"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, August 29, 2014

FRIDAY RANDOM THOUGHTS

It's a Friday before a holiday weekend, which also happens to be the first one of the college football season. My picks for Thursday were abysmal and I was only saved from going zero for the night by an expected blowout win by Arizona State. So I have to come back from a 1 - 3 start, but it's a long season and hope springs eternal.

College Football Kicks Off: As I watched Texas A&M dismantle South Carolina last night, I couldn't help but wonder whether the Aggies are that good or if the Gamecocks are a bit overrated. If it's the former, then the rest of the SEC West had better be on notice that the post-Manziel offense for Texas A&M will be very formidable. On the other hand, I saw a lot of missed tackles and blown assignments by a South Carolina defense that didn't really look ready to play against a very good freshman quarterback. I had picked the Gamecocks to hold serve at home, but they were never in this one. As the season unfolds, we'll be better able to evaluate the performance of both teams. Could Texas A&M be this year's Auburn? It's just too early to tell.

Josh Gordon Needs to Take His Punishment: The troubled Cleveland Brown wide receiver was handed a season-long suspension for his third violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. This is a very talented young man who has repeatedly been in trouble, going back to his days at Baylor. We can all agree that the public opinion of marijuana use is definitely shifting, but the fact remains that it is illegal in almost every state and clearly against the rules of the NFL. Millions of working Americans are subject to testing for illegal drug use and face harsh disciplinary action for failing those tests. In many cases, three times would result in termination. At least Gordon gets to come back. He needs to shut up and get his act together.

Where's the U.S. in the U.S. Open? The top seeded American men's tennis player in the U.S. Open that is currently in its first week of competition is number 13 John Isner. There are a lot of great and compelling players in the tournament, but with the exception of Serena Williams on the women's side, none of them come from the United States. It's inexplicable to me that the USTA hasn't been able to generate enough interest in its game to develop good, competitive young players. And by the way, Isner is 29, Willams 32. Not exactly a strong youth movement.

NFL Comes to the Table: Domestic violence is a huge problem in this country and has been, for the most part, largely ignored. It doesn't help that the very group that is responsible for protecting the public, law enforcement professionals, are primarily male and live in a violent world. I don't believe there is ever a valid reason for a man to strike a woman, or vice versa. Hopefully the NFL's decision to punish violent offenders will send a message to the macho group that beating up on women is a cowardly and totally unacceptable act.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coaches Bail, Athletes Have To Stay

Obviously, It’s All About Winning:

Let’s see, Bobby Petrino is now the head football coach at the University of Louisville, which begins its first season in the ACC. No big deal, right? I mean let’s face it, the guy can flat out recruit and coach football players. His teams win, and win in exciting fashion. They must really like him at Louisville, considering they hired him for the second time after taking the Cardinals to four bowl games and leading them to two top ten national rankings in four seasons from 2003 – 2006.

But now this is where it gets interesting. Petrino, despite pledging allegiance to Louisville, secretly flirted with other head coaching positions, most notably Auburn, before leaving college behind for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. He thought he was going to have a healthy Michael Vick in the prime of his quarterback career to build around. But Vick had a little problem with a dog fighting ring and ended up spending some time away at the expense of the American taxpayers. Not one to sit still for long, Petrino bailed on Falcons owner Arthur Blank and his team after thirteen games when Arkansas came calling in the fall of 2007.

After turning the Razorback program around and propelling them to a top five ranking after defeating Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, things looked pretty bright in Fayetteville. A good core of returning players, a decent recruiting class and three consecutive bowl games had Arkansas on everyone’s radar screen for the 2012 season. Then Petrino made multiple errors in judgment that ultimately cost him his job. A motorcycle accident with a recently hired employee on the back of his bike could have possibly, just possibly gotten him a stern slap on the wrist from Athletic Director Jeff Long. But lying about the incident and being found to have cut some corners to hire his motorcycle passenger were just too much for the university to tolerate. Long ultimately did the right thing and the program has yet to recover.

What I think is interesting is that in an environment where we hear a lot about character and integrity, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter to many Athletic Directors as long as they have winning programs that generate a lot of revenue. Just look at Lane Kiffin who was fired at USC last year. That guy bounces around like a ping pong ball on a rocky driveway. He was at Tennessee for one season before bailing on the Volunteers to go back to USC.


