Friday, September 24, 2010

Enough with the Saints Already!

I can’t possibly be the only person who thinks the NFL is shoving the New Orleans Saints down our throats, am I?  They’re the league champs, they absolutely deserve recognition for that, but I don’t recall any previous Super Bowl winner becoming the league’s spokesteam.  The answer is obvious: it’s hard to hate New Orleans and champions tend to be polarizing, this seems like a pretty unique opportunity to finally have a team be the face of the league.  The thing is… its getting pretty f’n annoying.

First of all, the notion that the relationship the Saints have with their fans is unlike any other is completely ridiculous, EVERY fan base loves their team.  Yet we’re constantly being reminded of how much the Saints mean to the region, as if it were a feeling nobody could ever understand.  And where did all this meaning come from?  New Orleans doesn’t exactly have the most lustrous football history, they’re new rich, at least fans in Cleveland and Detroit can harken back to their championship days 60 years ago.  There’s no need to manufacture tradition, enjoy your time at the top!

Lastly, and speaking of being constantly reminded, enough with Katrina.  There is absolutely no need to remind us about Hurricane Katrina every single time we talk about the Saints.  It was an absolute horrible tragedy and it affected residents in ways I cannot possibly imagine, and yet it doesn’t belong in pre-game analysis of 49ers versus Saints on Monday Night.  Never Forget doesn’t necessarily have to mean Remind Me Constantly.  This is the town of laissez les bons temps rouler, a fun city with joyous people, with the best team in Professional Football, stop painting them in woe-is-me colors!

The Saints are the champs, they have a very good team, they’ve certainly earned their success, let’s not feel sorry for New Orleans, and for cryin’ out loud STOP TRYING TO MAKE THEM MY FAVORITE TEAM!

Speaking of teams being forced upon us, the Delusion Bowl is finally here, “No. 3” Boise State against “No. 24” Oregon State!  I’ll keep my rant short this week: the Beavers moved from 25 to 24 in the AP poll on the strength of a 7 point win at home against 20 point underdog Louisville, quality stuff.  They’re also nowhere to be found in the Coach’s poll, but hey, what do those guys know about football, right?  Nevada had a very impressive win over Cal last week, they play the Broncos on November 26th, I’m thinking they’ll find themselves ranked at least 20th by then.

Another decent round of predictions last week, I picked 7 out of 13 in College Football against the spread putting me at around 53%, which isn’t all that bad considering 60% makes you a handicapper worthy of a phone line, and those folks pick in tiers of 5 games at a time.  Pro football wasn’t as smooth, picked 3 of 8 and pushed 1 against the spread putting me at 42%, but I keep getting non-stop trade offers for Darren McFadden, who I drafted across all my leagues, Booyah!

