Thursday, September 29, 2005

College football - Week Five preview

Viewing plans this week
Not much on the docket for me, as I’ll be traveling to Mankato with the UMD football team. We have our conference opener against Mankato State Minnesota State-Mankato. I’ll be providing a bonus NCC pick every week from here on in. That bonus pick usually won’t involve UMD.

--> Air Force at Colorado State
--> Pittsburgh at Rutgers
--> Notre Dame at Purdue (if we get home in time, I might see at least the fourth quarter)
--> Arizona at Cal (again, only if we get home in time)

I might tape the Gopher-Penn State game, but that’s undecided at this point. I’m leaning against it, only because I won’t have a lot of time to watch it.

The picks
Last week: 7-4
Season: 50-18

Saturday, October 1
Indiana at Wisconsin--> The Badgers are flying high after beating Michigan and gaining a national ranking as a result. In typical Mr. Negativity fashion, I tend to think the Badgers are overrated. Meanwhile, Indiana is somehow one of the Big Ten unbeatens, even though it’ll be October when this game is played. They will only be unbeaten for a few hours in October, though, as I believe Bucky will take care of business.
The pick: Wisconsin

Michigan at Michigan State--> I waited until the Illinois game to move Michigan State into my Top 25 on purpose. I didn’t trust them to get it done on the road after a big win. I also don’t trust them to beat their rival, even though the game is at home. Unlike last week, when I picked Michigan State despite my lack of trust, I can’t get around it this time. I’m picking the upset, probably for no good reason besides the fact that I think Michigan is too good to be 2-3.
The pick: Michigan

Illinois at Iowa--> The Illini looked downright pathetic against (Michigan) State. Iowa looked downright pathetic against (Ohio) State. With Iowa at home, I think they’ll rebound. Well, at least for a week.
The pick: Iowa

Minnesota at Penn State--> I’m a sucker. I was a sucker for the Gophers’ running game a week ago, and I was right. Now, I have to admit to being a sucker for the Nittany Lions’ run defense, especially against a team that I don’t think has sufficiently proven itself to be 1) a good road team, or 2) a balanced-enough offense to be a winner in the Big Ten.
The pick: Penn State

Notre Dame at Purdue--> This is a big game for both teams. The Fighting Irish have survived and thrived so far, despite a schedule that started with four of five on the road. This is their fifth game, and a 4-1 record would be great. Purdue, meanwhile, needs to win here. They were supposed to be the surprise team in the Big Ten, and they lost their first league game. I think you’ll see a well-played game, but Purdue will make one too many mistakes late.
The pick: Notre Dame

Texas at Missouri--> For all the talk about Missouri being finished after that loss to New Mexico, they have a chance to redeem themselves in a big way on Saturday. The Tigers have not beaten a top five team since 1978, and it doesn’t look good for them here. Brad Smith will need the game of his life just to keep his team alive, but it’s hard to see Missouri winning without a Stoopsian effort from their defense.
The pick: Texas

Iowa State at Nebraska--> Both teams are undefeated, but it’s pretty easy to forget that Nebraska is unbeaten, considering that their defense has more TDs than their offense thus far. The Cornhuskers know they can’t get away with that kind of performance against Big 12 teams. Iowa State was beaten badly in the first half against Army, and probably lucky to only be down 14-7. They played much better in the second half, and I think they’ll snap their long losing streak in Lincoln.
The pick: Iowa State

USC at Arizona State--> This is what I said last week: ”This is USC. And the Trojans are too strong for me to pick against. I’ll believe this team can lose a game when they lose a game.” It still stands this week. If being down 13-0 in a hostile environment doesn’t shake this team, I don’t know what will. Arizona State will move the ball and score points, but it won’t be nearly enough.
The pick: USC

Florida at Alabama--> The Gators won at Kentucky a week ago, and were able to stay relatively healthy heading into this big game. Alabama is unbeaten, but the resume isn’t very impressive. Florida has the win over Tennessee, but not anything else that jumps at you. Normally, I’d take the home team in a game like this, but I think Florida has a bit more ammunition on both sides of the ball.
The pick: Florida

Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt--> Only because I want to type a funny sentence. Vanderbilt will win and move to 5-0. There. I’m not picking this game. It’s too easy. I just wanted to type that sentence.

South Carolina at Auburn--> Looks like Spurrier will need a little time to install everything and get the right people in place. I’m patient, and it’s not like South Carolina has any reason to rush him. Auburn gets a big conference win as they try to revamp their offense and prove the Georgia Tech game was a fluke.
The pick: Auburn

St. Cloud State (5-0, 1-0) at North Dakota (5-0, 1-0)--> Last week's big game was a big joke, as South Dakota thrashed Nebraska-Omaha 59-14. This one won't be nearly that lopsided. St. Cloud has Harlon Hill candidate Matt Birkel, and North Dakota has a super LB in Digger Anderson, a kid that could find himself a job playing on Sundays soon. It'll be the St. Cloud front, which is big but largely inexperienced, against a very talented and experienced North Dakota front seven. Give the advantage to the better defense, especially playing at home in front of what could be a sellout crowd at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
The pick: North Dakota

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

BlogPoll: Week Five

Dropped out
13 Iowa--> Couldn't cut it at the Horseshoe. With that running game and a very shaky Tate, Iowa suddenly looks very average.

22 North Carolina State--> Lost to in-state rival UNC at home. Trestman's offense looks like it will be okay, but we'll need to see more consistency.

24 Georgia Tech--> Ouch. 51-7? I know GT's got a good team, but the body of work is simply not impressive enough now.

The new Top 25 ballot
1. Southern Cal (1 last week). I'd hate to see what the score against Oregon had been if USC came out playing well instead of falling behind 13-0.
2. Texas (2). Idle. Still second-best until they lose to Oklahoma proven otherwise.
3. Virginia Tech (5). Putting a 44-point beatdown on Georgia Tech is going to turn a few heads. Looks like it's starting to come together in Blacksburg.
4. Florida (4). Statement game (potentially) this week against Alabama.
5. Georgia (6). Not a quality road win, but still a road win in conference.
6. Ohio State (9). And to think I was stupid enough to pick Iowa second in the league.
7. Florida State (10). Moved up because no one else deserved to be this high. Might be the Notre Dame "I moved them up too far by default" Team of the Week.
8. Tennessee (11). Won at LSU because the Tigers didn't want to win. Apparently Phil found someone in the league he can outcoach.
9. Miami (14). Defense looks really good. Offense? Well, we won't nitpick. The defense looks really good.
10. LSU (3). OK, boys. The fourth quarter is underway. Boys? Are you there? Hello?
11. Michigan State (NR). Ran up the score against Illinois. Wouldn't it be funny if they lost to Michigan as a result?
12. Notre Dame (15). Classy move by Weis calling that play for the sick young child who he met with last week. It's doubly classy considering that the boy died before he could watch his beloved Irish run that play.
13. Minnesota (21). Are they for real?
14. Arizona State (20). Sam Keller vs Matt Leinart. Maybe it will be a better matchup than Andrew Walter vs Leinart last year.
15. Cal (19). Does Jeff Tedford recruit robots?
16. Alabama (NR). Impressive start, but could fall right back out of the rankings this week as they take on Florida.
17. Iowa State (12). Not good against Army, but good enough for a W.
18. Texas A&M (18). Just take the week off next time.
19. Oregon (16). Blown out by USC. I guess that's not a crime.
20. Purdue (17). Couldn't stop the run. Tiller had better hope no one sees the tape.
21. Wisconsin (NR). Defied even my own expectations. I'll reward that.
22. Toledo (23). Only because I submitted the ballot before the Fresno game. My mistake. They'll be gone next week...I promise.
23. UCLA (25). Idle.
24. Michigan (7). Even if Henne hadn't fallen down, he probably would have thrown the pass at someone's feet.
25. Louisville (8). That was completely unexpected. 45-14 at South Florida? How is that the same team that obliterated Oregon State?

The Watch List
Boston College
Fresno State
Penn State
Texas Tech

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

College football - Week Four thoughts

Full disclosure
Who am I kidding? I'm pulling the majority of this out of my keyster.

--> Air Force at Utah
--> Iowa State at Army
--> Cal at New Mexico State
--> Michigan at Wisconsin
--> Tennessee at LSU

Hats off to the folks at Upper Iowa University. Nothing like having a laptop in front of you (university issue, mind you) where you get continually updated stats for use in your broadcast. I was spoiled on Saturday. No doubt about it. Good times in Fayette.

