Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
2. Texas (11-0)-- Got a scare from A&M. (LW 2)
3. Penn St. (10-1)-- DNP. (LW 3)
4. Virginia Tech (10-1)-- On to Jacksonville. (LW 4)
5. Louisiana St. (10-1)-- Got all they could handle from Arkansas. (LW 5)
6. Miami (9-2)-- Sleepwalked against the Cavs. (LW 6)
7. Ohio St. (9-2)-- DNP. (LW 7)
8. Auburn (9-2)-- DNP. (LW 8)
9. Oregon (10-1)-- DNP. Anxiously waiting for Notre Dame to steal their BCS bid. (LW 9)
10. UCLA (9-1)-- DNP. Get the Trojans this week. (LW 10)
11. Notre Dame (9-2)-- Won at Stanford by 7. Oregon won at Stanford by 24. I'm just saying. (LW 11)
12. Georgia (9-2)-- The game against Georgia Tech requires 'futher review'. (LW 12)
13. Alabama (9-2)-- DNP. (LW 13)
14. West Virginia (9-1)-- Thankfully, they clinched the BCS bid after South Florida lost Saturday. (LW 14)
15. TCU (10-1)-- DNP. (LW 15)
16. Louisville (8-2)-- Close the season with a tough game at Connecticut. (LW 18)
17. Michigan (7-4)-- DNP. (LW 19)
18. Wisconsin (9-3)-- Took care of business at Hawaii. (LW 21)
19. Florida (8-3)-- Beat down an impotent Florida State team. (LW 23)
20. Texas Tech (9-2)-- DNP. (LW 22)
21. Oklahoma (7-4)-- They'll be back next year. (LW NR)
22. Boston College (8-3)-- DNP. (LW NR)
23. Iowa (7-4)-- DNP. (LW NR)
24. Fresno St. (8-3)-- For all their non-conference accolades, still can't win an outright WAC title. (LW 16)
25. Clemson (7-4)-- DNP. (LW NR)
Teams with losing records that will be in the Top 25 next season:
Arkansas (4-7): A 4 point loss to Vandy, 3 point loss to Georgia, 4 point loss to South Carolina, and a 2 point loss to LSU, as well as stud freshman running back Darren McFadden and improving freshman quarterback Casey Dick portend good things in Razorbacks' future.
Texas A&M (5-6): I liked what I saw from freshman quarterback Stephen McGee in the Texas game.
Pittsburgh (5-6): Despite starting the season 1-4 (including a devastating loss to Ohio), the Panthers nearly rebounded to become bowl-eligible.
Purdue (5-6): Won their last 3 after starting 2-6. Joe Tiller won't have many losing seasons.
SMU (5-6): I can't name a single player on the team, but I do know the Mustangs defeated 3 teams with winning records (TCU, UTEP, and Houston) and won 5 games for the first time since 1998. Here's hoping the Pony Express has turned a corner under coach Phil Bennett.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
When Meyer arrived at Bowling Green in 2001, he inherited a team that had gone 2-9 the previous season and scored an average of 15.8 points per game. His 2001 squad finished 8-3 and averaged 30.3 points per game. Meyer clearly defibrillated a pulse-less offense in his first year, but it was in his 2nd season when Bowling Green would make a complete recovery. His 2002 team finished 9-3 and averaged 40.8 points per game. Some highlights from the year included hanging 51 on the Big 12’s Missouri and dropping a cool 72 on Ohio. In his two years at the helm, Meyer’s defenses were never spectacular (they allowed 19.5 points per game in 2001 and 25.3 points per game in 2002), so it was primarily his offensive philosophy and expertise that won games.
After the 2002 season, Meyer left Bowling Green and headed west for the University of Utah. The Runnin’ Utes were coming off a season where they had gone 5-6 and scored 22.6 points per game. In Meyer’s first season they finished 10-2 and averaged 28.7 points per game. However, once again it was in Meyer’s 2nd season when his offense began to roll. His 2004 team finished 12-0 and averaged 45.3 points per game. They dropped big numbers on bowl-bound BCS teams: 41 on Texas A&M, 46 on North Carolina, and 35 on Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. Similar to his defenses at Bowling Green, at Utah they were solid, but not spectacular. His teams allowed 19.1 points per game in 2003 and 19.5 points per game in 2004.
In this, his first season at Florida, Meyer inherited a team that went 7-5 and averaged 31.8 points per game. This season, Meyer’s team is currently 8-3 and averages 28.4 points per game. For all the flak Meyer has taken, and no matter what happens in the bowl game, Florida will have a better record this season than last. Florida lost to a top-10 Alabama team when they still had Tyrone Prothro (and some semblance of offensive fortitude), a top-5 LSU team, and to an admitted mediocre South Carolina team, all on the road. However, Florida avoided a truly terrible loss that cost Ron Zook his job last year (Mississippi State). They even added an upset of Georgia for good measure and defeated their other two main rivals, Tennessee and Florida State. This marked the first time they pulled this particular hat-trick since 1996. Even though this season may be seen as a disappointment by some college football observers and Florida alumni, Florida is a better team under Urban Meyer. Furthermore, judging by Meyer’s track record, Florida’s offense should improve dramatically in his 2nd year at the helm. Look for the 2006 Gators to be the team most thought the 2005 squad would be.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Atlanta at Detroit: Isn't it ironic that in Atlanta's last 2 games, Michael Vick has had his best passing days of the year and yet his team has lost both? Why aren't his 'intangibles' winning those games?
Denver at Dallas
New England at Kansas City: Two good quarterbacks against two banged up secondaries. I'll go with the home team and the better running attack.
