Iron Skillet Trip – TCU at SMU 2010

October 5, 2010

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In my ever growing list of college tourism sites, I recently made the trip into Dallas to catch a game at Gerald Ford Stadium on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

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Coming up from Tyler, I was really impressed by the area around SMU. The campus is nestled up between a very affluent neighborhood and a freeway. The neighborhood reminds me much or the Rice area of Houston. Big mansions dotted the side streets. Side streets full of free parking. A true treat if ever I’ve seen one.

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The weather was questionable riding in. A cold front was rolling in from the north carrying clouds and light rain. Luckily, that held off until after the game. Only the steady wind, keeping us cool in the stands

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SMU’s campus was really nice. The brick was all uniform, and the trees really filled in the holes between buildings nicely. Hell, even the church day-care center had field turf. We’re talking money.

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If there is one thing I was most impressed with at SMU, it was the organized tailgate area. The Boulevard is the center street through campus that is shut down and given to the tailgaters. The area was packed full of tents barbequing, drinking, doing the whole thing.

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When you’ve got full size tunnel helmets to your tailgate, you know you’re doing something right.

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As for the stadium, it wasn’t overly huge, but it had a nice look when walking up from campus.

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Inside, the stadium is obviously a horse shoe, which isn’t necessarily my favorite configuration, but for this team, it makes sense. The Mustangs are all about the horse shoe. You may also notice the grassy area on the other side of the stadium. That’s not called the grassy knoll as it supposedly once was. Something about being and Dallas and calling a place a grassy knoll just didn’t work for SMU fans.

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The concourses were nice. That was typical all the way around the stadium. Restrooms had 20-30 toilet/urinals in SEVERAL restrooms. It wasn’t as glorious as the old troughs of Michigan Stadium, but they were almost adequate at keeping lines only 30 deep out of the door. Food selection was bad. $4 hot dogs, $8 mini-pizzas, or $4 sausage on a stick were the only real food options. Nachos, popcorn, and candy were it for the rest. Real let down.

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SMU’s band does a special "diamond M" as their big thing. The band comes out before the game in all white shirt and pants with red vests and red bandanas on their heads. They come back later with navy blazers. They were alright. Nothing to write home about. They did play Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, so I’m obviously not a fan.

P9240056 Look at the stands. Who was the home team?

This was the view from the seat I got at the last minute. Not bad, I must say. I was in the last section on the home side, which, like the entire area across the stadium, was packed with TCU fans.

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Actually, it was closer to 70% SMU fans. They did set an attendance record for the game though. Always good to be part of the biggest crowd in a stadium’s history.

P9240076 TCU fan poses with an SMU kid’s sign

I had to love the TCU fans. As a closet Horned Frog fan, they treated me well even in my Michigan shirt. What’s funny about that poster above though, a kid no older than 10 years old was waving it around yelling "Hey Horned Frogs, You Suck!" Kids are awesome.

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Final score was 41-24, TCU. SMU actually lead early in the 3rd quarter. That’s against the supposed top 5 team in TCU? Let’s just leave it as I left unimpressed. Maybe it was a bad day. Maybe Dalton just couldn’t deal with the winds that his coaches would only call draw plays even on 3rd and long. Maybe they just aren’t as good this year.

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I have to give it to the SMU student section in the far corner. They were there early, filled their sections, and were loud. I was thoroughly impressed. Most even stayed through the 4th quarter to sing the school son with the team after the game.

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You’ll also notice SMU too has a hand symbol. It’s a less than crisp peace sign, in the shape of a horse shoe, of course.


NCAAF Power Poll

September 20, 2010

Bummed with a lot of the resume ballots. Also bummed with other power poll ballots with too much inertia. Thoughts:

Major conference (Mountain West included) power breakdown:

Big 12 Big East Big Ten MWC PAC10 SEC
OSU TCU Stanford Bama
Texas Wisconsin Oregon Arkansas
Nebraska Arizona
OU Iowa Utah Az St Auburn
OSU WVU AFA USC
Pitt Penn State BYU Florida
Michigan UCLA So Car
MSU OR St LSU
Indiana Kentucky
Georgia
Rutgers
K-State USF jNWU
TAMU
Tx Tech
Mizzou Tenn
Vandy
Colorado Purdue Cal MSU
Baylor Syracuse Illinois
Kansas Cinci
UCONN SDSU Uwash
Louisville Wyoming Miss
Iowa St CSU Wazzou
New Mex
UNLV

Teams on the same level are more or less level. Teams bunched in conferences tend to represent tiers. For example, Utah/Air Force/BYU could all approximate Arizona State or USC as they are along the same lines and grouped.