On to the show...

Iowa State at Army--> I'm not as down on ISU as a lot of other people are. Did they play well? No. But it was a Friday night game on national TV. Biggest game of the year for Army that doesn't involve a military academy. Great atmosphere. And ISU was looking ahead to their conference opener this week. Every team, even USC, has a game like this during the season. The Cyclones won it, and I thought they showed a ton of character coming back in the second half when things looked grim.

Cal at New Mexico State--> It's not supposed to be this easy to replace guys like Rodgers and Arrington. Cal looks almost fully re-loaded (I still have some doubts about Ayoob at QB), and they're definitely a Pac-10 contender. Hal Mumme has the offense installed at NMSU, but he's trying to run it with personnel that was primarily brought in to run the ball. That's tough. He'll get that ship righted, but it won't happen overnight.

Iowa at Ohio State--> Damn. What happened to Drew Tate?

Michigan State at Illinois--> Hey, Coach Smith. I have a question. Do you remember the 56-21 beating my Badgers put on you in your first season at Michigan State? More specifically, do you remember the Badgers throwing passes in the final minutes when the score was lopsided? You don't. Me neither. I'm all for not kicking a field goal in a blowout game, so I don't have a problem with your team going for it. I have a problem with your team THROWING THE BALL in that situation. Of course, why stop there? Why not have your backup QB throw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to make it 59-7? Coach Smith, between this and the completely distasteful display we saw from your players in South Bend, I'm really not sure what to say. The sooner you get yours, the better. I hope it's this week, but I would prefer if it waited until November 12 at the Metrodome.

Michigan at Wisconsin--> Hopefully, not the only highlight of Barry's last year. What a win for the Badgers. No, Michigan isn't nearly as good as any of us thought they'd be. But they're still Michigan. And Wisconsin needed to win this game. No one in Madison has any illusions about this team winning a national title. We're just hoping for a good year and a nice bowl sendoff for Barry. As for the game, the unforgettable image will probably end up being Chad Henne falling flat on his ass on the last play of the game.

Purdue at Minnesota--> For the Gophers, this was a validating win. However, Glen Mason's players fully understand that there is more work to be done, starting this week at Happy Valley. I sense a football team that is absolutely not satisfied with the win over Purdue, and I sense a different focus on this Minnesota team. With Penn State and Michigan on the road in back-to-back weeks, we'll quickly see if my eyes are fooling me.

USC at Oregon--> Did Oregon do a few things right? Yes. Did USC play their best game? No. In my view, all that does is make the 45-13 final even more impressive. If this is what USC does to a legitimate Pac-10 contender when they're not playing well, what would they do if they were playing well?

Tennessee at LSU--> I have a suggestion for Les Miles. Try not to coach the team with both your hands around your neck. It sends a bad message to your players. It was bad enough that he and his QB botched a potential scoring chance at the end of the first half, but it was 21-0 and no one thought anything of it at the time. The true crime Miles committed came with two minutes left in regulation, when he decided to run the ball and chew the clock in hopes of getting the game into overtime. When you're at home, you can't do this. That's especially true when your defense looks dog-dead-tired and completely back on their heels. The only chance they had of getting a stop in overtime was a Rick Clausen screwup (clearly, that didn't happen). Yet Miles decides that overtime is better than losing in regulation. I feel bad for LSU fans. Miles is no Nick Saban. Not only would Saban have never allowed his team to play so pathetically in the fourth quarter, but he surely would never have taken overtime in that late-game scenario.

Friday, September 23, 2005

NFL Week Three - Rapid Fire

I'm about to board a bus for Waterloo, Iowa, so here are my NFL picks for the weekend:

Last week: 7-9 (gack!)
Season: 17-15

New Orleans at Minnesota--> MINNESOTA
Tampa Bay at Green Bay--> TAMPA BAY
Atlanta at Buffalo--> BUFFALO
Cincinnati at Chicago--> CINCINNATI
Cleveland at Indianapolis--> INDIANAPOLIS
Tennessee at St. Louis--> ST. LOUIS
Carolina at Miami--> CAROLINA
Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets--> JACKSONVILLE
Oakland at Philadelphia--> PHILADELPHIA
Dallas at San Francisco--> DALLAS
Arizona at Seattle--> SEATTLE
New England at Pittsburgh--> PITTSBURGH
N.Y. Giants at San Diego--> SAN DIEGO
Kansas City at Denver--> DENVER

Enjoy the weekend. I'll check back in on Monday with some thoughts from the road trip, along with a review of Michigan-Wisconsin, assuming that I've had time to watch the tape, which I should have by then.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

College football - Week Four preview

My apologies for not doing a Week Three writeup. That's on me, and hopefully my schedule won't force me to miss another writeup this season.

Viewing plans this week
Roadie to Iowa for UMD this week. I'm going to miss most of Saturday's action because of the game and the subsequent travel, so I'll be running blind next week. The only good thing that comes out of the just-announced Tennessee-LSU postponement is that I'll get to see the game (they're playing it Monday night in Baton Rouge). Well, that and we won't have to hear Fulmer whine about the travel issues when his team loses.

--> Air Force at Utah
--> Cal at New Mexico State
--> Michigan at Wisconsin (I'm taping this for viewing on Sunday or Monday)
--> Arizona State at Oregon State (if we get home from our game in Iowa early enough)

That's it. Like I said, I'm probably going to be running blind when it comes to actually breaking down what happens this weekend. So you all better post some good stuff in the comment thread here or in the weekend thread on MGoBlog. I'm relying on you.

The picks
Last week: 18-2
Season: 43-14

Saturday, September 24
Iowa at Ohio State--> The Buckeyes are presented with a challenge here. They have to find a way to score points against a real defense. Luckily for them, they have a real defense of their own, and Iowa hasn't shown any consistency running the ball. Sounds a lot like last year for them, but this time they have to play the Buckeyes in Columbus.
The pick: Ohio State

Michigan State at Illinois--> MSU has earned a lot of praise for their big win at Notre Dame a week ago. They have earned a lot of criticism for the dispicable behavior by some of their players after the game. Now we'll see if this team, which has had trouble beating unranked opponents away from home, can keep their focus and beat an improved Illinois team. Unless someone kidnaps Drew Stanton, I still like their chances.
The pick: Michigan State

Purdue at Minnesota--> The Boilermakers are strong on defense, which bodes well against the Gophers. This is the first big test of the seriousness of Laurence Maroney's H*i*m*n candidacy, as well as the first big test of this long-apathetic fanbase. Purdue has a good team, but the Gophers will pass at least one of those tests, as Maroney will have a big day.
The pick: Minnesota

Penn State at Northwestern--> Can Michael Robinson throw adequately against what is at least a reasonable imitation of a defense? Can Penn State improve to 4-0, virtually assuring a return to the bowl picture? With the defense Penn State has, I think they'll find a way to win on the road, something they've had issues with in recent years.
The pick: Penn State

Michigan at Wisconsin--> Michigan is a bit shorthanded, but so is Wisconsin. The Badger fans will be lubed up a great deal for this one, but unless the defense can muster a consistent pass rush without blitzing constantly, Wisconsin's unbeaten record is in serious danger.
The pick: Michigan

Boston College at Clemson--> Both teams suffered disappointing losses a week ago, with Clemson blowing a chance to beat Miami in come-from-behind fashion, while Boston College just flat-out didn't play very well in a big game against Florida State. I like the home team here, as Clemson rebounds and gets an important conference win.
The pick: Clemson

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech--> Tech will win. Sorry. Had to do it. I like the Hokies. This team looks strong, and Marcus Vick is only going to get better as he gains experience and confidence. Georgia Tech will be a tough foe, but they're just not consistent enough.
The pick: Virginia Tech

Notre Dame at Washington--> Ty Willingham is trying to pass this off as "just another game". Yeah, right. With how much UW will struggle in Pac-10 play, this is a huge game for Willingham. He'd love to stick it to his former employer. Then again, he'd love a win more than anything else. So maybe it is just another game. It'll probably be another loss, too.
The pick: Notre Dame

USC at Oregon--> The Ducks look very comfortable in Gary Crowton's offense. Kellen Clemens appears to have had the light come on just in time for his senior year. But this isn't Fresno State. This is USC. And the Trojans are too strong for me to pick against. I'll believe this team can lose a game when they lose a game.
The pick: USC

Arizona State at Oregon State--> The Sun Devils have a strong attack, but their defense is hardly impregnable. Oregon State will score a good number of points in this game, and they can't be happy about the drubbing they took at Louisville last week. I'll call for a mild upset.
The pick: Oregon State

Monday, September 26
Tennessee at LSU--> Just as I was about to go to press, so to speak, this game was moved to Monday night thanks to Hurricane Rita, which will probably have some sort of impact on Baton Rouge, even though a direct hit is highly unlikely at this point. Good move. I gave away my pick a bit earlier, as I think an emotional LSU team is too much for the Volunteers, who would be smart to test LSU's discipline on defense with a lot of misdirection and play-action early. The Tigers may be too anxious to make plays and be prone to overpursuing the run as a result. Even that won't be enough, I don't think, to hold down the Tigers.
The pick: LSU

Bucky vs Maize - A Michigan fan lends perspective

Brian from MGoBlog approached me yesterday and asked me for some thoughts on Wisconsin as they head into this weekend's showdown with overrated Michigan. I have decided to hit him up for some thoughts on the Mighty Maize and Blue. Since Brian's got the best damn Michigan blog around, I figure he's as good a source as any for information. We know the Wolverines haven't won a "road opener" since 1999, and we know they are suffering from their fair share of injury issues, but what should we expect from Michigan on Saturday in Madison (5pm CT, ESPN2)? Brian provides some insight.

