"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NFL Season Checkup

  

AFC East: It's almost impossible to see anyone other than the Patriots winning this division. Past history would suggest they'll find a way to get it done. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the best team that could challenge them, the Jets, are an absolute mess. The Tebow experiment has been a distraction at best and a disaster at worst. The Dolphins are a good story, but even a wildcard berth will be a great accomplishment given their competition for that spot.

AFC North: As usual, this division will come down to the Steelers and the Ravens. They're separated by a game at this point with the Ravens in the lead, but I agree with Colin Cowherd that the Steelers are poised to make a run. They are getting healthy and based on their play against the Redskins, rounding into form. Interestingly enough, the Ravens host the Steelers for their final meeting of the season on December 2 with the winner probably gaining an edge in the division race. I think both teams make the playoffs, but I'm not ready to pick a winner yet.

AFC South: The Houston Texans are the class of the division and shouldn't really be challenged for the title. Their goal is a bit loftier, looking for home field throughout the playoffs. With their balanced offense, tenacious defense and weak division, they have a great shot at it. The real surprise is how the Colts have come together under rookie Andrew Luck. Making the playoffs in his rookie season and with head coach Chuck Pagano sidelined during cancer treatments would be the feel good story of the season.

AFC West: Are you kidding me? The Chargers managed just 6 points against the Browns? If Norv Turner is coaching this team next season, then San Diego's management is simply delusional. As far as the division goes, Manning is just now starting to get that offense cranked up. The Broncos are true Super Bowl contenders, so the rest of the West can just get out of the way. Of course, the Chargers could get hot near the end of the season, but only to challenge for a wildcard spot.

NFC East: The Giants have kept the momentum from their Super Bowl victory and looked poised to contend once again. I don't think the Falcons can continue winning, the Bears and Packers have to contend with each other and the rest of the East is a mess, so the Giants have a real shot at home field advantage, whether they want it or not. I believe the Redskins are a year away from contending, but when they get it together, watch out. As far as the Cowboys go, Jerry Jones needs to get a football guy in there and get out of the way. He's proven that he can't put a team together under in the salary cap era and he needs to clean house on the coaching staff. This team has too much talent to be struggling to make the playoffs year in and year out. And then there's the under-performing Eagles, with or without Vick at quarterback, who just can't seem to get this group to win games convincingly and consistently.

NFC North: This is one tough division, but the Bears and Packers are once again moving to the top. The Lions just can't seem to put it all together, but I could see both wildcards coming from this division, especially if Minnesota has reached its peak and slips the rest of the season. I like the Bears with that combination of run and pass, offense and defense. Very balanced and very dangerous at the same time.

NFC South: Atlanta will roll here, but not because they are especially strong. The Saints are an absolute mess, but that's no surprise given the off season issues and lack of a true head coach. It had to be embarrassing for Saints fans to watch Manning carve them up like he did Sunday night. This is definitely the weakest division in football, and the beneficiary is Atlanta.

NFC West: Obviously, the class of the division is San Francisco. I think Seattle can really make a run to challenge for the second wildcard, but they have been a bit inconsistent on offense. Arizona, with Kolb out at quarterback, looks pretty terrible with Skelton leading the way. The Rams are going to need another year under Fisher to contend.

Monday, October 29, 2012

College Football Pick Recap


A Non-BCS Conference We Should Be Paying Attention To: Kent St. knocked off Rutgers on Saturday. Enough said about my earlier assessment of the Mid-American Conference.

Big Weekend for the Top Ten:

Oregon 100 Colorado 10: I admit that's far fetched  and the Ducks would never run it up that high, but they could easily score 35 in the first quarter against a very bad Buffaloes squad. Whatever Oregon wants to score in this one, they will. - It wasn't 100, but it probably could have been. 1 win - 0 losses on the week.

Oregon St. 31 Washington 24: Colin Cowherd picked the Huskies in this one, but I have to disagree. Washington beat Stanford, but the Beavers are better. It might be close, but I'll stick with Oregon State. - Okay, this one goes to Colin. It definitely takes the Beavers out of national championship contention. 1 - 1.

Alabama 27 Mississippi St. 13: I would like to think the Crimson Tide is vulnerable with the LSU game looming next week, but the Bulldogs haven't beaten anyone of any consequence and they won't this week. Alabama doesn't turn the ball over, and until they do, forget about beating them. They're just too good on both sides of the ball and Mississippi State isn't great on either side. - As expected, the Crimson Tide was never really challenged. The big question is who, other than Oregon or Kansas State, can give Alabama trouble on both sides of the ball. 2 - 1.

Florida 24 Georgia 17: I just think the Gators have too much for Georgia. The atmosphere in this game can be distracting, but at the end of the day it's done on the field. I don't count the Bulldogs out, but the Florida defense is just too good. - Who would have thought the Gators would turn it over 6 times? It's virtually impossible to win a game against a quality opponent with that many turnovers. I still think if you play this game 10 times, Florida wins 7 of them. 2 -2.

Arizona 30 USC 28: This one just smells like an upset to me. Granted, my nose is off pretty frequently, but I like the Wildcats in this one. The Pac 12 is wide open once you get past Oregon and Arizona can light it up. - I picked a number of upsets and this is about the only one that came through. USC pretty much gave this one to the Wildcats, but I'll take the correct pick. 3 -2.

Kansas St. 38 Texas Tech 24: Both of these teams dismantled West Virginia, but K-State did it on the road in a very hostile environment. I just think the Wildcats have too much defense for Texas Tech, but don't count Tommy Tubberville out. He coached a lot of big games in the SEC and knows how to prepare a team for a tough test on the road. - I'm not sure which team this says more about. My feeling is it just solidifies K-State's standing. They're the real deal and should be in the conversation for the BCS title game. 4 - 2.

Oklahoma 27 Notre Dame 17: I just don't see Notre Dame having enough offense to win this one in Norman. If the game was in South Bend, I might have gone the other way based on the Fighting Irish's performances this season. This is a must watch, because if Notre Dame wins, it will hard to keep them out of the BCS title conversation. - I wasn't alone on this one, but I have to admit that I'm now a believer in the Irish. That was a terrific performance and with USC's loss, I really don't see Notre Dame losing. The question is how many undefeateds will there be? It's usually less than you think at this point in the season. 4 -3 .

Ohio St. at Penn St.: No pick here. Both teams are on probation. - And they still are.

The rest of the Top 25 Isn't So Bad, Either:

Rutgers 28 Kent St. 24: Man, did I ever want to go the other direction on this one, but Rutgers' performance last week at Temple convinced me to stay the course with the Scarlet Knights. At some point, an undefeated Big East team is going to need to be recognized in the polls. - Well, it won't be Rutgers. As mentioned above, the MAC needs to start getting some attention. 4 - 4.

Louisville 28 Cincinnati 27: Before last week I probably would have gone with the Bearcats in this one, but I'll give the Cardinals the home field edge tonight. The winner grabs an advantage in the Big East race. - This game went to overtime and will probably prove the difference in Louisville securing the conference title. 5 - 4.

