Thursday, December 31

It's Friday...and New Year's Eve

The Bubb Rubb of time has brought us to 2010. Hope it's a good one for you and yours.

Bonus: Here is list complied by Barstool Sports of the best videos of the decade.

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Mike Leach Is A Pirate...And A Good Man

It is a rare day when anything Jerry Bruckheimer produces has a redeeming parallel to real life, but I can extract something from the on-screen production that was taken from my favorite ride at Disney World as a kid. Mike Leach is the Jack Sparrow of college football coaches, and Texas Tech should have been savvy to that fact.

By now the Mike Leach situation is well chronicled. Some are rushing to condemn Leach as tyrant that was too harsh on his players. Others are attacking Adam James as a player who was not giving maximum effort and having a bad attitude. It has turned into a they-said, they-said argument and even the Texas Tech brass is not above throwing barbs.

Whatever happens, Leach deserves credit for one thing; he never gave in to the pressure. Leach's admiration for Pirate culture has clearly helped shape his personal philosophy. No matter what threat Adam James, his father or the Tech administration threw at him, Leach would not give into conformity.

Leach's dealings with James stemmed from his sense of entitlement due to his famous father and there is no reason Leach would take the action he did for no reason. The action he did take, putting James in an electrical closet when he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Videos have come out showing James in the famed "closet". It will certainly get worse as Leach takes legal action.

Texas Tech should know and probably did know how Leach would handle this. He was brought into Texas Tech to lead a program that had no national visibility and took them to bowl game after bowl game got them in the top 5 last year. He did this on his own terms, using his own system. And boy how the money and recognition for the school rolled in. The school then tried to lock-in Leach for the long-term last year. Yet again Leach proved that he was going to do things on his terms or not at all. The stuffy bureaucrats that were dealing with Leach no doubt failed to realize this and the negotiation lasted 11 months. Leach in a statement he released claims there was hostility left over from the contract dispute. Again the pirate code invokes that Leach take what was owed to him. While the school was cashing in on bowl payouts and more than likely increased applications* and definitely increased TV revenue and exposure, Leach wanted his due slice of that. More than anything he wanted to be able to coach his way and as long as that was the case, he would stay in Lubbock.

That is a big reason why Leach stayed at Tech. No doubt offers came rolling in from other schools but he knew that he would not be captain of his own ship. Tech was willing to allow this, for awhile. They attempted the same thing in basketball when they hired Bobby Knight. A program that had been hit hard with NCAA sanctions was trying to build itself back up and chose a controversial strong-armed coach. It was not long before Knight got into a public argument with a school official. Texas Tech has been so willing to bring in coaches that insist on running their own program no questions asked, but when questions do arise, they are left unfit to deal with them in a competent manner.

Just to show how much they were concerned only with the welfare of their students, they released a letter to Leach's attorney basically emphasizing the point that they were fighting Leach on that specific day (Dec. 30th) to avoid paying him the bonus of $800,000 due to him today. Texas Tech brass brought it out in public through interviews with ESPN and the AP that Leach was uncooperative. I would not expect anything less from a pirate. The most telling statement released by the school stated this:

"In a defiant act of insubordination, Coach Leach continually refused to cooperate in a meaningful way to help resolve the complaint."

Leach will have it no other way. Defiant? That's who he is. He is a pirate and that is how he built your program and gave you national attention. He would rather have his ship sunk then turn it over to those who tried to undermine him.

Whoever hires Leach next, and someone will, they better understand what they are doing when they shake his hand and seal the accord because it's a pirate's life for Leach and whether you agree or disagree with how he runs his ship, it is not subject to change. I do not have all the facts and it is unlikely we ever will but I do know things from Leach's point of view because he has never changed it and will not because a young kid and his ESPN analyst father threatens him at the point of a sword

Texas Tech Fires Suspended Coach Leach; legal action expected [CBSSports]

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Bobcats Struggle to Force Bad Shots

Unlike most discussion about the Bobcats, this post is not about trading Tyson Chandler or Boris Diaw. This is about perimeter defense. The Cats are not highly regarded amongst most NBA fans, but most consider the team a strong defensive unit if nothing else. Teams field goal percentage against the Cats would indicate that this is a good assessment, however a look inside the numbers reveals a serious concern for Larry Brown's Cats.

For full disclosure the idea for this thread spawned from Tom Ziller's recent post on Fanhouse. His initial point about shots at the rim and from 3 point range being the most efficient served as the impetus for my research and I like him used for the numbers.

Good defense cannot be solely defined by a team's FG% being below average, but also in forcing teams to take less than optimal shots. A quick analysis of the Bobcats defensive stats showed what should be considered some alarming numbers.

Some league-wide background numbers:

Average number of shot attempts against is 81.2/game.
Of those 44.3/game are shots at the rim or 3-pointers. (55% of total)
That leaves 36.9 shots/game from (termed loosely) midrange (45% of total)

Looking at the Bobcats they allow 77.7 shots/game, 4th lowest in the league. Of those 46.4 are at the rim or from 3 point range. Only 5 teams in the league (tied with two others) allow more shots from those two areas and all play at a fast pace. Those five teams: Detroit, Toronto, New Orleans, Memphis and the Lakers (here's an article to help explain the Lakers inclusion on this list). No team in the league forces fewer of those "midrange" shots than the Cats at just 31.3/game. The result is the Cats' opponents taking a league high 59.7% of their shots from these high efficiency areas.

The Bobcats have done a good job of keeping their opponents below the league average for FG% from every area on the floor except from 16-23 feet where the FG% is just .2% higher than the league average, but a look at the assist percentages reveals a primary concern. Only 46.9% (league avg 51.2%) of the opponents made FGs at the rim are assisted. This can be attributed to multiple things, putbacks being a primary one but the Cats have been surprisingly efficient at clearing the defensive glass (thanks Crash) leaving the primary culprit to be penetration. On the flip side, teams attempt 20 threes/game against the Cats and connect on 48.7% (eFG%) which is lower than the league average, but 89.4% are assisted, 3rd highest % in the league.

All these point to a fairly simple gameplan to beat the Cats. Drive and kick and if necessary, rotate the ball around for a shot (think Bargnani from last night). Although I don't have the data to prove it, these numbers could certainly contribute to the team's road troubles, since teams typically shoot better at home. Even though the FG% against remains above the league average, it would be foolish to ignore that teams are shooting from the most efficient locales against the Cats more than any other team in the league. I am not suggesting that this is the only problem, but one that perhaps has gone overlooked to this point.

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Wednesday, December 30

Positive Season Ends In A Thud

Before the college football season began, there was cautious optimism about the Miami Hurricanes. Reticent hope of a fruitful season. An upturned eyebrow of speculation over a tough schedule. In my season preview for my Hurriances, a team that delights, shames, and infuriates me all at once, I predicted an 8-4 record and a Gator Bowl appearance. I got the losses right and they would have been in the Gator Bowl if not for the Bobby Bowden farewell-dang gum-aww shoot tour. Of course that record was going into the bowl so the Canes were actually one better at 9-3 going into that game last night. Then Miami threw up all over themselves. A 20-14 loss to a Wisconsin team that was playing the Big Ten brand of football that led the conference to a 1-6 record in bowl games last year has put a sour taste on the end of a season that met, if not exceeded expectations, and threw a wet blanket on any high preseason rankings for next year.

After the first two wins of the season, the trumpets were blaring declaring Miami was 'back'. Jacory Harris was getting insane hype after only two good games. A reality check at Virginia Tech toned it down somewhat. The Canes battled back like I hoped they would against Oklahoma. Sitting at 3-1 with the prospect of being favored in their remaining games produced images of BCS bowls dancing in Miami fans' heads. However inconsitency and mistakes cost them two more games against Clemson C.J. Spiller and North Carolina.

Through the whole season up until their previous game against South Florida, a realistic Canes fan was happy with how the season turned out and eager to get to next season. The dud they laid last night washed all of that away. The big kick return to open the game seemed to a sign that Miami was all in for the game. Fifty-nine minutes later all you could do was shake your head. Wisconsin did a tremendous job with their gameplan: run the ball, dominate both lines, pass away from the Miami corners, and avoid miscues. The miscues is a bit misleading considering Wisconsin lost two fumbles, but Miami did not do anything with it.

All that is left are these facts for Miami fans:

Randy Shannon is 0-2 in bowl games and in both cases the team was ill-prepared, out-0coached and played flat.

Jacory Harris may have had a sweet fade, but he has a long way to go before he is considered a great college QB. Don't get me wrong I like him as a player and a personality but he has to limit his mistakes and continue to grow.

Sweet fancy Moses that field was attrocious last night. Cooper getting injured hurts about as much as the loss. [Update: he might be out until 2011, cripes.] Big thumbs down to the Champ bowl for allowing that condition of field.

