Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday in Reverse...Week 4

Wake me up when September ends.

Also wake me up when Maryland decides to go back to some normal uniforms. Getting worked over by Temple 38-7 at home is really, really bad but its even worse when wearing a hideous uniform like the Terps. Last time these two teams played in Philly in 2005, UMd. won 38-7. My how things have changed for these programs. Oh by the way, Benard Pierce just scored again.

Speaking of scoring, LSU showed its toughness in manhandling West Virginia in Morgantown. The Bayou Bengals physically worked over the 'Eers and when they were remotely threatened in the 3rd qtr, Les Miles team squashed the rally by returning the ensuing kick-off to regain a 2 touchdown cushion. LSU is a physically dominating defense that just smothers you. They may not be seriously challenged until they come to Tuscaloosa in November.

As for challenging, Arkansas proved once again they are not quite ready for primetime. Bobby Petrino's high octane offense was once again outmaneuvered by Nick Saban. Alabama did not score an offensive TD until the middle of the 3rd qtr, but still led 24-7 behind a fake gield goal, pick 6 and an electrifying punt return by Marquise Maze that caused the 101,000 in Bryant Denny to explode. Saban and Kirby Smart's in game adjustments again gave the Hogs fit. Thats 5 in a row over Arkansas by the Tide and 4 of those have come under Petrino's watch. Arky has scored 14, 7, 20and 14 against 'Bama since Petrion arrived in Fayettenam. The Tide now has a Saturday night trip to Gainesville while the Hogs face potential SEC member Texas A & M.

Texas A&M can join the not ready for primetime crowd by blowing a 20-3 lead to Oklahoma State at home, by self destructing in the 3rd quarter. OSU is trying to keep pace with big brother Oklahoma who took care of Mizzou at home. As for who should be # 1 between OU, LSU & 'Bama, hands down its LSU at this point. They've done more and haven't played but 1 home game in Death Valley.

Another team living well in Death Valley is Clemson. Yabba Dabo Doo did it again taking down Florida State. Now the Tigers have to go on the road to face Virginia Tech. Traditionally, Clemson has not handled these situations well and will face a significant challenge next week.

Other notes, congrats on the Big East officials for missing a field goal call between Syracuse and Toledo.

Big 10/11/12 debacle(s) of the week. North Dakota State beating Minnesota. North texas beating Indiana.

And finally, in the U-Haul Bowl, where the loser gets a free moving van, Mark Richt staved off elimination and pushed Houston Nutt one step closer to leaving Oxford.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday in Reverse...Week 3

Week 3 of the season is in the books, but conference realignment programs are being sold separately.

Despite falling to Iowa and USC, yesterday, Pittsburgh and Syracuse scored victories off the field by throwing preemptive strikes and are apparently headed to the ACC. Guess what, the ACC may not be done, because Coack K has given his blessing for moving to 16 teams. More dominoes will fall this week.

As for falling, the lack of a defense that has plagued Auburn for the past 2 years finally caught up with them. Even though Charlotte is just down the road from Clemson, their was no Cam Newton to bail out Ted Roof and his much maligned defense. All of a sudden, Auburn's win over Miss. State last week looks less impressive with LSU's dismantling of the Bulldogs on Thursday. Auburn's burnt like toast secondary had a hard time covering their own shadow let alone Clemson. Now after an easy game this week, Auburn will travel to South Carolina, host Florida, and go to Arkansas and LSU in October. Ouch!

As for LSU, they looked mighty impressive Thursday in Starkville, where Dan Mullen still has not beaten an SEC West team that isn't named Ole Miss (more on them later). Jarret Lee is not the Jarret Lee of yesteryear and that Tiger D looks solid. They have a test at West Virginia this week, but should be favored in every game except for possibly at Alabama in November.

