Thursday, November 18, 2010

QB Race for Freshman All-American

Now 11 weeks into the season, with Jake Heaps comfortably progressing as the starter for the Cougars, it is worth a look at how he and the team are doing compared to other teams with freshmen quarterbacks.  BYU has had a freshman all-american each of the last 7 years (see BYUs Freshmen AA), so it makes sense to see how Heaps stacks up in the race for the honor. 

Only 19 freshmen quarterbacks have more than 800 yards passing, all having played meaningful portions of at least five games.  Of those, only six have winning records in the games they have played (highlighted).  And of those six, only one has passed for more yardage than Heaps.

The numbers below only inlcude passing yardage and win/loss records, and I haven't seen most of these guys play, so this there are clearly other factors to consider as well.  However, at a minimum, you would expect a freshman all-american QB to have had a winning record in his games.  Here is the list:

Player, School                   G   Yds    Record
Aaron, Murray, Georgia       11   2580   (5-6) 
Pete Thomas, CSU             11  2565   (3-8)
Corey Robinson, Troy          9     2553   (5-4)
Kolton, Browning, ULM       10    2141   (4-6)
Matt Shilz, Bowling Green    9     1941   (2-7)
David Pilandy, Houston        6     1733   (2-4)   started last 6
Jake Heaps, BYU                 9     1593   (5-4)
Ryan Williams, Memphis      10    1575   (1-9)
Danny O'Brien, Maryland      7     1571   (5-2)   started last 7
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois 10   1482   (5-5)
Robert Boldin, Penn St          7     1350   (4-3)   injured
Keith Wenning, Ball St         10    1349   (3-7)
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska    9    1328   (8-1)  957 yds, 12 TDs rushing
Tanner Price, Wake Forest   8    1125   (1-7)
Jordan Webb, Kansas          6     1114   (2-4)  no longer starting
Chas Dodd, Rutgers             6     986    (2-4)  started last 6
Tyler Bray, Tennessee          5     951    (2-3)  started last 5
Chase Rettig, BC                  5     855    (3-2)  started last 5
Terrance Owens, Toledo      5     808    (2-3)   started last 5

With two regular season games remaining for most teams and the bowl season, there is still a lot of ball to be played, but at this point it looks as if the honor will likely go to Taylor Marinez of Nebraska or Danny O'Brien of Maryland.  However, a couple of solid performances, and a six game win streak to cap the season, could still put Heaps in the mix for freshman all-american.

A couple of other thoughts in looking at the stats:
  • Either good teams don't start freshmen QB's or freshmen QB's haven't been able to carry their teams to vicory, but only about 30% of these teams have been able to get a winning record with the rookie QB. 
  • BYU fans can feel slightly better about their early season struggles in light of how others with inexperienced QBs have struggled as well.
  • I have not pulled out the redshirt freshmen from this group... it would be interesting to see how Heaps compares with just the true freshmen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laying Out the Holiday Options

During the offseason, Craig Thompson and the MWC brass had an opportunity to enhance the conference's bowl possibilities, as nearly all bowl contracts across the country expired last year, and negotiations were the order of the summer across the land.  With a number of higher payout bowls in the footprint available, we did a bowl primer and comprehensive review of the options and the best case scenario at the time  Given the possibilities, the outcome was somewhat disappointing, if not unexpected.

The MWC went from this (2009):
Las Vegas                       MWC #1 vs Pac 10 #4/5  $1.1M   Dec 22
Poinsettia (San Diego)      MWC #2 vs Pac 10 #6    $750K   Dec 23
Armed Forces (Ft Worth) MWC vs CUSA               $600K   Dec 31
Humanitarian (Boise)         MWC vs WAC               $750K   Dec 30
New Mexico (Albuq.)        MWC vs WAC                $750K   Dec 19

To this (2010):
Las Vegas                         MWC #1 vs Pac 10 #5    $1.1M   Dec 22
Poinsettia (San Diego)       MWC #2 vs Navy            $750K   Dec 23
Independence (Shreveport) MWC #3 vs ACC #7     $1.1M   Dec 27
Armed Forces (Ft Worth)  MWC vs CUSA              $600K   Dec 30
New Mexico (Albuq.)         MWC vs WAC                $750K   Dec 18

The replacement of the Humanitarian Bowl with the Independence bowl is definitely an upgrade, but given what was on the table (Holiday, Sun, Insight), overall it feels like a loss.  The Vegas bowl dropped from the PAC 10 #4/5 to #5 going forward.  The Poinestta Bowl dropped the PAC 10 and has a contract with Navy/WAC going forward.  The Independence Bowl is a nice pick up date-wise, payout wise, and opponent-wise, but is in a terrible location for fans to get there (except TCU).  Overall, the conference was not able to improve its slate in any meaningful way.

So, Projections...
BCS--TCU (only one game left... vs New Mexico)
Vegas--winner of BYU-Utah if Utah loses to SDSU (Vegas would love a ranked Utah, but wouldn't mind one last dance with BYU)
Poinsettia--San Diego State (dream matchup for city)
Independence--Air Force (base nearby)
Armed Forces--Loser of BYU-Utah if Utah loses to SDSU (already had Air Force last two years)
New Mexico--MWC will not fill slot

Interestingly, this weekend's Utah-SDSU game will not have any meaningful influence on SDSU's bowl destination, as the Aztecs seem essentially locked in at this point to the hometown bowl, and even if Utah loses this weekend, but beats BYU, they would likely be headed to Vegas.  And, should Utah win this weekend, but lose to BYU, it is possible the bowl would take one last crack at a 7-5 BYU on a 5 game winning streak and sell out the stadium, over a 9-3 Utah having lost 3 out of its last 4, including to its rival, and risk an empty stadium.  If it were down to a 7-5 BYU or an 8-4 Utah, Vegas takes the Cougs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quantifying the Missionary Advantage--A 2010 Update

Last season, we tried to dig into the commonly cited, but never quantified, claim that BYU's players are "significantly" older than their opponents and concluded that on average, Cougar players were 1.11 years older than their counterparts (see analysis here).  A difference to be sure, but a far cry from the "your 26 year-olds vs. our 19 year-olds" that is nearly always claimed.

I wanted to do an update on that for this season.  Granted we are already 2/3 of the way through this season, but given how it has turned out so far, it might be of particular interest.  All assumptions are handled in the same manner as the original analysis (linked above).  Thanks to Jordan Christiansen in the BYU Football Medial Relations office for the cooperation on the data collection.

The only mission-related age difference for BYU vs other schools this year is 1.01 years per player on average.  Per the previous write-up, this is due to not all players serving missions and the class mix (e.g. more underclassmen than other schools).  A few interesting notes:
  • 1.01 is nearly 10% younger overall than last year's team (averaged 1.11)
  • 59 return missionaries on the team (same as last year)--56%
  • Only 14 seniors on the roster, and only 9 of which start (kicker, 3 DBs, 2 OLs, WR, LB, DE)
  • 41 freshmen on the roster, 9 of which are RMs
Here is the actual analysis for anyone interested:

                                              Fr         So          Jr          Sr         Total
Average Age (US)                 18.5      19.5       20.5      21.5
Class Mix (US)                      37.6%  22.1%    21.7%  18.5%
Weighted Ave Age (US)                                                             19.71

BYU Players by Class           41          27          24         14         106
Class Mix (BYU)                 38.7%    25.5%     22.6%   13.2%
BYU Ave Age w/o Mission   18.5      19.5        20.5       21.5      19.60

BYU Former Missionaries      9           24          16          10         59
Percent of BYU Class          22.0%     88.9%    66.7%   71.4%   55.7%
BYU Ave Age w/ Mission     18.9        21.3       21.8       22.9      20.72
Actual Age Difference (yrs)   0.44      1.78       1.33       1.43       1.01

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Season Leader's Prediction for UNLV Game

Many of you probably participate in an online BYU prediction game of one sort or another (cougarboard, cougarfan, etc), and if so, you know how hard it is to win one of those even for one week, let alone lead in the standings.  And, especially so in a season such as this one with so many unknowns and so much inconsistency.   Yet, impressively, one person has been at the top of the standings on Cougarfan's Football Challenge for seven weeks now--ever since the Air Force Game.  I have invited him to provide some guest commentary and a prediction on the game.  And, given his current seven week reign, you are not likely to get it from a more credible source.  (In full disclosure, he also happens to be my brother, and catches all the games from Terre Haute, Indiana :)

BYU is slowly starting to gain confidence offensively. At this point in the season, it’s no longer a question of whether BYU will get in the end zone, but how often. I think BYU will build on its relative offensive success in the Wyoming game, and will score 30 points or more for the first time this year. Defensively, I think BYU will continue to play well against the run.

