Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bizarro World

In a season where Michigan lost to Appalachian State, USC lost at home to Stanford as a 40-point favorite, and Kansas played Missouri when both were top 5 teams in the nation, two more teams blew chances to be in the BCS national championship game.

Tonight, in Morgantown, the West Virginia Mountaineers inexplicably lost as four-touchdown favorites at home to archrival Pittsburgh, 13-9. West Virginia had a golden opportunity to advance to the national championship game and blew it. An entire state is in mourning.

As Las Vegas expected, #1 Missouri will be #1 no longer. Oklahoma spanked the Tigers for the second time this year, defeating Mizzou 38-17. OU wins their 41st conference championship, their 5th in the Big 12. The Sooners become the first team to repeat as Big 12 champions, and advance to the Fiesta Bowl. Missouri will most likely be ripped off, because Kansas will be ranked higher in the BCS rankings and will be invited to a BCS bowl over Mizzou, despite losing last week in Kansas City.

So, Ohio State backs into the national championship game. The Buckeyes are 11-1, playing a weak non-conference schedule and winning a down Big Ten. But, you have to beat the teams you play, and tOSU beat everyone but Illinois. I have to respect the Buckeyes. Most Big Ten teams are satisfied to just go to the Rose Bowl. TOSU plays to go to the national championship game and to win it. The Rose Bowl would be a consolation prize for the Buckeyes.

Who will the Buckeyes play? Do they play a two-loss team? Or, does Kansas, the only other one-loss BCS team, move up to #2? Georgia is the odds-on favorite to move up, as they were #4 in the last BCS rankings. But, LSU, USC, Oklahoma, and Virginia Tech are conference champions that can make a case for the second spot in New Orleans.

Elsewhere in the world of college football:

LSU rallied around coach Les Miles, who decided that today, he is the coach at LSU. He could still go to Michigan next week, but he declared today that he is still the coach of the Tigers. LSU went out and defeated Tennessee, 21-14, to win the SEC and the national championship of the Confederacy.

I hope ABC and ESPN are paying the ACC enough money to justify expansion. Virginia Tech and Boston College played before a half-full stadium in Jacksonville today for the ACC championship. The Hokies used a late interception to seal a 30-16 win for their second ACC title in four years in the conference. This expansion was originally brought about in order to hook Florida State and Miami up for the title every year. The Canes haven't sniffed the championship game, and FSU won their one in 2005 with five overall losses. The ACC may need to risk the weather and move this game to either Charlotte or Washington, D.C. Expansion is turning into a big bomb for the ACC. Their basketball is diluted, their football is weakened, and their conference is turning into a poor cousin of the nearby SEC. Hopefully, the 12 schools are laughing all the way to the bank. By the way, what is Boston College doing in this conference? Yeah, they're on the Atlantic Coast, but the ACC is a fried chicken and barbecue conference. BC is from the land of chowder. BC and the Big East need to kiss and make up.

More thoughts Sunday or Monday as the BCS selections are made and bowl invitations are extended...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NFL Picks, Week 13

Last Week: 10-6
Season: 117-51

Green Bay at Dallas: Game of the year in the NFC, broadcast to 500 people by the NFL Network. Don’t worry if you’re in Dallas, as the game will be shown on channel 27. The suits at Fox have to be hacked off at the NFL, as two of the most popular teams in the league are playing on Thursday night on an obscure cable channel not received by most cable subscribers. Nonetheless, it will be a good game as Tony Romo goes up against his boyhood idol Brett Favre. It’ll be a shootout. Pick: Dallas

San Francisco at Carolina: This week’s edition of the Suck Bowl. The 49ers haven’t given up on the season, as they got an overtime win over the Cardinals last week. The Panthers are in deep quarterback trouble. This game will be very ugly. Pick: San Francisco

Jacksonville at Indianapolis: Game of the week in the AFC. The Colts are dealing with some key injuries, while the Jags are healing up. The Jags can move into a tie for first in the AFC South with a win. The Colts have learned how to win big games, and they will do so again here. Pick: Indy

San Diego at Kansas City: Chiefs lost a home game to the awful Raiders last week. The Chargers are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you are going to get. Flip a coin on this one. Pick: Kansas City

New York Jets at Miami: Suck Bowl II. This is the Dolphins’ best chance remaining for a win. Jets were awful last week in losing big to the Cowboys. The Dolphins lost two running backs in the mud in Pittsburgh, opening the door for Patrick Cobbs of Tecumseh High School and North Texas to start this week. The Dolphins haven’t quit. They’re not good, but they’re not bad enough to go 0-16. Pick: Miami

