Friday, September 29, 2006

Jeff: The Friday Free-for-All

3 Minnesota teams in action this Sunday, so let's get to it (probably more if you count hockey, but really, is anybody ready for hockey in September? Of course not)

CHICAGO WHITE SOX @ MINNESOTA TWINS, Friday 7:10, Saturday 11:10am!!!!!(that's not a typo), Sunday 1:05pm. (FSN and channel 29)
Final regular season weekend for your hometown 9, when we'll find out if they'll be hosting Oakland or more likely, traveling to the Bronx early next week. Twins and Tiggers are all square, but the Stripes have the tie-breaker, so the Twinks basically need to sweep this weekend in order to win the division. And even that may not be enough as Detwah has taken 13 of 14 from Kansas City so far this year. Minnesota's record against baseball's worst team? Just 10-6. Look no further than that stat as a reason they probably won't win the division.

However, my roommate Kris made a great point last night on why that might not be a bad thing: everybody's scared of the big, bad Yankees, and rightfully so. They are clearly the best team in baseball and clearly the best bet to win the World Series. However, if the Twins win the division and defeat Oakland, they'd likely play the Yankees in a 7 game series. But if the lose the division, they'd play the Yankees in a best-of-5. I figure the road through to the World Series goes through the Bronx Bombers, so as Kris would, I'd rather play them in a 5 game series instead of 7, with Santana throwing twice, including the opener. Once we find out who the Twins are playing, we'll break it all down for you as always, but for now, don't be heartbroken if the Twins don't win the pennant this weekend.

Remember this: 3 of the last 4 World Series champs (Boston, Florida and Anaheim) were all wildcards- and all of them had to go through the Yanks.

#6 Michigan Wolverines (4-0) at Minnesota Gophers (2-2), Saturday, 7:00pm (ESPN)
Big 10 footbal; Saturday night under the lights- er dome. That outdoor stadium can't get here fast enough. Then again neither can a defense, a new coach, and a new athletic director. The GOphs have played Michigan tough the last few years, but it's hard to see this one being anything but a Maize and Blue parade of touchdowns. In those past couple of years, the Gophs had a great rushing offense and a decent defense. This year, the ground game as been better, but certainly not great, and the defense has been worse than usual, which is saying something for a Glen Mason team.

Making the uphill battle even steeper is that Michigan has been absolutely possessed this year, coming off their first 5 loss season in forever. Their D has allowed, are you ready for this- 74 yards rushing. Not on average. TOTAL. They held an always-powerful Wisconsin rushing attack to under 20 yards last week. That's not a good sign. And after last year's upset, I don't think there's any chance of a trap game for the Wolverines. There's just no way they overlook Minnesota this year. This a revenge hungry team, and the Gophs will be on the menu Saturday night.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-1) at BUFFALO BILLS (1-2), Sunday, noon (Fox)
I'm trying not to be Mr. Negative this weekend, but I think the Bills win this one. They've played three pretty good games, and could just as easily be 3-0 as 1-2. The D has been stout and they've got a good back in Willis McGahee (just ask him, he'll tell you). JP Losman actually completed some passes last weekend, throwing for over 300 yds for the first time in his young career. It'd be nice to see the Vikings score, what do you call those- OH YEAH an offensive touchdown, but I doubt it in a low-scoring slugfest, and you know Ralph Wilson stadium will be rocking because, honestly, what else is there to do in Buffalo? These two are evenly matched, but I see the Vikes sitting at .500 after this weekend. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Come back for more chipper and cheerful analysis next week! Have a good weekend everybody.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jeremy: Mixed Bag

Wow, nice to see Jeff back huh? After almost two months of... well, I don't know. Anyway, nice to have you back buddy. Can we maybe get Luke, Kris and Kyle to take Jeffrick on a roadtrip maybe once a month to keep Jeff hungry? Or at least maybe so we can get more 'stache stories?

After spending the weekend watching the Gophers and Vikings both lose close games, it was nice to go to bed last night knowing our hometown 9 is going to the playoffs. After being 12 games under .500 in June, for this team to come all the way back, overtake the White Sox, and be looking at the possibility of still winning the division... well, it's pretty unreal.