College Football Predictions – Week 4

  • #5 TCU -18 over SMU – The Horned Frogs are at home, against their cross-town rival, and on national tv, expect a blowout.
  • Georgia Tech -8 over NC State – Yellow Jackets had a big win at UNC last week, NC State isn’t there yet.
  • Kansas State -7 over Central Florida – Nobody’s talking about K-State, but the Wildcats are damn good and they’re gonna end up sneaking up on Nebraska to win the Big XII north.
  • #17 Stanford -5 at Notre Dame – I know the Irish are at home and have only lost their last two games in the last second, but Stanford is head and shoulders a better team, 5 points is quite a bargain!
  • #9 oklahoma -14 at Cincinnati – about time the sooners played an away game!  The Bearcats couldn’t beat them with Brian Kelly and they’re obviously worse without him.
  • Bowling Green +26 at Michigan – Michigan is winning this game, Denard Robinson is a beast, first player to actually remind me of VY, and yet the Wolverines defense won’t allow them to cover.
  • Northwestern -7 over Central Michigan – If it weren’t for Stanford, Northwestern would be the best football team from a Smart People School, they’ve already taken down Vandy and Rice on the road.
  • #18 Iowa -28 over Ball State – I’d hate to be the team that plays the Hawkeyes after that tough lost at Arizona last week, expect a statement game.
  • Virginia Tech -4 at Boston College – Not that the Hokies have done much to inspire confidence, but BC struggled to put away Kent State.  If I picked by tiers this would be a bronze pick, definitely not for executives.
  • Tennessee -14 over UAB – The Vols played Florida tough last week, even though I expected them to elevate their game against the Gators.  They should cover against the Blazers at Rocky Top.
  • Air Force -14 at Wyoming – Falcons will run that option all over Wyoming!
  • Miami (OH) +20 at #24 Missouri – Mizzou will probably win this game, but they have no business giving 20 points after barely beating SDSU at home.
  • Eastern Michigan +44 at #2 Ohio State – The Buckeyes have covered every game this season and I smell a trap, the line is just right for them to fall short.
  • Temple +14 at #20 Penn State – I wouldn’t be surprised if Temple actually won this game, their running game is back in form, PSU is a young team, and its easily Temple’s biggest game of the year.
  • Florida State -20 over Wake Forest – Seminoles still trying to prove they’re better than that beat down they got at oklahoma.
  • #1 Alabama -7 at #11 Arkansas – Mallett looked great last week, but they still barely beat Georgia, I don’t think they’ll be able to hang with Bama.
  • #4 Texas -16.5 over UCLA – Payback’s a bitch!
  • Nevada -4.5 at BYU – The Wolfpack demolished Cal at home and will be looking to stay perfect by the time they play Boise.
  • #8 Florida -14 over Kentucky – Gators won’t be caught looking ahead to Alabama.
  • Baylor -7 at Rice – Baylor will be looking to bounce back from being humiliated last weekend.
  • #15 South Carolina +3 at #14 Auburn – I like Carolina to run all over Auburn, who doesn’t have much outside Cam Newton.
  • #12 LSU -10 over #21 West Virginia – LSU has been getting better and better as the season goes on, playing at home will put them over the edge.
  • Oregon State +18 at #3 Boise State – 18 points? 18 POINTS?! At best the Broncos win by 10.
  • UTEP -11 over Memphis – With Keenum out UTEP has life once again in Conference USA, with Buckram expected to come back, the Miners are gonna win big.
  • #16 Arizona -7 over Cal – A win like the one against Iowa should’ve moved the Wildcats to the top 10, either way, no hangover here.
  • #6 Oregon -12 at Arizona State – I guess the challenge for the Ducks is to see what multiple of 12 they will beat the Sun Devils by.

Pro Football Predictions – Week 3

  • Steelers -3 at Buccaneers – Steelers defense will overwhelm the young Bucs.
  • Falcons +4 at Saints – Atlanta came to life last week, look for them to try and establish themselves as the best team in the division.
  • Titans +3 at Giants – Both teams coming off tough losses, should be a close game.
  • Redskins -4 at Rams – St. Louis has kept it close in their first 2 games, but Washington looked much improved on offense against Houston.
  • Texans -3 over Cowboys – Is Wade Phillips still coaching? =(
  • Bengals -3.5 at Panthers – I think Cincinnati’s offense will finally show up on Sunday.
  • 49ers -3 at Chiefs – San Francisco looked great against the Saints, they'll finally win one.
  • Eagles -3 at Jaguars – Philly trying to prove Vick is the right guy.
  • Raiders +4.5 at Cardinals – Somehow Oakland’s QB situation is better than Arizona’s.
  • Dolphins -2 over Jets – No Revis and a team full of distractions vs a disciplined Bill Parcells team, no surprise Miami is favorite.
  • Packers -3 at Bears – This could be a fun shootout, at the end Green Bay just has more talent.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Perception is Reality

It’s getting harder and harder to be a fringe sports conspiracy-theorist when the AP makes it so obvious that they won’t rest until a non-BCS team is crowned National Champions, preferably Boise State.  

The inconsistent and fickle nature of the AP pollsters is at its most blatant in their latest poll, in which, as predicted by yours truly, Oregon State is ranked #25.  Why is that odd?  The Beavers did look good in their losing effort against TCU, surely they looked great in their second game… oh wait, they had a bye last week!  Keep an eye on Fresno State, who are being set up to be ranked by the time they travel to Boise in November.

At least the AP is willing to adjust rankings according to on-the-field performance regardless of record, as shown by moving a very-impressive 2-0 Oregon to #5 and dropping 2-0 Florida to #10 after slow starts.  That is commendable, except for the fact that Boise St, who eeked out a win versus Virginia Tech, remained at #3, even after FCS James Madison University defeated the Hokies... IN BLACKSBURG!  Instead they threw votes at James Madison, and rightfully so, the Dukes have 1 more win than the Broncos.  Clearly it is more important than ever that Oregon State is perceived as a big time opponent.

Perception is reality, and that is as true for a College Football team as it is everywhere else.  The sport is absolutely littered with programs that are perceived to be bigger than they actually are.  Teams with accomplished pasts who maintain decent records year-after-year, but are never really National Championship contenders, I call them the Atlantic Coast Conference, and you want them on your schedule to pad the number of ‘quality’ wins.

