Saturday, December 02, 2006

Keep These Guys Out Of The Cheese

The North Dakota State Bison went into Milwaukee today and defeated 8th-ranked Marquette, 64-60. North Dakota State is in their fourth year as a full member of Division I. The Bison are now 4-1, with their only loss being a narrow 85-81 loss at Texas Tech.

This is North Dakota State’s second win in as many years against a major program in the state of Wisconsin. Last year, the Bison went into Madison and upset highly ranked Wisconsin. Their football team was a blocked field goal away from defeating Minnesota in Minneapolis. Are they becoming the Big Ten's worst nightmare?

I don’t think any more programs in Wisconsin will be scheduling these guys any time soon. Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wisconsin-Green Bay would be best served by not playing them.

That's A Load of BCS

It looks like the BCS qualifiers are set. The computers and pollsters will tell us who will play in the BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Arizona on January 8.

Tonight was an exciting and interesting night in the world of college football.

The Florida Gators won the SEC championship over Arkansas, 38-28. I’d hate to be the Arkansas special teams coach, as the Hogs gave up touchdowns on a blocked punt and a fumbled punt return. The Gators earn the right to either: 1) play Ohio State for the national championship, or 2) complain about being passed over in favor of Michigan. We’ll find out their fate on Sunday. Most likely, they are headed to the Big Easy to play Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights lost a heartbreaker to the West Virginia Mountaineers in triple overtime, 41-39. The Scarlet Knights, due to the missed two-point conversion, drop from the $14 million Orange Bowl to the $800,000 Texas Bowl. Of course, they’ll get part of the Big East cut of the Orange Bowl money, but they still lost a few million dollars from the missed opportunity to make the BCS. Louisville now goes to the BCS from the Big East, most likely to play Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

My Oklahoma Sooners won their 40th conference championship, defeating the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 21-7. The Sooner defense came up big, only allowing a touchdown when Nebraska intercepted a pass deep inside OU territory. OU goes on to the Fiesta Bowl, where they will most likely meet Boise State.

All of these bowl pairings will be set tomorrow. I expect a rematch between The Ohio State University and the school up North.

Sons of Westwood

The mighty USC Trojans lost today to a basketball school, costing themselves a chance at a national championship. That basketball school is their archrival, the UCLA Bruins. UCLA defeated the Trojans, 13-9.

USC now returns to the Rose Bowl. There is now a looming controversy over the #2 spot in the BCS, between Michigan and Florida. As I write, Florida's not out of the woods yet, as Arkansas is making a comeback on the Gators. Stay tuned, as it only gets more interesting from here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mid-Major Upset of the Night....Not Really

There was no true mid-major upset of the night. The closest thing to it occurred twice in the Big XII Conference, but the Big XII teams were road teams. Iowa State, under new coach Greg McDermott, traveled to in-state rival Northern Iowa and lost, 70-57. McDermott formerly played and coached at UNI, and took them to multiple NCAA tournaments. The Missouri Valley, once again, is not playing like a true mid-major, and looks to put multiple teams in the Big Dance in March.

Another non-upset occurred in Wilmington, North Carolina, as UNC-Wilmington defeated Colorado, 67-55. UNCW was in last year's Tournament, and Colorado is playing out the string under lame duck coach Ricardo Patton, who has announced his resignation at season's end. This was not an upset at all, as UNCW should beat CU, even though CU is in a power conference.

NFL Picks-Week 13

There’s an NFL Network Thursday night special tonight, so the picks are early.