Speaking of the Tide, they looked somewhat lackluster in their win over North Texas. They still have major concerns on the offensive and defensive lines. Of course, the same can't be said for last week's opponent, Penn State, as they have concerns all over the field and on the sidelines. Congrats to Joe Paterno on squeaking out career win #403, 14-10 over Temple. But unfortunately nobody really knows if Joe Pa saw the game as the window to the visitor's coaches box at The Linc would not open, allegedly. So instead of being subjected to Paterno Cam, like we are Al Davis or Jerry Jones cam on the NFL games, fans were subjected to Closed Window Cam. Sadly, its time for some tough love at Penn State, as they are past due for a coaching change. The Lions players and fans in Philadelphia yesterday celebrated a win over Temple as if they won the Big 10 Championship or something. Really sad how far that program has fallen.

Who else has fallen is UCLA coach Rick Nuehiesal. He was one of the hottest names in the coaching world during his Colorado days and headed to Washington. Of course that ended badly during an NCAA Tournament Pool. Once arriving in SoCal, he proclaimed the football monopoly in Los Angeles was over. But after another beatdown at the Rose Bowl, this time at the hands of Texas, one has to feel his days in Westwood may be numbered.

Someone else on the way out should be Houston Nutt. Getting whipped 30-7 by Vanderbilt, who by the way is half way to bowl eligibility at 3-0, is embarrassing. Being pounded by the 'Dores should automatically be grounds for dismissal. Nutt had that great first year, oversigning players and going for a quick fix by raiding Mississippi's junior college system for players. But he never built the infrastructure up of his program and is suffering dearly for it. Time for AD Pete Boone to pull the plug on this experiment. Of course Ole Miss should have never fired David Cutcliffe several years ago.

Speaking of Cutcliffe, he pulled off a nice upset on the road in the ACC winning at Boston College when the Eagle's missed a last second field goal. Congrats to the Dookies, Baby!

Other teams that impressed yesterday included a less turnover plagued Notre Dame and a very speedy Florida team who was so fast that they were flagged for pass interference seven times against Tennessee. Oklahoma proved its worthy of #1 yesterday and responded to a 13-13 tie in Tallahassee to win 23-13. And the U completely dismantled the Ohio State University in South Florida last night, despite Jacory Harris' tendency to throw to the other team.

Until next week....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday in Reverse... Week 2

I just saw a U Haul truck drive past, wondering if its going to Mark Richt's house? Yes, I get he's a good guy and he's won 2 SEC Titles, but the fact remains he is 20-17 since the infamous "Blackout" beat down administered by Alabama to a #1 ranked UGA in 2008. This is a what have you done for me lately business and its not good right now in Athens.

Congrats to Auburn for winning the "You offered Cam Newton $180,000 but we didn't pay him anything because we're a family and thats why he came here and no Milton McGregor didn't direct Cecil Newton to a rigged bingo machine like he did ex-Birmingham mayor Larry Lankford to pay for Cam's services Bowl Game." All kidding aside, Auburn made the plays at the end to hang on and I'm sure Gene Chizik & Dan Mullen had a great pre and post game handshake. Don't look now but Auburn will be 3-0 after next week when they beat a Clemson team that sneaked past Wofferd 35-27.

As for cross state rival Alabama, in the words of Todd Blackledge, they "choked out the Lions like a Boa Constrictor." AJ McCarron grew up and once again, an SEC team beats a Big 10 school by physically dominating its opponent. This could have been way worst, but its almost like Nick Saban feels sorry for Joe Paterno and refuses to beat him, oh say 49-7 like Michigan State. Also, don't schedule a whiteout, blackout or anything else against Alabama, in case you haven't noticed, those gimmicks don't work.

Now on to Penn State, who once again played not to get embarrassed against a top 12 opponent instead of playing to win. This is routine under Paterno as the Lions play vanilla, close to the vest offense and a simple back off, keep everything in front cover 2 on defense and die a slow death. They also used 3 time outs in the first 16 plays of the game, 1 point for each time out used on that opening field goal drive. Never seen that before and quite honsetly, PSU is one of the worst coached teams I've seen in each of the last 2 games vs 'Bama. They are constantly in disarray on the sidelines and have no creativeness on offense.

Congrats to Michigan and Notre Dame for playing under the lights and joining the rest of oh, I don't know, almost evey high school program in the country of playing football at night. Also thought it was nice of Notre Dame to honor the Boston Celtics on the side of their traditional helmets.

