Friday, September 26, 2008

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Crack egg on forehead, apply directly to face.

I told you the USC Trojans were the best team in college football. I told you USC had a defense that wasn’t just the best of the this season, but maybe any season this century. I told you USC was so good, they’d probably win the NFC West. I told you these things because I believed them.

So how foolish do I feel waking up this morning to find out USC went up to Corvallis, last night and lost to the Oregon State Beavers 27-21? AGAIN! After all the talk this week from Trojans coach Pete Carroll and the rest of this team about how they were taking the Beavers seriously, and had revenge on their minds for their shocking upset loss out there in 2006, USC went out on a Thursday night and laid a giant egg. They might as well have pooped in my refrigerator. I’m shocked not because they lost to Oregon State, but because they lost to Oregon State AGAIN! How can you make the same mistake twice?!? It’d be one thing to get beat by Washington State or Arizona, but how do you lose in to the Beavers the exact same way you lost to them two years ago?!?!

At any rate, this is bad news not only for USC and the Pac 10, but also for Ohio State and the Big 11. USC's title hopes are shot, and if the Big 10 wants a rep in the BCS Championship game, they're going to have to hope either Penn State or Wisconsin runs the table. Right now, we're looking at an SEC/Big 12 showdown with 5 undefeated teams (Oklahoma, Georgia, Mizzuruh, Florida and LSU) all in contention for 2 spots. As you no doubt know, take what I say with a gigantic grain of salt, but I think we'll see- at best- two one loss teams in the national title game, and that the age of parity is officially upon us.


I also can't leave out the Minnesota Twins, the Little Engine That Could, the team nobody believed in. Wow what a comeback win last 7-6 in extras over the White Sox! I don't get cable at the moment, so I watched the 8th, 9th, and 10th innings on Gamecast, which is a really stressful and frustrating way to "watch" or follow a game, but I'm so glad I had it. I was keeping tabs on the game at first, then when the Sox went up 6-1 and The Office season premiere started (freaking brilliant, although is it me or has Dwight's character fallen off a bit? There weren't as many laugh-out-loud Dwight moments as usual- well except where he drops Phylis off in the middle of nowhere to make her walk back and lose weight. Anywho, good to see that while NBC is hell bent to ruin their best shows- first Friday Night Lights and now Heroes oh and I'm really worried about Life, which was a great show last year but is already getting a little too much hype from the Peacock- The Office remains the best sitcom on TV) I forgot about the game until almost 10. By the time I got Gamecast back up it was the 8th inning and Gomez had just knocked in a run to make it 6-5. The Span triple to tie it, some vintage Joe Nathan, and then in the 10th Alexei Casillas singled in the king Piranha himself, Little Nicky Punto, for the game winner.

The Twins, who regained sole possession of first place for the first time since late August, now have to NOT "Pull a USC" this weekend as they play 3 with Kansas City. Two out of three should be enough, as the Sox have to play the surging Cleveland Indians (by the way, let's be glad the season isn't any longer, because since the All-star break the Tribe are 38-27, and would be overtaking both the Twinks and Pale Hose with another couple of weeks), and a sweep for Chicago, especially with the way they've played of late, seems unlikely.

While I don't love the Twins chances against either Boston or Tampa in the playoffs, I didn't love their chances of even finishing .500 this year. And as I proved with all of my USC chatter, what do I know? Go Twins!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Top 5...

...NFL Teams
1. Dallas (3-0)
2. Philadelphia (2-1)
3. New York Giants (3-0)
4. Green Bay Packers (2-1)
5. Um....?

1. Pittsburgh (2-1)
2. Denver (3-0)
3. Buffalo (3-0)
4. Tennessee (3-0)
5. Jacksonville/Indy/San Diego (1-2)

...Worst NFL Teams
1. St Louis
2. Kansas City
3. Detroit
4. Oakland
5. Cincinnati/Cleveland (Good times for football in Ohio right now)

...Best College Teams Not Named USC
1. Georgia
2. Oklahoma
3. Mizzuruh
4. Florida
5. LSU
(By the way, I've read 3 different articles this week on what would happen if USC and the winners of the Big 12 AND SEC all run the table. People, it's SEPTEMBER! If we have said scenario in November, THEN we can start talking about that. And for the record, I don't think we'll have an undefeated school in either of those conferences, but thanks for asking)

...Big 10 Teams
1. Ohio State (It's like they lost to Southern Utah, not Southern California. Nobody will beat the Trojans this year. Nobody. And with the Buckeyes getting Beanie Wells back AND figuring out that maybe their offense is better with Pryor at QB, they're still the best team in the Big 10, and Penn State is the only team with a chance to knock them off)
2. Penn State
3. Wisconsin
4. Michigan State (at this rate Javon Ringer will have like 7,458 carries this year, and if he lives through it, the Sparties will be a tough out)
5. Illinois
5a. MINNESOTA!!!!!!!!!! (hey come on it's the last time this year we'll get to talk about them being undefeated. Lets just enjoy it)
(Ok admit it: it's weird to rank the top 5 Big 10 teams and not see Michigan there- and feel like they're not being slighted in the least)

...Conferences after the SEC and Big 12
1. Big 10
2. USC- I mean the Pac 10
3. ACC (only a month until basketball season!)
4. Mountain West
5. Big East (only a month until basketball season!)

...Potential BCS Busters
1. South Florida- wait what? They're in a BCS Conference? Really? THis is awkward.
2. Boise State (a MUCH easier schedule than BYU the rest of the way)
3. BYU
4. Utah
5. TCU

...NFL QB's not Named (Tom) Brady or Peyton (Manning)
1. Drew Brees, Saints
2. Tony Romo, Cowboys
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
4. Donovan McNabb, Eagles
5. Jay Cutler, Broncos (honestly, how can the Vikings have gone through like 58 different quarterbacks in my lifetime while the Broncos go from Elway to Cutler, and the Pack from Favre to Rodgers? Explain how that's fair!)

1. LT, Charge
2. AD, Purple
3. Brian Westbrook (BW?), Iggles
4. Marion Barber III, Cowboys
5. Steven Jackson, Rams

1. Randy Moss, Pats
2. Terrell Owens, Cowboys
3. Torry Holt, Rams
4. Calvin Johnson, Lions
5. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

...Most Annoying things about the new season of Heroes (possible spoilers)
1. The whole Nikki/Jessica character who is now apparently Tracy? (played by Ali Larter, whose career highlights include the whipped cream bikini in Varsity Blues and...yup that's about it. But hey let's feature her more on the show) So we go from a useless character with no powers to a useless character with a new power? Not a good trade off.
2. On the bright side, Tracy is just as annoying and slutty as Nikki/Jessica
3. The annoying Hispanic chick? Still annoying.
4. Saresh turning into a Manwhore.
5. The guy who plays Peter Patrelli is still a horrible actor.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TJack Out, Frerotte In- Start Printing those Championship T-Shirts!!

Gus Frerotte has replaced Tavaris Jackson as the starting QB for the Minnesota Vikings. After an 0-2 start, it looks like we've found the scape goat for why coach Brad Childress' "kick ass" offense hasn't kicked any ass this season (well through the air. On the ground Adrian Peterson has been a force of nature.) All aboard the bandwagon Vikes fans, because it's next stop Super Bowl! The Super Bowl parade will be held on Washington Avenue, then will take a left down the newly renamed "Gus Frerotte Way". After that we'll go streaking up through the quad and to the gymnasium.

