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Mailbag 9/23

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We talk kicking!

Georgia Tech v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

Considering the number of people “tailgating” at nearby indoor watering holes, do we think we’ll see a return of traditional tailgating for safety’s sake?

Ben: Almost certainly not. Georgia Tech doesn’t want any part of that liability.

Jeff: No, the school will continue to control what they can to not let a spread be on their watch. Or you could do like UGA and ban tailgating but allow gatherings in the parking lots...

Akshay: Probably not. By not allowing tailgating on campus (that last prepositional phrase is important), Tech has wiped their hands of any liability that may arise from a potential COVID case/death that can be traced back to an on-campus tailgate. I’m sure the administration won’t want to let go of that plausible deniability any time soon. At the same time (and on the brighter side), Jeff is right: banning on-campus tailgating inhibits further spread of the virus, which (for the most part) has been controlled on campus.

Jake: I think the funniest part is that they literally have giant tailgate tents set up for students but I’ll admit before the (relative) success of Saturday in the social distancing and mask wearing sense, I was uncomfortable they were allowing in non-students to games. So, no, I don’t see them “being at a place where it’s okay” for people to tailgate, but, boy, was it hard to grab dinner in Midtown Saturday after the game. Tech fans have to eat, I suppose...

When we will ever have a healthy d-line again?

Ben: I mean, it’s 2020. Will anything ever be good again?

Jeff: Playing in the trenches is where most injuries occurs it just happens that all ours was at the beginning of the year...again.

Jake: No, we don’t get nice things.

Akshay: Lol

Please tell me some young war daddies are gonna commit to us this recruiting class…pretty please???

Ben: Well, that’s a question. If recruiting seems a little slow this year, that’s just because they have to keep extending the dead period, visits can’t happen, and things in general are just moving really slow. Personally, I think we’ll see a little more action during the season.

Jeff: I'm not sure what a war daddy is so I can neither confirm nor deny.

Akshay: Sir, this is a Wendy’s.

Carter: When it comes to referring to high schoolers as “daddies”, let’s not!

Jake: I mean we’ll have commits? Your mileage may vary on their veteran and paternal statuses...

Does anyone know who won the backup QB spot?

Ben: It probably varies from week to week. With not having an actual depth chart, it allows Patenaude and Co. to sub quarterbacks (if necessary) based on the situation, so they can put in whatever quarterback is best suited for that situation.

Jeff: Yates was getting a good amount of reps in the limited spring they got in but that's only a guess. I hope we don't have to find out.

Akshay: The team hasn’t released anything other than the A-T-L chart, so it’s hard to say. It’s also hard to make an educated guess without media at practice.

Jake: I could read too much into James Graham’s tweets and what Geoff says about folks like Jordan Yates but that would be me talking out of my [Aerosmith].

Carter: THEY’RE ALL ABOVE THE LINE. TRUST THE PROCESS.

If our defense gets healthy and the offense cleans up the turnover bug/self destruct mode can you see this team getting to the 7or 8 win plateau by the end of the season?

Ben: Given the shortened season, I would imagine that at this point, reaching for the 4-6 win mark is the goal. I would love to see 7, but I think 4-6 is a bit more reasonable.

Jeff: I'd say 6 would be a reasonable number to shoot for. If having Clayton and Swilling back made a huge jump then sure we could see 7. There has been sloppy play from a lot of teams and I think each week could be hit or miss.

Carter: Let’s not go putting carts before horses here. Get to 3-4 wins before we start talking about 7-8.

Akshay: What Carter said; let’s not be too hasty. Our goal for this season was to see bonafide improvement, which we have (which is really exciting, don’t get me wrong) — but let’s just make sure we keep our expectations in check, especially as we heat into the meat of the conference schedule. I had this team at four to five wins with the adjusted schedule before the season, and I maintain that anything more than that (if it were to happen) is icing on the cake.

Jake: Gosh, while we’re dreaming, could I get a full time job offer by the end of the season? Sure, it would be nice to win 7 or 8, and in the realm of possibility. But in the meantime we have to take it week by week - injuries, COVID, and the like really throw a wrench into the week-by-week, especially on this team.

Hypothetically if UCF was pulling a Notre Dame this year and playing a full ACC schedule would they be the second best team in the conference?

Ben: I don’t think they’re better than Clemson or Notre Dame. There are also teams that are more experienced that wouldn’t make as many mistakes as Tech did in that game. You take a few of those turnovers away, and that game is much closer than the score would indicate. I think they would probably be an upper-second tier ACC team.

Jeff: Clemson would wipe the floor with UCF. Notre Dame would probably win comfortably too. Tech doesn't turn the ball over and this game would have been within the 7-point spread. Gabriel was not good when being pressured and a lot of ACC teams are better than us at rushing the passer.

Akshay: Why don’t we consult SP+ for a fair comparison here? Let’s take UCF’s latest rating (15.8 - #14 overall) and apply that to ND’s 2020 schedule. Keep in mind: in the latest rankings, ND was #8 overall with a 21.4 rating and the formula to determine margin of victory (MoV) with SP+ is (team rating) - (opponent rating) + (home-field advantage adjustment), where home-field advantage is +/- 1, depending on if the team is at home (note: in normal years, this adjustment is +/- 2.5).