On another note, has there ever been so much hype for a game between two unranked opponents like Michigan and Noter Dame? It looked more like a game of NCAA 12 then a real game. 80 yard drives in 3 plays, 30 seconds?? 3 touchdowns in 2 minutes?? Notre Dame blows a 17 point 4th qtr lead, loses with over 500 yards of offense for the second straight week and has a secondary that can't cover anyone. But I still don't know if Notre Dame is eliminated from the National Title picture yet.

Nice escape by Ohio State, Kentucky, Texas, Va. Tech and Nebraska against what is supposed to be inferior competition.

And finally, Vanderbilt defeated defending Big East Champion. Is the SEC that good or the Big East that bad???

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Boise State= Penn State of the '70's & Florida State of the 80's


How do you earn it? How do you get it?

If you want respect, sometimes you have to go take it from someone. Thats exactly what Boise State has done over the past decade.

Yeah they had some cute gimmicks like Smurf Turf and Stormtrooper uniforms, creating a bowl game in Idaho so you can guarantee a post season invite. All of those things have been done before, even the create your own bowl game (see Arizona State/Fiesta Bowl pre Pac 10 invite).

But nothing gets respect like winning does. For Boise, the conference games won't get that done. So Boise has had to go out and play BCS opponents, on there terms because no one is going to Idaho. So the Broncos have done that and won, defeating the likes of Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia in three consecutive season. Having already played in two BCS Bowl games over the years, they are a legitimate threat to play in the BCS Title game.

The Broncos have followed the same map laid out by two college football legends Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.

Paterno and Penn State were snubbed several times after finishing undefeated, only not to get a share of a national championship through the pollsters. Eastern college football has never been that respected compared the the midwest, the south and the west coast. Paterno had three undefeated seasons in in 1968, 1969 and 1972, finishing #3, #2 and #5 respectively. Each time, the Lions won the Orange Bowl but did not gain a share of the national title. Finally when given a shot at the title after the 1978 season, PSU fell inches short of # 1 losing to Alabama at the Sugar Bowl in the Goal Line Stand by a score of 14-7.

Add into the disdain of not reaching #1, PSU had to deal with Jackie Sherrill and the dominance of the Pitt Panthers on the western half of the state. Instead of pouting, Penn State scheduled up, beginning with home and home series with Alabama and Notre Dame in the 1980's and playing Nebraska twice. By scheduling and winning its fair share of big intersectional games (PSU was an independent in the 1980's), the Lions defeated Georgia for the 1982 National Title, despite suffering a 42-21 loss to Alabama earlier in the year. In 1985, Penn State got another crack at the title, but lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, but then won probably the ultimate game of the Paterno era, defeating the Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl to secure a 2nd title in 5 years. Its almost a certainty if PSU had not scheduled up, they would not have had those opportunities to win.

Bobby Bowden and Florida State did the same, but even to a more extreme level, adopting an anytime, anywhere mantra to scheduling. FSU went to places like Nebraska, Pittsburgh, LSU, Auburn, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan. In most cases, there were no return trips to Tallahassee. Sometimes they played two straight years at Ohio State or four straight at LSU or one and done at Michigan. And guess what, FSU won the majority of those games, putting the former all girl's school into the power elite of college football. The end result is that FSU won 2 national Titles in 1993 and 1999 and played for the title on 3 other occasions, falling to Florida in 1996, Tennessee in 1998 and Oklahoma in 2000.

Now Boise State had had to do the same thing to gain respect. They've played home and home with Oregon, defeated Va. Tech and Georgia in what amounted to home games for the other team in Washington DC and Atlanta. This years UGA/Boise game replaced what was supposed to be a game in Oxford, MS vs Ole Miss.

As a result of winning these big, early season games, the Broncos have positioned themselves to get to New Orleans. And should they make it there against an Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, Wisconson or someone else, I wouldn't bet against them in a 1 game, winner take all scenario.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 6th....What it means for me

September 6th is just another day on the calander for most. This years its the day after Labor Day weekend so most are probably dragging into work this morning.

