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The Scoop on Toledo vs. Ball State

There may be a presidential election going on today, but the eyes of the nation will clearly be in Toledo, Ohio, for Toledo's clash with Ball State. 

Things are going well right now for Toledo. The Rockets just entered the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2001 and are tied atop the MAC West with Northern Illinois. Ball State has also enjoyed a successful season, riding a three-game winning streak and at 6-3 the Cardinals hope to make their first bowl trip since 2008. Pete Lembo's team also won six games last year but did not play in a bowl game, so a win tonight will go a long way toward Ball State's postseason plans. 

There are many similarities between Toledo and Ball State. First, both programs are led by young head coaches. Matt Campbell and Pete Lembo were both used as examples in FootballScoop's study of the success of young head coaches

Next, both of these squads have played their final Saturday game in the regular season. Each team's next game is on next Wednesday as Toledo will visit Northern Illinois and Ball State hosts Ohio. The Cardinals close the regular season on Friday, Nov. 23, at Miami (Ohio), and Toledo completes its regular season slate on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at home versus Akron. Such is life inside the national phenomenons known as MACtion.

Both teams choose to win with their offense. Each squad ranks in the top third of FBS teams in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense. They also are among the bottom 15 FBS teams in total defense, but Toledo has managed to be a touchdown per game better than Ball State in scoring defense. The Cardinals allow 33.3 points per game, while the Rockets surrender 26.7 points per game. 

Each team has been particularly vulnerable through the air (Toledo is 110th in pass defense, Ball State is 98th) but the Rockets' defense has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio, with 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, than Ball State's 22-to-6 ratio. 

The biggest difference between these two teams is turnover margin. Based on their average margins, Toledo should win this match-up by at least one takeaway. Ball State failed to win the turnover battle in each of its previous three losses. 

Like the presidential election, tonight's game should be close. Outside of the loss to Clemson, every one of Ball State's game has been decided by 12 points or less. Toledo's last two games have also been decided by a total of 11 points. 

Let the MACtion commence. 

Brent Venables discusses what it takes to build a consistent winner

First year Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was asked by reporters earlier today about the similarity between the college communities of Clemson and Oklahoma (where he coached last season), and how each of them have managed to have sustained success despite relatively small population bases and sharing the state with other BCS caliber schools.

After noting continued success relies a lot on stability within the administration, and continuity within the coaching staff, Venables goes on to explain a few other areas he sees as key to building a consistent winner in a campus community similar to his last two coaching stops.

"You have to be able to recruit at a high level. Let's face it, players help make everything easy." Venables said, adding that recruiting coupled with stability within the staff and administration is the foundation that everything else is built upon.

"Consistency within your approach is also important. Obviously, you have to be thorough and detailed in how you run a program."

"Having a foundation of recruiting tough, disciplined players, and they don't have to be real flashy. That's kind of contrary to popular belief anymore in this day and age of 'Let's see what new play this team comes up with this week' or, 'What cool pretty uniform will this team show up in?'"

"That's not how you win. Now, kids like that so you can recruit some kids, but if that's what they're making decision off from, then that's not the kind of guy that I want to coach anyway. I'm in it, so I get it, but I want some guys that have a little more substance to themselves. But that's just me." Venables explains.

"Again, Bill Snyder is the model of consistency as a coach and his approach. He doesn't change. He is faceless day in and day out in his approach to young people and I think there's a comfort in that, in a very systematic approach. When you start deviating, being here and there and everywhere else, I think that when they start to see through you and gets everyone out of their comfort zone."

"There are a lot of variables that go into it, but I think having a foundation of those things are critical."

After weighing in on program building, Venables provides some quality insight on the importance of the four hour radius surrounding the Clemson campus and why that radius weighed heavily into his decision to take a position on Dabo Swinney's staff.


The situation at Cal

Jon Wilner, the respected writer from the San Jose Mercury-News, recently detailed the situation facing Cal head coach Jeff Tedford and the future of Cal athletics. In his 12th year as Cal's head coach, Tedford is 82-55, but a 21-13 loss to Washington on Friday dropped the Golden Bears to 3-7 this season, clinching an early hibernation for the Bears for the second time in three years. 

If a decision is indeed made to make a coaching change, Wilner thinks it would start with athletics director Sandy Barbour. Any change would likely start with her and run through UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. It is unclear exactly how the dynamics of their relationship works and how a final call would be made, but any movement likely begins and ends with those two. 

