29 October 2011

Very last minute WAC picks for Oct. 29

Personal reasons including midterms made me procrastinate all the way 'til 2 hours before SJSU/Louisiana Tech kickoff!

San Jose State (3-4, 2-1 WAC) at Louisiana Tech (3-4, 2-1 WAC): SJSU Spartans by 3. On Nov. 27, 2010, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs beat San Jose State 45-38 after a last-minute interception to prevent a San Jose State opportunity to tie the game. A better-than-ever Spartan team comes to Ruston, La. off a dramatic comeback victory against Hawaii in homecoming a few weeks ago. Back then, SJSU relied on mainly a passing game against La. Tech and was outrun 374-26. However, with Brandon Rutley gaining much crucial yardage every game for the Spartans, the Spartans can play a close game against the Bulldogs. However, comparing the running stats of SJSU and LT, it is important to note that La. Tech has on average outrun opponents and has a slight edge in averages:
  • Average ypg: LT 138.3, SJSU 129.6
  • Average yards per carry: SJSU 3.9, LT 3.3
  • Rushing TDs: LT 14, SJSU 10
Thus, as coach Mike MacIntyre has acknowledged it's important to stop LT's running back Lennon Creer, this game might be the Battle of the Running Backs. The last time San Jose State won in Ruston was in 1993, and SJSU last won an away conference game in 2008. SJSU's defensive line should be accounted for especially with the critical defensive plays vs. Hawaii (which beat La. Tech 44-26 on Oct. 1) including forcing 5 Hawaii turnovers and blocking a point after for a 2-point safety return.

Hawaii (4-3, 2-1 WAC) at Idaho (1-6, 0-3 WAC): Hawaii by 20. Idaho has lost 5 in a row and has won only against the I-AA North Dakota. Unless Bryant Moniz throws 5 INTs again like he did against SJSU, Hawaii definitely has the offensive advantage (stats: Hawaii, Idaho). SJSU faces Idaho in San Jose on Nov. 5. Will be on ESPN3 from 5PM Eastern.

Nevada (4-3, 2-0 WAC) at New Mexico State (3-4, 1-2 WAC): Nevada by 9. NMSU's strength is in the passing game, as this is the one offensive area with NMSU has edged opponents including 14.7 yards per catch (Nevada has only 13.5). In Nevada, freshman QB Cody Fajardo is taking over as main QB while senior Tyler Lantrip is relegated to backup. Fajardo currently has a 72.7% completion rate but has thrown 4 INTs over 2 TDs, while NMSU's starter Matt Christian (in for the injured Andrew Manley) 8 TDs for 1 INT.

22 October 2011

Quick WAC picks for Oct. 22

Sorry people I've been really busy the past week especially with midterms and just a few minutes before the first WAC football game of the weekend I'll make some really quick picks for the weekend. Anyway, SJSU made a 4Q comeback in a roller-coaster game last Friday night to beat Hawaii 28-27 and has today off. I'll post more on that game later.

