"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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekend Comments

BCS Championship Drama Diminished: With number one Notre Dame's win over USC and the two participants in the SEC championship game ranked second and third, a lot of the drama that has traditionally unfolded on this weekend in college football will be avoided. Sure, there are BCS bowl game participants to be determined, but with the exception of a mild surprise if Georgia beats Alabama, nothing that happens this weekend will materially change the national championship picture. The bigger surprises are the teams that aren't playing for their conference championships, including Oregon and Florida, both ranked in the top six in the country. Kansas State now needs to defeat Texas, not as easy a task as it would have been earlier in the season. If they don't, all of a sudden you have Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl if they take care of business against TCU. Who would have predicted that scenario three weeks ago? I didn't think the Wildcats would run the table, but I did feel they would hold onto the Big 12 title. Now I'm not so sure.

MAC Champ Ready to Crash the Party: Earlier this season, I pointed out how well teams from the Mid-American Conference were playing. Now, the winner of tonight's championship game between Kent State and Northern Illinois stand a good chance of getting a bid to a BCS bowl game. If the winner can get into the top 16 in the season-ending BCS rankings and finish ahead of Big East winner Louisville, then they will end up playing one of the big boys, probably Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.  Kent State is sitting at number 17 and they have the better chance of making it into the top 16 if they win. Northern Illinois has a little more difficult task, as they are down at 21. The most likely scenario would have Kent St. winning and number 16 UCLA losing to Stanford, making an upward move for Kent St. almost a certainty. Behind the Alabama - Georgia game, this may be the most drama of the weekend.

Golf Making News In November? The USGA and R&A made a major rules announcement, creating the most golfing buzz in November since Tiger Woods lost his battle with a fire hydrant three years ago. Apparently in order to keep anchoring a club during a swing from becoming all the rage with clubs ranging from putters to hybrids, the rule-making entities decided to propose a rule that restricts the way clubs can be anchored against the body during a stroke. Within the golf community there has been a lot of conversation about the proposal, both pro and con. The interesting thing about the proposal is that they sidestepped difficulty with equipment manufacturers by not banning the medium and long putters, but instead just stipulating the way the club can be used. I like the rule change. As a lifelong golfer, I have never felt that anchoring a club against the body is within the spirit of the game. So I'll go on record as supporting the new proposal.

Saints Go Marching Out? The five interceptions from Drew Brees may have ended the Saints' playoff hopes. Last night's ugly loss to the Falcons could put New Orleans two games behind for the second wild card spot with four tough games to play. In addition, they've already lost to one of the teams ahead of them, the Washington Redskins. I have to give the Saints credit for bouncing back from losses in their first four games following the off-season turmoil caused by bounty-gate, but there will be no post season for this club.

Spurs Rest Starters, Aggravate Stern: In case you didn't notice (and since it's the NBA in November, there's a good chance you didn't), the San Antonio Spurs rested four of their top five players last night for a game at Miami. Coach Greg Popovich said he wanted to rest the players at the end of a brutal road trip so they could be ready to play a home game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday. Commissioner David Stern has indicated that there will be penalties coming the Spurs' way. Really? Since when did the NBA get the right to make lineup decisions? They're mad at San Antonio, one of the most successful franchises of the last fifteen years, but they let other teams such as Washington and Charlotte remain largely noncompetitive for seasons on end. Stern can spin it any way he wants, but there would have been no controversy if the game had been against the Nuggets, the Wizards, the Bobcats, etc. etc. etc. But instead, it was what should have been an early season showcase for the league. The interesting thing is that the Spurs actually led by three points going into the final quarter. Has Stern considered how bad it could have been with a very tired Duncan, Ginobili and Parker on the floor? What if the Spurs had been waxed with that lineup? At least a rested squad made it a game into the final stanza. I think Stern should shut his pie hole and focus on other aspects of the game, particularly the scheduling that precipitated the Spurs' decision and the balance of talent in the league.

Hockey Anyone? Last week, a national mediator was brought in to help resolve the NHL lockout situation. Unfortunately, they were delayed for a day, which was about the time it took to convince the mediator that anyone really cared...Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

College Football Future Conference Alignment

Where Will It All End?: Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten, Louisville to the ACC, East Carolina to the Big East (sort of), Notre Dame to the ACC (pretty much), Tulane to the Big East...... So what does all of this mean? Where does it all end? Well, let's start with where it is now. For the 2012 football season (and that's really what is driving the train) there were 69 teams in BCS automatic qualifier conferences, including Notre Dame, which is essentially a one team conference. There were an additional 62 teams in other conferences, plus three independents. For the sake of argument, let's assume the Big East goes away as a viable football entity by 2014. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville are already slated to join the ACC that year with Rutgers heading to the Big Ten. In addition, Notre Dame will play five ACC games beginning that same season. That will leave the four remaining football teams in the Big East without a home, at least in the short term. Those teams are Cincinnati, Temple, Connecticut and South Florida. So where does that put us in 2014 given the moves announced as of today?

Pac 12  12 teams
ACC     14
Big 10   14
SEC      14
Big 12   10
ND         1

So that gives us 65 teams in essentially 5 conferences. Well guess what? In 2015 we start a 4 team playoff system. Hmmm... So if you're a conspiracy theorist, you could speculate that we're headed to a four super-conference structure. We're not that far away, assuming the four Big East teams currently without a long-term football conference get left out in the cold. And that's pretty likely, considering that with the exception of Cincinnati, none of them have a particularly stellar football past.

