Saturday, September 24, 2011

NFL Picks - Week 3

First, apologies once again for the lack of posts. Hectic week. Second, advance apologies for the lack of posts in the coming weeks. Power's out because we ain't pay the bills and once it comes back on, academic shit starts getting real. But I'll be sure to throw up the NFL picks every week and I'll find a way to bang out a Power Rankings post once we hit the quarter pole. The lesson? The NFL's the best.

Anyway, last week was another awful 9-7 week that could've been far better if any or all of the Raiders, Vikings, 49ers or Eagles didn't collapse. Or if the Ravens actually showed up to play. Changing up the approach for the picks this week as the analysis will come in Twitter form: 140 characters on the dot. Because so far, we've learned that when it comes to me trying to analyze football, less is better. Let's go to work.

New England at Buffalo
Don't get fooled by this Bills start; learn from 2008. If Brady keeps playing like this, the rest of the league's playing for second place.

San Francisco at Cincinnati
Really hard pick; home team I guess. A.J. Green is a boss. No wonder Jerome Simpson smokes so much kush - he ain't the # 1 receiver no mo.

Miami at Cleveland
Wanted to roll the dice on the Fish; couldn't & will regret it. For Browns' sake, Hillis better play. Thinking ugly one w/ dramatic finish.

Denver at Tennessee
Still not sure if they're any good but they're 1-1 & almost 2-0 w/ NOTHING from CJ. Can they win AFC South? They should at least win this.

Detroit at Minnesota
Talk about 2 teams from the same division going in completely opposite directions. Lions to the Divisional round looking better and better..

Houston at New Orleans
If you're in a Loser Suicide pool & you haven't used Houston yet, it's time to. Saints look like the only ones in NFL who can hang w/ Pats.

New York Giants at Philadelphia
I'm facing Vick in fantasy this week. This is my only 1:00 game. Think I might keep catching up on Breaking Bad during it. Best show on TV.

Jacksonville at Carolina
No matter what, we should have fun talking points about the QB's. Gabbert's line: 16/24, 219 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT, falls just short on GW drive.

New York Jets at Oakland
Love the Raiders run game, just not in this matchup. Jets look quite good. Sanchez won't be eating a hot dog on the sideline this time, tho.

Baltimore at St. Louis
After the sports weekend I've had, I'm disappearing from society if we lose this game. Good thing Ray Rice might very well go for 100 & 100.

Kansas City at San Diego
Looks like "pick against the Chiefs every week possible" might be the way to go in Suicide. Uh oh, Chargers -14.5 might cause my relapse....

Green Bay at Chicago
I'm so glad this is an epic rivalry again. Hopefully Chicago QB's stay healthy this time. Praying for a Kuhn TD - yes I start him in a league.

Arizona at Seattle
Looks like "pick against the Seahawks every week possible" might also be the way to go in Suicide. Put in Charlie Whitehurst already, jesus.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay
Big game for the Bucs; they get another crack at taking a step up in NFC South. Hopefully it doesn't end like this or this. But it will...

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
Goody, another game I (and everyone else) get that I don't wanna watch! Wish the Colts would shock me (and everyone else) but they won't :(

Washington at Dallas
Really intriguing MNF game - we needed one after that steaming turd last wk. Gotta believe that the Skins on MNF are still the Skins on MNF.

Friday, September 16, 2011

NFL Picks - Week 2

Well, that was predictably a disaster.

What looked to be one of the most difficult weeks to predict in a long time turned out to of the most difficult weeks to predict in a long time. The Buffalo Bills scored 41 points. Cam Newton threw for 422 yards, a rookie record. Both of these things happened on the road. The Pittsburgh Steelers turned the ball over 7 times. The Indianapolis Colts trailed the Houston Texans 34-0 at the half. Tony Romo choked away a game in the clutch.

Alright, fine, that last one was predictable.

You get the point though. I didn't even mention the Bengals, the least popular correct Suicide pick on Yahoo, shocking the Browns, the second most popular incorrect (other than that Kansas City team, who put me to the sword in week 1 for the millionth year in a row) or Chad Henne (a) throwing for 416 yards in a legally sanctioned NFL game and (b) having that be the second most passing yards in the a hundred and one yards. In related news, Tom Brady is God.