In the meantime (all these games will be live on ESPN3.com):
- Louisiana Tech (2-4, 1-1 WAC) at Utah State (2-4, 0-1 WAC): Utah State by 10. All four of the Aggies' losses (most recently last wk against Fresno State) came by losing leads in the 4Q. It's less likely to happen this time around as Utah State, with the 29th-ranked defense in D1 football (vs. La. Tech's 78th) also has a huge edge in its QB Chuckie Keeton who's yet to throw an INT in 2011 (LT's Nick Isham has thrown 7 INTs) and thus Keeton has a 147.3 rating vs. Isham's 117.3. The Aggies' running unit has produced nearly twice as many rushing yards (1,793 over LT's 882) and 22 TDs (LT 12 TDs). (Source: ESPN.com statistics on the teams)
- Fresno State (3-4, 2-0 WAC) at Nevada (3-3, 1-0 WAC): Nevada by 6. The Wolf Pack have the edge in rushing and defense (13 TDs in 1,493 yards, and defensively 354.6 yards per game), but Fresno State has strengths in its passing game. Note that Nevada's QB Tyler Lantrip has thrown 6 INTs and 5 TDs thus far, while Fresno State's Derek Carr 12 TDs and 5 INTs and that Nevada Wolf Pack's average passes span 12.9 yards while Fresno State Bulldogs 11.8. In its three road games so far, the Bulldogs lost 2 (to the mediocre Pac-12 Cal Berkeley and ranked Big 12 team Nebraska) and won against the struggling WAC Idaho. Also interesting of note, both teams will relocate to the Mountain West Conference beginning in 2012. If Nevada wins it'll definitely confirm critics' predictions (i.e. Bleacher Report) that Nevada will again be the top WAC team this year like in 2010. These teams are generally predicted to be the best: Sports Illustrated projected that Fresno State would be the top.
- New Mexico State (3-3, 1-1 WAC) at Hawaii (3-3, 1-1 WAC): Hawaii by 17. Returning to Manoa, the Warriors look to redeem themselves following a shocking loss against the San Jose State Spartans on national television last Friday. Indeed, New Mexico State should be an easy team to beat as Bryant Moniz completed 63.5% of his passes for 17 TDs and also threw 4 INTs; NMSU's Matt Christian 59.4% for 6 TDs and 1 INT. It's doubtful that this will be a repeat of the SJSU/Hawaii Turnover Show (both teams had each around 5 turnovers) as Hawaii in addition to home field advantage also can gain much yardage against a 93rd-ranked NMSU defense (Hawaii has 28th).

13 October 2011

Weekly Spartan and WAC football review and picks

October 8: Brigham Young beat San Jose State 29-16 in a game televised on ESPNU. The factors? (Sources: Box score, play by play)
  • SJSU gets the ball after Keith Smith recovered a Riley Nelson fumble at SJSU's 3 yard line, pre-empting BYU's first scoring attempt. However, a bad snap sent the ball flying to the end zone and a safety for BYU. BYU then gets the ball and scores a TD and goes up 9-0. On his weekly radio show on KLIV-AM, coach Mike MacIntyre explained that the BYU fans sitting behind end zone were so loud that the snapper misheard directions and promised that this would never happen again.
  • However, SJSU did get a field goal and TD off both times when BYU's Nelson threw interceptions.
  • An inept Spartan defense let BYU's punter get a rest: Never in the game did BYU ever have to punt on 4th down! It was either scoring or turnovers for the BYU offense.
  • Furthermore, SJSU's leading rusher Brandon Rutley sat out the game due to ankle injury but will return on Friday night v. Hawaii. Without Rutley, SJSU was outrushed 70-224. In contrast, in the past 2 wins with Rutley, SJSU ran for 230 yards (against New Mexico St) and 137 yards (Colorado State).
However, Rutley's fellow backup running backs Jason Simpson and Tyler Ervin did provide the backbone for the SJSU scoring drives that did exist. Simpson ran 39 yards; the freshman Ervin 40. Tight end Ryan Otten continued to be a reliable receiver having caught for a total of 108 yards; regular WR Noel Grigsby caught for 88.

Furthermore, SJSU will have to put up against a powerful defense much more cunning and intimidating than BYU's. According to USAToday.com:
  • Hawaii's defense is ranked 27th of all FBS teams and has allowed an average 327 yards per game, 5.14 yards per play, and throughout the year 18 touchdowns.
  • Colorado State: 33rd, 344.00 yards/game, 5.18 yards/play, 17 TDs.
  • BYU: 43rd, 351.33 yards/game, 5.58 yards/play, 16 TDs.
  • SJSU: 92nd, 414.50 yards/game, 5.98 yards/play, 22 TDs.
Bryant Moniz, the starting QB for the Hawaii Warriors, currently has a greater quarterback rating (150.7) than SJSU's Matt Faulkner (126.4) and slightly edges Faulkner with a 64.6% completion rate in contrast with Faulkner's 62.8%. And Moniz has thrown 15 TDs in contrast with 1 INT; Faulkner has 4 each of both TDs and INTs. SJSU defense will have to scare and pressure Moniz...and should he get injured, Moniz' backup David Graves has been pretty reliable so far with a 70% completion rate of 20 passes over 111 yards.

