Saturday, December 19, 2009
December 19, 2009
New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State (8-4) vs. Wyoming (6-6)
Who else would lead off this bowl season? Whoops. It's actually the second game, I missed the first one.
Prediction: Not knowing much about these two outside of their schedule and "tradition," I have to imagine Fresno handles Wyoming.
Fresno State: 34 Wyoming: 24
December 19, 2009
St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef O'Brady's
Rutgers (8-4) vs. University of Central Florida (8-4)
The name alone is proof enough that we have way too many bowl games, weakening the argument that having a playoff system would kill the sacred bowl season. Once we have a bowl with Beef O'Brady as a name sponsor, it's gone too far. Almost as bad as having your football stadium renamed Gaylord.
Prediciton: Big East is better than Conference USA...Dat's all I know...
Rutgers: 38 UCF: 17
December 20, 2009
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Southern Mississippi (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee (9-3)
MTSU made a bowl game. No kidding.
Prediction: No one will care what the outcome is unless they have money on this game. MTSU in a HUGE upset!
Mid Tenn: 28 So. Miss: 27
December 22, 2009
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon State (8-4) vs. Brigham Young University (10-2)
The first decent bowl of the season. For some reason I am not fond of BYU.
Prediction: Three straight bowl losses becomes four for BYU. With an average team age of 26, at least they will be mature enough to handle it...or...Nothing three wives can't take care of.
Oregon State: 34 BYU: 21
December 23, 2009
San Diego County Credit Union Pointsettia Bowl
Utah (9-3) vs. California (8-4)
No matter how you pronounce it, the Pointsettia Bowl traditionally has good match ups, although Jahvid Best will not play in this one. Last year was TCU vs. Boise State.
Prediction: Vegas has Cal by 3 1/2 without Best. I disagree.
Utah: 27 Cal: 17
December 24, 2009
Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl
Southern Methodist (7-5) vs. Nevada (8-4)
June Jones goes back to Hawaii with SMU, their first bowl game since the death penalty in 1984.
Prediction: Hope you enjoyed the beach, this game is a stinker.
Nevada: 52 SMU: 31
December 26, 2009
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Marshall (6-6) vs. Ohio (9-4)
If you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is here to save the day!
Prediction: No one will watch this game.
Ohio: 27 Marshall: 20
December 26, 2009
Meineke Car Care Bowl
North Carolina (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh (9-3)
Funny that North Carolina is the visitor considering this game is played in Charlotte.
Prediction: With the home field advantage, this should be a competitive game. I think Pitt is probably better, but I predict UNC will come away with the upset.
North Carolina: 28 Pitt: 27
December 26, 2009
Boston College (8-4) vs. Southern California (8-4)
I wonder why they don't call it the Emerald Nuts Bowl?
Prediction: It's not the Rose Bowl for USC, but they are young enough to take this one seriously. USC has to win this one, right?
USC: 34 Boston College: 13
December 27, 2009
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Clemson (8-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
Wow! There are Gaylords all over college football, and I'm not just talking about Colt McCoy. Why are people named Gaylord so insistent on getting their name out there? And why are there so many rich people named Gaylord? Is that the payoff for having to put up with the ridicule in middle school?
Prediction: Clemson has C.J. Spiller, Kentucky is hardened in the SEC, making this one good until the fourth quarter.
Clemson: 38 Kentucky: 24
December 28, 2009
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5)
This makes me long for the days when this game was the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl.
Prediction: A&M snuck some good offensive performances in while playing on TV, but they are pretty weak, especially away from Kyle Field. Georgia has a similar type team, potentially explosive offense, not much defense.
Georgia: 37 Texas A&M: 31
December 29, 2009
Temple (9-3) vs. UCLA (6-6)
Another familiar favorite. This one's been going since 2008, and with match ups like this one, I see 2010 in EagleBank's future.
Prediction: This one will put you to sleep.
UCLA: 29 Temple: 17
December 29, 2009
Champs Sports Bowl
Miami (9-3) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
Here's a shocker, Miami is playing a bowl game in Florida. Luckily, Wisconsin is just a stone's throw away, seems fair. Is anyone else sick that ESPN has been glorifying Miami's thug days?
Prediction: I will watch this one until Miami takes control. Go Badgers.
Miami: 42 Wisconsin: 31
December 30, 2009
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl
Bowling Green (7-5) vs. Idaho (7-5)
Get ready to drink and drive, it's the Roady's Bowl!
Prediction: Idaho almost gets a home game playing on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium, but it doesn't help. Bowling Green has Biletnikoff award finalist, Freddie Barnes. He makes the game winning catch.
Bowling Green: 35 Idaho: 27
December 30, 2009
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Nebraska (9-4) vs. Arizona (8-4)
Mike Stoops against the Big XII. Nebraska might have three more wins if they would have played Suh at QB this year. A dominating defense matches an inept offense. Arizona is coming off two nice wins to end the season including USC. They almost beat Oregon. Stoops has a lot more on the line than Pelini.
Prediction: Both coaches are familiar with each other, especially on defense. Look for another patented Nebraska low scoring, hard fought, defensive battle. Nebraska is 1-0 in bowls with Pelini, but I think the lack of offense will be too much for the defense to overcome. Nebraska gets 13 points directly related to their defense, but the offense gives Arizona field position allowing them to punch in two TDs.
Arizona: 17 Nebraska: 16
December 31, 2009
Bell Helicoptor Armed Forces Bowl
Houston (10-3) vs. Air Force (7-5)
Houston QB Case Keenum was mentioned with the Heisman several times throughout the year. Considering he plays for Houston, just getting mentioned is impressive, although Houston has put out good QBs before (remember Kevin Kolb?). Air Force would like to win the Armed Forces Bowl, and only lost by three to TCU.
Prediction: This one should be wild with Houston boasting a great pass offense and Air Force running the option. Houston's Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has done an amazing job with his team, but they don't defend the run well. Against Air Force, that could be a problem.
Air Force: 42 Houston: 38
December 31, 2009
Brut Sun Bowl
Stanford (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (7-5)
OU needed a break from the BCS. After making a case for underclassmen to leave early for the NFL, Sam Bradford and OU spent a season shuffling players around to fill holes left by injuries. There is no doubt that OU talent is far greater than their record shows. Stanford overachieved all year thanks to the efforts of Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart.
Prediction: OU has a great defense and the once inexperienced offense, including freshman QB Landry Jones, goes into the bowl game with a full season of experience. I think OU ends their bowl skid and remembers what it feels like to win after the Big XII title game.
OU: 38 Stanford: 20
December 31, 2009
Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)
Who needs a title sponsor? This is Gawd damn Texas, y'all. How a Texas team is not in this bowl game blows me away. Missouri had a nice second half of the season against some sub par Big XII teams. They also lost to Baylor. Yes, Baylor. Navy beat Notre Dame and lost to Hawaii.
Prediction: Vegas has Missouri the favorite here. If Navy is in the game in the fourth quarter, I think they will win. Missouri could blow them out if they get out to a fast start. Navy's secondary will be the key to this game. I like Navy in the minor upset.
Navy: 24 Missouri: 21
December 31, 2009
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
I can't believe these teams are playing in a bowl game. I can't believe this game wasn't played last week. Who would watch this?
Prediction: No one cares what my prediction is.
Minnesota: 27 Iowa State: 21
December 31, 2009
Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
I love Chick-fil-A. The only fast food establishment that might rival them is Rubio's, which isn't available to most who read this blog. Chick-fil-A has the good condiments and delicious waffle fries to go along with their chicken sandwich. Man, good stuff. They also have fast, friendly service, and they offer cherry coke and real lemonade. I think I'll get some for lunch.
Prediction: These two seem evenly matched. Tennessee played tough defense against teams that were better than them all year and made games interesting. I expect that to happen again in this one.
Virginia Tech: 20 Tenn: 17
January 1, 2010
Auburn (7-5) vs. Northwestern (8-4)
This one just doesn't interest me at all. Auburn was one of the worst teams in the SEC this year, and Northwestern is, well, Northwestern. NU hasn't won a bowl game since 1948, and that makes a six game losing streak. Seriously. 0-6 over the last 51 years. Gene Chizik left Texas to become the head coach in Iowa State where he continued their fine tradition going 5-19 in two years. Auburn snapped him up and he has led the Tigers to last in their division of the SEC and a trip to the Outback Bowl. Why couldn't Texas hold on to that guy?
Prediction: Chizik better win this game.
Auburn: 31 Northwestern: 23
January 1, 2010
Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Florida State (6-6) vs. West Virginia (9-3)
Bobby Bowden begged to play his last game in Florida, and his wish was granted. I hope he doesn't blow it.
Prediction: West Virginia will remind everyone why Bowden is retiring. Scenario two is Bowden loses with a last second field goal that sails wide right.
WVU: 41 FSU: 28
January 1, 2010
Capital One Bowl
Penn State (10-2) vs. Louisiana State (9-3)
Les Miles is an idiot. The Big Ten needs this win. Seems like the right time and wrong place as LSU should show better than PSU in Florida.
Prediction: Les Miles does something stupid at the end of the game, blows another one for LSU.
