26 September 2009

Smartphone conundrum

I have been mildly interested in purchasing a smartphone for over a year now. The ability to consolidate a phone, music/video player and contacts/calendar manager into one device is very attractive.

During the last 18 months or so, I've looked at Blackberry, Apple, Palm and Google, but none of them are perfect for me and it's kinda driving me crazy. I did have an iPod Touch for a few months (before breaking it to the point that it's now just a music player), and gained some insight into how Apple does its thing. Mandi has owned a Blackberry Pearl for over a year, so that's given me a look at Blackberry's style (though in fairness, the Pearl in a couple years old).

Here's the rundown of my criteria:

1. I am on T-Mobile. Technically, my contract is up and I can bail whenever I want, but we're on a family plan and Mandi's contract isn't done until next summer. Hence, I'd like to stick on T-Mobile, but if I can get a hacked phone to work on their network, I might be okay with that.

2. I think I prefer a physical keyboard, even though my thumbs are fat and it's hard. The touch keyboard on the iPod was difficult to manage and I didn't like having to look at the screen while typing.

3. The phone needs wifi capability, a headphone jack and room for music and movies -- say, 8GB minimum.

4. An intuitive OS is pretty important. Not a deal-breaker, but important.

5. Battery life? Are any of these phones able to go a full day without a charge?

6. Price. I'm guessing I can get a phone cheaper if I switch carriers.

Let's get to it:

  • Blackberry: There are several offerings from Blackberry that interest me. I really like the physical keyboard, so the latest Tour or Curve might work for me. They do have the touchscreen concept with the Storm. I'm not sold on their operating system, but to be honest I don't have much experience with it. The Tour and Curve are available on T-Mobile. Battery life a problem?
  • Apple: I loved my iPod Touch while it was working. The lack of multi-tasking is a small concern, but nothing major. Only available on AT&T. Meh. Also, battery life is apparently a problem, and you cannot swap in a new battery, like you can with the Pre. Physical memory is fine. As the above image indicates, I'm worried about certain lacking features on the iPhone.
  • Palm: I like what I've seen from the Pre. Intuitive OS and multitasking are good. 8GB of memory. Physical keyboard, and on Sprint. Headphone jack present. Battery life a concern here as well... as little as three hours with heavy use? Oh, and it's $79 at Walmart. The app store has very few programs at this time.
  • Google: Right off the bat, Google makes me roll my eyes by not including a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's an all-in-one USB port at the bottom, which you must use for power, audio and USB syncing to a desktop. Lame. I am also annoyed that Google named their latest phone the MyTouch. Really, guys? However, the phone is on T-Mobile and has a nice OS with multitasking. The lMyTouch does not have a physical keyboard, and apparently the battery life is impressive.
Bottom line, none of these phones are perfect for me, and none of them are clearly better than the rest of the pack. If Google had a 3.5mm headphone jack, I'd probably go there, but as it is, that's a dealbreaker.

So for now it's my Razr and a mildly-functioning iPod. Come on, capitalism! Create a phone for me!


What a roller-coaster season. Bigtime win, followed by boring blowout, followed by painful blowout. We've run the gamut of emotions and it's time to settle down for some meh games.

CSU is not a great team. While they beat Colorado in Boulder, they also barely squeaked out a 24-23 win at home versus Weber State. I think the Weber State game is more indicative of where the program is, personally.

The Cougars hung on for a 45-42 victory in Fort Collins last year. CSU QB Billy Farris threw for 251 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Thankfully, he's graduated, but fifth-year quarterback Grant Stucker looked good against Colorado, so we'll see.

I see a fairly tight game in Provo tomorrow, with BYU winning by a touchdown or less. Final score will depend a lot on if the Ram defense has learned how to bait Hall into throwing picks and if our skill players can hang onto the ball.

Final prediction: BYU 31, Colorado State 28.

22 September 2009

Basketball and summer

It was 34 degrees this morning in Idaho Falls. As I desperately cling to the last vestiges of summer, I find a lot of joy in this video from Dude Perfect, an organization devoted to helping Africa and making crazy basketball shots.

I honestly can't think of a more fun way to spend June through August.

Fare thee well, temperatures above 40 degrees.

21 September 2009

Thoughts from the FSU beat down

For starters, I did not see FSU scoring 50+ on the Cougars. The reason I failed to forsee this detail is that no one mentioned that FSU's offensive line was NFL-caliber.

