Saturday, September 12, 2009

College Football Gameday Live-Comment

8:06: Getting ready for Ohio St-USC, a few quick thoughts on the afternoon:

*What a win for Houston! And I'm not just saying that because I used a second chance yesterday to pick the win -- my best prediction in I-can't-remember-how-long. What I'm intrigued by is this: If AP voters thought enough of Oklahoma State's win at home over iffy Georgia to rank them No. 5, shouldn't they boost Houston for beating Oklahoma State at their place? I'll be putting Houston in the Top 10 of my BlogPoll ballot.

*I'm no fan of either Notre Dame or Michigan, but that was a fun game and a huge win for RichRod for building his program in Ann Arbor. I'm not sure it was a particularly strong indicator of success THIS season -- Notre Dame isn't exactly a great defense, and Michigan didn't particularly stop ND's offense -- but it's one of those things he can use in recruiting; years from now, when Michigan is a perennial Top 20 team, we will look back on this win as a big foundation for it.

*Tennessee is going to get shellacked next week at the Swamp. If they can't take care of UCLA in their own house, how will they deal with a very motivated Florida on the road?

*Convincing follow-up win for BYU. Not quite beating Oklahoma, but it showed no sign of let-down (unlike that OTHER team in Oklahoma).

: Houston up early at Oklahoma State. Remember my flip-flop upset special yesterday -- I like Houston here... at least give them a puncher's chance in a game OK St SHOULD win.

What a win for Central Michigan at Michigan State. And what rough day for the Big Ten -- and it could get worse. Fresno State took Wisconsin to OT in Madison before UW pulled it out. Penn State didn't exactly blow out Syracuse. Northwestern needed a last-second FG to beat Eastern Michigan. Indiana barely beat Western Michigan. At least Iowa redeemed itself after last week's near-miss vs. Northern Iowa by thumping Iowa State. Michigan kicks off against Notre Dame in a minute, and ND should be favored. And, of course, Ohio State hosting USC tonight.

Well, after a bit of a too-tense 1st quarter, Florida blew it open on Troy. Tim Tebow accounted for 5 TDs and 300+ yards -- reminiscent of the 2nd game of his 2007 season, when he lit up Troy for roughly the same.

For the 2nd straight game, the Gators' most impressive group was the defense. Final judgment: They may be the No. 1 team in the country, but I'm not sure they played like it this week. We'll have to see how all the other top contenders play, obviously. (I mean: Penn State only beating Syracuse 28-7 wasn't all that impressive. And UNC nearly lost at UConn, which I nearly predicted as an upset... but didn't.)

I will say that the Gators look ready for Tennessee next weekend. I'll be at the Swamp for that, giddily.

Today's Viewing Schedule
Early afternoon: Troy at Florida (PPV)
Late afternoon: ND at Michigan
And: UCLA at Tennessee
And: Houston at Oklahoma St. (Upset Special!)
Evening: USC at Ohio State

10:10 a.m.: Just put on College GameDay -- I love how they are giving Ohio State a chance, when all evidence the past few years points to another disappointing loss.

One commenter yesterday said I better be prepared to say I'm sorry when Ohio State wins -- I'll make the same offer I made to Notre Dame fans last week: If I'm wrong, no more unprovoked dissing Ohio State this season until they do something to earn it. (But if OSU loses, all bets are off.)

Heading out to a birthday party for a 3-year-old friend of my kid's. He is wearing one of his Gator T-shirts and blue-and-orange Nike Florida pants. My 10-month-old is wearing a "Great to Be a Gator" T-shirt. Mrs. Quickie is wearing a blue "Gators" T-shirt. I will put on a Tebow jersey -- but probably after we get home at noon for the game. Not quite sure it's appropriate to wear that (or any jersey) out of the house, let alone to a kid's birthday party. I only have 25 Florida T-shirts to choose from. But, yes: We walk out of the house and look like "that" family. The funny part is the way we walk around the neighborhood on fall Saturdays -- most people look at us like we're freaks; the college football fans all nod their head and say hello. They understand.