PSU: 14 LSU: 13
January 1, 2010
Rose Bowl presented by Citi
Ohio State (10-2) vs. Oregon (10-2)
OSU is the only team that needs a break from the BCS worse than Oklahoma. They finally don't have to play USC, but Oregon brings a hot offense into the contest.
Prediction: Ohio State slows down Oregon but doesn't stop them. LeGerrette Blount decides to knock someone out anyway after the game. "Watch out for the right hand, fool."
Oregon: 35 OSU: 17
January 1, 2010
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Cincinatti (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1)
Tebow got a rip in his superman panty hose, and the Gators are not playing for a national championship. Cincy just lost their coach to Notre Dame, and they are not happy. Florida is a heavy favorite. Is it just me or does this seem a bit like OU vs. WVU in the Fiesta Bowl after Rich Rodriguez left WVU for Michigan?
Prediction: Cincy is a team on a mission facing a program much bigger than they are. A win against UF would complete a perfect season for the Big East Bearcats. How do you bet against Urban Meyer in a bowl game? Should be a good game. Mardy Gilyard is the difference maker again as Cincy wins in an upset. We see more tears from Tebow. Happy New Year.
Cincy: 31 UF: 27
January 2, 2010
South Florida (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (7-5)
Are you serious? A bowl in Toronto?
Prediction: USF will be very unhappy in Canada in January, because of the weather, not the game.
USF: 27 NIU: 14
January 2, 2010
Connecticut (7-5) vs. South Carolina (7-5)
Steve Spurrier could use this bowl win. UConn had a nice season for a team that I still can't imagine being good.
Prediction: Better ingredients, better pizza...
UConn: 28 South Carolina: 23
January 2, 2010
AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Mississippi (8-4)
OSU could use a good win, and most will be looking at this game as a measuring stick between the Big XII and SEC. Both of these teams looked bad in their final game of the year.
Prediction: OSU disappoints the conference and themselves once again. Those guys are losers, plain and simple.
Ole Miss: 24 OSU: 21
January 2, 2010
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
East Carolina (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
This might be an interesting game with ECU having one of the worst pass defenses in the nation, and the ability to score on offense. The problem might be that ECU doesn't fare well against major conference opponents.
Prediction: Arkansas wins this one.
Ark: 42 ECU: 27
January 2, 2010
Valero Alamo Bowl
Michigan State (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (8-4)
Tech gets a home game against a Big Ten team without an impressive win.
Prediction: Tech puts up a lot of points.
Tech: 49 MSU: 24
January 4, 2010
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Boise State (13-0) vs. Texas Christian (12-0)
This one should be renamed the Cop Out Bowl. How can anyone defend a system that would put this game together. What a joke. Let these two play teams from power conferences and let's see what they can do. Total waste of a BCS game.
Prediction: Boise State is going to lose for the second consecutive year to TCU. There will be no cheerleader proposals this Fiesta Bowl for Boise.
TCU: 30 BSU: 24
January 5, 2010
FedEx Orange Bowl
Georgia Tech (11-2) vs. Iowa (10-2)
I really can't say I'm excited about this one. Iowa bores me to death and Georgia Tech doesn't play much defense. Both teams have a bowl losing streak to defend.
Prediction: The option that Tech runs will be interesting to watch for two posessions. I'll probably end up flipping around during this one.
Tech: 21 Iowa: 20
January 6, 2010
Central Michigan (11-2) vs. Troy (9-3)
This makes no sense to play this game January 6, and push back the BCS title game.
Prediction: Neither team will figure out why they had to wait until January to play such a trivial bowl game.
Cent. Mich: 48 Troy: 38
January 7, 2010
BCS National Championship Game
Alabama (13-0) vs. Texas (13-0)
Alabama should be happy they are playing Texas and not TCU, Cincy, Boise or Oregon. Colt and the Longhorns offense was exposed by Nebraska and Alabama throttled Florida in the SEC championship. The Heisman jinx is passed to Alabama through Mark Ingram.
Prediction: Alabama gets up early. The deficit for Texas should be worse at half based on the way they play. Texas comes back in the second half and makes it interesting. Alabama never trails, and holds off Texas' attempts at a comeback.
Alabama: 34 Texas: 27
Monday, December 14, 2009
1. Indianapolis Colts: 13-0
What? Did you think it was the Saints? Comparing the quality of football played week to week, especially lately, favors the Colts as the best undefeated team in the NFL. Peyton Manning defies logic with his consistency and no team is better prepared each week. The Colts are never the prettiest team to watch, but they are effective and consistent. 22 straight regular season wins speaks for itself. Indy has Jacksonville, the Jets, and Buffalo standing in their way of a perfect season. Jax might be tough as they are fighting for a playoff spot, and Indy has already captured home field advantage.
2. New Orleans Saints: 13-0
Undefeated. Not much else to say. They should have lost to Washington a week ago, and they played a nail biter against Atlanta this week. They have played better when faced with something to play for other than a flawless mark. The offense is the best in football when clicking, and they have been clicking more than not this season. The Saints have Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Carolina standing in the way of a perfect regular season. Looks like three wins to me. I don't expect December Dallas to compete on the road.
3. Minnesota Vikings: 11-2
Beat Cincinnati 30-10 after losing last week to Arizona. Adrian Peterson looked like his old self and ran violently, scoring two TDs. Brett Favre did throw another pick after throwing two against Arizona, but he led his team to victory with overall solid play. He hasn't fallen apart yet as some expected. The Vikings D got pressure to Carson Palmer the whole game.
4. San Diego Chargers: 10-3
San Diego looks like the team they were supposed to be this year. The Chargers have an eight game winning streak on the season, and have won their last 16 games in December. Norv Turner returned to Dallas last week and coached one of his best games as San Diego's head coach, leading the Chargers past a desperate group of Cowboys. SDs defense has steadily improved and turned in a clutch performance capped by a four down goal line stand starting at the four yard line. Phillip Rivers continued an MVP caliber season, with WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates on pace for Pro Bowl selections. The O line even opened up some holes for Ladainian Tomlinson to get through. Another big game for the Bolts next week against Cincinnati.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: 9-4
Cincy edges two teams with identical records after getting handled this week by Minnesota. The biggest note on their play against Minnesota was Chad Ocho Cinco scored a TD without getting fined. Cincy should only have three losses because of the fluke loss to Denver in week one. Their resume of wins is far superior to the number six and seven teams in this poll, but their schedule doesn't let up as they go to San Diego next week. The Bengals need to find their offensive rhythm which was non existent this week.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: 9-4
Philly put up 45 against the Giants this week to sweep the season series (they also gave up 38). They are currently on a four game winning streak and in first place in the NFC East, but they play three motivated teams to close the regular season. Philly's best wins have both come against the Giants. The Eagles will reveal their true self being tested against San Francisco, Denver, and Dallas. Emphasis on defense and consistency running the ball (and health of ball carriers) will undoubtedly be the areas Philly will address this week in practice.
7. Green Bay Packers: 9-4
It's hard to believe the team that gave Tampa Bay their only win of the year is 9-4. That loss is the only reason I have the Eagles ahead of Green Bay on these rankings. The Packers have won five in a row and are playing with a lot of confidence on both sides of the ball. They seem to have tightened up the offensive line that was so inconsistent early on, and the defense is playing better than they have all year. Aaron Rodgers continues to impress. If it weren't for Brett Favre, he'd be the best QB in the division. Ryan Grant just went over the 1000 yard mark again and has been solid most of the year. The Pack have tough games against Pittsburgh and Arizona left to play.
8. Arizona Cardinals: 8-5
Arizona just turned in one of their worst performances of the year, turning the ball over seven times to San Francisco. This just one week removed from a huge win against Minnesota. Arizona is footballs version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They have two gimmes and then play Green Bay the last game of the year.
9. Baltimore Ravens: 7-6
Baltimore has struggled all year to get momentum on their side but have come up short, playing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Their losses include the undefeated Colts, two to division leading Cincinnati, division leading Minnesota, division leading New England, and nine win Green Bay. QB Joe Flacco has experienced a bit of a sophomore slump, but their run game has really improved with the emergence of Ray Rice. Their D is maybe not as good as in years past, but they're still not fun to play. Baltimore finishes the year with three games that should all be wins: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Oakland. If they are a team that can compete, they will prove it against wounded Pittsburgh.
10. New England Patriots: 8-5
Another rough week for the Pats even though they beat Carolina. It was not too impressive and there are more grumblings about Randy Moss quitting on the team. Admittedly, New England is under the microscope because of their recent success, but they don't look very strong, even in winning. They have lost three of their last five games. Still, it would be a mistake to count them out since they play three games that should all be wins en route to winning the AFC East. That momentum might be what they need for a successful playoff run.
11. Denver Broncos: 8-5
It looks like Denver should be able to win a wild card spot in the AFC, and that is more than anyone expected out of them this year. I don't think an NFL team can make the Super Bowl with Kyle Orton at QB, even with Brandon Marshall making 21 receptions a game. Denver is a scrappy team with a lot of heart, but lacks enough talent to make a splash in the playoffs. Denver plays Oakland, Philadelphia, and Kansas City to finish out the year. The game against Philly might tell us what we can expect from Denver in the playoffs.
