Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weekly Picks

West Virginia 30, SoFla 23 - I've closed the gap in the score a little here. I do like Holgo's offense over the Bulls' D, but it's the Big East. And I never trust my gut with the Big East.

Northern Illinois 38, Ohio 34 - I know the Huskies are favored, but I also don't like counting Solich out here. The more I think about it, though, the more I like this game turning into a shootout. And the Bobcats aren't beating the boys from the 'Burbs in a shootout.

Oregon 49, UCLA 10 - Yep, I changed the score in this one, too. The Bruins have been granted some amnesty for mediocrity, with the NCAA approving UCLA's bowl petition waiver. This means the Bruins can go bowling because they did win 6 games...even though they'll likely have a losing record after this CG. So, just like last week, with nothing to play for, look for the Bruins to come out flat and get even flatter by the fourth quarter. If that 50-0 shellacking they took from SC is any indicator, it'll be a long night for the boys in baby blue. I know it sounds insane with a spread as big as 31, but take the Ducks to cover.
Houston 31, So. Miss 21 - I hope the Cougs don't get too cocky. Keenum is rewriting all the record books and he and Patrick Edwards might be a better tandem than Wheeden-Blackmon. But that won't overcome hubris and we've seen Sumlin's team suffer from that a time or two this season. If Houston comes out as focused as they did last week against Tulsa, they'll make short work of the Eagles. But, I think they've got BCS bowl bids dancing in their eyes, and it'll be a quarter or two before they snap out of it.

Pitt 25, Syracuse 24 - Narrowed the score here a bit, too. BIG EAST FOOTBAW.

Texas 29, Baylor 27 - Griffin's probable, and his recovery gives me pause, but something about this Texas team, and this league in general, make me feel something wacky in the wind.

This crazy sumbitch should probably be COTY.
LSU 34, Georgia 17 - I hate typing this. But I know, if any other team were playing LSU here, I'd call for the Bayou Bengals to win, no questions asked. Instead, the Tigers are playing my team, and that does, I hate to admit, give me some Homer-ish pause. There are a hundred ways Georgia could win this game, and I will be thrilled if they did - and maybe not that surprised - but, I just can't, in good conscience, call for the upset of a team as good as this LSU squad. They've efficiently dispatched highly ranked foes all season long, and won a toe-to-toe slugfest with Alabama in T-town. True, Georgia's won 10-straight, has a top-10 defense, and should not be overlooked. But the Tigers have won 13-straight, have the number two defense, and a top-20 run game. I'll be pulling for the Dawgs with every ounce of my being, but I won't be laying any money down.

Oklahoma 34, OK State 26 - The Sooners take Bedlam. It'll be a rough night for Poke fans; they'll say goodbye to Blackmon before the game and then watch their outside BCS title shot fade away in the next three quarters. Yes, there will be big plays from Wheedon to Blackmon, but not enough to push State by their in-state rivals.

VA Tech 27, Clemson 24 - Take the points, but don't doubt the Hokies. Clemson's faltering, losing three of four, and Tech seems a lot more confident now than they did in September. I know there's a lot of athleticism on this Tigers squad, especially offensively with Boyd and Watkins, but they didn't really call down the lightning against Georgia Tech, NC State, or South Carolina and I don't see them finding it this weekend against the surging Hokies. Side note: How empty will the stands in Charlotte be this year?

Wisconsin 34, Michigan State 20 - No Hail Marys this time. Sparty does have a great D...and they're gonna need it against Montee Ball and Russell Wilson. I just can't see the Badgers coming into this one unfocused and sloppy again. Rather, I see them rolling in pissed off and ready to prove a point. Wilson might use this as a stage for some last-minute Heisman love, or Ball might use to tack onto his staggering TD tally (29!), or both.

Leach to Wazzou - Makes Sense.

I'm glad Mike LEach found a new home. And I'm glad it wasn't the rumored move to Ole Miss. You see, to me, Mike Leach to Washington State makes sense. Ole Miss taking him did not. The dread pirate needed to re-emerge at a spot like Pullman and work his way back to up the ladder. Oxford is not, despite the recent stretch, a necessarily bad place to coach and they should get a solid coach who can start to re-establish the Rebels in the SEC West pecking order. It'll be hard in that division, of course, which is why I wouldn't gamble on a wild card like Leach...I'm not sure anyone in the SEC should. The Cougs, on the other hand, are absolutely OK taking Leach. The whole Apple State needs a shot in the arm; the Magnolia state - right in the heart of dixie - can find a quicker path to recovery. I've said before that top-level football in Washington State might be kaput. The weather, fan bases, and resources set a certain glass ceiling for how successful a program can be. The right coach, developing the right three star players (of which there are a plethora in Oxford) could turn the corner for the Battlin' Black Bears without a bunch of unsubstantial flash and fireworks. Honestly, either way, these teams are clawing to get out their respective divisional cellars and can probably only hope to make the middle of the pack - but getting there means very different things in each league, and there are very different needs that need to be addressed for that to happen. Leach can probably make it happen sooner than later at Wazzou...he'd be hard pressed to do it at Ole Miss.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Top-25

Not gonna lie, this was a tough one to cobble together. One and two were obvious, and I knew who I was going to honorably mention at 24. and 25., but parsing out the in-between was rough. I had a good idea who I was going to put in, but I knew fuck all where I was going to put them.

For the three spot, I went with Virginia Tech over Oklahoma State. Losing at home is bad, but losing to Iowa State is a shade worse. Throw in the fact that I think the Hokies will take their rematch with Clemson this weekend and the Pokes will fall to the Sooners, and this was a pretty easy call. Keeping Arkansas in the top-5 was not so easy, but I wanted them ahead of the PAC-12 knot. The Trojans get to lead said knot, as they've looked the most impressive the last few weeks. Stanford is demoted to the 8-spot because they've looked borderline mediocre.

Consider 9- and 10- almost head-to-head. I'll give the Broncos the nod right now, mainly because that win over Georgia keeps looking better and better. South Carolina and Georgia get in the top-15, mainly because I'm not excluding from 10-win SEC teams from the top-tier, no matter how fortunate their scheduling is. I did split the Cocks and Dawgs, though, with the B1G contenders, but see Wisky holding that spot alone after Saturday night.