UNLV has enough athleticism to score against the Cougars, but they have (like BYU) struggled to be consistent. BYU started very strongly against SDSU (up 14-0) and Wyoming (up 16-0). If UNLV can take a 7-0 lead, or more, BYU will be in a dogfight. But BYU has two weeks to prepare for this one, and I think BYU will be the team that starts strong again. This one won’t be as close as Wyoming was. My prediction: BYU doubles up the Rebels, 34-17.
                            --Jared Haynie, Seven-week Football Challenge Leader

In an ironic twist, Jared's wife Julie is the only one from the family to have had the top score from any single game prediction...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Phil's Mid-Season All-MWC Nominees

Phil Steele has his mid-season all-conference list out.  Not surprisingly, there are no BYU players on the first team (perhaps that can change by the end of the season) as the rolls are dominated by TCU, Utah, Air Force, and San Diego St.  There are, however, five players on the second team and a few more on the third team.  Overall, with 8 players listed, BYU represented 9% of the total players (0% of 1st team, 18% of 2nd team, 9% of 3rd team).

Mid-Season MWC 2nd Team
RB, JJ DiLuigi
FB, Brian Kariya
OT, Matt Reynolds
CB, Andrew Rich
LB, Jordan Pendleton

Mid-Season MWC 3rd Team
OG, Jason Speredon
OG, Braden Hansen
PK, Mitch Payne

The rest of the conference is as follows:
TCU    19 (39% of 1st team)
Utah    17 (29% of 1st team)
AFA     12 (11% of 1st team)
SDSU  11 (14% of 1st team)
CSU     8
WYO    5
UNLV   4
UNM     4

The New Look

I hope everyone likes the new look.  With menu bars on both sides, you shouldn't have to scroll down as far to find links and news articles.  My personal favorite change?  The new background.  Can you name the stadium?  Were you there?

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Mid-Season Diagnosis

Washington 1986.  Hawaii 1989. Oregon, Hawaii, Texas A&M 1990.  Florida State 1991.  2000 pre-Doman.  Hawaii 2001.  2002.  2003.  2004.  Utah, TCU 2008.  TCU 2009. 

What is the common thread in all of these?  That you were there until the end.  You didn't leave the stadium early.  You didn't turn off the TV.   You stood by the Cougars until the end.  That is what true fans do.  They support their team in good and bad.  That is a defining characteristic of BYU fans.  We believe.  We stay until the end.  No matter the score.  No matter the time.  The team doesn't stop competing (I can only think of two exceptions--CSU and Boise in 2003) and we don't stop supporting.  

But, that doesn't mean that we don't have opinions, or dissect every move of the players and coaches, or think we might have some insight into what is really going on.  I am no different. 

Here is my somewhat-stream-of-consciousness take on a few pieces of our current situation:

Jamie Hill--Hill was not a scapegoat.  Bronco is not one to be reactionary.  The fact that Hill was released means to me that there were significant underlying reasons, and that if anything, Bronco probably waited longer than he should have.

Coaching Matters--What Bronco did to the defense in a few days between Utah State and SDSU, was stunning.  Most BYU fans were bemoaning the fact that we had no talent on D.  Then the first quarter of the SDSU game happened and it hasn't stopped.  The same players, minus a few of the better ones to injury, have performed admirably.  One can only imagine that the same transformation could be performed on offense.  The talent level is not the problem. 

Hot Seat--Robert Anae has to be on the hot seat.  I like him.  He frustrates me at times--frequently this season--but I hope he succeeds.   I want him to find the solutions and get the ship righted.  But, if he cannot do it, Bronco will need to find someone who can. 

Leadership Vacancy--Bronco has stated a couple of times that this team is short on leaders... and he is looking for someone to step up.  I would suggest that this is a problem that is actually inherent in the approach to this season.  Bronco has only named two captains, leaving two other traditional spots unfilled.  There were two opportunities to provide a mantle of leadership to a couple of his seniors.  Perhaps they were not ready--a mantle allows a player to step up and grow into the role and responsibility.  It allows the players around him to respect and follow that leader without thinking that the player is trying to be presumptuous.  How was Jake supposed to be a leader early in the season?  He wasn't the starter.  Bronco had not expressed confidence in him, so how were the other players supposed to feel?  BYU of all places is a place where players know how to lead and how to follow.  They understand mantles.  How many times have these players followed a district leader, zone leader, bishop, EQP, etc that was given a mantle?  A "calling" to team captain, might have been, and still could be a good recipe for leadership success.  Vic So'oto? Bryan Kariya?  Brian Logan?  These guys should be captains.  Give them the mantle and let them run with it.

Starters--Failing to name a starter at QB and TE, has left these positions in somewhat of a tailspin.  QB has been on the mend after an injury mercifully ended the spiral.  TE is still out of control.  A coach needs to pick a starter and then let him play.  Should he lose the job, there are others waiting to step up.  If they are all the same, go with the gut.  Failing to name a starter cuts reps, leadership ability, confidence, and chemistry.

Reps Impact--Linked closely to the failure to name a starter is the impact that has on repetitions for those players.  I promised some numbers in this first analysis since I've been back.  Here it is (if not exact, it is at least illustrative).  If a typical opposing player gets 100 reps, here is how this shakes out for the BYU QBs, TEs, WRs.

100: Typical player reps (for example)
  80: BYU practices are roughly 20% shorter than most opponents practices
  72: Assume 10 percent of those reps (early season) were lost to time spent installing two distinct offenses
  36: Reps are split between the two QBs, leaving them with 36 each--WR's only get 36 reps with each QB
    7: With 5 TE's splitting time, each only gets 20% of those 36  reps with each QB

What is the result? Our QB, a true freshman, is (was) only getting 36% of the reps of the opponent's QB.  Our WR's were only getting 36% of the reps with their QB as opposing WRs were getting with their QB.  Compounding that, our TE's--all rookies--are (were) only getting 7.2% as many reps each as players from opposing teams!  At that rate the season will be over before any of our TE's get the same number of reps as opposing players get in Fall Camp!!!  And these are players that needed to get more reps than opposing players due to inexperience!  The WR's and QB's three games into the season were barely where others were at the end of fall camp.  This has been course-corrected for Heaps and his WR's, but the TEs are still a mess, and unless someone gets named a starter soon, is unlikely to improve.

Drops--Are you following the chain here?  64% fewer reps for our QBs and WRs than the competition might shed light on some of our drops here.  The drops this season have been unprecedented.  Doubtless some portion of them must be a systematic failure such as above.  Likely there are others too.  I would hope to see more accountability for receivers dropping passes--critical first downs, touchdowns, third down conversions, easy dumps, fades, across the middles and everything in between.  It was reduced in the TCU game but still remained an issue--hard not to improve considering how glaring this was.  I wish I had tracked the actual number of drops in those first few games.  I think we would have seen a significant number of drives ended and points missed due directly to dropped passes--enough so that it could have been the difference in the season so far.

The Long Ball--Between the dropped passes (seemingly one or more per series in the first 5 games) and the decision to have Heaps throw it deep on nearly 1 in 3 plays in those first few games, can explain nearly all of the offensive ineptitude.  Anyone who ever succeeded at intramural football knows that the long ball is hardly ever completed and yet is so tempting that many do it anyway, to the detriment of their t-shirt dreams.  BYU was essentially throwing 2 plays away (a drop and a long ball), leaving us with one real crack at a first down, and ensuring 3 and out repeatedly.  It is good to see we have moved away from this, but perhaps we have mistaken failures of the long ball for failures of the passing game and need to reinstate the mid range game.

Running Personnel--Our running game has improved significantly since the UW game.  However, there are still far too many instances of Kariya trying to take it around the end on third and short or DiLuigi trying to go up the middle in the same situation.  Enough to make you want to pull your hair out.  Use the personnel to their strengths. 

Coaches Giving Up--In many of the early games, the coaches elected to punt from inside the 40 yard line.  They opted to kick field goals when touchdowns were needed if there was any hope of winning.  As an anxious fan, it was exasperating.  It felt as if the coaches were giving up--going for the moral victory.  When coaches are doing that, what are the players supposed to do?  The fake field goal was a turning point.  It showed that the coaches had not given up. BYU is going to need much more of that mentality from its coaches if it wants that message to rub off on the players.

So there you have it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

While I Was Away...

A lot has happened while I was gone...  Unga leaves, gets drafted, then injured. All-encompassing independence hype/paranoia/fear/exuberance takes hold.  Standoff with the WAC.  Press Conference with Jamie, Tom, and Cecil.  ESPN.  Notre Dame.  Texas.  Oregon State.  WAC leftovers...  WCC.  And that was just in the summer. 

Fall camp.  QB Battle.  Split time.  UW.  JJ Fumble at AFA--season turns.  The Drops.  Can't stop the run.  Hot afternoon in Tallahassee.  The Drops.  Colin K.  Fuga Out.  The Drops.  USU disaster.  Hill out.  Bronco in.  SDSU first quarter.  Meaningful win.  Max and Austin.  28 min of great D at Amon Carter.  60 min without an O.  Georgia Tech.  Chambers Out.  So here we are...

