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Friday, September 12, 2014

College Football Week 3 Its Been A While

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I can't believe it's been more than 3 months since my last post! I am slacking indeed. Well, enough about that, it's down to business.

After two weeks of the 2014 college football season, a couple of things have become crystal clear. First is that there is no clear frontrunner in the race to make college football's first ever playoff.
The second is that the Big Ten might be picking up right where the Big East left off.

And as for the continued SEC dominance? Well, if I had my power rankings out now, there would be about five teams in my top 10, no question. But that doesn't mean I believe more than one team from that conference should make the college football semifinal. (But I'll leave that discussion for another place and time down the road).

Speaking of the college football playoff, it appears we couldn't even make to midseason without a little controversy. Appears that University of Southern California AD Pat Haden, also a member of the playoff selection committee, appeared to influence last Saturday's contest between USC and Stanford when he stepped onto the field to talk to the officials. And while both the school and the PAC-12 have formally reprimanded Mr. Haden, I am curious to know what action, if any, the NCAA will take against the school.

Anyway, on to this weekend's games. Actually, there is a game going on tonight, not that it will be much of a contest. No. 8 Baylor romps over Buffalo, 50-10, even if Bryce Petty doesn't play. If Petty does play, then make it 65-10.

In other top 25 action

East Carolina vs.  No. 17 Virginia Tech

Hokies have become my new sleeper pick to make the college football playoff, and not just because they humbled the Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend. Michael Brewer might be the best quarterback no one has ever heard of , and their defensive line is impressive. Plus they have one of the easier schedules in the ACC. Seminoles beware, you might just be facing VA Tech in the championship game. Virgina Tech 48, East Carolina 7

UCF at No. 22 Missouri

Anyone remember that it was Maty Mauk who almost led the Tigers, down starter James Franklin, to the SEC championship vs Alabama last season? Of course you don't, no one remembers the guy who almost got there. But it looks Mizzou has missed a beat, however, as they throttled Toledo on the road last weekend. Central Florida wishes they had Bortles for another season. Tigers 38, Knights 21.

No. 21 Louisville vs Virginia  No Charlie Strong. No Teddy Bridgewater. No problem for Louisville, as they cruise over Cavaliers, 28-13

No. 2 Oregon vs Wyoming  After defeating Michigan State in its first test of the season, the Ducks get a bye. Not really, but this is almost a scrimmage. Oregon 68-7.

Louisiana Monroe at No. 10 LSU  Its been two years since the 'Hawks shocked the nation by beating then No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks. Can they repeat history again this year? Not quite, but the 30-24 victory for Les Miles Tigers is a lot closer than he would have liked.

Tennessee at No. 4 Oklahoma  Possibly one of the hottest teams in the nation right now are the Sooners, and they are one of my favorites to make the playoff. Trevor Knight has a career day. Oklahoma 45, Tennessee 17

No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina  Todd Gurley and Bulldogs expose Gamecocks as the most overrated team in SEC East. Georgia 36, South Carolina 10

That's all for now folks. Be sure to look for my power rankings to come out this Monday

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The NFL and Painkillers: Get Over It

I was going to make this post about Cleveland and Johnny Football, but I've heard about all I can handle on that subject until August.

Anyway, moving on to more pressing issues. As you may or may not be aware, several former and current NFL players have filed a lawsuit against the league claiming they knowingly hid (or downplayed) the after effects of painkillers. The plaintiffs in this case are basically arguing that the NFL treated players 'like lambs being sent to the slaughter' when it came to dealing with issues of pain and/or injury.

As someone who works in the prescription drug care industry, I am warned on a continual basis of the dangers of drug abuse. I have also taken painkillers on a couple of different occasions, most notably for back pain. Yet as someone who is reluctant to take medication in the first place, I have not become addicted to painkillers.

On the other hand, I do know people who have become addicted to painkillers, even if they were aware of the consequences. I am also not as naive to think that the league informed all its players equally on the lasting impact that drugs could have. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if teams failed to inform players sufficiently because, in effect, they didn't know themselves.

But for me the bottom line is that these former players need to get over it. As much as they believed the owners were hiding something from them, they also wanted to be out on the field more than anything. Their whole lives revolved around playing football, and very few of them prepared for a life outside of football. Many people would argue they were as much a part of the culture of violence as management.