(Note: If you want to read my thoughts on Wisconsin heading into this game, click here.)

1. What's the status of the offensive line? It looked like a sieve against Notre Dame, and there are a few banged-up bodies. Who can we expect to see playing on Saturday, and how should we expect them to perform?

Since the word is that both Matt Lentz and Mike Kolodziej will return to the lineup, the only starter missing is the big one, right tackle Jake Long. Kolodziej's return is hugely important. He missed the last two games with a mysterious illness, forcing Ruben Riley--a guard last year--out to RT, where he proved he's a pretty good guard. He got abused by Eastern Michigan a few times and was partially reponsible for the pressure-fest against Notre Dame. Lentz sat out the EMU game after missing a quarter of the Notre Dame, but that was just a precaution.

As to how they'll perform, probably good but not great. Long was definitely the best player on the line and without him you've got a set of specialists who can pass block (Kolo and Stenavich) or run block (Lentz and Henige) like bad muthas but don't really excel in the other phase of the game.

2. You've noted that Max Martin looks pretty good at RB. What's Michael Hart's status? If he's healthy, does he start ahead of Martin? Should we prepare for a little bit of RBBC (Running Back By Committee) against Bucky?

Hart starts if healthy, no question, but he's not and won't play at all against Wisconsin. In his place you will see some RBBC with Martin, Kevin Grady, and possibly Jerome Jackson splitting carries. Martin and Grady have very different running styles--Martin is a zone-stretch slasher while Grady is sort of a bulldozer version of Hart, a between the tackles guy--so Michigan will try both early, I think, and ride whoever looks best suited to combat the Badger D.

3. What is the biggest weakness for Michigan on offense right now?

If Kolodziej is out, the obvious answer is right tackle. Even if he's in, Michigan has had issues dealing with the blitz. Henne clearly got spooked in the ND game after getting a lot of unblocked pressure from Notre Dame blitzers. Grady missed a few pickups and the offensive line just got beat a few other times. I would say that or wide receiver depth, since Arrington is out and no one other than Avant has really shown much so far.

4. How do you expect Michigan to go after Wisconsin's defense?

Cynics will tell you it's a road game so Carr will "nut up," as they say, and I think they'll convince themselves they were right after Michigan does what it always does, mix the run and pass, avoid the deep middle a little too much, and throw less than they want. I also happen to think that's probably the right idea given the blitz pickup problems and Henne's game against ND. I think Michigan will try to protect Henne early, giving him simple throws and running an awful lot. It'll be a conservative game plan because Michigan isn't going to be quaking in fear of the UW offense (that's for next week against MSU).

(Editor's note: I don't think the Madison Memorial High School football team's offense would quake in fear of the Badger defense at this point.)

5. Besides the obvious (they lost the games), do you see any similarities in the last five "road openers" for Michigan?

Horrible special teams play and a lot of strange bounces.

(Editor's note: I have to respect a man that resists the urge to use the word "officiating" to answer a question like this.)

6. Lloyd Carr is better at hiding injury information than Barry Alvarez, which is saying something. As a fan, does it bother you that, in some cases, you don't know for sure who's going to play before the game starts?

Some of the information leaks out anyway if you're paying attention, and it doesn't really bother me because it doesn't impact Michigan's chances of winning negatively. That's all I really care about. Go ahead: ask me about punting from the 35.

(Editor's note: So, what about punting from the 35?)

7. How will Michigan's front seven hold up against Brian Calhoun?

That's the million dollar question, isn't it? I just watched the UNC game last night and was impressed with Calhoun. He can find the tiniest cracks and shoot up through them just like Davis did when healthy. Michigan ceded a ton of rushing yards to NIU and let Darius Walker get 100, but I think the D is better than that. The linebackers appear to be coming around and I'm beginning to really like the defensive line--look out for DT Alan Branch.

But the big question, figuratively and literally, is the status of planetoid NT Gabe Watson, who's listed as a second-stringer behind Pat Massey on the depth chart this week and played very little against both Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan. He's healthy, he was All Big Ten last year, and watching the tape makes it clear that he's crushing single blocking like he always did and holding up against double teams, but Massey's in because he works really hard, I guess. If Watson doesn't play I'm going to be screaming at the TV every time Calhoun dashes past a pancaked Massey. That's something to watch for: is the ginormous #78 guy in or is the 6'8" #94 guy in? My guess is that Watson is worth 1-2 YPC all by himself, but he's got to play to have an effect.

8. Is the secondary vulnerable enough for Wisconsin to make some plays through the air?

Maybe. The secondary is still untested. Against NIU they played the same zone all day, and against ND they were greatly aided by Brady Quinn's inability to throw downfield. EMU is EMU. That said, my worry level re: them has plummetted over the last three games. Brandent Engelmon has played very well at SS and hasn't been wildly out of position like a certain undrafted early entry was. Morgan Trent looks like a good nickel corner. Mason and Hall are decent starters. I think they'll have a tough time at some point this year (MSU and Iowa) but the Wisconsin passing game isn't the one to expose them.

9. Finally, predict the final score. How much will Michigan win by?

I thought this would be an easy win before the year but now it appears significantly tighter. It'll come down to Michigan's pass protection and the interior defensive line's production (and by that I mean if they use Watson sensibly). I do think Michigan wins. Barryball has always played into the strengths of Michigan's D. Call it 24-17.

Our thanks to Brian. Visit his blog. Even though he's a Michigan fan, it's usually a pretty good read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

BlogPoll: Week Four

Dropped out
19 Boston College--> Thoroughly disappointing performance against Florida State. The players didn't give their best performance, and the coaching was spotty. It might be harsh to drop them all the way out, but they can easily earn their way back.

The new Top 25 ballot
1. Southern Cal (1 last week). Damn.
2. Texas (2). It was only Rice, but it was certainly impressive.
3. LSU (3). Idle. Biggie this week, as they play their first game in Baton Rouge...and it's against Tennessee.
4. Florida (4). Got it done against Tennessee, but Urban clearly has some work to do with his offense. Defense is scary good.
5. Virginia Tech (5). Did what Pitt couldn't do: Beat Ohio. Yeah, I'm not overwhelmed, either.
6. Georgia (6). Louisiana-Monroe? Meh. Shockley looked good, but you have to question the opposition.
7. Michigan (8). Got well against Eastern Michigan. Now they have to play that dreaded first road game...and it's a night game in Madison.
8. Louisville (10). Great performance on national TV against Oregon State. Brohm definitely looked like he'll be a star.
9. Ohio State (11). Gave up a TD on the first play from scrimmage and still won handily. I'm skeptical about this team, and their conference opener is a doozy (Iowa).
10. Florida State (13). Drew Weatherford looked like he grew up a lot against Boston College. He played pretty well, and FSU found a way to win a really tough road game.
11. Tennessee (9). Why did Gerald Riggs only get 17 carries? Must rebound this week, and it's a roadie at what should be an emotional Baton Rouge.
12. Iowa State (12). Idle last week. It won't be easy at Army, but Iowa State should be able to hold serve heading into Big 12 play.
13. Iowa (14). We'll see if this team can cut it this week at the Horseshoe.
14. Miami (15). Big win at Clemson. The Hurricanes blew a ten-point lead in the fourth, but pulled it out in overtime. Their young QB, Kyle Wright, looked solid for much of the game.
15. Notre Dame (7). When I said last week that I was hesitant to move them up to seventh, this was why. The defense looked completely overmatched.
16. Oregon (16). Ducks hold serve with a nice come-from-behind home win over Fresno State.
17. Purdue (18). Boilers get tested by H*i*m*n candidate Laurence Maroney and the Gophers this week. That run defense should hold up nicely.
18. Texas A&M (17). They did what TCU didn't (beat SMU), and they did it in overwhelming fashion, but other teams had more impressive performances against better competition. Therefore, the Aggies drop a spot.
19. California (25). OK. I'm a believer.
20. Arizona State (20). Seriously, just a little bit of defense. OK?
21. Minnesota (21). When a game against Tulsa appears to be the best game to use to evaluate your team, your team hasn't played anyone.
22. North Carolina State (22). Unlike Stanford, NC State actually beat their I-AA opponent this week. Congrats.
23. Toledo (23). They only scored 42 against Temple. Is something wrong here?
24. Georgia Tech (24). An otherwise unimpressive win over UConn was made more impressive by the fact that they did it without QB Reggie Ball.
25. UCLA (25). Beat Oklahoma, which isn't the accomplishment it used to be. However, we'll move them up into the poll this week.

