"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.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

BIG TEN PREVIEW: CAN OHIO STATE BE CHALLENGED?



I’ll just state this up front: Compared to the other Big Five conferences, and despite having the defending national champions as a member, the Big Ten is pretty much a joke in relative terms. Between soft non-conference schedules and a lack of tough inter-divisional matchups, there is very little drama expected this season. Michigan State takes on Oregon, Wisconsin has tot contend with Alabama and Ohio State travels to Va. Tech to avenge their only 2014 defeat, but other than those games there isn't much competition outside the conference for the top teams. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin are clearly the class of the conference, with very little expectation that someone else can enter that upper echelon. With Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor, Michigan is probably going to contend in the near future, but it’s unlikely to  be this season. Because Wisconsin plays neither of the top teams in the East, the Badgers’ October 10 game at Nebraska may be their only hurdle to a rematch of last year’s championship debacle against Ohio State, a 59 – 0 drubbing in which Wisconsin seemed to quit. If I was a conspiracy theorist or a reader of my own PK Frazer novels, you could make a case that the Big Ten asked Wisconsin to take one for the league so that the Buckeyes could sneak into the playoff picture. But that was last year, so let’s get back to 2015.

Likewise, the East title will be come down to the November 21 clash between Ohio State and Michigan State in Columbus. The Buckeyes could probably play their second team after their September 7 opener at Virginia Tech and still go into that game undefeated. For such a high profile program, their non-conference slate is an embarrassment. I totally disagreed with their inclusion in the playoffs last year and maintain that the committee should leave the Big Ten out of the mix, unless Michigan State can win the league, if they don’t upgrade their non-conference matchups, primarily because the league lacks depth. At least the Spartans host Oregon and Air Force and take on Nebraska from the West. It’s impossible however to argue against Ohio State repeating. They bring back fifteen position starters, have incredible depth at quarterback and possess one of the top two or three coaches in college football. Regardless of whether J.T. Barrett or Cordell Jones emerges as the starting signal caller, the Buckeyes aren’t likely to be tested until Michigan State rolls into town. And even then, there’s a solid chance they could be double-digit favorites.

In the West, as I mentioned, Wisconsin will be looking to bounce back from an embarrassing finish to an otherwise solid season. I don’t think anyone saw the shutout loss to Ohio State coming, especially with the Buckeyes down to their third string QB. The Badgers’ biggest challenge will be to replace RB Melvin Gordon and fill some holes on the offensive line. But defensively, they’ll be tough, returning six starters. In Lincoln, former Oregon State coach Mike Riley inherits an experienced Nebraska team that’s led by QB Tommy Armstrong. The question is whether Armstrong’s passing accuracy can improve enough to be successful in Riley’s pro-style offense. If so, they can challenge for the crown. If not, it might open the door for Iowa or Minnesota to get to the next level. The sad story for the Big Ten is that outside of Wisconsin, there probably isn’t a team in the West that could compete in the SEC West, the Pac-12 or the Big 12. As you can see, I’m not a big fan of this conference.

Prediction: Ohio State by a mile.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.




Tuesday, August 25, 2015

THE NCAA JUST CAN'T GET IT RIGHT

In what appeared to be a move in the right direction, the NCAA has allowed universities to provide to athletes, as part of an athletic scholarship, additional compensation that covers the full cost of attendance. Previously, they were entitled to tuition, room, board, books and fees. That didn't do much to provide the student-athletes with walking around money. Now, as I've been advocating for quite a while, scholarship athletes that come from less affluent families won't be treated as second class citizens on campus from an economic perspective. But instead of coming up with an across the board figure that all schools can provide, the NCAA lets the schools themselves determine what the total cost of attendance is. That figure varies, with the extra compensation at Boston College totaling $1500, while it's $6,000 at, you guessed it, Alabama. So in an effort to even the playing field, all the NCAA did was to give the big football schools an additional recruiting tool to attract players. Really?