Winner: Kansas City
Carolina at Buffalo
Baltimore at Cincinnati
San Diego at Washington
Winner: San Diego
Chicago at Tampa Bay
Winner: Tampa Bay
Cleveland at Minnesota
San Francisco at Tennessee
St. Louis at Houston
Winner: St. Louis
Jacksonville at Arizona
Miami at Oakland
Green Bay at Philadelphia
New York Giants at Seattle
New Orleans at New York Jets
Winner: New York Jets
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Hawaii: They routed Michigan State by 22 on Saturday. However, as Ken Pomeroy (the Bill James of college hoops) points out, Hawaii has one of, if not the largest homefield advantage in the nation. Case in point: The Rainbows lost on the road to a UNLV team that is mediocre at best. Until they start winning consistently on the mainland, they will fade from our collective memory faster than Bob Patterson.
Winthrop: Over the weekend, the Eagles stormed into Milwaukee and won the tourney hosted by Marquette (highlighted by a 7 point win over the host in the final). Historically, the Big South winner has gotten no higher than a 13 seed, and is typically given the kiss of death 15 or 16 seed. However, if Winthrop can roll through the Big South rather easily, they could be in line for perhaps a 12 or maybe even an 11 seed if they catch some breaks. Should they lose in the conference tourney, an at-large bid is an almost impossibility, but Winthrop will have their chance to impress the selection committee with remaining non-conference games at Alabama, South Carolina, Auburn, and Memphis.
CS Northridge: The Matadors upset Southern Cal in OT on Sunday and kept their momentum going by squeaking by Tulsa last night. The Trojans may not be the class of the Pac 10, but a win on the road against a school from a big time conference is nothing to dismiss. With Utah State out of the Big West, and with Pacific hit by graduation, perhaps the Matadors will step up and take the conference crown.
UC Irvine: Another Big West school that pulled off a Pac 10 shocker over the weekend. The Anteaters won at Stanford on Saturday. They already have one loss (their first game against George Mason), but they have to be mentioned with CS Northridge when discussing the Big West's early season favorites.
Sam Houston State: In what was likely simply an early season slip-up, the Missouri Tigers lost a home game to a low-major school on November 14th. Sam Houston could not continue their momentum as they lost on the road to a solid Drexel team 3 days later. However, even in the loss, they acquitted themselves quite well. Garnering an at-large bid or even a decent seed out of their conference is a monumental task. Although they could very well pull a General Sherman and dominate the Southland.
Colorado State: On Monday, the Rams butted their way to a one-point home upset of in-state rival Colorado. This is probably the least impressive of the early season shockers since it was at home to an in-state rival. I have nothing more to say. Stay tuned.
Bucknell: 2nd verse, same as the first. The Bison, last seen shocking 3rd seeded Kansas 8 months ago, shocked Syracuse in the Dome last night. While the Patriot Act is intrusive and downright un-American, the Patriot League is something Washington, Lincoln, and maybe even Jefferson could get behind.
Monday, November 21, 2005
2. Texas (10-0)-- Only A&M and the Big 12 championship game stand between them and a Rose Bowl date. (LW 2)
3. Penn St. (10-1)-- Congrats Jo Pa. (LW 4)
4. Virginia Tech (9-1)-- Dominated the Cavs in Charlottsville. (LW 5)
5. Louisiana St. (9-1)-- Arkansas is their last hurdle to an SEC West title. (LW 6)
6. Miami (8-2)-- Probably blew a BCS bid with the loss to Georgia Tech. (LW 3)
7. Ohio St. (9-2)-- Tressel the anti-John Cooper. (LW 7)
8. Auburn (9-2)-- Pulling hard for the Hogs this week. (LW 12)
9. Oregon (10-1)-- Won last 3 games without Clemens. (LW 10)
10. UCLA (9-1)-- Still waiting on the Trojans. (LW 11)
11. Notre Dame (8-2)-- Don't deserve a BCS bid. (Lw 9)
12. Georgia (8-2)-- SEC East champs. (LW 13)
13. Alabama (9-2)-- Season definitely lost its luster. (LW 8)
14. West Virginia (8-1)-- Moving up by default. (LW 15)
15. TCU (10-1)-- Ditto. (LW 16)
16. Fresno St. (8-2)-- No shame in the way they played the Trojans. In fact, if you figure homefield is worth 3 points then they actually performed better than the Irish. However, they will get about 1/10 the media attention. (LW 17)
17. Iowa St. (7-3)-- Tough game this week at Kansas. (LW 18)
18. Louisville (7-2)-- Get the 'Cuse at home this week. (LW 20)
19. Michigan (7-4)-- Carr stuck in neutral against Tressel. (LW 14)
20. Colorado (7-3)-- If they beat Nebraska, they win the Big 12 North. (LW 23)
21. Wisconsin (8-3)-- Spend the holidays in Hawaii. (LW NR)
22. Texas Tech (9-2)-- Worst 9-win team ever? (LW NR)
23. Florida (7-3)-- Close with a big rivalry game. (LW 21)
24. Florida St. (7-3)-- Chance to have 5 losses when they go bowling! (LW 22)
25. Georgia Tech (7-3)-- Didn't see that one coming. (LW NR)
Oklahoma (6-4): Got the shaft against the Red Raiders.
UTEP (8-2): Still have work to do.
Boston College (8-3): How did they lose to North Carolina?
South Carolina (7-4): Proof once and for all that winning close games ain't a matter of skill.