Speaking of the Gophers...
I didn't get to watch the Gophs game against Purdue live, but I did DVR the game and watch it on Sunday morning, when I, unfortunately, already knew they had lost. Having already known the final score, I was really taken back by just how not-in-it the Gophers looked for most of the game. Although the score was relatively close, the Gophers certainly never played well enough to win.
Some notes:
*The Gopher pass rush is still completely non-existant, and Lockwood barely ever sends a blitz. The reason behind this is probably fear. The Gophers are already giving up plenty of yards and big plays, sending blitzes that could be picked up and exploited for more big plays is a scary proposition.
*Penalties are a major concern for the Gophers. 8 penalties resulting in 80 yards against them is far too much against a mediocre Big 10 opponent. Play like this will be exploited on an even larger scale against top talent like Michigan this weekend. Penalties to this degree, in my opinion, come from a lack of preperation.
*I've been very hot & cold on Bryan Cupito over the past 3 years. I love his arm strength, and his accuracy when he finds the open receiver. But I learned something about Cupito watching the Purdue game. Cupito is a pocket passer... and that's it. The coaching staff should never call a play requiring Cupito to run. In fact, I'm going to go so far as to say that they should never, under any circumstance call a play that requires Cupito to be outside of the pocket. With less than two minutes left in the first half the Gophers called a quarterback sneak that caused to laugh out loud. The middle of the Purdue defensive line was wide open before the snap, as the center snapped the ball he went strait ahead to keep the lane open for Cupito. Instead, Cupito turned his left shoulder and began to fall toward the right tackle, trying to follow him to the touchdown instead of the center. I'm convinced that Cupito had his eyes closed, because there's no way he could have missed the hole right in front of him if his eyes had been open.
*Lastly on the Gophers, I hope that we can all agree that the Alex Daniels experiment needs to come to an end. If not for the fact that Daniels doesn't look like he knows what he's doing when the lane isn't wide open for him, at least for the fact that Amir Pinnix has proven (28 carries, 172 yards, 6.1 yds/carry) that he can carry the load, and carry it well.

Speaking of carrying it well...
*How about Chester Taylor doing exactly what he was brought into Vikingland to do? 3.7 yds/carry and averaging 25 carries per game.
*In my opinion the Vikings played better on Sunday losing to the Bears than they did in their previous 2 games. So are the Bears really as good as everyone thinks? And if they are, does this mean that we aren't far behind them? There's still a ton of questions up in the air for this season, but we do know a couple of things:
*Chester looks like he can carry the bulk of the carries at RB.
*Mike Tomlin is for real as a defensive coordinator. He says all the right things, schemes to get his players in position to make plays, and he is an emotional leader.
*Tomlin's defense is for real too, and for the first time in almost two decades the defense of the Vikings IS the strength of the franchise.
*Antoine Winfield is the quiet leader of the defense. The man had 10 tackles on Sunday.
*The offensive line has the ability and talent to be top tier, but OH MY GOODNESS do they need to do a better job of protecting Brad Johnson. I simply am NOT ready for the Brooks Bollinger era to begin.
*Brad Johnson has a lot of targets to throw to. Jim Kleinsasser should not be one of them.
*We should all be thankful to the Packers for being dumb enough to let Ryan Longwell go.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jeff: The Monday Musings

* I took a great trip to Milwaukee and Chicago over the weekend with my buddies Kris, Luke, and Kyle. We went to the Brewers/Giants game Friday night, got the sweetest deal from a scalper named Rick (or was it Ron? Rob? Ralph?), and enjoyed a 13-12 Brewers win in a real ballpark. What was even sweeter, of course, was the fact all 4 of us had mustaches. Yup, each of us grew beards for the 2 weeks leading up to this trip, and then shaved Friday morning before we left, just leaving our glorious staches. Let me just say we fit right in in Milwaukee!!

I do have to say I've been too hard on Milwaukee. It's a great time, and has a really nice downtown. I had no idea. And they did a great job with Miller Park. Twins fans have to be excited to get a new park, although I've come to realize that the people who were whining about how the new place won't have a roof weren't whining at all-- they were right. How can you build a baseball stadium in the upper midwest without a retractable roof? Having been to Safeco and Miller Park, you can build a beautiful retro park and still not lose the ambience of the place when the roof is on. It didn't rain for the game Friday night (yet the roof was unfortunately closed. We blamed Barry Bonds because apparently he won't play if there's a chance of rain. More on him in a minute), but it poured at the Sox game Saturday, and anybody who's spent anytime in the Midwest knows how cold and unpredictable the weather can be in April and September, and how stormy it is the rest of the summer. Don't get me wrong, ANYTHING"s better than that gawd-awful Metrodome, but they dropped the ball not getting a roof on the new place.

* Speaking of Barry Bonds, baseball fans better get used to the fact he's going to break Hank Aaron's all-time home run record next season. Whether it's with the Yankees or Tigers or whoever, the man will play one more year as a DH and break the record before this time next season. In Friday night's game, Bonds had 2 doubles, a home run, and 6 RBI's. He's not the hitter he once was, but if he DH's a full season and doesn't have to run around in the outfield, he's still plenty good enough to hit 30 HR's next year. And frankly, baseball deserves to have him, and not the classy Hank Aaron, holding its most important record. Bonds used roids because baseball didn't test for it, and this is what they get. I'm not a Bonds fan, but he takes the brunt of everybody's steroid grief, but as we're finding out, he definitely wasn't the only one. Baseball wanted to win back fans with home runs and high scores, and to have Bonds, McGwire and Sosa holding some big accomplishments while they were "allegedly" on the juice is what you get for not testing. Also, if you're Barry and everybody already hates you, why wouldn't you try and get the record nobody wants you to have? It's not like people will hate the guy less if he doesn't hit 756. Ok, ok enough about Barry. I'm as sick of him as you are.

