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Friday, November 12, 2010

Tressel teaches, but can he be taught?

This Saturday as the ESPN Gameday crew heads to Columbus, OH, for the Ohio State-Penn State matchup, they will air a segment on a class that head coach Jim Tressel teaches to students who attend The Ohio State University on the theory and practice of coaching football.   I was able to read some of the finer points that ESPN will cover regarding the class via the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, whose headline article covered the very same topic.  After having read the article,  I walked away from it wishing I could audit the course on a pass/fail basis.  Alas, as the course is taught Mondays and Wednesdays during the fall beginning at 7:30am, there is a conflict with my work schedule that would prevent me from taking this course.  There is no doubt a lot to be learned from this course, I gather.   But there was an even bigger question that was nagging me when I had finished the article.  Coach Tressel no doubt passes along a sea of information to not only his students in this class, but also to his players on the field.  However, I have often wondered what lessons does Coach Tressel learn from his players?  From the media? And last, but not least, the fans, some of whom faithfully attend each home game, regardless of the Buckeyes record?

If I really wanted to know the answers to these questions, I guess someday I could rearrange my work schedule so I could attend his class.  Then again, they don't call him the senator for nothing.  Having worked two separate stints on Capitol Hill in Washington I am fully aware that public figures such as Tressel have to be careful what they say, regardless of the setting.  Therefore, even if I attended the class, I may not get the answer I was looking for when I ask him "how do you respond to those critics who say your team's schedule could be tougher?".  And of course if I push too much he might even kick me out of his class, as even attending The Ohio State University is a privilege, not a right.  So much for getting a glimpse into the thought process of the man dubbed "The Senator" via direct inquiry in his class.

Of course I might be able to gain some insight as to his thought process by just attending his class, soaking up all the information he passes along, and applying that information to what I see every Saturday in the fall when his team enters the stadium to play.  Ever since his first season as head coach, fans of Ohio State football have wondered why coach Tressel plays so conservatively, why he won't hire an offensive coordinator, and why The Ohio State University continues to schedule multiple nonconference games against significantly inferior opponents(many of whom reside in the state of Ohio).  And to a point Tressel has answered his critics on two of those three questions, and the media in  Columbus has often surmised at answers to the third question.  But attending a class taught by the coach would not only be beneficial in that I would see how Tressel views the x's and o's of the football field, but maybe get a glimpse into how Tressel sees his team as compared to the rest of the nation.

All of this leads me to the next question, which is: Tressel teaches many, both on and off the field, but can he himself be taught?  Can his players teach Tressel that running the same play over and over until it fails miserably might not be the best strategy?  Can the media impart to Tressel that OSU is not only the standard bearer for the state of Ohio, but also for the midwest and the Big Ten Conference?  And finally, can Buckeye Nation teach Jim Tressel that Woody Hayes was loved not just because he beat Michigan, but also because he led the Buckeyes to four National Titles?  The answers to all of these questions remain to be seen.  For starters, Tressel is adamant about reminding his fans and critics that life is bigger than the game of football.  Indeed it is.  Life will go on long after Ohio State football is a distant memory.   That is not to say that Jim Tressel is happy when his team loses.  Or that he intentionally calls plays "not to lose the game" rather than win the game.  It's just to say that a loss doesn't mean the end of the world.  Which, in the end, might be the biggest lesson that anyone could learn, even someone like him.

Friday, November 5, 2010

College Football 101: why computer rankings aren't really that objective either

Once upon a time, in the college football world, the major conferences got together and decided upon a format that would take the human element out of deciding who would play for the mythical national championship.  They called this format the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), with the idea being that the teams ranked nos. 1 and 2 in the final BCS ratings, would meet in the national championship game.

At the inception of the BCS, the top teams were determined by averaging a series of polls conducted by various media outlets, with the no. 1 and no. 2 rated teams having the highest average of these polls.  Strength of schedule was also factored into these ratings, as were rankings based on computer algorithms, but these components did not nearly carry as much weight as the human media polls.  Overall record played a role in the final BCS standings, as teams who had one or more losses were penalized for each loss on their schedule.

In 2005, the BCS championship would be decided in a game where undefeated USC defeated previously unbeaten Oklahoma for that year's mythical national championship.  There were many people, however, that felt the University of Auburn, who would also finish the season undefeated at 13-0, deserved to play in the national championship.  They argued that Auburn's strength of schedule was tougher than Oklahoma, and thus Auburn would have given USC stiffer test than the 55-19 blowout that the Trojans eventually administered to the Sooners.  They would further argue that the flaw in the BCS system was allowing human media polls to determine who would play for the national title, and the way to remedy this was to find a more objective way to determine who the top two teams in the nation were.

The BCS would respond by eliminating several of the human polls and revamping its ranking process.  In the new BCS rating system, only two human polls(the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Interactive Poll) would be factored into the equation, along with six independently conducted computer-based rankings.  The top teams in the nation would then be determined by adding up each of the polls and then dividing by 100.  The two teams with the highest percentages would then play for the national title.

Fast forward to today, where the recent BCS ratings have TCU, Boise State, and Utah as numbers 3, 4 and 5 in the current rankings, despite playing weaker schedules than many of the teams below them.  Yes these schools are undefeated, and yes all of the schools ranked lower than them have at least one loss.  However, records don't tell the whole story in this case.

Take Boise State for example.  The Broncos are ranked anywhere from no. 4 to no. 13 in the computer polls.  That is quite a discrepancy.  For comparison sake, let's then look at Nebraska and Oklahoma, who at nos 7 and 8 are three and four spots below the Broncos, respectively.  Nebraska is ranked anywhere from 4 to 10 and Oklahoma is ranked anywhere from 4 to 11.  Both examples show a range of rankings but not a near a leap as it is from 4 to 13.  Why is there such a gap in the computer rankings of Boise then? That's easy: each computer ranking code is written by a different individual, who in turn places different weight on factors such as strength of schedule, quality wins, etc.  Wait a second, how is that any more objective than the media polls? There's the rub.  But there's more.

Utah, ranked number 5, does not currently have any wins over teams ranked in the BCS top 25 yet is ranked above several one loss schools that have multiple wins against the BCS top 25. What makes it even worse is that no poll (human or computer) has Utah ranked higher than number 6.  So Utah is rewarded because it has won all of its games playing against easier competition? Sound familiar? It should, because it is the exact scenario the BCS committee was trying to avoid when they created the new system.

So where does this all this fuss about computers leave the current state of the BCS? Imperfect, just like it was before, and, before the dust settles on this season, some team will win the national title while another team cries it was robbed.  One thing is for certain, fans of the current BCS ratings hoping that the computers would shed some objectivity on the situation have to be disappointed.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Eric Mangini... off the hot seat, and out of the spotlight, for now...

The Cleveland Browns enter their week eight bye with many questions; fortunately, head coach Eric Mangini isn't one of them.  At least for now.  Despite entering the bye with a disappointing 2-5 record, Mangini seems to have saved his job again at least for the time being.  Unlike last season, where at 1-6 the Browns were only a game worse than they are now, this year's version of the Browns appear to be more competitive(the only game they were blown out is against Pittsburgh, if you could call it a blow out), losing four of their five games by a total of 22 points.  And it appears that Browns players seem to be getting Mangini's message regarding limiting mistakes, as evident in last Sunday's victory over the Saints, where they did not turnover the ball once, and in addition committed only four penalties.

But there are also more subtle ways one can tell that Eric Mangini is more relaxed than he was last season.  First and foremost, it is apparent on the sideline that he has a certain calm that was not apparent in season one.  Next is how he handles the media during the postgame press conferences.  Last year, it appeared that at times he was clearly annoyed the media kept asking him why his team was floundering when he preached things would get better.  This year he appears to be more adept at handling their questions, and rather reacting to the media's attitude, his answer's focus on what his team needs to do to get better each and every week.

The final sign that Eric Mangini has matured this season is his willingess to ask for help from others, most notably boss and mentor, team president Mike Holmgren.  Mangini's deference to Holmgren not only shows the humility need to be a successful coach in the NFL, but it also implies that he has bought into the concept that the Cleveland Browns team does not end with his assistant coaches and the players.  One area it seems Mangini has really learned from Holmgren is how to handle a quarterback controversy, because, even though during the idle week it seems another one is brewing, the head coach seems unfazed by this.  Hopefully coach Mangini will continue to seek assistance from his mentor throughout the season.

For most NFL teams, the bye week is a time of reflection, not only for what is going right, but also where they need to improve.  For the Cleveland Browns, their 2-5 record suggests that they have a lot of room to improve in a lot of different areas.  However, for the present time, it would appear that they would be prudent to stay the course at the head coaching position.  And while it is possible the Browns could regress after the bye, putting Mangini back on the hot seat, it should by no means be time for anyone to panic.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Things I learned about Ohio Sports teams and fans this year.

A few random observations regarding Ohio sports teams (and their fans) this year, having already attended an OSU football game,  a Cleveland Browns football game, and going to a couple of Columbus Clipper baseball games this past summer.....

.....That fans of the Clippers still want to watch their team, even when they are down 8-0.  Although this may have been due to the fact that Columbus was in the playoff hunt at the time, it still is kind of amazing that fans would stick around with their team down by such a big deficit.

...That going to a night game at the 'Shoe was one of the coolest experiences I have had at a sporting event, even if the game was only against Marshall.  I can only imagine the electricity at Ohio Stadium when Texas came to play the Buckeyes that Saturday night.  If only OSU could play all of its big games at home under the lights, maybe we would do better.  Hmmm, maybe that is why Wisconsin got the better of them, home lights.  Makes you wonder what would have happened had they played the game at 1pm EST.