South Carolina 24 Tennessee 20: If the Gamecocks are going to be vulnerable to an upset, this week would be the time. South Carolina was beaten soundly last week by Florida, but didn't give up many yards. The problem was turnovers. I'm thinking they'll either come out flat or just the opposite, after having to an endure a week of tirades from a very displeased Steve Spurrier. I don't think Tennessee has enough for the Gamecocks if South Carolina comes ready to play. Otherwise, watch out for the Vols in this one. - That injury to Ellington has to be one of the most severe I've seen since Joe Theisman's broken leg on Monday Night Football in 1986. The Gamecocks hung on to win, but they won't be the same team going forward. 6 - 4.

Florida State 38 Duke 17: As much as I respect the effort it has taken for the Blue Devils to become bowl eligible for the first time since Bill Clinton's first term as president, it's a good thing the they are because their remaining schedule is brutal. The Seminoles are at home and are still battling for significant national recognition. Florida State is just a late touchdown by NC State from being ranked third or fourth in the polls.  I agree with Lee Corso of ESPN on this one: "No chance" for Duke. - No surprise here. Duke will have trouble winning another game. 7 - 4.

Nebraska 27 Michigan 20: I'm just not a buyer of the Wolverines. I also want them out of the polls because I don't think they belong, so I'm selfishly picking the 'Huskers at home. The atmosphere will be terrific in Lincoln and I think Nebraska will rise to the challenge. - Finally a game to knock the Wolverines out of the top 25. 8 - 4.

Wisconsin 20 Michigan St. 14: B-O-R-I-N-G Michigan State lost last week to Michigan 12 - 10. Really? This is 2012. In the Big Twelve and the Pac Twelve they start the games with more points than that. Wisconsin is hanging around the top 25, but like Michigan, it's probably undeserved. Can you tell I'm not much of a Big 10 fan? - My winner may not have been correct, but the boring tag held up. Come on, 16 - 13 in overtime? 8 - 5.

Other Games of Interest (At Least to Someone):

Pittsburgh 30 Temple 21: The Panthers are getting better and they are pretty tough at home. Temple has shown some improvement too, but I'll stick with Pitt. - Pittsburgh probably won't win the Big East, but they may be a factor in who does. 9 - 5.

Arizona St. 31 UCLA 27: UCLA started out like they would be a serious contender in the Pac 12, but in recent weeks their weaknesses have been exposed. The Sun Devils got behind Oregon early, but this one should be different. - This one went down to the wire. Typical Pac 12, no defense game. 9 - 6.

Oklahoma St 38 TCU 31: Last team with the ball wins this one in Stillwater. It could even be in overtime. - The Cowboys didn't need overtime to take care of TCU. 10 - 6.

BYU 27 Ga. Tech 24: Even though this game is in Atlanta, I don't have a lot of confidence in the Yellow Jackets. The ACC is weak and BYU has been tested against some very good teams. - I'm an ACC fan, but you have to admit, it is one very weak league this year. 11 - 6.

NC State 28 North Carolina 24: The Wolfpack travels the 15 miles or so down Tobacco Road to Chapel Hill to take on an up and down Tar Heel squad. Both teams are still in the running for their respective division titles in the ACC, but NC State is one of the few teams to actually control their own destiny. I'm going with the slight upset on this one.  - Are you kidding me? How could the Wolfpack let this one get away from them? 11 - 7.

Arkansas 35 Ole Miss 24: The Razorbacks, in a quasi home game in Little Rock, have a chance to continue their resurgence from off and early season turmoil. Arkansas is coming off a bye week after beating Auburn and Kentucky by a combined 73 - 14, and it probably should have been worse than that except the game against the Wildcats was mercifully called with over five minutes left in the third quarter. Both teams are fighting to get bowl eligible and a loss by either one most likely puts those hopes on life support, given their remaining schedules. If the Razorbacks had some coaching, they may be 5 - 3 instead of 3 -5 at this juncture. A usually dependable Tyler Wilson was off early and the Hogs didn't adjust and go to the running game. 11 - 8.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

College Football Predictions and a Little More

A Non-BCS Conference We Should Be Paying Attention To: The Mid-American Conference has some very good football teams. Ohio knocked off Penn St. to start the season, and at the time it didn't seem like a big deal. But after losing the following week, the Nittany Lions have run off five consecutive wins and Ohio remains undefeated. Toledo took Cincinnati out of the unbeaten ranks last week they're 7-1 on the season. Northern Illinois is a one-point loss against Iowa away from being undefeated and they have a win against Iowa. And today, Kent St. takes on 7 - 0 and 15th ranked Rutgers to try to gain additional credibility for the conference. Trust me, the big boys are not looking forward to any games they have scheduled with this conference in upcoming seasons.

Big Weekend for the Top Ten:


Oregon 100 Colorado 10: I admit that's far fetched  and the Ducks would never run it up that high, but they could easily score 35 in the first quarter against a very bad Buffaloes squad. Whatever Oregon wants to score in this one, they will.

Oregon St. 31 Washington 24: Colin Cowherd picked the Huskies in this one, but I have to disagree. Washington beat Stanford, but the Beavers are better. It might be close, but I'll stick with Oregon State.

Alabama 27 Mississippi St. 13: I would like to think the Crimson Tide is vulnerable with the LSU game looming next week, but the Bulldogs haven't beaten anyone of any consequence and they won't this week. Alabama doesn't turn the ball over, and until they do, forget about beating them. They're just too good on both sides of the ball and Mississippi State isn't great on either side.

Florida 24 Georgia 17: I just think the Gators have too much for Georgia. The atmosphere in this game can be distracting, but at the end of the day it's done on the field. I don't count the Bulldogs out, but the Florida defense is just too good.

Arizona 30 USC 28: This one just smells like an upset to me. Granted, my nose is off pretty frequently, but I like the Wildcats in this one. The Pac 12 is wide open once you get past Oregon and Arizona can light it up.

Kansas St. 38 Texas Tech 24: Both of these teams dismantled West Virginia, but K-State did it on the road in a very hostile environment. I just think the Wildcats have too much defense for Texas Tech, but don't count Tommy Tubberville out. He coached a lot of big games in the SEC and knows how to prepare a team for a tough test on the road.

Oklahoma 27 Notre Dame 17: I just don't see Notre Dame having enough offense to win this one in Norman. If the game was in South Bend, I might have gone the other way based on the Fighting Irish's performances this season. This is a must watch, because if Notre Dame wins, it will hard to keep them out of the BCS title conversation.

Ohio St. at Penn St.: No pick here. Both teams are on probation.

The rest of the Top 25 Isn't So Bad, Either:

Rutgers 28 Kent St. 24: Man, did I ever want to go the other direction on this one, but Rutgers' performance last week at Temple convinced me to stay the course with the Scarlet Knights. At some point, an undefeated Big East team is going to need to be recognized in the polls.

Louisville 28 Cincinnati 27: Before last week I probably would have gone with the Bearcats in this one, but I'll give the Cardinals the home field edge tonight. The winner grabs an advantage in the Big East race.

South Carolina 24 Tennessee 20: If the Gamecocks are going to be vulnerable to an upset, this week would be the time. South Carolina was beaten soundly last week by Florida, but didn't give up many yards. The problem was turnovers. I'm thinking they'll either come out flat or just the opposite, after having to an endure a week of tirades from a very displeased Steve Spurrier. I don't think Tennessee has enough for the Gamecocks if South Carolina comes ready to play. Otherwise, watch out for the Vols in this one.

