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Friday, August 30, 2013

College Football 2013: 5 Takeaways from Last Night's Games

College football season opened last night with a bang. BANG!!! That's right folks, football is back. And while most of you are waiting for your favorite teams to play tomorrow, here are 5 things I observed from last night's contests:

1. South Carolina is a top 10, maybe even top 5 team in the nation, even without Jadeveon Clowney on the field.

Much ado has been made about Clowney, and with good reason, as the junior from Rock Hill, SC finished 2012 with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. But even without Clowney on the field last night, the Gamecocks held their own against the up-tempo offense of North Carolina, allowing only 15 points.

And on the offensive side of the ball, South Carolina seems just fine without the services of Marcus Lattimore. Much will be made in the coming days about Mike Davis' 75 yard TD run, and for good reason. But did you all see fullback Brandon Wilds out there bowling over defenders? If the Gamecocks can get that type of production from their RBs on a consistent basis, and Connor Shaw plays like he did last night, this will be a team to watch. And did you see the O-line for SC?!!! Massive.

I understand it was only North Carolina, but this team is only going to get better. And no offense to the other conferences (Big Ten I'm talking about you) but I'm thinking that only another team from the SEC can keep this squad from winning the BCS national championship.

2. Lane Kiffin needs to decide on a starting quarterback, and soon; his job may depend on it.

I know you guys beat Hawaii 30-13 and your defense looked phenomenal. But there is a reason Taylor Graham is now the starting quarterback for the Warriors, and not a backup on Ohio State's roster(which was plane to see last night).

If the Trojans wish to compete with the likes of Oregon and Stanford for the PAC-12 championship this season, Kiffin must name a starting quarterback and stick with him asap. Developing offensive rhythm will be paramount for the USC offense once conference play starts.

3. Don't put me on the Ole Miss Bandwagon just yet.

Much has been made of the recruiting job that second-year head coach Hugh Freeze put together in 2013. And when one looks at what the Rebels have on paper, it is impressive.

But as everyone knows football games aren't won on paper, they're won on the field. Nick Saban doesn't continue to win national titles just because he can recruit well; he is also able to get the most out of the players he brings into the Crimson Tide system.

So Ole Miss beat Vanderbilt in a shootout last night. That's nice, but it doesn't necessarily mean they've turned the corner in the SEC just yet. I'll be eager to see how they play when they travel to Austin in two weeks to face the University of Texas.

4. The SEC will once again be the Bully of the FBS. 

This is starting to sound like a broken record, much like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. But I just can't see the balance of power in college football undergoing a dramatic shift in 2013. Clemson, however, has a chance to change perception somewhat tomorrow night when they face Georgia.

5. Minnesota put up 51 points en route to a victory over UNLV, but most of the country wasn't even watching.

The Golden Gophers opened the season with a big win in front of their home crowd in a new stadium. But you probably weren't even aware they played last night until I just told you.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

NFL Preseason: Why It Matters

Football is here! The most wonderful time of the year has once again descended upon us all!!! That's right, despite retail store's claims to the contrary, the year's most glorious season, the fall, is almost in full swing.

And while many people will argue that preseason football doesn't count, am I going to give you five reasons why it does:

1. Preseason football is like a job audition for at least 50 players on every team, where many undrafted gems are uncovered on a yearly basis.

Ever hear of guys like Tony Romo, Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, and London Fletcher? You have? Quick, tell me what year they were drafted in and by whom. That's right, you can't, because each one of these guys were undrafted free agents who have now blossomed into pro-bowl type players. And they were all discovered during preseason games. So the next time you tell your buddy 'man that guy came out of nowhere' well, he really didn't. It's just that he earned his spot by playing well during the preseason rather than being drafted.

Side note: For everyone out there who is a Tony Romo hater (and there are many out there, I'll admit I was even one) his career stat line looks like this 64.7 percent completion ratio; 25,737 passing yards; 177 passing TDs vs 91 interceptions. This from a guy who was undrafted. Let me put that in all caps for emphasis: UNDRAFTED

2. Preseason games may not count toward a team's record, but injuries during training camp and games start to pile up. 

The loss of even one key player (such as a Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, or Bryan Bulaga for instance) can have lasting ramifications for a team trying to make a playoff push. But add to that another injury at a similar position and that can all but end a team's playoff chances.

So that is another reason to watch your team in the preseason, i.e, to make sure you understand their injury situation. Of course, you can't help them overcome injury issues, but at least you'll understand why they aren't performing up to par.