More once the noon games start.

-- D.S.

Saturday 09/12 (Gameday) Quickie

I may have finally gotten my prediction mojo back. After last week's ND-Michigan double-debacle of bad picks, I took underrated Toledo over "name-brand" Colorado. Now, maybe everyone took Toledo over Colorado -- especially with the game in Toledo -- but the only question is now whether Toledo is going to shock Ohio State in Cleveland next week, with tOSU coming off tonight's huge game against USC. (I'll say it: Yes, Toledo will stun the Buckeyes. Of course, it could just be that Colorado is terrible.)

I'll have an open post all day long, tracking the games, with Twitter updates running on the side.

Jordan elected to Hoops hall: In case you didn't see it yesterday, here was my analysis yesterday of the similarities between basketball's GOAT and college football's potential GOAT. I liked how Jordan got a little choked up at the beginning, and I loved how he went through the litany of folks who gave him motivation.

(Yahoo's Woj had a different -- and smart -- take: Jordan was being petty. It does beg the question: Did Woj not watch Jordan throughout his career? The whole thing was about petty score-settling.)

BTW: "Yvette Prieto" is blowing up Google Trends -- that's Michael Jordan's girlfriend, a former Cuban model (of course she is).

The case against Shawne Merriman was dismissed: How many talking-heads and writers and bloggers made hay off this story? How many will say: Oops, we were wrong?

MLB: Jeter passes Gehrig for career Yankee hits. It's a testament to the franchise that Jeter doesn't even crack the Top 3 Yankees in history... Unsurprisingly, the Phillies beat the Mets (no matter who's working out of the bullpen)... Jair Jurrgens... If it wasn't closed a few weeks ago, I think the Dodgers shut the door on the Giants' playoff hopes (the Rockies win again)... Angels win 4th straight -- are the Yankees or Dodgers the team to beat in the AL?

More coming later today -- it's college football gameday.

-- D.S.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CFB Top 25 Picks: Ohio State Fail Edition

I never linked to this week's final BlogPoll -- not my ballot, but the combined national ballot of all BlogPoll voters. I am stunned I was the only one to rank BYU at No. 1.

I also remain casually miffed that my old Northwestern classmate Doug Lesmerises, an AP voter out of Cleveland, has gotten all sorts of props for voting Bama, BYU and OK St 1-2-3 ahead of Florida. I voted BYU-Bama-OK St AND Boise St ahead of Florida (my freaking team!) and got...bupkis.

(Why has no one pointed out that Lesmerises doesn't even follow his own so-called logic consistently -- why rank Bama, BYU and OK St ahead of Florida but not Boise State?)

Now, onto this week's picks...

Another early-season week, another week of cupcake match-ups (for the most part) that makes the rule of picking Top 25 games be "chalk." Obviously, USC-Ohio State is the headliner -- unless you've been paying attention to OSU in big games the last few years and recognize that they are going to lose... even to an overrated USC team. Let's get to it:

1 Florida over Troy
2 Texas over @Wyoming
3 USC over @8 Ohio St -- Yeah, yeah, GOTW. Remember last year? It was GOTW then, too.
4 Alabama over Fla Int'l
5 Oklahoma St over Houston (If I had guts, I'd pick UH)
UPDATED (see below): Houston over @5 Oklahoma St (UPSET SPECIAL)
7 Penn St over Syracuse/Paulus
9 BYU over @Tulane
10 Cal over E. Washington
11 LSU over Vandy
12 Boise St over Miami (OH)
13 Oklahoma over Idaho St
14 VA Tech over Marshall
16 TCU over @Virginia
17 Utah over San Jose St.
18 Notre Dame over @Michigan -- Schadenfreude Bowl
19 UNC over @UConn (Why am I not picking this as an upset?)
21 Georgia over South Carolina (only b/c it's in Athens)
22 Nebraska over Arkansas St
23 Cincy over SE Mo St.
24 Kansas over @UTEP
25 Mizzou over Bowling Green

So, yes: In the Schadenfreude Bowl, I will take Notre Dame over Michigan -- after picking both to lose last week and being relatively humiliated in the process. I would say that ND humiliated me more, leading to my "No Knocking ND (Until They Earn It On the Field)" policy. The winner of this game gets the misleading "They're Back!" meme; the loser gets the misleading "They're Doomed!" meme.