Last week was really good, as I went 13-3. Season: 108-68

Dallas at New York Giants: The Giants are Team Turmoil at the moment. Michael Strahan called out Plaxico Burress for quitting on the team, then called out a reporter in a press gaggle for wanting to report it. Jeremy Shockey has been running his mouth, as well. It has not been a good three weeks at Camp Coughlin. The Cowboys are flying high, as the Rib Man, Tony Romo, makes the beginning of his bid to be compared with Staubach and Aikman. Do you really think I’m going to pick against the Cowboys now? Pick: Dallas
Baltimore at Cincinnati: The Thursday night NFL Network game. The Ravens sit on top of the AFC North at 9-2. Their defense had nine sacks, and forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown last week. The Bengals are starting to make their move toward a playoff spot. They need this game desperately. Carson Palmer and Ocho Cinco come through at home. Pick: Cincy
Houston at Oakland: Yuck. The Suck Bowl. Or, the Brady Bowl, as in Brady Quinn, probably the first quarterback taken in the upcoming draft. Both teams are bad. This one is in the Black Hole. Pick: Oakland.
Arizona at St. Louis: The old St. Louis team returns to the city with the Arch for what is now an annual trip. It’s been 18 years since the Cardinals called St. Louis home, so that shows you how old I’m getting. The Cardinals aren’t very good, and the Rams are decent at times. The newer St. Louis team should win here. Pick: St. Louis
Atlanta at Washington: The Redskins got a win last week against the Carolina Panthers with new QB Jason Campbell. The Falcons are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. I don’t have a reason to pick against Washington. Pick: D.C.
Detroit at New England: Mismatch city. The Lions are terrible. They may be in line for Brady Quinn as well. The Patriots are still a force to be reckoned with. They should beat the Lions with one hand tied behind their backs. Pick: Pats
Indianapolis at Tennessee: The Colts are rolling along at 10-1, but only defeated the Titans by one point in their last meeting. The Fighting Vince Youngs made an improbable comeback against the Giants last week, winning 24-21 after being down 21-0 in the 4th quarter. I’d like to see this game, but I won’t get to. The Titans are becoming a fun team to watch. It’s hard to go against the Colts, though. Pick: Indy
Kansas City at Cleveland: The Chiefs are 7-4, in contention for a playoff spot, and get to go to Cleveland this week. Cleveland is a pretty dreary place this time of year, but so is their team. Pick: Kansas City
Minnesota at Chicago: The Vikes stopped a losing skid last week against Arizona. Da Bears are coming off of a loss in New England. Dome team vs. cold weather team in December, outdoors. Let me think…..da Bears. Pick: Chicago
New York Jets at Green Bay: Speaking of cold, brrr…. The Jets are a respectable 6-5. The Packers have improved this year, to 5-6 at this point. Brett Favre is still performing in Green Bay, and has improved over last year. In a close one, I’ll go with the Pack. Pick: Green Bay
San Diego at Buffalo: Warm weather team at cold weather team in December…wait a minute, these are the Chargers. They’ll give it to LaDainian Tomlinson 40 times and get out of Buffalo with a win. Pick: San Diego
San Francisco at New Orleans: The 49ers had their winning streak snapped last week. The Saints find themselves on top of the NFC South. Good things continue to happen in the Big Easy. Pick: Saints
Jacksonville at Miami: The East Coast of Florida Bowl. The Jags are not a good road team. The Dolphins have won four in a row with Joey Harrington at quarterback. At this rate, he’ll make Nick Saban want to stay in Miami instead of flirting with that Alabama job. Make that five wins in a row for the ‘Fins. Pick: Miami
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh: Both teams have won Super Bowls in recent years, and both teams are struggling this year. The Bucs are worse. Pick: Pittsburgh
Seattle at Denver: The AFC West Reunion tour continues for the Seahawks, who celebrated the return of Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander with a big second half to defeat the Packers on Monday Night Football. The Broncos are changing quarterbacks, as Jay Cutler makes his first start in Denver. I’ll go with the known over the unknown here. Pick: Seattle
Carolina at Philadelphia: The Eagles are struggling, now that Donovan McNabb is out for the season. The Panthers have been nothing if not inconsistent. Monday Night in Philadelphia..who do I pick? Pick: Philly

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mid-Major Win of the Night

The Southern Conference got its second win over a BCS conference school in as many weeks, as the Furman Paladins defeated Vanderbilt in Nashville, 70-62. Furman coach Jeff Jackson was an assistant at Vandy for five years, before getting the Furman job this year. The SoCon is making noise in the non-conference part of the schedule, as Furman's upstate rival Wofford won at Cincinnati last week.