...That Cleveland Browns fans, despite their current overall record and recent history against the Steelers, still think the Steelers suck.  Really.  They actually sell t-shirts outside the stadium in Pittsburgh black and yellow(memo to all Steelers' fans, your team's colors are  black and yellow, not black and gold.  Only a few football teams I know of have gold colors, and they are in college.  US Military Academy's colors are black and gold,  Notre Dame's colors are blue and gold,  and the United States Naval Academy's colors are blue and gold.  Your colors are black and yellow.  So down with black and yellow) with the words "Pittsburgh still sucks" on them.  I won't get into the Ben Roethlisberger t-shirts, needless to say they are pretty derogatory, and let's face it, outside the media and those fans of the Steelers, the rest of the country could really care less about the man.  Really.  Ask anyone who is not a Steelers fan what they thought about Ben after the Milledgeville, GA incident, Steelers fans, and let me know what you find out if you don't believe me.

....That even though 99% of the audience at an Ohio State game is rooting for the Buckeyes, there is always that 1% who is against the Buckeyes, and a lot of them are there just to cause trouble.  Just like at the Marshall game, a guy sitting in the seat directly behind me, who must have bought his tickets from a OSU alum(as I bought my tickets from my uncle, Jeff Brown,  a class of '72 grad who also happened to play football for Woody Hayes) decided he was going to yell expletives all game.  Not only at the refs.  Not only at the Buckeyes.  But even at his own team.  Appears that at halftime while I was at the concession stands another Buckeyes fan got into an argument with him.  I think the Buckeyes fan must have won because he(the Marshall fan) ended up leaving less than midway thru the 3rd quarter.

...That the new Clipper Stadium (called Huntington Park) is really nice.  really.  I don't know about you but I actually like that the stadium was built with bricks.  Kinda gives it a nice retro look.

...That Cleveland Browns stadium is pretty cool as well.  I understand from my buddy, a fellow browns fan, that inside the stadium there is a museum dedicated to all the Browns' greats.  Well, when we were there we didn't really have time to visit the museum prior to the game, but I am sure I will go back there again next time I am making sure to arrive in Cleveland with enough time to check it out.  And who knows, maybe I'll get there early enough to swing by the rock  'n' roll hall of fame as well.

...That Columbus Clippers fans' still have their bells.  The first game I went to this summer, it appeared to me no one was ringing their bells. Then, the second game, down 8-0 in the seventh against Indianapolis (maybe to help ignite a rally, which never happened btw), came the call to ring your bells.  Kinda nice to know that even though the team has changed stadiums, at least some of the old traditions are being kept.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Brett Favre should

It seems like a bad drama flick that just won't end.  The lead actor won't fess up to his poor performance.  The director promises that the sequel will be better.  And even the media hype has reached ridiculous proportions.  But it's time for this saga to end.  Brett Favre should thank his teammates, coaches and fans, and call it a career.  Not once the season is over.  Not pending the results of the next MRI on his elbow, or whatever body part is ailing him at the time.  Not even when his Vikings are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.  There is little more for Favre to accomplish, and the Favre sob story press conferences that ESPN shamelessly replays like a B movie on TNT have become so irritating to the general public they're almost like fingernails scratching against a chalkboard. Life goes on.  ESPN will still draw ratings post Favre.  The NFL will still be able to sell tickets, even in Green Bay, where a legend not named Favre is still etched on the league championship trophy, and in Minnesota.  And Brett Favre will be able to get on with his life, and perhaps work on repairing the damage to his family life the scandal with Jenn Sterger has done.  And, most importantly, those people who are not really fans of Favre can turn on Sportscenter without having to watch an entire hour devoted to him.  Even as I write this post, it makes me sick to think I am contributing to the whole debacle that is Brett Favre.  But this is the last time I write about the man, and hopefully last Sunday was the last game he played.  Ever.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Anchors Aweigh! United States Naval Academy Torpedoes Notre Dame

There used to be a time when it was a given that whenever the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy got on the football field with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the end result was a Notre Dame victory. For 43 straight years(dating back to when Roger Staubach played for the Mids, the former heisman trophy winner and Dallas Cowboy hall of famer) Notre Dame owned this rivalry(if you could call it that). Many times it wasn't even close.  Yet, yesterday in New Meadowlands Stadium, these two teams met again for another epic battle.  And, when it was all said and done, the end result was another blowout.  However, if I told you beforehand that the final score would be 35-17 in favor of Navy you would have laughed.  That was the final score in a rivalry where the balance of power has shifted in favor of the Naval Academy, and has a once proud Notre Dame football program clearly reeling. The Navy offense sailed to more than 430 yards against the Irish D, fueled by the perfomances of its cruiser-qb Ricky Dobbs, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for another, and its destroyer, fullback Alexander Teich, who ran for over 200 yards and caught Dobbs only touchdown pass. Defensively, the Midshipmen never really allowed the Irish to get into the flow of things, harassing quarterback Dayne Crist all day, including a few sacks and a couple of interceptions.  While this lopsided loss by Notre Dame underlies just how far this storied program has fallen, it should also serve notice that the Navy football program, once considered division I football doormats, can no longer be taken lightly.  Because what other conclusion can one come to when they soundly beat a program that is supposed to beat them every year?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ohio State's loss underlies an unprepared Jim Tressel team

  The final score last Saturday evening in Madison, Wisconsin, was like an uppercut to the jaw for the thousands of Buckeye fans who actually made the trip to Camp Randall Stadium to watch the Ohio State University football team lose to the University of Wisconsin Badgers.  Even worse had to be the disappointment of the throngs of OSU fans watching the game on television in their homes, many of whom had declared that both head coach Jim Tressel and starting quarterback to be overrated once again.  Tressel has taken a lot of heat from the fans and media alike the last several years for what they term as his inability to win the big game.  Two consecutive national championship game losses followed by losses to the University of Southern California in back to back seasons is likely to earn any big name coach that reputation, not just Jim Tressel.  And the Buckeyes' victory in the Rose Bowl over Oregon this past January many of the doubters had thought Tressel had finally gotten that monkey off his back.  Yet the loss to Wisconsin has once again brought the boo birds back in full effect.  However, looking at this game objectively, did Ohio State lose to Wisconsin because they played Tresselball, or was it because for one of the very few times in Jim Tressel's career as head coach of OSU, his team was unprepared for its opponent?   Looking back at the gameplan Tressel had devised Saturday, and how Wisconsin reacted to that gameplan, it would certainly seem that way.
   Offensively it seemed that the Buckeyes were never really in sync.  Tressel could not really be chastized for going ultra conservative, as the Buckeyes went to the air early, albeit with limited success. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor had been making plays all season to this point with his arm, and Tressel believed against Wisconsin would be no different.  Yet it was only when Pryor tucked the ball under his arm and ran in the first half that Ohio State would gain any first downs, yet Tressel would still try to air it out.  Down 21-3 at halftime, Tressel knew he would have to find another way to beat Wisky, so he then went to the ground.  Ohio State would eventually cut the lead to 21-18, but a Terrelle Pryor interception late in the fourth quarter would seal the upset for the Badgers.  But for a brief moment it seemed that running Pryor would have been there all day had Tressel called it.  Kinda makes one wonder if Tressel held on too tightly to the offensive script because he felt he would have been blasted if he didn't.
  On the defensive side of the ball, Ohio State knew what was coming, yet they were unable to stop it.  Everyone, the Buckeyes' defense included,  knew the Badgers' bread and butter was their running game led by tailbacks John Clay and James White, nicknamed 'thunder and lightning.'  Yet the Buckeyes seemed unable to stop either one all day, sort of reminiscient of the nc game against Florida, when, inside the Buckeyes' 20, the defense knew Tim Tebow was going to run the ball out of the shotgun yet could not stop him.  Obviously Tressel has less to do with the defense, as defensive coordinator Jim Heacock runs that side of the ball, but one would think that after Wisconsin marched down the field on their second possession of the game (on mostly runs) to take a 14-0 lead, those two would have had a chat on what needed to be done to stop their running game.  Of course this may be why Tressel should step down as OC, but that might be a topic for another discussion.  At the end of the day, while all week long prior to the game Tressel said his team was unconcerned about its number one ranking, and more concerned about the Badgers, his team's lack of focus, especially on the defensive side, would indicate otherwise.
  This bellyaching about Tressel's shortcomings is nothing new.  What is alarming, however, is that it comes against an opponent that the Buckeyes should have beat.  Sure John Clay is an impressive athlete, but he did not have near the speed of a Beanie Wells, and Ohio State has shutdown much more prolific offenses in the past year(the aforementioned Rose Bowl vs Oregon comes to mind.)  And with all the weapons that the offense has at its disposal, it still seems Jim Tressel does not understand how to properly utilize his star quarterback.  Sure the only way Pryor is going to become a better quarterback is by passing the ball more, but sometimes in order to win one has to scrap the gameplan he wants for the one that will win.  But all is not lost.  Let all Buckeye fans hope that this once again serves as a wakeup call for the "Senator", and the Ohio State football team rolls its way into January like it did after a similar wakeup call last year against Purdue.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ohio State in control of its own destiny after impressive win vs. Miami