Clemson (7-4): Tommy owns Carolina.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Last Tuesday, the architect of one of the greatest turnarounds in NCAA football history announced he would be coaching his last game on Saturday. In a Gipper-esque game that could not have been scripted any better by Hollywood, Bill Snyder went out a winner against Missouri. He gave a speech, hugged Willie the Wildcat, and was carried off the field by his players. The last 2 seasons have been disappointing in Manhattan, but that should not detract from the job Snyder has done since taking over the moribund program in 1989. I fell in love with Kansas State in the early to mid-90’s; probably around 1994. Being a Wake Forest football fan, I needed another team to root for during college football season. Being a fan of sports history even then, I was drawn to this team that had once been terrible and was now stomping on the throats of the bullies who formerly took their lunch money. I suppose deep down, the real reason I rooted so hard for Kansas State was that if it could be done in Manhattan, Kansas, it could be done in Winston-Salem.
When Snyder arrived on campus in 1989, after serving as Hayden Fry’s offensive coordinator for 10 seasons at Iowa, the Wildcats were coming off consecutive winless seasons (0-11 in 88 and 0-10-1 in 87). They had gone to one bowl game in their history, an appearance in the Independence Bowl in 1982. Besides 1982, their last season with a winning record was 1970. Their previous (and only) conference championship had come in 1934 under head coach ‘Pappy’ Waldorf. Waldorf only coached the team for the 1934 season, and after his departure the highest career winning percentage for a Kansas State coach was .467 by his successor Wesley Fry. Kansas State also had the worst historical winning percentage of any Division I team in 1989. Worse than Rutgers, worse than Northwestern, worse than Vanderbilt, worse than Wake Forest, worse than Temple,… etc. To say he was walking into a less-than enviable position would be an understatement.
His 1989 team didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Their only victory was over North Texas, a team that was not Division I at the time. They also lost to non-Division I Northern Iowa and finished 0-7 in the Big 8 Conference. In 1990, the Wildcats improved to 5-6. In the process, they won their first conference game since 1986 as they finished 2-5 in Big 8 play. 1991 was Kansas State’s breakthrough season. The team finished the season on a 3 game winning streak and had a final record of 7-4 (they did not play in a bowl game since 2 of their wins were over non-Division I teams at the time). They also posted a winning record (4-3) in Big 8 play. In 1992, the team was hit hard by graduation and took a step back finishing at 5-6. 1993 marked the beginning of more than a decade of excellence. Kansas State finished 9-2-1 and won the first bowl game in the program’s history. Kansas State would go on to win no fewer than 9 games every season until 2001 and appear in a bowl game every year until 2004. The zenith of Kansas State’s success occurred between 1997-2000. During those 4 seasons, the Wildcats won 11 games each year and finished with a combined record of 44-7. They won 3 bowl games, 2 Big 12 North titles, and at one point in 1998 were ranked number one in the nation. 2001 saw the Wildcats regress to 6-6, but they rebounded the next two seasons winning 11 games in both 2002 and 2003. The 2003 season was special for several reasons. Kansas State beat Nebraska in Lincoln for the first time since 1968. Then on December 6th, they upset top ranked Oklahoma to win the Big 12 championship. This was Kansas State’s first conference title since 1934.
Snyder has been roundly criticized for his charmin-esque non-conference scheduling. Although he has scheduled his fair share of North Texases and New Mexico States, his teams have played some solid non-conference games in recent years including Fresno State, Cal, Marshall, Southern Cal, and Iowa. In fact, Kansas State is the last non-Pac 10 team to defeat Southern Cal. In fact they own a 2 game winning streak over the Trojans having beaten them in 2001 and 2002.
Clearly, Bill Snyder is a Hall-of-Fame coach. He did more than resurrect a downtrodden program, he built it in his own image. He is a meticulous hand-on coach who goes so far as to make his players set their watches 5 minutes ahead so they will always be on time. During the season he sleeps about 5 hours per night and burns the midnight oil breaking down film. His numbers speak to his success. His lifetime record is 136-68-1. In conference play it is still a stellar 75-53-1. Furthermore, many of his assistants have gone on to become successful head coaches. Among them are Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, and Mark Mangino. He may never have won a national championship, but then neither did Bo Schembechler. I’ll close this piece with some praise from the immortal Barry Switzer. While he may not know much about airport security, he does know football. "Bill Snyder isn't the coach of the year, and he isn't the coach of the decade, he's the coach of the century."
Arizona at St. Louis
Winner: St. Louis
Detroit at Dallas
Philadelphia at New York Giants
Winner: New York Giants
Oakland at Washington
Carolina at Chicago
Miami at Cleveland: South Florida team outside in the cold.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Winner: Tampa Bay
New Orleans at New England
Winner: New England
Jacksonville at Tennessee
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Seattle at San Francisco
Indianapolis at Cincinnati: Indy remains undefeated for 1 more week.
New York Jets at Denver
Buffalo at San Diego
Winner: San Diego
Kansas City at Houston
Winner: Kansas City
Minnesota at Green Bay: Unless the Vikes get 3 returns for TDs, the Pack rolls.
Winner: Green Bay
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Virginia Tech at Virginia
The Hokies have not played since their humbling at the hands of Miami 2 weeks ago. The Cavs are undefeated at home and looking to improve their bowl-standing by knocking off the highly-ranked Hokies. The Hokies have won 5 of the last 6 in the series and will continue their psuedo-dominance today.
Winner: Virginia Tech
Ohio State at Michigan
The Buckeyes have beaten every team they have played that has been either bad, average, or good. However, they have not been able to break through against the truly elite teams (Penn State and Texas). So what kind of team is Michigan? Are they elite? Let's examine their losses. The Notre Dame loss appears to be an aberration as several trips inside the 10 resulted in no points. In the Wisconsin loss, they outgained the Badgers by over 100 yards and were unable to recover any of Wisconsin's 3 fumbles (teams recover about half of their own and opponent's fumbles). Against Minnesota, Gary Russell scampered 61 yards to set up the winning field goal when the Gophers were playing for overtime. Since that Minnesota loss, Michigan has won 4 straight (including a win over Penn State). Despite their 3 losses, Michigan is a very good team and they will TCB at home.