I find it hard to believe that the smart guys at the NCAA couldn't have come up with a better solution than one that enables athletic donors to funnel additional money to players. I'm not saying that it's easy, but that's a difference of $22,500 over a five year period, assuming a player ends up red-shirting a season, which is a common practice, especially for non-skill positions players. True, I guess BC and the other schools at the lower end of the spectrum could report a higher number, but the additional cost could be prohibitive.  An annual stipend of $6,000, for those that need some help with the math, is a whopping $500 per month. That sure sounds like a lot of walking around money to me. In fact, it appears to be more like running around money.

There have been a lot of ideas thrown around, one of them that proposes putting money in a trust account that the student-athletes will have available to them upon graduation. I like the idea, except that it doesn't solve the walking around money issue. At the end of the day, maybe the big money football schools are going to have it their way no matter what, but I'd have liked to see the NCAA give it a better shot before capitulating so early.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.




Sunday, August 16, 2015

BIG FIVE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: THE ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE

With the college football season just three weeks away, it’s time to take a look at the Big Five conferences and some selected teams from the independent ranks and other conferences. With the advent of the College Football Playoff system, the schedule will be a big part of determining the makeup of the Final Four. Until the field inevitably expands to eight teams, one or more of the power conferences will be shut out of the playoffs. I’ll be taking the next few posts to come to a conclusion of which teams stand the best chance to make it into the tournament. We’ll start with a view of the Atlantic Coast Conference, home of the final BCS champion, Florida State.

ACC Preview:

The ACC is an interesting conference. In addition to the fourteen football schools, Notre Dame participates as a member in all of the other sports. The Irish play six football games against member schools, so even though they don’t compete for a title, half of their games are against conference foes. It’s my prediction that as soon as the league decides on a fifteenth member, Notre Dame will bite the bullet and round out the conference’s full sixteen team lineup. But let’s get to this season’s outlook, leaving Notre Dame to a later post.

Last season’s championship game pitted Georgia Tech against Florida State, won by the Seminoles 37 - 35. I think the gig’s probably up for the ‘Noles as they try to replace Jameis Winston at quarterback as well as six other starters on offense. A lot of experts are picking Georgia Tech in the Coastal, but they have what is arguably the toughest schedule in the league, playing Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic Division and Notre Dame and Georgia in non-conference matchups. Despite thirteen returning position starters, the Yellow Jackets will probably need to defeat Virginia Tech to return to the championship game.

Now to the rest of the league, since I don’t think either of last year’s championship game participants will be back in 2015. The Atlantic Division is top heavy, while the Coastal probably has more strength from top to bottom.  The pundits, including those that have a vote in the preseason polls have three ACC teams in the top 25: Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech. But the fallacy in that logic is that those three teams all play each other and the Atlantic teams also have to take on Louisville and N.C. State. Georgia Tech and Clemson also take on Notre Dame, which is ranked in the top ten in most rankings. Unless my math skills are rusty, that’s five guaranteed losses to be shared among those four teams. And that’s just in games involving those teams. Georgia Tech has to play Virginia Tech and Georgia, Clemson gets South Carolina and Florida State gets, well, okay, Florida.

Looking at the schedules, last year’s results and the number of returning starters, a couple of teams emerge, not so much nationally but within the league. Virginia Tech dodges Florida State, Clemson and Louisville, setting up the game with Georgia Tech as a potential winner take all contest for the Coastal. But given the difficulty of the Yellow Jackets’ slate, the Hokies may be able to get to the championship game even if they lose to Paul Johnson’s squad.  As for the Coastal, Louisville can certainly contend if they can pull out a victory over either Clemson or Florida State. The Seminoles pulled out a number of close victories last year, and those things have a way of evening out over time. Clemson is talented, but they only return three starters on defense, leaving them vulnerable if the offense has some difficulty in a game or two.

I would think that an ACC team is  going to have to run the table or have no more than one loss to get into the playoffs. Last year, Florida State was undefeated and still didn’t get one of top two seeds. I like Louisville and Virginia Tech to meet in Charlotte for the title, with the Cardinals standing a much better chance to make it into the playoffs with a victory. But don’t count out the Hokies. With a huge opener in Blacksburg against reigning national champ Ohio State, they can certainly gain some national attention with an upset win, just as they did in Columbus last year. They follow it up with games at Purdue and East Carolina before their conference slate.


