Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Conference Season, Super Bowl, NFL Draft

The Pats are going 19-0. I don't know if I have said it before but even their bad games are better than some teams good games. The thing that stands out to me the most is how often teams get in the red zone and have to settle for field goals. That was the Chargers demise. The Giants do have a remedy for that in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs but they still won't beat the Pats.

As much as I love football season and everything that goes with it, there is no better time than conference basketball season. Football has many great games but they all happen on one or two days of the week.

Every night of the week there is a compelling matchup and a great game to see. If anyone has ESPN Classic, I don't know who does anymore, watch in the mid-afternoon when they play classic games of that night's matchup. The thing to notice is how recent some of the games are. For example, with Texas and Oklahoma St. playing last night, Classic showed last years 105-103 triple overtime game where Kevin Durant proved again the monster ballplayer he is. Last night Georgetown beat Syracuse in OT and Texas edged out OK St. 63-61. The Longhorns don't have Durant anymore but D.J. Augustin is an entertaining player to watch.

Another great thing about confernce season is that almost every game is a battle, except for Memphis. The Tigers do play Tennessee next month in what may be their last test to an undefeated regular season. Case in point, Maryland travels into Chapell Hill and upsets UNC while UCLA loses at home to rival USC. In confernence play there are no gimmies unless you get to play Oregon St. Further, anyone can beat anybody else at home or on the road. So lets enjoy another great season of college hoops before tournament time.

As a side note, I don't know if anyone noticed but the Baylor men's hoops team crashed the top 25 this week. After the Patrick Dennehy murder by a teammate and the Dave Bliss debacle, I or no one else could have imagined the Bears program would be able to bounce back. The Bears decided to hire Scott Drew, the son of Valparaiso coach Homer and brother to Bryce. In four seasons Drew imported point guard Aaron Bruce (10.1 ppg, 2.1 apg) from Austrailia, and convinced Top 25 prep star LaceDarius Dunn (12.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg) to come to Waco. Those two are getting help from Curtis Jerrells (12 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.8 apg), Kevin Rogers (11.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Henry Dugat (12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Tweety Carter (9.2 ppg) their first McDonald's All-American recruit. For more check out this ESPN.com article by Dana O'Neil. It's long but worth it to tell a story as good as this one. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?columnist=oneil_dana&id=3189351

NFL Draft Early Entries
(what I think of the notables; listed alphabetically)

Branden Albert, G, Virginia, Big (6'7 315) and battled tested, he went up against Chris Long everyday in practice.

Adrian Arrignton and Mario Manningham, WRs, Michigan, Makes the big plays and the routine ones, great after the catch and can both go up in traffic.

James Banks, WR, Carson Newman, Franklin Dunbar, OT, Middle Tennessee St., Who?

Earl Bennett, WR, Vanderbilt, Not a burner but a great route runner and has the most catches in SEC history

Martellus Bennett, TE, Texas A&M, Matchup problem in the Jeremy Shockey mold. A better blocker too.

Devone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen, WRs, Hawaii, Not big guys and will be labeled system guys but they can pick up a complicated offense. They also knew their stock could only drop after Colt Brennan left.

Calais Campbell, DE, Miami, huge defensive end that will probobly be picked in the top 20 by a 4-3 team.

Jaamaal Charles, RB, Texas, Great speed but with running backs that were picked low excelling, his stock will drop because he doesn't do anything special.

Ryan Clady, OL, Boise St., Three year starter and twice all-conference

Anthony Collins, OT, Kansas, not sure at all

James Davis, RB, Clemson, Thunder to C.J. Spiller's Lightning and proved he's a power runner that can carry the load. Will drop b/c for same reason as Charles.

Johnny Dingle, DE, West Virginia, a force who proved unblockable in the Fiesta Bowl and can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3.

Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech, solid and physical corner who can play man and in a cover 2, and unlike fellow alums D'Angelo Hallv and Jimmy Williams doesn't think he's better than he is.

Vernon Gohlston, DE, Ohio State, All-American and second DE off the board behind Chris Long.

