One college football feature I’d love to see in the ESPN mobile app

Live predicted run vs. pass success metrics in the ESPN mobile app. It could be as simple as “ESPN predicts that Mike Leach should run the ball on 3rd and 1 right now on the 40 of the opposition, with 80% conversion probability”. Of course, Mike Leach might have an assistant look at this data, get real contrarian, and have his quarterback heave a touchdown pass into the end zone. Not only would fans feel more informed by this data, but if it was made accessible to coaches real-time, it could make the game an even more intriguing chess match.

And here’s a bonus. Would love for the app to instantly break down a play after its completion. If the app after a play were to literally say, “We know that Mike Leach just passed the ball on 1st and 10 on his own twenty and got eight yards, but we believe that if he’d run a draw play to the right, he would’ve gotten a first down, based on historical tendencies of the opposition in the nickel defensive formation”. One purpose this would serve: It’d make the fan experience even more fluid and fast. Critique the play analysis while the offensive is huddling back up.

Of course, for any of this to happen, college football would have to widely adopt motion capture technology, like we have in the NBA today through SportVU (SportVU is covered in depth in Betaball, a really readable and intriguing book on the Golden State Warriors). But because there are so many more variables associated with motion capturing a college football game vs. an NBA game, it doesn’t seem like analytics companies have a large, profitable incentive to do so.

Drew Lock should ignore experts and declare for the NFL draft

Drew Lock is at the top of his game in college football. He should ignore the recommendation of NFL draft evaluators. Performing well in the Texas Bowl will only confirm that he’s peaked. He has much more to lose, than to gain, if he stays at Missouri for another year. Here’s why:

If Lock stays at Mizzou and matches or exceeds his stellar performance from this year, NFL draft evaluators won’t give him the credit that he’s due anyway. They’d keep him at a mid-round draft grade at best.

And it’d be tough to match what was an excellent 2017-2018 season: Lock improved his Average Yards Per Attempt by 32% year-over-year (7.9 to 10.4) and became the most efficient quarterback in the SEC by far, while almost doubling his touchdowns from 23 to 43. If his offensive coordinator leaves for UCLA too, even like with most NFL quarterbacks, he’s more than likely to regress and hurt his draft stock if he sticks around at Mizzou next year.

Finally, a significant injury will wreck his NFL draft stock and turn him, in the eyes of NFL evaluators, from a quarterback of the future prospect to a benchwarmer.

Josh Rosen is your prototypical, traditional quarterback

Josh Rosen’s got good accuracy and makes good reads. He gets the ball out fast and can even make really accurate passes on the run. It also doesn’t hurt that he has great, traditional passing mechanics.

He also might be the perfect Chip Kelly quarterback: He’s publicly said that Josh Rosen is a great quarterback. And someone please find out whether he’s got huge hands, apparently a key trait for QBs according to the UCLA head coach himself.

The Air Raid works in the NFL

You’ve got official Air Raid quarterbacks who are beginning to succeed in the National Football League like Case Keenum, Jared Goff, and yes, even Nick Foles who is outperforming expectations.

You’ve also got quarterbacks like Tom Brady who flourish in a passing system that’s adopted traits of the Air Raid, such as dynamic option routes, who continue to meet the high bar they’ve set for themselves.

But it’s not just the quarterbacks who benefit from the Air Raid. Wide receivers like Julian Edelman have mastered option routes and have found ways not just to get open but to set themselves up to get huge yards after catch.

At the core of Hal Mumme’s Air Raid offense was one key principle adopted from Glenn “Tiger” Ellison: Getting players to have fun. They’d really invested in option routes to help their players have more fun. Hal Mumme and Mike Leach thought up ways to evolve their offense, with esoteric things ideas like splitting their offensive linemen wider, so the linemen would always have more angles to attack the defense in the run game and be able to do their job instinctually. Less thinking on the field means more action means more fun.

If you’ve got journeymen who have had good seasons, but also some terrible ones, they might start to get a little burnt out. With luck, and with a little fun, the Air Raid breathed life back into the career of Josh McCown.