In an email today to a group of extraordinary gentlemen, my buddy Kyle summed up the QB switch better than I could have:

"I can't say I'll get all that much more optimistic until our 'kick @ss offense' starts opening things up a bit... As bad as Jackson's interception looked against Green Bay, the reality is he didn't manage the game all that poorly, and you can't point to any other throws that were horrible... The only receiver who ever gets separation is Sidney Rice (Bernard Berrian who???) but we never throw downfield (besides go routes) so it doesn't make any difference anyway... This is just a guess, but I'm thinking this change will simply end up accentuating that the system is the problem... Don't get me wrong, T-Jack is no Johnny Unitas, but he's certainly not Spregeon Wynn either."

Yup I couldn't agree more. Has Jackson been good? Absolutely not. It's a small sample size, but in his first two games his QB rating of 64.8 is 26th in the NFL (you know who's 32nd? Carson Palmer. Yikes), and his yardage, TD's and yards per attempt are all in the same range. If you want to get all fancy and technical and "mathy" up in this piece, the boys at footballoutsiders have two stats that, IF (and it's a big if) I can get my head around it and explain it right, really tell the story of how ineffective Jackson, and perhaps the offense, has been.

DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) gives the value of the quarterback's performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. TJack's DYAR rating is a -41, which means he's been 41 yards worse than a replacement level QB (A replacement level QB would be about the equivalent of Gus Frerotte. Give or take). He ranked 26th in the league.

Another very cools statistic is DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (explained really well here What's cool about this stat is it's not just looking at total yards gained, it's the VALUE of quality of those yards. Like yards gained that go for a touchdown, or gain a first down, get more emphasis than those that don't. Brad Johnson in Chilly's "KAO" was infamous for throwing for 4 yards on a 3rd and 7. Sure, he got the completion and some yards out of it, which helped his QB rating and numbers, BUT HE DIDN"T GET THE FREAKING FIRST DOWN!!!!!! Anyway, this stat helps rate which players get the most VALUE PER PLAY. Pretty freaking cool). So TJack's DVOA is -20.9 (meaning he does not add much value to any play he's involved in. Which could be a problem for a quarterback). He also ranked- you guessed it- 26th in the NFL in this stat.

So three different metrics are telling us Tavaris Jackson is at best the 26th best quarterback in the league, and for a team with Super Bowl aspirations this is already 0-2, that's just not good enough. Yet I've wondered out loud, as Kyle says there, whether the problems this season and last were all Jackson, or if the scheme was to blame too. Childress' kick @ss offense has been one of the lowest rated passing offenses whether it was Jackson or Brad Johnson running the show. Chilly's offense made more throws in the 10 yards and less range than anybody else, and therefore much fewer down field. Hey sure you want to minimize risks, but not taking any is as foolish as taking too many, and Chilly just refuses to open things up.

So is Frerotte the answer? Of course not. Like Kyle, I believe Frerotte will now be asked to make the same 5 yard throws on obvious passing downs that Jackson was, and while his results may be a little better because of his veteran grittiness and experience, the offense isn't going to take off until the man with the mustache starts opening things up.

This QB change is a good thing regardless for Vikings fans: if Frerotte really does make a difference, then the playoffs become a possibility. If he doesn't, and nothing changes, then Childress is canned. I've heard rumors that folks are worried Ziggy may have a Glen Taylor-like attachment to Childress. Not a chance. There's no way an NFL head coach misses the playoffs for 3 straight years and keeps his job. Zero. None. So don't worry about that. If the QB change works, then great but if it doesn't then we get somebody else with some more open philosophies in here next year. And we'll know whether the lack of a passing game in Minnesota has been all Tavaris Jackson's fault, or if Childress should shoulder the blame.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Monday Musings

* Do you know why Los Angeles doesn't need an NFL team? Because they already have a professional football team! USC looked so good Saturday night against an overmatched Ohio State team that you almost start believing they could win the NFC West (they would win more games in the NFL this year than the Rams would. Ok that's not really saying much). If you're not reading Jer's Gopher Football blog then you're an idiot, because you're missing out on some great insight and knowledge. He shared one such pearl of wisdom while we were watching the third quarter. As USC's student section broke into the overrated "OH-VER-RATE-ED" chant Jer mused "That's not fair to Ohio State. They're not overrated because they're not a bad football team. It's just that USC is that much better."

So true. Ohio State has a lot of talent, and a lot of guys who will play on Sunday in the coming years. Sure, their QB Todd Boeckman stinks, and without Beanie Wells the Buckeyes couldn't run the ball with their usual success. But do you really think Beanie would have made up the difference in that ball game? Not a chance. The Buckeyes are a really good team, and despite the loss should still finish in the top 20 in the country, but this Trojan squad is for real. They're absolutely loaded absolutely everywhere, and the real shame of it all is that they won't play a quality opponent again until the National Championship game in February or whenever it's pushed back to this year (I am a biased Pac 10 apologist, but there is no defending the Pac 10 today. They were 3-7 on Saturday and other than SC looked just awful. The Mountain West was 4-0 against them! The Mountain West! The Pac 10 is thankfully still not ACC or Big East bad, but it's USC and a bunch of school girls this year. Too bad).'s Stewart Mandel says this Trojans' team compares favorably with the 2004 squad that won the National Title, and it's easy to see the parallels.

* From a look at the action around the rest of the country, I'm not sure anyone else fares much better against SC than Ohio State did. Certainly nobody else has a defense that good, and offensively, who matches up? Maybe Oklahoma or Mizzou, but that's about it. Right now SC looks about two touchdowns better than anybody else.

* I'm going to show you the stat lines for two QB's from Sunday's games:

Player A: 16-25 165 yds 0 TD's 0 INT's
Player B: 14-24 130 yds 0 TD's 0 INT's

Similar numbers, no? Player A is Patriot Matt Cassell, Player B is Tavaris Jackson. Why oh why do I feel SO much more confident about Cassell than I do about Jackson? Jackson's numbers, really, aren't that bad, but you just knew that late in the game there was no way the Vikings were marching down the field with TJack. Not a chance. And sure enough, when the pressure was on and they needed to move the ball, the Vikings went 3-and-out while the Colts got the points they needed to steal a victory in an ugly football game (well Adrian Peterson wasn't ugly. Wow is he good. Imagine what he could do if the opposing defense actually respected the pass? Maybe next year we'll find out). Jackson seemed to get most of his completions on rollouts. I heard Jeff Dubay of KFAN muse that's because it simplifies things for him by cutting the field in half, which gives him less reads. Makes sense, but if it's true, the Vikings are in even more trouble than we thought. Cassell, as you no doubt heard 479574 times this past week, started his first game since HIGH SCHOOL(!!!!) and yet Pats coach Bill Belichek treated him like a starting quarterback. He let him drop back, make reads, and make throws downfield. This definitely was not the same offense Tom Brady ran, and Belichek certainly wasn't going to take many chances, but watching that game, there were no training wheels for Cassell. He had the green light.

TJack, on the other hand, was starting the 16TH GAME OF HIS PRO CAREER! 16! He's been in the league for three years and has started a full season's worth of games and yet we're rolling him out so he only has to read half the field? Why can't he run the offense? Why can't he read a defense and make throws a normal QB should be able to throw? WHY CAN"T HE MAKE THE SAME PLAYS AS A GUY WHO HADN"T STARTED A GAME SINCE FREAKING HIGH SCHOOL?!?!?!? I would love for Jackson to succeed because then it means the Vikings would succeed. But I don't see it happening. I know Trent Dilfer said a couple of weeks ago that an NFL QB needed 40 starts until he really figured things out, but we're almost halfway to that number, and Jackson not only still has training wheels on, he's riding his freaking big wheel! I hope for one of two things from this season: either a) Chilly and Jackson get it together and the Vikes make the playoffs or b) Jackson continues to suck, and therefore the Vikings continue to suck and so Chilly is fired, Jackson is cut, and we get a new coach and QB in here next year who can actually run an offense. Because this is ridiculous.