Those guys absolutely manhandled our defensive line and linebackers like nothing I've ever seen before. The quarterback had 15 seconds to pass on every pass play. The running backs had a free three or four yards of grass in front of them on every passing play. The FSU offense converted third down after third down after third down to the point that I felt like they'd convert them all.

And that was that. The game of football is won or lost in the trenches, and BYU was absolutely rolled in the trenches on Saturday.

Other factors that didn't really matter:

1. The Florida State defense held BYU and Max Hall to 21 points. They created multiple turnovers and picked Hall off three times. It appears they were able to instigate the game plan I was worried about.

2. Our kicking game was great! Bronco finally moved Riley Stephenson to kickoffs and every single one stayed in bounds. They also went 4-4 on extra points, so that's nice.

3. BYU cannot deal with mobile quarterbacks. Not a big surprise, but depressing to see that this is still the case.

That's it. Florida State enjoyed a huge, larger-than-everything-else-put-together advantage on the line and they won the game.

On to CSU!

18 September 2009

Florida State at BYU

Tomorrow, Florida State plays west of the Mississippi for the first time in approximately 50 years as they take on the BYU Cougars. Considering thes last two games for BYU featured a virtually-impossible-to-beat opponent and a virtually-impossible-to-lose-to opponent, I think it's pretty clear that this matchup falls somewhere in between.

Florida state is good, but not great. I would take some time here to attempt to analyze the matchups, but unfortunately I was linked to an excellent analysis of the game from a Florida State blogger who has done more research on the matchup than anyone who works for a TV station or newspaper. Seriously, it's amazing.

So I'm going to link to it and just point out a few areas I felt were spot-on.

In any case, FSU likes to line up guys in crazy spots, with everyone standing up and only onw down lineman. FSU got the idea from summer trips to New England and Pittsburgh. It's very tough for the offense to know who is blitzing and who is in coverage. The Giants under Bill Belichek and Parcells used this to perfection against the Buffalo Bills in super bowl XLii in Tampa. Jim Kelley's shotgun offense was limited by the uncertainty. Against an offense that is based on automatic throws "if he is here, I throw here", FSU must create some uncertainty as to the QB's reads, and at the very least, must make him choose the difficult throws on his decision tree. The key though is to make BYU 1-dimensional. A good team will run right at the prowler if a defense employs it in a non obvious passing down situation.

Elsewhere in the article he mentions BYU's (perceived?) over-reliance on the pass. And frankly, he's not that impressed with Hall.

Remember how BYU isn't very good throwing in long situations? Most teams aren't. Hall doesn't have the arm to drive the ball downfield into tight windows. His ball flutters and often hangs. If FSU can stop BYU's run, or if BYU just falls in love with the pass, FSU will have a chance to break out their prowler formation.

Boy, that sounds familiar.

The goal is to force the Cougars into beating FSU through the use of low percentage plays. A 5-yard slant against loose zone coverage is a high percentage play. BYU is so good at throwing that stuff that if FSU gives them that, they stand almost no chance of stopping the Cougars. But Max Hall really isn't much or a deep-ball thrower. Sure, every QB can loft the ball downfield, but I am talking about the more challenging throws. I'm talking about out-routes, skinny posts, etc. If BYU is going to throw all over Florida State, the 'Noles better be sure that they force the Cougars to do it via low percentage passes.

I have to say this guy has done his homework. I couldn't come up with a better gameplan on how to beat BYU if I tried. Stop BYU's running game, tempt them to pass, pass, pass and then force Hall into making long throws.

Now, theory is a long way from execution, and I'm not sure the Seminole defense can pull this off all that effectively, especially if you consider that they are on the road, in what will be a very hostile environment, at an elevation they are not used to playing at.

The blogger's analysis of BYU's defense is very reliant on looking at last year's team, which was terrible on D. As such, he is very down on the Cougar ability in that area. Of course, there are new starters at most positions, and these guys held Oklahoma to 13 points and smothered Tulane. I think they're a bit better than the writer anticipates.

The first game I ever watched as an official BYU student was BYU @ Florida State in 2000. The Dynamic Duo of Brett Engemann and Charlie Peterson were unfortunately not enough to overcome the soon-to-be Heisman winner Chris Weinke, who threw for 318 yards and BYU lost 29-3. I'd like to see a Cougar win here, if just for the revenge factor.