Why does this Houston-OK St game intrigue me as an upset-waiting-to-happen? Seems to have a lot of elements that smell like a trap: OK St is coming off a very big season-opening win over Georgia... And that they have that Top 5 ranking... And that, suddenly, they are the best team in the state, finally eclipsing Oklahoma... And that Houston has a freaky pass-happy offense, not unlike the Texas Tech offense that pinned 56 on OK State a year ago? What's the downside to me actually picking Houston over Oklahoma State? I mean, cripes: I picked Nevada over ND and Western Michigan over Michigan, couldn't have been more wrong about either and the world didn't end. OK, I've talked myself into it...

Other Games of Note:
*Tennessee over UCLA
*Mississippi St over @Auburn
*Toledo over Colorado
*Wisconsin over Fresno St
*Northwestern over E. Michigan
*If nothing else, track UAB's Joe Webb vs. SMU. Webb Mania!

Any big predictions on your end? Put them in the comments. And it's not too late to join the Daily Quickie Readers group of the College Pick 'Em! Join now! (For god's sake: I'm in 5th place. You KNOW you can do better than me.)

-- D.S.

Friday 09/11 Quickie: NFL Week 1, Steelers
USC-Ohio St, Michael Jordan, Marlins, More

An aside: I was in Boston for business school on 9/11. Every year on this anniversary, I find it very difficult to express myself with any sense of the appropriate gravitas. This was my attempt back then. Back to regularly scheduled programming...

*Hoops Hall induction: Is Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time? Is he the greatest player of all time, in any sport? Today's SN column leads with my favorite personal memory of MJ -- naturally, from his erstwhile Wizards years. (here's the appropriate YouTube clip.)

*NFL Opener: I can't get too excited either way about the Steelers winning or the Titans losing -- unlike college football, either of them could lose, say, another 4-5 games and still make the playoffs. So what's this one win/loss?

No, what does irk me is -- as ever -- the NFL's overtime rules, which obliterate the notion of two teams earning it on the field through competition, in favor of the luck of a coin flip. I'm not quite sure why this isn't a bigger deal. Some day, it'll impact a Super Bowl -- by then it will be too late.

(NFL Week 1 picks -- aside from Pittsburgh over Tennessee, which I had yesterday -- coming later today.)

*CFB Weekend: Anyone who has watched Ohio State in big games over the last three years knows that this USC-OSU game is hardly worth the hype. Have folks forgotten last year? Yes, Pryor is finally in charge and yes, USC isn't nearly as good as their ranking, and yes the game is in Columbus -- that will make Ohio State's failure all the more acute. (Sorry, forgot to add: Yet again.)

(CFB Picks coming later today, too. Yes, I'm picking Notre Dame. I surprise myself sometimes.)

*Is it me, or did baseball suddenly evaporate, in the presence of the return of football? (And, for most, the end of their fantasy baseball seasons.) Part of it is that the playoff spots seem pretty secure -- sure, the Rangers might pass the Red Sox... but does anyone really think that will happen? The Rockies seem to have the NL Wild Card in hand -- although it's a shame to see the Marlins (with that MLB-lowest $36M payroll) right in the mix.

There's a lot more in today's SN column. In the meantime, drop by later today for NFL and CFB weekend picks. And don't forget to check out, where I continue to wring more out of one specific topic than anyone in the country.

