Saturday, November 25, 2006

Finally, After 11 Years

Quick comment from the road, as I will have more hot sports opinions tomorrow on the BCS and the world of football...

After 11 years, there is finally a matchup between my beloved Oklahoma Sooners and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big XII Championship game. Nebraska has been in this game three times, OU has been in it four times, but never have the two played each other in the Big XII championship game. With due apologies to Texas, Kansas State, Colorado, and the rest of the conference, this matchup was in mind when the conference and the championship game were created 11 years ago.

Special thanks to the Fightin' Texas Aggies for making this possible with their upset win over Texas.

It's going to be a fun week. Boomer Sooner!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mid-Major Wins of the Night

David knocked Goliath over not once, but twice tonight.

Jackson State, of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, continued their Show Us The Money tour of 2006 tonight in Piscataway, New Jersey, as they shocked Rutgers, 71-70. Catraiva Givens hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1 second left on the clock to give JSU the win. Jackson State opened the year with four games in nine days, all on the road, at Alabama, Georgia Tech, Memphis, and Illinois. NBA teams don’t even have schedules like that. The athletic director is happy, however. So, too, now, is the conference commissioner, as this will go a long way toward helping the SWAC avoid the opening-round NCAA tournament game on that March Tuesday night in Dayton.

At Fifth Third Arena a/k/a the Shoe in Cincinnati, Wofford shocked the Cincinnati Bearcats, 91-90. Wofford is located in Spartanburg, S.C., and is a member of the Southern Conference. Coach Mick Cronin is not happy in Cincy tonight. Worthless disclosure: I sat in front of Mick on a flight from Houston to Cincinnati last spring, as he and several other coaches were leaving a major AAU tournament in Houston. I didn’t try to talk to him, as he and his assistant were busy making legal cell phone calls to recruits. I’m sure he’d appreciate some guy in Texas blogging about it. Hopefully, his fortunes will improve at UC this year.

NFL Picks-Week 12

Once again, early picks due to the Thanksgiving week, and my impending road trip.

Last week: 7-9 Overall: 95-65

Tampa Bay at Dallas: The Cowboys are coming off of a big win over the previously undefeated Colts. Bruce Gradkowski and the bumbling, stumbling Bucs come to town after a win over the Redskins. The Rib Man, Tony Romo, leads Dallas to yet another win. Pick: Cowboys
Miami at Detroit: The Lions are now leaders in the race for the #1 pick in the draft, where Adrian Peterson looms as a possibility. The Dolphins have won three games in a row. Make that four. Pick: Miami
Denver at Kansas City: Inagural regular-season game for the NFL Network, where it will have a pseudo-national telecast, as very few cable companies are carrying it as of now. Denver is coming off of a disastrous loss to the Chargers, while the Chiefs loom right behind the Broncos in the standings. This game has big playoff implications. The two teams had a field goal-fest earlier in the year in Denver, with the Broncos winning, 9-6. Someone will score a touchdown here. Pick: Kansas City
Pittsburgh at Baltimore: The Steelers are on the rebound, having won two in a row after a 2-6 start. The Ravens continue to march through their foes, and lead the division at 8-2. This one is in the city by the bay (Chesapeake, that is). Pick: Baltimore
New Orleans at Atlanta: The meltdown that all Saints fans feared has begun. Or, has it? The Falcons define inconsistency, as demonstrated by their quarterback, Michael Vick. The Falcons lost last week, so they’ll win this week. Pick: Atlanta
Jacksonville at Buffalo: This is the perfect opportunity for a Sunday afternoon nap. I’m glad I won’t be in a position to watch this snoozer. The Jags are not a good road team. The Bills are slowly improving. Pick: Buffalo
Houston at New York Jets: The Texans return to New York for the second time, having lost a close game to the Giants earlier this month. The Jets are searching for their offense, as they were shut out by the Bears. Something weird will happen to the Texans to cause the Jets to win. Pick: Jets
Cincinnati at Cleveland: Buckeye Bowl II. The Browns are competitive, but rarely win. The Bengals need to go on a winning streak if they want to live up to expectations. Cleveland finishes the job this week. Pick: CLE
Carolina at Washington: The Redskins are going downhill fast. The Panthers need to put together a streak. This is the perfect time for them to do that. Pick: Carolina
Arizona at Minnesota: Dennis Green returns to Minnesota with the sorry Cardinals. The Vikes haven’t been playing real well lately. The Cardinals will come close, but will find a way to throw the game away. Pick: Minnesota
San Francisco at St. Louis: The 49ers are now 5-5, and have quickly turned into a fun young team. The Rams are trying to find their way, but are back home in their dome. The Niners’ run ends here. Pick: St. Louis
Oakland at San Diego: The first game between these teams was one of the ugliest displays of football in years, as the Chargers had their way with the Raiders. The Raiders have improved slightly, but that won’t matter, as the Chargers are the real deal. Pick: San Diego
New York Giants at Tennessee: The Giants are suffering through a rash of injuries, and now head for Music City to take on Vince Young and the Titans. The Titans are inconsistent, but Vince Young has had them in most of their games since he took over as QB. Pick: Titans
Chicago at New England: Da Bears visit Foxboro. The Bears are having a great season. I trust Bill Belichick to have the Pats ready for this one. Pick: Pats
Philadelphia at Indianapolis: NBC wishes they could have this pick back, as Donovan McNabb is out for the season with a torn ACL. The Eagles are in a heap of trouble. The Colts could make this real ugly, real fast. Pick: Indy
Green Bay at Seattle: Which backup quarterbacks will play? Brett Favre left last week’s game with an arm injury, but should be ready to play Sunday. Matt Hasselbeck has been out for the last month, and could be back for this game. The Seahawks need him badly. Shaun Alexander will be back for the Seahawks. Pick: Seattle