The offensive line is downright bad. Does Art Kehoe need to come back? Jason Fox did not play and he will not be back next year. The line will have to prove it can pass protect and run block against a physical D-line next year for the team to be legit.

In total a season that was better than expected ended with a huge letdown. The canes have a lot to figure out in the offseason and they better because they travel to Columbus on September 11th.

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Monday, December 28

So How Does This Help You Win A Super Bowl?

The Colts lost to the New York Jets 24-15 yesterday to snap a slew of Colts winning streaks and ending any chance of a perfect season. This would not be a big issue or as big an issue if it had not been for the manner in which it occured. Much like the Belichik 4th and 2 decision, the decision to pull the Colts starters midway through the 3rd quarter will elicit a wide variety of responses from the media nd from fans. In my eyes, I saw a team quit in the middle of a well-contested game which they were controlling on the defensive side. Aside from allowing a franchise record kick-off return to Brad Smith, the Colts had the Jets offense completely in check. Sanchez was sacked twice on plays where Dwight Freeney was not even blocked. The return brought the Jets to a 10-9 lead, but in came the offensive starters, led by probable MVP winner Peyton Manning. The Colts marched 81-yards and scored the go-ahead TD. They inexplicably tried to run in the 2-point conversion from a bunch set and led 15-10. That is when the Colts made their move, or threw in the towel depending how you look at it.

The whole complection of the game turned on its head. Curtis Painter, who had never taken an NFL snap was now trotting out to play against one of the leagues top defenses statistically who were fighting for their playoff life. The result was a sack and forced fumble for a touchdown. After that, the Colts defense packed in it and the Jets offense poured it on. The hometown fans rained boos on their AFC number 1 seed team. They had every right to.

The most cringeworthy moment of this whole fiasco came right after the Jets scored their defensive TD to take a 16-15 lead. As fans booed the Colts and Curtis Painter walked listlessly to receive a quick lesson from Colts OC Tom Moore, head coach Jim Caldwell challenged the fumble on the play. The replay left no doubt that it was a fumble. Caldwell was throwing a timeout away. I am not sure if this was a "hey I still care" attempt or if he was just having a brainlock but it made him look, for the first time all year, like a coach who inherited a good system with good players.

The Colts stated from the moment a 16-0 regular season came into the discussion that they were going to rest starters. Perfection was not a concern, winning the Super Bowl was. This was not simply resting the starters however, this was stopping midstream in a competitive ballgame. A switch was turned off on the team and it will be expected to be turned back on 3 weeks from now when they face a primed playoff team, whoever it may be.

It was obvious on the sidelines that the players were upset. Peyton had that look on his face, a look I have seen a few times before. It was the look he had when he had been ousted from the playoffs. Peyton wanted this game, and he wanted next week's game. He is a winner, and he wants to win. He is competitive and wants the ball with the game no the line. He more than any other player on the team needs to be healthy for the playoffs. He was sacked 0 times yesterday, and has been sacked 22 times in the last two years. The Jets saw their blitzes were not effective and were not getting close to Peyton, the ball was already gone when they got there.

Dallas Clark was hanging his head well before the final second ticked off the clock. The players prepared to play, played hard through the first 35 minutes, and then were told to sit there and watch while their team had it's first loss handed to them. Now they face the joyous prospect of answering questions about this game for 3 weeks while they safely practice inside their bubble, safe from harm.

This was the quote from team president Bill Polian:

"Football logic has to come into play, and that logic is it makes no sense to have guys out there with the potential for injuries. We played for 16 weeks, sharp as any team in football. The good thing is that none of this mattered in the standings."

I do not know if this strategy can be called logic. First off, they players were in there for over half the game, what about there potential for injury then? Why not sit them the whole game? Have Peyton take the first snap to preserve the streak and then plop them down on the sidelines.

Is there not a philosophy in football that says you cannot play afraid of getting hurt? Because you will play tentative, and that leads to a higher chance you do get hurt? Unless you are Bob Sanders, then you just get hurt no matter what. The Colts game into the game unleashing their players full bore, and now they are saying relax and take it easy.

Yes Bill, your team played sharp for 16 weeks, but will that matter in the playoffs? How did your team become so sharp? Because it prepared and played out its scheme out on the field, not resting and practicing situations no the practice field. Going undefeated may not matter but keeping the team sharp does. Particularly when your offense depends so much on rhythm. You did not softly apply the breaks to the offensive machine, you slammed the breaks while doing 80.

Finally I will offer this, the Colts employed this strategy two times before when they were having great regular seasons and secured a first-round bye, 2005 and 2007. In 2005, the Colts started 13-0, then lost to the Chargers and cruised the final two games, resting their starters. Their divisional round game was a 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh, which was only close because Jerome Bettis fumbled going into the endzone in the 4th. In 2007, the Colts again went 13-3 and rested going into the playoffs. The Chargers came into Indy in the divisional round banged up but having played its way into the playoffs and through the Wildcard round. San Diego won going away 28-24.

The one time the Colts did win the Super Bowl, 2006, was a season in which they started slow, but battled to a 12-4 record and won their wildcard game at home, won at a strong Baltimore team and then beat their arch-rival Patriots at home to get to the Super Bowl. This theory does not stretch across the NFL but it seems to apply to the system that the Colts run. During their success this decade the only thing seemingly stopping them from getting to the Super Bowl is "resting" their starters or having to play in Foxboro against the Pats in their prime.

Colts fans scoff at the comparisons they get as being the Atlanta Braves on the NFL, but with only one title during their historic run this decade the counter-arguments are wearing thin. The Colts strategy may pay off, but the manner in which it was executed and recent history for this team suggest otherwise. The next three weeks will be filled with questions for the players and the coaching staff about why they shut it down when they had their 15th opponent beat and were facing a horrible team with an interim coach as their 16th. Then they will face a team that has been playing weeks straight and coming off a hard-fought playoff game the previous week. The Colts have things they way the coaches and front-office want it, but I doubt it will help them win a Super Bowl.

The Indianapolis Colts Are Smarter Than You [TBL]
Tedy Bruschi's Take [ESPN]

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Friday, December 25

It's Friday...and Christmas

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Thursday, December 24

A Festivus For The College Football Fan In Us.

Over at College Game Balls they have presented an airing of greivances forum for the college football fan. It is a good time to get frustration of your chest, particularly about all the ways your own team dissapointed you this season. I came up with my list for my Miami Hurricanes while dancing around the aluminum poll. Here is what I came up with:

Jacory Harris: J-12 you made some nice plays this year and it is good to have a competent QB again. But do you realize you can throw the ball away right? You don’t have to lob meatballs down the field if everyone is covered and just hope one of your athletic receivers comes down with it. 17 picks, DO NOT WANT NEXT YEAR.

MSM and CFB fans: You realize that the documentary of the U was past tense right? Shannon may have been the bag man but that was 20 years ago when CFB as a whole was completely different. /Points you attention to Florida’s 27 arrests over past 3 years and 251 traffic violations.

Clemson: Seriously go fuck yourselves. We all know you have some good wins coupled in with horrible losses every year, thanks for picking that day in Miami to go off.

Miami special teams coach Joe Pannunzio: Nice decision kicking to Spiller, really nice job there. Ever heard of a squib kick? Oh that’s right you messed that up against F$U.

North Carolina: You guys just have our number what can I say. Guess that really isn’t a greivance.

Ohio State: Grats on another BCS bowl, so richly deserved. I hope you sent Terry Porter his annual gift/check.

USC: Our dynasty ‘83-’91 > than yours ‘03-now.

Florida: Put us on your schedule you bastards. I know it generates so much money playing the Citadel every year. It’s funny you guys would be rolling us for like 5 years straight if you hadn’t cut off the series.

Notre Dame: Speaking of scheduling, you guys back out of renewing our series with a home and home. Word to the wise, look at the history of Catholicism and dare to call us criminals.

The school’s administration: You all looked like a bunch of political pansies for blackballing the U and its makers. The documentary sheds light, again, on events that took place two decades ago. It is part of the school’s past for better or worse and gave national attention to the school so quit acting like you’re above it.

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Tuesday, December 22

The Patriots Run Of Dominance Is Over...For Now

A day after the New Orleans Saints obliterated the New England Patriots I had a phone conversation with my esteemed colleague Catfish. As a Patriots fan I explained to him that my point-of-view was that the Patriots as we know them are through. Since the beginning of their run in the NFL in 2001 when Moe Lewis changed football life as we know it, the Patriots began a successful run in the league that included 3 Super Bowls, 4 AFC Championship Games, 6 playoff appearances, and a slew of regular season records (some now broken). Like every dynasty the league has seen however, it does not last forever. While many would say that to accomplish these feats in the salary cap era as we know it in football is tremendous, it gives no solace to fans who know things will never be the same in Foxboro. That small sliver of Pats fans in the football world do not compare to the humongous horde that is witnessing the sunset of New England's run with delight and revelry. It is completely understandable, considering the Patriots winning ways, controversial on-field persona and the dour-faced coach whom engineered the campaign. No compassion, no violins will serenade Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots as they leave the top floor of the NFL's elite club. The one ray of hope is that the franchise's ability to adapt, bring in new personnel, and the tread left on Brady's tires may lead to another run at the top.