3. Stellar preseason performances don't necessarily translate into regular season success, but failure in the preseason almost always carries over.

Of the 14 or so games played last Thursday or Friday, many first string squads had decent outings. But I was interested to see the Patriot's backup, Tim Tebow, struggle in his first game with New England. Leads me to believe that Ryan Mallet may be the backup, and this may be Tim's last stop in the NFL.

4. Its football: what other reason do you really need?!!!

 You have something better watch on a Thursday night in August?

5. Preseason football can mean everything to your fantasy football team.

Like I said before, it pays to watch preseason football, especially if you play fantasy football. Or you don't have to. Just let your best friend watch the games, but don't come whining to me when his team defeats yours for the league championship (and the cash).

Saturday, August 3, 2013

NFL Fantasy Football 2013: 10 Things U Should Know

Hello all, I am back. I told you I would be publishing with more frequency, but you didn't believe me. Now that I have that out of the way, on to the topic of today's blog post.

Today I will be talking about NFL Fantasy Football and the 10 things you might not (but should) know. Like when to draft a kicker, how many tight ends you should consider, etc. Not!!! Hey if you want that kind of info hit up Matthew Berry or the like @MatthewBerryTMR. Who do you think I am, Quicken Loans?

On a more serious note, what I hope to impart to all three of my readers today is a little knowledge that will make your fantasy football experience in 2013 even more enjoyable. Because winning your league is fun, but destroying everyone else on the way to the championship is even better. Kinda like having your cake and eating it too. An expression that is way overused, I know.

So, without further ado, here are 10 things you should (but might not) know about fantasy football:

1. Most fantasy football leagues last 16 weeks,  but most experts make projections thru week 17. It might do you some good, then, to look at how a player performed in 15 games last season.

The kicker here is that even if your team makes the playoffs, how Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers performs in week 17 will be of little use to you. But the experts are all going to sell you on how these guys will perform in 16 games because it may sound flashier.

For instance; take a look at the top five running backs from last season thru 17 weeks*:

Adrian Peterson- 2097 yards rushing, 12 rushing TDs; 217 yards receiving, 2 receiving TDs
Alfred Morris- 1613 yards rushing, 13 rushing TDs; 77 receiving yards
Marshawn Lynch- 1590 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs; 196 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Doug Martin- 1454 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs; 472 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Arian Foster- 1424 rushing yards, 15 rushing TDs; 217 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs

But lets look at each individuals production thru week 16 of the 2012 season:

Adrian Peterson- 1898 yards rushing, 9 rushing TDs; 215 yards receiving, 0 receiving TDs
Alfred Morris- 1413 yards rushing,  8 rushing TDs; 55 yards receiving
Marshawn Lynch- 1490 yards rushing, 11 TDs; 182 yards receiving
Doug Martin- 1312 yards rushing, 10 rushing TDs; 454 yards receiving, 1 TD
Arian Foster- 1328 yards rushing, 14 rushing TDs; 194 yards receiving, 2 TD

The difference between the two sets of numbers may seem insignificant until one takes a second glance. When parsed down to 15 games, not only does Marshawn Lynch have more rushing yards than Alfred Morris, but he also has more than three times the receiving yards. So the point here is that while it is useful to look at the expert projections, it might be a wise idea to break them down into 15 game chunks. Because unless you play in a league that goes all 17 weeks of the NFL season, that is the most you're going to get from your stars.

2. When following fantasy football, it pays to follow current events. 

 You're thinking of drafting Aaron Hernandez because Gronk is out, right? What about Riley Cooper, the Eagles veteran receiver is second on the depth chart now that Jeremy Maclin is out for the season. If you're not living under a rock you know neither of these guys will likely be playing to start the season. Yet you would be surprised how many people still will draft these guys.

3. And in addition to reading expert analysis, it pays to watch preseason football. Seriously.

So I've been in a few fantasy football leagues, and I've picked up a few players based on their performance in the preseason. The first time was in 2010 after watching an unheralded Peyton Hillis bumrush the St. Louis Rams. After Hillis went undrafted and no one claimed him off waivers in week one, I took a flyer on him in week 2. He ended up a top 10 fantasy running back and one of my leading scorers.

A year later I was watching the New Orleans Saints play the Oakland Raiders in the preseason when I noticed Drew Brees favoring a young player named Jimmy Graham. I waited until the 10th round to draft him, which still could have been high, but considering he outscored many No. 1 wide receivers that season I would say he was worth the pick.

