Friday, November 17, 2006

NFL Picks-Week 11

Last Week: 7-9 Season: 88-56

Another mediocre week. Let’s see what Week 11 brings….

Indianapolis at Dallas: The Colts are 9-0. They have slept through many of those games, such as last week against Buffalo, winning 17-16. They have shown the ability to get up for big games, such as the one two weeks ago against the Patriots. The Cowboys are woefully inconsistent. Tony Romo appears to be the real deal at quarterback. I’m really tempted to pick the Cowboys here, but my better judgment says no. Pick: Nap-town
Buffalo at Houston: The Texans are coming off their third win of the year, surpassing last year’s win total. The Bills aren’t a very good team. Neither are the Texans. Pick: Houston
Atlanta at Baltimore: Michael Vick had a brain fart last week, committing three turnovers against the Browns. Now, he faces the Ravens’ defense. Good luck with all that. Pick: Baltimore
Chicago at New York Jets: Da Bears play their second game at the Meadowlands in two weeks. No, the Bears didn’t sell mini-season ticket plans for games in New York. This is a road game against the J-E-T-S, who upset the Patriots in the slop last week. The Bears go two for two in the Jersey swamp. Pick: Da Bears
Cincinnati at New Orleans: The disappointing Bengals travel to the Big Easy to take on the surprising Saints. There will be a lot of points scored here. The Saints will score a few more. Pick: New Orleans
Minnesota at Miami: Two teams going in opposite directions. The Dolphins are starting to get it together, winning their last two games with starting QB Joey Harrington. The Vikes have slid back into mediocrity. Pick: Miami
New England at Green Bay: The Pats have proven to be mortal, losing their last two games in a row. The Pack has been a better road team than home team. The opposite is true for the Pats. Something has to change. Pick: Green Bay
Oakland at Kansas City: One of the great AFL rivalries resumes. The Raiders have won two games, which is two more than many expected at the beginning of the year. The Chiefs welcome back QB Trent Green. The Chiefs are a better team. Pick: Kansas City
Pittsburgh at Cleveland: These teams have identical 3-6 records. Both teams won last week. This one is worthy of a coin flip. Pick: Pittsburgh
St. Louis at Carolina: The Barbecue Bowl. I prefer St. Louis ribs. Carolina has a better football team, though. Pick: Carolina
Tennessee at Philadelphia: The Vince Youngs visit the City of Brotherly Love. A long season continues for the Titans. Pick: Philly
Washington at Tampa Bay: Rematch of a playoff game from last season. This year, both teams will have to buy a ticket or watch TV to see a playoff game. RB Clinton Portis is now out for the season for the Redskins. Pick: Tampa Bay
Seattle at San Francisco: The 49ers have won four games. Think they wouldn’t like to have that first Arizona game back? The Seahawks return RB Shaun Alexander this week. That should be enough for Seattle. Pick: Seattle
San Diego at Denver: A good one on Sunday Night Football. Both teams are 7-2. One will win the division, the other will be a very good wild card team. This is a tough pick, but I’ll go with the home field and Denver. If we’re lucky, it’ll snow in Denver Sunday night. Pick: Denver
New York Giants at Jacksonville: Both teams have been bitten by the injury bug. The Giants lost last week to Da Bears, while the Jags lost to the sorry Texans. The Giants are a little better, and should be able to bounce back. Pick: Giants

A Michigan Man

Word has come that legendary former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler died today at the age of 78. This comes on the heels of the biggest Michigan-Ohio State game ever.

Coach Schembechler won multiple Rose Bowls and Big Ten championships, and sent many players to the NFL. I best remember him in his capacity of athletic director, as the Wolverines' basketball team was set to play in the NCAA tournament. Michigan coach Bill Frieder took the same position at Arizona State, but wanted to coach Michigan through the tournament. An upset Schembechler turned him down, and told the press, "I don't want an Arizona State man coaching the Michigan team. I want a Michigan man to coach the Michigan team". Schembechler hired Steve Fisher as interim coach, and Michigan won six games in a row to win the national championship. Fisher then stayed on as permanent head coach.