The primary stumbling clock to this scenario ultimately playing out is simple geography. Within that 65 team structure, how does each conference get to 16 teams, and which one simply goes away, at least from a football perspective? It's easy to see the SEC raiding the ACC for two teams, presumably Florida State and Virginia Tech, although you could see Clemson in that mix. So that gives the SEC 16 teams. But where does the ACC go to fill the void? Adding Cincinnati and Connecticut would bring the total to 67, screwing up the math. And where does the Big Ten go for more teams?

So let's go in a different direction. Let's say the SEC goes west and raids the Big 12 for two more teams, presumably Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And perhaps the Big 10 takes Kansas State and Iowa State. That would leave the remaining six Big 12 teams headed to the Pac 12, forming a new 18 team conference.And maybe the ACC does add Cincinnati and Connecticut. So we end up with 67 teams in four conferences with Notre Dame still in a sort of independent limbo. If you also assume the playoff will grow to eight teams, as many do, you have plenty of room to accommodate a couple of at-large teams from the super conferences as well as a team or two from the current non-BCS automatic qualifier conferences.

But as Lee Corso says, "Not so fast". My feeling is that, as clean as it would make things, getting to four conferences is very difficult. I can't see Texas being part of a large conference, as they don't want to share the substantial revenue they generate. And the recently implemented $50 million exit fee for ACC schools could hold those teams in place.We'll ultimately end up with 70 - 75 teams comprising five conferences with the champions automatically advancing to an eight team playoff.  The remaining three at-large teams will be chosen by a selection committee based on some set of criteria determined by whoever is in charge of the playoff at that time. I also have a hard time believing that the NCAA won't step in once we get beyond a four-team format.

So in 2018, when you're getting ready for national quarterfinal games in the Fiesta, Cotton, Chik-Fil-A and Sugar Bowls, semifinals in the Orange and Rose Bowls and a huge national championship game at a different site, you can say you heard it here first...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NFL Rankings

NFL Rankings: There are a lot of very good teams sitting at the top of their divisions right now. Until Sunday night, I would have put one second place team, the Green Bay Packers in that group. I've tried to take the records out of the equation and try to evaluate the teams based on how they are playing right now. So here are my top ten NFL teams.

10. Green Bay Packers (7 - 4): I can't ignore Sunday night's game, but I am trying to put it into perspective. The Giants were coming off a bye following two tough weeks dealing with hurricane Sandy and its after effects. They came out strong and just overwhelmed the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is terrific, but his supporting cast is suspect. They should make the playoffs, but they need to play better than they did this past week.

9. Indianapolis Colts (7 - 4): This team has done an extraordinary job this season. Andrew Luck has already tied Sam Bradford for wins as a number one pick and is almost certain to surpass the record. We'll see if they can keep it up. My prediction is that they hit a wall at some point, but for now they appear to be playoff-bound.

8. Chicago Bears (8 - 3): When Cutler plays, this is probably the second best team in the NFC. The problem is, when he doesn't, they're awful. Right now, he's playing, so perhaps they should be higher on my list, but it baffles me why the effort is so different. Cutler gets criticized for his demeanor, but he must be a pretty good leader considering the fall off in play when he's out.

7. Atlanta Falcons (10 - 1):  I know what you're saying. How can you put a 10 -1 team at number 7? It's easy. This team is probably 10 or 12 points away from being 7 - 4, that's why. They've outscored their opponents by only 7 points a game, and at some point that will come back to haunt them. Eventually a couple of those close games will go the other way.

6. New York Giants (7 - 4): They looked good Sunday night and need another good performance this Monday against the Redskins to get that late season momentum they need to make another deep playoff run. I would probably have them higher, but there are a number of teams on a roll right now. An impressive win Monday and I could see moving them farther up the list.

5. Baltimore Ravens (9 - 2): You can probably throw a blanket over the top five. I have the Ravens here because their defense is aging and injured. As far as the playoffs go, they have a great chance to finally get a game or two at home, so they should have plenty of incentive to keep their intensity at a high level.

4. San Francisco 49ers (8 - 2 - 1): Given Kaepernick's play the last two games, it appears Jim Harbaugh has perhaps the best QB situation of any coach in the league. While some teams are struggling to find one quality starter, the Niners have two. Not that Alex Smith is great, he did lead them to a 13 - 3 record and a berth in last season's NFC championship game.  I have SF this high because of their defense. They're only giving up 14 points a game, and that is a great style of play to win on the road in the NFL.

3. Denver Broncos (8 - 3): The Broncos have won 6 in a row and continue to improve under Peyton Manning. With my top three teams and four of the top five from the AFC, the playoffs should be a dogfight and home field will play a huge part in who gets to the Super Bowl. Look for the Broncos to be there until the end.

2. Houston Texans (10 - 1): These guys could definitely be number one. The Texans are tough on both sides of the ball, they run a balanced offense and they have the best record in the AFC. So why aren't they on top of my rankings? That' because the...

1. New England Patriots (8 - 3): ...have caught fire. They're outscoring their opponents by over two touchdowns a game and they have the top QB and the most successful coach of the past decade. Until they lose, I'll keep them at the top of the heap.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Post-Thanksgiving Ponderings

Notre Dame Gets It Done: To win or at least play for a national championship, it takes a bit of luck in at least one game. Fortunately for the Irish, they've had more than their share of it this season. However, that shouldn't diminish the Irish's accomplishments in the least. They played a good schedule and beat the team that beat Oregon, so no argument here about them making it to the championship game. Notre Dame clearly earned it. That defensive front is fierce and can play with anybody. As I look forward to the match-up with either Alabama or Georgia, the SEC representative will have to work hard for scores. It should be a compelling, but low scoring affair.