* When the Colts get to the Super Bowl, are Vikings fans going to be the only ones who remember how close Indy was to starting 0-2? They had no business winning today, but Peyton got his act together (I've never ever seen him running for life before like he was in the first half. That Vikes pass rush was awesome) in the second half, looked like the Peyton of old, and they eeked out a victory in a tough place to play.

* The Vikings are one of 10 teams to start this season 0-2. According to Don Banks' column on Friday, since since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, only 19 teams have climbed out of an 0-2 hole to make the playoffs. That's about one team a year, and the Minnesota is one of three teams this year with any real shot: the other two are Jacksonville and San Diego. Jacksonville and the Vikes are having offensive problems, but for different reasons (the Jags can't throw, the Vikes can't pass), while both D's have not been as good as advertised. San Diego has lost two heartbreakers to two good teams (how about the gigantic cahones on Mike Shannahan of Denver? Going for 2 and the win instead of the extra point and the tie with 24 seconds left? LOVE IT!), and with the third easiest schedule this year (they get to play Oakland and Kansas City twice each), they will definitely have an easier road than Minnesota or Jacksonville. I'm not even going to mention the Vikes next three games since I've been so negative about them already. Let's just say hosting Carolina, then at Tennessee and at New Orleans doesn't inspire confidence this thing is getting turned around. Whoops guess I just mentioned it.

* In case you're wondering of the other seven 0-2 teams are all but one are dead in the water: Detroit, St Louis, Miami, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Kansas City might as well start planning for draft day because their seasons are essentially over. Seattle is a good team who's had a horrible run of luck and cannot stay healthy. IF they can get any of their top 4 wide receivers back by October, they've still got a chance in the horrible, awful, terrible NFC West.

* Guess the Packers knew what they were doing with Aaron Rodgers, eh? 328 and 3 TD's and the Pack could very well be the best team in the NFC. I know it was Detwah they spanked today, but that was still impressive. Why does Green Bay get all the luck with QB's while the Vikes have a revolving door under center?

* Carolina went 2-0 without wide receiver Steve Smith. Look out.

* You know who could win the AFC East? Not New England. Definitely not the New York Bretts. Buffalo. Buffalo could win the AFC East. What were the Vegas odds on that when the season started? Could you even get odds on that happening? I still don't trust QB Trent Edwards but maybe I should (all of you fantasy football players who need a backup QB should pay attention here): in two games he's completed 70% of his passes for 454 yds 2 TD's and no INT's for a QB rating of 107.7. Yep ol' Trent has now started nine games and already seems to have fully grasped an NFL offense. TJack has started 16 and do a simple 3 step drop and find an open receiver. Just thought I'd point that out.

* Did you see the Rams highlights against the Giants? USC could beat the Rams. I'm not even kidding.

* Stupid Fantasy Football Start of the Week:
Last week I sat Michael Turner in favor of Ricky Williams. This week I started Turner even though I was worried about him going against a really good Tampa D. Who should i have started? Darren McFadden and his 164 yds and a TD, that's who. I just can't win.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Welcome to "I Have No F&*%ing Idea" Week

It's week 2 in the NFL, and never in my 20 some years of watching football can I remember a week with so many questions about so many teams, and the answer to so many being: "I have no f&%*ing idea!" It's a good thing gambling isn't legal, because if it were, there'd be a LOT of money lost this weekend. You'd be just as likely to win by putting your picks sheet on a dart board and throwing darts over your shoulder to get the results as you would be by actually picking the games. About the only way we're going to get all of these questions answered is by watching the games, but don't you get the feeling this is like a season of Lost, where they answer a few of the questions every week, then give you like 10 more?

Green Bay (-6) at Detwah
Which are there more of in Detroit: car fires or Lions fans? And are the two things related in any way?
The Pack made a statement on Monday night than in the most wide open of wide open seasons, they're going to be a factor. With the injury to Marques Colston in New Orleans, the door just opened for Green Bay to get home field. Did I see "Ewing Theory" potential in this team? Indeed I did. But like picking the Vikes to NOT make the playoffs without mentioning the suspension to Bryant McKinnie (Kris, for the record, McKinnie IS overrated and overpaid, but he's a helluva lot better than Artis Hicks or something called Chase Johnson), I picked the Pack to have a big year without realizing another key point: the Favre Saga not only motivated the team, but it was the best possible thing for Aaron Rodgers. And my girlfriend, who is a huge Pack fan, was the one to point this out.

If Favre would have just stayed retired, there would have been tons of pressure from Cheeseheads on Aaron Rodgers to be The Next Brett Favre. But thanks to Brett just gun slingin' his way through a retirement decision, the Cheeseheads now love Rodgers, embrace him, and support him more than ever before. It went from a "I'd have Brett Favre's children- prove to me why I should have yours" to "I'd have Brett Favre's children but I'd pretend to be angry about it but now I'd definitely have yours too even though you're not as good looking or don't wear Wranglers". Somehow they like Rodgers better now, at least that's what they're telling themselves.

Oakland at Kansas City (-3.5)
Who would be stupid enough to pick the Raiders as a sleeper?
Ok so here's the one question we DO have an answer to, and that idiot is me. Next time I try to pick the most disfunctional franchise in football to be a breakout team, slap me. Twice. Three times even. Enough until I realize how foolish the idea was. Then slap me again for wasting your time. Thanks. By the way, we might have found the first sporting event that I would rather watch the WNBA instead of...ok no, I'd still rather watch this than the WNBA, but this one really made me think about it.

St Louis at NY Giants (-9)
How are the Giants only favored by 9 points?
Honestly, how? Did Vegas not watch the Rams get torched by the Eagles last week? Do they not know Scott Linehan is their coach? Maybe a better question is will Linehan survive until Thanksgiving?

Indianapolis (+2) at Minnesota
Do you believe the Colts are a good team?
Some folks would ask this question of both teams, but we already know the Vikes are in trouble, and I believe are in danger of starting 1-4 (they host Carolina next week- who will have Steve Smith back, then travel to Tennessee and New Orleans. Good luck with that). But the Colts? Sure Manning didn't play at all in the preseason, and they lost some o-linemen to injury and we have no idea if Marvin Harrison has plunged off the "he's done" cliff, but to lose by 16 to the freaking Bears AT HOME?!?!? It defies explanation. The Vikes are a simliar team to Chicago (horrible QB, no receivers, strong running game, strong run D), so perhaps the outcome will be the same, but there's just no way Indy lays an egg two weeks in a row. Which is probably why they will, but again, what's the catch phrase for the day? You got it- I have no %*^&ing idea! And neither does anybody else.

Tennessee (-1) at Cincinnati
Are either of these teams any good?
The Teetahns have all the looks of the Bears/Ravens model of strong running game and ridiculously good defense, but what about their QB? I think Kerry Collins is an upgrade, but we won't know it until Sunday. And the Bungles? Is Carson Palmer a shell of his former self? Will all of Chad Johnson's shenanigans motivate him or the rest of his team? Do they have a defense? Is Marvin Lewis' house on the market?

New Orleans (-3) at Washington
Will the Saints still pile up the points without Colston? Can Reggie Bush have two good games in a row? Will Jason Campbell ever figure it out? Remember Lavar Arrington? How did he never make it? Why do the Skinnies always wear white at home?

