Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How About, Theoretically, A System That's Actually Fair, Instead?

With apologies to Jason, the problem is that college football has too much scope in team play to justify using 1s and 0s. Pure wins work in the NFL, because (most) everyone plays everyone and you have equalitive tiebreakers like division and conference records. Those simply do not exist in College Football. Some conferences have championships, others don't. Some have more teams than others. And consistently, each year there are conferences that are leaps and bounds better than others. In the NFL, the AFC South may be much weaker than the NFC West, but there's still a prayer for the Jaguars and Texans. Such is not the case with the weaker teams in inferior conferences.

When we first breached this topic, our problems were the same as have been stated before. You've got a team that goes undefeated (Boise State) and therefore, obviously, they should get to play in the BCS. But wait, they've played absolutely no one of any consequence, no one with even a pulse, hardly. How can they be selected over teams with one or two losses to top 10 teams?

The SEC is clearly the toughest conference in the land this year. Arkansas, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU. When Georgia, Alabama, and upstart Vandy are your weakspots, you know it's a tough place to win football games. Those are obviously tougher games than the ones in Big East, even with West Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers. Or are they?

That's the problem. There's no way of knowing. On top of that, if the Big East is that hard of a conference, it should have a way of not getting screwed by playing each other, considering how unbelievably soft the Big 12 is this year.

And, as usual, don't even get me started on the Pac 10.

But wait, let's start with the Pac 10.

I kept thinking to myself that the Pac 10 kept getting the rub from the polls no matter how soft their defenses were, no matter how small their receivers were. The thorn in that argument was USC. Dominant, overbearing, juggernaut USC. I thought to myself "Why don't we just put USC in a separate conference of its own?"

Hey!

I started formulating an idea for a conference comprised of the best teams in the counry, those that stood apart from their brethren in conference play. A chance to not make the process necessarily easier or simpler, but not convoluted and that produced a clear winner. I didn't just want a way to establish the best team, but a way to add intrigue to the system that didn't make watercooler pundits around the country want to vomit.

I propose the formation of the All-American Championship Conference (AACC). This conference would solve many of the problems of the current BCS championship, in effect, providing a season to season playoff in the form of the regular season. It would be comprised of:

A. One Representative from each of the "Big Six" conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, SEC) as voted by a committee. The committees would be comprised for each of the six conferences of AP writers and coaches (six and six, with conference commissioners having tiebreaker responsibilities). Membership would rotate every two years for coaches, and be voted on by AP writers every two years.

B. Two wild card teams voted in by the entirety of the AACC voters.

Unlike Jason, I feel teams should not be dropped from the ranks of conferences based on their record. Conference rivalries need to be maintained, as does a certain amount of strength in the conferences. Besides, there's something comforting in knowing Duke football will always be crappy, and will be forced to play the ACC power teams every year.

The AACC conference is in effect, a regular season playoff. Each team retains membership in their respective conference, and retain one (2) regular conference games, but the rest of their conference play is replaced with AACC conference play. They are inelligible for conference championships while retaining membership. They are allowed to schedule the same amount of non-conference games as they did before. So the alumni still get to see their favorite team annihilate Southwestern Mississippi Tech State. Then, however, they are required to play the other teams in the AACC. This of course, creates an obscenely difficult schedule, but gaurantess huge money for the AACC participants, as well as the conference of the winning team, which would receive a portion of the money. If a Wild Card were to win, it would receive the total sum.

The wild card entries would be any Division I team elligible for bowl play. The National Championship Bowl would be decided by the two best teams in the AACC based on overall record, with head-to head as tiebreaker. The Current BCS bowls would be elligible to select from the AACC and outside. Only AACC reprentatives are elligible for the national championship bowl. Each year, the committees vote on their representatives and the wild cards. Polls would then vote on non-AACC members, to help with the selection of AACC representatives the following year. There would be no term-limit on AACC membership.

So, in layman's terms. Here's a scenario for you, heading into next year (assuming Ohio State wins National Championship, which is far from decided).

AACC Conference Representatives:
ACC: Wake Forest
Big 10: Ohio State
Big 12: University of Texas
Big East: Rutgers
Pacific 10: USC
SEC: Florida
Wild Card 1: Notre Dame
Wild Card 2: Boise State


So, next year, you would have these teams face each other, with the best two teams playing in the AACC Championship. From a financial standpoint, what's going to make more money, Texas vs. Kansas State in an off year, or Texas vs. Florida?

Here's a simulated Texas Schedule for next season (regardless of what they are currently contractually obligated to). AACC games marked by *.

Sam Houston State
Rice
New Mexico State
Louisian-Monroe
Rutgers*
Florida*
Oklahoma
Boise State*
Wake Forest*
USC*
Ohio State*
Texas A&M


Wowza. If Texas went undefeated through that schedule, would there be any doubt they deserve to play in the National Title Game? Any? Texas gets to still play A&M and the Red River Shootout (or replace those games if they become meaningless in the future).

Now, let's take a look at how the voting would work. Let's do a theoretical Florida schedule first.

UCF W 42-14
Florida State W 28-10
Southern Miss W 38-6
Western Carolina W 42-7
Tennessee L 17-14
Texas L 35-10
Ohio State L 28-13
Georgia W 24-14
Rutgers W 31-20
Notre Dame: L 16-3
Wake Forest W 21-17
Boise State L 38-35


And back in SEC land, Tenn goes undefeated, including win over AACC rep Florida, and wins the SEC title. So after the '07 season, you have florida at 7-5, and Tenn at 13-0. So the SEC voters replace Florida with Tenn, and Tenn is in the AACC for the following year. Notre Dame is not given any conractual automatic bids. If they finish 11-1, but there are two other teams that are 11-1 and the voters feel they are more worthy, they go and Notre Dame has to go back and try to get in the following year.

Advantages of this system:
1. A clear national champion. Even if a non-AACC team went undefeated, they would not have proved themselves like the AACC champion would have. If a team wins the AACC by going 8-4, they will still have played ten times the schedule of Tenn, even with the hard as nails SEC schedule.
2. Exciting title games. Imagine if Texas goes 11-1 (5-1 in AACC play) and Ohio State goes 11-1 (5-1 in AACC play) and they didn't play each other? And even if a non-traditional major conference team was repping in the AACC, it would make for a great story. Imagine Oregon State making the AACC title game as a wild card, playing USC? Or how about Boise State getting to finally make it's case versus a juggernaut like Texas?
3. Keeps debate high. The polls are still in use and help the voters determine who should be voted in the following year. The system makes it pretty easy to figure out who deserves to go and who doesn't. Right now, let's say that Florida's one loss this season was to Georgia, a HUGE rival, and not to Auburn. They would have no chance to make the title game on account of their one loss to a bad team. But if they were in the AACC, and went 11-1 with their one loss to Georgia, they'd still be in the hunt, and most likely in the title game, and have earned it. It helps figure out what games were flukes and what games were legitimate defeats. Also, the wild card makes for fascinating debate. Who deserves the Wild Card, a 2 loss SEC team that finished strong or an undefeated non-major with a cupcake schedule that creamed everyone, including their major conference bowl opponent? Good times for the sports writers.
4. While separating teams from conferences, it keeps conference pride high. You're playing for a chance to rep your conference in the AACC. If you win, your conference reaps the benefits. Knocking off the AACC rep in a regular conference game is of HUGE , rush the field importance.
5. Gives teams that were left out of the title race for non AACC membership a chance to prove it. So, let's say you're a recovering Miami Hurricanes team. And you ripped through the ACC, went undefeated, won the ACC championship game, but didn't happen to be scheduled against AACC rep Georgia Tech. However, the Rose Bowl committee considered your team to be so impressive, it selected you for the Rose Bowl against USC, who you crush. You may not have made the national championship, but next season, you're a lock to either get the conference rep spot or a wild card.
6. Doesn't screw power conferences. The wild card means that if both Auburn and Florida go through a tough as nails SEC conference with only one loss, and the AACC rep and one of the wild cards go 6 wins or worse, there's a good chance that both of those SEC teams will be in the AACC the following year.
7. Keeps the rivalries alive. The two conference games are maintained to ensure that Ohio State-Michigan still happens, the Red River Shootout still gets shot, and the Iron Bowl is still in effect. It ups the stakes, really, because if Auburn is in a three way tie for 2nd in the AACC going into the Iron Bowl, how much would Alabama love to spoil their chances, while improving their shot at a bowl. The upsets are still there, and mean more than ever.
8. Let's see how you do against the big boys. There may come a time when the Pac 10 just is stacked with solid, tough, high scoring, defensively monstrous football teams. Until that time comes, I would LOVE to see them play teams like Texas, Auburn, and Ohio State every year. It would help sort out the polls as well, since the Pac 10 teams have been skating by a lot of recent years based on the strength of their juggernaut USC.
9.It lets good teams in bad conferences succeed. On the flip side, if USC is that good, and they come from a crappy conference, they still deserve to show how good they are. If their conference sucks, but they run to a one or two loss season in the AACC, they've clearly shown they deserve to be there, even if the rest of their conference doesn't.
10.One good year is not enough. This promotes long term success, versus getting lucky in a handful of games and having a weak schedule. What if Oregon had won the Pac 10 this year, with that Oklahoma game on their record? Voters would be able to make a decision with those kinds of things in effect. This allows for the circumstances surrounding a season to be upheld.

Qustions:
1. It creates an "upper class" to college football. Outside of the 8, all other teams in the country have no hope for a national championship. It prevents the cinderella teams and the teams that have played their hearts out from even being able to dream of a national championship. How can a system be fair if a team goes undefeated in the SEC and doesn't play in the National Championship?