The Watch List
Boston College
Michigan State
Texas Tech

Friday, September 16, 2005

NFL Week Two - Preview

Last week: 10-6 (Trust me...Why would I lie and say 10-6?)
Season: 10-6

The picks (All picks are straight-up)
Minnesota (0-1) at Cincinnati (1-0)--> The Vikings couldn't have had a worse offensive performance a week ago. Could they? Meanwhile, the Bengals look like the only serious contender to Pittsburgh's dominance in the AFC North. With Carson Palmer at the helm, I like Cincy at home.
The pick: Cincinnati

Jacksonville (1-0) at Indianapolis (1-0)--> I know Baltimore's offense is bad, but the Colts look like they may have a defense capable of allowing them to actually challenge New England now. Jacksonville won in Indy last year. It won't happen again this year.
The pick: Indianapolis

Pittsburgh (1-0) at Houston (0-1)--> Like the Vikings, I'm not sure Houston could have looked worse in their opener. The Texans have playoff thoughts this year, but for us to take them seriously, David Carr has to play better. Even if they're without Roethlisberger (game-time decision), I like the Steelers to win.
The pick: Pittsburgh

San Francisco (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1)--> The 49ers surprised many by winning their opener. Philly surprised many with a somewhat listless effort against the Falcons on Monday night. With the Eagles seeking redemption, and McNabb sounding like he'll start, I don't like San Fran's chances in this one.
The pick: Philadelphia

Buffalo (1-0) at Tampa Bay (0-1)--> J.P. Losman managed the game well last week against Houston. With Tampa's defense looking strong once again this year, Losman will be tested early and often, and he'll have to avoid the mistakes that plagued Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings a week ago.
The pick: Tampa Bay

Baltimore (0-1) at Tennessee (0-1)--> Every time I hear about this matchup, I think back to that playoff game a few years back where Ray Lewis almost singlehandedly destroyed the Titans in Nashville. That might happen again this year. After all, Lewis knows his offense won't be carrying the Ravens to victory anytime soon.
The pick: Baltimore

Detroit (1-0) at Chicago (0-2)--> Could the Lions be the class of the NFC North? Well, they'll be for at least the first two weeks. Sustaining success could be more of a problem for this team.
The pick: Detroit

New England (1-0) at Carolina (0-1)--> I know their schedule is hard and all, but it's really not smart to pick against a team that hardly ever loses...especially when people are expecting them to. New England will handle the first of many difficult tests that await them in the first half of the season.
The pick: New England

St. Louis (0-1) at Arizona (0-1)--> The Rams lost to San Francisco, yet Mike Martz still has a job? Maybe the standards in St. Louis aren't what they used to be. Meanwhile, the Cardinals will be looking to bounce back from an effort that could be generously described as "bad".
The pick: Arizona

Atlanta (1-0) at Seattle (0-1)--> I just don't trust this Seattle team. Normally, you'd pick against a team that's coming off a Monday night game and has to travel cross-country. But I just don't trust Seattle to contain Michael Vick and make him throw the ball effectively.
The pick: Atlanta

Miami (1-0) at N.Y. Jets (0-1)--> The Jets are looking to show that they're actually not a terrible football team. The Dolphins have Gus Frerotte as their starting QB in a road game. That should sound an alarm for anyone who is considering taking Miami in this game.
The pick: N.Y. Jets

San Diego (0-1) at Denver (0-1)--> This is a tough call. On one hand, Denver doesn't have anyone who can cover Antonio Gates when Gates isn't fuming over having to miss the season opener, a game the Chargers lost by four points because they didn't have their best end-zone target on the field late. On the other hand, Denver can't possibly start 0-2 by losing at home to the Chargers. Can they?
The pick: Denver

Cleveland (0-1) at Green Bay (0-1)--> The NFL isn't all about the coaches. The NFL isn't all about the coaches. Please, let this be true. The NFL isn't all about the coaches. It better be true, because if it's all about the coaches, the Packers are doomed on Sunday, because Crennel could down twenty Cap'n 'n' Cokes before the game and still outcoach Sherman.
The pick: Green Bay

Kansas City (1-0) at Oakland (0-1)--> I need an upset special somewhere, right. To me, there's no better option than the overrated defense on the road against a team led by Randy Moss. Imagine the celebration with the Black Hole fans after his first home touchdown.
The pick: Oakland

N.Y. Giants (1-0) at vs. New Orleans (1-0)--> How can you possibly root against this team? Hell, I still want to pull those dreads out of Mike McKenzie's head for the crap he pulled last year, but I've buried the hatchet. I know - how sweet of me. The Giants are at home, even though they're the road team, but the Saints look inspired right now. It's really too bad that it took a hurricane killing 10,000-plus people and destroying their home stadium for the light to come on for this team.
The pick: New Orleans

Washington (1-0) at Dallas (1-0)--> ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
The pick: Dallas

Later this season, I'm going to start ranting regularly about the poor quality of analysis during NFL telecasts. I've grown to tolerate many of the ESPN personalities (Michael Irvin is a flaming idiot, and Mark Schlereth isn't very good, but most of them are tolerable), as well as the FOX pregame team (I'm still a Terry Bradshaw fan). But the game analysts that these people employ need to be clubbed in the head repeatedly.

In Week One, I was treated to J.C. Pearson (Vikings-Bucs) talking about how the Buccaneers practice the tip drill with their defensive backs. The replay he was talking over was of a ball bouncing off the hands of Viking RB Moe Williams and right into the arms of CB Brian Kelly, who was basically standing there when the ball came to him.

Then, as already mentioned, I had to hear Brian Baldinger try to sell to me that the ball never comes out of Brett Favre's hand while he's trying to pass...even though I've seen it happen at least a half-dozen times in his career.

Just wait until I get to hear the likes of Phil Simms, Randy Cross, Cris Collinsworth, and Dan Dierdorf call a game. This list will only grow.

If you hear anything stupid that comes out of the mouth of an NFL game analyst on TV (which is bound to happen if you watch an NFL game), feel free to drop me a line. Maybe we can start a separate blog to list them. I'll try to tag a couple on most of our NFL entries this season.

Enjoy the weekend. We'll check back with you on Monday with some quick-hit analysis on the college games.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

College football - Week Three preview

Viewing plans this week
Home game for UMD this week. That means I'll be commandeering the television for numerous opportunities to watch college football. I may be up late on Saturday. By Monday, my wife may be beginning her search for an attorney.

--> Utah at TCU
--> Houston at UTEP
--> Alabama at South Carolina
--> Michigan State at Notre Dame
--> San Diego State at Ohio State
--> Kentucky at Indiana
--> Fresno State at Oregon
--> Wisconsin at North Carolina
--> Florida State at Boston College
--> Florida Atlantic at Minnesota
--> Tennessee at Florida
--> Arkansas at USC

The picks
Last week: 11-4
Season: 25-12

This is a really good weekend. A number of big games and some other intriguing matchups. As usual, we'll roll out all the games involving Big Ten teams. Even Vanderbilt has a chance to make some serious noise this weekend. Yes, that Vanderbilt. More on that in a bit.