I imagine that I don't have many of you still with me after the last three plus months...  But for those that are--I'm sorry to abandon you.  Thanks for sticking it out.   I'd love to hear from you.  Nearly all of my waking hours (and a plethora that should have been sleeping) have been claimed by the Man since the end of June.  But I'm done.  For now at least.  And once again get to do what I really love to do--discuss BYU football and shed light on the happenings with quality insights and analysis.  The kind of stuff you can use to end a debate.  Kind of like pointing to the score board.  So here we go.  Back Online.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winners and Losers

With the dust now settling from the first volleys of conference realignment, its time to assess the winners and losers. 

Winners (in order)
1. University of Utah--the move to the PAC-10 improves the image of the school athletically and academically by association.  The athletic budget stands to gain $9-10M per year more than they currently get in the MWC.  Recruiting (especially in CA, OR, and WA) should improve as recruits want to go to a school that A) has a chance for a auto bid and national title, and B) play annually in front of home town friends and family.
2. Nebraska--moving to the Big Ten gives them conference stability, a meaningful financial increase (though not as much as Utah), and more prestige.
3. Boise State--although the financial windfall will not be as great as Utah or Nebraska, Boise will reap an additional $2-3M per year in the MWC over the WAC.  It also associates with universities of a higher caliber, which is incredible for a school that was a junior college just a generation or so ago.  Admissions and academics also stand to improve as much from this move as the level of competition.
4. Big East--Although there may still be moves to come from the Big Ten, at least for now the Big East is breathing a sigh of relief and shelving the survival plans as it has managed to avoid the doomsday scenarios that had it being cherry picked into oblivion.
5. Big Ten--Thanks to the PAC 10's public coup on the Big Ten's best, Nebraska turned to the open arms of the Big Ten for comfort and security.  The Big Ten in return gets an upgrade over the rumored alternative in Missouri, and now sits at a comfortable 12.
6. PAC 10--Although some insist that Larry Scott and the PAC 10 have some egg on the very public failure to lure Texas, et al., I believe that the conference knew it wanted at least Utah and Colorado and decided to make a run at something better, with the former as a comfortable backstop in case the plan didn't work.  No harm done and I say kudos to a bold and proactive approach.  The conference will now be able to stage a championship game and adjust scheduling somewhat to eliminate a few intra-conference losses that seem to sink any hopes of a second BCS bid year after year.  The conference also moves east and finally breaks beyond the scheduling limitations of the Pacific time zone.
7. Colorado--Colorado gets a nod here for finding the home that it wanted.  Otherwise, all in, I would say it is about a wash.  The PAC 10, financially, will not be much different than the Big 12 and the television visibility will be worse (although Colorado isn't on TV that much anyway); however, the university (both athletically and academically) will improve in prestige and will have more equal representation in a non-Texas dominated conference.
8. The state of Utah--with the state's flagship university now affiliated with the PAC 10, it is a validation of sorts for the community that it is accepted and respected on a national level.  The state will also see some budgetary savings due to the significant increases in television funding from the new conference affiliation.

Losers (in order)
1. BYU--Despite what anyone says, Cougar fans and administrators have been holding out hope for a PAC 10 invite for decades.  To see it go to your chief rival, and relative new kid on the block, while being left behind is a demoralizing blow.  And although yet to be fully understood, there may be detrimental effects on the program as Utah improves its recruiting base, funding, facilities, etc.  BYU knew that it would likely not end up in the PAC 10 but was hoping for a seat at the table somewhere when everything settled down.  That didn't happen.
2. WAC--The WAC loses Boise State, its only legitimate national player of the last several years.  The loss jeopardizes its TV contract with ESPN, its standing as the number 8 conference (just above CUSA), and at least one of its bowl games. 
3. Big 12--While the teams that remain managed to right the ship, and there are rumors of more lucrative television deals in the works, the conference took a major hit to is national perception, prestige, and stability.  The losses of Colorado and Nebraska will hurt television prospects, and at least with Nebraska, national relevance in football.  Dan Beebe (the conference commissioner) also comes out of this looking a bit inept, weak, and reactionary rather than proactive.
4. Fans of the BYU-Utah Rivalry--After more than 100 years of competing for the same conference championship each time these teams took the field, that will come to an end.  They will likely continue to play each other annually, probably in every sport, but it will be preseason, non-conference, and less on the line.  Thanksgiving weekend won't be quite the same without it.
5. MWC--With a BCS auto bid in sight and the addition of Boise, the MWC was poised to become a major player.  The great intermountain void (only states with D1 programs and no BCS bid) on the BCS map (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico) seemed destined to be filled by the MWC.  With Utah (the most populous of those five states) now removed from that equation, the chances have to be diminished somewhat, even if still alive.
6. Utah State--With BYU and Utah now likely to be scheduling annual out of conference games, it is possible that Utah State may be the odd man out and see it without its annual tilts with its in-state rivals.  This would be unfortunate for everyone, and may relieve USU of its only guaranteed sellout of the season.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

One Year Recap and Summer Reading List

At some point over the last couple of weeks, the readership of this column hit 20,000. I will make it a habit to mention from time to time when we hit various milestones. I would also like to mention that you can subscribe to the RSS feed directly from, as dozens of you already do, and have new content delivered right to your inbox.

In honor of our first year covering BYU football for Phil Steele, and in light of a dearth of any college football news outside of realignment, I am reposting the links to the top five most popular stories from this site over the last year. These articles have been picked up by national and local news organizations, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS, Rivals, Scout, and dozens of others as well as scores of fan sites and other blogs. The top 5 in order:

1. Oct 22, 2009 Updated Comparison of Conference TV Contracts

2. Feb 11, 2010 Numbers Behind PAC-10 Expansion: What it Means to the MWC

3. Dec 19, 2009 Recruiting Lag: A Look at Contributions by Class

4. Sep 2, 2009 Numbers Inside the Missionary Advantage

5. Apr 23, 2010 Official BCS Conference Standings… Finally

6. (Bonus) Dec 28, 2009 A Rebuttal of Vegas Bowl Excuses

These rankings are based purely upon the number of people that have read these articles. If there are other columns from this site that you feel are worthy of summer reading but didn’t make the above cut, let us know!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Realignment Preferences

If you are reading this then you have probably noticed the lack of articles over the last several weeks.  I'll probably continue to be off and on for a few more weeks until mid-summer. 

And, with conference realignment the only topic of the day (and a tired one at that), and having already said about all I have to say on that matter (see conference expansion topic at right), I am waiting with you to see how it will all play out.    If I could prioritize my preferences for Cougar football:

1.  PAC-10--The rivalries and BYU's fanbase footprint line up nicely with the PAC 10's current membership.  This would be a great scenario for BYU, although not going to happen.  1% chance.

2.  MWC with AQ status--This is the best possible outcome from my perspective, with a probability that falls somewhere between very possible and likely.  75% chance.

3.  Big 12--Should BYU be a replacement for Nebraska or Missouri (possibly leaving for the Big 10) in the B12 as it is currently situated (with Texas, etc), it would be a good financial and social move for the Cougs, but bad for the fans.  Do I really want to see them play Iowa State?  Baylor?  Am I going to go to those road games?  Outside of the Texas areas, there are significantly fewer Cougar fans in B12 country than in P10.  And, the destinations aren't as good (imagine nostalgia for Las Vegas, San Diego, and Colorado Springs).  This is a real possibility--and one that many Cougar fans may even be hoping for.  25% chance.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Official BCS Conference Standings... Finally!

Something isn’t right. The BCS actually released the official calculation criteria for a conference to gain automatic qualification (Official BCS Qualification Criteria). My first reaction was that they cooked the books—waited to see how the conference rankings stacked up at the midway point and then offered up a target that would be out of reach for the MWC. However, Bill Hancock and company, maintain that these criteria have been clearly written for several years, but that only now they are releasing them publicly. I was skeptical. Then I ran the numbers. The MWC is clearly on track to gain AQ status. You read that right. If things continue on the field as they have for the last two years, the MWC should qualify for AQ status, even without Boise State.

Here is the long awaited, never expected, official criteria (all calculations will be based on membership at the end of the 2011 regular season):

Per the official press release, the evaluation includes the following for each conference:

(1) the ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS Standings each year (if a conference does not place a team in the final BCS Standings, then its highest-ranked team is determined by the conference member that has the highest average ranking in the computer rankings used in the BCS Standings),

(2) the final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year, and

(3) the number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS Standings each year, with adjustments to account for differences in the number of members of each conference.

A conference will become the seventh automatic qualifier if it finishes among the top six conferences in both No. 1 and No. 2 and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 50 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3.

[Further, a conference will be eligible to apply to the Presidential Oversight Committee for an exemption if it finishes among the top six in both No. 1 and No. 2 and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 33.3 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3,
If it finishes among the top seven in either No. 1 or No. 2 and among the top five in the other and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 33.3 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3.]

