Saturday, October 20, 2007

More Knee-Jerk Reactions

I love the SEC. Every game is a war. Every game may as well be the Super Bowl.

I'm sitting here watching Auburn play LSU. These two teams are knocking each other around. How did Auburn lose to Mississippi State? They later went to the Swamp and beat Florida, and may do the same thing to LSU in this game.

Every team in this league can beat the others on a given day, except for maybe Ole Miss. And, Ole Miss nearly beat the mighty Gators earlier in the year. Vandy went into the Chicken Coop and beat the South Carolina Gamecocks today.

The SEC East is a circus. Every team in that division has lost at least two conference games. It's not a matter of every team being horrible. Quite the contrary. Every team in that division is pretty good. Even Vanderbilt is no slouch. The division representative in the SECCG will most likely be determined by a tiebreaker.

In the West, the winner of this LSU-Auburn game will be tied with the Sabanists at Alabama for first place.

Forget the BCS. The winner of this conference should simply play an ACC or Big 12 South team for the national championship of the Confederacy.

Elsewhere, Nebraska is absolutely pathetic. The Fightin' Texas Aggies went up to Lincoln today and crushed the Huskers, 36-14. Dennis Franchione saved his job for another week. The Huskers have given up 81 points in their last two home games. Tom Osborne needs to go ahead and put Bill Callahan out of his misery. The Huskers may not win another game all season. They have remaining games against Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, and Colorado.

*Forget Auburn, at least for tonight. LSU was supposed to be setting up for a game-winning field goal. Instead, with one second left, LSU completed a 30 yard touchdown pass for a touchdown. LSU has destiny working for it. As a Sooner fan, I really would like to see our Crimson cousins take care of business against the Tigers next month in Tuscaloosa. I don't want us or anyone else to have to play LSU in New Orleans for a national championship.

Knee-Jerk Reactions

First, the Oklahoma Sooners survived a trip to the not-yet frozen tundra of Ames, Iowa. The Sooners trailed 7-0 at halftime, but scored 17 points in the second half to get by Iowa State, 17-7. It's a W whether it's by 10 or by 50.

From the Not Quite Ready for Prime Time Department: The South Carolina Gamecocks, going into today, controlled their own destiny in the SEC East. What do they do? Lose at home to Vanderbilt, 17-6. SEC Rule #1: If you lose to Vanderbilt, you do not deserve to win the conference.

Elsewhere in the SEC, Nick Saban suspended 5 players for "textbook violations", but it did not matter. Alabama took archrival Tennessee to the woodshed, 41-17. Saban earned part of his salary for this year. He also earned a portion of a Dreamland Barbecue franchise.

Back to the Not Quite Ready for Prime Time Department: The Cincinnati Bearcats lost their second game in a row. This time, it was to the mediocre Pittsburgh Panthers, 21-14. The Big East is nothing if not wacky. Connecticut is in first place.

Who is the king of the Northland? None other than North Dakota State. NDSU is ineligible for any type of postseason play, as they are in the last year of a five-year probationary period as they move from Division II to Division I-AA. The Bison have been taking on all comers, and are currently undefeated. They narrowly lost to Minnesota last year as their game-winning field goal attempt was blocked. This year, they returned to the Metrodome and finished the job, defeating the Gophers 27-21. This is their second win over a Division I-A opponent this season, having previously thrashed Central Michigan. Appalachian State and the rest of the Football Championship Subdivision want no part of these guys. Don't mess with NoDak State.

More later...

Friday, October 19, 2007

NFL, Eh?

A published report yesterday indicates that the Buffalo Bills are interested in playing preseason and regular season games in Toronto. The people of western New York should be afraid, very afraid.

The Bills would like to play one preseason game in Toronto next season, and would like to begin playing one regular season game per year in Toronto as early as 2009. The team first has to get permission from Erie County, New York, per the terms of their current stadium lease which runs through 2012.

Currently, the Bills claim 15,000 season ticket holders from Canada. I did not realize there were that many. The Bills would like to cultivate the large corporate base in Toronto in order to sell tickets and to lease luxury boxes.