Response: So, if Arkansas goes undefeated in the SEC, having beaten Florida, Auburn, Tennessee and having only one loss in the first game of the season against a much-better-then USC, and they don't have any hope of a national championship, how is it any different? The current system leaves teams out. This at least applauds them for their season, and allows them into the mix the following season, and they still get the BCS bowl and BCS money. The only difference is Arkansas wouldn't have to worry about starting off at no. 25 the following season. Let's be clear. The current system only allows a certain number of teams to have a shot. At least this way, Boise State won't have to have the same thing happen to them year after year.

2. How will the non-AACC teams be able to compete in recruiting, if the AACC teams can gaurantee they'll be in contention for a national championship the next season?

Response: If you're a freshman, you don't care what happens your freshman or junior years, because you're more than likely not starting. You still care about the long term health of the program. Sure, USC would be able to say they were contending for a title the very next year, but Cal would be able to respond with "We have a great history at your position (QB), we're going to win the PAC 10 next year undoubtedly, and we'll be in line for AACC membership just as you're entering your Junior year. Plus, it gives them an easier schedule to prepare for the big time.

3. The schedule will KILL the kids. The injuries will be immense.

Response: This is the cost of a playoff. And if you ask the athletes what they would rather do, protect themselves from injury versus major teams and get little or no exposure, or be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how good they are in major games week after week, you know what the competitors will say.

4. What happens if the AACC teams are all crappy?

Response: This is highly unlikely, considering even when there are many good teams, one or two teams always separate themselves from the flock. The SEC is a good example of this. And when most of the teams are shitty, the best always shine brighter. The Big 12 is a good example of this. Even if all the ACC went 6-6 (3-3 in AACC play, impossible given the schedules), all you'd have is the best teams all playing at the same level. And it would make for some intense tiebreaker scenarios. Plus, if they were all that bad, the next year they would get flushed and you'd have a whole new slew of AACC members.

5. It eliminates all the hard work of a good year.

Response: No, it just demands that you validate a good year with a great year. Any inferior team can go on a tear. That doesn't mean they're among the best teams in the country. Plus, it means that one loss is no longer the death of your hopes. West Virginia with a very talented team went from title contender to afterthought after one loss to a very good Louisville team. How good are they, especially considering the Louisville loss to Rutgers? There's no way of knowing. But it's gauranteed that WVU would have gotten the Big East bid this year. Then they would have played in the AACC, and even if they had lost to Louisville in their representative conference game, they would have still been in contention for the title. If WVU had lost to Louisville, but beaten Texas, Notre Dame, Boise State, USC, Florida State and Florida, don't you think they deserve a crack at OSU?

6. It will hurt smaller rivalry games.

Response: Not likely. Most teams have two good rivalries, and those will be the two conference games. But all it does for the lesser rivalries is build the bad blood and momentum. Let's take Arkansas vs. LSU as an example. Say LSU goes on a 3 year span of repping the SEC in the AACC. Their conference games are spent on Florida and Auburn, both because of the rivalry, and because of the money. Now, three years down the line, another SEC team knocks off LSU, but just barely. Now LSU is trying to get back into the AACC, and they have to play Arkansas, who's building it's own case for the AACC, and they've been waiting three years to get their hands back on LSU, who kept them out three years ago. Texas vs. Arkansas is a huge rivalry, and they're not even in the same conference, and they've only played a dozen times. Rivalries don't fizzle out, they just build up steam. On the other hand, you've also got new rivalries being formed. OSU and Texas are in the AACC for four straight years, playing each other 3 out of the four years, twice in the title game. How much fun would that kind of hatred between juggernauts be? It'd be like moving the Patriots into the AFC South for four years.

7. What about the Heisman? Isn't that going to be hard?

Response: Do we care about the game, or do we care about the award. Allright. The best players show up in big games. If Troy Smith had played ehhhh against Texas and played eehhhh against Michigan, would we give him the Heisman over Brady Quinn who was lights out versus USC and Cal? A Heisman should not be decided over I-AA teams.

8. Oh, God, what if Notre Dame wasn't in consideration? Oh, God!

Response: Calm down, Domers. The Wild Card virtually assures that as long as you schedule your share of tough opponents, you have a great shot at the AACC every year. Beating Michigan, USC, and Cal means you're going to a BCS bowl, and it would be near impossible to deny Notre Dame over a second "Big Six" school or lil' Boise State. However, if you get creamed in the AACC...

9. Wouldn't this make every conference championship pointless?

Response: Far from it. It's actually an impovement from how it is now. Currently, you don't need to win your conference championship or even play in it to be considered for the big dances (hello, Auburn.). Under this system, carrying that conference championship banner would take you a long way in getting the voters to vote you in and your struggling representative out. If a Republican an election by only 4%, and going into the next campaign the Democrat wins his Primary by 35%, that's a pretty strong statement, no? Apples and organges, but you get my drift. You're trying to build a case for the voters as to why you deserve your rival's spot. Winning that conference championship can make or break that case.

10. What if it doesn't work?

Response: What, like it's working now?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Since a playoff is simply too logical

With Boise State poised to go undefeated yet shut out of the national title picture, many fans will wonder what might have been. Would they still be undefeated if they played in a BCS conference? Would they even be bowl eligible? As long as they stay in the WAC they'll never get a fair shot, so why not let them into a BCS bowl? Hell, why not let any team that wins its "lesser" conference move into a BCS conference the next year to prove their mettle? It works for soccer.

With apologies to Matt, here's my idea - you'll probably get his take as soon as he reads this, anyway. Start with stratifying the conferences in I-A: the six BCS conferences are the top tier, then the WAC, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and C-USA as the second tier. The conference champion of each of the lesser conferences and a wild card team go to a BCS conference the next year and the bottom team from each BCS conference goes to a lesser conference.

It doesn't solve the problem of one conference being stacked while another doesn't deserve a BCS bid (cough:ACC:cough). I'll let Matt give his two cents on it first.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why Sports Can Often Times Remind You Of a Punch to the Solarplexus, Exhibit A: This Weekend

There are those of us who woke up Monday (or Tuesday, if your team played on MNF, "played" being an interesting term) and all was normal. Your team had done what it's been known to do throughout its illustrious history. The Bears had used a dominating defense to bounce back from a 20-3 late 3rd deficit. The Steelers had shown that they are, as usual, the class of the AFC, or at least on their way back. The Rams may have dropped that game to the Seahawks, but surely, they are close to elite status an easy schedule to comfort them. The Patriots had the bye this week, but I'm pretty sure they won, too. Maybe Tom Brady got a free subscription to Hustler or something.

The same can be said with the NCAA. USC slipped away from another possible defeat to an inferior team from the Pac 10. Ohio State blasted someone else, as did Michigan and Texas. Florida can't even feel bad, the SEC is too tough to win all your games.

Then there's the rest of us. Lost in the ESPN frontpage headlines and NFL Films presentations are the rest of the teams.

If this sounds like a bellyache, it is. If this sounds like whining, you're right on target. The rest of us have no option. And believe me, I'd like nothing more than to not be a part of it. But in reality, I only have two choices. Express unhappiness for my plight (and those like me), or quit watching sports. Because I've started to lose faith things will turn around.

I've been a Chiefs fan since I was born. My grandfather was a Chiefs fan. My Dad was a Chiefs fan. I learned swear words from Sundays at 3PM. Tenants for existence have been established by that idenitity.

Nothing good should ever happen to the Raiders.

Mike Shanahan sold his soul to the Devil for his blocking scheme.

Len Dawson is the nicest guy since that Christ dude.

Marcus Allen is the most underrated running back in NFL history.

Rich Gannon has sex with rustly toolboxes.

I started paying attention when the Chiefs defense was fearsome. It wasn't just impressive, it was awe-inspiring. It obliterated the turnover margins of other teams. Sacks weren't a once a game occurance to jump up for, they were the expected result. You cheered to egg on a defense that was going to stop an offense from getting 5 yards into an offense that was going to lose 5 yards. They had Marcus Allen. They made the playoffs. This was surely a great team.

Loss.

Loss.

Loss.

Marty Schottenheimer couldn't losen up enough to win a playoff game. He played not to lose (as he continues to do), and never to win. He never went for the kill. And he never, ever let quarterbacks try and have memorable games, because a turnover was possible. And so our rotation as a good team passed, and Denver got good again and won two Superbowls. And then Oakland got Jon Gruden and started making the AFC Championship every year, and finally the SuperBowl, before getting crushed by the same Gruden that had brought them to the dance.

Okay, awesome. So the Chiefs have Dick Vermeil and a great offense and we'll be good again, right?

Um. Kinda.

And hey, we did make the playoffs. Once. And we scored a lot of points. Only punted once. Unfortunately, Peyton didn't have to punt at all.

And then failure after failure as the defense somehow managed to get worse. I watched the same team that I grew up watching terrify quarterbacks allow record days for them. I saw an offense that could score at will, but had to, because the other team was going to score more. I took solace in the usual things you do.

"We've got a lot of talent."

"LJ is going to be a star."

"The defense is improving."

"We always have a chance to win the game. We're always competitive."

The last one is a big one for teams that don't have a history of winning. Just being close, knowing that one day, you'll put it together and start winning those games, and keep winning.

It's important to note at this point that I'm not even looking for a Super Bowl. That's one of the things that I hate most about winning franchises. The fans come to expect Super Bowl wins. It's not enough to make it there, you have to close.

I just want to see it. I want to have a Superbowl mean something more than a big sports weekend, or a reason to have friends over in February. I just want to know what it's like to be a fan of the AFC Champions. If we lose, hey, we won two playoff games and made it to the big dance. We're competitive.