No. 3 above, the "Top 25 Performance Rating," will be calculated as follows: Points will be awarded to the conferences based on their teams' finishes in the top 25 of the final BCS Standings each year. Points will be awarded as follows:

Teams finishing 1-6: 4 points for each team
Teams finishing 7-12: 3 points for each team
Teams finishing 13-18: 2 points for each team
Teams finishing 19-25: 1 point for each team

The point totals will be adjusted to account for the size of the conference, as follows:
Conference membership      Adjustment
12 or more members          no adjustment
10 or 11 members              points increased by 12.5 percent
9 or fewer members           points increased by 25 percent

In summary, a conference has to be ranked in the top six in Criteria 1 and Criteria 2, and be at least 50% of the top ranked team in Criteria 3. If it doesn’t quite meet these criteria, it can apply for an exemption as long as:
A) it finishes in the top six in Criteria 1 and 2, and at least 33.3% of the top team in Criteria 3, or
B) it finishes in the top seven in either Criteria 1 or Criteria 2 and in the top five the other and at least 33.3% of the top team in Criteria 3.

So, although my first assessment is only a few days old, it is already time to re-crunch the numbers without any of the ambiguity or assumptions required in the previous version. What follows are the two year averages. Hold on to your seats…

Criteria 1—Highest Ranked Team in the Conference
Rk Conf     Ave
1   SEC       1.5
1   B12       1.5
3   MWC     5.0
4   P10       6.0
5   BE         7.5
5   WAC      7.5
7   B10        8.0
8   ACC      11.5
9   MAC     26.3
10  CUSA   39.7
11  SB        55.3
      ND       57.5

Criteria 2—Average Final Regular Season Ranking for All Teams
Rk Conf       Ave
1   SEC       38.7
2   ACC      40.6
3   BE         43.1
4   B12       46.6
5   P10       48.7
6   B10       50.7
     ND        57.5
7   MWC    59.2
8   WAC     72.8
9   CUSA    81.1
10  MAC    86.6
11  SB        96.0

Criteria 3—Points for Teams Finishing in the BCS Top 25
Rk Conf      Pts     Adj     Total
1   SEC       22      0.0%    22.0
2   B10        18    12.5%    20.3
3   B12        20     0.0%     20.0
3   MWC     16    25.0%     20.0
5   P10        14    12.5%    15.8
6   BE          12   25.0%     15.0
7   ACC       12    0.0%      12.0
8   WAC        7   25.0%      8.8
9   MAC        1    0.0%       1.0
10t CUSA      0    0.0%       0.0
10t SB           0    25.0%     0.0
      ND          0    0.0%       0.0

To be clear, these criteria do not apply to the current AQ conferences. They are already guaranteed an AQ berth through 2013 by virtue of the 2004-2007 evaluation period (yes, that is six years of AQ for a four year evaluation period). So, all of this is only interesting to the MWC, WAC, MAC, CUSA and the Sun Belt. However, in reality, only the MWC and WAC could realistically still qualify, and the WAC would have to surpass the MWC in Criteria 2 to achieve at least a seven, while at the same time maintaining its ranking as fifth in Criteria 1, and then apply for an exemption—very unlikely, but technically possible.

The MWC on the other hand, needs to surpass at least one conference in Criteria 2, while maintaining position in the others in order to achieve guaranteed AQ status. Should it remain in seventh in Criteria 2, which is likely, it will need to remain at fifth or better in Criteria 1, while it is already essentially assured a sufficient rank in Criteria 3.

It will be very difficult for the MWC to achieve a rank of six or better in Criteria 2. In order to bump up the average by the requisite 8.5 to pass the sixth rated conference—the Big Ten, each team in the MWC would have to improve their average ranking by double that (17) since we are already halfway into the cycle. TCU, BYU, and Utah, cannot improve by that much (in fact, some slip can be expected), meaning that the other six schools would have to improve by an additional 8.5 each, or 25.5 total average improvement for the bottom six. This would be technically possible, but rather unlikely.

MWC Average Final Computer Rank and Future Requirement
Team    Actual   Req
TCU      7.8
Utah     14.3
BYU      16.8
AF        49.3     23.8
UNLV    80.3     54.8
Wyo     80.3     54.8
CSU      81.6     56.1
UNM    100.2    74.7
SDSU   102.7    77.2

So, given the probable seventh place finish in Criteria 2, the MWC will have to apply to the Presidential Oversight Committee for an exemption and make its case. The closer it is to sixth the better. And, if it can maintain its top three status in Criteria 1 and Criteria 3, it will be in good shape.

MWC Expansion Impact
As already covered earlier this week (, Boise State is the only school that could improve the conference’s body of work through expansion. It would bump up Criteria 2 by an average of 5.2 spots and move the conference to number one overall in Criteria 3 (at least at the mid-point).

Criteria 1--with Boise
Remains the same (3rd) since an MWC school finished ranked higher than Boise in both years.

Criteria 2--with Boise
Rk  Conf       Ave
1    SEC       38.7
2    ACC      40.6
3    BE         43.1
4    B12       46.6
5    P10       48.7
6    B10       50.7
7    MWC     54.0
      ND        57.5
8    WAC     81.0
9    CUSA    81.1
10  MAC     86.6
11  SB        96.0

Criteria 3--with Boise
Rk  Conf      Pts  Adj       Total
1    MWC     23    12.5%   25.9
2    SEC       22     0.0%    22.0
3    B10       18    12.5%   20.3
4    B12       20     0.0%    20.0
5    P10       14    12.5%    15.8
6    BE         12    25.0%    15.0
7    ACC       12     0.0%    12.0
8    MAC       1      0.0%     1.0
9t   WAC       0    25.0%     0.0
9t   CUSA      0      0.0%     0.0
9t   SB           0    25.0%     0.0
      ND          0      0.0%     0.0

So, adding Boise, while impactful, still isn’t enough to guarantee an AQ berth, but it does strengthen the case significantly, and makes it somewhat more feasible for the bottom six schools to improve a more modest 11.0 in the average rankings, versus 25.5 without Boise, in order to overtake the next closest conference.

You never know what might happen between now and then (I imagine most of us never thought we’d see the day the criteria would be released), but it looks like the MWC, with its current membership, will almost certainly qualify under the exemption rule (and not automatically) and will need to make its case before the Presidential Oversight Committee, at which point, it still might be anyone’s guess what they would do. However, the strength of the conference’s ranking in 2 out of the 3 criteria, would make it hard to ignore. And, add Boise, and the MWC screams for admission.

Friday, April 16, 2010

MWC Mid-Term AQ Status Part 2

A couple of questions have been brought up in relation to the previous post. I have them in the comments section, but wanted to repost those here as well as show a bit more data.

Q: How much closer would the MWC be to an AQ BCS bid after adding other non AQ teams such as SMU?

A: Besides Boise State, there are no other teams west of the Mississippi that could meaningfully enhance the overall body of work by the current MWC membership, based on performance over the last two years. That is not to say that one or more of these teams could have breakout seasons over the next two years, but the MWC couldn’t plan on that, and therefore would not invite them in an effort to enhance the BCS appeal (there could be other reasons for adding them).

There are no other available schools that finished ranked in the final BCS rankings (which impacts two of the three criteria), so improving the conference overall average ranking is the only remaining way another school could contribute to an AQ bid. A quick look at the data shows that the only schools even in the running would be Houston, Nevada, and Fresno State as each average in the mid-50s over the last two years, which is basically right around where the current conference average rank already is, thus making each of them essentially only net neutral to the MWC BCS AQ bid, yet requiring a splitting of the revenue by more athletic departments—a difficult proposition. To provide even a one rank average bump (from 54 to 53 for example), a team would have to be 10 spots better than the average, or a 44 or better.

Two Year Average Final Season Computer Ranking
59.2 MWC current membership
54.0 MWC with Boise State
52.8 Houston
53.3 Nevada
54.8 Fresno State
70.4 Tulsa
71.5 Hawaii
77.3 Rice
92.2 SMU

The only other way to make any improvement over the current membership (without adding a team from a current AQ conf) is to improve by subtraction, which I am not advocating, but only offering to be comprehensive. It is San Diego State and New Mexico that have been the biggest anchors on the league over the last two seasons.

MWC Two Year Average Rank
7.8 TCU
14.3 Utah
16.8 BYU
49.3 Air Force
80.3 UNLV
80.3 Wyoming
81.6 CSU
100.2 UNM
102.7 SDSU

53.8 MWC without SDSU
54.1 MWC without UNM

Q: Why is there a four year evaluation period for a two year Auto Bid?

A: That is just another example of how the deck is stacked against the non-AQs. The most recent four year evaluation period from 2004-2007 guaranteed six years of auto qualification (2008 through 2013). The current four year evaluation period 2008-2011 only guarantees two years of AQ status. Another evaluation period runs from 2010-2013 leading to AQ status in 2014-2017.