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday 09/10 Quickie: NFL Opener,
SB Pick, Georgia Tech, AI, USMNT, Oudin

So, not entirely unexpectedly, in today's SN column, I am picking the Pats to win the Super Bowl. I have done this almost every year since 2001, mainly as a defense mechanism.

If they do win, I have prepared myself. (And, to be reasonable, in any given year, I'll bet on Belichick.) If they don't win, I am as thrilled to be wrong as I am about anything.

Cynical? Kind of. Reasonable? Mostly.

I am unimpressed by the rest of the AFC: Steelers? That karmic bank is nearly empty. Chargers? Yeah: Norv Turner, sure. Titans? Nope. Colts? I don't even think they'll make the playoffs. One of these nouveau picks like Houston or Jacksonville? Not beating NE in the playoffs.

The bigger intrigue is in the NFC. Most folks are picking the Giants. You could make a pretty good case for the Falcons. I'm not quite sure why anyone thinks Dallas will be a contender. I foreshadowed this when Vick came back, but I'm picking the Eagles.

Yes, I know I picked the Eagles to win the NFC last year -- at least when the playoffs started. And they should have! This year, I really do believe that Mike Vick will be the X-factor -- if only for the dramatic value.

So it's Patriots over Eagles in the Super Bowl. As for the rest of the league, I am most focused on the various incarnations of the Wildcat (or single-wing) that pop up as the strategy moves from Miami novelty to league-wide tool. This is not some fad; I think that this is nothing less than the realignment of NFL offense -- that is, if coaches are innovative enough to use it. (That's a big "if," one that I have no confidence in, actually.)

I've got more shallow thoughts in today's SN column leading with my NFL preview (or "preview"), but there's a lot more in there, too:

*Picking the Steelers over the Titans.
*Keep an eye on Georgia Tech tonight.
*AI to Memphis: He makes them must-see.
*Oudin ousted: Let the endorsements begin!
*Derek Jeter: Luckiest man... oh, wait.
*Gabe Feldman! Adam Wainwright!

There's a ton more. See the whole column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tim Tebow on Running a Meth Lab

It takes a funny guy like Kenny Mayne to bring out the funny guy in Tim Tebow. There's an interview between them in this week's ESPN Mag, with one section I wanted to highlight:

Kenny Mayne: The lack of privacy your generation faces is unbelievable. Does it ever get unbearable?

Tim Tebow: There are pros and cons. You have a great platform to influence people. But sometimes you’d like to go to dinner or play golf without having people waiting when you get off the course. I just look at it as a pro and realize I have an opportunity and a responsibility to be a good role model for kids and give them someone to look up to. That’s my goal.

KM: So what you’re saying is you can’t run a methamphetamine lab?

TT: That phase was more during my freshman year of high school. I got out of it by junior year.

KM: What’s your opinion on homeschooling, since you went that route?

TT: The methamphetamine route?

KM: Wow. I had no idea you’d be so liberal.

"That phase was more during my freshman year of high school. I got out of it by junior year." That's some very strong deadpan humor, about what a lot of people would find a dicey topic.

I have a longer post about it at TimTeblog, and the Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin has more excerpts. I try very hard not to talk too much Tebow here, given that I have an entire separate blog dedicated to the subject, but this struck me as amusing enough to post here.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 09/09 (/09!) Quickie: NFL Best,
AP Top 25, MLB Wild Cards, Vick vs. Obama

I'm all for rankings. And I'm not even that put off by SN's "expert" list of the Top 100 players in the NFL being led by Peyton Manning.

Out of curiosity (and to lead today's SN column), I compared that list to the Top 100 of the "Average Draft Position" of the aggregation of fantasy drafts out there.

It was startling to see that Maurice Jones-Drew -- who ranks No. 2 on the ADP list -- doesn't even make the experts' Top 100. Matt Forte -- a consensus Top 5 fantasy talent -- isn't there, either.

Now, I know it's apples and oranges -- and the expert list isn't exactly the most quantitatively rigorous bunch -- but that kind of gap DOES seem a little out of whack.