Chicago at Carolina (even)
Hahaha seriously the biggest "I have no %*^&ing idea!" is when Vegas says "pick 'em." If people who get paid to have a clue don't have a clue, then how can anybody else? The Bears and Colts were the two biggest of surprises and now the two biggest question marks heading into week 2. Was the Sunday nighter an abberition or a true indicator of what both teams will do? It just seems unfathomable that any team with Kyle Orton at QB and whose two "leading" receivers last week each had 2 catches- And both were tight ends!!!!- is 16 points better than the Colts on the road. Carolina is another one of those teams that just have so many questions I don't even know where to start. Insert catch phrase of the day.

Buffalo at Jacksonville (even)
see previous paragraph

San Diego at Denver (even)

Atlanta (+3) at Tampa Bay
Of course you'd take the points against Brian Griese, right? RIGHT?
Usually, until you remember the Falcons are starting a rookie QB. And also that it's the Falcons. You're on your own here.

New England (+1) at New York Bretts
Which team is more overhyped? Has there been a more overhyped and overrated "rivalry" than this one?
Not to rain on the parade of all of those fighting for spots on the Jets bandwagon, but just thought I'd point out that to beat Miami last week the Jets needed a hail-mary-throw-it-up-for-grabs-just-wingin-it-gunslingin-having-fun-i-love-football-TD pass from everyone's favorite Wrangler wearin' QB AND a last minute defensive stand to keep Chad Pennington's wounded ducks out of the endzone. Just sayin'. As for the Patriots, well, if you're anything like me you've heard way, way, way, WAY too much about them so I'll spare you, but let's just say they've got a few questions of their own to answer this week.

Miami at Arizona (-4.5)
Is Arizona good enough to win the NFC West?
Maybe a better way of saying it is are they "not bad enough"? You can't make enough jokes about the sad state of the NFC West, but let me just say that of the many reasons I'm glad to be living back in Minnesota, one of them is definitely that I don't have to watch the Seahawks every Sunday. Good gracious.

San Francisco at Seattle (-3)
Which would you rather watch: this game or Chiefs/Raiders?
Kind of like having to choose between gouging your eye out with a stick or jamming a pen into your ear. Jer would probably take option c) which is always death by killer bees.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Cleveland
There's no way Cleveland can win this game, right? RIGHT?
If the Steelers lose this game, then I officially give up. The Browns looked lost on offense last week, while Pittsburgh absolutely steamrolled a better-than-you-think Texans club. This looks to be the only slam dunk of the week, which in this season, probably means it won't be.

Not that there's ever anything good about a hurricane, but if there were, it would be that we get two Monday nighter's this week on two different channels because of it.

Baltimore (+3.5) at Houston
Is this the most obvious pick of the week?
Vegas might not have much confidence in the Ravens, but I certainly do. Still, a ton of factors and questions at work here, not the least of which is the Texans playing for their fanbase which had to endure a hurricane. Don't ever underestimate that one.

Philly (-3) at Dallas
When was the last time the Monday night game was actually the best game of the week?
Seriously, this is the first time in I don't know when. You want questions? Are the Eagles for real? Could Donovan McNabb throw for 300 yards with five Cowboy fans lining up for him at receiver? Did I overpay for DeSean Jackson in my auction league waiver wire this week? Do I care because it was worth it to get him? Are the Cowboys really the NFL's best team? Is there a more annoying celebrity than Jessica Simpson? Well other than Tom Cruise? Or Avril Lavigne? How angry is Terrell Owens that Chad Johnson is a worse receiver yet getting more attention? When does he change his name to Terrell "I Need Me Some Me"? Could it not happen soon enough?

Answers to these questions and more this weekend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muse on Sports News

Sure, "Muse on News" sounds better, but you don't come here for non-sports opinions, so I try to stay away from it.

- You're probably sick of the Vince Young story already, as Vince not only is hurt physically for the next month, but he's also hurt emotionally (Jer pointed me to Donald Miller's blog- he's the author of the book Blue Like Jazz. He posted about Vince Young, which is one of the rare positive and supportive takes I've seen out there. Also, check out his "email exchange" with Barack Obama. Even the conservatives will think it's funny). Just a weird and sad story, with Vince going AWOL for a while and his family being so concerned about his emotional well being that they called the cops. Now Vince says he might retire and doesn't find football fun anymore.

The psych major in me believes Young's strange behavior and statements is because this is the first time in his life he's REALLY had to work at something. Sure, he's always worked hard at football, but until he got to the NFL, it always came easy, and people generally are more willing to work hard at something when it's fun and comes naturally to you. Vince dominated high school, "struggled" a bit while playing as a freshman at one of the most prestigious football factories in America at Texas, and then had a meteoric rise to stardom his next three seasons, where he became one of the greatest college players ever. Even his first NFL season, while his passing numbers were awful, his team still won and he was a big reason why. But since his rookie year, as the NFL always does, they adjust to you and make you find new ways to succeed. Unfortunately for Vince, once the league figured out to take away his running lanes and make him throw, he couldn't adjust. VY is exceptional as a playmaker and scrambler, and that had always been enough for him to succeed, so he never learned to throw as well as he should have. So now he's in the NFL, he's really struggling, and this is how he reacts. This could lead me off on a couple of tangents about how the super-star pampered high school athletes, or how the spread offense in college is killing the quarterback position in the pros, but I'll save those for another day.

- Rick Reilly (it still seems weird to read him at ESPN instead of Sports Illustrated) writes an entertaining article about who he believes the most popular team is in each city that has at least two pro franchises. He leaves quite a few out including the Milwaukee/Green Bay area (the top 10 teams in Wisconsin would be 1-5 Packers 6. Brewers 7. Scony football 8. Scony basketball 9. Marquette basketball 10. Badger hockey. The Milwaukee Bucks would be somewhere in the 130's between LaCrosse track and the Appleton high school swim team), New Orleans (since we're including college, LSU is substantially more popular than the Saints or Hornets), Oakland (while the Warriors fan base might be the most diehard in all of professional sports, I still think the Raiders are the most popular team in Oakland), Memphis/Nashville (the Vols by a country mile. Two country miles even. Another place that should not have professional sports, because really, what's the point?), and San Diego (Ron Burgandy IS the most popular sport in San Diego. If surfing was a category that'd be #2. Otherwise, probably the Chargers over The Fathers).

Of the cities he actually mentioned, he had most of them right, but here were a few I either disagreed with or just had a sarcastic comment to make:

Cleveland (Reilly chose the Browns)- I would say Ohio State is even bigger. I'm not from Ohio, but from everything I've heard and read, nobody is bigger in Cleveland or the rest of the state than the Buckeyes, especially right now.

Detroit (Red Wings)- Not only is this the only city where hockey was listed as #1, I'd venture it's the only American city where hockey is even close to #1. Go ahead, look down that list and tell me where an NHL team would even be in the top 3. You can't find it because it's not there. And don't say the Minnesota Wild either- we'll leave the Twin Cities for last. Anyway, I think Michigan Wolverines football (even despite how bad they'll be this year) is more popular than the Red Wings or Pistons or Tigers. Yep, Detwah IS Hockeytown, but they had empty seats all season, including into the playoffs- and this was the team who eventually won the Cup! Michigan, on the other hand, continually sells out almost 112,000 seats every home game every single season.

Houston- Reilly didn't choose here, and I don't blame him, because I have no idea who the choice would be either. The Rockets? During the Hakeem era, sure, but now? The Astros do well but not that well, and the Texans seem to still be too new to bump the other two. I know Texas A&M is very popular there, as is, of course, the Texas Longhorns, but honestly, I have no idea. Could very well be the Dallas Cowboys. Seriously.

