Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ugly Uniform of the Day

I am beginning a new feature today. From time to time, there are uniforms out there which redefine the word ugly. When it comes to uniforms, I'm pretty old school, with a few exceptions here and there. I believe teams ought to have one home uniform, and one away uniform. There are some decent-looking alternate uniforms out there, but most are a useless waste of thread, designed to suck money out of customers.

The Washington Wizards broke out this putrid-looking alternate uniform this season. Gilbert Arenas is shown wearing it here. It is gold, with white numbers, a white shoulder, black stars down the side, and black shorts. It may be the worst basketball uniform I've ever seen. The only two that come close are the silver ones the Mavericks wore for one game last year before Mark Cuban got smart and pulled them, and some old, old unis that Byng High School in Oklahoma made their JV team wear in the early 80's, which were supposed to be gold, but had worn out to the point where they looked puke green.

Stay tuned for more ugly jerseys...

Bison Stampede

My alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University, is currently considering adding football to its athletic program. OBU is a school with nearly 1700 undergraduates located in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The school dropped football during World War II due to budget restraints, and never brought it back. The Bison currently compete in the NAIA, and are national powers in men’s and women’s basketball and track.

I believe the addition of football would be a benefit to the university, providing increased enrollment, student retention, donations, and school pride. I have seen the benefits of football in recent years at schools of similar size and mission, and would love to see these things happen at OBU.

Small college football is a totally different animal from the BCS conference schools we see on TV every week. The budgets are much lower, and coaches, more often than not, teach classes during the week. In truth, a 5A high school program in Texas will often have a larger football budget than a small college program. Attending a game in person is similar to attending a high school game. However, athletes, students, alumni, and the community at small schools have the same amount of pride in their programs, and the universities often benefit more than their larger counterparts. Football would benefit OBU in so many ways.

The school is currently studying the addition of football. They are currently taking a survey on their website. Whether you are an alum, a friend of an alum, an interested observer, or someone who is surfing around in blogland and has never heard of the school, please click here and vote for the addition of football.

With our help, Bison football can become a reality in the future.

Thank you!


Millions of football addicts will go through serious withdrawal today. The college football regular season is over, and the Saturday afternoon NFL games have moved to Thursday nights on the NFL Network.

In this area, there are only two football games on TV today. One of them is the Pilgrim's Pride Bowl, a junior college game from Mount Pleasant, Texas between Blinn College (TX) and Pearl River Community College (MS). Pass the chicken. The other is the semifinal of the former Division 1-AA between Youngstown State and Appalachian State.

This would be a great weekend for the first round of a Division 1-A playoff. If it's too good to be true, it usually is.

I need to find something productive to do today.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Comin' To Your City

...Well we moved through Oklahoma, Alabama, down through Georgia
Tryin' to get on down to Florida for the game

And then we loaded up our tailgate on the convoy up the freeway
To head up north to see the Buckeyes, Notre Dame

Victory for USC, Bulldogs barkin' at the Wolverines
Hook 'em Horns and give me that Rocky Top Tennessee....

Thursday, December 07, 2006

NFL Picks-Week 14

The playoff picture is becoming clearer in the NFL. There are leaders, there are pretenders, and there is everyone else. Each division has a clear leader, followed by a dogfight for wild card positions in both the AFC and NFC.

In the AFC, Indianapolis and San Diego have the best records, at 10-2, and lead the South and West divisions, respectively. Close behind, at 9-3, are Baltimore and New England, leaders in the North and East divisions. There is a whole gaggle of teams at 7-5, in contention for two wild card spots. They are the New York Jets, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Kansas City, and Denver.

A similar situation exists in the NFC. Chicago has the best record at 10-2, and has clinched the North division. Dallas, New Orleans, and Seattle are all 8-4, and lead the East, South, and West divisions. Another gaggle of teams are 6-6, contending for two wild card spots. They are the New York Giants, Philadelphia, Carolina, and Atlanta.