Sunday was the first time I've ever turned off a Chiefs game. I've had to miss them occasionally for whatever reason, usually because I no longer live in a place that shows them, and can't afford going to a bar to watch. But when I sit down to watch them, I watch them. I maintain that we can win. Sunday, I turned off the TV. I couldn't watch it anymore. It was like every ounce of joy had been sucked from watching sports. The Steelers completely embarrassed the Chiefs in every way possible. The offense was inept, the defense was laughable, and the special teams were mediocre. It wasn't competitive after the coin was flipped. It was absolutely no fun. There are losses that hurt because you were so close, but you know that, and it drives you. It makes you root harder, makes you want the management to sign players that much more, makes you more bonded because you share the team's disappointment.

Then there are games like Sunday. Sunday was the first point in my entire life where I have not wanted to be a Chiefs fan. I saw the expansion Panthers pull out another win, as that franchise continues to cement itself as elite. I saw the elite teams continue to dominate, San Diego taking their turn on the top of the AFC West wheel, while Denver continues to beat mediocre teams and stroke its ego because of it. And what's worse, I saw the Saints, historically one of the worst teams in NFL history, a joke, a disgrace, beat the Eagles in dramatic fashion. They have a great core of players and a lot of potential.

We have a coach we gave a second round draft pick for, who thus far has proved he's really good at downplaying losses. We didn't get beaten by the Steelers, we got destroyed. That's the only word for it. There was nothing positive to take away from the game. Nothing.

And this year it's like so many others. The Bears, a dynasty in their own right, are looking like the frontrunner to add to their massive trophy case. The Patriots are still leading the AFC East. St. Louis is even a factor again. Teams who's fans have enjoyed saying "We're the champs." Who have watched their teams in the biggest game. I don't think most of them understand what it's like to be on this other side. To be eternally tied to a team that breaks your heart year after year. That leaves you in February desperately looking forward to a Draft two months away and training camp in two seasons. "Wait 'till next year!" Call it Cubs disease.

In a poll Deadspin (hallowed, be thy name) led me to, the Chiefs were ranked the second best fanbase in the NFL, following only the Browns, and ahead of the Eagles. Those three teams are a combined 1-3. The Chiefs have that one win. The Browns have never seen the light of the SuperBowl. I can't even begin to imagine what that would be like. Yet, Philadelphia has been a playoff contender year after year, as recently as two years ago appearing the Super Bowl.

Yet through all that, this weekend was the first time the fear really hit me. I've lived with the "I may never see my favorite team even PLAY in a championship game my entire life" the same way you fear a suspended highway collapsing and your car being thrown to the swampy depths below. Usually, you just keep driving and aren't even aware of the fear. Sunday made me stare down, see the cracks in the foundation, see the depth markers, peer into the murky nothingness below. It was the first time I went from "My Grandfather may never see the Chiefs win another Superbowl" to "My dad may never see the Chiefs win another Superbowl" to "I may never see the Chiefs play in the Superbowl."

And as long as you keep perspective, if that's the worst thing that ever happens to me, awesome, I'll take it. Sold.

But as a sports fan, I'm left petrified, my eyes wide, shaking, muttering to myself about how last year we could have been the Steelers, and starting to realize that the sound I hear under Herm Edwards' positive attitude and Larry Johnson's fantasy stats, over Trent Green's positive doctor's report, and the defensive rankings...

is the sound of the bridge starting to fall.

So what do you do? You get back on the horse (to mix metaphors, cliche ones at that, and do it badly), and get ready to talk yourself into why they can beat the Chargers on Sunday.

After all, even if things go horribly, as badly as they could possibly go, there's still next year?

Right?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Well, that was fun: An analysis of possible responses to flak about Mizzou's loss to A&M

(Since I'll be hearing about it from the Aggies I know.) (Not "ex-Aggies," as they'll soon correct you: Once an Aggie, always an Aggie. Whatever.)

- "Well, we would've won ... if our coach wasn't an idiot." Yeah, I don't understand that fake field goal either, but a) it's one thing to criticize a coach for a whole pattern of plays, yet another to criticize him for one, b) turning on Pinkel so quickly after treating him as deity after the first six games seems a mite ridiculous, and most importantly, c) three points in that situation wouldn't have ended up making a difference anyway.

- "Well, we would've won ... if it weren't for the refs." Yeah, Temple's knee touched the ground before he fumbled, but as a general rule I hate blaming any loss on the refs. (Exception: OU had a legitimate beef in the Oregon game.) One play does not a game make. And we never give refs the credit on tough calls they make correctly.

- "Well, we would've won ... if the game had been in Columbia." That's probably true, especially given how hostile an environment Kyle Field is. But resorting to this argument is really just whining. While you're at it, why not just make everyone's record 6-6 before the season starts?

- "Oh yeah? Well ... your mom." Though it might not convince the person giving you a hard time, this is always a reliable backup retort.

- "Well, we would've won ... if we hadn't fumbled on the 1 on that 70-yard pass." This is the one I'm hearing most often. Yes, seven more points would've given us the win, but it's unlikely that the rest of the game would've unfolded exactly the same. Moreover, this is pretty much the same as saying, "Well, we would've won ... if they hadn't played better than us."

Which is why I'm going with:

- "Well, we don't deserve to win when we play like that." It's true. Mizzou didn't have it all together, especially in the second half. They can do so and escape with a win sometimes, but not against a good team — and especially not on the road. And, while the "Well, but" excuses just provoke the gloaters into an argument, this response takes the wind out of their proverbial sails. (Best of all, though this makes it sound like you're agreeing with them, you're sneakily implying that your team beat itself — thus that the other team wasn't good enough to win on its own. Mwahaha!)

Oh, and I'm still predicting a win over K-State next week.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sixteen Ways to Blow It

Eight teams remain. That means there are 16 possibilities for the World Series. And, it stands to reason, there are 16 different ways Fox can not script October (cough)bullshit(cough). Don't let their commercials fool you: Fox will milk any storyline they can find, whether or not people care. There will be some stories that are unavoidable, like hometown hero Joe Mauer trying to bring the championship back to his 'hood in the Twin Cities, or A-Rod trying to prove himself to people he'll never meet. Fox had those stories shot the day every team clinched a playoff birth. The ones they'll have to scramble for are the matchup stories, the ones dependent upon what actually happens on the diamond. The following is one man's ranking of said potential matchups based on the annoyance level of Fox's coverage.

There's No Way Fox Can Make This Annoying, Is There?
Twins vs. Padres/Dodgers
No history between the two teams, no geographical proximity to create some nonexistant tension, no logical way the majority of the baseball-watching population gives a damn. My bet? They try to get Padres 3B Russ Branyan or Dodgers CF Kenny Lofton to pretend he's really pissed off about something that happened back when both played with the Indians. It's all I can think of.

Tigers vs. Mets
This matchup looked inevitable back in July. Now with Pedro out and Detroit forgetting how to win, it will take a small miracle to see these two teams duke it out for the title. That said...well, there's not a whole lot that can be said. Maybe the contrast of glitzy NYC vs. blue-collar Detroit. Yeah, that'll probably get run into the ground.

Woe Is the Team With No Money
Twins/A's vs. Mets
We get it, the Mets bought Delgado, Glavine, Lo Duca and Lichtenstein while the Twins or A's have to sleep at the stadium because they have nowhere else to go.

Really, It's Just the Timing
A's vs. Padres
NorCal vs. SoCal! Intra-state clash! Two similar, yet distinctly unique cultures on display as...the East Coast is either asleep or the West Coast is at work during the games.

Please Rise for our National Anthem, Performed by Journey
Yankees vs. Dodgers, Tigers vs. Padres, Twins vs. Cardinals, A's vs. Dodgers
All four matchups happened back in the 80s ('81, '84, '87, '88 in the order above). I'm sure we'll see hours of footage regardless of which one happens, unless it's '88. Then we'll just see the Kirk Gibson homer off Dennis Eckersley on loop until people go on hunger strikes in protest. Guilty note: I think a Yankees/Dodgers matchup would be fun just because of all the history. I'm done - back to the snark.

I've Had it with the "Genius" Tag
Tigers vs. Cardinals
Hey, weren't Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland supposed to manage against each other in the World Series 15 years ago? Where's my Bell Biv Devoe tape?

A's vs. Cardinals
La Russa can be pretty obnoxious. I don't need Fox's help as he takes on his former club. The Cardinals are lucky just to have made the playoffs and are barely over .500, so please, no need to get on your knees this time. And you know they're going to call Pujols and Rolen the "New Bash Brothers." You've been warned.

Ever Heard of that Kirk Gibson Guy?
Tigers vs. Dodgers
This is the matchup I'm personally rooting for, but I'll admit by the time it's over we will have a more intimate knowledge of Gibson than his wife. Yes, he was on both the '84 Tigers and '88 Dodgers when they won the World Series. You don't have to go to a shot of him every other pitch as if he were part of the cast of a flagging Fox drama.

Time to Go Behind the Woodshed
Yankees vs. Padres
Kevin Brown isn't what he was back in '98. One of the most lopsided World Series in recent memory. Big market/small market. How the Yankees have changed since they were the best team since the '27 Yankees. Shoot me.

Cringing...
Yankees vs. Cardinals
Take your pick - you could either listen to Tim McCarver slobbering over Jeter's intangibles or Joe Buck rambling about his father, the late, great voice of the Cardinals and the real reason little Joey is where he is today. Granted, it would be a touching moment if the Cardinals won this matchup and Joe spontaneously said a little something for his dad, but unfortunately Joe Buck is as spontaneous as a shuttle launch.