The economics of the situation are complicated like seemingly everything else in that state, Cal athletics is facing budget issues. To make a coaching change, unless Tedford was willing to accept a negotiated buyout, Cal would owe Tedford $6.9 million - the full salary of the remaining three years on his contract. That's just the start, considering the cost to run a search, hire a new coaching staff while also turning over the existing staff.

There is also another dollar figure to consider - $321 million. That's the price Cal paid to renovate Memorial Stadium. To finance the renovation, Cal is asking for 50-year seat license fees. Cal must put fans in seats to make its economics work and, if you watched the Golden Bears' game with Washington on Friday night, you saw that this will be a big hill to climb if things don't improve on the field. Any cost associated with changing the coaching staff must be weighed against the cost of tickets gone unsold.

As Wilner points out, it is possible that Barbour's voice in the process may be minimized due to the contract she approved for Tedford. Wilner wrote a detailed breakdown of Cal's economic conundrum in October. She also could be replacing the person that she referred to in late August as "an icon". Add all three factors together and it's not out of the question that Chancellor Birgeneau takes the decision-making process in another direction. 

The Tedford era began very strongly in Berkeley. He earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors in his debut season of 2002 and again in 2004. Tedford led the Golden Bears to 10-win season in 2004, when they famously pushed eventual national champion USC to the brink of an upset, and in 2006, when they shared the Pac-10 title and won the Holiday Bowl. Tedford's tenure peaked in October of the 2007 season, when a 5-0 start rocketed Cal to the No. 2 ranking in both major polls. However, the Bears went 2-6 to finish that season and are 34-35 since earning the No. 2 ranking. 

Another factor not weighing in Tedford's favor is Cal's performance in the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate. According to the figures Wilner provided, Cal's 2002-05 entering classes finished with a 48 percent success rate, the lowest figure in the Pac-12. 

The NFL / NCAA Coaches Academy


The NCAA reached out to us today asking for our help in alerting as many coaches as possible about the upcoming NFL/NCAA Coaches Academy.

The Academy is February 17 - 19 in Charlotte, N.C. The deadline to apply is Monday, November 26. Click here to view the application. 

A total of 60 coaches and current/former NFL players will be chosen to attend the Academy, which is designed to provide attendees with the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into the world of coaching.

For additional information on the NFL/NCAA Coaches Academy, please click here.

The call that no coach wants to get

This past winter, Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes got that phone call that every coach dreads. That call after midnight that can never be good.

That call was to let coach Dykes know that a Bulldog running back, Tyrone Duplessis, was heading to the hospital and was unresponsive. Duplessis later died at the hospital from what was found to be a massive heart attack.

"That's one of the hardest things that I have ever had to deal with personally. You get that phone call at 4 o'clock in the morning...and you know, as a head coach, it's never a good phone call." Dykes explains Yahoo's clip.

As the video shows, the Bulldogs have dedicated the season to their fallen teammate and his family, and are off to an 8-1 start (3-0 in the WAC), and end the season at Texas State, followed by two big match ups with Utah State at home and San Jose State on the road.


Marine surprises family at East Carolina game! "USA"

God bless the USA!!!

The Scoop on stats - Week 10

As the year goes on, the stakes get bigger, and the games just keep getting better and better. This past weekend was a perfect example of that. Here's a look at some of the statistics that caught our eye through week 10. There's some real good ones in here this week.

Let us know if there is anything out there that caught your eye that you think should have made the cut.

- Of the top scoring offenses nationally, just one is in the Pac 12 (#1 Oregon), one is from the WAC (#2 LA Tech), one is from the SEC (#4 Texas A&M), one is from the MAC (#10 Northern Illinois), two are from the ACC (#3 Florida State and #7 Clemson), and the remaining four are from the Big 12 (#5 Kansas State, #6 Baylor, #8 Oklahoma State, and #9 West Virginia).

- Texas A&M is averaging 45 points per game, which is a touchdown more per game that it averaged in the Big 12 last season.

- On Saturday, Kenjon Barner rushed for more yards in a single game (321) than Washington State has rushed for all season.

- Also, Barner ran for more, or as many touchdowns, against USC on Saturday than 12 FBS had during the entire month of October. LSU, Iowa, Miami (OH), Virginia, Wake Forest, and New Mexico State all accounted for 5 touchdowns last month, while Washington State, Colorado, Miami (FL), Illinois, UConn and UMass each had 4 or less on the month.

- Oregon became the first team ever to put up 60+ on USC. The Trojans have been playing football for 124 years.