The Buffalo area has been declining in population and economic power for the last four decades. Buffalo is currently the #50 TV market according to Nielsen. In the NFL, only New Orleans, Jacksonville, and Green Bay are smaller (New Orleans was bigger before Katrina, and the Packers claim Milwaukee as a primary market in addition to Green Bay). The Bills have marketed themselves successfully in nearby Rochester and Syracuse, and are attempting to expand their regional footprint into Canada.

What about Toronto? Toronto is the economic and cultural hub of English Canada. It has a metropolitan population of around 6 million, or similar in size to Dallas and Houston. Toronto would be a no-brainer for the first international expansion of the NFL. The only drawback would be the stadium, as Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) only holds 53,000 for football-similar to the Houston Astrodome. They would have to find a way to get a new stadium built. Unlike in the U.S., Canadian federal, provincial, and city governments rarely fund stadiums and arenas.

Bills owner Ralph Wilson is 89 years old. He has no intention of selling the franchise, and does not plan to keep the team in his family upon his death. Therefore, the Bills will have a new owner in the future. A new owner will be very tempted to move the franchise 90 miles to the north.

NFL Picks, Week 7

It's already Week 7 of the NFL season. My, how time flies.

Last Week: 8-5
Season: 57-32

Here are some more picks:

Minnesota at Dallas: The Cowboys were kicked all over the field by the mighty Patriots, but now face a mortal Vikings team. The Vikes, however, unleashed rookie star RB Adrian Peterson for a million yards last week. Still, the Vikings won't be able to outscore the Romosexuals. Pick: Dallas

Tennessee at Houston: Vince Young and the old Houston Oilers return to Houston for their annual visit. Both teams have been bit by the injury bug. Never pick against Vince Young in Houston. The Texans will continue to regret that non-pick for years to come. Pick: Titans

Tampa Bay at Detroit: Bucs continue to surprise the world. Lions are coming off a bye, and have developed a high-scoring, high-powered offense with offensive coordinator Mike Martz. You may remember him as the mad scientist in St. Louis. The Bucs are going to finish with a good season. But, for one game, give me the Lions. Pick: Detroit

Atlanta at New Orleans: The Saints finally got off the schneid last week in Seattle. The Falcons are horrible, but are changing QBs this week, as Byron Leftwich gets the start for Atlanta. The Saints aren't where they want to be as of yet, but they get their second win in a row this week. Pick: New Orleans

Baltimore at Buffalo: The Ravens play ugly and win. The Bills have had two weeks to think about that Monday night heartbreaker against Dallas. Look for a low-scoring game here. Matt Stover will be used often to kick field goals for the Ravens. Pick: Baltimore

San Francisco at New York Giants: 49ers make the long flight to Gotham, where the Giants are starting to look strong. It's tough for West Coast teams to do well on the East Coast. This will be no exception. Giants have a strong running game. Pick: G-Men

Arizona at Washington: Redskins lost a close one last week in Green Bay. They bounce back this week against the mercurial Cardinals. Pick: Washington

New England at Miami: The Patriots should only need to play the starters for a half in this game. They're that good. Tom Brady throws the Dolphins back into the ocean. Pick: Pats

Kansas City at Oakland: One of the great old AFL rivalries. The Chiefs are surprisingly tied for first place in the AFC West. Not much was expected from them this year. The Raiders have won two games this year, which is what some expected them to win for the entire season. Pick: Kansas City

New York Jets at Cincinnati: Woeful Jets visit Cincinnati, where the Bengals are looking for an opponent to outscore. The Bengals have a suspect defense, but they will be able to outscore the Jets. Pick: Cincinnati

Chicago at Philadelphia: This has ugly written all over it. Neither team is that bad, but this will be a muck-it-up, grind-it-out game. Pick: Philly

St. Louis at Seattle: Speaking of ugly, this one defines it. The Rams are pathetic. The Seahawks are inconsistent. I'm glad I won't be watching this one. Pick: Seattle

Pittsburgh at Denver: The Steelers are a good team. The Broncos are not. That is hard for people in Colorado to get used to. It's going to be a long night at Mile High. Pick: Pittsburgh

Indianapolis at Jacksonville: The Jaguars get their opportunity to ambush the Colts. The Colts are undefeated and coming off a bye week. This has Monday Night upset written all over it. However, the Colts are good enough to hold off the upset bid. The Colts are trying to keep up with the Patriots. Pick: Indy

Bye: Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, San Diego

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Who's Going to Nebraska?