The ACC is full of Notre Dames!  We just don’t see it because they play each other and none of them actually manages to sink to the bottom.  Think about it: Florida State gets demolished by oklahoma, Miami cannot hang with Ohio State, Georgia Tech gets beat by Kansas!  Virginia Tech’s loss to JMU shattered their team’s perceived quality, something that won’t affect Boise until the BCS polls are released, because the computers can actually see past the ACC aura.

With that in mind, I am finally ready to make my National Championship prediction: Oregon, and a split title if the Ducks don’t play Boise St. or TCU and one of them wins a BCS game (likely against the other).  Winning at Tennessee won’t be Oregon’s marquee win, they have a very challenging Pac-10 schedule ahead that includes going to #25 Oregon State, but it showed that they could win on the road in a very rough environment.  Not so much Rocky Top and the Vols as much as the massive thunderstorms that actually delayed the game.

My predictions did improve drastically last week; I managed to go 7 for 11 against the spread in College Football and 6 of 9 against the spread for the NFL’s opening weekend.  College Football picks definitely made my weekend as I had the distinct pleasure of having 2 of my fantasy teams play against Arian Foster… it still hurts :(

College Football Predictions – Week 3

  • Cal -3 at Nevada – Nevada can score in bunches, but so can Cal, who will be looking to showcase their stuff on National TV in this Friday game.
  • Kansas St -4 over Iowa St – This game is being played at Arrowhead, not only a neutral field, but a neutral state, the Cyclones were absolutely shut down last week and I don’t expect them to bounce back against a very good K-State team.
  • #2 Ohio State -30.5 over Ohio – Another game at home for the Buckeyes?  They’ll do to Ohio the same thing they did to Marshall.
  • Maryland +10 at #21 West Virginia – The Mountaineers showed a lot of toughness coming back against Marshall last week, but they also showed a lot of vulnerabilities.  Maryland’s defense will keep them in the game, take the points.
  • Georgia -2 over #13 Arkansas – This is a gut call, all signs point to Arkansas and their potent offense, but I think they’ll be looking ahead to Alabama and Georgia will be looking to bounce back from their tough loss at South Carolina.
  • USC -12.5 at Minnesota – Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, but please do not fool me a third time, USC!  Actually this prediction is based more on how bad Minnesota has played.
  • Baylor +21.5 at #5 TCU – Before you think this is an emotional pick, it’s not, and I fully expect TCU to win, especially at home.  Baylor is not as anemic as they’re being made out to be, they’ll score enough.
  • #4 Texas -3 at Texas Tech – They’re hoping to win, we’re expecting to win.
  • Florida State -10 over BYU – The Seminoles will be looking to bounce back from that nasty loss last week; BYU just doesn’t seem as good as last year.
  • Notre Dame +3.5 at Michigan St – These games are always close, I expect the Irish to win.
  • UTEP -16 over New Mexico St – If Buckram plays, UTEP will win big, if he doesn’t play, they’ll still win by a good margin.
  • #15 Auburn -7 over Clemson – There’s no question the Tigers will win this one, hands down!
  • #18 Arizona (pick) over #10 Iowa – Iowa won by 10 last year at home, I expect the Wildcats to be looking for revenge at home this year.

Pro Football Predictions – Week 2 

  • Packers -14 over Bills – Green Bay is going to light up the scoreboard in their home opener against a much weaker Buffalo team.
  • Falcons -7 over Cardinals – Atlanta lost a tough one at Pittsburgh last week, I expect them to bounce back.
  • Seahawks +3.5 at Broncos – Seattle looked very good last week against the 49ers and Denver is not as good.
  • Titans -5.5 over Steelers – Steelers had a hard time putting the Falcons away last week, Tennessee has the weapons to put them away.
  • Chargers -7 over Jaguars – San Diego will be looking to redeem themselves in their home opener.
  • Cowboys -7.5 over Bears – Pretty please?
  • Texans -3 at Redskins – I don’t think Houston will make as many mistakes as Dallas, the defense that rattled Manning will have fun sacking McNabb.
  • Raiders -3.5 over Rams – St. Louis kept it close against the Cards last week, but eventually they lost and Oakland is a better team than Arizona.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Forgive Me, Mr. Rodgers!

I’m more excited than usual for the start of the NFL season, not just because the Cowboys’ prospects are good, I’m also defending my fantasy football title.  This year I targeted and selected Aaron Rodgers with my first pick across my fantasy teams.  Why wouldn’t I, right?  Well it was pretty unimaginable back in 2004 when I deemed him a crybaby over his incessant whining about Mack Brown lobbying for Texas to play in the Rose Bowl over Cal.   Please accept my apologies Mr. Rodgers.