College Picks-Championship Week

It’s conference championship weekend, along with a few assorted regular season games. The #2 spot in the BCS is still in play, as well as four BCS conference championships.

Last Week: 13-7 Season: 180-80

Big XII Championship game at Kansas City: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska: The Sooners are making a surprise appearance here, winning seven games in a row after losing to Texas. They are doing it the Woody Hayes way: three yards and a cloud of dust. RBs Allen Patrick and Chris Brown have picked up the slack after the injury to Adrian Peterson. Nebraska is the best of a mediocre bunch in the North, but the Huskers do have a big road win over Texas A&M, the latest conquerors of Texas. The forecast is for temperatures in the 20s in Kansas City Saturday night, which favors the OU running game over the West Coast Offense of Nebraska. Pick: OU
MAC Championship game at Detroit: Central Michigan vs. Ohio: Frank Solich has the Ohio Bobcats in the championship game and a bowl in his second year in Athens. The Chippewas blew through the West division of the MAC. Pick: Ohio
Conference USA Championship game at Houston: Southern Miss vs. Houston: The Coogs have rolled through the West division of C-USA, after a midseason 3-game losing streak. Southern Miss is consistently good. The game is on Houston’s home field. Pick: Houston
ACC Championship game at Jacksonville: Wake Forest vs. Georgia Tech: Wake Forest got through a murderer’s row in their division, getting past Maryland, Boston College, and a weakened Florida State to reach the championship game. Georgia Tech is coming off of a tough loss to archrival Georgia. Neither team expected to be here at the beginning of the year. The ride continues for Wake. Pick: Wake Forest
SEC Championship game at Atlanta: Florida vs. Arkansas: The Gators have made it to this point with only one loss, on the Plains at Auburn. Arkansas won 10 games in a row before losing last week against LSU. Arkansas is doing some fun things on offense, such as lining up RB Dwight McFadden in the “Wildcat” formation, a variation of the single wing. Florida barely survived last week in Tallahassee against weakened archrival Florida State. Arkansas is better than Florida State. Pick: Arkansas
Army vs. Navy at Philadelphia: A lot of these guys will be fighting terrorists as soon as next year. Props to them for serving our country. This rivalry takes a back seat to none. On the field, Navy is once again having a solid season. Army has had its ups and downs. Pick: Navy
USC at UCLA: All that stands between the Trojans and the BCS championship game are their hated rival Bruins. USC needs to win in the Rose Bowl to avoid returning there on January 1. UCLA is a fair team, but nothing special. USC just keeps getting better. Pick: USC
Rutgers at West Virginia: The Scarlet Knights can secure a conference championship and BCS bowl bid with a win. Problem is, it’s their toughest road game of the year. West Virginia suffered an improbable home loss to South Florida last week, bringing an end to their BCS hopes. Still, the ‘Eers will have enough in the tank to bounce back and handle Rutgers. There will be a lot of happy people in Louisville Saturday night. Pick: West Virginia
Air Force at TCU: TCU, with a win, will clinch another 10 win season, after slipping under the radar with early losses to BYU and Utah. Air Force has slipped to the status of a middle-of-the pack Mountain West team, and is no longer the strongest program of the service academies. Pick: TCU
Oregon State at Hawaii: The Beavers are the only team to defeat USC this year. They will not have a vacation in Hawaii this week, as the Warriors have won 9 games in a row, and are ranked 24th in the nation. The Warriors (don’t call them Rainbow) have scored more than 40 points in all 10 of their wins. The Beavers can’t hang with that. Pick: Hawaii

Monday, November 27, 2006

Super Bowl or Bust

Kicker Mike Vanderjagt was cut today from the roster of the Dallas Cowboys. Vanderjagt had struggled this season after signing a free agent contract in the off-season, making only 13 out of 18 field goals, after a record as the most accurate kicker in the league while kicking for the Indianapolis Colts. Vandy was in a season-long funk, after missing a game-tying field goal in a playoff game last season. The Colts lost that game to the Steelers, after being favored to win the Super Bowl.