Miami (Dolphins)- Just wanted to send out a hardy congratulations to the "fans" in Miami for winning the title of "Worst Sports Fans in America"!! Really, it's quite an accomplishment to beat out places like Atlanta, Phoenix, and Charlotte. While those places do a horrible job supporting their pro teams (except Phoenix with the Suns), at least they get behind a college program (Georgia football and UNC and Duke basketball). Reilly lists the Dolphins as the most popular team, and I don't disagree with it, but here's why Miami fans are the worst: THEY COULDN'T EVEN SELL OUT THEIR HOME OPENER! Against the New York Bretts even! What the hell is that?!?!? And yet Reilly's right, because they only watch the Heat when they're on a title run, the St Paul Saints get more people out to games than the Marlins do (I'm not even exaggerating), and I won't bother mentioning the Panthers (they get a mulligan because a) everyone but Gary Bettman knows Miami is not a hockey market and b) even if they were, their arena is 40 MILES outside of Miami in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere. Just an awesome job all the way around by Bettman). "The U?" Well the Miami Hurricanes football team, even in the best of times, had trouble selling out games. Congrats Miami, you have the worst fans in America!

New York (Yankees)- Probably the most popular and famous team on the planet, so I don't argue with this, but I will say I think the Knicks are a closer second than most people realize. That really is a basketball town, it's just they've been awful for a decade and won't be good anytime soon. A real shame.

Philadelphia (Phillies)- No way. I want the good and tortured sports fans of Philly to take a vote on this right now, because there is no way I believe a Phillies World Series victory would be more important than an Eagles Super Bowl win. No way. No how.

Seattle (Seahawks)- No city is going through a tougher time in sports than the city of Seattle. The Sonics, who they fully supported for 41 $^Q%&$ING YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, were moved to Oklahoma because the commissioner is an a**hole. The Mariners, once the pride of the city, spent $120 million this year to finish with the second worst record in baseball. It's also their fourth losing season in the last five, and unless they can fire the owners, it's not getting better anytime soon. Husky football, which until this decade had been by far the most popular team, is in shambles (about to start 0-3 after Oklahoma roughs them up this weekend), and the Seahawks, after five straight division titles, look to be in trouble as they're quite literally pulling guys off the street to play receiver. All the latte's and grunge music in the world can't cheer up the folks in the Pacific Northwest right now.

Finally, we have Minneapolis/St Paul. The Vikings are obviously king of this town. When they sign a backup receiver in June it's front-page news. I'm interested in what you think the rest of the order looks like. Here's my take:

2. Twins- if they can find a 3B, a SS, and an owner willing to spend money, they could overtake the Vikes for #1, especially with the new stadium coming soon.

3. Gopher hockey- it's a cult. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

4. Gopher basketball/Wild hockey: I just can't choose. I know the Wild have an incredible sell-out streak going, but read the dailies or turn on sports radio, and you rarely read or hear about the Wild. They're always buried in the sports section. Gopher basketball, despite some big time struggles lately, still has an incredibly passionate and far-reaching fan base.

6. Gopher football
7. St Paul Saints
8. Minnesota Thunder
13. St Cloud St hockey
19. Minnetonka Skippers
101. Ethan and Courtney's rec league hockey team.
220. Minnesota Lynx
221. Minnesota Timberwolves

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

College Questions

Do you have questions about some college football teams heading into the third weekend? Hey me too!

#1 USC: How much do they beat Ohio State by this weekend?
For the record, the Buckeyes were looking past Ohio U last week, and their feeble 26-16 win AT HOME against the Bobcats is not indicitive of their true talent level. They played poorly and now have to listen to the media and bloggers tell them how terrible they are all week long. So I don't doubt Ohio State will be fired up to play USC at the Mausoleum Saturday night: I just don't think it's going to matter much. USC is currently 10.5 point favorites in Vegas, and I think they'll be at least 2 TD's better when the game is over. It's not just that the Trojans are a complete football team, it's that Ohio State has not shown they can pressure the QB enough (just 3 sacks in 2 games so far) to make things tough on Marc Sanchez. We shall see, and I hope it's a great game, but I think the Men of Troy manhandle Ohio State, and blow things wide open in the Big 10 (obviously this isn't a conference game, but starting Sunday you'll hear a LOT of talk about how Penn State and Wisconsin are as good or better than the Buckeyes).

# 2 Georgia: Will QB Matt Stafford be the #1 pick in April's NFL draft?
Not a lot of questions about Georgia's team right now, none that will get answered against an overrated South Carolina team anyway. So with the dearth of awful quarterbacking in the league right now, as well as zero quality senior QB's in college AND whispers that Florida's Tim Tebow might want to return for his senior season, Stafford has been handed the #1 QB spot on a platter. While he's never going to get the opportunity to throw as much as say Sam Bradford at Oklahoma or Sanchez at SC, Stafford just needs to be make plays when he has to and win some big games. Hey, it worked for Jamarcus Russell at LSU a few years ago, so there's no reason to think Stafford can't do the same.

#4 Florida: Just what do the Gators have to do to find a running back?
Yes they handled Miami 26-3, but the offense looked less than stellar, and in bad news for Gator fans, it looks like Tebow could once again be the team's best running back. Their second leading rusher? Receiver Percy Harvin. Sure, Heisman Tim is built like a defensive end, but all that pounding is to going to make an injury much more likely, and another shot at a national championship that much less. If the Gators want to play for the title or a BCS bowl, they can't have their QB and best WR lead the team in rushing.

#5 Ohio State: Were the Buckeyes hiding Terrelle Pryor last week?
Yep, they were. While I don't have evidence of this, I believe the Buckeyes have big plans for their much-hyped freshman QB. After lighting up poor Youngstown State in their first game, Pryor was 0-2 passing with just 5 carries for 37 yards. Seems fishy to me that a kid as good as Pryor is who can cause the matchup problems he does would be used so little. My conclusion is even the Ohio State coaches were on cruise control in their close call against Ohio, wanting to show USC as little as possible knowing the Trojans had two weeks off to prepare for the game. Look for Pryor to be a big part of the Bucks' plans, especially since starter Todd Boeckman has been awful against good teams dating back to last year (the NCAA uses a different QB rating system than the NFL. In the NFL, a 75-80 rating is ok. In college, it's not. In the last four games of the season, Ohio State played Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and then LSU in the title game. Boeckman was solid against Bucky Badger throwing for just 166 yds and 2 TD's for a QB rating of 101.2 But in his last three games he had ratings of 37.9, 30.9, and 77.1. Ouch. Doesn't inspire much confidence, and only gives more credence for unleashing Pryor on USC this Saturday).

#3 Oklahoma #6 Mizuruh #8 Texas: What in the name of the triple option is going on in the Big 12?
Not so long ago, the Big 12 (and dating back to the days of the Big 8 and Southwest Conference) teams in the southwest were known for running the football, running the football, and running the football. The Sooners, Longhorns and Huskers dominated the landscape running the ball at any and all times. Well with the spread of The Spread, it's not just the little guys throwing the football anymore. Oklahoma, Mizuruh and Texas are three legit national title contenders, and all three are just killing people through the air. Just last Saturday Bradford threw for 395 yds and 5 TD's, Chase Daniel put up 245 and 3 (on 16 of 17 passing!!!), and Colt McCoy, who is putting up the kind of numbers Horns fans expected of him last year, merely threw for 282 yds and 4 scores. You know, no big deal. The times, they are a changin', and for these three, it looks to be for the better.