A thing about Fantasy Football is that it has all but eliminated the hardcore NFL team fan.  Sure we all have favorite teams, but as good fantasy owners we follow and root for our players regardless of team.  My favorite NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys… and Aaron Rodgers, Michael Turner, Hakeem Nicks, Jermichael Finley, and all my other fantasy players!  If the Cowboys don’t win, and they often don’t, I’m still happy my fantasy team won.  I couldn't fathom the idea of wanting a Giants' receiver to do well when I was growing up!  This is why I think College Football is more exciting than the NFL.  The level of intensity of College Football fandom is greater than the pros, even as the NFL enjoys a far wider audience.  

It was a rough opening week for my College Football predictions, I went 3 for 11 with 1 push for a 30% average, but please keep in mind I was picking AGAINST the spread, I correctly predicted 9 of my eleven predictions.  I was very bullish on USC being able to easily defeat Hawaii, unfortunately their defense had more holes than, well than something that has a lot of holes on it!  

I was also very certain that Virginia Tech would be able to defeat Boise State.  That was a hell of a game, Boise played very well, but is Virginia Tech really representative of the ‘established’ football programs?  I’ll be blunt, Virginia Tech is chronically overrated, they’re a name that sounds very big, but this is the team that managed to lose a BCS game to Kansas.   

David didn’t beat Goliath, David beat his slightly larger cousin Dave.  Luckily, while the AP likes to throw sympathy first place votes around, the BCS computers do factor in how VT performs throughout the season, and they do not look like a team that can win the ACC.  I predict the AP will rank Oregon State again before they play Boise to inflate the value of that win, watch.

College Football Predictions – Week 2

  • Michigan +4 at Notre Dame – Michigan looked great last week, enough to overcome playing on the road, like I said last week: Rich Rod is back!
  • #25 South Carolina -3 over Georgia – Georgia played well without AJ Green, who won’t play this week, and both teams blew up their opponents at home last week, South Carolina just beat a better team.  It’s a close one, but I give Carolina the edge at home.
  • #6 Florida -16.5 over South Florida – Florida didn’t look very good on offense last week, but I expect them to have addressed their ball-snapping woes.  Their defense is still top notch, and their egos were a little bruised by being jumped by TCU in the polls, so I expect the Gators to make a statement.
  • Colorado +10 at Cal – This is a gut pick, there’s a lot that says Cal should win this one, but I think Colorado is looking to make a statement to their new conference.
  • #18 Florida State +7 at #10 oklahoma – This game is really a toss-up, oklahoma’s defense looked weak against the pass in their first game, which happens to be FSU’s strength.
  • #2 Ohio State -8.5 over #12 Miami – Both offenses looked great in their first game, but OSU’s defense is far stronger and plus home field will be key.
  • #4 Texas -29 over Wyoming – Homer pick.
  • #8 Oregon -12 at Tennessee – Oregon looked great last week albeit against a helpless New Mexico team at home, but I still expect them to score tons of points and cover the spread.
  • Texas a&m -20 over Louisiana Tech – The aggies have a good enough offense, they shouldn’t have trouble covering at home.
  • #1 Alabama -12.5 over #19 Penn State – Much attention has been paid to Ingram not being able to play, but Alabama still has better players and is playing at home.
  • #16 USC -20 over Virginia – USC’s offense can definitely put up points; I’m hoping they’re doing something about their defense, especially at home.

Pro Football Predictions – Week 1

  • Dolphins -3 at Bills – Miami is a much better team than Buffalo, at least on paper.  I’m eager to see how the passing game has developed with Brandon Marshall.
  • Falcons -2.5 at Steelers – Atlanta should be very good on offense and Pittsburgh should be very good on defense, Roethlisberger’s absence will be the difference.
  • Lions +6.5 at Bears – Detroit is a vastly improved team on both sides of the ball, I expect them to keep the game close if not win it outright.
  • Texans +2.5 over Colts – I expect to see another shootout between these two teams with Houston coming out on top this time around.
  • Packers -3 at Eagles – Philly’s defense won’t be able to contain Green Bay and I doubt their offense will be able to keep up on the scoreboard.  Plus Rodgers is my fantasy QB.
  • Rams +4 over Cardinals – The preseason may not usually mean much, but the Rams built momentum and Arizona fell apart.  QBs aren’t a strength for either team so this game will come down to the running game, where the Rams are better.
  • Cowboys -3.5 at Redskins – Homer pick
  • Ravens +2.5 at Jets – I think Revis’s holdout will make a difference and Baltimore will take advantage of their superior passing game to win this very evenly matched game.
  • Chiefs +5 over Chargers – The Chargers usually start the season a little slow, I smell an upset!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Save Us, Boise State!