This is not surprising. Bill Parcells is playing to win, and is playing to win now. The message has been sent: Super Bowl or Bust.

The Cowboys picked up ex-Buc kicker Martin Gramatica off waivers. Is the 33rd best kicker in football the answer? Parcells doesn’t trust Vanderjagt, so he had no choice.

The Cowboys have now changed quarterbacks and kickers. Is Parcells greatness, or is he just a glorified gym teacher? Time will tell.

How Can I Forget?

How can I forget the Pre-Season NIT (or whatever they call it these days)

The Butler Bulldogs weren't expected to do a whole lot in this tournament. However, they knocked off Notre Dame and Indiana in consecutive nights to earn a trip to New York City. Once at the Garden, they defeated Tennessee and Gonzaga to win the championship. Not bad.

The Bulldogs weren't expecting to be in the finals, and followed up last Friday's final in New York with a game back home against MAC power Kent State. Butler won that one, too, and is now 7-0.

The Butler did it.

NFL Week In Review, Week 12

Another weekend in the NFL is in the books….

Life is good, because the Dallas Cowboys are in first place. The Rib Man, Tony Romo, threw for five touchdowns and got his fourth win as the starter, as the Cowboys manhandled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 38-10. The Cowboys are on a major roll, and are favored by some to reach Super Bowl XLI. I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid just yet, but this run is fun. One week at a time, boys, one week at a time….

Also on Thanksgiving, Jake Plummer had his last start as quarterback of the Denver Broncos, as the Broncos lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 19-10. I called last week for a new quarterback in Denver, and apparently, I was not the only one. The Chiefs are now 7-4, and are tied with the Broncos in a dogfight for a wild card berth with five games to play.

The first of the Turkey Day specials was a turkey, as the putrid Detroit Lions lost to the Miami Dolphins, 27-10. Joey Harrington played quarterback, and the Lions lost. However, Harrington now plays for Miami, and got a win in his return to the Motor City. The Lions are owned by the Ford family, and play in a stadium called Ford Field. Ford really stands for Found On Road Dead. In five weeks, the Lions will be on the clock. That’s the draft clock, and the first pick in the draft.

Another competitor for that first pick in the draft resides on the South Loop in Houston. The Texans laid another egg, losing their second game in New York in ugly fashion. The Jets defeated the Texans 26-11 in a game that wasn’t even that close. It is becoming apparent that David Carr is not the answer for the Texans. He may go somewhere else (see Joey Harrington) and do well. It looks like the Texans may need to look elsewhere for a quarterback.

A quarterback that the Texans could have had is in Tennessee. Vince Young is doing good things in Music City, leading the Titans to a 24-21 comeback win over the New York Football Giants. The G-Men had a 21-0 lead, before the Titans came back. The Giants are in full meltdown mode, and are in danger of flat-out mutiny against coach Tom Coughlin. Yesterday, Eli Manning threw an ill-advised interception which led to the game-winning field goal. Coughlin called Manning out in the post-game press conference, only a week after he admonished Tiki Barber to keep team business in the locker room. Good luck in putting out that fire, Coach. Hopefully, this meltdown will last another week, as Tony Romo and the Cowboys visit the Meadowlands next week.

There will be another Super Bowl champion this year. It’s not official yet, but Pittsburgh is now 4-7, and the Steelers were spanked by the Ravens, 27-0 in Baltimore. The Ravens’ defense had nine sacks, three turnovers, and a touchdown. The Ravens are a very good team, and will be a tough out in the playoffs.

The team that formerly resided in B-More still sits on top of the AFC. The Indianapolis Colts pulverized the reeling Philadelphia Eagles, 45-21. Joseph Addai scored four touchdowns for the Colts, who ran their record to 10-1. The Eagles played their first game without QB Donovan McNabb, who is out for the season due to injury. The Colts are still the team to beat in the AFC, but the Chargers and Ravens will have a lot to say in the matter.

The Cincinnati Bengals are trying to make another run at the playoffs. They need a few more games like yesterday, when they drilled the Cleveland Browns, 30-0. Carson Palmer threw for four touchdown passes for the Bengals. The Browns are still trying to break up that argument between WR Braylon Edwards and QB Charlie Frye.

