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LSU Baseball Update [5/16]
The Tigers got what they needed in Knoxville - a sweep of the woeful Vols.
  • Sporting a lineup composed of eight .300+ hitters (only 1B Greg Deich­mann is below that figure but supplies good power), LSU won a squeaker Friday night against Tennessee's best pitcher, 2-1, before erupting for 11 runs Saturday and 10 Sunday.
  • The Tigers probably need to beat Northwestern State Tuesday night and win at least one of three against powerful Florida in the final SEC series Thursday through Saturday.
  • But to win a game against the Gators, they'd better win the game Alex Lange pitches because they can't rely on their other two weekend starters.
  • Jared Poche had a better outing than in his previous few starts. He lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up only two runs. His task was made easier when his mates sent home six runs in the first and nine in the first three innings.
  • It seems likely LSU will host a regional but NOT be a Top Eight seed. That means they would not host the SuperRegional if they win their regional un­less the team that hosts the companion regional loses.
  • But the Tigers must get better performances out of their #2 and #3 start­ers if they are to win a Regional.
College-Pro Football Disconnect [5/11]

Two views on college football vs. pro football:

  • Tom Herman was the Ohio State offensive coordinator year before last when the Buckeyes won the National Championship. That success got him the head coaching position at the University of Houston, where he led the Cougars to a 13-1 record in 2015. I do catch NFL games every now and again, and it doesn't remind me of anything that I watch when breaking down opponents or watching college games on TV. It's completely different.
  • Stephen Jones is director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys. I haven't been around as long as some others, but in my 25 years with the NFL, I've never seen a larger disparity between the college and pro games.

They're both referring to the startling contrast between Saturday and Sunday games during the football season.

Saturdays

  • High-scoring affairs.
  • Simple schemes on both sides of the ball.
  • QBs rarely call plays or take snaps under C.
  • Receiving routes are basic.
  • O-linemen rarely get into three-point stances.
  • DEs can't develop pass-rush moves because the ball is thrown so quickly.
  • DBs play zone almost exclusively.
  • LBs are more adept at dropping into a passing zone than shedding a blocker.

Sundays

  • QBs make complicated calls in the huddle, then change them at the line.
  • Defenses bluff in and out of various looks before the ball is snapped.
  • Defenses use press-man coverage enabled by a variety of blitzes.
  • O-lines must execute double teams from three-point stances to allow RBs to gain yardage.

Several rules contribute to the disaparity between the college and pro games.

  • The hash marks in college hashmarks are 21.5' wider than in the NFL. As a result, an offense like Art Briles's at Baylor can spread receivers further out than in the pros.
  • NCAA rules restrict meeting and practice time to 20 hours per week.
    Houston Texans Coach Bill O'Brien, who followed Joe Paterno at Penn State: Most schools are trying to run the simplest, fastest thing they can run. In the spread offense, there's not that much blocking technique and reading coverage technique. ... It's kind of basketball on grass.
  • The NFL doesn't have a 20-hour-per-week restriction on practicing but concern for player safety led the league to acquiesce to the players union's demand to cut down offseason activity. Instead of starting voluntary workouts March 15, players, including rookies, don't report until the third Monday in April. Also, there are no pads or contact drills before training camp. And even in training camp, practice in pads has been dramaticallly cut back.
  • So teams look for players who have played in a pro-style offense or defense in college as at Stanford, Alabama, Wisconsin, or LSU.

It's almost as if we watch two different sports on Saturdays and Sundays.

  • As a result, the NFL draft is more of a crapshoot than ever before. This is especially true for the most important position of all - QB.
  • Rookies take longer to develop, and many never adapt to the NFL style of play and wash out.
  • The net result is that the quality of play in the NFL has suffered.
  • Many writers as well as some coaches have commented on the poor caliber of offensive-line play in particular.
  • Panthers GM Dave Gettleman: What makes it so tough is the college game is not our game. Back when I first started (1986), you were drafting players who were fundamentally sound, who understood the game. The college and pro games were similar. Now? You get guys who are fundamentally unsound.
  • Bill Walsh, the Hall of Fame Coach of the 49ers (1979-88) had a two-year rule for players. You had two years to show that you could contribute to the team. Now it's a three-year rule. Gettleman: A guy can have all the talent in the world, but this game is about fundamentals, and these players don't have them.

What can be done to at least reduce the divide between the NCAA and NFL?