A recent Yahoo!Sports column laments the backlash against Boise State from fans of automatic BCS conference schools due to the Broncos' prominent position in the pre-season polls (3rd in the AP, 5th in the Coaches').  It argues that Boise State's predicament, which could put them in the BCS title game should they once again go undefeated, is in fact a result of the so-called broken BCS system.  As I understand it, the article is basically saying we (BCS supporters) deserve to have the National Championship 'crashed' for not having a system that gives every team a fair chance to win.

College Football is broken indeed, but it has nothing to do with the fact that teams from six conferences and Notre Dame are the only ones with a 'clear' path to the Championship game.  The problem IS NOT the BCS!  The real problem is that the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is littered with teams that do not belong there.  Boise State clearly is not one of those teams!  Most of the teams in its current conference, the WAC, are (except for Fresno St.).  Their next one, the Mountain West, is only slightly better with BYU and Utah leaving the conference.

Pre-season polls are the other major problem with college football because they influence the opinion of the human polls throughout the season, doing things like giving the Broncos a fast track to the title game should they remain undefeated.  I believe, however, that a more even field allows the pre-season polls to better correct themselves.

The upcoming conference re-alignments provide the perfect opportunity to correct whats ailing the game, let's get rid of the teams that do not belong.  This improves the quality of the game all around, we not only get a more accurate championship game, we get a better season all around!  It also gives teams that are unable or unwilling to invest the resources it takes to be competitive in FBS to actually be competitive in another division.  There would be absolutely no backlash to Boise State playing for the National Championship if their schedule wasn't littered with the Utah States and NMSUs of the world.

This is not to insult teams in mid-major conferences, but there is an extremely high level of delusion out there regarding teams' ability to compete.  Sure Boise State and Utah can compete with and beat teams from BCS conferences, but why is it that pro-playoff BCS bashers always seem to forget that Hawaii was slaughtered by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl?  I'm not going to list which teams I think should be cut from FBS, that's obviously the hard part, but I'm not proposing a drastic cut, going from 120 to 100 schools would make a big difference.

An even more awesome solution would be to cap it at 100 and promoting champions from other divisions while dropping bottom feeders on a regular basis, the way many soccer leagues function.  Like that would ever happen!

Bottom line: I don't think BCS supporters deserve to have Boise State crash the championship game to teach us a lesson in fairness.  I think playoff proponents deserve to have Boise State in the championship game, maybe even against a team from that other media darling, the SEC.  The result will hopefully shut them up for a couple of weeks.

A college football playoff is a popular idea, and that is because the sports media wants to condense the sport into a neat little package that can be sold to the masses every December the way March Madness is sold.  Real college football fans: Texas fans, Alabama fans, Florida fans, USC fans, Ohio State fans, Michigan fans, Boise State fans, and all other fans that have something to root for other than their bracket, think a playoff system is a bad idea.  The college football season is the most perfect season in sports because every game matters.

Week 1 Predictions:

  • #2 Ohio State -28.5 over Marshall - OSU had an opening day scare last year against Navy, but they're coming out of the gates to prove they belong at #2, Marshall lost 52-10 at Va Tech last year, a good comparable. 
  • #15 Pitt +3 at #24 Utah - Pitt has a hell of a team, they're my pick to win the Big East
  • #14 USC -22 at Hawaii - 22 points is a real bargain here, HI can't score like they once did
  • #4 Texas -30.5 over Rice - UT playing a home game at Reliant Stadium
  • Michigan -3 over UConn - Rich Rod's redemption year begins
  • Mizzou -11.5 over Illinois - Last year Missouri crushed Illinois on the road in their 'transition' year, I expect them to be better this year
  • #16 LSU (pick) over #18 UNC - Expected to be a close game, LSU wins on home field advantage
  • Northwestern -5.5 at Vanderbilt - Vandy has a new coach, Northwestern has a very good one
  • #12 Wisconsin -20.5 at UNLV - Wisconsin is another team that starts the season with something to prove
  • Texas Tech -14 over SMU - SMU is a team on the rise, but I think Tech approaches this game as a must win to start the Tuberville era
  • #6 Virginia Tech +2 over #5 Boise State - If someone's tired of hearing about how great Boise State is and how they're going to the championship game, its Va Tech.  I do think its a close one.
And I know what I'm talking about, because I briefly walked on the smurf turf before a groundskeeper politely asked me to leave :)