Entries from blogs tagged with “Sports”

The best returning RBs in the Big 12, according to Adjusted POE

Last week, we took a look at how the Kansas University backs ranked in the Big 12 in terms of "highlight yards."

As I mentioned then, "highlight yards" isn't a complete measure of a running back, as it only looks at a back's explosiveness.

Today, we'll take a look at another measure of a running back: his adjusted POE (points over expected).


The statistic, created by Footballoutsiders.com's Bill Connelly, is a running back-specific measure based on equivalent points.

So how does it work? Each yard line has a point value assigned to it based on the average number of points an average NCAA team scores from that particular spot.

For instance, the average NCAA team scores 2.1 points when it has the ball on the 50-yard line and 2.6 points when it has the ball on its opponents' 40. So when a running back has a 10-yard run from the 50 to the opponents' 40, he is credited with 0.5 equivalent points.

After each carry, Connelly looks at how many equivalent points that back "gained" for his team.

Connelly's Adjusted POE measure, then, compares a runner's equivalent points to what an average RB would have done with the same carries against the same opponents in the same situations. This also takes into account the strength (or weakness) of the offensive line in front of the running back.

It's important to note that more credit is given for yards close to the goal line. To me, this makes sense. Not only is it tougher to run in the red zone with the defense packed in, but I also think RBs should be especially rewarded for getting their teams real points.

Here's how the returning players in the Big 12 stack up according to Adjusted POE. Only players with at least 25 carries in 2009 qualified. Also included is the back's highlight yards per carry, rushes and yards.


Obviously, some of the names at the top and bottom might be a bit surprising.

I talked with Connelly and had him help explain why some backs ranked where they did in the Adjusted POE rankings.

Baron Batch, Texas Tech (1st in Adj. POE)


Connelly's take: "Batch probably benefited a bit from the fact that Tech running the ball was always unexpected, but his per-carry figures have been great at Tech. Plus, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry against Texas and Oklahoma last year, meaning his 'output versus expected' numbers are going to be pretty good."

Batch also was helped by scoring 14 TDs, which led the Big 12 last year.

Cody Johnson, Texas (2nd in Adj. POE)

Connelly's take: "Short-yardage specialist meant for short touchdowns (Johnson had 12 TDs in 87 carries). Great POE, terrible highlight yardage."

This is a case where looking at a back's Adjusted POE and highlight yards/carry tells us more about the player than the Adjusted POE alone.

Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska (3rd in Adj. POE)


Connelly's take: "Because of both injury and general inconsistency, Helu was all over the map last year. He was great against Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, but struggled against Baylor and Missouri (he was averaging under three yards per carry against Mizzou until a late 41-yard run) and was completely nonexistent over the last four games of the season."

Helu might have been even higher if he had tacked on a few more TDs (he had nine), as his highlight yards per carry statistic was among the best in the Big 12.

Toben Opurum, Kansas (7th in Adj. POE)


Connelly's take: "He seems like a relatively smart runner who picks his holes and moves the chains, but he is one of the least-threatening backs in the conference in terms of explosiveness."

The 3.5 Adjusted POE tells us that, according to this statistical measure, Opurum was an above-average back in 2009. His high touchdown total (Opurum had nine TDs) helped him earn a much higher Adjusted POE last year than teammate Jake Sharp (-7.4 Adj. POE in 2009, four TDs).

In case you were wondering, here's how KU's backs performed in Adjusted POE in 2008.


Daniel Thomas, Kansas State (18th in Adj. POE)


Connelly's take: "Thomas was also a bit inconsistent last season. Against a number of bad run defenses, he should have been expected to put up good numbers, but in terms of 'output versus expected,' the benefits he got from averaging 5.5 yards per carry against Oklahoma were offset by averaging 3.4 against Missouri and 3.8 against a terrible Iowa State run defense.

"Plus, he was indeed only average in terms of explosiveness (1.77 highlight yards/carry). He got good run blocking and took advantage of it, but he didn't do a ton on his own."

Probably the biggest surprise of this list. It's worth noting that Kansas State had an above average offensive line in 2009 (more on this in a later blog) and that Thomas had 11 TDs in 246 carries.

Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State (22nd in Adj. POE)

Connelly's take: "I'm giving him a free pass for 2009, since he was hurt almost the entire season. He was dynamite in 2008."

Hunter's numbers in 2008 were indeed impressive, as he posted an 18.4 Adjusted POE and also 2.94 highlight yards per carry. Look for a healthy Hunter to bounce back to his 2008 form this season.

Alexander Robinson, Iowa State (23rd in Adj. POE)


Connelly's take: "Against North Dakota State, Kent State, Army, Kansas State, Kansas and Minnesota, Robinson rushed 114 times for 691 yards (6.1 per carry) and six TDs. Against the better run defenses on the schedule, he had 118 carries for 504 yards (4.3 per carry) and no TDs.

"So the biggest thing hurting him is that he really didn't achieve anything that any number of decent backs couldn't have done with the carries he got against the opponents he faced. Plus, a lot of the yards he got were credited to the O-line instead of him."

Iowa State's offensive line ranked as one of the best in the Big 12 last year. This seems to be a perfect case of writers (myself included) perhaps giving too much credit to a back and not enough credit to those blocking for him.


Jayhawks desperately need breakaway running back

The Kansas Jayhawks need a running back that will be on SportsCenter in 2010.

Yeah, I know. Athletes shouldn't strive to make it on the nightly highlights show. And many times, the most crucial plays of the game — and overlooked efforts in the game — never make it to ESPN.

But seriously, the Jayhawks need a guy that can make a highlight-reel run. They need one who can break tackles in the open field and then use his speed to get into the end zone.

They need one because, for the last two seasons, they haven't had anyone who could do it. Friend-of-the-blog Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders was nice enough to pass along some of his statistical findings from the last two years.

He's started to do some extensive work with running backs and has created a statistic known as "highlight yards."


Here's a brief explanation.

In general, an offensive line is mostly responsible for the rushing yards near the line of scrimmage. After all, linemen can only move so far in a short period of time and can't continue their blocks way downfield.

Connelly created "highlight yards" to help take the offensive line's impact out of a running back's rushing totals. For "highlight yards," a running back is given no credit for a run of 0-4 yards, half-credit for any yards gained 5-10 yards downfield and full credit for any yards gained 11 yards or further downfield.

For example, a three-yard run gets no highlight yards. A 70-yard run gets 63 highlight yards (3 highlight yards for yards 5-10 of the run, then 60 highlight yards for yards 11-70 of the run).

Highlight yards, then, are a good judge of how explosive a back is and how much of his production came without the help of the offensive line blocking for him.

So how did the Jayhawks fare last season?

Here is a list of the each Big 12 player with at least 100 carries last season, showing their highlight yards per carry.


Now, let me be the first to say that this does not mean that Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum* are bad running backs. Because a team can continue its drive if it gets 10 yards every three plays, there's plenty of value in a back that can keep the chains moving.

* — Opurum actually was a well-above-average running back last year, which we'll get to in a later blog.

This does tell us, though, that KU received practically no help offensively by its running backs in the big-play department.

This probably won't come as a surprise, but KU's longest run by a running back last year was just 30 yards by Sharp. That was the lowest mark in the conference, and Colorado (36) was the only other team whose longest running back run was in the 30s.

But what about Angus Quigley? After all, he's moved back to running back this season and is currently on the top of the depth chart.


Because he was a linebacker last year, he had no rushing stats for 2009. But Connelly was nice enough to provide the Big 12 rushing statistics from 2008.

Let's take a look. For this chart, all players with at least 25 carries are included. Quigley had 59 carries in 2008.


Though the numbers are better than in 2009, the KU backs all still ranked toward the bottom of the Big 12 in highlight yards per carry. Though Quigley might provide KU with a bruising back, he doesn't appear to be the breakaway runner the Jayhawks need.

So who will fill that "highlight" role for KU? Let's look at the candidates:

DeShaun Sands: This seems most likely, as the red-shirt freshman is currently second on the depth chart. Sands might be a bit undersized at 5-foot-7, but he would give the Jayhawks exactly what they need: a speedy, big-play threat and also a nice complement to Opurum and Quigley.

Rell Lewis: Though he is still a bit unproven, the 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior has been clocked before at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to Rivals.com. Out of 13 carries in 2009, his longest run was 15 yards.


Brandon Bourbon: Don't be surprised if one of KU's two highly touted freshmen step in right away. Bourbon, who switched his commitment to KU after originally choosing Stanford, runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and averaged 13.8 yards per carry during his senior year of high school.

“I’m definitely shooting for some playing time, and I think I have a shot to get some,” Bourbon said in March. “I don’t want to seem cocky or anything like that, but I definitely have some things that I’m wanting to get done next year.”

James Sims: The Rivals.com three-star recruit has received less fanfare than Bourbon, but he should have a chance in the fall to earn immediate playing time. The 6-foot, 205-pound back runs a 4.5-second 40, according to Rivals.com.

One of these four running backs needs to make SportsCenter a frequent destination in 2010, or the Jayhawks once again will be missing out on explosiveness that they've already been lacking the last two seasons.


Fashion! - Group E

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Welcome back to Fashion!

Every Friday, my Feminine Side and I get together and discuss the uniforms for each team in one of the eight groups at World Cup 2010.  At the end of each discussion, the jersey in question will be scored between 0 and 5 on the Tshabalala Scale.

This week, we tackle Group F.


ZGS: This jersey be lookin' good.

Feminine Side: Your grammar be soundin' bad, but I totally agree. It's simple, its got a sweet collar and the stripes are very slimming.

ZGS: When we were growing up, did you ever watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with me?

FS: It was kind of unavoidable.

ZGS: Doesn't the red part of this jersey look like one of Raphael's sai?

FS: I hate that I know you, sometimes.

ZGS: Rascal Flatts! I officially give this jersey 4.5 out of 5 Tshabalalas.


FS: What. Is. Going. On. Here?

ZGS: I really don't know. We're talking about the same thing, right?

FS: You mean the creepy death mask?

ZGS: Do you think that's supposed to be pecs and abs?

FS: I think it's supposed to be a stormtrooper. Or a robotic ghoul.

ZGS: Monster and robot conspiracy theories? You're starting to sound like me.

FS: In this case, it's a good thing.

ZGS: Kenny Chesney! I officially give this jersey 1 out of 5 Tshabalalas.


FS: Boring.

ZGS: That's a nice way of putting it. I would have gone with "shitty." The crest kind of looks like a pirate ship, though.

FS: I will never understand your love of pirates.

ZGS: It's simple. Take however much you hate this jersey, then multiply it by negative ten.

FS: I love that you know I think of hate as a negative number.

ZGS: Brooks and Dunn! I officially give this jersey 1.5 out of 5 Tshabalalas.

New Zealand

ZGS: I know what you're thinking, but stop. It's not even like that.

FS: This is New Zealand's away jersey. We only review home jerseys.