So while these former NFL stars sue the league on a question we may never know the real answer to, they would be better served by educating the current generation of athletes. Because, after all, they may be just as guilty as the league itself.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kardiac Blue Jackets Have Made Me A Believer

The Columbus Blue Jackets had just fallen to 3-0 in the first period of game four of the best of seven series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It looked as if their window to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals was slowly closing.

Watching from home as I had done for the past three games, I wasn’t worried. In fact, armed with the knowledge the previous three games were all come from behind victories, I watched the next two periods with relative calm.

The Blue Jackets did not disappoint, as they slowly clawed their way back to a 3-2 deficit more than midway thru the 3rd period. Center Ryan Johansen once again showed a flare for the dramatic, as it was his power play goal that would cut the Penguins lead to one.

Yet there was still work to do. Columbus needed at least one more goal to send the game into overtime, or they faced the prospect of heading to Pittsburgh facing an elimination game. I still believed they could do it. After all, this team has literally faced adversity all season long, and every time it seemed they bounced back even stronger.

Within the final minutes, my best friend and I sent dozens of text back and forth. Such as who would 
be the hero to send the game into OT (I said Johansen, naturally), and also that if the CBJ were to pull out game four, I would get tickets to game six.

As the game entered the final minute of regulation, it appeared that it was over. Then Brandon Dubinsky became the hero Columbus fans were looking for, and my friend and I are of course heading to game six on Monday night.

The outcome has typified what is now a very different hockey club. A few years ago I had almost written off the Jackets completely. Yet now the mixture of veterans such as Dubinsky and RJ Umberger, along with rookies such as Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner—both of whom are playing like veterans—has transformed this franchise into a contender. They are also making me believe that the Blue Jackets—who have established three franchise firsts in the past three weeks—have a legitimate shot to win this series.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Columbus Blue Jackets Must Finish Strong

The Columbus Blue Jackets have made the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. While many see that in itself as an accomplishment, I hope that they will actually win a game this time around, regardless of their opponent.

One of the youngest teams in the league, the Jackets have already been playing playoff hockey. Their wins in back-to-back games against Phoenix and Dallas this week proved they can not only get it done on short rest, but that they don't necessarily need home ice to be successful. Center Ryan Johansen has provided an offensive spark that has the entire league buzzing. And goalie Sergei Bobrovsky seems to have finally regained the form that earned him the Vezina Trophy last season.

But to say the Jackets should be happy just to be in the playoffs is complete nonsense. Unlike the 2008-2009 season, where they had a playoff birth locked up with several games to go, the Jackets had to fight almost tooth and nail to finally earn a spot in this postseason. Should they get swept in the first round, even if their opponent happens to be the Boston Bruins, the effect that could have on team morale could be devastating.

And even if it isn't demoralizing, does that mean I should be happy the CBJ made the playoffs again, only to be swept? Certainly not. This team does have a lot of young talent, but with that comes a bit of inexperience. And I don't necessarily agree you learn more by losing than you do by winning. Because mistakes are made even in victory. But the only way a team learns how to win in the postseason is by getting that first playoff victory.

I am not saying I believe the Jackets will fail to win a playoff game. Yet I think it is our responsibility as fans to let the team know the bar has been raised.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

NCAA Tournament: Tennessee keeps Play-in game relevant

Good morning all, and happy NCAA Tournament. While it appears a virtually certainty that no one will win Warren Buffet's billion dollars, I hope none of my readers' brackets are busted yet.

Today I'd like to talk about the play-in games to the NCAA tournament, also known as the first round by the mainstream media. Previously I have gone to great lengths to discredit the whole play-in round, saying its impact on the tournament is by and large minimal.

Yet since the inception of the play-in round, the teams that comprise that component of the NCAAs have continued to prove me wrong. It started several years ago when little known VCU (a cinderella team to no one anymore) made it all the way to the final four. Fast forward to today, when the University of Tennessee has once again proved a play-in team can make it to the round of 32.

The Volutneers opponent in the round of 64, the University of Massachusetts, may have been wrongly seeded. The Minutemen were awarded the sixth seed in the Midwest Region despite finishing behind both St. Joe's and George Washington in the A-10 (both St. Joe's and GW, coincidentally, were seeded lower than the Minutemen)

Adding more fuel to the fire were comments made by Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who implied the A-10 wasn't even good enough to have 6 teams in the dance. With only Dayton advancing to the round of 32, he may have been onto something. It's just too bad his Blue Devils won't be playing this weekend either.