  • One suggestion to solve this problem is to have the NCAA bring its hashmarks in to the width of the goal posts, which is the NFL rule. Herman: That would change the game dramatically. There wouldn't be formations into the boundary, and the concept it puts on the defense wouldn't exist. The kind of throws we ask our QBs to make would be different as well. When asked if splitting the difference between the college and pro hash marks would have an impacat, Herman said not much of an impact.
  • Some suggest a developmental league for the NFL. (Wasn't that what NFL Europe was supposed to be? Maybe it was ahead of its time.)
  • Some would like to see a modification in the next negotiation with the players' union to have different off-season rules for rookies through third-year players as opposed to veterans.
LSU Baseball Update [5/9]
I concluded my article last Friday with "the Tigers could sure use a sweep this weekend."
  • And that's what they got against Arkansas despite another lousy performance by Jared Poche.
  • I attended the Friday night game, which will always be memorable for two reasons:
    --I got to see Alex Lange pitch up close (5th row, behind screen, near Arkansas dugout down 3B line).
    --I saw one of the wackiest plays I've ever witnessed in 65+ years of watching baseball - a double play that became a triple play on appeal.
  • First, Lange again started slowly, with the Razorbacks scoring a run in the 1st and leaving two on. But he settled down and didn't allow another run until the 5th. A homer in the 8th cut LSU's lead to 5-3. Hunter Newman relieved in the inning and kept us in suspense by walking three men and giving a run on a wild pitch before gaining the save, 5-4.
  • Now the double-triple play in the 5th. Arkansas had the bases loaded and no one out. With the infield playing in, the batter hit a low liner right at SS Kramer Robertson. He reached down and caught it but did he get it on the fly or on a short hop? Kramer held up the ball as if he caught it on the fly and one ump signalled out. Robertson then continued the play as if he had not caught the ball on the fly. He threw home to get the forceout on the runner from 3rd. Then the runner on 2nd was caught in no-man's land with the runner from 1st coming to 2nd. So C Jordan Romero threw to 3B Chris Reid who put the tag on the runner. That ended the play but how many outs were recorded? Two or three? The umps huddled for a few minutes and decided that Robertson had caught the ball on the fly. (I'm told replays showed that he caught the ball on a short hop.) So the batter was out, the runner on 3rd scored since he had to be tagged at home. After several more minutes of delay as each coach consulted with the umps as to what was going on, play resumed. Lange took his stretch on the rubber and threw to 3rd. The ump there signalled out because the base runner there had not tagged up before running home on a ball caught on the fly. The play was officially scored as a double play with the third out record on the appeal. Have you ever seen that before?
  • LSU came back from a 9-1 deficit to win Saturday night's game 10-9 in ten innings. That's the good news. The bad news is that Jared Poche bombed out again - just 1 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks. The good news on the pitching front was that Austin Bain, Riley Smith, and Russell Reynolds combined for five innings of scoreless relief. That allowed the Tigers to score four in the 9th to tie the game before a walkoff win in the 10th.
  • Sunday, Manieri used "Johnny Wholestaff" for the 7-1 win. With John Valek on the bench after multiple ineffective starts, Caleb Gilbert threw five scoreless innings, Parker Bugg three, and Jesse Stallings finished with a run in the 9th.
  • Below are the current statistics for Poche and Valek, two of the three weekend starters for most of the season. I also include Poche's stats from his previous two years at LSU. Notice the increase not only in Poche's ERA but also in opponents' batting average against him from year to year.
Pitcher ERA W-L BB K BA
John Valek 2016 4.36 6-2 7 41 .286
Jared Poche 2016 4.09 5-4 26 56 .289
Jared Poche 2015 3.05 9-2 25 72 .248
Jared Poche 2014 2.45 9-3 26 52 .222
Baseball Expansion
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to expand to foreign countries. I hope he succeeds because that would be in line with my ideal plan for the sport.
  • I'd like to see baseball add two more teams - say, Montreal and Mexico City.
  • Put one in each league to give 16 American and 16 National League teams.
  • Divide each league into four divisions of four.
  • The winners of the four divisions advance to the playoffs. Seed by record. #1 vs #4, #2 vs #3.
  • NO WILD CARDS!
  • With an extra division in each league, there will be just as many - if not more - teams in the running for the playoffs in September as in the current phony wild card scenario.
  • Pennant races would be restored to their pre-1995 status - win your division or stay home.
  • No longer would we have the situation of a team winning its division, then losing in the postseason to the second place team in its division - or even the third place team as happened when the Cubs beat the Cardinals in 2015.
  • And, yes, the Cardinals finished second in the NL Central in 2011 but defeated the first-place Brewers to go to the World Series.

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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