't write them off so quickly. They are in the bottom half of the pac-10, but they might be able to compete against some of the top teams. They play against stanford, a team thats more at their level, we'll be able to better judge them after this game.

Washington State - The worst team in the pac-10 by far, at least other teams have a few guys to be positive about. They supposedly had a good defensive line, so I dunno. I dunno whats up with them, but they're not going to upset anyone any time soon, if they get a pac-10 win against a team thats not Stanford or Washington, they should be very happy.

USC - Saved the best for the last. I don't need to say anything about them, you all know. Best team in the country. The blueprint to beating USC is this: Aggressive D-line play that can run stop, confusing blitzing schemes, physical bump and run coverage, and smart safeties. In addition, you need to vary your defensive looks and play, even if its not what you usually do. A combination of all that can slow down USC. Slow em down enough to give your team a chance. Thats when your offense has to be firing on all cylinders. You need top of the line pass protection and a good passing quarterback, and you'll have a chance. No one stops the run as good as this team. Out of all the teams in the league, I'd say Bradford would do the best against USC. USC is too big for the UF O-line and too fast for Tebow. They are too good to run the option against. Georgia would have the 2nd best chance at beating USC, if not the same chance as OU. Stafford is a good QB with a really strong arm. Its hard to pick him because of that. I would say Missouri might give em a hard time, but they are too one dimensional. Its UGA, OU, or bust. And even then, those teams would probably get clobbered.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Madden 09 Brief Review and Guides

I have created two guides for Madden 09 for beginners trying to advance their skills to play like pros. One is for running the ball and the other is for passing. They can be found on my main website here.
Every year fans continue to get angry at EA for giving them basically the same Madden game with a roster update. This year EA decided to completely change things up. They advertised that there would be 80+ new features in the game. While some are very minor, the difference in the entire game is very noticeable.

The main biggest difference to all fans is the running game. EA has finally updated their broken running and tackling engine and it proves to be much better. Runningbacks can no longer make instantly change their direction at full speed, they can't stop immediately after sprinting. When the defender has engaged the runner in a tackle, the runningback can still make moves in attempts to break the tackle. Defenders can gang tackle the runningback to make sure he goes down, or when the runner is trying to get tackled forwards for an extra gain, extra defenders can come in and push him back. The main drawback is that the tackling is not entirely smooth, it looks and feels like lag, but whatever the case, it's not good. As a whole the running and tackling physics alone are reason to buy this game.

A large number of extra features were also added to the game. You can go to wikipedia for a long list of features and come back if you have any questions. The main theme though was polishing up the game. The stadiums, field, and weather look absolutely stunning. The atmosphere feels realistic. On rainy days, players' jerseys get muddy, some guys start slipping and dropping balls. The players on the field seem alive, they move around on their own, they aren't robots like in previous years.

I haven't been this excited for Madden since 05 when the hit stick was introduced. Even 2k Sports fans are admitting that this is the first decent Madden they've played and are beginning to transition over to Madden. While the game is more realistic and polished, it still captures the spirit of the old Maddens with its fast paced game and hard hits.

Overall: 9.3/10

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Pac-10 Versus the SEC - A Comprehensive Comparison

The Pac-10 has been the number 2 conference in recruiting for the past few years. And while the SEC is number 1, the average rating of recruits of Pac-10 teams is just as good. For the 08 class, the Pac-10 has the highest average rating. They also had the most players in the top 100. The overall ranking is skewed by the fact that the Pac-10 has less teams than the SEC, Big 12, and Big 10. No doubt the SEC dominated the 06 and 07 classes, but 08 starts a downward trend for the SEC. The pac-10 is about equal to the SEC in terms of recruiting, as of now. And all this time, the Pac-10 has been superior to the Big Ten and Big 12.

Pac-10 Versus SEC Games
I've been saying all along, the best way to determine the superiority of one conference to another is simply play games between each other. With the UCLA win over Tennessee, the Pac-10 is now 10-6 against the SEC, since 2000. For those that have been saying that the Pac-10 is all about USC, if you take out USC and LSU, the two powerhouse teams, the Pac-10 is 6-2 against the SEC. The numbers speak for themselves.

Non-Conference Scheduling and Bowl Eligibility
SEC fans are quick to point out that 10 out of 12 teams were bowl eligible last year, and 9 the year before that. Only 6 pac-10 teams were Bowl eligible last year, and 8 the year before. If you look at the teams from the SEC that barely were eligible, South Carolina and Alabama, you can see that they only got in because of their easy OoC scheduling. I can go into details listing out their opponents but I'll save myself the time. Had SC lost 1 non-conference game, or Bama lost 2, they would not have been bowl eligible. Vanderbilt, the team that almost made it, also won all of its easy non conference games. You really only have to win 3 out of 9 games in the SEC to be bowl eligible. It has completely lost its meaning. The Pac-10 teams on the other hand, all had tough opponents. Of the teams that barely were eligible, UCLA and Cal, LA beat BYU and Utah, and Cal, I'm sure you know about Cal. Of the teams that were barely ineligible, Wazzu and Arizona, Wazzu played Wisconsin, and Zona also played BYU. Other teams like Washington, who were 2 wins away played Boise, Ohio State, Syracuse. At least the Orange are a BCS team. If you don't play tough out of conference games, theres no way to gauge how good the conference is. The tough OoC games that the SEC have played, they've gotten embarrassed by the Pac-10. If you want to be completely unbiased, look at the strength of schedules of the conferences. The SEC had an average strength of schedule of 20. The pac-10 had an average strength of schedule of 10.7.

Bowl Victories
I tried googling for bowl victories but all I found was BCS bowl records and 07-08 bowl records. In both, the Pac-10 and SEC have the same amount of losses, but the SEC had slightly more wins. However, these numbers are not substantive enough to make for a valid basis of judgment. SEC fans like to point out national championships, but the fact is the sample space is too small to work with. BCS bowl records would be better, but still not adequate. The best would be bowl records since 2002, but as I said, I couldn't find those stats and I dont want to compile them myself.

The SEC has some great coaches, but all I can say on this one is that the Pac-10 is catching up. The Neuheisel-Chow combo is as good of an offensive coaching staff as your going to get in the league. Pete Carroll, the best coach in the league. Dennis Erickson is completely legitimate, that is a team to watch out for, he went 10-3 in his first year. Jim Harbaugh is starting to turn stanford around. Mike Riley has oregon state turned around, they've had the second best record in the pac-10 over the span of the last 2 years. Tedford has been insanely close to a BCS bid a few times. Mike Bellotti has a couple of conference titles as well as a BCS bowl victory. The SEC is much better in terms of coaching, but the Pac-10 has made some significant changes in the past few years. Eventually they will be close. If Saban and Spurrier didn't come in, I'd say the Pac-10 coaches would be about even if not better than the SEC's.

This is too much to go into, but it parallels the stuff I said about recruiting.

The SEC is not some sort of champions league, its not far and away the best conference. It is the best, but not by much. You cant just look at the positives of the SEC and ignore the positives of the other conferences, which is the what nearly all SEC fans are guilty of. My personal critique is, that the SEC championship game throws the rankings completely off, and that's how so many SEC teams get ranked so high. Its essentially a semi-final game where the winner goes to the championship. This way SEC teams get far more leeway in losses and the quality of those losses. It is the thing that pushes SEC teams over the top. They have the most title wins, but they also have the most opportunities. The purpose of this post was to bring respect to the Pac-10.