Not If There's a God in Heaven
Yankees vs. Mets
I think we all saw this one coming.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I've been procrastinating on my prognosticating

Since Mizzou is 5-0 for the first time in my lifetime, I thought I'd actually pitch in on here for the first time as well. And now that I'm 2-for-2 in correctly predicting Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive (Erica can vouch for this), I'll follow the directives of the omnipresent Winstar billboards and strike again while my luck is still hot. Here we go:

Scenario 1: Best, albeit unrealistic, case
Mizzou is for real — the nonconference schedule was just the right balance of cupcake self-esteem boostery and legitimate challenge, and they're primed to tear through the season. Plus, they get lucky whenever they need to.
@ Texas Tech Having studied the TCU game tapes, Mizzou's defense shuts down Tech's high-flying offense, and Chase Daniel doesn't make any mistakes. Mizzou wins by a touchdown or two.
@ Texas A&M Plain and simple: A&M sucks. Even in College Station, this isn't even a contest. Mizzou handily.
vs. Kansas State The Wildcats always give Mizzou a good game, which this might be in Manhattan. But this one's in CoMo. Mizzou in a rout.
vs. Oklahoma One of those games where everything falls Mizzou's way — a tipped ball here, a gust of wind there, maybe even a well-timed fluke injury. Home-field advantage helps too. Mizzou squeaks by on sheer luck.
@ Nebraska Sure, the Huskers romped the
Little Sisters of the Blind, but they haven't looked so powerful against respectable programs. All the same, Lincoln's never an easy place to play. Mizzou wins, but it's close.
@ Iowa State They're just not very good. Mizzou wins easily.
vs. Kansas This game can never be taken for granted, but in a miracle of miracles, Gary Pinkel makes his players forget that they have "Mizzou" on their jerseys, and they a) continue working hard despite having the division title already clinched and b) ignore the constant media attention that they're getting as an undefeated team. No one can stop their momentum.
Big 12 Championship Except Texas, that is. (Sorry, I have to make this a tad believable.)
Bowl game The four at-large BCS berths go to the Michigan/OSU loser, Notre Dame, Boise State (guaranteed by finishing with a better record than the ACC champ) ... and Mizzou. (It helps that the SEC powers all beat up on one another.) With the Pac-10 and Big 10 champs in the Championship, the Rose Bowl has two spots to fill, and they take the Michigan/OSU loser and Mizzou. Tigers put up a good fight, but they're simply outplayed.
Final record 12-2, and the stretch of Stadium Boulevard from Carrie Francke Drive to College Avenue is renamed Pinkel Parkway.

That was fun, wasn't it? But bringing it back at least into the troposphere, if not all the way down to Earth...

Scenario 2: Optimistic, but realistic
The Tigers prove that the 5-0 start was no fluke, and the could-go-either-way games go their way. But they're still not yet to that upper echelon.
@ Tech Tech is beatable, and though it's close, Mizzou beats 'em.
@ A&M Aggies make it a game, but they can't sustain the effort. Their fans are actually happy about the loss, since it's another nail for Franchione's coffin.
vs. K-State K-State's having a rebuilding year, to describe a lose-to-Baylor year nicely. Plus, Mizzou's relishing the chance to turn the annual thümpinwümpin on its head. A solid win.
vs. Oklahoma Home-field helps make it close, but Mizzou's offense isn't quite polished enough to compete with the big boys. Plus, the pressure of being 8-0 is a little much for a young team (not to mention for a program that hasn't been 8-0 since the Eisenhower Administration).
@ Nebraska Yeah, Nebraska's not the juggernaut it once was, but dang, it's hard to win in Lincoln. The letdown from the previous week's loss doesn't help either, and Mizzou loses by a touchdown.
@ Iowa State This is a nice pick-me-up. Not a blowout, but a good, convincing win.
vs. Kansas KU brings its A game, but so do the Tigers. With the North Division title within reach, they don't disappoint. (Colorado disappoints, though, failing to beat Nebraska, which wins the North in the head-to-head tiebreaker with Mizzou.)
Bowl game Texas goes to the BCS, Oklahoma to the Cotton and Nebraska to the Holiday (the Huskers have a worse overall record than Mizzou, but hordes of traveling Husker fans = bigtime revenue). Mizzou is the fourth team chosen, heading to the Alamo Bowl to face Wisconsin. Big Poppa remains loyal despite threats from kin and childhood friends, and Mizzou shows that the Badgers were more lucky than good (e.g. not having to play Ohio State or Michigan State).
Final record 11-2, and Columbia still throws Gary Pinkel a parade.

Scenario 3: Cautious, a.k.a. realisticer
The Tigers' hot streak was fun, but it didn't prove a whole lot. But by all means, it's a surprisingly good season that shows lots of promise.
@ Tech Remember how Colorado moved the ball on Mizzou but got stopped in the red zone? Well, Tech's offense is better. It's the first time the Tigers face a good team, and their weaknesses (and youth) are exposed. Tech wins by 10.
@ A&M This has could-go-either-way written all over it. The lack of momentum caused by the Tech loss plus the imposing confines of Kyle Field are what tip it against the Tigers, and they blow it late.
vs. K-State Mizzou's hungry coming back to Faurot, and K-State is reeling after four straight losses. Plus, it's homecoming. The Tigers regain their beginning-of-season form.
vs. Oklahoma Mistakes don't cost Mizzou this game, which is good. Getting outplayed by OU does, which is bad, though not unexpected..
@ Nebraska It's close, but Nebraska learned from the KU scare. Someday the Tigers will win in Lincoln. Not this time.
@ Iowa State This might be the "cautious" prediction, but Mizzou's still a better team than Iowa State. Tigers by 14.
vs. Kansas Oh, how those wily Jayhawks like to throw a wrench into things. But Mizzou claws back in the second half, and Chase Daniel nearly singlehandedly wins the game. Harpo's saves him a piece o' goalpoast.
Bowl game The bowls are dealt out as above, except Tech goes to the Alamo. Mizzou heads to the Brut™ Sun Bowl, where they draw the Pac-10 No. 3. Cal is just too good for the Tigers to keep up, but at least they don't embarrass themselves.
Final record 8-5, and Gary Pinkel gets a contract extension.

Scenario 4: Skies above us are gray.
It turns out the only reason the Tigers are undefeated because they haven't played anyone good, and one thing leads to another. I hate to think this way, but I've seen too many promising Mizzou teams collapse (see: basketball at No. 2 in the country, the Brad Smith Era taken as a whole) to not have this in the back of my head. And imagine how pessimistic I'd be if I'd been around for the Fifth Down or Flea-Kicker.
@ Tech Pop! The hype is deflated. In Mizzou's first game against anyone ranked, Mike Leach and Co. have a field day in front of their home crowd.
@ A&M Lubbock was bad, but Aggie fans are downright crazy. Chase Daniel just can't get his footing or bearings or what have you, and the Tigers are behind from the beginning.
vs. K-State Some teams, when they keep losing, get in a funk. Some get really angry and motivated. In this case, Mizzou's the former, K-State's the latter. The Tigers are the better team, but turnovers kill them.
vs. Oklahoma Mizzou holds them for a little while, but OU breaks it open and runs away with it. A long way.
@ Nebraska Just ugly.
@ Iowa State A season without off-the-field problems? Yeah, right. Who knows what it is this year, but even if it's something as uncontroversial as an injury, it catches up to them. A five-game losing streak has left them with no confidence at all, and they drop a matchup they would've won had it been in Week 6.
vs. Kansas No matter how bad the Jayhawks are, they play hard against Mizzou. And this year, they're not bad. The chance for a break-even record and a berth in the former Galleryfurniture.com Bowl just can't motivate these once-starry-eyed Tigers. Remember Chase Patton? Let's just say we see him by the second quarter. The few fans that are still a) in Faurot and b) sober see him at least. ¡No más!
Final record 5-7, and Gary Pinkel joins Quin wherever he is these days.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Offensive Line: 9/23-9/25

So, if the first week is any indication, the Offensive Line knows a good deal about College Football (8-1, with my only loss coming when Boise State failed to cover by .5, probably because they were focusing on diving season), and pretty much nothing about NFL (2-3, although all of my warning games were just that, only Baltimore covered, because Oakland really just is that, that bad.)

This week is the opposite of last weekend in terms of excitement. We're back to the doldrums of non-conference whuppings and trying to figure out who's for real (Atlanta?) and who's not (Baltimore?) in the NFL.

Regardless, here's your Offensive Line.

NFL:
Virginia (+17.5) at Georgia Tech (-17.5):
Makes me a little nervous, that's a heckofa spread, but Virginia is just really, really bad. They lost to Western Michigan last week, and they're ranked 111th in scoring. Tech has Reggie Ball and a stifling defense. Plus, when you think about it, the name "The Cavaliers" is pretty weak.

Pick: Georgia Tech to cover.

(Friday update: GT failed to cover by .5. Seriously. Could they not kick a completely spiteful, unsportsmanlike field goal when they were up by 17 on the Virginia 21 with less than 30 seconds to go? Is that too much to ask?)

Northwestern (+7) at Nevada (-7):
I don't necessarily like Northwestern to win straight up here, but that spread is just a little loose for my tastes. I think Northwestern figures out how to keep this close. And as usual, the farther from the center, the better the food, the closer to the center of the country, the better the football. Unless it's USC and barbecue. Then switch.

Pick: Northwestern to cover.

Wisconsin (+14) at Michigan (-14):
So, it's the opener of Big 10 play for both teams, both teams are undefeated, and Michigan is coming off it's biggest win in years, reestablishing itself as a major player in the top 10. That's ripe for an upset in a letdown ga...wait. What the fuck am I talking about? Haven't I been preaching "Do not underestimate Henne and Hart!" to everyone I know? Meanwhile, Wisconsin beat San Diego State but only 14-0 last week, behind only 85 yards from QB Stocco. And all this from a team that had a LB suspended for stealing a moped. Hermmm.... yeah, the Wolverines are way better than the hangover.

Pick: Michigan to cover.

Minnesota (-3) at Purdue (+3):
They haven't set the over. Doesn't matter. Take it. This is no.4 vs. no.5 in scoring. Purdue is 6-1 in last seven against the spread versus Minnesota, and the Gophers have let me down hardcore in terms of looking ferocious. I like Boilermakers here, and I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just cold.