Florida State 38 Duke 17: As much as I respect the effort it has taken for the Blue Devils to become bowl eligible for the first time since Bill Clinton's first term as president, it's a good thing the they are because their remaining schedule is brutal. The Seminoles are at home and are still battling for significant national recognition. Florida State is just a late touchdown by NC State from being ranked third or fourth in the polls.  I agree with Lee Corso of ESPN on this one: "No chance" for Duke.

Nebraska 27 Michigan 20: I'm just not a buyer of the Wolverines. I also want them out of the polls because I don't think they belong, so I'm selfishly picking the 'Huskers at home. The atmosphere will be terrific in Lincoln and I think Nebraska will rise to the challenge.

Wisconsin 20 Michigan St. 14: B-O-R-I-N-G Michigan State lost last week to Michigan 12 - 10. Really? This is 2012. In the Big Twelve and the Pac Twelve they start the games with more points than that. Wisconsin is hanging around the top 25, but like Michigan, it's probably undeserved. Can you tell I'm not much of a Big 10 fan?

Other Games of Interest (At Least to Someone):

Pittsburgh 30 Temple 21: The Panthers are getting better and they are pretty tough at home. Temple has shown some improvement too, but I'll stick with Pitt.

Arizona St. 31 UCLA 27: UCLA started out like they would be a serious contender in the Pac 12, but in recent weeks their weaknesses have been exposed. The Sun Devils got behind Oregon early, but this one should be different.

Oklahoma St 38 TCU 31: Last team with the ball wins this one in Stillwater. It could even be in overtime.

BYU 27 Ga. Tech 24: Even though this game is in Atlanta, I don't have a lot of confidence in the Yellow Jackets. The ACC is weak and BYU has been tested against some very good teams.

NC State 28 North Carolina 24: The Wolfpack travels the 15 miles or so down Tobacco Road to Chapel Hill to take on an up and down Tar Heel squad. Both teams are still in the running for their respective division titles in the ACC, but NC State is one of the few teams to actually control their own destiny. I'm going with the slight upset on this one.

Arkansas 35 Ole Miss 24: The Razorbacks, in a quasi home game in Little Rock, have a chance to continue their resurgence from off and early season turmoil. Arkansas is coming off a bye week after beating Auburn and Kentucky by a combined 73 - 14, and it probably should have been worse than that except the game against the Wildcats was mercifully called with over five minutes left in the third quarter. Both teams are fighting to get bowl eligible and a loss by either one most likely puts those hopes on life support, given their remaining schedules.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Baseball History and More

Home Run, Home Run, Home Run, Single; Pablo Sandoval joined an elite group, arguably the most exclusive one in baseball with his three home runs in last night's first game of the World Series. In addition, he joined Babe Ruth as the only other player who came to bat with a chance to hit four homers in a World Series game. Pretty impressive for a player who had just twelve home runs in the regular season and was facing the pitcher many describe as the "best on the planet". So Verlander was off his game, Sandoval was dialed in, the Tigers were a little rusty and now we have the Giants up by a game in the Series. With all of the hype surrounding last night, it's still only one game, and the last time I checked, the World Series is and has been, since the early 1900's anyway, best four out of seven. So tonight, we'll see if the Tigers have shaken off the rust and get back on track against Madison Bumgarner, who is 2-6 in his last nine starts. Not exactly the guy to intimidate the Tigers. Look for the guys from Detroit to bounce back, and bounce back big.

David Stern Stepping Down: I'm not a huge NBA fan, but I need to give David Stern his due. He took over a league almost 30 years ago that had little credibility, virtually no national television presence and turned it into a great asset. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all David Stern. He was assisted mightily by three guys named Magic, Bird and Jordan. But if Pete Rozelle is revered as the visionary that put the NFL on top of the  sports heap in the U.S., then we need to acknowledge Stern's keen management and guidance of the NBA that had put the league at least on par with Major League Baseball. Nice job, Mr. Stern.

Great College Football Weekend: I won't have my picks posted until tomorrow, but if you're a college football fan, you have to love the upcoming slate of games. Four of the top five teams face challenges by schools that all have one loss or less. And then in the Big East, we have the showdown between Cincinnati and Louisville, while Rutgers plays a tough Kent State team. In the ACC, a bowl eligible Duke team tries to pull a shocker in Tallahassee against Florida State. Michigan and Nebraska square off in the Big Ten while USC travels to Arizona to face the Wildcats. And in the SEC, South Carolina looks to bounce back at home against Tennessee after those losses to LSU and Florida. Everyone better make sure there are batteries in the remote and plenty of space left on the DVR's.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Sports HodgePodge

World Series Starts Tonight: I'm wondering how long it will take before one of these teams scores a run tonight. Verlander has been virtually impossible to hit, much less trying to score on him. The Tigers have a bit of an advantage in that they were able to set up their rotation for the Series, while the Giants just had to do everything they could to come back against the Cardinals. I'm pulling for the Tigers because I'm a big fan of Jim Leyland. The guy is a great manager in a sport where they aren't considered particularly important. I'm a bit concerned over the layoff for the Tigers, as historically that has tended to work against a team once they get out of the normal baseball routine. Unlike football, basketball and hockey, baseball teams rarely get more than one day off except for the All-Star break, much less several as the Tigers have had. It could have been worse had game four against the Yankees not been rained out. I'm expecting a close series with a lot of close games, great pitching and situational hitting. Pretty much a baseball fan's dream World Series. The only way it would be better for a purist is if they were playing the games during the day.

Armstrong Done: So Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven titles, presumed guilty of everything from doping to conspiracy to strong arming teammates to stealing candy from babies (okay, that last one is not true, but you get the point), resigned from his foundation and fired by Nike. Wait, fired by Nike? You know how hard it is for a star athlete to get fired by Nike? Phil Knight's middle name is Forgiveness and his boat is probably named  "Everyone Deserves a Second Chance." I like Phil and what he has done for the sports landscape, but come on. Why now? I mean, Tiger Woods is still in the stable. I understand he's coming out with a new line of waterproof golf wear called "Hydrant". Okay, that was a pure lie, but it would make for some great conversation and commercials. Can you see Tiger backing into a hydrant, water spouting in the air, and Woods standing in the street proudly proclaiming, "When you get into hot water, remember to wear your Hydrant protective gear. It sure saved me!"? Okay, maybe not... Perhaps that's why I'm still looking for work on Madison Avenue.

It's Great Their Talking About RGII, But... RGIII is the hottest thing in football since camo helmets and retractable roofs. But unfortunately for we Redskins fans, they're still only 3 - 4, having lost a heart breaker to the Giants. Of course the only way that's RGIII's fault is because the 'Skins scored too fast on the go ahead TD pass to Moss. I just hope his stellar play begins to translate into playoff caliber won - lost records.

University of Arkansas Coaching Search: Now that the Razorbacks's season is likely to end in a minor bowl appearance at best, conversation has turned from game analysis to who is likely to be the next head coach. Last time Athletic Director Jeff Long turned to a disgruntled Bobby Petrino and at the time, appeared to have pulled quite  a coup. In retrospect, not so much. In his column in today's Arkansas Democrat, Wally Hall lists some names who probably aren't realistic candidates. The headline also states that there probably aren't as many viable candidates as some people think. I tend to agree with Wally on this one. My opinion is that the ideal candidate is one that has demonstrated the ability to lead a program to some level of success, meaning they need to have head coaching experience. It doesn't necessarily mean it has to be at a BCS school. It could be a school in the FCS or one of the non-qualifier FBS conferences like the Sun Belt or Conference USA. They also need to have demonstrated the ability to recruit skill players to a location that may be less than desirable for many athletes. Not that Fayetteville is undesirable, but USC, Texas, Florida State and others have a little more appeal, although Bill Snyder at Kansas State (Manhattan) and Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) have done pretty well for a long period of time. Of course, the last time I checked, no one was calling me for my opinion, but I'll answer the phone if Mr. Long wants to give me a ring and chat.

