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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rich Rod's future at Michigan may hinge on his honesty to school, NCAA

Current University of Michigan football head coach Rich Rodriguez certainly has been under a lot of scrutiny these days. First and foremost is the performance of his team on the field, which has not been good by Michigan standards. Rodriguez is the first head coach to lead the U of M to consecutive losing seasons in over 40 years. However, there are Rodriguez apologists who would argue that it takes a little time to recruit the players needed to run the spread offense that he coaches. To that end, I would agree that maybe people should cut him a little slack. Then there are the off-the-field issues regarding the number of hours he has his players practice during the summer and the recording of such practice time. If there is something that will be the downfall of Rodriguez, it will be his less than honest response to the allegations leveled at his program. The University of Michigan is one of the elite schools in the nation, and, as such, will not tolerate continued secretive behavior for very long. This should be a wake up call for Rodriguez to right the ship. This is coming from someone who is an avid fan of Michigan's archrival, the Ohio State Buckeyes. I would like to see Rodriguez return the program and the OSU-Michigan rivalry back to prominence. I believe that, given time, he can do both; can he do it with the honesty and integrity expected of a University of Michigan head coach remains to be seen.

NFL competition committee doesn't go far enough with proposed rule change to OT

Recently reported that the NFL competition committee was considering changing the format for games that go into overtime ( Currently overtime in the NFL is a sudden death format with the first team to score winning the game. Under the proposed rule change, each team would get a possession in overtime unless the first team to receive the ball scores a touchdown. While I agree that this would be more fair than the current format, I do not believe that it is best solution possible for this dilemma. I still think this puts an unfair burden on one of the teams defensive units. My suggestion on how to fix overtime would go something like this: give each team one possesion, starting from their own 45 yard line, and, in the event that game is tied after the second team gets the ball, the game then should revert to a sudden death format. In this scenario each team would get a possession, and, unlike the current college format, I believe I have also proposed a way to end the game in a quicker manner as well.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ohio State poised to make deep tourney run? Three factors that will utlimately decide their fate

The Ohio State's men's basketball team continues to defy the skeptics. From the onset of the Big Ten season, it appeared that an OSU squad minus Evan Turner for almost 8 weeks would struggle to make the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament. Turner surprised most everyone when he returned in about half that time, and since then Ohio State has put itself in great position to win the Big Ten. Then, as the season wore on, those same critics argued that OSU was essentially a one man band, with it being Evan Turner vs. the rest of the conference. The Buckeyes would go on to defeat then conference leader Michigan State in the Breslin Center(something it had not accomplished in a very long time) with strong contributions from William Buford, David Lighty, and Jon Diebler, proving that OSU has other weapons too. Head coach Thad Matta deserves a lot of props for leading his team to a 22-7 record with essentially a six man rotation. How far the Buckeyes will go in the tournament will depend on three factors. Obviously Evan Turner getting off to a hot start and staying out of foul trouble is a must. Coach Matta will have to make sure his starters are rested between games as well, as fatigue more than likely will have a huge impact on OSU's tourney run. And finally two players you might not expect will have to play better than they have all season: Dallas Lauderdale and Kyle Madsen. Lauderdale, as OSU's sole starting big man, will have the unenviable task of trying to force OSU's opponent to beat them from the outside, and he might not have the luxury of playing some of the smaller frontcourts he is used to in the Big Ten. Madsen's role might be even more crucial, as he will need to be more of a contributor than he has, and just being a body to give Lauderdale a breather won't cut it. If these three things happen I believe Ohio State is capable of going to the sweet sixteen and maybe beyond. If, on the other hand, Ohio State shows a weakness in one of these areas, it could mean another early exit for the Buckeyes come March Madness time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

US men's Ice Hockey Team on verge of Winter Games biggest upset

The United States men's ice hockey team got one step closer to gold today in dominating Finland 6-1. It was over before it even started, with the US racing out to a 2-0 lead in the first and adding four more in the period to end with a 6-0 lead. Their offense might have been a little lacking the next two periods, but with the start they had it really did not matter. Next up for the United States is the winner of the Canada/Slovakia semifinal later tonight. Personally I would like to see Canada win that one so the US has a chance to beat them again, this time for the gold in what would be a reversal of fortunes for the teams that met in 2002. (For those of you wondering, during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the US lost to Canada in the gold medal game). Whomever the US plays, it has the chance to pull of a minor miracle on ice itself should it win gold. You can't really compare this team to the one that won gold in 1980. In 1980 there was a greater disparity in talent between the Soviets and the US than there is between the US and Canada today. And the 2010 US team might have benefited from playing a more favorable schedule. But the fact of the matter is they are in the gold medal game, and they are the hottest team in the Winter Olympics currently. Goalie Ryan Miller has been playing lights out and the US will need him to continue that effort on Sunday to give itself a chance to stand on the top podium. Should the US win the gold, it might possibly be the perfect ending to one of the more successful games in US Winter Olympic history.