Oregon Doesn't: The team that many say is the most talented of them all won't even get a chance to play for their conference title. Even though I picked the Ducks to lose to Stanford, I think a BCS title game with Oregon's offense going up against Notre Dame's or Alabama's defense would have made for terrific buildup and drama. Although, I guess we got a bit of a preview by what the Cardinal were able to do to stop the explosive Duck attack. The whole scenario demonstrates why college football, year in and year out, never fails to deliver unpredictable results and exciting week to week action.

SEC Dominance Over ACC: I know the ACC is down this year, but the SEC clearly showed why it is the top football conference. They took on the top three ACC teams, two of them on the road, and came away with convincing victories. Georgia totally dominated Ga. Tech between the hedges, Florida came back to defeat a terrific Florida State team in Tallahassee and South Carolina continued their dominance over Clemson in Death Valley. Farther down in the pack, Vanderbilt tattooed Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Pretty impressive. No wonder six of the top ten teams in the BCS hail from the SEC.

Georgia or Alabama? Can the case be made at this point that Georgia is actually a better team than Alabama? I think it can, but it's pretty close either way. Both teams have had a close conference win amid their dominating victories. I can't explain the Bulldogs getting blown out by South Carolina, but since then Mark Richt has had his team on a roll. As usual, Saban has kept his troops focused, despite a disappointing loss to Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies. The nice part is we don't need to speculate. It will all be decided on the field in Atlanta on Saturday!

How Quickly They Fall: Minus QB Cam Newton and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Gene Chizic couldn't maintain any momentum from Auburn's national championship season and now is out of a job. He wasn't a particularly popular choice from the beginning, having brought a dismal 5 - 19  record with him from  Iowa State. It's just another example of how important key assistant coaches are to a major college football program. With Arkansas and Tennessee having vacancies as well, the question will be who gets their first choice, and where does the aforementioned Gus Malzahn fit into the mix as his Arkansas State team hosts Middle Tennessee State for the Sunbelt conference title Saturday ?

Giants Hot After Bye: Whatever the New York Giants had for Thanksgiving dinner did the trick. They looked unbeatable on both sides of the ball Sunday night against what had been a surging Green Bay Packer squad. Ahmad Bradshaw looked at least a half step quicker and the defense smothered the Packers' attack. After the Redskins victory over the Cowboys on Thursday, I had hopes that my 'Skins could contend in the NFC Least. But after watching the Giants last night, I think it will take quite an effort for Washington to pull the upset at FedEx Field next Monday night. Maybe the extra three days of rest and preparation can help the 'Skins give the Giants a challenge like they did in New Jersey in October.

'Niners Go With Kaepernick: One of the hardest things to find in the NFL these days is a quality backup quarterback. I believe in the saying that you are only as good as your backup quarterback. Just ask Chicago, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. However, after Alex Smith went down with a concussion, San Francisco didn't miss a beat when Colin Kaepernick was called on to carry the load. It's very hard to keep a good backup on the roster, as they tend to get nabbed by other teams for starting roles. Aaron Rodgers is more the exception than the rule, as he stuck around in Green Bay, rewarding both himself and the team with a Super Bowl crown. How long do you think New England will be able to hold onto Ryan Mallett as he sits behind one of the all time greats in Tom Brady?

Friday, November 16, 2012

College Football Predictions

Last Week: 19 - 2

Okay, so most of the favorites won last week, making the top 25 prognostication a bit easier. But I still got the big upset right, correctly predicting Texas A&M's win over then-number one Alabama. Since five SEC schools chose to play high school teams this week and with only two games pitting two top 20 teams against each other, I don't see much upset picking going on. Okay, with the exception of one. A big one.

Iowa 17 at (21) Michigan 27: I've been picking against the Wolverines most of the year, but I guess I need to finally admit that they can win football games. My prediction of a Northwestern win at the Big House was one of my two misses last Saturday, so I'm smarting a bit. In addition, Michigan is still in the hunt for the Leader's Division title in the Big Ten.

(11) Florida State 42 Maryland 14: The Terrapins are way over matched in this one. Florida State is a little ticked off by the snubbing they are receiving from the BCS computers. Look for the 'Noles to roll in College Park.

(22) Rutgers 27at Cincinnati 28: This one was shaping up as a real battle for the Big East title and national attention until the MAC stuck its non-BCS qualifier nose in. Both these teams lost to what would ordinarily be considered lesser opponents. Even though the Bearcats dropped their game to Louisville, I still like them to beat Rutgers at home. Cincinnati by a nose.

Western Carolina 0 (4) Alabama 45: I would have felt sorry for Western Carolina, even before the Tide lost to Texas A&M. My guess is Nick Saban will call off the dogs early or this one could be very ugly. Unfortunately for the SEC, their top three teams all play FCS competition this week, making it difficult for them to continue momentum in the BCS race.

Wofford 10 (9) South Carolina 38: I doubt Spurrier will want to run it up, but it could happen anyway. Wofford is 8-2 and ranked ninth in the FCS, but most of their most impressive work was done earlier in the season. This game may be close early, but there's no way Wofford pulls the stunner.

Jacksonville St. 6 (6) Florida 41: This game came at a very opportune time for the Gators. Their starting QB went down last week and this gives him a game to heal before taking on Florida State in a game that could have serious national implications. Jacksonville State gets to play patsy again for the big bucks.

Georgia Southern 13 (5) Georgia 35: Ga. Southern is ranked sixth and is a traditional FCS power. They may be able keep it tight early between the hedges, but Georgia is still focused on the big prize.

(25) Washington State 31 Colorado 17: Don't ask me how the Cougars have edged into the national rankings, but they probably won't drop out after this week. The Buffaloes are really bad.

