Whenever I play poker or get stuck doing -EV games in the pit and I lose when I should have won, I resist the urge to get mad by reminding myself and those around me: it's all just math. There's a certain % of time the worse hand catches a card or the dealer gets to 21 with 5-cards under 7 when you are dealt 20. You can't get mad at math.
Keep that in mind as you digest this simulated season, which is, after all, based on computer code and EA simulations which are, of course, all based on math. Because I'm going to level with you: this does not end virtually well. If you only want positive vibes and this-is-our-year emotions heading into the 2011 football season, then go hang out with this guy. Not this guy, and certainly do not read the rest of this post.
Think about it like this: a true freshman back-up CB injured himself to the point where he would likely be redshirted, and I for one was crushed because we were counting on him to shore up our secondary. By any objective measure, that's not a good sign.
So let's remember this is all just for entertainment porpoises only, remember that there is not enough RAM in the computers at EA to account for Charlie Strong or Vance Bedford, and remember that if this team is anything like last year's team, they will be fun to watch, will play hard and they offer only but a glimpse of What Is To Be when we get to the other side of the bridge in 2012.
So let's run through the last four games of the season quickly and get this over with....and then if you read until the end you get my post-simulation "analysis" + general season thoughts...so there's all of that and video of Bob Uecker....
Game 9 (5-3, 1-2) - Louisville @ WVU
Playing the best team on our schedule in a certified level of hell (5th but working their way towards #4!) immediately after the crushing home loss to Syracuse sounds like it would be the low point of the season. The first quarter actually gives some hope - after a quick 19 yard TD by WVU, we answer back on the next drive with a 14 yard TD pass to Josh Bellamy. For some reason we are down 8-7 after this because Dana Holgorsen is just a badass I guess and went for 2 in the 1st quarter. I'm not even mad, that guy is just flat awesome.
The second quarter is where it gets ugly: 24 Mountaineer points sandwiched around a measly field goal for the good guys. 7 of those WVU points came on a 87 yard fumble recovery for a TD, so, ya, that would be a pretty sick thing and likely a momentum changer. Has anything like that happened before at West Virginia? Ugh.
The second half isn't any better: Vic scores a TD but the 2-pointer fails, and WVU tacks on two field goals in the 4th after a Philpott FG gets us to within spittin' distance for a final score of 38-19, the largest loss of Charlie Strong's tenure.
The defense, especially the secondary, was beaten up pretty badly here, giving up 436 yards (302 in the air) and allowing 7-15 3rd down conversions and scores 100% of the time WVU made it to the red zone, without taking the ball away once. Having to watch 24 Mountaineer first downs sounds like it was a frustrating way to spend a Saturday.
Stein had an okay day: 13-32 passing for 238 yards, and the run game was bottled up pretty good. Vic got 102 yards through the air (7 screen passes? Seriously?) and Andrell caught a 68-yarder but other than that, again, not much doing.
Let's just move on.
WAIT, BREAKING NEWS: RYAN KESSLING HAD 6 PANCAKES.
Game 10 (5-4, 1-3) - Pitt @ Louisville
The Cards return home bloodied and down and have none other than Tino "Yes, I will play football for you Steve Kragthorpe wait I said what no that doens't sound like something I would say" Sunseri and his extremely talented, now-well-coached and previous holder of the title of "worst defeat of Charlie Strong's coaching career" Pitt Panthers. Let's hope WVU's 19 point margin is the worst it gets all season.
And there is much rejoicing as the Cards take a 10-0 lead on a Philpott field goal and Bellamy TD catch after the ensuing kick is fumbled by Pitt. The lead doesn't even last the rest of the quarter though as Pitt scores 2 TDs (a 12 yard pass and a 77-yard run) to take a 14-10 lead into the second quarter.
In which they kick the s--t out of us: a field goal, short TD run and 23 yard TD pass with 38 seconds left in the half send fans streaming for the exits and talking about how excited they are to see Wayne Blackshear as Pitt takes a 31-10 halftime lead.
The defense stops the bleeding the 2nd half, but only by the mercy of TddGrhm as Pitt gets 1 field goal and 1 touchdown in the 3rd and 4th quarter for a 41-10 humiliation.
I'll let the great Bob Uecker give the post-game stats for this one:
Teddy Bridgewater finally gets in the game, completing 3-4 passes after Stein's 10-25, 1 TD, 2 INT day made him and those around him very sad, because while when Will Stein smiles, the world smiles with him, when he weeps, the world looks away awkwardly because he's almost a grown man and it's really awkward to watch one of them cry, especially over a sporting event that really is just a game afterall. And just a computer/video game at that so stop weeping, please.
