Week 1 watches in Flyover Football country

Ian Boyd

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Every week during the season I write up a column at Football Outsiders with stats and analysis of the week's top six games and picks against the spread by the FEI model as well as my self. Read those here, if you like.

This is technically week two of college football but it's week 1 for most of the teams we really follow closely on this board. If you were a betting man/woman or even just an excited fan, it's worth noting some of the conditions for these games. Lots of teams are missing spring practices, others have had uneven or depleted fall camps. With the erasure of much of the non-conference schedule, many teams will likely be using the extra time and practices to help ease into the season, meaning they may treat this game as part of their overall preparation for the conference seasons.

All that to say, expect some sloppiness and for some of the teams expected to be good this year to get out to a slow start. Especially if they're playing a squad that already has a week one under their belts. With that said, here are some of the more interesting matchups of the week. As you'll see, it's a major bummer to lose TCU vs SMU.

Louisiana at Iowa State (-11.5)

Plenty of people like this game for an early upset special. Billy Napier's Louisiana team was 11-3 last year and played Appalachian State for the Sun Belt Championship. They had three different running backs go for 800 yards, two of which return along with an SEC-sized right side of their line. They might be one of the "new things" in offensive strategy and with another good season, Billy Napier will be a candidate for top jobs. If I remember correctly he was considered for Baylor last offseason.

I remember last year tuning in for Iowa State's battle with Northern Iowa and the Panthers gave the Cyclones all they wanted and dragged them into overtime before the fighting pump fake Purdy's took them down. I wasn't ready to give up on Iowa State that season (rightfully so) and noted Purdy had something like two carries in the game, both of which were scrambles. Iowa State hadn't really fired the whole quiver and got caught for not having enough.

What was really demonstrated though was a problem that would plague the Cyclones all season. They lacked a top space force with Hakeem Butler off to the NFL, JaQuan Bailey cut down by injury, and Brian Peavy graduated. It turned out Campbell's next wave of athletes weren't ready to take up the mantle.

So what you had was a tough battle between two teams with big, solid cores inside (Northern Iowa would go 10-5) and Iowa State struggled to separate from them. That's exactly what a space force does, they separate teams who are otherwise close or both competent in the trenches.

The overall athleticism of the Cyclones is now increased. Xavier Hutchinson, JaQuan Bailey, Will McDonald, and to a lesser extent, Breece Hall, Isheem Young, and Greg Eisworth should give them an athleticism boost they didn't have against Northern Iowa. Of course as a caveat, an 11.5 point spread is a little big for a week one game, I think this time the Cyclones will show that they have a fuller team out of the gate. I also suspect Louisiana's emphasis on the run game will make this a tough one for them, unless it turns out that Iowa State can't replace Ray Lima at the nose.

I'm really curious to see how Iowa State plays their fronts in this game. If they have a three-down front involving Eyioma Uwazurike at the nose, flanked by McDonald and Bailey that can hold up on standard downs, that could be a game changer for this season.

Eastern Kentucky at West Virginia (-37.5)
Arkansas State at Kansas State (-10.5)


These are interesting mostly just for the initial peek at the Wildcats and Mountaineers. Was my hunch about the K-State defensive strategy in 2020 correct? What sorts of run schemes will the Mountaineers emphasize in year two as they rebuild their offensive line?

Arkansas State has a pass-heavy attack so that will be more interesting for the Wildcats, but Kansas State isn't easy to attack through the air. If I had more doubts about their secondary this would be a more interesting matchup.

UTSA at Texas State (-9)

The more you follow Texas HS recruiting, the more interesting these fledgling matchups between smaller but up and coming Texas schools become.

Jake Spavital is the head coach at Texas State and he already gave SMU fits in week one, Jeff Traylor is the head coach at UTSA and this will be their first game of the season and of his tenure. We're talking here about a pair of guys who could be coaching against each other in the Big 12 in the future so if you're a fan of one of the teams likely to be in the market in future silly seasons, this could be an interesting one.

