The Wisdom opens for football season

Yes, kids, The Wisdom is back open for business after sort of shutting down for the football off-season. The post-counter tells me there have been exactly five Wisdom posts since the end of last season. When it comes right down to it, I just don’t have the time or the inclination to stay up with The Wisdom throughout the year, and in these days of social networking and Tweetstreams, there are just better and more interesting ways to spew my worthless thoughts out at the world.

But football season is different. And there are a few reasons why. First, I care quite a bit about LSU and college football. Writing Wisdom pieces gives focus to my thoughts about football. I don’t just throw random crap out here; I research, document and try to form meaningful thoughts. It’s the fact that I put these things in public that keeps me disciplined in my thinking.

Secondly, I like sometimes hitting on a topic that draws attention. Such was the case with my award-eligible piece Troy’s offense and the art of stealing signals. That got a lot of attention; I got called a lot of names. But I was right.

Thirdly, The Wisdom is my own personal archive of my relationship with LSU football. It’s well-known that I’m not really a Leslie Miles fan, so it’s interesting to see my evolution from Fire Les Miles to just maintaining that he is a mentally-challenged moron who hopefully has been saved by the smarter people around him.

Finally, I like owning things. I own The Wisdom. I like that. No, it’s not worth a whole lot, but it’s worth more to me than creating content for Facebook or TigerDroppings is.

So I’ll kick off the season with Cap’n Ken’s Football Sources list. These are the things I follow and read to stay up on the college football world and recommend to fans of the game.

- Every Day Should Be Saturday. I remain a big fan of Orson Swindle even as Spencer Hall becomes more of a real-media big deal. The dual-edge is hard to keep sharp.

- And The Valley Shook. Excellent analysis of LSU’s game, players, strategy, etc. from Richard Pittman. The antithesis of what I try to do at The Wisdom.

- Dr. Saturday. Matt Hinton pissed me off pretty good when he tried to pretend a stupid SEC Championship-counting error he made never happened and removed comments pointing out the mistake (very un-Internet, Matt), but the guy is a good blend of humor and analysis.

- Mr. College Football. Tony Barnhart’s AJC blog. A bit staid and stale, but this is a newspaper, after all.

I’ll also hit The Advocate (the Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper) when I think about it. If they did anything close to a decent job telling me in RSS what they are publishing, I’d visit a lot more often. On Sundays I tend to hit other big-media sites for game analysis and whatnot. And since we’re into a new season, I’ll be on the prowl for more sources as well.

Comment back any other sources you like, if you like.

And here’s to football season!

U-verse in Atlanta: An early review

As of this morning, our household is fully up and running with AT&T’s U-verse TV and Internet service. This after having been an ardent supporter and customer of Dish Network for nine years.

I didn’t fall out of love with Dish. In a number of ways, U-verse TV is a step backward from what I had with Dish, and in some ways it’s an advancement. So my impressions of the TV service are going to be colored by a long history with advanced Dish Network equipment. And I’ll present the pros and cons from that perspective. But for somebody coming from Comcast or other cable providers, I have to think there are very few cons to U-verse.

My flirtation with U-verse started a couple of weeks ago when I received a promo kit in the mail announcing its availability in my neighborhood. The technology looked impressive, pricing was good, it was clear they were not out to screw you with equipment and installation charges – and they were offering a $200 rebate and $132 in TV/Internet discounts for signing up online.

But I was hesitant. I wanted to see the equipment in action before I made a decision. So off to an AT&T Store I went where a demo was promised. I checked out the semi-live demo and my interest remained (especially after confirming the 30-second skip function). Then a sales girl got me and said if I wanted to sign up they would really prefer I did it there. She took the $200 rebate to $225 (and ultimately $300), offered me an additional $80 credit on my wireless bill and showed me the secret to bringing down the cost of having a two-iPhone Family Talk plan since I was considering that as well.

Money, unfortunately, is a concern for us these days, so I couldn’t ignore the option of what seemed like a pretty good TV service and super-fast Internet that I would be given nearly $500 in cash, credits and discounts to sign up for (with no contract) and which that would cost me about $40 less per month from what we currently spend to get TV and Internet now. I went for it.

