Friday, October 28, 2011
Obviously having the Cardinals come back from the brink twice added a great deal of drama but (and maybe it's because I wanted the Rangers to win) I found it aggravating that they couldn't close the door. I give the Cardinals a lot of credit for their tenacity, being one strike away from losing on two different occasions and battling back; but it felt like to me that the Rangers gave it away more than the Cardinals took it. The Cardinals were in an offensive slump, and I feel as though they would've stayed in a slump had the Rangers pitchers pitched well.
I said it somewhere before Game 6 that the Rangers closer was a time bomb waiting to happen. I don't have the stats in front of me but how many walks had that guy given up before the bomb exploded last night? He gave up at least two last night, including walking in a run. Then comes the game-tying triple, which looked to me like a catchable ball, though you wouldn't know from the TV coverage. It appeared to me that Nelson Cruz was never at full throttle going back for that ball and, therefore, came up one stride short of getting to it, especially hard to believe given that the Rangers outfielders were practically sitting on the outfield fences.
Now, all of the above seemed to be moot when Josh Hamilton hits his first homerun of the series to put the Rangers up by two runs in the 10th inning; but this is where the vice grip of pressure was visible. The Cardinals had momentum, the stadium was rocking and the Rangers pitching staff looked tight and afraid. They proceeded to give up two runs to tie the game once again.
On to the 11th inning, where the Rangers couldn't score a run; Ron Washington changes his mind and pinch hits for his last good pitcher with a man on first and two out, and the only pitcher he has left gives up the predictable game-winning homerun by Freese.
We've seen this time and again in baseball -- the team that has the championship in its grasp tightens up, succumbs to the pressure and gives it away in Game 6, so that when Game 7 comes around the pressure is practically strangling them and they lose a series that they were one strike away from winning. This is a scenario that my beloved Red Sox had patented (see 1986 and 2003). Josh Hamilton gave them a chance to relax and go home victorious but they blew it. I see no chance in hell of them winning tonight.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
2) No. 11 Oklahoma (-13.5) at No. 10 Kansas State - While I applaud Kansas State for going undefeated so far, this should be the end of the road. Oklahoma has better talent and is probably ready to play their best game of the year in response to losing last week.
3) No. 9 Michigan State at No. 13 Nebraska (-3.5) - Sparty has been winning emotional football games for the past week. This will be the stumbling block for their hard 4 game stretch. Nebraska should be able to win and start preparing for their spot in the inaugural Big 10 Title game.
4) Baylor at No. 3 Oklahoma State (-15) - I am not in love with the Cowboy's defense, but RG III will have a few mistakes which should let OK State pull away for the win.
5) No. 4 Stanford (-9.5) at No.20 USC - Stanford has more than Andrew Luck. The offense is predicated on the running game which has devastated their opponents. USC, while talented, isn't in the same class at the Cardinal.
6) No. 22 Georgia vs. Florida (+1) at Jacksonville, Fla. - The Largest Cocktail Party will be close, but let's continue the pattern of Florida winning these games.
7) Navy (+20) at Notre Dame - This is the hardest game to pick this week. The Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde routine by Notre Dame has me all confused about which team we are going to see. The Fighting Irish should win this game easily, but something is telling me that this game goes down to the wire.
8) No. 12 Wisconsin (-7.5) at Ohio State - Wisconsin is going to be the bully in this game. Watch for Coach Bielema to score and score often. The Badgers coming up short against the Buckeyes ends this year.
9) No. 25 West Virginia at Rutgers (+5.5) - Here are the Hokies that are consistant as water. The offense starts and stops, while the defense has been a disappointment. I am taking Rutgers and the shot in the dark.
10) No. 14 South Carolina at Tennessee (+3.5) - With Lattimore out for South Carolina, I don't think that the Ol' Ball Coach has the horses to win the rest of the games on South Carolina's schedule. The losing starts with a sorry Tennessee team.
11) Rice at No. 18 Houston (-25.5) - Houston has the #1 ranked offense in the land. Rice isn't in the Top 100 in overall defense. So expect lots of points and lots of them early as well. The points will come mostly from the Cougars.
12) Missouri at No. 16 Texas A&M (-15) - And another Texas A&M game. Whatever I choose, do the opposite. Texas A&M has confounded me all year long.
LOSS 2) #4 Wisconsin (-6.5) at #15 Michigan State - Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 37. The Badgers looked like they would run away with this game, but the spartans battled back and won with fundamentally sound football. I still think that Wisconsin is a better team, but they didn't prove it.
LOSS 3) #22 Washington (+19.5) at #7 Stanford - Washington 21, Stanford 65. The Cardinal look good. I am waiting to see how they fare against the Ducks. The Huskies looked like the pressure got to them. However, Coach Starkesian has them going in the right direction.
WIN 4) Tennessee at #2 Alabama (-27.5) - Tennessee 6, Alabama 37. While Alabama has stayed on top of college football since Nick Saban has become coach, the Volunteers have fallen on hard times. They used to be one of the top 3 teams in the SEC, now they might be in the middle of the pack.
LOSS 5) USC at Notre Dame (-9) - USC 31, Notre Dame 17. What a wacky world we live in when Lane Kiffin sounds like a voice of reason. Who would have thought that he would tell his players to shut up about Notre Dame giving up during the game? For Brian Kelly, it is another controversy that he and his team are embroiled in. Two years at the helm and lots of controversy out of South Bend. It might not look good long term for Coach Kelly.
WIN 6) North Carolina at #8 Clemson (-9.5) - North Carolina 38, Clemson 59. Clemson is rolling towards an undefeated season and might not even come close to playing in the BCS title game. Tells you where people think the ACC is in relation to the SEC and other conferences.
WIN 7) Texas Tech (+28) at #3 Oklahoma - Texas Tech 41, Oklahoma 38. Give credit to the Red Raiders. A 28 point underdog and they beat one of the Big Boys of college football. That being said, Oklahoma can still win the Big XII, but the BCS title game is probably out of the question.