Pick: Purdue.

Louisville (-14.5) at Kansas State (+14.5):
I know. They beat Miami. And that makes them hotter than a two dollar pistol (or a fresh fucked fox in a forest fire, apparently). But Miami is not as good as we thought they would be. And, losing Michael Bush was one thing. Losing Brohm is something else all together, especially when they're facing KState, who's biggest strength is their defense. I still think Louisville will win, but I think the Wildcats will keep it under 14.

Pick: Kansas State inside the spread

North Carolina(+17) at Clemson (-17):
You could double this spread and I'd take Clemson with the points. This spread is wide enough even for this hunk-a-hunk.

Pick: Clemson covers.

Cincinnati (+27) at Virginia Tech (-27):
Ditto for VT.

Pick: VT covers.

Colorado (+27.5) at Georgia (-27.5):
If you're Georgia, who do you have to maim to get consideration as a powerhouse? It won't be Colorado, because they are horrible. Of course, I'm waiting for the inevitable "Big 12 North crappy team gets it together after their season is already wrecked and starts knocking off the good teams in the division to once again ensure the suckery of the Big 12 North" effect to kick in once they start conference play. However, probably not a good idea to start talking smack to one of the best defenses in the country when ASU holds you to three points. Rejoice, Colorado!

Pick: Georgia to cover eleventy billion.

Buffalo U (+42.5) at Auburn (-42.5)
They're just trying to find spreads Auburn can't cover, aren't they? And you know, Buffalo is 8-3-1 in it's last 12 versus the spread. I think Auburn will get close, say 48 to 7, but not quite close enough. That's an over under right there. If you're the Buffalo coach, how do you prepare for this game? Lobotomy? Scotch? Whores? What do you do to get yourself in a mindset to play these guys? I love the attitude of the guys over at BfloBlog.com . "There will be no shame in this beat-down, especially if the Bulls can look respectable while taking their beating. " I can appreciate that kind of positive attitude in the face of a giant, scary, "I'm going to eat your children" SEC juggernaut.

Pick: Buffalo U to cover.

Arizona State (+8) at Cal (-8):
I'm not drinking the KoolAid. Cal lost to Tennesee, period. Tennessee is questionable at QB, and the Sun Devils lead 1A with 18 sacks. And that spread is just a bit too wide. The best part about this matchup is that after this week there will be one less Pac10 team in the top 25.

Pick: Arizona State, straight up.

West Virginia (-21.5) at East Carolina (+21.5):
And the gauntlet of West Virginia's schedule keeps rolling on. Next week? Krispy Kreme.

Pick: Um... yeah.

Notre Dame (-4) at Michigan State (+4):
Stay away from this one. It's not good for you. Drew Stanton is the best quarterback I've seen play this year, and Notre Dame is in that treacherous point of either snapping back or self-destructing.

Pick: Avoid like the black plague. Or spinach.

NFL:
Tennessee(+10.5) at Miami(-10.5):
One team has to get their shit together in this game. It's been an absolute disaster for the Fins. Daunte Culpepper has looked like Courtney Love at the end of "The People Versus Larry Flynt." Meanwhile, Tennessee isn't bad. No, they, along with the Raiders and the Packers, are redefining the term bad. We're talking epic bad. The kind of bad that makes fans question how they got here. The thing is, everyone knows Miami is a better team than they've been. They have all the weapons. They have the coaching. They just haven't performed. And given this team's propensity for December meltdowns, this really doesn't look good for Miami in terms of a playoff run. However, I still think they can get it together, and maybe playing a team this awful is just what the doctor ordered.

Pick: Miami to cover.

Bears (-3) at Minnesota (+3):
So I guess Brad Johnson ran across my preseason picks and posted it on the bulletin board, huh? Minnesota goes two weeks of making my head hurt, beating teams they have no business beating. Maybe new coach Brad Childress just really is that smart. Maybe I should start rethinking some other things I thought were givens. Maybe alcohol isn't a necessary component of family holidays. Maybe Brad Lidge doesn't wake up in the middle of the night crying, screaming about Albert Pujols. Maybe I have underestimated REO Speedwagon.

Or maybe the Bears cover, because reality is still stable.

Pick: Chicago to cover.

Carolina(-3) at Tampa Bay (+3):
This should be a tough matchup between two great defensive teams that haven't quite clicked. This could be an epic battle between two closely matched teams...

What?

Steve Smith is back?

Nevermind, Panthers kill.

Pick: Carolina to cover.

Washington (-4) at Houston (+4):
Houston's gotta win sometime, right? 'Skins gotta win sometime, right? Hmm... David Carr versus Mark Brunell. It's like in Back to the Future Part 2 when young Jennifer sees old Jennifer. Luckily, the time/space continuum will not be destroyed because they will never see each other. You can't see the sideline if you're constantly falling backwards. The Texans have actually played tougher teams, but they've also been beaten more soundly.

Pick: Washington

NY Jests (+5.5) at Buffalo (-5.5):
Well, slap my ass and call me Suzy. The Bills are actually pretty good. J.P. Losman apparently was at the magical circle jerk with Brad Childress and the entire New Orleans Saints. And the hits just keep on coming, because they've got Pennington and the game comin' along. And Buffalo has played inspired. However. I think they'll win, but I don't think they cover. this one wraps up in four or under.

Pick: NY Jests barely cover spread.

Cincinatti (+2) at Pittsburgh (-2):
Road Rash McGee and the Joey Porter Experience struck out on Monday Night when the devil came to collect. I'd also like to add that Mellissa Stark's in depth presentation on appendectomies included this nugget: "(symptoms can include) bowel shutdown. None of it pleasant, Mike." No shit, Melissa. Wait, no, that's wrong. That's the opposite...nevermind. Anyway, Chad Johnson, who's cookoo for CocoPuffs, and Palmer have got a better team this year, as opposed to last year. Wait, they had a better team last year. Oh, that's right, the difference is there "probably" won't be any late hits that split Carson's ACL like they were Paris Hilton's legs.

Pick: Cincinatti to win and cover.

Green Bay(+2) at Detroit (-2):
Go back and read that again. Go ahead. I'll wait. ... Yes, the Lions are favored. Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Packers are underdogs to a team led by John Kitna and whose fans have led protests to get the GM fired. Trying to figure this one out makes my brain hurt.

So I'm going to go with the rational thought. Never bet against Brett Favre, and never bet on Matt Millen.

Pick: Green Bay

Jacksonville (+7) at Indianapolis (-7):
People are saying this line is too wide given how well the Jags are playing. And I like the Jags. A lot. And they almost won last year. And I heart Matt Jones.

I heart Matt Jones so much, I'm going to go out and buy his jersey. Using my Mastercard! Hey didn't I just see a commercial for Mastercard? Who was on that?

Oh, yeah, the MVP with the unstoppable offense.

Pick: Indianapolis to cover.

Baltimore (-6.5) at Cleveland (+6.5):
I give! I give! The Ravens actually got better. Steve McNair is pulling the Tom Petty gig. Been doing it forever, and everytime he comes around, he puts out the same quality stuff he did before. Somebody buy Romeo Crennell some bourbon, please. And a weight watchers guide.

Pick: Baltimore to cover.

NY Giants (+3.5) at Seattle (-3.5):
Yeah, because if and when the Seahawks build a lead, they're going to blow it. If I were Seattle, I'd go into military intelligence. Because they could be awesome at spying. No one notices what they do, anyway.

Pick: Seattle to cover. Eli to cry like a girl.

St. Louis (+4.5) at Arizona (-4.5):
Irony: Arizona now plays in a stadium that is likened to a spaceship, quarterbacked by a guy that people used to say was an alien. Let's call it: Close Encounters of the Spread Offense. Meanwhile, St. Louis is living the sports equivalent of the Bourne Supremacy. "I don't know who I am, I don't know what I'm doing, but sometimes, I'm fucking terrifying. Hey, hot chick!"

Pick: Arizona to barely cover.

Denver (+7) at New England (-7):
This was a huge game last year. This year it's two teams that have remarkably underachieved. This one's a hard one to figure out, since it's Jake The Snake versus Tom Brady and that's one of those tooth and nail matchups that...

Pick: New England whups the shit out of the Broncos, premier receiver or not.

Stay away from Philadelphia at San Francisco. I got a hoodoo voodoo feeling about Alex Smith.

Atlanta (-4) at New Orleans (+4):
Everyone's convinced Atlanta is amazing and the Saints have no chance. People said the same thing last year in the opener versus Carolina. Some things outweigh stats. And what better way for Michael Vick to completely crush his newfound respect than on Monday Night Football?

Pick: New Orleans, and the Reggie Bush coming out party.

Good hunting!

God Bless:
Deadspin
Arbiter Online
Awful Announcing
BfloBlog
Everyday Should Be Saturday
ESPN
Georgia Sports Blog



Mack Strong: Superb Fullback



We give you today the unveiling of our official mascot for the blog. He is a man that needs no introduction. He is the Pro-Bowl fullback of the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. He hails from Columbus, Georgia.

He is... Mack Strong.

Congratulations, Mack. Carry our banner high. And if you go into overtime, step on Hasslebeck's foot before he says ANYthing.

Just so you know, Mack has a TD last week at Arizona, to go along with 30 yards on 3 rushes. He has 5 career touchdowns, with 2 of them this year. It's fate. How strong is he? He's too strong!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Life Imitating Baseball Imitating Life

Tonight, it became official. The New York Mets are the NL East champions. The Atlanta Braves are not. The run is over.

I do not come to bury the Braves, but to praise them. Many like to belittle the streak of division titles, using their one World Series title in that time as proof they were chokers. Anyone who follows baseball knows anything can happen in a seven game series. The Braves performed over the long haul, and they should be commended for their accomplishments.