12. Dallas Cowboys: 8-5
Another December collapse is well under way in Dallas. If the Boys lose out and miss a wild card spot, there will be riots in Arlington. Regardless of who's to blame, the Cowboys can't get it done in December. Even though Terrell Owens is gone, the spotlight is big & bright in Dallas, and the truth is they have never been as good as everyone thought they were. Dallas can't win this December because they are playing teams better than they are. December for Dallas includes the Giants, San Diego, New Orleans, Washington, and Philadelphia. They already have lost to the Giants and Chargers, they will lose to New Orleans, and with their confidence shattered they will play much improved Washington and Philly. The only thing going for the Cowboys is they will probably have to lose every game to miss a wild card spot.
13. Miami Dolphins: 7-6
The Dolphins have been the most resilient team in the NFL. They started the season losing three straight games and starting QB Chad Pennington. Then they lose RB (and QB) Ronnie Brown who is really their offensive catalyst. Despite this, they have a winning record, and have logged nice consecutive wins against New England and Jacksonville. They are still fighting for a Wild Card spot, but will have to earn it by playing resurgent Tennessee, unpredictable Houston, and reigning Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. Miami will most likely miss the playoffs this year, but management should be proud of the effort of the team.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars: 7-6
After losing to Miami this week, the Jags are probably going to fall short of the playoffs. Much like the Dolphins, Jax plays two tough opponents in their final three games, and one of them is Indianapolis. With Baltimore likely to take care of business the last three games, Maurice Jones-Drew and co. will have a long off season. I wonder where they'll be playing next year?
15. New York Giants: 7-6
The Giants have watched a 5-0 start dissolve into 7-6. They cannot control their own destiny to the playoffs and instead will rely on the Cowboys to collapse. Not a bad plan, the problem is the Giants have to figure out how to win themselves. They play a rivalry game in Washington next week and must win to keep playoff hopes alive. I think Washington will win that one, and the Giants will lose the season finale against Minnesota unless the Vikings rest all their players. There are big concerns at defense for the Giants also, having given up more than 30 points to opponents five different times this season.
16. San Francisco 49ers: 6-7
San Fran took a huge step forward after beating Arizona again, Monday. If it weren't for a bad loss to Seattle two weeks ago, their playoff hopes would really be bright. San Fran's best win against an opponent outside the division is Jacksonville. They play Philadelphia next week in Philly for a huge NFC match up. If they can somehow find a way to win, they are rewarded by playing Detroit and St. Louis the final two weeks of the season. If Dallas can once again fulfill their December prophecy, San Fran could sneak into the playoffs. They will also need help from the struggling Giants. San Fran has not played well on the road, but did look good at home this week. If the passing game can find some consistency and open some lanes for Frank Gore, the defense will turn in a better effort against Philly than the Giants did.
17. Atlanta Falcons: 6-7
After a successful season last year and several key off season acquisitions, Atlanta had high hopes going into the season. Unfortunately, they were bit by the injury bug, and most currently have been playing without QB Matt Ryan or RB Michael Turner. Both players may be back next week against the Jets, but Turner is more likely than Ryan. Atlanta still has a great chance to win out their last three games against the Jets, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay. With a little help from the NFC East, Atlanta could still make the playoffs, but injuries will likely prevent this from happening.
18. Houston Texans: 6-7
Can Houston ever catch a break? If so, now would be the time to cash in. Houston is in a similar situation as San Fran. They need some help from other teams, but they have a sure win next week against St. Louis, then play a huge game against Miami. If they can win both of those, they might control their own destiny against New England in the season finale. Houston is known for being inconsistent on both sides of the ball, at times showing great promise. If they can catch fire down the stretch they may back door into the playoffs. No one wants to face Andre Johnson in the post season. Still, it would take slightly less than a miracle for Houston to get in to the playoffs.
19. New York Jets: 7-6
The Jets' season is over. They lost both games to Miami this year, all but securing third in the AFC East. Mathematically they are still in it, but they finish the year with Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. They will lose at least two of these games and finish 8-8. Rex Ryan's defense is the real deal, but they are still searching for an identity on offense. They have won their last three games, but the wins came against bottom feeders. The city of New York should set up the Consolation Bowl for the Jets and Giants since both will be at home come playoff time.
20. Tennessee Titans: 6-7
After starting the year 0-6, Tennessee made some adjustments and have gone on to win six of the last seven games. For any chance at the playoffs, Tennessee will have to win games at home against motivated Miami, red hot San Diego, and then against Seattle on the road. A valiant comeback by the Titans will fall short this season.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-7
You know things are bad in Pittsburgh when the last place team in the AFC south is better than them. Pittsburgh has lost their last five games including this week's to (gulp) Cleveland. The reigning Super Bowl champs have completely lost their running identity, and the loss of Troy Polamalu effected the entire defense. Like the rest of the league's 6-7 teams, Pitt has a chance to make the playoffs but their road is one of the bleakest. Besides needing several teams to lose, Pittsburgh must win against Green Bay, Baltimore, and Miami. A loss next week to Green Bay will cap off a very disappointing title defense.
22. Washington Redskins: 4-9
Shown improvement later in year, especially QB Jason Campbell. Still too inconsistent to rely on as starter. Good defense. Should have beat New Orleans two weeks ago. Portis injury hurt already weak run offense. Bad ownership.
23. Chicago Bears: 5-8
Interception Cutler! Bad coaching. Players unhappy with management. Urlacher injury.
24. Seattle Seahawks: 5-8
And Hasselbeck is down! Inconsistent run attack. Struggling secondary. Weak offensive line. Injuries. More injuries.
25. Buffalo Bills: 5-8
Trent Edwards is starting QB and hurt. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick getting playing time. Dick Jauron fired mid year.
26. Carolina Panthers: 5-8
Interception Delhomme! Matt Moore starting QB.
27. Oakland Raiders: 4-9
Jamarcus Russell. Al Davis. Tom Cable. Darius Heyward-Bey. Jamarcus Russell. Bruce Gradkowski steps in and gives this team a nice lift, then gets hurt. It's the Raiders. I'm guessing karma doesn't favor their organization. Jamarcus Russell.
28. Kansas City Chiefs: 3-10
New coaching staff (Todd Haley), new players (Matt Cassel), old players traded (Tony Gonzalez), former pro bowlers getting booted (Larry Johnson).
29. Detroit Lions: 2-11
At least they have some players that are fun to watch (Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith). No defense. Rookie QB can't stay healthy.
30. Cleveland Browns: 2-11
They just beat Pittsburgh. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, Eric Mangini, lots of recent player turn over.
31. St. Louis Rams: 1-12
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-12
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The ground is still shaking beneath the feet of the sports world from the impact of it's mightiest star falling to Earth in Tiger Woods. The man who seemingly had everything personified the "harder they fall" cliche for the whole world to witness. Luckily for the New England Patriots, the whole world is still witnessing the Woods debacle and most have not noticed that the NFL's best franchise of the decade is also crumbling. The turmoil in Boston is enough to make any Patriots hater smile as all the infallible, super-human, geniuses that work in Foxborough are scrutinized like never before.
It all started on fourth and two...sort of. It probably started when the Patriots turned over a generation of defensive dynasty staples, losing names like: Bruschi, Vrabel, Hobbs and Harrison. Then, in an attempt to be more youthful, the Pats traded their best defensive player, Richard Seymour, who was a dominating force in all three Super Bowl wins of the Belichick era.
The Patriot nation was full of hopeful expectations to start the season, "In Belichick and Brady we trust." But fans were humbled early when the Jets, led by a rookie quarterback fresh off a GQ spread (see Brady) beat the Pats, holding their unstoppable offense to nine points. The loss was shrugged off as rust collected last year when Tom Brady was injured.
Then there was the loss to Belichick protege, Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos. Just when you thought the hubris of Belichick couldn't possibly escalate, he had the audacity to act happy for McDaniels. Belichick is known for his cold post game hand shakes and his complete disregard for opposing coaches, especially those that once considered him a mentor (see Mangini). His sudden change of heart for McDaniels was nothing more than his ego crediting himself for the Broncos success.
Then there was fourth and two. The Belichick Ego swallowed what was once a human being and became a pulsating mass of self serving brain matter with a headset. After having a lead against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts on the road, the "smartest man in football" made a coaching call that defied a century of football logic (see Landry). The Pats went for a fourth and two on their own 28 yard line with two minutes left in a game they had a six point lead. Four weeks later the Colts are still undefeated and the Patriots are 7-5, fighting to keep the playoff spot that used to be handed to them.
The Pats have not won a true road game this season, winning only in London against Tampa Bay. Good for a 1-5 road record. The Pats are still undefeated at home but have lost the perception of invincibility in December (see Brees). They have also lost three of their last four games, making a deep playoff run look very bleak.
Unaccustomed to struggles, the strain on the Pats is beginning to show. After losing to Miami last week, Brady made comments in the media calling out the work ethic of his teammates. Immediately these comments were deciphered as being directed towards all world receiver Randy Moss. The marriage which seemed to be a perfect match two years ago is apparently on the rocks (see Mcnabb and Owens).
