Bringing BYU Into Focus and the Price of Independence

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David Malinsky

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 2:01 PM GMT

Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2017 2:01 PM GMT

The BYU football program got what they thought they wanted; now they don't want it anymore. ... The shallow water had some rapids last week, but Surviving is about that. ... Still trying to make sense of Redskins-Raiders. 

Point Blank – September 27, 2017

Brigham Young is going to be in front of the national television cameras each of the next two Friday nights, visiting Utah State this week (CBS Sports Network), and I thought this would be the appropriate time to bring in a key handicapping point that is unfolding in a logical progression: Has going the Independent route dropped the program to a level of irrelevance that has taken a major toll on the power rating?

The Cougars have opened 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS, the only win coming vs. Portland State, and that was in begrudging fashion, 20-6. The losses were dismal, falling to LSU, Utah and Wisconsin by a combined 86-19 and losing to the spread by 33.5 in the process. There were no flukes in those scores, total offense 1,406-522 in favor of the opposition, and if anything the results could have been worse – BYU was only outscored 16-7 in the fourth quarter of the three games, the opponents willing to let the click tick away instead of expanding the margins.

The question becomes whether this is a down season, which can happen to any program, or if this is simply what BYU has become, in what is now the sixth campaign since leaving the Mountain West Conference -- which means that the entire roster of recruits have come on board with the program as an Independent.

I thought from the start that it was going to be an awkward fit, players not having a conference championship to compete for and also extremely awkward scheduling. There just aren’t many opponents available to face late in the season, when most others are locked up in their own conferences. Last year the closing salvo was Southern Utah, Massachusetts and Utah State. This season it is UNLV, Massachusetts and Hawaii. UMass is becoming an annual, which does not bring any sex appeal at all to recruits, and next November it will be New Mexico State making the list. In 2019 there will be a three-week November cycle of Liberty, Idaho State and Massachusetts. Ouch.

While other programs are having those major late-season showdowns against rivals and the opportunity to win their way into major bowls, for BYU merely putting 12 games together has become a challenge, and I am wondering how much this has impacted the quality of players the program can bring in.

There was a bright light shined on the state of affairs earlier this year, when talks of the Cougars joining the Big 12 were in place, before they fell through. The following from AD Tom Holmoe speaks volumes:

"I was disappointed and frustrated for about two or three days, and then you have to just turn the page and move on. It was frustrating because I thought that it was really close. I really believed that we had a great chance. I speak to the (athletic directors) in the conference and they're really matter-of-fact about the business part of it and the discussion and what they wanted. I get that. I don't think they misled us, but they changed direction once they started.

"We're a strong school and the things that we're doing are right. But we would always like to be part of a P5. ... But it didn't happen for a number of reasons. You could ask me why I think it does and it would be one of a lot of opinions. You can measure it however you want, but I feel really confident about our programs and where we are and what we can do. We'll just have to do it in this space, not the space that we desired."

Holmoe was shaken when a move to the Big 12 did not work out, perhaps because he understands the purgatory the football program has become.

There are some specific things to not like about the current direction – as noted here in the past, I don’t think OC Ty Detmer’s offensive scheme is a great fit for the way the sport is being played in this era. Even Detmer brought an awkward moment earlier in the week when a reporter asked about the current state of the offense:“It’s a fine balance between panicking and still developing the guys into what you want them to be down the road. … We’ve got to be able to stay with it and continue to let them get reps and learn from mistakes. It’s a tough stretch."

One certainly does not like to hear the word panic coming from a coach, but that is the state of affairs with BYU right now, and it may simply be a matter of where this program has fallen to.

 

Survivor 2017, Week 4 – Yes, the obvious is the way to go

Last week brought what was billed as the safe pick of New England, and then Texans-Patriots turned into quite a passion play before Tom Brady had just enough time to make things happen on the final drive. It turned out to almost be a monster week once that result came in, with Pittsburgh and Miami putting some tickets into the shredder, and Green Bay coming ever so close. Had the Packers lost at home to Cincinnati, our positioning would have been rather good across the landscape.

This week it is also an easy decision that requires little time – the SEAHAWKS will need to be put in play at some point and this is the optimal setting against the Colts, their home game vs. San Francisco already out of the way. It is also a game in which we can trust Pete Carroll and his team to not take the opposition lightly; at 1-2 this one is of major importance. Season picks thus far:

1. Carolina
2. Oakland
3. New England
4. SEATTLE

 

Still trying to make sense of Raiders-Redskins (and if a coach can’t, maybe that says something)

“When you’re talking about a defense that played that well, I think it’s impossible to say, ‘This is why.’ ”  

Thanks a lot, Jay Gruden.