LOSS 8) #11 West Virginia (-14) at Syracuse - West Virginia 23, Syracuse 49. Um, can anybody tell me when the offensive guru will get the offense to click in Morgantown? And if he can't, will he be able to shore up the defense?
LOSS 9) Fresno State at Nevada (-8.5) - Fresno State 38, Nevada 45. The Bulldogs showed up for this game. Nevada stayed step for step with them and pulled it out in the end. Both teams are moving to the Mountain West next year, so they might be competing with better teams for a conference crown.
WIN 10) #6 Oklahoma State (-6.5) at Missouri - Oklahoma State 45, Missouri 24. Well, Vegas is now trying to figure out why they supported the Tigers in bringing their A game to this contest. The Cowboys are now in the driver's seat in the Big XII South. I was right about picking the Cowboys at 20 points.
The Additional Two
WIN 11) #12 Kansas State (-11.5) at Kansas - Kansas State 59, Kansas 21. The Wildcats are still undefeated, but the Oklahoma schools are next on the schedule. K-State needs to pull the rabbits out of the hat for those games. Kendall Gill sounds like he isn't going to have much more time as Jayhawks head coach, and that is a shame. He is a good coach, but it is a what have you done for me lately business.
WIN 12) Georgia Tech at Miami (-2.5) - Georgia Tech 3, Miami 24. The Yellow Jackets overlooked the Canes because of the Clemson game coming up. Coach Golden is having a rough year in Miami, but look at it this way. He has went through a real bad situation and is proving that he can win. Combine that with the recruiting chops he proved he had at Temple and he might bring the Canes back to national prominence.
Week 8 Results: 7-5 Record. 1-1 Picking Underdogs. 6-4 Picking Favorites. 1-1 Road Underdog. 0-0 Home Underdog. 2-2 Road Favorites. 4-2 Home Favorites.
Season Results: 64-31-2 Record. 67.0 Win Percentage. 16-11 Picking Underdogs. 48-20-2 Picking Favorites. 12-7 Road Underdog. 4-4 Home Underdog. 19-10 Road Favorites. 29-10-2 Home Favorites.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
If you would like to know more about Dan Burke, you can find information at the two links above.
But Dan Burke's passing prompted me writing this story that's been in my head for awhile; that Portland, Maine is arguably the best minor league city in the country. For a city of less than 75,000 to continually fill Hadlock Field's 7500 seats and to be home to the Portland Pirates and the NBA Development League's highest drawing franchise says an awful lot. In just two seasons the Maine Red Claws have become the D League's model franchise. The Red Claws have done this without playing at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the home of the Portland Pirates of the AHL, but in the old barn that is Portland Expo, the second oldest arena in continuous use in the country, having been built in 1914. Having seen a Red Claws game there, seated in old backless bleacher seats, reminds you of a bygone era but is illustrative of the fact that the product on the floor makes you forget you're sitting in a building reminiscent of the old armories around the country.
Finally, there's the Portland Pirates, the longest running franchise in this city, dating back to the Maine Mariners of the mid 1970s. Show me another city, even one that's five times larger than Portland, that can boast continuously having a minor league franchise for 35 years (to say nothing of the fact it supports three franchises in total). Despite many changes in affiliation, the Pirates always draw; and when the big club wants to move their affiliate to supposed greener pastures, there's always another team ready to have its AHL affiliate be in Portland. Fans of the Mariners/Pirates have been fortunate to have four Calder Cup winners over that time but are hungry for another, since the last was the Pirates winning in 1994.
All three franchises know that the fans are loyal but that making their franchises a part of the community is key, and they have both done that and then some. If you need more proof as to how great a sports city Portland is, you can read this marketwatch article that puts Portland in the top 10 nationally or this Street & Smiths article that has Portland fifth, ahead of the likes of Charleston, Syracuse, Spokane, et al.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I thought Game 5 of the World Series was very well played and exciting. NAPOLI, NAPOLI, NAPOLI I suppose some comment has to be made about the bizarre communication issue between the Cardinal dugout and bullpen. I can't believe LaRussa would make up such a story to cover his ass but it's hard to believe no one knew until last night that it was possible that the bullpen could not hear the dugout on the phone in the bullpen. I feel bad if that's what happened, despite the fact I'd like the Rangers to win this series. The Rangers' bullpen has been excellent but their closer is a heart attack waiting to happen. Quit walking people!
Finally, I guess it should be pointed out that the best manager in baseball outsmarted himself last night by getting runners thrown out attempting to steal (or was it botched hit-and-runs?) second base, effectively killing off two rallies.
Anything else about these two games you'd like to discuss? Be my guest.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Are the Colts really that bad or conversely is Peyton Manning so integral that with him they're a borderline playoff team and arguably the worst team we've seen in a while without him? It's hard to believe they could fall completely apart like that.
We have learned Donovan McNabb is washed up. If we didn't know it already, we learned it yesterday after watching a rookie QB in his first start, Christian Ponder, make the Vikings look more like the playoff team of a couple of years ago than the mess they've looked like early this year.
Who would you put on the list of teams that you think could beat the Packers? I'll suggest the Saints, the Patriots, the Ravens. Is that it? The Giants' defense might be up to the task but you never know what you're going to get with that offense. And I wouldn't bet any money on even those teams succeeding.
This is meant to be an open thread, so talk about anything you'd like, except for maybe Tim Tebow. Are you hoping he fails, like I, just so we don't have to hear about him constantly? I am impressed with the play of most of the young rookie and second-year quarterbacks.
Are we now looking at a seven-game World Series, after the Rangers won last night? The series is tied at 2-2. I think the Rangers need to win tonight before I can say it'll go seven games and obviously I feel the Rangers need to win tonight in order for them to have a realistic chance of winning the series. A well-played game last night for the part and a superb pitching performance by Holland.
Do you want to talk about the Talledega race yesterday or the Chase for the Sprint Cup? To me the two-car tandems are no different than the single-car drafting style of racing from the '70s and '80s. It's pretty boring until you get down near the end and I'd rather have the 43 car pack racing back. The pack racing was certainly dangerous but can anyone say it was more dangerous than having 21 cars driving at nearly 200mph completely blind?
