Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

This week's coaches luncheon and crunchy numbers

College basketball season begins tonight. Really.

This week's coaches luncheon and crunchy numbers

I've been working at Philly.com for just over two years now, and I'm pretty sure that these last few weeks have been the craziest of them all.

It started at the beginning of October, when I crammed my way into the last available place to stand on the Phillies' playoff bandwagon. A good number of the passengers on board didn't expect the engine to start properly, but much to our surprise we rolled all the way up to the top of the baseball mountain.

When we got there, the bus driver drove over the peak, cut the engine and flashed a grin as wide as Broad Street. All of a sudden, the two million of us on board started rolling downhill at breakneck speed, celebrating something many of us had never seen in our lives.

Then came Tuesday, and a presidential election that none of us at any age had ever seen. As with the nights when the Phillies won the NLCS and the World Series, I went down to Broad Street to watch the revelers. It was literally as if the previous Wednesday was happening all over again.

Whether you voted for Obama or not, you can't deny the spectacle of thousands of young people - and make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of them were students - parading towards City Hall from literally every direction.

Today, all that remains is the afterglow of one of the most remarkable stretches of time not only in my career but perhaps in this city's history. Winter looms, with the first warning sign coming when we set our clocks back an hour over the weekend.

And now comes the second. To my utter astonishment, the college basketball season begins tonight.

It is a sign of how crazy the last few weeks have been that until checking my calendar this afternoon, I had completely forgotten that Villanova welcomes Rollie Massimino and Northwood University to the Spectrum this evening, as the Wildcats make their first of two visits this season to the place Massimino's empire called home.

As I walked out of the office tonight, I was greeted by a rainstorm that came at me sideways in a swirling wind. It seemed a perfect metaphor for the state of my head right now.

With that in mind, I figured we'd go through our weekly data post backwards. So we start with the Top 10 chart.

I'm sure there are a lot of Penn State fans out there who are quite nervous about whether the Nittany Lions can make the national championship game. As far as I'm concerned, they're in a perfect position to do so.

Penn State is in second place in the two human polls that count towards the BCS, Harris and Sagarin. Perhaps more importantly, they're the No. 1 team in Sagarin, which should help dispel the notion that the computers won't look favorably upon an undefeated regular season.

The lack of quality opponents in the Big Ten will hurt only if Texas Tech and Alabama run the table, and I simply do not see it happening. I can easily see the Crimson Tide losing at LSU on Saturday in what is without question the game of the weekend. Tiger Stadium will be as amped up as it's ever been to let Nick Saban have it in his return to Baton Rouge.

Texas Tech should beat Oklahoma State on Saturday night, but up next is a trip to Norman, Okla. to face an Oklahoma team that is just as dangerous now as it was before losing to Texas. If the Red Raiders win that game, they will still have to win the Big 12 championship game, though the North won't provide nearly the caliber of opposition that the South has.

The biggest danger lurking out there for Penn State is if Texas Tech does run the table and Florida beats an unfedeated Alabama team in the SEC championship game. That's the one scenario that should scare the Beaver Stadium faithful.

But just like voting for president and having a 3-1 lead in a World Series, the first step in closing the deal is doing the things that are in your control.

Rank
AP
McLane
Coaches
Sagarin
Harris
BCS
1.
Alabama
Alabama
Alabama
Penn State
Alabama
Alabama
2.
Texas Tech
Texas Tech
Penn State
Texas
Penn State
Texas Tech
3.
Penn State
Penn State
Texas Tech
Florida
Texas Tech
Penn State
4.
Florida
Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Alabama
Florida
Texas
5.
Texas
Texas
Florida
Texas Tech
Oklahoma
Florida
6.
Oklahoma
Florida
USC
USC
Texas
Oklahoma.
7.
USC
Oklahoma St.
Texas
Oklahoma
USC
USC
8.
Oklahoma St.
Southern Cal
Oklahoma St.
Oklahoma St.
Oklahoma St.
Utah
9.
Boise St.
Ohio State
Utah
Boise State
Utah
Oklahoma St.
10.
Utah
Boise State
Boise State
Georgia
Boise State
Boise St.



We move now to the local college scene, and it's a cruel twist of fate that Penn's quarterback situation was thrown into chaos just as Villanova's finally got settled.

The Quakers' starter this past Saturday, Kyle Olson, tore his ACL midway through the second quarter. With Robert Irvin struggling with his accuracy and (or perhaps because of) a sore shoulder, Al Bagnoli was forced to give sophomore Keiffer Garton the first snaps of his varsity career.

All of a sudden, Bagnoli turned into Andy Talley. Garton is a spread-option quarterback, and did an impressive job running the ball against Brown. He also completed a few decent passes, though Irvin played in some long-yardage situations.