I began writing this post weeks ago but between the new job and the move it ended up sitting on the shelf, like this blog. However, a discussion with Catfish last night over Spygate has emboldened me. This was meant to be a post after the Saints dismantled the Patriots in a way they have not been since they began their run. This will not be an examination of Spygate, the subject is far too tedious and moreover, everyone has their own version of what happened and how it should blemish Belichick's legacy. I will say that I agree the incident does diminish what the Pats accomplished but I do not take it to the level of some journalists who love to reach for the low-hanging fruit to bash the coach or the degree of vitriol of some fans who want to discount what the team accomplished. Instead let's take a look at some of the factors as to why the Patriots are what they are, a 9-5 team clinging to the division lead.

Subtraction by Subtraction

While Belichick has his hands covered in the dust of the foundation of the franchise as we know it, he also surrounded himself with good people. When Belichick spurned the Jets after Bill Parcells wanted him to become the head man in new York, it was the dawn of the current incarnation. Belichick headed to New England because Robert Kraft gave him complete autonomy to run the team as he saw fit. This was a new chance to break away from the conflict he had in Cleveland and the troubles he saw in the future coaching the Jets. The rest is NFL history but what Bill did that helped sustain that success was surround himself with other great coaches and football minds.

Naturally over time these coaches have moved on to other opportunities. Sufficed to say they have not all turned out especially well. His two key assistants during the Super Bowl run were Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Say what you will about their head coaching stints, but those two coaches helped produce the 3 Super Bowl championships. After Super Bowl 39 the two left to pursue their head coaching spots and that began a movement of the league to snap up young coaches that Belichick was grooming and that were helping to maintain the Patriots success. Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels were next in line. Mangini left after one season to coach the rival Jets, and we have all seen the fallout from that which includes frosty handshakes and the root of the Spygate controversy. McDaniels left after the 18-1 season to head the Broncos. While McDaniels was never labeled as "offensive coordinator" he was behind the Patriots juggernaut offense which set the record for total points in a season, Brady's passing TD record and Moss's receiving TD record. Now the Patriots have Dean Pees as Defensive Coordinator and Bill O'Brien in McDaniels old position. This is not a condemnation of the current staff but the turnover has played a part in where the Pats stand today.

Another factor is the front office attrition. Despite the fact that Belichick is the de facto GM and always has been, the input of Scott Pioli and others of his ilk also puts the burden more on Bill to find other great football minds and to shoulder more of the responsibility in personnel decisions.

Offensive Firepower Low On Powder

This year the Patriots are averaging 26 points per game, a stat bolstered by the 59 point output against a then-listless Titans team and a 35 point mark against hapless Tampa Bay. The average is up 1 point from last year. I doubt the difference has between Brady and Matt Cassel is 1 point per game. The bottom line is the offense has become predictable. Randy Moss's routs are being jumped by cornerbacks and the deep balls have not been as crisp as they were two years ago. Wes Welker remains the linchpin for the offense by catching 109 balls for 1198 yards. The running game has limped along at 14th in the league and was hindered by Fred Taylor's injury although Lawrence Maroney has been playing better when not fumbling. The formula still works well enough to get the Pats to where they are but when you look at how much they score in wins and losses this year it is 29.6 in wins and 19.6 in losses. At home, where the Pats have been perfect, they are averaging 30.7 whereas their road PPG average falls to 21.4 (bolstered by the 35 points scored against Tampa in London). One of the key aspects to the Patriots dominance this decade was their ability to play consistently great no matter the location.

A key point with their predictiveness is their inability to score in the redzone. They sit currently at 49.1% in Red Zone efficiency. There have been numerous games where the Patriots would have came away with the victory if they had finished off drives like they had in the past. Their first loss of the season to the Jets featured a 0/3 performance in the Red Zone in a game they lost 16-9. In the most crushing loss of the year to Indianapolis 35-34, the Pats were 3/6 in the Red Zone and the Colts were 1/1. Of the 3 failures in the Red Zone by the Patriots, 1 was a fumble by Maroney at the goal line and the other was a pick by Brady.

The other factor that is hurting the Patriots on offense is the offensive line. Tom Brady's success during the decade has been predicated on his ability to sense pressure and slide around in the pocket, but the recent troubles at the line (which I believe started at the tail end of the '07 season, see: Super Bowl 42) have led to Brady getting hit, and hit hard. Certainly injuries are a factor, but as the pressure has been dialed up by defenses, the protection has not entirely answered the call. Brady has been sacked 16 times, but he has gotten hit many more. Add to the equation that Brady is coming off a major knee injury, and his lowering confidence in the line is leading to inaccuracy.

No Game Defense?

One only need look at the fateful 4th and 2 decision by Belichick to observe to state of the New England defense. Catfish, who would do well to get his thoughts even in rambling form quickly on the blog, pointed out weeks ago during our conversations that Belichick knew that his defense was going to be sub-par this year and therefore was prepared for the struggles. If you look at the draft, 4 of the first 7 picks were defensive, including their first 3. Add to that the Seymour trade to obtain even more picks at the expense of Oakland and Belichick is clearly thinking of the future.

With the loss of Bruschi, Harrison, Vrabel, and Seymour the Pats have few left on the defensive side of the ball who have rings. Ty Warren and the anchor, Vince Wilfork hold the line, but both have recently been injured. Belichick knew the young players on defense would need time to adjust to his way of approaching football, so he brought in veterans like Banta-Cain and Shawn Springs. Springs has not panned out and the linebacking core was shaken by Mayo's early injury. Adaleus Thomas was seen as a great pick-up by the Pats a few years ago, but he has been lackluster of late. While Belichick has been willing to let big money players go from the beginning (Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Assante Samuel) he has always been confident he can get his new players up to speed. There has been a gap in the pass defense this year though; Bodden, Wilhite, and Butler have looked poor to outright bad at certain times this year. Patrick Chung, the Pats first draft pick of the year, has shown promise but is not there yet.

All this said the Patriots are tied for 3rd in scoring defense and 10th in total defense. But again, the Patriots are not expected just to beat up on medicore teams and their performance has fallen short against the NFL's elite (Indy, New Orleans). Belichick is a great enough coach to get them to win and make the playoffs, but at this point the organization and fans will not accept that as good enough.

Reformation or Decimation

So where do they go from here? While I was in a panic over the result from the Monday Night game, Catfish assured me Belichick is planning for the future. With a bevy of draft picks including 4 in the first 2 rounds in 2010, the Patriots are setting the table for a return to the league's highest echelon. Another year to coach up the young defense and to patch up the offensive line would certainly cure many of their ills.

Offensively, the opportunity I perceive is the chance to get Charlie Weis back to playcalling. The ripping he has gotten over the Notre Dame situation is mostly deserved but the man knows offensive football. He took a no-name QB named Brady and a core of receivers that consisted of Troy Brown, David Patten, David Givens, and Deon Branch and won three titles. This past year at ND he guided Jimmy Clausen and stud receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate to big seasons, the team just could not play defense. He has maintained a close relationship with Brady and with how much Tom has matured over 5 years since they working on the same team, I think it would put the offense back into the unstoppable category.

Few teams can maintain the level with which the Patriots have achieved this decade under the current league parameters. The Colts have been on par with the wins and records they have made and the Steelers have been in the discussion with their two titles. Neither team has had the controversy and "us against the world" mentality of the Pats and that is hard to sustain. That mental edge which Belichik infuses to his players and in turn the players exude on the field has dulled this year. With the infusion of new, younger talent crafted to combat the new era of speedy, offensive football and Belichick and Brady at the helm, we could very well see a return to form for the Darth Vader led imperial army of the NFL.

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Monday, December 21

Little Bit Of Pride For The Panthers

via TBL

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Wednesday, December 9

Big Ten Supporters Should Not Throw Stones

On a friendly message board recently me and a chum got into a debate about the Big Ten and the ACC. This stemmed from him being an Iowa fan and thinking his Hawkeyes are going to put a cork in the triple option. I am not a big Georgia Tech supporter but I do think they win the Orange Bowl. He then let fly with an attack on the ACC being "soft". Truth be told the ACC fell way below expectations this year; from dropping important out of conference games to the better teams playing down to their competition in confrence play the ACC dissapointed without a doubt. However, for a Big Ten supporter to hurl this kind of vitriol at another BCS conference is rather ridiculous. Once again the Big Ten has two teams in BCS bowls so once again they will get paid and their ardent fan followings assure the BCS, the conference, and the schools of that. Yet looking at the Big Ten's 1-6 bowl record from last year and 9-20 mark over past four years, it does not seem apropo for banner-waving from this contigent of college football. They have lost their last 6 BCS bowl games and this year have two more shots to end that streak. The ACC has a one-game win streak at least. My response to the ACC attack is after the break and is copied verbatum so there may be a S-bomb or two.