NHL Cancels Games Through Nov. 1: Really? Has anyone even noticed?

NBA Now Playing Its Exhibition Schedule: Really? Has anyone even noticed?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

College Football Week 8 Recap

Can Anyone Beat Alabama? Sure they can. LSU, Florida, Oregon or Kansas State might each get a shot in that order. Of course, Oregon only gets their chance if both teams win out and meet in the BCS title game in Miami and don't get beat out by Kansas State. Alabama, Florida, Oregon and Kansas State all won by similar scores over decent teams. I would have to put Florida's win as the most impressive, although Oregon put 43 up on the board in the first half at Arizona St., then took their foot off the gas. I really thought, as others have commented, that the Ducks might have been able to score close to 100 points if they had wanted to. That is a very impressive team on both sides of the ball. As for Florida, they capitalized on turnovers and kept the Gamecocks from getting any momentum. I'm still trying to figure out how good South Carolina really is. And LSU was able to come from behind on Texas A&M, mainly because the Aggies didn't capitalize on its chances in the first half. LSU's defense is impressive, but I just don't see them being able to put up enough points on Alabama in a couple of weeks. I know a lot of people will put Notre Dame in the mix, but that offense just doesn't have enough firepower. I think they may really get exposed at Oklahoma this week. And then there's Kansas State. That was a very impressive win at Morgantown over West Virginia. Of course, I'm having trouble determining how strong the Mountaineers really are. They barely beat Texas in a shootout, got drilled by Texas Tech and then embarrassed by K-State. The Big 12 is suddenly getting to be very interesting. The next team with a shot at the Crimson Tide is undefeated Mississippi State.

The SEC: It's probably a foregone conclusion that the winner of this conference will play for the national championship. However, that may not happen if Alabama stumbles along the way, Florida gets beaten by Georgia, the conference winner emerges with one defeat and K-State and Oregon make it to the end of the season undefeated. Perhaps a bit far-fetched, but there have been many years where surprises occur on that last weekend, especially in conference championship games. In the west, Mississippi State is still undefeated, but they remind me a lot of Arkansas a year ago. A very good team, but just not the same caliber as Alabama and LSU. We'll see this weekend as they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. And it looks like Florida has established itself as the favorite in the east.

The ACC: It just doesn't seem as if Virginia Tech matches up well against Clemson. The Tigers pasted the Hokies for the third time in the last year and pretty much ended any chance Tech has of advancing to the conference title game for the fifth time. The Hokies still have to travel to Miami and host Florida State, the class of the league and a national title contender had the Seminoles not inexplicably stumbled against NC State. The Hokies are still in the race if they can somehow pull a Thursday night upset at Lane Stadium  in that one. Don't look now, but Duke is sitting on top of the Coastal Division after outlasting rival UNC, but finishes the season with games against Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami. It's a good thing the Blue Devils are bowl eligible, because with the exception of Georgia Tech, it's tough to find a win in that stretch. They still control their own destiny, at least for one more week. In the Atlantic, the aforementioned Seminoles are in the lead, but four teams have one loss and Florida State doesn't control their own destiny.

The Big East: This race is really up for grabs. Cincinnati took a tumble after losing to Toledo, but they have almost their entire league schedule still to play. Rutgers was impressive and Louisville squeaked past South Florida. A team that might be coming on is Syracuse, so this conference should be fun to watch down to the end. It probably wouldn't be that big a deal, but the Big East still gets their champion into a BCS bowl.

The Big Twelve (which has ten teams): It would appear that K-State is in control here. Their win over West Virginia combined with  their defeat of Oklahoma earlier in the season puts them in driver's seat. However, there is a lot of football to be played and with the way the teams score points in this conference, one or two hiccups and the Wildcats could find themselves with a loss or two. I don't see that happening and with no championship game to navigate, this team has a legitimate shot at the BCS title game.

The Pac-12 (which actually has 12 teams in it): Oregon State has made its way to number 7 with a rather unimpressive victory over Utah. If they can just keep winning, it could set a monster showdown for the North Division title in the last game of the season against Oregon. It appears USC is poised to take the South, so it could be a rather tough championship game that has the potential to send an undefeated champion to Miami.

The Big Ten (which has 12 teams):The leaders division is led by two teams, Ohio State and Penn State, that can't play in the postseason and a third place team in Wisconsin that has been underwhelming at best. On top of the legends division is Michigan, a mediocre team that despite two losses, is still hanging around the top 20. Their 12 - 10 victory over rival Michigan State was, well, not exactly championship caliber football. Needless to say, this a down year for the conference with the exception of Ohio State, and the winner, while still a BCS qualifier, had better hope for a match-up with the Big East champ in a bowl game.









Saturday, October 20, 2012

College Predictions

Making This Short, As I'm Traveling Today: I'm on the road this weekend, so I'm just going to give my winners, with a bunch of upsets:

South Carolina over Florida
West Virginia over Kansas St.
LSU over  Texas A&M
Florida State over Miami
Michigan over Michigan St.
Texas Tech over TCU
Oregon St. over Utah
Penn St. over Iowa
Alabama over Tennessee
Virginia Tech over Clemson
Duke over UNC
Arkansas tie with Open Date

Now I'm off to find the Va. Tech - Clemson game on tv at a sports bar on my way to my daughter's soccer game in new Jersey. Enjoy the games!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Sports Hodgepodge

Lance Armstrong Fallout: First of all, don't get me wrong. I don't condone cheating. But when everyone is doing it, how do you stay competitive if you don't do the same? Whether it be Barry Bonds or Lance Armstrong, the situation is the same. Their competitors were gaining an advantage, the governing body of the sport was allowing it to happen, so what choice did they have? At some point, integrity is useless, especially when you've spent your entire life pursuing a career in a sport that has lost control of its competitive nature. In the case of Major League Baseball, their defense is ludicrous. The use of performance enhancing drugs was not even against the rules. They had no testing program in place, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement that the players were able to negotiate. In addition, the league (spelled owners), benefited greatly from the the home run barrage of the late 90's fueled by steroid use, especially after the embarrassment of the cancellation of the '94 World Series. Same for the cycling community. EVERYONE did it. It was an institutional conspiracy that the sport decided to curtail only after it became a huge black eye. My belief is that Lance Armstrong was trying to find a way to increase performance within the rules, only to find out it was impossible to compete with the cheaters without becoming one himself. It's sad that the money and the fame drive these already gifted athletes to take it to another level, but who is really to blame? Take a look in the mirror and you'll get your answer.