Letroy Guion, DT, Geno Hayes, LB, Florida St., Fast, physical and athetic talents who could have used another year of coaching. Hayes in particular needs to be more disciplined.

James Hardy, WR, Indiana, playmaker with return skills.

Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida, A playmaker and good pass rusher who needs to put on weight and get stronger.

Erin Henderson, LB, Maryland, Terps leading tackler instinctive and can play inside or out.

Jack Ikegwuonu, CB, Wisconsin, Badgers best cover man and all-confernce pick.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal, Great return skills and a decent receiver. Willl run fast at combine but can he be a team guy?

Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas, D-Mac's running mate is a strong runner with home run speed and great kick return skills. Second round pick.

Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma, Big (6'4 219) with great hands and decent speed. He and the Michigan guys will be compared throughout the process but he's much bigger and not as fast.

Justin King, CB, Penn St., Makes plays and has good cover skills.

Xavier Lee, QB, Florida St., Great athlete with all of the tools who was never able to hold on to the starting job due to discipline problems and trouble grasping the playbook.

Curtis Lofton, LB, Oklahoma, great tackler who can make plays sideline-to-sideline. Only defender who came to play against West Virginia.

Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee, does a lot of things well but does nothing great.

Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas, the best running back in the draft can also return kicks.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois, Adds to the depth of the draf t his position and showed homerun ability all season.

Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson, DaJuan Morgan, S, N.C. State, Lamar Lyles, LB, Louisville, Orlando Scandrick, CB, Boise St., Taj Smith, WR, Syracuse, you tell me about these guys because I don't know who they are.

Michael Oher, LT, Ole Miss, Poor man's Tony Ugoh.

Brandon Ore, RB, Virginia Tech, Talent has never been a question with him, discipline has.

Kenny Phillips, S, Miami, add his name to the list of UM defenders making great plays in the show.

Chilo Rachal, OG, USC, John David Booty was clean all season, and USC ran the ball at will. This guy is one of the reasons why.

Bobby Reid, QB, Oklahoma St., remember that Mike Gundy rant, this is the player it was about. Great athletic tools for Reid but his toughness and composure will be questioned.

Darius Reynaud, WR, West Virginia, great speed and has return skills, but not much more than a third or fourth receiver.

Pat Sims, DT, Auburn, first team conference pick right in the middle of one of the nation's best defenses.

Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia, He's fast and can take it to the house but can he carry the load.

Kevin Smith, RB, UCF, Put up huge numbers against second tier competition, 3rd round pick at best, there are too many good runners.

Reggie Smith, CB, Oklahoma, physical corner with return skills as well.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon, Great talent with power and homerun speed. Good receiver out of the backfield. Second or third running back in this draft.

Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas, great cover skills who took his talent to the offensive side of the ball and scored four TD's.

Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan St., Don't know anything about him.

Mario Urrita, WR, Louisville, not sure why he came out but will cause matchup problems becuase of his size (6'6 228).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hoops Season and The Season I'm not talking About

I make the NFL talk really quick. I can't believe the Chargers beat the Colts at home. The first drive made it seem like the Colts would have their way San Diego. Peyton started out 14-14 and looked on his way to a Tom Brady day, but his team couldn't get the plays to get them over the hump. I have always said that Brady and Manning are even and while I would take either one of them, I have to say Brady might have been able to take his team to the win unlike Peyton. When Brady is down and needs that one drive he always comes up big.

After the Jags had to settle for a field goal on one of their drives, I knew they had no chance to beat the Pats.

Way to come back Ryan Grant. Two fumbles on his first three touches that lead 14 points for the Seahawks. He bounces back to finish with 201 yards and three touchdowns. Teams need to be able to run the ball in the cold that routinely envelopes the north this time of year, and Grant is doing that better than anybody in the league since week 8.

I'm happy the Cowboys lost. As an Eagles fan I didn't want either one of my team's division rivals to win but I was happy to see the Cowboys lose. Tony Romo smiles too much and of course my hatred for T.O. was the x-factor. It made my week to see T.O. up on the podium crying. I like when he said he has always supported his quarterback, I think Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb could attest to that.