So as always, we'll see. I see the Cougars winning by at least a touchdown, maybe two. That said, if FSU can pull off the strategy outlined in the link above, we're in deep trouble. Give the whole thing a read if you're a football fan... there's a lot of good stuff in there.

15 September 2009

Greg Ostertag making a comeback?

There have been rumblings all summer that former Jazz man Greg Ostertag wants to play in the NBA again. And now, here is some proof:

Greg Ostertag is looking to make a return to the NBA.

The former Jazz center, who retired from the game three years ago, was invited to work out for the Trail Blazers last week.

"I just miss it," Ostertag told the Journal-World.

"Watching the playoffs last year got me excited. My wife said, 'Why not go try it again?' One day I said, 'What the heck. I'll get in shape and get back on the court and give it a try.'

"I've got nothing to lose."

Well shoot, if that's not great motivation for getting back into pro basketball, I don't know what is.

Greg was a consistently frustrating player for Utah. At 7 feet, 2 inches, he was definitely big enough to clog the lane. If that's all he was capable of, then I think us fans would have been okay with him. But the guy showed flashes.

I remember a game he had against Sacramento in the 1990-something playoffs. Greg went for 25 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks (estimate based on a game I watched 15 years ago and cannot find a link for). He could do stuff like that, but then the next game he'd go back to being Terrible Greg who could rebound fairly well and couldn't score worth beans.

In celebration of the news that Ostertag wants to return to the NBA, the guys at Basketbawful posted a highlight video of Ostertag being dunked on:

The sad thing is that I like how he's actually challenging these shots. After a few years of Boozer and Okur, even Ostertag looks good on defense. Gotta fix that, Jazz.

12 September 2009

BYU vs. Tulane

To go from a game where there is little to no hope of winning to a game where you are all but guaranteeing a win is weird. Tulane is ranked somewhere near the bottom of the NCAA football rankings, while Oklahoma was #3 before the game last week.

I expect the Cougars could win this game with their second string, so there's not really much to analyze. If BYU loses this game I'll shave my head.

Go Cougars!

11 September 2009

Remember when...

Remember when Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace dealt Pau Gasol to the Lakers for some stuff that one time? Remember how Memphis said this trade was about saving the franchise money, but a lot of teams were still upset about it and the NBA said everything was on the up-and-up?

I do!

That's why I found it odd that the Grizzlies have now signed power forward Zach Randolph.

Originally Posted by Chris Wallace
“We are pleased to acquire a player of Zach Randolph’s caliber,” Wallace said. “Zach is one of the best low-post scorers in the league and a force on the boards as well. He will also bring much-needed experience to the team.”
Wow, it must be nice for a franchise like Memphis to get such an experienced player, someone who is a great low-post scorer and rebounder. And at $16 million per year? What a steal!

Wait, what's that, you say? The Grizzlies had an All-Star low-post scorer and rebounder a couple of years ago? And he made $16 million per year, too? And this All-Star low-post scorer didn't have mental problems like Randolph does?

Well, now, that's just weird. I don't know quite what to make of it.

06 September 2009

Well, didn't see that coming

Photo from photo.byu.edu

BYU 14, Oklahoma 13.


If someone had told me BYU would score 14 points and turn the ball over four times in this game and win, I'd have laughed.

If someone had told me BYU's defense would force three fumbles on Oklahoma and recover two of them, I'd have been skeptical.

If someone had told me Oklahoma would get into the endzone once all night, I'd have rolled my eyes.

But something happened between 2008 and 2009: BYU found a defense, and a dang good one.

And the entire defense gets the game ball for last night's game, in my opinion. The defensive line was more than Oklahoma's offensive line could handle, BYU linebackers had free shots on the quarterback all night and the safeties and corners played better than I expected them to in a million years.

This was the deciding factor in the game, not Max Hall, as I had predicted on Friday. In short, Max was Max. One great drive and a lot of inconsistency. A throw to a wide-open McKay Jacobsen resulted in a decent gain instead of a touchdown, as would have been the case if Hall had an arm. Two terrible decisions resulted in two picks. No part of his game surprised me.

Max is fine, and I'm not calling for his backup to start or anything, but he is clearly in the category of Brandon Doman rather than Steve Sarkisian. Which is fine. He's a gamer who can find a way to win, provided the defense helps him out. Can't win if the team depends solely on his arm.

I have to wonder what the outcome would have been if Bradford hadn't been knocked out for the second half. He completed 71% of his passes for 96 yards and a touchdown on only 14 throws. I imagine that if he'd been allowed to sling the ball more frequently in the second half that he'd have done some major damage, but we'll never know.