Brady should not be beyond reproach at this point in the season either. He has taken to calling out teammates, but he has a QB rating of 60 in the second half of road games. But Brady is one illegitimate child away from sainthood (see Lebron), so Belichick naturally had his back.
Directly after the uncharacteristic public criticism, Belichick put the hammer down and suspended four players who showed up late for the morning meeting, Wednesday. Among the four players were (surprise, surprise) Moss and former all pro Adalius Thomas. New England was hit with an ice storm the night before and each player was less than 10 minutes late, but the line in the sand was drawn.
Thomas and Belichick have not seen eye to eye since his arrival in New England and Moss is not known to be open to criticism (see Culpepper). He is a model citizen when things are going great, but when challenged Moss has a past of responding negatively and acting out in a way that alienates him from organizations (see Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders). His talent has never been questioned, but his maturity has been questioned since high school (see Notre Dame, Florida State).
Belichick's actions look like those of a desperate coach who is struggling to control a team in transition. His past success granted him immunity in his behavior, demeanor, and coaching strategies (see Spygate), but those days seem to be over. Should the Pats somehow miss out on the playoffs, we will all be witnesses to the falling of a dynasty. Coaches can act in whatever manner they wish while their team is winning, but once the losses start mounting, and successes become fleeting, the personality of a coach will be put under the microscope (see Mangino). The only person less equipped to deal with that type of scrutiny is the aforementioned Tiger Woods.
So what will the fallout be? In the last four weeks the Pats play three teams with losing records. They still have two road games to contend with, but their toughest opponent is Jacksonville at home. If the Pats cannot win all four of these games they are in danger of getting knocked out of first in the AFC East.
A playoff win will probably keep their legacy in tact with the expectation they will improve next year, but if Belichick's motivational tactics don't hit their desired mark the Pats could implode.
That's what I'll be rooting for. I have already seen Tebow cry this year. It would be a cherry on top to watch Belichick and the Pats face the same scenario. Like watching the inevitable fall of Brittney Spears, it would help me restore some faith that everyone eventually gets what they deserve (see Woods).
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
It's Heisman Trophy time again, and this year (unlike most years) the honor has the opportunity to go to the nation's most outstanding football player, rather than the nation's best quarterback. Don't get me wrong, the voters got it right last year when the award was given to Sam Bradford, quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners, but it really seems like you have to be a running back or quarterback to be considered for the Heisman.
An award for most outstanding football player has been given out annually since 1935, and in that time only five non QB/RBs have won the award. Only two of those won without returning punts and kicks, but both played iron man football (offense and defense).
So why call it the nation's best player when the award doesn't give a fair chance to players who only play defense or a less glamorous offensive position. Clearly the best players all aren't QB/RBs. 26 players have been taken first overall in the NFL draft that did not play QB/RB since the Heisman has been awarded. I realize the two don't directly correlate, but I also know that 26 is a lot more than five.
The voters of the Heisman Award are in a unique position this year to actually make history and vote Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, a defensive tackle, as the nation's best player. The stars have aligned for Suh. If there was ever a year a defensive player could, and should win the Heisman, this is it (for any of you who are saying, 'hey what about Charles Woodson,' I am disqualifying him as a defensive winner because he also played wide receiver and special teams).
Let's take a look at this year's finalists:
1. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. Colt led his team to the national championship game after the referees cheated to let a Big XII team advance to the title game. McCoy was absolutely shut down on the biggest stage and Texas should have been beat by a team that barely eclipsed the century mark in offense. He had less than 200 yards passing, three interceptions, and was tossed around like a rag doll by fellow finalist, Suh, to the tune of four and a half sacks. That alone should disqualify him. If it's not enough for you, take a look at how he fared against Oklahoma this year and combine the two games.
2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. Tebow already won the award two years ago. This was his least impressive year as a starter and he did not lead his team to an SEC championship like last year. I assume he was invited to pay respect to his overall collegiate resume, and because the media loves him like a newborn baby. Speaking of baby, let's hope he can keep it together while the cameras are on him at the ceremony. Those were some big crocodile tears he was shedding after getting pummeled by Alabama in the SEC championship game.
3. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Bama is the number one team in the country and he is the best offensive player on the team, usually. He has had a great year, and picked up steam in the Heisman talks when Colt and Tebow refused to take the lead mid way through the season. He rushed for over 1500 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. If I look for negatives on Ingram I would say his team can win without him. He is also just a sophomore, his stats aren't as impressive as the other running back finalist, and he did not seem to grab much buzz that is usually required to win.
4. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford. Gerhart put together what is the best statistical year of all the offensive finalists. He ran for over 1700 yards, but more impressive, scored 26 times. Stanford also has buzz from their wins against Southern California, Oregon, and Notre Dame. Gerhart ran for over 200 yards and scored four touchdowns against Notre Dame. His team did lose games to Wake Forest, California, Arizona and Oregon State, and Stanford was not in contention for the PAC 10 title.
5. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska. Suh was the most impactful defensive player in the country. He has already won the Nagurski award for most outstanding defensive player earlier this week. He showed up the biggest in the biggest games. Suh's impact is hard to quantify - 82 tackles (50 solo), 12 sacks, one interception, 10 pass deflections, three blocked kicks - but it was his dominating line presence every play which made him a finalist. His line disruption and the attention he received with blockers made every defensive player around him better. Nebraska almost won the Big XII with the 11th best offense in conference, averaging 317 yards per game.
Most years a defensive player is a finalist for the Heisman there is no chance he can overcome the statistical power of his fellow offensive finalists. This year should be different. There was no clear front runner the entire year. The media desperately wanted Colt or Tebow to take the trophy home, but I don't think even a PR juggernaut like ESPN can erase the images from both their conference championship games. Neither running back attracted significant attention beyond their regions, and if they had a so called "Heisman moment" that most winners have, I don't remember seeing it on any highlight shows.
If I take Suh out of the equation and analyze the four offensive choices, I immediately scratch the QBs. As for the RBs, Gerhart had the much better year statistically, but Ingram plays for a much better team.
The problem with Ingram is I can't say he led his team to the national championship game. He had a weak game in which he was injured against Auburn, and then wasn't the MVP of the SEC championship game. I got the feeling when I watched Bama play that they could win without him, and did.
Gerhart, on the other hand, was invaluable to his team, but lost four games. In the end, Gerhart was more consistent, and I would have to give him the nod. I have read that he didn't have a bad game all year by more than one analyst. I can't claim to be an avid follower of Stanford football (although I will watch every play of the Sun Bowl). I do know that Gerhart put up great numbers and PAC 10 opponents didn't like tackling the 235 pounder when he was at full steam. His conference has also received praise for being one of the best conferences in NCAA football with five ranked teams, most of any conference.
So now let's compare the canidacies of Gerhart and Suh. When I look at the two resumes the first thing that jumps out is both played for teams with unimpressive records. Comparing stats between an offensive and defensive player is useless, which is what you would normally do next. QB/RBs generally win the Heisman because they play positions that allow them to effect the game in a quantitative way. Offense and defense both contribute to the outcome of the game, but you have to score points to win.
Suh was a force strong enough to get himself Heisman recognition at a position that very rarely gets put in that category. The success of Nebraska's defense can be directly related to his presence, whether it was making the play himself, taking on blockers to help a teammate make a play, harassing the QB, pushing back the line or getting his hands on the ball. Suh was unstoppable all year.
As a defensive player he should receive a handicap in the voting. Was Gerhart's impact play after play as big as Suh's? I don't think so. I believe the edge should go to Suh for this reason. What a great way to acknowledge a special defensive player in a year that has no offensive it guy.
This opportunity will not come around again soon and voters would be wise to recognize that and make the right choice for this particular year. I predict Gerhart will win with Suh finishing second, but it would be nice to have the Heisman actually be about the nation's most outstanding football player. I would like to see Suh win the award for all the players on the wrong side of the ball that were deserving but never considered.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Is Mark Mangino getting fired?
The past week has been rough on Kansas University head football coach Mark Mangino. Allegations of verbal abuse and chest poking, excuse me, "inappropriate physical contact" by Mangino surfaced after he blasted senior linebacker Arist Wright for laughing during a walkthrough prior to the Colorado game, October 17. A game the Jayhawks later lost and one that started a five game losing streak. This incident led KU Athletic Director, Lew Perkins, to launch an investigation of Mangino's alleged mistreatment of players. Fanning these flames is the five game losing streak which will most likely continue this week when KU plays the Texas Longhorns in Austin.
After launching the investigation, several former KU players have come forward and described Mangino as a heartless maniac who insults players with personal attacks. More than one former player has suggested he seek treatment to manage his rage. The issue received more attention than the Jayhawks have for their play, and many speculate that Mangino will be removed as head coach, possibly before the season ends.
What? What's going on in Lawrence?
Last time I checked on the Jayhawks they were coming off of an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, finishing the 2007 season 12-1, and the Associated Press was naming Mangino Coach of the Year. A lot can happen to a football coach at a basketball school in two years, I guess.