Alabama at Auburn
Last week, the Tides defense almost single handedly won the game against LSU. Meanwhile, Auburn went between the hedges and knocked off Georgia in the closing seconds. Thus, it is almost assured that the SEC West winner will grab the conferences BCS berth. However, the winner of this game may not be the West winner thanks to LSU's victories over both teams. Auburn is riding a hot streak and playing at home while 'Bama's offense remains impotent.
Clemson at South Carolina
Gamecock fans are absolutely delirious nowadays thanks to their recent success under Steve Spurrier. However, it should be noted that the SEC East is down this year. Spurrier's marquee wins have been at home over 7-3 Florida, at home against 7-3 Central Florida, and on the road against 4-5 Tennessee. The combined margin of victory in those games is 18 points, meaning Carolina has hardly been blowing good teams away. Despite their 4 losses, Clemson is a good team. Their 4 losses have been by a combined 14 points, and 3 of the losses have come against winning teams. If there is one difference between the 2 schools its this: Carolina almost never loses to a team it should beat, and until this year almost never beats a team it should lose to. Clemson on the other hand, may lose some games to a team it should beat (Wake Forest), but often balances it out by beating a team it shouldn't (Florida State). Carolina is consistent. Clemson is not. In a one-on-one matchup, I'll take the inconsistent team with better talent. Besides Sidney Rice and Ko Simpson (and Steve Spurrier), there is not a single player on Carolina that I would take over their Clemson counterpart.
Fresno State at Southern Cal
This is Fresno's chance to elevate their program to a new level. Knocking off the 2-time defending champs in their own backyard would be a monumental upset. Fresno State will keep the game close for a half, but Southern Cal is simply too talented to lose at home to a mid-major foe.
Winner: Southern Cal
Oregon State at Oregon
If the Ducks can knock off the Beavs in the Civil War, they will be 10-1 and have an outside shot at a BCS bid. The Beavs need to win this game just to become bowl eligible. Since losing their quarterback Kellen Clemens against Arizona, Oregon has squeaked by Cal and Washington State. That trend will continue as they do just enough to beat their bitter rivals and conclude a 10-1 regular season.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
2. Texas (10-0)-- Scored 52 on a good Kansas defense... in the first half. (LW 2)
3. Miami (8-1)-- After falling behind 17-13 to Wake, did not give up another point. (LW 3)
4. Penn St. (9-1)-- Finish a spectacular regular season at East Lansing. (LW 5)
5. Virgina Tech (8-1)-- Rivalry game at Virgina upcoming. (LW 7)
6. Louisiana St. (8-1)-- Beating this version of Alabama not as impressive since their offense is stuck in the 19th Century. (LW 9)
7. Ohio St. (8-2)-- As always, the Michigan game is huge. (LW 8)
8. Alabama (9-1)-- If they lose to Auburn, could go from Rose Bowl hopeful to Citrus Bowl participant in 8 day span. (LW 4)
9. Notre Dame (7-2)-- The dominance over Navy continues. (LW 10)
10. Oregon (9-1)-- Another close call, this time at Wazzu. (LW 11)
11. UCLA (9-1)-- No hangover after loss to Arizona. (LW 12)
12. Auburn (8-2)-- Finally beat a good team. (LW 16)
13. Georgia (7-2)-- If they lose to Kentucky... (LW 7)
14. Michigan (7-3)-- Turned it around since their early-season funk. (LW 18)
15. West Virginia (8-1)-- Showdown with Pitt on T-giving. (LW 19)
16. TCU (10-1)-- If only they didn't blow that game to SMU. (LW 20)
17. Fresno St. (8-1)-- Chance to be the giant-killer of all giant-killers this weekend. (LW 21)
18. Iowa St. (7-3)-- Have to be kicking themselves for losing at home to Baylor. (LW NR)
19. Oklahoma (6-3)--Currently in 2nd place in the Big 12 South. (LW 25)
20. Louisville (7-2)-- Headed for a 10-win season. (LW 22)
21. Florida (7-3)-- You down with OBC? Yeah you know me. (LW 13)
22. Florida St. (7-3)-- No offensive TD's against Clemson. (LW 14)
23. Colorado (7-3)-- Still one win away from a rematch with Texas. (LW 17)
24. South Carolina (7-3)-- They sure ain't pretty. (LW NR)
25. UTEP (8-1)-- Mike Price bringing the heat. (LW NR)
Wisconsin (8-3): Nice regular-season closer at Hawaii in 2 weeks.
Texas Tech (8-2): Nice work boys.
Boston College (7-3): Loss to Carolina cost them a spot in Jacksonville.
Clemson (6-4): Coming to Cola-town this week.
Boise St. (7-3): No WAC titles this year.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Kansas City at Buffalo: Chiefs are actually better off now that Priest Holmes can't take away carries from LJ.
Winner: Kansas City
Washington at Tampa Bay
Winner: Tampa Bay
New England at Miami
Winner: New England
San Francisco at Chicago
Minnesota at New York Giants: Methinks this will be a lot closer than the experts believe.
Winner: New York Giants
Arizona at Detroit
Baltimore at Jacksonville: The Return of Kyle Boller.
Houston at Indianapolis
New York Jets at Carolina
Denver at Oakland
St. Louis at Seattle: If you're waiting for the annual Seattle swoon, you'll be very disappointed.
Green Bay at Atlanta: Upset special.