I am really not picking GT over Iowa because of the ACC, I really just think they are going to win the game.

Nice of you to dodge the whole bowl record thing but again to state the glass houses theorem, I will hit your precious Big Televen with some knowledge.

Illinois: 3-9, including a 30-0 loss to Ohio State, and a 53-52 loss to Fresno home.

Indiana: Their wins are: Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, Akron, and the aforementioned shitty Illinois team. And lo! What's this? They lost to, to use your words "horrible" Virginia Cavaliers 47-7. I repeat 47-7. So if you lose to a horrible team by 40, what does that make you?

Iowa: I acutally rooted for your Hawkeyes to be a BCS buster so I have nothing bad to say, other than they are not a truly elite team, they squeaked out more than a few wins and you know it. It is really a shame that Stanzu got hurt against Northwestern. An ankle and pipe dreams shattered on one play. If Iowa had run the table, you know they would be behind Texas and Bama in the rankings though right? That would have been more frustrating.

Michigan State: Ahh, the Clemson of the midwest. They lost to Central Michigan at home. They lost to Notre Dame(yeah that's not a good loss considering they had a chance to win). They lost to your Hawkeyes 15-13, wow what a barn burner that was. They play Texas Tech in the Alamo bowl, should be interesting.

Michigan: A bunch of frauds. Their coach is a rule-breaking shit-eater. Lost 5 in a row to close out the season. Committed 15 turnover against Iowa and still had a chance to win the game at the end. They did beat Notre Dame, but so did 5 other teams. Their largest win was at home 63-6...against Delaware State. Back to Back bowless seasons.

Minnesota: Only decent win was against Northwestern, depending on whether you think NW is decent. They got shutout twice this year. They play Iowa State in their bowl game....AWWW Shit, Daly[Ed Note: Our own Walterpeck] has got to be pumped.

Northwestern: 8-4 is impressive for a school like NW. And hey! they destroyed Iowa's season! However let's check the OOC schedule: Towson, Eastern Michigan, Miami(Ohio), and Syracuse. And they lost to Cuse, with Greg Paulus at QB! Rofl, that is like losing a hopscotch game to Christy Brown. [I'll pause while you google that reference]. They play Auburn in their bowl game...oof that is going to be ugly.

Ohio State: Fuck em. You know I hate them but they along with Iowa are one of the conference's decent teams. They dropped a close one at home to USC thanks to the hymm of prayer rank 18 cast by Matt Barkley, but then again USC finished 6th in the Pac Ten. The Rose Bowl against Oregon should be intriguing.

Penn State: Bigges fraud of a 2 loss team out there. OOC schedule: Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Eastern Illinois. Lost to the only 2 decent teams they played this year (Iowa, OSU). Playing LSU in their bowl game, if not for LSU's lack of offense and their dumbass coach, they would have no shot.

Purdue: Alma mater of Drew Brees AND Kyle Orton. They upset Ohio State, that's about it. They beat Notre Dame at home...right after they lost to Northern Illinois at home.

Wisconsin: They are ok, but nothing to scream about. 9-3 is a good record, but again they lost to Ohio State, Northwestern and Iowa, the other decent teams in the conference. I'm searching for their landmark win but can't decide between Fresno State(by 3 in double OT), Wofford, Northern Illinois, or Hawaii. I guess Fresno. They play the U in their bowl game in Orlando, I'm cautiously optimistic that if Northwestern can put up 33 against them, Miami can manage a good day offensively.

Wow, you're right the ACC is so weak compared to these teams.

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Tuesday, December 1

The BCS Solution: Revisited Once Again

Well here we are once again. The BCS is coming to its rather unexciting conclusion and the debate has arisen as to whether a solution is needed in college football and what it should theoretically be. Last year I was unrelenting on the current system; I railed against the choice of Oklahoma over Texas and how Utah did not get an opportunity to win the title. Listening to the debate that is running this year I realize there are those out there that prefer the system the way it is. For one reason or another they like the BCS. They either like the money it generates, see that their team/conference benefits greatly from the system, or have some kind of circuitous logic about how the sport is unique and pure is some way. One important lesson to learn in life is that other people do not see the world you do and while it may make no sense, you have to at least respect that to a degree if their point of view is not completely illogical. Now it is easy to say that the BCS is illogical but despite being in my mind a sham, it has been in place for over a decade and the Ari Fleischer's of the world are paid to defend it. Questions have arisen as to how to put together a playoff, and my system answers all of them. BCS defenders point out that even if a playoff is instituted there will be dissatisfied people but you will never make everyone happy and if you do not know this already then welcome to life. I believe my system takes as much into account as to be one that most people in college football would agree on. My playoff solution after the break.

The Bracket

I favor a 8 team bracket because I believe that in a given year that is the suitable number of teams that earn a shot at the title. But here is my wrinkle to counter the argument that in some cases teams ranked 7th or 8th do not deserve a shot: The field will be cut to 6 or 7 teams if there are not enough teams to qualify. In this case the two highest ranked teams would get a first round bye. Therefore extreme emphasis will be placed on getting the top two BCS spots, just like it is now. The field cannot fall below 6 however and that will be explained later in regards to the BCS bowls.

The first round of games will be held the 3rd week in December. This gives teams that have played in a conference championship game a week off to rest and prepare. The top 2 seeds will play a game at their home stadium (again emphasis on getting the top two spots) with the 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs 5 games taking place at 2 of the BCS bowls. If only 6 teams qualify, they top two seeds get a bye. If only 7 teams qualify, only the top team gets a bye.

The BCS bowls will rotate spots in the playoff so from year to year a BCS bowl will have a first round game or a semi-final game. The title game will rotate as well. Having 6 teams assures that all the BCS bowls will get a playoff game every year.

The semi-final round will take place on/around New Year's at the 2 remaining BCS bowl sites. The championship game will be played at whatever BCS bowl's turn it is in the rotation approximately 10 days after the semi-finals.

The BCS bowls make good money. A lot of money. This would keep the playoff within the control of the major bowls. In a perfect world this would not be the case but in order to have any chance at getting this approved I think this concession would have to be made. There would also be a rotating choice system for the bowls meaning that the bowls would pick which games they would host. So if a bowl has choice priority they could choose to host a 4-seed Penn State vs. 5-seed USC match-up instead of a 3-seed Utah vs. 6-seed Pitt game.

Tournament Selection

Here is where most fans, even those in favor of a playoff, disagree about what to do. One complaint I always have about the BCS and voters is that there are no standard set of criteria for determining who is the highest ranked team. Again there will always be room for debate but I think these are the most effective regulations for filling the bracket.

A. You must win your conference to qualify
Want to place emphasis on conference play? This is how you do it. Even if a team is good they do not get a pass if they fail to win their conference. This will keep conference championship games as important (if not more) as they are now. Of course there will be certain exceptions which will be detailed below.

B. If you are undefeated and ranked in the top eight, you must receive an invitation
If you have not lost a game, then fulfilling A will not be a problem and if it is the other rules should clarify. If there are more undefeated top ten teams than spots available (don't know how this would be the case though) than the highest ranked team(s) would fill the remaining spots.

C. BCS conferences still receive an automatic bid but in order to receive the bid
i. They must have two losses or less
ii. Be ranked in the top 8
This will be the hard part in convincing the big 6 to sign on but if their conference champion fails to meet i or ii do they really deserve a title shot? It helps prevent teams like possibly Nebraska of this year from backdooring their way into the tournament.

D. All rankings will be determined by BCS rankings.
There is a caveat to this: The rankings need to get their act together. Voters need to be held more accountable and I would suggest a stronger emphasis on strength of schedule be factored in. So, the BCS bowls are intact and so are the rankings which determines a team's place in the standings, looks like we are keeping a lot of elements to the old system people.

E. If they are any conflicts that arise between teams, seedings, or playoff spots the BCS rankings will be the tiebreaker.
This would be put to use for seeding but also if there are less than 6 teams that qualify. In order to fulfill the 6 team requirement for the tournament the team not already part of the tournament with the highest ranking will get the bid. This, along with the requirements for BCS conference winners means that it is possible for schools who fail to win their conference could potentially get an at-large bid but in order to do so they would have to be highly ranked.