Tebow's struggles should serve as a lesson for Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel

The recent struggles that former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has had impressing NFL scouts should serve as an example for both current Ohio State starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and OSU head coach Jim Tressel. Pryor, the number one recruited quarterback coming out of high school, will need to improve in several areas if he wants to avoid a fate similar to Tim Tebow. There are the obvious things that Pryor must work on such as taking snaps under center and not locking on to a single target. Then there are other things that are not so obvious, such as reading defensive schemes and managing the two minute drill. For Coach Jim Tressel's part, he must do what Florida coach Urban Meyer did not: give him the tools to succeed at the next level. He needs to open up the offense more and design a scheme that includes more than just Devier Posey. When OSU falls behind, he needs to resist the temptation to rein in Pryor, as one has to wonder what that does to Terrelle's confidence. And lastly, he needs to hire an actual quarterbacks coach such as a Walt Harris type to tutor Pryor rather than a graduate assistant, and it wouldn't hurt to hire an offensive coordinator as well. How Pryor does during the remainder of his career will be a reflection of Jim Tressel's coaching efforts. If Tressel is truly a great head coach, he(Tressel) will equip him (Pryor) with the tools to be a successful in the NFL. And he should. You do not recruit the number one quarterback in the nation to be a game manager. How Ohio State is viewed by future prospects hinges in large part on how Pryor develops as he gains more experience.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


As if things couldn't get any worse for the Canadian national Olympic team, Sunday night seemed to epitomize why the 2010 Winter Olympics appear to be a nightmare for the host country. They certainly did not get off to a good start when mother nature would not cooperate and the games had to be relocated from Vancouver to Whistler, Canada. Then in what happens to be one of the worst tragedies in Olympic history, a competitor in the luge event dies during a practice run. And from the outset of the games Canada was one of the odds on favorite to clean up in the medals race. As it stands, Canada is currently fourth in the medals category behind Norway. Not the US. Not the Russians. That's right. I said Norway. However, all of that pales in comparison to the 5-3 loss that the Canadian men's ice hockey team suffered at the hands of the US men's team.

From the outset, when less than a minute into the game the US scored the first goal, it appeared that the Canadian team would be in for a long day. Ryan Miller, the US goalie, had a tremendous outing, recording 42 saves against a relentless Canadian offense that features several future NHL Hall of Famers. The United States team was led by veteran Chris Drury, who, as far as I could tell, was quite possible the only NHL player on their team. Drury finished the game with two goals. Yet it was the defense and the goaltending by the US team that stole the show in Sunday's game. Canada started off fast, attempting 18 shots in the first period, but the US responded by holding them to one goal. It would be this same kind of effort in the next two periods that allowed the US team to walk away victorious. And while this victory might not have had the magnitude of the upset the US team pulled of 30 years ago, you kind of sensed that this victory was another historic moment for the United States. Not only had they used the underdog role to their advantage, but they also beat Canada for the first time in 50 years.

If Canada's loss Sunday night was symbolic of everything that has gone wrong for them in the Winter Olympics, then the US's victory was also symbolic of what is turning out to be one of the best Olympics they have ever had. They lead in the medals count with 24, and there is talk that when it is all said and done the US national team could end up with 35 medals, the most ever for them in the Winter Games. And the US has done it not only with the names you expect such as Apolo Ohno, Lindsay Vonn, and Shaun White, but it has also gotten a couple of surprises with a gold coming from Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso following up Vonn's performances with two silver medals of her own. The United States' 5-3 victory over Canada Sunday seemed to typify how far Canada has fallen and how far the US has risen during the 2010 Winter Games. But you know, we should really thank our neighbors to the north for being such gracious hosts. Let's all join in a rendition of the world's greatest national anthem: Ohhhh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hail...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Edwards saga underlies NFLPA's need to reach new collective barganing agreement