Michigan and Kansas State hold down the next two spots. The Wolverines just wrapped up an impressive 10-2 campaign that could help sneak them into a BCS Bowl. The 'Cats need a win against Iowa State this Saturday to hit double digit wins...but their conference is too top heavy for them to pull a bid to the BCS. Baylor keeps its slight lead on TCU based on their early head-to-head showdown.

Penn State didn't climb too high here before that Badger beat-down they just suffered, so they're back at home in the bottom five. Clemson has dropped a long way down to 22 after losing three of their last four...and I'm thinking that'll be four out of five after the ACC CG. The last three spots are odd balls. I knew I wanted SoMiss and Arky State to close out the poll, but mainly as an honorable mention. I don't honestly think either team could beat some of the big conference members who are nursing 4- or 5- losses (think Auburn vs. Arkansas State). That left me with an empty 23 spot. After a lot of thought, I went with a 3-loss team in BYU instead of some of the other 4-loss options out there, even though some of those bigger boys could probably easily beat the Cougs.

Early Leans - Championship Week

The MAC, PAC, ACC, B1G, and SEC all have their conference championships this weekend, while the Big East, Big 12, and some mid-majors wrap-up their regular season play. There are some big games, contests that should be a lot of fun to watch, and more than one that could be a blowout. I'll have the final picks locked-in Thursday, but until then, here are the early leans:

West Virginia 31, SoFla 20
Ohio 24, No. Illinois 23
Oregon 41, UCLA 16
Houston 31, So. Miss 21
Pitt 27, Syracuse 24
Texas 29, Baylor 27
LSU 34, Georgia 17
Oklahoma 34, OK State 30
VA Tech 27, Clemson 24
Wisconsin 34, Michigan State 20

Monday, November 28, 2011

Don't Blame the Pac-12

We are going to get a terrible, terrible contest Friday night, but it should have been one of the marquee match-ups of cfb's last regular-season weekend. Of course, I'm talking about Rick Neuheisel's death march into Eugene. The Ducks and Bruins are slated for the newly expanded league's first championship game, which should be about as competitive as Balboa-Lang I. Oregon is certainly the deserving representative from the North; they beat Stanford - pretty decisively - and only have one conference loss. But UCLA is a terrible rep from the South. They are 6-6, coming off of blowouts losses in two of their last three games, and lugging around a lame duck head coach who never truly got his team to buy-in what he was selling.* But don't blame the PAC-12 for this; this is not a problem arising from a lack of competitive teams. It's a problem of misplaced sanctions in NCAA punishments. Pete Carroll presided over Reggie Bush when Bush was receiving crazy amounts of improper benefits. Yes, that is wrong and should be punished. But, no, that's not what the NCAA did. Instead, they punished a group of kids who had nothing to do with anything during the Bush-era. It's the current Trojans who have been banned from the post-season, while Carroll and Bush rake in millions in the NFL. It's these kids who suffer from the actions of shady adults. And it's these kids, these current Trojans, who truly deserve a shot at the inaugural PAC-12 title. They're 10-2, took Stanford to the wire, and beat Oregon in Eugene - you can't tell me they wouldn't make a better opponent than UCLA (a team they just crushed 50-0). If you watch any of the game Friday night, save the 'west coast football is overrated' and '[insert team A] could easily win that conference' arguments, and place the blame where the blame is due: the antiquated way with which the NCAA deals with amateur football in this country.

"What'd you expect? I'm Rick Fuckin' Neuheisel. Lawyered."
* Of course, he was selling the coaching equivalent of flea-market quality knock-offs being hocked out of the back of a dirty rape-van.

Urban Renewal

It's official, Urban Meyer's headed to Ohio State. While it's unfortunate for Fickell, it makes sense. Fickell was an interim coach at best and the gig in Columbus is too good for a big name coach to pass up. And, let's be honest, if you were rebuilding a program and had a dual threat like Miller, what available coach would you want? Urban's a perfect fit. Now, hopefully for the Buckeye faithful, all of his heart and family issues are squared away (or never existed if you believe the conspiracy theorists in Gainesville). If they are, and he puts all his talent an focus in the job - and why wouldn't he? - then things will pick up quickly for Ohio State. Brady Hoke, you are officially on alert...

By the way, who else is hoping for an Ohio State-Florida Gator bowl, now?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Night QB

The weekend got kicked off Thanksgiving night with a great Lonestar State showdown. Texas won on a last second FG, capping another A&M second half collapse. It was exciting, though, and great way to say goodbye to the least for a while. I don't see this one getting shelved for too long; it's too important to the people in the state and it's too great of a rivalry for the sport as a whole to lose.

This is just cruel: according to Pete Thamel's twitter, "Akron Coach Rob Ianello got the call he was fired while driving to NY for his mother's funeral." Christ, that's awful.

I was wrong about the Tulsa upset of Houston. Very wrong. The Cougs rocked the Hurricane, 48-16. That's more impressive than Oklahoma's, Oklahoma State's, and Boise's wins over Tulsa. I know they don't really play 'anyone', but they dispatch these guys with as much - if not more - ruthless efficiency than the big boys. If they do it again in the CUSA CG, I'll be fine with them getting their BCS bid. Hell, I think they're more qualified than whoever's going to come out of the dumpster fire that is the Big East.

After Clean, Old-Fashined Hate (Go Dawgs!), I tuned in for the end of The Game. I checked in early, and Michigan looked like they were going to cruise. But then they were down by one at half and it seemed the Buckeyes were going to steal this one. The last few minutes were fun to watch, at least for someone who's not a big fan of either team, as Denard and Co. had a shot to put it away, had a TD called back, had to settle for a FG and a six-point lead, and give their rival the ball with a minute-and-a-half left. Miller sailed a sure TD on first down, spiked the ball for some reason that's still unclear, and then threw a pick to seal it. Miller says the coaches' told him to kill it on second down, but after an incompletion, there was nothing to kill. Terrible way to lose a down in a game like that. Maybe it is time for some Urban renewal in Columbus.