So the critics will say that Ohio State should have beaten Miami by four touchdowns on Saturday, rather than the 12 point differential that was the game's actual final result.  They will say Terrelle Pryor was inefficient, completing under 50% of his passes and almost throwing a couple of picks.  And then there is the continual bashing of head coach Jim Tressel, whom they will say is directly responsible for letting Miami back in the game with his conservative gameplan.  Fact of the matter is, Ohio State was rather impressive in its win Saturday, scoring 36 points against a Miami team that was believed to have much more speed than its Buckeye counterparts.  Pryor played well for the second time against a big school opponent, throwing two touchdowns, running for another td, and accounting for more than 300 of Ohio State's 414 total yards on offense.  And that doesn't even take into account that Pryor, by the way, did not throw any interceptions.  Ohio State's defense also shined brightly Saturday, holding to Miami to only 10 points if you don't count the to special teams returns that Miami had that led to touchdowns.  And for all the bellyaching about Tressel, Ohio State has won its eighth straight game dating back to October of last season, including its second straight win against a top 15 ranked non-conference opponent.  Bottom line is that Ohio State now controls its own destiny in its pursuit of the BCS national championship game.  If the Buckeyes can win out from here on out they are in the nc game.  And based on my observations of how they played Saturday, they have a pretty good chance to do just that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

O-H-I-O!!!! Buckeyes open 2010 by stampeding over the Herd

Turns out that the only thing in doubt yesterday was whether I was going to get off work in time to see the opening kickoff of Ohio State's season opener versus Marshall.  At the end of the day (or the end of my workday, to be more precise), even that wasn't in question as the supervisors at Cardinal Health called the shift at almost exactly 5:30 pm and I made it to see opening kickoff.  It was a thing of beauty, unless you were a Marshall fan, as there happened to be one sitting in my section amongst a sea of scarlet and gray.  He spent the whole game yelling expletives at everyone, his own team, the refs, Ohio State players. But I digress.  Coach Tressel seemed to open up the playbook last night, much to the delight of the more than 105,000 fans in attendance, but such a lopsided score (45-7 was the final) begs the question: how bad was Marshall?  Certainly they're not as good as next weeks opponent, Miami(Fla), but then again they can't be as bad as the Hurricanes, opposition, Florida A&M, whom Miami also ended up routing (45-0). So the Buckeyes will have their hands full next week at the 'Shoe.  There were several good things that came out of this contest, first and foremost the evolution of Terelle Pryor: he seemed to have maintained the poise and swagger he had in the Rose Bowl, and he looked comfortable running what appeared to be more of a pro-style offense, even taking more than a few snaps from directly under center.  We all know Devier Posey has speed as well, but Dane Sanzenbacher (sp) showed he can be a downfield threat as well.  And Herron and Saine provided an effective one two punch at the running back position.  The bad: unless Herron and Saine had wide open holes to run through (and I mean wide open) neither got much on the ground.  That needs to be worked on, as I am not sure they are going to find that kind of real estate against Miami.  Additionally, while the defense was on for most of the night, let's not forget Marshall looked like it was playing scared, and I doubt Miami receivers make the drops that some of the Herd players were making.  Then there was Ohio State special teams.  Well I won't go into detail only to say they did a nice job forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff, and other than that they have a lot to work on for next week.
  All in all it was a great game, the first night game I have ever been to at the Shoe.  It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.  The crowd was electric from the start and did not let up, even after OSU got up 42-7; it seemed as if school was already in session, even if classes don't start until the end of this month.  And my buddy pointed out to me something I never noticed because I had never been to a night game before: near the north endzone scoreboard they had lit up all seven years that OSU had won a national championship.  And I left the game last night feeling as if I had been a part of something special, and, just maybe, that this season OSU could indeed bring home number eight.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

OSU-Michigan in different divisions?!!! The Game moved to October?!!! Oh the horrors!!!

  Recently there has been much ado made regarding the potential move of "The Game", that is the OSU vs. Michigan football game to October, and the potential separation of the two schools into different divisions within the Big Ten.  There seems to be a widespread consensus among Ohio State fans that either move is sacreligious; among Michigan fans...wait, does anyone really care what Michigan fans think? Just kidding, I know you guys are actually more concerned that Rich Rod deserves a lifetime contract if he can beat Notre Dame again this year while going sub-500 in the Big Ten. I'm joking! Lighten up.  Even Hitler seems to be weighing in on the subject of the Big Ten realignment and how it will affect OSU and Michigan, albeit posthumously:   This is a big deal. Or is it?  Decades of tradition to go by the wayside because of the almighty dollar.  But does this necessarily have to be a bad thing? I mean c'mon people, they said the addition of Penn State would never fly, yet here they stand today as a pillar of the conference.  So while there might be many grumblings by OSU and Michigan supporters that the athletic directors of those respective schools have sold out, it might also be possible they are on to the start of something big.
    Detractors of the realignment plan will say that moving the game to October reduces its importance in the conference schedule, thereby lessening the relevance that the game has had for more than half a century.  Supporters of Ohio State would argue that the Michigan game not only has proven who is the conference champ more than any other game, but it is also an effective barometer as to how far their team has progressed(or regressed) that year. Of course Michigan fans, having had to endure their team losing five straight season finales to the Buckeyes recently, might relish the chance to play OSU at the beginning of October, as it appears the Wolverines have started a trend of peaking right around mid-October.   Even those fans might be considered in the minority, as I would have to believe that many UM fans are still fond of Bo(Schembechler) and Bo would have wanted "The Game" played as the season finale as well.  Placing Ohio State and Michigan in the same Big Ten division allows for the rivalry to remain intact as it has been for quite some time.
  Proponents of the realignment argue that, Michigan's current ineptness (sorry UM fans, haha) notwithstanding, Ohio State and Michigan have historically been the two best teams in the conference, and it is only fair that they be split in such a manner that allows them to compete for the Big Ten Title at the end of the season. The thinking here is that, if OSU and Michigan are the two best teams, then by playing each other at the end of the season one will eliminate the other, and thus the Big Ten Championship will not be decided by no.1 vs. no.2.  There is also the added bonus of a potential second matchup between the schools each year should they be in different divisions; while purists would argue once is enough I can't believe that too many OSU fans would argue beating Michigan twice a year would get boring.
  So, having heard the pros and cons of the conference realignment, where exactly does that leave us? I myself am a firm supporter of conference realignment.  There is something to be said for tradition, for sure; the potential change in the OSU-Michigan dynamic initially led me to be opposed to the thought of Big Ten expansion. However, aren't old traditions supposed to eventually give way to new ones?  When we learned that we could cover great distances faster in a fuel-injected automobile, did we still want to travel by horse and buggy? This may take some getting used to, and no one said conference expansion would be easy.  But, at the end of the day, I believe if the Big Ten does separate Ohio State and Michigan into different divisions, not only will it re-energize the rivalry it will help put the conference on equal footing with that league down south I will refrain from mentioning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

NFL's Rookie Salary Problem. It needs fixed. Now

  So you think Sam Bradford has the tools to be the next Tom Brady.  Wanna bet on it?  How about if we bet $50? No? How about $50million? What's that? You think I'm crazier than John Rocker? Every, year, however, a few NFL owners wager close to that amount that guys like Bradford will indeed turn out to be the next Peyton Manning, even before they have taken one NFL snap.  The St. Louis Rams made such a wager on Bradford himself this year, making him the highest paid rookie in history.  So what's the big deal?  The big deal is that for every Peyton Manning, there are 10 players like Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, or Akili Smith, guys who are rated as potential perennial pro bowlers who never make it more than two or three years as starters. And that can be a very risky wager indeed, especially to a team such as the Rams, who once were considered annual Super Bowl contenders, but now are regulated to the ranks of cellar dwellers.  For it only takes one torn acl to not only ruin the career of Sam Bradford, but along with that goes the 50 million dollars the Rams could have used to on other players to make themselves a legitimate playoff contender.  I would argue that guaranteed money for rookies should be eliminated altogether, and I am probably not alone in this.(Just for fun, next time you go to a job interview, if the employer decides to hire you, demand that you be given $100,000 guaranteed for your first year in addition to your base salary or you're not showing up for work. I've heard it can do wonders to jump start your career ha ha.)   Roger Goodell said during his visit to the Cleveland Browns training camp that the rookie pay scale would be revisited, but did not explain what he meant by that.  I say the first order of business the owners have in the new cba is to redo the whole rookie pay scale.  It's just not a wise decision for owners to be throwing huge sums of money in front of players who have not played a single down of pro ball.  The New York Jets have labeled Darelle Revis as selfish for holding out, but unlike the rookies that entered the league in April's draft, Revis has only been one of the top corners in the league for the last two years.  Compare that with Cleveland rookie defensive back Joe Haden of Florida, who recently signed a contract that will pay him $50 million, including $12 million of that guaranteed this season.  Haden might be the next Revis, heck, he might end up being better than Deion Sanders when it's all said and done.   However, should Cleveland really have to front 12 million dollars just to find out?  That might be a costly decision for any other business, and it is a lesson that NFL owners should take heed of now before they learn it the hard way down the road.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Columbus's Arena Problem?

On the way to the Clippers game the other day, my father brought up an interesting point as I confirmed that Huntington Park was indeed in the Arena District in Downtown Columbus.  He said that it was totally unnecessary for Columbus to have two separate arenas, Nationwide for the Columbus Blue Jackets ice hockey team, and Value City Arena for the Ohio State men's and women's basketball teams.  I explained to him that the reason this was so was that even though the state owned Value City Arena, Nationwide Arena was privately owned(I thought by the McConnell family, turns out it is actually owned by Nationwide Insurance, they did not just lend the name.)  However, is it really necessary for Columbus to have two distinct arenas, even if they are owned by two separate groups? Columbus is no more than a mid major city, and even in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Clippers share the Staples center with the Lakers.  Surely the Blue Jackets do not sell out more than the Lakers do, and even though Nationwide Arena holds events during the ice hockey offseason it is fair to say that for more than 200 (maybe 250) days per year the arena is empty.  Value City Arena, on the other hand, sells out far less, and I hate to say it, but it might not sell out at all during women's home games.  In some instances its operating costs might exceed the revenue it brings in.  But that only brings us back to the issue of ownership.  While the Schott(as it is also known) was built on taxpayer dollars for use by Ohio State, Nationwide Arena primarily serves Columbus only professional franchise.   But isn't there a way Nationwide could host both Blue Jacket and Ohio State games?  I think the answer is yes, and the state of Ohio could tear down Value City Arena and give the taxpayers some of their money back.  Until that happens though, Columbus will forever be known as the only city in America not large enough for two professional sports franchises but apparently large enough for two indoor sporting arenas.  What a dubious distinction.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Take me out to the ballgame...

This afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of attending a Columbus Clippers game in their new ballpark, Huntington Park, for the first time with my younger brother Trent, my father, Victor and my nephew, AJ, aka Victor the third.  All in all it was a great experience, and I will never forget some things that have been replaced since the Clippers used to play at Cooper Stadium: there is no longer the "Columbus Clippers ring your bell" chant, instead it's "Columbus Clippers...our team, our town(I know that's been around for a while, but bear (sp) with me as I said before, this is the first Clippers game I have been to in a while), the players have their own theme songs (I found it particularly ironic that catcher Lou Marson's was TNT by AC/DC as it appeared he had the lowest batting average of the whole team, but maybe he's just in a slump), and there were several mascot races today I found rather amusing.  The $3 hotdog and $8 cup of beer tasted like...well...any other hot dog or cup of beer I guess.  It was my nephew's second baseball game(as he continually reminded me), although his first in Columbus, Ohio, and I think he really enjoyed himself as well.  He had a hotdog, a large soda, ice cream dots, and some cotton candy, although I should have known he wasn't going to finish the cotton candy the moment I bought it for him, seeing as how at 6 years of age his stomach is a lot smaller than mine.  It really helped that the weather had cooled off somewhat before the start of the game; I had half expected us to be so hot we would have left in the second inning, but we ended up staying til the top of the eighth.
  As for the action on the field, the Clippers started as very gracious hosts to the visting Pawtucket team, spotting them an early 2-0 lead.  The turning point came in the fourth inning, when the Clippers scored 4 runs, capped by a base clearing double by designated hitter Jordan Brown.  Columbus' pitching seemed to hold up decent, but I am still puzzled as to why they pulled starter Hector Carrasco so early when he only had given up 2 runs on two hits.  Who knows, maybe the Indians are getting ready to call him up and this was just a warmup.  More interesting to me was the appearance of middle reliever Jeremy Sowers, who was the first to spell Carrasco, who just last season had been a starter for the Indians.  I guess I should follow Cleveland a little more, but lately the only team from that city I have had any interest in is the Browns.  Has always been my favortie pro team and will always be my favorite pro team.  But I digress.  The Clippers put on a valiant effort, and my first trip to the new stadium was a victory.  Maybe one day I will be reading about Jose Constanza or Luis Valbuena or Nick Welgarz making an impact for the Cleveland Indians as they battle for the playoffs, but today it was good just to see them lead the hometown Clippers to a win.  As the saying goes..Columbus Clippers...our team, our town.

Browns' Wallace Plan? Expect to see an expanded role for Seneca

As 2010 NFL training camps open this week, a big question that remains unanswered is how will the Cleveland Browns handle their quarterback situation.  Right now it appears that former Carolina Panther Jake Delhomme is entrenched as the starter (as evidenced by the 7 million dollar contract Cleveland signed him to during the offseason) with Seneca Wallace and rookie Colt McCoy nos. 2 and 3 on the depth chart, respectively.  But could there be a possibitly that Wallace is more than just a backup to Delhomme?  There has already been talk about using Wallace in the Browns' new wildcat formation, dubbed the 'cyclone' because that was the nickname of Wallace's alma mater, Iowa State.  The Browns have not openly stated how often they will use the cyclone, but one would have to assume they would at least consider it an option should the offense stall on consecutive drives.  The athleticism and accuracy of Wallace, who in five years as a backup at Seattle threw for a near 60% completion rate, also suggest that he could on occasion spell Delhomme for a series or two. Cleveland has not hinted at a quarterback platoon, although coach Eric Mangini has said he likes what both (Wallace and Delhomme) bring to the positiom, but such a move would almost be unprecedented.  There are concerns about Wallace's size(at 5-11 and 205, he's considered small for the position) but he is not really that much smaller than Drew Brees (6-0, 209).  There are several advantages to having a quarterback platoon: a)it keeps the defense guessing as to who they will have to face, b) it allows the starter two consecutive series to rest and compose himself, and c)it allows the offense to play at two different speeds.  The biggest question mark that a quarterback platoon would bring is the possible disruption of offensive chemistry, although I believe that at times the term chemistry is more a myth created by the media to scare the weak minded, sort of like a jedi-mind trick.  And while for the time being this is Eric Mangini's team to coach, we have already seen the influence team president Mike Holmgren has had on the offense, first with the drafting of Colt McCoy, and then with him bringing in his former offensive coordinator in Seattle, Gil Haskell, to serve as an advisor to Browns' OC Brian Daboll.  Holmgren hand picked Wallace to be the backup in Seattle, and now he has brought him to Cleveland to help infuse some life into an offense that was ranked almost dead last in the NFL in 2009.

Big Ten hopes riding on Buckeyes? National Championship or bust

It's almost fall, and that can mean only one thing: college football is right around the corner. For the past several weeks and months people all across the nation have debated who will the heisman, who will be first team All-American, and which teams will eventually play for the national championship next January.  For the Ohio State Buckeyes, capping the the 2009 season by defeating Oregon in the Rose Bowl has fans in Columbus once again thinking national championship in 2010.  But there is much more at stake this season as the Buckeyes prepare for their season opener on the night of September 2nd versus Marshall.  The past several seasons has seen Ohio State as the top dog of what the rest of the nation has viewed as an otherwise weak conference.  The Big Ten has dubiously earned this distinction as a result of losses by Ohio State in consecutive national championship games, to Florida and LSU respectively, during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.  Combine that with the recent dominance that the SEC has had in the national championship(winning the last four), and speculation continues as to whether the Big Ten will ever be able to recruit the speed necessary to defeat a team from the SEC in the NC game.  Which is why this season takes on extra importance for the Buckeyes. For all the talk by OSU head coach Jim Tressel that he does not worry about the national perception of his team or the Big Ten Conference in general, he should be.  Because there are many people out there who do not believe that the Big Ten is only slightly better than the Big East. And while the addition of Nebraska in 2011 should help its image, this season the only way the Big Ten is going to get the respect it deserves is by Ohio State winning the national title.  The Buckeyes have a very favorable schedule with eight games at home (including Miami of FL, Penn State and Michigan) and three of their non conference games coming against Mid-American Conference opponents (Marshall, EMU, and Ohio U).  The reason that the SEC gets a pass on their non-conference scheduling is obvious: when the chips are down in January, they come to play(i.e: they have won four out of the last five national titles).  Let this be a lesson to you, Ohio State: schedule whomever you want in September, but remember: the conference hopes rides on your coattails as late December turns to January.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Big Ten: The New Big 12?

With the addition of the University of Nebraska to its membership beginning in 2011, the Big Ten Conference will officiallly consist of twelve schools.  On the flip side, the conference that Nebraska is leaving, the Big 12, will be left with only 10 members, as the University of Colorado accepted an invitation to join the Pac 10 prior to the Big Ten making its offer to Nebraska.  So how then do we refer to these conferences in light of the fact the membership of each has shifted?  The Big Ten Conference has held that moniker since 1917, making it the oldest conference in college athletics.  Renaming the Big 12 Conference the Big Ten almost seems silly when you take that into account.  The Big 12, however, is not nearly as old, but has also established its own identity.  Do we then go completely back to the drawing board?  What if we were to name the Big Ten conference the New and Improved Big Ten, and the Big 12 conference now becomes the Big 12 lite?  What about the Big 10 version 2.0?  No, I think in the end, the Big Ten will retain its name, leaving the Big 12 conference to sort out its new identity.  The Big Ten has too much to lose financially by giving up what has been one of the most marketable brands in all of sports.  Not only that, but if history has taught us anything, it's that the Big Ten Conference will not at all be ruffled by the fact that it now has 12 schools:  if that were the case then there should have been a bigger push to become the Big 11 once Penn State joined the league in the early 1990s.  But that might still happen.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

OSU-Nebraska rivalry to overtake OSU-Michigan rivalry?

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.  Don't forget to take the time to say thanks to any loved one (friend or family) you know who serves in our armed forces, if it weren't for them we might not have the independence today that allows you to enjoy my awesome sportsblog.  Now on to the topic at hand.

The addition of the University of Nebraska to the Big Ten Conference(to become official in 2011) has, in recent months and weeks, sent shockwaves around the college football nation.  The Big Ten has now increased its membership to 12, and, while not in a rush to rename one of the most marketable brands in all of sports, certainly has strengthened its position as a power conference.  Recently debate has centered around how to divide up the teams in the Big 10 so that the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry still remains intact.   On paper that would seem to be the most logical way to go about separate the conference into two divisions, so long as both OSU and Michigan remain the top dogs in the conference.  But what if, however, Michigan continues its freefall into college football irrelevance? What if the Wolverines, after failing to qualify for a bowl game the past two seasons, are banned from potential postseason play in at least one of the next two years due to violations of NCAA practice rules?  Ohio State has clearly set itself apart as the cream of the Big Ten, and while their current two decade rivalry with Penn State has certainly become heated, it does not have the luster of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.  Nebraska can come in and make more shockwaves by bringing it to the Buckeyes from the get go.   As a newcomer, Nebraska could not immediately lift the OSU-UN rivalry to the status that the OSU-UM game shares, but with a few good games it wouldn't take long.  That is in part Why I believe when it is all said and done OSU-Nebraska will overtake OSU-Michigan for the number one rivalry in all of sports.