Tigers Pitching: A hot goalie in hockey wins Stanley Cups, a shutdown defense wins Super Bowls and good pitching always beats good hitting. And the Detroit Tigers have really good pitching at the right time. The starters have given up something like one earned run in the last six postseason games. I know most people will say the Yankees just aren't hitting, but no one is hitting this pitching staff. Verlander is the leader, but he's not the only one responsible for the success of the Tigers. Detroit is up 3 - 0 and shows no signs of being beatable, at least not in four straight. Pencil in the Tigers for the World Series and I would have to make them the favorites, unless they sweep and the NLDS goes six or seven games. The only thing that can beat the Tigers is a long layoff between series.

Ray Lewis May Return This Season: Whether you like him or hate him, you have to agree that Ray Lewis is one of the most talented, intimidating and inspirational figures in NFL history. His legacy is tainted somewhat by his off the filed controversy surrounding a murder during the weekend of Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta in 2000. However, on the field his impact compares only to players like Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary. He has led a defense that has played at the highest levels for more than a decade, and it would be a shame to see his career end without a farewell tour. He's passionate and compassionate, spreading the gospel of hard work and emotion to thousands of high school and college players. Let's hope he makes it back onto the field so he can exit to the ovation he deserves.

BCS Surprise: Florida's jump to number two in the BCS sure points to another SEC dominated scenario as the season progresses. Should Alabama and the Gators win out, and that's much more likely for the Crimson Tide than for Florida, they would meet in the SEC Championship Game. That will, depending on how close that game would end up, bring up the issue of whether they should meet in a rematch for the BCS title. Now don't get me wrong. I realize the season is barely half over and Florida still has Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State left on it schedule. I don't think they'll run the table, but with six of the top twelve teams in the BCS rankings hailing from the SEC, it's apparent where voters and the computers feel the strongest teams play. My feeling is the SEC East teams will end up eliminating each other and like it or not, I see an Alabama - Notre Dame showdown in Miami for the national championship. Maybe Jerry Glanville should leave tickets for Bear Bryant and Ara Parseghian. Of course, at the age of 89, Parseghian could actually attend the game. Maybe he can bring the Irish some additional luck, as his last two bowl victories were against the Crimson Tide, with the 1973 win (they also won in 1974) giving the Irish the national title.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NFL Week 6 recap

Browns Have New Ownership: The Cleveland Browns have a new owner, and I guess the best thing we can say is he can't do any worse than the last one. The late Art Modell took the original Browns to Baltimore and with it the last semblance of sound management of an NFL team in Cleveland. The best thing an owner can do these days is provide the leadership and money and then get the hell out of the way of the football guys. See Jerry Jones, see Dan Snyder, see Randy Lerner. Jerry Jones has no clue how to manage free agency. Neither does Dan Snyder. Lerner was just not very good. Robert Kraft is the best example of the consummate owner in this environment. Bob Irsay, his tweeting aside, pretty much follows the same philosophy. Arthur Blank in Atlanta has surrounded himself with excellent football minds and lets them do their thing, and pretty successfully. And the Steelers have 6 Super Bowl wins with one ownership team and three coaches in the last 45 years. Continuity at the ownership, management and coaching levels is the key to success in the NFL.

Manning is Such a Pain in the ***: I love Peyton Manning, but for fans of the other 15 teams in the AFC, your sentiments are probably in agreement with the title of this segment. His ability to rally the Broncos from a twenty-four point deficit last night on the road against the Chargers was one of the great Monday Night accomplishments of all  time, and I've been watching it since the beginning. Although their record is only 3-3, the Broncos sit atop the AFC West, tied with the Chargers but with a head to head win giving them the edge.

RGIII Looks Like He's For Real: That 76 yard run was terrific. As a Redskin fan, I still want him to avoid the big hits, which he did successfully on Sunday. On a little different note, I love Sonny Jurgensen, but he's getting pretty long in the tooth and his comments on the Redskin radio broadcasts border on the ludicrous. But right before RGIII's big run, when asked what he would call, Jurgensen said "Keep it in the rookie's hands. That's why you traded up to get him." And just like that, the kid takes it 76 yards to the house. I guess that's why Sonny, along with Sam Huff, is still doing the games. Lightning in a bottle!

Don't Look Now, But It's a Four-Way Tie in the AFC East: Can you say "parity"? All four teams in the AFC share a 3-3 record. For now, the Jets own the first tiebreaker with a 2-0 division record, but that will change, of course. You still have to figure the Patriots will pull it out, but who knows? Maybe the Tebow-led  Jets will pull a big surprise...Oh, wait, sorry. It's the Sanchez-led Jets, right? It is Sanchez, right?

Ravens Looking Good, But What About the Steelers? Baltimore is in a great position at the one-third point, but Pittsburgh hasn't played a division game, so who knows what the AFC North will look like in a few weeks. The Browns have way too much internal turmoil to be a factor. I still like the Ravens, even with Ray Lewis out for the season. My opinion, Lewis' impact has been more emotional than physical anyway. He's nearing the end and this just gives Baltimore a chance to groom his successor.

Pack Still In the Running: Green Bay is still in the running, thanks to a big victory over the Texans on the road Sunday night. Are they 15 - 1 good? No way. But with the parity in the NFC, they have a great shot to get at least a wild card slot. I still like the Bears in that division. Balanced running and passing and pretty good defense, even if it's a little older at some key positions.

Falcons Clinch a Bowl Berth: Oops, I just assumed we were talking about college football with a team in Georgia that perennially plays one game in the postseason. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but you have to admit, the Falcons have really sucked in the postseason. They won't be challenged on their way to the division crown and have a really good shot at home-field throughout the playoffs, which for them means one game. Oops, sorry, there I go again.....

Speaking of College: How many games would Kansas City win if they were in the SEC West? Just askin'!!

College Football Preview - What's ahead for the Weekend?

Oregon Leads the Way: The week kicks off in Tempe, Arizona on Thursday night, with the Sun Devils of Arizona State, 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pac 12, hosting number 2 Oregon.  I won't be making a prediction until Friday, but this is definitely a big game for both teams. I hope the Ducks were paying attention to what happened to West Virginia in Lubbock last week. Similar team, similar situation. I think Oregon will lose one, and this could be it.

Three Tough Weeks in a Row for LSU: For the third straight week, LSU has a tough opponent. After squeaking by South Carolina to stay in the SEC West race, the Tigers head to College Station and one of the toughest venues, other than their own, for a visiting team to play. The Aggies needed every one of their 59 points to escape Shreveport with a win over Louisiana Tech. This one could be a dandy and also the makings of a great rivalry for years to come.

Can Va. Tech's Streaks Stay Alive: The Hokies have been to 19 consecutive bowls and won 10 games for eight straight seasons. Both streaks are in jeopardy if they can't navigate the next stretch of games against Clemson, Miami and Florida State. Ten wins are still possible if they win out and get into and win the ACC Championship game. The bowl streak is more likely to remain intact, but Clemson scorched the Hokies twice last season and the Tech defense really didn't show up until the second half last week against Duke. The Beamer staff has done a great job in October in recent years, but they really to step up their game this week.

Big Ten: (this page intentionally left blank)

Big East Unfairly Ranked: Three Big East teams, Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati remain undefeated, yet are ranked 16, 19 and 21 respectively. That is simply ridiculous. Not much more to say about that.

Game of the Week, Without Question: Number 9 South Carolina needs to get it back together quickly as they travel to The Swamp to take on surprising number 3 Florida. The Gamecocks played well enough to win at LSU but let it get away in the end. Florida defeated LSU two weeks ago. The Gators benefit from a pretty favorable schedule, getting both South Carolina and LSU in Gainesville, as well as Georgia in their annual neutral field match-up in Jacksonville.