With that, my power ballot:

1 Alabama
2 OSU
3 TCU
4 Stanford
5 Oregon
6 Boise State
7 Arkansas
8 Texas
9 Wisconsin
10 Nebraska
11 Arizona
12 Oklahoma
13 Arizona State
14 Utah
15 Auburn
16 Iowa
17 Oklahoma State
18 Air Force
19 West Virginia
20 Southern Cal
21 Florida
22 Penn State
23 NC St
24 BYU
25 Nevada

Boise State and Nevada both get inserted from the WAC, who wasn’t included in the above conference listing due to the rest of their conference showing up below any other major conference team.

The 8 teams sitting just outside the ballot are Pitt, LSU, South Carolina, Michigan State, Michigan, Oregone State, UCLA, and Wake. All fall in clusters right around the 24-25 mark, but I’ve been less than impressed with each. At least less impressed than Nevada’s win over Cal.

Conference Breakdown:

ACC 1
Big 12 4
Big East 1
Big Ten 4
MWC 4
Pac10 5
SEC 4
WAC 2

Big Ten Baseball: A Scheduling Conundrum

August 1, 2010

While this isn’t a pressing issue at all, there is an upcoming problem facing the Big Ten’s baseball scheduler. Unlike most other sports teams in the Big Ten over the last few years, baseball has been blessed with an even 10 teams. With Wisconsin not fielding a team since the early 90s, and the addition of Penn State shortly thereafter, the conference has been able to avoid bye weeks.

Starting next year with Nebraska’s move to the conference, the baseball standings will stretch to an 11th team, complicating scheduling that’s already hampered by weather. A bye week is now mandatory as only 10 teams can play each other while the 11th sits dormant.

That bye situation is tougher to deal with than it might seem. This means that you must have an odd number of byes every week if you have more than one team with a bye (11 teams with 2 byes means 9 teams for 5 games, someone still not playing someone). This necessity for at least one bye per week makes the 8 week schedule impossible. At least one week will require an even number of byes.

Adding a Week to the Conference Season

With that, the primary option would be to change the length of the conference regular season*. There’s two ways to do that, adding the week to the front of the regular season or dropping the conference tournament. Both of those have their pros and cons.

In moving the start to the conference season up a week, the conference tournament and it’s RPI boost/potential extra bid to the NCAA tournament is preserved. That’s arguably a good thing. The downside to starting the conference season a week earlier is the plight that is northern baseball. That weekend is usually teams’ first attempts at baseball outside, and the weather that weekend has a history of snow and rain outs. This past year, teams were lucky. Hedging that bet might not be best for teams.

The second option is to drop the conference tournament and add a ninth week of games where the conference tournament once stood. This idea seems reasonable as the conference tournament hasn’t really been a force in getting extra teams into the NCAA that win. Indiana is the only recent team to get a huge RPI boost in winning the auto-bid, but they were two-and-out of the NCAAs. The tournament also isn’t a money-maker for the conference, especially when you put the predetermined spot on a campus that’s not participating.

But despite some of those slight positives, would-be tournament teams do lose the opportunity to boost their RPI, and teams lose that chance to play their way into the NCAAs. Both of those are tough losses for some programs.

I think the option of changing the season length like this would be the most logical option, but let’s look at other ideas.

*I’ll point out that if the expansion of the season (post Uniform Start Date) added a week to the beginning of the season instead of the end of the season, as argued by many of the northern baseball schools. Had the rules committee, the city of Omaha/CWS, and ESPN been able to broker the deal to have it added to the end of the season, all this would be moot

Six Conference Series

A second option that would be viable is to drop the conference regular season to just 7 weeks, and have teams play only 6 conference series before the tournament. This gives teams the opportunity to try and schedule another pair of non-conference series, one during what used to be the first weekend of conference play and another during their bye.

This gets a bit tricky as many of the northern teams have enough trouble trying to schedule opponents for home series (see the tomato cans like IPFW and Oakland that Michigan has scheduled recently). Finding a quality opponent willing to travel north that late in the season is going to be near impossible. That leaves RPI vacuums from the Horizon League, Missouri Valley, Summit League, or Ohio Valley Conferences as likely culprits to drain teams’ RPIs.

To alleviate this problem, the conference could go back to 4-game weekends and just leave the bye as an actual bye week. This would put the conference season back to 24 games, where it was before expansion. This seems like a capable scenario, but it’ll be interesting to see how coaches view this. The reason 4-game series were dropped was to reduce RPI loss against the lower teams in the Big Ten and to save their pitching depth, as 4 games tended to drain everything they had.