Thursday, September 15
Utah at TCU--> The Utes have a long winning streak on the line, but this team isn't nearly as good as last year's. Meanwhile, TCU lost a lot of luster when SMU beat them last week. If the Horned Frogs show up and play well tonight, which I'm thinking will happen, they have a good shot at an upset.
The pick: TCU

Friday, September 16
Houston at UTEP--> First Conference USA game for the Miners, who smoked New Mexico State in their season opener. The Sun Bowl should be jazzed for a nationally televised night game.
The pick: UTEP

Saturday, September 17
Eastern Michigan at Michigan--> Bounceback game. Big time. If Michigan doesn't win big, they could be in serious trouble when the conference schedule opens next week.
The pick: Michigan

Michigan State at Notre Dame--> We know Michigan State can't play defense. We think Notre Dame's defensive status is somewhat inflated at this point. Drew Stanton will get his team on the board often enough to pull the upset, despite the worldly presence of Charlie Weis on the other sideline.
The pick: Michigan State

Central Michigan at Penn State--> As expected, a 3-0 start for JoePa. Next week, the real games begin.
The pick: Penn State

San Diego State at Ohio State--> Remember what I said about Michigan bouncing back? Well, this won't be as convincing a performance, but the Buckeyes will get a win.
The pick: tOSU

Northern Iowa at Iowa--> I saw Northern Iowa lay a whoopin' on Division II UMD last week. This week, it's their turn to take a step up in competition. The Panthers have a good I-AA team, but they're no match for the angry Hawkeyes.
The pick: Iowa

Illinois at California--> I'm coming around with the Cal team. They may end up being really good again this year, despite the heavy skill-position losses. They should be too much for the Fightin' Zookers to handle.
The pick: California

Kentucky at Indiana--> If Andre Woodson doesn't fumble down near the goal line, Kentucky may have beaten Louisville. If Indiana's offense doesn't step up, they may have lost to I-AA Nicholls State. That said, I'm picking IU to start 3-0. Don't ask me why.
The pick: Indiana

Wisconsin at North Carolina--> The suddenly potent Badger attack won't ring up 50+ for a third straight game, and the defense will certainly be tested more than were by Temple last week. But unless UNC finds their AWOL running game, they won't be able to outscore Bucky.
The pick: Wisconsin

Florida Atlantic at Minnesota--> Howard Schnellenberger has done a good job building this FAU program from scratch. But a defensive line that averages well under 275 pounds has little shot against this Gopher ground assault.
The pick: Minnesota

Purdue at Arizona--> Unless the Boilers get hit by a freak monsoon like Wisconsin did at Arizona a year ago, they'll win easily. If the skies open up again, the game will be close. But Purdue still wins.
The pick: Purdue

Northwestern at Arizona State--> The Wildcats have a solid offense. No question about that. But I don't see their defense matchup up against the red-hot Sun Devils' attack. It may be another high-scoring game for ASU, but they'll find a way to win going away.
The pick: Arizona State

Oregon State at Louisville--> The Cardinals have the national ranking and all the expectations, which is probably the opposite of how this would have played out a few years ago. Despite the added pressure to perform, Louisville has enough to get by the Beavers.
The pick: Louisville

Mississippi at Vanderbilt--> Jay Cutler has shown some great leadership at QB, and Vandy is somehow 2-0 despite not playing a home game yet (I don't remember the last time Vandy won two straight road games). The Commodores need to avoid a letdown, because Ole Miss flashed some serious defense in their opener against Memphis. Me thinks Vandy will win to go to 3-0, which, considering their schedule, may send them on the fast track to an unheard-of 5-0 start.
The pick: Vanderbilt

Oklahoma at UCLA--> The Sooners have 170 yards of passing in two games. While the OU defense looks good, they'll get their best test when they face Bruin RB Maurice Drew, who San Diego State coach Tom Craft describes as "good". This might be the last stand for Oklahoma, which means we should expect a great effort. But it won't be enough against an improved UCLA team.
The pick: UCLA

Miami (FL) at Clemson--> The Hurricanes are 0-1. They never start 0-2. They can't possibly lose this game and start 0-2. And Clemson certainly shouldn't be starting 3-0. Right?
The pick: Clemson

Fresno State at Oregon--> First huge test for both teams. Fresno wants to make a name for themselves, while Oregon wants to show that they're ready to contend in the Pac-10, a conference begging for teams to compete with USC. I like what I've seen from the Ducks so far, and even when they're struggling, Autzen Stadium is usually a pretty tough place to win in.
The pick: Oregon

Florida State at Boston College--> The spotlight is on BC. ESPN is sending their "Gameday" crew to Chestnut Hill. This game is in primetime on Saturday night. With the possibility of bad weather related to Hurricane Ophelia, the advantage goes to the team that can run the ball and protect it when they have to throw. Right now, you can't say that's FSU, a team that needed three botched field goals to beat Miami at home.
The pick: Boston College

Tennessee at Florida--> I'm not here to suck up to my friends at Every Day Should be Saturday by just picking Florida and telling some Phil Fulmer fat jokes. It's tempting, but I'll avoid the fat jokes. Instead, I'll remind you that bad officiating was the only reason Tennessee had a chance to try that game-winning field goal in Knoxville last year. Phil's head is going to be spinning after Urban finishes with him. Oh, and I reiterate: Fat men should never wear orange. It's just not a good color. I should know. I'm hardly skinny myself. And I don't wear orange unless I'm hunting.
The pick: Florida

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

BlogPoll: Week Three

Dropped out
25 TCU--> SMU? Ugh. Listen, the Mustangs are bound to be better this year. But they aren't going to be "beating ranked teams" better. Brutal way to celebrate a return to the Top 25, TCU. And it's a good way to become the only team dropped off my ballot this week.

The new Top 25 ballot
1. Southern Cal (1 last week). Even when they're not playing, it looks like they're better than everyone else.
2. Texas (3). Vince Young looked like an actual quarterback on Saturday. Texas played poorly, in my opinion, but they still won the game, which says a lot for how much more talented they are.
3. LSU (9). Emotional game, and an emotional win. If they can correct that pass defense, they'll have a chance to go far. Not only that, but it's hard to root against a team like this.
4. Florida (5). Louisiana Tech? Meh.
5. Virginia Tech (6). At least Duke is a conference opponent. Meh.
6. Georgia (7). Shockley looked much worse against Carolina than he did against Boise. Not that anyone should be surprised. Needless to say, the SEC is wide-open, and evaluation to this point has been difficult.
7. Notre Dame (12). I hesitate to jump them this far. Frankly, I was unimpressed with the Irish after the opening drive against Michigan. But a win at Michigan is a win at Michigan until proven otherwise. We'll watch Notre Dame closely.
8. Michigan (2). Ouch. Another uninspired early-season effort, this one from a team already beset by injuries. I feel badly for Lloyd Carr. Even when the team is healthy, they always seem to stumble at some point in September.
9. Tennessee (10). Biggie this week against Urban.
10. Louisville (11). Oregon State will give Louisville trouble, especially if the Cardinals provide the same uneven effort they had against Kentucky.
11. Ohio State (8). Nothing I didn't expect. Good defense, decent running game, and terrible QB play. This ranking won't hold, because tOSU won't be able to win games where their defense can't do it all.
12. Iowa State (22). Biggest jump in the rankings this week. I think this is a severely underrated football team. Either that, or Iowa was really overrated. This looks like the best chance for a North Division team to win the Big 12.
13. Florida State (13). The Citadel?
14. Iowa (4). Couldn't possibly have looked worse on Saturday. I'd drop them further, but it was one game against a huge rival on the road. I won't overreact. And I wouldn't want to be Northern Iowa this week.
15. Miami (Florida) (14). I don't expect that Miami will be outside the top ten for a long time.
16. Oregon (15). Huge home game against Fresno State. I tend to think a ranking will be up for least on this ballot.
17. Texas A&M (16). If SMU wins in College Station on Saturday, I may have to take back my earlier comments about them.
18. Purdue (18). Akron doesn't do anything for me. They didn't do anything to Purdue.
19. Boston College (19). They did what they were supposed to do to Army. Now Florida State and the ESPN Gameday crew are coming to Chestnut Hill.
20. Arizona State (17). OK, we need some defense here.
21. Minnesota (21). Maroney's H*i*m*n bid continues, but it won't get serious until the Big Ten schedule begins.
22. North Carolina State (20). Probably won't move up this week, being that they play Eastern Kentucky. Hell, they probably wouldn't move up by playing Kentucky.
23. Toledo (23). Won big, but this was against Western Michigan. Better than Western Illinois, but still not very good.
24. Georgia Tech (24). Barely got by North Carolina, and probably should have lost. It was the kind of effort that keeps Tech fans up at night wondering about their team.
25. California (NR). I think I'm becoming a believer.