One That's Off the Radar: I mentioned the Big East earlier. Cincinnati, 6-0 and ranked 19, travels to in-state opponent Toledo, whose only loss came in the season opener by 7 points at Arizona. The Rockets are averaging 36 points a game, so the Bearcats had better bring their 'A' game if they want to escape Toledo with their undefeated record intact.

One That's On the Radar, Big-Time: Kansas State, now ranked an unbelievable number 4, has the misfortune to head into Morgantown to play West Virginia following the Mountaineers embarrassing loss to Texas Tech. Bill Snyder will need all of his coaching experience to come out of there victorious.

One That Used to Mean a Lot: The Florida State - Miami game, at least for many years, produced a victor with a legitimate shot at the national championship. Not so much anymore. But in the ACC, this game means a lot, as the loser will pick up their second ACC loss and be all but eliminated from contention for the league championship game in Charlotte. Florida State entered the season with aspirations for a berth in the BCS title game, but it will take a miracle for that to occur.

Can Alabama Stumble in Knoxville: The Crimson Tide head into Knoxville as the clear favorite to cruise to the BCS title game. But as Lee Corso says,"Not so fast my friend." Alabama is facing games against SEC West foes Mississippi State and LSU in the next to weeks. Can this be a trap? More importantly, do the Volunteers have the team to capitalize on any letdown by Alabama?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

College Football Prediction Recap - 8 Correct, 3 Not So Much

So I Whiffed on Some...:

LSU 23 South Carolina 21
Texas Tech 49 WVU 14
Oregon State 42 BYU 24.

LSU's late touchdown against third ranked South Carolina definitely muddies the waters in the SEC, but it may have helped clarify the national picture somewhat, especially combined with Texas Tech's whipping of fifth ranked West Virginia. Alabama and Oregon have emerged as the clear favorites with almost half the season yet to play, with Florida sure to be sitting at Number 3 but with some tough games left. The game in Baton Rouge was fantastic, a good example of why most people consider the SEC the nations's premier conference. Tough defense combined with big plays made it a very compelling match-up. If LSU can keep winning, a victory over Alabama could propel them ahead of the Crimson Tide in the polls, especially considering Alabama's fairly soft schedule.  As for the Red Raiders, that was an impressive victory over a team that many believed couldn't be stopped, just outscored. Well, it turned out Texas Tech did both to West Virginia. My other miss was picking BYU to upset Oregon St. The Beavers may not have solidified their position in the top ten, but they continued on a path that makes most of their remaining games relevant from a national perspective.

But I Got Some Right (Mostly), Too:

Oklahoma 63 Texas 21: I picked Oklahoma, but I didn't think they would take the Longhorns to the woodshed the way they did. Texas' close loss to West Virginia doesn't look as impressive as it did just a few days ago. They looked outmatched and confused against an inspired Sooner team. We'll have to see how the rest of the season goes, but the Longhorn faithful are probably getting a bit impatient with Mack Brown and his staff. Will Muschamp's departure has certainly hurt them more than a lot of people may have thought at the time.

Notre Dame 20 Stanford 13 OT: Okay, Notre Dame stays nationally viable for another week, no matter how close it was. By some accounts, I guess you could say they were inches away from suffering a devastating home loss, but instead they remain undefeated. But there are still a few obstacles in their way, including Oklahoma and USC, both on the road.

Alabama 42 Missouri 10: No surprise here. Missouri just doesn't stack up against the elite SEC teams, but that's nothing to be ashamed of considering few teams match up well against the power game of Alabama. It appears the only obstacle in the Crimson Tide's march toward another title game will be LSU in Baton Rouge. Given the Tigers performance against South Carolina, I wouldn't count them out. However, it will take an effort at least that good to dethrone Alabama.

Kansas St. 27 Iowa St. 21: This was a little closer than I predicted, but the Wildcats still prevailed in an upset prone environment. With a victory over Oklahoma already in the books, next week's game at West Virginia looms very large for Kansas State. You'll need to wait until Friday for my prediction on that one!

Texas A&M 59 Louisiana Tech 57:  This was probably the most entertaining game of the week, with Louisiana Tech falling a two-point conversion short of putting the game into overtime. Although the Aggies' defense will never be mistaken for Alabama's, the Bulldog's grit and fight to stay in the game and make it close to the end was impressive.

Mississippi St. 41 Tennessee 31: Although I got the margin of victory correct on this one, I didn't think it would be quite as high a scoring game as what it turned out to be. With these spread offenses and versatile quarterbacks, it seems as if any score is possible in the current college football environment. Mississippi State better enjoy their undefeated record, because after next week's game against Middle Tennessee (they beat Ga. Tech), things get decidedly more difficult. The Tigers close their season against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, a rejuvenated Arkansas team and Ole Miss.

Florida 31 Vanderbilt 17: As predicted, the Commodores hung tight against Florida, but in the end the Gators just had too much for them. The top of the SEC East is a real dogfight, with Florida, South Carolina and Georgia fighting for position. South Carolina has bit of an edge with a victory over Georgia, but still will have to contend with Florida, whose victory over LSU now looms large in that race. Even though Florida is undefeated, they have yet to play either South Carolina or Georgia.

Virginia Tech 41 Duke 20: The Hokies spotted Duke a 20-0 lead in the first quarter before putting up 41 straight on the energized Blue Devils. The key play came late in the first half with Duke ahead 20-10 and driving for another score that would have made a Tech comeback very difficult. The Hokies intercepted a Duke pass, made a nice return and then scored a touchdown to get to within 20 -17 at the half. After driving for a score on their first possession of the second half, the Hokies shut down Duke's high powered offense and never looked back. The rest of October will tell if Va. Tech has found enough to stay with Clemson, Miami and Florida State in successive games, with only Seminoles making the trip to Blacksburg.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Football Predictions and More

But First a Little Baseball: Major League Baseball, despite the contrived nature of the extra wild card team and game in each league, should certainly be pleased with the playoffs as they have transpired so far. All five divisional series will have gone to a fifth game, with last inning heroics and walk-off fireworks. In addition, most of the action has taken place when people are actually awake to watch it. Hopefully today's games continue the trend and we will all be on the edge of our seats, waiting to see who will advance to the series that will determine this year's World Series participants. My hope is that the Nats and O's both advance, giving us a couple of teams that haven't been there in recent memory.