The history of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry says that it won't be easy to replace it.  The Buckeyes and Wolverines have played each other for more than 100 years, with over half of their contests deciding who would win the Big Ten, with a handful of them deciding who would play for the national championship.  Then there is the pure hatred between the two fan bases, although as I grow older it seems to me that in Columbus the rivalry means more to Buckeye fans than it does in Ann Arbor to Michigan fans.  Ohio State-Michigan also boasts the legacies of two college football legends, the late coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, as well as dozens of former all-americans and heisman trophy winners. Nebraska, however, does have its own storied tradition when it comes to football; however, you might as well be talking about another country when mentioning Nebraska to the average Ohio State fan.

One factor Nebraska does have in its favor is the steady decline of the University of Michigan football program.  The Wolverines have failed to qualify for a bowl game for the second consecutive season, a dubious feat that had not been duplicated in the previous 40+ years.  Michigan appears to be poised to make a comeback this season, but they also still appear to be without a consensus starting quarterback, which could spell trouble.  Should Rich Rod get fired after this season, there should be a laundry list of former coaches waiting to be his successor.  But it takes a certain kind of individual to coach Michigan, as Rodriguez is finding out, and I don't think a lot of the better coaches want that type of scrutiny.  Which means that UM could be in a freefall for years to come.  Ohio State shows no signs of slowing, as they already have top billed recruiting class in 2011, and coach Jim Tressel isn't going anywhere.  If Nebraska can give Ohio State a little competition, this could be a budding rivalry.   Ohio State fans are still fuming about the Florida Gators and the Buckeyes loss to them in the NC game in '07, and the two teams haven't played each other since.  Imagine the possibilties that an every year Buckeye-Cornhusker game would create.

Another reason OSU-Nebraska has the potential to overtake OSU-Michigan is that Ohio State fans are becoming bored with the latter rivalry.  Ohio State has taken it to Michigan six straight times, and it doesn't appear that Michigan will have an answer for the Buckeyes anytime soon.  Sure, with each new season bring new optimism, but let's face the facts: Ohio State is favored to be a national title contender this year, and they have already got the top recruiting class for 2011 in the eyes of many.  Michigan, on the other hand, has one of three individuals who could start at quarterback(not necessarily because they're that good) is coming off consecutive lossing seasons, and could face major NCAA sanctions regarding their recent practice scandal which could include a loss of scholarship(s) and a postseason ban.  So while you will hear the average Michigan fan rave about UM holding records that no other school will touch, remember they're right: it's not likely that a Division-IAA school such as Appalchian State will defeat a top five ranked Division I-A school such as Michigan for a while, if ever again.  Nebraska brings a team that not only made a bowl game (which it won in dominating fashion, 33-0 against Arizona) it also came a within a potential missed field goal of knocking Texas out of the national champioship game.  So Ohio State fans shouldn't have to wait long to have another late season game they actually have to sweat about.

Finally, Nebraska is looking to make a splash in the Big Ten, and there is not a better way to do it than by beating Ohio State.  For all the talk of how Michigan is the winningest program in NCAA Division I-A history, Ohio State is the face of the Big Ten Conference.  No one commands more respect and hatred than the Buckeyes.  It is no secret that Ohio State has driven the conference's move toward expansion.  As much as it pains me to say this, should Ohio State lose to Nebraska in their very first meeting, it might be the best thing that could happen for the rivalry.  As the new kid on the block, everyone in the conference will be looking to bully the Cornhuskers around.  Should Nebraska beat Ohio State, that will certainly anger the Ohio State fan base, and put Lincoln, Nebraska on a whole new map, one that is called the Big Ten Conference.

While most people are wondering how conference realignment will work now that the Big Ten has 12 members, the University of Michgian should be more worried about how the University of Nebraska could potentially replace it as a perennial power.  Given the recent state of affairs in Ann Arbor, combined with the consistent dominance Ohio State has had in the Big Ten, and it migh not be long before everyone is calling OSU-Nebraska 'the greatest rivarly in college sports.'

Friday, June 25, 2010

Team USA showing in 2010 World cup should be a boon for America's hardest working team

One goal by Landon Donovan against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa this past Wednesday has forever changed the fate of soccer in the US. If there was ever a time for the American public to rally around a sport that has been perennially overlooked in this nation, now would be that time. And as America's hardest working team, the Columbus Crew, owners of Major League Soccer's best record, should be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this new spotlight. The Crew often have to take a backseat to the other major sports in this town, namely Ohio State football, and the town's hockey franchise, the Columbus Blue Jackets. But with football more than a couple of months away, and the hockey season over too, all eyes are on the World Cup. However it ends for the US, one thing is for certain, all the buzz surrounding the tournament should lead more people to tune into soccer. And that is where the Crew has a major oppportunity to cash in. Not only are they in first place, but the Columbus Crew also have World Cup talent on their roster in Frankie Hejduk and Guillermos Barros Scholetto. They have history on their side as well, having won their first Major League Soccer Championship in 2008. And the experience of watching a game at Columbus Crew Stadium is something very few fans will forget. It has to be one of the more aesthetically appealing stadiums across the nation, even if it is by no means among the largest. Team USA has already surpassed most experts expectations for where they would finish in the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa. Now all the Crew can do is sit back and hope that in a month the increased world exposure of their sport will also lead to increased local support of their team.

The best rookie pitcher in the national league? Mike Leake

He is only a rookie. He has started the season with a record of 5-1 in his first 14 starts, with an era right under 3.00 and 58 strikeouts. He can list on his resume wins over St. Louis and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only that, but his team is only a game and a half out of first in their division, and at one point in the season was in sole possession of first place. Who am I talking about? Stephen Strasburg? Aroldis Chapman? No, I am actually talking about Mike Leake, the starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds that almost no one is talking about but everyone should be. Initially it was thought that Leake would start the season in the minors, but as we near the all-star break he has to be not only the favorite for Rookie of the Year in the NL but also among the short list for candidates for the NL Cy Young. So why then has Stephen Strasburg become the household name? That's a good question, and I believe it boils down to a simple explanation: Strasburg has more flash, and in the media world flash more often than not gets the headline over substance. Sure Leake has great stats for a rookie pitcher, but he does not throw a 100 mph fastball. And despite having a current era of 2.92, he has only recorded 58 strikeouts in his first 14 starts, an average of 4 strikeouts per game. Strasburg, however, has recorded 32 strikeouts in only 3 starts, for an average of around 10 strikeouts per game. So what if Strasburg has not faced a team with a record above .500 yet. His numbers still seem much more glamorous than Leake's, even if Leake might be poised to have the type of rookie season pitchers can only dream of, and on a team with a legitimate shot to make the postseason. But I digress. It's time that the media give this kid (Leake) the respect he deserves; if beating National League powers such as the Cardinals and Dodgers doesn't get him at least that, then I don't know what will. All I know for certain is that Mike Leake just might be the best young pitcher in the big leagues that no one outside of Ohio has heard of.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Coach Bradley was really thinking on team USA disallowed goal vs. Slovenia

It has been replayed over and over ad nauseam the past several days.  By now Kouman Coulibaly has to be a household name for even the most casual soccer fan in the US.   He was the referee who disallowed the 3rd and potential winning goal for team USA against Slovenia last Friday, and in the process made it that much tougher for the Yanks to advance out of group play.  In his press conference immediately following the game, head coach Bob Bradley expressed his disappointment over the lack of explanation for the call, yet he refused to blame any of the officials for the fact that team USA has yet to record a victory in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  But what was really going on inside the head of the most outward calm individual as that has been replayed hundreds of times since it happened?  My guess is that coach Bradley has to be very frustrated with Coulibaly, almost to the point where he would have liked to have pull him aside, and said " hey, did you see that guy holding #4 for us? Yeah...he's my son and he was fouled as well.  So I think you should have allowed that last goal."  Publicly the elder Bradley has to maintain that it doesn't bother him, especially if he has any designs on coaching the next US team to be in the World Cup, more than likely in 2014 in Brazil.  As a father it has to eat at him that victory was taken away from his team by a call that could have easily been nullified because of what Slovenia did to his son.  In any case,  I don't think Coulibaly should be expecting any Christmas cards from either of the Bradleys anytime soon.  And I can't say I blame them either.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

End of the road for BCS

So Texas did not join the PAC -10 after all, and the formation of the superconferences has been put on hold for now.  But it is almost inevitable that conferences such as the Big 10, Pac 10, and SEC will eventually expand to 16 teams, and that will utimately lead to the death of the BCS for the following reasons:

  • Expanded conference memberships increase the possibility that more teams will end the season with identical records.
A couple of seasons ago Texas lamented the fact that they were left out of the BCS national title despite defeating national title participant Oklahoma head to head, with whom they shared an identical record both in the Big 12, and overall as well.  Imagine that instead of having just Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech with identical records in one division in say, the new SEC, in the other division of that same conference Florida, Alabama, and LSU also had identical records.  Allowing the media to select the two participants from that list to compete in the SEC championship(and thus a spot in the BCS) then becomes highly subjective, almost to the point that it defeats the mission of the BCS altogether.  In fact, there then becomes no clear cut way to declare an outright conference champion.  Thus, in this scenario, the SEC becomes a nonparticipant in the BCS.  The SEC will not allow this to happen, and should it actually come to fruition the heads of SEC universities will be the first in line to endorse a college football playoff system.

  • Once all the new superconferences are formed, the new landscape of college football will pave the way for a sixteen team playoff system.
When all the smoke is cleared, rumor has it there will be 4-6 superconferences, with 16 schools being the membership ceiling of each one.  Under this scenario, a sixteen team playoff system becomes not only plausible, but also more than likely.  Initially the top two teams from each conference would automatically earn spots in the playoff, with a couple of more spots available in a potential play in game.  Convincing the fans that such a system is better than the current one is not that hard of a sell,  university presidents and chancellors become much harder, or so the media would like everyone to think...