College Football Picks-Thanksgiving/Rivalry Week

I am going to be on a trip to the Land of Okies beginning Wednesday, and will not have access to a computer until Sunday. Therefore, I will be posting picks and comments today. Games begin Thursday, so it’s not too early.

With the addition of the 12th game, there are plenty of games to pick this week. Lots of teams are still playing.

Last Week: 15-5 Overall: 167-73

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: The Bedlam Series, or the Aggie Super Bowl. OSU could go 1-11, but if they beat OU, their season is considered a success. Playing OSU in Stillwater is never an easy task for any OU team, no matter how good they are. This year, the Sooners have had injury problems at running back, and may be playing a third-string RB again this week. Nonetheless, the defense has been improving. OSU has been scoring a lot of points, but their defense has been suspect. This will be a tight game. OU wins. Pick: OU
Texas A&M at Texas: Coach Fran appears to have saved his job, but is winless against OU and Texas. The Horns will have Colt McCoy back at quarterback. The Ags still have a talent deficit against the Horns, as well as a coaching deficit. This game is in Austin. Every Sooner will be cheering for the Aggies, but that won’t matter. Texas wins, and it might not be close. Pick: UT
Kansas at Missouri: KU needs a win to nail down a bowl bid. Mizzou, after coach Gary Pinkel received a three-year extension, went on the road and laid an egg against last-place Iowa State. This one is really hard to figure. Mizzou is at home. Pick: Misery
Colorado at Nebraska: It’s been a long year for the Buffs. Nebraska is taking the next step in the rebuilding of their program, by qualifying for next week’s Big XII championship game. This might get ugly, and lots of people will be switching their TVs over to the other game on CBS. Pick: Nebraska
LSU vs. Arkansas at Little Rock: What was once a CBS Black Friday time-filler is now loaded with post-season implications. Arkansas has clinched the Western Division of the SEC, and is having a magical season. The winner of this game has a very good chance to make it to a BCS bowl as an at-large team. The magic carpet ride continues for the Hogs, for at least one more week. Pick: Arkansas
Florida at Florida State: The Seminoles are a dying, withering program. The Gators have a lot to play for, with a chance for a BCS bowl and possibly more. I see no way FSU keeps this close, even at home. The Gators laugh all the way to the bank. Pick: UF
Boston College at Miami: The Larry Coker death watch ends after this game, as the Canes mercifully pull the plug on him. BC is simply better than Miami. Miami finishes with a losing season. Pick: BC
Georgia Tech at Georgia: Tech has won the Coastal division of the ACC, and will be in the ACC championship game next week. Georgia has had an up and down season. Which Bulldog team shows up-the one that played Kentucky, or the one that played Auburn? My guess is the latter. Bulldogs win between the hedges. Pick: UGa
Virginia at Virginia Tech: The Wahoos have had a disappointing season. The Hokies last week scored their biggest win of the year by pounding Wake Forest, 27-6. This one is in Blacksburg, and the Hokies get their 10th win. Pick: VT