My prediction: Louisville

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.




Tuesday, August 11, 2015

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: JORDAN TRIES FOR NUMBER THREE, DJ TRIES TO FORGET 2010, TIGER TRIES TO RECAPTURE THE PAST

This week's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits will begin with a number of potentially big stories unfolding: Rory McIlroy's return to action after a seven week absence; Jordan Spieth's attempt to win his third major of 2015; Ricky Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar  looking for their first major; and of course Tiger Woods looking to regain his form from a couple of years ago. The last time the PGA was played at this Wisconsin links style layout in 2010, Dustin Johnson grounded his club in a sand trap that had been trampled by spectators and incurred a two shot penalty that kept him out of a playoff that Martin Kaymer eventually won. Johnson, despite some close calls, is still searching for that elusive first major victory. This venue, which requires length and accuracy off the tee, sets up well for long hitters who can at least keep it in the fairway most of the time. So with the way DJ has been playing recently, he has a good chance of contending again. Here is my assessment of the chances of some of the leaders in the FedEx Cup standings:

Jordan Spieth: This 22 year old has been phenomenal this season, winning the first two majors and coming within a couple of inches of holing a birdie putt at the eighteenth hole at St. Andrews that would have put him in a playoff at the British Open. Spieth is pretty accurate off the tee, but I'm not sure if his length enough to put him over the top with guys like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson bombing away. Of course, his iron play and putting is usually sufficient to put him in contention.

Bubba Watson: Since missing the cut at The Open Championship, Watson has finished second at the Canadian Open and the Bridgestone. His major championship performance has not been good, with 38th place at the Masters and a missed cut at the U.S. Open. But his length should give him a good shot, and he was the player that Kaymer defeated in the playoff at Whistling Straits in 2010. So he's played well at this course, he's played well the last few weeks and the course sets up nicely for him. I like his chances a lot this week.

Jimmy Walker: A solid player, even if he is a little bit of a late bloomer, Walker has two wins and only one missed cut, at the Players, this season. He is decently long off the tee, but his accuracy is a little suspect, and missed fairways are a recipe for disaster at Whistling Straits. He missed the cut here in 2010, so he'll need to improve his driving to contend.

Jason Day: Since the Memorial in June, Day has finished no worse than 12th, recording a victory at the RBC Canadian Open in the process. Despite an inner ear problem, he still managed a tie for ninth a the U.S. Open and followed that up with a fourth place finish at The Open Championship. This 27 year old is poised to break through with a major win. His top ten finish in 2010 proves he can score well at Whistling Straits. I know he's a favorite among a lot of experts, but he'll need to keep the ball in the short grass off the tee. If he does, he could be lifting that Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday night.

Dustin Johnson: After a six month hiatus that is still a bit on the mysterious side, he's put up a win, a playoff loss and five other top eight finishes. All he needs is a major, something he's let slip through his hands more than once. In 2010, all he needed to do was put the ball in the fairway on the 72nd hole and he probably would have won the title. Instead, he was off line and the rest is history. I like his chances this week. It will be interesting to see how he handles his emotions if he makes the turn on Sunday with a shot at victory.

Justin Rose: The talented Englishman missed the cut here in 2010, but you just can't help but love this guy's game. He's currently fourth in total driving and in his last nine events he's put up six top six finishes, a win, a playoff loss and only one missed cut. He already has a U.S. Open title and the way he's playing, it's hard to think he won't add another major title or two before he's finished. If he can keep driving the ball long and straight, he's my pick to win.

Zach Johnson: Despite being one of the shorter drivers on tour, Zach was able to finish one shot out of 2010's playoff. He won a Master's without ever going for a par 5 in two, outlasted an amazing leaderboard at The Open Championship to win in a playoff, so I can't count this guy out. He's tough and now with a couple of major championships, he's put himself in some pretty rarified air. Johnson just knows how to get around a golf course and his driving accuracy, currently fourth on tour, will give him plenty of chances to attack the pin when the opportunity presents itself. But two consecutive majors? Not likely.