ZGS: When you can find a picture of it on the internet, you let me know. Until then, we'll just have to use our imaginations. I mean, the home jersey is pretty much the inverse what we're looking at right now.

FS: Don't talk down to me.

ZGS: I'm not talking down to you!

FS: Whatever. Just review the damn uniform.

ZGS: Jersey good.

FS: You're so mature.

ZGS: Bonnie Raitt! I officially give this jersey 4 out of 5 Tshabalalas.


Day Seven Wrap Up.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Remember yesterday when I was all complaining and shit? Well, The Gods responded with 10 goals in one day. Thanks, The Gods.

GAME ONE - Argentina vs South Korea

I guess Argentina finally decided to show up.

While there was a brief moment in this game where things could have ended very differently (read: when Yeom Ki-Hun botched South Korea's best attack of the second half AND a chance to tie the game 2-2), Argentina (read: Lionel Messi and the people he passed the ball to) pretty much dominated the world this morning. If it hadn't been for Martin Demichelis being a complete idiot (read: gave the ball to Lee Chung-Yong in a one-on-one with the keeper) in the final minute of the second half, I doubt South Korea would have been in the game at all. Then again, the Koreans didn't really do much to help themselves out (read: gifting the Tinos an own goal to open the scoring).

Higuain notched a hat-trick and Diego Maradona jumped up and down a lot. All in all, with a 4-1 win, it was a great day to be Argentine.

Losing by three goals isn't exactly a great experience, but if SoKor can beat Nigeria on the final day, they're guaranteed a spot in the knock-out stage. Even if Argentina loses to Greece, they would still finish the group in second place, which means it's party-time in Buenos Aires. Imagine I just said something funny about Evita.

GAME TWO - Nigeria vs Greece

I think I might be done rooting for African teams. The constant disappointment hurts me too much to continue.*

Greece beat Nigeria 2-1 after being up a goal, mostly due to Sani Kaita's red card when he reflexively kicked out at Vasilis Torosidis as the Greek defender faked throwing the ball into the Nigerian's face. Kaita's foot grazed Torosidis's shin, but from the way he reacted, you would have thought the man writhing on the ground had the rapture or had been triple-tased.. It was probably the worst case of acting I've seen all tournament, and that's saying something. So:


Greece's winning goal was the first example I've seen in this tournament of the Jabulani (that's the highly controversial ball, in case you're a complete idiot) creating a goal out of nothing. Nigeria's EXCELLENT** goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, was set to receive a low shot when the ball suddenly swerved to his left over it's last three yards of travel. The Jabulani clanged off the keeper's shin and into the path of, you guessed it, the BIG, FAT CHEATING TOROSIDIS, who finished his evil works for the day with a cheap goal.

Greece can only advance if they tie or win against the Tinos and South Korea loses. Nigeria can still advance, but only if they beat South Korea and Greece loses to Argentina. In that situation, Nigeria (-2 GD), Greece (-1 GD) and SoKor (-1 GD) would all be tied on points, and since they've each beaten a different team, goal differential would decide second place in the group, which would go to Nigeria. Math!

GAME THREE - France vs Mexico

So, it was like COLD and stuff so the French were all "Oui need blahnketss" so they got some blankets and Thierry Henry wasn't playing, so the announcers talked about that for a long time because the game was really boring for about 64 minutes and neither team really did anything so I just sat there and did my homework because what else are you supposed to do when nothing is going on and both teams suck?

Then, like this Mexican player was all offsides but the refs didn't see that he was offsides because it was a fast play and a hard call to make, which happens sometimes and stuff, but of course you're gonna complain about it when it makes the team you want to win not be winning, and the Mexican player scored, but I don't know who he was because all the Mexican players look alike to me, but then the announcer said his name was Javier Hernandez, but I thought, if you're gonna have a name like that, you might as well be named Taco Burrito, but his name doesn't really matter and he scored anyway, which was a total bummer, because now South Africa won't make it to the knock out stages and that really sucks and stuff.***

So after that, this other Mexican dude was like dribbling and shit and he was all "Voy a tomar la bola en el rectángulo y después a intentar ganar un penalti," which he totally did****, and then this one dude with a huge head and a beer belly sauntered up to the PK spot and like scored the goal even though that meant that Mexico was winning by even more than they were before, which told me that he didn't care about my feelings at all, so I told him we were breaking up, but we weren't going out, so I told him that if we were going out, I would like totally break up with him and stuff.

2-0 Mexico. France played like a fucking disgrace.

If South Africa wants to qualify from Group A, they need to beat france by roughly 5 goals and for Uruguay to beat Mexico. If France wants to make the knock out stage, they need to beat South Africa by roughly 5 goals and for Mexico to beat Uruguay. Mexico is pretty much through, regardless.


6:30 CDT - Germany vs Serbia

If Serbia wants to advance, they have to win this game. Too bad they won't. Too bad for my tournament predictions, as well.

9:00 CDT - USA vs Supposedly Slovenia

Slovenia is not a real country. The US will win this game either 3-1 or 4-0. Say it with me: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

13:30 CDT - England vs Algeria

England wins this game by three goals. At least. Algeria gets three red cards.


*Dear Teams From the African Continent, Especially You, Nigeria-




PS: Unless Cameroon or Ivory Coast advances.

**Enyeama had ANOTHER amazing game. If it wasn't for him, Nigeria would have lost 4-1.

***All Mexicans do not look alike to me; all latinos look alike to me. Go big or go home.

****This was a classic example of a player looking for a foul as soon as he gets in the box. While, technically, I guess it was a penalty, Pablo Barerra definitely dragged his feet behind him to catch Abidal's legs. If he has continued moving, he would not have been touched at all. Is this cheating? Technically, no. Is this dishonorable and a super bitch move? Absolutely.


Summary: First Cycle of Games

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

The first cycle of games in the Group Stage has come and gone. Would you like to talk about my feelings?


I'm not gonna lie: I'm disappointed. If we're being honest, the first game cycle of this tournament has been a little boring. Let's look at some statistics that back up my opinions:

Over 16 games, there have been 25 goals scored, a strike rate of slightly over 1.5 goals a match. That sounds OK, until you consider that there have been 6 tie games (all of which ended either 0-0 or 1-1), and 7 one goal victories (6 games ending 1-0, the other 2-1). The other three matches ended 2-0, 2-0 and 4-0, respectively. This is not good.

While, on the one hand, the argument could be made that so many close games mean tight competition at a high level of play, if you've actually watched any of the matches, you'd know that's not the case. So far, this has been a World Cup based on DEFENSE: packing it in the back, hoping that you go up one goal, then packing it in even further (see: France v Uruguay or Switzerland v Spain).

It's not that I want to see a bunch of blowouts; I just wish there was more than one game in which both teams scored that didn't end up as a tie. Hopefully, in the second round, with teams suddenly realizing they're in need of a win to advance, things will pick up a bit.


Germany 4 - Australia 0

I still can't tell if this game ended so badly because Germany is really good or Australia is super bad. Whatever the reason, at least it was entertaining. There was a controversial red card, some great passing and a bucket of goals for the Germans, all of which were fun to watch. Will we see similar brilliance when they face Serbia? (PS: I still hate Germany)

England 1 - USA 1

And I'm not just saying it because I'm American. This game had a lot of great moments: An early goal, a huge gaffe, up and down attacking play, some painfully missed chances and an excellent goalkeeping performance. The match was about as hard fought and drama filled as a draw can get. Quote me.

Ghana 1 - Serbia 0

Not only is this the lone example of an African team actually winning in the first round, but it was a game with plenty of drama to spare. Ghana controlled the match through the midfield against a supposedly stronger European opponent, winning it on a late, late penalty from Asamoah Gyan. Things could have ended differently though, with Serbia missing two excellent chances in the second half.


Group A

Uruguay is in the driver's seat after stomping the hosts this afternoon. Second place hinges on the result of tomorrow afternoon's match between France and Mexico. I'm still holding out hope that South Africa can make it out of the group, even though it's a looooong shot.

Group B

It's hard for me to imagine Argentina losing to South Korea (thought stranger things have happened). Assuming there's no upset, if Greece v Nigeria produces a win, you've got a two horse race for second place. If not, SoKor should make the second round.

Group C

I can pretty much guarantee that both English speaking teams will win their next two games. Though I'm still fairly certain that England will finish Group C in first place, it's only going to be thanks to goal differential. Slovenia and Algeria are cannon fodder.

Group D

Up to this point, Germany have been the class of the tournament. I hate that I have to say that. If Serbia can't unseat them in their next game, Ghana qualifies from the group in second place. Australia is regrettably a lost cause. I still love you, Socceroos.

Group E

The Netherlands, despite their lackluster first game, is the definite class of Group E. While Japan has a win in hand, it's still uncertain whether they'll be the team joining the Dutch in the second round. Both Denmark and Cameroon still have a shot at glory.

Group F

Barring a miracle, Italy and Paraguay are the two teams that will advance from Group F. By failing to beat the plucky Kiwis in their opening game, Slovakia hopes have been dashed on the mountainside. I officially name this The Easiest Group in the World Cup.

Group G

It's the Group of Death! Brazil leads the pack, but only by virtue of playing North Korea before anyone else. It's really a pity NorKor can't play itself; that way, they could earn a point or three. Actually, in their opening game, Brazil looked fairly poor, so I'm not sure how their games against Portugal and the Ivory Coast are going to pan out. Second place may come down to goal differential, specifically who beats NK by more goals.

Group H

Crap shoot. Spain is in the unenviable position of needing two wins, then relying upon Switzerland to knock Chile out of contention by handing them a loss or a tie. If Chile beats the Swiss, the only other way the Spanish can advance is if Honduras gets a result (tie at best) against the Neutral Ones. I doubt Honduras has the firepower to get it done against any team, though.


I am hopeful for some hijinks in the second round. If anything, simple mathematics will make each game SEEM more meaningful. Concrete consequences can make even the most boring 0-0 tie seem somewhat enthralling.

After playing pretty alright against England, I hope the USMNT doesn't shit the bed against Slovenia. I truly believe that we can make it to the quarterfinals this year if we play confidently and avoid freaking out.

Of all the teams on the brink of elimination, I hold out hope that the Spanish can wriggle their way through to the second round. They're too classy of a team to not have a chance at the title.



Day Six Wrap Up.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

I'm a little stunned, given the events of today's games. I feel a little violated, kind of like that time my SCABA baseball coach kept talking about giving me a massage. Yuck to the 12th power.


Chile needed a little bit of luck to finish off Honduras in the early game, but all in all, they deserved the win. The men of the long thin country held the ball for the vast majority of the game and outshot the Hondurans by a three to one ratio. Even though their goal was mostly a function of being in the right place at the right time, as an attempted clearance on a low cross careened off the oddly named Jean Beausejour and into the net.