So where does that leave us? Well from the perspective of a Ravens fan, it was nice having the feeling that the AFC goes through Baltimore for all of 24 hours before Brady and co. did their thing. As for the NFC, the Packers and Saints obviously looked like offensive juggernauts and perhaps one of the prime candidates for a week 1 flop considering all the preseason hype, the Eagles, looked like the "dream team" they've been dubbed as by Vince Young and the national media.

New England the class of the AFC. Philly, Green Bay and New Orleans the powers in the NFC (maybe Chicago as well, but lest we forget that the Falcons are the Hawai'i of the NFL - just a night-and-day different team away from home.)

Maybe things weren't all that surprising after all.

Anyway, here are the week 2 picks. On the bright side for me, it's hard to do worse than I did last week. With that silver lining in mind, let's go.

Last Week - 9-7
Season - 9-7

Oakland at Buffalo
This is dumb and I know this is dumb. But the Bills are just due for a letdown. Kind of like with Ravens/Steelers last week, I'll believe the Buffalo Bills are a well-oiled machine of a football team when I see it for more than just one game. On a more logical level, I believe in Oakland's two-headed running game of McFadden and Michael Bush, and their defense still looks solid even without Nnamdi Asomugha. Yeah, Denver looks like one of the frontrunners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes but that was still an impressive performance. I'm a firm believer in the "don't take the team that's playing on the opposite coast" rule and it's excabarated in this case because the Raiders played a 10:15 PM Monday night game...but I can't shake this gut feeling that they're rolling in to Buffalo and giving the Bills a dose of reality.

Kansas City at Detroit
On the bright side, my sleeper Lions pick is looking damn good. That was an impressive win in Tampa. I briefly considered the Chiefs for the same "the Lions might just be ready for a dose of reality" logic (or "logic") but there are two problems here: (1) the Lions seem to actually be a damn good football team and (2) the Chiefs seem to actually be a damn bad one. When I saw that stat that the Chiefs have lost their last three home games by an aggregate score of 102-24, I knew that I should've seen this coming. They were always a fraud last season - the beneficiaries of San Diego's bizarre, "1st in offense, 1st in defense, bad enough on special teams to miss the playoffs" season and Oakland's unbeaten record against divisional foes and putrid record against everyone else. Both of those teams should've been better than they were, the Chiefs should've been worse and in the early goings in 2011, that's proving true. With Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki done for the year, the Chiefs may have just thrown their hat in to the Andrew Luck ring.

Baltimore at Tennessee
As a Ravens fan, I'm a little worried about this. Here are our last 5 meetings with the Titans: 13-10 playoff upset in Tennessee in 2008 (with the help of a referee ignoring a playclock); a 13-10 loss at home earlier in 08, a 27-26 escape at Tennessee in 2006 on a blocked field goal against a far inferior Titans team, a 25-10 shock week 2 loss in Tennessee (hmm) and the 10-7 playoff loss at home in 03 when Gary Andersen kicked the game winning field goal with under 30 seconds to play. No, I'm not finding all of those hyperlinks because many of those aren't the fondest of memories. The point is that the Ravens and Titans have had a nasty rivalry going back to the McNair/George days and while those two are long gone, this could be closer than the experts think. But if we were finally able to blow out the Steelers, Matt Hasselbeck doesn't seem to have much hope (even though Kenny Britt terrifies me.)

Cleveland at Indianapolis
Well, then. The Colts...well, they just look awful. Then again, the Browns didn't look too great either and let's remember that the Texans might very well be a solid team this season. I'm gonna play the stubborn card again - I'll believe the Colts are bad enough to lose to a team like the Browns at home when I see it. But do I feel good backing Kerry Collins? No. No I do not. So as Bill Simmons would say: "So there."

Tampa Bay at Minnesota
Interesting game. The Vikings got out well in San Diego before collapsing to the greatest game of Mike Tolbert's career (which of course sunk me in fantasy) and the Bucs got out poorly at home to Detroit before nearly staging a furious comeback. Tough pick, which means the smart money's on the home team. But this is very winnable for Tampa, particularly if Donovan McNabb throws for less than 40 yards again. Also worth noting that the pressure may be more on the Vikings in this game - in their division, Green Bay and Chicago look as good as they did last season if not better and the Lions look to be a contender as well. If they lose at home to a team that Detroit beat on the road last week then that's a really bad sign. Gut feeling though is that they win and that Adrian Peterson goes off. Hope I'm right - for the sake of these picks and fantasy.