Spavital is in the younger generation of "Raid bro" coaches. He was entrusted to replace Kliff Kingsbury in 2013 at Texas A&M and did a good job in year one before getting fired when struggles and quarterback drama wrecked the team post-Johnny. From there he rebounded by working under older Raid bros Sonny Dykes (at Cal) and Dana Holgorsen (at West Virginia) before striking out on his own at Texas State last season.

Jeff Traylor was a championship coach at Gilmer high school in East Texas, his title team was powered by Kris Boyd, Blake Lynch, McLane Carter, and Demarco Boyd. From there he went to Texas and was an immediate recruiting dynamo for Charlie Strong and importance influence on the offense, he swam out of the wreckage of the 2016 season and surfaced in Dallas with Chad Morris at SMU. Then he followed Morris to Arkansas and once again escaped the wreckage with another promotion, this time getting the UTSA gig.

If you followed that track you'll notice if Traylor has a weak spot, it's that he's not been a part of any particularly strong college staffs yet. His rise has been about his own personal ability to coach and recruit, so there may be some trial and error for him in working out what a stronger organization looks like. The Roadrunners' recruiting since he took over has already shot up.

Missouri State at Oklahoma (-42.5)

This one is pay-per-view so probably most of us won't bother unless we get the twitter alert Oklahoma is struggling, much like the famous 2018 PPV overtime battle against Army. I don't anticipate that happening again. There's no Mike Stoops vs triple option intrigue here.

I may try to catch a rewatch later on to check out how Spencer Rattler looked or how Alex Grinch is deploying his troops on defense this year.

UTEP at Texas (-43)

Awfully big spread for Texas going up against a team that's already played a game, is stronger than in previous years, and given the news Jake Smith will miss this one for the Longhorns. Texas will still have a lot of speed on the field and may let Sam Ehlinger pad some stats in the third quarter to build up the Heisman resume (yes, teams do such things). Still, Tom Herman teams typically don't put 43 point blowouts on people.

If they do, it's as good a sign as any that Mike Yurcich's truly making some big changes in Austin. I'm equally on the lookout though for Texas to show a lot of 12 personnel and just wear the Miners out with the run game. That feels like a week one Tom Herman move to me.

Houston Baptist at Texas Tech (-37.5)
Coastal Carolina at Kansas (-7)


Not much here unless you're up late and neither UTEP nor Missouri State can hold your attention. Coastal Carolina was more of a power running team a year ago which I don't think is typically a great way to attack a team several levels up unless you're one of those Midwestern FCS teams from the Dakotas who's program is really more of a G5 squad in terms of talent and emphasis. The spread is close though so maybe I'm missing something, I'll confess to not being well informed on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. They were 5-7 last year and 2-6 in the Sun Belt though so unless they've been stocked up with new arrivals with names like Dustin Plains or Penny Fuel I don't quite understand why this spread is so close.

Maybe after watching the new Kansas quarterback play that will clear up the picture.
 

josephcook

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Iowa State - No mention of Charlie K?

Kansas - Their QB situation is basically the only interesting thing to watch, that and the excitement that Pooka/Parchment provide.

I don't quite understand why this spread is so close.
They won last year in Lawrence and it's still Kansas football, people don't believe in them.
 

josephcook

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What about him?
Feel like that's a significant separator when you mentioned they didn't have very many that could do that. They have him and he might be the best in the conference, and the attention that goes toward him could help out all those rising athletes you mentioned.
 