Chile nearly doubled/triple their lead a bunch of times over course of the second half, but some divinely inspired goalkeeping by Noel Vallardes kept Honduras TECHNICALLY in the game till the final whistle. Really, the whole game was kind of crazy-town. I kept expecting Chile to figure it out and score a small flock of goals, but the breakthrough never came. Seems like a continuing theme for this tournament.


I don't even know what the deal was with the Spain v Switzerland match. Take a gander at the game stats and you tell me if it makes sense:

Switzerland bunkered in their defensive end during this game harder than any team has EVER bunkered before. It reminded me of the Barcelona vs Inter Milan games in the semis of the Champions League, only Switzerland's players are hella shittier than Inter's. I think the best way to describe it is AN AFFRONT TO SOCCER.

Die Schweiz scored their goal on some serious Route 1 football, with Blaise Nkufo (sweet name) nodding a long ball into the path of Eren Derdiyok, who clusterfucked Iker Casillas, Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique in one fell thrust, leaving the ball sitting four yards out of a basically open goal mouth. The ball fell to the feet of Twofer look-a-like Manuel Fernandes who finished the move with great ketchup and relish. Spain had roughly forty minutes to mount a comeback. It never happened.

Here's a short list of the Spanish players that sucked and why:

Iniesta - Too much diving, not enough shooting. Villa - Not enough shooting. Torres - HORRID first touch, every time. Also, shoot the ball. Navas - Completely predictable, terrible service. Casillas - Tried to tackle the ball with his FEET on the breakaway. Xavi - Shoot the fucking ball. Silva - Shoot the fucking ball! Busquets - SHOOT THE FUCKING BALL!

Xavi Alonso had the best chance of the game, smashing the ball into the crossbar from 25 yards off a corner kick. It was pretty indicative of Spain's night, which ended in agony. Let's get one thing clear: I wouldn't say that Switzerland beat Spain. Spain clearly lost to Spain. There's a BIG difference. Shocking.


I'm feeling really bad for South Africa right now. Like, really, REALLY bad. Everyone (except for assholes) likes an underdog, and it would be quite the sad day if Bafana Bafana were the first host nation to not make it out of the group stage.

That said, Uruguay played a good game. La Celeste split possession pretty evenly with South Africa, but they made MUCH more with the time they had on the ball. Forlan's first goal looped over the keeper, mostly due to it clipping off Mokoena's shoulder, but it was still a pretty good strike.

The foul that led to Uruguay's second goal WAS a penalty, but Jesus Christo, that guy made a meal of it. I would be embarrassed if billions of people saw me on television acting like a little bitch. I don't know if there's any way to avoid giving the keeper a red card in that situation (according to the Laws of the Game), but if it had happened anywhere else on the field, he would have simply been called for a foul.

The game's third goal I'll chalk up to South Africa throwing too many people forward. When he went up for the header, it looked like Alvaro Pereira was trying as hard as he could to NOT tuck the cross away, but his best intentions were foiled and he scored anyway.

On the heels of this loss, it's apparent that South Africa needs a lot of math to go their way if they want to qualify for the second round. Good luck, boys. I've got my fingers crossed.


6:30 CDT - Argentina vs South Korea

Everyone expects Argentina to win this game and they probably will. That said, SoKor doesn't NEED points from this match to advance. As long as they take it to Nigeria in the last game, they can't be caught.

9:00 CDT - Greece vs Nigeria

Nigeria still has a chance at qualification, that is, if they can win this game. Greece, there's no way you're going to beat Argentina in the final match, so you are now officially cast in the role of Nigeria's Dream Spoilers. Duke it out, bitches.

1:30 CDT - France vs Mexico

Okay, I think I figured it out. In order for South Africa to qualify, they need Mexico to lose its next two games. Given this set of events coming true, South Africa will then have to take out the French on the final matchday. It's an uphill battle.



Day Five Wrap Up.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

It's a difficult debate: Do I prefer being right or happy with the results of today's games?


Theoretically, New Zealand faced off against Slovakia in the first game of the day, but I know better. It was Birds vs Draculas. You'd think that would be a pretty straightforward match-up, what with a Dracula's immortality and all, but it turned out not to be so simple.

Sidenote: How the Draculas managed to play a day game is a mystery far beyond my mental reach. It scares me. When I was a kid, my older brother locked me in the basement and told me that Dracula lived under the stairs and was coming to eat me. I have not had a good relationship with vampires ever since. I'm actually OK with that. Don't judge me.

For the first half of the game, the Bird's coach was the most interesting thing to watch. The hand-based freak-out gesture you see on the right is only one of his seemingly endless array of spectacular histrionics. Play in the first half seemed pretty even (if by even, I meant boring), with the Draculas having the slight edge in chances and possession.

There was not a great deal of ground-based passing to be found in this match. It seemed like very time I looked up from my cereal, at least 15 out of the 22 players were soaring through the air. This makes sense, as flying is pretty much Birds' bread and butter, while Dracula is well known for his powers of levitation and stuff. Given their natural talents for aerial maneuvers, it was only logical that both teams produced their best chances from crosses.

After the break, some Dracula named Vittek headed in Slovakia's only goal of the match. It was a decent ball into the box that he classily nodded past the rooted Bird goaltender. I was expecting the Draculas to win this match by a comfortable margin, so I assumed that this header was the first in a series of two or three goals I would see over the second half. This is not to say that I wanted the living dead to win the game; I was rooting for the Birds. I just didn't think they had a realistic chance.

It turns out I was halfway wrong. In the 93rd minute of play, fancypants Bird player Shane Smeltz spun in from the left sideline and served a desperate ball into the box. Winston Reid timed his run to perfection, flicking the ball off the back post and into the net. The game was tied. Pandemonium ensued.

The Birds players all hugged each other and got naked and shit. Winston Reid screamed joy screams in his funny accent. I texted eight people the phrase "HOLY FUCK." This was beyond comprehension. Upon qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, I was certain the the New Zoolanders wouldn't even score a goal, let alone manage to earn a point in the group standings.

Though they face an even tougher and more evil opponent in their next match (Italy), who knows what to expect from these plucky Kiwis? I'll be rooting for them as hard as I know how. For the moment, captain Ryan Nelsen will be satisfied to lead his team in thanks and praise for J.C. and whatever Maori gods I refused to learn about in social studies they're into.

Hooray for New Zealand!


Portugal versus the Ivory Coast began with both teams implementing their favorite ways of posing for a photo. Portugal went for the Glamour Shot featuring Minor Inappropriate Touching, while the Coastal Ones went for the Staring Into Space Senior Picture. Both teams looked incredible.

The two stars of the match wore their training jackets with great pride but to much different effect. Cristiano Ronaldo, despite not having a mirror handy, winked and bit his tongue in such an intense, sexy manner that it beamed all the way around the circumference of the earth so, ten seconds later, he could see how good he looked. What skills! What amazingly douchey talent!

Didier Drogba gave us the stoic stare of a man supremely confident is his ability to sit injured on the bench while still remaining the ultimate focus of the game. Though his elbow kept him out of the starting line-up, there was no way the Ivory Coast's talisman would not see the pitch in their first game. For the moment, he was content to watch through slitted eyes as Solomon Kalou and Gervinho served as place-savers for his inevitable greatness. What poise!

Gervinho (number 10) actually had a really great game. In Drogba's absence, he was the game's greatest offensive threat and his weaving runs were quite impressive. Before this game, I had only read about his play, and it was quite enjoyable to watch his talent on display. On an even more personal note, his hair is fucking incredible. I am still not sure what's going on there, what with all the braids, headbands and five-heads, but I do know that I LOVE IT.

Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, spent most of the game on the ground. Are we really surprised? He had one good shot that stung the upright, but that was pretty much the sum of his offensive output. Assuming I still have the ability to count, I'm pretty sure CRonaldo faked a foul every third time he got the ball. That's just completely ridiculous. I hate the way he plays times one thousand. In today's shot of irony, the one time he actually got hit hard, he ended up getting a yellow card for his reaction. As for the dives? According to the referee, "What dives?"

In the nth minute, Drogba finally got on the pitch. The referee was so excited, he felt the need to shake the big striker's hand and stare lovingly at his crotch. That, or he decided to check the cast on the Savior of African Football's elbow. Did I mention Drogba was injured? Did I mention how miraculous of a man he is? Did your English teacher explain hyperbole in class? Just checking.

It turns out Drogba had the best chance to score for the Ivory Coast in the second half. Running on to a slotted pass with a few minutes left to play, he slid into the the ball with his left foot, sending it across the mouth of the goal in what I can only pray was a pass to someone he thought was running on. If that was a shot, I'm a little afraid for the man's ability to play while thinking about not hurting his elbow; it was pretty obvious he was concerned about making sure he landed on his good arm as he took his chance. Meanwhile, he could have poked it past the keeper, near post. Lament.

Portugal will attempt to slaughter the North Koreans in their next match, while the Ivory Coast rumbles in the Bronx with Brazil. Based upon Brazil's uninspired play this afternoon, a draw or a win looks within reach for the Elephants.

Finally, this is a funny photo of what looks like the beginning of a Cirque du Soleil act.


If someone could explain to me why Brazil's coach Dunga looked like a gay man at a ski chalet who had stolen a doorman's jacket, I would be eternally grateful. No, seriously. What the fuck is he wearing and who told him it was okay to go out in public looking like that? I'm not a stylish man, but damn, even I know not to leave the house looking like you mugged a bellhop while wearing a Jason Bourne sweater. Wowzers.

For whatever reason (read: Because Dunga is a bad coach), Brazil looked like a pile of mediocre shit today. Granted, they still won the game 2-1, but it took a lot of luck to get them there. Curious as to why? We'll figure it out together.

A basic summary of the match is as follows: Brazil played an extremely lackluster game, and North Korea looked legitimately dangerous on the counter attack. The NorKors surprised me. While most of their game was spent defending, I would not say that they play a negative style. They tried to beat Brazil in the best way they knew how: draw the majority of the Selecao forward, then spring the break. For the record, it eventually worked. Back to the beginning, though. The game opened to emasculating images of North Korean striker Jong Tae Se crying during his country's national anthem.

The match was tied 0-0 well into the second half, and while Brazil had enjoyed the majority of the possession, I wouldn't exactly say they were winning. NorKor was defending really well. They were organized and frustrating. The play that eventually broke the game open was a miss-hit cross from the foot of Maicon that snuck past the keeper who, like everyone else in the world, was playing the cross, and bent into the net basically from the endline. Nobody shoots from that angle. IT. WAS. LUCKY. AS. SHIT.

Eventually, Brazil SORT OF settled into being Brazil and scored another goal off a slick through ball from Robinho that Elano passed into the sidenetting. Though they were winning, they weren't exactly WINNING if you catch my drift. I'm fairly certain that the majority of Brazilians back home are not happy with the performance their team produced.

For the record, I'm not, either.