With four races left we're assured of a new champion (to read anyone other than Jimmy Johnson) and to me that's a good thing. I have nothing against Johnson or the 48 team but having that kind of dominance isn't good for the sport in my opinion. Given who has a reasonable chance of winning this thing, I'd like to see Carl Edwards end up winning it. When he didn't try to get to the front with 15 laps left, I felt it was a mistake. Then with two cautions in there that reduced the number of racing laps he'd have to get to the front, you knew it was a mistake. Finishing 10th was frankly lucky, though it could be argued, as I'm sure they would, that if they had started charging earlier, they could've been involved in those last two incidents.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
I think the Rangers needed to win that game last night, especially since they had the advantage in starting pitching; but also because they needed to firmly take the momentum from the Cardinals and take home field advantage.
Obviously the Rangers need to win tonight or the series is over, also to add some reason to watch. This hasn't been the best-played series, has it? Huge defensive lapses, substandard pitching and slugfests belong in slow pitch, beer league softball, not in the World Series.
It is nice to see one of the greatest players of all time, Albert Pujols, do something on the big stage (3 HRs in one game) that'd only been done previously by Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson; but it's also unfortunate that the other big star in this series, Josh Hamilton, is playing at not much more than 50%.
Zebster's two cents worth.
(RJ and Brent, you can respond in the comments or you can add to what I've written in the editor.)
For those of you who follow auto racing, there will be a public service for Dan Wheldon in Indianapolis later today. You can catch it live on Versus at 1pm PST.
I’ve already got my DVR set in case the San Diego Chargers – New York Jets game runs late. Or if for some strange reason I want to watch two-car tandems “race” at Talladega Superspeedway.
Friday, October 21, 2011
1) #19 Auburn at #1 LSU (-21) - It doesn't matter that Auburn is in the Top 20. LSU is far and away the better team on the field. It will be reflected in the scoreboard.
2) #4 Wisconsin (-6.5) at #15 Michigan State - Everybody is raving about the Spartan defense. They are good, but the Wisconsin offense is better than Michigan's. The Badgers should be about a 12 point favorite IMO. That is why I'm taking the Badgers.
3) #22 Washington (+19.5) at #7 Stanford - So far this season, the Cardinal has played the creampuffs of college football. Washington should put up more of a fight and keep it close.
4) Tennessee at #2 Alabama (-27.5) - Tennessee doesn't have an offense. Alabama has an offense, defense, and special teams. Bama is starting to get geared up for LSU and the Vols are another scrimmage for Nick Saban's team.
5) USC at Notre Dame (-9) - Neither of these teams are as good as they were perceived in the preseason. But Notre Dame is better then the Men of Troy.
6) North Carolina at #8 Clemson (-9.5) - Clemson is starting to see the end of the schedule ahead and the whispers of an undefeated season are growing. North Carolina isn't the football team of the past couple of seasons. Look for the Tigers to continue the improbable.
7) Texas Tech (+28) at #3 Oklahoma - There would be no way that I would pick a straight up upset here. But that Red Raider offense will score enough to keep it within 4 TDs.
8) #11 West Virginia (-14) at Syracuse - How can you pick a team that had to rely on Big East officiating crew to rescue them from Toledo? The Mountaineer offense is showing signs of being off life support.
9) Fresno State at Nevada (-8.5) - This is most probably for the WAC championship. Pat Hill has the rep of playing anywhere and playing hard, but the teams over the past couple of years have fallen off. Nevada hasn't fallen off that far.
10) #6 Oklahoma State (-6.5) at Missouri - Vegas is impressed with Missouri taking Iowa State out behind the woodshed. Not me. I would take OK State and give 20 points. The Cowboys roll.
The Additional Two
11) #12 Kansas State (-11.5) at Kansas - Anything can happen in a rivalry game. However, the Wildcats are angry. The thought that Kansas would leave them behind in conference realignment will cause the "little brother" from Manhatten to roll up the score and possibly have fried Jayhawk at halftime.
12) Georgia Tech at Miami (-2.5) - I am picking Miami. Tech has a date with Clemson coming up and I think the Yellow Jackets will overlook the Canes in the hype of ending Clemson's undefeated season.
Monday, October 17, 2011
As opposed to the first post where I published a rebuttal, this post is simply me copying verbatim our discussion. Please feel free to add your two cents worth.
Zebster: "You want another round of playoffs, a one-game round at that. Does the fact that the Cardinals (who got in on the last day because the Braves had the 2nd greatest choke of all time) are going to win the World Series change that opinion?"
LittleCuz: "No, it only re-enforces it, besides like I told you at the cook out, I'd rather see a 3 game series. The fact that we almost had not one but 2 one game play offs and the attention that got, tells me that extra series could be good for baseball. Did you listen to the sports talk radio stations the day after the season ended? Lots of comments about how exciting it was and looking forward to, indeed, hoping for the excitement of a one game playoff. Not everyone is a hard core traditionalist like you Zeb, if they were we'd still be playing 9 game World series and have no DH."
Zebster: "I like the DH. No one wants to see pitchers hit (or not hit). I'm not so much a traditionalist as I am a fan of history, and I hate watching teams get hot for one month and win a championship when they're not the best team or at least one of the 4 best. If that's the attitude, then it makes the regular season irrelevant. So let's shorten it then. Cut the season in half, let everyone into the playoffs playing 7 game series if the point is just excitement for those who don't care for the game anyway."
LittleCuz: "See I don't see it as people who don't care for the game anyway, those people won't watch games anyway, because the don't care. Let's look at hockey for sec. They hang on to the traditions even though it alienates 80% of the sports population. That's why you have to watch hockey on Versus and not ESPN. So I don't want MLB making those same mistakes. So it's more about making the game more appealing to the average fan. The diehards (you and I) will watch no matter what. I wouldn't mind shortening the season 20 games and having an extra round or two. However that's not going to happen. So it's not worth talking about. Kansas City, or Boston or New York for that matter aren't going to give up those regular season ticket sales.
