H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sports Law Blog

I'll be doing most of my blogging at Sports Law Blog this week. Send me a note if you have any ideas for topics.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Deja Vu

You'd think I'd learn. I've spent the last 30 months or so in cyclical love-hate affair with Vince Young. I continually doubt him, specifically his ability to make smart decisions as a QB, and he continues to win football games with an efficiency and a flair unlike any other player I've ever seen. Finally, after the Ohio State win in September, I promised myself that I was 100% converted - that VY was the college football equivalent of Michael Jordan - that I would never doubt him again until he proved that doubt was rightfully deserved. And yet, I picked against him against last night, showing no respect to VY and too much respect to the almighty Trojans.

I will not go into great detail about my thoughts on last night's game because I will not be able to shed any great light that any fan who watched the game would not already have observed. I will simply say that Vince Young is the most amazing college football player that I have ever seen.

A couple of other thoughts:

- In his postgame interview, Reggie Bush personnified class, sounding disappointed yet gracious in defeat. And according to Vince, Bush made a quick personal appearance in the UT locker room after the game to congratulate the Horns. Matt Leinart and Pete Carroll could stand to take a lesson in professionalism and class from #5, sounding like the spoiled brats (that many Longhorn fans believed them to be prior to the Rose Bowl) in their postgame interviews, refusing to grant the Horns the respect that they unquestionably earned on the field. For Leinart to say in the immediate aftermath of the game that he believed USC to still be the better team, to me, was immature and disrespectful. Maybe that's what winning 34 games in a row does to you, though. Look what it did to ESPN.

- From the perspective of a guy who thinks that the Texans should not pick Reggie Bush with the #1 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, last night was a sensational turn of events. I imagine that there is little likelihood of this because of McNair's apparent undying commitment to David Carr, but I have to think that the majority of the country will shake their heads if the Texans keep the #1 pick and do not take the guy who is (a) the best player on the board, (b) an opposing defensive coordinator's biggest nightmare and (c) both a statewide and hometown hero. Hopefully, if the Texans decide to keep Carr and pass on Young, last night's performance will motivate a couple of teams to do whatever it takes to get to the top of the draft board to take VY, allowing the Texans to reap a rich return for their top pick. Personally, I believe that while David Carr is not the sole root of the problem in Texans-land, he is not likely going to be a large factor in the solution (assuming one is found), such that now would be an absolutely perfect time for the Texans to change directions and take The Chosen One to lead his hometown franchise into the future. There is no question in my mind that I would rather have a dynamic, driven competitor whose leadership skills have become legendary than a laidback guy like Carr whose teammates, when questioned directly, do not call him the leader of their offensive unit.

- I do not understand how anyone can question Pete Carroll's decision to go for the 1st down on 4th and 2 from the UT 45 late in the fourth quarter. The Trojans ran the ball between the tackles at will for nearly the entire second half, and they knew that whether the Horns' offense had to go 55 or 85 yards, their chances of keeping them out of the end zone were not too good. The only sure way to seal up the victory was to simply gain two yards, which they were not able to do, but none of the blame for that should necessarily go on Carroll for his decision not to punt. I do believe, however, that for being such a dynamic talent and multi-faceted threat, Reggie Bush sure spent a lot of time standing idly on the sideline. Even if you are not going to give Reggie the ball on the 4th-and-2 play, which is understandable considering LenDale White's performance, it seems that your best player should be on the field, if only to give the defense something to worry about as a decoy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Passing Up Paradise

Doug Ferguson has an interesting column up on Golfserv about the Mercedes Championships, which kicks off the 2006 PGA Tour season Thursday in Kapalua. Much has been made in the days and weeks leading up to the Mercedes Championships about the voluntary absences of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen (especially Tiger and Phil, of course). The Mercedes is a winners-only event that annually fires up the PGA Tour season, and Ferguson describes the perks that accompany a weekend in Maui and the red-carpet treatment that the golfers receive, which by even PGA Tour star standards is top notch. Despite the pampering and any obligation or duty to the Tour, the two biggest stars on Tour are sitting out this week, much to the chagrin of everyone with any stake in the Championships, and especially Mercedes, who is still considering whether or not to extend is sponsorship of the season-opening event.

Until now, I have been on the players' side. I felt that there is no obligation to the Tour, that they are essentially free agents who owe nothing too substantial to anyone but themselves and their families and that if they feel like they want to skip a tournament, it is no one's business but their own. Ferguson's take on this situation, however, has begun to sway my opinion. Maybe there is an obligation that these stars show up for their fellow competitors, their fans and their Tour, especially in a special, elite event such as this one. I'm still not shaking a scolding finger at Tiger and Lefty, but I'm starting to think that maybe I should.

UPDATE: Bob Harig elaborates further on a point that Ferguson mentions, which is the historically poor condition of the greens at Kapalua. There's also an interesting anecdote about how Good Samaritan Billy Andrade "helped out" by agreeing to participate in the pro-am at the Mercedes so that an additional number of donors would pay and play ahead of the pros.

Rose Bowl Prediction

Time constraints have unfortunately prevented me from doing an in-depth preview of tonight's Rose Bowl, but suffice to say that I am more excited for this game than any sporting event since Pitino Returns Part I.

