Saturday, June 7, 2014

Why ACC/SEC Schedule Snub Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

The ACC/SEC both decided to say that BYU didn't count as a P5 game on their schedules... so what. Technically BYU is not a P5 school. A P5 school, by definition, is in one of those 5 conferences. Is BYU on caliber with those schools? Yes. Would they be a challenging opponent for nearly anyone? Yes. Do you think the ACC/SEC don't realize that? Of course they do.

But consider the circumstances and purpose of the P5 requirement. Who are those conferences competing with for playoff spots? Likely schools from P12, B12, B1G. How do they show that they are more worthy of a spot? Beat teams from those conferences. This is the clear reason why they are even requiring their schools to play P5. Head to head ammunition. If it were purely strength of schedule, Boise, BYU, and a few others would in most years be much better for the SOS, and they would have required teams to schedule a top 50 team, etc. Does playing Wake Forest or Colorado or Kansas really help your SOS? Absolutely not. Does playing BYU (or Boise) help you prove you are more deserving that the P12, B12, B1G head to head? Not necessarily. Schools looking for a good SOS could (and will) still schedule BYU. They didn't say they couldn't play BYU. They basically just said the obvious--that BYU is not in one of those P5 conferences, and therefore, doesn't help if your goal is to actually beat teams from those conferences that they believe will be competing for playoff spots.

Would it have been better if they has said BYU would count? Of course. But does it mean that they don't see BYU as quality opponent or unworthy of their company? No. Is it disappointing? Sure. However, I believe that the national media, and BYU fans especially, have been making a much bigger deal out of this than they should. And, when seen through the eyes of the SEC/ACC and their purpose for the requirement in the first place, it isn't that surprising, and not much has really changed.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

4 Trick Plays BYU Should Introduce

It's late.  I can't sleep.  And, of course I'm designing football plays in my head.  I think I've got three that would work... every time... unless of course the Ref's treat us like Max Hall and call "intent to deceive".   I've never seen any of these before in a college game (though that doesn't mean they haven't been tried).

The Double Punt Returner
Why is there only one punt returner?  The defense is charging down the field, heads down, eyes locked on the returner.  With only one guy back, who has to be locked on the ball, its like telegraphing to the entire defense, "I'll be over here... why don't all of you run at me full speed (even though I can't take my eyes off the ball to look at you) and blow me up as soon as I touch the ball."

But, suppose you had two guys back to receive the ball (you could easily spare someone up front)... both of them looking up and acting like they are about to catch the ball on opposite sides of the field... Where does the defense run?  They can't see the ball overhead.  Which guy do they pursue?  The uncertainty would slow them down.  And if not, then you would at least only have half as many guys to make miss.

Risk: One less rusher to put pressure on punter
Reward:  Fewer defenders in vicinity of catch and they arrive less quickly.  Perhaps an extra 5-10 yards per return.

The Double Wildcat
Who is ever really fooled by a true wildcat formation (e.g. running back lining up directly behind the center and taking the snap in place of the QB)?  Most often, the running back or safety or whoever is there can't really throw, and its obviously going to be a run, with very little possibility of a pass.  The advantage is that the speedier ball carrier gets the ball more quickly and closer to the line, which can be sometimes effective.  The disadvantage is that everyone knows who is getting the ball, who has the ball, where he is, and (for the most part) what he's going to do with it (run).  The defense positions and pursues accordingly with little hesitation.

Why not leave the QB (or another wildcat back) in and have them both line up behind the center, each offset a bit to one side, both with hands out to receive a snap.  If both then act as if they get the ball and take off running, and with an enormous offensive line, the defense can't really tell who has it quickly enough to respond before you get the first down.  You introduce three brief elements of uncertainty: 1) prior to the play, the defense must consider if it is going to be a run or a  pass and prepare/position accordingly (if one back is the QB, the realistic possibility of a pass is significantly increased), and 2) who is going to get the snap (could be either side), and 3) who actually has the ball for the first 1-2 seconds and therefore who should be pursued.

Risk:  An extra back instead of a blocker or reciever.
Reward:  Defense must be more prepared for a pass and can't crowd the line.  The space, hesitation and uncertainty should buy an extra 1-2 yards, which can be critical in short yardage or third down situations.