Ian Boyd

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Feel like that's a significant separator when you mentioned they didn't have very many that could do that. They have him and he might be the best in the conference, and the attention that goes toward him could help out all those rising athletes you mentioned.
They already had that though. They can generate margins in the core all day, but last year they didn't have guys outside that could translate that into home runs to separate them from other squads. Which makes it hard to finish in the top of the B12 or to put away solid G5/FCS teams that don't lack for size and discipline inside.
 

genericbufan

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None, really. Margin still just comes down to ISU outside receiver play. They have other good tight ends.
Erroneous. Kolar definitely would have made a significant difference. He is the key to that offense. Allen is pretty much garbage as a receiver, as we saw today. That offense looks considerably different with Kolar. (Which is why you went out of your way to mention Kolar's value in your pre-season discussion of ISU.) But their outside WRs looked awful. That part is definitely accurate.
 
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Ian Boyd

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Erroneous. Kolar definitely would have made a significant difference. He is the key to that offense. Allen is pretty much garbage as a receiver, as we saw today. That offense looks considerably different with Kolar. (Which is why you went out of your way to mention Kolar's value in your pre-season discussion of ISU.) But their outside WRs looked awful. That part is definitely accurate.
I didn't think they'd bomb that spectacularly in even attacking the middle of the field in the passing game sans Kolar.

Also the biggest issue was arguably the two special teams touchdowns. Even with a bad first time out on offense they'd still have choked out the ULL offense and won if not for those kick returns. But for all that the most important thing is the play of the outside receivers, which wasn't there. I don't think it's over for them this year in terms of being a contender in this league, Hutchinson flashed now and again, but it looks grim.
 
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genericbufan

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I didn't think they'd bomb that spectacularly in even attacking the middle of the field in the passing game sans Kolar.

Also the biggest issue was arguably the two special teams touchdowns. Even with a bad first time out on offense they'd still have choked out the ULL offense and won if not for those kick returns. But for all that the most important thing is the play of the outside receivers, which wasn't there. I don't think it's over for them this year in terms of being a contender in this league, Hutchinson flashed now and again, but it looks grim.
As a BU fan, one of my biggest takeaways was the lack of outside WRs. I agree with that. (That and a pedestrian OL.) But I think that Kolar's presence would have changed the margin of the game, which was the initial question. They were unable to extend a lot of drives that they would have normally extended. The timing of his absence was brutal for the B12, though. The national narrative doesn't care if ISU had a healthy Kolar. (And I understand why. I wouldn't cut the PAC-12 any slack if they laid an egg, either.) Brutal day for the conference. We're going to have to have a masterful bowl season to gain back any respect, and our [hopeful] playoff contender has to get a W.
 

genericbufan

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And from a season-long competitive standpoint, I would argue that TTU's defensive performance might be the biggest takeaway. Not that anyone expected them to be good, but they actually might be worse than we expected. Which hardly seemed possible. A lot of the KSU and ISU stuff will get fixed during the season. KU is KU. But TTU looks like an automatic W for someone like WVU right now, and I didn't think that was the case yesterday morning. (Worth noting that Schooler and a few others were out last night. The asterisk season marches on...)
 
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BluffviewHorn

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And from a season-long competitive standpoint, I would argue that TTU's defensive performance might be the biggest takeaway. Not that anyone expected them to be good, but they actually might be worse than we expected. Which hardly seemed possible. A lot of the KSU and ISU stuff will get fixed during the season. KU is KU. But TTU looks like an automatic W for someone like WVU right now, and I didn't think that was the case yesterday morning. (Worth noting that Schooler and a few others were out last night. The asterisk season marches on...)
Annoying that KSU and ISU have a habit of laying eggs week1. Makes the conference look worse than it is.
Both teams will be different teams later in the year.

ISU loops like they have some real issues. They better figure things out quick, or they are going to get romped by OU In a few weeks. TCU may be more of a mess than ISU, so they may squeak by that one. Or at least not get embarrassed.

I didnt watch the Tech game. So no idea what happened there. The result does not bode well for them though.
 
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genericbufan

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Annoying that KSU and ISU have a habit of laying eggs week1. Makes the conference look worse than it is.
Both teams will be different teams later in the year.