Recently there has been much ado made about remarks made by Minnesota Vikings' defensive end Ray Edwards, who has publicly said that it was not fair that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is making three times his salary when he(Goodell) was not putting his body on the line on a regular basis like Edwards has. While that point may be debateable, I believe that the bigger issue here is that the NFL Players Association has let down its members. Had the NFLPA been able to reach a new CBA(collective bargaining agreement) with the owners, Edwards might not have been tagged as a restricted free agent and thus could have sought what he believed to be his fair market value. (For those of you who aren't aware, Edwards has been labeled a restricted free agent because the current agreement calls for the league to operate in an uncapped season in 2010, an under that stipulation Edwards does not qualify to be a restricted free agent.) It appears the Players Association, however, is waiting for the owners to be the ones who offer the first olive branch before any type of agreement be reached. Normally this is standard practice for a union to stonewall until ownership gives some type of concessions. However, if the stonewalling leads to players receiving lesser contracts in 2010, regardless of the reason, shouldn't that be enough of a reason for the NFLPA to negotiate? My suggestion to the Players Association: look at what the owners have currently proposed, and counter offer with a middle ground fast. Otherwise another, more high profile player than Ray Edwards could end up on the short end of the stick turning this whole situation into a publicity nightmare.

Three teams the big ten should consider adding

The Big Ten's mulling over the potential courting of the University of Texas as a potential 12th member has made me rethink my whole outlook on conference expansion. Previously I was adamantly opposed to expansion, citing the destruction of the OSU-Michigan football rivalry and the increase in basketball games as reasons why the Big Ten should stay put. But, I believe now that the conference could benefit greatly by adding these three schools: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Missouri. Notre Dame, an independent in football and a member of the Big East in basketball, has repeatedly said it does not want to join the Big Ten and would more than likely be the hardest school to sway. But, maybe the addition of Missouri and Pittsburgh would be too much for even Notre Dame to turn down. Any of the three schools would make a good addition as a twelfth member, so why not invite all three and make the Big Ten a superconference?

If this scenario were indeed to happen, I think the conference would be best served by splitting up in this fashion: Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin in one divsion, and Penn State, Pittsburgh, Illinois , and Missouri in the other division, with the remaining teams for each division determined by blind draw. Then, in football you would still be able to keep the OSU-Michigan rivalry at the end of the season and the Michigan-Notre Dame game could still take place the second week of the football season, This would also allow Illinois to continue its developing rivalry with Missouri, and could potentially foster a rivalry between Pitt and Penn State. And Penn State would rotate on a season by season basis whether they played OSU or Michigan. In basketball, I believe that this would work by actually shortening the Big Ten schedule to 16 games and adding a couple more first round byes to the conference tournament. If the Big Ten is really hurting for money like it says it is, an move like this one might be the best for all parties involved.

Big opportunity awaits USA hockey team Sunday

This Sunday represents a huge opportunity for an upset for the USA men's ice hockey team in the 2010 winter olympics. The team plays Canada and is likely to be a huge underdog. Canada boasts a formidable lineup with NHL all-stars Rick, Nash, Sidney Crosby, and Jarome Iginla leading the way for a team that has to be the odds on favorite to win the gold in Vancouver. Not only that, but Canada should also have an energized crowd behind them being the host nation. Nonetheless, I believe team USA has a good chance to pull off an upset Sunday night for a couple of reasons. Although the US struggled against team Norway a couple of days ago before before using a 3 goal third period to surge to a 6-1 victory it should be noted that Canada also did not completely blow out Norway until the final period. In addition, Canada seemed to struggle in Wednesday's 3-2 shootout win over Switzerland, a team the US beat rather easily at 3-1. And, like the men's team dubbed the 'miracle on ice' 30 years ago, this US team is led by a bunch of nondescript players. Don't get me wrong, this could end up being a huge blowout for team Canada. But that is what they said about the Russian team 30 years ago. While a US win Sunday might not have the magnitude it did in 1980 in Lake Placid, it would still have to be considered one of the biggest upsets of the 2010 games.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

CBK Player of the year: Evan Turner or John Wall?