What that means is that the next two years are doubly important since they will be counted twice. Hopefully the MWC (and anyone they may be inviting) will have a good showing these next two years, and it wouldn’t hurt if a couple of current AQ conferences had a down year or two.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mid-Term Standings in MWC Quest for AQ BCS Bid

[Note: The BCS released the official AQ conference qualification criteria on April 22, 2010.  Updated standings are now available at this link.]

Now that spring football is in the books, next week’s NFL draft (see and a bit of recruiting news is all there really is for football fans to digest between now and the start of fall camp in August… which is exactly why it is a good time to dig into the numbers and take a closer look at where the Mountain West stands at half time in its quest for an AQ bid.

If you are reading this, you are probably already up on your BCS criteria, but just in case, here is the scoop… The current BCS contract allows for a seventh conference to gain automatic qualifying status for the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons based on a four year performance window in the 2008-2011 regular seasons. There are three metrics by which conferences will be evaluated:

1) The ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year
2) The final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year
3) The number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings each year

So with that in mind, we are at the mid-point of the four year cycle, so where does the MWC stand in its effort to gain an automatic BCS bid and the validation that comes with it? Here is the scorecard (listed in order of television money):

             2008 Regular Season       2009 Regular Season
             Hi    Tm Ave   Top 25         Hi    Tm Ave    Top 25
SEC       2      45.1        4                   1      32.2         3
B10       8      49.1        4                   8      52.2         4
B12       1      41.4        5                   2      51.9         3
ACC     14     32.5        3                   9      48.6         3
P10       5      59.6        2                   7      37.8         5
BE        12     45.5        2                   3      40.7         3
MWC     6      55.5        3                   4      62.9         3
CUSA    --     84.0       --                    --     78.1         --
WAC     9      72.6        1                   6      72.9         1
MAC     22     82.6        1                   --     90.6         --
SB        --      98.4       --                   --     93.5         --
ND        --      59.7       --                  --     55.3         --

Not surprisingly, the BCS has not divulged exactly how this data will be used (criteria weightings, relative vs. absolute comparisons, qualitative or quantitative, etc.). And in the case of the second item, it isn’t even necessarily clear what data will be used—will it be the average ranking of the teams in each conference (as I have used), the median ranking, a pyramid weighted ranking (like Sagarin does), etc.?

Without any further guidance, we will equally weight each of the criteria, as well as score each based on the percent of the total possible (as the BCS does for its weekly rankings). For the middle score (average final computer rank of each team) we will use the best conference average as the numerator. Here are the relative scores and season/overall standings:

2008 Season Standings
                Hi        Tm Ave   Top 25     Total
1 B12       1.000    0.787      1.000      0.929
2 SEC       0.960    0.721      0.800      0.827
3 B10       0.720    0.662      0.800      0.727
4 ACC      0.480    1.000      0.600      0.693
5 MWC    0.800     0.586     0.600      0.662
6 P10       0.840    0.546      0.400      0.595
7 BE        0.560     0.716      0.400      0.559
8 WAC     0.680     0.449     0.200      0.443
9 MAC     0.160     0.394     0.200      0.251
10 ND      0.000     0.545     0.000      0.182
11 CUSA  0.000     0.387     0.000      0.129
12 SB       0.000     0.331     0.000      0.110

2009 Season Standings
                    Hi       TmAve    Top 25   Total
1 P10         0.760    0.851      1.000     0.870
2 SEC         1.000    1.000      0.600     0.867
3 BE           0.920    0.791      0.600     0.770
4 B12          0.960    0.620     0.600     0.727
5 B10          0.720    0.616     0.800     0.712
6 MWC       0.880    0.511     0.600     0.664
7 ACC         0.680    0.663     0.600     0.648
8 WAC        0.800    0.441     0.200     0.480
9 ND           0.000    0.582     0.000     0.194
10 CUSA     0.000    0.412     0.000     0.137
11 MAC       0.000    0.355     0.000    0.118
12 SB          0.000    0.344     0.000    0.115

Despite finishing 5th in year one and 6th in year two, the MWC is currently in 7th place overall, just .002 behind the Big East and .007 behind the ACC, although such a small margin means that the three conferences are essentially tied for 5th at the midway point.

Two Year/Midpoint Combined Standings
1   SEC        0.847
2   B12        0.828
3   P10        0.733
4   B10        0.720
5   ACC       0.670
6   BE          0.665
7   MWC      0.663
8   WAC      0.462
9   ND         0.188
10 MAC       0.185
11 CUSA      0.133
12 SB          0.112

It is apparent from this data, and assuming that there are no significant departures from these averages over the next two years, that no conference is going to have its AQ status stripped (a move that would require compellingly inferior data by one of the conferences over multiple years). It is also clear that only the MWC is in a position to be considered for AQ status, as the others have too much ground to make up in just two years. If the decision were made today, the MWC would be able to make a strong case for inclusion, but would still have to be considered on the bubble, because as long as it remains in seventh place, a case could be made to leave them out as well (and probably would given the amount of money that is involved). Should the conference move into a higher slot, say ahead of the Big East or ACC (the two most likely options), it would be much more difficult for the BCS commission to leave them out, and would likely guarantee the MWC an automatic seat at the table.

Going Forward
So what can the conference do over the next two years to strengthen its position? It is unlikely to be able to make any progress on the first criteria, as it has had a team finish sixth (Utah) and fourth (TCU) in the last two seasons, and that will be hard to top. It is also unlikely to place more than three teams in the final regular season top 25. In fact, if the conference is able to match either of these feats again in the next two years, it will be quite an accomplishment. However, the second criteria—final regular season computer ranking for all of the teams—is the conference’s primary weakness, and one that offers significant potential for improvement. All of the teams four through nine need to get better, but when it comes down to it, there are really only two ways to improve this score:

1) The first and most important is to win non-conference games. Period.
2) The second (primarily for perception reasons) is for no team in the conference to be ranked among the country’s worst, anything in the triple digits (e.g. New Mexico last year). Almost every conference has a team ranked in the high 80’s or 90’s, but only truly awful teams are ranked below 100, and that will kill a conference average.

Winning non-conference games begins with creating winning programs led by winning coaches (among other things). The conference has been able to keep its best tenured coaches (Patterson, Mendenhall, and Whittingham), and attract several promising ones (Troy Calhoun, Dave Christensen, Brady Hoke). The jury is still out on Steve Fairchild, Mike Locksley, and Bobby Hauck.

What about Boise?
Perhaps the biggest question of the summer for MWC fans will be whether or not Boise State is invited to join the conference. The BCS rules stipulate that the final evaluation will include all teams that play in the conference during the 2011 season. Boise would need to give a one year notice to leave the WAC. So, if Boise is going to get the invite, it is going to come this summer. And, it will only come if 1) the MWC feels that it may not be guaranteed AQ status on the basis of its current membership, and 2) adding Boise would guarantee that status.

Unfortunately, the MWC will need to make a decision based essentially on the data above, since it will not have the luxury of another season before making the decision. Given the above data the MWC is in good shape, but it not necessarily a shoo-in; despite incredible success over the previous two years, as the seventh conference they could still be left out when all is said and done. So how would things look if Boise were added? It becomes the mythical no-brainer. Here it is with Boise:

Two Year/Midpoint Standings with Boise in MWC
1   SEC       0.847
2   B12       0.828
3   MWC     0.747
4   P10       0.733
5   B10       0.720
6   ACC      0.670
7   BE         0.665
8   ND        0.188
9   MAC      0.185
10 CUSA     0.133
11 WAC      0.133
12 SB          0.112

Adding Boise, puts the AQ bid squarely in the cross hairs of the MWC, as it would be nearly impossible to argue that a conference ranking better than four current AQ conferences should be left out.

