Sunday, October 30, 2011

Paul Rhoads Performance Review

A lot of people are raving about the job that Paul Rhoads is doing at Iowa State.  I decided to create my own performance review of Paul Rhoads.

Record: 16-17

To the naked eye this doesn't look too sexy.  However, his sixteen wins through a little over two and a half seasons is two more than the previous four years combinedOf these sixteen wins, eight of them of come in non-conference games.  Iowa State has lost three non-conference games in his tenure and two of those losses were to top 10 teams (Iowa and Utah in 2010) and the other loss came to the 2009 Iowa team that ended up playing in the Orange Bowl.  His conference record at this point sits at 8-14.  Once again, to the naked eye this number does not look to be very impressive.  Iowa State, by my calculations, has only been favored to win four conference games in Rhoads' tenure and 11 games overall.  This translates into his team winning four conference games they were not supposed to as well as an additional two non-conference games they were not supposed win.  Six upsets in 22 chances is a pretty good ratio.

Signature Wins: Nebraska 2009, Texas 2010, Iowa 2011, Texas Tech 2011

A mark of a good coach is the appearance of signature wins on his resume.  Paul Rhoads is running out of room.  These type of wins put a program like Iowa State back on the map.  These were all games Iowa State was clearly not supposed to win.

Nebraska 2009: Coming into the game as an 18.5 point underdog the Cyclones shocked Husker Nation with a 9-7 victory.  What makes this even more impressive is that it was done without their starting quarterback and starting running back--announced just before game time.  This spread would have been much larger had this been know when the spread was made.  It was Iowa State's first victory in Lincoln since 1977. 

Texas 2010: Iowa State strolled into this game as only (sarcasm) a 20.5 underdog.  They walked out with the program's first EVER victory over Texas and their first road win over a ranked opponent since 1990.  This victory seems less impressive after watching Texas struggle to a 5-7 season however you cannot put into words the monumental step this program took that October day.

Iowa 2011: In what is maybe the most exciting football game I have ever been at (ISU vs Florida State is right up there too), the Cyclones notched their first victory over Iowa under Paul Rhoads.  It was a big step in helping with in-state recruiting as well as helping ISU to a perfect non-conference slate.  The Cyclones were only a 6.5 point underdog and I don't expect this win will look as good at the end of the season however a victory over Iowa is always an important step to success at Iowa State.

Texas Tech 2011: This may be THE biggest win of the Paul Rhoads era.  Texas Tech doesn't have that sexy name when you look at it.  Consider that Texas Tech just put a whooping on Oklahoma the week before IN Norman and ISU had NEVER won in Lubbock and this win sounds much better.  A couple of things I forgot to mention include the point spread (14.5 points) and the POINT SPREAD (34 points).  The most complete game this team has put together in a long, long time.

Bad Losses: Kansas State 2009

What tells you most about this is that there is only one.  I would also like to point out that this is the ONLY game ISU has lost in which they were favored and they were only favored by a field goal in this game.  Why does this loss sting?  Grant Mahoney's blocked extra point with :32 seconds left that would have tied the game.  If they win this game, Paul Rhoads would still be without a loss in a game in which his team was favored.  It is important to note I do not consider margin of loss into the equation for this.  A loss is a loss and they will happen especially when you are the underdog.  Avoiding losing games in which you were favored to win is the key to program success.


This is a harder aspect to judge than the others because the only quantitative data available is recruiting rankings which is only a predictor of how good these athletes will be and really means absolutely nothing.    I will attempt to assess Rhoads' ability to recruit.

