Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

fairleyALDLAND’s weekly football roundup is back, taking a look at all the highs and lows of the latest round of football action.

College Football

Pregame:

  • In anticipation of the LSU-UGA game, a secret-recipe cheesy bean dip was made. So much was made, in fact, that it lasted much longer than the game, although not quite as long as Georgia coach Mark Richt spent kissing his wife following a win over Kentucky.

The games:

  • LSU-Georgia was a thriller. Georgia continues to lose important players to injury, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down. This week, star running back Todd Gurley sprained his ankle in the second quarter, but backup Keith Marshall filled in and had a career day. In the end, the Dwags outgunned the Tigers 44-41 and are in the driver’s seat on the road to the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
  • I also thought Ole Miss-Alabama would be a good game, but it was not. The Rebels limited Alabama’s scoring early, but they were unable to do any scoring of their own, which is an easy-bake recipe for a loss. Ole Miss 0, Alabama 25.     Continue reading
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Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tail3ALDLAND’s weekly football review returns after an infamous fall wedding weekend. Bear with us as we attempt to piece together the happenings of the last few days.

College Football

Pregame:

  • After the Game of the Century of the Season of the Week last week in College Station, everybody predicted a scheduling letdown this week. Sports predictions have become (always were?) completely useless and devoid of meaning, but once in a while, the wisdom of the crowd gets it right. Throwing out expired food? No, actually. A soft slate of week-four matchups? For the most part, yes.

The games — That 70s Show:

  • Clemson opened the week of play by getting punchy on Thursday night in a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over North Carolina State. So far as I can tell, the Tigers have played only fellow Carolinians to this point in the season. A check of their schedule confirms this, and the trend will continue this weekend. (EDIT: Except for that little game against UGA in week one.) Clemson 26, North Carolina State 14.
  • A number of teams posted gaudy scores and spreads. Since they already had their fun, they’re all getting grouped in this one paragraph. Ohio State 76, FAMU 0. Louisville 72, FIU 0. Miami 77, Savannah State 7. Washington 56, Idaho State 0. Baylor 70, Louisiana-Monroe 7 (that one’s actually a little surprising). Florida State 54, Bethune-Cook 6. Wisconsin 41, Purdue 10. UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13. Texas A&M 42, SMU 13. And others.

Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tailALDLAND’s weekly football roundup is back following week three of college football and week two of the NFL.

College Football

Pregame:

  • I caught snippets of ESPN College Gameday and Fox Sports 1’s college football pregame shows. Gameday remains the leader of the pack, but I’d like more time to see how FS1’s show develops. In the meantime, I’ll join FS1’s Joel Klatt in sending good wishes to the folks in Colorado dealing with major flooding right now.

The games — excitement building:

  • With a couple East Carolina fans in town, we watched the Pirates hang with Virginia Tech for about three quarters. The Hokies did all they could, including badly missing a bunch of close kicks, to hand ECU the game. Frank Beamer looked like he wanted to puke, but his team managed to hold it together in the end. Virginia Tech 15, East Carolina 10.
  • We were flipping between that game and UCLA-Nebraska. When I first checked in on this one, Nebraska had a 21-3 lead, and it looked like the best early game of the day would not materialize into a competitive affair. That turned out to be sort of true, but not in the way I expected. UCLA scored thirty-eight unanswered points to beat the now-mythological blackshirt defense in Lincoln 41-21.
  • The game of the day belonged to Alabama and Texas A&M, and it lived up to the hype. Johnny Manziel and the Aggies started very hot, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and choking the Tide’s early drives. A&M scored touchdowns on its first two drives, which averaged 71.5 yards and 2:06 off the clock. Alabama responded, though, methodically amassing thirty-five temporarily unanswered points and carried a 42-21 lead into the fourth quarter. The Aggie defense had yielded to The System, but Manziel wasn’t through, although twenty-one fourth-quarter points wouldn’t be enough to top Alabama. The Crimson Tide remain undefeated, winning 49-42, but Manziel unequivocally proved that he is must-see football every time he plays, and his cohort, receiver Mike Evans, deserves some credit too.     Continue reading

Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tailSince “Monday Morning Quarterback” and “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” are taken and uninspired, and because I’m preempting my own exhaustion of “Monday“-themed alliterations, ALDLAND’s regular football/weekend roundup will move to Tuesday afternoons, which also permits incorporation of the Monday night NFL game. With week two of college football and week one of the NFL in the books, here goes:

College Football

Pregame:

  • Brendan and Physguy were in Ann Arbor for ESPN College Gameday, and the only evidence is a couple cryptic tweets from Brendan.