But I digress. Tennessee not only beat UMass, but they throttled them 86-67, shooting over 53% from the field. The Volunteers may have all they can handle when they play the Mercer Bears(the team that ended up defeating Duke) tomorrow afternoon, but they have a better than average shot of making the Sweet Sixteen. Their key to victory will more than likely be to do something Duke could not, that is stop Mercer's pick and roll.

Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, one thing is for certain: it is no longer passe to call the play-in round irrelevant.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Big Ten Bowl Woes Continue

As an Ohio State fan it pains me to write that the Big Ten has been awful in bowl games recently. (Which is not news in itself.) As a matter of fact I just read a stat that the Big Ten has gone 1-9 in Rose Bowls over the last 10 trips, with their only victory coming in 2010 (A 26-17 Ohio State victory over Oregon).

But if that weren't enough, the Big Ten's struggles in New Year's Day Bowl are enough to drive even the most causal midwestern football fan nuts. In the past three years, the Big Ten is only 4-13 on New Year's Day. In addition, the conference is a mere 4-20 versus Top 10 nonconference opponents since 2006. (Stats courtesy of the Big Ten Network).

So there's absolutely no mystery to why the Big Ten has been looked at as a joke when it comes to cfb the past several years. And to this point the teams in the conference who already played haven't done the Big Ten any favors.

Minnesota looked like this year's Cinderella team, winning 8 games despite the uncertain health of their head coach, Jerry Kill, and a roster that was in constant flux. Yet in there game versus Syracuse they couldn't pull off a victory against a  6-6 team from the ACC.

Then there is Michigan. I will say that I half expected true freshman Shane Morris to struggle mightily when he got the call to replace the injured Devin Gardner at QB for the Wolverines. If only because he was making his first career start on a neutral field in front of a national audience Well, to my surprise (and probably the rest of the nation as well) he performed better than expected, completing  more than 63% of his passes. Yet someone forgot to tell the rest of the Michigan team, especially the defense, to show up as well, as they gave up a whopping 420 yards total offense to Kansas State in a 31-14 loss.

So the Big Ten is now 0-2 this Bowl Season. Based on recent historical trends, that doesn't come as a big shock. So how will the conference fare in the rest of their games? I pull out my crystal ball to offer a prediction (if not quite accurate, however) on all the games in the conference from here on out:

Gator Bowl Georgia vs. Nebraska: Huskers and Bulldogs are both without their starting qbs. Unfortunately of Husker fans, Bulldog backup does a fairly decent impression of Aaron Murray in this one. Georgia 35. Nebraska 17

Capital One Bowl, Wisconsin vs South Carolina: I don't really know why, but I feel the Big Ten gets their first win of the 2013-2014 Bowl season here. Badgers run all over Gamecocks, negating any advantage that Jadeveon Clowney gives them on defense. Wisconsin 24, South Carolina 17

Outback Bowl, LSU vs Iowa: When will the Bowl committees stop scheduling mismatches like this one? LSU is without starting QB Zach Mettenberger, but I just think Tigers have too much speed. LSU 31, Iowa 20

Rose Bowl, Stanford vs. Michigan State: This is going to be a throwback to the Rose Bowl of the 60's and 70s that features smashmouth football, with the team gaining the most yards on the ground winning the 100th version of the granddaddy of the all. I give a slight edge to David Shaw's Cardinal in this one. Stanford 21, Michigan State 17

January 3, Orange Bowl, Ohio State vs Clemson: Well I would like to make an objective prediction but, to be honest, I just don't know. Buckeyes defense (or what passes for their defense these days) is banged up, and without lineman Noah Spence. On the other hand Urban Meyer has yet to lose in a BCS Bowl game. But Tajh Boyd will be looking to send a statement to all NFL draft scouts on hand, and Buckeyes' secondary may be more than willing to oblige. Honestly, this could be a shootout, and one that could go to the team who has the ball last.

I guess the bottom line is unless I am horribly wrong, the Big Ten doesn't do much to help its nonconference reputation today.