The guillotine is being prepared in Lincoln, as Bill Callahan's days are numbered as coach of the Huskers. Who will go into the land of Corn to restore the glory of Nebraska? Here are some names that keep popping up:

Turner Gill. Legendary ex-Nebraska quarterback, now head coach at Buffalo. Was an assistant at Nebraska. Took the worst head coaching job in Division I-A and has the Bulls headed for respectability in the MAC. Has won three games there this year already, which is about like winning 9 somewhere else. Close to the new boss, interim AD Tom Osborne.

Bo Pelini. Former NU defensive coordinator, now holding the same position at LSU. Was interim head coach for NU's appearance in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. Passed over for the head coaching job by former AD Steve Pederson in favor of Callahan. Still a fan favorite. From the same high school as the Stoops brothers, and coached under friend Bob Stoops at OU in 2004.

Gary Patterson. Current TCU head coach. Has been a consistent winner in Fort Worth. Was the brains behind Dennis Franchione's operation in Frogland, then won on a bigger level once he became the head coach. Believes in defense and power football. Native of Kansas and graduate of Kansas State.

Paul Johnson. Current Navy head coach. Has built Navy back to respectability using the option offense. Won I-AA national championships at Georgia Southern. Husker fans would love the option offense he would bring.

Other names will be thrown around. These four will rise to the top of the list.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

College Picks, Week 8

This is the most fun and interesting college football season in recent memory. There is no clear favorite in the national championship race. Games that were once thought of as slam dunks and gimmes are no longer that. On any given week, a really good team can lose, especially to a conference opponent. With that said, here is another week of picks:

Last Week: 13-7 (Peru State lost. Too bad…)
Season: 93-47

Oklahoma at Iowa State: Iowa State’s team may not be very good, but their athletic department had no problem selling season ticket packages, as they are hosting Texas and OU in successive weeks. OU is only a 28 ½ point favorite in this one. Pick: OU

Kansas at Colorado: Who would have thought that this game would be for control of the Big 12 North? Kansas is undefeated at 6-0, and is looking like a legitimate Top 15 team at minimum. They aren’t just beating inferior opposition, but are pounding them into submission. The Buffs were thumped on the road by the Kansas Aggies last week. KU is actually favored on the road. When you’re hot, you’re hot. I’ll ride the hot hand. Pick: KU

Texas Tech at Missouri: Mizzou made a good showing last week in Norman, but the Tigers aren’t happy with that. They thought they could have and should have won the game. That’s progress in Columbia. Mizzou is a team to be reckoned with. Both teams have high-powered spread offenses. Whatever the point total is here, take the over. These teams will sling the ball all over the field. The game starts at 2:30 p.m., and may not finish until 7:00. Mizzou is just a little better. Pick: Missouri

Texas at Baylor: Texas bounced back from their loss to OU by hanging half a hundred on Iowa State last week. Baylor is everyone’s favorite whipping boy, and this season is no exception. The death watch continues for the Baylor coaching staff. Pick: UT

Kansas State at Oklahoma State: Thanks to the limits of the Big 12 TV contracts, this game will not be televised. That’s too bad, because this will be a good game. The Power Towel guys got a big win last week over CU in the Little Apple. OSU is coming off of their biggest win in ages, thumping Nebraska 45-14 in Lincoln. OSU is making a habit of getting people fired. After they outscored Tech last month, the Red Raiders fired defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich. Upon the Cowboys’ mauling of Nebraska, the Huskers fired athletic director Steve Pederson. What does that say about OSU? Who gets fired at K-State after OSU wins this one? Pick: OSU