(18) USC 34 at (17) UCLA 31: The Bruins are the fashionable pick in this cross town, or more appropriately, cross megalopolis rivalry. The stadiums are like 800 yards and two hours away by freeway, or something like that. Anyway, back to the game. USC played much better defense last week against Arizona St., so I look for Monte Kiffin to come up with something to slow down Jim Mora's offfense. UCLA's secondary isn't very good, so it's not a particularly good matchup for the Bruins.

Sam Houston State 17 at (8) Texas A&M 48: The Bearkats' basketball team gave Arkansas a good game last week in Fayetteville, but this is a little different sport. Sam Houston's third-ranked FCS squad puts up a ton of points, but A&M is a little tougher than what they're familiar with. The Bearkats put up 23 on Baylor, so that should be some point of comparison. The Aggies will be able to put up as many as they want, but I think they's shut it down early.

Minnesota 13 at (14) Nebraska 24: The Cornhuskers have won four in a row since their drubbing at Ohio State. They need to keep it going to keep pace with Michigan and I think they will.

NC State 20 (11) Clemson 31: Can the Wolfpack take down another top ACC team? I think not. Clemson is the real deal and they'll show it this week.

Wake Forest 13 (3) Notre Dame 27: Notre Dame starts playing a limited ACC schedule in a couple of years, so we may see this one more frequently. Unfortunately for the league, this isn't the team to challenge the Irish's undefeated record this season. Even if Notre Dame is looking ahead to USC, they should prevail here.

Mississippi 17 (7) LSU 27: The Tigers are still smarting from the loss to Alabama and they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Last week's win over Miss. State was impressive and I don't see a much different outcome in Death Valley Saturday night. People say the SEC is down a little this year, but that's primarily at the bottom. LSU has two losses in its last five games and still garners a number seven ranking. And by the way, they're only the fourth highest ranked SEC team.

(23) Texas Tech 28 (24) Oklahoma St. 34:  The Cowboys only losses are to Texas and Kansas St. Texas Tech's three losses are to Texas, Kansas St. and Oklahoma (who OSU plays next week). Pretty close call here, but I'll go with the home team.

Utah St. 27 at (20) La. Tech 38: Believe it or not, this game has the potential to be terrific. Utah State's only losses have come at Wisconsin and BYU by a total of five points. La. Tech's only loss was by two to Texas A&M. Yes, the same Texas A&M that defeated Alabama last week. Unfortunately for the Aggies (yes, Utah St. has that nickname, too), the Bulldogs have a potent offense that should be the difference on Saturday.

(12) Oklahoma 41 at West Virginia 28: The Sooners are on a roll, the Mountaineers aren't. Enough said.

(1) Kansas St. 28 at Baylor 14: Is that really a one next to Kansas State? Well, good for Bill Snyder and his team. They should hold that spot for at least one more week unless RGIII shows up for the Bears.

(13) Stanford 31 at (2) Oregon 28: Eventually, the Duck offense will waddle instead of fly. This is probably that game.  Most people don't think Oregon is beatable at home. I beg to differ. This is the big upset pick of the week and maybe the season.

California 17 at (16) Oregon St. 31: Cal gave all they had last week against Oregon, Jeff Tedford is probably on his way out in Berkeley and the Beavers are looking to gain momentum heading into their big match-up with Oregon next week.

Arkansas 30 at Miss. St. 27: Look for a reversal for the Hogs of the score in their loss to Mississippi. The Bulldogs were never as good as their record earlier in the season, and Arkansas probably isn't as bad as theirs would indicate. Woo Pig Sooie!

Virginia Tech 27 at Boston College 17: The Hokies finally played up to their potential in their last game against Florida State. They still have a shot at bowl eligibility and BC had their bowl game against Notre Dame last week. Hokie Hokie Hokie High!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday Ponderings

NFL Surprises, In No Particular Order:

Minnesota took advantage of the Lions' lack of consistency to get back on the winning track and re-enter the NFC North race. Chicago is the class of the division, but if Cutler is out for any period of time, it gives the Packers and Vikes a chance to contend. The Bears, as was evidenced last year, are nowhere near the same team without their starting QB, especially now that he has reunited with Brandon Marshall.

The NFC Least is a real mess, especially with the Giants' sloppy performance against the Bengals. A 3 - 5 Cincinnati team has no business dominating New York, but it just goes to show how balanced the NFL really is. Unfortunately for the Giants, they lost a great chance to get some distance over the rest of the division. They're still the clear favorite, but Washington could continue to show improvement under rookie RGIII and the Cowboys could finally play up to the potential of their players. The Eagles, with Vick sidelined at least a week with a concussion, need to pull it together. I don't see it happening anytime soon. Bye Bye Andy!

A tie? Really? The Niners and Rams couldn't even produce a field goal in overtime? Does this mean the Rams are showing improvement under Jeff Fisher? Probably. Of course, they did it against an inexperienced backup QB, so we'll have to wait and see. That tie could likely come back to haunt San Francisco in the competition for home field advantage in the playoffs.

Atlanta biting the dust in New Orleans isn't a huge surprise, but it could signal the Saints are poised to make a run in the second half of the season Their secondary still got burned for over 400 yards from Matt Ryan, but they still got the win. At least they're well equipped to outscore their opponents if necessary.

Baltimore put up 55 points on the hapless Raiders, with all but one touchdown coming on offense. The other one was a kickoff return. Who would have thought the Ravens would score that many points without a defensive touchdown? If Big Ben is out any length of time for the Steelers, he could miss both games against Baltimore, giving the Ravens a big edge in that division.

Tampa Bay under first year coach Greg Shiano seems to be playing the same caliber football they played a couple of seasons ago. A lot of folks were skeptical that the college style rah rah and intensity could translate to the NFL, but it's working so far. There are very few real quality teams in the league right now, making it possible for teams like the Bucs, Bengals, Vikings, Seahawks and Colts to aspire to finishes beyond their talent level.