* Brewers SS Bill Hall is the most underrated player in baseball. What a hitter.

* The Sports Guy mentioned this a couple of weeks ago after his trip to Milwaukee, but it bears repeating: the old school ball & glove Brewers logo is as good as it gets in sports. The number of people wearing that logo and the old color scheme were at least 3-to-1 at the game. They need to go old school ASAP. And of course i bought a t-shirt.

* It's interesting that there was a time in human history when the mustache was a sign of manhood and class. Now? 4 dudes in their mid-late 20's with mustaches just looks weird. When you're wearing one, you will occassionally forget you have it. After the Brewers game, we went in search of an Irish pub. We found one and went in, but discovered almost immediately they were cranking techno music, so we walked right back out. But not before Kris and Kyle had this exchange:
Kris: "That place was terrible, but at least I made the cute waitress do a double take."
Kyle: "Um, that's because you have a mustache."
Kris: "$%^&&#*!!"

* We left the staches in Wisconsin and went to the White Sox/Mariners game. One thing you should know: we all generally hate the Sox. I wore Mariners stuff, Luke wore Twins stuff, and Kris took it to a whole nother level: a red Twins hat and a bright red Twins Johan Santana T-shirt. I can just tell you that apparently Sox fans really don't think Santana or the Twins are that good. And that's putting it kindly. I'm sure they're just bitter because their team won't be going to the playoffs this year.

* And really I'm surprised by that. They've got 2 guys with 40+ HR's, and 5 overall with at least 20. How in the hell do you not make the playoffs with that lineup? How? Their pitching, both starters and relievers, have to be terrible to allow that to happen. They'll be back with a vengeance next year.

* Finally, we watched the 2nd half of the Notre Dame/Michigan State game at the ESPN Zone with a very pro-Notre Dame crowd. Did I miss something? Was State coach John L. Smith working for Notre Dame? He certainly won't be working in East Lansing next year, I can tell you that. It's beyond me how you blow a 31-14 halftime lead when you're running the ball down ND's throat.

* Finally, I just have to say that I LOVE Chicago. I might want to hold hands with it. If you haven't been in awhile, it's well worth your time. And if you want to wear a stache while there, well, it certainly won't hurt your experience. Hell it may even help it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Jeremy: Maturi's contract extended

As has been well documented in this space, we are not big fans of Glen Mason, Golden Gopher Head Football coach. Another point that we have touched on, but rarely elaborated on much further, is University Athletic Director Joel Maturi. The Star Tribune article today does a nice job of outlining all of the positive impacts that Maturi has had on the Gopher Athletic Department since he arrived in 2002.
While it is obvious that Maturi has done a good job of bringing Gopher athletics, as a whole, back to a respectable level academically and has, for the most part, put academic scandels in the past, it is obvious that Maturi's main goals have been to bring the athletic department out the red and into the black financially. This means that the athletic department brings in enough money to support itself.
It is true that all of the things that Joel Maturi has accomplished as Athletic Director are good things. But I would argue, as a fan, that the one thing Maturi doesn't focus on is the one thing that could, perhaps, allow the athletic program to not only support itself, but begin to support other areas of the University.
While all of the things that Maturi focuses on as Athletic Director are positive things, Maturi does not put an emphasis on winning. Maturi is, basically, running a business, and a successful business is one that doesn't just measure its success based on positive dollars and cents. A successful business also measure's itself on growth, and perhaps most importantly, on whether or not it is providing its buying public with a product that is worth spending money on, and a product that the public will continue to spend money on year after year. By continuing to communicate that mediocrity is acceptable, most notably with his actions, or more accurately, non-action, toward Glen Mason leading the football program, and toward Dan Monson leading the basketball program, Maturi is communicating to the fans, who support athletics with their passion and their hard earned dollars, that good enough is just that, good enough.
Joel Maturi has done a great job, also, of helping to bring Gopher Football back to campus with a new stadium that will be set to open in a few years. I do not want to give the impression that we shouldn't praise Joel Maturi for his work on these projects. But I feel the same way about Athletic Director Joel Maturi that I feel about Glen Mason. Maturi has done a fine job bringing our athletic program to where it is today, I'm just not sure he's the man to bring Gopher Athletics to the level that the University of Minnesota, and its fans, deserve.
Unfortunately for the fans the University's administration is a bit too short sighted to see the impact that winning football and basketball programs could have on the University as a whole.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jeremy: Quick Thoughts