South Carolina at Clemson: Steve Spurrier has spent the last week denying his interest in the Miami job. He says he came to SC to do things no one believes can be done, such as win championships. He does have them bowl eligible, but another important thing in Gamecockland is to beat hated Clemson, and to beat them consistently. This is easier said than done. The Taters have some disappointing losses, but still have a better team than SC. Pick: Climpson
North Carolina at Duke: Awesome basketball game, Suck Bowl in football. Duke needs to give up football. However, they need a football team to stay in the ACC. Carolina is preparing for the Butch Davis era, and got a win last week over their other rival, N.C. State. Carolina sends John Bunting out with a two-game winning streak. Pick: UNC
Oregon at Oregon State: Ducks have been very disappointing after their pseudo-win over Oklahoma. The Beavers have an upset win over USC under their belt. The Beavers have the momentum and the home field. Pick: OSU-West
Kentucky at Tennessee: This one used to be for a barrel of bourbon, until a rash of drunk driving accidents in the late 90’s forced the presidents of the schools to drop this tradition. Tennessee had a tradition of beating Kentucky consistently until last year. The Cats barely achieved bowl eligibility last week by holding off Louisiana-Monroe, 42-40. They won’t get that lucky this week. Pick: Vols
Mississippi State at Ole Miss: The Bulldogs have been improving recently. Ole Miss led LSU for the entire game last week, but tanked at the end and allowed LSU to escape with an overtime win. This will be a competitive game. Pick: Ole Miss
BYU at Utah: BYU is on top of their conference for the first time in several years. It doesn’t matter, though, when they play the Utes. Still, BYU has a better team. Pick: the Y
Boise State at Nevada: Huge game with BCS implications. A Boise State win keeps them in the top 12 and gives them a BCS bowl bid, most likely in the Fiesta Bowl. Nevada could do major conference schools a huge favor with a win. This is an ambush waiting to happen. Pick: Nevada
Notre Dame at USC: Major BCS implications in this game. Notre Dame can spoil USC’s season with a win. USC has clinched at least a bid to the Rose Bowl, and can help themselves in the BCS computers with a win. Notre Dame will probably still make a BCS bowl with a loss, but would be hard-pressed to pass Michigan with a win. USC is just a little better than the Domers, especially in SoCal. Pick: USC
Wake Forest at Maryland: The Atlantic Division title is on the line, with a spot in the ACC championship game. Both teams are reeling. Wake Forest got pounded last week by the Hokies. Maryland gave up touchdowns on three turnovers last week in a shellacking by Boston College. What gives? I’m afraid the dream season for Wake Forest turns into a nightmare. Pick: Terps
Arizona State at Arizona: The Wildcats are on a major roll, with big wins over Cal and Arizona in the last two weeks. The Sun Devils may be playing for coach Dirk Koetter’s job. When in doubt, go with the hot team. Pick: Arizona
TCU at Colorado State: TCU continues to roll through the rest of the Mountain West, after early losses to BYU and Utah. Rams coach Sonny Lubick is rumored to be retiring, and this could be his last game. Pick: TCU

Monday, November 20, 2006

NFL Week 11 In Review

A wild weekend in the NFL…..