#10 Wisconsin #17 Penn State: Fine I'll ask: Is one of these teams the best in the Big 10 this year?
Too soon to tell. A cop out answer? Probably, but neither side has been truly tested. We can say that both have been very impressive thus far, and Scony at least has a chance to prove something as they travel to #21 Fresno State this weekend. My biggest question for them is can they throw enough to win? Playing 2 cupcakes so far Bucky has rolled for 562 yds rushing and 10 TD's at 5.5 yards per carry (The Wisconsin Winnebago PJ Hill has racked up 267 and 4 all by himself) while throwing for just 404 yards and two touchdowns. I'm not advocating for the Badgers to go four wide and throw all day, but against good teams, like Fresno State this Saturday, and teams in the Big 10, they're not going to be able to just lineup and run all day. Or will they? QB Allen Evridge (who's been very efficient so far) doesn't have to put up Big 12 passing numbers, but just has to make plays when needed to keep eight or nine guys from loading up at the line of scrimmage.

Penn State, on the other hand, has made a switch to what they call The Spread HD: well so far so good. They've destroyed 1-AA Coastal Carolina and the vastly overrated Oregon State Beavers in their first two games, and while they're not as pass-heavy as the aforementioned Big 12 teams, they're getting an offensive balance with QB Daryll Clark that they haven't had since Michael Robinson was lining up under center. We won't find out much more about the Nittany Lions in the next two weeks as they face two of the worst 1-A teams in the land in Syracuse and Temple, but when they host Illinois in prime time Sept 27th, we should have a lot to talk about.

Darth Vader vs. Lord Sauron: Which Most Hated Program is in worse shape?
Tune into NBC this Saturday to find out!! Probably not the headline The Notre Dame Network had hoped for as Michigan visits the Irish, but about the only reason to tune into this one is for the car crash turkey-necking appeal. 1-0 Notre Dame and the um, "smug" Charlie Weis (there's a much more descriptive and accurate word that rhymes with bassbowl that I can't use on a family site such as this) square off against 1-1 Michigan and their new head coach Rich Rodriguez. Both teams were lucky to get the victories they did last week, and the winner in this one will be a "Common Man Dan Cole" Special: the best of the lousiest and the lousiest of the best. The Wolverines do not have a quarterback to run Rodriguez's spread system and rank 117 in total offense. The Irish have Uber recruit Jimmy Clausen as the perfect QB to run Weis' "genius" system, and yet Notre Dame is 83rd in total offense and just 60th passing. Defensively, they're not very good either. This won't be much of a game, and I'm not sad I'll miss it, but it's still compelling in a "watching a train wreck" sort of way. Who wins? Everybody who hates these two schools.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Monday Musings

...Are you ready to live in a world where the Chicago Bears are two touchdowns better than the Indianapolis Colts? ON THE ROAD? For me, there were very few surprises yesterday (the Falcons running all over the Lions was certainly one of them), but this one was a shocker. Are the Colts worse than we thought? The Bears are certainly better, but when I had them pegged for the league's worst record, and most others thought they would be last in the NFC, there was nowhere to go but up. I'm still not sure how the Bears kept getting first downs when you know Kyle Orton cannot and will not beat you, especially when the Colts have Bob Sanders, one of the best run defenders and difference-maker safeties in the league. Offensively, Colts weren't bad, they just couldn't score, or run the football. Still a LONG way to go here, but interesting to see whether this was just a blip for the Colts or a sign of things to come.

...Are you ready to live in a world where the New England Patriots are mere mortals? Tom Brady's really done for the year, the Patriots, at least to me, become average at best. Yes they have offensive talent around new QB Matt Cassell, but Brady is what made that offense go. And defensively, they're good but not great. Cassell, as I'm sure you've already seen or read, hasn't started a football game since high school (he got stuck behind both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC), so thinking the 7th round pick can lead the Pats back to the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl, is a stretch right now.

...If Brady really is done, this season will be very wide open. With the performances Sunday of the Colts, Chargers, and Jags, we may not have a dominant team in the AFC (well ok maybe the Steelers. Maybe. And yes the Texans team they routed 38-17 was the same one I picked to make the playoffs. I may regret that one). Some people may be excited for a playoff race where every team's in it until week 17 and the best record is 10 wins, but I am not one of those people.

...Seriously, who are the five best teams right now? In his weekly MMQB column, Peter King has Dallas, Pittsburgh, The GMen, Jacksonville and Philly as his top 5. I predicted Dallas to have the NFC's best record, and after watching them manhandle Cleveland, I feel confident with that one (also the Marion Barber/Felix Jones combo is downright scary). With Brady's injury they now have the league's best offense, and the defense should be good enough. Pittsburgh would also be my #2, but after that? Really who is there from yesterday? Philly beat a crappy Rams squad, Jacksonville LOST to Tennessee (who could be without Vince Young for four weeks. Don't tell fans of the Black Brett Favre, but that's a good thing for the Teetahns), and the Giants looked ok against a Redskins team that I have no idea about right now (and anybody who says they have a good read on the Skinnies is lying. Did you watch their Thursday nighter? They could win 10 games, or 4. Neither would surprise me). Because I'm so bullish on the Saints, I'm going to keep banging you over the head with the idea that they're good, and considering they beat a good Tampa team with Drew Brees throwing for 343 on a really good defense, you should start believing me. Just trust me, start singing the praises of the Saints now, and you'll look like a genius around the office in no time. And you can pretend like it's your idea.

...I suppose when I ask you who the top 5 teams are that I should give you a top 5, but I can really only come up with 3: Dallas, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. Philly would be fourth. I have absolutely no idea who the fifth team would be. Just for fun, let's put Atlanta.

...You know it's fall when the air gets cooler, the leaves start changing colors, and the Detroit Lions get blown out in their opener. This was season #58 and counting where there were some rumblings in the media to "watch out, this could be the year for Detroit!" And right on cue, the Lions stunk. It's good to know that 50 years from now I might finally have an HDTV, Detwah will suck, and Brett Favre will still be retiring and unretiring.

...I've already read one article talking about "trying to bringing Pats fans back from the ledge." Gee you're right. I mean, they've been through so much! Besides the Super Bowl loss which, as a Vikings fan I'm plenty used to, not to mention their 2 previous Super Bowl victories, this just has to be hard for the Patriots. Can't they catch a break here? They can't even turn to their beloved Red Sox, who will probably ONLY be a wild card before going onto win the World Series. Let's all take a moment and remember our poor Boston sports fans. With your support, hopefully we can pull them through.

...You know what's a hard decision? Choosing your fantasy football lineup every week. I know, I know, nobody wants to hear about my fantasy football team, just like I don't want to hear about yours. But seriously, you want to hear about this because yesterday, right before leaving for church, I decided I wasn't confident starting Michael Turner of the Falcons against Detwah. Why? Um...there's a reason there somewhere. I ended up thinking Ricky Williams would be a better idea. I swear to you I am not and have not been smoking any of Ricky's herbal medicinal stimulants. So I made the switch, only to be sitting at Keyes downtown with Kristy watching Turner destroy the Lions while Ricky kept running in the line of scrimmage.

...You know what's not a hard decision? Choosing what I'm going to eat when I go to Chipotle. Like Sunday, and each and every time I go to Chipotle, I ended up having to choose between a chicken burrito, a chicken burrito, or maybe, just maybe, a chicken burrito. And you know what? I chose a chicken burrito. And it was everything I hoped it would be.

...Actually that's not true. There was something severely lacking in my chicken burrito: Chipotle flavored tabasco sauce. When I'm getting a burrito to go, I do not like to unwrap my burrito to put the chipotle tobasco goodness in it because I'm not a burrito-folding professional (I know, you're surprised by that. Well I'm sorry, I'm not.) so I can never get the damn thing folded back into the tinfoil right. I realized after tonight that's just a silly excuse, because it's just not the same without the tobasco sauce. So I'm either going to have to get better at refolding them, or else just start keeping a bottle of the chipotle tobasco in my car. You're right, I should do both just to make sure I never have to eat a chipotle burrito again with that chipotle tobasco sauce.