Though Bo came from Miami of Ohio, he made his mark at Michigan. He was truly a Michigan man. The Maize and Blue Nation will miss him.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

College Picks-Weekend of November 18

Last Week: 14-6 Season: 152-68

Pomona-Pitzer surprised me with their rout of archrival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

It’s shaping up to be a big week in the world of college football…

Oklahoma at Baylor: If this game were in September, I’d be scared to death. Baylor has been wrecked by injuries, and the Sooners continue to overcome adversity. OU rolls. Pick: OU
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech: I don’t know the over-under on this one, but over would be a safe pick. If this were in Stillwater, I’d say OSU in a rout. It’s in Lubbock, and anything can happen. I think OSU is a better team. My gut says Tech. Pick: Tech
Kansas State at Kansas: The Wildcats shocked the world last week with their unexpected upset of Texas. The Jayhawks need this one to become bowl eligible. The Cats get better every week. Pick: K-State
Missouri at Iowa State: The Telephone Trophy is on the line. This is Dan McCarney’s farewell as coach of the ‘Clones. The Cyclones haven’t been very good this year. Mizzou is pretty decent. Pick: Missouri
The School Up North at The Ohio State University: This is the Game of this Century, to date. This is one of the top 5 rivalries in college football, and brings added stakes, as Michigan is ranked #2, and Ohio State has been ranked #1 all season. This game lives up to the hype. Normally, the winner goes to the Rose Bowl. This year, the loser will head to Pasadena. Not a bad consolation prize. Winner goes to the BCS championship game, and the loser can still wind up there if it's a close game and the polls and computers line up right. Michigan covers the spread, but Ohio State wins the game. Pick: Buckeyes
Auburn at Alabama: Still the best intra-state rivalry anywhere, no matter how good or bad the teams are. People in the state of Alabama live for this game 365 days per year. Auburn crashed hard last week in a whipping at the hands of Georgia. Bama has been mediocre all season. Auburn has created a history of winning in Tuscaloosa since Alabama moved their home game to campus from Birmingham. Auburn has a better team. Mike Shula can’t be feeling real secure in his job right now. Pick: Auburn
California at USC: Cal is coming off of a shocking upset loss at Arizona. USC pounded Oregon last week. The Trojans are coming into their own after being upset at Oregon State. I’m afraid this one might be ugly for Cal. Pick: USC
Maryland at Boston College: Huge game in the ACC Atlantic Division. Winner still has a shot at the ACC championship game. Maryland has been living on a wing and a prayer, but has been winning. This one is in Boston. Pick: BC
Iowa at Minnesota: The battle for Floyd of Rosedale. Iowa has been a huge disappointment this year, and quarterback Drew Tate is questionable for this game. Minnesota narrowly escaped with a win over North Dakota State, and has since handily defeated Indiana and Michigan State. The Gophers would become bowl eligible with a win in the HHH Dome. Iowa is melting down. Pick: Gophers
Indiana at Purdue: This one is for the Old Oaken Bucket, and for the first time in several years, the Hoosiers have a chance to win. Purdue is 7-4, and has had a decent season. The Hoosiers have been stumbling of late, but a win would make them bowl eligible. The Bucket stays in West Lafayette. Pick: Purdue
Tennessee at Vanderbilt: Phat Phil’s Big Orange are on a two game losing streak. They also lost to Vandy last year, which very seldom happens. This won’t be a blowout, but the Vols won’t let Vandy beat them two years in a row. Pick: Tennessee
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest: Wake Forest controls their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic Division. The Hokies can’t win the Coastal division, but they can spoil Wake’s run at the Atlantic crown. How real is Wake Forest? I don’t know. Pick: Hokies
West Virginia at Pittsburgh: Thursday night game at the Ketchup Bottle. The Backyard Brawl. WVU is too strong for Pitt. It might not be close. Pick: West Virginia
Rutgers at Cincinnati: Ambush alert for the Scarlet Knights, as the Bearcats are capable of the upset. Rutgers will get a battle and then some. They should have enough to win the game, though. Pick: The State University of New Jersey
Arizona at Oregon: Wildcats are coming off the biggest win of Mike Stoops’ tenure, an upset over Cal. Oregon got smashed by USC at the Coliseum. Can Mike Stoops do what his brother didn’t, win at Oregon? Not this time. Pick: Oregon
N.C. State at North Carolina: Is this a basketball game? Just kidding. One coach is cleaning out his office, and the other one will probably do the same soon. UNC has one win all season, over I-AA Furman. The Wolfpack have three wins. The Tar Heels are coming off an ugly 7-0 loss to Georgia Tech. They score this week, and actually outscore their rival. Pick: UNC
Miami at Virginia: Both programs have seen their better days. Now, this is just a spare 12:00 EST game on Lincoln Financial Sports (the ACC regional TV network). Both schools have produced a ton of NFL players. Problem is, they’re all in the NFL now. Pick: Virginia
Washington at Washington State: The Apple Cup. Washington has been sliding for the last month. WSU has been inconsistent, and got spanked last week by Arizona State. Washington usually wins this game when they are not supposed to. My gut says Huskies. Pick: U-Dub
South Florida at Louisville: Louisville is coming off of a demoralizing loss at Rutgers, after blowing a 25-7 lead. South Florida will give the Ville all they can handle. The Cardinals have more talent, however. Pick: Louisville
Yale at Harvard: Winner has a chance at a share of the Ivy League championship. Yale can win it outright with a win and a Princeton loss. Both teams are 7-2 overall. When in doubt, go with the home team. Pick: Haahvud