The games — No surprises:

  • I was able to find Michigan State’s game against South Florida on television in the Southeast, which may be thanks to USF’s participation in the game, but which also felt like finding a unicorn in the wild. MSU’s defense continues to outscore their offense, and that’s with three quarterbacks! Even Sparta only ever had two kings at once. Michigan State 21, South Florida 6.
  • I also found Vanderbilt-Austin Peay on TV, which is a reminder that it’s week two for the broadcasters as well. VU had no problem with its Middle Tennessee neighbors, winning 38-3.

America Has a Stadium Problem (via Pacific Standard)

Over the past 20 years, 101 new sports facilities have opened in the United States—a 90-percent replacement rate—and almost all of them have received direct public funding. The typical justification for a large public investment to build a stadium for an already-wealthy sports owner has to do with creating jobs or growing the local economy, which sound good to the median voter. “If I had to sum up the typical [public] perspective,” Neil deMause . . . told me via email, “I’d guess it’d be something along the lines of ‘I don’t want my tax money going to rich fat cats, but anything that creates jobs is good, and man that Jeffrey Loria sure is a jerk, huh?’” This confused mindset has resulted in public coffers getting raided. The question is whether taxpayers have gotten anything in return.

Economists have long known stadiums to be poor public investments. Most of the jobs created by stadium-building projects are either temporary, low-paying, or out-of-state contracting jobs—none of which contribute greatly to the local economy. (Athletes can easily circumvent most taxes in the state in which they play.) Most fans do not spend additional money as a result of a new stadium; they re-direct money they would have spent elsewhere on movies, dining, bowling, tarot-card reading, or other businesses. And for every out-of-state fan who comes into the city on game day and buys a bucket of Bud Light Platinum, another non-fan decides not to visit and purchases his latte at the coffee shop next door. All in all, building a stadium is a poor use of a few hundred million dollars.

This isn’t news, by any stretch, but it turns out we’re spending even more money on stadiums than we originally thought. In her new book Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities, Judith Grant Long, associate professor of Urban Planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, shatters previous conceptions of just how much money the public has poured into these deals. By the late ’90s, the first wave of damning economic studies . . . came to light, but well afterwards, from 2001 to 2010, 50 new sports facilities were opened, receiving $130 million more, on average, than those opened in the preceding decade. (All figures from Long’s book adjusted for 2010 dollars.) In the 1990s, the average public cost for a new facility was estimated at $142 million, but by the end of the 2000s, that figure jumped to $241 million: an increase of 70 percent.

Economists have also been, according to Long, drastically underestimating the true cost of these projects. They fail to consider public subsidies for land and infrastructure, the ongoing costs of operations, capital improvements (weneedanewscoreboard!), municipal services (all those traffic cops), and foregone property taxes (almost every major-league franchise located in the U.S. does not pay property taxes “due to a legal loophole with questionable rationale” as the normally value-neutral Long put it). Due to these oversights, Long calculates that economists have been underestimating public subsidies for sports facilities by 25 percent, raising the figure to $259 million per facility in operation during the 2010 season. … Read More

(via Pacific Standard)

Wildcard Monday

The wildcard round of the NFL playoffs is complete. The Lions, in their first playoff game since 1999, fell to the apparently unstoppable Saints in New Orleans Saturday night. Detroit was in command of the game throughout the first half, but by the fourth quarter, the home team had decidedly overwhelmed them. An errant whistle cost Detroit a touchdown, but there were too many missed opportunities on offense and too much softness against the run on defense for the visitors to finish the upset. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson had good games, but it wasn’t enough. Still, the Lions have to feel ok about a 10-win season that included a competitive playoff game after going 0-16 three years ago. Keep reading…

The steel-silver lining in Rashard Mendenhall’s season-ending injury

In Tuesday morning’s weekly update, I wrote that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall’s season-ending ACL tear was “a literally crippling blow to Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl chances.” Observant Grantland writer Bill Barnwell offered a contrary view:

Will [Mendenhall’s absence] really affect the Steelers heading into the playoffs, though? It’s debatable. Mendenhall certainly has the biggest name of any Steelers running back, but his production is positively ordinary. He’s only averaged 4.1 yards per carry on his 228 rushing attempts this year. Meanwhile, primary backup Isaac Redman has averaged 4.4 yards a pop on 110 attempts, while third-stringers Mewelde Moore and Jonathan Dwyer have combined for 280 yards on just 38 carries, for a rushing average in excess of seven yards.