The hypocrisy in all of this is that the student-athletes (I had a hard time typing that, just so you know) aren’t given the same kind of freedom. If they want to transfer, it costs them a season of eligibility and they have to sit out a year of competition. In some conferences, they aren’t even allowed to go to another school in the same league. Heck, we hear a lot about paying the players, but what about taking changing the rules and letting these kids transfer without penalty if their coach bails out on them for another million bucks? The long term coach is a thing of the past, it seems, and so should the archaic transfer rules for kids that think they're going to play for a coaching staff, only to have to deal with a group of new leaders with whom they have no relationship.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WEEK ONE PREDICTIONS

After over seven months of having to convince ourselves that the NBA, early season Major League Baseball, golf's four major championships, hockey and even the World Cup somehow passed for sports, it's time for what we've been craving since Florida State's exciting victory over Auburn. COLLEGE FOOTBALL!

And to think that finally, the conclusion to the upcoming season will be a four team (soon to be eight teams) playoff that will give us a true champion of the sport. Florida State goes into the season as the odds on favorite, but that's usually just a kiss of death. But if the Seminoles can get out of North Texas (for those that don't know, it used to be known as Dallas) with an opening victory over Oklahoma State, who besides Clemson will really be able to derail them until they face Virginia Tech (okay, that's just blatant homer talk) in the ACC Championship game?

Although the opening weekend is mostly made up of FCS schools looking for big paydays to lose to high powered FBS programs, there are a few big early season matchups that could ultimately influence who will be in that final four come season's end.

As in seasons' past, I include all games that involve top 25 teams, plus selected games of the power conference teams. As an alum of Virginia Tech and a resident of Northwest Arkansas, games involving the Hokies and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks are always included in the predictions.


Thursday, August 28

(21) Texas A&M  @ (9) South Carolina: Both teams lost high profile athletes that dominated any coverage last season. But Johnnie Football and Jadeveon Clowney are both at the next level, so we'll see what's left in College Station and Columbia. Manziel was able to compensate for a terrible Aggie defense, while the Gamecocks have balance on both sides of the football. This one won't even be close. South Carolina 34 Texas A&M 20.

Boise State @ (18) Ole Miss: If Ole Miss wasn't in the SEC, would anyone think they were a top 20 team? So you lose to really good teams. You have to win games to impress me, and they won't win this one. Boise State 27 Ole Miss 24.

Weber St. @ (19) Arizona State: I really like Arizona State, but we won't get a good gauge of their team this week. Weber St. has won four games in the last two years and replaced their coach after last season's 2-10 campaign. Arizona St. 57 Weber St. 10

Rutgers @ Washington State: Rutgers begins their first season in the Big Ten by traveling across the country to face the Cougars. Both teams had identical 6 - 7 records last season. I'll go with the home team in this one. Washington St. 27 Rutgers 24

Friday, August 29

Jacksonville State @ (8) Michigan State: Jacksonville State advance to the second round of the FCS playoffs last season, so the Spartans need to be paying attention to this one. Big Ten teams have proved to be vulnerable to these apparent walk overs in the past. But I think the Michigan State defense will prevail. Michigan State 31 Jacksonville State 14

Colorado State @ Colorado: We don't usually see big rivalry games to open the season, but this one  traditionally comes in week 1. Last year, Colorado kicked off what ended up being a disappointing 4 - 8 year by defeating the Rams, who finished with a bowl victory over Washington State. Look for a different result this time. Colorado State 30 Colorado 27

Saturday, August 30

(5) Ohio State @ Navy (Baltimore): Navy's ground oriented offense can always cause problems for opponents. Ohio State will be starting a freshman QB following Braxton Miller's season ending injury. The game will be in Baltimore before a large crowd, many of which will be looking for an inspiring performance from the home standing underdog. Navy is a formidable opponent that won games against Big Ten and ACC opponents last year. They also gave Notre Dame all they could handle in a 38 - 34 loss. Surprise in Kingstown. Navy 27 Ohio State 24

(7) UCLA @ Virginia: There are real problems with Virginia's football program and Jim Mora has UCLA on the rise. This will be an old fashioned butt kicking in Charlottesville. Of course, my Hokie roots have no impact on this pick.  UCLA 51 Virginia 14

West Virginia @ (2) Alabama: At some point you have to figure the Crimson Tide will stub a toe. But after struggling through a 4 - 8 season, it's hard to believe the Mountaineers will provide the door jam that will get in the way of Alabama's big toe. Alabama 34 West Virginia 13.