The game wasn't quite over, though. North Korea broke forward in the 89th minute, Ji Yun Nam blasting into the box and slotting his shot home past a floundering Julio Cesar. I really wasn't sure how to feel at that point. Now, as much as I don't agree with the politics of KimJongIl, and, as much as I know any measure of success their team enjoys will only serve to glory a legitimately evil regime, as this game went on, I found it harder and harder not to cheer for the NorKors. It turned into a real predicament. When they scored, I actually cheered. Then I felt ashamed. Then I felt sorry for the players, as they can't change the political climate in their home country. Then I felt hungry. It was an odd set of emotions.

Brazil looks weeeeeaaaaaaak. I don't know if this trend is going to continue, but if either of the other two teams in the group had played them today, the Selecao would have suffered the indignity that is a loss. To their credit, North Korea played a gritty, spirited game. Thanks for making me feel conflicted, you assholes.


6:30 CDT - Chile and Honduras try and settle the age old argument of what is better, Llamas or Sea Turtles. Expect a lot of pain and cracked shells. Chile wins in a landsl... in a bloodbath. I mean bloodbath.

9:00 CDT - Spain and Switzerland get together for a beer. After said beer, Spain scores 4,000 goals. Zurich voids all Spanish accounts in retaliation. World War III ensues.

13:30 CDT - South Africa takes on Uruguay and their 30 defenders. Forlan dies from starvation. Tshabalala turns into a beam of light. South Africa wins by two goals. Hopefully.



Day Four Wrap Up.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

There is some justice in the world, but not as much as I'd like.

For today's wrap up, I enlisted the help of a GIRL, my grood friend Jess Wdowiarz, who was kind enough to talk with me about soccer through the classiest of mediums: Facebook Chat.

Booyah. Enjoy.


ZGS: How early did you have to get up to watch Netherlands v Denmark?

Jessica: 8:30am I watched it on replay cause I can't stand getting up early.

ZGS: You're an inspiration to us all. I got up at 6:15 CDT. Or is it CST? I can never remember. Any lasting impressions of the match?

Jessica: I thought that Netherlands look really strong, and I'm glad that they kicked the Danes' ass. I feel like two countries that have insane architecture and last names should have to duke it out. only one can go on.

ZGS: You weren't, I don't know, BORED at all by the game? Or was that just a function of it being ass early for me?

Jessica: No, you weren't missing anything, it was a boring yes it was early, but also neither teams are known for their creativity. it was generally a stale mate into who would just score, and then defend until the whistle blew

ZGS: how dare you disparage TOTAL FOOTBALL!?!?!?

Jessica: (:

The 2-0 scoreline for the Dutch isn't as great as it sounds. For the short time he was on, Bendtner actually had a very decent game, dribbling and distributing well, and the Danes looked like a bit of a threat. I'm not so sure the Netherlands would have broken the deadlock if it hadn't been for the Danes' unfortunate own goal. Way to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Daniel Agger. Though I still believe the Oranje will qualify at the top of their group, unless they pick up the pace a bit, I don't see them making it too far past the second round.


ZGS: Okay, okay. Your opinion is your opinion and I can't change that. What about the Announcers' Nightmare Match, Japan v Cameroon?

Jessica: haha I had to watch it with the sound OFF

ZGS: Por que?

Jessica: I was at work and was on client calls all day long. why was it the announcers' nightmare match?

ZGS: Because they can't pronounce any of the players' names. Have you ever heard a British person try to say a Spanish name, let alone a French or Japanese one?

Jessica: Yes, it is absurd. although, since Honda scored, I feel like they got a gimme. its like every first day of school for me - fucking practice that shit before you go in front of a crowd.

ZGS: I couldn't say Wdowiarz for about 6 months.

Jessica: Helwig still can't say my name after 4 years he just calls me Wally World

ZGS: It's because he ruined his mouth [insert false innuendo about him engaging in fellatious acts]. Back to the game.

Jessica: I was disappointed with Eto'o.

ZGS: Because?

Jessica: he's their star and I hoped he would have played a more significant role he was practically nonexistent I want an African team to go far - and it was either Ivory Coast (who is now down Drogba) and Cameroon and if Eto'o can't convert into goals, then BOTH are screwed

ZGS: I tend to blame the coach. He had Eto'o out on the right wing, for some reason. It was hard for him to get in the play. IF Eto'o has to drift to the wing, he prefers the left, so he can cut in and shoot. None of it made any sense.

Jessica: I totally agree. All in all, I think Cameroon could do well, but you're totally right, they didn't optimize their talent.

ZGS: Any plaudits for the Japanese?

Jessica: I wouldn't say that I enjoy their style of play, but I think their goal was great and I also thought that their skills were well executed that's it though I honestly am completely biased because they are all named after cars and you're post about them looking the same, with exception to hair-dye guy, really stuck in my head and that's all I can think about when I see them play now.

The Japanese played like a bunch of men today. Their fans were a different story. No bones about it, I was rooting against them, but I have to give credit where credit is due. A 1-0 victory serves them well. Cameroon looked disjointed for most of the game, though it took a bit of luck to keep them off the score sheet with Mbia nearly shattering the foundation of the earth as his drive hit the bar, as well as a great last minute save on Souleymanou's redirection towards the net. Last tournament, Ghana lost its first game to Italy before knocking out two wins to advance, so there's still precedent/hope for the Indomitable Lions. Barely.


ZGS: My racism is infectious. Good to know. Alright, what about the last match: La Allbiroja v Los Fuckfaces?

Jessica: Ha!

ZGS: The Fuckfaces are Italy, in case that wasn't clear.

Jessica: You know what makes me so happy about that game?

ZGS: ??

Jessica: Italy was fucking LUCKY to come out with a draw Paraguay played a GREAT game.

ZGS: Yeah, Paraguay's goalie pretty much gave them the point. Too bad.

Jessica: they were really solid looking, and they shoved in their dolce & gabbanna faces

ZGS: Imagine what would have happened if Sant Cruz was fit or Salvador Cabanas didn't get shot in the fucking head...

Jessica: I know right? I'm so pissed that Italy tied up the game and Paraguay's header was such a great goal

ZGS: Dude dominated De Rossi.

Jessica: Italy looked really sloppy there for awhile.

ZGS: Part of that was the rain, but most of it was their suckitude. Compare your hatred of Italy to an international conflict.

Jessica: Good question. My hatred of italy is like all the shit that went down in the Phillipines, with Imelda Marcos. Italy is the biggest bunch of patsies ever, they never accomplish anything (last world cup), and when they do its pretty much because the they insulted Zindane's sister. You might as well just kick someone in the testes. They dive all over the place, rig matches, corrupting their referees.... and yet they manage to squeak by. Finally, when someone decides to investigate, you find out they have 10,000,000 shoes in their closet, and kill all their countryman

ZGS: Don't forget their stupid faces. And the fact that they are satisfied with 1-0 victories.

Jessica: its like... the LAST straw you find the pile of shoes, and FINALLY realize their ridiculous extravagance and how much you underestimated them in their evilness

ZGS: Is the shoes thing a reference I should get?

Jessica: Imelda Marcos?

ZGS: I don't believe in Southeast Asia, so I'll have to look that up.

Jessica: "Marcos was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 1000 handbags and 3000 pairs of shoes. The exact number of shoes varies between accounts; estimates of up to 3000 pairs of shoes have been published."

ZGS: Jesus. That's some woman. So, final thoughts on the day's games?

Jessica: Overall, I've seen better, more exciting play, but my overall take is that this World Cup is completely unpredictable. I was really suprised with the scores, and whether it's the ball, the rain, the injured players, the heat or the country, whatever it is, I'm really excited to keep watching, cause I feel like anything could happen.

ZGS: It's good to see your glass is still half full.

Jessica: I try.

ZGS: Thanks for the help. Goodnight. You're a Princess among Thieves.

Jessica: Anytime, sugar.

This was a sloppy game. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I'll have to wait for tomorrow's early game to form an opinion on how the rest of the group is going to shake down. Maybe Slovakia and Paraguay advance? Cross you fingers. During the game, Paraguay had a special talisman in the stands that I expect will bring them luck for games to come. Everyone loves excessive tatties, right? Right.


Tomorrow's slate includes Slovakia vs New Zealand, the Ivory Coast vs Protugal and Brazil dismantling North Korea.

The Slovaks should roll, but after an impressive warm-up win against Serbia, the NewZies may have a few surprises in store for us. Here is an unnecessary Flight of the Conchords video to pump us all up:

Will Drogba play? Will CRonaldo not play like a douche? Will all that shit in the Nike ad come true? I have no clue what to expect. I really hope the Coastal Ones pull it out. Innuendo.

Brazil 96, NorKor 0. I couldn't imagine a better opener for the 5 time champions. Sheesh.



Day Three Wrap Up.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Somebody finally scored some goals.  Too bad I hate their guts.


After the USA and England tied yesterday, I made a firm pact with my brain to wake up early and watch Slovenia* vs. Algeria, the second match from Group C.  My alarm went off at 6:15 AM, 6:21 AM and then 6:25 AM, but I stayed in bed.  I'm glad I did.

There is nothing worse than waking up at 6:30 in the morning to watch a terrible soccer game.  Instead, I slept in until around 9:00, got up, threw on a shirt and stumbled out to watch the recording.  While my change in viewing time didn't make the game any less boring, at least I was more rested.  Here's my version of what happened:

Teams walk out of tunnels.  National Anthems.  Kick-off.  Slovenia are wearing sweet jerseys.  Boring passing for 45 minutes.  Halftime.  Kick-off.  The Algerians have a lot of stupid dyed hair.  Some dude gets subbed on and immediately gets a yellow card.  More boring passing.  Same dude who just subbed on gets another yellow card for grabbing the ball out of the air with his hand.  Said dude gets a red card for getting two yellows.  Idiot.  More boring passing.  Robert Koren scores a super weak goal by doing his best Clint Dempsey impersonation.  Algerian goalkeeper extremely embarrassed.  Game ends 1-0, Slovenia.  I want to die.**

How can a game with a goal be less exciting than a 0-0 tie?  Watch the goal, and you'll see why:

BOOOOOOOORRRRRRIIIIIINNNNNNNG!  Slovenia may be currently leading the group, but trust me:  After they play the US on Friday, that's all over and done with.


When I learned that Michael Essien would be kept off Ghana's World Cup squad, I quickly wrote the team off.  That was a mistake.

If you're more than a casual fan of soccer, Serbia vs Ghana was the feature on today's schedule that carried the most implication for how the whole tournament will shake down.  The Serbs had stormed through European qualifying, mostly due to their monstrous defense.  They looked to be a tough side, and in one scenario, I could legitimately see them reaching the semi-finals of the tournament.  Despite that, I had originally chosen Ghana as the team that would qualify from Group D behind Germany, but when I learned that Michael Essien would be kept off Ghana's World Cup squad, I quickly wrote the team off.

That was a mistake.

The entirety of Ghana should buy Kuzmanovic a beer for being a complete idiot.