So there fore let's talk about solutions that are actually viable. Whether we like it or not, when there's an MLB playoff game going on at the same time as a regular season NFL game, the NFL game gets better ratings. It's the average fan that makes the difference, not the diehards. If baseball alienates the average fan, baseball will be history.
As for the history of the game, it's so far from what it was in the "good old days" that trying to make it matter doesn't make sense any more. The DH (which I agree with you on), pitch counts and the wild card have already severed any link the modern game has to it's origins.
I also don't buy the "teams get hot for a month" argument. The same thing happens in all sports Zeb, even hockey. You've said it yourself, a goalie gets hot for a month and an average team beats a great teams so I don't see how your St. Louis argument applies."
Zebster: "Any sport that caters to the average fan will lose the diehards eventually. So you decide if you really want to cater to the average fan because the diehards are the ones who buy the tickets and the tv packages. The NHL almost killed itself trying to cater to average fans and geographic locations that didn't really care. The huge boom in Nascar was due in part to trying everything possible to cater to the mainstream (many of those changes were hated by the traditionalists), then when it wasn't chique anymore, it almost crashed completely. Yes, you need to be smart and do some thing to make your sport grow but you're in trouble if you do that at the expense of your diehard fans who love the sport intrinsically. The fairweather fan is not any place to bet your survival.
Baseball's playoff format is unique. Having something in your sport unique is not a bad thing. Having the baseball playoffs look like the NHL or NBA just because they let everybody in isn't a good reason to do it.
Again, if you look at my argument about the right way to bring interest to the sport, it is by shortening the regular season, making each game more important. That's a more "honest" way of creating interest IMO. The other thing you do, while nearly impossible, is to get a true salary cap."
Since I started piecing this together, the Cardinals won game 6 last night, punching their ticket to the World Series. With their momentum, they would seem to be the favorite. Does anyone other than me have a problem with a team squeaking into the playoffs winning the World Series, which would be potentially worse if more teams were in the playoffs.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
This is a very sad day for not only auto racing but for myself as well. Dan Wheldon, one of my favorite Indy Car drivers, was killed today in a fiery fifteen-car accident during the Indy Car World Championships at Las Vegas. He was 33 years old.
Wheldon, who did not have a full-time Indy Car ride this season, won the Indianapolis 500 twice in his career. The most recent win came this year in the most dramatic win to a major race I’ve ever seen. Wheldon overtook rookie J.R. Hildebrand in the final turn on the final lap after Hildebrand slid up the race track and crashed against the outside wall.
I really liked Dan Wheldon. He was the rare British driver who didn’t use Indy Car as a stepping stone to Formula 1 and raced here in the States since 2002. He was one of the cleanest racers on the track and he had the most charming British accent. I always looked forward to his interviews just to hear it.
The video has already been uploaded on YouTube by others and I’ll let you decide if you want to watch it. I will not link to it here but I will say after reviewing the accident on my DVR that there was no way Wheldon would have survived this wreck. His car flew in the air and impacted the catch fencing above the padded outer wall. The air intake and rear wing were missing yet the driver’s helmet was exposed, which leads me to believe the car struck the fencing top first at some point in the accident.
I knew it was bad wreck once the safety crew put a yellow tarp over Wheldon’s car once he was extricated from it, and I knew things were very bad once he was taken to University Hospital via helicopter. That only happens when there’s life threatening or non-survivable injuries have occurred.
Indy Car racing has come a long way since I started watching it in the mid-70s but as we saw today it’s still considered a dance with death every time you climb into a race car no matter what is done to make them safer. That’s the way racing is and always will be.
This is the last image of Dan Wheldon I want to keep. This is a screen grab from Wheldon’s in car camera just after he crossed the start-finish line for the final time and moments before he wrecked. He started in 34th place, made up ten positions in the first ten laps and was on his way to a great finish.
If only that were true. Godspeed, Dan Wheldon.
WIN. 1) #11 Michigan at #23 Michigan State (-3) - Michigan 14, Michigan State 28. Denard Robinson can run the ball well. The passing aspect of his game? Needs lots of work. The Spartans played like the better team today.
WIN. 2) #6 Oklahoma State (-7.5) at #22 Texas - Oklahoma State 38, Texas 26. The Cowboys are the better team and proved it today. The Longhorns aren't a Top 25 team and get the benefit of the doubt because of their history. OK vs. OK St. is the game I want to watch more than any this year.
LOSS. 3) #18 Arizona State at #9 Oregon (-14.5) - Arizona State 27, Oregon 41. Arizona state gave a good showing of themselves. However, they lost and Lamichael James didn't play. If this was the preview of the PAC-12 title game, then Oregon will yet again be in the BCS.
LOSS. 4) #20 Baylor (+8.5) at #21 Texas A&M - Baylor 28, Texas A&M 55. Figures. I pick for A&M to cover and they blow big 2nd half leads, I pick against them and they pull away in the 2nd half. RGIII is the only reason that Baylor is even thought of in the Top 25.
WIN. 5) #1 LSU (-13) at Tennessee - LSU 38, Tennessee 7. LSU is still making the case that they are the best team in the nation. However, the Crimson Tide can stop any thoughts of the SEC title for the Tigers.
WIN. 6) Florida at #24 Auburn (-2) - Florida 6, Auburn 17. Think that Will Muschamp thought that this would be a little easier for him? I know that Gator fans think that Florida would be undefeated right now if Urban Meyer is still there.
LOSS. 7) #19 Virginia Tech at Wake Forest (+7) - Virginia Tech 38, Wake Forest 17. I will have to re-evaluate the Hokies. The offense is starting to show signs of life. As for Wake Forest, they are still a nice little story out of the ACC that nobody talks about.
