Thursday, November 20, 2008


472 yards rushing against a D that only gave up 23 points and 345 total yards to Florida? And we gave up how many yards to that freshman Kentucky QB on the option? Scary.

I'm not feeling as good about 8 in a row as I was a few months ago.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Set your TiVos

The Nightman cometh on Thursday.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

General Bowl Predictions

Looks like a Disney New Years for UGA. Dawg fans hoping for the Cotton Bowl need to learn the rules. The BCS will likely take both Alabama and Florida. Capital One picks first of the remaining SEC teams. Even if we lose to Tech, I don't see the erstwhile Citrus Bowl picking 3-loss LSU over us. But if they did take the Bayou Bengals, the Cotton can't take an SEC East team until the Outback Bowl chooses one first. Thus, LSU and presumably South Carolina would have to be more attractive than Georgia for us to go to Dallas.

For the best possible bowl matchup, Dawg fans should root for both Oregon State and USC to win out. If those two "top" Pac-10 teams win the rest of their games, both will go to the BCS, leaving the Big 10 with only 1 BCS team, and the Dawgs would face the Buckeyes or Penn State (if they lose to Michigan State). If one or both of those Pac 10 teams lose, that would open the door for a Big 10 non-champion to go to the Fiesta, and Georgia would probably face Michigan State in Mousetown.

Here's how I see things shaking out for the BCS and SEC tie-in bowls:

BCS Championship: Texas Tech v. Florida
Rose Bowl: Oregon State v. Penn State
Fiesta Bowl: Texas v. Southern Cal
Sugar Bowl: Alabama v. Cincinnati
Orange Bowl: Maryland v. Utah

Capital One Bowl: Georgia v. Ohio State
Cotton Bowl: LSU v. Oklahoma
Outback Bowl: South Carolina v. Michigan State
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Vanderbilt v. some ACC chump
Liberty Bowl: Kentucky v. some Conference USA chump
Music City Bowl: Ole Miss v. some ACC chump
Independence Bowl: Non SEC v. some irrelevant chump Bowl: Non SEC v. some irrelevant chump

Yep. I predict the SEC will be 2 teams shy of fulfilling their contractual tie-ins. The only teams not listed above that could become bowl eligible are Auburn if they beat Alabama (yeah, right), and Arkansas if they beat both Mississippi State and LSU (unlikely).

I heard Kirk Herbstreit on the radio last week say that he thinks his Buckeyes would go to the Sugar to face the loser of the SEC Championship Game. That statement shows his fundamental misunderstanding of how the BCS works.

There are ten BCS slots. 6 are automatic conference champs (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac 10, and SEC). We can safely assume that the SEC and the Big XII will each get an extra BCS team. That leaves two spots, and this year, one is reserved for Cinderella. Because of the mediocrity of the ACC and Big East, it is all but certain that there will be a BCS buster this year. Even if Utah, Boise, and Ball State each lose all of their remaining games, BYU would very likely be in the Top 16 and ranked above the champion of one or both the ACC and Big East. (BYU and Utah's only remaining game is against each other). That leaves the last spot for either a second Pac 10 team or a second Big 10 team, but not both.

It's possible for Ohio State to go to the Rose or Fiesta, but the Sugar is simply too long a shot. If Penn State loses to Michigan State, and Ohio State beats Michigan, then the Buckeyes go to Pasadena. If that doesn't happen, Ohio State should hope for an Oregon State loss, sending USC to the Rose, raising the chance for the Buckeyes to be selected by the Fiesta.

For Ohio State to go to the Sugar, the Fiesta would have to decide not to take Ohio State, and instead choose either a BCS party-crasher (the highest ranked of Utah/Boise/Ball St./BYU) or the Big East champ (likely the winner of Pitt v. Cincy). Not bloody likely.

Let me explain my predictions above, and it may shed some light on the procedure, for Herbsreit's edification:

#1 and #2 go to the BCS championship. The bowl that "loses" the #1 team picks next. I predict Texas Tech to win the Big XII and be #1 in the final BCS standings. The Fiesta would pick Texas for their first slot. Assuming Florida wins the SEC and sits at #2, the Sugar picks next to replace the SEC champ, and they will take Alabama.

The Rose Bowl will have the Pac 10 champ against the Big 10 champ. Oregon State controls its own destiny. The road is tough with its final two games against teams with winning records (which are rare in the Pac 10). First they play at Arizona (6-4), then finish the season at home in the Civil War against archrival Oregon (8-3). Making things even tougher, the Ducks have a week off to prepare while the Beavers duel in the desert with the Wildcats. Still, I think Jaquizz and the boys will win their way to Pasadena to face Paterno and PSU.

The ACC champ automatically goes to the Orange. I'm guessing Maryland, but it could just as easily be any of a bunch of other equally mediocre teams.

The final three slots are on a yearly rotation, with this year the order being Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. The Big East champion must be selected at some point, as must the highest ranked team from a non-BCS conference if they are in the top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of a BCS conference champ, which I predict will be Utah. The Fiesta also could select an at-large team, i.e., any team in the top 14 whose conference does not have two teams already slotted. If what I predict above is correct, then USC and Ohio State are really the only contenders for the last at-large bid. USC is ranked much higher, beat tOSU head-to-head, and its fan-base is closer to Glendale, so I see the Trojans getting the nod to face Texas. (This is what sends the Buckeyes to Orlando to face Georgia).