I could go on and on about the team, but I'd rather use the Braves as a backdrop to my childhood, adolescence and college years. I was nine when the streak began in 1991, and now I find myself at the end of the streak at 24. I'm sure you could find psychologists who would say that's a pretty important stretch of a person's life: we generally discover our identities, experience love and loss for the first time and grow from children into adults all during that span.

Before the 1991 season even started, I was excited. I was in the dentist's office reading Sports Illustrated's preview, and I saw where they expected the Braves to finish: fourth in the NL West. You might wonder why that would make a nine year-old so excited. The answer: the Braves had finished dead last the previous two seasons (the first two seasons I really knew what was going on), so to see the almighty Sports Illustrated predict a fourth place finish practically guaranteed they wouldn't be the worst team in baseball again. I can't remember much about the season, but when they made it to the World Series I was beside myself. I begged to stay up late to watch one of the games when I was in Fairhope, AL, visiting my grandparents. For another game, I remember using a small telescope to do the Tomahawk Chop since I was bereft of any tomahawks, foam or real. I don't remember Kirby Puckett's catch, but I do remember Lonnie Smith running into the catcher and getting called out -mostly because he was bloodied up from the collision. I don't remember much about Game 7, probably because I fell asleep. I do remember seeing a kid at school in the following days with a Twins shirt on and being mad at him for wearing it.

When the next season rolled around, again I can't remember much about the regular season. I didn't have the attention span for most games (side note: During college football season, I always thought of the games as what came on between scoreboard shows.), so I just kept track of the games through the paper. I'd also track how many steals Otis Nixon had and tried to keep up with him during my Little League seasons. When my season came to a close, though, it was time to follow the Braves in earnest, and like any self-respecting Braves fan, I still remember watching Sid Bream slide safely into home to clinch the pennant. Then I remember all the white towels in Toronto, and I started to think the white towels were an anti-Braves thing more than anything else.

Fast forward three years to 1995. I knew more about the Braves than anyone at school, but for the life of me I can't remember them winning the World Series. I was having a particularly hard time in my life at that point, and since I've never been the kind of person to stake my everyday mood on the performance of a sports team, I was more focused more on my depression than the Braves' good fortune. I wish I could say the sole World Series win was enough to boost my spirits, but that entire postseason is a blank. Cruel irony, I guess, but somehow after that season I became more attuned to the game.

During the 1996 NLCS, the Braves and Cardinals went to Game 7, so naturally I went to a party instead of watched the game (Go find me a 14 year old boy that'll turn down the chance to slow dance with girls...seriously, go do it). But I thought about the game all night and couldn't wait to ask my dad how we did.

Then came the World Series.

Peter Gammons said it would likely be nothing more than a "coronation of the Braves." Those words sounded so sweet to me since I didn't experience the joy of the previous season. I was all ready to watch them thrash the Yankees and take home a second consecutive World Series trophy. We took the first two games in convincing fashion - in Yankee Stadium, no less - so when the Series came to Atlanta I was ready for the party to start. The Braves lost Game 3, but still no reason to worry. Then came Jim Leyritz.

I never hated a player before. I was too young to hate Jack Morris (although I do now). I hated Jim Leyritz. His homerun in the 10th in Game 4 turned the tide of the Series. I watched Charlie Hayes close his glove around the last out of Game 6 and for the first time I felt a real pain from watching my team lose. The pain became a numbing ache as the Braves lost in the postseason for years on end. I remember watching part of the 1999 World Series, knowing we had no chance against the obligatory Yankees dynasty of my generation. I always held on to the hope we would have another championship run in us, but deep down I knew our best days were behind us.

I kept watching in college, but knowing it was going to happen. They were going to lose, and I was going to have to listen to all the obnoxious Cardinals fans compare the Braves to the Buffalo Bills. That one World Series title wasn't enough, not when you had won the division for a decade running. I became a staunch defender, lashing out at anyone calling me a bandwagon fan. Just because the Cubs turned Turner Field into the southernmost North Side suburb in the 2003 NLDS never meant I didn't love the Braves with all my heart. That part of me hadn't wavered one bit, even if the public perception of the Braves had.

However, every life experiences change, and for me one of the most profound changes I experienced was watching the Braves take different incarnations. I had had a grandparent and our family's dog die before I hit the fifth grade, but nothing was quite like the changes to the Braves. I cried the day Dale Murphy was traded and the day Fulton County Stadium was blown up. I watched General Manager John Schuerholz bring in new faces almost every year. I still pine for the days of Ron Gant and Mark Lemke - they were the guys I grew up with. But, like the rest of life, our sports teams can't stay the same forever. The Braves are still my team, and I'll keep cheering for them just like I did as a toddler on my dad's lap. Come on, Braves - start another run next year.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oh, the Possibilities

With Matt's preview of the NFL season complete, it's time to take the predictions even further. I present to you the even less likely picks for the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Remember, not only are we predicting the order of the teams, I'm also predicting which players will come out early, Most Awkward Rookie Moments, and even a blockbuster trade in the first round! Speaking of which, here's the draft order:

1. Vikings
2. Titans
3. Browns
4. Jaguars
5. Raiders
6. 49ers
7. Texans
8. Jets
9. Bills
10. Saints
11. Giants
12. Eagles
13. Falcons
14. Ravens
15. Packers
16. Dolphins
17. Cowboys
18. Chargers
19. Lions
20. Cardinals
21. Steelers
22. Bengals
23. Buccaneers
24. Broncos
25. Rams
26. Chiefs
27. Redskins
28. Bears
29. Patriots
30. Seahawks
31. Panthers
32. Colts

Let's go to New York...

The Vikings are on the clock after a miserable 1-15 season. "Love Boat" jokes still won't die, Brad Johnson retired and Tavaris Jackson was exposed as not ready for NFL defenses, performance in the preseason notwithstanding. The team needs a new leader, a new face for the franchise, and providence has provided such a visage. Brady Quinn, everyone's All-American, unanimously sits atop draft boards around the country. Notre Dame's golden boy would be a perfect fit for a team in the heartland searching for direction.

As Roger Goodell announces Minnesota is on the clock, the football world expects him to return in record time to announce the pick. But he doesn't. Five minutes pass with no explanation. Chris Mortensen reports the Vikings are considering Adrian Peterson and Paul Posluszny, but only because he's supposed to come up with something. Ten minutes gone - five to go. Minnesota has a history of mismanaging the clock on Draft Day, but there's no way they let zeroes hit without making a selection, is there? Two minutes left. One minute. Thirty seconds...

Goodell emerges to the largest cheer ever heard at a draft, and Chris Berman jokes the Vikings will be plundering again once they sign Brady "Ain't Seen Nothing Like the Mighty" Quinn. But, as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast, my friend.

Goodell speaks into the microphone, "There has been a trade..." and the rest is unintelligible as Madison Square Garden erupts into a confused combination of cheers, boos and idle chatter. The roar dies just enough to hear, "With the first pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select Brady Quinn, quarterback, University of Notre Dame."

Pandemonium.

Quinn cannot believe what's going on. He's elated to be the first pick - it's a dream come true - but to have it happen in a whirlwind of chaos, he's not sure what to think. From Touchdown Jesus to the Black Hole. Golden Dome to the Silver and Black. He dons his Raiders cap to confirm the transformation. He has become the real-life Anakin Skywalker, but this was not a choice. He walks to the stage and shakes hands with the commish, still in a haze. He says all the right things in his post-draft interview, but at the very end a slight smirk rides across his face. Maybe he's waited for this all along...

As the confusion dies down, Mortensen reports that the Raiders have traded their first round pick, their third rounder and next year's first round pick for the #1 slot. Al Davis wanted to bring back the glory to Raider Nation before he dies and bet the farm on Quinn. Davis poses with Quinn for the PR staff, but tells his new QB quietly, "You're a long way from South Bend, pretty boy. Time to be a man."

"The Tennessee Titans are now on the clock."

The rest of the draft will be done without the drama. We all know the '07 Draft is really only about Quinn, anyway.

2. Titans - Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
Tennessee can't pass up the easiest bet in the draft. Chris Henry and LenDale White aren't the complete package, and Peterson is. His combination of size, speed and vision takes the pressure off Tennessee's QB next year, whoever it is.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Upon going to his first karaoke bar in Nashville, Peterson realizes he doesn't know any country songs.

3. Browns - Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin
Romeo Crennel is committed to building his team by dominating the line of scrimmage first and worrying about the rest later. Thomas gives Reuben Droughns a huge body to run behind and Charlie Frye will definitely be jumping for joy as Thomas' name is announced.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Kellen Winslow II stares blankly at Thomas for 60 seconds because Thomas asked Winslow to block.

4. Jaguars - Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State
Jacksonville really wanted to pull the trigger and take Michael Bush, but they couldn't justify using such a high pick on someone who spent the year injured. They entertained notions of trading down, but instead went with solidifying their linebacker corps. Posluszny will be a leader on that defense for years.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Posulszny, with only the best intentions at heart, tries to start a charity that gives children heavy coats before the winter.

5. Vikings - Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
The Vikes get their NFL ready quarterback anyway. Brohm has the same physical tools as Quinn without the name recognition. We'll see if he can handle the pressure of being "The Guy Minnesota Traded Brady Quinn For."
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Brohm, not knowing that a "hotdish" is a food item, refuses to touch one unless the fan offering it puts it down on the table.

6. 49ers - Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
The Niners are getting a foundation on offense with Alex Smith and Frank Gore, so it's time to focus on the other side of the ball. Losing LB Julian Peterson last offseason left them without a player who could disrupt an entire offense. Adams is capable of picking up where Peterson left off.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Uhhh, how about Adams going from small-town South Carolina to San Francisco?