WIN. 8) #8 Clemson (-7.5) at Maryland - Clemson 56, Maryland 45. The defenses didn't show up for this contest. Clemson remains undefeated and looks like they will be in the ACC Championship game. As for Maryland, it seems like ages ago when they won their opener with the hideous uniforms.
WIN. 9) #2 Alabama (-24.5) at Mississippi - Alabama 52, Mississippi 7. Nick Saban is a real good football coach. He can recruit talent and gets the most out of his players. Doesn't mean that I have to root for a program that I don't particularly care for.
WIN. 10) #15 South Carolina at Mississippi State (+5.5) - South Carolina 14, Mississippi State 12. I am not sold on the Gamecocks big time now. Lattimer is hurt with a knee it looks like. The Bulldogs could be a upper echelon team in another conference, but in the SEC, they are an also ran.
WIN. 11) USC (-4) at California - USC 30, California 9. Lane Kiffin has a reputation as a shady recruiter and a rogue coach. He might be, but he is also a damn good coach. And he has the Trojans playing well even when the players know that the regular season is the only games that they can have.
WIN. 12) Indiana at #4 Wisconsin (-39) - Indiana 7, Wisconsin 59. I was off by one point for the Wisconsin score. It wasn't a 60-burger, but it was close. The Badgers are by far and away the class of the B1G 10.
Week 7 Results: 9-3 Record. 1-2 Picking Underdogs. 8-1 Picking Favorites. 0-1 Road Underdog. 1-1 Home Underdog. 5-0 Road Favorites. 3-1 Home Favorites.
Season Results: 57-26-2 Record. 68.3 Win Percentage. 15-10 Picking Underdogs. 42-16-2 Picking Favorites. 11-6 Road Underdog. 4-4 Home Underdog. 17-8 Road Favorites. 25-8-2 Home Favorites.
It had been about four years since I'd attended a Black Bear football game and given how well the team has been playing thus far this season, I decided to head on up to Orono to see them take on the Rhode Island Rams. The previous two weeks had seen the Black Bears defeat #5 Delaware in convincing fashion, followed by a dramatic win over top 10 James Madison. You may have seen the highlight where Maine scores a touchdown in overtime but instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, they go for the two-point conversion, with the quarterback helicoptering into the end zone to win the game.
So I was looking for a solid win over the Rams on Saturday. The Black Bears dominated much of the first half but inconsistent play and penalties resulted in them only scoring two touchdowns and leading 14-0 at the half. The Black Bears came out and scored an early touchdown in the second half to go up 21-0 but their play was still inconsistent, the Rams made some excellent adjustments and Maine had to hold on for a 27-21 win. Still satisfying though...I got what I came to see. Go Black Bears!
A few side stories: As I'm standing in line to buy my ticket (nice Homecoming Weekend crowd, by the way...probably 3/4 full, 7,500 or so), I get a bit of good luck in return for my usual bad luck. It's one line feeding to three ticket windows. At about three or four people deep, the line divided to those different windows. Well, of course, I pick the window that gets stuck. While I'm watching several people go by me on each side a gentleman walks up and asks me if I need a single ticket. I said yes and he hands me a $10 grandstand season ticket, a seat that was going to cost me $15 on gameday. So that bit of good luck paid for my sausage with peppers and onions at halftime.
Being Homecoming Weekend, the University honored some of the great teams of the past; namely, conference championship teams from 1951, '61 and 2001. I see a trend there.
The wind was so strong during the game that punts into the wind were pushed almost completely sideways, going 20 yards at the most and netting not much more than 10. Maine lost the opening coin toss and URI elected to kick to them. Maine went three and out, punted 10 yards and gave the Rams the ball on the Black Bear 30. After giving up a couple of first downs, the defense held and then blocked a field goal attempt, which set the tone for Maine dominating the first half.
Maine must have had at least 10 holding penalties against them in this game, one of the biggest factors in their inability to maintain the momentum.
As is the case when I do these blogs from attending games, I just like to give you some anecdotes and encourage you to go to the games yourself. Ten to fifteen dollars to see a quality product is a great value. As of this writing the Black Bears are ranked #12 in the country, are 3-0 in conference play and 5-1 overall, with their only loss being to Division 1 Pitt by just 6 points. And they have two exciting players in quarterback Warren Smith and tailback Pushaun Brown.
If you'd like to read the game summary, you can do that here. I know you're not reading my blog for that.
Friday, October 14, 2011
1. The Mountain West and Conference-USA are merging into a 22 team league. That is a whopper of a league and I am thinking that the number will go down when the poaching of teams stops by the Big East and possibly the Big XII.
2. The Big East will extend invites to Navy, Air Force, Boise State and Central Florida to join the conference. The first three would be Football only. UCF would be a full fledged member. There's 3 out of the 22 teams from the merger above that leave. Navy gives up it's independence.
3. The Big XII and BYU could not work out a deal for the Cougars to join the conference. BYU had 3 demands. 1) No Sunday events. 2) A certain number of dates on national TV. 3) Any games not on national TV allowed to be aired on BYUtv. Just who does BYU think it is? Texas?
4. The Big XII is also being pressured by Missouri and what that school will do. Louisville and West Virginia have stated that they want out of the Big East. Maybe it is time for the Big XII to get back to 12 members. I don't like the conferences stretched out all along the country but that is where we are at right now.
5. Something is going on in Chicago and I can't wait until it happens. The league that started this whole ball of wax, the Big 10, has sat silently on the sidelines this year. If I am hearing the rumor mill correctly from the talking heads and the reporters, the Big 10 has plans in motion but hasn't revealed them quite yet.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
2) #6 Oklahoma State (-7.5) at #22 Texas - I still believe that the Longhorns are overrated. And I still believe that the Cowboys go into the Bedlam game undefeated because of the high octane offense. This one will look like the Oklahoma-Texas game.
3) #18 Arizona State at #9 Oregon (-14.5) - Oregon hasn't made amends for the poor showing against LSU in their minds. Just means that the Sun Devils become just another victim of the Ducks offense.