The Games Everyone is Talking About:
3 South Carolina at 9 LSU - If last week's results are any indication, then the Gamecocks will shred the Tigers. However, this is the SEC, last week's LSU loss came at the Swamp in Gainseville and visitors generally have a much tougher time in Baton Rouge. The bigger injustice here is the schedule. Why does Alabama get Missouri and Tennesse, while it's chief rival for the SEC West ends up with Florida and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks? South Carolina 20 LSU 14

15 Texas vs. 13 Oklahoma in Dallas - Okay, so maybe this game doesn't have as huge of a national relevance as it has at times in the past, but a one-loss team may very well end up in the BCS title game. Either of these teams could still run the table, given the fact that the only Longhorn loss was to number 5 West Virginia by a touchdown. Oklahoma 28 Texas 27

17 Stanford at 7 Notre Dame - I hate to admit it, but it appears that Notre Dame is for real. I keep waiting for them to stub their toe, but it just hasn't happened yet. Their defense is tough and they score enough points to win. They should be fired up for a tough Stanford team. I don't see a Cardinal win as out of the question, but I'm sticking with the Irish until they let me down. Notre Dame 30 Stanford 17

1 Alabama at Missouri - The Crimson Tide has too much offense, too much defense and too much special teams for an over-matched Tiger team. All I can say is "Welcome to the SEC, Missouri." Alabama 34 Missouri 13

6 Kansas St. at Iowa St. - Okay, maybe everyone isn't talking about this game, but who would have thought at the beginning of the season that ANYONE would have been talking about it. Iowa St.? Really? The Cyclones are usually so far off the radar the Big 12 even forgets they exist. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but nationally they haven't counted much, with the exception of an occasional upset of one of the conferences pretenders for the national championship. Could this be a trap game for Bill Snyder's Wildcats? Possible, but not probable. Kansas St. 31 Iowa St. 14

5 West Virginia at Texas Tech - I have a feeling Tommy Tubberville has some surprises for West Virginia, but unless it includes a 6 inch high playing field that is soaked to resemble a rice paddy, I wouldn't give them much chance to stop the Mountaineers. I wouldn't be surprised to see West Virginia in the BCS title game come January. West Virginia 42 Texas Tech 31

Some Games Some People Are Talking About:
10 Oregon St. at BYU - Ordinarily I wouldn't give BYU much of a shot here, but it's been a while since the Beavers were in the national mix. BYU has enough to give them trouble and make it close in the fourth quarter. I'm going with the upset here. BYU 31 Oregon St. 30

22 Texas A&M at 23 Lousiana Tech - Don't look now, but Louisiana Tech is undefeated and the Aggies may be their last obstacle to an undefeated season as they finish up against a very depleted Western Athletic Conference schedule. The Bulldogs are coming off wins at Illinois and Virginia, and granted those aren't exactly BCS powerhouses, but it still gives La. Tech the confidence to be able to play with teams like Texas A&M. I think the Aggies have too much for the Bulldogs, but this one could go down to the wire. Texas A&M 34 La. Tech 30

Tennessee at 19 Mississippi State - Tennessee isn't great, but I think this should give us an idea about just how good Dan Mullen's current Bulldogs are. Can they challenge for the SEC West crown? With Arkansas out of the picture, the crasher to the Alabama - LSU party may very well be Miss. St. I like them to win here and keep the dream alive. Miss. St. 27 Tennessee 17

Duke at Virginia Tech - Okay, once again, this one probably isn't being discussed much outside of the ACC.  However, the Hokies have been to 19 consecutive bowl games and have won at least ten games for 8 seasons in a row, the highest streak among FBS schools. Duke comes in at 5 - 1, 2 -0 in the ACC. The Hokies come in at 3 - 3, 1 -1 in the conference and fresh off two consecutive losses to Cincinnati and North Carolina, putting both those streaks in jeopardy. I'm a die hard Hokie, so I can't go against my team here. But don't be surprised if this signals at least a temporary shift in power in the ACC. Va. Tech 24 Duke 21

4 Florida at Vanderbilt - I wrote earlier in the week that this could be a trap game for the Gators. Coming off a huge win against LSU, Florida now has to travel to Nashville to take on an always game Commodore team. Sure, Florida should win this one easily, but this is why they still play the games. I can't bring myself to predict the upset. Florida 27 Vanderbilt 17


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Now For a Little Baseball

Calling Stephen Strasburg, Calling Stephen....: You're the Washington Nationals and the main reason you're in the postseason is because you have one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. Your city hasn't been to the playoffs since Calvin Coolidge or one of those guys you only see in black and white photos was president. Given the competition in your own division, not to mention your league, it may not happen more than a couple of times in the next six or seven years. So where is that dominant pitcher? He's watching and resting his arm so you can do it all again and still lose in the first round.  I respect the Nationals' management. They've done a great job building a contender that should do it for the next few years. But ask any player and they'll tell you how hard it is to get there and when you do, you better take advantage of it. You tell me. Are the National taking advantage of it? I think not.

Streaks Are Made to Be Broken: Two teams I happen to root for had big streaks broken in the postseason. First, the Braves finally lost a game started by Kris Medlen after 23 consecutive wins. It just so happened to cost them a spot in the "real" postseason. And tonight, the Orioles experienced their first walk-off loss of the season after becoming the first team since 1900 to avoid that fate during the regular season. Are you kidding me? Did I just write 1900? Good grief, did they even wear gloves back then? Did the term walk-off even exist? After wearing those wool uniforms for nine innings, it was probably more like a shuffle-off win. Anyway, my point is the postseason is a lot different than the regular season (pay attention, Nationals) and the same rules don't apply. Take the Orioles tonight. Why not pitch around Raul Ibanez in the 12th? The guy was a menace for the Orioles, already homering once with one out in the ninth to extend the game. But no way. We don't allow walk-off wins, so no problem. Just give the guy a hanging curve and hope he pops it up. Instead, we get a 2012 version of Reggie Jackson. My prediction is the Orioles are toast.

Lance, Lance, Lance: I have been a pretty staunch supporter of Lance Armstrong in the past, but the latest testimony by many of his teammates appears to be pretty damning. I guess if we step back and look at his performances, his recovery from a life threatening struggle against cancer and the way he was able to dominate a sport where a majority of participants were either blood doping or using performance enhancing drugs, it should be pretty obvious that he's probably guilty. However, there is still the fact that he was the most tested athlete in history and always came up clean. The only evidence against him is testimony, none of which  is backed up by any hard evidence. In a culture that is inundated with television programs based on forensics, it isn't unrealistic for most people to want testing and science to confirm those allegations before we declare Armstrong guilty. As for me, it's just sad that a sport ends up losing relevance because everyone ends up cheating. Hey Bud Selig, are you listening?




Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Time For Some Comments on the NFL Season

Sanchez is Getting a Bad Rap: I watched the Jets struggle against the Texans last night, and it sure appeared to me that the Jets' problems have very little to do with Mark Sanchez. No running game, no time to throw and inexperienced receivers add up to disaster for a defensive minded, ball control football team. Tebow may be able to help out a little bit, but what makes anyone think the offensive line will run block for Tebow any better than they do for Shonn Green or pass protect for Sanchez?

And Speaking of the Texans: So if you want to be an elite team in the NFL, you need a solid running game (check), smothering defense (check) and a efficient if not spectacular quarterback who moves the ball and avoids turnovers (check). That sounds a lot like the Houston Texans. They're currently undefeated and face a relatively easy division schedule, one without another real contender for the title. Until the Colts emerge from their rebuilding, this division belongs to the Texans, so there is a great chance that the road to the Super Bowl will go through Reliant Stadium. With a strong running game, good receivers and Matt Schaub running the show, I wouldn't count these guys out.

Surprise! Vikings and Cardinals Are Both 4 - 1: Okay, I really didn't see this coming. I knew the Cardinals had a pretty good defense, but the quarterback situation in Phoenix was such an issue that I really didn't think they could mount much of a campaign this season. True, they were a bit exposed in St. Louis, but it's still a nice start. In Minneapolis the big question was whether Christian Ponder could continue his development and lead the Vikings into a contending role in a very tough division. It hasn't hurt that the Pack and the Lions are under performing, but I'm not sure anyone but die hard Minnesota fans would have picked their team to be tied with the Bears on top of the NFC North.