Do you know who Mangino's actions remind me of (assuming they're true)? 99 percent of the football coaches in the country, right down to Pop Warner levels. It doesn't stop at football either. There are coaches in every sport that are demanding and verbally abusive. Is it wrong? Possibly, but it is the status quo in a world where win at any cost is the mantra, and fans wouldn't have it any other way. If you want to hear some serious verbal abuse, listen to the fans during a game. College football is big business and hard nosed coaches get through to kids. I am not saying Mangino is justified in his actions. I'm saying he does not deserve to be fired.
The real culprit of Mangino's problems is the current five game losing streak, and 5-5 record. Somehow Mangino managed to spoil Jayhawks fans during his seven year tenure. That accomplishment by itself is amazing. KU is a basketball school and always will be. KU cuts down the net, they don't win BCS games. Mangino taking KU football to a top five ranking is as unlikely as Navy beating Notre Dame two years in a row. Bad example. As unlikely as wings on a pig. Making KU football relevant is a feat that fans would be wise to recognize before judging Mangino's methods.
I imagine someone would point out that we need to change the culture of coaching and preach sportsmanship and education in college. I can't disagree with that sentiment, but we can't condemn one man for the offenses of many. Money, fans, athletic directors and the physical, emotional nature of the sport breed coaches like Mangino. Players who play at that level must know what they are getting themselves into. He might be insensitive, but he has never physically harmed any players. Players who get their feelings hurt from coaches yelling at them are not likely to succeed in football.
My theory to KU's struggles this season is the lack of talent depth, mostly due to the fact they are traditionally not a football juggernaut. You show me a basketball power house, and I'll show you a weak football program. It's the law of the land. There are some years where the two might parallel, but traditionally there is a dominant program. KU plays in one of the top two conferences in college football and is forced to compete with programs that are among the country's best, year in and year out. It's pretty tough to recruit against those programs. The top players coming out of Texas usually don't make it further north than Norman.
You can argue about the toughness of KU's players when you have seniors complaining about being poked when they are admittedly goofing off. It's not like it was done without reason. Imagine if someone hits that player with a chop block, you could probably expect to hear from his lawyer. How can your senior leaders be upset by that? Most take worse from their junior high baseball coaches. Despite his old school methodology, Mangino is still producing babies. That fact is more of a problem than the act itself. Mangino's methods have not been successful this year.
Mangino's antics are wrong but defensible. Firing a football coach for poking a player, yelling at him or insulting him is a joke. You could dig into any program and find the same type of allegations. Don't forget Mangino comes from a coaching tree that has branches all over the Big XII. He is connected and respected by many around the league and it starts with Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Bill Snyder is someone who nobody would paint with the same brush as Mangino, and yet, Snyder played a major role in Mangino's coaching make up. He coached under Snyder for eight years. Do you think he was much different then?
Unfortunately for Mangino, he has no sense of humor and lacks the ability to properly defend himself. His typical response to questions of the allegations is to blame the upbringing and parenting of the disgruntled players. The same type of generalizing that some claim is abusive. That is also not a smart way to attract future recruits. His responses to the investigation have harmed his position more than if he refused to participate. He also has the misfortune of looking like the human embodiment of Slimer from Ghostbusters. Let's be honest. If he was handsome and well spoken this would be a non issue.
Mangino's Jayhawks were ranked 16th in the nation at one point this season. Voters in each poll respect the Jayhawks enough to give them the benefit of decent rankings early in the year. KU fans should realize that is the pinnacle of their football program, no matter who takes over. Just to be mentioned in the polls is an accomplishment in Lawrence. Results might fluctuate, but generally KU fits in the league as a six to seven win team. If a coach can take that program and give them a BCS win, he should be a keeper.
Mangino is two wins away from becoming the winningest coach in KU history. Seriously. He is hard nosed, old school, whatever cliche you want to use, but he has overachieved in his tenure. He set the expectations that will eventually lead him to be fired, not his verbal abuse of players.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I decided to start a running log of the small superstitions that drive my day leading up to a Sooners game. As a brief history of what I go through on game day and throughout the season, I will give you some of my highlights.
I start the the season deciding on my game day outfit down to the underwear. If the team plays great, nothing changes the next week. I wash everything. I do not believe in superstitions that compromise personal hygiene, but the game day outfit does not get changed until a loss, or if I feel like I need to do something drastic to change the team momentum. I would consider outfit the most important superstition. Here is a list of others that I am bound to during a football season.
1. I avoid talking to certain people on game day.
2. I make sure I talk to certain people.
3. I never shave, but sometimes I feel like I need to shave the day before a game.
4. I make sure I am showered and clean to watch the game.
5. I have certain shirts that I avoid wearing to bed the night before (most of them are actually OU shirts), and in really stressful seasons (this being one of them), I am concerned with every article I wear or don't wear to bed the night before.
6. I have a game day beer brand, much like the outfit, when I am watching the game at home. The beer doesn't change unless there is a loss while drinking that beer.
7. I make sure I drive the same way home if I work on a game day.
8. I arrange or build things like beer can pyramids to change momentum during a game. That one worked pretty well 2000 against A&M when OU came from behind to win.
9. I change viewing positions in the house.
10. I change shirts, wear more than one shirt, and when all else fails, I just take off my shirt.
There are several other small ones that I will take note of during the course of the day. Tomorrow's game will have a lot of new things I try because we are coming off of a loss. It should be a relatively easy win for the Sooners in Norman which may limit some of my superstitious antics, but we'll see. I will keep a running log and post the results Sunday.
Friday, Nov. 13
7:00 p.m. I am concerned keeping a log of my superstitions is bad luck.
7:15 p.m. Bite a fingernail and consider it bad luck. Stop biting fingernails.
9:28 p.m. Lose to wife in a game of Popomatic Trouble. Worry it is a bad sign.
11:50 p.m. Move coffee table to play Wii. Make sure I put it back in the exact same place when I am finished.
Saturday, Nov. 14 Game Day
7:11 a.m. Realize it is going to be sunny, consider this a good sign.
10:09 a.m. Realize I slept in the same underwear I wore last week during the game and consider this bad luck.
3:30 p.m. Decide not to change sponge head while washing dishes, could be bad luck.
4:25 p.m. Push myself very hard at gym for good luck.
4:45 p.m. Worry I worked too hard at the gym and I won't have enough energy for the game.
4:47 p.m. Debate whether or not to use conditioner while in shower, decide to use conditioner.
4:50 p.m. Contacts are stinging my eyes and I worry about having to wear glasses during the game.
4:50 p.m. Wonder if wearing glasses will actually be good luck.
4:51 p.m. Deliberate on which pair of glasses are more lucky to wear.
4:52 p.m. Consider cologne options and decide Polo Sport is bad luck, wear different cologne
4:59 p.m. Choose outfit very carefully, taking note which articles of clothing seem lucky. Decide to go with Peterson jersey over Bradford.
5:08 p.m. A friend invites me to bar to watch game, decline immediately (I don't go out in public during OU games unless I am watching live).
5:24 p.m. Wife goes to grocery store. Concerned about her beer selection.
5:25 p.m. Worry again about recording superstitions.
5:30 p.m. Wonder if I should get beer from fridge or wait for wife. Decide to wait.
5:36 p.m. Consider calling Dad then reconsider and decide it is luckier to call closer to game time.
5:50 p.m. Change channel to station game is on ten minutes early.
6:11 p.m. Turn off computer sitting on coffee table. Consider screen bad luck.
6:14 p.m. Decide to get a beer from fridge since wife is still not home. Next play after opening beer OU scores defensive TD. Realize I will keep drinking these beers because they are good luck.
6:34 p.m. Change seat after OU continues to struggle offensively.
6:39 p.m. Wife gets home. Offense scores TD. Wife is lucky.
6:55 p.m. OU turns ball over while FSN shows a cut away story between plays, consider the story unlucky.
7:05 p.m. Game is tight, worried about underwear selection.
7:06 p.m. Concerned about superstition log.
7:07 p.m. Lay down, offense makes nice play. Worried sitting up will be bad luck.
7:08 p.m. Sit back up.
7:09 p.m. Lay back down.
7:10 p.m. Sit back up.
7:17 p.m. Switch beer brands.
7:19 p.m. Consider jersey change.
7:24 p.m. Looks like beer change is working.
7:35 p.m. Worry about taking last swallow of beer during a play.
7:38 p.m. Stand up.
7:38 p.m. Sit back down.
7:40 p.m. Getting the feeling glasses are lucky.
8:00 p.m. Everything is working. Gonna wear glasses every time I watch OU on TV going forward.
For those that watched the game you know at this point the Sooners took control and it became a blow out. I shut down the superstitions once the game was in control. It was nice to see the 60+ point mark cracked again. I didn't realize last week was Friday the 13th, until today. I don't follow any traditional superstitions. Mine are my own.
Well, there you have it. A sampling of my life on a game day. Good thing the game was only in question for a little over a quarter or this would be a much longer post.
My senior year of college I moved into a house with two friends in East Norman, Oklahoma. For those reading this that know Norman geography, it was on the corner of E Brooks and 12th Avenue. I spent the previous two years living in a fraternity house and I was extremely excited to have a place that felt more like a home. Some place that I didn't have to wear shoes in the shower. A place where I wouldn't be woke up by drunk idiots breaking bottles at 5am. Somewhere there wasn't ketchup (hopefully) sprayed all over the walls. Some place I could bring my parents or girlfriend without them leaving in tears. You get the point.