F. If a team is ranked in the top 5 of the BCS and the 8 spots are not filled by the above criteria, those teams will receive at-large bids.
This is a prevention to keep teams like Texas and Alabama of last year from a playoff spot. Cincinnati and Virginia Tech were both ranked outside the top ten last year at the final BCS rankings. Their spots would have been occupied by Texas and Alabama. The seedings would have to be re-done because there would be a rule that teams from the same conference would not be allowed to play each other in the first round. Also, these at-large teams would not be allowed to host either of the two first-round games not played at the BCS bowls.

This Year's Example

To see how this would play out to this year we have to make a guestimate of how the conference championships play out but the theory remains the same. Based on this year's rankings the first round would look like this[Updated for final BCS rankings]:

Games played on December 19th
(8)Ohio State at (1)Alabama, in Tuscaloosca
-Ohio State jumped Georgia Tech after Tech's loss to Georgia. It would be a really close call on which team gets in if the rankings are tweaked to favor schedules more. OSU played USC and lost to them and Purdue, while Georgia Tech lost at Miami and to UGA. Here is a major crux of the argument: better to argue over which of these teams gets in than any of the top 4 this year.

(7)Oregon at (2)Texas, in Austin
-Is Texas a fraud? This game will help us find out?

Games played on December 18th
(6)Boise State vs. (3)Cincinnati, at rotation determined BCS bowl
-Battle of undefeateds, no shortage of offense, take the over.

(5)Flroida vs. (4)TCU, at rotation determined BCS bowl

Semi-final round:

Games played on Saturday January 2nd
(5)TCU vs. (1)Alabama, at rotation determined BCS bowl
-If I had to pick I would say Bama wins and TCU beats Florida. Just a gut feeling but even if the Gators win it would be part 2 of the big game.

(3)Boise State vs. (2)Texas, at rotation determined BCS bowl
-Texas gets by Oregon at home, and I think Boise beats Cincy at its own game.

Final Round:

Game played January 11th(played on Monday because NFL playoffs start that weekend)
(2)Texas vs. (1)Alabama, Rose Bowl (since that is this year's championship site)
-Forget whoever makes it to the title game, it would a blockbuster either way and if it ends up being these two, no one can debate that they did not prove that they deserve to be there.

Will It Work?

I do not see any reason why not but there would have to be compromise by different parties and that is always a tricky proposition. But the important thing to remember about the system I just proposed:
-The big 6 conferences still have the advantage to getting teams in but deserving non-BCS schools have their shot to earn their way to the title. This year TCU will get shuttled to a BCS bowl to play most for a game that means only as much as Utah's did last year. Boise has gone undefeated and despite being ranked in the top 6 at the moment may not get the table-scrap BCS bid at all.

-I think that in order for the BCS conferences to sign on, you would have to guarantee them some kind of slice of the pie if one of their teams fails to make the tournament. With all the money this would generate and consider that ESPN owns the BCS starting next year and this tourney would be under the umbrella of the BCS, profits would explode and you could make sure a non-qualifying conference would get theirs.

-There will be the same, if not more money made through this system. All of those games are good match-ups that will get tremendous ratings. It will be like March Madness times Avagadro's number, everyone in the sports community will be discussing the games.

-I would keep all the other bowls the way they are now. Let Central Michigan play Middle Tennessee or whatever. It will not diminish these bowls anymore than they have already been diminished by the BCS.

-No more low-rated BCS games. Even if you had a Orange Bowl like last year (V Tech vs. Cincy) people will tune in because the game means something and the winner advances.

-There is a huge advantage to securing the top 2 spots in the BCS.

-The regular season would not only still be relevant, it would be more relevant now.

Answering the Problem

In an effort to shoot down playoff proposals, the BCS in their infinite wisdom has a site called You really need not visit the site because I will answer their "tough" questions right here.

They ask: Who would participate?
I answer: 6-8 teams, conference winners only, ranked in the top ten, or top 5 ranked at-large

They ask: How many automatic qualifiers?
I answer: 6 from the BCS conferences, undefeated teams in the top ten, possibly 2 at-large.

They ask: What would be the criteria to qualify?
I answered that above in my criteria section A-F.

They ask: What would be the criteria for seeding?
I answer: BCS rankings, the same ones they use for their current system.

They ask: Where would the games be played?
I answer: Two games at the top 2 seeds home stadium, the rest at rotating BCS bowls.

They ask: When would the games be played?
I answer: First round would be the 3rd week in December, Semi-finals the closest Saturday to New Year's, Championship game 8-10 days after the Semi-finals.

They ask: If you could resolve all that(I just did) would everyone be satisfied?
They already answer "NO" (they used caps!) but you would have to have the brain capacity of a troglodyte to say yes to this question. As I mentioned earlier there will always be detractors but I think this proposal satisfies the most arguments from as many people as possible. BCS bowls stay intact, the Big 6 BCS conferences are pretty much guaranteed a spot unless their champion is ranked low, the non-BCS conferences are given a shot to win the title, not just play in a BCS bowl, there will still be tons of money to be had, undeserving teams cannot sneak their way in, and those chanting for a playoff get one.

They then come up with this gem of reasoning:

Just try to create an eight-team playoff based on latest rankings (November 23rd). Should a one-loss Georgia Tech (10-1, #7) get in but not a one-loss Pittsburgh (9-1 #9)? Should a two-loss Oregon (9-2, #8) get in but not one-loss Pittsburgh or any of the SEVEN teams with two losses: Ohio State (10-2, #10), Iowa (10-2, #11), Oklahoma State (9-2, #12), Penn State (10-2, #13), BYU (9-2, #19), Utah, (9-2, #19), or Houston (9-2, #23)? If you think the BCS is controversial, try sorting that out. A playoff would guarantee bigger problems, more controversy, more disappointed teams and more frustrated fans.

I did just come up with an 8 team playoff based on the latest rankings. Georgia Tech got in(projecting they beat Clemson) and Pitt did not because they lost to Cincy(again projected). After that happens(if it does) they would have two losses and be knocked out of the top ten. Oregon would get in because they won the Pac-Ten and be ranked in the top ten with two or less losses. Ohio State gets in the same as Oregon but they have to go play at the Swamp, Iowa lost to Ohio State for the Big Ten, Oklahoma State did not even make the Big 12 title game and has not beaten anyone of note. Penn State? No one can argue they deserve a playoff spot. BYU lost to TCU and is ranked 19th in the BCS, Utah is 21st and Houston 23rd. There will always be frustrated fans but it is possible to craft a system.

The last thing about the site I will address is their introduction of what they call "bracket creep". This alludes to the expansion of tournaments such as the NCAA basketball tournament which now features 65 teams and the FCS. The FCS, in case you do not know, has been running a playoff for years now with few, if any, problems. They will expand to 20 teams next year. The BCS has you imagine a frightening scenario where the brackets expand and more teams get in and the regular season is diminished and the bowl system changed forever. I do not see this happening with my scenario in the near term and if it does so what? If the logistics are feasible to add two play in games then it will expand to ten, but the majority of people beleive it is better to keep the number of teams as low as possible. They act like bracket creep is the blob or something where once it starts spreading the number of teams will multiply into a hideous mass until the FBS season is just one large bracket with all 100+ teams.

So there it is. Not plain and simple and I agree not without flaws but I believe it is the best that can be done with the current circumstances. I do not see this system not helping college football become more popular than it already is. I have no silly delusion that this will assuage both sides of the argument but in the end my only hope is that something is done to make the great sport of college football crown a legitimate champion.

Note: This post has been amended a few times for accuracy and in interest of crafting the best possible system and may be tweaked again, it's an ongoing process.

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Quick question about Belichick

After seeing the Patriots secondary get eviscerated by Drew Brees and the Saints, does it make Coach Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th down against the Colts more understandable? We discussed it when it occurred, but it's interesting to hear the same talking heads that shredded Belichick for his decision in the Colts game using phrases like "their secondary was exposed" after last night's game. I'm going to assume that he knew what he had in the defensive backfield before everyone else did.

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Saturday, November 21

A Welcome To New York Facepalm

Moving to New York has been quite an experience. Not an a new one entirely as I have moved often over the last decade of my life and both my parents are from New York so I am familiar somewhat with the place. In fact, being originally from the north has led my sports allegiances to lie with teams in the New York/Connecticut (state of my birth) area. The first team I rooted for was the New York Mets. Some would call that a curse but when I was 5 going on 6 my grandfather and I were watching a little roller up a long first....BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT! Sorry, I got a little carried away in memory land. The point of the story is that prior to the late 90s I never bothered with the Yankees. I even rooted for them in 1996 to beat the Braves. However in the past ten years I have grown to loathe them, as just about all non-Yankee fans do. This does not affect me too much, I spew Yankee hate and root against them at every turn. Now I live in the heart of Yankee fandom; I realize there are Yankee fans everywhere because they have the biggest bandwagon in the history of sport but now they are an everyday topic when it comes to sports. I thought I could accept this, until I started listeing to sports radio on hour long commute to and from work.

