Friday, October 14, 2011

Q&A with Schloss

Just as was the case with Gary Patterson heading into the football season, Jim Schlossnagle is two wins away from a milestone. With his second win of the coming 2012 season (which we hear will start with a three-game home series against Ole Miss), Schloss will notch his 350th win at TCU. Sean Ryan of CollegeBaseballInsider.com recently caught up with him to discuss the looming move to the Big 12:

Nine innings with TCU's Jim Schlossnagle

Spit Blood Predictions: The Rest of 2011

With no game this weekend, you might've been expecting a predictions post-free Friday. But being that we're halfway through the 2011 season and that we've taken part of the week to take a look back at the progress made in the first half, let's take this opportunity to register our thoughts on how the rest of the current campaign will go.

In the comments section, let us know what you think the Frogs' record will be over their last six regular-season games (including who the W's and L's will come against), what bowl game they'll go to, who'll they'll play there and if they'll win it. Of course, I guess that means I'm assuming they'll win at least two more games...maybe some of you 'sky is falling' crowd will think differently, I don't know.

Also make your pick for one player on offense and one on defense that you think will step up and have a much-improved second half of the season. And unless you're a DH-hating Astros fan (enjoy the final days of your "rivalries" with the Cubs and Cardinals), let us know how you think tomorrow's ALCS Game 6 (and possibly Sunday's Game 7) will go.

Midseason Review: Special Teams

While the offense has been up most of the season and the defense has looked down most of the season (although didn't it feel good watching San Diego State score 41 on Air Force last night?), the Horned Frog special teams have been so up & down that they make your bipolar ex-girlfriend seem stable.

Field Goals/PATs:
-Ross Evans, for nearly his entire career at TCU, has been a whipping boy. He got off to a rough start to the 2011 season, missing three field goal attempts in the first three weeks of the season- including two misses and a blocked PAT in the two-point loss at Baylor. He's bounced back, though, making his last seven attempts including a 47-yarder in San Diego last Saturday. For the season, he's 9-12 on field goals and 25-26 on PATs.

Kickoffs:
-For the first time, Evans is also handling kickoff duties full-time. He's done a pretty good job in my estimation, averaging 65.1 yards per kick (meaning his average kick lands at the 5) and accumulating 5 touchbacks on 40 attempts. The coverage team is allowing 19.68 yards per return, good for 37th nationally.

Kickoff Returns:
For the most part, the TCU kickoff returns have been fantastic. Greg McCoy and Waymon James are averaging 28.54 yards per return (3rd nationally) and the Frogs are the only team to have taken two to the house so far this season. Without this unit, the team never would've had a chance to comeback in the Baylor game. Then again, McCoy's fumble of the opening kick of the second half against SMU, which was picked up for a Mustang touchdown, was an absolute killer.

Punting:
-This has not been Anson Kelton's finest year punting the ball. Despite his physical stature, he's never really been a boomer- so his 39.7 average is not too far off from his career-best of 41.6 last year. But he also has not had quite the same precision, as he's only pinned opponents inside the 20 three times so far in 2011, compared to 17 a year ago. He's got a good coverage team behind him, though, as the Frogs are giving up just over 5 yards per return (38th nationally) and have made some big hits.

Punt Returns:
-In an area where TCU has shined for so many years, it would be easy to call this year's punt return game a disaster. Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter have combined to average 8.25 yards per return (56th nationally) and have both put the ball on the turf. But they've both also shown flashes of their extreme athletcism, so I expect this to be an area of great improvement in the second half of the season- even if they don't make us forget Jeremy Kerley just yet.

Bye Week Mailsack.

Just one letter today.

Despite all of the award- singular- attention and our recent milestone, there's been one thing missing these past couple of weeks: Another mailsack!! What was once envisioned as a weekly or near weekly occurrence has gone the way of the buffalo after just two installments. And you know whose fault it is? YOURS!! Come on guys, help us out! We feed off of your input. Fortunately there was one very recent and BRILLIANT submission to take the heat off of the rest of you, but next week heads will roll.

To the question...

"Among the many reasons to be excited, one of the major points being hyped up among fans and administrators is that joining the Big 12 will allow us to return to old rivalries not fully experienced since the SWC. But while College Football has lots of so called rivalries, there are only a select handful of what I will call Exclusive College Football rivalries that are held in equal regard by both teams. This is why UT fans look down on aggy and why aggy would look down on Tech - they already had someone they considered a true rival. The University of Minnesota may consider the Little Brown Jug to be a trophy worth lauding, but for Michigan their list of bowel churning rivalries begins and ends with Ohio State; their game with Michigan State falls into the aggy/UT grey area. So my question is: Who will be TCU's Premier Conference Rival, if anyone?"

--The Ghost of Wesley Willis, The Daddy of Rock and Roll, Chicago, IL.

FANTASTIC question, Mr. Willis. For that I will invoke the anthem you penned all of those years ago in honor of TCU. Indulge!