Mid-Major Win of the Night

It is next to impossible for me to give college basketball the commentary it deserves on a nightly basis. However, certain things get my attention, none moreso whan when a David beats a Goliath, or when a "mid-major" beats a school from a power conference.

Last night, the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts went into Lawrence and shocked the Kansas Jayhawks, 78-71. This is huge for them, as this win most likely keeps them out of a 16th seed if they make the NCAA tournament. ORU is the real deal. They'd probably beat my Sooners by 20 right now.

Coach Scott Sutton will have his pick of big-time jobs in the next couple of years, if he so desires.

Remember the Titans? That was ORU's nickname, before they dropped out of Division I in the late 80's. When they returned to D-1 in the early 90's, they picked up the nickname of Golden Eagles. I personally prefer Titans. Once a Titan, always a Titan.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Big News In Tally

Jeff Bowden has resigned as offensive coordinator for the Florida State Seminoles.

Wow. I refuse to speculate on what happened here, but the big goose egg against Wake Forest sealed his fate. This buys his dad a couple more years and gives him the opportunity for a well-deserved farewell tour if he so chooses.

The Bowden-Paterno race remains in full swing. The last one standing is the winningest coach in Division I-A history.

Basketball Season Already?

This is old news, but it is basketball season. College hoops has been going on for a week, and the NBA has been playing for close to a month. I am going to plead ignorance at this point.

In my advancing age, I have a hard time keeping up with more than one sport at a time, unless it is in the middle of playoffs, or if I have a fantasy team. I haven’t played fantasy basketball in a few years, so I haven’t had reason to keep up with the NBA on a daily basis before the playoffs. I do know my Dallas Mavericks had a four-game losing streak last week.

College basketball is at times the best sport out there. The NCAA Tournament is the best sporting event going. However, I have a hard time getting up for the regular season until conference play starts in January. There will be interesting non-conference games in November and December, but there will also be plenty of mismatches between power schools and schools running on a shoestring budget. Basketball has even more bodybag games than football. But, one of the cool things about college hoops is the sheer amount of “mid-majors”, and the opportunity for them to beat big schools in both the non-conference schedule, and in the Big Dance. I couldn’t tell you who is ranked in the Top 25 at this point, but I did see a headline that Vermont went on the road and beat ranked Boston College. That’s great. I have the most fun following teams on their run to the Tournament. The fun for me is the journey to the Dance. The Dance is just icing on the cake.

Last weekend, as I saw the ESPN ticker, I had to stop and remind myself that those were basketball games at the bottom of the screen. In my football mindset, I didn’t expect Texas to play Alcorn State, because I was watching them play Kansas State.

If college basketball coaches decided to move the start of their season to January, I wouldn’t complain a bit.

Monday, November 13, 2006

NFL Week In Review-Week 10

This weekend saw a lot of exciting action, some high-scoring games, and a demonstration of parity in the league.

The one team in the league with only one win is one that many expected to do great things, the Arizona Cardinals. The Dallas Cowboys went out to the desert and got a 27-10 win over the hapless Cardinals. The Rib Man, Tony Romo, threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys cruised to victory. The Cowboys return home to face the undefeated Colts.

The Houston Texans got an unexpected win, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second time this season, 13-10. David Carr was knocked out of the game with an injury, and Sage Rosenfels came off the bench to guide the Texans to a win. Sage might have been a better quarterback all along. The Jags’ backup, David Garrard, threw four interceptions in a nightmare game on the banks of the St. Johns River.

Steve McNair had a successful return to Tennessee, as the Ravens came from behind to defeat the Titans, 27-26. The Titans continue to improve as Vince Young gains more experience. The Ravens are now 7-2, and own the AFC North division.