Doing well in a World Cup will always involve a healthy amount of skill coupled with a dose of luck, and Ghana had both today.  Beyond that, I think they deserved to win.  Does that mean I don't think the game could have ended differnetly?  Yes.  If the lanky Zigic had finished his best chance, it definitely would have.  What the video above doesn't really show you is how Ghana absolutely controlled the midfield all game long.  While Gyan may have scored the goal, Asamoah and Prince-Boateng were the men of the match, by my estimation.  They played the ball with the outside mids in small triangles, springing runners into space down the wings.  Serbia couldn't find the answer.

Ghana's win might be indicative of the power a team can draw from playing on "home soil."  This is the first African tournament, which has to mean something for the players, even if they come from a West African nation.  With their next game against a reeling Australia, the Ghanaians could find themselves already qualified for the second round by the end of a second 90 minutes.


In the final game of the day, Ze Germans thrashed poor old Australia 4-0.  It's no small secret that I hate Germany (in the soccering sense).  They are my fourth least favorite FIFA nation, behind Italy (1), Portugal (2), and Mexico (3).  This game made  my heart sad.  The tournament, to this point, had been a relatively low scoring affair, so on the one hand, it was nice to see some action, but on the other hand, poop.

Germany beat Australia because they were the better team.  They passed, shot, defended and moved off the ball in a superior manner.  I don't really think I need to analyze it in any more focused of a fashion than that; no need to rub salt into the Australians' wounds.

I do, however, feel a need to weigh in on the Red Card issued to Australian midfielder Tim Cahill for his tackle on Bastien Schweinsteiger.

Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez just plain got this call wrong.  I know there are a lot of players and fans out there who unabashedly talk shit on referees when a call goes against a team that they're rooting for.  It makes being a referee incredibly difficult.  I swear to you that I'm not one of those people.  Other than this call, he had an excellent match.  He correctly awarded cards to two players for diving, as well as refusing to blow his whistle when Germany inadvertently handled the the ball in their own box.  But this call is bad.  Really bad.

According to FIFA's Laws of the Game:

The key phrase in that ruling is EXCESSIVE FORCE.  Watch the tackle again.  Is there really excessive force?  No.  Not only does Cahill tuck his legs up to avoid spiking Schweinsteiger with his cleats, but he's not coming in at a dangerous speed or (and I'll admit, this is debatable) from a dangerous angle.  It should have been a yellow, no doubt, but a straight red on this tackle is extremely harsh.  Even the man he tackled thinks it was undeserved.

Tim Cahill is a likeable player.  To his credit, he did not verbally assault the referee after the call and respectfully left the field, even though it was quite obvious he disagreed with the ruling.  If he misses out on the rest of his team's games in the group, it will be very unfortunate.

Ze Germans are in the driver's seat for the rest of this group.  They take on Serbia in their next match, and unless the Serbs can muster a total turnaround, I expect Wonder Dwarf and Company to take all three points.


Shit happened.  I was happy about some of it. Referees are good and bad.


Tomorrow's matches open with Netherlands vs Denmark in the early game/low-lying-country-off.  Expect the Danes to be exposed as the pretenders they are.  Nicklas Bendtner may or may not keep his pants on.  Enthralling.

Up next, we'll see Japan against Cameroon in a match that I'm pretty sure will feature at least four goals, if not forty.  Japan has looked exciting in their warm-up matches and Cameroon was last seen losing 4-3 to Serbia.  We may finally have a rollicking match on our hands.

The final game on Monday features the Pure Evil of Italy versus Paraguay.  Pray that Italy fail-fail-fails.


*Slovenia is still not a real country, but I'll go ahead and pretend like it is for the sake of my analysis.

**Slovenia did do a pretty sweet group-dance-rain-maker celebration after they scored.  Me likey.


Day Two Wrap Up.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Oh, we're in it now.  I can only assume that Gooch's shirt is referring to the ethereal, transcendent talent that is Tim Howard.

Game One

South Korea (aka The Same Names) versus Greece (aka The Pirate Ship) completely defied my expectations.  It.  Was.  Awesome.

Greece came out in a 4-3-3 line up, and totally blew my mind.  For those of you who aren't aware, they usually play with 12 goalkeepers and 46 defenders, so busting out three forwards was an XXXtreme departure from their typical formation.  In my previews of this match, I've made it very clear I thought this was going to be a case of boring playing boring.  Instead, SoKo scored in the the seventh minute, and from then on, the game was wide open.

South Korea deserved the win.  In addition to the obvious fact that they scored more goals, the SoKors controlled the ball, were clever on the attack and defended decently enough to keep Greece below them on the score sheet.  That's not to say that Greece didn't create chances.  By my count, the score could have ended something like 5-3, in SoKor's favor.  Ultimately, the Greeks were uninspired, and the nicest thing I can think to say about them is that their beards were very nice.*

A 2-0 victory on goals from Lee Jung Soo (7') and Park Ji Sung (52') was a great start for the South Koreans.  The confidence from this victory will serve them well as they take on the toughest team on Group B,  Argentina, in five days time.

And Greece?  Well.. yeah.  Thanks for playing.

Game Two

The classic stereotype of African football is "all attack; no defense."  I'd like to amend said generalization:  "African football is all attempted attack, no defense and INCREDIBLE goalkeeping."

Vincent Enyeama was the man of the match, despite being on the losing side.  The Nigerian goalkeeper turned a match that potentially could have ended 149-2 into a 1-0 contest.  Check it out for yourself, though I would suggest turning down your sound, first:

I guess, as you've now seen the highlights from the match, I don't need to describe it.  BUT YE GODS, ENYEAMA!  WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?  NIGERIA?  OH, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT.  There was absolutely nothing he could do about Heinze's SICK header, but everything else that came near his goal, he palmed away.  Great performance.

Argentina deserved to win, but they seemed a little too open in the back for me to see their team going extremely deep in the tournament.  Nigeria looked about like I expected they would.  They're missing a bit of class thanks to the absence of Obi Mikel, but with a win against Greece, they could still find themselves with everything to play for in the final match of group play versus South Korea.

Game Three

Poor Robert Green.  Poor, poor Robert Green.

In the month leading up to USA vs England, I honestly had no clue what to expect.  Any number of scenarios made sense.  I could see us winning by two goals, losing by four, drawing 0-0; I could even see Wayne Rooney and Landon Donovan suddenly announcing they were life partners and having a Commitment Ceremony in the center circle.**  But despite all my prognosticating, nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened.

When Steven Gerrard scored, I was actually on the phone, speeding back to my house from a stupid, mandatory job training class I was stuck in all morning.  I was almost home, tearing up Iowa when it happened, and I screamed "FUCK!" into the phone roughly 30 times.  I threw open my front door and turned on the TV, rewinding the recording to watch the play, and added a 60 additional "FUCK!s" to my tally.

Minutes went by.  I squatted on the couch, too nervous to sit down.  Something funny was happening.  We were controlling the ball (even without Jose Torres on the field), we looked dangerous, we looked the better side.  I blinked a couple times to make sure.  Then, this happened:

I would like to go on record as having said that I feel bad for the guy.  He's normally a very good keeper and I thought he deserved the start over David "The Intellectual" James or Joe "Super Twink" Hart.  That doesn't mean I want to give the goal back, though.  No way, no way, no how.  For levity, check out Beckham's reaction to the blunder from the bench:

But I'm not going to dwell on either goal.  I'm actually not going to dwell on anything negative that happened in the game, for either team.  Instead, I'm going to talk about the positives.

England Bright Sides:  Gerrard showed leadership.  Crouch caused problems, when he finally got on.  GangstaLennon and SWP*** served in some dangerous balls.  Cashley Cole got forward very well.  Glenn Johnson didn't suck THAT bad.

USA Bright Sides:  Onyewu vindicated himself completely.  Altidore looked fit and reasonably classy.  Cherundolo was ageless.  Michael Bradley was poised.  Dempsey played solid defense. Tim Howard was amazing, and by amazing, I mean absolutely insane, and by absolutely insane, I mean I want to marry him forever and ever amen.

As the halftime whistle blew, I rushed out the door and drove downtown to finish out the game at Dempsey's (DELICIOUS BURGERS, FYI) with a couple of friends.  The second half was extremely tense, with both teams having a coupe legitimate chances to take control of the score-line.  The game ended at 1-1, which felt like a win for the US players and fans.  I can't definitively say how it felt for the English, but judging by Rooney's angryface, I'd say they were experiencing the other side of the coin.

Let's be real:  I'm almost certain both of these teams are going to go through to the second round.  England plays Algeria next, and I expect it to be a bloodbath.  So, don't worry you limey fucks.  You'll be okay.****  The US battles Supposedly Slovenia on Friday, and though it will be tight, I think we'll win 2 or 3 to 1.  The group winner is going to come down to goal differential, and while I think England still has the edge in that department, maybe the US will sneak past them.  That would be HILARIOUS.


*There was one other thing I noticed about the Greek side:  They wear the tightest shorts of any team I've seen so far.  That, or they all have gigantic asses.  Seriously.  Is that a thing, a stereotype I've just been unaware of, up to this point in life?  "All Black women and also Greek guys have back."  Weird.

**Which one's the bottom?

*** Shaun Wright Phillips, not Single White Penis.

**** Until you play Serbia.


Day One Wrap Up.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Day one is done. Group A games finished with two ties, one boring and one quite enthralling.


In the first match of the day, South Africa faced up against the [any negative adjective besides "dirty"] Mexican team.

First Half

I have to give a little credit to Mexico--they played a very clean and open game.* El Tri controlled the ball for most of the first half, and G2Santos wriggled around like a little, dangerous albeit bitchy fish. The Bafana Bafana didn't play badly; they had a couple of slick passing movements, but for the most part, it looked like the hosts were extremely nervous.

The major talking point of the game came In the 38th minute when Carlos Vela nodded the ball into the back of the net off a Mexico corner kick. As the celebraciones began, the referee blew his whistle to signal offsides, disallowing the goal. I'll be honest: It was a confusing situation. As a long time soccer player, initially, I was convinced that the goal should count. Let's go to the tape:

Anecdotally, the goalkeeper is always the last defender, so if a field player is on the goal line, it's easy to see why most people would assume that no one on the attacking half of the field can be in an offside position. That's the erroneous thought running through my brain as I saw the instant replay. But, according to the FIFA 2010/2011 Laws of the Game:

That was either the best refereeing decision I have ever seen, or the luckiest. Amazing. The next time we have a blown call, let's not forget that sometimes, the refs get it right in controversial situations.

Second Half

This is the most important thing for you to know:

First off, SWEET celebration. Nobody celebrates better than an African team. Second, HOLYFCUKINGSHITWHATAGOAL! Just like Philip Lahm's strike in 2006, I wouldn't be surprised if the inaugural goal of 2010 is in the top five for the tournament.

The second half was a much more even affair. Mexico still had the majority of possession, but South Africa was much more dangerous, creating several chances on the counter-attack.