But for me, its a reminder of my youth. Its the day that my two favorite and two of the greatest baseball players ever, Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray, set career milestones on this date respectfully in 1995 and 1996.

For Ripken, it was game 2131 in his Ironman streak, eclispsing the previous rcord set by Lou Gehrig at 2130. In typical Ripken flair for the dramatic fashion, he homered in this game as the Orioles routed the Angels in front of an ESPN nationally televised contest.

For Murray, it was a swansong moment as his return to the O's in July and jump started a playoff run in 1996, punctuated by his 500th Home Run into the right field bleachers at Camden Yards against the Tigers on a late Friday evening game.

Growing up with the Orioles in Central Pennsylvania, the two big guns of the franchise were Ripken and Murray. They were the face of the team just as Mike Schmidt was the face of the Phillies. Unlike today, where your local MLB team has almost every one of its game on local cable, it was hard to watch Orioles games. Outside of a few appearances on the NBC Game of the Week, we only got to watch 40 games that were broadcast from WMAR Channel 2 out of Baltimore onto the O's televison network. Of those 40, usually only 2 of those broadcasts were home games, with one being Opening Day.

So those 40 games on Channel 2 were a big deal on the tube as Chuck Thompson & Brooks Robinson relayed the great moments of the early 80's Birds of Baltimore, culminating with the 1983 World Series win over the Phillies. It was must see TV. If the games were not on television, then we were dependent on the great Jon Miller to broadcast on the radio what was happening. It wasn't till I was in college that our cable provided Home Team Sports and all of a sudden 90 O's games plus the 40 on Channel 2 and a few other national telecasts were suddenly available.

Collecting baseball cards as a kid, it didn't take long to figure out in the early 80's that if Murray and Ripken continued there production of averaging 20-25 Home Runs a year and close to 150-200 hits per year, that each player would get to 500 Homers and 3,000 hits if they played to age 40. Those numbers seemed so far away in the early 80's, but being the math wizard I was I figured it was a good chance this could happen down the road. (500 Homers really meant something because this was before steroids and was not an easy mark to eclipse. Now its become watered down in baseball numbers)

Murray eventually eclipsed 3,000 hits and added the 500 home runs on September 6th, 1996. Ripken eclipsed the Gehrig mark, which was hardly discussed until about 1990, on September 6th. 1995. Ripken would get to 3,000 hits and over 400 Home Runs so I wasn't too far off. Not bad for a 10 year old making a prediction 12-15 years down the road.

But sadly, that September 6th date probably really signaled the end of my youth. I was in my last semester of college and about to enter the real world. I hardly followed baseball due to the strike and after 1997, Peter Angelos ruined the team. Really, who can devote 162 days a year to following something. I can't, I'm just too busy with this thing called life.

So I still have my 2001 and 1989 Ripken Jerseys in the closet to go with 1996 Murray version. I even have a picture of Ripken holding my first born, 3 month old daughter at a book signing and have the Eddie Murray autographed pic in hanging my office at school. To this day, I think the only baseball player my kids really know is Cal Ripken. They can name tons of NBA players, college football players and coaches, but not a current baseball player. They even put a post it note identifying "Cal Ripken" on the life size cut out in my classroom. Very few my of students know who he is these days, which really makes me feel old. The Ripken and Murray baseball cards I had sit stashed away in my son's closet. Maybe they are worth something, but they are now his to do what he wants with them some day down the road.

So as this Septmeber 6th passes on the calander, for me its a reflection of how much fun the Orioles were to grow up with and a sad look at how irrelvant the franchise is today.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ch Ch Changes....

With all due respect to David Bowie, this could easily be the theme song for the current state of conference realignment in the NCAA.

With Texas A & M ready to leave the Big 12 and probably headed to the SEC, Oklahoma, Okla. St, Texas and Texas Tech have apparently begun another flirtation with the Pac 12. If those 4 jump ship to the west, it will lead to an end of the Big 12 and again might lead to a paradigm shift in which we get 4 super conferences containing 16 teams each.

Before we throw out some hypothetical scenarios that may or may not unfold, its important to get a few things on the table.