Divisions Fail

As far as divisional structure, things get no better here. With 11 teams, one division is going to have an odd number of teams. This just complicates all of the previous scheduling to the point of not working at all.

For example, if the 6-team division plays each of it’s five division rivals, it has played 5 series. The 5-team division will have played 4 series. How do they make up that lost series? Do they get a bye weekend and the 6-team division not? Is that fair? I would say definitely not. And it’s not like they could play an extra week of divisional games (like playing a divisional opponent a second time). One team would have a bye and still not play an extra series.

This just can’t work.

Conclusions

The only way I see the conference schedule working out is by adjusting the season length. I don’t think coaches would really go for the 4 game weekends, and I’m not sure I see the coaches wanting to drop the conference tournament. This means that adding a week to the beginning of the conference season is the only logical approach.

It sounds like baseball fans need to invest in a better set of blankets. That weekend in early March isn’t the home opener against a tomato can that you can just skip guilt free.


Big Ten Tournament Game by Game Predictions

May 25, 2010

TMill over at Hammer & Rails included in his conference preview his game by game predictions, and rather than try and comment on his site, I figured I’d post the whole thought process here. I’ll probably do an abridged version over at mgoblog in my Michigan preview.

Game One

Purdue and Iowa are in a rematch of last weekend and the pitching match is definitely the best on Wednesday. Purdue will start ace Matt Bischoff while Iowa will start sophomore lefty Jarred Hippen. Bischoff was the strikeout king in the Big Ten this season, knotching 87 Ks in 86 innings. Hippen is a great contact pitcher, stealing wins for Iowa all season.

In this game, I’m taking Purdue. Bischoff only threw 6.2 innings last week while Hippen went the complete game. I don’t think he’ll be able to be as dominant or able to go deep, and the soft Iowa bull pen will falter. I like Bischoff to go at least 8 innings and have 9-10 Ks to make up for last week’s disappointment.

Game Two

In the second Wednesday game, Indiana will face Northwestern. Drew Leininger will start for Indiana and the lefty Eric Jokisch will start for Northwestern. Jokisch defeated the Hoosiers in a complete game a few weeks back, taking advantage of a left handed heavy IU order.

I like Northwestern in this one. The Hoosiers are capable of knocking Jokisch around, especially since he threw a complete game last week and he may not be rested enough. That said, I think Northwestern’s Snieder should be more than capable of shutting the door if NU can hold a small lead late.

The other factor going into this is Drew Leininger’s recent slide. He’s seen his ERA jump from 1 to 4 in the last 4 weeks. I’m not sold that Squires is nearly as dominant as in year’s past either.

Game Three

This leaves Indiana and Iowa in the losers’ bracket. While neither team has a definite number two, both teams have a pretty big drop after their aces. Iowa’s Nick Brown or Phil Schreiber should both be capable of making a quality start, but I think Indiana jumps all over them.

Indiana wins in a high scoring game. Iowa gets eliminated.

Game Four

In this scenario, Northwestern is the highest seed advancing, so they would face Michigan. Northwestern would start Francis Brooke and Michigan would start Alan Oaks. This game is really anyone’s guess as I would think it be of the fairly low scoring variety. If Snieder is used for too many innings in NU’s previous game, I have to feel the edge goes to Michigan.

Francis Brooke also struggled against Michigan in his start a few weeks ago. In 5.1 innings, he gave up 7 hits and 6 runs while only striking out three. I’m feeling a similar start this weekend.

Michigan wins, but by no more than 3 runs. Tension will run high in the 9th.

Game Five

Purdue is the lower seed I see advancing, so they would face Minnesota in the Thursday night cap. Rosin is the projected starter for Minnesota, but I’m not sure who Purdue throws out.

If you had asked me before last weekend, I would have said Purdue goes with Wurdack. I’m less confident about that now. Calvin Gunter has been shellacked the last two Saturdays, never making it past the third inning. Wurdack would seem like the ideal to soak up innings and give the Boilermakers a chance.

Minnesota has also been in Columbus for a week at this point, so I have to assume they’ll be fine in their opener.

Between the Purdue pitching situation and Minnesota’s cool, I’m taking Minnesota cruising to a win in this game.

