Thursday, November 26, 2009

2009 - Playoff Week 3 Shootout Pick

Happy Thanksgiving!  Some schools around the state of Arkansas have made it a yearly tradition of practicing on this day.  Our pick for Week 3 of the 2009 playoffs is a matchup of two teams that have done that.  This week we are selecting the Shiloh Christian - Nashville matchup in Springdale as our shootout.

This game has been anticipated since the playoff brackets were revealed last spring.  We think that SC will be tested for the first time since early in the season.  Nashville is a tough team that knows this deep playoff territory very well.  If you get the chance to see it, we think the action in Champion's Stadium will be very intense.  We think that Shiloh will prevail over the Scrappers, but we would not be surprised if Nashville wins one as a going away present for Coach Dawson.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 - Playoff Week 2 Shootout Pick

First, a little bit of history:
  • 2006:  Greenwood 56, Pulaski Academy 55 (5A State Championship Game)
  • 2007:  Greenwood 57, Pulaski Academy 50 (5A Quarterfinals)
  • 2008:  Pulaski Academy 54, Greenwood 24 (5A Semifinals)
So, our pick for the shootout this week:  Pulaski Academy @ Greenwood [Smith-Robinson Field in Greenwood - 7:30 pm].  This one should be another barn burner.  Had PA not stumbled in the mud at Little Rock Christian 2 weeks ago, this one could have been postponed until a meeting at War Memorial. The last FOUR 5A state championships are represented in this game.  Need we say anything else?  Have a great weekend! Hopefully, football will be part of it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bill Belichick vs. 31 Other Coaches*

It's certain that you have seen by now the Bill Belichick decision to go for it on 4th down last Sunday. It's almost a given that you have heard how terrible, foolish, etc. it was for him to not trust his defense. The real question for me, "Is did Belichick improve his chance of winning the game?" I know this will be hard for many of you to believe, but the answer is YES! By going for it in that situation, Belichick increased his chance of winning from 70% to 79%.


Well, it's not me, but statistics from hundreds of NFL games using expected outcomes of any given situation. If you haven't seen the website that analyzes this type of situation for many games, it is called Advanced NFL Stats. Here is the link to the analysis that shows Belichick was right. AND, there was fallout from the initial analysis claiming that it was faulty, so here is the link to the rebuttal column that was posted later.

So, why the dustup for Belichick over this? That is pretty simple. It just proves that the majority of coaches (31 out of 32) in the NFL are optimizing a different variable than chance of winning. It is my opinion that coaches are minimizing the "media exposure/fan outcry" variable rather maximizing the chance at winning. Belichick may not have known the exact numbers produced by the Advanced NFL Stats, but he knew for certain that making the 1st down seals the game.

The real question is how do fans allow themselves to fall victim to supporting strategies that work against the team's chance of success? For one, the coaches have put up a smoke screen that allows them to shift the blame/risk from himself to the players/defense. Really, I think it is simply that the coaches (and fans) don't know the optimum strategies, or the coaches refuse to take the heat for a winning strategy (by statistical analysis) that fails in a given instance. You will find VERY similar arguments in baseball when discussing the "manufacture" of runs. In that case, bunting, stealing bases, and other small ball, work against the team that implements those strategies. However, that idea is accepted as sound strategy by almost everyone in the game.

So, here's to Belichick. It takes guts to make the right decision, and he continues to lead in that category. One other thing, what do you think the media would have said in these two situations?
  1. Pats make the 1st down and win the game against the Colts.
  2. Pats punt and Manning drives the Colts 65 yards for the win.
Let us know what you think the buzz would have been with those outcomes.


*This article is cross-posted at 4th and 10.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 - Post Week 10 Playoffs Predictions

As we talked about earlier in the week, we decided to start the playoffs with our quick look at who will hoist the hardware in War Memorial in about 1 month hence. Let us know who you believe will be crowned in December.


This one seems like a gimme after the way the Bentonville Tigers played last Friday against Springdale Har-Ber. The 17-0 shutout of their competition for the 7A West conference crown served notice that the Tigers will make a deep run. We think that the Bentonville Tigers will repeat as the 7A champs in 2009.


We believe that the 6A classification will have a new champion even though Lake Hamilton is in the playoffs. The Wildcats of El Dorado have consistently played like the best team in 6A. We look for them to take a year's worth of bragging rights into the offseason.


It's the end of a regular season, and surprise of surprises, the rest of 5A is looking west toward Greenwood's Bulldog stadium as the route that must be followed to win the big one in Little Rock. Coach Jones has had about a year to remind his team of how last year ended. Our prediction is that the GW Bulldogs will arrive in the Rock to take home a 4th championship in the last 5 years.


To many (us included), the Saints of Shiloh Christian are the favorites to win the 4A title. However, they have not seem much competition since conference season began 7 weeks ago. We predict an SC title, but we would not be surprised if the battle tested Nashville Scrappers find a way to derail the Saints.


In the 3A, the Fountain Lake Cobras continue to impress. They have many believing that they are the class of the 3A. The Cobras will RUN their way to a title in War Memorial.


The Junction City Dragons are the defending champs and we think they will make a strong run to defend their title. However, Bearden has claimed a win over Dragons already this year. We think that they will bring home the hardware from the state capital.


That's all we have for you this week. Let us know where we are wrong. Have a great weekend! Hopefully, football will be part of it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 - Playoffs Begin

Playoff!?!?! Yes, that's right. It is already football playoff time in Arkansas. Sometime this week, we will give our favorites for each classification. Here's a small preview:
  • We think that at least two of the defending state champions will repeat.
  • At least one of us believes that the 5A will have a new champ with a familiar name.
Check back later in the week for the slate of predictions.

Friday, November 6, 2009

2009 - Week 10 Shootouts

Sorry that we have missed a couple of weeks, but we have some really good games on slate for tonight. The first game is so obvious that even a caveman could pick it. Pulaski Academy travels a short distance across Little Rock to play Little Rock Christian. This one has been selected by ESPNU as the Old Spice High School Showcase presented by Nike. Sensational RB Michael Dyer makes a national TV appearance against a PA team (led by Coach Kevin Kelley) which has been featured on NFL Films, ESPN's First Take, and the Freakonomics Blog of the New York Times. We have a feeling that Dyer will not be enough for LRCA. We predict that the Bruins secure the #1 playoff seed, and the opportunity to play at home for rest of their season.

Other games to watch tonight include: (1) the 7A West Championship Game in Bentonville as the Tigers host Springdale Har-Ber and (2) a pivotal playoff implication game as West Helena hosts Batesville.

Once again, we KNOW that we have missed a ton of games out there, but that's why we ask you to tell us about them in the comments. Have a great weekend! Hopefully, football will be part of it.