4) #20 Baylor (+8.5) at #21 Texas A&M - RG III is the glue that makes Baylor go. He will make the A&M defense look bad. However, the Baylor defense will make the A&M offense look good. A&M will win the game, but Baylor will make it close.
5) #1 LSU (-13) at Tennessee - Can anyone explain to me why Vegas has the spread at 13 points? I might consider Tennessee if I got 23 points.
6) Florida at #24 Auburn (-2) - Florida isn't what it used to be under Urban Meyer. And that means that that the Tigers win at home and keep making the statement that it wasn't all Cam Newton last year.
7) #19 Virginia Tech at Wake Forest (+7) - I am still not sold on Virginia Tech. And Wake Forest is a deceptively good team. I'll take the shot at Wake Forest staying close.
8) #8 Clemson (-7.5) at Maryland - Maryland, after a good start of the season has fallen off. Clemson has beaten 3 straight ranked teams this season. However, I am going against history. The last 6 games that Clemson has visited Maryland has ended with a loss for the Tigers. Streaks cannot last forever.
9) #2 Alabama (-24.5) at Mississippi - The only way I would pick the Rebels is if Eli came back to play for this game.
10) #15 South Carolina at Mississippi State (+5.5) - I am not sold on the Gamecocks. Getting rid of Stephen Garcia is one less distraction for Coach Spurrier. However, there might be backlash from the players. The Bulldogs aren't a pushover and will give South Carolina all they can handle.
11) USC (-4) at California - Cal isn't what they used to be under Ted Tolford. Watch Lane Kiffin pull out all the stops and win big .
12) Indiana at #4 Wisconsin (-39) - How can you argue against Wisconsin. Last year they put up 83 points on the Hoosiers. This year, winning big means more for the Badgers. I don't expect the 80-burger, but a 60-burger is in the cards for the Badgers.
Sunday, October 09, 2011
1) #3 Oklahoma (-9.5) vs. #11 Texas (at Dallas) - Win. Oklahoma 55, Texas 17. I would have never had guessed that Oklahoma would coast to this easy of a victory. I have said that Texas was overrated. Looks like I might have been right about that.
2) #17 Florida at #1 LSU (-12) - Win. Florida 11, LSU 41. Looks like LSU vs. Alabama will be to see who is the baddest bully on the block in SEC country. I am liking the Bayou Tigers in that matchup at this particular moment in time.
3) #15 Auburn (+10) at #10 Arkansas - Loss. Auburn 14, Arkansas 38. The Razorbacks can air the ball out. However, they aren't even close to the class of the SEC West. Looks like another year of Arkansas losing 2 or 3 games in conference and going to a medium tier bowl.
4) #24 Texas A&M (-7) at Texas Tech - Loss. Texas A&M 45, Texas Tech 40. Seth Doege for Texas Tech attempted 66 passes in this game. That is nuts. A&M held in the 4th Quarter of this game, but not enough to make this a winner for me.
5) Miami (+8.5) at #21 Virginia Tech - Win. Miami 35, Virginia Tech 38. The Canes could have and should have won this game. However, the Hokies made the plays when they absolutely needed them and came away with the hard fought victory at home.
6) California at #9 Oregon (-24.5) - Win. California 15, Oregon 43. The Ducks are still on a mission until playing Stanford. They are blowing away the PAC-12 opposition. Cal doesn't look all that good. Wonder if the natives there are getting restless.
7) Air Force (+17) at Notre Dame - Loss. Air Force 33, Notre Dame 59. Notre Dame went out the past two weeks and played like world beaters. This is what the experts expected from the Fighting Irish since day one.
8) Ohio State at #14 Nebraska (-10) - Loss. Ohio State 27, Nebraska 34. It looks like I overrated the Cornhuskers this year. Playing against a wounded Ohio State team and have to comeback to win the game? Sounds like an overrated team to me.
9) Colorado (+27) at #7 Stanford - Loss. Colorado 7, Stanford 48. The Buffs rolled over and played dead yet again this season. The Cardinal is a good team and I am waiting to see them and Oregon duke it out.
10) Georgia at Tennessee (+1) - Loss. Georgia 20, Tennessee 12. These teams are fighting for third and fourth place in the SEC East. Congrats to Georgia for clinching a mid tier bowl.
11) Kansas at Oklahoma State (-33) - Win. Kansas 28, Oklahoma State 70. This has to be embarrassing for Kendall Gill and the Jayhawks. As for the Cowboys, they are steamrolling everybody with their offense.
12) Connecticut at #16 West Virginia (-21) - Win. Connecticut 16, West Virginia 43. UConn might want to rethink this leaving the Big East conference. Look at their record. And trying to move into the ACC will make the Huskies even worse. As for the Mountaineers, the offense is starting to click but I can see someone figuring out the system before the season end.
Week 6 Results: 6-6 Record. 1-4 Picking Underdogs. 5-2 Picking Favorites. 1-3 Road Underdog. 0-1 Home Underdog. 1-1 Road Favorites. 4-1 Home Favorites.
Season Results: 48-23-2 Record. 67.1 Win Percentage. 14-8 Picking Underdogs. 34-15-2 Picking Favorites. 11-5 Road Underdog. 3-3 Home Underdog. 12-8 Road Favorites. 22-7-2 Home Favorites.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
1) #3 Oklahoma (-9.5) vs. #11 Texas (at Dallas) - The Red River Rivalry looks like it will continue unabated into the foreseeable future. But it will be the team in Red that will have control of this rivalry for that foreseeable future.
2) #17 Florida at #1 LSU (-12) - LSU will try to play a game of one ups manship with Alabama on who can beat Florida worse. That is bad news for the Gators.
3) #15 Auburn (+10) at #10 Arkansas - Even though Arkansas is playing at home, the Road Warriors from Auburn will cover if not outright win this game.
4) #24 Texas A&M (-7) at Texas Tech - I am going with the team that has let me down the past couple of weeks. I still believe that A&M is the third best team in the Big 12 this year, behind the two OK teams.