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are breaking out the champagne and celebrating, as there will be no undefeated team in the NFL, for the 35th year in a row. The Indianapolis Colts lost to Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys, 21-14. I found myself rooting for both teams, as Peyton Manning is quarterback for my fantasy team. He threw two touchdown passes, but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Marion Barber scored two touchdowns for the Cowboys, whose season has been resuscitated by the emergence of the Rib Man. My fantasy team wound up winning anyway, and the Cowboys got a big win, making me very happy.

The Colts need to be afraid, very afraid, because of what lurks out on the West Coast. San Diego is the real deal. The Chargers got a huge win last night in Denver, 35-27. San Diego trailed 24-7 in the third quarter, before making their comeback. The great LaDainian Tomlinson scored four touchdowns for the Bolts. Denver was exposed as a team without a quarterback. The Broncos need for Jay Cutler to be ready now, as Jake Plummer is not the answer in Denver. The Broncos appear to be headed for wild-card purgatory, while the Chargers are really, really good. I think they can beat the Colts in either Sandy Eggo or in Naptown.

Another team to be reckoned with in the AFC is the Baltimore Ravens. B-More won their 8th game yesterday by handling the Atlanta Falcons, 24-10. Jamal Lewis scored three rushing touchdowns for the Ravens. The Ravens also got 212 return yards from B.J. Sams. The Ravens are the third team in this three-team race in the AFC.

In the NFC, all roads lead through Chicago. Da Bears went 2-for-2 in New York, blanking the Jets, 10-0. This was a great game if you like lots of defense. The Bears did not score until kicking a field goal in the third quarter. The Bears are now 9-1, and are looking like a lock for the playoffs, if not more. Some team is going to have to freeze themselves in Chicago in January in order to make the Super Bowl.

The New Orleans Saints had an awful game on Sunday. Other teams would call it a disaster, but the Saints endured a real-life disaster last year. The Saints were drilled by the Bengals, 31-16. Rookie of the First Half of the Year Marques Colston was injured in the first half, taking his previous seven touchdown catches with him. The Saints missed him, and hope that he will be able to return. Carson Palmer and Chad Ocho Cinco Johnson connected on three touchdown passes for Cincinnati. Is it too late for the ‘Nati to make a run?

Elsewhere in the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their second consecutive game, holding off their hated rival Cleveland Browns, 24-20. Ben Roethlisberger threw a 4-yard shovel pass to Willie Parker for the game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds left. The Steelers inch back up to 4-6.

For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles will have to finish the season with another quarterback. Donovan McNabb suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter of Sunday’s 31-13 loss to the Titans. The Eagles are in a heap of trouble. The Titans are an interesting team, and are much more competitive with Vince Young at quarterback.

It was homecoming on Sunday in Houston, as the Texans invited all ex-Oilers as well as other Houston area NFL alumni for events surrounding their game with the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo once again created a nightmare for Houston football fans. Lee Evans was the man for Buffalo on Sunday, as he caught two long touchdown passes, and compiled 265 yards on 11 catches, to set a team record. The Bills beat the Texans, 24-21, on a last-minute touchdown pass from J.P. Losman to Peerless Price. The Texans are now 3-7.

Break up the Dolphins! Nick Saban’s team won their third game in a row, defeating the reeling Vikings, 24-20. The Dolphins move to 4-6, as they begin to live up to preseason expectations.

Their division rival bounced back in a big way, as the New England Patriots beat Green Bay like a rented mule, 35-0. Brett Favre suffered an arm injury in the second quarter. The ageless Vinny Testaverde finished the game for the Pats in mopup duty.

The Kansas City Chiefs, as expected, defeated archrival Oakland, 17-13. The game marked the returns of Trent Green as quarterback of the Chiefs, and Aaron Brooks as quarterback of the Raiders. The Chiefs are in the mix for a wild card berth in the AFC.