UCF vs ND in SP+

Opponent Site Opponent Rating UCF MoV UCF Win Prob ND MoV ND Win Prob
Opponent Site Opponent Rating UCF MoV UCF Win Prob ND MoV ND Win Prob
Duke Home -6.3 23.1 0.913 28.6 0.954
USF Home -9.7 26.5 0.940 32.1 0.971
Wake Away -8.0 22.8 0.910 28.4 0.953
FSU Home 2.8 14 0.795 19.6 0.876
Louisville Home 5.4 11.4 0.749 17 0.841
Pitt Away 10.4 4.4 0.602 16 0.827
Georgia Tech Away -0.2 15 0.811 20.6 0.887
Clemson Home 25.5 -8.7 0.304 -3.1 0.428
Boston College Away 1.3 13.5 0.786 19.1 0.869
UNC Away 15.1 -0.3 0.493 5.3 0.622
Syracuse Home -9.3 26.1 0.938 31.7 0.969
SP+ Rankings from ESPN.com

So in 2020, based on SP+ and against a typical ACC schedule, UCF would be expected to go 8.241-2.759, only just about a win under ND, who is expected to finish 9.197-1.803. I’m too lazy to go and look up expected win totals for the entire conference, but I’d wager a guess that UCF would be in the top four (amongst Clemson, ND, and UNC), at least.

Jake: Numbers! Ah! Seriously, though, a few calls less egregiously not go Tech’s way and it’s a one score game. And we’re supposed to be bad, remember!

How was the atmosphere at BDS for anyone who attended Saturday’s game?

Ben: I was working on Saturday, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jake: Oooooh I have comments on this one:

  1. Beer sales made Athletics bank. Seemingly most were partaking.
  2. UCF fans were worse at mask wearing/distancing - for proof, just see how much closer together they were sitting in the southeast corner.
  3. The stereo was SO LOUD. Even in the Upper North. They also played over the band a lot when the band was already playing, which was weird.
  4. The students, once they realized they can still bang on the bleachers (one of my favorite parts of the atmosphere, to be honest) and make a ruckus, did a good job with that.
  5. The new lights/paint/signage looks excellent. The power of some paint to make something old look nice and fresh is great.

I have more thoughts, so if you’d like expansion or I missed something you were wondering about, leave a comment!

Anybody doing Fantasy CFB this year?

Ben: I don’t even want to think about how complicated that could potentially be. I wasn’t good at fantasy football with NFL.

Carter: Been doing a fantasy league with the same group of folks for a few years now. We’re all scattered, but this was supposed to be the year we gathered in Atlanta for the draft. Obviously, those plans have been postponed.

Jake: Tried that one year with Reck Club. I was terrible. It’s frankly so much harder than NFL fantasy.

Hopefully without jinxing anything, do we actually have a chance to get a whole college football season?

Ben: At this point, with the conferences that said nah now coming back, I think, despite it probably not being a terrific idea, there will be a full season played.

Jeff: I think it will make it at this point but there will be several teams who don't get their full slate in.

Akshay: Given that we’re at about two games played for every one cancelled, the jury’s still out on this one.

Jake: Borrowing an old swimmer adage: if you have a lane, you have a chance. We’re flipping at the 50 yard mark of the season. The problem? We’re swimming a 500. We can make it to the end, but it might hurt like [Hall & Oates] on the way.

If the Big 10 is only playing 8 games, do potential playoff teams that played 10 and 11 games have an advantage or disadvantage?

Ben: If Ohio State still goes undefeated, they’ll still be in the College Football Playoff. Outside of them, I don’t think any other team in the B1G has a shot.

Jeff: An 8-game schedule gives so little room for error that only Ohio State has the perception of being that dominant if they go undefeated, they won't. It's going to be Clemson, Oklahoma, Bama, and Florida.

Akshay: Unclear. I’ve always beat the drum for “you play the teams that are on your schedule”, so to extend that, my personal belief is teams must be evaluated based on their schedules, regardless of how long they are. Obviously, collecting more data points (IE: playing more games) gives you a better idea of the true strength of a given team (especially in a sport with such a low sample size), but at a certain point (I think Bill Connelly puts it at around six games into the season), teams are “who they say they are” and don’t change a ton the rest of the way through. The SEC will want credit for playing two more games, but I’m not entirely sure they should get it — partially out of rivalry spite and partially because it just wouldn’t be fair.

Has anyone made a video of the first 4 minutes of the second half of the UCF game set to Yakety Sax and do you have the link?

Ben: I need this in my life.

Jake: This would be great. Was worried that it was going to be a boat race to the century mark about two minutes in...

What’s up with all the blocks? Bad blocking? Low kicks? Both? Would this still be happening if all of the kickers didn’t leave in the offseason?

Ben: I’ll take All of the Above for $500, Alex! Blocking on kicks has been ehh, and Jude Kelley did not do a great job of getting good lift on his kicks against Florida State.

Jeff: It was definitely both and did you watch the kicking game last year? We're just finding new ways to miss is all.

Akshay: Looks like a little of column A and a little of column B, with column C sprinkled in as well. I’ll be the first to say that the kicking performances were not great last season, but continuity at a position when the rest of the world is on fire (both literally and figuratively) always helps. Of course, when both of your available kickers leave the program, you kinda have to do with what you have. In that vein, ESPN’s Joe Tessitore (who has called both of our games so far and whose son is a kicker at Boston College) did note mechanical issues on some of these attempts (“poor snap-to-hold time”, etc.), and from watching the tape, you can see that Kelley had some trouble getting air under his kicks. However, Gavin Stewart seemed to have no such problem on his XP attempts on Saturday. Given these items, plus Coach Collins’ quote on lack of kick practice time from two weeks ago, I’m willing to blame early-season + COVID-related rust more than any other individual factor at this point.