Conference season got off with a bang. I watched the Clemson vs UNC game from last Sunday and the game was great. Wayne Ellington kept UNC undefeated with a three in overtime to win the game. He exploded for a career high 34. I watched UNC again on Saturday and they definitely looked like the number one team in the land. They manhandled N.C. State by almost 40. The Georgetown/UConn had some high drama as well. 7-foot-2 inch Roy Hibbert hit the game winning three with four seconds left on the clock. There is always more conference season to watch and ESPN does a great job of force feeding the big six conferences down our throats with some help from Fox Sports Net regional coverage among others. At 7 and 9 Monday through Thursday they give us quality matchups.

Tonight Pittsburgh defeated Georgetown, and Kansas is flexing their muscles against Oklahoma. The Sooners lost stud freshman Blake Griffin but seem to be hanging in there with the Jayhawks.

Tuesday has Ohio State at 11Michigan State, 17Wisconsin at Penn State, N.C. State at 23Clemson and 24Miami at BC. Wake Forest also plays Maryland, Nebraska at Colorado, Kentucky at Mississippi State, Oklahoma State plays Baylor and in a Big Five Matchup LaSalle plays Pennsylvania. If you have nothing to do Wednesday Gonzaga plays at Pepperdine at midnight.

Wednesday features four of the top 10 teams in the country playing. 1UNC plays at Georgia Tech, 2Memphis at Rice, 5Duke plays at Florida State, and 9Texas A&M at Texas Tech. Florida goes to 15 Ole Miss, UMass at 18Dayton, 20Xavier at Temple and DePaul at 21 Villanova.

In other games Rutgers visits Syracuse, VT and UVA battle over the Commonwealth, Missouri plays Iowa State and Purdue goes to Iowa.

Tomorrow I'll discuss the NFL Draft early entries after the list is final.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

End of College Football = Beginning of Conference Season

I left off at 16-11 after Georgia dismantled Hawaii in the Bowl. Many people are picking UGA as the preseaon number 1 for next year and rightfully so. They return quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, and three freshmen on the offensive line. They also return eight defensive starters. But I prefer to wait until all of the players declare for the draft and all of the letters of intent are signed and faxed. Then and only then can we predict next year's preseason rankings.

West Virginia showed me something in their 48-28 dismantling of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. I have been very critical of Pat White for how he figures out a way to get hurt in the Mountaineers big games. West Virginia played without Steve Slaton most of the game and still racked up 349 rushing yards. Freshman Noel Devine (a Florida boy for those who don't believe we have the best talent around) ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns. White ran for 150 while throwing for 176 and another two scores. The question the Mountaineers have to answer for next season is can they continue to put up the same offensive numbers without many key components, mainly their coaches. Also, can they continue to win even though they will lose many key defensive players. My record 16-12.

Kansas finally got a season defining win. All season everyone, myselfe included, has been knocking their weak schedule. By beating Virginia Tech 24-21 in the Orange Bowl, they beat a quality team. The Jayhawk defense played great scoring a touchdown on an Aqib Talib interception return and allowing just 306 yards of offense to the Hokies. They also registered five sacks. Their three interceptions led to 17 points. If they had figured out a way to stop Brandon Ore who rushed for 116 yards in three quarters, they could have crushed the Hokies. All night during the game my roommate Tom and I kept waiting for the Hokies to go on a run and make a big special teams play. Even thought VT got it with an 84 yard punt return by Justin Harper on a reverse to make the score 17-14 in the third, the Jayhawks never lost composure. They even came up with a couple of big special teams plays of their won when Joe Mortensen blocked a field goal and even executed a perfect fake punt. The Jayhawks are certainly going to lose Talib to the pros, but can they use this year to sustain excellence or was it just an abberation? While they avoided the Big 12 South's best teams, next year they play Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. My record 16-13.

I didn't pick either the International Bowl or the GMAC Bowl but both were blowouts that hardly any paid attention to. We'll call those a push.

In the championship game that I'm sure everyone watched, LSU showed Ohio State (and Mr. Ananymous who loves to comment but won't leave his name, Bill) who the best team was. The Bucks made some serious mistakes but they didn't all decide the game. The game looked a lot like last year's with OSU jumping out to an early 10-0 lead only to fade later. Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes, two to seldom used tight end Richard Dickson and one each to Early Doucet and Brandon LaFell.