7. Texans - Justin Blalock, OT, Texas
This is the year the Texans finally get it and shore up their woeful offensive line. Blalock is a mauler who can open up huge holes for Reggie Bush...oh, wait, that's right, they didn't draft him. Well, David Carr will still be happy to hear he'll only get sacked three times every game now.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Upon moving into his new house in Houston, Blalock finds Carr, Carr's family and Carr's insurance agent in the driveway waiting for him with food and offers to set him up with their nice female friends.

8. Jets - Kenny Irons, RB, Auburn
Curtis Martin's retirement left the Jets without an everydown back. Irons can step right in as the starter - he's fast but strong enough between the tackles to handle the workload. Glaring weakness, meet player with exceptional talent. This is how the draft is supposed to work.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: At a reception with Jets legends, Irons is backed into a corner by a drunk Joe Namath, who yells "Roll Tide!" for a good 15 minutes before anyone notices and eventually drags Namath out of the party.

9. Bills - Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
The most physically ready wideout lands on a team desperate for playmakers. J.P. Losman may not be the long-term solution at QB, but even Peyton Manning would have a hard time with Buffalo's current receiving corps. Johnson is 6'5'' with blazing speed and tremendous agility. He'll make Buffalo's QB, whoever he is, look good.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Pretty much whenever he sees snow.

10. Saints - Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC
Hardly a slouch himself, Jarrett will make for an excellent compliment to Joe Horn and can slide in at the #1 receiver spot when Horn's skills begin to erode. Jarrett is a polished receiver after working in USC's pro-style offense for three years and can contribute immediately.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Jarrett arrives to practice 90 minutes early because he assumed all traffic was like Los Angeles.

11. Giants - Marcus Thomas, DT, Florida
The G-Men have a great pair of DEs in Strahan and Osi, but they need someone to stuff the run on the inside. Thomas will eat up space and command double teams, giving the end rushers more opportunities to make big plays.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Thomas gets confused when the drills change over and ends up on the Jets' side of the Meadowlands for practice.

12. Eagles - Rufus Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
The Eagles' D, while solid, could use an upgrade at OLB. Alexander can fly from sideline to sideline dragging down the ballcarrier. His speed will also help Jim Johnson's blitz-heavy defensive schemes.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: In an attempt to be friendly to his new cohabitants, Alexander smiles and waves at passersby. He's in Philly, so you can guess how well that goes over.

13. Falcons - LaRon Landry, FS, LSU
After shoring up the two corner positions, Atlanta can turn to safety in its quest to make its defense impenetrable. Landry can come up to stop the run or step back in coverage. He has great instincts and would have been a first-rounder if he had come out last year. The extra year of seasoning in the SEC will make him that much smarter and ready to step in from the first snap.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Landry somehow picks the same fake name to use at a hotel as QB Michael Vick.

14. Ravens - Ted Ginn, WR/PR, Ohio State
The speedy Ginn gives Baltimore a deep threat they currently don't possess. He can stretch the field and open up the running game - unless the opposing defense is willing to let him run behind the coverage and burn them all en route to the endzone, of course. Ginn is also a very accomplished punt returner who will shorten the field for the Ravens offense more times than not.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Ginn scores on his first play in training camp and points his finger at Ray Lewis for 0.004 seconds before realizing what he just did.

15. Packers - Quentin Moses, DE, Georgia
KGB needs a playmate on the other end of the D-line, similar to a Strahan/Osi situation. Moses can help Green Bay with his agility and relentless pursuit of the quarterback. Look for A.J. Hawk's tackles to skyrocket with all the double teams opposing offensive lines will need to employ to stop the Pack's new end.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Moses goes out in Green Bay looking for the hot clubs.

16. Dolphins - Sam Baker, OT, USC
Baker is a very intelligent player who won't be overwhelmed by NFL offensive schemes. He'll probably start at RT but could move to LT with experience; either way, the Dolphins pass protection has gotten a significant upgrade.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: After one too many requests by one of his hangers-on, Baker yells, "I told you! Ricky Williams doesn't play here any more! I can't hook you up!" in earshot of Nick Saban.

17. Cowboys - Drew Stanton, QB, Michigan State
Dallas just can't get enough of QBs named Drew. This newer model is slightly more agile than Bledsoe (but then again so are my dead ancestors) with just as powerful an arm. He doesn't have the polish of Quinn or Brohm, so I'd recommend the Carson Palmer Treatment and sit him for a year before bringing him into the spotlight. If given the opportunity to fully digest the offense in a stress-free environment he should shine.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Stanton runs onto the field after hearing Parcells bark out, "Drew, let's take it to 'em." The Cowboys suffer a penalty for too many men on the field.

18. Chargers - Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska
San Diego has done it again. They've patiently bided their time until a defensive standout fell into their laps. Carriker is a beast who can either muscle his way through a blocker or use his speed to run around him. Combining him with Shawne Merriman equals long days for AFC West quarterbacks for the foreseeable future.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Carriker tries to surf.

19. Lions - Brandon Meriwether, SS, Miami
The Lions failed in the efforts to create a devastating passing attack, so they might as well try to take away everyone else's vertical game. At the very least the addition of Meriwether will make receivers think twice about running across the middle. I'll go out on a limb and say this will be a safer pick than Charles Rogers.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: After scanning the 'scenery' at a club in downtown Detroit, Meriwether asks the vets, "So when do the hot chicks show up?"

20. Cardinals - Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi
After the tragic death of Pat Tillman, Arizona's defense has gone without a leader. Carlos Rogers and Karlos Dansby are fine players, but neither is the type to rally the unit. Willis played the majority of his junior year with a cast and multiple injuries. He can provide the leadership that will inspire the rest of the defense and raise its level of play overall.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Before a game, Willis recounts the previous evening to the rest of the locker room, including an episode in which he rebuffed Paris Hilton's advances claiming he'd "catch something just from standing next to her."

21. Steelers - Jeff Samardzija, WR, Notre Dame
Few players shot up the draft boards last season like "The Shark." He's always been a natural athlete (signed with the Cubs, as many of you know), but under Weis he's learned the nuances of route running. As loved as Hines Ward is in Pittsburgh, he can't make all the catches. Besides, can't you see Pittsburgh falling in love with someone with a nickname like "The Shark?" If anything else, he and Polamalu can have a contest to see who can have the longest hair.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Samardzija goes on to pitch for the Cubs, and is slated to start against the Pirates the day before a Steelers game.

22. Bengals - Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC
The offense is stacked, but the defense doesn't scare quite enough. Fearmongering begins up front, and the down lineman have done little in that department. Yes, even my alma mater's Justin Smith isn't living up to his responsibilities as the #4 draft pick from 2001. That could change if he had Jackson lining up opposite him, though. Jackson has been referred to as "Mr. Mayhem" for his boundless energy and ability to blow up plays. That spark could be what sends Cincinnati's defense into the ranks of the elite.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Jackson is found out after he tries to fit in with the rest of the defense by telling fake stories about his time in jail.

23. Buccaneers - Levi Brown, OT, Penn State
The Bucs did a lot of work in last year's draft to shore up the offensive line with Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood, but the work's not done. Brown can play either side, but right now operates the LT spot. He might need to move to RT in the future to protect lefty Chris Simms' blind spot. Meanwhile, Cadillac starts to think the last weekend in April is better than Christmas.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Brown buys snowblowers as gifts for all the veteran offensive linemen.

24. Broncos - Michael Bush, RB, Louisville
If there's one person in the NFL who thinks he can take a RB and make him a star, it's Mike Shanahan. Denver's coach won't care about the injury; he'll just see what Bush was beforehand - an everydown back that the Broncos haven't had in years. No more Bell on Bell action, just one reclamation project to run for 1,600 yards a year.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Bush scores a TD in the preseason and tries the Mile High Salute, only to inadvertently poke one of his offensive linemen in the eye.

25. Rams - Greg Olsen, TE, Miami
The U has been referred to as a linebacker factory and a runningback factory, but maybe it's time to think of it as a tight end factory, too. Olsen is merely the latest 6'5'' athletic TE with pass-catching ability, and Linehan won't be able to resist giving Bulger a safety net when Bruce and Holt are covered like flies on...well, you know.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Upon his first visit to St. Louis, Olsen remarks, "Oh, I thought the Arch was in Kansas City."

26. Chiefs - Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina
Does anyone else wonder how Trent Green threw for 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons? Who did he throw to? Rice will provide the answer in the years to come, whether it's Green or Brodie Croyle at the helm. Rice probably would have gone higher if he came with more publicity, but he'll get his due soon enough. He's big and fast, and with a little more polish he'll make more than a couple Pro Bowls.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: After a trip to Gates, remarks, "The barbecue is better down South."

27. Redskins - Quinn Pitcock, DT, Ohio State
Not all important acquisitions have to be made through free agency, Mr. Snyder. Pitcock is very quick for a DT and can help not only in stopping the run but in the pass rush as well. The 'Skins need to get better up the middle and Pitcock is as good a starting point as any.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Pitcock can't help but laugh as he meets Dan Snyder for the first time and sees just how short he is.

28. Bears - Tom Zbikowski, FS, Notre Dame
I can see the reaction from Packers fans now... "Yes, this is exactly what the Bears need: a hard-hitting FS with a mohawk to improve the only possible weak link on their defense." Zbikowski is the yin to Brady Quinn's golden boy yang, and the Soldier Field faithful will quickly embrace him as yet another Monster of the Midway.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Let's see, a Polish guy from Notre Dame playing in Chicago...nope, I've got nothing here. He'll be right at home from Day 1.

29. Patriots - Marcus McCauley, CB, Fresno State
I think everyone agrees the Pats' secondary could use an overhaul. McCauley is the kind of unheralded player Belichick loves to groom into the next unassuming assassin for New England. McCauley's great instincts will lead to an immediate starting role...or the fact that the Patriots have been letting season ticket holders play corner. Either one.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: During the Patriots' bye week, McCauley gets to the film room three hours early because he forgot that the early game was at 1, not the late game.