I won’t go through the details of the install headaches (expect some), so on to my initial impressions.

The setup:

The U-verse technology is all IP (Internet Protocol) based, so there’s a fat 25Mbps pipe coming into the house. That pipe carries video and Internet data. Right now I have the 18Mbps Internet service, but it could be that in real-world usage the video coming in consumes enough bandwidth that 18Mbps isn’t likely. I’ve been hitting a lot and see a lot of 13-14Mbps and have had as high as 17Mbps.

The system has a main gateway that is a router both for video signals and Internet (wired or wireless). There is a hard-drive DVR to record shows, and a networked box for our second TV on which live TV can be watched and programs from the DVR pulled. All of the wiring from the phone box outside is coax cable; with existing cables from Dish used.

The good:

- On-Demand. I’ll admit being jealous of cable subscribers when I was on Dish. Satellites don’t do on-demand well at all. U-verse has a deep supply of on-demand stuff, especially when you have the Showtime package like we do. I can’t even say yet what all is on there. Also includes NBC shows you can buy for a buck. Good response time loading shows and all that.

- DVR sharing. It’s a pretty seamless to pull up a show upstairs that lives on the DVR downstairs.

- Video quality. It’s at least on par with Dish Network.

- Online scheduling. A Yahoo-powered system with mobile versions; it’s done right. Doing it in a browser is preferable to doing in through the DVR (more on that later). I believe you have to be an AT&T Internet subscriber to do this, but if you have U-verse TV, you’d be stupid not to have their Internet.

- Non-HD recording capacity. Up to four non-HD channels can record at once. No concept of a “tuner” with IPTV.

- Value. Compared to Dish, where we had a pretty strong channel lineup, HD and the HBO package, we’re saving about $20 a month on programming with U-verse (not including the promotional discount). And here we have a really strong channel lineup, HD and the Showtime package. Having to pay $8.99 for locals on Dish is a real ripoff. And Dish’s equipment costs are higher, so for a very comparable setup we save about $32 a month.

The not-so-good:

- Dumb second box. It’s a pretty ridiculous notion that I can use my Mac’s browser or my iPhone’s browser to schedule and manage recordings, but I can’t use the non-DVR box itself. Everything in this system is “the Internet” – that DVR commands can go out of my Internet connection to some Yahoo server and then come back down my Internet connection to my DVR but they can’t simply go from Box B to Box A on the same network is stupid. Maybe the stupidest thing ever. And apparently you can’t pay extra and just get a second DVR on the system.

- Too-small hard drive. I don’t feel like looking up gigabytes, but my old Dish DVR did 55 hours of HD; this one does 33 hours. And I had two Dish DVRs. Seems like AT&T favored a small box over a high-capacity DVR. They should have come out of the gate with bigger capacity than Dish, not smaller.

- Poor timer / conflict management. On Dish, I could set up a series timer that basically says “get all new episodes”. Then you could manage priorities of timers to handle conflicts. And if a conflict caused one recording to be skipped, Dish would automatically get that episode if it came on again. With so many networks re-running shows for west-coast prime time and later in the week, the system worked great. Not with U-verse. If I tell the system to record new episodes of a show that airs at 8 p.m. Eastern and there’s a conflict, game over. The system doesn’t recognize that the same episode comes on again at 11 or anything like that. Very poor.

- No picture-in-picture. Somewhere in the bulk of marketing materials I read about U-verse, it talked about some kind of advanced 16-view PIP. We don’t have that here – or any PIP functionality.

- Jerky 30-second skip. You hit the jump and it sort of skips forward, showing you bits of what happened in those 30 seconds. That makes it hard to quickly skip past a block of commercials.

- Old-school remote. I don’t remember the last time I had to point my Dish remote at the receiver to control the box. But this is a line-of-sight remote. Again, you’re talking about new technology; put an IR remote on this thing.

- HD channel organization. Dish works its program guide so that an HD version of a channel appears right below the non-HD version. U-verse only shows HD channels in their own section. That makes it difficult to cruise channels and then decide if you want HD (to view) or maybe SD (to record).