Winner: Green Bay
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
Dallas at Philadelphia
Saturday, November 12, 2005
ACC Game: Georgia Tech at Virginia
The Yellow Jackets and Wahoo get together in a game of dire importance to both schools. Should Georgia Tech lose this game, and with Miami and Georgia still to play, there is a good chance they will finish 6-5. A season that started off with such promise after a win at Auburn over Labor Day Weekend will end with a low level bowl trip. On the other hand, Virginia probably needs to win this game in order to finish 6-5, as they have Virginia Tech and Miami remaining on the schedule. From 1995-2003, the home team won every game in this series. Virginia stopped that streak last year by winning in Atlanta. Georgia Tech will return the favor this year. Virginia is undefeated at home, but 3 of their 4 home wins are against Western Michigan, Duke, and Temple. The 4th was of course against Florida State. However, that was a game the Cavaliers had marked on their calendar and waited all season for. The crowd and players will not be as emotionally charged for GT. Additionally, Florida State has struggled away from Tallahassee the last few seasons. Georgia Tech owns a road victory over Auburn this season, so they will not be phazed by the crowd in Charlottesville.
Winner: Georgia Tech
Big East Game: Navy at Notre Dame
Technically, this is not a Big East game. However, since the Big East has played most of its 'marquee' games over the work-week recently, we are left with Connecticut at Pittsburgh and South Florida at Syracuse as our choices. Since the Irish play in the Big East in basketball, they get to be an honorary Big East gridiron team this week. Navy's struggle with the Irish is a well-known fact in college football. The people of Haddonfield had better luck with Michael Myers. Navy has not beaten the Irish since 1963. That streak will continue this season and the Irish will continue their undeserved march to a BCS bowl.
Winner: Notre Dame
PS: This game was actually played in Dublin, Ireland in 1996.
Big 10 Game: Iowa at Wisconsin
This is Barry Alvarez's last home game as Wisconsin's head football coach. When Barry Alvarez came to Wisconsin in 1990, the Badgers were in the midst of a six-season bowl drought. His 1990 team won only 1 game, but the administration stuck with him and by 1993, the Badgers won the Big 10 and were in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1962. Since 1993, the Badgers have had only 2 losing seasons, while compiling 2 Big 10 championships and 2 more Rose Bowl appearances (which they won). To put that into perspective, Penn State has won 1 Big 10 championship since 1993, and Ohio State has won 3. Of course, none of that history will beat Iowa this week. The Hawkeyes are a dangerous team coming off consecutive close losses to Michigan and Northwestern. They need to win this game or their home finale against Minnesota to become bowl eligible. It won't happen this week. Camp Randall will be rocking, and Brian Calhoun will run wild as Barry Alvarez goes out a winner in his final home game.
Big 12 Game: Colorado at Iowa State
The Big 12 North could be decided in this game. If Colorado wins, they are North Division champs. If Iowa State wins, they must also win their finale at Kansas and hope Colorado falls to Nebraska. The Buffs have been flying under the radar, but their only losses have come to the top 3 teams in the country, Texas and Miami. It will be close, but Colorado will clinch the North Division this week.
Pac 10 Game: Southen Cal at Cal
This game has lost some of its preseason luster as Cal has dropped 3 of its last 4 games. Still the fact remains that Cal was the last team to beat Southern Cal, and also gave them one of their stiffest tests on the road last season. However, Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob has been downright bad under passing guru Jeff Tedford. He has completed less than 50% of his passes and tossed 10 interceptions, including 3 last week against Oregon. Berkeley will be rocking, but you can't trust a team that lost at home to Oregon State to knock off the #1 team in the nation.
Winner: Southern Cal
SEC Game: LSU at Alabama
Control of the SEC West is at stake here, not to mention an undefeated season for the Tide. An LSU win would put them in the driver's seat for the SEC West, while 'Bama could clinch the division with a win and an Auburn loss (to Georgia). This is the game where the Tide's offensive ineptitude will be their downfall. 1 offensive touchdown has been the production in 3 SEC games since Prothro's injury. If LSU does not turn the ball over an obsene number of times they will win going away in Tuscaloosa.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
04-05 Record: 16-16 (5-11)
In Oliver’s 3rd season at the helm of the Tigers, he seeks to twist out an NCAA tourney bid. Last season the Tigers snuck into the NIT and lost in the 1st round to Texas A&M. This was clear progress for a program that has sunk like a stone since Rick Barnes headed west. Unfortunately, the Tigers lose their best player from last season F Sharrod Ford and a stalwart defender in F Olu Babalola. However, incoming freshman F Julius Powell seeks to step in immediately and offset the losses of the 2 key big men. The backcourt looks to be in better shape than last season with the addition of G Troy Mathis who was expected to start last season, but was suspended for the year for an on-campus brawl. Mathis is currently recovering from knee surgery in the spring, but in his stead the backcourt will be manned by returning starters Vernon Hamilton and Shawan Robinson. Duke looks to be the class of the ACC, but almost every other tourney contending school was hit hard by graduation and early entry. This is Clemson’s chance to return to the NCAA’s for the first time since 1998.
Disappointment: Virginia Tech
04-05 Record: 16-14 (8-8)
There wasn’t a great deal of buzz about Virginia Tech’s first foray into ACC play, but many a publication is hyping their second season. The Hokies were highly competitive last year as they finished tied for 4th with Georgia Tech. The season highlight was probably a home court victory over NCAA arch-villain Duke. However, things need to be put into perspective. Although Virginia tech finished 8-8 in conference play, their expected record was actually only 4-12. As frequent readers know, point differential is a much better indicator of a team’s actual performance when prospecting forward. Therefore, even though the Hokies only lose one starter off of last year’s team (G/F Carlos Dixon), there are probably gonna be some growing pains this year.
04-05 Record: 20-9 (10-6)
Despite the loss of F/C Chris Taft and F Chevon Troutman, this Pittsburgh team will still be based around solid defense. That and they still have Sr. G Carl Krauser. He sounds like he should be a character on Hogan’s Heroes and his defense is Steel City blur collar. Combine that with the additions of 2 outstanding New York/New Jersey prep players in F Tyrell Biggs and G Levance Fields and you have a return engagement to the NCAA tourney.