  • There is a growing myth among sports media today that the heads of the major universities and colleges are strenuously opposed to a college football playoff.
Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth. Gordon Gee,  president of  The Ohio State University, one of the largest schools in the nation, has gone on record as saying that he does not see himself or anyone else voting for a change in college football's postseason format anytime soon.  Of course he is going to say that.  The current system is pumping between 12-26 million dollars a year into his conference for the time being.  And that is what its all about.  It has nothing to do with tradition, the well-being of the student athlete, or scheduling conflicts with the NFL playoffs.  It's all about the benjamins, or, in other words, the money.  Once someone proposes an alternative that guarantees these schools will make more money than the BCS can offer them they will jump ship faster than you can say BCS.  Which brings me to my next point...

  • The BCS is not officially sancitioned by the NCAA.
The system is a creation of the six major conferences in college football, and, if the NCAA athletic commission decides this is not fair to the other universities, it could very well call for the ouster of this system on its own.  What is interesting is that while the argument of the fairness of the BCS has made it all the way to the United States Congress, I have yet to hear the issue brought before an NCAA competition committee.  I think once the new conferences shake out, we won't have to wait much longer.

NFLPA proves axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely

  Labor unions were originally created to give the laborer, who at times worked long hours for little pay, a voice in the presence of management  They were seen as the equalizer in the balance of power between the employee and employer.  But what happens when one of those unions gains to much power? The NFLPA, or National Football League Players Association, while not the largest union in terms of numbers, has to be regarded as the most influential organization in sports today.  What other group can claim it negotiated guaranteed rookie contracts of at max 40 million dollars? Not only that, the NFLPA has been able to reduce Roger Goodell's code of conduct policy to a mere joke. Donte Stallworth?  He was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, but the NFL only suspended him for a season before letting him return to the Baltimore Ravens. Michael Vick?  The former Falcons quarterback, convicted on charges of setting up an illegal interstate gambling ring that centered around dogfighting, got a two year suspension before returning to the league. Meanwhile, the legendary Pete Rose still faces a lifetime ban from baseball for bets he made as a player/coach.  Ben Rothlisberger?  The Pittsburgh Steeler qb faced allegations of sexual assault for the second time in as many years, and despite what appeared to be enough proof to take him to court was not charged with anything.  The NFLPA worked with commissioner Goodell to reduce his suspension to 4 games with good behavior.  All these incidents would have been enough to cost the average American their job, but thanks to the NFLPA these players continue to make a living in the sport they love.  What is worse,  the NFLPA has also negotiated the current CBA so that there is no salary cap in 2011, and in the process driven owners to scale back free agent offers preemptively so they don't end up in the red as the threat of a work stoppage looms next season.  This has prompted many players, like Tennessee's Chris Johnson, to demand their contracts be renegotiated early so they can be compensated the amount they feel they deserve.  Where does it stop?  The unfortunate reality is that, as long as the average fan continues to pay $60-75 a game to see their favorite team play, the players union only gets stronger. And the irony is that if the average fan tried to argue for some of the same things that the NFLPA received the odds that the average fan would ever be able to work in their given industry again would be slim to none.  Which is why the NFLPA has been given way to much power by the owners, and that power has corrupted this union to its very core.  So at the end of the day, the owners should be hoping for a lockout, and pray that the resulting short term decrease in attendance that is the fallout will ultimately bring this seemingly mad organization to its senses.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Previewing United States vs England in the World Cup

I am not sure when the last time United States played England in the World Cup.  Maybe it was before I was born.  Or maybe it was before I even started to care about such things.  But it doesn't really matter.  This year's renewal of the ole' Revolutionary Rivarly has a feel to it as if it were indeed 1776 and Paul Revere was riding into town yelling "the Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!"  At least that's how I feel, and frankly, I don't much care if you don't feel the same way.  I mean, c'mon, when are we going to get another chance to show up our neighbors across the pond as billions around the globe look on?  When cricket finally overtakes baseball as America's pastime? Please.  Or how about in rugby?  Yeah, I know we like to think we're tough, but have you ever wondered where the stereotype that the British have bad teeth came from?  So, it's us vs. them, the Yankees vs. the Brits, with bragging rights on the line for potentially the next half decade.  England is said to be vulnerable for the 2010 World Cup, with their longtime captain David Beckham to sit out the tournament.  But that is not to say they are not dangerous.  Their top player, striker Wayne Rooney, plays for English Premier League perennial power Manchester United, or Man U as they are known in soccer circles.  And even though Becks is not playing, I am sure he at the very least will be on the sideline as an advisor.  The US, on the other hand has several factors in its favor, starting with its youth.  They should show no fear, as I am sure most of the players (like myself) don't know the last time these two teams played.  In addition, being grouped with Algeria and Slovenia means that this is not necessarily a must win for team USA, so that should take some of the pressure off.  Finally, playing in South Africa should provide a more neutral crowd for team USA than if ithe World Cup took place somewhere in Europe.  If anything the Brits, as the favorite, have everything to lose and nothing to gain.  Kinda reminds you of something else that happened between these two nations more than a couple of centuries ago, doesn't it?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

World Cup spotlight to shine on South Africa

It happens once every four years.  No, I am not talking about the Olympics, but rather the World Cup, soccer's grandest stage of them all, where 32 nations compete over a 3 to four week time period so one can be called champion.  The 2010 version of the World Cup is to take place in South Africa, a diverse nation not exempt from controversy.  Indeed, for years the nation had been known primarily for apartheid, a sort of unwritten policy of treating ethnic minorities as second class citizens.  These games, however, look to bring a more positive note to the nation, as the whole country has been thrown into a whirlwind over the events.  The venues range from the large capital of Johannesburg, to the scenic Cape Town and Table Mountain, to the beautiful Port Elizabeth.  I myself would love to go the games, but not necessarily just to see soccer.  As many of you reading this blog may already know, my grandmother was born and raised in Cape Town, and I still have several second and third cousins that currently live in South Africa.  I actually had an outside shot to earn a trip there(through ESPN the magazine's take me to the World Cup contest), but alas I did not submit an entry by the deadline, and I think my chances of winning were probably slim since I am not really a rabid soccer fan.  In any case I shall be tuned to the games the moment they start(June 11th for those of you who don't know) and will be interested to see how things go for the country's first major international event in years plays out.  It should be fun to watch.

New blog...please check it out!

Hey everyone,  I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that I have started a second blog I would like you to check out: Dawg Pound 34.  You can find it at  From there you will click on the hyperlink entitled Community, then click the hyperlink 'Check out recent blog entries or start your own.'  My name on the Dawg Pound 34 blog is jarrod877 if you can't find it.  As you may have guessed from the title, this blog is more fan based, and actually discussed the Cleveland Browns.  I have just finished my third post this morning.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Notre Dame's snubbing of Big Ten hurting conference recruiting efforts?

In the recent days and months there has been plenty of talk surrounding the Big Ten's effort at conference expansion, with the University of Notre Dame being among the targets.  Much of the talk has centered around how Notre Dame's refusal to join the Big Ten could make them a nonfactor when it comes to the BCS.  But could it be that the reason the Big Ten is pushing so hard for Notre Dame to join, despite the university's stance, is that Notre Dame is actually hurting Big Ten recruiting by not joining the conference?  If you look at how Notre Dame has fared as an independent recently, then you might say no.  Look a little deeper however.  Notre Dame travels to USC and Stanford(two geographically enticing locales) every other year, almost all of their games are nationally televised, and with the rise of service academies they play one of the toughest schedules year in and year out.  These are all great reasons to go to Notre Dame. And even though Notre Dame has not been in the BCS discussion for quite a few years, they have still been competitive.  Ohio State has had trouble recruiting in the Cincinnati area in large part due to ND, and things should not change with the hiring of Brian Kelly as head football coach.   Which all leads us back to bringing Notre Dame into the Big Ten.  Certainly Notre Dame would still get a certain number of recruits even as a member of the conference, but no longer would prospects who have verbally committed to one Big Ten school change their mind and sign with Notre Dame because they like the program's independence.  And that could go a long way to bring the Big Ten back as a major player when it comes to the BCS.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Time to revisit Title IX?

It is the reason that we are forced to watch the Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  No longer can we watch Ohio State versus Indiana on broadcast television or ESPN, we now have to tune into the Big Ten Network.   Admission prices to football and basketball games across the country have gradually increased year after year.  And athletic departments all over are being forced to make the unpopular decision to cut many programs.  Am I talking about the rise in head coaching salaries of major college athletics?  No, I am talking about Title IX, and a solution to an otherwise broken system must be found or more cuts will be on the way.

For those of you not familiar with Title IX, it is the stipulation in college athletics that states that for every men's athletic program a university offers it must also offer a women's athletic program.  Inspired by the equal rights amendment of the US Constitution, it was devised to bring equality to major college athletics.  But has it really accomplished what it has set out to do?  Let's take a look at the facts: in the current state of college athletics, over 65 to 70% of athletic revenue is derived from two sports, football and men's basketball.  That revenue in turn, is in large part used to fund the rest of a given athletic department to help achieve balance per Title IX.   I am not a math major, but I believe that anyone could tell that is far from an equal distribution of funds.  The question then becomes, how do we achieve equality in major college athletics?