Someone is wrong, and I suspect it is not the collective wisdom of the hundreds of thousands of fans who pay pretty close attention to this -- and bet their NFL cred on it.


*My aggravation with the AP Top 25 can be summed up in a pretty simple analysis: Why does Alabama beating now-No. 14 VA Tech on a neutral field put Bama at No. 4, but BYU beating now-No. 13 Oklahoma on a neutral (to hostile) field put BYU at No. 9?

Should BYU be No. 1? Maybe -- I put them there this week, likely to be KO'ed next week, but there this week nevertheless.

Should Florida be No. 1? Why: Because they were preseason No. 1 and inertia rules? They crushed Charleston Southern; they are -- in all likelihood -- the best team in the country. But they did nothing last Saturday to prove that... at least not in the same way a team like BYU or Alabama or Oklahoma State did.

*Lost in the focus on the Rangers trying valiantly to outrace the Red Sox to the AL Wild Card -- which would be staggering, if they pulled it off -- can we at least take a second to lament the end of the Rays' run as contenders this year? Their success is so good for baseball -- sorry to see it end. The good news is that they will be back in it next year -- and that the Rays have a new culture where not making the playoffs is a disappointment.

*Michael Vick is no Barack Obama, when it comes to talking with students. Although they both talked about the same subject, roughly: Personal resposibility.

Hey: The NFL season starts tomorrow. Get ready.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: BYU!

The BlogPoll ballot after the first week of the season is usually the wildest -- I like to lean heavily on what happened on the field, with weighting for teams that beat other good teams, that looked sloppy beating other good teams and generally just reward tough early-season scheduling:

1 Brigham Young 16
2 Alabama 5
3 Oklahoma State 8
4 Boise State 6
5 Florida 4
6 Texas 4
7 Southern Cal 2
8 Penn State 5
9 TCU 6
10 Georgia Tech 2
11 California 3
12 Mississippi 6
13 Cincinnati 11
14 LSU 5
15 Ohio State 2
16 Baylor
17 Kansas 1
18 Utah
19 Nebraska
20 North Carolina
21 Notre Dame
22 Miami (Florida)
23 Virginia Tech 2
24 Georgia 5
25 Oklahoma 21
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Oregon (#12), Iowa (#20), Oregon State (#22), Florida State (#23), Central Michigan (#25).

Do I think BYU is better than Florida or Texas? No. But after one week, BYU is the team with the impressive win at Oklahoma on their resume, while Florida and Texas (and USC and Penn State and so many others) chomped on cupcakes. Please improve this ranking by leaving your comments below, and based on your good arguments, I will shuffle as necessary.

UPDATE: You may mock the internal inconsistencies of my logic, but please recognize I see them. It feels like after BYU, Alabama and OK State, I went back to the Biggies -- did Florida's win really reveal that they are the best team in the country? (Well, a little, but not enough.)

Why do Texas, USC and Penn State make the cut but others don't? Why does TCU move up despite being idle? (It has a little to do with BYU's tide lifting all MWC boats, I think.)

Why did I lift Cincy so high? Because I think they destroyed what many considered to be a good Rutgers team, and I think Cincy has been slept on because everyone hates the Big East, forgetting that Brian Kelly is one of the Top 5 coaches in the country.

It feels like after the Top 10 or 11, I had to start overlooking Game 1 flaws (Ole Miss, LSU, Ohio State, -- or I wanted to give some love to teams that earned their way into my ranking (like Baylor and, yes, Notre Dame).

And I'm not quite sure why I have three 0-1 teams at the bottom, except that they were bold enough to schedule really good season-opening games and none were throttled. All three are Top 25-quality teams, and if they had played the requisite 1-AA cupcakes, they would all have found themselves roughly in their preseason slots, despite the new evidence -- unearthed in their real games -- that they aren't as good as their preseason ranking, that we probably wouldn't have seen for a few weeks, but is most certainly there.