The Buffalo Bills won their second game in a row, as Rian Lindell kicked a field goal to give the Bills a 27-24 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills are now 5-6. This game also has the distinction of being the first game to be blacked out to local television this season. Ralph Wilson Stadium did not sell out prior to 72 hours before kickoff, so the folks in Buffalo had to listen to this one on the radio. If I lived in Western New York, I don’t think I’d want to pay NFL prices to sit in the cold and see that team.

The Chicago Bears are mortal. Da Bears went to Foxboro and were handled by the New England Patriots, 17-13. The Bears now sit at 9-2, still 2 games better than anyone in the NFC, but not playing their best football and playing better teams on their schedule. The Bears are still hoping for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The Patriots have not given up on their season by any stretch of the imagination. I wouldn’t want to have to play them in the playoffs, especially in Foxboro.

In Landover, Maryland, Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell got his first win as the starter, connecting on a 66-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooley as Washington defeated the Carolina Panthers, 17-13. Just when you give them up for dead, the Redskins come alive. Just when you think they’re going to be pretty good, the Panthers lay an egg. Go figure.

Elsewhere in the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints tightened their grip on the division with a 31-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Drew Brees threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints look like geniuses with that signing. They have a big game in Dallas in two weeks.

Upriver, way upriver, in Minnesota, the Vikings broke back into the win column with a 31-26 victory over the sorry Arizona Cardinals. Dennis Green did not have a happy return to Minnesota. The Vikes are now 5-6, while the Cardinals are contending for that first draft pick at 2-9.

Their other competitors for the top pick in the draft are the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders gave a valiant effort, but came up short against the San Diego Chargers, losing 21-14. The great LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for two touchdowns, and threw for another. The Chargers are now 9-2, and are in command of the AFC West division.

The other Bay Area team also lost on Sunday, as the San Francisco 49ers’ winning streak was halted by the St. Louis Rams, 20-17. Both teams still trail the Seattle Seahawks, who host the Green Bay Packers tonight.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

More BCS Ramblings

It happened: USC passed Michigan in the latest BCS rankings. Barring a disaster in the Rose Bowl Saturday against UCLA, the Trojan Men should have a date with the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 8 in Glendale, Arizona. Michigan would then be in line for a consolation prize: a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The LSU Tigers find themselves fifth in the latest BCS rankings. They will be cheering for Arkansas on Saturday. If 4th-ranked Florida loses to the Hogs, LSU will move up in the rankings. The top four teams in the BCS rankings are guaranteed a BCS bowl bid. LSU stands a good chance at a BCS at-large bid, regardless.

The BCS is kicking themselves over Wisconsin. The Badgers are 11-1, and ranked 7th in the BCS standings, but will be relegated to the Capital One Formerly Known As The Florida Citrus Bowl. The BCS bowls are limited to two teams per conference, and Ohio State and Michigan will represent the Big 10 in the BCS. One of these bowls would love to have 40 or 50,000 cheeseheads come to their city and watch their Badgers. Instead, the Badgers will return to Beautiful Downtown Orlando, where they defeated Auburn last January 1.

Props to the Rice Owls. The Feisty Nightbirds qualified for their first bowl since Noah was loading the Ark, with a 31-27 win over SMU. SMU is bowl-eligible for the first time since they were paying players, but will not be in a bowl game. Rice was 1-10 last year, and have made a quick turnaround under coach Todd Graham. The Owls will most likely appear in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, against TCU.

BCS Projections

No trades of teams involved in these projections.

BCS NCG: Ohio State vs. USC
Rose: Michigan vs. LSU
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Boise State
Sugar: Florida vs. Notre Dame
Orange: Louisville vs. Georgia Tech

Big XII Rankings

1. Oklahoma: Didn’t give up on their season, and something good happened for them.
2. Nebraska: Next step in rebuilding is Saturday night in Kansas City
3. Texas A&M: Signature win over Texas in Austin.
4. Texas: From the Fiesta Bowl to Fiesta Texas?
5. Texas Tech: Once again, a winning season and a bowl game.
6. Missouri: Bounced back from ISU loss with pounding of KU.
7. Oklahoma State: Had chance to defeat Oklahoma at end.
8. Kansas State: Inconsistent, but got big season-defining win over Texas.
9. Kansas: Finished regular season on sour note.
10. Baylor: Slowly improving.
11. Colorado: Program is bottoming out.
12. Iowa State: The coach search is on.