The St. Louis Rams were once the Greatest Show on Turf. That is far from the case now, as the Rams were shut out by Carolina, 15-0. The Panthers were helped even more by losses by the Saints and the Falcons, and now have a very good chance in the NFC South division.

Elsewhere in the South, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their rematch of last week’s playoff game with the Redskins, 20-17. The Redskins started rookie quarterback Jason Campbell for the first time, and played their first game without injured RB Clinton Portis. It’s going to be a long end of the season for the Redskins.

In the 3:00 specials, San Francisco moved to an improbable 5-5, with a 20-14 win over the Seattle Seabags. The 49ers no longer suck. The Seahawks need Matt Hasselbeck back in the worst way. Seattle is still in first place in the NFC West, but have the Niners breathing down their backs.

In the other 3:00 special, the sorry Arizona Cardinals defeated the putrid Detroit Lions, 17-10. Matt Leinart got his first win as starting quarterback in Arizona. The Lions moved in front of the Cardinals in the race for the #1 pick in next year’s draft. This game definitely qualified as a Suck Bowl.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mid-Major Wins of the Weekend

There were two wins by mid-majors that caught my eye this weekend.

Saturday, the Winthrop Eagles went into Starkville and defeated Mississippi State, 74-63. Winthrop is no pushover, having made the last two NCAA tournaments and five overall. MSU is wishing they hadn't scheduled them.

Today, the Monarchs of Old Dominion traveled up to D.C. and shocked 8th-ranked Georgetown, 75-62. Old Dominion is no slouch either, coming off a trip to the semifinals of the postseason NIT last year, and an NCAA appearance in 2004. They are also members of the Colonial Athletic Association, home of 2006 tournament darling George Mason. The Hoyas wish they had scheduled St. Leo, as they often did in the 80's.

Half a BCS Mess

Who's Number Two?

The Ohio State University took care of business on Saturday, with a wild 42-39 win over Michigan. Both teams went to the air early and often. Woody Hayes was turning over in his grave. Bo Schembechler was turning over at the funeral home, as he hasn’t been buried yet. Those two coaches made this game famous with three yards and a cloud of dust. The Buckeyes can book their reservations for the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona on January 8. The race for the other spot is a mess.

Michigan has a chance to join them, but they need some help. They would really be helped if their little buddies from Notre Dame beat USC on Saturday. USC played a lethargic first three quarters before pulling away to defeat Cal, 23-9. At this point, Michigan remains #2 in the BCS rankings. It remains to be seen if USC wins over Notre Dame and UCLA would help them pass Michigan in the BCS rankings.

Also players in this #2 mess are Florida and Arkansas. Both teams have games this week, as Florida plays Florida State, and Arkansas plays LSU. The winner of their duel in the SEC championship game has an outside chance to end up as the #2 team.

If USC wins out, it’s hard to argue with them due to the strength of their non-conference schedule. They would have wins over Notre Dame, Arkansas, and Nebraska, in addition to their Pac-10 title. Michigan has proven themselves worthy, but USC’s non-conference schedule should be enough to carry them to the #2 spot.

BCS Projections

Rose: Michigan vs. Notre Dame (rematch)
Fiesta: Texas vs. Boise State
Sugar: Florida vs. West Virginia
Orange: Arkansas vs. Georgia Tech

Big XII Rankings

1. Texas: Needs win over A&M to stay in this spot.
2. Oklahoma: Needs win by Texas Aggies and win over Oklahoma Aggies.
3. Nebraska: Getting ready for Kansas City.
4. Texas A&M: Sooners will be cheering for Aggies on Friday.
5. Texas Tech: Good win over OSU.
6. Oklahoma State: Inconsistent, but facing their Super Bowl with OU coming to Stillwater.
7. Missouri: What was that brainlock in Ames?
8. Kansas: Fighting Manginos need win over Mizzou this week.
9. Kansas State: Followed up Texas win with loss to hated archrival KU.
10. Baylor: Season mercifully over.
11. Colorado: Improved from beginning of season to end.
12. Iowa State: Sent coach McCarney out a winner.