The Yankees fanbase is focusing on the offseason, which certainly is not a bad thing. Just because they have 27 titles (which they never fail to point out) does not mean they should not be thinking about free-agency and what to do with their expiring contracts. Fair enough. Yet all last week about 1 in every 3 Yankee calls (I also heard people out on the street saying this too by the way) were fans crying about Joe Girardi not winning AL Manager of the Year.

They backed their argument with a few reasons. Their first was that they won the World Series. What Joe Howyadoin does not realize is that it is a regular season award, not a post-season one. It just comes after the post-season because back in the old days when baseball was the king of the American sports scene it was a way to prolong baseball in the national landscape. Now that football rules it seems silly to prolong these individual awards but that is how MLB operates nowadays.

Next came the discussion of their record. 103 wins! The most in baseball. Fantastic and worthy of note, but again you consider that the Yankees have assembled a goliath payroll and their swallowing of high-priced free agents last off-season, they were built to win. They won only 6 more than the team that produced the AL MOY, the Angels. Girardi did a good job, but compared to Scioscia who operated with injuries, the death of one of his players, a bad start, and a payroll of $88 million less. With this collection of players, you have to be record-setting in wins to have done an award-winning job. Yet the result was the desired one, the team won the World Series even though Girardi's managing or sometimes overmanaging came into question.

I refer to this title for the Yankees as the Faust Title. The ownership, Cashman, and the fanbase were willing to pay any price to win. This goes beyond the $200 million payroll. The issue of the Yankees spending has been debated ad nausuem and while I agree if the Yanks have it and are willing to spend it, they are entitled. However, snatching up players by dangling suitcases full of cash in front of them is not exactly the highest attainment of sport. Think about the money the Yankees have thrown at players during their 6 year "drought" of championships.

**Before anyone goes up in arms about my Mets fandom I feel the same way about the Mets spending $150 million. Besides the fact that the Mets cannot try to win that way (cough Bobby Bonilla) they usually fail outside of Santana to get production. The way for the Mets to thrive is to develop their young talent (like they did with Wright and Reyes) and add smart if a tiny bit pricey free-agents in their need areas (K-Rod). Of course every now and again spending big market money is necessary (get Halladay please).**

Next this Faustian 27th title was also brought in care of two admitted and proven PED users. I do not pretend to think that any team that has had success in the last 10-25 years in baseball did not have users. However, if you like to take the stance of having a clean team, winning with integrity, and the tradition of all who wore the pin stripes, then do not be a hypocrit. When the steroid scandal broke, how many holier than thou Yankee fans were cursing those that would cast a shadow on the sanctity of the game. Now you have the title with two players that lied about their use and then got caught red-handed and gave pathetic apologies. Petitte never faced any punishment for his use, whether it was league imposed or by the media and public. It was interesting how the public quickly misremembered what Andy did. A-Rod is even worse in my opinion. Here is a man who signed the biggest contract in history and juiced his way to an MVP and a spot on the Yankees. He may have been unfairly unmasked as a juicer, but when he was, he faced no penalty other than in the court of public opinion. No fines levied, no contract money returned, no games missed. He jumped right back into the line-up after his injury and was prancing around the bases with the grace of a centaur.

I have accepted the Yankees have won the title and will win more in the coming years, but what I cannot is the attitude of a contingent of their fanbase. It is amusing hearing from the level-headed portion of their fans. They enjoy their team winning, yet they know that it is not as pure as the driven snow. It is time to put aside the fantasy, you no longer play in the house that Ruth built, and it is a simple game of monopoly and the Yankees have more dark yellow bills than anyone else.

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Tuesday, November 17

Hypothetical Questions about Greatness

There's not much to say about Bill Belichick's decision to not punt on fourth down against the Colts that hasn't already been stated, but let's take a look at a few hypothetical questions that may help provide clarity to the issue. First, by choosing not to punt Coach Belichick was illustrating his belief that Peyton Manning would be able to lead the team down the field in two minutes and score. His belief was not unfounded given that Manning had done so in two of the last three drives (one drive was two minutes and four seconds to be accurate) with both drives covering 79 yards. If we take the average punt of New England's Chris Hanson into account, the Colts would've been looking at approximately a 73 yard drive had the Patriots chosen to punt. I say that just to point that Belichick's belief was not unfounded. It's hard not to get fixated on where on the field the decision took place, but let's take a look at some other sports and other situations to compare and see if the coach would be greeted with as much criticism the following day.

Imagine you were a coach facing the Bulls during the 1997-1998 season and were trailing them by one with forty seconds remaining. You've called a timeout and you're getting ready to go into your huddle knowing that your team can't run the clock out, but also knowing that arguably the greatest clutch shooter in your league's history will have a chance to shoot before the game is over. You also know your defense is tired and hasn't been able to stop him all fourth quarter. Do you as a coach draw up a play for your deadeye shooter to take a three even though your team trails by only one? If you don't and you believe Jordan will hit a shot (if needed) haven't you accepted the one point loss? (The Bulls could certainly choose to go for the win with a three pointer, but Jordan was much less proficient from deep particularly at the end of his career meaning either a) he would play for OT b) he would not be taking the three or of course C) He takes it, makes it and you racked your brain for nothing.)

Another hypothetical from baseball:
You're managing a team playing against the Yankees and leading by a run in the bottom of the 8th inning. They have runners on first and third with no outs. They have put a pinch runner on 1st and the number eight hitter at the plate. Do you as a manager pull your infield in to attempt to stop the tying run, knowing that a ball through the infield could potentially allow the go ahead run to reach third? Before you answer keep in mind that your closer has blown two of his last three saves (why is he still your closer? You have no better options, smarty.) and they have Mariano Rivera warming up. If you believe that your team will lose if that runner on third scores, don't you have to do everything you can to keep him from scoring even if it means that the runner on first has a better chance to score if you bring the infield in?

If Belichick believed Manning would score this was essentially the same scenario he found himself in, but neither would be met with the same criticism because of where his team was on the football field. The bottom line is greatness changes everything. It changes how you have your team play if you've got it and it changes how you coach your team if you're going against it. Belichick believed in his quarterback to get it done and he believed in Manning to get it done. He may have made the wrong decision in the game, but it's hard to argue with Bill on that one.

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Sunday, November 15

We're Not Quite Dead Yet

For those faithful few that read our musings on sports I want to take this chance to say that we are still living, no matter how faint our pulse is. The original intent of the this blog was to serve as a lockbox if you will (please say you will) for the philosophies and ideas Catfish and I had about sports. We took many diverse twists and turns in that endeavor, ranging from the attempt to build succesful media presentations to seeking out our niche in the lucrative writing of posts.

Where we land now is a moment of pause and perhaps a deathknell to what we thought was going to be built. Catfish has immersed himself in the building in Charlotte's premeire sports radio shows while I have left town for a professional opportunity in collegiate athletics. This dedication and pursuit of tangible success has left our blog to suffer and for that I am sorry. Once a period of pause and availibilty to suitably express our views on the sports world around us becomes available, then we will likely return. If we do, rest assured it will be with a resolution to put down exactly what our thoughts are without a filter. That means the Catfish article on Deadspin will not be prevented from posting from my end. There have been a few people out there that have taken a few moments to see what we have to say, and that is all you can ask for nowadays. So if you have not abandoned us completely, please keep checking back in a month or so and hopefully we can provide some insight, provoke thought, and perhaps even induce a chuckle.

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Friday, October 30

Your Bully Defense Instruction

Why is Kareem in here for like 5 seconds? Why is candy throwing supposed to be a good plan? If you watch this video, you will ask yourself many questions.

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Tuesday, October 27

The BCS Agenda Delivers the "Best"

It's time once again to take a look at the BCS. Many other bloggers, writers and pundits are playing "what if" with Iowa, USC, TCU, Boise State and others, which is ironic considering the entire system is designed to remove all chance. Last season we took a look at the computer polls, pointing out several of the flaws, while conceding the inherent problems of the polls, but now it's time to take aim at the whole of the system. Often times people will refer to BCS voters having an 'agenda,' here's a look at what that just might mean.