1. College Basketball is irrelevant when it comes to expansion of super conferences. The fact of the matter is the sport does not provide the same quality of play it did 20 years ago and is not as popular. The regular season is over shadowed by bowl games, NFL playoffs and is relevant for about 2-3 weeks before March Madness. Outside of the first 2 days of the NCAA tournament, the casual fan doesn't watch it the way they do football. Sadly, most of the allure in college basketball is the NCAA tournament, specifically filling out a bracket and getting out of work for 2 days to watch a 13/4 match up against two teams you never heard of. The only conference that basketball might have some pull in is a revamped ACC/Big East, but that will only be after the Big 10 & SEC have raided some members for their own selections.

2. The end of the NCAA could be near, in terms of governing football. Mark Emmeret and his staff have their hands full policing the corruptness the is abound in the sport. Its time for the teams that can to work towards some sort of pay for play model or cost of school allowances. Players should be allowed to profit off their likeness and such and the emergence of Big Boy Football could lead to change.

With those issues out of the way, let's try to guess/calculate who could land where in terms of super conference realignment.

Start with the easiest first, the Pac 12 to 16. If Oklahoma, Okla. State, Texas & Texas Tech move west, this is one possible 16 team conference.

Possible divisions: Old Pac 8- UCLA, USC, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, Washington & Washington State

New Pac 8- Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech & Okla. State

Thats 16, now on to the Big 10.

Jim Delany is sitting there with 12 teams since the addition of Nebraska this year. An obvious no brainer would be Notre Dame as this is a yearly discussion about the Irish moving into a natural fit. But problems exist, the main one being Notre Dame loves being independent and the other is Notre Dame is becoming irrelevant in college football. They can't compete at a high level like they did in the 60's, 70's and 80's. The last two decades have been terrible to the point that we are now working on a second generation of college football fans growing with notion that ND football is terrible.

But for arguments sake, let's just say that the Irish & Big 10 join together, then it comes a battle to find 3 more teams. I'm sure Penn State would like another eastern school or two to come in so they don't travel to Midwest as much. Possible teams include Rutgers, Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt and Maryland.

On the western fringe of the current Big 10, their is Missouri who has a natural rival with Illinois, Iowa State with Iowa, and possibly Kansas and Kansas State to fit near Nebraska. If you want to get further west and you bring in a Catholic University like a Notre Dame or Boston College, the Morman based Brigham Young would be an option. Louisville could be an option too.

Prediction: current members stay put and they think outside the box to add Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, BYU and Syracuse. Pittsburgh to appease Penn State, Notre Dame for their national appeal, BYU for the same reason to bring a bigger presence out west and because they brought a religious partner in with Notre Dame, followed by Syracuse to cover the New York market.

Onto the SEC, where the league will undoubtedly keep its current 12 members and more then likely add Texas A & M. Naturally, it would seem the SEC might try to add a Clemson, Ga. Tech or Florida State, but their current SEC sister schools of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida would probably block membership or already have.

So with that in mind, two things probably need to happen. First, the SEC will need to add a western school to come in with A & M, while the other two schools they bring in to get to 16 will probably be from other states to create more tv sets in their conference affiliation.

Possible additions: Missouri, TCU, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, West Virginia.

Missouri and TCU fix the natural problem of adding a school to the west with A & M. NC State and North Carolina would bring in a new state along with the Charlotte market, but it will be tough to get them out of the basketball friendly ACC. Va. Tech seems like a natural fit as does West Virginia being that they are land grant colleges and the fan bases are similar to those in the SEC. WVU has played Georgia, LSU & Auburn in recent years, while Va. Tech is short drive up I-81 from Knoxville. Louisville would complement Kentucky to the north and Maryland is enticing because teams would be inside the DC beltway for national exposure more than anything every other year. Of the original ACC schools, Maryland has never really fit in with the Tobacco Road schools.

Prediction: SEC keeps its current 12 members, brings in Texas A & M along with Missouri to create a natural rivalry with Arkansas to the West. In the east, the SEC adds 2 of these 3 in West Virginia, Va. Tech & Maryland. Personally I'd like them to add the Terps & Hokies, but for arguments sake, we'll go with WVU and Va. Tech.