William Tecumseh Sherman, the pride of Ohio, burned Atlanta to the ground during the Civil War. The Cleveland Browns are the pride of part of Ohio. They didn’t exactly burn Atlanta yesterday, but they did shock the Falcons with a 17-13 win at the Georgia Dome. Michael Vick had a brain fart, throwing two interceptions and losing a crucial fumble. The Browns are now 3-6, while the Falcons are 5-4.

Ohio’s other team took part in a shootout. The Bengals scored 41 points yesterday. Trouble is for them, San Diego scored 49 against them. The Chargers are an offensive juggernaut. Yesterday was the third time the Chargers have scored 40 or more points in a game this season. They are now 7-2, and in a dogfight with Denver in the AFC West.

Upriver in Pittsburgh, the Steelers engaged in a shootout of their own, defeating the first-place New Orleans Saints 38-31. Fast Willie Parker rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints dropped to 6-3, but are still in first place in the NFC South.

The Philadelphia Eagles returned to the win column with a 27-3 win over the Washington Redskins. The Redskins and my fantasy team took a major blow, as Clinton Portis suffered a hand injury. His future status is unknown. Donte Stallworth was on the receiving end of an 84 yard touchdown pass from the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb.

The Northeast received a load of major showers yesterday. Nowhere was this more evident than Foxboro, as the New England Patriots played in the slop against the New York Jets. The Jets apparently are better built for slop, as they upset the Pats, 17-14. The Pats are crashing back to earth. The Jets are now just a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East.

Their AFC East buddy Buffalo Bills went to the dome in Indy, and gave the Colts all they wanted, before Indianapolis won, 17-16. The Colts are 9-0, but are not thumping inferior teams as they did last year. Still, 9-0 is 9-0. They’ll take it.

The Miami Dolphins won their second consecutive game, beating the visiting Chiefs 13-10. The Dolphins may finally be asserting themselves and starting to meet pre-season expectations, after a woefully slow start.

The San Francisco 49ers are still not a very good team. However, they found a way to win their 4th game of the season yesterday, with a 19-13 win over Detroit. Frank Gore broke a 61-yard run for a touchdown, and had 148 yards in the first half before leaving the game with a concussion. The vaunted Detroit offense did not show up.

The St. Louis Rams traveled to Seattle, and lost to backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, 24-22. Josh Brown kicked a 38-yard field goal for the win. The Seahawks remain in 1st place in the NFC West.

The Green Bay Packers continue to improve. The Minnesota Vikings are crashing, and crashing hard. The Pack went into the HHH Dome and nipped the Vikes, 23-17. Brett Favre is still crazy after all these years, and is still productive after all these years.

The Denver Broncos went out to Oakland, and had a narrow escape. The 7-2 Broncos pulled out a 17-13 win over the Raiders. The Raiders are still in contention for a high draft pick in the spring.

The Sunday Night extravaganza matched the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, in the first of NBC’s flexible-scheduling choices for Sunday Night Football. The Bears thumped the injury-scarred Giants, 38-20. Devin Hester returned a missed field goal for 108 yards and a touchdown. This is a tie for the longest play in NFL history. The Bears placed themselves in much better position to game home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Big Orange Jacket

I am going to take this opportunity to use this part of my blog to talk about something very loosely related to college football.

My wife and I lost a friend this past weekend to cancer. I first met Steve Maness over 11 years ago when my wife and I were dating. He sang at our wedding. He also added to the comedic value of our wedding video when interviewed during the reception, when he said in his Tennessee drawl, "This food is butt-kickin' good!"

Steve was a passionate person, and fun for everyone to be around. He was a native of west Tennessee, and his love for the Vols never ended, even as he spent two decades in Texas. We would invite him to our place for watch parties, and he was in his finest form during the Miss America pageant and when the Tennessee Volunteers were playing. During the Vols’ heyday in the late 90’s, we would have parties with the express intent of watching Steve watch Tennessee. It would be hilarious to watch him yell at Peyton Manning, Tee Martin, Phil Fulmer, or whoever the Big Orange target would be at the time. As would be expected, he thought Steve Spurrier was the Antichrist. We hosted a watch party at our house for the 1999 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, in which the Vols defeated Florida State for their most recent national championship. Steve walked into our place with the most obnoxious looking deer hunter-orange jacket, with a Tennessee football helmet on the back. Those of us not from Tennessee could not help but laugh. After all, we weren’t there just for the Tostitos, the Vols, or the ‘Noles. We were there to watch Steve watch the game. He was in rare form that night, especially as the Big Orange won the crystal football.