Kentucky finally beat Tennessee. It was an U-G-L-Y game all around, the 'Cats edging the Vols, 10-7. Neither team will qualify for a bowl, but, hey, at least they're not Ole Miss. Vandy, on the other hand, locked up a bowl by routing Wake Forrest. I'll feel a little bit better when James Franklin's gone on to greener pastures.

Florida State and Florida hate offensive football. Don't let the final score fool you, nothing offensive happened in this game. if you didn't see any of it, really get in there and explore the box-score. It's horrific.

In other ACC-SEC action, South Carolina stuck it to Clemson. Quote of the weekend: "We aren't LSU, and we aren't Alabama. But we sure ain't Clemson." - Steve Spurrier.

There were a few crazy minutes to end the first half in the Baylor-Texas Tech game. Tuberville got into it with some officials, RGIII took a brutal hit, and there was a little skirmishing on the field. We found out later that Griffin actually suffered a concussion, but not before he checked back in and scored a TD on a keeper up the middle. He didn't pay in the second half. The medical team wouldn't clear him after, as Coach Briles said, "We got in at halftime, he had a little trouble remembering what was going on." So that last TD was just some concussed read-optioning. Christ, that's impressive. The Bears did go on to win 147-132...or something like that.

To the Pac-12:

Is it just me, or has Stanford not looked that impressive the last few weeks. Luck looks good - maybe not Heisman-level impressive - but, overall, they're not helping their case to edge out the other one-loss teams. That Notre Dame team is not very good and the Cardinal should have crushed them.

You know who has looked Heisman caliber the last few weeks? Matt Barkley. He went for 423 yards and 6 TD's last night, as the Trojans completely thrashed UCLA, 50-0. USC, due to all the infinite wisdom of the NCAA, cannot play in the post-season, including the Pac-12 CG. So, the Bruins were already a lock to face Oregon heading into last night's game. Wow. What an inaugural championship game the NCAA has blessed this conference with. A USC-Oregon rematch would have been amazing.

Final Note:

I've been against the idea of a 'Bama-LSU rematch, but I'm starting to think there's no better option. Alabama stated their case yesterday, throttling Auburn on the Plains. And I'll say having one overtime loss to the number one team in the country makes you a better team than one who lost at Iowa State. I mean, how do you, in all honesty, compare losses to Iowa State and LSU and decide the ISU one is more forgivable? If the system is set up to match-up the two highest ranked teams. the best teams, then that's what it should do, whether or not it's the game I want to see. And that's what we forget, it's not about what we want, but what the system decides. And I hope the system, with all its algorithms and computer polls, is smart enough to tell the difference between losing to LSU and losing to Iowa State, because I imagine most humans will drop the ball on this one if OSU wins Bedlam. Even if LSU loses to Georgia, they'd deserve to play in the Title game. They'd have one-loss to a top-15 team, and that's still better than losing to Iowa State. Would that rematch be what I want? Probably not. Would it be what's right? Probably so.

Tech Wrecked...and a Career Saved

When Georgia started 0-2, Mark Richt was definitely on the hot seat. But the heat switch had been thrown two seasons earlier when talented Bulldog teams underachieved, the defense was almost non-existent, and a general malaise had seemed to settle over the entire program. And make no mistake, the responsibility for that kind of funk lands directly at the head coach's feet. And responding to that challenge, Richt went 6-7 and lost to UCF in the Liberty Bowl, making some seriously cowardly calls along the way. So let's not soften things up, Richt's seat was thermonuclear heading into this season and justifiably so. That first loss only kicked the heat up a notch, but the second one felt like a slight reprieve; it wasn't coaching that burned us, but execution from a young team that put up 42 points but managed to give away 28. It was a start - a corner turned heading into an easy FCS game and then the meat of the easiest SEC draw of a schedule. Richt had time.

And he used it. The young guys came together on offense, Bobo called plays that matched their strengths, the defense gelled, and some transfers asserted their dominance. Sure there was Murray overthrowing everybody at UT, Bobo's ridiculous Wildcat calls at Vandy, and the failure stopping the run against the same Dores squad. But, overall, things were good; Georgia went 5-0 headed into the bye week, and the heat under Richt had been turned down some. Then we beat Florida. Florida is not very good this year, but beating them means more than simply outperforming them on the field. The Gators live in our heads. They dominate our gridiron psyches like a puppet master and overcoming that meant way more than a 4-point win over a .500 team. It gave us confidence. We closed out the year with 5 more wins, riding the high from that Florida win into thrashings of NMSU and Auburn. We played poorly against Kentucky, but still won and sealed the SEC East, stealing a CG bid from SoCar, the Gamecocks cursed with a road trip to Arkansas that dropped them out of contention. And then we capped ten wins in a row with a road victory over our in-state rival - a great way to end a regular season.

Yesterday wasn't as particularly dominant as I wanted it to be (of course, it'll probably never be 100-0), nor was it as dominant as it could have been. We still really don't have much of an answer for the triple option, giving up 245 on the ground. And, while that's almost a hundred yards below Tech's average, it's way higher than our 81 ypg heading into the game. I really detest playing this offense, too. I've stated before how much I hate cut-blocking and the entire system at Tech revolves around it. It's also very difficult to coach against modern offenses all season and then try to implement anti-flexbone option techniques in a week. It all just adds up to a dangerous, dangerous game - for the scoreboard, records, bowl bids, and people's knees. All you can do is hope to contain it and outscore it when you've got the chance.

Despite those few shortcomings against the offense, though, I felt pretty good about the defense overall. There weren't nearly as many pays of 25 yards+ as they've gouged us for in the past and we created more third and longs than the Bees are comfortable with. Also, remember how much people lauded the passing part of the offense earlier this season? Well, it was almost non-existent yesterday. Tevin Washington was knocked around in the pocket and threw two picks, as Tech, trying to climb out of 3 score deficit, only put up 80 yards of offense in the second half. I'll take that every time.