ISU loops like they have some real issues. They better figure things out quick, or they are going to get romped by OU In a few weeks. TCU may be more of a mess than ISU, so they may squeak by that one. Or at least not get embarrassed.

I didnt watch the Tech game. So no idea what happened there. The result does not bode well for them though.
Agreed. ISU's perennial egg in non-conference really pisses me off. The Matt Campbell special.

[That said, there's a decent chance we aren't ready for UH next weekend. So we might join the club...]
 
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travisroeder

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And from a season-long competitive standpoint, I would argue that TTU's defensive performance might be the biggest takeaway. Not that anyone expected them to be good, but they actually might be worse than we expected. Which hardly seemed possible. A lot of the KSU and ISU stuff will get fixed during the season. KU is KU. But TTU looks like an automatic W for someone like WVU right now, and I didn't think that was the case yesterday morning. (Worth noting that Schooler and a few others were out last night. The asterisk season marches on...)
Tech is on its way down. I think they're entering, "need a god-tier coach to be good/really good" territory.
 
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Ian Boyd

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As a BU fan, one of my biggest takeaways was the lack of outside WRs. I agree with that. (That and a pedestrian OL.) But I think that Kolar's presence would have changed the margin of the game, which was the initial question. They were unable to extend a lot of drives that they would have normally extended. The timing of his absence was brutal for the B12, though. The national narrative doesn't care if ISU had a healthy Kolar. (And I understand why. I wouldn't cut the PAC-12 any slack if they laid an egg, either.) Brutal day for the conference. We're going to have to have a masterful bowl season to gain back any respect, and our [hopeful] playoff contender has to get a W.
Yeah, Kolar and better kicking or coverage and they pull out that win. It did make a difference that they couldn’t get a few key first downs because no one else could make a contested catch.
 
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travisroeder

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Yeah, Kolar and better kicking or coverage and they pull out that win. It did make a difference that they couldn’t get a few key first downs because no one else could make a contested catch.
Important to remember that Louisiana completely shanked two gimme field goals as well. So while they had 14 points in returns (more or less luck), they missed 6 easy points. You have to allow for the possibility that they would have scored one either of the drives they missed out on due the return scores. The game was definitely closer than the 31-14 end-line, and Kolar very well could've made the difference.
 
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sherf1

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As a BU fan, one of my biggest takeaways was the lack of outside WRs. I agree with that. (That and a pedestrian OL.) But I think that Kolar's presence would have changed the margin of the game, which was the initial question. They were unable to extend a lot of drives that they would have normally extended. The timing of his absence was brutal for the B12, though. The national narrative doesn't care if ISU had a healthy Kolar. (And I understand why. I wouldn't cut the PAC-12 any slack if they laid an egg, either.) Brutal day for the conference. We're going to have to have a masterful bowl season to gain back any respect, and our [hopeful] playoff contender has to get a W.
Better hope for a good Texas team then. Knew we'd all get on the same page one day
 

system poster

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And from a season-long competitive standpoint, I would argue that TTU's defensive performance might be the biggest takeaway. Not that anyone expected them to be good, but they actually might be worse than we expected. Which hardly seemed possible. A lot of the KSU and ISU stuff will get fixed during the season. KU is KU. But TTU looks like an automatic W for someone like WVU right now, and I didn't think that was the case yesterday morning. (Worth noting that Schooler and a few others were out last night. The asterisk season marches on...)
The most important player missing was Demarcus Fields, who for some reason is the only defensive back on the depth chart at the spur position, which is our nickel. But I think that raises a larger concern, which is that our defensive coordinator, Keith Patterson, has been a high level defensive coordinator in P5 conferences with spread passing and air raid offenses for at least a decade and still has no clue how to defend against them. He ran a seven man box with 4 linebackers on the field for most of the game. Of course, like any competent air raid team, HBU picked apart the middle of the field against our linebackers easily. And then had no problem getting their inside receivers matched up on our linebackers on deep routes. Patterson also has the bad habit of running zero blitzes on every third down. The safeties were also terrible in man coverage. Eric Monroe, the LSU transfer, showed why he couldn't get on the field there and Leggett, the other safety, was worse. And don't get me started on the offense. It's going to be a long season.
 