OSU got it started with a 65 yard run by Beanie Wells and a field goal by Ryan Pretorious. LSU bounced back with a field goal by Colt David followed by Flynn's first TD pass to Dickson.

OSU looked they were going to score right back but Ricky Jean-Francois blocked a field goal that led to Flynn's TD pass to LaFell. The key play was a drop in the endzone by OSU receiver Brian Robiske.

OSU qb Todd Boeckman was then picked off by Chevis Jackson and Jacob Hester socred on a one yard run to make the score 24-10.

The Bucks made i the game interesting for a while but I think once they got down they couldn't recover. They didn't have it in them to recover and their body language showed it. Depending on who comes back (Laurinitis, Golston, Jenkins) the Bucks should be right in it again. LSU on the other hand had a senior laden team and their young defense will have to grow up fast if they want to repeat. My final record 17-13-2. Pretty bad.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Clemens and the Title Game

So Roger Clemens is about to speak to the media for the first time since the Mitchell Report came out. Clemens was on 60 Minutes last night and vehemently denied using any performance-enhancing drugs and last night filed a defamation lawsuit last night against his former trainer Brian McNamee. Clemens will again deny the allegations. McNamee is considering filing a counter-suit. Both have been called to testify in front of Congress on January 16 so this story is not any where near over.

Now onto the Title game. LSU is finally healthy, OSU has a chip on their shoulder. LSU will win in a really close game.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Football and More Football

Now that the New Year has come and gone, college football is winding down and the NFL is working its way into finding their new champion (it will be the Patriots).

As far as bowl picks go, I did pretty crampy once New Year's Eve came. Going into Monday I was 11-4 but Monday's game were bad to me.

I started off ok as Cal was able to hang on and beat Air Force. The Falcons opened the game the way I expected it to happen. They were happy to be their playing while the Golden Bears were going through the motions. Air Force jumped out to a 21-0 lead before Cal put in backup quarterback Kevin Riley. Riley came in during the second quarter and threw for 269 yards and three touchdowns while also running for a touchdown to lead the Cal comeback and get the win 42-36. My record 12-4.

Here's where it gets ugly. I thought USF's defense, the one that shut down West Virginia, would be able to slow down Oregon. Especially since the Ducks didn't have the services of Dennis Dixon. The game wasn't even close as the Bulls had no answer for Ducks running back Jonathan Stewart who finished with 253 yards and a touchdown while freshman quarterback Justin Roper threw for four scores to lead Oregon to a 56-21 blowout win. The Ducks broke the game open with a 28 point third quarter. My record 12-5.

At least one FSU did me proud on Monday as Fresno State was able to beat Georgia Tech 40-28 in the Humanitarian Bowl. GT had to play from behind as the Bulldogs reeled off 27 straight points between the end of the first and the beginning of the third quarter. The Jackets did battle back to make it 34-28 with 13 minutes left in the fourth on the backs of some young players like quarterback Calvin Booker, but ran out of gas. My record 13-5.

Florida State kept the game closer than many people imagined but lost to Kentucky 35-28. Wildcat quarterback Andre Woodson threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns in leading his team to victory. The Seminole defense kept them in the game by forcing turnovers but finally ran out of gas and made a few dumb plays (yeah I mean you Geno Hayes) to let the Wildcats get their 35 points. I do feel ok about next season for the Noles depending on the suspensions and how they play out, but with many of the guys who played in the game coming back, I hope FSU can get it back together and contend for the conference title. My record 14-5.

I thought Indiana would have a chance to win based on their emotional season after losing their coach Terry Hoeppner to a brain tumor. I was wrong as Oklahoma State won 49-33 in the Insight Bowl. I don't even know what happened in this game because it was broadcast on the NFL Network and no one has it. I do known the Cowboys won. I do know that Zac Robinson had a huge game passing for 306 yards and running for 70 more. My record 14-6.