The BCS is the sports version of American Idol minus the teenie boppers voting on their cell phones. It's one big popularity contest. Some talking heads lament the possibility of the dark horses in the National Championship, 'Do you really want to watch Cincinnati vs. Alabama? Ugh', but that's not the way sports works (or should work). We didn't get LeBron-Kobe even though it would've gotten better ratings, because the Cavs lost. We haven't had a Manning Bowl, Yankees-Dodgers world series since 1981 or an all-Canada Stanley Cup Final in twenty years, because sports has no script. The great fallacy of the BCS and why some are tricked into believing the system is either a) working or b) is "better than what we had" lies in the desirability of the match-up. While various fanbases get upset annually, by and large the masses are pleased due to the marquee nature of the Championship Game. Look back at the Finals teams from all the major sports in the last decade. Every one of them has Tampa Bays, Georgia Techs, Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Cardinals and New Jersey Nets sprinkled through out them and yet the BCS has never had a team that's not one of the winningest or iconic programs of the last twenty years. Look quickly at the list of teams that have competed for the crystal football since the BCS came about: Oklahoma (4x), Ohio State (3x), Florida State (3x), Florida (2x), Miami (2x), USC (2x), LSU (2x), Texas, Nebraska, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Not one dark horse program and of those only Virginia Tech is not considered football royalty, but in addition to being one of only two BCS conference teams undefeated that season (going into the bowl) they also had a once-in-a-lifetime dynamic player in Michael Vick. On the flip side, consider the lesser teams that have been part of the discussion, but ultimately left out of the game: Kansas St., Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Auburn, Wisconsin, and Louisville among others. Even among the power players there's a pecking order, with several seemingly deserving teams being hurdled by late season voting shenanigans. There's a reason. College football is the golden goose of sports and the select few who get those golden eggs annually are not interested in sharing.

Another primary difference between the BCS and American Idol; the BCS voters have a vested interest in the outcome. It's difficult to assess how much being a voter for the national championship is worth, but it certainly has value. Being voters for the National Champion gives the pollsters' opinions weight, generates more exposure for them and their employers and therefore puts more money in their pocket. Inserting a non-BCS conference team into the national championship may not be the death knell for the current system, but establishing the precedent could lead to the erosion of the system that gives the writers the current stature they enjoy. Not to go all conspiracy theorist, but the BCS polls being released midway through the season is no coincidence. College football enjoys the most passionate fanbases of any sport in America, other rankings provide us with a general lay of the land week to week and the top teams know from this point on the must win out in order to ensure their place in a BCS bowl. So why do they need to be released? College basketball doesn't seed March madness weeks out and inform us who's in and who's out. Could it not be argued that the BCS is unwilling to take a multi-million dollar gamble by preventing the pollsters from seeing how the rankings stack up before the final week? Let's say Iowa stays perfect and finishes ranked third in the polls behind the SEC and Big 12 champions, but as it stands the computers love the Hawkeyes and could potentially push them into the National Championship game. If you stood to make millions more on a marquee national championship game, particularly in a down economic time, would you take the chance that Iowa could unseat Texas by not releasing the results until the final day? This way pollsters are able to see which teams the computers will eliminate (Boise State) and conversely the pollsters can see which teams the computers love and need to be wary of, so they can justify them down slightly in the polls. Consciously or subconsciously, pollsters will do what they think is needed to ensure the "best" national championship match-up. We saw this manipulation at work last year with Oklahoma receiving a late push in the polls on the strength of the margin of victory over Texas Tech.

Even more so than the voters, the primary TV networks benefit from always having a chalk match-up in the title game. ESPN and CBS both root for the SEC and ESPN has contracts with all of the BCS conferences. If a Mountain West team were to play for a national championship, it would be a tremendous boost to the Versus network. While it seems ludicrous to suggest at this point, but having the National Champion of college football and (dare I say) the NHL would provide a tremendous foothold for Versus towards creating a dent in the juggernaut that is ESPN and we know they don't like competition in Bristol. ESPN loves their "bracket busters" in college basketball, but why not in college football? They want to protect their interest in the big conferences. ESPN stays out of the picture when it comes to non-conference scheduling in college football, but they regularly pitch ideas like the ACC/Big 10 challenge in basketball, because they know those games will be money makers and the conferences need not worry about the impact on teams making the NCAA tournament. In college football, they don't have that luxury and playing such games (after the Kickoff Classic) only serves to potentially hurt their investments. When listening to the talking heads at any of these networks, remember that they themselves are in invested in these conferences and seeing someone else's team in the national championship making the other guy money instead of them, isn't in their best interest. (That said, I believe you will see ESPN slowly turn up the heat on the possibility of a college football playoff, but that's a discussion for another day.)

Discussing the "what if" scenarios of college football through out the season can be equal parts fun and maddening, but in reality few if any of those scenarios have any chance of coming to fruition regardless of the outcomes on the field because they just don't fit the agenda. The big six conferences rely on their guaranteed money from BCS games and are not eager to share and both the voters and the TV networks have vested interests in delivering what those conferences want. Unfortunately, the best sport America has is currently run like Olympic figure skating. Style points and what flag you play under are just as important as performance. There is a man behind the curtain and he has no interest in getting the right National Championship game, only the best one. It's the only way they can keep their money and the masses satisfied. That's the BCS, the Business of College Sports.

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Friday, October 16

It's Friday

RIP Captain Lou

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Wednesday, October 14

Wednesday Links

Above is a graph from EDSBS which was included in a group of charts and graphs to help explain the college football season so far. J12's trip to Target in Blacksburg may cost him a chance to wear the pimp suit to the Heisman presentation.

An interview with John Calipari. [TBL]

The Red Sox have questions, questions that need answering. [Rumors and Rants]

Joe Pos on the ten best hitters of all time. [Joe Posnanski]

People are not happy with LSU's play calling after that anemic display against Florida. [Friends of the Program]

Obligatory Rush Limbaugh NFL ownership post. [Yahoo]

On the heels of Francisco Garcia's injury via Physioball, the dumb injury hall of fame. [Basketbawful]

It's trivia Wednesday. Stadium names are not as iconic as they used to be, so if you struggle with guessing the teams that play in them I understand. [Sporcle]

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Tuesday, October 13

Sometimes You're The Deer, And Sometimes Your The Local Restaurant

This video is pretty amazing. I have watched it several times and am most amazed that the deer knew exactly where the exit doors were. It was like her deer buddies bet her she wouldn't jump through a restaurant window.

via Extra Mustard

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Week 5 NFL De-Cleeting

It seems to be a constant theme this season and every season lately but the urge to criticize officials is almost overwhelming again this week. However, it is a useless endeavor. Not that these individuals should not be held accountable because even officials at the college level make a good amount of money for working a single game but the bad calls are going to happen. No matter ridiculous it is to throw a flag on a penalty before it happens or make a 49-yard penalty call for pass interference when the ball ends up going through the receiver's hands, the calls on the field stand, even if we can't stand it. So read on for the musings on what we saw this past weekend in the NFL because we will not be discussing the officiating,

Something is off

In an interview as the season was getting underway Tom Brady said one thing that really hit home when he went down in week 1 last year was that the game goes on without you when you fall behind. Already this season we have seen the stories of the new generation of QBs; Sanchez, Flacco, Rivers, and now Henne just to name a few. This game is the most popular in our country right now because of the game itself and not the superstars. I have watched just about every snap of the Patriots this season and there was a sense that Brady was a little bit off. After New England dropped its second game of the season to the Broncos in overtime 20-17, it is now clear to anyone who is watching that Brady is off.

I do not know if it is the knee, his head, his marriage, or whatever but Brady is not just missing targets, he is missing scoring opportunities. The Broncos did a great job in the game and McDaniels deserved his celebration at the end of the game but the bottom line is that the Patriots should have won that game. In the first half Brady had Randy Moss wide open on a 3rd and 12 and overthrew him. Overthrow might be an understatement, he was wide f'n open and the pass sailed about 5 yards over his head. No one is saying the Patriots will score like they did in 2007 but that was the kind of play that was automatic. Later in the game Brady missed Welker on a wide open slant that would have been an easy go-ahead touchdown.

Where does Brady go from here? Does he recover like Peyton did last year? Does he struggle the whole year like Donovan after his knee injury? The Patriots are tied for the AFC East at the moment but it still feels like they are on shaky ground. Both of their losses are to AFC teams. Record against conference opponents is an important tie-breaker when it comes to the playoffs and it is one that cost the Patriots a playoff berth last year. The numbers for Brady show a good season, 61.4%, 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 1344 yards, but the missed opportunities are the reason they have dropped 2 of their first 5.

Hogs not High

The Panthers were getting booed mercilessly in the first half of their 20-17 win over the Redskins on Sunday. Carolina fans take a bad rap from the rest of the league because they have not been around as long and they do not do nonsensical things to show their loyalty such as get dumb tattoos, name their kids after players, or mortgage their house in order to see a playoff game. Or maybe they take abuse because they do stuff like this. In any event the Panthers fan base has grown up a lot, especially after last year's 12-4 regular season led to a blowout playoff loss at home to the Cardinals. During the offseason the fans were angry and wanted to see something done in the front office and on the field. But in the first 3 games the Panthers looked next to hopeless. Enter this stretch of their schedule and now 3-3 seems doable. They got past Washington and next have Tampa Bay and Buffalo. We mentioned that Jon Beason was going to talk with Julius Peppers about playing harder for the $1 million he gets per game, and it seemed to work...I guess. Peppers was more aggressive overall, getting a sack and helping to force a safety but still did not look like his motor was going full-time, all the time.