- Though nine games, Mississippi State has not allowed a single punt return yard in just eight return attempts. Three other teams (Auburn, Ball State, Kansas State) are allowing single digit return yardage.

- Three of the top five scorers in the country are running backs (Kenneth Dixon - LA Tech, Kenjon Barner - Oregon, Giovani Bernard - UNC), and just two specialists (Quinn Sharp - OK State, and Dustin Hopkins - Florida State) are in the top ten.

- Nine games in the books, and Air Force has yet to allow a sack (67 attempts on the year). Perhaps more impressively, Oklahoma State has 317 passing attempts, and has given up just four sacks on the season.

- Arizona is the team that has benefited the most from penalties this season, with over 900 free yards in nine games (939 yards on the season). Teams commit nearly 11 penalties per game against the Wildcats.

- Kansas State is the only team in the country to have converted 100% of their fourth down attempts (2 for 2). Florida State is dead last in offensive fourth down conversions, going 0 for 2 through their first nine games.

- The most aggressive staffs when it comes to going for it on fourth down are Army (34 attempts), Penn State (30 attempts), Air Force (27 attempts) and UMass (27 attempts).

- Nebraska, Florida and Florida State all have defenses that are holding their opponents to a less than 50% completion rating.

- Stanford has the nation's top run defense, and is the only defense in the country that is allowing less than 2 yards per carry (1.91).

- Louisiana Tech and Alabama are the only two teams in the country yet to throw an interception. On the flip side, Western Michigan, Washington State and Idaho have all thrown 16 picks each. Our research shows that there are no starting quarterbacks at the FCS, D-II or D-III level that can say that.

- Seven players in the FBS have reached the 100 tackle mark, only two of them are from the same conference (SEC). Toledo, UAB, Kentucky, Boston College, Iowa, Tennessee, and Army all have linebackers with 100 tackles or more and all of them but Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson (10 games) have done it in 9 games.

- Houston has two linebackers in the top seven players nationally in tackles for loss.

- Tulane, San Jose State, and Alabama are the only teams with kickers who have converted 100% of their field goal attempts. All three kickers have at least 9 attempts.

- Texas State, UMass, Eastern Michigan, Army, New Mexico, Idaho and Colorado are all giving up an average of 7 yards per play on defense. Not surprisingly, none of those teams have more than 4 wins on the season (New Mexico is 4-6).

- Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen has booted the ball almost two yards more on average (48.79 yards per punt) than the top punters from the last two seasons (2011 - 47.04 yards per punt, 2010 - 46.37 yards per punt)., .

- Western Kentucky's Quanterus Smith and Bowling Green's Chris Jones have the exact same amount of sacks (11.5 which is tied for first nationally) for the exact same amount of yardage (79 yards). However, Smith has put up the numbers in one less game.

Mike MacIntyre notes maturity as main reason for San Jose State's turnaround

San Jose head coach Mike MacIntyre has Spartans sitting at an impressive 7-2 and 4-1 in WAC play. Their only two losses this season were a three point loss to Stanford and a 22 point loss to a hot Utah State team last month.

The seven wins is more than San Jose State had combined to win over the past two seasons and one more win in their next three games will equal their win total from the last three seasons combined. There's no doubt that MacIntyre has these guys on the right path.

Asked about the strides that they have made since being named head coach back in December of 2009, MacIntyre noted the team's maturity and love of the game, even during grueling practices, as a few of the reasons that they're now able to put together consistent wins on Saturday afternoons. 

"Those young men are hungry, they can taste it, they enjoy winning...It's contagious."

"There is such a fine line between winning and losing," McIntyre explained. "There's three or four plays here or there. Fortunately we've been making those plays and our kids are hustling and understanding what to do."

"One thing that we do a good job of is our kids concentrate and practice hard all week. Well people say, 'Everybody practices hard.' Yeah but there's a difference, our kids are focused, they're thinking, they're enjoying practice. They really are enjoying practice and when you do that, it ends up showing up on Saturdays."

"It's kind of like osmosis, it just shows up because they're so ready. Eventually all those fundamentals and all those things that we've taught them...they're more precise than the other team and they're good enough athletes to make plays."

This weekend the Spartans take on a New Mexico State team that took them down to the wire and beat them on the last play of the game three years ago. MacIntyre said that loss on their home field left a bad taste in the mouths of his players, and they've had this one circled on the calendar for a while now.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET. San Jose State's remaining two games following Saturday are at home against BYU and WAC frontrunner Louisiana Tech to finish out the year.