Texas A&M at Nebraska: The Buyout Bowl. Both coaches, Dennis Franchione and Bill Callahan, are exploring their options as both are likely to be given the ziggy after the season. The Ticket’s Johnny Wyatt* will be at this one, as he likes to see coaches’ heads chopped off. Which team wants this one least? These teams have fallen so far, there is no TV for this one. They will only be moving from left to right on your radio dial. Pick: Nebraska

Florida at Kentucky: Do the Wildcats have anything left in the tank for this one? UK is coming off of a thrilling triple overtime win over then top-ranked LSU. They’re ranked #8 in the BCS. They now turn around and host a tanned, rested, and desperate Florida Gator team. Sorry, but there’s not enough gas in the tank in horse country this week. Pick: Gators

Tennessee at Alabama: It’s the third Saturday in October, which means one thing in the Confederacy: the Vols and Tide hook up. Lost in the shuffle of the rise of USC-East and Kentucky is Tennessee, as the Vols only have one conference loss, and control their own destiny in the conference. Meanwhile, the Sabanists at Alabama await their hated rivals with baited breath. Who do I pick? Could it be….Saban? Pick: Bama

Auburn at LSU: Down in the bayou, the Auburn Tigers continue their redemption tour as they recover from two early upset losses. LSU will be mad, hungry, and out for blood after their loss last week at Kentucky. The Tigers will win this game. Which ones? Pick: LSU

Miami at Florida State: This was once the biggest game of the year in college football. Now, it’s just a game between two ACC also-rans. FSU is just a hair better than the Canes, and it’s in Tallahassee. Pick: FSU

Virginia at Maryland: The Wahoos are now a quiet 6-1 after squeaking past UConn last week. The Terps have been inconsistent this year. Which Turtles show up? The good ones. Pick: Maryland

South Florida at Rutgers (Thursday): The Bulls are the story of this year’s college football season thus far, coming from nowhere to #2 in this week’s BCS ratings. This week, they play last year’s feel-good story in the Thursday night special. USF is better than many give them credit for. But, the Scarlet Knights put it together this week. Pick: Rutgers

Louisville at Connecticut (Friday): The Ville rescued their season last week with a 28-24 win at previously undefeated Cincinnati. They now visit Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The Huskies have only lost once, a 17-16 heartbreaker last week at Virginia. The Ville makes it two road wins in a row. Pick: Louisville

Michigan at Illinois: The bright lights will be in Champaign, as this one will be nationally televised on ESPN on ABC Saturday Night Football. The Wolverines have returned with a vengeance, having won five in a row after an embarrassing start. The Illini reminded us last week that Ron Zook is their coach, only managing two field goals in a 10-6 loss to Iowa. Michigan returns to prime time in more ways than one. Pick: Meatchicken

Penn State at Indiana: Lions go on the road to visit the resurgent Hoosiers. I hope Joe Pa isn’t driving. Penn State did knock the stuffing out of Wisconsin last week, while Indiana crashed back to earth against Michigan State. I don’t trust Penn State on the road. Pick: Indiana

Michigan State at Ohio State: Spartans have returned to respectability, but this is a trip to the Big Horseshoe on the Banks of the Olentangy. TOSU doesn’t lose in Columbus often. And, they won’t lose to Michigan State. Pick: TOSU

USC at Notre Dame: The Trojans are human. They’re just an ordinary Top 25 team, which is a lot worse than they have been in recent years. However, the Irish would trade places with them. The Irish stink, and can clinch a losing season with a loss on Saturday. Pick: USC

Cal at UCLA: The Bears blew a chance to become the #1 team in the nation last week. They now visit the Rose Bowl for a meeting with UCLA. The Bruins are having major quarterback issues. Cal hopes to return to this stadium on January 1. Cal should bounce back. Pick: Cal

Utah at TCU (Thursday): Once again, why play on Thursday night if you can’t be on ESPN or ESPN2? This one is on CSTV, Versus, the mtn., or one of those other out-of-the way channels the Mountain West is stuck with. Maybe it’s on QVC. Anyway, the Utes have been really good at times this year. So have the Frogs. It’s in Fort Worth, so go with the home team. Pick: TCU

Geneva at Thomas More: Thomas More is the only school in the Presidents Athletic Conference not located in western Pennsylvania. It’s in northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, home of WKRP. Dr. Johnny Fever went there. Not really. Pick: Thomas More.