That’s my impression after about 24 hours with the system. In short, the content is great; the pricing is good but the technology leaves a lot to be desired. And as a “high tech” system, that’s bad. My understanding is that most U-verse customers are cable-switchers, and the system seems designed to make somebody with Comcast think it’s awesome. It could be so much more.

If money didn’t matter as much as it does right now, I’d keep the super-fast U-verse Internet and stay with Dish until the U-verse TV technology improves. But I’m at a place where throwing about $500 in incentives at me and saving me $32 a month on TV going forward matters more than it used to. And all Dish would offer me to stay – after nine years as a customer – was a six-month discount and free movies for three months.

But I’m not taking down my Dish dish. I imagine U-verse will improve over time, but right now I think it’s just sub-par compared to Dish.

The LSU Dugout Ducker

Odd moment last night in the College World Series game between LSU and Arkansas. Blake Dean makes an out and heads to the dugout. ESPN cameras follow and capture a young lady at the end of the dugout who would really rather not be seen there:

So who is she … and why is she hiding?

Dugout Ducker

Jeff Notrica’s empire – crumbling?

I’ve written a fair bit about Jeff Notrica and his properties here in East Atlanta. A quick recap since it’s been a while – Notrica is the owner of an outfit called Inman Park Properties, and through it and a bunch of other LLCs he owns a substantial chunk of our commercial Village. His holdings include buildings that house some of our best assets – Holy Taco, The Midway Pub, The Glenwood, etc. – but his reputation around here is as a guy who is more than willing to buy up properties and let them rot.

The most infamous example is the John B. Gordon School, which he bought from Atlanta Public Schools about ten years ago with the promise of turning it into lofts. Never happened and the building sat neglected, abandoned and rotting. Many if not most of the vacant buildings and lots in East Atlanta Village belong to Notrica.

But a funny thing has been happening of late – foreclosures. In March, Notrica lost the Gordon School, which he had apparently put a lot of debt against (I’ve been told north of $4 million on a property he paid $200,000 for and never developed). In April, it was an eyesore of an old convenience store, a parking lot and a couple of vacant lots on the edge of the Village. Just this week he lost the eyesore that used to be East Atlanta Lock & Key and apparently (I haven’t confirmed it) another vacant lot on Flat Shoals. This month’s legal ads say another parking lot and another vacant lot are up for foreclosure in June.

And that’s just here in East Atlanta. Some cursory looking-around suggests a good number of Notrica foreclosures of late happening in Fulton County as well.

I think it’s fair to say Notrica operates on somewhat of a financial tightrope. He owns a lot of properties, takes out a lot of mortgages on them and takes his time paying property taxes. DeKalb County online records show that he still owes more than $123,000 in 2008 property taxes just in East Atlanta. But as late as August of last year he still owed $130,000 in 2007 taxes, so it seems to be how he operates.

But maybe the “credit crunch” has caught up with him for real now. He’s gone from getting tax-sale notices that are ultimately resolved to actually losing a significant number of properties to foreclosure. And I don’t guess that would be surprising – the days of easy debt and using a property as a bank are gone for now.

I’ve had brief conversations with writers from the Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who seemed interested in the Notrica story, but to this point I haven’t seen anything published. His may simply be a tale of the real estate downturn, or it could be something more. Is it normal to take out $600,000 in debt on a small, unpaid parking lot with no development value that the county says is worth $127,000? Maybe so. But I think there’s a good story in there somewhere.

As for East Atlanta, there’s a new sign up seeking buyers for the Gordon School, and no doubt the banks that took back the other properties will be looking to offload them quickly. We can only hope they get bought by somebody who intends to do something other than let them rot.

Credit due Leslie on Jones transfer

I throw a lot of crap the way of one Leslie Miles, and I make no apologies for that. But I call ‘em like I see ‘em, and I think Miles has demonstrated very questionable decision making and judgment in his tenure at LSU. I like what I’m seeing and hearing coming out of the disaster of a season that was Tiger Football 2008 (ditching his stupid non-coordinator defensive setup, etc.), and I’m hopeful that Miles is learning from his mistakes.