Lakers Hire D'Antoni: With L.A. foregoing the opportunity to bring back Phil Jackson, it definitely signals that they want to emphasize the offensive end of the floor, reuniting the coach with Steve Nash. Does this make Kobe Bryant the assistant coach in charge of defense? The Lakers better hope so.

Baseball You Say? In November? I've always wondered why MLB doesn't hold a big ceremony on ESPN to hand out all of their postseason awards. The NFL is heating up, the BCS is in a terrific battle of unbeatens, yet baseball chooses to give us the water dripping torture of accolade announcements. Do they really think they can break through the football laden coverage with one or two awards a day? Two of the most celebrated and exciting rookies in decades were named Rookies of the Year, yet it goes largely unnoticed. Come on, Bud Selig, get with the program. ESPN would promote the show like crazy, with fan votes, tweets, commercials and hype lasting for at least a week or two. For a sport whose championship was almost an afterthought this past season, you would think they would be searching for a way to increase the attention given to their sport.

Jeff Gordon, Tough Guy? Really? Jeff Gordon? Are we talking about the pretty boy that drives the 24 car? It's only a rumor that Gordon was pulled out of the post-race fracas in the garage area by the 9 year-old son of a crew member...

Has Anyone Noticed That the NHL is Still In Lockout? That's what I thought...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

And Then There Were Three...

Two More Unbeatens Go Down: As predicted in this blog, top-ranked Alabama had trouble handling the fast-paced offense of Texas A&M. Louisville succumbed to the tough atmosphere of the Carrier Dome to fall from the ranks of the undefeated in college football. Unfortunately, I missed the Syracuse upset. I also picked Northwestern to beat Michigan, but they fell five points short. Otherwise, my other 18 picks were on target as I went 19-2 for the weekend. Not bad, not bad at all if I say so myself.

Who Survives the Last Three Weeks? Oregon looked suspect for a little while last night against a very short-handed Cal team, especially when their starting QB, Marcus Mariota went down for a few plays with a shoulder injury. I didn't originate the saying, but I wholeheartedly agree that you're only as good as your backup quarterback. If Mariota goes down again, the Ducks are in trouble, especially against Stanford, Oregon State and either UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 championship game, if they get that far. But if Mariota stays healthy, I like them to make it to the BCS Championship game. Next, we have Kansas State. That defense looked very good on Saturday, which should pose plenty of problems for Texas in a couple of weeks. The Baylor game next week could be a bit of trap game on the road, but I like Bill Snyder to keep the Wildcats focused. With no Big 12 championship game to worry about, I have to put Kansas State as the best pick to make it to Miami. Finally, we have Notre Dame. They could only manage 21 points against a bad Boston College team. I just don't see them going into the Los Angeles Coliseum and outscoring a hot USC offense. Does it sound like I'm picking Oregon against Kansas State in the title game? Hmm...

What Happens if They Don't? If only one team emerges unscathed, that means it would come down to which one-loss team rises to the top of what could be a very crowded field. Right now those teams are Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and Rutgers. Add to that, for the sake of argument, Oregon and Notre Dame. That number will be reduced dramatically however: Alabama will probably defeat Auburn to advance to play Georgia for the SEC championship; Florida State meets Florida to end the regular season; Louisville and Rutgers will also play each in their final game. So out of the nine potential one-loss teams mentioned above, we will end up with six at most. We can eliminate the Big East champion because the BCS computers just don't rate them highly enough. Clemson is probably too far down the list, especially since Florida or Florida State would get the computer benefit of the victory in their match-up. The same is true of the SEC Championship game, with the winner getting a huge bump by the computers. Some of this will also be determined by when Oregon loses, if they do. If they fall next week against Stanford, they may have time to recover in the human polls enough with a victory over Oregon State to get back in the hunt, but a loss to the Cardinal could also eliminate them from the Pac 12 championship game. Okay, let's cut to the chase. If it comes down to an undefeated team and a one-loss team, I have to lean heavily toward the SEC champion, either Georgia or Alabama, advancing to the BCS championship game. Of course, it will all be decided on the field, by the voters and the computers. I can't wait to watch it all play out!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Morning Ponderings

How Important Are Sports? Last Tuesday, this nation re-elected a president despite being very divided  philosophically. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the most populous region of the United States. Unemployment is still plaguing the country's ability to recover economically. It made me think about the role of professional and college sports in not just our country, but the world. The NHL is in the midst of a lockout for the third time in recent memory and is not playing any games for the foreseeable future. The NBA played a shortened season last year. Individually, I don't believe any sport is irreplaceable.  Internationally, soccer is huge and I believe would sorely be missed. But aside from the people that earn their living in sports, life would go on. I am a huge sports fan, but that passion could easily be put into feeding the hungry, counseling the lonely, leading the lost and working with the youth of our nation. I hope the NCAA continues with its broad athletic programs, the NFL continues to grow and entertain, FIFA continues to bring sport to third world nations, etc. But the truth is, we can and would live without it. Just ask anyone in the Northeast still struggling without power and essential life supporting goods and services.

Lakers Fire Coach Mike Brown? Really? I guess patience isn't in Jerry Buss' vocabulary. So let's see if I have this right: You sign an aging point guard, trade away a terrific young, but sometimes flawed young player for one that has been nothing but a distraction for his franchise for the last two seasons, aging point guard gets injured, best player gets injured, you start 1 - 4 and then fire the coach. I like it. Talk about your lack of perspective. Top management makes moves it hopes will work, they take a little time to take hold and you find a convenient scapegoat in Mike Brown. Good for them. I guess they call that leadership in some alternate universe.

NHL Lockout Continues: Really? I hadn't noticed.