Steve was about much more than the Big Orange, though. He was a well-rounded individual, and was first and foremost a committed follower of Jesus Christ. He was an accomplished musician and soloist. He was also a scholar, with a PhD in New Testament, and taught graduate classes in Greek. For his day job, he worked in the financial industry for a mortgage company in Dallas. With varying interests and talents such as those, I would call him a Renaissance man.

Steve fought cancer off and on for the past four years. After what was apparently a successful surgery last week, he was unexpectedly found dead of a heart attack last Saturday. He never married, but leaves behind his parents and a world of friends, on whom he had enormous impact.

Heaven is richer today. Steve is in a place where there is no death, no pain, no suffering, and no sin. His gain is our loss.

On a side note, I’m no fan of the Vols, but I want the jacket.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Wild Day

Wow. The BCS got thrown for all sorts of loops, with chaos in the Top 10. The Game of this Century is set up for Saturday, with #2 Michigan set to travel to the Horseshoe to play hated archrival #1 Ohio State. A lot of things happened this weekend, all of which contribute to the greatness of college football.

First, on Thursday night, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey broke through with a win over #3 Louisville, 28-25. Rutgers trailed 25-7 before coming back to win on a Jeremy Ito field goal. Speaking of Ito: Can you believe it’s been 11 years since the O.J. trial? I digress. Rutgers is still undefeated at 9-0.

Saturday was a wild day in the Top 10. The Florida Gators needed two blocked kicks to hold off Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks, 17-16. The Ole Ball Coach is snakebitten this year, with close losses to Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Florida. The Gators will find themselves third in the BCS standings this week.

The Texas Longhorns experienced disaster. As Texas took a 7-0 lead over Kansas State on a Colt McCoy quarterback sneak, Colt suffered a broken clavicle. Texas from there looked rusty, suffering turnovers and blocked punts, and allowed KSU to take a 42-21 lead. Texas closed to within 42-35, before K-State added a field goal, and Texas scored to make the final margin 45-42. Texas lost its chance at the national championship game, but can still win the Big XII South with a win at home over Texas A&M. I laughed this game off. However, injuries can turn things around in a heartbeat.

I predicted the Georgia-Auburn game would be ugly. I didn’t expect it to be ugly in favor of Georgia, as the Bulldogs ruined the season of War Eagle, winning 37-15. Auburn has now suffered two butt-kickings on their home field. Georgia salvaged some respectability for their season, after losing to the Wildcats of Kentucky in Lexington the previous week.

Out West, the Cal Bears were caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown with USC, as they were stunned in Tucson by the Arizona Wildcats, 24-20, in the biggest win in Mike Stoops’ tenure in the desert. Cal can still win the Pac 10 by winning their remaining games with USC (good luck with all that) and Stanford.

The world turned upside down in Tallahassee last night. Florida State played Wake Forest. One team was ranked 18th, the other was unranked. The game ended in a score of 30-0. Wake Forest is the ranked team, and they won 30-0, for FSU’s first shutout loss since 1971. Things are not well in Tallahassee. Bobby Bowden is protecting his son, offensive coordinator Jeff, at all costs. The wolves are out down there, with good reason. Coach Bowden is a legend, and deserves to leave/retire on his own terms. He built that program from nothing. However, he needs to see the train wreck that has developed here. At this point, whenever it may happen, he is going to leave his program in shambles. A terrible shame. At the same time, Wake Forest is the real deal. They are a team of destiny.

BCS Projections

BCS NCG: Ohio State vs. Michigan (rematch)
Rose: Notre Dame vs. USC (rematch, but the Rose would kill for ND if they can’t get a Big 10 team)
Fiesta: Texas vs. Boise State
Sugar: Florida vs. West Virginia
Orange: Arkansas vs. Wake Forest (this one is wide open)

Big XII Rankings

1. Texas: Shocking defeat in the Little Apple, but is still the best team here.
2. Oklahoma: Sooners keep overcoming adversity, defeating Tech with a third string running back.
3. Nebraska: Champions of the North Division, and a threat in Kansas City.
4. Oklahoma State: Took Baylor down Route 66.
5. Texas A&M: Lost second heartbreaker in a row at home.
6. Kansas State: Improving quickly, and pulled upset of the season over Texas.
7. Missouri: Good, but not great.
8. Texas Tech: See Missouri.
9. Kansas: Can salvage a bowl with win over K-State or Mizzou.
10. Baylor: Injuries have sucked the life out of the Bears.
11. Colorado: Finally out of the cellar.
12. Iowa State: On track for 0-8 in the conference, and a new coach around the corner.