I was very happy with my new surroundings on Brooks Street. My roommates and I took full advantage of our patio, spending hours outside telling stories, laughing and staying up too late. One very late weekend morning (I'm talking 6am late), we heard some strange sounds coming from outside. We all shrugged it off and went to bed, but moments later I heard it again louder than before. It kind of sounded like a wild animal singing. If there were words being shouted, it was only an accident. What was really amazing was the projection and volume of the noises. They penetrated the walls of the house with ease. When I heard it again, I got up to investigate.
I went into the backyard and peeked through the fence and saw a very large man with Down syndrome standing at the bus stop across the street, smiling and singing a song he seemed to be making up. At that moment I felt a very noticeable swell of pride in my chest for that man. He obviously had a disability, but he was standing at the bus stop on his way somewhere without a chaperone. He was self sufficient, and happy enough to burst out in song at 6am.
Monday came and I realized the man I heard singing Saturday must sleep in weekends, after I awoke to another song from Bus Stop Idol, this time at 5am. There was no swell in my chest, but it didn't bother me understanding the circumstances.
As a side note: For me to wake up from someone singing across the street is impressive in itself. For me to wake up at 5am during my college years is unbelievable. For me to wake up at 5am from someone singing across the street during my college years is nearly impossible. Only one of the loudest noise makers on this planet could have woke me. As a child in San Diego I can remember sleeping through earthquakes. An earthquake couldn't wake me, but a gentleman across the street at a bus stop could. By singing. His voice was stronger than nature.
A few days went by and I had not heard my friend the singer. I was relieved when I awoke to him belting out a few lines from a song I called "Happy Day," as those were the only words I thought I recognized.
The following day I was jolted awake again by the thunderous tenor of my bus stop friend. It started to get irritating.
My car broke down driving home from class that semester. While I planned logistics of getting to and from class, it dawned on me that I would have to take the bus. The first day I was at the university bus stop to go home, I saw my friend also waiting. He had a female friend with him that I assumed was his girlfriend. I surmised they probably worked in the Student Union. There is a large dining area there with several restaurants grouped together. It is one of the major hubs on campus. The Union employed several capable workers with Down syndrome to bus tables and empty the garbage. Pretty inspiring to see in action.
As we rode home together on the bus, I noticed he was fairly aggressive with his girlfriend. Not in a scary way, but one that made me take notice and then try not to look back. There was some definite kissing and groping that I would have rather not seen. I realized why he felt compelled to sing at the bus stop. Apparently my friend had a bit of charm with the ladies.
He left earlier in the morning than I did so I never got to see if he would sing with an audience, but we rode the bus home together several times and he appeared to have many girlfriends. I began to see him at work, interacting with his co workers. He was the most popular guy of the bunch. He had a bit of a bully streak in him probably due to the fact he outweighed his nearest male co worker by 50 pounds,easily. The women loved him and the men feared him. I began to refer to him as the King.
The Union had a large clean bathroom. It was spacious with five urinals and three stalls. Because of this, I made it a point to use the bathroom whenever I was there. One afternoon, I finished my lunch and headed to the Union bathroom. I walked in to a completely empty room and went to the furthest urinal from the door. I unzipped my pants and started to go when I heard the door swing open. I didn't look over at first, just continued what I was doing.
I started to hear loud, lumbering steps approaching me and noises that sounded like a wild boar eviscerating a squirrel. There were guttural mutterings followed by snorts that seemed to be wet and over exaggerated. I turned my head to see what was making all the noise and discovered it was the King. We locked eyes for a brief moment and I looked away quickly, getting suddenly nervous. There was a look in his eyes that I interpreted as a warning.
As I continued to go, he walked directly behind me passing up the four open urinals and three open stalls. When I say directly, I mean no more than two inches belly to back.
At this point I was nervous with my pants unzipped, not a good combination. I wonder for a brief moment if he suspects me of spying on him and he picked the perfect time to exact revenge. I have no idea what he's going to do, but I can't finish going fast enough. I felt his breath on the back of my neck and his snarling noises got louder, more impatient.
Just as I started to wrap things up, a couple of guys walked into the bathroom. I must have looked scared. I can't imagine what I would do if I walked in on something like that, but I can tell you what they did. They started laughing their asses off. It was clear I had no idea how to handle the situation.
I didn't even get a chance to feel embarrassed before the King suddenly screamed, DAMN IT!!!! at full house penetrating volume, directly in my ear. That scared the rest of the pee out of me and I jumped like a teenage girl at a horror movie. My hand jerked with the rest of my body leaving me spraying wildly and helplessly. It was quite simply the biggest shock of my life. My heart was beating like hummingbird wings and the hair on my arms and neck were standing on end. A funny tingling ran from my spine to my ears, and my eyes were wide open, unable to blink.
When I finished, I swallowed hard and cautiously side stepped to get out of his way. The two other people in the bathroom were close to tears laughing. They didn't try to go to the bathroom. They just stood by the sink near the entrance and watched the scene unfold.
The King wasted no time ripping down his pants and going, groaning in relief. I understood that I must have been using his personal toilet. I hastily fastened my pants and got the hell out of there as fast as I could, not bothering to wash my hands. I only had time to shoot the other guys a dirty look as they were just beginning to compose themselves.
When I got home and recounted the traumatizing event, my friends thought I was making it up. Then it became a running joke and they would yell, "damn it!" when my back was turned.
I'm sure the King continued to sing in the morning, but I never woke up to him blasting out lyrics again. After I heard the full boom of his massive voice directly in my ear, I became immune to his morning serenades.
We continued to ride the bus together, but I made sure our paths didn't cross much after that. I always wondered if he held a grudge or if it was the urgency of the moment he was shouting about. Whatever the case, I didn't use the Union bathroom after the incident. I felt like he marked his territory very clearly.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
After coming from behind to win a televised pot worth $550,000, poker professional Barry Greenstein uttered the phrase, "Math is idiotic." By taking the short odds to win a massive pot, Greenstein (who is a mathematical genius) contradicted the sentiment that poker is a game of skill. A sentiment nearly every poker player lives by. The idea that a hand can, and sometimes should be played on feel limits the amount of actual skill that it takes to win at poker. This was painfully evident at this year's final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Since its inception, the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas has been the tournament that crowns the "world champion" of poker. Before a camera was developed for a TV viewer to see hole cards, Texas hold 'em was limited to guys in green reflective visors and those that were nicknamed after cities or states. The 1999 Main Event had 393 entrants. Ten years later after becoming an annual broadcast on ESPN, the event boasted nearly 6,500 players (which is even lower than the prior two years).
Texas hold 'em and the WSOP have exploded in popularity world wide after Chris Moneymaker, an amateur poker player and seemingly normal guy, won $2.5 million in the 2003 Main Event. It seems like ESPN has replayed the episode of Moneymaker (actual name) winning the Main Event nearly once for every dollar he made. Soon to follow were internet poker sites, more televised events and the dawn of the poker "superstar," some of whom are as popular as professional sports stars.
ESPN has taken what was once a collection of grainy footage airing late night on ESPN2, and turned it into a serious broadcast airing prime time with production value. The latest and greatest marketing innovation is the November Nine. Now, players in the Main Event that make the final table wait four months to finish the tournament. This serves to create excitement for the TV viewer by keeping the winner a secret while they watch the episodes leading up to the final table. It is as close to televising a live poker tournament as you can get. Televised tournaments are heavily edited to include only interesting hands. For every hand that is television worthy, there are 15 that are about as interesting as watching a banana rot (I should throw that out).
This year is the second year of the Novemeber Nine and ESPN received a gift when the games best and most popular player, Phil Ivey, made the final table. The tournaments have gotten so big that major pros are becoming nearly extinct from Main Event final tables. This year ESPN had four months to market the most marketable player (nicknamed the Tiger Woods of poker) and hype the event. Despite the fact Ivey would be starting the final table with just five percent of the chips in play, he was viewed as the favorite because of his tremendous poker skill.
When the broadcast of the final table began, I felt more a part of the action, as if I was watching a sporting event. There are obviously some geniuses at ESPN that could take a parlor game and turn it into a sport.
I was excited because I had someone to root for in Phil Ivey, and a backup in Jeff Shulman (someone poker nerds like myself would recognize). I always root for the pro players because I am a student of poker and I want to believe that skill can beat luck. I want to believe you can get so good at poker that you can beat the game. Nearly every pro player believes that. They have to. What else would justify gambling for a living? You have to prove it is not gambling.
I still believe poker is a game of skill. I have played and studied the game at a fairly serious level for the last five years. I have read dozens of books by top pros explaining strategy and math for both tournament and cash games. I have played in thousands of tournaments (live and online) and I have logged countless hours playing cash games. I have played poker since I was eight years old with my family. My study, preparation and natural skill have helped me win more than I have lost, but my faith in the math of the game has been severely damaged after watching this year's final table.
Like any semi-serious poker player, I dreamed about winning the WSOP Main Event. Payouts fluctuate, but these days the winner is sure to see 7.5 million dollars, near that amount in endorsements, their poster on the wall at the Rio and poker immortality. It sounds pretty great, but there is a problem. No matter how good you are, it seems the luckiest player in the room is the one who wins the tournament.