Disappointment: West Virginia
04-05 Record: 24-11 (8-8)
Maybe its sour grapes, but why all the love for the Mountaineers all of a sudden? They are currently 14th in the AP poll and 15th in the Coaches poll. I understand they made the Elite 8 last season and we’re close to a Final 4 appearance, but look at their conference record. They finished 8-8 in a Big East that was nowhere near as jacked as it is now. Those 16 games are more indicative of their talent than a 4 game hot streak at the end of March. Think about who else is in the Big East now. UConn, the ‘Cuse, the ‘Ville, the ‘Nati, G-Town, ‘Nova. Marquette was in the Final 4 3 years ago! Thank goodness they didn’t lose Pittsnogle.
04-05 Record: 7-21 (3-13)
The Gene Keady ended on a down not at Purdue, but the Matt Painter era looks ready to begin on an upswing. Incoming freshmen Tarrance Crump will replace departing G Brandon McKnight. The entire starting frontcourt returns so it should not take long for this Purdue team to mesh and reach last season’s win total by late December. Matt Painter is a Gene Keady disciple, so this team will not go through the struggle of learning a new system.
Disappointment: Michigan State
04-05 Record: 26-7 (13-3)
By disappointment I mean not likely to win the Big 10 as many pundits are prognosticating. Michigan State will be a solid team, but a Big 10 championship is a bit of a reach. They lose 3 contributing seniors, two of whom (G/F Alan Anderson and G Kelvin Torbert) were starters. Departing G Chris Hill also started for much of the season, but had lost his job by tourney time. Tom Izzo will get the most out of this team if he’s not too concerned with Mariucci’s struggles with the Lions, but this team has the look of a 2nd round exiter.
Surprise: Texas A&M
04-05 Record: 21-10 (8-8)
Despite the loss of stud G/F Antoine Wright, Texas A&M under uber-reconstructionist Billy Gillispie will make it to the NCAA tourney on the strength of several JUCO transfers. F Antanas Kavaliauskas and G Eddie Smith (the NJCAA player of the year) will step in immediately and join holdovers F/C Joseph Jones and G Acie Law in the starting lineup. The Big 12 pecking order begins with Texas, but the Aggies have the talent to compete in the middle of the Big 12.
Disappointment: Texas Tech
04-05 Record: 22-11 (10-6)
Another team that outperformed their expected won-loss record from last season. The General’s Red Raiders lose big-time contributors G Ronald Ross and F Devonne Giles and will be hard-pressed to make in back to the Sweet 16.
Surprise: Washington State
04-05 Record: 12-16 (7-11)
The 3rd year of the Dick Bennett rebuilding plan begins in Pullman. Last season Bennet’s charges shocked Arizona in Tucson. They also underperformed their expected won-loss record last season. Instead of a 7-11 conference record, they should have gone 9-9. That would have ticketed them for an NIT bid and perhaps sleeper status heading into this season. As it is, they will fly under the radar which probably suits the ‘Cougs just fine. Bennett’s teams always play great defense even when you adjust for the slow pace at which the Cougars play. They might not be fun to watch, but with a few breaks they’ll be dancing in Pullman come mid-March. And if you don’t think the ‘Cougs are poised for a tourney run, well you don’t know Dick.
04-05 Record: 13-16 (6-12)
For a team coming off a record of 13-16, its tough to call this season a disappointment, but much was expected over the summer of this Cal team. However, several key members will not be on it. F Dominic McGuire is transferring to Fresno State (and their rigorous academic standards), F David Paris is academically ineligible, and F Kevin Langford is transferring to TCU. For those scoring at home, that’s 3 players who will not be suiting up for the Golden Bears this year.
04-05 Record: 20-14 (8-8)
The Commodores return 7 players who contributed significant minutes last season and a freshman G George Drake who finished 2nd in the Alabama Mr. Basketball voting. This may sound like a broken record, but the ‘Dores also underperformed their expected won-loss record last season. With a little bit of luck, Vandy will be going back to the NCAA.
PS: This guy and this guy have to be related somehow right?
04-05 Record: 20-10 (12-4)
With Brandon Bass leaving early for the riches of the NBA drat, the LSU Tigers will be not be nearly as dominant in the paint as they were last season. The Tigers still have C Glen Davis (6-9 310) to hold down the front court, but if he gets into foul trouble, depth will be an issue. This is the epitome of a bubble team.
Mid-Majors to Watch:
The mid-majors with their zany mascots, talented (but often overlooked) players, and old-school values (usually its win or no postseason in conference tourneys) are my favorite brand of basketball to watch outside of my Demon Deacons.
04-05 Record: 24-8 (13-5)
After several years of dominating the Big West, the other Aggies get a step up in competition as they enter the WAC. However, outside of Nevada and Nick Fazekas, Utah State should be on equal footing with the Hawaiis and Louisiana Techs of the world. Go ahead and mark em’ down for one of the last few at-large bids, an 11 or 12 seed, and one (or 2) very scared major conference foes come March.
04-05 Record: 21-11 (11-7)
Unlike other top-notch mid-major leagues the MAC can never seem to manage to get 2 teams in the dance. They always have 5 or 6 teams that win 11 or 12 conference games, and no team establishes itself as the frontrunner for an at-large bid. In other conferences, one team runs away and hides in the regular season and then loses in the conference tourney final resulting in 2 bids for that conference. This could be the year the MAC receives 2 invites as Ohio could be that dominant team the MAC has been missing. The Bobcats lose only 1 player from last years tourney team and they return uber-stud freshman F/C Leon Williams. Maybe he’s the Shaq of the MAC?