Since there is a Thursday night game, the picks are ahead…

Last Week: 8-8 Overall: 116-76

New Orleans at Dallas: “Sunday Night Football on NBC…the only place that you’d want to be…” With apologies to Pink, this is the game of the week. Both teams are in line to win division titles, and one of them will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. There is a good chance for a rematch in the second round. The Saints have had an incredible run, fueled by QB Drew Brees and RB Deuce McAllister. The rookie stud for the Saints has not been Reggie Bush, but WR Marques Colston, who is expected back this week. Bush broke out last week, however, for four touchdowns. The Cowboys are riding the golden arm of the Rib Man, Tony Romo, and have gotten six touchdowns in the last three weeks from goal-line specialist RB Marion Barber. They got a gift last week from new K Martin Gramatica, with three key field goals, including a game-winner in a 23-20 victory over the Giants. Pick: Dallas, of course.
Tennessee at Houston: The long-awaited Vince Young Bowl. Vince has guided the Titans to a 5-4 record since he became the starter, and returns to his hometown to face the mediocre Texans. The natives are restless in Houston because many feel Vince should have been drafted to be the quarterback of the Texans, and because QB David Carr has been rather pedestrian for five years. The Titans are fun to watch, and it will be interesting to watch the crowd reactions at Reliant Stadium this week. Vince’s mojo continues…Pick: Titans
Cleveland at Pittsburgh: Cleveland looks to be without QB Charlie Frye for the rematch in the Steel City. Pittsburgh has been a decent home team, especially against inferior competition. Pick: Pittsburgh
Atlanta at Tampa Bay: The Bucs are sliding, fast. Actually, they never climbed that high to begin with. The Falcons are a schizophrenic team. One week they’re great, another week, they’re horrible. The Falcons are still in playoff contention, and should have enough to get past Tampa Bay. Pick: Atlanta
Baltimore at Kansas City: I’d like to see this game. This is a possible playoff matchup. The Chiefs are coming off a heartbreaker in Cleveland, where they blew a 14-point lead to lose in overtime. The Ravens are also coming off a loss in Cincinnati. This one is in Kansas City, where the Chiefs have always been much better. Pick: Chiefs
Indianapolis at Jacksonville: The Colts are loaded for bear after losing at the buzzer to the Titans last week. The Jags helped their playoff chances with a win in Miami. The Colts are just a little bit better, even on the road. This will be close. Pick: Colts
Minnesota at Detroit: Yuck. This is a candidate for that Sunday afternoon nap. The Vikes are mediocre. The Lions are bad. This might actually be a high-scoring game. Detroit is usually good for three or four games a year. This could be one of them. Pick: Detroit.
New England at Miami: The Dolphins lost a big game last week to the Jags, severely hurting their slim playoff chances. The Patriots are rolling along, as usual. The Pats are a better team. Pick: New England
New York Giants at Carolina: Just another game between two 6-6 teams. Wait a minute, both of these teams have strong playoff hopes. This game is huge. The Giants’ ship is sinking fast. The Panthers haven’t been able to put any kind of consistency together. What gives? QB Jake Delhomme is injured for the Panthers, and may not play. I’m going out on a limb here: Pick: Giants
Oakland at Cincinnati: Here are the Bengals, putting together a playoff run, and they get one of the best gifts a team could get: a home game with the awful Raiders. Look for the Bengals to score early and often here. Pick: Cincy
Philadelphia at Washington: The Jeff Garcia mini-era is underway in Philly, as he had three touchdown passes Monday night in a win over the Panthers. The Redskins are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Philly has a lot more to play for. Will it matter? Pick: Philly
Green Bay at San Francisco: These teams have had a lot of great games through the years. This probably won’t be one of them. The 49ers have surprised a lot of people, and have won 5 games this year. The Pack is improved over last year, but are far from greatness. Look for a shootout here. Pick: San Francisco
Seattle at Arizona: Yuck. The Seahawks are back, as Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander have returned from injury. The Cardinals got a win last week in St. Louis, which is enough to tease the good people of Arizona. This could be ugly. Pick: Seattle
Buffalo at New York Jets: The Jets are in playoff contention at 7-5. The Bills have been competitive most of the time. The Jets could really help themselves with a win here. Pick: Jets
Denver at San Diego: A month ago, this was a good matchup. The last time these teams met, the Chargers put on a great comeback and squashed the Broncos in the fourth quarter, behind the greatness of LaDainian Tomlinson. That was also the beginning of the end of the Jake Plummer era in Denver. Jay Cutler is now the QB for the Broncos, but that won’t matter. San Diego is the real deal. Pick: Chargers
Chicago at St. Louis: The Bears are doing it with defense, defense, defense. The Rams are rebuilding their team, and don’t have much to show for it this season. This won’t be pretty, but the guys from the Windy City should win. Pick: Chicago

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iowa State Champions?