5) Miami (+8.5) at #21 Virginia Tech - The Hurricanes should be able to hang with the putrid offense that the Hokies are displaying this year. I'd take the Hurricanes straight up.
6) California at #9 Oregon (-24.5) - The Ducks are still on a mission until playing Stanford. Look for big plays and the scoreboard to continue rolling up points in the Duck's column.
7) Air Force (+17) at Notre Dame - Notre Dame went out last week and played like world beaters. But that was against Purdue. Air Force will bring a stiffer test.
8) Ohio State at #14 Nebraska (-10) - Ohio State doesn't look like a good team and the Huskers will look at their first game at home in Big 10 Conference play as a time to impress their new conference after the debacle at Wisconsin.
9) Colorado (+27) at #7 Stanford - Stanford will win this game and will win big. I am taking the probability that Colorado doesn't completely lay down for this game.
10) Georgia at Tennessee (+1) - This is going to be a battle. I will go with the home team and pray for the best.
11) Kansas at Oklahoma State (-33) - This week seems like everybody has big numbers. Turner Gill at Kansas doesn't have a team that can compete with the elite in the Big 12.
12) Connecticut at #16 West Virginia (-21) - Connecticut lost to a directional Michigan team at home last week. The Mountaineers have better talent.
Check it out! It’s Brendan Shanahan, the new NHL head disciplinarian, with a legal hits video that was sent to players around the league. There’s lots of old time hockey checks in this clip that are effective and won’t get you five, the gate and a suspension.
Do not expect Matt Cooke to make a cameo appearance in this flick, but you’ll likely have a lot more respect for his teammate Kris Letang after watching it.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
1) #3 Alabama (-5) at #12 Florida - Win. Alabama 38, Florida 10. Um, wouldn't you think that after seeing Arkansas destroyed by the Crimson Tide after talking trash, that others would learn? Florida talked trash leading up to this game and got nailed. Bama looks tough. The measuring stick is the game vs. LSU.
2) #8 Nebraska at #7 Wisconsin (-8) - Win. Nebraska 17, Wisconsin 48. A not-so-great welcome into the Big 10 for the Cornhuskers. The Badgers won big and are still getting disrespected by the talking heads out there. One thing for Wisconsin to do, take the personality of Bret Bielema and pound their way to an undefeated season. There is a possible rematch in the future for these two editions of their respective teams.
3) #14 Texas A&M (-3.5) vs. #18 Arkansas (at Arlington TX) - Loss. Texas A&M 38, Arkansas 42. The Aggies have blown two big leads in the second half the past two weeks. That tells me that either the Aggies let up when they think they have the game sewn up, or they don't make the necessary adjustments during halftime. The Aggies look like they might have problems in the SEC West come next year.
4) #13 Clemson at #11 Virginia Tech (-7.5) - Loss. Clemson 23, Virginia Tech 3. I admit, I was buffaloed by the Hokies. Specifically their offense. They were a pretender in a season full of them. I'm still not completely sold on the Tigers, but being 5-0 does increase their chances at a nice payday for the bowl game they are going to.
5) Auburn (+11.5) at #10 South Carolina - Win. Auburn 16, South Carolina 13. The Gamecocks are another pretender for the BCS championship game and it was proven here. The SEC East is a weak division and this proved it. Steve Spurrier is winning games and the temperature on his seat has lessened, but it doesn't mean that South Carolina is relevant in the SEC.
6) #17 Texas (-9) at Iowa State - Win. Texas 37, Iowa State 14. When you are losing 34-0 at halftime, it is hard to argue that you have turned some kind of corner for the program. Iowa State isn't ready for primetime yet. Maybe in a couple of years, but not right now.
7) Kentucky at #1 LSU (-28) - Push. Kentucky 7, LSU 35. LSU is still the best team in the nation. I am happy that Les Miles didn't feel the need to rack up the points. Kentucky doesn't have the horses to hang with the elite in the SEC (pun intended).
8) Nevada (+28) at #4 Boise State - Win. Nevada 10, Boise State 30. The Broncos were the dominant team in this game from the very start. Chris Peterson called off the dogs when the score was 30-0. If the Broncos can navigate the rest of their schedule without a loss, I nominate them to play in the BCS title game.
9) Notre Dame at Purdue (+13) - Loss. Notre Dame 38, Purdue 10. Now this is what we thought that Notre Dame would do since the 1st game of the season. It looked like Brian Kelly finally figured out how to light a fire under the kids. However, all the celebrating that the Irish did when they made a play against the Boilermakers makes me hesitate to look at the Irish as a team that will roll through the rest of their games.
10) Michigan State (+2.5) at Ohio State - Win. Michigan State 10, Ohio State 7. This wasn't one of those games you want as prime time viewing. However, Sparty came out on top and it looks like the Buckeyes stranglehold on the Big 10 crown has been relinquished. And now, there are more problems in the Buckeyes program for certain players. How long does this need to go on until the NCAA comes in and cleans out the hornet's nest that has taken root in Columbus?
Air Force at Navy (-2.5) - Loss. Air Force 35, Navy 34. (OT) A great game. Navy had a big comeback in the 4th and converted a 2 pt. conversion to force overtime. Then the Falcons block the extra point in OT. We love the service academies and they should get more national play from the media.
UCLA at #6 Stanford (-21) - Win. UCLA 19, Stanford 45. This just in: Andrew Luck is a good quarterback. Additional breaking news: UCLA under Rick Neuheisel isn't a very good team. UCLA might be looking for a new head coach after this season.
Week 5 Results: 7-4-1 Record. 3-1 Picking Underdogs. 4-3-1 Picking Favorites. 3-0 Road Underdog. 0-1 Home Underdog. 2-1 Road Favorites. 2-2-1 Home Favorites.
Season Results: 42-17-2 Record. 70.5 Win Percentage. 13-4 Picking Underdogs. 29-13-2 Picking Favorites. 10-2 Road Underdog. 3-2 Home Underdog. 11-7 Road Favorites. 18-6-2 Home Favorites.