Detroit at Minnesota: Lions need a win to stop their two-game winning streak. Adrian Peterson is slated to return for the Vikings. Vikes should be able to run with AD and Chester Taylor. Look for a lot of points here. Pick: Minnesota

Seattle at Philadelphia: Philly got a moral victory last week in New England behind backup QB A.J. Feeley. Seahawks are about to go on a roll in the NFC West. Which Eagles team shows up? Pick: Philly

Atlanta at St. Louis: Suck Bowl III. There are some bad games this week, and this is one of them. Both teams have found creative ways to lose games this season. Who will make the least mistakes in this one? Pick: St. Louis

Houston at Tennessee: Some things are certain, like death and taxes. Another thing is certain: no matter how bad either team is, the Titans will find a way to beat the Texans. Pick: Tennessee

Buffalo at Washington: Not quite the Suck Bowl, but not a great matchup, either. Redskins are dealing with the tragic murder of teammate Sean Taylor. This could go either way. Pick: Buffalo

Cleveland at Arizona: Don’t expect much defense here. Cleveland is the surprise of the year. Go with the hot hand. Pick: Cleveland

Denver at Oakland: Another AFC West rivalry. Oakland won a game last week, while the Broncos stole defeat from the jaws of victory in Chicago. The Raiders look legitimate for the second week in a row. Pick: Oakland

Tampa Bay at New Orleans: The Saints desperately need this one if they want to have any hope of winning the division or even making the playoffs. The Dome will be rocking. Pick: New Orleans

New York Giants at Chicago: Eli Manning vs. Rex Grossman. Talk about a box of chocolates… Can the Bears steal another one on special teams? I don’t know. Pick: Giants

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: Hopefully, the weather and field will cooperate for this one, unlike Monday night’s mud bowl in Pittsburgh. Which Bengals team shows up? It won’t matter. The Steelers are better. Pick: Pittsburgh

New England at Baltimore: The Ravens used to be good. Not any more. The Patriots got a bad game out of their system last week. They should torch the Ravens’ once stout defense. Pick: New England

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

College Picks, Week 14

It’s the last week of the regular season in college football. This week features five conference championship games, the Army-Navy game, plus several games moved to this week in the interest of television. Missouri and West Virginia have chances to play for a national championship by winning this week. With the abbreviated schedule, there are only 14 games to pick this week.

Last week: 13-7
Season: 171-89

Big XII Championship Game at San Antonio: Oklahoma vs. Missouri: In this bizarro world of a college football season, Mizzou finds itself #1 in the nation and one win away from the national championship game. The Tigers also find themselves as three-point underdogs against nemesis Oklahoma, who handed Missouri their only loss of the season. OU cannot win a national championship, but can win its 41st conference championship with a victory. This is a big game. Mizzou won a big game last week. OU plays in big games all the time, every year. Pick: OU

SEC Championship Game at Atlanta: Tennessee vs. LSU: The National Championship Game of the Confederacy pits two teams who played multiple overtimes last week. The Vols needed quadruple overtime to beat Kentucky and qualify for this game. The Tigers lost a triple-overtime heartbreaker to Arkansas, and find their coaches in the heat of contract discussions with other schools (Les Miles-Michigan, defensive coordinator Bo Pelini-Nebraska, Arkansas). LSU had their guts ripped out last week by the Hogs. Pick: Tennessee

ACC Championship Game at Jacksonville: Virginia Tech vs. Boston College: Is this the ACC championship game, or the Big East title game? Both teams were in the Big East until three years ago. VT led BC for most of the game in their regular season meeting, before the Eagles pulled a late comeback in the last five minutes to win the game. It’s hard to beat a good team twice. Pick: Virginia Tech

Conference USA Championship Game at Orlando: UCF vs. Tulsa: UCF finishes their first year in their new stadium by hosting the C-USA championship game for the second time in three years. Last time UCF was in this game, they lost to Tulsa. Knights make things right this week. Pick: UCF

MAC Championship Game at Detroit: Central Michigan vs. Miami (Ohio): The Chippewas recovered from early season whippings by Kansas, Purdue, and North Dakota State to win the West division of the MAC. Miami, the Cradle of Coaches, survived the East division. The game is in Michigan. Pick: Central Michigan

Army vs. Navy at Baltimore: You can usually throw out the records when these two teams get together. Most of us in the civilian world think of these two schools as practically being on the same team. Once on the battlefield, they are. However, within the military, this rivalry is as big as it gets. No matter how good or bad these teams are, this is a big game. Navy has been a lot better in recent years. Pick: Navy