There weren't any huge upsets in college basketball last night. Northern Iowa went into Iowa City and defeated Iowa, 57-55, but that's no longer an upset. That gives UNI the sweep over ISU and Iowa, with two conference games remaining with Drake. Once again, I wouldn't call this an upset, but it's the closest thing we had to David over Goliath in college hoops yesterday. UNI has bragging rights in the Land of Corn today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Decent Proposal

The eternal, ongoing debate concerns the need for a playoff in the highest level of college football. At this point, the only opponents of a playoff system are college presidents, BCS conference commissioners, and some athletic directors and coaches. Many coaches (such as Urban Meyer) are warming to the idea of a playoff. Media members and fans have been on the playoff bandwagon for years.

The primary argument used against a playoff is the amount of missed class time around the end of the semester and final exams. That is a bunch of Barry Switzer (B.S.). Divisions I-AA, II, and III play four to five weeks of playoffs, ending right around finals week. The missed class time arguments do not wash.

The unsaid argument revolves around money. The BCS generates a large amount of money. The BCS is not controlled by the NCAA, but by the bowls and the six BCS conferences. The six BCS conferences accumulate a large percentage of the money generated by the BCS. An extra BCS game was created, and increased access offered to non-BCS conferences, as a way to avoid a lawsuit from the non-BCS schools. This is the reason for the extra rotating BCS championship game, beginning this season. Any playoff system would be controlled by the NCAA. It would generate a larger amount of money, but the BCS conferences would receive a smaller portion of that money. The power conferences would rather have a larger portion of a smaller pie.

A college football playoff would serve two purposes: 1) To determine a champion, and 2) to maximize revenue for the member schools.

My proposal calls for a 16-team playoff. Each of the 11 Division 1-A conferences would have an automatic qualifier, just as in the NCAA basketball tournament. There would then be 5 at-large teams.

Why 11 automatic qualifiers? 1) Each conference would receive a share of revenue from the playoff, so each conference should participate; 2) It provides an easier first-round opponent for higher-ranked teams; and 3) It adds the once-in-a blue moon chance at a David-beats-Goliath upset, the element that makes the NCAA basketball tournament great.

5 is a good number of at-large teams, because there are really very few teams capable of winning 4 playoff games in a row to win a national championship, and these are teams that would be capable of doing so. It also places a value on the regular season, as a 6th place team in a power conference would not be in the NCAA football playoff, as they would qualify for the basketball tournament. There would normally not be a team with less than three losses in the playoff as an at-large team.

What about Notre Dame? They would not get an automatic bid. They would be forced to strongly consider joining a conference. The Big Ten and the Big East would be forced into a bidding war to offer the Irish the best deal, if ND felt the need to join a conference. ND could squeeze a sweet deal out of either of these conferences, making up for their lost BCS money. A Big 10 championship game could make up for that. This year, they went 10-2, and are 11th in the BCS rankings. They would be the last at-large team under my proposal. They might not get that lucky every year.

The first two rounds would be played on home fields. This maximizes revenue, and keeps fans from having to travel to more than two bowl-like games in neutral locations. It would be next to impossible for large numbers of fans to follow their team to four bowl locations in consecutive weeks in one season. The semi-finals and finals would be mega-events played in neutral sites, determined by a bidding process.

Television rights would be sold to the highest bidder. Coverage on the first two weekends would be regionalized, but supplemented with pay-per-view coverage of games not broadcast over-the-air in particular regions, similar in form to ESPN Game Plan or CBS Mega March Madness.