Offensively, things were a little more shaky for us. Aaron Murray looked a little rough early, but settled into a great game overall, with his 250 yards and 4 TD's erasing the early INT. But I'm not comfortable with having to rely on him. Something has got to give in our run game - soon. Crowell was hurt and didn't play. Thomas looks like he's not even part of the team anymore. Samuel's still recovering from his ankle injury. Harton and Malcome just aren't talented enough to carry the workload. Smith and Boykin are speedster options at best and won't work as every down backs (just look at the long sack in the third quarter as evidence of what happens when you use a CB to block on third and long). We need a running game solution and we need to find it before next week.

I do like the game plan we went with once we realized we had to work around our porcelain run game. We saw passes work on first down and ran a lot on second down to set up later play-actions. The only questionable call I saw was using Smith at RB on the third and long. It led to Tech's only sack and knocked Georgia out of field goal range. Now, play-action certainly wouldn't have worked there, but I don't think we needed to give up protection, either. Now, speaking of special teams...ugh, Blair Walsh. Boykin had a great return and our kick-off coverage was solid, but Walsh gives the whole unit a black eye every time he misses. This kid was a Groza finalist - what the fuck happened? Much like the run game, kicking will need to get sorted out before next week.

In the end, though, it was a win. And a rivalry win at that. But it was so much more, too. It was the tenth win in a row for a team that started 0-2. It was a great confidence builder headed into the SEC title game. And, perhaps most importantly, it was a win that warmed the faithful back up to Mark Richt, but certainly cooled his seat off for a while.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

James Franklin and Chop-Blocking

I pretty much like everything James Franklin's done so far at Vanderbilt. He's led them to five wins, taken three SEC teams to the wire in his six losses, instilled some pride and respect in a program that needed it, and has just generally changed the overall attitude in Nashville. But now he's gone on record with something I vehemently disagree with: defending chop blocking. He hides behind the cut block as technique pro forma, but it honestly isn't - and he should know that. Cut-blocking is semi-acceptable, but when it becomes your team's de rigueur, you're in a gray area that's one bad decision away from a personal foul penalty...or worse, severely injuring another player. Chop-blocking is just dangerous football. And, if you ask me, it's actually done more harm than good for Vandy; they had two huge plays in late drives called back on cheap blocks against Florida and Tennessee, two close losses that might have had a better chance to go the other way without the flags. If he wants to move to the next level, then he needs to get beyond cheap tricks on the O-line and move away from something as questionable and cowardly as openly supporting chop-blocking.

Happy Thanksgiving from FTS

The love and thankfulness I feel today has no chance of overcoming the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate I've carried in my heart all week. Happy Thanksgiving and WRECK TECH!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weekly Picks

Ohio 30, Miami (OH) 17 - I think we've all forgotten how good of a coach Frank Solich can be.

Texas A&M 27, Texas 26
- I like A&M here in a close one. They're playing for a strong close to the season, while the 'Horns still have a showdown with Baylor left next weekend. Call the Aggies more focused on Turkey Day.

Tulsa 36, Houston 35 - UPSET ALERT Tulsa has three losses, but they're all to top-10 teams (Boise, OU, OK St.). I think they have the firepower to score with Houston and I wouldn't be surprised if they catch the Cougs day-dreaming about a BCS bid.

Nebraska 29, Iowa 17 - Picking Iowa games is like picking the Big East.

LSU 24, Arkansas 21 - UPSET ALERT (kind of) I think it will be close, but the Tigers will pull it out. Arkansas has certainly chosen the best time to start streaking, but I don't see them being able to do enough against the Tigers. There will be a late score that will stir things up a bit, but Les' boys survive to roll into ATL the next weekend unscathed.

Oklahoma 41, Iowa State 27 - Don't look for another upset from the Cyclones. I'll take a pissed off Oklahoma team in Norman all day long.

Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27 - UPSET ALERT - The Bulldogs are excited about their SECCG bid, probably a little too excited. I've heard more about the showdown in the Dome in two weeks than I have about the Tech game this weekend. If our players and coaches are taking the same approach, look for the Bees and their triple option to blast the unfocused Dawgs. I'll take the better athletes on Georgia's sideline, but it'll be close.

Michigan 31, Ohio State 24 - The streak-breaker. The Wolverines can end eight years of Buckeye dominance and, in doing so, build a lot of support for the Hoke regime.

Alabama 27, Auburn 20 - Closer than the experts think, but I've still got 'Bama.

Virginia Tech 27, Virginia 24 - UPSET ALERT The Hokies had better be very careful.Mike London has done a great job in C'ville and the Cavs have one point left to prove: Beat the Hokies.

Wisconsin 30, Penn State 17 - Why is Penn State winning this game such a foregone conclusion? I know they're tough, solid on D, and riding a wave of emotion, but that doesn't automatically equal being able to stop Montee Ball and Russel Wilson. The Badges are still hurting from two hail mary losses and I don't see them giving up another in Camp-Randall.

South Carolina 21, Clemson 16 - Because it would just make sense now.

Florida State 27, Florida 15 - That loss to Virginia stung the 'Noles a lot more than we realize and there's no better place to exercise demons than in an in-state rivalry game. State realeased a lot of pent up frustration with last year's big win and could be overlooking the Gators, but I won't call the upset.

Stanford 29, Notre Dame 19 - Notre Dame would have been a great upset pick if the Cardinal were rolling in 11-0, but Luck and Co. are 10-1 and carrying a bit of a chip on their shoulder.


Well, this one was certainly tough to compile. After the carnage of last weekend, the whole poll feels like a train wreck and no one really looks like they deserve their ranking except the top-3 teams...and maybe only the top-two. How high do rank the upsetters? How far do we drop the upsetees? Were some of those losses truly upsets? I'll give you Iowa State over Okie State, but Baylor just out-deuled Oklahoma and USC took it to the Ducks right away. It was certainly a lot to contemplate in compiling these rankings, and, in the end, I'm not sure if the extra thought produced a better product than just throwing all the names in a hat. Let the dumpster fire commence:

I did go with the SEC West at 1-2-3. I've got Virginia Tech at four, but I don't feel too good about that. I kept Oklahoma State in the top-5, but that probably won't last very long, either, with Bedlam coming up soon. I have Houston over Boise State by way of the loss column.

I have Stanford much lower than the other polls; that win over Cal was ugly and because of that, I've got them at the end of the three-way Pac-12 knot to close out the top-10. USC leap-frogged a ton of teams in front of them to crack the top-10, and with their win I gave them the nod for the top of that west coast jumble.