The MWC is in a tough spot without any clear guidance from the BCS on how exactly the data will be used. The conference would love to know exactly where the target is before it starts shooting. Also, with all of the conference realignment talk, the rules of the game may change at half time. In any case, it seems as if the MWC should be using this quiet period to recommit its wanderlust members (BYU, TCU, Utah) such that they shun the overtures from other conferences, and prepare to invite Boise sometime before mid-August. Because, unless things blow up (i.e. significant realignment), adding Boise is a guaranteed winning move. Then again, the rules may change before there is a chance to finish the game.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

China and Sensorship of BYU Football

Part of the collateral damage of Google's decision to pull out of China last month, is that this BYU site has been unavailable to me the last two weeks as I have been overseas.  I had intended to continue my coverage of the QB battle while abroad, but had not considered that the site would be blocked.  If only China knew what its citizens were missing out on!   In any case, I am now back and intend to continue with offseason updates and analysis in the next few days.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring Camp Week 2: QB Battle Update

With seven spring practices now in the books, the second week of spring camp ended on Friday. As mentioned before, it is hard to read too much into stats from practice, but here are the composite stat lines for the three practices this week from the three primary contenders for the starting quarterback spot:

Week 2 Stat Lines
Riley Nelson, Jr (3/7, 18 yds, 0 TDs, 1 int)
James Lark, So (6/8, 54 yds, 0 TDs, 0 int)
Jake Heaps, Fr (14/20, 176 yds, 2 TDs, 0 int)

All reports seem to indicate that each has been given similar opportunities and similar situations while rotating with the 1s, 2s, and 3s. The discrepancy in attempts is primarily a factor of the QB being able to keep a drive alive, creating more passing opportunities. Here are the combined stat lines from weeks 1 and 2:

Week 1 & 2 Cumulative Stat Lines
Nelson: 12/22 (55%), 84 yds, 1 TD, 1 int
Lark: 16/26 (62%), 128 yds, 0 TDs, 2 int*
Heaps: 26/39 (67%), 380 yds, 5 TDs, 0 int

*I inadvertently left off one of Lark’s interceptions from last week and have added it here

Without being able to attend practices in person, I will refrain from picking a front runner or commenting on the probability of each of these talented QBs starting in September, but it is hard not to notice the success that Jake Heaps has had through his first two weeks in the program.

Other notes of interest from week 2:
• Offensive lineman Famika Anae went down on Monday with a torn ACL. He already underwent surgery and will redshirt this year

• WR Marcus Matthews has been moved to tight end, increasing the depth at a position that might already be most intense competition for minutes

• BYU announced it will be playing Oregon State in a home and home in 2011-12

• Friday was the annual high school coaches clinic with roughly 300 coaches from high school programs across the west

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Camp Week 1: Quarterback Battle Update

In the background of the NCAA tournament this week, BYU kicked off spring camp by holding four practices (Wednesday was off). It is hard to read too much from practices or personnel at this point, given that there will be a number of players joining the team this fall, and that much depends upon which team a given player was playing with and against (first, second, third, etc). But with that said, all eyes are on the quarterbacks anyway, and their stats—even those from practice are being reported here and there--and are fully followed by the faithful in an effort to discover who, if any, will be named the primary signal caller going into the summer. Here are the summarized stat lines from the first week:

Week 1 Stat Lines
Riley Nelson, Jr (9/15, 66 yds, 1 TD, 0 int)
James Lark, So (10/18, 74 yds, 0 TDs, 1 int)
Jake Heaps, Fr (12/19, 204 yds, 3 TDs, 0 int)

Nelson has a year in the system, Lark has two years in the system but is just a few months removed from a mission, and Heaps is only a few months removed from high school (and only 4 days into official BYU practices). It is early, and to be fair, the stats are not necessarily comparable, but it looks like Heaps is off to a good start and will only get better as he becomes more familiar with the playbook and his teammates.

Other notes:
• Other new faces that have merited positive mentions in various reports include running back Josh Quezada, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Uona Kaveinga (who will have to sit out this year after transferring from USC), and tight ends Richard Wilson and Mike Muehlmann (both redshirt freshmen) and Devin Mahina (back from a mission).

• O’Neil Chambers missed at least one practice this week in order to catch up on his academics

• Mendenhall noted that this year’s spring camp is already quite a bit ahead of where they were last year at this time, even with the task of finding a new quarterback, and that the new players have impressed on the learning curve

Friday, March 12, 2010

Video of BYU Pro Day

Here is a link showing players doing drills for scouts at BYU's pro day. It includes most of the players' 40's, several of the shuttle runs, passing routes/catches (and drops), and some TE blocking. Hall, Pitta, George, and Tonga occupy most of the footage, but Jorgensen and others are shown as well.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

BYU Pro Day and NFL Draft Projections

Seven players from BYU’s 2009 team and two from previous teams, worked out in front of 20 NFL scouts on Wednseday as part of BYU’s pro day on campus. You can read the official BYU press release and check out photos here.

Dennis Pitta, Manase Tonga, and Max Hall were among 300 or so players invited to work out for scouts at last month’s invite only NFL combine, and took the chance at the Pro Day to build on what they had already accomplished. Jan Jorgensen, Shawn Doman, Andrew George, and Tevita Hola were the other players from the 2009 team to get a shot at impressing someone enough to get picked up either through the draft or as a free agent. A couple of semi-surprises from those that didn’t participate—Matt Bauman (who was just named recipient of an NCAA graduate scholarship), Coleby Clausen, Brett Denney, and RJ Willing—although perhaps they have already assessed their chances and decided to move on.

Jonny Harline and Curtis Brown represented the 2006 team at the workout, both of them determined to give it one last best shot before moving on. Good for them. Both have been busy of late, as Harline’s rock band membership has been well-publicized and Brown has been working as a pharmaceutical sales rep.

So how did everyone do and what is the current draft forecast? Let’s look at them in order likely draft status. There are numerous draft services, but I tried to use a mix of selective and comprehensive (see links at end of article for sources and commentary):

Dennis Pitta
Pitta had a fantastic combine performance already and so he used the Pro day to show off his skills blocking and catching. At the combine he ran a 4.63 in the 40 (third among TE’s), did 27 reps of 225 lbs (second), 6.72 seconds in the 3 cone drill (first), 4.17 seconds in the 20 yd shuttle (first), and 11.53 seconds in the 60 yard shuttle (first), 9.5’ broad jump (tied for fifth), and 34” vertical jump (tied for seventh). Here is where various services project him:

ESPN: position rank 6, overall 80 (mid third round)
Scouts, Inc : grade 77 position rank 7, draft round 3-4 position rank 4, overall 76, draft round 2-3

Max Hall
Hall had a rather so-so combine performance and was looking to improve his 40 time in particular. He clocked 4.84 at the combine, but turned in a 4.72 at BYU’s pro day (same as Tim Tebow), a significant improvement. His other combine scores: 32” vertical jump (seventh among QB’s), 7.07 seconds on the 3 cone drill (tied for sixth), 4.35 seconds on the 20 yard shuttle (sixth) and did not rank in the other drills. He demonstrated his accuracy today as he showed the scouts that he can make all the throws, and is trying to overcome his size (at 6’1”, 209 he is smaller than most NFL teams would like) and get a shot at an NFL roster. Max is likely to be a late rounder or a free agent pick up.

ESPN: position rank 19, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: grade 30 position rank 15, draft round 6-7 position rank 15, overall 277, draft round 7-FA

Manase Tonga
Not many NFL teams use a true fullback anymore (or colleges for that matter), but with that in mind, Tonga has elite skills at a position that is not necessarily in high demand, although teams that use a fullback are paying close attention. At the combine, Tonga’s performance with thrown in with all of the running backs, so only his bench of 19 reps at 225 (tied for eighth) ranked among the top scores, but he also turned in a 4.85 second 40. He tried to improve on those measurements again at Pro Day, but he has not yet talked about his performance.

ESPN: position rank 3, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: grade 41 position rank 3, draft round 6-7 position rank 7, overall 300, draft round 7-FA

Jan Jorgensen
Jorgensen had really only one shot to impress the scouts and wasn’t satisfied with his performance. He ran a 4.9 second 40 and put up 29 reps on of 225. He is hoping to get a shot at a roster via free agency, where his football skills will come through.

ESPN: position rank 33, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: 30 not ranked position rank 34, overall 409

Andrew George
George played in the shadow of Pitta for most of his time at BYU, and also used pro day as his only shot to show scouts what he can do. He ran a 4.7 second 40, and spent time showing off his hands on the other end of Hall’s arm. He is likely hoping for a shot via free agency.

ESPN: not rated
Scouts Inc: not rated not rated position rank 31, overall 590

Shawn Doman
Doman had a solid career at BYU and no doubt used the pro day to put his best foot forward on a childhood dream of playing in the NFL. He will likely be a long shot via free agency.

ESPN: not rated
Scouts Inc: not rated not rated position rank 182, overall 999

Tevita Hola
Tevita is in a similar situation as Shawn Doman and his NFL dreams will hinge on a long shot at free agency.

ESPN: not rated
Scouts Inc: not rated not rated not rated

A few other BYU seniors have shown up on scout boards, despite not working out, and although are unlikely to get picked up, could get a shot via free agency.

Coleby Clausen
ESPN: position rank 38, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: grade 30

Brett Denney position rank 55, overall 618

Matt Bauman position rank 35, overall 999

Terrence Hooks position rank 156, overall 999

So, with the NFL draft coming up on April 22-24, it looks like Pitta is a lock to get drafted. Hall and Tonga are hopeful on the draft and locks on free agency. Jorgensen and George have the best possibilities of a free agency pick up.

1. ESPN-- ESPN Draft Tracker
2. Official NFL Scouting Combine-- NFL Combine Top Performers
3. CBS/ CBS Sports / NFL Draft Tracker

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Look at College Football TV Window Availability

If conference realignment actually happens in the next 12 months, it will be purely to increase revenue to the participating schools, and more specifically, revenue from TV contracts (see Comparison of Conference TV Contracts). The Pac 10 in particular is about to renegotiate its TV contract, and if expansion allows the conference to make the pie bigger for everyone, then it will likely expand.