Game Six

Indiana advances to this game with the win over Iowa, and Purdue being the 5 seed would be the loser from Thursday thrust into this game. Indiana is effectively out of starting pitching by this game, and as far as I’m concerned, so is Purdue. Both will be on their third starter of the weekend, so it becomes which pitcher can make the best start and who’s bullpen is better.

I’m somewhat torn on this, as Gunter should be the third starter, which means a lefty to face the left handed heavy Hoosier lineup. At the same time, Indiana can hit.

Meanwhile, Matt Carr is back in the starting rotation for Indiana, and he had a solid start last weekend against Illinois, whatever that may mean. Even his start the week before at Michigan State was still alright.

So starting edge, I think I give Indiana. Bullpen, I’ll give that edge to Purdue. Where to go from there?

Gut tells me it’s Indiana. I’ll go with it. Confidence level is only in the 35% range.

Game Seven

This puts Indiana going into a double header, with their second opponent being Northwestern. NU will still have Muraski as their #3 starter who has a 7.46 ERA. Indiana will be throwing the kitchen sink. Neither of those options sound very inviting.

If anything I think Northwestern’s bullpen should still be in pretty good shape. The question becomes will Indiana jump out fast enough and far enough to put the Wildcats behind them. I can’t see NU pulling a come from behind victory without some major help from IU’s fielding or tired bullpen.

If Muraski can survive for 5 innings, I like Northwestern. If he doesn’t make it 3, the Wildcats are in for a world of pain.

So with that, I’m going to choose Northwestern. Indiana will be on their fourth game in 3 days. That’s too much of a strain on a pitching staff.

Game Eight

Minnesota will face Michigan with the winner going to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game. TJ Oakes throws for Minnesota, so the Gophers should be in good shape. I have no idea who pitches for Michigan. My mind tells me Bobby Brosnahan. My gut wrenching feeling is Eric Katzman gets the start. Just typing that has me ghost pale. I have no idea what to expect.

I hope Maloney researches the home plate umpire well. If it’s a guy who’s been historically tight, please god don’t start Katzman. We’ll see Eric’s twin "Evil" on the mound and Michigan may fall behind too much early, being forced to waste Matt Miller. DO NOT WANT.

Still, Katzman is way over due for the most ridiculously amazing 7 innings, 1 earned run performance.

This game will come down to the last at bat if Michigan doesn’t get an Evil Katzman start, but I have to feel like Minnesota takes the game. Michigan is very capable of winning, but Minnesota is the better team right now.

Game Nine

This makes sets up a rematch between Michigan and Northwestern in the loser’s bracket. Northwestern’s starter is a mystery. They haven’t played a mid-week game in a while, so it’s a total wildcard.

Michigan will still have several options available. Depending on how the first few games go, Michigan could have Sinnery, Katzman, Brosnahan, Gerbe, or Miller still available. All that pitching depth makes me take Michigan fairly easily in the win.

Game Ten – Championship Game 1

The finale? Maybe. Minnesota will only be on their third pitcher of the weekend, Phil Isaksson. Michigan will be on starter #4. Luckily, Michigan has the depth to go at least 4 starters deep, but who knows how many will be used up trying to avoid the loser’s bracket.

With all the pitching depth, if Michigan can win this game, I think they become the favorite for Game 11. This season has been ridiculous enough to demand a Game 11, but I don’t think it’s in the cards. Minnesota wins as Michigan just doesn’t have enough to push through the final game.

Minnesota wins the tourney. Ohio State is still sitting at home. Michigan just misses the Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota goes on to take one game at a regional before exiting.


Early Look at All Big Ten Teams

May 20, 2010

There’s no doubting that I’m excited for this weekend’s series to get underway so the most exciting pennant race in college baseball, for those who notice it at least, can hit high gear. As we enter the last week of regular season play, I’ve started to form a rough draft on All-Big Ten teams.

Creating the teams was pretty tough. I focused more on a balance of offense and defense, with a slight emphasis on the former. Some emphasis was also added for ending the season well, so players like Purdue’s Wurdack receive recognition even if their season numbers aren’t the greatest. Certain positions, like second base and the outfield (surprisingly) weren’t so tough. Others, like catcher and first are pretty stacked with talent. Then you have the left side of the infield, which is WAY weaker than anywhere else on the field by miles.