So now we have this situation with (former) LSU cornerback Phelon Jones’ decision to transfer out of LSU. It’s his landing spot – Alabama – that has some people criticizing Miles now. Once a guy signs with a school, see, he is basically that school’s property. And if he wants to leave, his coach can exert a lot of control over where he goes. Miles could have prevented Jones from transferring to another SEC West school, another SEC school and probably throw USC onto a list if he wanted to tweak Pete Carroll a bit. And other coaches routinely put such conditions on transfers.

The fact that Jones is heading over to Camp Fonzie – the new beast of LSU’s division – clearly shows Miles did not put conditions on Jones’ transfer aimed at keeping a talented player off a rival’s roster. Some would say Miles should block such transfers for the sake of LSU, but I don’t buy into that.

If a player isn’t happy at a school, a coach should let him go. And the coach should let him go where he pleases – even to an arch-rival. That’s what’s in the best interest of the player and in the long-term probably the coach and program as well. Is it a boon to recruiting for your program to be known as some kind of Hotel California where you’re damned well going to do your four years there whether you are happy or not? I can’t imagine it is.

Plus, I don’t think a coach should show himself to be scared of competition. Blocking a player’s move to a rival says just that. Letting Jones go to Alabama is an implied “bring it on” from Miles. And I like that. As I said when Fonzie was hired, I don’t want to win the SEC West because the rest of the division sucks. I want LSU to compete in a strong division and a strong conference.

So kudos to Miles for the move. It’s a good sign.

Has The Wisdom been abandoned?

Pretty much, at least for now. Reality today is that my brilliant thoughts on things in general end up at my original “other” site – EAVBuzz, where there’s real-time back and forth on topics started by me or whoever wants to stir things up.

And I’m too busy during the day and too tired at night (watching a kid is hard work) to ever make it down to the “write some Wisdom” part of my perpetual task list. I have to scramble to generate income in my “spare time”, and I simply lack the time or passion to contribute things here.

So I pretty much see the Wisdom as an LSU football blog going forward for now. That’s what I have enough passion for to think hard about and craft things to post here. And even there I owe attention – to the recruiting class and Leslie’s off-season moves (in a few words – I think he’s learned from last season and deserves a pass for the disaster that was LSU 2008).

For anybody stumbling across this, however, I will toss a bone. Check out Muggn, my new baby. That’s consuming my passion and “spare time” these days – and already is well out-performing the Wisdom’s audience in the heyday.

Chavis hire and Chicken Biscuit Bowl preview

I’m looking forward to the Peach-fil-A Bowl tomorrow for one reason – it’s the end of this season. They tell me no national champion has even gone on the next year to lose five conference games. It’s an LSU season to forget, and I’ll be very happy to forget it.

Since closing out the season with the worst four-game stretch I can remember, Les Miles has proven himself to be a very capable human resources director. Leslie has managed to avoid firing Bradley Dale Peveto and Doug Mallory by finding them new jobs. Some (me) might prefer that he focus more on LSU’s needs than Peveto and Mallory’s, but Miles will end up Gumping his way around his horrible decision to not have a defensive coordinator this season. Hey, he didn’t fire those great coaches – they earned their way into promotions with other teams, and he’s sorry to see them go.

On its face, this may not end up being a forced shake-up of the defensive staff, but hopefully Miles is not delusional enough to think it’s anything other than that. You screwed up, Leslie.

So LSU will have a defensive coordinator in 2009, and it seems it will be John Chavis of Tennessee. That pick seems like a very Les Miles move. It’s safe, predictable and void of any imagination. Chavis is obviously not a “hot young coach” like Will Muschamp. He’s a veteran SEC defensive coordinator, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Whether he can bring the fire of Muschamp and Pelini and whether that fire really matters remains to be seen.

As far as Chavis’ performance goes, Tennessee finished 4th nationally in total defense this season, which is really strong given the Vols’ lack of an offense. His Vols gave up 30 points to Florida (pre-Tebow pledge), which was the most points given this year. LSU, of course, gave up 50 points twice and 31 points three times.