4. It helps to know your leagues rules. Seriously.

I have been playing fantasy football for 8 years now, and a commissioner for 3, and it never amazes me how someone will fall victim to not knowing their leagues rules. It could be something simple as how many roster spots your team has, or something more complex like whether you're in a PPR (point per reception league). Point is you won't win your league if you don't know the rules. Before you even draft you should know them. This may not be a pearl of wisdom that you couldn't find elsewhere, but it just makes good sense.

5. The only Cleveland Brown worth drafting is Trent Richardson, and even then you might want to wait. 

Look, I'll admit I am one of the biggest Browns fans in this great nation of ours. And since I've started playing fantasy football, I've dreamed of the day I would win my league with three or four Browns players on my team.

Okay, I just picked myself up off the floor from laughing after that statement. No one has ever said that in their life, ever. Sure I hope Browns players do well enough I can pick them up from waivers. And I also hope I will win PowerBall some day. As a rule, however, no good can come from drafting a Browns player. Unless it is Richardson, and he is your second running back.

6. Quarterback is the most overvalued position in fantasy football.

Remember last year, when everyone was on the 'Aaron Rodgers should be your No. 1 pick in this pass-friendly NFL?'  Well, I don't know where he finished in fantasy scoring, but I do know the guy who won my league last year did not have him as a starting qb. As a matter of fact, I think last year's league champ didn't draft a QB until the fourth round or later.

Point is, in a 10 team league, you're probably going to be able to get a decent quarterback as a mid round selection.

7. Tight end might be the most underrated position in fantasy football.

There was a time when it didn't matter where you drafted a tight end, as long as you had a least one starter on your roster. Then along came Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and others, changing the whole dynamic. Now a top-tier tight end can be even more productive for you than a No. 2 wide receiver.

And with all that has happened to Patriot tight ends this off season, don't be surprised if someone snags Jimmy Graham before round 3. Might want to start your mock draft with the TE at the top of your list.

8. There is more expert analysis for you out there than just Yahoo! and ESPN.

In case you didn't know, I also write for a website,, whose sister solely on NFL Fantasy football. Now some of the site is premium content--meaning you have to sign up for a subscription--but even the free stuff has some great analysis.

Another good website I have run into is called NFLVR (NFL Virtual Reality- and because it has a disclaimer, I also am going to repeat it has no official affiliation with the NFL.) The site moderator--Austin Jordan, appears to be quite knowledgeable, and is eager to provide projections upon request. All you have to do is send a tweet to @NFLVR if you have a question about a specific player.

9. When trying to win in fantasy football, please leave your hatred of the rivalries at the door. Thanks

It makes me laugh when someone says I won't draft so and so because he plays for the Steelers, or I can't draft Peyton Manning because he plays for my division rival. So? Look, these guys are going to play well regardless of how your team does, so why not ride them to a little extra cash (and a championship) in the process?

10. Have fun, and don't take it too seriously--after all it is just fantasy football, and when its over its over.

A great point, and a lesson I could learn as well.  So your best friend beat you in fantasy football. Life goes on. As Browns fans know all too well, 'there's always next year.'

* Stats courtesy of

Friday, August 2, 2013

College Football 2013: Random Thoughts

With the college football season less than a month away, there has not been a shortage of story lines. Whether it is the off season troubles of Ohio State, Alabama's quest to pull off a rare three-peat, or Johnny Football being, well, Johnny in the Spotlight, college football has taken center stage in the summer of 2013. And here are just a few observations from your resident college football guru as summer camp begins in most universities this week:

Alabama's quest to three-peat as BCS national champion will be harder than it looks.

Not since the 1934-36 Minnesota Golden Gophers has an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivison) team won three straight national titles. The Crimson Tide will try to end that drought this year, but it won't be easy.

To even get to the BCS National Championship game, Alabama will have to navigate the tough-as-nails Southeastern Conference schedule. The whole notion that Alabama will play a hard SEC schedule despite not playing either Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina seems at first to be laughable. Yet the fact of the matter is they still have to travel to Texas A&M and play Louisiana State. Add to that they could also see Florida, UGA, or South Carolina in the SEC championship, and I'm not so sure you would call that an easy schedule.

The odds of a 1-loss Alabama squad making it to the BCS title game this year aren't as good as they were last year. I have heard almost ad nauseam how Ohio State(whom I will get to in a bit) might have trouble getting into the national title picture should they go undefeated due to their poor scheduling. Yet am I to believe that Alabama, who hasn't had an undefeated team since 2009 and plays in the SEC, has better odds of running the table than Ohio State, who plays a schedule similar to last year (when they went 12-0)? If two BCS eligible squads go 13-0, and Alabama wins the SEC at 12-1, my money is on the Crimson Tide being on the outside looking in.