I said that Auburn's offense would not be able to score enough points to beat Clemson but they put up 423 yards of offense and won 23-20 after an OT touchdown run by quarterback Kody Burns. Burns threw for a touchdown and led Auburn in rushing with 69 yards. Anyone who has watched Troy play in recent years knows the numbers that Trojan quarterback Omar Haughabrook put up. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will have Burns making the same kind of plays for the next three years on the plains. My record 14-7.

First things first, thank you Phillip Fulmer for not bringing out the all orange uniforms in the Outback Bowl. It seems that Erik Ainge has been at Tennessee forever and he closed out his career with a 356 yard day as the Vols beat Wisconsin 21-17. Another game I got wrong and didn't watch much of except for the last drive. My record 14-8.

In the Cotton Bowl I was prepared to watch the two Heisman finalists Chase Daniel of Missouri and Darren McFadden of Arkansas, I was treated to the Tony Temple show as he ran for a Cotton Bowl record 281 yards and four touchdowns. The Tigers wore out Arkansas 38-7. I hope Arkansas has enjoyed their time with D-Mac and Felix Jones because I think they both will be gone. McFadden will most likely be a top-10 pick and Jones has to know that his stock won't get any better without McFadden to take the pressure off. Back to the game, the Razorbacks never looked in it from the start as Mizzou had their way with them. My favorite part of the game was Temple scoring his last touchdown he cramped up at the five yard line. One of his lineman scooped him up in his arms and carried him off the field. My record 14-9.

It looked like I would be wrong again as Virginia held a two touchdown lead with three minutes to go in the Gator Bowl. Texas Tech finally broke out of their funk to win the game 31-28 on a last second field goal by Alex Trlica. Graham Harrell continued to put up the crazy numbers passing for 407 yards and three touchdowns. UVA seemed in control until they lost quarterback Jameel Sewell. Harrell will be back next season to put up the crazy numbers. My record 15-9.

Nice way to send off Lloyd Carr Michigan, even if I did pick against them. The Wolverines won 41-35 after the Gators last effort fell short. Tim Tebow continued the Heisman jinx by picking a bad time to play a "bad" game. Tebow still threw for three touchdowns but he was under pressure all game. The game was back and forth the entire game with Mike Hart fumbling twice after fumbling only three time his entire career, Chad Henne threw two interceptions. The Michigan seniors were able to finally win a bowl game and cap their careers. Percy Harvin started his audition for the Heisman next season with 165 yards rushing and a touchdown to go with another 77 receiving and a touchdown. Also of note, my cousing Lutrel Alford, who is a 300 pound defensive lineman, returned a kickoff seven yards. My record 15-10.

USC rolled Illinois 49-17 proving once again that the Rose Bowl needs to stop picking their coveted Big 11 vs Pac-10 matchups. Illinois never looked in the game as USC outclassed them the entire game. My record 16-10.

I thought Colt Brennan and Hawaii's offense would still be able to put up points but they looked just as bad as Illinois. The Bulldogs dominated from start to finish in a 41-10 win. Brennan was under siege all night and did not look like a Heisman contender. Time will tell if Brennan has the game to play on Sundays.

Now that college football is over, time for big conference basketball to season to start.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Orange Bowl

I know I got last night's game extremely wrong, but tonight will be different. Kansas has been the Cinderella story of the season but they didn't play anyone that good. And when they did Missouri beat them pretty badly. Virginia Tech, even though they are missing linebacker Vince Hall because of a "beach injury,"will beat Kansas.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Fiesta Bowl

West Virginia is playing without their coach while Oklahoma wants to make sure people forget about the game last year. Oklahoma has too much defense for the Mountaineers and get a close win.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Bowls

I missed the beginning of the Outback Bowl so I can't pick it. I think Wisconsin will win though.

Capitol One Bowl

Florida will beat Michigan

Cotton Bowl

D-Mac will lead Arkansas to victory over Missouri

Gator Bowl

Texas Tech willl pass all over Virginia and win. But watch Chris Long the defensive end from UVA.

Rose Bowl

USC will rock Illinois.

Sugar Bowl

Hawaii will put up points but Georgia will win.