UCLA at USC: USC can make it to the Rose Bowl with a win. The Trojans also have revenge on their minds following last year’s upset loss to the Bruins. Karl Dorrell is a dead man walking in Westwood. USC is getting healthy again. This could be ugly. Pick: USC

Oregon State at Oregon: The Civil War, aka the Ugly Uniform Bowl. Nike will be a major player in this game, as they have furnished plenty of ugly uniform combinations for both schools. Oregon has become a very ordinary team since the injury of QB Dennis Dixon. The Ducks were shut out last week by a mediocre UCLA team. Oregon bounces back to win over their archrivals. Pick: Ducks

Cal vs. Stanford: The Bears are stumbling to the finish line, but will still play in a bowl game. Believe it or not, they were once #2 in the nation. The Cardinal have a long way to go, but this is another game in which you throw out the records. Pick: Cal

Arizona at Arizona State: The Sun Devils have a good chance to land in a BCS bowl, possibly the crosstown Fiesta Bowl. Arizona has apparently saved Mike Stoops’ job for another year, but needs this one to become bowl eligible. Dennis Erickson has been a miracle worker this year in Tempe. ASU gets win #10. Pick: Arizona State

Pittsburgh at West Virginia: The Backyard Brawl. This is normally a bitter rivalry. This year, the Mountaineers have a good chance to play for a national championship. All they need to do is beat Pittsburgh to get that chance. On paper, this is a mismatch. But, it’s a rivalry game, so anything can happen. WVU is quite a bit better than Pitt. A tradition in Morgantown is to burn couches on the streets after a big win. Get ready to see an entire college town aflame in used furniture after this one. The state of West Virginia can plan to start taking over New Orleans in the first week of January. Pick: West Virginia

Rutgers at Louisville: Two teams who have failed to live up to last year’s banner seasons. Rutgers has been improving, while Louisville has fallen victim to a tough schedule. The Ville needs a win to reach .500. They don’t get it. Pick: Rutgers

Washington at Hawaii: This is a $17 million dollar game for the Warriors. If Hawaii wins, they remain in the top 12 of the BCS and most likely end up in the Sugar Bowl. $17 million would be split between Hawaii, the WAC, and the other non-BCS conferences. The Huskies have fallen apart as they have been playing competitive opponents every week. UW doesn’t have enough to keep up with Hawaii. Pick: Hawaii

BYU at San Diego State: This was rescheduled from October due to the wildfires in the San Diego area. The Cougars have already clinched the MWC title. BYU should be able to handle the Aztecs without much trouble. Pick: BYU

Monday, November 26, 2007

Like A Good Neighbor...

Doesn't Mike Sherman look like your friendly neighborhood insurance agent?

If You Build It..

..they will come. Or, so the Cowboys think.

In their attempt to book as many events as possible, the Cowboys are luring Texas A&M and Arkansas to play a long-term series at the new Arlington stadium beginning in 2009. Various media outlets are reporting that the schools are close to finishing a deal, but nothing is finalized yet. The Aggies and Razorbacks will play from six to eight games at the Cowboys' stadium.

Both schools would love to play a game in the Metroplex. Arkansas sorely misses the recruiting exposure in Texas they once had in the Southwest Conference. A&M will always take a reasonable opportunity to play in North Texas.

This is also an attempt by Jerry Jones and Co. to upstage the OU-Texas game, set to remain at the Cotton Bowl for at least the next five years.

Every RV in Arkansas will be in Arlington once a year for this thing. Good luck with all that.

All That For This?

Tis the season to change coaches..

Just today, Arkansas paid Houston Nutt $3 million to resign as head football coach, Georgia Tech gave Chan Gailey the axe, and Duke canned Ted Roof as coach. It's that time of year.

It did not take Texas A&M long to hire a new coach. He is just down the road in Houston, in the person of Mike Sherman, offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans. Sherman likes A&M so much he coached there twice as an assistant, and is now returning as head coach. He also becomes the second consecutive Texans offensive coordinator to become a college head coach, following Troy Calhoun, now the Air Force coach.

Did A&M fire Fran for this? Sherman once coached the Green Bay Packers, so he can sell an NFL future to recruits. However, in the words of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, "this is Division I football! It's the Big 12!" A guy can lose six games in the NFL and get a raise. Lose 6 games in college football, and you're in the unemployment line. College football is a totally different animal. Fans and donors aren't totally happy unless you win every game. It's hard to tell if this is the next Pete Carroll, or the next Dave Wannstedt, both former NFL coaches with varying degrees of success in college football.