SEC East-Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, West. Va, Va. Tech and Kentucky

SEC West-Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Miss. St, LSU, Texas A & M, Missouri

Whatever decisions are made, by the Big 10 & SEC will affect what will be left over for some sort of combined ACC/Big East.

Super Conference IV is some hybrid of the ACC & Big East. Teams that would stay include Miami, Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, Maryland, Virginia, Duke, Wake Forest, Ga. Tech and Boston College. That means 5 teams would have to be added in to create 16.

Possible additions include Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, TCU, Central Florida, Rutgers, Temple and East Carolina.

UConn brings a respectable program, a rival for Boston College and a good basketball. Louisville & Cincinnati do the same and bring in a more western presence. South Florida & UCF, bring solid football teams, but Fla. State & Miami might balk at adding them. Rutgers brings in tv sets from New York/New Jersey and an array of hair care products from MTV, Temple brings in the Philly market along with quality hoops. East Carolina is a natural fit, but the Carolina schools would object.

Prediction: We have to add 5 and this is the only conference where basketball might have a say, so UConn is a natural, along with Louisville. I think you bring in Rutgers for the tv market and Cincinnati for the same reason and to give a western presence with Louisville. The last addition is Temple, as they are a more respectable football program then Duke, Wake Forest or when the Big East dumped them for UConn. The Owls also bring the Philly TV market along with the 6th winningest basketball program ever to Tobacco Road.

Now will any of this shake out this way, who knows but one thing is for certain things are a changing, for better or worst in college football. The dominoes were started last year by Colorado, Utah & Nebraska, they continued this summer with Texas A & M and look like they will roll on with the demise of the Big 12, while taking several schools like a Kansas and others with them into football oblivion.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saturday in Reverse....Week 1

Christmas in September finally arrived so its time rewind the week that was.

By far the most impressive team was LSU. The physicality's and size of the Tigers simply manhandled Oregon. Coming in a close second was Boise State embarrassing Georgia in Atlanta. Boise was bigger, stronger, faster, tougher and of course more disciplined then UGA. Both teams would get my top two slots if I had a poll vote.

As for the SEC, terrible day and looks to be down compared to the supremacy they displayed in recent years. The Mark Richt era, short of a circle the wagons moment vs South Carolina, will end UGAly. UGA is 20-16 since another hideous uniform moment, the Black out of 2008.

Ole Miss self destructed against BYU in Oxford. Houston had too many problems to dissect at this moment. Kentucky looked horrible on Thursday night against Western Kentucky.

And then there is Auburn, who somehow pulled out a miracle against, ahem, Utah State. I guess the Family wasn't All In because they were headed for the exits in droves yesterday. Great start by the BCS champs. Maybe they can get to six wins and go to the BBVA Compass Bank Bowl at Legion Field and play, oh I don't know, Notre Dame.

So what about Notre Dame, are they back yet??? Now these Irish eyes are staring down the barrel of an 0-3 start. Wake up the Echos my friends.

Another team that needs work, Alabama. If they can't run the ball consistently against a Kent State, it will be a struggle for them to score as 4 INT's were totally unacceptable. Expect a dogfight in Happy Valley/University Park/State College/Mount Nittany and any other name you can come up with for the geographical center of a land grant university that is in the middle of the Keystone State.

Game I'm looking forward to the most is the train wrecks that are UCLA vs USC. Why does Kiffin insist on going for 2 and make things closer then need be all the time while UCLA got worked over by Houston.

Most impressive teams from Thursday night. Mississippi State, Wisconsin and Temple. MSU's season will be decided in the next two weeks, Russel Wilson brings an added dimension to Madison and this could be the year the Owls finally beat Penn State, but they must keep Benard Pierce healthy.

Did Texas win yesterday, were they on TV??? Just wondering???

Duke, Indiana and Oregon State, we didn't forget about you, with those memorable performances against Richmond, Ball State and Sacramento State.

Iowa State, Washington and Kansas State, we see you barely escaped against inferior competition.

Looks like we're headed to the 16 team super conferences. More on that in the days to come....