It was those situations that might well have cost Penn a shot at the Ivy League title. Irvin's two fumbled snaps were recovered by Brown, and both ensuing drives resulted in touchdowns. If not for a blocked punt in the Brown end zone with 1:43 left in the game, those 14 points would have been the Bears' margin of victory.

So Brown is alone in first place at 4-0 in conference. The Bears face an underachieving Yale team at home this week, then finishes the season with league doormats Dartmouth and Columbia.

Penn goes to Princeton, faces Harvard at home and finishes the season at Cornell. Even if the Quakers win out - and Harvard is the only team ranked in the Top 25 despite not being in first place - it's extremely unlikely that Brown will lose.

Garton will be the starter at Princeton tomorrow night, but it may well be too late to save the season.

While Penn played its game of the year this past weekend, it's Villanova's turn now. New Hampshire, the first-place team in the North Division, comes to the Main Line Saturday. The northern Wildcats are ranked No. 8 in the Sports Network Top 25, while the southern ones are ranked No. 6.

If CN8 doesn't go off the air before the weekend (that was sarcasm, Comcast folks), it'll be broadcasting a great game at 3:30 p.m. -- at the exact same time as Alabama-LSU, unfortunately.

Better check the batteries in your remote.

As for what the rest of the region is up to...

West Chester
Last week: Road win vs. Bloomsburg, 24-21
This week: 11/8 at Mercyhurst, 1:00 p.m.

Delaware Valley
Last week: Home win vs. Widener, 34-28
This week: 11/8 at Wilkes, 1:00 p.m.

Widener
Last week: Road loss vs. Widener, 34-28
This week: 11/8 at Albright, 1:00 p.m.

Ursinus
Last week: Road loss vs. Moravian, 17-7
This week: 11/8 at Muhlenberg, 1:00 p.m.

Rowan
Last week: Home win vs. Kean, 30-22
This week: 11/8 at Montclair State, 1:00 p.m.

Lincoln
Last week: Home loss vs. St. Paul's College, 23-20
This week: Season over

(Relative to previous weeks, that's an encouraging way to close out the program's first year in existence. We can hope it will be better some day.)

Cheyney
Last week: Road loss vs. Shippensburg, 62-7
This week: 11/8 at Clarion, 1:00 p.m.

NOTE: I screwed up editing the Penn audio, which is why it's not in the playlist at the moment. It will be added Thursday afternoon, so check back.



We close this thing out with a return to Division I. This is going to be my only post for the rest of the week, because I really need some time to rest up and get ready for basketball season. It's also my birthday on Friday, and if nothing else I'd like to get away from the computer for a while.

The Spectacle of the Week poll is at the top of this post and in the right rail of the blog, and it shouldn't be much of a contest. Having said that, New Hampshire-Villanova is definitely the local scene's biggest game of the weekend. TCU-Utah gets in the mix because it could have just as big of an impact on the BCS as any of the showcase games on Saturday.

Vote early and often.

1. Penn State (2)
Last week: Off
This week: 11/8 at No. 36 Iowa, 3:30 p.m., ABC

57. Rutgers (58)
Last week: Off
This week: 11/8 vs. No. 103 Syracuse, 12:00 p.m., ESPNU

68. Villanova (75)
Last week: Road win vs. No. /138 Northeastern, 20-14
This week: 11/8 vs. No. 104 New Hampshire, 3:30 p.m., CN8

(I forgot to record Northeastern's rating last week. I have emailed Jeff Sagarin to see if he has it, and if he does I will add it in.)

88. Temple (87)
Last week: Road loss vs. No. 44/45 Navy, (OT)
This week: Off

134. Delaware (138)
Last week: Road loss vs. No. 47/40 James Madison, 41-7
This week: 11/8 vs. No. 189 Towson, 12:00 p.m.

(There are 81 Division I-A teams ranked below James Madison in the Sagarin Index. They include Notre Dame, Wisconsin and AP No. 23-ranked Maryland. Bragging rights if ever there were.)

146. Lafayette (128)
Last week: Road loss vs. No. 161/151 Colgate, 21-13
This week: 11/8 at No. 206 Bucknell, 1:00 p.m., WBPH

170. Penn (155)
Last week: Home loss vs. No. 149/144 Brown, 34-27
This week: 11/7 at No. 178 Princeton, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU

(You can make a legitimate argument that in terms of distance from Philadelphia, Princeton is as worthy of inclusion in the rankings as Lehigh and Lafayette. I've thought about it, and I might do it next year.)

182. Lehigh (182)
Last week: Road win vs. No. 225/227 Georgetown, 33-13
This week: 11/8 vs. No. 151 Colgate, 12:30 p.m.

(There are 246 teams in the Sagarin football ratings.)

209. Delaware State (207)
Last week: Home loss vs. No. 162/166 South Carolina State, 23-17
This week: 11/8 vs. No. 237 Winston-Salem State, 1:00 p.m.


Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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