2010 Class:  Iowa State was ranked 9th out of the current 10 teams in the Big XII.  Only Kansas State was lower.  The bright spot of this class is the quantity.  Rhoads signed 28 athletes to this class.  Being able to fill out recruiting classes is sometimes a struggle for below average programs.  Once again, those are just rankings.  Looking at the players signed in that class it seems to look a little more impressive.  Players in this class include: Jared Barnett, Shontrelle Johnson, Tom Farniok, Durell Givens, Duran Hollis, Kirby Van Der Kamp and Jarvis West.  All of these players have at least two years of eligibility left and are already major contributors.;_ylt=AqUg0yxde2ONv4OKkfipLLdJPZB4

2011 Class: In 2011 Iowa State once again ranked 9th of 10 teams in front of only Kansas State (who is often penalized in these rankings for recruiting JC players).  Rhoads signed 23 recruits in this class included JC teammates Steele Jantz and Aaron Horne.  Many of these players were able to redshirt this season and many of them should be major contributors down the road.  What I have noticed about this class is the formation of pipelines in California, Florida and Texas.  Developing connections in these talent rich states is huge and should pay dividends down the road.  I genuinely get excited looking at the pieces Rhoads has in place with this recruiting class.;_ylt=AqUg0yxde2ONv4OKkfipLLdJPZB4

2012 Class (so far):  Keep in mind this class has not yet signed and is still a work in progress.  At this point ISU sits at 8 out of 10.  An improvement!  They have already received commitments from 14 athletes included 10 3-star athletes.  What excites me about this class is that already five Iowa players have committed.  ISU will never be able to build their program on Iowa talent but getting the best players in the state to commit to ISU is a great foundation for recruiting.  At this point the University of Iowa has only received a commitment from one Iowa player.  Rhoads has also received a commitment from a kicker and three HS quarterbacks.  I really believe simply adding as many great athletes to a roster and not necessarily a great tight end or a guard is a great start.  Get great athletes and speed adn turn them into outstanding football players.

Recruiting Trends:
*4 IA kids in 2010, 5 IA kids in 2011 and already 5 IA kids in 2012
*6 OL in 2010, 3 in 2011, 2 so far for 2012
*6 FLA athletes in 2010, 5 in 2011
*1 QB in 2010, 2 QB in 2011 and 3 in 2012 

This could be a rather large portion of this review, but I will attempt to keep it concise.  Rhoads is clearly a great motivator.  He is getting his teams to overachieve which is the sign of a great coach.  His ability to pull off the huge upsets he already has is an indicator of his ability to motivate.
Rhoads also has ignited a fire in the fan base.  He is passionate and charismatic.  Season ticket sales are at an all-time high and even the most skeptical ISU fans find themselves in moments of optimism.  Another strength of his is his aggressiveness.  Rhoads has proven he is not afraid to go for it on fourth down, run a fake punt or even run a fake extra point in overtime.  To me strings like this have to be pulled every once in awhile when the talent doesn't match up on paper.  Finally, his greatest strength to me is the respect he has from his players.  As much as we want this to be about football, I truly believe these students will be better people because of their relationship with Paul Rhoads.  If you have any questions about the mutual respect between his players and him watch below...

Weaknesses:  We have to take a step back and realize that this is just Rhoads' third year of head coaching experience.  Tricks of the trade such as in-game management, practice plans and travel arrangements will come with time.  There have been a few instances where Rhoads' teams do seem to be unprepared and unorganized.  This is to be expected with a fresh coach.  At times some fans have been critical of Rhoads being overly emotional.  I am not one of those select few, but I do believe his emotion and motivation to play with passion can result in stupid personal fouls.  I also believe it to be at least part of the struggles the offense seems to have early in the game.  Being able to help his players harness the emotion will be instrumental in moving this program forward.  I kind of hit on this earlier but Rhoads' teams seem to be undisciplined at times.  Too many times do his teams shoot themselves in the foot Plaxico Burress style with false starts, holds and sometimes illegal formations.  Rhoads needs to take a chapter out of the Bill Snyder book and let the other teams make the mistakes.  Easier said than done.

Reasons for skepticism:  ISU at times appears severely over matched.  Will they ever be able to get the talent to Ames to compete consistently with the Oklahoma and Texas' of the world?  I'm not sure what a realistic ceiling is for a program like Iowa State, but is it high enough to keep Rhoads around long-term.