The keys to the game will be Texas's front 4's ability to rush Leinart and USC's ability to confuse Vince Young with their coverages (in other words, the team that gets better QB play will win). I am confident enough that UT will be able to slow down USC's run game, but I believe that Gene Chizik is going to have to put in a very aggressive defensive scheme in order for the Longhorns to be victorious. Leinart cannot be allowed time to pick apart Texas' talented secondary because he simply has too many weapons in Bush, Jarrett, Smith and Byrd that can cause trouble down the field. Likewise, I expect USC to play a variety of changing coverages and try and keep Vince contained in the pocket. I believe Texas will be dominant on special teams and in the run game, and if they can put Leinart on the ground early and often, they can win the game.

My prediction is that USC's coverages will result in a couple of key interceptions by VY, and the Longhorns will come up short, USC 37, Texas 27, but I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Big XII v. SEC

I am refraining from joining the overall SEC/Big XII debate because I am an SEC homer and personally believe that the overall gameday experience and tradition of the SEC is unmatched by any other conference, including the Big XII. That is purely my own personal preference and strangely, I am not inclined to call all non-SEC lovers "idiots" or "morons".

But as far as which conference was better in 2005, straight-up records v. in-conference teams is not the ideal way to compare the two conferences because if you presume that the SEC/Big XII were overrated, then you are also presuming that their teams's national rankings are inflated. Therefore, let's look at:

Games v. Ranked and/or Bowl Teams out-of-conference

SEC: 12-9

Georgia - (2-1)Boise State (W), Georgia Tech (W), West Virginia (L)
Florida: (2-0) Florida State (W), Iowa (W)
South Carolina: (1-2) UCF (W), Clemson (L), Missouri (L)
Vanderbilt: N/A
Tennessee: (2-1) UAB (W), Notre Dame (L), Memphis (W)
Kentucky: (0-1) Lousiville (L)
LSU: (2-0) Arizona State (W), Miami (W)
Auburn: (0-2) Georgia Tech (L), Wisconsin (L)
Alabama: (2-0) Southern Miss (W), Texas Tech (W)
Arkansas: (0-1) USC (L)
Mississippi: (1-0) Memphis (W)
Mississippi State: (0-1) Houston (L)

Big XII: 10-8

Colorado: (1-2) Colorado State (W), Miami (L), Clemson (L)
Iowa State: (1-1) Iowa (W), TCU (L)
Nebraska: (1-0) Michigan (W)
Missouri: (2-1) Arkansas St. (W), New Mexico (L), South Carolina (W)
Kansas: (1-0) Houston (W)
Kansas State: N/A
Texas: (1-0) Ohio State (W) w/ game v. USC pending
Texas Tech: (0-1) Alabama (L)
Oklahoma: (2-2) TCU (L), Tulsa (W), UCLA (L), Oregon (W)
Texas A&M: (0-1) Clemson (L)
Baylor: (0-0) N/A
Oklahoma State: (1-0) Arkansas State (W)

The numbers are quite close. The "big-name" games, additionally, were similar as well. The SEC boasts wins over Florida State, Iowa, Miami and Texas Tech, while the Big XII boasts wins over Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Oregon. Head-to-head, the conferences split their two games (South Carolina-Missouri and Texas Tech-Alabama). I will note that getting credit for two "bowl" wins against Arkansas State is a bit of a stretch for the Big XII's record. Overall, I think this proves to rationally minded people that there is a reasonable argument in support of each conference with regard to which was better in 2005. I'll call it a dead heat, with the tiebreaker going to the Big XII should Texas beat USC on Wednesday night.

Desperate Times

I could not agree more with Tom Kirkendall's post at Houston's Clear Thinkers regarding the Astros' pursuit of "run-producing outfielder" Preston Wilson. Several years ago, Wilson was a multi-tooled talent in the OF. He no longer possesses the speed that he once did, he is frequently injured and his offensive numbers could likely be replicated by Burke or Lane for much less money.

Replacing Capers

Opinions are aplenty with regard to who should replace Dom Capers as the Texans head coach in 2006. Much debate has circulated about whether or not David Carr & Co. need "an offensive mind" to enable them to flourish as a unit. Those who do prefer "an offensive mind" suggest successful offensive coordinators like Scott Linehan of Miami or Gary Kubiak of Denver or even ex-Rams head coach Mike Martz.

Here is a list of the top 10 scoring offenses in the NFL in 2005:

1. Seattle
2. Indianapolis
3. New York Giants
4. Cincinnati
5. San Diego
6. Kansas City
7. Denver
8. Carolina
9. Pittsburgh
10. New England

Of those ten teams, seven of them are led by "defensive-minded" coaches (all but Seattle, Kansas City and Denver). I have been a vocal critic of the Texans' offensive scheme in 2005 and believe that a fresh offensive perspective is going to benefit the team. However, many of the best offenses in the NFL in 2005 prospered despite being led by a "defensive mind". I belive that the talent and execution of the personnel that comprise the Texans offense in 2006 will be more responsible for any improvement that the unit sees than the mindset of Dom Capers' replacement.