Monday, October 03, 2011
While Zeb likely had a good laugh at my expense, I was over here on the Left Coast screaming at the television. Specifically, I screamed at Jason Campbell for some of the throws he made at the end of the first half and afterward. Higher expectations will do that to a long suffering fan Oakland Raiders fan.
I was confident the Raiders would give the New England Patriots as well as the rest of the football world a wake up call and let them know the Silver & Black were back to their bad old selves. They were, except their undisciplined play killed any chance they had to beat up on the Pats like they did the New York Jets a week earlier.
Tom Brady didn’t have one of his better games but Wes Welker destroyed the Raiders secondary by himself and Stevan Ridley nearly rushed for 100 yards. The Patriots were helped by former teammate Richard Seymour, whose two personal foul penalties kept the Patriots’s first drive alive when they should have punted from midfield.
Jason Campbell didn’t help matters late in the second quarter. On a third down play, he should have thrown the ball away. He did by aiming for a guy who was wearing a cast on one of his hands. Give props to Patrick Chung for being in the right place at the right time. That pick hurt the Raiders.
What is Vince Wilfork’s secret to playing pass defense? Not only does he have two interceptions in the past three games but he has as many picks as Nnamdi Asomugha has had in the past three seasons combined.
It was a great game but the Raiders beat themselves, just like they did when they lost the lead in the final minute against the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago.
Congrats on your victory, Zeb. Maybe we’ll get to do this again in the playoffs?
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Friday, the owners brought out a revenue sharing plan and presented it to the players. And holy guacamole, the revenue sharing got nuts. For the first year of the deal, an additional $180 Million will be paid into the revenue sharing pot with the Lakers paying roughly $50 Million and the Knicks around $30 Million. The 2nd year brings in an additional $60 Million for $240 Million for revenue sharing. And the revenue sharing cannot decrease below $240 Million for the life of the deal. Ok, so now what? You might have teams breaking even or losing less money than they have before. You still have the power franchises like Boston and Los Angeles. You still have the underdogs like Oklahoma City and Philadelphia. And you still have the franchises that struggle like Sacramento and New Jersey. Revenue sharing doesn't do much for the imbalance there. So here are a couple of questions that the NBAPA would need to answer for me to believe that they really care about the NBA.
1) What would be your solution to making the NBA viable for all 30 teams to make a profit using GAPP without revenue sharing?
2) What should be the cutoff for a player's salary? After all, we all know that the guys sitting at the end of the bench make about 1/20th of what the superstars make. Is that a good balance for all the players in the union?
3) Where can the teams get relief if a player's skills deteriorate and they aren't worth the money that they get in a guaranteed contract after a year? And why do players have the supposed right to hold out for more money but the teams don't have the right to cut them and not pay the contract that has been signed? It seems wrong that in a "partnership" that one party has the right to force the other to open renegotiations because they believe the should be getting paid more while the other party has no recourse if they believe that the players is underperforming his contract.
4) The final question. Why are Wade, LeBron, Carmelo, and other stars in the negotiating room? James Jones is the player rep for the Heat. So why are 2 of the Big 3 playing diva in the negotiating room? Carmelo isn't the Player Rep from the Knicks. So on and so forth. Let the representatives for these players be in the negotiating room and leave the prima donnas playing in summer leagues and vowing to improve their game so they won't collapse during the finals next year.
5) Oops. Thought of one more question that has nothing to do with money, but discipline. How do you get the the league to have enough power to eliminate some of the perceived criminal element out of the game or at least the rowdiest players under control?
Now for Dwayne Wade and his temper tantrum. Maybe, David Stern pointed his finger at Wade and then Wade yelled at him, "You're not pointing your finger at me. I'm not your child." Now I'm glad that is a correct statement for two reasons. #1. David Stern would have some 'splaining to do to his wife. #2. I would be disappointed in Stern for not giving his kids some manners. And after that the player's cabal stomped out of the room and threatened to leave. And yet again, David Stern swallowed his pride and allowed himself to be made the bad guy in order to keep the impetuous children from throwing an even bigger temper tantrum. So the players came back into the meeting and did not negotiate much of anything. And now Wade is being proclaimed as the hero of the players and all the little people in the world. So much BS.
All the Dwayne Wade did was show yet again what a selfish prima donna that he is and has been since he arrived in the NBA. As I have blogged before, you have to question his leadership because his teams quit on his ass, usually with about 6 minutes left in the 4th Quarter. He makes fun of opposing players. He whines and cries about any call that he feels that he doesn't get. And he also throws his teammates under the bus for failure. Well, as the leader of the Miami Heat, shouldn't he decide to take the blame for his teammates when he is out of the public eye?
As for his contributions in these negotiations, he hasn't been there following each and every proposal traded between the sides. He isn't one of the player reps. So who in hell does he think he is? I understand that he is called a Superhero in his basketball exploits, but this isn't playing a game. This is the business world and to think that if one of his employees would yell at him and to say that he wouldn't fire them because of insubordination might be correct, but it might not be. It is a matter of respect.
David Stern has treated the players with respect on more occasions that I can count. but yet, the players have no respect for him because he has let them do what they want for the most part. Dwayne Wade is one of the leaders of the players that haven't shown David Stern the respect he should get just for his position alone. He and his shrewdness has allowed the NBA to grow revenues and allowed the players to get paid. He has also done a wonderful job of finding owners to buy teams. After all, over 1 team on average in a year gets a new owner. Tell me how many more people are willing to invest in businesses that have a better chance to lose money than not. Ask the players if they are willing to invest in an NBA team that has a history of losing money and then also ask them, since they are management to increase their payrolls to above the Salary Cap. They would look at you funny.
If Dwayne Wade wants to be treated with respect, he had better learn to give it. He won't because Pat Riley and the Heat management let him do whatever he wants and kiss his ass. Instead they should have guidelines for him and punish him when he breaks those guidelines. And Wade should damn well sure show respect to the man that has made the engine and the structure that allowed him to make his millions upon millions of dollars. Instead, Wade shows that he is nothing but a punk, yet again.