Other teams that received consideration
Fresno State
Michigan State

College football - Week Two thoughts

Full disclosure
To convince you that I'm not just copying what Trev Alberts says on ESPN (oops!), here is the somewhat shortened list of games I saw some of this weekend.

NOTE: Because of my travel obligations with the UMD football team, I am listing six of the games I saw live on Saturday, even though they were all on at the same time. Obviously, most of my attention was focused on the Notre Dame-Michigan game. Travel note: Thanks to the folks at the Ramada in Waterloo, IA, where I was given a late checkout time to accomodate some football viewing, and then I was given the chance to watch the first half of the Iowa-ISU game while we waited to load the buses and head to our game. If you're ever in Waterloo, for whatever reason, I recommend the Ramada. Very good people, and some awesome food.

--> Pittsburgh at Ohio
--> Kansas State at Marshall
--> Notre Dame at Michigan
--> Clemson at Maryland
--> Army at Boston College
--> Colorado State at Minnesota
--> Iowa at Iowa State
--> Texas at Ohio State (taped)

First off, as I hinted earlier, Trev Alberts got canned from ESPN because he didn't show up to work a week ago this past Sunday. He apparently decided that he was too big a star to have to sit next to Mark May. Good for Trev. He's been replaced by Lou Holtz, and no one misses him. Maybe he can go be the centerpiece of FSN's college football studio coverage. Too bad no one watches it.

--> Pittsburgh at Ohio. Has Dave Wannstedt been fired yet?
--> Kansas State at Marshall. Has Mark Snyder been fired yet? Okay, that might be a bit harsh, but consider this a lesson learned. When you're in field goal range with under ten seconds to play, make sure your quarterback doesn't do anything that could turn out badly. Throwing into coverage would count as one of those things. What a way to lose a home opener in front of a record crowd. By the way, anyone hoping for a revival at KSU this year is probably being too optimistic. The Wildcats struggled with mighty Florida International, and they needed some huge breaks to beat Marshall, who is nowhere near as strong as they were even two years ago.
--> Notre Dame at Michigan. I always have fun watching big games like this, even when they involve two teams I despise. There's something special about this rivalry, and this game delivered, even though it was somewhat poorly played (especially when considering the very high standards of both programs). Brady Quinn missed a ton of open receivers, and Chad Henne couldn't find his open receivers most of the game. Michigan lost Michael Hart and couldn't really mount a rushing attack, while Notre Dame running back Darius Walker was stymied in the second half by a much-improved Michigan defense, a defense that got run over in the first half by Walker and often looked unsure of themselves. All in all, Notre Dame definitely played just well enough to win, while Michigan never got out of the hole they dug for themselves with a horrible first half, especially on offense.
--> Temple at Wisconsin. Wow. I know Temple sucks. A lot. But 65-0 is impressive against anyone. Especially when it's 51-0 at halftime. We may have understated the impact that co-coordinator Paul Chryst has on the Bucky offense. We'll know in two weeks, as Wisconsin heads to North Carolina this week and hosts Michigan next week.
--> Clemson at Maryland. Charlie Whitehurst made some mistakes, but he looks like a different quarterback this year. Good sign for Clemson, who had another strong comeback win, this time in a conference game.
--> Army at Boston College. Good opening drive for an Army TD. That was it, though, for the Black Knights, who were overwhelmed by BC.
--> Colorado State at Minnesota. The Rams still can't defend the run. They need to get better in the interior of the defense, because even the Mountain West will chew them up if they don't. While Minnesota still doesn't look like a major threat in the Big Ten, Laurence Maroney will always keep things interesting as long as the defense holds up.
--> Iowa at Iowa State. Ouch. The rough day for the Big Ten continues, as the Hawkeyes get completely overwhelmed against their in-state rival. I expect good things out of ISU this year, but I didn't expect this. The Cyclones have a strong defense, and they have one of the best receivers in the Big 12 in Todd Blythe. Iowa, meanwhile, needs to regroup if they're to be a contender in the Big Ten.
--> Texas at Ohio State. Great game, as expected. We wondered before the season started about tOSU's quarterbacks. They sure stunk up the joint on Saturday. Vince Young, meanwhile, boosted his H*i*m*n chances with a strong comeback win. Texas didn't play well, and may have gotten somewhat lucky, but national championship teams always have at least one or two games like that during their run (USC had one at Stanford last year), so the fact that the 'Horns may have had Lady Luck on their side is hardly detrimental to their title hopes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

We've got to get that corrected

That's the mantra of Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman. Sherman used it during a radio interview that followed Sunday's game. In the game, the Pack committed 18 penalties (four of them were declined) in a positively disgraceful 17-3 loss in Detroit. The only thing worse than watching the game was listening to Kenny Albert and Brian Baldinger try to make excuses for the lifeless performance of Brett Favre (more on that in a moment).

Sherman likes to throw out that "We've got to get that corrected" line to the media when his team can't do something right. Frankly, one gets sick of hearing it with regard to the penalties, because this team has had a problem with penalties for quite some time now. Perhaps people just started to notice this preseason, but penalties (especially on defense) were a big part of the problems that crept their way onto this team a year ago. In particular, second-year cornerback Ahmad Carroll has repeatedly shown that he just can't stop touching the receiver he's assigned to cover.

That's nice and all, except that the NFL has put a real emphasis on downfield contact by defensive backs. Carroll got eleven flags a year ago, and he started his season off by getting flagged four times (one declined) in yesterday's game.

What's Sherman's response?

A. "We gotta get that corrected. I promise you we will."
B. Bench Carroll until he learns proper coverage technique...maybe going so far as to make him practice with his arms tied behind his back.
C. Cut Carroll because he's useless outside of a boxing ring.
D. Keep allowing Carroll to start.

If you answered "A" and "D", you're right. "C" is a crazy response left for some power-happy moron who thinks he has to react harshly to everything bad that happens on a football field. "B" would be nice. Unfortunately, we don't have a head coach in Green Bay who is capable of figuring out what Carroll needs to improve.

Playing him in a starting role every week hasn't worked. But, by all means, keep doing it. Maybe the light will come on at some point.

I suggested the "arms tied behind his back during practice" idea around mid-season 2004. The reason I brought it up was that I felt Carroll had poor technique when I watched him in games. He guarded receivers with his hands, as if he were trying to hide a lack of speed. The reality is that speed is one of the key reasons he got drafted as high as he did. He has nothing to be afraid of in that regard. If Sherman and Jim Bates, a good defensive coordinator who is regarded as a great teacher, made him practice without the use of his hands, maybe he'd learn that his speed is an asset, and maybe he'd learn how to use his body and his speed to properly cover receivers.

Designated Favre Apologists
Why can't FOX employ sane human beings to do their football broadcasts? Brett Favre lost a fumble on a play where he wound up to pass and had the ball slip out of his hand before he threw it. I've seen Favre do this often enough in his career that I've taken to naming the play after him (when Daunte Culpepper did it earlier in the afternoon, I told my wife that he "Favred" the ball). Yet when Favre "Favred" the ball in the third quarter, FOX's DFA (Designated Favre Apologist), Brian Baldinger, said "Brett Favre never does that".

BS! He's done that at least a half-dozen times in his career. Is there any particular reason for it happening? I don't know. Maybe he's trying to get rid of the ball too quickly. But it's not the ball's fault.

Well, maybe it's the ball's fault when it happens to Brett Favre.

Another example of having too many DFAs on TV these days comes every time we hear a broadcaster gushing about Favre's arm when he completes a short pass. I'm looking at you, Kenny Albert.

More DFAs. ESPN's Steve Young: "Favre came back to try to win a championship."

Seriously? I thought he came back to have a couple 35-interception seasons before he retired.

In the NFL, outside of the Oakland Raiders, who isn't trying to win a championship? They might do it poorly, but they're all trying. Every player. Every team. Even the Bears. They all want to win.

And to say that drafting Aaron Rodgers was some sort of disservice to Favre (as ESPN DFA Tom Jackson did yesterday) is doing exactly what Brett Favre would never do: a disservice to the organization. This team has an obligation, not only this year but for years to come, to do what it can to win. Drafting Mike Patterson or any other defensive player in the first round wouldn't have done one damn thing to help in that regard. It seems that Rodgers and Favre are the only two people on the planet outside of Green Bay that understand what their relationship is supposed to be this season. And it seems as if Favre may be the only person outside of the Packer front office that understands why Rodgers was drafted.