Stupid Mexico eventually scored a stupid equalizer from a stupid mistake by Aaron Makoena that allowed stupid Rafa Marquez to take a stupid shot that did score, but was still stupid. I am by no means Fox News, so I will not provide fair and balanced YouTube coverage of this goal. Suffice it to say that Mexico's goal was STUPID.

In the 90th minute, somefuckingsouthafrican played a long flighted ball over the Mexican back line to forward Katlego Mphela. KM outpaced the defense, racing in to the box where he was one on one with creepy looking henchman/goalkeeper Oscar Perez. The ball fell to Mphela's weaker left foot, and his scuffed shot skipped past the rooted henchman and off the near post.

Disappointment reigned supreme and both teams escaped with an arguably undeserved point.


In the late match, a benched Thierry Henry and his controversial handball played against a group of dudes pretending to be Italy. That, or France played Uruguay. I can't be sure which.

First Half

God, this game was boring. I watched the first ten minutes, wondering what the deal was with Toulalan's super-gray hair. Supposedly, he's 26. I'm not so sure about that, Wikipedia. Uruguay was packing 7 people on their back line, leaving Forlan and whatever that other guy who isn't Forlan up there to fend for themselves. I think I drifted off a little bit after the fifteenth minute, periods of thinking about Abou Diaby's shaved head and how Franck Ribery is a Pedophile interspersed with some 30 second boredom naps . At some point in time during that haze, Gourcuff tried an audacious free kick from an impossible angle, which was kind of sweet, but it was mostly a lot of French possession with no real point. Meanwhile, the Uruguayans played defense.

Second Half

I fell asleep at half-time and had to rewind from around the 66th minute on my DVR when I woke up. After watching back up to the point in the broadcast I had woken up, I decided that I'd just made a 20 minute mistake. I can't guarantee you this is true, but I think Uruguay may have slipped a couple of extra players on the field while I wasn't paying attention, but in the second half, it felt like they were playing even more defense than before, which I didn't think was physically possible.

Shit started to get better in the 72nd minute as Thierry Henry was subbed in for Le Sulk. A flurry of somewhat interesting things for both teams ensued: Forlan flashing a great chance wide, a red card for debutant Lodiero in the 81st, Henry ironically calling for a handball in the box and a last minute free kick from 20 yards out. Also, Uruguay played defense.

All in all, a BOOOOOORING game. I'm tellin' it like it is, people!


Group A just went through a time warp. They may as well have not even played any games. South Africa plays The Defenders on Wednesday, while France takes on Suxico Thursday morning.


Greece versus South Korea could be an interesting game but won't. THERE WILL BE SO MUCH DEFENDING IT WILL MAKE YOUR EYES BLEED. SoKor will be the more creative of the sides, but only in the way that Two and a Half Men is more creative than According to Jim. I predict 1-1, if we're lucky.

Argentina versus Nigeria is the second game of the day. Have you ever seen that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where that one demon keeps sucking the life out of people while they sleep to get stronger? Well, I definitely haven't, but this game is going to be like that. Argentina will cannibalize Nigeria. 4-1, Tinos.

The final game on our slate for Saturday is U-S-A! versus England. The US will win 196-1. I wish we could keep a clean sheet, but you know what? I'll take the victory.

Later, y'all.

*Don't be fooled, though. Serial killers tend to wait a few dates before they turn you into a love corpse.


Fashion! - Group E

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Welcome back to Fashion!

Every Friday, my Feminite Side and I get together and discuss the uniforms for each team in one of the eight groups at World Cup 2010. At the end of each discussion, the jersey in question will be scored between 0 and 5 on the Tshabalala Scale.

This week, we tackle Group E.


ZGS: There are two schools of thought for dealing with this jersey.
Feminine Side: You mean, "this shit is boring" versus "this shit is ugly?"
ZGS: Well, half of that. It's boring, but it's a classic look for the Dutch.
FS: Orange is the worst color on the planet. People who listen to rap-rock wear orange. Orange is the color of Halloween sweatshirts you buy at Walmart. The only reason anyone should EVER wear orange is if you are currently incarcerated because all the people that lived above the buildings you was hustlin' in front of called the police on you when you was just tryin' to make some money to feed your daughters.
ZGS: Did you just quote the beginning of the song "Juicy" to make a point about the color orange?
FS: I happen to have good taste in clothes AND music.
ZGS: Pat Benatar! I officially give this jersey 2 out of 5 Tshabalalas.


FS: This jersey is TURRRIBLE.
ZGS: The badge looks like a freaking crayon drawing. And what is with that graphic on the front?
FS: Remember when we went to that Lazer Lights Show in Gage Park?
ZGS: I've tried to block it out, but, yes. Unfortunately.
FS: Looking at this shirt is visually similar, but emotionally worse.
ZGS: Debbie Harry! I officially give this jersey 1 out of 5 Tshabalalas.


FS: I love it. I absolutely love it.
ZGS: I wouldn't go that far, but it's definitely a good jersey.
FS: Look at how balanced all the elements are. It's so orderly, quiet but austere.
ZGS: I feel like we're both on the verge of saying something racist.
FS: I don't know what you're talking about.
ZGS: Really? Use a simile to describe it.
FS: Well, I guess if I had to, I would say it's like a zen garden.... Fuck.
ZGS: Debbie Gibson! I officially give this jersey 4.5 out of 5 Tshabalalas.


ZGS: Another Puma jersey with a mesh sleeve. I don't even know why I'm surprised anymore.
FS: This one isn't THAT bad. Well, not as bad as the other ones, at least.
ZGS: There a whole lot of logo going on around the shoulders. Some mixed cat metaphors.
FS: It kind of reminds me of NASCAR.
ZGS: God, I hate NASCAR.
ZGS: Blondie! I officially give this jersey 2.5 out of 5 Tshabalalas.


Man on the Street - Volume 1

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

The opening game has come and gone, but I'll save my thoughts on that for later today. If you're twisting in the wind between the MEX vs SA and FRA vs URU matches, know that you're not alone.

In case you're not aware, I have a few friends who are in South Africa right now. Over the course of the World Cup, they will be sending me updates from the front lines that I will be posting on here for the internet's general consumption.

This morning, I received the first of said updates. I'm not gonna post it on this site, as there are maybe one too many references to the Holocaust. For example:

"so we go to the mall to get tickets thinking we only need the credit card that was used to purchase them to receive them. oh boy was that theory about to break the glass windows of our psyche and pack our confidence into boxcars like sardines."

For more useful information/offensive analogy, check out the full text here.



All Nighter.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

The day of reckoning is upon us. Tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM CST, hosts South Africa open the tournament against Mexico in Johannesburg. At the same moment, roughly 9,000 miles away, my jeans will be officially creamed.*

I'm done with anticipation, I'm done with predictions. I'm done with telling all you little lemmings how to feel. Tomorrow is the culmination. I've been waiting for this moment for 300 years.**

Well, almost.

Think of the next month like a final exam. That one girl in your class (you know, the annoying one who sits in the front and calls the teacher by her first name?) has been studying all semester. She's got her flash cards, her itemized hi-lighter notetaking system, her self-made podcasts and has met with the teacher once a week to discuss the supplementary reading that no one is required to do, but she does. What. A. Bitch.

And then there's you, downloading the lecture outlines off the internet the night before the test, but finding yourself distracted by the fact that there's a Jurassic Park marathon on TBS, and even though you've seen the first one like fifty times, you've never gotten around to watching the one starring William H. Macy. At around 9 o'clock, you remember that you're friend's ex-girlfriend took the same class last semester and that she does really well in school. You pull her phone number off of the Facebook, and call her up.

After asking how she's been and saying that you should hang out some time (which doesn't fool either of you), subtly, at the end of the conversation, you ask if she could email you her notes. She's always kind of hated you but still has a thing for your friend, so she obliges. It's now 10 o'clock, and you have roughly fifteen hours until test time. You sit down on the couch with the printed out notes and turn on the TV. Sam Jackson flashes on screen.

Hold on to your butts.

In the scenario above, I am that ex-girlfriend. If you're still not ready for that final test tomorrow, never fear. I made this cheat sheet for you.


Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and France.

Ubuntu in the Rainbow Nation! No host nation has ever not advanced to second round in the history of the World Cup. Uruguay is dangerous, Mexico are evil and France are a bunch of cheating cheaters.

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.

This group is tougher than it looks. Argentina advances in first place, while the rest of the group dukes it out. Nigeria is bipolar, South Korea believes in UNITY and Greece only knows how to play defense.

Group C: England, USA, Algeria and Slovenia.

Dear Entire World: The United States is going to drink your milkshake. England will underachieve, Algeria will foul and Slovenia is not real. WE DRINK IT UP!!!!!!

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana.

Europe rules the day in Group D. Everyone hates Ze Germans and you should too, but they'll advance. Australia is old and slow, Serbia makes the Belgrade (pun!), while Ghana is limping into the tournament.

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon.

If you think the neighbors are going through, you're half right. Something-something-Holland, something-something-TOTAL-FOOTBALL. Denmark is outclassed, Japan is strangely intriguing and Cameroon could make a splash.

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia.

Italian is the second worst Romance Language; too bad they'll cheat their way into the second round. Paraguay means Of the Guay, New Zealand gets a participation medal and Slovakia has TechnoRaveHair.

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast and Portugal.

Three of these things belong together. Expect five time World Cup winners Brazil to finish in first. NorKor will get gangbung,*** Portugal could defy gravity by diving into the second round and Ivory Coast is a mystery now that Drogba is injured.

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile.

The Spanish side is a pretty much sex on a stick. My non-American favorites will finish the group in first. Switzerland will crash and Bern (second pun!), Honduras will powerbottom and Chile will [insert socially conscious earthquake joke].

The USMNT's Legitimate Chances:

We can make the quarterfinals. I honestly believe this. After finishing second in Group C, we'll backdoor a wounded Germany before losing out to The Flea in the third round.

My Favorites:

My prediction for the semi-finals are Spain vs Argentina and Serbia vs Brazil, with Spain and Brazil advancing to the final match.

The Winner:

Spain. They're playing insane football at the moment. Did you watch the game versus Poland? Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

I mean, WOW.

So, there you have it: As succinct of a primer as I can provide. I'm ready. So ready.

Finally, if you're a working (wo)man, here's an article with a list of websites that will be streaming games on the internet.  You can say thank you later.


*Unless you're into some really weird shit, I would NOT suggest putting the words "cream" and "jeans" into a search engine together. You will find a topical website. It is not a pretty website.

** 300 years, you ask? Yes, it's true. I'm actually even more emotionally involved in a tournament of a different sort, one called "The Quickening."

*** Which is the little-known past tense of "gangbang."


World Crunk

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

If (god forbid) you're not a huge fan of soccer, here's an easy way to get more into the game:


The World Cup is a great excuse to get Dr. Unk.  Drinking and soccer go together like, well, drinking and anything.  It's a phenomenon Stuff White People Like lampoons pretty effectively, but frankly, just because something is a bit of a stereotype doesn't mean you should shy away from it.  To wit, I would never expect an African American to not eat fried chicken--that shit is DELICIOUS.