30. Seahawks - Jason Hill, WR, Washington State
Matt Hasselback should be commended for his performance as Seattle's field general despite underachieving talent at wideout. His reward? A 6'4'' receiver with great hands who'll make everyone forget all those dropped balls of seasons past.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Hill walks into a Seattle bar during the Apple Cup wearing all his old Wazzu gear.

31. Panthers - Matt Spaeth, TE, Minnesota
Seeing as how Carolina's D is about as stacked as you can ask for in a league with such a tight salary cap, the Panthers have no choice but to look to the other side of the ball. Luckily, Spaeth is not exactly an exercise in compromise. He can block for DeAngelo Williams or run routes with equal aplomb. Is he the final piece of the Super Bowl puzzle?
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Spaeth goes to a NASCAR race with Jake Delhomme. Enough said.

32. Colts - Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
Indianapolis did so well drafting Marlon Jackson, so why not take his protégé? Hall can begin his NFL career as a nickel cover man while learning Tony Dungy's defense. With better footwork he can be a solid cover man in the pros.
Most Awkward Rookie Moment: Before practice he makes a bet that the offense won't score all day, and if they do, each defensive player has to buy an offensive player a Hummer.

And that's how it'll happen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Feature: The Offensive Line

Every week I'll be running picks and analysis of lines for NCAA and NFL football.

This sophisticated advice comes from a casual fan, with absolutely no experience, no qualifications, and very little insight. If you actually use this as your guide, you should probably enjoy the smell of fresh garbage, because you'll be living in it soon.

Remember, betting is bad, and if you do it, you go to the hell.

On to damnation!

NCAA
Maryland (+17.5) at West Virginia (-17.5): You know, the BCS is a lot like the vagina. You can learn all you want to about it, and it's probably still going to mistify you. West Virginia has to be scared of the BCS like a 13 year old-mormon is afraid of the female reproductive system. They know how it's supposed to work, but Lord knows what's actually going to happen. Western Virginia is going to go undefeated, barring a complete meltdown. They've got NO ONE on the schedule. Unfortunately, that may hurt their national title hopes. Either way, WVU is a pretty safe one here, althought I feel it's important to note that Maryland is 4-1 against the spread in last 5 times versus WVU.

Pick: WVU and the points.

Syracuse (+3.5) at Illinois (-3.5): Upset alert! I know, I know. It's Syracuse. But remember, it's also Illinois. The Illinois that got shut out by Rutgers last weekend. Syracuse is coached by Gregg Robinson. You may remember him as the architect of the Chiefs defense from 2000 to 2005. Wait! Before you run for the hills, before that he was defensive coordinator for the Broncos during their SuperBowl run, and defensive coordinator at Texas for 2004, when they were phenomenal. This guy has Syracuse holding the unders in each game. Syracuse lost a heartbreaker in OT to Iowa last week. I think the defense will hold and Syracuse will come away at least inside the spread on this one. Call me crazy.

Pick: Syracuse.

Michigan State (+3.5) at Pittsburgh(-3.5): I also like the Spartans here. Drew Stanton is maddd. Pittsburgh is eehhhh. Michigan State has more offense, and if this thing goes past the over/under, the Spartans are rolling. Also, I don't know if you've noticed, but the Big East is the football conference version of David Sedaris (there's some smart stuff there, but you wouldn't pick them in a fight), and the Big East is a multi-billion dollar form or Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots.

Pick: Michigan State straight up.

Alabama Birmington (+17) at Georgia (-17): Georgia is the only SEC powerhouse not facing a titanic game this weekend, and should be in solid form to shine while the others are beating the crap out of one another. Let me put it this way. UAB couldn't cover versus East Carolina, and Georgia whumped the Gamecocks and the spread 18-0. I know, Freshman quarterback for Georgia. However, he was expected to start eventually anyway. Points, for the love of God, pick Georgia to cover. Forget Oklahoma, it was the first game of the season and the Sooners are way overrated.

Pick: Georgia, to cover, and cover, and cover some more.

Boise State (-7.5) at Wyoming (+7.5): This looks like a bookie adjustment to get action on Wyoming. Boise State obliterated Oregon State last week, while Wyoming was edged out by Virginia. Boise State's offense is high-powered right now behind Ian Johnson. Even though they're not playing on the field that makes me think I'm at Willie Wonka's, I like the Broncos here.

Pick: Boise State to cover.

LSU (+3.5) at Auburn (-3.5): In what will be the game of the week, Auburn faces LSU in an SEC West showdown, early in the season. Both teams have been dominant, both teams know each other well, both teams foster a healthy disregard for the other's safety. That's a recipe for some SEC whoopins! I think Auburn and Iron's offense will be too much for the Tigers, especially on the road. Auburn's 8-0-1 against the spread last 9 games. If this were any other two SEC teams, I'd think a fieldgoal differential was possible, but with Auburn, they're either losing, or covering.

Pick: Auburn to cover.

Games to stay away from:
Michigan (+6.5) at Notre Dame(-6.5): I like the Irish here, but the spread is just too tight with Hart on the field.
Oklahoma (+4.5) at Oregon (-4.5): This just reeks of a trap either way. Oregon has been fantastic against the spread at home, but the Pac 10 has been getting killed outside of conference versus major conference teams this year, and Oklahoma looks like they've remembered who they are. The Ducks have got the edge statswise, but they've also never beaten Oklahoma. This is a no-go, Houston.

Gimme-Gimme's (Me First!):
USC over Nebraska to cover
Missouri over New Mexico to cover.
Texas A&M over Army, but not to cover

Prop Bets:
Over/Under for Confederate Flags in parking lot at LSU vs. Auburn game: 250
Over/Under for references to Hurricane Katrina during LSU vs. Auburn game: 7
Odds of Adrian Peterson declaring for NFL draft after Oregon game: 10 to 1

Last note: How bad is Colorado? Well, last week they were defeated by Colorado State, who this week is getting 2... from Nevada. Can the Big 12 trade Colorado for someone, please? Anybody?

NFL:

So, after going 9-7 for the first week of my pre-season, things could have been worse. I'm at +.500, so I'm not Clarretting yet.

So, after reviewing what actually happened last week, let's look at the spreads a little closer on some games.

Tennessee "Oh My God, Who's Starting?!"(+12) at San Diego (Super)Chargers(-12): The over/under is 37.5, I'd take the Chargers, and Merrimann to hit the over...on sacks. If I were Jeff Fisher, after the way Merrimann dismantled the Raiders last week, I'd hide Vince Young in the locker room, under some towels, covered with netting, in a closet, with the lightbulb removed from the light. And a lock on the door.

Pick: Chargers to cover, under on points.

New Orleans Saints (-3) at Green Bay Death Rattle (+3): If the Saints manage to win and cover the 3.5, here, they will have officially turned into the 2006 NFL Team You Do Not Bet Against. Last year it was the Panthers, this year it could be the Saints. I like Brees to carve up a weak secondary, and the ever-present Reggie Bush factor convinces me all the more. Until Brett Favre has that moment where he walks in front of a mirror and goes "Wait a minute! I'm Brett Favre!" I like the over on this at 38. I think Favre will be able to get some offense going against the Saints, turning this one into a shootout.

Pick: New Orleans to cover, over on points.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6) at Atlanta Falcons (-6): Helllo, instant history! Yes, the Falcons looked good last week. Yes, Michael Vick acted like an actual pro quarterback. And yes, the Bucs looked absolutely pathetic. However, Tampa is 9-2 in it's last 11 versus Atlanta, including 5-1 against the spread. I think Gruden will settle Simms down, and not having Ed Reed and Ray Lewis across the line will help a lot. Take the under, because this is going to be a lot of "Cadillac Williams...carries for 2 yards" and "Vick, back to pass... incomplete."

Pick: Tampa Bay to cover, under on 36.

New York Kid Es (+3) at Philadelphia Playa Haters(-3) : Hi! My name's Donte Stallworth! I enjoy fishing, the company of close friends, and having a quarterback as pissed off as I am! So, you've got the Eagles...at home... versus a suspect Giants defense... after beating a surprisngly not that bad Houston team last week... only giving 3. At home. Good to know Rush Limbaugh is still setting lines for the sports world.

Pick: Eagles to cover, under on 43.

Pittsburgh Official...I mean, Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars should first watch film of Superbowl XL, then of the Red Flag incident in week one. Then watch the movie 'Real Genius' with Val Kilmer. There's a line they should pay attention to. "Even if you pass, you don't pass." Steelers will win by more than the 2 they're giving. And even if they don't, they will. Savy?

Pick: Steelers by hook or by crook to cover, under on over/under 37.

Stay away from:
Bills (+7) at Miami(-7): Unless you have one of those doors like in 'Being John Malkovich' and can figure out what the hell is going on in Dante Culpepper's head.
St. Louis Rams (-3) at San Francisco 49ers(+3): 49ers are feeling frisky this year, and St. Louis loves da letdown game.
Kansas City Chiefs(+11) at Denver Broncos(-11): AFC West game. KC has no QB. Denver has no RB. Jake Plummer and Ty Law are involved. Stay away. No good for you.
Oakland Raiders (+12) at Baltimore Ravens (-12): Don't drink the KoolAid! Don't do it! It's the same Ravens team! Don't! Put the McNair down! I know it's Aaron brooks, but the points, man, think of the points!

Prop Bets:
Aaron Brooks awarded AFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week2: 150 to 1
Over/Under on times you will see Peyton or Eli Manning if you watch football all day including either the Colts or Giants game: 60.
Odds on a Week 2 TO blowup: 15 to 1.