Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New teams added to the list

I will get to pick up two new teams to my NCAA basketball list beginning with tonight's game against Western Michigan. On Saturday, Wright State will come to Huntsville to take on the Bearkats.

This will put me up to 58 NCAA basketball teams I have seen play. I probably will not add to the list again this season (unless I got to Lafayette) since I will not be going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years unless the Bearkats are involved.

I have to give it to SHSU head coach Bob Marlin. Over the last few years, he has done a great job of brining in some good Mid-Major programs to Johnson Coliseum. Just in the last three years, I have gotten the chance to see Loyola-Marymount, Central Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Fresno State, Cal-Irvine, Texas Tech (not a mid-major but a great home game), Southern Miss and North Texas.

People around here always seem to get really excited when the Bearkats play host to Texas Tech or head on the road to Texas A&M and with good reason. I got excited to see Bob Knight patrol the sidelines here last season as well. I intentionally set up my seat on press row next to the Tech bench just so I could get a close look at a legend at work.

But the problem is, to a lot of people, our season ended last year with the home victory over Tech and it won't start this year until the Bearkats head over to College Station to take on the Aggies.

We are afforded a rare opportunity to watch some really good basketball not just in January and March when schools like SFA and Northwestern State come to Huntsville, but in November and December while the football diehards are waiting for the bowls to come around.

There was a time when a mid-major wouldn't come down to Huntsville. The non-conference slate was full on the Schreiner's and the Austin College's. While they are still on the slate, we do get treated with three or four good games a year as well. It is just a shame more people in the area don't realize what they have. Who knows how long we will continue to have this opportunity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

If a game is played but no one can watch it, did it really happen?

So the Mountain West wants everyone to take the league seriously. They say Utah should be a national championship contender. They say BYU is one of the top offenses in the country. TCU puts one of the best products out there each season.

All you have to do is give them a chance and watch a game and you will be convinced. Tonight is one of the biggest games of the season as Utah gets set to take on BYU. Great, I am ready to watch.

What channel is the game on?

How can a league expect anyone to take it seriously if the only network that is covering its biggest contest is The Mountain. That sounds more like a type of beer than it does a television network. I wouldn't even had known the network existed had the Bearkats not played a game on it last season. I remember a producer calling me telling me he was from The Mountain looking for video of our basketball. I guess he assumed I know what The Mountain was.

Utah is ranked No. 7 in the BCS and they can earn a bid to one of the four BCS games with a victory. There are people who are trying to argue a case for Utah to play in the national championship if things fall right.

I can't argue one way or another, because I haven't seen them play since they beat Michigan the first week of the season. That game is looking less impressive with every passing day. A few weeks ago TCU was playing Utah and it was being billed at the time as the biggest game in the Mountain West history.

I get home that night to watch it on TV and can't find it. I start flipping through all the usual stations and I find World Series of Poker on ESPN2, some Division II game on ESPNU and none of the family of Fox networks had the game.

I see the score running on the bottom line so I know the game is on. I decide to get online to look it up and see The Mountain is carrying it. How can you expect people to take you serious if no one can see you play.

Right now I can make a better case for Ball State to be in the national championship picture than I can Utah because the Cardinals are on ESPN damn near every week. I know what we are getting with them because the MAC made it a point to get its games on national TV and get some exposure to the league's teams and players.

While the teams in the MAC may not be as good as the top teams in the Mountain West, I have a better feel for what they are capable of because the opportunity is there every week to watch them play. I come to work, and people stick their head in my office and say "Hey did you see that game in the fog last night."

Because it was on ESPN there were people watching. I don't think anyone all season long has asked, "Did you catch that Wyoming game last night?"

If you want to be a serious player on the national football landscape then you have to start acting like one. If that means some Tuesday and Wednesday night game, so be it. The big boys all play on ESPN. It is about time you did to.

Someone call me and let me know who wins this one.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

That is how you finish off a game

It took a long time for this game to come. I'm not just talking about having to wait for the last game of the day or even having to wait through a bye week.

We have been waiting for this game since Tony Romo first broke his finger at the end of the Arizona game. Things were starting to look bad for Dallas and then losing Romo really hurt. From the time we heard how long he was going to be out, the Redskin game was the one the was circled on the schedule.

The job was just to survive the three games without him. They salvaged a game against Tampa Bay, putting themselves in position to make a run at the playoffs. That is what made this game so big. Not only were the Cowboys essentially playing for their playoff lives, but it was against the Redskins.

It is a little early to be throwing out the "must win" label on a game, but this game was a must win. A loss to the Redskins probably would have marked the end of Wade Phillips' tenure as the head coach of the 'Boys. It would have also marked the end of the of the postseason hopes for a team that had high aspirations heading into the season (seems to be a theme with my teams this season).