The short term answer is to revise the way Title IX operates.  We need to find a way where everyone has an opportunity to play, but not at the cost of one or two sports.  One solution might be two eliminate all but a few varsity sports, such as football, men's and women's basketball, and a second women's sport.  All other sports would then become club sports, with members raising their own money in order to participate.  But that would then bring on another debate as to what sports should remain varsity and which should be club.  Members of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team, for example, might not be eager to join the ranks of club sport just so they can make room for the soccer team.  Another solution might be to eliminate all nonrevenue sports.  This would also be very controversial, and very unpopular, as it would only leave a few sports within a given athletic department.  A third, and probably most practical solution, is to raise tuition, and use the increase of that tuition money to help cover the costs associated with having multiple sports programs.  Currently, many major college athletic departments operate independently of school operating costs, but why should they?  Are not college athletics in one way or another a part of the educational process, even if they don't take take place in the classroom?

As for a long term answer, I am not sure there is an easy one.  A major overhaul of Title IX is not likely, and coming up with one that is fair to both men's and women's sports is not a simple process.  Proponents of a Title IX overhaul argue that it just isn't fair for one or two sports to have to cover the nut on a year in year out basis.  Opponents of changes to Title IX will always argue that there needs to be equal opportunities for men and women.  Getting both sides to come to a consensus might be harder than a root canal.  But with time I am sure it will happen.

With the budgets of many major university athletic departments today approaching that of many mid-size corporations, it is time for us to consider how to effectively balance those budgets.  While the obvious answer is to cut wasteful spending,  the not so obvious answer would be to reexamine the way Title IX operates altogether.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rush was wrong... about Donovan McNabb?

In order to save face, ESPN had to do it.  They had to fire Rush Limbaugh as co-anchor on Monday night football, for what on the surface appeared to be racially charged remarks aimed at Donovan McNabb, then the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Rush had made the comment, during a live broadcast of MNF, that he did not believe Donovan McNabb to be a very good quarterback.  In fact, he would go on to say that he believed McNabb got to where he was because in part "the media was desirous of a black quarterback to do well."  Limbaugh's co-anchors would not press him on this issue, as I am sure they thought it to be too divisive.  ESPN, understanding the political background that Rush had come from, wanted nothing to do with this and quickly dismissed him.  But the question still remains largely unanswered: was Rush right about McNabb, or is he actually a good quarterback?  These days quarterbacks are judged largely by what they have done in the postseason, and, in that department, McNabb has fallen somewhat short, having failed to win a Super Bowl(he does have one appearance, a loss in SB XXXIX to the Patriots), and five losses in NFC title games as well.  But does that mean he is not a good quarterback?  For an answer to that, we need to look at his body of work in comparison to quarterbacks who put up similar numbers that are in the hall of fame.  McNabb is most often compared to John Elway, in part because Elway finished his career playing for Mike Shananhan, and the prevailing notion is that McNabb will finish his career also playing for Shananhan, in Washington not Denver, however.  If we look at stats alone*, it would appear that McNabb has a slightly higher completion pct(59.0 to 56.9) and touchdown to interception ratio(2.16 to 1.33) than Elway, while Elway, threw for slightly more yards per attempt.  Elway, on the other hand, has two SB rings to McNabb's zero, and a couple of more SB appearances to add to those rings as well.  So one could argue that Elway is better than McNabb based solely on postseason record.  However, McNabb's numbers are eerily similar to Dan Marino, another hall of fame quarterback, and one who doesn't have a Super Bowl ring.  In fact, Marino only has a slightly higher career completion percentage than McNabb(59.4 to 59.0), while McNabb has a better touchdown to interception ratio than Marino(2.16 to1.67).  So, based on those two comparisons, I would have to argue that at this stage of his career McNabb is at least as good as Elway and Marino were.  I also think that answers the question "Is Donovan McNabb a good quarterback?" with a definitive yes, at least in my opinion.

*Stats are provide courtesy of

Friday, May 7, 2010

The New BCS and Natural Rivalries

The landscape of NCAA college football is about to change dramatically.  It is inevitable that the Big Ten Conference is going to expand, to at least fourteen and quite possibly sixteen schools.  The Pac 10 and SEC Conferences, afraid that these changes are going to leave them unable to compete, have already been proactive about seeking additional members.  When all the dust is settled, many predict that the Football Bowl Series will have four major conferences: the Big Ten, SEC, Pac 10, and the ACC.  Such a move has major implications for the current state of the BCS.  Some would even argue that such expansion will lead to the abolishment of the BCS in favor of a college football playoff system.  I have argued in earlier posts for a playoff system, but I do not see that happening despite the inevitable change that is going to take place among the NCAA landscape.  No,  I believe that when all is said and done, we will have a new BCS, much larger than the old system.  Proponents of the new BCS will argue that more inclusion should eliminate the need for a playoff system.  And I would agree that should be a good thing.  But what university president's and chancellors may have failed to consider in their quest to make more money is how conference expansion will affect the natural rivalries that certain schools have.   I believe though, that once the New BCS has been established, natural rivalries will take on a survival of the fittest mentality, whereby only one of the two schools will emerge each season with a chance to play for the championship.  Gone are the days where OSU and Michigan will play the final game of the season to determine who has a chance for the national title.  The establishment of a postseason conference championship reduces the relevancy of that game.  Just ask Texas, who already has a beef with the BCS from a couple of seasons ago-it beat archrival Oklahoma head to head only to be screwed out of the Big 12 championship on a technicality.  With the arrival of the New BCS, however, the Sooner and Longhorn rivalry might fall to the wayside, unless the conference that picks up one of the schools also invites the other school to be a member.  I think that is a distinct possibility, as UT and OU go to either the SEC or the Pac 10; the remaining schools in the Big 12 will possibly pull in schools from the WAC or the Mountain West or Big Sky conferences to keep pace.  The Big East, another conference that will be raided, will also look to other mid-majors such as the Mid American and Conference USA to bolster its membership.  In the end, the BCS will still comprise of 6 conferences, but they will be much larger conferences.  And they should probably rename their conferences as well.  For example,  instead of the Big 12, how about the Cornfed Conference?  And instead of the Big East, what about the Little Beast?  I've got it: the SEC is named the Big Greasy.  Point is, before the New BCS order, conferences were named based on the number of members that it had; post NBCS, they really can't claim to be the "Big 12" when they have  sixteen members.   Oh its going to be fun to watch.   And for those of you who still believe that college football will need a playoff, don't worry, its coming.  You just might have to wait another 10-15 years though.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Big Ten Expansion: A case for the University of Cincinnati

It has almost become a forgone conclusion that within the next year the Big Ten Conference will expand its membership, from eleven to possibly sixteen teams.  Names such as Notre Dame and Texas are being thrown around as potential marquee candidates for expansion.  Texas would surely be a huge addition, but the logistics of such a move make it an unlikely candidate.  Notre Dame has been asked to join the conference on several occasions but rebuked; in the end it may regret its decision to remain a football independent.  Other schools that have been mentioned as candidates are Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse, and Missouri to name a few.  One school, however, that I think would be a great addition for the Big Ten that almost no one is talking about is the University of Cincinnati.  Cincinnati, currently a member of the Big East, has a strong tradition in men's basketball(maybe not last season, but typically they're good), and has been builiding a reputation for itself as a football power in the last decade as well, culminating with last year's appearance in the Sugar Bowl against Florida.  Their addition to the Big Ten would also pave the way for a rivalry between them and Ohio State, something fans of both schools have wanted to see happen for years.  And the Bearcats would also bring a new fan base with them, the Southwest Ohio/Dayton and Northwest Kentucky areas, something that would have to be a boon for the Big Ten Networks.   So while the Big Ten goes looking for the home run candidate that will bring it out of the red and into the black, it would be wise to consider a consistently good program such as the University of Cincinnati for expansion too.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

OSU's next Troy Smith?

Even before he graduated from Ohio State, the buzz around Buckeye football nation largely revolved around who would be the heir apparent to Troy Smith as Buckeyes quarterback.  Smith has been in some circles regarded as the best quarterback to play for OSU in the last 20 years, and for good reason. For starters, in his 2 1/2 year career as a Buckeye he amassed a 25-3 record, which included 3 straight wins over talented Michigan squads, and nationally ranked Notre Dame and Texas teams as well.  Then there is the fact that he completed over 65% of his passes his senior year with 30 of them going for touchdowns against only six interceptions.  Many people would like to villify him for Ohio State's national championship loss to Florida in '07, but I think that criticism is unfair, especially given that: a) less than a couple of minutes into the game he lost his best wide receiver, b) offensive line play was shoddy at best, and c) a 27-14 deficit at half basically forced Jim Tressel and co. to abandon the run, allowing Urban Meyer to blitz like crazy, something OSU had not faced all season.  Regardless, even before the Baltimore Ravens selected Smith in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, the race to replace him was on.  And I think they may have finally found their guy....Kenny Guiton.

 Kenny Guiton has several things going for him that remind me of the situation Troy Smith was in back in 2002. Like Smith,  Guiton was the last quarterback drafted in his class, more to fill a need on the depth chart than anything else.  Don't get me wrong, the Buckeyes saw something about him they liked; Jim Tressel does not hand out scholarships on a whim.  OSU had their eyes on other prospects, and saw Guiton primarily as a safety net.  These other prospects would go elsewhere, and OSU would eventually offer their remaining spot to Guiton.  Upon enrolling at OSU, Guiton, like Smith before him, would be redshirted.  Guiton will now have an intense battle for the number two spot  behind Pryor along with Joe Bauserman, not unlike the competition between Smith and Zwick for the chance to backup Craig Krenzel.  And even though it was only the spring game, the late touchdown pass from Guiton to Taurian Washington had to remind a few people of Troy Smith's heroics against Penn State during his senior season.  That Pryor should have a hold on the starting spot for at least another season or two can only bolster Guiton's development much in the way that Smith was able to learn by watching Krenzel.