It’s not totally uncommon for a backup to produce a rushing average superior to the starter, but that usually happens because the starter is accruing a large quantity of touches, including many in less-than-ideal situations for gaining consistent yardage. It’s hard to fathom that Mendenhall is such a back, since he’s only carried the ball about 15 times a game and had just one game this season with more than 19 carries. The DVOA statistic, which adjusts for quality of opposition and game situation, says that Redman and Mendenhall are virtually identical; Mendenhall’s DVOA is at 3.8 percent, while Redman’s is at 3.5 percent.

It would be one thing if Mendenhall had a history of success, but he now has 813 NFL attempts and a rushing average at those same 4.1 yards per carry. His case for being a star basically amounts to his status as a first-rounder and two big games in 2009 against the Chargers and Broncos, in which he combined for 320 yards against two below-average run defenses. He’s never developed into a reliable receiver, catching just 68 passes in four seasons. We hoped and expected that he would take a step forward this season after a somewhat disappointing 2010, but if anything, he had taken a step backward before the torn ACL.

If the Steelers can get Moore back from a sprained MCL to serve in his customary role as the third-down back, chances are that they won’t miss Mendenhall whatsoever.

My only rejoinders are a) Barnwell’s analysis fails to consider a durability notion (the effect on Mendenhall’s replacements of having to shoulder a heavier load), and b) the combination of Mendenhall’s absence and Ben Roethlisberger’s limitations due to his own injuries, which I mentioned on Tuesday. Still, given Barnwell’s recently proven successful playing of the NFL numbers this season, I’m inclined to yield to him on this sort of thing.

Tuesday morning special

We normally do this on Mondays, but with the breakdown of this fall’s orderly football schedule, together with adverse outcomes in the two games I attended over the weekend and the opportunity to post the song below, I figured it was ok to wait until Tuesday this time.

On Friday, the Red Wings lost by a goal on the road to Chicago, and on Saturday, Vanderbilt lost by a touchdown to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl. Recaps of both of those games will come later.

There wasn’t much of special note in the NFL’s final week of regular season play on Sunday, except that Steelers’ RB Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL and is done for the season, a literally crippling blow to Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl chances, especially considering Ben Roethlisberger’s lingering leg injury.

The traditional New Year’s Day bowls were played on January 2 this year, and Michigan State came back to win a triple-overtime game against Georgia in the Outback Bowl, much to the chagrin of commodawg and bpbrady. By the second half, it appeared that nobody wanted to win the game. The officials insisted that there had to be a winner, though, and two missed field goals by Georgia, including one the Spartans blocked in the third overtime, sealed the game.

The BCS games played yesterday were exciting as well. Oregon topped Wisconsin for the Ducks’ first Rose Bowl victory in over ninety years, and Oklahoma State beat Stanford in overtime for all the Tostitos in the Fiesta Bowl.

Tonight, the once-proud Sugar Bowl stakes its claim to irrelevancy when Michigan takes on Virginia Tech. Our bpbrady is there. Watch for him on tv, assuming he makes it into the stadium after a week in the French Quarter.

Not Every Team Needs Cheerleaders (via WSJ)

If the Dallas Cowboys don’t win the Super Bowl this year, owner Jerry Jones should turn his ire to the sidelines. No, not head coach Jason Garrett—the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

Based on recent history, having cheerleaders on the sidelines may be the ultimate championship killer. There are six teams in the NFL that don’t have cheerleaders: the Bears, Browns, Giants, Lions, Packers and Steelers. Those franchises have won four of the last six Super Bowls and have made up half of the Super Bowl participants during that span.

Last year, Green Bay beat Pittsburgh in the first-ever Super Bowl that did not include cheerleaders from either squad. The Steelers won Super Bowls XLIII (2009) and XL (2006), while the Giants stunned the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (2008). The Bears played in Super Bowl XLI (2007), but not having cheerleaders wasn’t enough to overcome the Indianapolis Colts.

This season is no exception. The Packers and Steelers are once again among the best teams in their respective conferences, while the Lions have clinched a wild-card spot and the Giants remain in playoff contention. (The Browns are in last place, but some teams are simply beyond help.)

Of course, at least one of the six teams that doesn’t have cheerleaders may be wishing it still did. The Bears disbanded their cheerleading squad, the Honey Bears, right after the 1985 season—the last time they won the Super Bowl.

(via WSJ)