His longer-term performance is less stellar. Going back to 2000, here is the Tennessee rank in total defense:

2008 – 4
2007 – 70
2006 – 50
2005 – 7
2004 – 45
2003 – 22
2002 – 5
2001 – 13
2000 – 13

Kind of a roller coaster ride of late. Those numbers suggest LSU will be really good in 2011. Until this season (33rd in total defense), LSU had not finished below 8th in total defense since 2002. LSU equals defense, so the optimist would say Chavis has done well with lesser talent at Tennessee and thus will do great with LSU’s talent. The pessimist would say Chavis hasn’t shown the ability to put a consistently-great defense on the field.

But ultimately we got the defensive coordinator position back after Leslie eliminated it last year, and we have an SEC veteran in the role. I’ll take that for now.

And on to the Value-Sized Number One Combo Bowl.

Going in to bowl season, the analysis focused on why Georgia Tech has been successful with their option attack. And the consensus has been that it’s a difficult offense to stop when you just have one week to prepare for it. But give a team a month to get ready and you can shut it down.

I think that’s a very good point, but I wonder how much focused preparation LSU has actually managed. The two guys pretending to be defensive coordinators have been looking for jobs – and they suck anyway – and Miles has been recruiting and looking to hire an actual defensive coordinator. I’m not sure where focused preparation comes in to play in that scenario. But Tech can’t throw the ball (95 yards per game), which is great news for LSU, which gave up an average of 301 passing yards per game in its last three contests.

So, silly me, I’m going to pick LSU. I think the run defense is capable enough to shut down a team that doesn’t throw, especially with time to prepare. Of course, Tech could work more of a passing game in to the mix to take advantage of LSU’s horrible pass coverage, which would mean all bets are off. But I’ll take the mix of a Jefferson-led offense and ability to control Tech’s offense in a bowl that has been good for LSU in the past.

Tigers 31 – 30

Auburn’s hire of Gene Chizik

I’m pretty well stunned by Auburn’s selection of Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik to replace Tommy Tuberville. Showing the door to a guy who won only five games this year and replacing him with a guy who’s won only five games ever is just insane. It can’t be the outcome the War Eagle leadership anticipated, and no amount of spin around Chizik’s success as defensive coordinator can erase the fact that the guy has been an absolute failure as a head coach.

His results at Iowa State are amazingly bad. Expectations there are not high – this is a team that averaged 4.2 wins a season over the 20 years prior to Chizik’s arrival – but Chizik managed to lower the bar even more. Taking over a team that won four games in 2006 (after winning seven in ’04 and ’05), Chizik “led” the Cyclones to three wins in ’07 and two this season. Those two wins were over South Dakota State and Kent State – Chizik went 0-8 in the Big 12 despite getting to skip Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech on the schedule.

To put his brief tenure at Iowa State into perspective, only seven other Division I teams have won five or fewer games in the past two seasons – SMU (2), Idaho (3), North Texas (3), Washington (4), Duke (5), Syracuse (5) and Utah State (5).

In 2006, Chizik was a hot prospect, having led both the Auburn and Texas defenses during undefeated seasons. And he deserved a shot at a head-coaching gig. He got it, and he blew it. That he would fail upward into a top-tier job after screwing up at Iowa State is amazing and rather insulting to the Turner Gills and Derek Dooleys of the world who have shown they have what it takes to move from assistant coach to head coach.

The Birmingham News ran a piece on the hire today carrying the following lead:

AUBURN – Gene Chizik knows a little something about winning.

The cheeky “knows a little something …” line is meant to paint a picture of Chizik as a “winner”. The article goes on to recap his successes at Auburn and Texas as an assistant coach. But here’s the thing – assistant coaches don’t “win” games. They succeed or they fail at their job and their assignments, but winning comes from the top. Teams have to win in all three phases of the game on the field, and they have to win in numerous aspects – from recruiting to conditioning to game prep and so forth – off the field. The head coach is at the helm, and is responsible for “winning” and “losing”. All Chizik knows a little something about is losing.

Maybe he was a great coach in an impossible position at Iowa State. His results sure don’t indicate that. Auburn is ignoring his results and giving him a pass on his actual performance as head coach and turning the clock back to 2006. That they would do this and hire Chizik says a lot about the state of Auburn football, the mentality around the program and the pool of candidates available after they axed the guy actually responsible for those War Eagle wins they now want to attribute to Chizik.