Patrick Reed: Reed hasn't been playing well lately and his total driving ranking of 170 would indicate that he doesn't have a chance this week. He didn't play in 2010, not turning pro until 2011 and there are no amateurs in the PGA field. After a great start to the season, he's faded and I don't really expect him to contend.

Ricky Fowler: I have to say it. I really do love this kid. Great golfer, great respect for the game, clearly a great friend of some of his peers on tour. It's cool to see the kids dressed like him. I was so pleased when he won the Players, especially in comeback fashion. His play in the majors has been consistently stellar the last couple of years, but his season it's been pretty mediocre. A 12th place finish at the Masters was followed by a missed cut at the U.S. Open and a tie for 30th at St. Andrews. The last time the PGA was at Whistling Straits, he shot a 77 on Sunday to fade to fifty-eighth place. But his total driving rank of 21 might  help him to be a factor on the back nine of the final round.

J.B. Holmes: Five years ago, Holmes was in the next to last group on Saturday, but imploded with a 77. He rebounded with strong 70 on Sunday to finish 24th. Holmes' length off the tee is a real advantage at Whistling Straits and for some reason I really like his chances this week. He was in the hunt at Chamber's Bay, but faded with a 76 on Sunday. This guy is my true dark horse.

Matt Kuchar: Driving the ball has been Kuchar's big problem this season, but he finished tied for 10th in 2010 so maybe he can connect with those positive vibes this week. His inclusion on this list is more emotional than factual, as I'm just a big Matt Kuchar fan. I'd like to see a little more intensity and grit from him, and he'll need it to beat guys like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.

Sergio Garcia: I've said it before and I'll continue to say it until Sergio gets the major monkey off his back. Sixteen years ago Tiger Woods won his second major at this very tournament, challenged to the end by a nineteen year old Spaniard who looked destined to win several majors of his own. But here we are in 2015, and Garcia's legacy is mainly as a Ryder Cupper and Players champion. Garcia missed the cut in 2010 and his driving stats, while good, don't really point to a win this week. But if he has a chance at victory, I'll be pulling for him.

Rory McIlroy: After seven consecutive top eleven finishes and two wins in May, Rory broke his ankle playing soccer and hasn't teed it up since the U.S. Open. What was missing from his game in prior years, mainly focus and consistency, seems to have been evident in abundance before his injury. But can he return from an injury to his left foot, a body part so critical to a right-handed golfer's swing? I'm pretty skeptical, especially since he obviously wasn't healthy enough to tune up at last week's tournament that offered the opportunity to play four rounds because there was no cut. Whistling Straits is a very difficult track to walk, so I just don't see him making the cut, much less getting in contention.

Phil Mickelson: At the age of 45, Mickelson, very possibly the most popular American golfer next to Arnold Palmer, is reaching the twilight of his illustrious career. But his five major championships and 42 career victories rank him second to Tiger Woods on the active player list. Save for a couple of bad shots at U.S. Opens, he could have been a career grand slam winner as well. Does he have another major or two in him? Recent play would indicate not. However, just like the King before him, he'll have plenty of followers until he decides to move on to the Champions Tour.

Tiger Woods: Is his game back far enough for him to contend at a major again? Maybe not, but there's no doubt that if his name shows up on the first page of the leaderboard, as it did at the Quicken Loans a couple of weeks ago, a lot of people will start to take notice. Woods is an old 38, having played competitive golf at a high level for more than twenty five years. That's a lot of swings with a technique that exerted a lot of pressure on his joints. But one thing is indisputable: when he was on his game from 1999 to 2008, there was no one that could come close to beating him. I've been watching golf on television and up close at tournaments since 1964, and while I only caught Hogan and Snead near the end of their careers, no one has ever come close to what Tiger Woods could do on a golf course. Will he win this week?

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.