This year's race for college basketball's player of the year award has essentially come down to two individuals: Ohio State's point forward, junior Evan Turner, and Kentucky's freshman point guard John Wall. Both are very good scorers, and can beat you a number of ways. Watching last night's Kentucky-Tennessee game, I would have to argue that Wall is a better ball handler than Turner, more than likely because it is his natural position. I also believe that Wall is a bit better at getting the transition game started than Turner. However, I think the deciding factor in this debate is which player means more to his team. In that case, there is no comparison. Without Evan Turner's presence, the Buckeyes go from a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA tournament to a team that is fighting to make the NIT. Turner not only does it by scoring and passing the ball, but his ability to go and get the rebound and hard effort on the defensive end of the floor make him a very special player. Without Turner in the lineup, the Buckeyes were a 3-3. Since his return, the Buckeyes have went on to win 9 of their last 11 games. While John Wall might end up being the better pro prospect, the fact that he has a better supporting cast at UK means that Evan Turner has a slight edge over him for POY.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Big Ten Should not invite a 12th member

The movement by the Big Ten Conference to add a twelfth university has been gaining steam in recent weeks. On paper, this move looks to have a couple of potential benefits. The first benefit is that another school would add more revenue to the conference. A second potential benefit would be that in football the conference would be split up into two divisions with the winner of each playing in a conference championship, something critics have been saying the Big Ten desperately needs in order to become more competitive nationally. But I believe that the Big Ten Conference should not expand to a 12th team for three reasons.

First of all, the natural rivalries between Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in football would be destroyed if the conference expanded to twelve schools. If you put Ohio State and Michigan in the same division, you run the risk that the winner of the OSU-Michigan game plays a school that is not the second best in the conference for the Big Ten title. If the schools are put in separate divisions, then you cannot guarantee that OSU and Michigan will play each other, effectively ending a 100+ year rivalry. And how do you decide what divsion to put Penn State in, so as to give the conference balance between the two divisions?

My second fault with adding a twelfth school lies with the basketball schedule. The Big Ten already has an 18 game conference schedule, and that does not include the postseason tournament. If a twelfth team is added, what number of games would be sufficient? 19? 20? 21? Adding more games to the schedule increases the risk that Big Ten teams will wear down more easily come NCAA Tournament time.

Finally, I believe that expansion to 12 teams in the Big Ten will have a negative impact on recruting for schools already in the conference. Current members will have one extra school to compete with for scholarships in football and basketball. If that wasn't enough, I believe that the destruction of the OSU-Michigan rivalry will lure many prospects away from those respective schools.

On the surface, a twelfth school seems like a no-brainer for the Big Ten. I wonder, however, if the presidents of the Big Ten university have considered the long term ramifications of such a move. I believe that, given the aforementioned reasons, it would not be in the best interest of the Big Ten to invite a twelfth member.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Colts defense will be X factor in Super Bowl XLIV

For all the talk about the high powered offenses that will be on display this Sunday during Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, it is defense that will ultimately be the difference maker in the game. How the Colts defense plays, more specifically, will determine the outcome of this game. Much has been made of how lucky the Colts really were to win their first fourteen games, with a few victories that could have easily gone the other way. I would argue that luck had little to do with it. The Colts have had one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL this season, and they showed the world how good they can be by putting together two back to back stellar performances against two of the top rushing teams in the AFC, the Jets and the Ravens. Colts' defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, two of the quickest players at their position, make up one of the more formidable pass rushes in the league. They will need to pressure Drew Brees constantly so he does not have time to complete the downfield throws that have become his signature. Middle linebacker Gary Brackett anchors a run defense designed not to give up the big play, and will work hard to keep running back's Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas in check. Even if Freeney is not able to go this Sunday because of torn ligaments in his ankle, the Colts will have the personnel to contain Drew Brees and the Saints. Chances are Freeney will play. If there is one game a player is willing to risk further injury, it is the Super Bowl because all players know how hard it is to get back to this game once you have been there. And I believe that while Peyton Manning is a big reason why the Colts have made it back for their third SB appearance, an Indianapolis victory will be in large part due to the play of their defense.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

USC football to finally feel effects of Reggie Bush Scandal?

For years now, there has been much speculation as to what if any impact the NCAA's investigation into improprieties surrounding former USC tailback Reggie Bush would have on the USC program. Bush, a heisman trophy winner and part of USC's 2004 national championship team, and his family are rumored to have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in illegal benefits while he was still in school. Well, after many wrote that USC's current recruiting class should erase any doubts about the demise of the Troy(a moniker for the program, whose nickname is the Trojans) recent developments have brought back to the forefront this very scandal. It was recently announced that USC's prized recruit, offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson of Minnesota, backed down from his verbal commitment to the program, instead declaring he would wait to see what sanctions the NCAA would bring upon USC. This could seriously affect new head coach Lane Kiffin's ability to recruit future football classes as well. The NCAA could decide that the program gets a slap on the wrist, and thus does not lose Henderson nor its credibility with future prospects. But in my opinion that the NCAA is now ready to make a decision cannot be a good thing for USC. And unless the violations committee finds that neither Reggie Bush nor his family received any type of improper benefits, the USC football program could find itself losing more than highly touted recruit Seantrel Henderson.