Mid-Major Wins of the Weekend

I’ve been away for a few days, but have noticed some eye-catching wins by some of the little guys in college basketball.

I’m not sure if the Missouri Valley Conference qualifies as a mid-major any longer. Their performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and their start to this season speaks for itself. Wichita State is the real deal, and went down to LSU and won yesterday, 57-53. Missouri State went to a tournament in a high school gym on South Padre Island, defeated #7 Wisconsin, and lost in overtime to Oklahoma State.

Today, Larry Krystowiak’s Montana Grizzlies defeated Minnesota of the Big 10, 72-65. in a tournament at the Milk House at Disney World in Orlando. We last saw Montana in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, after upsetting Nevada in the first round.

David continues to cause trouble for Goliath..

Strange Things Happen

The BCS and a few conferences came into focus this weekend, as a few unexpected things happened.

In our part of the country, the Fightin’ Texas Aggies went into Austin and shocked the Texas Longhorns, 12-7. Hindsight is always 20-20, but what was Mack Brown doing when he allowed Colt McCoy to come back from injury this soon? Colt had easily his worst game of the year, throwing three interceptions, and having to be carted off the field with 20 seconds left in the game, after aggravating his shoulder injury. I like Colt, and wish he didn’t play for that school in Austin. In my opinion, Mack set him up for failure by letting him come back so soon. On the other sideline, Dennis Franchione more than saved his job, and the Aggies delivered a win on which they can build a program. The Ags are going to be hard to deal with in years to come.

That result set up Saturday in Stillwater, where Oklahoma needed a win in the Bedlam series against Oklahoma State in order to win the Big 12 South and advance to the Big XII Championship Game next week in Kansas City. The Sooners got 156 yards rushing and a touchdown from Allen Patrick, and 74 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Chris Brown, to get past the Cowboys, 27-21. The Sooners have survived the ineligibility of a starting quarterback and offensive lineman, a botched call which cost them an early game at Oregon, and the loss of all-everything running back Adrian Peterson to win the South division and to be one step from a BCS bowl. Bob Stoops has done the best coaching job of his tenure at Oklahoma.

Elsewhere, USC pounded Notre Dame, 44-24, to make their case for #2 in the BCS rankings, and a spot opposite Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. Notre Dame is vastly overrated, and has been the beneficiary of some good luck (Michigan State’s collapse) and good scheduling (name teams in down cycles such as North Carolina and Stanford, and the three service academies). It is my hope that the rumor comes true, and the Fiesta Bowl allows the Big 12 champion to play Michigan in the Rose Bowl, and that Notre Dame would go to Glendale to play Boise State. I would love to see Boise cream Notre Dame.

LSU helped their BCS at-large chances, by going to Little Rock and defeating Arkansas, 31-26. The Hogs’ 10-game winning streak came to an end. Arkansas can still advance to the Sugar Bowl with a win over Florida in the SEC Championship Game.

West Virginia blew their BCS chances with a 24-19 loss at home to South Florida. The Mountaineers are now reduced to being spoilers, as they face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights this week. Rutgers can win the Big East with a win in Morgantown.

The ACC has turned upside down, as Florida State and Miami are barely qualifying for bowls, and Wake Forest is playing Georgia Tech for the conference championship. In the Big 12, this would be like Texas Tech playing Kansas for the conference championship. In the SEC, it would be like South Carolina going against Ole Miss for a conference championship. Hell hasn’t frozen over on Tobacco Road, but it is basketball season there. It was weird to see Wake Forest play Maryland in a meaningful football game. That is usually reserved for basketball.

More comments, projections, and rankings to come later….