Well, in a spasm of effort, I've temporarily escaped the Swamp Of Sloth in which I've been mired and actually have made an effort to contribute something towards filling the off-season vacuum. The same energy does not seem to have extended to my titling creativity, but so be it. At any rate, one of the things I normally do in the off-season is look at how our future opponents fared in the statistical salt mines the previous year - results follow. Using historical data to predict future events is always a chancy proposition, at best, but with a little judiciousness and some consideration of related events (returning starters, key losses, etc), it seems to work reasonably well, or, at least, has for me in the past. As an aside, my observations would suggest that, absent external changes (generally a new coaching staff or an infusion of juco players), it's abnormal to see season to season statistical fluctuations of more than plus/minus fifteen percent. There have already been several posts suggesting that next year's schedule consists primarily on the gridiron lame and halt, interspersed with (pick a number) difficult tests for our warriors. Not surprisingly, the stats suggest very much the same thing - after all, one doesn't go 3-8/2-9 and possess blazing offenses or adamantine defensive units. First , since we've been obsessing over our offense and whether we will, in fact, ever see a running game or whether we should just say "**** it" and go to the spread, let's look at the defenses we'll face next year. Now, bear in mind that the Davis offenses have historically amassed large numbers against average, or lower, defensive units and tended to "fade to black" when the opposition is a bit more manly. Well, based on the numbers, we should see some big days next year. Overall, the opposing defensive units gave up 368 ypg last year, about the same as the 367 ypg yielded by the 2000 opponents. Looking more specifically, we face four units who were top quartile last year - #8 OU, #24 TT, #25 ATM, and #30 UNC. After that, it's into the abyss, with the next highest ranked D being UH at #54. We also face four teams with rankings >#80. Since we've not fared well vs good defenses, it might be of interest to explore that facet in more detail. In 1999, the jury on Davis' offenses rendered a clear verdict - 480 ypg vs the puffs, 242 ypg (or approximately 50%) vs decent defenses. Last year, the story was less clear - we faced four statistically solid Ds in OU, UO, TT, and ATM. OU was a disaster, as we managed only 154 yards vs their season average of 279. UO was mixed, with us gaining 295 vs their avg of around 310. TT and ATM both allowed 321 ypg and we rolled up 454 ypg vs those two, demonstrating that we can occasionally move it against decent defenses and holding out some hope for next year. Of the four decent defensive units (based on last year) we face, I took a look at their pass defense capability, since that's how we're going to move the ball next year, IMO. OU was ranked #2, TT #10, ATM #36, and UNC a gratifying (from my POV) #79. TT lost seven starters on D, so I don't expect them to be as robust this season, while the Aggies, based on Tday +1, hold less defensive terror for me than previously. OU is the real deal, however, and I see no statistical reason to be sanguine about that matchup - maybe Davis will expose me for the Doubting Thomas I seem to have become. I certainly hope so. So, how is it likely to shake out, come September? Well, considering that, post OU, we averaged 498 ypg in our last six regular season games and the defenses we face in most of our 2001 games are comparable (or weaker) than those six opponents, it's pretty easy to predict we'll roll up some yardage.. It is not coincidental that those numbers coincided with the emergence of RW and BJJ as significant contributors, replacing Flowers and Healy. Then consider that Simms and crew have had a full off-season to work on chemistry and timing and that Bo Scaife appears fully recovered, and let your respective imaginations run wild. Moving to the other side of the ball, let's recap where the majority of us see the defense to be - expected solid DE play, coupled with some talented youth at DT, likely mean a decent front 3-4. Secondary looks to be outstanding, with enough depth to keep fresh guys on the field. LBs who are capable of filling the wrong gap with considerable athleticism and agility, and who we sincerely hope experience their own collective epiphany over the summer, but especially by the first week in October. The general concensus I've read is that we may be vulnerable to the run and, on the surface, that would seem to be the area of greatest risk.. Of course, that brings us back to some version of Bishop Berkeley's toppling tree in a vacant forest and whether sound exists. Similarly, if our run D appears to be composed of silly putty compounds, but the other guys' weapons consist of running backs hampered by club feet and offensive linemen more skilled in buffet exploitation than drive blocking, does it really matter? Two things on our run defense - (1) take it to the bank, Reese will never let us be victimized by the run. This is the guy who reeked of brimstone all of 1998, after making his own deal with sundry unnamed darker spirits, and changed Mackovic's "ole" D into a decent unit. Carl can stop the run, the question on the table is whether he can stop the pass; (2) our running opposition is indeed deficient. Next year's opponents managed 137 ypg on the ground last year, but even that meager production is misleading. If NMSU, the 6th ranked running team at 270 ypg, is dropped, the average for the other ten teams drops to a sickly 123 ypg. Further consider that, even with our much bemoaned rushing production of 145 ypg, the next highest output after NMSU was OSU at 161 ypg, or 11% better than us. Three of the teams didn't even manage 100 ypg. All in all, I can contain my apprehension about opposition infantry attacks. OTOH, it appears, based on some superficial research into spring workouts, that passing attacks are going to be the order of the day for our opponents. Of course, it's tough to predict how that will shake out until we see them in action, but there's been considerable discussion about, and interest in, variations of the spread offense that seems to be the strategy du jour. OU gets a lot of mention, as do Clemson, Northwestern, Oregon St, etc. As of this writing, only three of next year's foes were outstanding through the airways through the airways - OU, TT, and UH, at 19th, 11th and 13th, respectively, although the Buffies came in at #32 and the Aggies, in a tribute to RC's continuing diversification, finished 35th. Frankly, as I mentioned earlier, this is probably the area that concerns me the most, in spite of our obvious secondary strengths. Bull has a well deserved reputation for shutting down the run - his rep as regards the passing game is not quite as compelling. From watching in spring, I think the addition of Akina ,and some of the zone coverages he brought with him, are going to be of considerable benefit. Now, if we can just muster a pass rush…………… Overall, I expect this defense to be comparable to the last two, although I would guess we will yield a few more total yards due to the expected emphasis on the pass. However, Reese's defenses have generally performed better than the opponents' averages - in looking back over the past couple of years, we had offdays vs UNL (although we did take them out of their offense and make them get the yardage on the long pass), Arkansas, OU last year and UO in the Holiday Bowl. Not coincidentally, the latter two both ate our lunch by exploiting our aggessiveness and tendencies to overpursue, both traits getting a lot of corrective coaching in the spring. At any rate, I'm tired of typing.br> Your thoughts?