We already looked at how much money new schools would need to generate to be considered viable (see Numbers Behind Pac 10 Expansion) from a financial perspective. The other question that must be considered is whether or not the broadcast windows or TV slots are available for the Pac 10 to gain a more favorable distribution package when its current contract expires after the 2010-11 basketball season. With recent contracts by the Big 10 and SEC locking in long term deals with ESPN for prime time spots, there isn’t much remaining.

Time Slot Arithmetic
There are a limited number of “windows” or time slots when games can be shown. In a best case scenario, a dedicated station (like ESPN) would have a maximum of 4 slots on a Saturday (Eastern times: 12 noon, 3:30pm, 7:00pm, and 10:30pm for Pacific starts only) and up to one slot on the other nights of the week. With 13 in a season (or up to 15, depending when you star t and end), the three ESPN channels (ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU) each have roughly 13*3=42 ideal Saturday slots, and an additional 13 late slots, for a total of 126 ideal slots and up to 39 late games (although this competes with Sports Center and is too late for most of the country). All of the ideal slots (noon to 7:00pm) are claimed, although only a handful of late games are played (3-5), nearly all by the Pac 10.

The other six national sports channels airing college football games (ABC, NBC, CBS, FSN, CBS College Sports, and Versus) have a similar number of slots. Of those, only FSN uses the late slot, showing about 5 late Pac 10 games per year. ABC and CBS CS have filled all of the first three slots, while NBC only airs 8 Notre Dame games in the afternoon and CBS only airs 14 SEC games also in the afternoon. FSN and Versus each only have about 20 of the potentially 39 ideal slots filled with football games.

Saturday Slate (12 noon, 3:30, 7:00)—About 39 Available Slots
ESPN: 39 (13 Big 10, 13 SEC, 7 B10, 5 SEC, 1 Pac 10)
ESPN 2: 42 (12 Big 10, 12 ACC, 2 CUSA, and 15 mirror games*--11 Big 10, 3 Big 12, 2 Big East)
ESPNU: 41 (13 SEC, 13 ACC, 6 Big East, 6 WAC, 2 MAC, 1 Sun Belt)
ABC: 66 games (16 Big 12, 15 Pac 10, 15 Big Ten, 14 ACC, and 6 Big East), many of which are only shown regionally.
CBS CS: 33-40 (13-15 CUSA, 11-16 MWC, 6 Navy, 3 Army)
FSN: 20 (13 Big 12, 7 Pac 10)
Versus: 18 (8 MWC, 5 Big 12, 5 Pac 10)
CBS: 15 (14 SEC, 1 Army vs Navy)
NBC: 8 (Notre Dame)
ESPN Classic: 2-3 (Option to pick up Big 10 and SEC if necessary)

Saturday Night Slots (10:30pm Eastern)—About 13 Available
ESPN: 3 (Pac 10)
FSN: 5 (Pac 10)

Other nights (ESPN/2)—About 13 Available
Fri: 15 (6 Big East, 6 WAC, 1 CUSA, 1 MAC, 1 Army)
Thur: 13 (4 Big East, 4 ACC, 2 SEC, 1 Pac 10, 1 CUSA, 1 WAC)
[Versus and CBS CS also show 2-3 Thur games each season]
Wed: 5 (2 CUSA, 2 MAC, 1 WAC)
Tue: 6 (3 MAC, 2 Sun Belt, 1 CUSA)
Monday: none, except on Labor Day
Sun: 6 (3 CUSA, 2 Big East, 1 WAC)

There are a couple of key insights from this:
• ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPNU and ABC are all contractually full, with essentially no more room to add games

• CBS College Sports has contracts to fill its slate, but has opted thus far, not to take all of the games available to it, leaving potentially room to add additional games

• FSN and Versus both are only at about half capacity as far as showing college football games—they obviously must have other content that they are airing, but potentially have room to add additional football games

• CBS and NBC could both add an additional TV slot if they wanted to either at 12 noon or prime time 7pm, since both the SEC games and the Notre Dame games are at 3:30pm. It would not be feasible for the Pac 10 to play in the noon slot, but could potentially fill the evening slot.

• The night/late slots are nearly unanimously available, except where the Pac 10 already fills them, which is likely part of what that conference would like to get away from.

• ESPN only shows one game per night on Thursday and Friday (even with multiple channels available)

• The Pac 10 and Big East have decent deals with ABC, but are clearly the have-nots in the other ESPN programming

Expiring Contracts
Another option is to try to take some of the market share that another conference currently holds. But, given when contracts expire, that is really only possible for slots held by Conference USA and/or the ACC, since those are the only contracts that will come up before the Pac 10 deal does at the end of the 2010-11 season. Here is the rundown:

TV Contract Expiration (last season)
CUSA    2010 (football)
ACC      2010-11 (basketball)
Pac 10    2010-11 (basketball)
Big East  2012-13 (basketball)
ND        2015 (football)
Big Ten  2015-16 (basketball)
Big 12    2015-16 (basketball)
MWC    2016-17 (basketball)
WAC    2016-17 (basketball)
SEC      2023-24 (basketball)

Conclusion: Available Options
In order for the Pac 10 to get better distribution and/or money, there are really only a couple of options:

1. Pick up empty slots with Versus and FSN (where they already are anyway)—Possible but not very lucrative

2. Try to get CBS or NBC to add another window for college football—Difficult but lucrative

3. Convince ESPN to add another channel or start showing more games on ESPN Classic

4. Steal slots from the ACC (12 ESPN 2, 13 ESPNU) or Conference USA (2 ESPN 2, 14 CBS CS)—Possible but not without a fight from the ACC

5. Play on weeknights (either get ESPN to add another game on Thursday or Friday, or fill in on the other days)—Unlikely

6. Start (or partner with another conference) on their own TV station—Challenging but big upside

7. Try to convince FSN and ABC to pay significantly more for the same product--Unlikely

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Numbers Behind Pac-10 Expansion: What It Means to the MWC, Big 12, WAC and CUSA

With the PAC 10’s confirmation earlier this week that it is exploring expansion possibilities, conference expansion rumors have been buzzing. Nearly every scenario eventually drags the Mountain West into it, either directly or indirectly, so it makes sense to take a closer look at what will drive the PAC-10 and whether expansion would involve members of the MWC.

As discussed previously (see conference revenue, and specifically TV revenue, is the primary driver. With the SEC and Big Ten throwing down the gauntlet, other conferences are forced to scramble to keep up or risk getting left looking from the outside in.

The PAC-10 is likely dealing with a number of motivations right now—primarily a new (and more lucrative) television contract, but also increased relevancy on the national stage, an increased ability to gain a second BCS bid, and access to additional rich recruiting fields.

Increased relevancy and opportunity at a second BCS bid would both be helped by going to 12 schools. In two divisions, the schools would no longer have to play all 9 other schools, thus eliminating a number of guaranteed losses and improving the odds that more than one school is highly ranked. When all schools play each other, the conference guarantees at least six losses in conference to its top four teams, while the SEC and Big 12 routinely have two highly ranked, and even undefeated teams at the end of the season squaring off against each other. Easy to do when the teams in the conference don’t all play each other, and even better when the media gives a pass on the issue.

So, even without considering TV revenue, the conference would have to at least look at what it would take (and what it would cost) to get to 12, which is the minimum required in order to host a conference championship game.

But there is the revenue issue. It is unlikely that the conference will expand unless it at least maintains the current levels of revenue for each school. So that means that any new additions will have to add at least the current average revenue per team to the conference coffers. So here is a look at how much additional revenue a new conference member would have to generate:

Relevant Annual Conference Revenue
Current TV Contract                               $53.2M
BCS Payouts (3 yr ave)                           $18.2M
Other Bowl Games (excess of $750K)       $5.1M
NCAA Basketball Credits Payout              $13.4M
FB Conference Championship Game             $0M
Total                                                     $89.9M
Average per Team                                   $9.0M

Each new team added to the conference would have to at least contribute $9.0M to the conference coffers. There will be no expansion unless it gets the conference to 12 teams, so at a minimum there needs to be $18M of new revenue collectively created by the new teams. Here’s where it might come from:

Potential for Increased Revenue after Expansion
Improved footprint of TV contract                ?
1. Better shot at second BCS bid             $1.5M
2. Additional non-BCS bowl revenue        $0.5M
3. Additional NCAA bball bids                 $0.6M
4. Create a FB Championship game        $8-10M
Total                                           $10.3-12.3M
Remaining Gap ($18M min)            $5.7-7.7M

1. Should the conference get a second BCS bid once every three years, they would net an additional $4.5M for an average of $1.5M per year

2. If the conference were able to add one additional bowl game with a payout of at least $1.25M, after assumed expenses of $750K, the conference would have an additional $500K to split each year

3. The Pac-10 currently has 65 credits accumulated over the rolling 6 year period. In order to maintain status quo the conference would have to earn an additional 2 credits per year (one for each game appearance in the tourney). This is unlikely, however, if the conference were able to get one additional credit every other year (more than they already would anyway), they would accumulate three additional credits over the six year span meaning that pay out at roughly $200K each, for $600K total.