Chicago at New Orleans
For me, this is an easy pick. The Bears can make a serious NFC statement with a win here...but this is on the indoor track in the Superdome, which clearly favors the Saints. Drew Brees probably won't be sacked five times, toss an interception and fumble like Matt Ryan did last week, particularly not on his home field. I have to admit though that Jay Cutler and co. looked better than I and I think most other people expected. Matt Forte looks like a guy who had one disappointing season (the one season I had him in fantasy, naturally) and is among the best all-around backs in the league. I think it's those two and not the defense who are the keys to the season. But in this game, I don't think they can keep up.

Jacksonville at New York Jets
Another easy one. There aren't many games in which Mark Sanchez is far and away the better quarterback. This is one of them. To his credit, Luke McCown didn't turn the ball over last week - which is a net win for the Jaguars - but that was at home against Tennessee. In the Meadowlands against Rex Ryan's defense? Different story. The Jets will stack the box against Maurice Jones-Drew and dare McCown to beat them and he won't. The Sanchez-led offense will need to play better than it did on Sunday night against the Cowboys, though - if not in this game than going forward.

Seattle at Pittsburgh
For the few people left in suicide (the ones who used up the Pats or Eagles in week 1 or took the Chargers, a risky-but-ultimately-savvy move), this is by far the most popular pick of the week. I see the logic but let's be careful people - the Steelers looked really, REALY bad against the Ravens. Whatever, they'll still almost assuredly win but combine the aging defense, the mileage on Big Ben's odometer (he's not old...but he's always banged up), the Super Bowl Loser's curse and the lack of improving in the offseason and maybe this is one of those rare down years for the Steelers like 2009, 2006 or 2003. AFC contenders can only hope. As for the Seahawks, has there ever been a division winner that was less respected the next season? I mean ever? Fine, they were probably the worst division winner in the history of North American sports but still. Almost everyone has these guys in the top 5 of next year's draft order, if not # 1. With performances like last Sunday's, it's easy to see why.

Arizona at Washington
Lost in all the Cam Newton slobbering is the fact that a guy who looked horrible in the preseason was able to throw at will on Arizona's secondary. Maybe getting Kevin Kolb, who was solid but not spectacular on Sunday, was the right move but was it worth shipping Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and forcing the green Patrick Peterson in to the lineup? To Peterson's credit though, he made up for any defensive foibles with the electrifying game-winning punt return. He could be the next Devin Hester. It's a stretch to label him that after one week but he was just that explosive in the return game in college and he wasted no time in showing that he can turn an NFL game on its head in one moment. As for the Redskins, their first round pick had a nice day of his own - Ryan Kerrigan hit the triple play of sacking Eli Manning, forcing the fumble and then returning it for a TD. It was an all-around good day for the Skins, who got a nice performance from Rex Grossman. Maybe it'll last, maybe it won't but I expect another one in a week 2 win. Nice cushy start to the season for them - two home games against a couple of porous NFC clubs.

Green Bay at Carolina
Not many NFL games have the potential to be truly epic. This is one of them. If Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton somehow got in to a shootout, that would be the sort of game we might remember for ages. On the other hand, it's possible Newton just bombed away against a revamped young secondary and his performance was just yet another of week 1 QB's going ballistic. Either way, the Panthers still managed to lose despite Newton's heroics, which tells you all you need to know about them. They're not beating the defending champs.

Dallas at San Francisco
I feel like a lot of people are missing the boat on this one. For all the shit that's been talked about Tony Romo this week, a lot of people are confident in him to get the win on the road against a pretty good defense that had a terrific game last week. Of course, the Cowboys did look terrific for three quarters in the Meadowlands and me and ten friends could stop Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks cold. Still, with all the Rams' injuries and the Cards and Seahawks looking bad and awful respectively, why not the Niners? On a side note, it's a shame to see Dallas/San Francisco reduced to this. It's like what Notre Dame/Michigan has become. Hopefully it can at least be as fun.

Cincinnati at Denver
For me, this is the toughest pick of the week even though their respective week 1 performances make this one look not-so-hard. Maybe the Bengals will pay them back with an insane A.J. Green TD to win it in the final minute. The thinking here is: (1) the Broncos are banged up with Brandon Lloyd and Knowshon Moreno, their two most productive offensive players, nursing injury (2) Cedric Benson had a terrific game in Cleveland and remains as the Bengals workhorse. He should have a dynamite game against a Denver run defense that let Darren McFadden do whatever he wanted and (3) the Broncos might very well get sucked in to the bad karma black hole that's being created by the brewing Orton/Tebow controversy. It's not easy for a offense to perform when it's booed after every incomplete pass, which may be the case on Sunday.