*Johnny Wyatt was a fictitious reporter on the Dunham & Miller morning show on The Ticket in Dallas. His specialty was reporting on coaching changes. He always described a coach firing in terms of the coach having his head chopped off. The Johnny Wyatt character had many different ways in which he described decapitation. He had this sick obsession with coaches getting their heads chopped off.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The King of Nebraska

...or, as my friend Zee called him, the Pope on a Tractor.

Nebraska wasted no time today in hiring an interim athletic director. It's none other than retired football coach and congressman Tom Osborne.

Osborne comes in to help clean up a massive mess. The football team is not up to par, and donors are threatening to withhold money from the program. Enter Dr. Tom. His job is to keep the donors happy and to fire coach Bill Callahan. Either that, or hire the new athletic director who will fire Callahan.

The parallels between the falls of the programs at Oklahoma and Nebraska are eerie. The only difference is that Osborne left the head coaching position on his own terms, while Barry Switzer left OU under a cloud of NCAA probation. After Switzer and Osborne, the schools have had the following coaches and athletic directors (OU followed by Nebraska):

Gary Gibbs=Frank Solich
Howard Schnellenberger=Bill Callahan
AD Steve Owens (OU Heisman Trophy winner)=AD Tom Osborne (national championship coach)
John Blake=The Huskers better hope their next hire is not another John Blake.
Bob Stoops=The Huskers would love to skip the Blake stage and get the new Bob Stoops, wherever he may be.

Nebraska has surrendered the Big 12 North to the likes of Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, and Colorado. It's a sad state of affairs.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Big Red Revolution Begins

Football is a big deal in Nebraska. It's a really big deal. It's such a big deal, that when the football team consistently fails to meet expectations, the coach is not immediately fired. His boss is.

Steve Pederson was fired today as athletic director at the University of Nebraska. He is the Nebraska native that came home after a successful tenure as AD at the University of Pittsburgh. Since coming to Nebraska, he led the athletic department to expand facilities, accumulating a large debt. He also fired a football coach after going 9-3 when he fired Frank Solich after the 2003 season. He then hired Bill Callahan, fresh off of being fired by Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Pederson's future immediately became tied to that of Callahan. Since the football team is stinking up the field, the donations are drying up. It is job numero uno for the athletic director to raise money. Nebraska needs someone else to do that.

The Callahan era has not been a good one for Nebraska. His teams have been above average. The scandal in Nebraska, though, is the way he has handled the program. He has closed the program off to former players. He has shut down the much-loved and acclaimed walk-on program, which gave Nebraska natives the chance to contribute to and suit up for the Huskers. The natives in Nebraska are restless. The final straw was the 45-14 thrashing delivered by Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Bill Callahan's days are numbered. He will land somewhere next year as an assistant in the NFL. Someone will be asked to go into Lincoln to heal the Husker Nation and to clean up the mess.

Welcome to the New Millennium

This is such an upside-down college football season. What once was up (USC) is down. What once was down (Kentucky) is now up. What once didn't exist (South Florida) is now #2 in the nation. Wow.

As expected, The Ohio State University is #1 in the first BCS rankings. The surprise is that South Florida is #2. If the season were to end today, the South Florida Bulls would be playing for a national championship. This is a program that only began in 1997 and moved to Division I-A in 2001. Wow.

Boston College has its highest ranking ever at #3. LSU is the highest-ranked one-loss team, at #4. The Tigers still have a good chance to play a home game at the Superdome in the BCS National Championship Game.

More surprises in the top 10 include South Carolina and Kentucky. Both teams are currently tied for first in the SEC East. The Gamecocks are 7th in the BCS, while the Wildcats are 8th. Is Kentucky now a football school?