...I can't even rationally talk about the Vikings game tonight. While I hate the Packers, I'm very worried that the Pack are indeed the fifth best team in the league. If the Falcons and Ravens can win in week 1 with rookie QB's, it's not out of the question for the Packers to win, and keep winning, while Aaron Rodgers figures things out. Let's hope I'm wrong, let's hope Rodgers is awful and the Vikes defense wreaks havoc, and Tavaris Jackson completes a couple of passes not only to the right team, but further than five yards down field. Preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best: welcome to the Minnesota Vikings 2008!

Friday, September 05, 2008

I Hate Preseason: College Preseason, That Is

I've heard plenty of complaints about the NFL preseason being too long, which it absolutely is. Four games is two too many, especially if you're a fan paying full price for the two home games. But what about college? This whole 12th game thing stinks, because nobody is using that 12th game to play anybody good. Everyone in the Top 25, with perhaps the exception of the Pac 10 (the only BCS conference who sacrificed a cupcake game to add a ninth conference game so they could have a true Pac 10 Champ. Also, nobody schedules tougher- more of necessity but still- than the Pac 10. But I digress), uses it to pay a 1-AA school to come get the crap kicked out of them so the Top 25 school can make more money- and charge their fans full price (or if you're Florida State you do this twice!!!). Jer and I use to ride Glen Mason for his ridiculous "Guaranteed 4-0" non-conference schedule, and now not only is new Gopher coach Tim Brewster doing it (I'm well aware that Bowling Green and Florida Atlantic could go bowling this year, but it's still Bowling Green and Florida Atlantic), but so is the rest of the country

(This has apparently also spread from Gopher football to basketball. Have you SEEN Tubby Smith's new schedule? What, was Edina Elementary's 7th grade team busy? What about all the D3 schools in Minnesota? I don't usually agree with Reusse, but he's bang on here. Welcome to the new era of hollow bowl and NCAA tourney appearances. And we get to pay more than ever for it!!!)

In the first five weeks of this season, do you know how many non-conference Top 25 matchups there are? Two in week 1 (#24Alabama 34 #9Clemson 10 & #6Mizzuruh 52 #20Illinois 42), ZERO THIS WEEK, two in week 3 (the Game of the Year with USC & Ohio State, and also a colossal matchup of USF and Kansas), one in week 4 (Georgia will slaughter Arizona State), and ZERO again in week 5. Let me double check my math here, but I believe that's a grand total of FIVE games in five weeks, and I'd say only two of them (USC/Ohio St and Bama/Clemson) are games I'd even make a point of watching. That's ridiculous.

Everybody wants six wins to go bowling, even if it's just to crappy bowls. There's never been more pressure and more money at stake for coaches and administrations to win, and so they're watering down the system as much as possible. I wish I had some eloquent response to this, but all I can say is that as a college football fan, that sucks. I don't know what the answer is to force teams to schedule tougher, but we need to come up with something. I've always said that college football is to America as hockey is to Canada: it's virtually impossible to kill those sports in those countries, and the people running them know it. The NHL has never, EVER been as poorly run as it is now, and it's never openly ignored the Canadian fan base more than today. And of course, the game has never been more popular in Canada.

Same with college football. No playoff system (and for the record, all I'm asking is for a Final Four. Anything more than that takes too much meaning away from the regular season), cupcake nonconferences, and higher ticket prices than ever. And of course, the game has never been more popular in America. I'm one of those sheep. For all of this complaining, will I be making every effort to watch some college football this weekend? Yes I will.


Some other less depressing/whiny random college football thoughts...

...While I hate the SEC's non-conference scheduling, that league is head and shoulders better than everybody else right now. Hell, I think they're tougher than the NFC West at this point! Ok, ok, cheap shot, most high school conferences are tougher than the NFC West. The real question is this: is the gap bigger between the SEC and everybody else as the best conference, or the ACC and the other BCS conferences as the worst? While I will give you more proof than this, this is really all you need to know: Wake Forest is the ACC's best team this year. Let me say that again: WAKE FOREST is the best team in the ACC. I rest my case. Ok fine, here's more: Last week, ACC schools were just 2-4 in games against real schools (aka non 1-AA foes), and one of those wins- Wake over Baylor- shouldn't count because Baylor generally fields a 1-AA quality team.'s Bruce Feldman thinks not only is the ACC the worst BCS conference, it might be worse than the Mountain West! While that's overstating things, it's closer than you might think: true the ACC is deeper in the middle (they have five schools outside the Top 25 getting votes in the polls to the MWC's one), but both have just two ranked teams, and personally I'd rather have the MWC's (BYU and Utah) than the ACC's (Wake and Clemson- who are probably still chaffing from the gigantic deuce they took at midfield of the Georgia Dome last week. How in the name of the beard of Zeus do they stink that badly in a game that big? Oh right, Tommy Bowden is their coach). No matter, be glad you're don't have to watch the ACC this year.

...Sure we're only a week in, but it's never too early to see which coach should start updating the ol' resume:
Dave Wannstedt, Pittburgh- Wanny is a pupil of the Glen Mason School of Scheduling: Start the season with four or five wins against crappy schools, get your fans' hopes up heading into the meat of your schedule- and then lose all the games that count. When he took over the team from Walt Harris in 2004 (whom I'm betting is regretting his move to Stanford), the Panthers had finished ranked #21, and had played in the Fiesta Bowl. Since then, Wannstedt's teams went 5-6 in 2005, 6-6 in 2006 (no bowl game), and 5-7 last year (you guessed it, no bowl games). This year was going to be the year! The Panthers were even ranked to start the season and Wanny and his boys responded...with a loss to Bowling Green. Thanks for coming out, Dave!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I Am Losing My Freaking Mind

So remember a couple of weeks ago when I picked the Chargers to make the playoffs, and then a week later had to switch because I finally remembered that Norv Turner was their coach (admit it, with the Merriman injury- he is NOT playing the whole season or anywhere close to 100% with a knee that damaged- that pick is looking better and better) I had to change it? Well I've had another football brain fart, although this time it doesn't mean I have to change my picks. In making my NFC predictions, I thought the Vikes were overhyped and Tavaris Jackson and the inexperienced receivers AND the tough schedule would be too much to overcome. Well all of that is fine and good but please answer me this...HOW THE HELL DID I FORGET THAT BRYANT MCKINNIE IS SUSPENDED FOR THE FIRST FOUR GAMES?!?!?!? Goodness gracious I shouldn't be allowed to drive a car or operate heavy machinery. I could hurt myself brushing my teeth at this point!!! Seriously, how did I miss the Vikings being without their starting left tackle for one quarter of the season? If ever there was a reason to NOT pick the Vikings to make the playoffs, it would be that one, and yet I went and found others. Oh well, in spite of my stupidity I somehow look smarter for it.

Speaking of which, things I'm feeling good about as the season starts on tonight (it should start on Sunday and we should have one freaking Monday nighter, but I guess beggers can't be choosers)...

...The Sports Guy had Aaron Schatz author/creator of Football Outsiders on his podcast yesterday (for the uninitiated it's like sabermetrics for football. They're finding new, creative, and more logical statistical ways to examine and predict the game), and he liked some of the same teams I did- although he had a lot better, statistically backed reasons for doing so. Baltimore, Green Bay and Houston were all teams we both think are going to the playoffs, which makes me feel even better about it.