There is no denying that every year Ohio State fans expect their team to compete for and win a national championship.  Jim Tressel pretty much raised the bar to that level when he led the Buckeyes to one in only his third season as head coach.  Many people believe that this is the year the Buckeyes will win their eighth national title, led by qb Terrelle Pryor.  I myself believe that there will be another quarterback in the not too distant future who could lead them to the promised land, and his name will be Kenny Guiton.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On the eve of 2010 draft, Browns can start to erase a decade of futility by making smart choices tomorrow night

Anyone who is even a casual follower of the NFL knows that, since the Cleveland Browns rejoined the league as an expansion franchise in 1999, they have been among the worst ballclubs in professionall football.  The Browns have had only two winning seasons in that time span, going 9-7 in 2002, and 10-6 and 2007, with 2002 being their only playoff appearance.  Counting games played by the old Browns, I believe the last time Cleveland actually won a playoff game was in 1989.  That is a span of over 20 years without a playoff victory. Browns fans have started to feel a little like the late Rodney Dangerfield: they don't get no respect.  Many people point to the instability of the head coach position as a primary reason for their failures.  Others will even go as far as to say the Browns are cursed.  I believe, however, that there is a more practical reason for the Cleveland Browns' shortcomings.  More specifically, I believe that Cleveland's year in and year out poor performance on the football field can be directly attributed to their poor track record in NFL drafts since rejoining the league. Names like Tim Couch, Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Kellen Winslow,  Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, and Kamerion Wimbley have in part given credence to the moniker 'Mistake by the Lake.'  Especially when some of the names that the Browns' brass has passed up on include Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Adrian Peterson, and even Beanie Wells, Mark Sanchez and Rey Maualuga in last year's draft. 

But there still is hope for Cleveland fans.  The Browns went out and drafted an individual who has had over 20 years evaluating NFL talent.  He has also led two different teams to the Super Bowl, winning one of them with the Green Bay Packers.  He is  now charged with not only running the business of the Cleveland Browns, but also restoring crediblity to an organization with a proud history that includes not only Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Lou Groza, and Otto Graham, but also Brian Sipe, Clay Matthews Sr. and Bernie Kosar.  And he must do that first and foremost by rebuilding through the draft, starting with 2010.   That's a lot of pressure for anyone, even someone with such lofty credentials as Mike Holmgren has. 

My advice to Mr. Holmgren and company before the 2010 NFL draft is not to get cute; draft players according to need and availability, but be efficient about it.  If a player you like falls into your lap at number 7 then draft him; but with over 10 picks in this year's draft there is no need to overpay for a player.  Eric Berry(the safety from Tennessee) would be good at number 7, but so would  S Earl Thomas of Texas; you don't need to trade up to number 4 in order to get Berry.  Likewise, if you were really impressed by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, and he is available in the second round, you should take him; but again there is no need to trade up back into the first round to get him.  Sure there are many people who believe that McCoy may be the next Drew Brees, and I tend to agree with that sentiment, but if you can get McCoy in the second round then you have the flexibilty to let him learn from the sidelines during his rookie season.  The main thing Holmgren, Heckert(Tom Heckert, the Browns' GM), Mangini and company must realize is that by trying too hard to fake out the media(and, by extension, the 31 other NFL franchises) they may be doing the franchise more harm than good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

As the OSU Spring game nears, Duron Carter still MIA

This Saturday the Ohio State football team will renew its annual Spring game scrimmage, and while the two questions on everyone's mind will be 'has Terrelle Pryor finally taken the next step?' and 'with all the depth at running back, will there be a clear cut go-to-guy?',  I think that there are a few questions that many fans have overlooked.  Mainly, what has happened to Duron Carter?  And, once he is back on the field, can he live up to the enormous expectations placed upon him since arriving in Columbus?  Carter, the son of former Ohio State standout wide receiver Cris Carter, was touted as a four star recruit coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale Florida.  And being the son of arguably the best receiver of all-time in OSU history, expectations were high for Duron during his freshman season.  However, after a relatively slow start to begin the season, Carter began to struggle in the classroom as well, and by the end of the season he was declared ineligible to play in the Rose Bowl vs. Oregon.  Currently Carter still has not completed the courses necessary to reinstate his eligibilty, although the OSU coaching staff has gone on record as saying that Duron Carter is taking the steps necessary for reinstatement and should be eligible for the season opener against Marshall.   Should Carter rejoin the team, and start to fill some of those lofty expectations placed upon him as a freshman, it could totally change the dynamic of the Buckeye offense, as it allows them to run more three and four-wide sets.  But here is the real kicker:  Duron Carter's size and athleticism, combined with Devier Posey's emergence as the number one receiver, would make him the ideal candidate to move to the defensive side of the ball like they did with Chris Gamble.  With all of the talk surrounding how good the Buckeyes could be if Duron Carter actually lived up to the hype, you have to wonder what must be going through his head right now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How the draft should actually play out-the first ten picks

If we have learned anything from previous drafts, it is that who teams should pick and who they actually end up drafting are two completely different things.  I have seen several mock drafts, and based on what I have read, and my own opinion of what teams need in the draft, here is my projection for the first ten picks:

1. St Louis Rams-Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma-the Rams need a franchise qb and even though they want to trade out of this pick, the Browns aren't willing to give up what the Rams are asking for this pick
2. Detroit Lions-Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma-There are many people who believe that Suh will be taken here.  I am not one of them.  Most draft experts believe the difference between McCoy and Suh is marginal at best and the Lions are excited about the combination of size and speed that McCoy brings to this position.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Ndamukong Suh, DT Nebraska-the most talented player available in the first round he is an immediate upgrade for a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL in 2007
4. Washington Redskins- Dan Williams, DT Tennessee- Many people believe that the Redskins will take Russell Okung left tackle out of Oklahoma State, with this pick.  I am not in that camp, as I see the standoff between Albert Haynesworth and the 'Skins still unresolved on draft day.  The acquistion of Williams should be a clear signal to Haynesworth that Washington is ready to move in a different direction.
5. Kansas City Chiefs- Eric Berry, S Tennessee- The Browns wish that he would fall to them at number 7, but this scenario is to enticing for KC to pass up.  He has been compared to Ed Reed.  Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.
6. Seattle Seahawks-Russell Okung, LT Oklahoma State-The Seahawks have many holes to fill, like the Browns, but Okung is a gift to Seattle at no. 7 for an offensive line that gave up 41 sacks.
7 Cleveland Browns - trade pick to San Francisco for the number 13(or 17th) and 49 picks-  The Browns wanted Eric Berry at this pick, but he wasn't available. San Francisco, worried that Oakland might draft Jimmy Clausen at number eight was more than happy to give up its two of its first three picks  for this pick.  The Browns then offer to trade the number 13 pick to the Texans for the number 20 pick and compensation, as they really want to draft either DE Brandon Graham from Michigan, DE Jared Odrick from Penn State or S Taylor Mays from USC but they don't want to pay either of them what a 13 pick would command.  If the Browns can't move down from 13 they end up selecting S Earl Thomas out of Texas.  If the Browns land either Graham or Odrick in the first, either of whom would be a great fit for Mangini's 3-4 defense, don't be surprised if the Browns wait until the 3rd or fourth to draft a safety, maybe even someone like OSU's Kurt Coleman. As for drafting Colt McCoy, the popular belief is that Holmgren, never a man to use a high pick on a qb in the past wont this year; but the addition of the 49th pick only confuses things.  Should Cleveland swap with the 49ers for the 17th pick they most definitely draft Graham.
8.Oakland Raiders-Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma State-Al Davis, upset that Clausen isn't available because the 49ers took him, loves Bryant's speed and cannot resist taking him here.  Many boards have Bryant going to Cleveland; I cannot see them taking him for two reasons: they were able to land Mohamed Massaquoi in the second round last year, and Bryant has the same agent as Crabtree, making negotiations almost a guaranteed nightmare.
9.  Buffalo Bills-Trent Williams, T Okalhoma- The Bills would have loved for Clausen to have slipped here but are glad to have an individual who should help a unit that gave up 46 sacks last season.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars-CJ Spiller, Clemson-he is another back in the mold of Fred Taylor who makes a nice complement to MJD in the Jags backfield.

That's how I see it playing out, definitely will be fun to watch the first couple of rounds, and by no means is Sam Bradford a lock to go number one.  Has to be one of the hardest drafts to predict in a while.

Suh would be best choice for Rams at number one

Here I go, already stirring up the pot with the draft less than a week away.  Yes I am very aware that just yesterday I stated that the Browns should go for the top pick and draft Sam Bradford.  And I still say that if Mike Holmgren and company believe him to be the best quarterback available, and the price is right, they should go get him.  But I do not believe he is the best player in the draft.  No I believe that distinction goes to former Nebraska nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, the guy who was previously thought to be the first pick taken.  If the Rams do decide to keep the first pick, I do not see how they can pass on this guy.  He was an absolute beast at Nebraska, and for those of you watching the Big 12 championship, he almost single-handedly took Texas out of the BCS title game.  Sure, the Rams need a quarterback, and sure they have passed up on opportunities to draft qbs in recent year's  But the number one pick is all about taking whomever you believe to be the best available, and last I heard the Rams believed Suh fit the bill.  He would be a great addition to a defensive front that already has Chris Long and James Laurinatis.  As for finding a quarterback, Colt McCoy could still be available in the second round, and, its not as if Bradford is going to turn them into an instant contender.  So while public sentiment in St. Louis might be against not taking a qb this year, there is always the possibility that the Rams wait until next year and draft someone like Jake Locker of Washington or Ryan Mallet of Arkansas.  Either way, by selecting Suh the Rams should take comfort in knowing they took the best player available, which is what having the number one pick is all about.