Let me explain by what I mean when I say lucky. There were 6,494 entrants to this years Main Event. To outlast a field like that you are going to have to come from behind to win big pots. You are also going to have to win nearly every hand in which you are ahead (which is more lucky than coming from behind once or twice). You are going to have to hit flush and straight draws consistently when you chase them. You are going to have to get dealt cards you can play, and hit flops when you play them. You are going to have to stay out of auto bust situations (like getting dealt KK against someones AA). Most importantly, you are going to have to win coin flips, and lots of them (a poker coin flip is when you are all in with around a 50 percent chance to win the hand, the most classic example is QQ against AK). There is no chance for someone without skill to win this tournament, but there is also very little chance for someone with skill to win.
The winner of this year's Main Event was Joe Cada, a 21 year old online poker pro who looks like he should still be getting wedgies in the school yard. He broke the record (set last year by Peter Eastgate) for youngest player ever to win the Main Event. What once was a test for the elite players in the game, has now become a free for all crap shoot.
Dan Harrington, long time poker pro, former WSOP Main Event champ and math genius, explains the phenomena best. Unlike what you might see on an ad for an internet poker site, he likens the Main Event to a lottery. Every entrant gets a ticket. Some players are given more tickets (based on their skill) but the odds are still against them. When you have that many people competing in a tournament, luck has to be on your side.
I was sick to my stomach after watching the two and a half hour broadcast of the Main Event final table. The two worst players were the two left to battle it out heads up for $8.5 million. Each player took part in putting disgusting beats (winning with the short odds) on superior opponents multiple occasions. You can expect to see a couple of bad beats at a final table that shape the landscape of the tournament, but it was over and over. The best hand never seemed to win. Poker skill went out the window. The player who foolishly shoved all his chips in with the worst hand seemed to get rewarded every time.
My dream of playing in the Main Event has been shattered. I am not that lucky. The old saying, "lucky in love, unlucky in cards" applies to me. In the biggest moments of my poker playing "career," I have been the guy taking the beats. Luck trumps skill every time.
I would still enjoy playing a WSOP event, but not the Main Event. If I am going to gamble away $10,000 I will take my chances playing black jack since I can get free shots of Patron and $50 cigars while I play. It's not enough to read your opponent well and get your money in ahead, you have to stay ahead and avoid someone else's luck.
While the broadcast quality of the WSOP Main Event gets better, the quality of poker played gets worse. We have seen amateurs and unknowns win the championship for the last eight years. This event should not have the label "world championship." The Main Event should raise the buy in to $100,000, or consider calling the $50,000 HORSE event the championship.
HORSE would be a better game to determine a true poker champion because players have to play five different games including: hold 'em, Omaha, razz, stud and stud hi/low. The variances go in favor of the skillful players in this type of game, and you have to have serious gambling money to get involved.
Phil Ivey finished seventh and Jeff Shulman finished fifth. Both were huge favorites in the hands that knocked them out. Skill could only take them so far before they were overtaken by luck. This year's Luckiest Man Alive Award goes to Joe Cada, winner of the November Nine, thus proving Greenstein correct in his assertion, "math is idiotic."
So the next time you get lucky in your home game and someone gets upset with you, just remind them that you are playing like a poker champion. I guess that's what it takes.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It's not easy being a San Diego Chargers fan. In recent memory they have endured Ryan Leaf, a blowout loss in their only Super Bowl appearance (XXIX against the San Francisco 49ers), heart breaking playoff losses and injuries, a number one overall pick refusing to play for them and a city whose lack of support has led ownership to explore moving the franchise. Over the past five seasons the Chargers have made a habit of raising pre season expectations only to see them falter as the team gets out to their annual slow start. This year is no different.
After being expected to be the only team with a winning record in the AFC West, and one of three teams given a chance by the "experts" to compete for an AFC championship (Pittsburgh and New England being the others), the Chargers found themselves 2-3 and three games behind division leading Denver, five weeks into the season. Additionally, future hall of fame running back Ladainian Tomlinson has been ineffective, silencing many who predicted the thirty year old would bounce back after the worst season of his career, last year.
Tomlinson's ineffectiveness highlighted problems with the offensive line. The Chargers became accustomed to excellent offensive line play after winning the division in 2004, a year that saw the Chargers eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the New York Jets.
2006-2007 saw Tomlinson take home the MVP award behind his offensive line after setting several records and leading his team to a 14-2 mark, best in team history. Once again, the Chargers made an early exit from the playoffs being upset at home by the New England Patriots (it was a big upset with the Patriots bringing their weakest team in years to San Diego). The days of a consistent running attack seem far away with the line unable to open running lanes for either Tomlinson, or back up running back Darren Sproles.
Matching the offensive line struggles, the defensive line has also had issues. Injuries to key players, especially Pro Bowl nose tackle Jamal Williams, have softened the once stalwart San Diego D line. The constant pressure and frequent sacks the defense became noted for all but disappeared the first five games of the season.
The Chargers have often been referred to as the "most talented" team in the league by sports broadcasters. There is no doubt they boast a lineup of exciting play makers. Unfortunately, injuries, slow starts and playoff upsets have become synonymous with the team, overshadowing their tremendous talent.
Life long Chargers fans should be accustomed to tempering expectations, but a slow start once again leaves San Diego fans wondering if the end of this year will be the end of an era. An era where, at least, Chargers fans had hope of a Super Bowl appearance. No longer is Tomlinson the core of the offense. That distinction has transferred to Phillip Rivers and the passing game. A passing game that is asked to make up for the inconsistencies of both lines this year.
With an uncertain future, a divisional race slipping away and fans that desperately needed something to cheer about, the Chargers headed to the Meadowlands to play the New York Giants. The Giants organization called the showdown a "one game season," a sentiment the Chargers (and their fans) shared.
In addition to the game's importance, this was the first time Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning squared off after being swapped on draft day, 2004. By trading Manning to the Giants, the Chargers received Rivers and two draft picks that they used to take future Pro Bowl selections, Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.
The Giants had plenty of motivation going in to the game. They lost three consecutive games after winning their first five of the season. This coming after they made Eli Manning their franchise quarterback with a contract worth over 100 million dollars. To add a little more pressure, the Yankees just won the World Series and seized back New York's loyalty less than two years after the Giants Super Bowl victory stole it away.
The Chargers had their own motivation. They were two games behind the Denver Broncos in the division standings and were widely criticized for not winning games on the east coast. More importantly, Manning is still public enemy number one in San Diego where Chargers fans took his refusal to play with the team personally. Rivers, no doubt, was feeling a little extra motivation playing against the team that discarded him in favor of Manning.
The Chargers barely saw the ball in the first half with the Giants eating up over twenty minutes on offense. The game was tied at seven at halftime.
The second half saw the Chargers defense step up holding the Giants to zero third down conversions in six attempts. The most important stand came with a little over three minutes left in the game after a Rivers interception gave the ball to the Giants on the Chargers four yard line. A touchdown would have sealed the game giving the Giants a ten point lead with less than three minutes left.
Instead, the Chargers defense held the Giants to a field goal after a penalty and conservative play calling by Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin kept the G Men out of the end zone. Coughlin has been widely criticized for not attempting to pass with his 100 million dollar quarterback, opting instead to play it safe, run time off the clock and put the game in his defense's hands. A defense which had performed well holding the Chargers to two scores and 14 points.
Rivers and the Chargers offense got the ball back on their 20 yard line with 2:07 left in the game. It took Rivers eight plays and 1:46 to go 80 yards for the game tying touchdown pass to wide receiver Vincent Jackson, his second score of the game. The Chargers did not use a timeout during the game winning drive and executed the two minute offense to perfection. Kaeding hit the game winning extra point after the touchdown.
The emotion of the team was evident after the score. Not surprisingly, Rivers led the way by running the length of the field in celebration. Tomlinson, who once again was a non factor in the game, embraced head coach Norv Turner after the win.
The Chargers are now accepting hop ons to their bandwagon after Denver lost to Pittsburgh, Monday night. They now trail the division leading Broncos by one game.
The encouraging win saw the Chargers answer the critics speculation they could not win a big road game. The team also saw Merriman and Shaun Phillips have great games for a defense that compiled five sacks for the second straight week.
Rivers, once again, proved he is a pressure player with the 11th fourth quarter comeback of his career. He did not have his best day as a Charger, but in the end, he got the best of Eli and the Giants. A victory he would categorize as, "a little special" after downplaying its significance a week prior.
Maligned head coach, Norv Turner, also received praise from fans for his play calling on the final drive. By not calling a timeout Turner was able to create quick strike offense keeping the Giants from being able to substitute.
In true east coast biased reporting, most of the coverage focused more on Coughlin's decisions than the comeback by San Diego.
Wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, continued to establish his reputation as one of the best receivers in the league, catching two TDs including the game tying catch. For Jackson, it was his fourth straight game with a TD catch and the third game tying or winning TD in his career. He also became only the third player in the past five years to catch two TDs against the Giants defense. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss are the others.