No one wanted to commit either way during the pregame shows about what they thought would happen in this game. There seemed to be a wait-and-see attitude toward this game. There is no doubt the Cowboys can be good. The question that had to be answered was will they be good.

At times they were good, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They also had some areas that still need some work. They most impressive thing about the game was the Cowboys ability to finish off the game.

With a little more than six minutes to play Dallas got the ball and never gave it back to Washington. There is something to be said for a team that can do that. Too often you see teams lose games because they can't finish. Marion Barber made sure that was not going to be the case for the Cowboys.

In a place that has been hard to play, Dallas came up with a big win when they had to. There is still a lot of season left, but the most important thing is, there is a lot of season left to play for.

They have to avoid the let down game next week against San Francisco and see if they can get this thing back on a roll. Get hot, get into the playoffs and see what happens. It was a formula the Giants used successfully last season.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Recruiting in Texas

I get asked this a lot and have heard it twice in the last two weeks. People want to know why Sam Houston can't recruit a top quarterback straight out of high school.

With the exception of Brett Hicks, all the top quarterbacks at Sam Houston since 1999 have been transfers. Chris Chaloupka (Oklahoma State), Josh McCown (SMU), Dustin Long (Texas A&M) and Rhett Bomar (Oklahoma) were all transfers and all had or have had in the case of Rhett, great careers.

What people don't understand is truly how difficult it is to recruit a quarterback in the state of Texas. You are not just competing against the other Texas schools, you are competing against the nation when it comes to quarterbacks.

I was listening to Rivals Radio this morning and they had a recruiting expert on the show. The topic of quarterbacks came up and he started talking about Texas. He said there are 20 to 25 quarterbacks in the state of Texas who are going to get FBS scholarships this year and that number is only going to go up in the years to follow.

Take a look at the landscape of college football right now and everyone is going to the spread. One of the reasons Texas has become such a hotbed for quarterback recruiting is because so many high schools have switched to this offense. Also, because 7-on-7 has become so big in Texas and kids are learning how to sit back and play pitch and catch.

If you look at college football, there are countless numbers of quarterbacks who are from Texas. In fact, I decided to take a look. I pulled the list of the top 120 quarterbacks in the nation in terms of passing yards and here is the list of guys from Texas:

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech, Ennis Tx
3. Case Keenum, Houston Abilene, TX
4. Chase Daniel, Missouri, Southlake Carroll
6. Chase Clement, Rice, Alamo Heights
9. Todd Reesing, Kansas, Austin Westlake
10. Colt McCoy, Texas,Tuscola, TX
13. Matthew Stafford, Georgia, Highland Park, TX
15. Chase Holbrook, New Mexico St, Hurst TX
16. Bo Levi Mitchell, SMU, Katy TX
19. Casey Dick, Arkansas, Allen TX
21. Giovanni Vizza, N Texas , San Antonio, TX
26. Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP, Bedford, TX
27. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M, Humble, TX
34. Brian Johnson, Utah, Baytown Lee TX
51. Jevan Snead, Ole Miss, Stephenville, Tx
56. Robert Griffin, Baylor Copperas Cove, Tx
61. Andy Dalton, TCU Katy, TX
67. Kevin Moore, Tulane Highland Village, Tx
74. Jarrett Lee, LSU, Brenham Tx
80. Christian Ponder, Florida St, Colleyville, Tx
86. Daniel Raudabaugh, Miami (OH), Coppel, Tx
112. Nick Stephens, Tennessee Flower Mound

That is 22 guys in the top 112 who played high school ball in Texas, nearly 20 percent. The list is very top heavy with Texas guys, with six of the top 10 and 14 of the top 34.

That is why schools from across the nation are coming into Texas to recruit, which makes it increasingly more difficult to pull some of the top talent in Texas to Sam Houston State. Fact of the matter is, kids in Texas will almost always be drawn to the allure of "big-time college football."

Even if it is UNLV, Miami Ohio, Utah or New Mexico State, 18-year-olds are going to be more inclined to take a look at an FBS school even if they may be a better fit at Sam Houston, where the offense is tailored for a quarterback to shine. Part of it is ignorance and part of it is arrogance. They can tell their classmates they got a scholarship to play "Division I" football.

While I don't think the answer is to stop recruiting the best talent you can get to play quarterback, you have to always have your eye open for a transfer. Too many people make that to sound like a negative, like that is all you can get. However, what needs to be done is go after that talent and then hope after a year or two has passed those kids will realize they have made a mistake and opt to come back to a school that had been recruiting them all along.