Hawaii's running unit has generated much production: 8 TDs over 435 yards, while SJSU took 804 yards to score 9 TDs.

Many in the SJSU community are hyping this game as it will be ESPN's Friday night game of the week; kickoff will be 6PM Pacific. Other outlets broadcasting the game will be ESPN3.com (the live streaming arm of ESPN) and local radio stations KSJS-FM 90.5 (pregame 5:30PM followed by the game in entirety) and joining in progress at 7PM KLIV-AM 1590. (KLIV is a news station, I guess they insisted on playing the news at six in the evening in competition with the TV stations.)

If Hawaii in Ruston, La. could beat Louisiana Tech , ranked higher than SJSU in both passing and rushing, 44-26 on Oct. 1, it will take a strong-willed defense for the Spartans even to get close to beating Hawaii. In fact, in September, Hawaii lost 40-20 on the road to UNLV, whose statistics and overall record are even worse than SJSU. UNLV choked Hawaii to only 6 yards of rushing that game and forced 4 turnovers! Indeed, Hawaii has specialized its game in passing instead of run plays. So with hopes that the Spartan defense can stop Hawaii at its tracks at times with interceptions and forced loss fumbles, I regretfully must pick Hawaii to win by 15 on Friday night. Still I will be watching on ESPN3.com to see how SJSU fares on national TV, should be an extra motivation.

Other picks:
New Mexico (Mountain West Conf., 0-5...when will they ever win?) at Nevada (2-3): Nevada by 21. Nevada last week blew out its in-state MWC rival UNLV 37-0, that game was in Reno. This is an offensively well-rounded Wolf Pack team vs. a New Mexico team leaning towards pass/receive. Nevada's runners have average 4.8 yards per carry, NM 3.5, and Nevada's Mike Ball 4.7 vs. NM (freshman) Crusoe Gongbay 4.0.

Idaho (1-5, 0-2 WAC) at New Mexico State (2-3, 0-1 WAC): NMSU by 13. In completing passes, NMSU Aggies QB Andrew Manley finishes 56.9% with 6 TDs and 3 INTs, Idaho's Brian Reader 51.1% with 9 TDs and 6 INTs. NMSU offense also has the edge (Rushing TDs: 5-3, Received TDs: 11-9). Will be on ESPN3.

Utah State (2-3) at Fresno State (2-4, 1-0 WAC): Another ESPN3 game. Utah State by 7. With a 64.8% completion rating and 157.0 overall QB rating, Chuckie Keeton can definitely create a fast edge in offense in contrast to Fresno State's Derek Carr, who has completed just 60.5%. Keeton has yet to throw an interception this season, while Carr has thrown 6. Both teams have very similar reception averages around 12 yards each, but Utah State again has another offensive edge in rushing: 6.4 yards per carry vs. Fresno State's 4.0 yards/carry.

08 October 2011

W-H-Y should religion be an issue regarding public policy??

American politics can get REALLY silly when the debate focuses on how religious/faithful a candidate can be. This story "For Romney, Social Issues Pose New Test" will be on the front page of Sunday's NY Times:

Mr. Romney has tried at every stage of the race for the Republican presidential nomination to focus on the economy, and he did so again on Saturday, when he appeared here at the Values Voter Summit, a gathering of social conservative activists.

But he also felt compelled to reiterate that he was in sync with social conservatives as he ran through his positions on abortion, marriage, judicial appointments and religious values. And as other speakers condemned homosexuality and raised questions about whether a Mormon is a true Christian, Mr. Romney emphasized that tolerance and civility were conservative values.


Beyond Mr. Romney’s substantive positions, his faith is re-emerging as a concern among some evangelicals. On Saturday, a conservative activist speaking after Mr. Romney, Bryan Fischer, said without naming Mr. Romney that the next president had to be a man of “genuine” Christian faith. On Friday, a backer of Mr. Perry described Mr. Romney’s faith as a cult.