Chargers fans desperately needed that win to maintain any faith in their frequently underachieving team. Despite the star studded lineup, the city has narrowly escaped TV blackouts this year, barely able to fill the stadium. The 44 straight televised home game streak hangs like a workplace safety poster at a construction site. A blackout seems inevitable unless the team can keep up their winning ways. With Los Angeles soon to be on the prowl for an NFL franchise, keeping the stadium full is imperative.
Super Bowl chances are slim for the Chargers this year, but one way to maintain a happy fan base and sell out games is to beat Eli Manning. After the win the Chargers sold out their following contest with the Philadelphia Eagles faster than any game this season. Once again, San Diego will be matched up with a team desperate for a victory and should prove to be a big challenge for the inconsistent Chargers.
On the bright side, the Chargers have now won three straight contests and have improved each week in the wins. Starting center, Nick Hardwick, will be back next week after a leg injury against the Oakland Raiders sidelined him in week one. And the Broncos are coming back down to earth, losing two straight after their unbelievable 6-0 start.
Chargers fans would be wise to stay cautiously optimistic. The Chargers have traditionally improved in the second half of the season only to see their efforts squandered with disappointing playoff losses. Sure, the Chargers have some nice playoff wins against the Indianapolis Colts and the other Manning brother, but fans are ready for the next step. Even if they come back and win the division, there is no reason to believe the Chargers can compete with elite AFC teams like Pittsburgh or New England. For that reason, Chargers fans should relish Sunday's win and take comfort in Rivers' 1-0 record against Manning. It may be the best highlight of the year.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Saturday had a strange feel, and I spent the majority of it in one of the most bazaar places an Oklahoma Sooners fan could be during the football season. As a warning to any Sooners fans who might happen to find themselves in Austin during the football season: Stay away from South Congress after the Longhorns play a home game.
The day started with checking my email to find out 18 random addresses from my outbox received a link to success hand bags, mysteriously generated from my account. I did not send the email. I still have no idea how something like that would happen, but it did. I would not have been too bothered by this if it weren't for a couple of embarassing details.
For starters, among the recipients of this email were co workers from my former employer (none of whom I communicate with, and if given the choice between having bamboo shoots pushed under my finger nails, or maintaining a relationship with any of these people, I would choose the shoots every time), a variety of HR addresses from companies I have applied to recently, and one of my mom's friends that seemed quite concerned I was spamming her.
Second, as you may have guessed already, success hand bags, very logically, is a link to an online store that peddles Viagra and Cialis. On the bright side, potential employers now know I am the type of guy who can help with any erectile dysfunction issues that might arise in the workplace. Everyone knows the key to business is to maximize profits and maintain a strong erection. Check in the block.
I was slightly frantic after reading the rest of my email and there were seven hours before Oklahoma kicked off against Nebraska. There was no way I could sit around the apartment all day, waiting for the game, so my wife (Firecracker) and I thought to grab some lunch. The only thing we agreed on before getting in the car was to eat outside because it was an absolutely gorgeous day. We decided to head over to one of Austin's more eclectic areas: South Congress. I have been accused of not taking advantage of all Austin has to offer, so I went along with this plan happily. Due to my eagerness to get out the door, I failed to recognize the Longhorns were finishing up their home game a few miles away.
Before we parked the car, I realized the area was covered in burnt orange. Strange people wearing strange clothes doing strange things. Before I knew it, I was surrounded. There were orange men twirling lassos, orange women chewing tobacco, and orange children firing pistolas in the air while their orange parents cheered them on. It was quite frightening. The sheer volume of orange made me feel like I was in a zombie movie where they just keep coming from everywhere, no end in sight. I felt concerned that I would be swept up in a sea of orange and find myself being carried down the street by ten thousand Longhorns fans.
It was nearing 2pm, and it took some effort to get a parking spot, so I gathered my courage and we decided to endure the colorful atmosphere. I had to veto the first couple restaurants because of the crowd, but we eventually stumble on a nice looking outdoor restaurant with only half the crowd wearing orange, and relief swept over me, calming my frazzled nerves. A sign out front displayed happy hour specials including dollar beers and discounted oysters. I love seafood, and raw oysters is one of my favorite snacks in the world. The place is called Perla's and although Firecracker and I looked a little foolish when we couldn't find the entrance, we were very happy with our surroundings once we solved the puzzle.
After an overview of the menu I was shocked that I had never heard of this place. My wife and I are avid foodies, and we do a lot of restaurant research in pursuit of fun culinary experiences. Perla's seemed to be a restaurant/bar designed just for me. They have a list of unique signature cocktails with some really great ingredients, and the food options include a lobster roll (the sandwich not the sushi), a fried oyster po boy, and a soft shelled crab BLT. I had a slightly embarrassing moment responding, "raw" when the waitress asked me what kind of oysters I wanted. I had not noticed they actually offered around six varieties. I ordered a cocktail made with gin, aranciata, and mint to go along with the oysters, and I started to feel like the day was going to get better fast.
Unfortunately, fast is not an adjective I would use to describe the service at Perla's. Our waitress disappeared for ten minutes after taking the first order, then came back and had to retake the order. Another seven or eight minutes and we had our first drink.
My drink was fantastic and my wife's champagne cocktail was delicious. We began to dream about lives where we could drink champagne cocktails for breakfast. The oysters followed close behind and were the freshest I have tasted in Austin. They were served with fresh cocktail sauce and mignonette.
At that point, I forgot about the slow service and the throngs of burnt orange, and I was comfortable. Happy. We really enjoyed the ambience of Perla's outdoor deck. The contrast of rustic, simple picnic decor and the elegance of our specialty cocktails made for a pleasant moment. We drank slow, enjoyed the day, but eventually were in need of service, and I was ready to order lunch.
My empty drink sat on the edge of the table for another ten minutes or so before our waitress graced us with service. I would have considered complaining, but the table next to ours, and the one behind us, already had. At one point while groaning incredulously to Firecracker, she said, "quit digging your heels in, and enjoy the ride." I decided this was good advice and regained my composure, finding joy in our current circumstance.
I ordered the soft shelled crab BLT and a cocktail with grilled Meyer lemon and thyme infused vodka, honey liqueur, and iced tea. Kind of an artisan Arnold Palmer with alcohol. Maybe they should call it a John Daly, ha (I'll be here all week, folks). After several minutes our waitress sheepishly came back to our table and retook our order.
To say something positive, at least she was consistent.
The drinks eventually came, and even though there was no sign of the food, I remained surprisingly patient. I sipped my drink and made fun of the people walking around. South Congress is definitely good for people watching. After spotting a group of four people decked out in retro 80s clothing and hairstyles, Firecracker tried to convince me that look is currently "in style." One guy actually was wearing a Frankie Goes to Hollywood shirt adorned with the words, "RELAX" on the front and "DON'T DO IT" on the back. I argued that cliche is never in style, and the group looked like they were going to an 80s party.
My drink was almost finished when our waitress came to assure me the food was on its way. When the food came, Firecracker and I took advantage of the attention, and ordered dollar beers.
The sandwich was out of this world! It was served on thick cut Texas toast that was perfectly crusty and buttery. The soft shelled crab was huge, and legs were jutting out of the toast which was lightly covered in lemon mayo. A thin layer of greens was topped with ripe tomato slices and thick cut bacon. It was served alongside herbed french fries. I actually wanted the daikon slaw, but I forgot to mention this while I ordered. Once again, the quality of the food eclipsed the awful service and I wondered how often I could come back for that sandwich without it being considered excessive.
We enjoyed dollar beers while the sun went down and swallowed us in red and orange. Firecracker decided she wanted to get a piece of pizza from Homeslice that was across the street, so it was time for the check. Predictably, our waitress was no where to be found, and had been missing for at least 30 minutes. We discussed the ethical conundrum of walking out on a check if the server is not around to bring it to you. We both agreed we are not the type of people who could do this, so Firecracker went in search of the waitress.
Perla's has upscale prices to match its upscale menu, but you really get what you pay for. The atmosphere was very relaxing and comfortable. The food and drinks were thoughtful with wonderful attention to detail.
The service was deplorable.
I believe I will be back and hope for better service because everything else about Perla's was enjoyable. It is tough to believe our experience was normal considering the attention given to cuisine and atmosphere.
After dinner we walked over to Homeslice where Firecracker ordered a piece of pizza at the walk up window. I was again obsessed with the volume of burnt orange and referred to the area as "spooky." Taking a cue from this, Firecracker shouted "BOO!" to a passing group of Longhorns as we walked to our car. There is something so funny about a 22 year old man in a burnt orange shirt jumping out of his skin, in fear of my wife. I realized at that point I had someone with me more spooky than the locals and I calmed down.
Unfortunately, the strange day had a strange end when OU lost to Nebraska that night. Most of my friends find my superstitious behavior with OU football humorous, but I felt like I knew the game was headed for disaster based on the way the day worked out. I don't think, as a Sooner, spending your game day in the middle of happy Longhorns fans is a good thing, even if the food and drink is fabulous. Perhaps our waitress was really encouraging me to leave with her poor service because she was actually looking out for my best interests. I am going to choose to believe this because I am already looking forward to my next soft shelled crab BLT. It just won't be on a game day.