Rice @ (17) Notre Dame: As usual, the Irish are grossly overranked, especially this season as they are in the midst of an academic scandal within their football program. Rice was an overachiever last season, going 9 - 3 in the regular season and advancing to the Liberty Bowl where they got ripped by Mississippi State. If there was a time for the Owls to surprise Notre Dame, this would be it. But not this time. Close, but no cigar. Notre Dame 30 Rice 27 

South Dakota State @ (24) Missouri: Another game matching a strong FCS division team against a top 25 (okay, according to the polls) program. I don't think Missouri will come close to their success of a season ago, and there's a good chance that the Jackrabbits, yes, the Jackrabbits, could be a formidable opening week foe for the Tigers. But as much as I think Missouri will fail to follow up on 2013, they'll probably prevail in this one. Missouri 31 South Dakota State 20

Florida Atlantic @ (22) Nebraska: The FCS Owls finished last season with four consecutive victories and even defeated FBS South Florida after losses to Miami and East Carolina to start the 2013 campaign. I'm not a huge Nebraska fan, mainly because the team reflects the inconsistency and volatility of head coach Bo Pelini. But the 'Huskers should be able to get by FAU.
Nebraska 28 Florida Atlantic 17

Arkansas @ (6) Auburn: This game is compelling for a number of reasons. Can Auburn duplicate last season's success, much of which came in close (okay, some call lucky) wins? Is Arkansas coach Bret Bielema playing it close to the vest or are the Razorbacks just not very good? Auburn is coming off a season where they were 13 seconds from a national championship. Arkansas was horrible, losing its final nine games to finish 3 - 9. Auburn QB Nick Marshall will sit this one out, but it probably won't matter. Auburn 27 Arkansas 17.

UC Davis @ (11) Stanford: If this was a wine making competition, then my money would be on the Aggies. Unfortunately, this is big time college football and the only stomping will be by the Cardinal. Stanford 45 UC Davis 14.

(16) Clemson @ (12) Georgia: In what both teams hope will be a national championship elimination game, the outcome could come down to a big play late in the game. Clemson lost a couple of big weapons on offense and will need to find replacements quickly to derail the Bulldogs. I'm not sure they can do it. Georgia 24 Clemson 20

Liberty @ (23) North Carolina: I don't think I buy into the Tar Heels' preseason ranking, but they'll have enough to defeat the Flames, coming off a respectable 8 - 4 season in FCS.
North Carolina 34 Liberty 16

Louisiana Tech @ (4) Oklahoma: The Sooners shouldn't have much to worry about as they attempt to carry that number four rating to the playoffs in January. Oklahoma 41 La. Tech 14

Stephen F. Austin @ (20) Kansas St.: The Lumberjacks give up a lot of points, not a great formula for pulling a big opening week upset on the road against a ranked opponent.
Kansas State 45 Stephen F. Austin 14

Fresno State @ (15) USC: This contest is a replay of the Las Vegas Bowl in which the Trojans overwhelmed Fresno State, a team I thought was overrated all season long. I don't see this one ending much differently, especially since new USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has had a full preseason to put his stamp on the team. USC 34 Fresno State 14

(1) Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Arlington, TX): Jerry Jones' billion dollar house will play host to this game, a pretty good one to gauge whether the Seminoles have what it takes to repeat as national champions. The crowd should be overwhelmingly  partisan for the Cowboys, who despite a lot of recent success, enters the season unranked. Florida State 30 Oklahoma State 20

(14) Wisconsin vs. (13) LSU (Houston, TX): LSU is ranked pretty highly for a team that lost a lot of talent from last season. Both teams played brilliantly at times last season, and looked rather average at others. Despite what will be a big LSU crowd in Reliant Stadium, I like Wisconsin to pull a minor upset. Wisconsin 27 LSU 24

(25) Washington @ Hawaii: Steve Sarkisian left Chris Peterson a Washington program that is on the rise. The Rainbows are considering dropping football. This doesn't bode well for Hawaii.
Washington 37 Hawaii 13

South Dakota @ (3) Oregon: This game won't do anything in Oregon's attempt to make the playoffs. South Dakota is a mediocre FCS team and running up the score won't help the Ducks' cause.
Oregon 47 South Dakota 10.

William and Mary @ Virginia Tech: It wasn't that long ago that the highly regarded Hokies lost to FCS  James Madison following a close loss to Boise State. Although the Tribe is a pretty good FCS team, I look for the Hokies to have enough for an opening victory. Virginia Tech 27 William and Mary 13.

Sunday, August 31

SMU @ (10) Baylor: SMU went 5 - 7 a year ago and at times gave up a lot of points. Baylor went 11-2 and except for their loss for Oklahoma State, scored a lot of points. This one could be ridiculously lopsided. Baylor 56  SMU 27

Miami, FL @ Louisville: In another bowl game rematch, the Cardinals are welcoming back Bobby Petrino and playing their first game in the ACC against a former national power that has yet to win an ACC title. The Hurricanes are trying desperately to recapture that past glory. The fact that Louisville would hire Petrino again will be the subject of an upcoming blog. The Hurricanes rose to #6 in the rankings last season before getting drilled by Florida State and Virginia Tech. Charlie Strong left Louisville in very good shape so I don't see how much could have changed in the last eight months.     Louisville 30  Miami, FL 28