Now that we have that out of the way, let's lay some basic ground rules for qualifying an exclusive rivalry. Note: Do not follow the Big Ten's method of developing rivalries as they have an absolutely LAUGHABLE amount of games considered rivalries that are complete bullsh. Iowa has FOUR rivals NOT INCLUDING Iowa State. IOWA!!!
  • In an Exclusive College Football Rivalry - further abbreviated to ECR - proximity must play a role. This, among many other reasons, is why TCU was never able to develop a genuine rivalry outside of SMU while in the WAC, CUSA and MWC. Part of a rivalry is boozing up your confidence level and heading into their place to make your presence felt. It's hard to do that when your proposed rival is a long plane ride away. This is why, in all truth, we likely never would've been able to develop a true Conference rival in the Big East despite later mentioned factors being in play
  • In an ECR, both sides must agree that the rivalry exists and is superior to all others. This brings into play what was mentioned above regarding UT/aggy and Tech/aggy. Let's just call it the aggy inferiority corralary, or, AIC, going forward. Clearly UT/aggy is a rivalry; any fan of college sports understands that. But, it depends on which fanbase you query as to how important that rivalry truly is, which has been CLEARLY demonstrated by the aggy's behavior of late. Basically, aggy HATES UT with an amount of disdain usually reserved for third world dictators or cats. But UT? Sure, they don't like aggy, but it's mostly just big brother/little brother dislike, not genuine hate. UT likes having aggy around because they provide an endless outlet of cruel entertainment for them. Aggy is the dark comedy of the NCAA; to be more pointed, they're the, "The Wonderful Whites of West Virginia" of the NCAA. You need proof? Here, I'll wait. The OU/OSU Bedlam game falls into this category as well. But the thing is, as much as UT looks down at aggy, aggy looks down the same way at Texas Tech. And while all sides have valid points, the reason for the condescension is mostly because UT considers OU their true rival, aggy considers UT their true rival and Tech considers aggy their true rival, but none of those overlap. If that makes sense. TCU/SMU will always be a rivalry, but if we are able to establish a true Big 12 rival, the DFW Duel potentially gets relegated to second tier status quickly.
  • In an ECR, there should never be severe one-sidedness over an extended period of time, BUT overall record trumps recent history when necessary. SMU/TCU springs immediately to mind here as the overall record is 44-38-7 in favor of TCU. But when you think about an exclusive rivalry, you like to think that, no matter the records, either team can win. The crowd, the hate, the history trumps what is written on paper. We know a little bit about that. Arguably the College Football rivalries with the most national cachet are Texas/Oklahoma, Michigan/Ohio State and Auburn/Alabama, although you could arguably toss in Notre Dame/USC. In other words, even if you're the most casual of College Football fans, chances are you're going to pay attention to those three games. A quick breakdown, listing the record of the past 10 meetings first and then the overall records: UT/OU: 4-6; 56-41-5. OSU/MICH: 9-1; 44-46-4. AUB/ALA: 7-3; 29-39-1. USC/ND: 8-2; 34-43-5. See what I mean? Even in a rivalry as recently lop sided as OSU/MICH, the Wolverines still hold the overall advantage, keeping this rivalry historically relevant.
  • In an ECR, the game must have the ability to be played on a yearly basis. Mercifully, the splitting of the Big Ten killed off a few of their unnecessary rivalries, and Conference affiliation has killed off other former ECRs. Nebraska/Oklahoma springs immediately to mind as that one was killed off from being a yearly occurrence when the Big 8 and SWC merged. BYU/Utah, one of the more underrated hate filled rivalries in the country, will soon cease to be an annual occurrence, and has already suffered by losing its late season time slot. Aggy is about to quickly find out how irrelevant they become without their annual Thanksgiving shootout with UT. Heck, UT/OU was in danger of disappearing just a month ago, although it is saved for now. All that's to say, how can a rivalry REALLY be premier if both teams don't deem it necessary to be played on an annual basis?
  • In an ECR, the game must have history and longevity. This pretty much goes hand in hand with the above point, but it bears its own point. This is another reason why TCU was never able to develop an ECR in the MWC; we had no history beyond the WAC with any of the schools. This is why, among other factors such as point #1, it would've been difficult to establish a long-lasting rivalry in the Big East. This is part of the reason why, despite not playing them on a regular basis, we still REALLY hate Baylor - we've played them 100 times, more than we've played any other school. This is why the Big 12 is our best fit.
  • Finally, in an ECR there must be unfettered, unreasonable and unbridled Hate at the mere mention of the rival. Presuming you can find one, talk to a non-T shirt, dyed in the wool UT fan about Oklahoma sometime because there is a level of hate there that we can only begin to fathom. I have to assume it's the same with Michigan/Ohio State and I KNOW it's the same with Auburn/Alabama. Eulogizing trees may sound corny, but Harvey Updike's herbicidal evening would be akin to UT fans murdering Revellie and selling the remains to a dog food plant, or Sooner fans filleting up Bevo and serving him to Mack Brown and DeLoss Dodds without their knowledge, or the Scott Tenorman Treatment. In an ECR, there has to be a level of irrationality that surpasses all typical human thought. This kicks all but the most long-standing rivalries to the curb.
So, with those six keys in mind, here is what, based off of my critera, I'd consider to be the ECRs in the Six Major Conferences at the present time. In the instance that the ECR is inter-Conference, I will list it in the first Conference mentioned, as evidenced by the first one.