Houston at Miami
This REEKS of trap game. A dominant home performance by a questionable team now going on the road to face a sneaky underdog. And Houston's pass defense, still potentially shaky, is going up against a red hot Chad Henne (odd sequence of words.) But you have to love how good Ben Tate looked and now with Arian Foster set to play on Sunday, that's potentially the deadliest 1-2 rushing attack in football. Throw in Andre Johnson and the explosive Jacoby Jones, who took a punt back last week and will start opposite Andre 3000 because of Kevin Walter's injury and I have to back this offense going up against a defense that just allowed Tom Brady to pass for 150 more yards during the typing of this analysis.

San Diego at New England
Hopefully it's prettier than the last time these two met in Foxboro in week 2 (side note: this was the first game after Spygate broke.) Maybe it won't be. Maybe this Pats team IS that good, at least on offense. Out of all the great Tom Brady performances, that may have been his magnum opus on Monday night. Every throw was perfect. And it's not like he was just being Kyle Orton in the west coast offense and checking down, he was making a full array of NFL throws right on the money. It was stunning to watch. The Pats look to be so good that the Chargers are the most popular pick in my Loser Suicide pool (and they're my pick as well - I had St. Louis last week.) Still, what a fascinating matchup for week 2. Looking forward to this one...

Philadelphia at Atlanta
...but not as much as this one. Good lord. Michael Vick returns to Atlanta. Two high-powered offenses on an indoor track. The Falcons needing a big rebound performance. The Eagles looking to ring up their second road win of the season. Sunday Night Football. Ahhh...can you imagine if the lockout had actually happened? Thank god it didn't. Anyway, as much as I want to take the Falcons here...I can't pick against the juggernaut. Not many teams look good enough to beat Atlanta straight up in the Georgia Dome. Green Bay and New Orleans, who both did it last season, are two of them. The Pats are obviously another. The Ravens, who almost shockingly came back to do it before the refs forgot to call offensive pass interference on Roddy White, might be another as well. And so too are the Eagles.

St. Louis at New York Giants
This is a stinker of a Monday night game but after we got a record setting passing performance followed by a record setting field goal in our two Monday night games last week, it's hard to complain. These might be the two most banged-up teams in the league, which makes this a hard call, but the Rams have more vital pieces missing, are on the road and seem to be the inferior team in general. The Giants really need a home date with an energized crowd to get their season going after last week's dud and they'll get it here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NFL Picks - Preseason and Week 1

Commentary for the preseason picks will be added when I have more time. I'll throw them in another post as well but for now, we'll stick them at the bottom of this one as proof I'm not cheating or whatever (even though the season's already technically started. Bear with me - it's been a tough week.)

Last Week - 0-0
Season - 1-0 (I took the Packers in my picks pool)

Atlanta at Chicago
I'm one of the people who thinks the Bears were a total fluke last season. I don't think they get back to the playoffs as I don't think they can mask their horrific offensive line once again and if the bloom wasn't off the Jay Cutler rose before the NFC Championship, it is now.

Cincinnati at Cleveland
I've got a $50 bet with my roommate that the Browns finish under .500. Considering the schedule, it's a risky bet (the AFC North plays the NFC West) but I'm still liking my chances. Not looking forward to getting off to a poor start, though. This Ohio derby is known for bizarre results but I can't see Andy Dalton, who I'm not really a fan of, winning his first career start on the road, particularly not against Colt McCoy, who I like. Look for a big game from A.J. Green though, particularly if/when Joe Haden's not covering him.

Buffalo at Kansas City
This is my suicide pick, thus the italics. It's the only option, really - unless you wanna burn the Pats in week 1. Philly, San Diego and Arizona are highly probable winners as well, but as someone who's flamed out in week 1 many times over, I have to play it safe. The Chiefs are a good young team. The Bills should really be tanking for Luck.

Philadelphia at St. Louis
A tricky opener for the offseason champs, particularly if Sam Bradford makes the progression expected in his second year and doesn't fall victim to the sophomore slump. But the Rams simply don't have the firepower to pull off this upset. Could see them hanging around all game long, though.