Thoughts while contemplating the Gopher Football team's 2-1 record...
-After three games we really know absolutely nothing about this football team except what we pretty much already knew: they are not good enough to beat an elite team, and they are plenty good to beat the worst teams in the country.
-Temple might want to think about dropping down to Division II in football... I'm just saying.
-My uncle is a staunch believer in sitting in your seat until the final whistle blows at the end of the game. In the past, although I agreed with this belief, I didn't always follow it, so this year I have resolved to hold myself to it. But next time the Gophs are going to win by a silly, silly margain, will someone please remind me to get up and go for a long walk during halftime? Look, it's fun to see a win like that, but I'd be lying to you if I said that I didn't nod off slightly at least once.

Conversation with a Packer fan...
Packer Fan: "Vikes are 2-0 huh?"
Me: "You know that's right." (Smiling, knowing I was talking to a Packer fan.)
PF: "They didn't look too good last week."
Me: "True, but... 2-0."
PF: "Still, an ugly 2-0."
Me: "So a delusional Packer fan is telling me that if his team was 2-0 that Super Bowl talk wouldn't already be rampant in Wisconsin?"
PF: "It's not that bad."
Me: "Yeah? Really?"
PF: "Shut up, how many Super Bowls have you guys won?"
Me: "Really? You're going to start this already? We haven't even played each other yet and you are already resorting to this?"
PF walks away.

Thinking about the Twins being 1/2 game out of first place in the division...
-If you took Justin Morneau out of the Twins lineup would they be in contention for the playoffs at all? I'm not saying that Morneau has single-handedly provided the offense for the Twins to be where they are, but look what he does for the Twins, but I will say this... Torii Hunter has 28 homeruns this season. Is there any chance that Torii hits that many homeruns if he is batting in the 4th spot in the lineup? Is there any chance that Cuddy scores 94 runs, and Mauer score 81 runs if Morneau isn't hitting behind them? I'm not saying Morneau IS the offense for the Twins, but nobody in the American League makes his teams offense more productive just by doing what he's supposed to do in his position in the lineup.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jeremy: On Fire

I was instant messaging with Jeffrick this morning and I realized that I am incredibly fired up right now. I don't know what it means to be "fit to be tied" but I'm pretty sure that's what I am.
Reading in the Star Tribune online sports this morning...

*Look, you already know that I'm not a huge Sid Hartman guy. In fact, if anything, I'm a huge anti-Sid Hartman guy. I understand he's a legend, I understand he was writing sports columns before they invented the wheel. I get it. But they guy writes some of the dumbest and/or most obvious things that have ever been in print.
"But if [Zygi Wilf] would have bought the Vikings a couple of years earlier, there is no doubt he would have found a way to satisfy the University of Minnesota with building one first-class stadium for both teams, just as Heinz Field was built in Pittsburgh to house the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh." There's a couple of problems with that statement. First of all, the U of M NEVER wanted a joint stadium with the Vikings, so to make the statement that Zygi would have waved some kind of magic wand and talked the university into it is simply unfounded speculation. The Gophers always wanted their own stadium because EVERY other team in the Big 10 has a football only stadium. Secondly, I wasn't paying attention to sports quite yet when the Dome was built, but my understanding is that Sid was one of the lead folks who was trying to push the Gophers into the Dome. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that 24 years later we can all agree that the Dome is not a college football atmosphere and in retrospect the Gophs never should have left Memorial Stadium. Also, I could be wrong about this, but I believe Sid has also printed a similar sentiment to that within the last year or so. And the third problem with Sid's statement... IT DOESN'T MATTER. It's not happenin'.

*Next up, Glen Mason. Again, well documented here that I'm not a big fan of Glen, so my ire is likely no surprise.
First, Glen was talking about stopping Cal RB Marshawn Lynch: "I think you don't go and defend a person. You try to defend a system." Okay, again, maybe I'm wrong. But if this is the mentality that we've been taking toward defense all through Mason's tenure, this probably explains a lot why our defense has been suspect to say the least. Also, doesn't it stand to reason that if the Gophers are trying to defend Cal's system, they are going to have to figure out how to defend Lynch in turn? And for the record, if the Gophers don't try to defend Lynch, he is going to torch them. Jeff and I are predicting 150 yards.

*Yes indeed, another Glenism: "We're still in the developmental stages of this program. Some people will say, 'Ah, baloney, you've been here 10 years.' Wait a minute. I've always maintained that you don't put quality into a program overnight, nor do you take it out overnight. I'm trying to put it in as fast as I can, but I didn't take it out." First of all, since when is 10 years synonymous with "overnight"? And second of all, if Glen believes that his program has been in the developmental stages for the past 10 years, I, for one, would like some clarification on exactly what, during these "stages," he has been trying to build.