Mr. Perry later said he disagreed with that characterization, and some evangelical leaders said they were less concerned about Mr. Romney’s being a Mormon than about his stand on the issues.

This is one of the 100s of reasons (OK i may be exaggerating) that I choose to remain an atheist and I'm thankful that I never attended church service or religious schools in my life, not even when I was a little kid. And if Republicans seriously get into these silly arguments over faith and heavily seek the concerns of blue-nosed religious fundamentalists in public policy such as in education, reproductive freedom, gay rights, etc., then I'm never going to vote Republican in my life as long as this horrendous, disturbing connection with Republicans and creationists/homophobes/anti-rationalists continues.

Furthermore, Republicans just cannot STAND anyone who doesn't represent the Judeo-Christian ideal, whether in attacking the Mormon Mitt Romney for not being Christian enough or smearing Barack Obama as a Muslim. Given the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the US post-9/11, the Muslim smear obviously was a dog-whistle appeal to the more bigoted Americans just like Ronald Reagan speaking about states' rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi (a town where in 1964 three civil rights workers were murdered) in 1980 was. This fear of the occult (the religious buzzword for the unknown, outside the realm of faith) drives all the lies and idiocy from the right when it comes to religion in American public policy. That's why you'll encounter "where is separation of church and state?" or "America is a Christian nation" all the time in conservative commentators, speeches, etc.

In fact, when Christine O'Donnell ran for Vice Pres. Joe Biden's former US Senate seat in Delaware (won by Democratic candidate Chris Coons thankfully), she risked getting laughter in mockery for claiming that SoC&S is not in the Constitution. Well, what's so hard about "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"? Basically: RELIGION IS AN INDIVIDUAL CHOICE, THE GOVERNMENT CAN'T FORCE ONE FAITH ON THE PEOPLE OR PROHIBIT ONE? DO YOU GET IT, FUNDAMENTALISTS? Although the constitution obliges the government to defend one's right to observe a faith, the government is not obliged to uphold the values of the faith itself. Thus, when will the supreme court ever break apart the faith-based initiatives division of the White House? Furthermore, the question liberals/secularists need to challenge conservatives should be: where in the Constitution indicates that the nation shall be governed under Christian values? That should stump those strict constructionists who insist that original intent of the founders should guide federal laws.

And yes, as an atheist I have voted for Christians for political office. I vote for candidates based on their political positions and experience, not trivial personal traits like how religious or non religious they are. HOWEVER, if a candidate repeatedly puts on the God/faith peacock feathers in campaigns or backs causes championed by the Religious Right, the candidate loses my vote. I remember reading the 2010 California voter guide and seeing one of the third-party right-wing candidates (either of the American Independent or Constitution Parties) boasting about God in the campaign statement.

If Chris Christie did decide to run for president, he'd need to explain the Hudson Tunnel

NY Times: "N.J. to Repay U.S. $95 Million Over Hudson Tunnels":

On Friday [September 30], Gov. Chris Christie and Ray LaHood, the federal transportation secretary, announced that New Jersey would pay back $95 million that the federal government had provided for a pair of rail tunnels under the Hudson River that were projected to cost $8.7 billion. The effort, known as Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC, was one of the biggest public-works projects under way in the country when Mr. Christie decided to cancel it one year ago.

Mr. Christie maintained that his state could not afford to shoulder potentially huge cost overruns on the project, which would have doubled the train capacity between New Jersey and New York City. His unilateral decision to scrap the tunnels enraged Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, who had spent years lining up $6 billion in commitments from the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Mr. LaHood, who was also angry at Mr. Christie, demanded that New Jersey repay all of the $271 million in federal money that had gone toward the early stages of building the tunnels. The governor responded by declaring, “We are not paying the money back.”

And Republicans preach "fiscal responsibility" all the time. If Christie did join the primaries, campaign ads would devastate him over stealing about $150 million.