In my opinion, beer should be the drink of choice when watching soccer.  You may opt for liquor or wine (which pretty much makes you a communist), but that's your four weddings and a funeral.

My mother is not the biggest fan of alcohol, so it is in her honor that I remind everyone to be responsible, be of age and have a safe driver if you're going to get schwasted.  With that advice firmly in mind, I present to you the funnest, most educationalest way to enjoy soccer:



1) Drink once as the line-ups are announced.
2) Drink once for every bald player on the pitch during the national anthems.
3) Drink twice for each overweight referee.
4) Chug your whole drink if you've been to either of the countries playing.

First Half Action:

1) Drink once per kick-off taken.
2) Drink four times for every goal.
3) Drink once for fancy dribbling.
4) Drink once for ridiculous hair.
5) Drink twice for a yellow card.
6) Chug half your drink for a red card.
7) Drink once for every offsides call.
8) Drink once for every dive.
9) Drink once every time an announcer uses the word "brilliant."
10) Drink once for every substitution.

Second Half Action:

1) Drink twice per kick-off taken.
2) Chug half your drink for every goal.
3) Drink once for every foul.
4) Drink two times for every camera shot of a hot girl in the stands.
5) Drink three times for a yellow card.
6) Chug your whole drink for a red card.
7) Drink twice for every offsides call.
8) Drink twice for every dive.
9) Drink three times when an announcer uses the word "crucial."
10) Drink twice for every substitution.

Post Game:

1) Drink once for a tie, twice for a win.
2) Drink once for every on-screen shirt exchange shown.
3) Drink once if you're happy with the result, twice if you're not.
4) Take as many drinks as the final scores for each team, added together.

Be merry.



The Deal.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Good afternoon, you cheating, preening racists.

The World Cup begins in two days (or maybe one, depending on how you count). I think it's about time we discussed exactly how things are gonna shake down once the games start.

I am not a housewife. Trust me, I'm more broken up about it than you are. I work and go to school, so as much as I'd like to sit at home all day and watch soccer, I just can't. That said, I will be recording all the games on my DVR, then watching them in one huge glut at night. And as I behold the glory, my sweaty ass slowly becoming one with my roommate's couch, I shall write.

So. The Deal:

I will post my analysis of all the game(s) every night, sometime before 12:00 AM. I will also provide a separate set of predictions for what you can expect from the match(es) on the morrow. During the day, I will likely throw some levity at you here and there, but I am not going to make any concrete promises on that front.

We good? Everything clear and rosy? Yeah. We good.



And so it begins. Again.

Disclaimer: The following nonsense was written by an complete idiot, namely, me. If you're offended by the saltiest of language, empty threats, ironic xenophobia, third-grade innuendo, brilliant prose or hilarious poop jokes, this blog isn't the place for you. For the rest of us, it might just be Valhalla. To check out older posts about the World Cup, visit the original version of my blog here.

Welcome to Two Worlds, One Cup, the bestest little soccer blog in the the history of the me writing one. I'm your host, ZGS, but you can call me Zach if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

With the World Cup kicking off this Friday, we have a fair deal of catching up to do. I've actually been writing about the World Cup for almost a month on another site. With 68 previous posts, there's plenty of stuff to check out, but as a primer, here's a reasonable approximation of my Top 5 Posts, So Far:

  2. Fashion! - Groups A, B, C, and D.
  4. Go Round and Round.
  5. Recession.

In addition to the above approximated highlights, you'll find hateful profiles of all 31 teams not named The United States, predictions for who will advance out of the group stage, random love letters, interviews, games, super villains, vampires and plenty of accusations of racism.

You see, I love soccer. It's the only thing in my life that's ever consistently made me happy.* Playing it, watching it, reading about it; I love it all. I may not be the greatest player, I may not be the most talented writer, but soccer doesn't seem to care. It's given me back a hundred times more than I've given it. This blog is basically an attempt to show other people, both soccer enthusiasts and not, the myriad ways one can appreciate the culture and the game, and maybe, just maybe, convert a few folks along the way.

I'll be back tomorrow with a more topical post. Until then, here is a video of my favorite World Cup goal of all time.


*That may sound really sad to you, but think about it for a second: Do you have anything in your life that you can realistically do daily and, every single time, it makes you feel good? Not many people can honestly answer "yes" to that question.


The easiest way for KU football to get back to a bowl in 2010

At a Kansas football practice earlier this month, I noticed that every position group was working on a drill that related to turnovers.


Defensive tackles were working on falling on fumbles. Defensive ends worked on stripping the ball on an outside rush. The cornerbacks attempted to strip the ball away from a ball-carrier when double-teaming on a tackle. And so on.

On the other end, KU’s offensive players were working on turnover prevention. The running backs and wide receivers tried to secure the ball while two defenders worked on stripping it away. The tight ends held on to the football after getting banged with pads.

I had never remembered seeing so much work specifically on turnovers during any college football practices I’d seen. So I asked KU coach Turner Gill if he had any specific goals in mind when it came to turnovers.


“I think we’re probably like most people. Averaging one per game (on offense). That’s counting on us playing 14 games,” Gill said. “Hopefully, we have 14 turnovers from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, hopefully you get into the 30 range — 30-plus turnovers in a season. Then you’re playing some outstanding defense.”

There’s a lot to talk about here. How did the Jayhawks fare with turnovers last year? How do teams fare when they only turn it over 14 times or less in a season? How do teams fare when they force 30 or more turnovers per year? How do teams fare when both of these instances occur together? Can forcing/preventing turnovers be taught? I dug into some of the numbers to see what we should expect from the 2010 Kansas Jayhawks regarding turnovers.

KU and turnovers

Let’s start by looking at the Jayhawks’ turnover numbers from last year.


In 2009, KU forced 17 turnovers and lost 22 for a negative-5 turnover margin. The Jayhawks’ 17 turnovers forced were the lowest in the Big 12. KU also mustered just seven interceptions, which ranked 110th out of 120 Division-I teams.

Let’s take a look at KU’s turnover numbers compared to other Big 12 teams.

Texas (+9) — 13-1 record
Kansas State (+7) — 6-6
Nebraska (+5) — 10-4
Oklahoma (+4) — 8-5
Missouri (+4) — 8-5
Iowa State (+4) — 7-6
Oklahoma State (0) — 9-4
Texas A&M (-2) — 6-7
Kansas (-5) — 5-7
Baylor (-5) — 4-8
Texas Tech (-6) — 9-4
Colorado (-6) —3-9

In case you were wondering, the Big 12 teams that had a positive turnover margin or a turnover margin of zero posted a combined record of 61-31 (.663). The Big 12 teams with a negative turnover margin combined to go 27-35 (.435).

Obviously, better teams have better players who will force more turnovers on defense and limit turnovers on offense, so we can’t say turnovers “caused” teams to be good or bad. Still, I think the numbers show that turnovers are an important statistic to consider when trying to predict the future record of a team.

The 30-14 rule

I appreciated Gill’s honesty when he talked about wanting to force 30 or more turnovers in a season while keeping his team’s own turnovers to 14 or fewer.


Make no mistake: Both of those are lofty goals in and of themselves.

Let’s take a look at the teams that forced 30 or more turnovers last year.

Ohio 37 (9-5 record)
Texas 37 (13-1)
Boise State 35 (14-0)
Ohio State 35 (11-2)
Air Force 34 (8-5)
East Carolina 34 (9-5)
Rutgers 34 (9-4)
Middle Tennessee State 33 (10-3)
Iowa State 32 (7-6)
Alabama 31 (14-0)
Arkansas 30 (8-5)
Clemson 30 (9-5)
Houston 30 (10-4)
Iowa 30 (11-2)
Northwestern 30 (8-5)
Oklahoma 30 (8-5)
Oklahoma State 30 (9-4)
UCLA 30 (7-6)

In all, 18 teams forced 30 or more turnovers last season. All of them had winning records.* Those teams combined to go 174-67 (.722). Also note that the two teams in last year’s BCS Championship Game (Texas and Alabama) made this list.

* — It’s important to note that every team above played in at least 13 games, making it easier to get to the 30-forced-turnover plateau. Still, I chose to use turnovers forced instead of turnovers forced per game to stay in line with Gill’s stated goal of 30 turnovers or more in a season.

Let’s take a look at those teams that turned it over 14 times or less in 2009.

Cincinnati 10 (12-1 record)
Oregon State 11 (8-5)
Air Force 12 (8-5)
Alabama 12 (14-0)
Louisiana Tech 13 (4-8)
UAB 13 (5-7)
Boise State 14 (14-0)
LSU 14 (9-4)
Navy 14 (10-4)
Notre Dame 14 (6-6)
Pittsburgh 14 (10-3)
Rutgers 14 (9-4)
Wyoming 14 (7-6)

These 13 teams combined to go 116-53 (.686). Louisiana Tech and UAB were the only teams that posted losing records with 14 turnovers or fewer.

There were six teams above that posted one turnover per game or less. Those teams combined to go 66-15 (.815).

So which teams accomplished both of Gill’s goals last year? Here they are:

Air Force — 34 forced, 12 lost (8-5 record)
Rutgers — 34 forced, 14 lost (9-4)
Boise State — 35 forced, 14 lost (14-0)
Alabama — 31 forced, 12 lost (14-0)

So, of the teams that reached Gill’s “30-14” turnover ratio, half of them went undefeated. I’m sure Gill would take those odds.

Those four teams combined to go 45-9 (.833) last season.

History of turnovers

I know what you’re thinking. The numbers that Gill talked about with turnovers are unreasonable, right?


Here’s the funny thing: Gill has coached a team that has accomplished that goal. And so has former KU coach Mark Mangino.

In 2008, Gill’s Buffalo team forced 33 turnovers while committing only 14. His team went 8-6 that year — his best season as a head coach.

Let’s take a look at KU’s turnover numbers over the last four years under Mangino.

2006 (-5) — 28 turnovers gained, 33 turnovers lost (6-6 record)
2007 (+21) — 35 turnovers gained, 14 turnovers lost (12-1)
2008 (+3) — 25 turnovers gained, 22 turnovers lost (8-5)
2009 (-5) — 17 turnovers gained, 22 turnovers lost (5-7)

Is it any surprise which year KU was the best in turnovers? Obviously, the 2007 season was greatly helped by such a drastic turnover margin.

Also, those looking to explain the Jayhawks’ late-season skid in 2009 might not need to look any further than turnovers.


Tack on eight more defensive turnovers last year (the same number of turnovers KU gained in 2008), and you can bet KU would have won at least one of the final seven games that it lost.

Teaching turnovers?

Here’s the big question, though. Can turnovers be taught?