Oklahoma dropped to twelve, behind the highest-ranked B1G team on the ballot, Sparty. South Carolina and Georgia are neck-and-neck inside the top-15 with Wisconsin and Michigan hot on their heels. Clemson dropped the furthest of any of this weekend's losers, ending up behind the sliding doors at no. 17.

Baylor re-emerges in my poll at no. 19, but I will acknowledge that they could be much higher. I have TCU right behind them based on h-2-h. A reeling Nebraska falls to 21, a spot higher than the Penn State squad they squeaked by two weeks ago. Georgia Tech hangs solidly in the bottom-5, with two newcomers appearing to close things out, Virginia and Tulsa. Both the Cavs and the Golden Hurricane could make some serious noise with their games next week against VA Tech and Houston, respectively.

Monday, November 21, 2011

RIP To A Damn Good Dawg

He's calling games from the press box in the clouds, now.

Early Leans

Here we go, the early leans for Thanksgiving Week. I've got some teams on upset alert who will need to bring their A-game and make sure they're not overlooking their opponents. I've been pretty spot on calling for the close ones, but not always accurate with who I picked puling it out.The final picks will be up Wednesday, so call that first MAC pick locked-in.

Ohio 30, Miami (OH) 17
Texas A&M 27, Texas 26
Tulsa 36, Houston 35 - UPSET ALERT
Nebraska 29, Iowa 17
LSU 24, Arkansas 21 - UPSET ALERT (kind of)
Oklahoma 41, Iowa State 27
Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27 - UPSET ALERT
Michigan 31, Ohio State 24
Alabama 27, Auburn 20
Virginia Tech 27, Virginia 24 - UPSET ALERT
Wisconsin 30, Penn State 17
South Carolina 21, Clemson 16
Florida State 27, Florida 15
Stanford 29, Notre Dame 19

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Morning QB

I wish I had been watching this live:

It was just that kind of weekend, I guess.

Oklahoma State lost at Iowa State Friday night, the first step in making a LSU-Alabama rematch even more likely. With only one undefeated team left, the computers will become even more important in deciding who will get the top-2 BCS spots. The microchips love the Big 12, but Baylor did everyone that's not a Sooner fan a favor by knocking off Oklahoma in a shootout. Southern Cal pushed Oregon out of contention, surviving the Ducks furious 4th quarter comeback. And Clemson showed themselves the door by overlooking NC State, then paying dearly for that mistake in a blowout loss. What we're left with is a good chance that the top-3 spots in the BCS standings will be owned by SEC West teams, LSU, 'Bama, and Arkansas. The Sooners could further the chances of an SEC rematch by giving Oklahoma State a second loss in Bedlam next week, an outcome that would likely keep a Big 12 team out of the top-2 spots. Christ, the SEC West is dominant.

Conversely, the SEC East looked pathetic yesterday. Tennessee and Vanderbilt bitch-slapped each other all the way to overtime while Georgia and Kentucky put on a clinic of ineptitude. Meanwhile, Florida and South Carolina struggled to dispatch their respective FCS foes. I guess it's fitting that a team that played as bad as Georgia did yesterday would emerge as the winner of this division.

In the Big Ten, Michigan State clinched their spot in the B1GCG by crushing the life out of hapless Indiana. Michigan cruised against an straight-up outplayed Nebraska team, but it wasn't enough for the Wolverines to overcome the head-to-head loss they suffered to the Spartans earlier this season. Sparty will play the winner of next week's Penn State-Wisconsin game.

Remember when I almost picked Texas to win the Big 12? lolz

That Oregon-USC game was a good one. We've talked about LaMichael James and his Heisman chances, but where's the love for Matt Barkley? He went for 323 and 4TDs in the upset win, starting out an insane 12/13 for 2 scores in the first quarter. His ratio for the season now stands at 29/6. For comparison, Andrew Luck's ratio heading into the Cal game was 29/7.

6-5 Louisville leads the Big East. Also, the Big East makes no sense.

In the ACC, Clemson still has the Atlantic locked-down, despite that turd they laid in Raleigh. The Coastal, though, will come down to next week's Virginia Tech-Virginia in Charlottesville. And nobody saw that shit coming back in August. London's done a great job with the Cavs, but I doubt it'll be enough to knock-off the surging Hokies who really want another shot at the Tigers. 

There were some ridiculous stats in that Oklahoma-Baylor game. RGIII passed for 480 yards and 4 scores, adding 70 more on the ground. Landry Jones threw for 450 and Blake Bell, the Sooners' goal line QB, rushed for 4 TDs. Throw in the drama of that last minute and it made for a hell of a game.

Ticket Punched.

Well, despite the big question marks and a ton of sloppy play, Georgia finally earned an SEC championship berth with Saturday's win over Kentucky. But our execution was so bad, the team so unfocused looking, that I wonder how good of news that actually is. If this team that played today - and I use the word 'played' loosely here - shows up next week against Tech or the next weekend in the Dome, things could get ugly, fast. First, we need to address our run game concerns. Crowell went out after his second carry and we didn't see him again all day. His sturdiness is now just as questionable as his character, and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't go next week at Tech. Carlton Thomas didn't play today for "personal reasons", and while that could mean any number of things, I get the sneaking suspicion he's fucked up again and had to sit out. This could have been his game, instead we had to rely on Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome, neither of whom is premier enough of a back to handle the workload effectively. With Samuel still recovering from an ankle injury, there's more questions than answers in the backfield.

Because of the lacking run game, we weren't able to get a whole lot of offense going today. Murray, who had finally started living up to his potential, failed to find a rhythm and we resorted to settling field goals throughout the first half. I HATE settling for field goals. It's become symptomatic of an overall failure of the offense to perform effectively and with the struggles we've had in the kick game this season, I cringe every time the field goal team trots out on the field. But, much to my pleasant surprise, Blair Walsh was perfect on the day (Georgia's lone missed FG was on Bogotay). Hopefully, he can build off of it, restore his confidence, and return our kicking game to it's place as a reliable team strength and not the crap-shoot it's become in 2011.