Even though I'm a Packer fan, I'm sick and tired of the DFAs on TV nowadays. Everyone seems to be a Favre gusher, which is fine, as long as you can accept that even a Hall of Famer has flaws. Even a guy who is about to go over 50,000 career passing yards has flaws. We saw many of those flaws yesterday, and it's okay to mention that.

Saying that I think Favre played like crap yesterday doesn't change my overall opinion of him. It just means that Favre played like crap in one game, and we've got to get that corrected.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

BlogPoll: Week Two

Lotsa changes for the second ballot. Here goes...

Dropped out
13 Oklahoma--> As I said...overrated. What I didn't know was that I had overrated them, too.
16 Auburn--> Tommy needs to fix the offense. Soon.
18 Pittsburgh--> Wannstedt's team looked completely overmatched against Notre Dame.
19 Boise State--> Speaking of looking completely overmatched...
20 Bowling Green--> Feel free to tackle a running back.
25 Alabama-Birmingham--> They won't be out for long. Looked good against Tennessee.

The new Top 25 ballot
1. Southern Cal (1 last week). I don't care how many yards Hawai'i got. USC scored 63 points and won by a ton on the road. Works for me.
2. Michigan (2). This week is the real test in non-conference play.
3. Texas (4). Good start, but we'll see how they look this week against a real defense.
4. Iowa (6). The collision course with the Big Ten schedule begins if they win at ISU this week.
5. Florida (8). I know it's only Wyoming, but the offense looked good, even though Chris Leak can't run that well.
6. Virginia Tech (3). Vick was shaky at times, but Tech got a quality road win against a much-improved NC State team.
7. Georgia (15). May have been the most impressive performance of the weekend by a favored team.
8. Ohio State (14). Shocked me with offensive flow. Now that must carry over to the Texas game.
9. LSU (12). It's hard to root against these guys right now, especially since their home opener has been postponed, and then turned into a road game.
10. Tennessee (10). Didn't overwhelm, but beat a pretty good team. We'll hold them in place.
11. Louisville (9). Unimpressive performance against Kentucky, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt because it was a huge rivalry game.
12. Notre Dame (NR). Most impressive performance of the weekend by an independent. Whacking a ranked team on the road should gain Weis' team some respect
13. Florida State (11). Looked horrible, but at least they didn't lose...
14. Miami (5). Looked horrible, and lost.
15. Oregon (17). Won on the road against a gimmicky offense. Clemens looked very good.
16. Texas A&M (7). Try to read that two-point conversion chart next time. Fran picked a terrible time to go off the chart.
17. Arizona State (23). Were supposed to slaughter Temple. Slaughtered Temple.
18. Purdue (21). Idle. Moved up because of default.
19. Boston College (NR). Solid win in a tough stadium. We'll see if they can fix the offensive line.
20. North Carolina State (NR). They'll make some noise this year. Good performance in a losing effort against V-Tech.
21. Minnesota (NR). Into the poll this week thanks to Laurence Maroney, who made the first serious H*i*m*n bid on Thursday with 200+ and two scores.
22. Iowa State (22). Idle. Kept in place because I'm not sold on them enough to move up.
23. Toledo (24). Might as well have been idle. Only moved up one as punishment for scheduling a I-AA team, making further evaluation impossible.
24. Georgia Tech (NR). Ball looked sharp at Auburn. Maybe a good sign for Tech fans. Miami and Virginia performances over the weekend were also good signs.
25. TCU (NR). You beat a top ten team in their place, and you deserve some love.

Teams I couldn't evaluate fairly for possible movement, either because they didn't play or because they played a I-AA or bad I-A team:
Fresno State
Texas Tech

Other teams that received consideration
Boise State
Michigan State

College football - Week One thoughts/Week Two preview

We're combining what will normally be two separate entries this week. I'm out of town Tuesday through Sunday (Green Bay for a company seminar and then Cedar Falls, Iowa, for a UMD football game on Saturday), so you won't hear from me again until after Week Two.

First up is our Week One review.

Full disclosure
So you won't think I'm pulling these thoughts out of you-know-where, here is a list of games I saw at least half of this weekend.

--> Minnesota at Tulsa
--> Arizona at Utah
--> Bowling Green at Wisconsin (also saw parts of Miami-tOSU, TCU-Oklahoma, and Rutgers-Illinois)
--> Northern Illinois at Michigan
--> Colorado State at Colorado
--> Georgia Tech at Auburn
--> UCLA at San Diego State
--> West Virginia at Syracuse
--> Louisville at Kentucky
--> Virginia Tech at North Carolina State
--> UNLV at New Mexico
--> Mississippi at Memphis
--> Miami at Florida State

Impressions on last week
Thoughts on games I actually watched, and some that I didn't.

--> Minnesota at Tulsa. Laurence Maroney. 'Nuff said. One point worth mentioning here is that the Gophers actually averaged less than four yards per rush after Maroney's big runs. They'll need to be more consistent, because not everyone is going to yield two 60-plus yard runs in the first quarter.
--> Arizona at Utah. What was Mike Stoops thinking? He has the ball in Utah territory, and punts on fourth and reasonably short late in the game??? Utah has a long way to go. Then again, no one said replacing Alex Smith would be easy.
--> Bowling Green at Wisconsin. If you would have told me beforehand that Bowling Green would rack up 500-plus yards of offense and score 42 points, I wouldn't have bothered to watch. Somehow, the Badgers put up a good month's worth of offense in one game on Saturday, while Brian Calhoun (250 rush yards, 5 TD, Big Ten OPOTW) showed himself to be a more-than-adequate replacement for Anthony Davis. We didn't see John Stocco throw much, but he actually looked pretty good when he was doing it, except for one bad decision (more a late throw than a bad decision, I guess). And give the defense credit. They only allowed seven points in the second half after Omar Jacobs lit them up for 35 in the first half.
--> TCU at Oklahoma. Wow. When I said OU was overrated, I didn't think they'd come crashing to Earth like this. Listen, TCU has a good football team. If Tye Gunn can stay healthy for 11 games, they have a chance to make some serious noise in the Mountain West. But I don't believe for one millisecond that this would have happened if OU had everything working properly. This happened because of what I warned you about...OU lost too much skill-position and offensive line talent to simply "reload" and be ready for the season, and TCU was the worst possible opponent for such a season opener. They're a blitz-happy team on defense that is looking to atone for a terrible season in 2004 (TCU finished 5-6 despite scoring 30 points per game).
--> Northern Illinois at Michigan. It seemed like Michigan was more intent on not showing anything than they were on laying the wood to NIU. With that in mind, however, the Wolverines do need to shore up the run defense. Garrett Wolfe is good, but he shouldn't have been able to run like he did for much of this game. I love Henne and Hart, and they're only getting better. So as much as I detest Michigan, it looks like they're ready for Notre Dame, and that makes me happy.
--> Boise State at Georgia. D.J. Shockley may be the Tee Martin to David Greene's Peyton Manning. You know...the QB that follows up the longtime starter who couldn't win the national title and leads his team to a national title. Georgia was very impressive against a good team on Saturday, though I don't think Boise matches up with the top dogs of the SEC quite yet.
--> Notre Dame at Pittsburgh. Damn. Suddenly, Notre Dame is dangerous again. Either that, or Dave Wannstedt is a bigger idiot than we gave him credit for in the NFL. Maybe it's a little of both. Charlie Weis really had his team ready to play, and you could tell that he was prepared for his first outing as a head coach.
--> Georgia Tech at Auburn. For at least one game, Tech fans needn't fear Reggie Ball. He was good on Saturday, and he did it against a tough defense in a very hostile environment. Auburn has issues at QB, especially when you consider that the SEC has a number of teams that should be good on offense...certainly good enough to outscore the Tigers if they play like they did Saturday.
--> UCLA at San Diego State. The ESPN2 sideline reporter asked SDSU coach Tom Craft why Maurice Drew was so hard for the Aztecs to contain. His response? "He's good." That pretty much sums it up. Drew is good.
--> West Virginia at Syracuse. Syracuse's defense was nearly as good as I thought it would be. They forced turnovers left and right and held WVU to 13 points (two more came on a safety). But Syracuse's offense was much worse than advertised, as they couldn't do much of anything right. Like Oklahoma and Memphis (keep reading), 'Cuse shows us that an elite RB can't do it all by himself. Damien Rhodes is powerless to get this team in the end zone with such a bad offensive line and no semblance of a passing game.
--> Louisville at Kentucky. What looked like a beatdown early turned into a close game. Bobby Petrino needs to use this game as a teaching tool to get his team to develop a killer instinct. Meanwhile, if UK QB Andre Woodson can learn to protect the football in traffic, the Wildcats may be a bit better than advertised. That's to say that they might be better than Vanderbilt.
--> Virginia Tech at NC State. I know he had his issues, but Marcus Vick looked pretty good. So did counterpart Jay Davis, who moved his team at times against a very tough defense. The Hokies came from behind in a loud stadium, and Vick showed some poise. I think they'll end up being very good, though I freely admit I may have them too high, even after moving them down a little bit.
--> Mississippi at Memphis. We all love that DeAngelo Williams stayed in school for one more year. But it's hard not to question the wisdom of that decision after watching the Tigers' offense sputter all over the field on Monday. Turnovers and bad QB play killed Memphis, and Ed Orgeron gets a win in his head-coaching debut.
--> Miami at Florida State. Somehow, these two teams managed to play an uglier, sloppier game than they did last year. Drew Weatherford was positively awful, but Kyle Wright had a couple early picks, and Miami missed two field goals early before a bad snap and botched hold ruined a potential game-tying kick in the final minutes. I guess that's justice for kicking-tortured FSU, but the game was torture for all of us watching. Neither team looked like a title contender, though it was clear to me that Miami was the better team, especially once Wright calmed down a bit in the second quarter.