ACC: Clemson/South Carolina, Duke/UNC although I'm not sure that translates as well to football, Florida State/Miami although I'm not sure FSU considers Miami a rival on par with Florida, Virginia/Virginia Tech

Big 12: Texas/Oklahoma, Kansas/Missouri which features some real, actual Civil War based hate.

BEast: West Virginia/Pitt, Louisville/Kentucky.

Big Ten: Ohio State/Michigan, Indiana/Purdue, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Illinois/Northwestern.

Pac 12: Arizona State/Arizona, Oregon/Oregon State, Washington/Wazzu, Cal/Stanford. Split on USC/UCLA and USC/ND. Any insider info from our California bretheren?

SEC: Auburn/Alabama, Florida/Georgia although, like USC, I'm not sure how the whole Florida/FSU and Florida/Georgia split goes. Ole Miss/Mississippi State. SEC is hard to pin down because, like the Big Ten, there are a lot of established rivalries, although they don't have phony trophies.

I probably have a few of those wrong, but to the best of my knowledge, that's how rivalries go. So, after all that, let's answer Wesley Willis' Spectral Inquiry, narrowing the options down by criteria.

Criteria 1 - Proximity: This cuts out all of the former North schools plus Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, leaving us with three tidy options: Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas.

Criteria 2 - Rival Superiority: There goes UT, which is fine because we, along with everyone else, will always hate UT even if an ECR is not in place. So we're down to Baylor and Tech.

Criteria 3 - Lack of One-Sidedness: TCU/Tech - 3-7, 18-28-3. TCU/Baylor - 4-6; 45-50-5. Neither matchup has been particularly one sided overall, although it's obvious that the TCU/Baylor rivalry has been much more even. Still, both are in play.

Criteria 4 - Annual Occurrence: Both teams are still in play as we will matchup against both of them on a yearly basis as long as the Big 12 exists in its current form.

Criteria 5 - History and Longevity: This is where you have to give a HUGE edge to Baylor. The fact that we've played each other to a near draw after 100 games, plus the fact that TCU used to exist in Waco gives this MEGA ECR potential. Tech wasn't even in the SWC until 1956. But still, let's not completely rule them out of the sake of the sixth criteria.

Criteria 6 - HATE: I mean, yes, we hate Baylor. I personally dislike them more than I dislike SMU, which makes little sense as we've only played the Bears three times in my short fan career, but they just get under my skin for some reason. And they hate us - they burned down our former Waco campus, after all. But, at the same time, I think our hate is mostly similar to the AIC; it's mostly just, "awwww, look at the cute wiw' Baylow fan, all excited about the Texas Bowl!!." I am sure that will change significantly going forward, but for now that's how I feel. Those guys better enjoy the Robert Griffin ride while it lasts.

But Tech? Holy shit I HAAAAATE those people. The most worthless, classless, trash fans in all of sport, and yes I do realize that the city of Philadelphia still has four professional franchises. Seriously, I DREAD them coming to FW next year, having to deal with their kind. And Lubbock? BLECH. You guys have fun every other year at that road game, because I'm not going anywhere West of Fort Worth on those weekends. Lubbock is basically just Waco but with fewer churches and trees and more STDs. TTU exists for two reasons. One, the Top 10% automatic high school acceptance keeping kids out of UT and aggy making Tech an easy option, and Two, because Texas is the dumbest state in the Union not named Mississippi and our large populus needs a place to continue underachieving for four years.

If this decision was based on Criteria six alone, Tech would win in a landslide. But as it is, there are other factors to take into account, and, if we're being realistic, our ECR is going to be Baylor. The proximity, the lack of a natural rival for both schools within the Conference, the history - it's all there. We can hold out hope for it being Tech, but it looks like the Raiders are going to continue to be a team without a rival, which is probably as it should be. There's a wild rumor floating around out there that Notre Dame is going to join the Big 12 in all sports but basketball, BUT play Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Baylor on an annual basis in football, with the Baylor game perhaps being played late in the season at Jerry World. However, assuming that doesn't happen, I would bet on Baylor and Tech giving up their Thanksgiving weekend slot in lieu of TCU/Baylor and Texas/Texas Tech. Which isn't all bad, either.

Regardless of exclusivity, getting to play UT, Tech and Baylor on an annual basis is going to be all sorts of cardiac-arrest greatness and I look forward to it. What say you guys?

Morning Dump

A long strange trip for the Horned Frogs ESPN

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Volleyball win at Wyoming shows TCU needed to get away
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