Thursday, August 6, 2015

NFL OWNER DAN SNYDER NOT THINKING THIS THROUGH: GREAT OPPORTUNITY IN REDSKINS' NAME CHANGE

As a long-time Washington Redskins fan, I can certainly understand owner Dan Snyder's resistance to yielding to the sustained pressure to change the nickname of the storied franchise. But it seems to me that he's giving up a chance to do something many owners are striving to do every day: Make a boatload of money. If most owners changed team colors, uniform scheme or their logo, they would immediately be charged with attempting to coerce revenue from their fan base by seizing the opportunity to sell new jerseys, pennants and other team related paraphernalia. But Snyder would instead be applauded for changing his team's name to something less offensive than Redskins. By resisting the pressure that's coming from a variety of quarters, including the NFL itself, the billionaire owner is leaving a lot of money on the table. He really isn't thinking this through, is he? Not only would he sell merchandise with the new logo, just think how many people would be scrambling to get the old stuff before it went off the market. Of course, it doesn't really surprise me. In 19 years of ownership, his teams have reached the playoffs in only four seasons and are a woeful 2 - 4 in postseason games. Two of those games came in his first season, so since 2000, the once model franchise is just 1 - 3 in playoff games. Snyder is currently on his eighth coach, including a second stint by Joe Gibbs, the architect of the team's three Super Bowl wins. None of them recorded a winning record, with only Marty Schottenheimer finishing at .500 in his only season at the helm. So Snyder's ineptitude isn't confined to marketing schemes, but clearly extends to the on-the-field product as well. To say the Washington faithful is fed up with the owner would be a huge understatement. Unfortunately, you can't very well fire the owner, can you? So until the 50 year old tires of being in one of the most exclusive and prosperous clubs in the world, Redskins fans are stuck with a guy that just can't seem to get it right. But hey, he still has the chance to benefit from exploiting a great opportunity to change the image of the franchise. Just remember that you heard it here first.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.




Monday, August 3, 2015

NOTRE DAME: DO THEY BELONG N THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF MIX?

There are five major conferences in college football and five more in the Football Bowl Subdivision. In addition, three schools: Army, BYU and Notre Dame are independents. All teams in those conferences and the three unaffiliated squads are eligible to be included in the four team College Football Playoff. Realistically, it's really the Big 5 conferences and Notre Dame that have a shot at one of the four spots in the playoffs. Under the prior rules, Notre Dame was essentially a conference unto itself. If they finished n the top eight in the polls, they were guaranteed a BCS bowl spot. Now, there are no guarantees for anyone, with the CFP committee determining inclusion. But unlike the past, Notre Dame has membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference for every sport except football. What has changed from the BCS days is that Notre Dame now has an obligation to play six ACC games every season. I was totally opposed to Notre Dame's status during the BCS days because they had total control over their own schedule. But now, a look at the Irish schedule shows a much different scenario. They open with Texas, play Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College from the ACC and USC and Stanford from the Pac-12. Their remaining games are Massachusetts, Navy and Temple. No high schools in the bunch. As much as it pains me to say it, I've spent a lot of time evaluating schedules and Notre Dame's is clearly comparable to those of most of the Big 5 schools. Do they play Florida State? No, but they played them last year and they do get USC and Stanford from the Pac-12. Does Virginia Tech play Florida State and Clemson this season? No, they play neither, and they're a full member of the league. Ohio State dodges Wisconsin and Nebraska in the regular season Big Ten schedule. Missouri doesn't play Alabama, Auburn or Texas A&M from the SEC West. The list could go on, so if Notre Dame runs the table or even finishes 11 - 1, they will probably deserve a shot at a place in the final four. I happen to think it's only a matter of time until Notre Dame drops Stanford and ends up full time in the ACC. With one more major conference realignment in the offing, most likely with Arkansas moving to the Big Twelve and some consolidation of a couple of other conferences to form a sixth power league, it's inevitable that we eventually get to six automatic qualifiers and two at-large teams to comprise an eight team playoff. Just remember where you heard it first.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.