September 19, 2011

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NCAA Football Conference Realignment: Selecting the Top 64 Schools

By: Anson Whaley

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about NCAA Football Conference allignment and how superconferences could be good for college football. My point was that if six such conferences existed, the BCS would be more accessible to a greater number of teams. But with the Big 12 possibly on the verge of an epic collapse, the more likely scenario is a sport with only four of those 16-team conferences.

That got me to thinking – if it did happen, who would likely be included? Rivals/Yahoo had some writers discuss the issue with each one coming up with their list of NCAA teams. It’s safe to say there were some notable omissions – Duke, UConn, and Indiana all were left off some of the rosters.NCAA football rules college athletics, but is it really fair to leave out such NCAA basketball powerhouses?

Well, I’ll get to that in a bit. But for the record, basketball programs that don’t play FBS football were left out of consideration. So Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier, Marquette, Gonzaga, et al? No dice.

So here’s my list of 64 teams:

The Absolute Locks– There’s absolutely no discussion on these guys. The fact that I even have to list them is borderline insulting. Call them first-ballot Hall of Famers, if you will. If there was only one superconference, these guys would be the first ones in: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, USC

Next In Line- These schools aren’t the cream of the crop, but they’d definitely get in without any question. Any NCAA conference would be glad to have them and there’s as much of a chance of Oddibe McDowell getting into the Hall of Fame as there is of these schools being left out: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan State, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Still In With Little Question – This is the third tier…NCAA schools that no sane conference would leave out. There could be some trivial questions about a few of them, but these institutions would certainly all be in as well. Arizona State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Purdue, Oregon State, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Virginia, Washington

The “Basketball” Schools– Personally, I don’t see how you have superconferences without including some of the most storied basketball programs around. Sure, we all get that despite March Madness, in terms of money, NCAA basketball takes a back seat to football. But as the second biggest college sport, these schools have got to be in. After all, are you really going to turn down these schools that not only each have won multiple basketball championships for someone like Baylor? Didn’t think so: UConn, Duke, Indiana

The “Non-BCS Football Schools”– These guys have all had incredible success without being in a BCS automatic qualifying conference. I can listen to the argument of not moving them to the front of the line for various reasons such as market size, but they’ve all been ranked in the top ten in recent years on the gridiron and are too good to leave out: Boise State, BYU, TCU, Utah

The Final Five In

Minnesota – Mediocre football and basketball programs, but has had respectable years in each.

Northwestern– Here mostly for their academics and market (Chicago). Oh yeah, and Michael Wilbon.

Rutgers – One of oldest universities and recent football success with average of nine wins from 2006 – 2009.

South Carolina – Are you gonna be the one to tell Steve Spurrier he’s not invited?

South Florida– Football program on the rise after only being in Division I for ten years and brings the Tampa market.

Left Out – Can’t find room for everybody and these would be the unlucky schools if I were putting the conferences together. Would they be on someone’s list? Absolutely. But on mine, they just miss the cut: Vanderbilt, Baylor, Iowa State, Washington State, Wake Forest

August 22, 2011

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Top Ten Fantasy Football Drafting Tips

By: Anson Whaley

The NFL lockout’s over and with the season about to begin, here are ten tips to keep in mind when drafting your fantasy football team.

10. Never take a Kicker or Defense until the Late Rounds: Kickers in high-scoring offenses will produce points for sure, but it’s much better to add another quality skilled NFL player in the sixth or seventh round than to burn that pick on an ‘idiot’ kicker (Thanks, Peyton – I’ll never forget that one). There are always several good options left in the free agency pool and while you don’t necessarily have to wait until your final pick, you should avoid drafting one in the middle rounds. The same can be said for defenses. You may even prefer to switch your defense from week to week to take advantage of good matchups (i.e. Playing against the Buffalo Bills’ offense = gold mine).

9. Don’t Draft Based on Last Year’s Stats: While it’s fine to use last year’s numbers as a guide, they can’t be relied upon solely for your analysis in drafting. Sometimes the losses of seemingly minor NFL players such as blocking fullbacks change teams drastically and could mean that running back you’ve been watching won’t be as successful.

8. Avoid Taking Too Many Players from One Team: Even if it means potentially passing on what may be a slightly better player, it’s a good idea to limit yourself to two players from one NFL team. The Packers may be a great team, but drafting Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, and Greg Jennings is probably the worst idea since the Houston Astros 1980s rainbow-colored unis. Not only will you have to deal with a potential loss during Green Bay’s bye week, but anytime their offense stumbles during the season, it could mean another automatic defeat.

7. Draft Based on Your League: It’s always a good idea to draft personnel depending on the rules in your league, so make sure you’re paying attention to them. Someone like Reggie Bush who’s a dual threat out of the backfield is obviously more valuable in a point-per-reception league. Or if you’re in a league where accumulated yardage doesn’t count, you’ll want to target players with only high touchdown possibilities.

6. Target Several Players Immediately after Your Pick: This rule is especially true for online drafts that run on a timer. Your pick will come up sooner than you think and poor planning can result in a hurried, or even wasted, pick. Don’t turn into the Minnesota Vikings – be ready. Immediately after your selection, highlight at least five players you’d like to take next and use your time to rank them. There’s a good chance that one or even several will be taken by then, but by planning ahead of time, you can ensure that you’re ready when your team is on the clock.

5. Avoid Listening to Too Many ‘Experts’: I like Yahoo’s Brandon Funston and ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s just as much as the next guy, but the more analysts you listen to, the more confused you’ll get. These guys aren’t perfect and often have conflicting opinions. The best thing to do is to use them for compiling groups of players you like at each position and make the final pick based on your own knowledge. Just because Kiper isn’t follicly-challenged doesn’t mean that he’s always right.

4. Limit Rookie Draft Picks: Sure, there are plenty of NFL rookies that can impact your team positively. But for every Adrian Peterson there are five Michael Crabtrees. Facts are facts – most rookies won’t play as much as projected and even if they do, that doesn’t mean they’ll be successful. Not only is the speed of the NFL on another level, but first-year players have plenty to worry about. Trust me, Cam Newton is not the key to your fantasy football team reaching the playoffs.

3. Overvalue quarterbacks and tight ends: This is one rule that’s a bit debatable, but I’ve seen too many good teams destroyed by mediocre quarterbacks. Invest in a good one in the first two or three rounds and your team should be better for it. There are only a few elite ones (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Leaf to name a few), so you’ll need to act fast. It’s also worth targeting the top tight ends in the early middle rounds since there aren’t many that are capable of finding the end zone regularly.

2. Stockpile skill players (WR, RB, QB): Many owners will make a mistake in thinking their team is fine because they’ve got capable starters at all positions, but you can never have enough skill players. For one thing, you’ll need to worry about injuries and bye weeks. Plus, they’re always good trade bait and you can move them for other needs you may have down the line. If your quarterback goes down, it will be much easier to strike a deal for someone’s quality backup. So instead of picking up the league’s best kicker in the seventh round, take a third running back or wide receiver.

1. Leave emotion at the door: Just as that was Brad Pitt’s first rule in poker in Ocean’s Eleven, it should be made so in fantasy football. You should never pick up or avoid a player based on how you feel about them or their team personally. If you’re a Steelers fan, make the sacrifice and you don’t pick up Tom Brady who happens to be on the board in the fourth round, you’ve made a huge mistake. And just because you have a Texas Longhorns Ricky Williams jersey in your closet, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should take him with your first pick. Or second, third, fourth, or …

Well, you get the picture.