Ohio State football, despite its recent troubles and all the hatred toward it, isn't going anywhere.

The Buckeyes have had a rough couple of months, with four players being suspended/removed from the team for running afoul of the law in some form. That being said, the team is still in pretty good position to make a run at the national title. Braxton Miller, in his third year and second under head coach Urban Meyer's spread offense, should show dramatic improvement in his decision making ability. The run game will be fine even without Carlos Hyde, as I expect Rod Smith and company to step up in a big way. The defense should be much improved as well, as the upperclassmen finally understand what is expected of them from the new coaching staff. And their schedule does shake out very favorably, even with the two bye weeks sprinkled in.

Yet despite all the positives the Buckeyes have going for them, there are still those people who want to hate on the program. Many of them live right here in Columbus not far from me. Those people can continue to hate. I will not apologize for what is perceived weak OSU football schedule, as I didn't make it and I can't control it. I am also tired of apologizing for the misconduct of players on the football team. Bottom line is I know the majority of the student athletes that go to Ohio State are upstanding individuals, and whether you know that is not my problem.

Before I go any further, I should also note that people often like to 'dog' the Buckeyes to get under my skin. They like to use past or present results to knock my so-called 'expertise' of the great sport we call college football. Well, I will let you in on a little secret. I don't know that much about college football. Neither does Kirk Herbstreit or Desmond Howard. Bottom line is that anyone can pontificate about who will win the national title, but until the games are played no one really knows who is going to win. Don't believe me? Go to and look at both Kirk's and Desmond's preseason predictions for 2012.

By the way, how does Urban Meyer go from being 'one of the best coaches in the game' at Florida (where he won two national titles, btw) to just a 'fine coach' at Ohio State?  Did he not just lead the Buckeyes to the only undefeated season in the FBS in 2012? Go back and look at the Purdue game. Most people say that OSU shouldn't have won that game, yet had Jim Tressel been the coach in that situation they most likely lose. Heck, even Alabama was in a similar situation against Texas A and M last year and lost, with their starting quarterback (AJ McCarron) in the game no less.

But I digress on to more pressing points like

The NCAA is one big joke.

From Johnny Manziel being able to capitalize on a nickname, to the botched Miami of Florida investigation, to the light punishment handed down to North Carolina, the NCAA has a serious credibility issue. They bring the Hammer down on a school such as Penn State for something that has nothing to do with recruiting, yet the Hurricanes become 'Party U' and they are still dragging their collective feet on the matter. Not too mention that Johnny Manziel could have a secret stash of cash due to his success in trademarking 'Johnny Football' yet no one has looked into that.

I guess I really shouldn't care, as the NCAA as we know it going to be obsolete shortly. What worries me, however, is that some of the same knuckleheads (my new favorite term) who run the NCAA are also the ones that will form 'Division 4' as it is now called. If this is the case, how can we be sure the new association polices its member schools better than the other ones? And as far as paying players go, how will this new alignment be able to work out an agreement that doesn't violate Title IX?

To drive home my point of the ineptitude of the member schools of this unofficial 'Division 4,' let's look at the recent playoff system to be adopted in January of 2015. This calls for the top four teams to play each other in a semifinal format where the winners play for the championship. Yet how are the top 4 teams decided? Correct me if I am wrong but two athletic directors from each of the major conferences will make up part of the playoff committee. How can we trust such individuals, many of whom know that a playoff means a significant payday for not only their conference but their respective school, to make a unbiased decision on the matter? What if one of the ADs happens to be butthurt like Bret Bielema (formerly coach of Wisconsin, now coach at Arkansas) and votes against a team in his conference just out of spite?

But enough on the matter, I 'll let you debate that on your own.

Finally it costs way too much to go to a football game these days.

Many of these schools are charging more than professional teams do to get into a game. And while I will admit the popularity of college football has never been higher, I 'd forgo paying $80 to watch my team play at the stadium if I can watch it on TV for free (or $20 I guess after food and beverages) any day. Especially if I know the outcome will more than likely already be determined before halftime. Hey Division 4, Division $$$$ (what you should rename your association), Nike Football League or whatever, here is another suggestion: actually schedule games that can hold fans attention for an entire three hours.