Game 11 (5-5, 1-4) - Louisville @ UConn
Okay, this is the big one. The chance to get to bowl eligibility against the reigning Big East champs, but generally expected to be terrible this season, UConn Huskies. Also too, revenge for, well, pretty much everything.
Here's where the simulation I think loses complete touch with reality: UConn ends the season 9-3 (4-3). I don't know much, but I really don't think UConn beats Vandy and Iowa State and maybe not even Western Michigan, to get all "look at me I'm Pat Forde" on you.
So anyway, assuming UConn is a 9-3 team and we have lost 3 straight (including 1 heartbreaker in the pivotal game of the season and 2 straight beatdowns) it is reasonable for the computer simulation to go as it does.
UConn starts slow with a field goal in the first quarter and a TD midway through the 2nd quarter to take a 10-0 halftime lead in a game that looks pretty boring so far. Another FG gets them to 13-0 before Will Stein gets us on the board with a 2 yard run. Another field goal (booorrrrring) makes it a 2-score game as we enter the 4th quarter down 16-7. The lead grows as UConn returns a fumble 28 yards for a TD, Philpott adds a field goal but UConn completes the scoring with a 42 yard pass play. Same s--t, different game and the final score is 30-10 UConn.
The only stat of note: 1-12 for us on 3rd down conversions and only 9 first downs for us the entire game. I'll be honest, I've never turned off a UofL game I can remember (I fell asleep on the couch once or twice during the Krag years) but I might turn this guy off. And then refresh espn.com and turn it back on when we get that last field goal.
Stein had another rough game, and at this point the virtual fanbase is going totally 'ham over the lack of Bridgewater - 11/26 and an INT isn't going to get it done for a UofL starter. Even in non-IRL.
We're almost there. I promise.
Game 12 - (5-6, 1-5) - Louisville @ USF
Great, after now four straight defeats, we limp into South Florida to play a team that ends up 8-4 in a stadium we've never won! And this game doesn't even have injuries, so IRL by this point, with our depth issues, it will take some luck and some toughness for us to be at anywhere near full strength.
This one is actually somewhat close until the fourth quarter - we are down 20-14 at the start of the 4th thanks to two Vic Anderson TDs in his last game as a Cardinal. But a USF TD + 2 point conversion (those assholes) and a field goal makes the final margin 31-14 and the Bridge Year is over, 5-7 (1-6) and no bowl.
CardsFan922's General Thoughts:
So, obviously this is not the attitude we want going into the season. I think there are lots of reasons for optimism, but I think we need to not get all wild with 9-3 and outside chance at Big East title predictions. We are a young team, our toughest games are on the road and if we have anywhere near the normal college football season average injury (and then bumping that up 10% to account for the special "our major sports programs are injury-cursed" premium) then we are going to be: a) at risk of giving up a long TD pass every game (as the simulation suggests) and b) losing games in the 4th quarter (as the simulation also suggests).
For us to have the sort of magical, "favorite team ever" Bridge Year type season, a lot of things are going to have to go right:
1) QB play is noticeably better than last year, which is entirely possible and I think likely depending on how they mix in Ted;
2) the offensive line stays healthy (already off to a bad start with Mario being hurt) and does well despite its youth;
3) key defensive guys stay healthy (names withheld) and true freshman are as good as advertised at corner and DL spots;
4) we win every game we "should" win (3 OOC games + Rutgers + @UConn) and then take out one of UK or UNC or pick up one more Big East win (likely having to beat Syracuse at home) to get to 6 wins and a bowl. Best, reasonable and/or realistic case from that is 7-5. Worst case is 3-9 after getting upset by Marshall and losing @UConn.
Now, it is quite possible that all 3 of the first things happen and our front 7 + coaching acumen + hustle/intangibles + a little luck get us to 7 wins easily, meaning we are one upset @WVU or @USF or @Cinci or Pitt at home from an 8-4 dream season (compared to 2007-2010) and a win over UK. Likely? Maybe not. Plausible? Certainly.
So if you have gotten this far, I hope you take a good hard look in the mirror, buck yourself up, remind yourself that the NCAA 2012 simulation is just math and that there's no reason to get mad at math, get your game face on, get ready to cheer your balls off and remember: Louisville football starts soon.
To combine the mayhem of Hunter S. Thompson and Vance Bedford: buy a ticket and take the ride, because the train is coming and you better be on board.
That. Just. Happened.
And. Will. Happen. Again. Soon.