Most surprising of all? "Sarah Palin will not run for president in 2012" either. Otherwise the Republicans would've handed Obama an easy victory that year, something they do NOT want as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell famously said about the GOP agenda: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

06 October 2011

Does the San Jose State Spartans' win over Colorado State signal a turnaround? and other WAC picks

On Saturday, 1 Oct at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo., the San Jose State Spartans (of the Western Athletic Conf.) defeated Colorado State Rams (Mountain West Conference) 38-31 in Colorado State's homecoming game. Throughout the game, SJSU had control and even exploited Colorado State turnovers for touchdowns. At one point during 2nd quarter, SJSU led 24-7. The Spartans won on a last-minute TD pass. This game was shown on the Mountain West Sports Network "the mtn" but not streamed on ESPN3.com, and highlights are here on themtn.tv:

(0:24 in video, 11:02 left in 2Q) Spartan safety Duke Ihenacho returns a fumble by Ram running back Raymond Carter for a 20-yard TD. Spartans up 17-7. Next play in the video: Brandon Rutley runs 23 yards for the TD that put SJSU up 24-7.

As I was listening on SJSU football flagship station KLIV 1590, the game got intense starting late in 3Q as Colorado State rallied with 2 TD's to tie the game 31-31 late in the 4Q. However (1:33 video, 3:38 left 4Q), a Ram go-ahead 48-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. Spartan freshman WR Jabari Carr then ran a 38-yard pass from Matt Faulkner 10 yards for the winning TD, SJSU up 38-31. With 13 seconds left (1:49 in video) Pete Thomas' 43-yard pass intended for Thomas Coffman instead landed in the hands of Spartan defensive back Ronnie Yell at SJSU's 10. Coffman will forever regret running too far out away from Yell. That's what you call a FAIL Mary pass.

This win means a turnaround?

As the Spartan web site reports, this is the Spartans' 2nd win a row following a 34-24 win over New Mexico State, SJSU's first 2-game winning streak and road win since 2008 and first non-conference road win since 21 Sept. 2002 at the Big 10 Illinois. Given how Colo. St. is currently at first place in the Mountain West, some could argue that this is an upset victory. And the other aforementioned factors of this win imply that SJSU could see a few more victories this season and a real turnaround from the disastrous 2009 season (2-10 and 1-7 WAC) and 2010 (1-12 and 0-8 WAC). These two victories, by margins of 7 and 10 points, are a far cry from the barely won games of 2009 (Dick Tomey's final year) and 2010 (Mike MacIntyre's first year):
- 26 Sept 2009: a 19-9 win over the I-AA Cal Poly;
- 28 Nov 2009: a 13-10 win over New Mexico State won by a last-minute field goal. NMSU would finish 2009 the second-worst team in the WAC just one win over SJSU;
- 18 Sept 2010: a 16-11 win over I-AA Southern Utah, decided by yet another last-minute play, a TD by Lamon Muldrow.

Also in 2010, SJSU lost TWO games on last-minute interceptions: 13 Nov 2010 v Utah State 38-34 and 27 Nov 2010 at Louisiana Tech 45-38, two others on missed field goals (4 Dec 2010 at Idaho 26-23 in OT, a blocked FG while tied 20-20 forced the OT, where SJSU scored FG then Idaho a TD; 2 Oct 2010 v the I-AA UC Davis 14-13). So far in 2011 SJSU lost only the home opener v Nevada 17-14 due to such an interception.

The pundits have predicted yet another crummy season for the Spartans. For example, Sports Illustrated magazine predicted SJSU to finish the 2nd-worst in the WAC with an overall 3-9 with 2-5 in the WAC; Bleacher Report predicted the same place. If SJSU beats BYU, the Spartans hit another dent in the critics' windshield.