We finally scored a touchdown in the third quarter and it looked like the game was going to turn big time in favor of us, but we just couldn't stay on the gas pedal. Even with great field position after key turnovers, we saw Murray and the boys coming off the field after third down time and time again. This has got to be cleaned up before we go on the road to Bobby Dodd next Saturday.

Defensively, today was a continuation of the impressive resurgence the Dawgs have had this season. His personality faults aside, Grantham has done a fine job implementing his scheme and the addition of some key personnel has the defense playing as a top-5 unit. Jarvis Jones has emerged as the star of the unit and led the way against the Wildcats, racking 2.5 sacks and forcing a key fumble. He even made an impact after the game, when after he was asked about leaving for the NFL, he answered, “I am definitely coming back. Like I’ve said before, I’ve got a great coach and our whole defense is coming back next year." While it's great he'll be around in 2012, I just want to make sure he and the rest of the D bring the intensity they've been packing the last few games to Atlanta the next two weekends.

Kentucky did rack up 65 yards on a good looking first drive, but that was pretty much it for the Wildcats. They settled for a FG then and scored a TD on a short field after a turnover, but they were smothered the rest of the game, earning only one first down in the second half. The Kentucky defense was a little better, as Georgia only put up a little over 300 yards, but most of that was due more to the Dawgs ineptitude than the 'Cats' dominance.

But, a win's a win and it put us into the SECCG. Also, Coach Richt making out with his wife made ESPN.

Get some.
Heading into next week, the season finale at Tech, Georgia needs to be on guard for several things. They need to make sure Crowell gets healthy. They need to make sure Thomas gets his shit straightened out. They need to make sure the offensive game plan is conducive to helping Murray find a rhythm. They need to make sure the D brings their fire and intensity. And, perhaps most importantly, they need to make sure that all this SEC Championship hoopla doesn't have the guys overlooking their in-state rivals. /WreckTech!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back to Work

I know it's been pretty barren here this week - no top-25, Sunday QB, early leans, news, picks, or commentary - but I just couldn't bring myself to get into the world of cfb the past few days. I think it's mainly the Penn State scandal that has been watering down my interest; every time I sat down to write-up anything, it was all I could think about and it just turned me off. That a thing like this ever happens is sickening, that it occurred in the arena of college football is depressing, and that there are still victims out there dealing with the pain is just unfair. So unfair, depressing, and tragic that it was all I could think of when my fingers hit the keys, and I simply didn't want to deal with it anymore. Now, though, with the week behind me and a football Saturday under my belt, the last tailgate done and packed away, my Bulldogs on their way to the Dome, and the conference races wrapping-up, I feel ready to be a part of this world again. So, it's back to work tomorrow with commentary on today's ugly win over Kentucky and the Sunday morning QB. See you then -

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Building Confidence

Well, that was quite the big win between the hedges yesterday and it feels like it's a continuation of a general trend that's been building since the bye week. The defense suffocated Florida in the second half and we did enough to win, that win gave us a little pep in our step, a little extra confidence in ourselves and our game plans. We have since then dispatched New Mexico State and Auburn with extreme prejudice, both games already being decided by the half. I think the well placed bye gave us a rest at the perfect time and the win over Florida gave us the mental push we needed to actually benefit from everything we've invested in the program this season. If play like this carries into next week against Kentucky, we should have no trouble locking-up the SEC East and cruising into Atlanta on a nine-game streak the next weekend. As for yesterday's game itself, there's not much to say, so I'll just leave you with this screen-grab of the box score from ESPN:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It Took A While,

but Penn State's beginning to do the right thing. I do not think Joe Paterno is a bad person, I think he made a huge error in judgement. And now, it's cost him his job as head coach - something that needed to be done in light of the grand jury testimony. I think heads need to continue to roll today, too, though; that school needs to clean house and remake their leadership from scratch. I'm sure there will be more news coming out of State College throughout the day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Weekly Picks


Georgia Tech 24, Virginia Tech 21 - I think would just make sense with these teams in this conference. I do think the Hokies are a better team, but you just know Tech's gonna make a little more noise headed into Clean, Old Fashioned Hate and the ACCCG.

Houston 44, Tulane 17 - Cougs roll, Keenum keeps the record books open.


South Florida 22, Syracuse 21 - BIG EAST FOOTBAW.


Oklahoma State 39, Texas Tech 21 - Man, have the Raiders fallen off after their big OU-upset, or what? I think they can make it a game early, but this won't be Okie State's slip-up...but mark my words, they will lose.

Nebraska 27, Penn State 21 - I want the Huskers to STEAMROLL the Nits in Happy Valley, but there's going to be some serious energy bouncing around that place. It'll be confusing and emotionally conflicting and create an atmosphere that JoePa's team might feed off of, but I'm taking truth and justice in the end, even if that comes in the form of Bo Pelini. Question: If you're Pelini, do you give Paterno the basic coach-respect of pregame chats and post-game handshakes? I don't know if I would.

Florida 21, South Carolina 19 - C'mon, Gators. Honestly, I was leaning towards South Carolina, but with Shaw being so questionable health-wise, I'm gonna take Muschamp and Co. to get it done in an ugly way.

Texas 31, Missouri 21 - The Longhorns are a quietly rising two-loss team. Missouri will give them all they can handle - much like they've done all season - but it won't be enough to stop a UT team that's good and getting better.

Michigan State 23, Iowa 20 - It will be close. It will be weird. It will be B1G time football...take that for what it's worth.

Auburn 27, Georgia 24 - The Moviegoer described this one perfectly (paraphrasing): "If it's close, Auburn wins because Georgia can't trust its kicking game. If it's a blowout, it'll be all Georgia, judging by the way Auburn's played on the road." I agree. I also don't see Georgia bringing a blowout into this one. I hate to say it, but the Tigers steal one in Sanford.

Alabama 24, Mississippi State 13 - I think the Tide have a little let-down after last week's OT loss; god knows the players are still feeling that game int heir bones. It'll be slow going for 'Bama to build up a head of steam offensively, but even sleep walking, this D will smother Miss. State.