A&M is going to continue to have a hard time cracking the top half of the Big 12 South division. They find themselves behind OU, Texas, and Texas Tech. They can possibly pass Tech, especially if the Pirate, Mike Leach, takes another job. The Ags have proven they can beat Texas, but they have to beat the other teams to pass them in the standings. It's not easy to be an Aggie.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

NFL Highway, Week 12

The NFL highway took some interesting turns this weekend, in spite of what looked to be some lame matchups.

On Thanksgiving Day, Brett Favre ate the Detroit Lions for dinner, as the Packers outscored the Lions, 33-24. The Lions slip to 6-5 and may be headed into the toilet quickly.

Next on Turkey Day, the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Jets like a rented mule, 34-3. This game was a good excuse to sleep off all that food consumed at dinner. Tony Romo threw two more touchdown passes to up his total to 29, tying the Cowboys’ single-season record.

The Indianapolis Colts used the skills of backups Kenton Keith and Anthony Gonzalez to handle the woeful Atlanta Falcons, 31-13. Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes for the Colts. The Colts remain in first place in the AFC South Division.

In Cleveland, the Browns took advantage of some key Houston turnovers and scored a solid win over the Texans, 27-17. Derek Anderson threw two touchdown passes for Cleveland as he continues to keep Brady Quinn on the bench.

There is a boss in the NFC South, and they are called the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs used four Matt Bryant field goals to get past the Washington Redskins, 19-14. The Bucs do not have a whole lot of competition in this division.

Elsewhere in the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints attempted to recapture some of last year’s magic. The Carolina Panthers are in the tank. The Saints made mincemeat out of the Panthers, winning 31-6 in Charlotte. The Panthers cannot wait for next season, when Jake Delhomme returns from injury. If David Carr is the answer, the question must not be very good.

The Kansas City Chiefs have now lost two fantasy football legends in Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes. Rookie Kolby Smith did his best to follow in their footsteps, rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns. That was not enough, as the Chiefs lost at home to the sad-sack Oakland Raiders, 20-17. Justin Fargas rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown, bringing back memories of his father, Antonio Fargas, who is best known for playing Huggy Bear on Starsky and Hutch.

David Garrard returned to the Jacksonville Jaguars as quarterback, and the Jags are better for it. Jacksonville creamed the Buffalo Bills, 36-14. The Jaguars are breathing down the necks of the Colts for first place in the AFC South. The Buffalo loss handed the AFC East crown to the New England Patriots with five weeks left in the season.

The Cincinnati Bengals were world-beaters for a week. Ocho Cinco, aka Chad Johnson, had three touchdown catches and the Bengals crushed the Tennessee Titans, 35-6. Johnson celebrated his first touchdown by climbing behind the end zone camera and trying to use it. The Bengals were charged with a personal foul penalty. Ocho Cinco may owe the league some money for that stunt.

In New York, Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes to the Minnesota Vikings, helping the Vikes to a 41-17 thumping of the New York Giants. Manning threw a total of four interceptions. Minnesota quarterback Tarvaris Jackson completed 10 of 12 passes for the Vikings. He didn’t need to throw any more passes. The Giants still lead the NFC wild-card race, but are three games behind the Cowboys in the NFC East.

Poor St. Louis. The Rams led Seattle for most of the game. They fell behind, 24-19, but had a chance to score at the end of the game. On 4th and goal at the 2 late in the game, Gus Frerotte fumbled the snap, giving the Seahawks the win. That illustrates the Rams’ season. They are ready mail it in for the next five weeks.

Speaking of the Rams, ex-Ram Kurt Warner did his best to get a victory for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals went into overtime with the 49ers, missed a short game-winning field goal, then lost a game when Warner was sacked and fumbled in his own end zone. San Francisco earned their third victory of the year, 37-31.

At the same time, there was an even more bizarre overtime game in Chicago. Devin Hester returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns. The Denver Broncos were in control with a 34-20 lead with 5 minutes to go. The Bears blocked a punt to set up a touchdown which narrowed the lead. The Bears later scored to force overtime, then won on a field goal in overtime.

The Baltimore Ravens are in deep doo-doo. They were pummeled on their trip to San Diego, losing to the Chargers 32-14. Philip Rivers had three touchdown passes to break out of a season-long slump for the Chargers. In spite of all of their bumbles and adversity, the Chargers find themselves in first place in the AFC West.

Sunday night, there was a surprisingly competitive game. Backup quarterback A.J. Feeley played well for Philadelphia, as the Eagles led the Patriots for a good portion of the game. New England came from behind to win the game, 31-28. This was not supposed to be a game, as Las Vegas made the Patriots 20-point favorites, an unheard-of spread in the NFL. The Pats looked somewhat mortal, but are 11-0 nonetheless.