The way BYU's defense was able to blitz like crazy and still not allow the big play was amazing. Oklahoma's longest play from scrimmage was 18 yards last night, a major testament to BYU defenders wrapping up and knowing their assignments.

A corner I was impressed with was #7, junior Brian Logan. I was shocked when I found out he's only 5'6"; the kid made some huge plays and I look forward to watching him all season.

So there you have it. A shocking win, a shocking defensive effort and a great outcome for BYU. It's a long season, but if the Cougars can run the table, great things can happen.

04 September 2009

Enough procrastinating

I've put this off long enough. Here is my take on the BYU-Oklahoma game:

The biggest single factor in this game is Max Hall. I know what I'm getting out of Bradford. I know what I'm getting out of our defense to some extent. The same goes for Oklahoma's defense. But I have no idea what to expect from Max.

I admit his performances against TCU and Utah last season caused me to look very hard at the guy... how can someone who throws for so many yards and so many touchdowns and so few interceptions have such an epic meltdown against the two biggest opponents he faced in 2008?

I've decided that 2008 Max Hall did not have the tools he needed to succeed against those teams. Hall's arm strength, decision making and accuracy were not good. "But!" you say. "He passed for 3,957 yards last season! He was 19th in the nation for total offense!"

This is true. But I've gone back and watched a few games from the 2008 season. Hall was bailed out by Dennis Pitta and Austin Collie an awful lot. These guys are for real, and have legit NFL-caliber talent. If Hall threw behind Pitta in the endzone, he adjusted to the ball and made a spectacular catch. If Hall lobbed a duck at Collie, he went to the ball and beat the corner for it.

Hall's lack of arm strength is most apparent. John Beck's arm strength was never in question; as a sophomore, he was launching bombs to Todd Watkins and Collie (who had beaten the coverage) and placing the ball directly in their hands as they ran at full speed. How many of those plays have we seen from Hall? I honestly cannot think of any.

Therefore, most of the long touchdown passes we see from him are the result of YAC. Collie makes a great grab on the sideline 20 yards past the line of scrimmage and beats his guy to the endzone.

I believe opposing defenses know about Hall's lack of arm strength and play their guys up. Against teams like CSU or San Diego State, this is not a problem. Hall is fairly accurate within 10-15 yards or so, and the aforementioned Pitta and Collie can make grabs even in double coverage. Add dumping the ball off the Unga in there and you can rack up tons of yards against mediocre defenses.

But the TCU's and Utah's of the world have athletes. They have great defensive coordinators. They know Hall's tendencies and work hard at taking away the easy throws. Result? Interceptions by the shovelful and Hall is utterly ineffective.

Beck faced this scenario against TCU in 2006. The Horned Frogs took away the easy passes and dared Beck to make the tough ones: across the field to a receiver just in bounds, or in a quickly closing window between two corners and a linebacker. Beck came to play and made the throws. 2008 Hall couldn't do that, and the results were clear.

Now, John Beck was not 2006 John Beck his entire career. He had to evolve as a player through learning defenses, developing rapport with his receivers and practicing his tail off. He struggled a lot his sophomore and junior years, but at the end of 2006, I'd rank Beck up there with any of the BYU greats that have come through Provo. He was a machine, and thoroughly dismantled every opponent he came up against in the last nine games he played as a college quarterback. It got boring to watch because of how easily he was able to move the ball on teams like Oregon or Utah... not to mention Air Force or Wyoming.

So I hold out hope that Max has improved a lot this offseason. I hope he's realized his flaws and worked hard to improve. Because if not, this game will be an embarrassment. I have no illusions that BYU's defense will be able to shut down Bradford. That guy is nails, but I believe BYU's defense will be able to hold him in check... ie. Oklahoma won't score a touchdown on their every possession.

That leaves open a very small window where a BYU offense that is absolutely on fire can take advantage. And that kind of offense needs a quarterback who is performing on another level of awesome. Awesome like Detmer vs. Miami in 1990 or Sarkisian vs. Texas A&M in 1996. Stuff of legends.

If Hall can be the man, I give BYU a shot at winning this game with an old WAC score of 56-52 or something else ridiculous. If Hall is completely ineffectual, BYU gets blown out.

To me, it's that simple.

It's a tough opening game for your 2009 season, but the potential is there for an historic year, the kind we'll tell our kids about.

So Go Cougars!