The Direct Snap/Undercover Wildcat
Putting the ball quickly into the hands of your fastest back is usually a positive, and is the reason for the wildcat formation to begin with.  But why broadcast those plans to the other team?

How about lining up in regular, close formations (as long as the RB isn't behind the QB) and then snap it directly to the RB.  The QB would still act as if they have the ball.  In most cases the defense can't really see the ball for the first split second (and just assumes the QB has it, which could be all the advantage you need...

Risk: Almost none.  Perhaps, increased chance for a bad snap, since it would need to be at some angle.
Reward: Split second head start for the running back, and hesitation by defense that would typically be pursuing/watching the QB (and assuming they have the ball).

The Guard Snap
This one might only work in a hurry up offense where the plays are being run at breakneck speed (new Robert Anae offense, perhaps?).  You run to the line, and the team lines up with one of the guards (either side) over the ball, but the QB still lines up behind the center.  It would have to be a quick snap count, or it could happen during the snap count, but the guard would snap it to the running back.

Risk: This one could easily lead to a false start, so it would have to be practiced and perhaps use up valuable reps/practice time.
Reward:  It would cause some confusion on the defensive line, and with a quick snap, perhaps that could be taken advantage of.  However, the upside is not as clear as the first three above.

I would love to see BYU run some of these this year.  Or, perhaps some of you in the high school ranks could run them and let us know how they go.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Independence and Exposure: Access vs. Eyeballs

I will go on record here as one that hopes independence works out.  (Right about now, some of you are blowing up...)  To clarify, I am not for independence at all costs--I am for it working out, as long as it is better than any conference affiliation: more freedom, more money, better recruiting, more relevance, easier TV access, higher rankings, better opponents, more games in new parts of the country, good rivalries, etc. 

I hope it is.  It may not be.  In fact, it is probably impossible to get all of those in either scenario.  So, it’s important to both define and prioritize those aspirations.  And, it probably doesn't matter how I would prioritize them... the administration has already claimed that exposure is the name of the game.  Fair enough.  And, actually, probably not a bad pick, as it encompasses nearly all of the items above (except perhaps money).

Hear (read) me out...

Exposure is a function of:
1. Being TV accessible to households (Access)
2. Offering something that viewers will tune in to watch (Eyeballs)

This means being on TV and being on stations that as many people as possible have access to.  BYU has effectively solved this problem.  In fact, they have knocked it out of the park.  Between ESPN and BYUtv, the Cougars likely have more Access than any other team in the country... and it might not even be close, considering the ubiquity of BYUtv in the US as well as its international reach.  Only 3-4 other teams had as many as 10 games on an ESPN network.  And, no other team gets every last one of their 3rd tier games broadcast in 70M homes and across the world.

So… access, check-plus….
Advantage: Independence.

Getting viewers is another story… just because it’s on, doesn’t mean people will watch it.  There are several factors that make people want to watch your game (1-4 apply to both the team’s fanbase and the casual opportunistic viewer, while 5 pertains just to the teams fanbase):

1. Opponents: Who you are playing 
   o   Quality of opponents (ranked, brand names)  
   o   Region of country they are from  
   o   Opponents’ fan interest

2. Performance: How good your team is (record/ranking)
   o   Quality athletes (recruiting)  
   o   Competent coaching  
   o   Competitive facilities 
   o   Money to pay for coaches, facilities, and recruiting 
3. Relevance: What you are playing for and implications of outcome 
   o   BCS, conference championship, bowl game invitations 
4. Time Slot: What day and time do you play in 
5.  Competitive: How close is the game 
6. Watch-ability: Exciting style of play

So how is BYU doing on these metrics…

1. Opponents. This one is improving and looking up.  There are still some remnants of the WAC agreement on the 2012 schedule, but beyond that, the team is getting around the country, playing quality teams.  Conference affiliation with a major conference could also solve this, though with less freedom and regional variety. 
Advantage: Independence.
Task: Continue to prioritize scheduling of quality opponents, and if that proves too difficult, consider conference affiliation.