Oregon 34, Stanford 31 - Shoot-out, classic Pac-12 style. I love Andrew Luck and I know the Cardinal will score points, but I'm wondering if Stanford can stop the Oregon offense at full speed. James and Thomas will not only be fully healthy, but I think they'll be focused, pumped, and primed for this match-up. I know it's on the road, but I'm taking the Ducks.

Not Enough.

So JoePa has made the decision to retire at the end of the season. This is how we reward what happened under his watch at Penn State? Allowing him to set his own terms on leaving, letting him set his own timeline for adulation-filled farewells, keeping him in-place to coach this Saturday against Nebraska in a setting that's likely to become a pro-Joe pep-rally, televising a man living his life unchanged under a program reeling from scandal while the victims get to sit at home and watch? Pathetic. I rarely say this, but in this situation, I don't care about the legal system. Sometimes just the legal responsibility is not enough; sometimes you have to do what's right. With something as bad as child molestation, there is no middle ground, no c-y-a and move on, and to me, anyway, no second chances. Reading the grand jury testimony, following the timeline of events, hearing from the victims, it's all too much to take-in today and be satisfied that Joe got to pick his time to go. Paterno, Mr. "Success with Honor" himself, is now a figurehead for a program that allowed one of the worst things that can happen to go on; as such, he - and everything remotely connected to his administration - should be let go. Immediately. Letting him go out on his own terms, allowing him to stick it out to season's end, giving him his last month on the sideline (or, in the press box, actually)is simply not enough. 'Not enough' - a phrase that, in the end, sums up the cowardly effort these individuals put into one of our most basic responsibilities as human beings, protecting children.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Top-25

All the news coming out of State College this week has been outright sad. It's really killing any interest I have to explore, discuss, or debate anything college football related. This makes improper benefits, illegal agent contact, pay for play, free tattoos, rental cars, sold jerseys, and smack talk look like upstanding behavior and more and more I'm worried some folks who acted in a very disgusting, immoral, and cowardly manner might walk. So, tonight, you get my top-25, but I've got no commentary to add right now. I'm just kinda depressed about the whole sport right now. Ugh.
EDIT: From the Harrisburg Patriot-News. The more I think about it, I'm not sure they truly nailed it - I'm starting to lean towards cleaning house immediately.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Where Will He Pop-Up Next?

Houston Nutt will be done at Ole Miss at the end of the season...and no one's surprised. My question: where will he end up? This will not be a Nutt-less landscape for long. Kentucky could be looking for a new coach soon; would they give the Right Reverend a third SEC shot? Or, could he find a new home at an Arizona or even a higher tier C-USA team? We can't say for sure. All we know is, he will be missed.

Monday Afternoon QB - BCS Title Game Speculation Edition

I'm a little late getting this out, but there was a lot to process this weekend and I was distracted all day yesterday with the Falcons and then monitoring my fantasy teams. And also napping. Lots of napping.

First, let's go ahead and address the big one, LSU-Bama. I really enjoyed watching this game. Suffocating defense and an entire contest turning on special teams. It was truly old school-style football out there, but with a modern twist: those are by far the fastest and hardest hitting players in the nation. To me, even considering the kicking mishaps, Saban lost the game when he called the wildcat pass downfield. I'm not saying it wasn't a good call, I'm just saying that it's the play the conclusion of the game turned on. At that point, LSU looked tired up front and Richardson was beginning to loosen them up for more ypc. If Saban keeps plugging away, the Tide most likely wear down the D further, let there's rest more, and even if they only get a field goal, it's unlikely LSU drives for the tie that late. Instead, with the INT , LSU gains a little momentum, puts together a drive against a less-rested Bama D and send us to OT where they trump Bama's questionable special teams. This game truly was a chess match and Miles came out ahead by playing it safe - and no one thought that would be the case.

Now there's a lot of talk about a rematch. I really wouldn't want to see one. To me, it's not fair to LSU. They've already beaten 'Bama -  on the road, mind you - and to make them do it again seems like the wrong call. Besides, what do we really prove if Bama pulls out a win on a neutral field in January? Nothing. You'd then need a third game somehow to truly decide the series and you're not getting it. Just treat it like a play-in game: Bama lost, they lose out on a shot. Of course, all of this is obviously predicated on both teams winning out.

Who would LSU's opponent in the SECCG be if it were today? Georgia. That's a really weak East division. The Dawgs still likely have to beat Auburn to go - unless SoCar loses at Florida - and even then, I doubt they'll pose much threat to the Bayou Bengals. LSU is almost a lock for ATL, because even if they lost to Arkansas, the SEC tie-breaking procedure allows for them to win the division based on the fact they beat 'Bama. Unless Arkansas is within 5 BCS spots when it happens...

Of the other two unbeatens, I like Stanford right now. Okie State still looks like they've got a loss coming their way Sooner or later (get it?). If Stanford falls to Oregon and OU wins Bedlam, you'll most likely get the Sooners in the BCSCG against LSU. That seems like one of the more boring potential NC match-ups, honestly. Of course, there's always Boise State. If Georgia made it to the SECCG and won, the Broncos would have a VERY solid argument for the title game; likely playing Oklahoma. Who they beat in the Fiesta Bowl a few years ago. Ooh, the drama.

Obviously, if Stanford wins out, they'd trump a one-loss Oklahoma team. But, if the Cardinal win out and Okie State takes care of business in Bedlam, the Cowboys would get the nod over Luck and Co. to play LSU. If LSU drops the ball somewhere, you get Stanford - OKSU. If they all lose one, you could still get Alabama back in the title game, maybe against a then one-loss OU or even undefeated Boise State. Then Michael Wilbon could put his money where his mouth is.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!

As official as it gets, the official SEC announcement.

Everybody Scores!


Smith, Harton, Bennett, Boykin, Conley, Charles, White, Karempelis, and McGowan. All nine of these guys scored a TD yesterday against New Mexico State. There's really not much more to say about Georgia's win. Overall, I'm pleased with the way we dispatched an outmatched foe in a money game, even with a completely depleted running back corps. We were able to establish our backups' backups in the running game and had two quarterbacks find rhythms against the Aggie D (Murray tossed five TD's, Mason one). Defensively, we did give up almost 100 yards to Kenny Turner, but most of those came in the second half. Sure, there were some sloppy moments, but not enough to draw any honest complaints.