Reason for optimism:  Just when you give up on his team Rhoads will prove you wrong.  He appears to have found a composed quarterback that limits turnovers and runs the zone read effectively.  He is just two wins away from bowl eligibility against a conference schedule that includes 8 teams that have been ranked at some point this season.

Final verdict:  Along with the rest of Cyclone Nation I am proud to have Coach Rhoads lead this program.  I think his "improve and plateau" strategy seems to be working.  I cannot wait for Rhoads to continue to improve this program and finding a way to keep him around is a must.

Go 'Clones!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lessons Learned in the Desert

1.  Follow your strategy- It's easy to maintain a betting strategy sitting at home.  Participating in point spread pools that allow/force you to pick a certain amount of games treat all games equal.  Currently I sit at 28-20 ATS in a pool that picks 3 college and 3 pro games weekly.  That is a darn good winning percentage against the spread.  What happens when you get to Las Vegas?  You want to have action on every game.  The more games you bet, the more the "juice" influences your bankroll.  You are also essentially just flipping a coin.  Lesson Learned: Bet equal amounts on each game.  I already knew this yet refused to stick to my strategy.  If you are increasing your bankroll you may up your bet, but up it for all games.
2.   Check 2nd-Half Over/Under's--With Sunday night's Bears-Vikings game I had a significant amount of my bankroll (the rest of it) on the Bears to cover 2.5 points.  At half time the score was Bears 26 Vikings 3.  I'm always interested in hedging my bet, so I checked the 2nd half line--Vikings -3.  Right away it looks like an incredible play to take the Vikings as 3 point favorites and guarantee myself a push and have over a 20 point window where I could win both.  However, the Bears were dominating the game and the Vikings did only put up a mere 3 points in the 1st half.  I looked at the lines again and saw O/U 20 for the 2nd half.  Even if the Vikings scored all 20 of these points they still wouldn't cover.  This seemed like a better option.  If I were to do it again or have the bankroll to supply it I would consider betting half on the 2nd half.  Lowers the effects of a loss while at the same time bumping up your maximum rake.  Not every game is going to play out like this but over/under 2nd half bets can sometimes give an opportunity to hedge without having to choose one side.

3.  Parlays--I don't ever play them and there is good reason.  They payout and the odds don't match up. Example below.
 # of plays
 Standard Odds
 True Odds
2 plays
3 plays
4 plays
5 plays
6 plays
7 plays

However, I had not thought about parlaying 1st half lines with entire game lines.  Example:  I had Wisconsin -24 in the 1st half and -39 for the game.  If they cover in the 1st half it is certainly looking good for the whole game right?  If you bet 100 units on 1st half and 100 units on 2nd half (200 units on the line) you would have won both and come out ahead 180 units or so after juice.  However if you had put 100 units on a two-part parlay (100 units on the line) you would have won both for a payout of 260 or 160 units ahead.  You win about the same amount while risking half as much.  This is the only type of parlay I will consider because each part is relevant to the other one.  If you bet Game A and Game B they have absolutely nothing to do with each other.  A first half bet and an entire game bet are directly correlated and if the first half covers your chances of the whole game covering go up significantly.

4.  Hassle for drink tickets-- Most people working the cage in the sports book are willing to give in to lowering the minimum bet for a drink ticket.  Better idea--spread your bets out over different windows in order to maximize your drink tickets.  Even better idea--get a seat at a video poker machine directly overlooking the sports book--even more comps at your fingertips.

5.  Stay away from lounges--No matter how cute the waitress is our how "VIP" you might feel the price isn't right!  A basketball game takes two hours, a football game three and half.  I don't know about you but my bankroll doesn't allow me to bet thousands at a time.  Add up 12 dollar cocktails over the course of a three and half hour game?  Your bet is at best a push, at worse a double loss.  Do whatever you can to get the comp's!!!

6.  Hydrate first thing in the morning--It will be the only time all day you will get legit fluids

7.  Don't eat at the buffet at Imperial Palace--Think Griswold Vegas Vacation

8.  Venetian Sports Book--The place to be.  Was under construction this last time and it was definitely missed.  Can't wait for it to be open in March!