2. Performance.  As far as team quality goes… coaches, facilities, and money are essentially neutral, as BYU would not do much differently even with more; the bigger question then is recruiting, and whether one situation or another provides improved recruiting outcomes.   
Advantage: To be determined.
Task:  Closely follow the impacts of independence on recruiting.

3. Relevance.   As for implications of the outcome, unless BYU is in the BCS discussion (undefeated?), conference affiliation would be better.
Advantage: Conference.
Task: Win.  Consider creating things to play for (e.g. an independent championship?). Sign contracts for outcome-dependent post-season play.  Or, consider conference membership.

4. Time slot.  This depends on when you play as well as who else is playing at the same time.  Despite BYU’s late night kickoffs and Thur/Friday games, this last season, this was probably not a hindrance to viewership (though could be for game attendance).   More people are likely to watch the only game on a Friday night than a mediocre game on prime time (see Utah game).  And, even in a conference, they will be in the same boat.
Advantage: Neutral.
Task: Continue as is.

5. Competitivity.  This isn’t related to conference affiliation, as there will be close games and blowouts in both instances.
Advantage: Neutral.
Task: None.

6. Watch-ability.  The high-flying offensive reputation that BYU earned in the 1980’s, and still carries to some degree, is no longer accurate.  The number of low scoring games and 3-and-outs this season was more than I ever remember.  I am a passionate fan, and found myself bored at times by the drudgery of our offense.  I was usually more excited to watch our defense than our offense.  Exposure will truly “expose” the Cougars here.
Advantage: Neutral.
Task:  Utilize a more exciting style of play. 

Final Tally
Access: Independence
Eyeballs: Independece 1, Conference 1, Neutral 2, TBD 1, Unrelated 2
        Opponents: Independence
        Performance: TBD
        Relevance: Conference
        Time Slot: Neutral
        Competitivity: Neutral
        Watchability: Unrelated

Independence is clearly better for access (though a conference affiliation might come close, depending on the way contracts are negotiated).  That is generally undisputed.  But, it is also only half the battle.

As for eyeballs, it is currently a draw, though any negative impacts on recruiting from independence (or missed positive impacts from a conference), and thus impacts on team performance, should be closely monitored.  Additionally, employing a more exciting style of offensive play would add eyeballs regardless of the conference status, which in an independent world, might be essential.

So there you have it.  “Exposure” really is much more than being on TV, and as long as the administration is thinking of it in these terms—access AND eyeballs—I trust that they will be on top of things and make the best decision.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Key Offseason Dates to Remember--2012

Although college basketball is in full swing, nothing can really replace the passion for the pigskin.  Here are some upcoming dates to give you an off-season football fix, and help you plan your spring break (Provo in March), family reunions (Indiana in October?), and fall ward camp-outs (pick the Weber State game if you have to).

Jan 21--East West Shrine Game, 4pm Eastern, NFL Network
Matt Reynolds will be playing in this senior showcase event.

Feb 1--Signing Day
The Cougars anticipate signing 16-18 athletes in a small but loaded 2012 Class.

Feb 22-28 NFL Scouting Combine
Matt Reynolds is likely to be the only Cougar at this invite-only affair.

Mar 5-30--Spring Camp
This is one of the earlier starts for spring ball, and should allow the players to wrap up early and focus on finals.

Early or Mid March--NFL Pro Day
NFL scouts descend on the indoor practice facility en masse, to test and time many of BYU's 19 seniors hoping for a shot a the League.  Keep an eye out for Matt Reynolds, Jordan Pendleton (if he is ready to go), and a pair of defensive linemen: Hebron Fangupo and Matt Putnam..

Apr 26-28 NFL Draft
Again, Reynolds is likely to be the only Cougar selected,  but watch for a few to sign free agent contracts and tickets to fall camp.

Early August (TBA)--Fall Camp Begins
Camp should open with plenty of new and returning talent, and the annual optimism and accompanying expectations.

Sep 1--Opening Kickoff at Home vs. Washington State
Opening day is always much anticipated... But, you should also keep in mind the following games for planning purposes:
Sep 8--Weber State
Sep 15--Utah
Sep 22--Boise State
Oct 20--Notre Dame