First team:

  • SP – Alex Wimmers (OSU)
  • SP – Matt Bischoff (Purdue)
  • SP – Phil Isaksson (Minnesota)
  • RP – David Lutz (Penn State)
  • C – Chris Berset (Michigan)
  • 1B – Jeff Sabourin (Indiana)
  • 2B – Ryan Jones (Michigan State)
  • 3B – Cory Rupert (Ohio State)
  • SS – Nick Overmyer (Purdue)
  • LF – Ryan LaMarre (Michigan)
  • CF – Zach Hurley (Ohio State)
  • RF – Alex Dickerson (Indiana)
  • DH – Josh Lyon (Indiana)

Second Team:

  • SP – TJ Oakes (Minnesota)
  • SP – Jarred Hippen (Iowa)
  • SP – AJ Achter (Michigan State)
  • RP – Tyler Burgoon (Michigan)
  • C – Ben Heath (Penn State)
  • 1B – Paul Snieder (Northwestern)*
  • 2B – Zach Morton (Northwestern)
  • 3B – Zach McCool (Iowa)
  • SS – Jonathon Roof (Michigan State)
  • OF– Brandon Eckerle (Michigan State)
  • OF – Kurtis Muller (Iowa)
  • OF – Eli Boike (Michigan State)
  • DH – Michael Stephens (Ohio State)

*Also 3rd team RP

Third Team:

  • SP – Drew Leininger (Indiana)
  • SP – Francis Brooke (Northwestern)
  • SP – Drew Wurdack (Purdue)
  • C – Chad Noble (Northwestern)
  • 1B – Jeff Holm (Michigan State)
  • 2B – Cory Kovanda (Ohio State)
  • 3B – Torsten Boss (Michigan State)
  • SS – Ethan Wilson (Indiana)
  • OF– Michael Kvasnicka (Minnesota)
  • OF – Steve Snyder (Penn State)
  • OF – Michael Earley (Indiana)
  • DH – Coley Crank (Michigan)

Freshman

  • SP – Brett McKinney (Ohio State)
  • SP – TJ  Oakes (Minnesota)
  • SP – Kevin Johnson (Illinois)
  • RP – Steven Hill (Penn State)
  • C – Kevin Plawecki (Purdue)
  • 1B – ????
  • 2B – Ryan Jones (Michigan State)
  • 3B – Cameron Perkins (Purdue)
  • SS – Derek Dennis (Michigan)
  • OF– Patrick Biondi (Michigan)
  • OF – Arby Fields (Northwestern)
  • OF – Steve Snyder (Penn State)
  • DH – Torsten Boss (Michigan State)

The All-Big Ten overall teams seem to be pretty fair. Picking a third string shortstop was horrible. Pick anyone not listed already, and you can probably make a case for them. Well, maybe not Tyler Engle at Ohio State, but the other 7 shortstops are all about the same.

The other position that I’m having trouble filling is freshman first baseman. Is there a freshman that’s played enough first base to remotely qualify? If so, they get in by default of no one else even registering on the radar.

One weekend to go, time for the players to make their final pushes.


Photo Story: Concrete Canoe Social Activity

April 8, 2010

P4080006Being a civil engineer, much of my time is spent huddled at a desk working out mathematical queries or researching some sort of technical topic. Many nights, when not making waste of my homework time following the inner workings of college baseball, I’m up very late, frustrated and slamming my head into my desk over yet another statics problem involving a simply supported beam that is loaded with a drum held down by a belt and an applied distributed force acting as a creating an internal moment and shear within the beam. It’s not a lot of fun.

Full story after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »


Alcohol, Sex, and Smith County, TX

April 2, 2010

I’m currently at a university nestled in East Texas, the former retirement destination of Tyler. It’s a small city, steadily growing over the last decade, but it has one huge flaw – prohibition of alcohol sales to the public.

In this town, I can go to a restaurant, and for a $5 fee, I can join a "club" that allows them to sell me alcohol by the glass, for prices well above what a bar would normally sell. I’m talking a $10 rum and coke. That is the only available way for me to buy alcohol in town.

If I desire to buy a fifth of rum, or god help me, a 6 pack of beer, I have to drive no less than 25 minutes to leave Smith County. Unfortunately, that 25 minute location just doesn’t have that great of a selection, which leaves me with a 40 minute drive in a different direction. It’s horrible.

But something else stood out as I took the travel to the store 25 minutes away this afternoon: Smith County has a drive in XXX movie theater with adult book/movie store within it’s jurisdiction, but alcohol is prohibited. If there was one potential "moral vice" out of alcohol or sex, I would have bet my life savings that sex would be the one banned. I’m shocked that it’s allowed, although I’m not against banning XXX businesses either. I’m just amazed the conservatives in the area would allow it.

Hopefully this Sam Adams Summer Mix Pack and a Michigan Baseball win will have me feeling better about that gross injustice sometime soon.


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