College Football Comments: We still have four big undefeated teams, five if you count Louisville, which most people aren't. History indicates that we'll see that number whittled to one or two by the end of the season. I have 'Bama going down today, Kansas State stubbing their toe at some point, most likely against Texas on Dec. 1, Notre Dame having great difficulty in outscoring USC and Oregon most likely running the table unless they get derailed at Oregon State. If all of them end up losing, it brings in a plethora of one-loss teams to the equation, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Clemson. Wow! I can't wait.

NFL Rankings: I know we don't generally have any rankings for the NFL, but if this was the PCS (Playoff Championship Series), here's how I would have the Top Five teams rated:

  1. Atlanta 8-0: I know the argument is they haven't won a playoff game, their division is weak and they haven't played a strong schedule. However, it's the NFL, we're still in the regular season and they're still undefeated  Enough said.
  2. Chicago 7-1: Not a lot has been said about the Bears, but they are really tough. The addition of Brandon Marshall has given Cutler a premier target and Matt Forte in the running game provides the Bears with a balanced offense to go with an always top-notch defense.
  3. Houston 7-1: Almost a ditto from above. The Texans have it all and probably should have achieved more last season.
  4. Denver 5-3: I know, they're only 5-3 with other teams above them with better records. But Peyton Manning finally has his receivers on the same page with him, they have a solid ground game and an opportunistic defense. They will be tough to beat down the stretch.
  5. (Tie) San Francisco 6-2, Baltimore 6-2: I have the Niners tied with Baltimore for the last spot in the top five. They're tough defensively and can run and pass on offense. The Ravens defense is aging and lose a little without Ray Lewis, but Joe Flacco is maturing and the offense is more dangerous than in the past.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

College Predictions

Last week's recap: 14 - 6.

Notable misses:

San Diego State's upset of Boise State. I also relied once again on the West Virginia Mountaineers, who appear to have been severely over ranked to begin the season. Oklahoma rebounded nicely to defeat Iowa State on the road. Texas appears to have turned their season around by defeating a tough Texas Tech squad in Lubbock. Just barely missed on Arizona, who lost a squeaker 66 - 10 at UCLA. And I started out the weekend by letting my heart get the best of my head in picking the Hokies to defeat Miami on the road.

This Week's Picks:

(10) Florida State 35 at Va. Tech 17: The Hokies have been too inconsistent on offense, despite the apparent talent of Logan Thomas at quarterback. It has taken longer than anticipated for their young offensive line to gel. The Seminoles still have BCS aspirations, especially with Florida still looming on their schedule. Florida State has too much for the Hokies on both sides of the ball.

(24) Northwestern 24 at Michigan 20: This is a tough one. Michigan is pretty good, but haven't really played well against very good teams. Whether Northwestern is "very good" is debatable, but they're good enough to take down the Wolverines in the Big House.

Iowa St. 20 at (17) Texas 31: Iowa St. isn't nearly as threatening on the road and Texas is playing much better. Longhorn fans can exhale again as they've averted what could have been a disastrous season. Mack Brown has done what good coaches do and righted the ship.

Kansas 14 at (22) Texas Tech 45: It's just about basketball season, which is good news for the Jayhawks, because that means it's also close to the end of football season. Kansas is in that small group of teams at the very bottom of the BCS conference schools. And the Red Raiders will be looking for some level of revenge after last week's disappointing loss to Texas.

(9) Louisville 27 at Syracuse 17: Midway through the season, it appeared that the Orangemen might make a run, but even at the Carrier Dome, they won't have enough to take down the Cardinals. The pressure to remain undefeated may cause Louisville a few problems, but in the end they should prevail.

Arkansas 20 (8) South Carolina 24: The Razorbacks' offense has struggled the last two games as Tyler Wilson has been uncharacteristically wild with his passes. The Gamecocks will pressure the Hogs and stuff the run. A rejuvenated Arkansas defense will keep this one close.

Army 14 at (23) Rutgers 27: Perhaps a Scarlet Knights victory can bring a bit of a positive vibe to a region ravaged by Sandy and Athena. Rutgers has Army overmatched in this one.

UL Lafayette 10 at (6) Florida 34: Florida squeaked by Missouri last week, but the Gators should enjoy the home confines of The Swamp in this one. If Georgia wins Saturday, they take the SEC East and will face Alabama in the championship game in Atlanta. I'm sure Will Muschamp will make sure his team knows it should have been them in that game.

Arizona St. 31 at (19) USC 42:There won't be a lot of defense in this one. After last week's shootout loss to Oregon, I look for the Trojans to keep it rolling against the Sun Devils. They need to keep winning to hold off UCLA for the Pac-12 South title and an eventual rematch against Oregon. Like anyone really wants to play the Ducks twice in a season.

(11) Oregon St. 27 at (14) Stanford 28: This is the second-best top 25 match-up of the weekend. This game is a toss up and I could make a case for either team. Put this game in Corvallis, and I go with the Beavers. However, in Palo Alto, I'll give the nod to Stanford.

Penn St. 24 at (16) Nebraska 27: At this point, this is probably the closest Penn St. will get to a bowl game. The Cornhuskers won't be planning any parties for the Nittany Lions, however. Nebraska has the upper hand in the Legends Division and this is probably the last game in question, with only Minnesota and Iowa left on the schedule.

(13) Clemson 34 at Maryland 17: I don't think the Terrapins can even come close to giving Clemson much of a battle in this one. It always astounds me when programs such as Maryland and Kansas fire coaches that have improved things, but aren't satisfied and want more. Well, they end up getting what they deserve, I guess.