As noted in the Tuesday NFL review, with the link to that at the end of today’s missive, I was struggling to come to terms with Raiders-Redskins, an outcome that was so extreme across the various tracking points that finding a link to football sanity was proving to be elusive. Often that means going to the coaches and their quotes for the needed clues, but Washington's Gruden seemed rather dumbfounded himself, though he did offer some insights, which I will get to in a moment.

As dominant as the 27-10 final score was, that does not come close to representing how one-sided the game was. Yards per play was 7.3 to 2.7 in favor of Washington, one of the widest gaps I can ever recall charting, and it was a beatdown across every meaning statistical category.

What can be done with it? There is something that can be proposed with Oakland – do the Raiders have a glass jaw? They managed to win a lot of close games in 2016 because they were in a lot of close games, only losing contact once all season (I don’t count the final regular season game at Denver, when Derek Carr was out). The one time they lost contact they did not respond well in the second half, a 26-10 loss at home to Kansas City, and in that one the Raiders actually led 7-0 early and only went to halftime down 14-10. But the lead stretched to double figures on the first Chiefs possession of the second half, and the Oakland offense did not respond.

Might there be something to this? It feels like a stretch, but I can’t find other logical strains to explain how bad the Raiders were. As for the Redskins, there can be a discussion about the impact of a new DC in Greg Manusky, a new DL coach in Jim Tomsula and five new starters on the defensive side of the ball, but has the upgrade really been that major and should it be happening this fast?

At least Gruden does offer something concrete on those fronts: “I think everyone played their part, played well, played hard, played with great passion and energy and played smart. That’s what I liked most about our defense. It was somebody different all the time. It was the interior pass rush. It was the edge pass rush. It was the coverage. It was tackling. It was pursuit. It was a little bit of everything. Fighting off blocks. There was some fundamental clinic tape in that game that I am very, very impressed with.”

There was some dap for his DL coach:“Coach Tomsula’s coaching has really obviously been a key component of that, working with their alignments and their get-offs and their hand placement and fighting off blocks, double teams. He is the best in the business.”

But how much of this should we choose to believe? We don’t have to attach too much weight to the 2016 numbers because of the transitions, the Redskins rating #26 on the Football Outsiders weighted charts. This season they are sitting at #3. Yes, they are better, but should they be this much better this fast? The discussion on this front began in mid-August, with the headline Redskins 2017: The Defense Will be Better, But When, which makes for a good review now, but has it happened already?

I still have work to do before polishing up a rating for the Monday night clash at Kansas City, a game that sets up as a showdown based on the 2017 numbers to date. Is it really that?

 

In the Sights, Wednesday MLB

For the Angels to hang on in the Wild Card race as long as they did was rather remarkable given the number of injuries they have had to play through, and there is still some motivation to go hard to the end with a winning season something that does matter from a motivational standpoint. The key for me is that Garrett Richards brings plenty of personal spark tonight, and that is enough to get in play against the White Sox's Reynaldo Lopez, who is bringing a shorter price range than he should off of an extremely fluky recent run. Let’s make it #925 LAA Run Line (8:10 Eastern), with -125 or less the value threshold.

Richards is a talented pro with a lot of pride that has competed well since coming back to try to get his team into the playoffs – it has been a 1.86 ERA across four starts since his return, including Home/Away games against the Astros in which he only allowed one run across 11 IP, with more than twice as many Ks as hits allowed (10-5) and just one walk. But Richards has not won any of his four starts, the Angels being shutout in both of those games vs. Houston. I believe he will really want a win in his final 2017 outing, and I believe the players behind him will want to get him one, certainly not an evening of a team out of contention mailing it in.

You’ll see a 3-0/4.14 for Lopez across his last three starts, the W/L obviously not proper for that allowance, but the White Sox backed him with 28 runs across that span. The key for me is that even the ERA is misleading. Lopez has as many home runs allowed (2) as strikeouts accrued (2) through those games, and to only manage two Ks over a span of 85 batters is frightening. Then check that GB% of 30.8 across those three starts and it gets scarier, which is why xFIP calls that same cycle 6.57, which I believe is a far better tracker than ERA for those games. Across the six Lopez starts since being called up, xFIP has only rated one game lower than 5.33.

What a ‘Bettor Bettor Know’ – NCAA Week 4

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