The Missouri Valley Conference:
The Valley is quickly becoming the best mid-major league. Last season The Valley got 3 teams in the dance. Could there be a repeat performance? Probably not, but Southern Illinois, Creighton, Northern Iowa, Wichita State, and Missouri State will all compete for an NCAA bid. I’ll go with Creighton as being the Lily of the Valley.
Monday, November 07, 2005
2. Texas (9-0)-- Totally demolished a good Baylor team. (LW 2)
3. Miami (7-1)-- I was surprised with how easily they handled VT. Figured they would be looking ahead to the showdown with the Deacs this week. (LW 6)
4. Alabama (9-0)-- In 3 games against teams other than Utah State since Prothro's injury, the Tide have scored 1 offensive touchdown. (LW 5)
5. Penn St. (9-1)-- BCS bound if they get by schizo Michigan State in 2 weeks. (LW 8)
6. Georgia (7-1)-- Tough rebound game against Auburn this week. (LW 10)
7. Virginia Tech (8-1)-- BCS bid still a possibility, but they must win out. (LW 3)
8. Ohio St. (7-2)-- Intriguing game against Northwestern this week. (LW 11)
9. Louisiana St. (7-1)-- Appalachian State held them to only 24 points. (LW 12)
10. Notre Dame (6-2)-- This drop simply has to do with perspective. Only good team they have actually beaten is Michigan. (LW 7)
11. Oregon (8-1)-- Gritty win at home against Cal. (LW 13)
12. UCLA (8-1)-- Thanks for playing. (LW 4)
13. Florida (7-2)-- Lots of hype for this week's game. (LW 15)
14. Florida St. (7-2)-- Seems like whenever one of Bobby's boyz are in trouble, his team tanks a game to get them off the hot seat. (LW 9)
15. Texas Tech (8-1)-- Whipped A&M. (LW 16)
16. Auburn (7-2)-- Still alive for the SEC West title. (LW 19)
17. Colorado (7-2)-- One win away from a rematch with Texas. (LW 20)
18. Michigan (6-3)-- Ohio State in 2 weeks. (LW 22)
19. West Virginia (7-1)-- Poised to steal a BCS bid. (LW 18)
20. TCU (9-1)-- Mountain West champs. (LW 21)
21. Fresno St. (7-1)-- De facto WAC championship game Thursday against Boise. (LW 24)
22. Louisville (6-2)-- Exciting to watch. (LW 25)
23. Wisconsin (8-2)-- Good send-off season for Mr. Alvarez. (LW 14)
24. Georgia Tech (6-2)-- End season with 3 tough games. (LW NR)
25. Oklahoma (5-3)-- Should win at least 2 out of their last 3. (LW NR)
Northwestern (6-3): Good comeback over Iowa to become bowl-eligible.
UTEP (7-1): Grabbed a stangle-hold on Conference USA's West division.
South Carolina (6-3): Darth Visor at it again.
Boise St. (7-2): 7 straight wins since early season struggles.
Iowa St. (6-3): Still a player in the Big 12 North.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Atlanta at Miami: The 'Phins are tough at home
Oakland at Kansas City
Winner: Kansas City
Tennessee at Cleveland: You're guess is as good as mine.
Detroit at Minnesota
Carolina at Tampa Bay
San Diego at New York Jets
Winner: San Diego
Houston at Jacksonville
Cincinnati at Baltimore: As I've stated before, the 'Nati has to take care of business against bad teams, even on the road.
Chicago at New Orleans
Seattle at Arizona: Win games like this, and you won't have to play on the road in January.
New York Giants at San Francisco: 49ers are tough at home.
Winner: San Francisco
Pittsburgh at Green Bay: No Ben Roethlisberger.
Winner: Green Bay
Philadelphia at Washington
Indianapolis at New England: The best team the Colts have beaten is Jacksonville (4-3). I'm just sayin'.
Winner: New England
Saturday, November 05, 2005
ACC Game: Miami at Virginia Tech
This is for the ACC's Coastal Division title. The only way this game could be any bigger is if Miami had not lost opening weekend to Florida State. As it stands, The U and the Hokies are both still very much alive in the Rose Bowl picture. A decisive win here could vault Virginia Tech past Texas in some voters' ballots and also increase their standing in the objective computer rankings. A Miami win would keep their championship hopes alive should there only be one undefeated team at season's end. In their 4 home games, Virginia Tech has surrendered no more than 14 points (to Marshall). Miami will probably be the best offense they have faced in Lane Stadium this season, but this is far from the explosive Miami offense of 00-02 when such stalwarts as Dorsey, McGahee, and Winslow bludgeoned Big East opponents. Miami has not played a true road game in 7 weeks (Temple does not count as they can only win on Yom Kippur). In their 2 real road game, Miami lost to Florida State and squeaked by a 4-4 Clemson team in triple OT. These Hurricanes are Category 3 at best, and they won't be able to do enough on offense to beat Virginia Tech on the road.
Winner: Virginia Tech
Big East Game: South Florida at Rutgers
Since introducing themselves to the general public with a thrashing of a top-10 Louisville team, South Florida has dipped back under the radar losing consecutive road contests to Miami and Pittsburgh. South Florida is winless on the road, and Rutgers has lost but once at home.
Big 10 Game: Wisconsin at Penn St.
The winner in this game controls their destiny in the Big 10 race. Brian Calhoun has been a crucial piece in Wisconsin's offense, but QB John Stocco has also vastly improved meaning Wisconsin can also beat teams through the air; a quality they lacked in years past. However, Wisconsin's achilles heal is their defense. They have given up 42 points to Bowling Green, 24 to Indiana, 51 to Northwestern, 34 to Minnesota, and 24 to Illinois. The Nittany Lions have a better offense than all those teams and are playing at home where they are undefeated this season.