Baylor 20 at (12) Oklahoma 31: The Sooners probably wish they had the K-State game back. Oklahoma needs to keep on winning and hope the Wildcats stub their toe not once, but twice. But it's college football, and wild things happen as the season wears on.

(15) Texas A&M 27 (1) Alabama 24: Okay, maybe I'm crazy. Maybe A&M isn't good enough to beat Alabama consistently. But as we've seen in the past, it only takes one game. I think the Tide is believing everything that is being written and said about them. I'm even guilty of giving Alabama the SEC West and assuming they'll be one of two teams in the BCS title game. But I just have a feeling about this one. 'Bama is going doMajor mismatch

(20) Louisiana Tech 38 at Texas State 20: Not a hard pick here. Major mismatch.

(2) Kansas St. 30 at TCU 24: I want to go with TCU here, but my better judgement has me sticking with the K-State. I think the more likely loss for the Wildcats will be Texas in the last game.

(5) Georgia 27 at Auburn 14: Georgia clinches the SEC East with a victory over the Tigers. Auburn really doesn't have much a chance to upset the Bulldogs. Richt has his players focused and on a roll. Don't count them out against Alabama either.

(21) Mississippi St. 20 at (7) LSU 24: LSU needs to recover from the tough loss to Alabama last week. They get to stay at home and will probably get the job done against Mississippi State. Les Miles will have his team ready to recover.

(4) Notre Dame 27 at Boston College 10: The Irish get a bit of a breather on the road. BC doesn't have anything close to the offense needed to give Notre Dame a challenge. The Pitt game was probably an anomaly. The USC game will be huge.

(3) Oregon 47 at California 17: This one will be just plain ugly. Not much more to say about it.

(18) UCLA 38 at Washington State 14: My guess is we'll see UCLA continue it's improvement against Washington State. If the Bruins can keep it up, that game against the Trojans next week looms large.

This is why I love college football. So many games, so many possibilities!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Perfect Four, Plus One, Prevail...Barely

The Luck of the Irish, the Power of the Tide and More: For a while yesterday it looked as if we would be down to three, or maybe even two title contenders in college football. But alas, the Irish pulled it out in overtime, the Crimson Tide somehow found a way to get a late score, Oregon flat out kept the gas on until the end and Kansas State continued doing what they've done all year. So as we sit here  on Sunday morning, with four weeks left in the season, there are still four undefeated teams atop the standings in college football. There is a fifth that is quietly moving into consideration, as Louisville also stayed undefeated by spotting Temple an early lead and then cruising to victory.  We still have one-loss teams, such as Georgia, Florida, Oregon St., Clemson and Florida State hanging around. There are still too many scenarios to consider on the way to Miami, but let's just look at the most likely stumbling blocks for the top four. For Alabama, it's likely now that only an SEC Championship game match-up against Georgia, which can clinch the SEC East with a victory over Auburn on Saturday, stands in their way. Considering the way LSU stayed with the Tide, I would expect Mark Richt, the Bulldogs coach, to take a very hard look at that game film. Georgia's defense and timely passing game can give Alabama the same fits that LSU did. Kansas State still has TCU and Texas to play. With their victory at Texas Tech yesterday, it appears the Longhorns have fixed some of their early season issues, making the season ending game in Manhattan crucial to the national scene, but only if the Wildcats get by TCU in Fort Worth, which handed West Virginia a 2 OT loss in Morgantown by virtue of a two-point conversion. Notre Dame has what should be two easy games against Wake Forest and Boston College before traveling to Los Angeles for a showdown with USC, a 62 - 51 loser to Oregon on Saturday. The Trojans will put more pressure on a strong Irish defense than they've seen all season. If Barkley hits his targets like he did against the Ducks, Notre Dame could be in for a long game. And now Oregon, which had been expecting a rematch with USC in the Pac-12 title game, may have to contend with UCLA instead, a 66 - 10 winner over Arizona. However, the Bruins end the season against USC and Stanford, making the Pac-12 South still too close to call. And the Ducks themselves end the season against Stanford and Oregon State. One poor game offensively and the Ducks could find themselves on the outside looking in. All in all, it makes for a fascinating finish to the season. I'm still predicting that we end up with no more than two undefeated teams when the dust settles on Dec. 1. The big question is, who will they be? Heck, I have no clue, but it will be a lot of fun watching how it plays out.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What is Bloomberg Thinking?

Are You Kidding Me?

Entire communities in the New York City region are devastated, most still without power and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to run the New York City Marathon as scheduled on Sunday. What planet is he living on? Has he even seen the destruction in his own city? Talk about your lack of perspective. I have family members staying in a hotel 75 miles from their home just so they can function with some electricity and Bloomberg is putting on a sporting event that spans over 26 miles and requires a huge amount of police and other infrastructure support. New Yorkers are waiting in lines for hours just to get gas and Bloomberg is putting on a sporting event that can't help but take efforts away from the recovery of his city. Forty miles down the coast, seaside towns are covered in sand, hundreds of homes destroyed by the fury of the ocean and Bloomberg is putting on a sporting event that requires thousands of people to come to New York, find accommodations and secure transportation to the race site. His arrogance and lack of compassion for his own constituents is appalling, especially for a city that had to go through the extensive healing process following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centers.

I'm not a New Yorker, so perhaps I'm off base here. But in a sense, we're all New Yorkers. It's the flagship city of our country, the home to the United Nations and the Statue of Liberty. Many of us are descendants of immigrants who entered this country by passing through New York on their way to destinations throughout this great nation. So no, I'm not a New Yorker, but I think we all have the right to our opinion on Bloomberg's insensitivity. It's probably too late for him to reconsider and he won't read this blog anyway, but  next time he needs to think a little more about putting an infrastructure intensive sporting event ahead of the well being of the citizens of his city.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

College Football Predictions

The Top Ten:

Missouri 14 (7) Florida 24:  Florida should bounce back from last week's loss to Georgia, even it they're a little hungover from all of those turnovers. Missouri is a good club but still finding their way in the SEC.