More importantly, South Carolina came up short on the road against Arkansas, putting us alone on top of the SEC East. I'm realistic to know that this is like winning a competition to get kicked in the balls - especially after watching the LSU-Bama game last night - but true competitors want a chance at the best and we might get it. We just have to take care of Auburn and Kentucky first. The Wildcats seem manageable, but I have no clue about this Auburn match-up.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

There's been a lot of speculation that Georgia's running backs were actually given the drug test they failed before the Florida game, and that the results were in before Saturday. That would mean the coaching staff decided to wait until after the annual showdown in Jacksonville to release the results and carry-out the suspensions. That would make sense, with this week's opponent being New Mexico State, a game that's much more survivable without a full roster than a conference tilt. Now, there's no proof this is the case, it's just been speculation and rumor, but if it is true, could anyone blame the staff? I'd imagine every D-1 coach would do it the same way. I think it would be more egregious if there was a uniform drug violation policy, but there's not. At least UGA administers there own tests at multiple times a season - many programs wait for pressure from the NCAA - and UGA's in a small group of schools who actually punish first time offenders. There are many schools who do not punish first time offenders at all - ten of them are in the SEC. As a matter of fact, only Georgia and Kentucky hand out first-time offense suspensions.* So, if they did wait, it doesn't seem that important since nobody truly seems to care about the issue anyway. It takes a special kind of homer to blindly defend players at every turn, but it's also a pretty rare breed who criticizes the way one team doles out punishments when their school doesn't even consider the offense a problem.

Me? I couldn't care less about minor drug/alcohol stuff. I don't have much patience with big stuff like sexual assault, domestic abuse, blatant improper benefits, felonies, etc. - but college kids are college kids. I hope they learn from this, keep their heads on straight and reserve the weed for winter and spring. I mean, c'mon, guys, it's a college town; just abuse alcohol like everyone else. And, if rival fans are going to continue to go after Richt's handling of the situation, we should just change our drug test/penalty policy to one more like their school has - none.
* Along with Georgia and Kentucky, Miami, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, and Baylor are the only BCS schools who have any punishment for a first-time drug offender.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Running Backs Suspended

UPDATE: From Team Speed Kills: "ESPN is reporting that the actual cause of the suspension was the three of them failing a drug test last week. It doesn't say what kind of drug they tested positive for, not that it really matters, but a one-game suspension for a first failed test is the standard policy for UGA."

If it was a drug test, then maybe I was a little too harsh earlier; especially if it's an LSU-style synth-marijuana bust. I mean, I know rules are rules and these kids are dumbasses for breaking very clear-cut guidelines, but I find it hard to judge college aged kids for doing college-aged - and beyond - things. They should definitely sit out a game as per S.O.P, but I'll tone down my earlier judgement a bit...for now.


Three running backs - Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas, and Ken Malcome - have all been suspended for this week's game against New Mexico State. When asked what the suspensions are being served for, Richt would only reply, "They didn't do things the Georgia way." I'm guessing they haven't been doing things the proper way for a while now, if that one quarter suspension Crowell served against Vandy is any indicator. But, you know what, though? If they fuck up, sit 'em, and if they keep fucking up, cut 'em. I can't stand to have shit heads on my team, period. Other teams can sign these guys and play out dream seasons admist the controversy, but I don't want any part of it. Would it hurt to lose these guys, Crowell, especially? Yes. Does that mean it's OK to do things in a shady way? Absolutely not. Of course, I'm definitely in the minority here, and I know it.

Specifically, I'm very concerned about Crowell, now. I've heard he's quite the prima donna; spending the summer showing up late for or missing whole practices, focusing on himself more than the team around him, and just generally being a douchebag. If one suspension didn't snap him out of it, chances are this one won't either. We might need to think of life without the talented freshman as a real possibility. But, for this week, with Thomas and Malcome out and Richard Samuels hurt, who's going to run the ball? My guess is we'll see a lot of Smith and Boykin on offense come Saturday, because I'm assuming we're not confident turning the entire workload to Brandon Harton. What I hope is that this little suspension is what these kids need to straighten up and fly right; what I know is, these kids better wake up, and soon, or they'll be gone.

Of course, I'm sure they can always find a home out in the SEC West.

Tuesday Top-25

A firm grasp on the number one ranking is at stake in Tuscaloosa this Saturday when LSU and Alabama finally face-off. Beyond that, everything else is still a bit of a mess, though it's a contained clutter through the top-7 or so. Right now, Oklahoma State gets the nod over Stanford for the three spot, but it's a razor thin margin. Next, it my be sacrilege to some, but I do have a handful of one-lossers ahead of undefeated Boise State. Those one-lossers are ranked by this logic: I think Oregon could beat Oklahoma and Oklahoma could beat Clemson. I'm sorry, Broncos, but you get less and less impressive with your late season cavalcade of cheese-dick opponents. Two SEC teams with a big date of their own this weekend round out the top-10. Note: I am NOT comfortable with having either of these teams this high.

After that, it's just a Jackson Pollack-esque splattering of chaos. Yes, that is Nebraska ranked so high. Yes, I do remember them getting blasted by Wisky, but that was before the Badgers got double Hail Mary'd. Michigan State retains an inflated spot, mainly by necessity. Arizona State refuses to go away and Penn State is slowly creeping up the poll, one 3-point win at a time. Kansas State plummets after finally being exposed, but with their resume, they're still a top-20 team. Texas Tech is gone, baby, gone after that shit show at Iowa State, though - big win over OU or not. Undefeated Houston and Case Kennum's magic touchdown laser round out the top-20.

21-25 is just a holding ground. I'm still not ranking Cincy or So.Miss. I'm not that impressed with Georgia, even with the Cocktail Party win, though Auburn is slowly coming back around to my football consciousness. Like the Tigers, West Virginia re-emerges with a conference win. Georgia Tech gets back in it by knocking off a cocky Clemson team and Washington hangs around by virtue of their only two losses being to top-15 teams. Texas A&M has been knocked out for now, but remains on the cusp should any of these hangers-on topple off anytime soon.