Viewing plans this week
This week will be difficult, because I am going to be gone a lot. However, I will probably see bits and pieces, at least, of the following games, either live or via VHS:

--> Oklahoma State at Florida Atlantic
--> Pittsburgh at Ohio
--> Kansas State at Marshall
--> Notre Dame at Michigan
--> Colorado State at Minnesota
--> Iowa at Iowa State
--> Texas at Ohio State

The picks
Last week: 14-8
Season: 14-8

Blame it on time constraints, but we won't spend as much time on game picks this week as we did last week. Since there really aren't any compelling games on Thursday or Friday, we'll start with Saturday's Big Ten games, and then touch on other games of interest.

Saturday, September 10
Temple at Wisconsin--> Even if Wisconsin doesn't run for 400 yards, they'll win.
The pick: Wisconsin

Notre Dame at Michigan--> In the Big House, it won't be as easy as it was at Heinz Field. Michigan will be more aggressive than they were in South Bend a year ago. It won't be 38-0 like the last Ann Arbor game, but will be a decided win for Michigan.
The pick: Michigan

Cincinnati at Penn State--> Cincy's QB looked okay a week ago, but that was Eastern Michigan.
The pick: Penn State

Akron at Purdue--> I'd like the Boilers even if Charlie Frye were still around. I just can't see Akron scoring enough points to win this game without Frye. Purdue passes their first post-Orton test.
The pick: Purdue

San Jose State at Illinois--> Zook got his boys to rally past Rutgers, something that no Big Ten team should ever have to do at home. If they have to rally past the Spartans, we'll know there is a problem.
The pick: Illinois

Colorado State at Minnesota--> Maroney should easily top 175 yards in this game, provided he gets the ball enough. It's another game that the Gophers can win without a big game from Cupito.
The pick: Minnesota

Hawaii at Michigan State--> MSU is no USC, but Hawaii's defense needs some serious work. Jerry Glanville would be really upset if he hadn't taken this job to rescue himself from the head-coaching position at Division II Northern State (S.D.), where he was a finalist.
The pick: Michigan State

Iowa at Iowa State--> Great rivalry. Lately, it's been more competitive. This year, it features a top team against a team that wants to be considered one of the elite. Even at home, I don't think ISU has enough to pull the shocker.
The pick: Iowa

Northern Illinois at Northwestern--> The Wildcats looked pretty good in beating on Ohio U., but I think NIU is ready to get an upset win over a Big Ten team.
The pick: Northern Illinois

Nicholls State at Indiana--> Could it be? IU at 2-0??
The pick: Indiana

Texas at Ohio State--> I picked this game two months ago, and I'm sticking with it. tOSU's play on Saturday against Miami (much better than I expected), only increases my confidence in them.
The pick: tOSU

South Carolina at Georgia--> Hard to pick against the homestanding 'Dawgs after what they did to Boise. Spurrier will have The Other USC ready to play, but it won't be enough.
The pick: Georgia

Boise State at Oregon State--> Boise wants to atone for a horrible performance in Athens, and a retooled Oregon State team looks like a good target. But the Beavers will get it done behind an improved defense.
The pick: Oregon State

Wake Forest at Nebraska--> The Cornhuskers were sleepwalking last week against Maine. At least, for their sake, I hope they were.
The pick: Nebraska

Southern Mississippi at Alabama--> I won't be sold on Alabama's offense until I see them racking up points. That might not happen this week, so the Tide will have to roll with their defense.
The pick: Alabama

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Shepard Smith update

Much has been made on the internet lately of the reporting by certain folks during the hurricane coverage. And I made a few statements about Shepard Smith of FOX News a few days back (read's still on the main page). I stand by those statements, only because I've called Smith "Captain Facetime" a number of times since he started to make a name for himself at FNC.

I was sent an e-mail by a reader today. That e-mail linked me to an amazing piece of video from a website called Crooks and Liars. That video has changed my opinion of the man once known simply as "Captain Facetime".

Somewhere in the three days between Tuesday and Friday, Shep became a reporter again. He realized that there was a story. There were people that weren't getting help. There were people dying in front of him. Families trapped on a damn bridge, because they weren't allowed to go anywhere. And they were going hungry.

The light went on. Shep (and Geraldo Rivera) had a story to tell. Rivera was on camera, holding a ten-month-old baby, and he lost it. Calling the convention center in New Orleans "hell on Earth", Rivera made it clear.

Look in the face of the baby. This is it. No sugarcoating. No political spin. No Republicans or Democrats. People suffering. Let them go. Let them out of here. Let them go. Let them walk over this damn interstate and let them out of here.

Earlier in the piece, Sean Hannity tried to corral Shep.

Sean: Alright, Shep. I wanna get some perspective here, because earlier today, the images...
Shep: That is all the perspective you need!
Sean: Hang...hang on...

Full credit to both. They've taken their fair share of abuse over the years, because they've done some terrible work, and Shep, no matter what he did on Friday, still did a really stupid thing on Tuesday (read a couple posts down for details). Hell, Geraldo got kicked out of Iraq for revealing a sensitive location on live we know he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But both did a great job late last week of 1) conveying the suffering, which was the big story that came out of the latter part of the week, and 2) standing up to morons like Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, who had no clue how to handle the information they were being given.

I'm glad the vacationing president cut his vacation short. Too bad he was too busy trying to crack jokes on Friday, and he didn't have time to actually be a leader. You know, a leader? That's what the hell we're paying this buffoon to do.

Six days after the storm hit, we still had people in New Orleans who were going hungry. This storm hit with about 48 hours notice. The city needed three days for a full evacuation, according to various reports. That's 72 hours, 24 more than they had to get people out of there. Yet the geniuses at FEMA and at the Department of "Homeland Security" sat on their hands. This was an official Hurricane Statement from the New Orleans National Weather Service office, dated last Sunday afternoon. I apologize for the all-caps nature of this statement, but I'm too lazy to convert it. I highlighted a few key points:


What's "unexpected" about this? Sounds like the weathercasters pretty much nailed the effects to me. Was the flooding worse than anticipated? Probably. But no one should have been surprised by the destruction. This storm was among the worst to ever hit the United States. And the federal government knew it was coming. They knew it was coming, and they knew what it could do. Their response?


The troops should have been in there on Monday. Tuesday at the latest. Instead, they're just being sent, or they just got there. The suffering is unspeakable. The images are heart-wrenching. The whole thing is surreal. We can take care of Iraqis that don't want to be taken care of, but we can't take care of our own in times of need?

Our leaders dropped the ball. As a nation, we're left with some of the worst images we'll ever see out of our own country.

My message? Nothing, really. Just wanted to convey my thoughts and feelings, and send one more message.


Do what you can. No one is expecting you to give $1 million, or to fly down there and volunteer. That would be great, but if you can't do these things, it doesn't mean you can't help.

Go here. Or here.

Call 1-800-HELP-NOW.

Call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

When they say that no amount is too small, they mean it. I'm not usually about telling people to donate to charity, but I am right now.

Give what you can.

If this happened where you live, you know they would help you out.