Temple 20  (10) Louisville 30: It took eight weeks for an undefeated Big East team to break into the top ten. It's about time. I admit,the league isn't top notch, but Louisville has a good chance of running the table if they can get by Rutgers on Thanksgiving.

Mississippi 17 (6) Georgia 27: The Bulldogs re-entered the national scene with their victory over Florida and control their own destiny to get to the SEC championship game against either Alabama or LSU. It will take some serious upsets down the road, but Georgia can still aspire to the BCS title game. Their primary  opponent is the remaining schedule. After this week, they face Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. The computers won't like that slate very much.

Pittsburgh 10 (3) Notre Dame 27: The Irish won't have much trouble with the Panthers unless they're looking ahead. That Notre Dame defense is very scary and I don't see Pitt having enough firepower to challenge it. It took me a while, but I'm a believer in the Irish. It looks like that showdown against USC may be the only thing standing between Notre Dame and a matchup with Alabama.

(4) Oregon 42 (17) USC 27: Unless USC suddenly finds different players, I just don't see them staying on the field with Oregon. The Ducks pass the eyeball test on both sides of the ball and it would be a shame if the BCS system ends up leaving an undefeated Oregon out of the picture.

(24) Oklahoma St. 20 (2) Kansas St. 31: This isn't the same Cowboy team that contended the last couple of years. The Wildcats are on a true roll and I don't see Oklahoma St. stopping it. Too bad the playoffs don't begin this season. We could end up with four very good undefeated teams and only spots for two of them in the championship game.

(1) Alabama 24 (5) LSU 17: Last year, LSU squeaked by Alabama in Tuscaloosa to earn a rematch in the  BCS championship game. No such deal this year. With Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame sitting in the wings, it's doubtful Alabama can lose and make it to Miami. LSU isn't as good as they were a year ago and Alabama's better. Even in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night, I like the Crimson Tide to stay on track.

The Rest of the Top 25:

(12) Oklahoma 20 Iowa St. 24: Bob Stoops has his work cut out for him in getting his club back up for the trip to Ames to face an upset-minded Iowa St. squad. I don't think the Sooners can regroup quickly enough from Saturday's disappointing loss to Notre Dame. Iowa State is very tough at home and they almost pulled the biggest upset of the year by challenging Kansas State.

(16) Texas A&M 31 (15) Mississippi St. 21: I like the Aggies a lot and Mississippi St. is not nearly as good as their record might indicate. Unlike Missouri, A&M has come into the SEC West in a competitive manner and will continue that effort this weekend. The Bulldogs aren't quite good enough on either side of the ball to contend in this game.

(14) Stanford 48 Colorado 13: Colorado may be the worst team in any BCS conference. Stanford will run at will in Boulder.

TCU 28 (21) West Virginia 38: I'm not convinced that West Virginia is the 21st best team in the country, but I'll give them the nod here. They're at home and TCU's has lost their last two games, giving up a lot of points in the process. This is likely to be a shootout, a scenario that is much better suited to West Virginia's style than TCU's.

(20) Nebraska 24 Michigan St. 13:  Michigan St. is coming off a win over Wisconsin, another underachieving team. But the Spartans have scored more than 20 points against only one BCS team. You don't win many games in college football with an offense that inept, and they won't win this one either.

(23) Texas 27 Texas Tech 38: I can't believe the Longhorns are still ranked where they are, but this one should knock them out of the top 25. Texas Tech is good, and even better at home. Tommy Tubberville's defense is good enough to stop Texas and the Red Raiders offense should overpower a Longhorn defense that at times can't stop anyone.

UTSA 10 (25) Louisiana Tech 45: La. Tech is a good example of how the landscape of college football is gradually changing. There are very good teams and in fact, entire conferences outside of the BCS qualifier conferences. Boise State was just the beginning.

(13) Clemson 34 Duke 24: Clemson can still win the Atlantic Division of the ACC if Florida State stumbles again. I don't see Duke challenging the Tigers. Clemson has too much speed and too many play makers, including QB Tajh Boyd, on offense. I think it's great that the Blue Devils are bowl-eligible, but they won't improve their position this week.

Arizona St. 31 (11) Oregon St. 34: Both of these teams lost close ones last week, but the Beavers were on the road and the Sun Devils lost to UCLA at home in Tempe. I'm giving Oregon St. the edge, mainly because they're at home.

(22) Arizona 41 UCLA 35: This is one that should go to the wire, once again the last team with the ball could very well win. UCLA was primarily outplayed last week, but pulled it out in the end. I like what Jim Mora has done with the Bruins, but eventually the high risk style of play results in some losses.

San Diego St. 24 (19) Boise St. 27: Although they aren't in the national title hunt, Boise is still a good team and should take care of business this week against another pretty good ball club.

Other Games of Interest (At Least to Me):

Virginia Tech 30 Miami 27: This should be an exciting Thursday night matchup, the first of two in a row for Virginia Tech. Both teams need a win to keep bowl hopes alive. I see the Hokies bouncing back from a disappointing effort at Clemson to stay alive in the Coastal Division race.

Tulsa 28 Arkansas 31: The Razorbacks let one get away in Little Rock last week against Ole Miss. They host a prolific Tulsa team for homecoming and need a much better game from QB Tyler Wilson to hold off the Golden Hurricanes. A loss in Fayetteville would not sit well with the Arkansas faithful. I think we'll see a lot more from the running game for the Hogs against a smaller Tulsa team.