Ian Boyd

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The most important player missing was Demarcus Fields, who for some reason is the only defensive back on the depth chart at the spur position, which is our nickel. But I think that raises a larger concern, which is that our defensive coordinator, Keith Patterson, has been a high level defensive coordinator in P5 conferences with spread passing and air raid offenses for at least a decade and still has no clue how to defend against them. He ran a seven man box with 4 linebackers on the field for most of the game. Of course, like any competent air raid team, HBU picked apart the middle of the field against our linebackers easily. And then had no problem getting their inside receivers matched up on our linebackers on deep routes. Patterson also has the bad habit of running zero blitzes on every third down. The safeties were also terrible in man coverage. Eric Monroe, the LSU transfer, showed why he couldn't get on the field there and Leggett, the other safety, was worse. And don't get me started on the offense. It's going to be a long season.
Maybe that's all they have successfully installed due to the influx of transfers and diminished offseason.
 

bHero

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Awfully big spread for Texas going up against a team that's already played a game, is stronger than in previous years, and given the news Jake Smith will miss this one for the Longhorns. Texas will still have a lot of speed on the field and may let Sam Ehlinger pad some stats in the third quarter to build up the Heisman resume (yes, teams do such things). Still, Tom Herman teams typically don't put 43 point blowouts on people.

If they do, it's as good a sign as any that Mike Yurcich's truly making some big changes in Austin. I'm equally on the lookout though for Texas to show a lot of 12 personnel and just wear the Miners out with the run game. That feels like a week one Tom Herman move to me.
Looks like they did. We didn't even lean on 12 to wear them out... looks like tempo did the trick for Texas.

Yurcich's O went 33 rush v 41 pass, but that really doesn't begin to tell the story because garbage time started before halftime.
 
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travisroeder

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The most important player missing was Demarcus Fields, who for some reason is the only defensive back on the depth chart at the spur position, which is our nickel. But I think that raises a larger concern, which is that our defensive coordinator, Keith Patterson, has been a high level defensive coordinator in P5 conferences with spread passing and air raid offenses for at least a decade and still has no clue how to defend against them. He ran a seven man box with 4 linebackers on the field for most of the game. Of course, like any competent air raid team, HBU picked apart the middle of the field against our linebackers easily. And then had no problem getting their inside receivers matched up on our linebackers on deep routes. Patterson also has the bad habit of running zero blitzes on every third down. The safeties were also terrible in man coverage. Eric Monroe, the LSU transfer, showed why he couldn't get on the field there and Leggett, the other safety, was worse. And don't get me started on the offense. It's going to be a long season.
Big indictment against Monroe when Aranda/Baylor passed, and safety is a very thin position at BU.
 
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sherf1

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I always hope for a good Texas team. You don't think that Ole Miss and South Carolina benefit somewhat from Bama being great again?
I think it raises thier floor by virtue of recruiting but also puts a pretty hard cap on their ceiling most years. If your goal is be a decent team that competes for a conference title every 10-15 years when the stats align, then sure, and to be fair that's pretty much where they are.
 

genericbufan

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I think it raises thier floor by virtue of recruiting but also puts a pretty hard cap on their ceiling most years. If your goal is be a decent team that competes for a conference title every 10-15 years when the stats align, then sure, and to be fair that's pretty much where they are.
Are you talking about UT or BU here?
 

fox 520

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I wonder what SMU spent on Dykes. I would think that’s one of the first places Tech looks.
From a distance, you'd think Dykes might jump at a shot to takeover a P5 program his dad coached, but there are some factors involved that Tech might not be able to overcome. At SMU, he can be a conference contender without being a perennial underdog to Texas or OU. As far as fan expectations, the SMU crowd seem delighted to have a good team again regardless of whether it's in a P5 conference. As far as lifestyle, Sonny bought a big house 4 blocks from campus. His wife and young family seem to love living in Highland Park, and it might take a lot more than Tech is willing to offer to get him to move to Lubbock.
 