4. A football championship game would generate revenue from ticket sales and TV rights. The SEC game earns that league roughly $12-14M per year. The Big 12 is just below that. The ACC hasn’t done as well.   But, with USC playing in most years, a Pac-10 championship game would likely come in just below the current Big 12 and make $8-10M (70K seats at $50 each = $3.5M + $4.5-6.5M for TV rights and sponsorships).

So the million dollar question...
Are there two teams out there that could collectively add roughly $6-8M to the soon to be negotiated Pac-10 TV contract? The new TV deal will almost certainly be more than the current deal regardless of expansion, so any new teams need to be incremental to the already expected increases (which would increase the amount needed to break even, so we will compare with the current deal).

To consider this, we will assume that TV contract values are based on the number of households, and that all households are created equal (although viewer intensity is obviously higher in some markets).

Current Pac-10 Market Households
2. Los Angeles    5.6M 4.9%
6. Bay Area         2.5M 2.2%
12. Phoenix         1.9M 1.6%
13. Seattle           1.8M 1.6%
22. Portland        1.2M 1.0%
66. Tuscon           0.5M 0.4%
119. Eugene         0.2M 0.2%
Total                13.8M 12.0%

So with 13.8M households, and 12.0% of the US, the Pac-10 has a current contract of $53M per year. So for two teams to add an additional $6-8M to that total, together they would need to add roughly 10-15% more households to the footprint (about 1.5-2M), or 750K-1.0M each, just to break even. In order to increase the payout to the conference, it would have to be more.

These are the schools in markets west of the Mississippi that could meet that requirement:

School (Market Rank, City, Households)
Texas (5. Dallas, 2.5M; 37. San Antonio, 0.8M; 48. Austin, 0.7M)
Oklahoma (5. Dallas, 2.5M (some portion); 45. Oklahoma City, 0.7M)
Texas A&M (portions of Dallas and Houston)
TCU (5. Dallas, 2.5M)
SMU (5. Dallas, 2.5M)
Houston (10. Houston, 2.1M)
Missouri (21. St Louis, 1.2M; 32. Kansas City 0.9)
Colorado (16. Denver, 1.5M)
San Diego State (28. San Diego, 1.1M)
BYU (31. Salt Lake, 0.9M; US West/LDS, 1.0M)
Utah (31. Salt Lake, 0.9M)

Las Vegas (42, 720K), Albuquerque (44, 694K), Fresno (55, 579K), Honolulu (71, 433K), Omaha/Lincoln (76, 410K), Waco (89, 340K), Colorado Springs (92, 335K), El Paso (98, 311), Reno (108, 270K), Boise (112, 263K), Topeka (136, 180K), and Lubbock (143, 158K) are all markets too small to increase the value of the TV contract sufficiently.

The San Diego market is likely already covered by the inclusion of USC and UCLA. TCU and SMU are small private schools that have become victims of markets with too much noise for the size of their alumni base, and are not the primary driver of sports in those markets. Houston, although a large school with 37K students, suffers to a lesser degree from the same plight as the Metroplex schools—too much noise from pro sports and living in the shadow of Texas/Texas A&M. Missouri is focused on the Big Ten right now, and seems an unlikely candidate.

From this perspective BYU and Utah could not both be added, since together they do not bring any additional households. It would be one or the other or neither.

The only remaining options are Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Colorado, and BYU or Utah. The Dallas market is sufficiently large, that despite the overlap, any combination of the above would also work, except for BYU and Utah. Any discussion mentioning other schools is unrealistic, purely from a TV perspective before even getting to any other factors.

Would any of the Big 12 teams leave? Perhaps, if the money was right. The Big 12 includes a rather limited footprint, and a number of very small markets (see above). Outside of Texas, Missouri, and Denver, there isn’t much, and without the state of Texas in particular, the conference would fall apart financially. With that in mind, the upside of the Big 12, unless membership changes are made, is very limited. But still, for a team to leave behind its rivalries and tradition, it would have to make significantly more revenue than it does now—for our purposes, we will say 35% more. Colorado has fewer rivalries and traditions in the Big 12 than the Texas schools, and thus likely has a lower bar, maybe 25%. Here is an estimate of what these schools will receive this year from Big 12 revenue sources (using last year’s allocation % against this year’s projected $136.2M):

Current Big 12 Revenue (Departure Hurdle Value)
Texas            $13.6M (would need $18.4M)
Oklahoma     $13.0M (would need $17.6M)
Texas A&M  $11.0M (would need 14.9M)
Colorado      $10.7M (would need $13.4M)

The Pac-10 currently only brings in $90M or about $9.0M per team. Non-TV expansion benefits would add about $12M or $1.0M per team. A new TV contract without the additional schools could possibly bump up another $2M or so per school before the expansion consideration (assume $75M per year for 10 teams). That would put total revenue at $122, or $10M for each school before considering TV market increases. Enough for BYU or Utah. Not yet tempting for Colorado, and with a ways to go for the Texas schools. So it all comes down to the potential to increase TV value.

Increased TV Value
Texas adds about 4.0M households (29% increase of $21.8M)
Oklahoma adds 3.2M (23% increase of $17.4M alone, or 5% for $3.8M with Texas)
Texas A&M maybe 2.5M (18% increase of $13.6M, alone and 3% or $2.2M with Texas)
Colorado 1.5M (11% increase of $8.2M)
BYU would add 1.9M (14% for $10.4M)
Utah would add 0.9M (7% or $4.9M alone, $0 with BYU)

So which combinations work?

Utah and Colorado: 2.4M new HH (18%), $13.1M new TV dollars, $135M total and $11.3M/team
-This works for Utah, but Colorado would be unlikely (unless there were intangible reasons).

BYU and Colorado: 3.4M new HH (25%), $18.6M new TV dollars, $140.6M total and $11.7M/team
-Again, this works for BYU, but would be unlikely for Colorado.

Colorado and Texas: 5.5M new HH (40%), $30M new TV dollars, $152M total and $12.7M/team
-Likely works for Colorado (as Big 12 w/o Texas is much less), won’t work for Texas

Texas and Oklahoma: 4.7M new HH (34%), $25.6M new TV dollars, $147.6M total and $12.3M/team
-Would be unlikely to work for Texas or Oklahoma (unless there was a massive uneven revenue split)

Colorado and Texas A&M: 4.0M new HH (29%), $21.8M new TV dollars, $143.8M total and $12.0M/tm
-Could work for both Colorado and Texas A&M (more than they get now) but unlikely to be worth the effort unless there was unequal sharing in their favor or significant intangible reasons to do it, since it does not meet the hurdle.

BYU and Texas A&M: 4.4M new HH (32%), $24M new TV dollars, $146M total and $12.2M/team
-Works for BYU, is more than TAMU gets now, but as in the scenario above, unless A&M is unhappy in the current situation, this will likely not meet the hurdle rate for them.

BYU and Utah: 1.9M new HH (14%), $10.4M new TV dollars, $132.4M total and $11.0M/team
-Both BYU and Utah would do this. And, which surprisingly, at the end of the day, might be what it comes down to… which teams would be both qualified and willing. It would not be much of a revenue bump for the conference, but it would be revenue neutral and achieve the relevance and BCS goals.

• BYU, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Colorado are the only options for Pac-10 expansion that will maintain revenue neutrality or better

• Without making some kind of revenue concessions to the Texas schools, it is unlikely that any of them would come, but given the Texas recruiting grounds, the Pac-10 just might do it.

• Colorado is borderline, but is unlikely to move unless they are currently unhappy or the future alternative in the Big 12 (no Texas) was diminished

• BYU and Utah together (or BYU and a smaller market UNLV or TCU) would work and still maintain revenue neutrality.

• Utah combined with anyone above but BYU (and perhaps UNLV or TCU, not listed) does not increase the pie enough to entice the other partner to join them in the Pac-10

• Unless the Big 12 looks like it is going to fall apart, or the Pac 10 is able to get significantly more than $75M/year for its current lineup (it would have to be at least $100M/year for just the current 10 schools), then it is unlikely that any schools from the Big 12 would leave for the Pac 10

• No WAC teams are in large enough markets to be invited unless BYU is invited (which would be enough by itself and would need another school to get to 12)

• No Conference USA team is likely to be invited as Houston and SMU are the only "western" schools in large enough markets, but are not the primary draws in those markets.  If invited, they would have to be paired with either BYU or Utah, since they do not increase the TV value sufficienlty to get any Big 12 team to join them.