A playoff for this year would be as follows (seeds are based on BCS rankings):

Troy (16, Sun Belt champ) at Ohio State (1, Big Ten champ)
Auburn (9, SEC at-large) at Boise State (8, WAC champ)

Wake Forest (12, ACC champ) at USC (5, Pac 10 champ)
BYU (13, Mountain West champ) at LSU (4, SEC at-large)

Notre Dame (11, at-large) at Louisville (6, Big East champ)
Houston (14, Conference USA champ) at Michigan (3, Big 10 at-large)

Oklahoma (10, Big 12 champ) at Wisconsin (7, Big 10 at-large)
Central Michigan (15, MAC champ) at Florida (2, SEC champ)

The first two rounds would take place the weekends of December 8-9, and December 15-16. Games would be played on Friday night and all day Saturday, with no games competing with the NFL on Sundays. There would be a break during Christmas weekend, and the semifinals would be played on Monday, January 1, in a neutral location-either a dome or a warm-weather city. The semifinals would be a mega-Final Four-type event, played as a doubleheader on New Year’s Day. The winners would play in another city on January 8, the day of this year’s BCS championship game.

Games would be scheduled for maximum television exposure, and for minimum overlap with NFL games.

This proposal promotes all that is great about college football, maximizes revenue, and protects the integrity of the regular season. It also determines a champion on the field.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Buying A Bowl Bid

The 12-game schedule, along with changes made by the NCAA for bowl qualification, has added a new wrinkle to the bowl season. Teams can now qualify for a bowl with 6 wins, as long as their conference has enough contracts. Also, a team can count a win over a Division 1-AA (now Division 1 Championship Division) opponent toward bowl eligibility every year.

With only 6 wins needed for bowl eligibility, big-time schools can offer large payouts to 1-AA and lower-level 1-A schools for home games, with no required return game, and a chance at an easy win. Schools from major conferences have been doing this for several years, but now, it has become the difference between a winning and losing season, and key to becoming eligible for a bowl.

Six schools: Florida State, Miami, Iowa, Minnesota, Alabama, and Oklahoma State, finished 6-6, but will be playing in bowl games. Without the 12th game, each of these teams would be 5-6, and would be staying home for the holidays. After expenses, these schools may or may not make a profit off the trip. However, the players will gain three extra weeks of practice, and get a trip and some gifts. Notice I said trip, because some trips are better than others. FSU is going to San Francisco for the Emerald Bowl. Iowa is going to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl, not a bad trip for a team that went 2-6 in the Big Ten. Oklahoma State and Alabama, on the other hand, are going to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl. There’s not a lot in Shreveport, except riverfront casinos. And, Miami gets a trip to Boise, Idaho for the MPC Computers Bowl. I haven’t checked air mileage, but I’m sure there are a lot of places in Central and South America that are closer than Boise is to Miami.

How did these schools “earn” these trips? They paid lower-rung teams to come play them in non-conference games. Check out these barn-burners:

Florida State: Home vs. Troy, Rice, Western Michigan (Troy and WMU were actually close games, and Troy led in the 4th quarter)
Miami: Florida A&M, Florida International (the infamous brawl)
Iowa: Montana (still playing in the 1-AA playoffs), Northern Illinois (going bowling). No huge complaints about their schedule.
Minnesota: Temple, North Dakota State (a blocked field goal away from upsetting the Gophers)
Alabama: Louisiana-Monroe, Duke, Florida International
Oklahoma State: Missouri State, Florida Atlantic
(these teams also played at least one home-and-home with a good program, but made it to bowls on the backs of cupcakes)

The bodybag games paid off in bowl trips for the fans, and an extra game and practice for the players. What a deal!

NFL Week In Review-Week 13

Another wild week in the National Football League, one in which kickers played a big part.

One week ago, Martin Gramatica was looking for a job. Enter Bill Parcells, who brought him in off the street after giving Mike Vanderjagt a pink slip. Gramatica made three of four field goals, including the game-winner from 46 yards out, as the Dallas Cowboys defeated the New York Football Giants, 23-20. Tony Romo threw a 42-yard pass to Jason Witten with less than a minute left in the game to set up the game-winning field goal. Romo is now 5-1 as the starter, and the Cowboys now have a 2 game lead in the NFC East with 4 games to play.