I'm loving this football season. I'll love it even more if the Sooners can move up from #5 to one of the top two spots, in spite of their brain fart at Colorado.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

NFL Highway, Week 6

The NFL highway is long. It's really long if you're the Chicago Bears, and had to watch Adrian (Oklahoma) Peterson run today.

We begin in Dallas, where the New England Patriots scored a season-high 48 points today and pounded the Cowboys, 48-27. Tom Brady threw five touchdown passes for the Pats. The Pats are a well-oiled killing machine. They have a great chance to go 16-0 if they can get by Indianapolis in three weeks. The Patriots' smallest margin of victory is 17 points. The Cowboys return to NFC competition next week.

Chicago has a RB named Adrian Peterson. They wish they had the one that plays for Minnesota. The rookie from Palestine, Texas and the University of Oklahoma had 361 all-purpose yards, including touchdown runs of 67, 73, and 35 yards. He also set up the game-winning field goal with a 53 yard kickoff return. The Bears' Devin Hester is living up to the standard set by his mentor, Deion Sanders. Hester played defense, offense, and special teams for the Bears. He returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown, then caught an 81 yard touchdown pass to tie the game late.

Note to self: Play Derek Anderson in your fantasy league. Anderson threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another as the Browns defeated the Miami Dolphins, 41-31. Cleo Real Lemon threw for two touchdown passes and rushed for two more for the Dolphins. The Dolphins are in sad shape at 0-6. The Browns are in uncharted waters at 3-3.

Matt Stover was the player of the game for the Baltimore Ravens, as he kicked five field goals in a 22-3 win over the St. Louis Rams. Gus Frerotte was a turnover machine for the Rams, throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble. The Rams are bad, bad, bad. They're 0-6.

In an unlikely battle of NFC playoff contenders, the Green Bay Packers came from behind to beat the Washington Redskins, 17-14. The Packers now find themselves tied for the best record in the NFC at 5-1. I wouldn't want to go to Green Bay for a playoff game in January.

For three quarters, the Houston Texans were right with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That all changed in the 4th quarter, as the Jaguars put it into high gear to pound the Texans, 37-17. Maurice Jones-Drew had 260 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns for the Jags. The Texans stumble to 3-3.

The Kansas City Chiefs are a surprising 3-3. They outscored the Cincinnati Bengals today, 27-20. The Bengals are a bad 1-4. They have some great offensive talent, but no defense. That's too bad, because coach Marvin Lewis made his reputation on defense. The Bengals have not been the same since QB Carson Palmer busted his knee in a playoff game in 2005.

The New York Jets dressed up as the New York Titans today, but had no luck as they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 16-9. The Jets need help, bad. The Eagles needed the win and got it. The Eagles didn't need their throwback uniforms for this one.

Tampa Bay is a surprise in the NFC South. The Bucs continued their winning ways with a 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans. Vince Young was injured in this game for the Titans. The Bucs are now 4-2 and in first place in the NFC South.

The late games saw some interesting action. Last week, Vinny Testaverde was watching the games on TV. This week, he led the Carolina Panthers to a win, 25-10 over the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have quarterback problems, as Kurt Warner was hurt in the first quarter. Tim Rattay, who was also on the street last week, played most of the game for Arizona. I've heard that George Blanda, Joe Theismann, Bernie Kosar, and Tim Couch are available for next week.

The return of the San Diego Chargers is well underway. LaDainian Tomlinson scored four touchdowns, as the Chargers handled the Oakland Raiders, 28-14. L.T. helped me in one of my fantasy leagues, on a team that also happened to have Adrian Peterson. The Chargers are now in a tie for first place with the Chiefs. Two weeks ago, they were given up for dead.

Speaking of dead, the New Orleans Saints rose from the dead Sunday night by handling the Seattle Seahawks, 28-17. Drew Brees threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints earned their first victory of the year. The Seahawks remain tied for first place in the NFC West with the enigmatic Cardinals.