After the Fiesta picks, the Sugar has only two options. It must pick either (1) the "Cinderella" which will probably be Utah or (2) the Big East champ, which I predict will be Cincinnati with a win over Pitt. Even though Utah would be ranked ahead of the Bearcats, simple economics come into play. Although "Mormon" and "Bourbon" loosely rhyme, the two don't really go together, and Utah fans won't spend as much in the French Quarter as the Big East blue-collar boozers. If, however, Florida loses to Alabama, the Sugar Bowl may select Utah over the winner of Pitt/Cincy to set up Urban Meyer against his old team, but I doubt that is enough of a pull to overcome the money matters.

Whichever of those two that the Sugar doesn't pick will face the ACC champ in the Orange Bowl.

Are there other possibilities? Sure. In my list above, Bama and Florida are interchangeable, depending on the outcome in Atlanta. The SEC champ's opponent is still up in the air, too. If the Big XII South representative wins the conference championship game in Kansas City, they'll win the opportunity to play for the Crystal Pigskin. I predict Texas Tech, but if Oklahoma beats the Red Raiders and Okie State, the Big XII South will decided by highest BCS ranking among Texas Tech, Texas, and Oklahoma. My guess is Texas would then sneak in to play Mizzou, but Oklahoma might overcome their head-to-head loss to Texas with an impressive final-week win over Oklahoma State. Regardless of who wins that mysterious tiebreaker, if the Big XII North can pull out the upset in KC, that would pull the pin on this year's BCS exploding shit grenade. USC could then sneak back into the title game, unless the Beavers prevent the Trojans from winning their conference, in which case Penn State may have new life. But why not let an undefeated Utah jump all 1-loss teams to face the SEC champ in that scenario?

So there's still a lot yet to be seen, including whether Kirk Herbstreit will ever learn the rules. I'm looking forward to some colossal games in the coming weeks, particularly Oklahoma v. Texas Tech and Florida v. Alabama, as well as the State Championship game in Athens on 11/29.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Briefly on Sports Punditry

I've been following the English Premier League far more closely than in previous years, and one of the things I've noticed about the people who cover the sport is that there is a remarkable division of ability and talent among pundits and opinioneers over in England, and how that compares to American sports.  

For one thing, the play by play and in-game commentators are for the most part sensational.  I'm not talking about the FSC or GOLTV people who provide the commentary from a basement studio 8000 miles from the games they're covering.  I mean the English guys on site.  They know when to keep their mouths closed and let the game happen.  They know that they don't have to explain every last thing that is happening, because they know that they are on television and if you are watching you can figure some things out for yourself.  They have a vocabulary larger than that of a fifth grader.  They aren't, for the most part, former athletes who have some limited training in broadcasting, but rather professional broadcasters who know what they're doing.  There are no Tony Siragusas on hand.  The broadcasters are apparently praised and promoted for their intelligence and for being concise.  

Second, the studio show pundits in England are every bit as foolish as American sports pundits. They relentlessly focus on intangibles and personalities.  There are forced disputes.  There is talking over one another and extending statements to remain on camera longer.  The things that are wrong about American studio pundits are just as wrong in England.

But for the American viewer of the sport, it's not that hard to avoid those shows.  One can only watch games and follow stories online.  And that brings me to the best part about English football punditry: the written word.  

Football writers in England are incisive, smart, thoughtful and unafraid.  The strength of the press in England has created an entirely different relationship between the individuals involved in the sport and the journalists.  There isn't a symbiotic relationship.  Writers are tough enough to get stories without relying on the public relations people for various clubs.  And this provides a far greater freedom for the writers - but one that the writers don't need to abuse.  There isn't a need to write things that are inflammatory to draw attention.  For some reason, in England, the better writing and more intelligent takes draw attention, rather than the most salacious or offensive.  Now, of course, I'm painting in broad strokes (of course there are bad writers in the tabloids).  The thing is that I can find several really good national writers on English football.  I'm not sure I can find more than one or two American mainstream media writers whose pieces are salient.   

Here's a comparison.

Read this column on Harry Redknapp by Russell Brand.  Russell Brand is a comedian, a damned ridiculous character.  And this column is interesting, well-written and raises a few salient points on the true effect of a coach that apply to any sport.  Read through the Guardian's archives for other pieces by Brand.  They're all interesting, well-written and salient.  The odd thing about this is that this guy is a comedian.  He's not the dean of pundits over there, or anything even close to it.  Yet his columns are better than just about any national writer over here I can think of. 

Now go do a google search for sports columns by American comedian Jay Mohr.  I can't bear myself to look for them to link to them.  Russell Brand's column is what they have.  15 year old stale jokes, cliches and forced edginess is what we have.

Luckily there are writers over here that are trying to elevate the discourse.  A lot of them are in the blog world.  It's time for mainstream media outlets to realize that readers want better than what has been offered.  Coverage of American sports can be a whole lot better.  The dwindling readership and audience for several outlets should drive those outlets to do better.