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Ian Boyd

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From a distance, you'd think Dykes might jump at a shot to takeover a P5 program his dad coached, but there are some factors involved that Tech might not be able to overcome. At SMU, he can be a conference contender without being a perennial underdog to Texas or OU. As far as fan expectations, the SMU crowd seem delighted to have a good team again regardless of whether it's in a P5 conference. As far as lifestyle, Sonny bought a big house 4 blocks from campus. His wife and young family seem to love living in Highland Park, and it might take a lot more than Tech is willing to offer to get him to move to Lubbock.
Oh yeah, Dykes and Holgorsen are probably living their best lives right now.

Tech will probably give Matt Wells another chance at defensive coordinator after this season and then see what happens. Maybe that will buy time to evaluate Jake Spavital and Jeff Traylor. This would be super aggressive hires but I think Tech should be thinking on that wavelength.
 
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BluffviewHorn

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From a distance, you'd think Dykes might jump at a shot to takeover a P5 program his dad coached, but there are some factors involved that Tech might not be able to overcome. At SMU, he can be a conference contender without being a perennial underdog to Texas or OU. As far as fan expectations, the SMU crowd seem delighted to have a good team again regardless of whether it's in a P5 conference. As far as lifestyle, Sonny bought a big house 4 blocks from campus. His wife and young family seem to love living in Highland Park, and it might take a lot more than Tech is willing to offer to get him to move to Lubbock.
There isn’t enough money in the world to convince me to live in Lubbock.

If he has a young family he’s probably content to raise them in the bubble.
 
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BluffviewHorn

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Oh yeah, Dykes and Holgorsen are probably living their best lives right now.

Tech will probably give Matt Wells another chance at defensive coordinator after this season and then see what happens. Maybe that will buy time to evaluate Jake Spavital and Jeff Traylor. This would be super aggressive hires but I think Tech should be thinking on that wavelength.
Agree. They will need to go an aggressive route. One with aggressive offense that keeps the fan base interested.
 

techhoopsguy

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And from a season-long competitive standpoint, I would argue that TTU's defensive performance might be the biggest takeaway. Not that anyone expected them to be good, but they actually might be worse than we expected. Which hardly seemed possible. A lot of the KSU and ISU stuff will get fixed during the season. KU is KU. But TTU looks like an automatic W for someone like WVU right now, and I didn't think that was the case yesterday morning. (Worth noting that Schooler and a few others were out last night. The asterisk season marches on...)
Yeah... this is a sobering and very realistic outlook of Tech's team this year.

FWIW, 3 of the top 5 returning snap leaders on defense were not playing Saturday (LB (Schooler) / CB (Fields) / nickel (J. Ingram)). Another DB (Frye) who is also in the top 5 of returning snaps was in a very limited role.

Of course, their return (if they do return by next Saturday) may not make much of a difference, considering every 10th play has been a 50+ yard TD pass the last 10 games or so, most of which featured the above players.
 

system poster

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FWIW, 3 of the top 5 returning snap leaders on defense were not playing Saturday (LB (Schooler) / CB (Fields) / nickel (J. Ingram)). Another DB (Frye) who is also in the top 5 of returning snaps was in a very limited role.
Getting Fields back should be the biggest help since he's listed at the spur position and with him out the only guys at that position were linebackers Kosi Eldridge and Jacob Morgernstern who were no match for a quick inside receiver.The other problem was that HBU had not problem getting their best receiver matched up deep with Leggett, who acquitted himself horribly, and I don't think we have anybody on the roster that can fix that.