Winner: Penn St.
Big 12 Game: Missouri at Colorado
Before Missouri blew last weeks game to the Super Mangino Bros., the winner of this game was all but assured the Big 12 North title. If Colorado wins, they can start making plans to lose to Texas by 30 or so points. If Missouri wins, they can pretty much not show up next week at home against Baylor as their inconsistency will probably get the better of them (if not in that game then the next week at Kansas State). Missouri may have the best player on the field in QB Brad Smith, but Colorado is playing at home where they have yet to lose this season.
Pac 10 Game: California at Oregon
Oregon has been flying under the radar all season, but still have a shot at a 10 win season, and if several things happen, perhaps a shot at a BCS bowl? Cal rebounded from consecutive losses to UCLA and Oregon State to beat Washington State 2 weeks ago. However, the Bears have yet to beat a team with a winning record and are likely looking forward to next weeks showdown with the Trojans. Even without Kellen Clemens the Ducks will win at home.
SEC Game: Tennessee at Norte Dame
Tennessee is in very real danger of missing a bowl game. Following this tilt with the Irish, they play host to Memphis, Vandy, and on the road at Kentucky. While they will be favored in their 3 remaining games, at least one of these games are bound to be close. Would a losing season cost Fulmer his job? It probably shouldn't. Every coach, especially those with a national title, should get at least one mulligan. On the other sideline, Notre Dame has just finished giving Charlie Weis an $80 billion contract complete other fringe benefits like all the red meat he can eat and a lifetime suppy of manzeers. Other writers have already commented on the absurdity of his contract considering his predecesor started out 8-0 and was given a pat on the back and a few 'atta boys'. In my humble opinion, Notre Dame fans need to pull a Larry David and curb their enthusiasm. Although I have Notre Dame at #7 in my blog poll ballot, thanks mostly to their classic against the Trojans, look at the teams the Irish have beaten. Pittsburgh, Washington, Purdue, and BYU: not a looker in the bunch. The Irish have beaten Michigan, but the Wolverines for all their talent, have 3 losses. Notre Dame has also lost to a team with 3 losses, the Michigan State Spartans. Maybe the computers have it right (or at least more right) where they have them ranked: 22nd. This game will probably not go a long way in determining how good the Irish are, as Tennessee appears mediocre at best.
Winner: Notre Dame
Enjoy the Weekend.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Why college basketball is better than the NBA
The NCAA playoff format is one-and-done. So you are guaranteed to see some team you’ve never heard of (normally with an extra direction or ‘state’ somewhere in their name), coached by a man who looks like he sells used cars, beat an established college basketball power. In the NBA playoffs which are best of 7-series, you may occasionally see a 5 seed knock off a 4 seed, but usually there are no remarkable upsets.
In college basketball, this word evokes images of players such as Bryce Drew or Kyle Korver nailing a jump shot from the wing. In the NBA, this is usually a reference to an NBA player’s experiences at a night club following the game. Cuz it sure ain’t about jump shots. You’re more likely to see Peter Jackson on the cover of GQ that an NBA player with a solid jump shot.
3) Every Game Counts
In college basketball, for the most part, every game is crucial to their standing. A win or loss can mean the difference in qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Even for those teams that are assured a place at the NCAA table, each game determines what seed they will receive in the tourney. In the NBA regular season, there are maybe 15-20 important games. New Jersey at Milwaukee in mid-January, now that’s a game I’ll tivo Desperate Housewives to see.
Why Major League Baseball is better than the NBA
Hey, I’ll be the first to tell you that baseball can be a rather boring game. But so is an NBA regular season game. At least when you attend a baseball game in person, there is a very good chance that the game will be outside, the weather will be nice, and the fairer sex will be dressed in accordance. When you attend an NBA game, you are inside, it’s the dead of winter, and who knows, you may get attacked in the stands.
In baseball, when teams get into bean ball wars, the benches may clear, players may insult each others genealogy and family history, but punches are usually never thrown. And even when they are, its usually something hilarious. In the NBA, when players fight, careers get ended, playoff series get altered, and balding coaches embarrass themselves.
Why college football is better than the NBA
A grand tradition, even at football powers such as Wake Forest. Has there ever been an incidence of tailgating (or any sort of camaraderie) at an NBA game?
This is what college football is all about. Family allegiances, rivalries, fight songs, Labor Day weekend, New Year’s Day games, polls, arguments, even the BCS. The NBA has none of that.
Why the NFL is better than the NBA
The NFL’s schedule is set up perfectly. Games are played 2 days a week, complete with a week of build-up and talk. NFL fans receive sensory overload on Sundays from 1:00-7:00, then get an opportunity to relax with a game on Sunday night to start the work week. Plus on Monday night, they get a game to appease them until the following weekend. NBA teams play 82 games. These games occur on all 7 days of the week. Teams play 2-3 games a week, so there is no opportunity for build-up, and the season seems to go on forever.
More than half (16) of the NBA’s 30 teams make the playoffs. In the NFL, only 12 out of 32 teams make the playoffs. The NFL’s postseason is played out in a month’s time and culminates in the biggest American sporting event. The NBA’s postseason takes 2 and a half months to complete and by the end everyone is ready for it to be over.
3) The Draft
The NBA had to constitute a lottery-style draft system to prevent terrible teams from tanking games at the end of the season in hopes of garnering the draft’s top pick. The NFL’s draft is a 2-day circus that is somewhat entertaining to watch and has the always follically-superb Mel Kiper Jr.
So with that out of the way, here’s to ignoring the NBA until the first weekend in April when the NCAA tourney has just ended, baseball is just getting underway, and the NBA playoffs are still a few weeks from beginning.