Here’s what Gill had to say:

“We’re going to emphasize protecting the ball with ball security and then take away the ball defensively. That’s what I believe in doing, and I’m firm believer that you get what you practice and you get what you emphasize.”

But by simply running drills that work on forcing/preventing turnovers, can the coach expect the Jayhawks to be markedly improved in that area in 2010?

The answer here is a bit fuzzy.

Here are Buffalo’s turnover numbers in the four years under Gill.

2006 (-4) — 20 turnovers gained, 24 turnovers lost (2-10 record)
2007 (+3) — 19 turnovers gained, 16 turnovers lost (5-7)
2008 (+19) — 33 turnovers gained, 14 turnovers lost (8-6)
2009 (-7) — 18 turnovers gained, 25 turnovers lost (5-7)

If Gill placed an emphasis on turnovers last year at Buffalo, it didn’t show up in the statistics. Not only did the Bulls force just one more turnover than the Jayhawks did in 2009, they also lost three more turnovers than KU.


College football analyst Phil Steele bases many of his preseason predictions on turnover numbers from the previous year. He has a saying: “Turnovers=Turnaround.” Looking at KU, there might be some room for improvement from last year simply by turning a negative turnover margin into a positive one.

All spring, Gill has talked about putting in a quarterback that will limit mistakes and turnovers. He’s also preached putting playmakers on the field and has run drills that have forced KU’s players to work on turnovers.

It might sound boring, but playing a conservative style that limits turnovers on offense while forcing them on defense might be the easiest way for Gill to get the Jayhawks back to six wins and bowl eligibility in 2010.


Running it 60 percent of the time might not be bad for Turner Gill and KU

In an interview with WHB 810 on Tuesday, Kansas coach Turner Gill was asked about how often he envisioned his team would run the football.


"What that percentage is, I can't give that answer right now," Gill said. "If you sit here and say, 'What's your ideal situation?' I would say it would probably be more of a standpoint of being 60 percent run the football and 40 percent throw the football."

Gill did say that he would adjust his offensive philosophy to his talent, especially in his first year. That means KU still might rely some on the pass this year.

But 60 percent runs? When I first heard it, that number sounded awfully high, especially considering the success teams have had with the spread offense in college football the last few years.

So just how uncommon is it for a team to run it 60 percent of the time in today's college football?

Perhaps not as uncommon as you might think.

Let's take a look at some run percentage numbers.

To calculate a team's run percentage, I simply divided its rushing attempts by the combined number of rushing attempts and passing attempts it had during a season.

I understand this isn't perfect, as sometimes, passing plays turn into runs when quarterbacks either scramble or are sacked. Still, I figured these numbers will give us a pretty good glimpse into how often each team ran the football.


Let's start with KU's numbers. No Jayhawk team in the last 10 seasons has run the ball at least 60 percent of the time. The last time KU ran the ball 60 percent of its snaps was in 1999 (61.8 percent).

Kansas run percentage
2000 — 59.4 percent (4-7)
2001 — 59.7 percent (3-8)
2002 — 52.3 percent (2-10)
2003 — 54.3 percent (6-7)
2004 — 47.4 percent (4-7)
2005 — 51.8 percent (7-5)
2006 — 54.7 percent (6-6)
2007 — 51.8 percent (12-1)
2008 — 47.1 percent (8-5)
2009 — 42.8 percent (5-7)

It's interesting to see just how much KU went away from the running game in the last few seasons. The Jayhawks have seen their run percentage decline in each of the last three years.

So how do KU's run percentage numbers stack up against other Big 12 teams? Let's look.

Run percentage
Kansas State — 62.8 percent (6-6, 4-4)
Oklahoma State — 62.3 percent (9-4, 6-2)
Nebraska — 58.4 percent (10-4, 6-1 Big 12)
Iowa State — 57.6 percent (7-6, 3-5)
Texas A&M — 51.7 percent (6-7, 3-5)
Texas — 48.7 percent (13-1, 8-0)
Missouri — 48.7 percent (8-5, 4-4)
Oklahoma — 48.3 percent (8-5, 5-3)
Colorado — 44.5 percent (3-9, 2-6)
Baylor — 44.5 percent (4-8, 1-7)
Kansas — 42.8 percent (5-7, 1-7)
Texas Tech — 32.3 percent (9-4, 5-3)

Big 12 average — 50.0 percent (5,496 runs; 5,492 passes)

KU was next-to-last in the league in run percentage, leading only Texas Tech.


If KU would have run it 60 percent of the time last year, it would have been third in the conference behind Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Running it 60 percent of the time also would be 10 percent more than the league average.

So running it 60 percent of the time is crazy, right? Not if you take a look at the best teams from last year's final Associated Press Top 25.

AP Top 25 Run percentage
Alabama — 63.5 percent
Texas — 48.7 percent
Florida — 60.4 percent
Boise State — 52.3 percent
Ohio State — 64.1 percent
TCU — 64.6 percent
Iowa — 53.7 percent
Cincinnati — 43.3 percent
Penn State — 54.1 percent
Virginia Tech — 69.7 percent

Four of the top six teams — including the national champion, Alabama — ran the ball at least 60 percent of the time.


Honestly, that number shocked me.

So how close was Gill to hitting a 60 percent run percentage in Buffalo? Here are Buffalo's run percentages during Gill's four-year tenure.

Buffalo run percentage
2006 — 51.8 percent (2-10)
2007 — 52.8 percent (5-7)
2008 — 50.7 percent (8-6)
2009 — 51.9 percent (5-7)

The coach didn't come close to achieving his ideal 60/40 run-pass split with the Bulls. His team also didn't appear to become any more prone to the run later in his tenure.


Though it was a different era, perhaps Gill's run-first mentality came from his days playing quarterback at Nebraska.

Just for fun, here are his run percentages as a player at NU.

Nebraska run percentage
1980 — 80.9 percent (10-2)
1981 — 78.5 percent (9-3)
1982 — 78.1 percent (12-1)
1983 — 79.0 percent (12-1)

So what should we take from these numbers? I would say two things.

  1. KU will run the ball much more this year than it has in years past.

  2. That might not be a bad thing for Gill and the Jayhawks if they hope to someday build an elite team.

For more on the Jayhawks' recent running back surge, check out Matt Tait's "Tale of the Tait" blog.


History repeats itself in KU’s loss to Northern Iowa

"In the end, a bad shot is better than any turnover.

"I’d expect the Jayhawks, a year older and wiser, will understand this better in 2009-10."

I wrote those words last year in my blog, "The Jayhawks (literally) gave the Michigan State game away," following KU's 67-62 loss to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 last year.

Unfortunately for the 2009-10 Jayhawks, history repeated itself a round earlier and with expectations much, much higher.


There are a lot of things you could look at when examining why KU fell to Northern Iowa, 69-67. KU didn't shoot well*. Northern Iowa played great defense. And so on and so on.

* — KU's field-goal percentage and effective field-goal percentage were both higher than UNI's during the game, but that's for another blog.

It seems very few people, though, talk about the turnovers in the game.

As great as UNI's defense was all season, there was one area the team didn't thrive in: forcing turnovers. In fact, the Panthers force turnovers on 20.6 percent of their possessions — NCAA average is 20.4 percent.

So, KU was facing an average team defensively when it came to turnovers. And the Jayhawks had actually taken care of the ball well during the season, averaging turnovers on just 18.8 percent of their possessions (89th nationally).

So what happened when KU was faced with a pressure-packed NCAA Tournament game? The Jayhawks reverted to their 2009 Michigan State form.

KU — which looked, once again, to play extremely tight — turned it over on 24.6 percent of its possessions against UNI, its sixth-highest percentage of the season.


Again, KU was facing an average defensive team when it came to turnovers; one would have predicted the Jayhawks would turn the ball over a shade above their 18.8-percent average for the season.

So, let's do the math. KU had 61 possessions in the game and 15 turnovers. That means, when the Jayhawks didn't turn it over, they scored 67 points in 46 possessions, or 1.46 points per possession in non-turnover possessions.

If KU would have had its season average of 18.8 percent turnovers, it would have turned it over 11.46 times instead of 15.

With 3.54 more possessions at 1.46 points per possession, KU would have scored 5.17 more points. A two-point loss is instead a three-point win, even with the Jayhawks' poor outside shooting.

Here's what should be frustrating for KU fans: The Jayhawks pulled down the offensive rebound on 47.8 percent of their misses — their fourth-highest total of the season.

So missed shots actually weren't even bad for KU, as nearly half the time, the Jayhawks were getting the rebounds anyway — sometimes in a position to score under the basket.


KU wasn't hurt by turnovers only on the offensive end, though.

UNI came in as a solid team offensively, only committing turnovers on 18 percent of its possessions. KU, meanwhile, had forced turnovers on 20 percent of its opponents' possessions.

So what happened? The Panthers turned it over on just 14.8 percent of their possessions — a number much lower than both KU and UNI's season averages.

UNI scored 69 points in 52 non-turnover possessions, meaning it scored 1.33 points per possession in which it put up a shot*.

* — Which brings up another point. KU scored 1.46 points per possession in non-turnover possessions, while UNI had 1.33 points per possession in non-turnover possessions. If neither team turns the ball over in a 61-possession game, KU wins by eight. It's hard to argue that turnovers didn't have a major impact on the result of this game.

If UNI hit its season average in turnovers, it has 10.98 turnovers instead of nine. Take away 2.69 points.

If KU forces its season average in turnovers, UNI has 12.2 turnovers instead of nine. Take away 4.26 points.

The numbers get worse if you break down the play-by-play.

In the Panthers' final 10 possessions against KU's full-court press, they turned it over four times. That means in UNI's first 51 possessions, it turned it over just five times (9.8 percent).

So KU's defense, in the first 37 minutes of the game, was forcing turnovers at less than half the rate it did during the rest of its season.

Here's one more statistic: Going against UNLV two days earlier (the Rebels full-court pressed most of the game), UNI turned it over on 27.4 percent of its possessions. Perhaps it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise when KU's press worked so well in the final minutes.

If the game would have played out just average in regards to turnovers, KU would have gained around five points and UNI would have lost between three and four points. That's an eight- or nine-point swing. KU would have won the game by six or seven.


It was interesting to hear KU coach Bill Self's comments immediately after the game.

"The game came down to one guy, who's a tough, tough kid, making a shot that you would probably never want your guy to shoot, at least I wouldn't," Self said.

It's funny, because the way I look at it, the Jayhawks didn't need to rebound better. They didn't need to shoot any better. They simply needed to get more shots up.

Sure, it was a late-game situation, and UNI probably would have gotten fouled anyway, but more important than anything else was that UNI didn't turn it over on that crucial possession. Ali Farokhmanesh didn't hesitate in putting up a wide-open shot.

Many times, KU's players did hesitate, trying to make the perfect pass or perfect play, which resulted in an unforced turnover.

In the end, a bad shot is better than any turnover.

I’d expect the Jayhawks, a year older and wiser, will understand this better in 2009-10.

I guess there's always 2011.