Again, each week, this list gets more and more refined. But I was thrilled to finally have something besides last season's biases and offseason "paper" qualities to base a ranking on.

-- D.S.

UPDATE: Great column by my old Northwestern classmate Doug Lesmerises about why he ranked Bama, BYU and OK St ahead of Florida -- hey, just like me.

Tuesday 09/08 Quickie: Bradford, Stafford,
Oudin, BYU, Rays, Rockies, Pryor, More

My BlogPoll ballot will be up around 10, so check back to see how I handled the whole "BYU thing."

I was inspired enough by it to lead today's SN column with a bit of Bizarro reality: Imagine the universe where Sam Bradford has just been named the Lions' starting QB, rather than Bradford's season suddenly imploding -- no national-title shot, no Heisman repeat, new injury to worry about.

I'm not saying that Bradford made the wrong decision to come back to school -- I'm just wondering what it is like to live in a world (no "Bizarro" about it) where the Sooners are as winless as the Lions, and Detroit's QB situation is one that Oklahoma can only wish for.

More you'll find in today's column:
*BYU is No. 1 -- little BlogPoll preview.
*The Rays are finished. What a bummer.
*The U is back, thanks to Jacory Harris.
*Love the Redskins' gamesmanship with the Giants.
*Oudin has saved the US Open -- can it last?
*Did Jim Tressel approve Terrelle Pryor's "Mike Vick" eye-black?

Complete column here. BlogPoll up shortly. More posts later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday 09/06 (CFB Openers!) Quickie

...Aaand there's your season, for Oklahoma fans. At least in terms of any hope of getting back to the national-title game.

What a remarkable result in Norman -- one of the most remarkable we will see all season. It is a testament to college football's regular season as a de facto playoff: OU's national-title hopes are, effectively, over... just one game into the season.

Meanwhile, BYU has positioned itself as the leading non-BCS team. Let's be clear: An unbeaten season from BYU doesn't vault them to the BCS title-game ahead of unbeaten Florida and unbeaten Texas (or even unbeaten USC), but it does put them ahead of Boise State for the single at-large BCS-bowl bid that should go to a non-BCS team.

You know, upon further review, I think that BYU's games against TCU, Utah and FSU gives them as many "quality" remaining opponents as anyone from the "BCS" leagues.

(Of course, it is absurdly presumptuous to assume BYU will go unbeaten -- they still have to play TCU and Utah... yeah, and Florida State, but TCU and Utah will be tougher to beat.)


*Fire Al Groh. No, seriously. Should happen today.

*Alabama looked very strong -- after BYU, it was the most impressive win of the day. McElroy > Wilson.

*Ohio State didn't deserve to win that game -- or, at least, they don't deserve a whole lot of credit as a national contender for surviving that game.

*Speaking of which: Iowa DEFINITELY didn't deserve to beat Northern Iowa. Rankings should reflect this.

*VERY solid start for Oklahoma State -- think OK St fans were happier about beating Georgia... or Oklahoma losing? I would actually guess the latter.

*Joe Webb... Joe Webb... Joe Webb...

*So much for LSU's defense being enough to carry the team to an SEC West title. Either that, or Sarkisian has completely revived Washington's offense.

*Matt Barkley: Solid, if not spectacular.

*Greg Paulus: Almost. Wow: Almost. For Syracuse football, maybe there SHOULD be such a thing as a "moral victory."

*OK, so I was wrong about Michigan losing to Western Michigan. That was a huge win for RichRod.

*And, finally, I was VERY wrong about Notre Dame. And here's my response: Until they actually give me on-field reason to mock, that will be the last time I poke fun at them.

There it is: Until Notre Dame loses, ND fans, you won't get any anti-ND rhetoric from me, either here or at the Sporting News.

-- D.S.

(Oh, and yes: Florida romped. But it wasn't enough to hit the Biggest Stories of the Night.)