Spartan rush leader Rutley likely out of BYU game
However, Spartans rushing leader Brandon Rutley, who's produced many reliable offensive yards and some long TD runs too, left the SJSU/CSU game due to a sprained ankle. The Spartan Daily reported that whether Rutley will play in Provo will be a "game-time decision." Backup running back Jason Simpson contributed 21 yards in the Spartans' winning 70-yard drive on Saturday. As a special teams player and RB in 2010 following a redshirt freshman year, the Jamaican-born Simpson played only 4 games and sat out the rest of the year due to injury. With the running game now possibly on the legs of Simpson and freshman Ben Thompson, coach MacIntyre (again see the linked Spartan Daily article) "assured that the offense won’t experience any drastic changes against BYU." Indeed, the Colo. St. Rams have currently allowed an average 24.8 points per game, the BYU Cougars 25.0 (source: ESPN.com clubhouse pages). According to USA Today, BYU has allowed 356.6 yards per game, and CSU 344. (BTW, SJSU has allowed 408.8...and SJ's area code is 408! interesting)

A declining BYU quarterback
Cougar starting QB Jake Heaps' completion rate, now an average 54.1%, has declined each game, from a high 63.2% in BYU's losing opener against Mississippi to 44% in BYU's Friday night comeback 27-24 win against the WAC Utah State in which Heaps' backup Riley Nelson (avg. completion 61.9%) took over late in 3Q. While San Jose State has scored 30+ points in each the past 2 games, BYU has yet to score over its 27 points from Friday's game. Despite this, the wire service Sports Network picks BYU to win 31-20 over SJSU, on the grounds that BYU gagged Utah State's passing yards to 122. Comparing Utah State and San Jose State's offense is like comparing the winter climate in the Rocky Mountains to that in Gulf Coast. Utah State has had a laughable 3 losses from blowing 4Q leads (against Auburn, Colo. St., and BYU). Never mind how USU QB Chuckie Keeton has passed at most for 213 yards (again v Auburn), while Faulkner passed for 383 yards against Colo. St. And if BYU's defense is so solid, why have all three of the Cougars' victories come by 7 points or less and always because of a 4th quarter go-ahead play? My pick, therefore, will be SJSU by 3 (unlike TSN, I abstain from picking scores).

Other WAC picks
ESPN's Friday game of the week (also streaming on WatchESPN.com) will be the #5-ranked Boise State (Mountain West) visiting SJSU's down-state rival Fresno State, kickoff at 6PM Pacific (7PM Mountain Time for Idahoans and 9PM Eastern for the biggest region of America). Pick: Boise State by 27. There's a reason why Boise State graduated from the WAC to MWC this year. The Broncos have been a WAC powerhouse for the past several years...and recently earned 3 years' probation for football including 9 revoked scholarships. Also the broncos last week pulverized last year's top WAC team Nevada 30-10.

Saturday's games:

Louisiana Tech (1-4, 0-1 WAC) at Idaho (1-4, 0-1 WAC): Louisiana Tech by 7. Yes, Idaho did make a bowl in 2009 and was nearly .500 in 2010, but La. Tech has the advantageous QB (Nick Isham with a 61.5% completion rate vs. Idaho's Brian Reader with 53.7%) in addition to a far more productive running back unit that's scored 11 TDs in 692 yards, while Idaho has 3 TD's in 372 yards.

UNLV (Mountain West) (1-3) at Nevada [Reno] (1-3, 1-0 WAC): UNLV by 10. Seems every week a WAC game is on ESPN Friday night, and/or a WAC team plays an in state rival. Although having a sluggish start, UNLV upset Hawaii in Las Vegas 40-20 on 17 Sept, and Hawaii is normally one of the better WAC teams! UNLV won on the rushing game with 186...compared to a measly 6 for Hawaii (relied on the passing game instead with 4 turnovers as a cost). Nevada's Tyler Lantrip, who spent his first years with the Wolf Pack backing up the now-San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, is struggling now with a 53.3% CR and 5 interceptions over only 2 TD passes. Meanwhile, the Runnin' Rebel's Caleb Herring has a 59 CR, 5 TD's, and 4 INTs, and thus gives the Nevada-Las Vegas receiving unit more productive track record than Nevada-Reno's (6 TD's in 679 yds v. 4 TD's in 718 yds.)

Wyoming (Mountain West) (1-3) at Utah State (1-3): Wyoming by 3. Wyoming is off to a rather good start now after a 3-9 season in 2010. Whatever happens, Utah State will win only by avoiding the costly 4th quarter mistakes that cost them games regularly.