SEC Championship Game Predictions

Our town is ugly with Gator and Tide fans. I saw two Bama boys toting 12-packs of Bud Light across 10th Street last night (that’s gonna be a hell of a party in your room, bro), and on Thursday ran in to two Gator fans at North and Peachtree who asked me “Is Midtown up this way?”. I told them yes but almost mentioned that the Cheetah is actually on Spring Street.

So the showdown is this afternoon, and it should be a good one. There are two things with which I am concerned – who I think will win and who I want to win.

Think will win – it’s hard not to pick Florida. Since losing to Ole Miss, the Gators have averaged 49 points per game, even throwing out the 70 points they hung on The Citadel. That’s an average of half a hundy against Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, Vandy, South Carolina and Florida State. No matter how you slice it, that’s really, really strong. And they get to play indoors on speedy fake grass today.

Maybe Fonzie’s boys can slow them down and keep them, say, under 40 points, but the Tide doesn’t bring enough offense (53rd nationally in total offense) to really counter the Gators. And they stand no chance of coming back from behind with the nation’s 97th-best pass offense. Either Bama completely shuts down Florida all game long and moves against them at will, or the Gators win this. I’m going Gators.

Florida 35 – 24

Who I’d like to win – tougher question. There’s still a part of me that pulls for Bama (can’t shake the early Tide exposure, you know), but the Bama fan base needs a little bit of a smackdown on their way back to college football dominance. But the alternative is a step toward dynasty status for Florida, and another BCS title would make the Gators the only team that matters in Florida. Plus, it’s nice being the only people with two of those crystal footballs.

So I’m going to pull for Bama. I’ll be holding my nose a bit, but ultimately setting a really high bar in the SEC West is good for LSU’s future. Having to oust the SEC Champions and potential National Champions just to win the division would be an appropriately-tough challenge for Leslie next year.

SEC Week 14 Recap

Late? You bet. There’s really no point in rehashing LSU’s humiliation at the hands of Arkansas. I began the process of forgetting that game and this season as soon as the game ended.

All LSU fans can hope for now is that Les Miles will be suitably smacked down by his A.D. and Chancellor to stop being a mentally-challenged moron and run the program as it should be run (i.e. hire a freaking defensive coordinator). Talk is that this will happen, but I have concerns that Leslie has or perceives that he has more power than his boss (who was hired this year) and his chancellor (who was hired this year). I could see Leslie strolling into meetings with his crystal football and Sugar Bowl trophy in hand …

But I guess we have to count on Leslie bringing in a strong defensive coordinator and let him and the other people on the staff who are smarter than Miles (everybody) make decisions going forward. I’m not sure I like that prospect.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Goodness, UGA really blew it against Ga. Tech. A 10-2 year with losses to Alabama and Florida would have been a darn fine season, but now the Dawgs will struggle to finish in the Top 10 and keep that hype going into next year. Questions now turn to the decisions of Stafford and Moreno as to whether to head to the NFL. Neither is a Georgia boy and both are seen as hot pro prospects. The program’s immediate future swings heavily on those decisions (especially Stafford’s).

The Bama Iron Bowl blowout was on a level not expected, and the corpse of Tommy Tuberville being dragged through the streets of Opelika was the result. OK, that’s a bit more than what Auburn’s power players actually did to Tubs, but you get the point.

Florida managed 45 points in a swimming pool against Florida State. They play indoors this week.

Ole Miss slapped a Bye-Bye Sly-level smackdown on Mississippi State. I really hate to see Croom go. I guess not having the flash of Houston Nutt or the performance level of a Georgia, Alabama or Florida isn’t enough nowadays in Starkville. It’s a real shame.

South Carolina made LSU’s season look even worse, dropping the Tigers’ best-win team to 7-5 with a loss to Clemson. Lovely.

Tennessee gave an appropriate farewell to Phil Fulmer. Thank you, Phil, for helping LSU finish with a better record than Kentucky.

And it turns out Vandy is Vandy again. Thank you, Wake Forest, for helping LSU finish with a better record than Vanderbilt.

For the week: 4 – 4
For the season: 69 – 17

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