...I'm not feeling as good about the Ravens pick heading into the season now that rookie Joe Flacco is the starting QB because Troy Smith missed time with injury. While the defense should be dominant, they need Smith back, healthy, and functional to make the playoffs.

...Further proof that I'm an idiot is that the one guy I wanted in both of my fantasy football drafts was Calvin Johnson of the Lions, so of course I let him go in both of them. While I am man-crushing on the 6'5 239 pound Megatron, he could have an absolutely monster year.

...My other pick I'm loving more and more is Arizona to win the NFC West now that Kurt Warner is the QB. Statistically (ie for fantasy purposes) he'll be a top 10 QB all year- and yes I actually got him both leagues. Matt Leinart? Like you I'm wondering what the hell happened to him. Pete Carroll said on the Dan Patrick Show last week that he believes Leinart is struggling because he's never had to be the backup, or not "be the guy." This is an interesting point, until you remember Leinart didn't play until he was a redshirt sophomore, meaning he actually was NOT "the guy" for his first two seasons there. Anyway, I have a much longer post coming at some point on young QB's and how we're messing them up in the NFL, but while I believe the Cards' best chance to win this year is definitely with Kurt Warner, I certainly wouldn't give up on Leinart's career yet.

...Ok let's recap the playoff picks, give the Super Bowl winner and other stuff, and then we'll get you on your way:
Playoff Teams (* denotes 1st rd bye)
NFC: New Orleans*, Dallas*, Green Bay, Arizona
Wild cards: Philly and Warshington

AFC: New England*, Pittsburgh*, Indy, Denver
Wild cards: Baltimore and Houston

NFC Championship game: New Orleans over Dallas
AFC Championship game: New England over Indy

Super Bowl: New England over New Orleans

MVP: Tom Brady, Pats
Offensive POY: Drew Brees, New Orleans
Defensive POY: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys
Offensive Rookie: Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders
Defensive Rookie: Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots
Coach of the Year: Sean Payton, Saints

Worst Record: Bears
Most Disappointing Team: New York Football Giants
Close Second: Minnesota Vikings
Most Disappointing Player: Brett Favre (he's 39, people!!!)
Close second: Reggie Bush, Saints
Breakout Player: Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos
Close second: Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
First Coach Fired: Mike Nolan, Niners
Finally Hangin 'Em Up: Brett Favre...until he returns...then wait then he really wants to come back...then he doesn't...until he suddenly-well you get the idea.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Sky is NOT Falling

If you've read this blog at all in the past year, you know two things: 1) I need to update it a little more and 2) I'm not a fan of parity. Like at all. And especially when it comes to college football. Last year, with upsets galore and a two loss team playing for the National Championship, while others were loving the "everybody finally has a chance!!" thing, I was thinking it was more of "it's the end of the world as we know it" kind of thing. Say what you want about pro sports, but parity is not good for college football. The Big Boys need to be the Big Boys, and the rest of the college football world needs to step up to win a conference title, rather than having everyone else brought back to the pack.

Again, if you've read me at all, you already know all of this. So I was relieved to see week 1 of the college football season play out as it did, with some blowouts, some upsets, and some overall great games. But more than anything, week one told us that this season, we're going back to normal: we're going to have some surprises and some cinderellas, but we're also going to have some dominant teams and quite possibly two undefeateds playing for the National Title. Here's what we learned and saw from week one:

The Big Boys are Back!!!
Coming into the season, there were a consensus top five old-school power houses that looked to be clearly better than everybody else, and after the first week, that belief held true. While USC was the only one of the five to play on the road against a real school (Virginia WILL go bowling this year!), the top five teams (along with the Men of Troy, #1 Georgia, #2 Ohio State, #4 Oklahoma and #5 Florida) beat their opponents 253-40, for an average score of 51-8. All five destroyed the competition, and looked good doing it (although if Beanie Wells of Ohio State is out for any length of time, the Buckeyes go from Great to Good).

My belief that USC is the best team in the country was also solidified. I know people outside of LA, and especially outside of the PAC 10, are as sick of USC as everybody else is of THE Ohio State, but the Trojans are the real deal, folks. What's more, their defense is now the headliner instead of the offense. QB Mark Sanchez and the rest of the collection of high school All-Americans will be plenty potent (they did put up 558 yards of total offense), the defense has the potential to be one of the best of this decade. In two weeks the Trojans will wallop the Buckeyes in prime time- with or without Beanie Wells.

An Upset that Wasn't An Upset
Utah 25 Michigan 23
More hated than Ohio State or USC could be the Michigan Wolverines. The winningest program of all-time fell on "hard times" (anything in brackets is considered such for Michigan- but the reason they're hated is that such "hardships" would be gladly taken by about 105 other D-1 programs) last year with a shocking loss to Appalachian State at the Big House, leading to a "disappointing" season and the ousting of head coach Lloyd Carr. New coach Rich Rodriguez brought in a new system, which smart people knew would take some time to work, considering he doesn't have a QB on the roster capable of running it (further salt in the wound for the Maize and Blue was seeing uber-spread QB recruit Terrelle Pryor run for 52 yards and a score and complete 4 of 6 six passes for 35 more in the Buckeye win. Think he would have helped Michigan a wee bit?). All of this is to say that Utah's 25-23 victory over the Wolverines was just that- a win, NOT an upset. The Wolverines were only favored by three points, and if Michigan wasn't Michigan, they wouldn't have been favored at all. The Wolverines will be lucky to go bowling this year, while Utah could be very well be BCS-Busters. If you hate Michigan, this is the year for you.

Upsets that Were Actually Upsets...or were They?
#24 Alabama 34 #9 Clemson 10
If USC had the biggest statement game in week one, then Alabama was a close second. Nick Saban might be closer to bringing the Tide back to glory than we thought, as Bama rolled right over poor Tommy Bowden and Clemson. The Tide's D held Clemson's supposedly vaunted rushing attack (backs James Davis and CJ Spiller were supposed to be the nation's best combo) to zero yards rushing (Davis and Spiller combined for 20 yards on 8 carries. Be glad you're not Tommy Bowden right now), while Bama's offense, which was starting a lot of youngsters at the skill positions around senior QB John Parker Wilson, exploded for 239 rushing and 180 passing. While there's still a LONG way to go this season, including a usually-brutal SEC schedule, Alabama could win the West division this season and play for the conference title. Say all the negative things you want about Saban (and deservedly so), but the man can coach AND recruit.

UCLA 27 #18 Tennessee 24 OT
I was driving back from Milwaukee last night, so I did not see a single down of this one, which for the first three quarters was probably a good thing. Nothing like a nationally-televised snoozer for the folks at ABC...well at least until the fourth quarter. Suddenly the Bruins found a QB, both offenses found a life, and we had an exciting finish with the Bruins upsetting the Vols at the Rose Bowl. From what I had seen, heard, and read from pundits and experts alike, UCLA was supposed to be lucky to win five games this season. Probably time to change that thinking. The Bruins D was impressive, and if Craft can continue to run the offense like he did in the second half (193 yards and a TD) instead of the first (4 picks!!), the Bruins will be right in the mix for Distant Second in the Pac 10.

East Carolina 27 #17 Virginia Tech 22
This was the upset pick of the week for just about everybody, so it wasn't real surprising to see it come true. I have no idea if the Pirates will be any good this year, but I do know it's going to be a Loooooonnnnggggg year for Virginia Tech. Hell, it's going to be a long year for anybody who has to watch the ACC: In games against real teams (aka NOT 1-AA) this past week, the conference went 2-4 (and Wake Forest's win shouldn't count since Baylor fields a 1-AA level team every year). As for the other two "upsets" I think both Alabama and UCLA will finish higher in the polls at the end of the year than the teams they beat.