The Redskins have more than likely come to the end of the Jim Zorn era. With 3 games left against the Giants and Eagles, and Denver, Atlanta, New Orleans added in it looks like an 8 loss season. The question is who will Snyder bring in? Or rather what respectable coach wants to play for them? Mike Shanahan is a popular rumored choice but he will want total control like he had in Denver and it is unlikely Snyder will concede that. The Redskins will most likely have to go with an unproven entity which means either it will be a slower turnaround than Snyder wants or the new coach won't be suited to deal with Snyder and Vinny Cerrato's meddling.

Rush of Blood to the Head

I am going to get this out of the way; I do not like Rush Limbaugh. It has nothing to do with his political views and has everything to do with the person. I know he does not care what someone like me would think of him but if it does offend him he should not worry, I don't like many people. The fact that someone like Rush even has enough money to buy a stake in the Rams is laughable yet reality. Something tells me that Limbaugh likes the controversy this has stirred up more than the prospect of being part owner of a horrible team. Players' Union president DeMaurice Smith sent an email to the players asking them to fight this possibility. Why? Are the other owners in the NFL that much more upstanding of citizens? If Rush gets part ownership it is not like he will be leaving conservative leaflets in the players' lockers. As much as I think Rush is an hypocritical windbag he is not trying to get a piece of the Rams for any sort of ideological crusade, the man likes football and has lots and lots of money. In case you were wondering if this whole protest against Rush is starting to get fishy, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have joined the argument.
Who would resound more in speaking out against Rush, Jesse Jackson or Stephen Jackson? Stephen Jackson decided not to comment. This is America folks and if people want to speak out against the Rush bid that is well and good but also realize this is America folks and when people have tons of money, they get to do just about whatever they want.

I guess I should mention the Rams 38-10 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. The Rams are 0-5 and have scored 34 points....the whole year.

Quick Slants:
-Dre Bly did the right thing by apologizing for his jackassery on Sunday. In other news, I believe people should not throw babies off buildings, that would be wrong.

-Rex Ryan is great for a quote, but the wildcat proved itself against a top-notch defense last night. The Dolphins are better off with Henne at QB and are the most dangerous 2-3 team in football.

-Was at the bar when Miles Austin scored the game-winner for the Cowboys in OT. Did not know people could be that happy beating a winless team in overtime but the guy in the Roy Williams (former safety not WR) jersey proved me wrong, stylin'.

-Why did Todd Haley not go for 2? You let a 10 point lead slip through your hands and you are an offensive coach and you're telling me you don't have one perfect play from the 2?

-The Giants look just like they did at the beginning of last year; dominant. How will they look in December and January?

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Friday, October 9

Carolina Panthers: A Cry for Help

Last night Panthers linebacker Jon Beason was on WFNZ's Primetime and had some pointed comments about the effort of fellow captain Julius Peppers. When asked about Jared Allen's performance on Monday Night Football, Beason outlined receiving a call from a teammate and how different the passion Allen plays with is in comparison to Peppers. He refused to identify Pep by name, but it was painfully clear. Beason plans to have dinner with 90 tonight and have a "heart to heart" with the big fella. This was not a player popping off about another, but a cry for help. The Panthers and his defense need him to perform if they hope to have any measure of success this season.

Peppers has long been known in these parts as an enigma that was difficult to reach and this seems like a desperate plea by a desperate leader. Beason and every other member of the team needs to be on the same page and when the highest paid player on the team refuses to try it justifies lackadaisical effort from every other player. As it stands now, 90 has just seven solo tackles, one sack and no tackles for loss. By comparison, WR Steve Smith has three solo tackles. Peppers defenders will point to his lack of interest in playing here, a point he made abundantly clear at the start of the last off-season. It cannot be forgotten, however, that Pep and his agent, Carl Carey, handcuffed the organization by refusing to sign the franchise tender. NFL rules prevented the Panthers from pursuing a trade for him until he signed the tender, which he did not do until the last possible second, past the NFL draft and well into the free agency period. He made the choice to make trading him impossible and he gladly deposits his $1 million dollar checks each week, so expecting him to perform and to help out his teammates is not asking too much.

Critics and analysts were all over Brandon Marshall for his stunt in practice, but as recently as this Sunday, when the team needed a play made, Marshall made it. We've previously asked if Peppers off-season behavior was worse than TO's and here we are again, comparing him to another immature diva receiver and Pep's pitiful performance is far more embarrassing and immature than Marshall's because he's doing it on game day.

On the flip side, there are plenty of critics upset at Beason for choosing a public forum to air dirty laundry, but again this was not calling someone out because of personal differences, this was a cry for help. For many Panther fans, they feel vindicated and relieved that finally someone in the organization has acknowledged exactly what they (we) have felt for the last year. Instead of toeing the company line someone finally broke ranks and spoke up for all the fans as well as all the players who are busting their tail and putting their bodies on the line in that locker room. It will be intriguing to hear the reception Beason gets on Sunday, but also how the other nine players on defense respond. If they come out with fire and a renewed dedication to tackling, can we not assume that Beas was saying exactly what the other players were thinking? Peps lack of passion has been the white elephant in the room for months and finally someone spoke up and perhaps now this team can focus on playing instead of being quietly frustrated that one of their captains is hanging them out to dry.

Hear the entire interview.

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Wednesday, October 7

Proximity is Everything

SN's Bethlehem Shoals previewed the Bobcats yesterday and one particular line stuck out, "Felton's a distant third to Paul and Williams, but third nonetheless.' Now, it seems more and more like he's darn lucky, through an accident of history, to still get discussed in those terms." Felton certainly benefits from being in the same breath with two of the best PGs in the game (who wouldn't accept a bronze in that race), but there are two sides to the proximity coin as has been illustrated over and over in sports.

Ryan Leaf has become the ultimate straw man for NFL busts, but not solely due to his nearly 1:3 touchdown to interception ratio, but also because of who he was drafted immediately behind. The NFL draft was just beginning to receive widespread attention when the Colts selected Peyton Manning, who would go on to win 3 MVPs (edit: 4 if you read this after February 2010) and a Super Bowl instead of a guy whose most notable contribution was his "Don't Talk to Me" rant. Because of the debate of who to pick and how laughable it has become in hindsight Leaf remains at the forefront of people's minds when discussing busts. In actuality, Alex Smith and (based on his current career arc) JaMarcus Russell could easily be considered bigger busts because of the financial investment the Bay area teams made in both young men. Perhaps as these young men finish up their careers we'll look back on them as the biggest busts, but Art Schlichter and Heath Shuler suggest they will fade away into the sea of failed draft selections. While Smith, Russell, Schlichter and Shuler were all top five picks, none have the stigma of being drafted ahead of or in close proximity of a great. With the other quarterbacks selected around them having largely negligible careers, they too become forgettable. Donovan McNabb and to a lesser extent Daunte Culpepper have had solid careers but not on par with Manning and so as a result the three QB busts: Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Cade McNown largely get a pass for their failings. Smith's 5 touchdowns and 13 interceptions are right on pace with Leaf's 14 and 36 respectively, but due to a lack of proximity to greatness Smith avoids the spotlight.

This proximity to greatness or lack there of can also create the illusion of an inflated performance level. There's always a kid who's the most athletic in the neighborhood, but if your cul-de-sac is occupied by pudgy, slow kids, how good they are on the greater scale can be skewed greatly. Look at NBA drafts of the early 2000's. There were so many high schoolers selected because they looked tremendous competing against inferior competition. Consider this the Darius Miles effect. After a solid rookie season, GM's convinced themselves that diamonds in the rough were all over the place, in high schools, international leagues and small colleges. The 2001 draft stands as a beacon of overrated talent with eight international and high school players taken in the first round as well as players from UNC-Charlotte, Okaloosa-Walton Community College, Southern Methodist and Pepperdine. Of those twelve only Pau Gasol and Tony Parker lived up to their draft position (with all due respect to Tyson Chandler who is a distant third). This is not to suggest that great players cannot come from high schools, over seas or small schools, but the lack of great players around them can make them artificially more appealing. Players from powerhouse schools also enjoy a benefit from playing not just against but with superior talent. As a result, many have been drafted much higher than they deserved. I'm looking at you 2005 national championship team. Marvin Williams, Sean May, Rashad McCants and to bring things full circle, Raymond Felton were all drafted high by virtue of playing together.

Some will remember Chris Webber's running mate in Sacramento, fewer will recall Reggie Miller's in Indiana, but everyone remembers MJ's running mate in Chicago. That's the effect of being in the proximity of greatness. We remember the best of the best and being linked to them can be a blessing or a curse. Just ask Wally Pipp, Burt Ward, or Pete Myers.

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