The Tennessee Titans aren’t going to the playoffs, but they are making some things happen in spite of that. Rod Bironas kicked a 60 yard field goal for the game-winner as the Titans defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 20-17. The Titans are now 5-7. Vince Young is now 5-4 as the starter in Music City. The Colts are now 10-2, and are tied with San Diego for the best record in the AFC.

The Cleveland Browns survived an injury to QB Charlie Frye to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-28, in overtime. Phil Dawson kicked the game-winner from 33 yards for the Browns. Trent Green threw four touchdown passes for the Chiefs, who will be wanting this one back if they narrowly miss the playoffs.

In the Sunday Night extravaganza, Josh Brown kicked the game-winner as the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos, 23-20. This was the debut for Jay Cutler as quarterback for the Broncos. He had a decent game, but threw an ill-advised interception in the 2nd quarter that was returned for a touchdown.

Reggie Bush broke out in a big way for the New Orleans Saints, with four touchdowns in a 34-10 rout of the San Francisco 49ers. He had sat on my fantasy bench for a month, so I missed out on 41 fantasy points. Boo hoo. The Saints are now 8-4, with a huge game next Sunday night with the Cowboys in Irving.

The Detroit Lions led the New England Patriots for most of the game on Sunday. However, the Lions committed 5 turnovers, and those were too much for them as they fell to the Pats, 28-21.

The St. Louis Rams define the word mediocre. The Rams lost to the pitiful Arizona Cardinals, 34-20. The Rams had a promising start, but have been skidding of late.

LaDainian Tomlinson once again came up big for the Chargers, with 178 rushing yards and two touchdowns as San Diego won in the wind and snow of Buffalo, 24-21. The Chargers are now tied for the best record in the league, at 10-2.

Michael Vick had one of his better games for the Atlanta Falcons, as he threw for two touchdowns and the Falcons saved their season with a 24-14 win over the Washington Redskins. The Falcons are now 6-6. The Redskins blew all the momentum they had gained from the previous week’s win over Carolina.

Da Bears continue to move right along, as they defeated Minnesota, 23-13. Chicago is now 10-2, and has clinched the NFC North title. Da Bears are two games ahead of Dallas and New Orleans in the NFC. The road to Miami leads through Chicago.

Further north, the Green Bay Packers laid a major egg, as the New York Jets crushed the Pack, 38-10. Green Bay is now 1-5 at home. The Jets are now 7-5 overall, and are in playoff contention.

The Houston Texans doubled their win total of last year, with a 23-14 victory in Oakland. The Texans’ defense created 5 turnovers and had 5 sacks in the win. The Raiders moved a step closer to one of the top two picks in the upcoming draft. Neither team is very good, but the Raiders are exceptionally bad.

In Florida, the Jacksonville Jaguars went down to Miami and handled the Dolphins, 24-10. The Dolphins’ 4-game winning streak came to an end. The Jags are now 7-5, and are now in a gaggle of teams contending for two AFC wild card spots.

The other Florida team isn’t doing so well, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were clobbered by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-3.

Finally, last Thursday night, the Cincinnati Bengals saved their season, and joined that group of playoff-contending teams, by defeating the Baltimore Ravens, 13-7. The Bengals had a streak of 7 quarters without giving up points, until the Ravens scored in the 4th quarter. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had 100 yards receiving, including a 60 yard touchdown catch from Carson Palmer.

Tonight, the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Carolina Panthers in the City of Brotherly Love. The Iggles are looking for their first win with backup quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Urban Renewal

Congrats to the Florida Gators, the #2 team in the nation, and opponent for The Ohio State University in the BCS National Championship Game, January 8 in Glendale, Arizona. I don’t have a huge problem with it, as Florida beat Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee, and Georgia on its way to winning the SEC.

Coach Urban Meyer has now won championships in three different conferences in six years: Bowling Green in the MAC, Utah in the Mountain West, and Florida in the SEC.

I’ll have more comments on the BCS and the bowls later in the week.