NCAA BB Tourney to expand to 96 teams? Say it aint so

There has been some serious discussion as of late by the heads of the NCAA universities to expand the basketball tournament field from 64 teams to 96 teams. I believe that this would be a terrible mistake on the presidents' part. I am already opposed to the play-in game because the winner unfortunately has to take on the number 1 seed overall on less than a couple of days rest. Expanding the field to 96 teams might (or might not) eliminate the need for a play in game, but I believe it will bring a whole host of other problems. The first problem I see with an expanded tournament field is that it could possibly further cut into the time that these student athletes have to study for and take exams. Not only that, but with an expanded field, are we not looking at a watered down field as well? I mean, are the presidents really worried that Sam Houston State is not getting its fair shot at winning a national championship? Finally, with an expanded field would come expanded brackets for office pools. I am not saying I am against the office pool, having participated in a few myself, but with economy still struggling do we really need more man hours spent during the months of March and April finding out who will cut down the nets? My advice to all the university presidents and chancellors who will be voting on this issue: leave the current system the way it is.

NFL Lockout in 2011? Owners, players, must find a way to avoid it

With Super Sunday only a few days away, it is not surprising that most of the media's attention has been focused on Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. However, there is a much larger issue in the NFL that if it gains steam threatens to derail the whole league: the possibilty of an owners' lockout in 2011. The most recent debate between the NFL owner's and the players' union seems to center around the current collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire around March of next year. Not only that, but the way the current agreement is set up allows for the NFL to operate without a salary cap for the first time in years. The owners argue that the bargaining agreement must be reworked because they and the NFL as a whole are losing billions due to the current economic situation. The players union counter that the owners are using this as a ploy to demand players take an 18% salary cut. I am not sure who is right or who is wrong, but I do know one thing for certain: the possibility of a 2011 without an NFL season cannot be good for the players or the owners. While the economy has slowly picked up, things are still very tight for the average NFL fan. A lockout might turn off many fans who would decide to save the money they spent for games or spend it elsewhere. I remember the last time there was a work stoppage in the NFL, the strike season of 1987, and not yet being in middle school yet I thought it was cool to see scabs such as Don Strock play for the Cleveland Browns. Now, having gained a few years and a better understanding of how the NFL works, I feel that both an owners' lockout and/or players' strike would not be so cool. If the NFL and its owners truly have sustained the losses they are claiming, they will work as hard as they possibly can with the players to make sure that a lockout in 2011 never happens.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ken Hitchcock's firing a bit surprising, but necessary

The Columbus Blue Jackets, central Ohio's only professional sports franchise, fired head coach Ken Hitchcock today. And while many hockey fans may be shocked at the dismissal of a fan and player favorite, I feel that this move was justified for several reasons. If one takes a look at the direction this team has been headed this season, it does not add up. Columbus was coming off its first playoff season since joining the National Hockey League as an expansion franchsie in 2001, and appeared to be building on that success to start 2009-2010, as they won 6 of their first 9 games in the Western Conference's Central Division. They have since gone into a tailspin that few teams with their start do, falling to five games below .500, last in their division and 14 points behind the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference. Not only that, but the Blue Jackets have lost 7 of their last 11 games, with six of those losses being decided by two or more goals. Sure, other teams in the NHL making the playoffs for the first time in their franchise's history have experienced a letdown the following season, but I would venture to say few have fallen as far as the Jackets have. More than that, however, is that the team never became the aggressive juggernaut that Hitchcock had envisioned. This lack of aggressiveness can even be traced back to the end of last season when, after the Blue Jackets had clinched a spot in the playoffs, they proceeded to lose four of their last five regular season games, only to then be swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. But not everything "Hitch", as they liked to call him in Columbus, did was bad. After all he did lead the team to its first playoff appearance, and he helped forward Rick Nash unlock his true potential. Let's hope that the next coach can take these positives and lead the team to be the playoffs contenders fans have come to expect.