Replacement Refs Are A Distant Memory: Now that the league has reached an agreement with the referees, games seem to be more under control and we're back to the normal griping about the calls. The most flagrant  errors still seem to be on pass interference calls. It's gotten a bit ridiculous on both sides, especially the offensive interference call last night against the Jets that went a long way in deciding the game. I say let the guys play. It's a physical game, so unless a defensive or offensive player gains a clear advantage, then don't call it.

The Saints Finally Break Through: Maybe it was having Sean Payton in attendance, but the Saints got their first win of the season. Actually, it had more to do with the Chargers letting the Saints receivers run around at will in the secondary. If I didn't know better, I would think the Chargers wanted Brees to break Unitas' record. Even so, someone should have told them it only took one TD pass to break it. After that they could have gone back to covering someone and trying to win the game.

Unitas: I grew up as a Baltimore Colts, and especially a Johnny Unitas fan. I'm not diminishing Brees' record setting feat in any way, but Unitas' accomplishments came in a totally different era. Receivers didn't have free rein in the secondary. Most offenses were designed to run first, pass second. There were only 12 games in the regular season, so Unitas' streak spanned almost four full seasons. Brees passed Unitas in three. Again, nice job Drew, but it was quite a streak when you consider it took over 50 years for someone to top it. And Unitas did wearing high tops...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Looking Ahead to the College Football Weekend

Is Duke for Real? For the first time since Steve Spurrier was the coach, the Blue Devils have a chance to be relevant again in college football. Yes, I said football. F-O-O-T-B-A-L-L, and in the same sentence with relevant and Duke. Now I know it may be a bit premature, given their wins are all against pretty poor teams and their lone loss was a 50-13 drubbing at the hands of Stanford. But still, a 5-1 record and 2-0 in the ACC heading to Blacksburg to play perennial contender Virginia Tech is not bad. If they pull off the upset this weekend, we could see two programs in territory neither one has been in for almost two decades: Duke in a bowl, and Virginia Tech not. If Duke has a breakout season, don't be surprised to see David Cutliffe on the short list for a number of jobs, including the Arkansas position that will surely be open once the Hogs are done playing for the year.

Notre Dame For Real: Granted, Miami hasn't fared well against decent opponents, but the Irish put a hurting on the Hurricanes at least as significant as the one Kansas State inflicted to open the season. Now both Notre Dame and the Wildcats are in the top ten. Stanford's visit to South Bend this weekend is probably the most important game for the Irish in a number of years. With the Big Ten and ACC suffering down periods, it is critical for Notre Dame to prevail in order to continue momentum toward a BCS game and maybe even a shot at the National Championship.

The Red River Rivalry: Texas and Oklahoma meet in Dallas with the winner keeping alive hopes for a decent season. It appears that Kansas State is the only team in the Big Twelve (but it's not really twelve anymore, is it? I seem to have lost track) that has any idea what playing defense involves. See, there's this thing called a goal line, and you're supposed to keep the other team from crossing it. Anyway, in the Big Twelve they need to re-draw the goal lines after every quarter or so. Maybe they can just start the doing what they do with the windshield covers in NASCAR and have tear away goal lines to keep them fresh.

The Big East no Longer the Big Least? Don't look now, but there are three undefeated teams in the Big East, and none of them are favorite South Florida. Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati are all without a loss and have all beaten one or more teams from another BCS automatic qualifier conference. The pollsters aren't giving them much love, but by the end of the season they are probably going to have to pay attention.  Is it possible that the Big East could actually be the second best conference this year? I would say it's possible. Very possible.

Can You Say Trap Game for the Gators? Let's see, Florida wins a huge game against LSU, then travels to Vanderbilt before facing now number 3 South Carolina in Gainesville and then onto the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against number 14 Georgia in Jacksonville. I know Vandy's not of the same caliber as the SEC elite teams of Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and now Texas A&M, but these kids are 20 years old and Will Muschamp has his work cut out for him to get and keep his team up for this weekend's contest. Games like this are what continue to keep the SEC at the top of the college football conference heap.

Is Anyone Safe in the Top Five?

Three of the Top Five Go Down: Okay, so either Georgia or South Carolina had to go down to defeat, but who would have thought Florida State and LSU would both be held scoreless in the second half of their games? And as much as I hate to say it, watch out for Notre Dame. The SEC teams still have to beat up on each other, with the exception of Alabama, who only needs to worry about LSU and whatever high school they added to the schedule to get their twelfth game. Oregon always loses to someone, so don't look now, but that would put Notre Dame against Alabama in the BCS championship game. However, I'm pulling for LSU or South Carolina to upset Alabama and USC to stun Notre Dame, setting up the improbable matchup of Oregon and West Virginia. They may need to add another digit to the scoreboard for that one.  Seriously folks, there are a lot of basketball games that will see less points on the board than a game between the Ducks and Mountaineers. The only way West Virginia will be able to stop Oregon is if their rifle toting mascot starts shooting at the Duck players with real bullets. And the only way the Mountaineers will be stopped is if a flock of mallards descends on the stadium grass during West Virginia's offensive possessions. Trust me, 77-74 isn't out of the question. Those two teams can't even spell deefenc....oh, hell. Forget it. They do.

Welcome to the NFL, RGIII: Someone needs to give RGIII Michael Vick's phone number. He's not playing in the Big Twelve, otherwise known as touch football. These guys are big, fast and ferocious. If you're a step from going out of bounds, you better take that step or you end up sitting on the sideline seeing stars.  And I'm not talking Katy Perry and Christina Aguilera. If RGIII and the Redskins have any hope at success, he needs to protect himself and the franchise by getting down or getting out, or he'll be down and out more than he's up and in the game.

Talladega Frights: Once again, the Talledega race track lived up to its billing. A huge wreck with three laps to go took out about half the field, including a number of Chase contenders. It still boggles my mind that they allow, in late race situations, non-Chase cars to line up for a restart with the Chase contenders. I mean really, it's like letting the Charlotte Bobcats suddenly rush the floor in the fourth quarter of a Heat - Celtics game 7. Put the Chase guys at the front and make the other guys run for thirteenth and tell them to stop whining. They had 24 races to qualify and they didn't. Get over it and let the drivers that qualified for the Chase race each other without worrying about drivers that, let's face it, really aren't all that good.

So Now It's the Outfield Fly Rule?: As if the one game wild card playoff wasn't ludicrous enough, Major League Baseball had to exacerbate the situation with an absolutely embarrassing display of umpiring in the Braves - Cardinals game. Come on, if anything ever screams for replay, that does. That umpire was so out of line it was preposterous. His call was not only wrong under the rules, but it was so late that the runners couldn't even react appropriately. It's bad enough that the Braves won seven more games than the Cardinals in the regular season, then had to play a one game playoff for a real playoff berth. And to make matters worse, the team with the best record in baseball, the Nationals, ends up opening the playoffs on the road against the playoff team with the least victories. Is this the way Bud Selig expects to stem the tide of decreasing interest by young people? "Yes, son, the team with the best record doesn't get the best deal. And umpires can make really bad calls and there is no recourse. But it's America's pastime so you should just ignore that and be totally captivated anyway, eat your peanuts and enjoy the organ music........" Uh, huh. You tell 'em, Bud!