Detroit at Tampa Bay
The Lions are my (and probably a few other people's) big sleeper this season but a big part of that is the Fairley/Suh DT combo and the rookie won't play Sunday. Plus, Tampa were the team that suffered the ignominy of breaking Detroit's epic road losing streak last season. They won't let themselves be humiliated again, particularly not in their home opener.

Tennessee at Jacksonville
The Jags were my pick to win the AFC South...and then they dropped David Garrard for Luke McCown. Hey, maybe it works out, but I saw a good amount of McCown with the Browns and he was...bad. Good thing the opposing QB is Matt Hasselbeck who at this stage of his career is just as bad. The Titans own the Jags historically but I think the hosts have the considerably better team this season. As I noted back in August, they had a really nice offseason that went under the radar. They might still get the division and even if they don't they'll contend for the playoffs.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Simply put, I'm not picking Flacco to beat Big Ben until he does. At least there's no way a loss tomorrow will hurt as much as the last two to them did. Stupidly, I'm really liking our chances tomorrow but I'm sure that's just Opening Day Syndrome. We'll lose.

Indianapolis at Houston
As Bill Simmons would call it, the "Other Way" game. EVERYONE is taking Houston after the Manning news. But what do the Texans do when they have expectations? They choke. Of course, I've got them winning the AFC South but whatever, somebody has to win that division now. The NFL never makes sense anyways.

New York Giants at Washington
One of the tougher picks of an already impossible week. But I like to think I know the Redskins well seeing as how I've followed them almost as closely as my own team for my entire life and I think they'll come out and play well in the home opener on the heels of a fantastic preseason. Big game for Roy Helu and the banged-up Giants can't cut the mustard as Eli throws multiple picks.

Minnesota at San Diego
This would be a lock if not for the Chargers always being a poor first half team...but this is an extremely strange week 1 road trip for the Vikings and I don't think they'll be gelled enough to win it. Plus, losing Sidney Rice will hurt. I have Percy Harvin on my fantasy team but I'm not sure he's going to be able to step up right away.

Seattle at San Francisco
Home team. Not much more to it than that. Probably won't be the last time I say that about an NFC West game.

Carolina at Arizona
Ouch...he's yet to throw a regular season pass and I already look way, way wrong about Cam Newton. The Panthers honestly should just tank for the # 1 pick then fleece some team who really wants Andrew Luck. I don't believe in Kevin Kolb at all...but he'll be more than fine here.

Dallas at New York Jets
Just a really weird Sunday Night Football game for 9/11. Exactly why isn't this Giants/Jets? Whatever, the Cowboys are a really hard read this season (the Jets sort of are, too) but I can't see them stealing this game. Tony Romo must be having nightmares about his line going up against Rex Ryan's defense.

New England at Miami
Unless this happens again, this should be a fairly easy Pats victory. They've struggled in this game before but my Super Bowl pick should get off on the right foot.

Oakland at Denver
Ahh, one of my favorite games of the year - the week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader. It's always two shitty West teams (redundancy?) but because it's football being back, we not only put up with it, we embrace it. And sometimes you get a really fun game like this or this. This one likely won't be as good but the Broncos should get a nice measure of revenge from last year. The Raiders are in bad shape without Nnamdi Asomugha to anchor their defense and I predict a vast falloff from last season. They might even be in for the Luck sweepstakes, which would be a huge boon.

And now the preseason predictions. These will be their own post with analysis added in sometime next week:


  1. New England

  2. New York

  3. Miami

  4. Buffalo


  1. Pittsburgh

  2. Baltimore

  3. Cleveland

  4. Cincinnati


  1. Houston

  2. Indianapolis

  3. Jacksonville

  4. Tennessee


  1. San Diego

  2. Kansas City

  3. Denver

  4. Oakland


  1. Philadelphia

  2. New York

  3. Dallas

  4. Washington


  1. Green Bay

  2. Detroit

  3. Chicago

  4. Minnesota


  1. New Orleans

  2. Atlanta

  3. Tampa Bay

  4. Carolina


  1. St. Louis

  2. Seattle

  3. San Francisco

  4. Arizona


  1. Carolina

  2. Oakland

  3. Buffalo

  4. Cincinnati

  5. Miami


  1. Pittsburgh

  2. New England

  3. San Diego

  4. Houston

  5. New York

  6. Baltimore


(3) San Diego over (6) Baltimore

(5) New York over (4) Houston


(1) Pittsburgh over (5) New York

(2) New England over (3) San Diego


(2) New England over (1) Pittsburgh


  1. Philadelphia

  2. New Orleans

  3. Green Bay

  4. St. Louis

  5. Atlanta

  6. Detroit


(6) Detroit over (3) Green Bay

(5) Atlanta over (4) St. Louis


(1) Philadelphia over (6) Detroit

(2) New Orleans over (5) Atlanta


(2) New Orleans over (1) Philadelphia


New England over New Orleans

MVP – Drew Brees

Rookie of the Year – A.J. Green

Offensive Player of the Year – Philip Rivers

Defensive Player of the Year – Ndamukong Suh

Coach of the Year – Jim Schwartz

Comeback Player of the Year – Chad Ochocinco

Friday, September 9, 2011

A (somewhat abridged) 2011 College Football Preview

The past week and a half of my life hasn't been real. Classes. Rain. No internet at home. No internet on here at school until yesterday evening. I simply haven't had the time and, in many cases, the ability to finish off the college football preview. I had a really fun "oddsmakers" gimmick lined up but it was way too much work that I just didn't have the time to put in. So here are some rough and dirty picks and analysis of each league:

Conference USA - Tulsa. They'll beat out Southern Mississippi for the title. They get Houston and SMU, the other two West contenders, at home and they miss the Golden Eagles and East Carolina, who are two of the three East favorites (UCF being the other.) Any of those six teams can win the conference but Houston and ECU have ATROCIOUS defenses, SMU goes to Houston, Tulsa and Southern Mississippi so they'll ring up too many losses to make the title game and UCF goes to SMU before a three game stretch of Tulsa, @Southern Mississippi and @East Carolina so they too will probably have too many check marks against them to win their division. The Golden Hurricane lose coach Todd Graham to Pitt but return ten starters to an offense that was 5th in total offense and 6th in scoring last season, including QB G.J. Kinne and do-it-all receiver Damaris Johnson.

MAC - Temple. Welcome to the hardest conference to predict in the country. The easy choice would be Northern Illinois, who will probably be the best all-around team in the conference again but they lost coach Jerry Kill, who completely rebuilt the program to what it was back in the days of Garrett Wolfe, to Minnesota; MAC player of the year Chad Spann and a host of stars on defense. Plus, they go to both Toledo and Central Michigan, their two closest challengers in the West and I'll take the Rockets, always a favorite of mine, to come out of the West.
As for the MAC East, it continues to be the most parity-filled division in college football and is women's tennis-like in that whoever screws up the least might just win it. The Owls lost coach Al Golden to Miami but Steve Addazio is a solid replacement who got a bum rap for one bad offensive year at Florida in the wake of Tim Tebow (and many others) leaving. Plus, Bernard Pierce is the kind of hard-nosed back who can carry a team to a conference title, particularly in one as weak as this one. Temple's knocked on the door for a while. This year they kick it down.

MWC - Boise State. Come on. Even before TCU's defense no mas'd against Robert Griffin, it was clear they were going to take a step back and besides, they have to go play on the blue turf. Forget it. San Diego State won't be the same without wundercoach Brady Hoke (now at Michigan) although Kevin O'Connell should continue to bomb away. Air Force (who also has to go to Bronco Stadium) should finish third or fourth like usual and with Utah and BYU gone, the rest of the conference is junk.

Sun Belt - Troy. FIU shockingly blew them out 52-35 in Alabama last year and ended up taking the title. It won't happen again. Corey Robinson's not a freshman anymore and he'll be the next great Troy QB to bomb away. The Golden Panthers could be a fixture in the upper division of the Sun Belt or they could be a flavor-of-the-week like rivals FAU, it's hard to say. As for the rest of the league, it's business as usual. Middle Tennessee (who I've got upsetting Georgia Tech tomorrow) will come up just short again, Arkansas State will be exciting and decent but not nearly good enough, the Louisianas might not win double digit games combined and while North Texas and Western Kentucky are getting better, they're still nailed to the bottom.

WAC - Nevada. It would be Hawai'i if the Warriors weren't such a bad road team and didn't have to travel to Reno. Bryant Moinz is a fantastic quarterback though. Fresno State will be in the hunt too but will disappoint as usual in league play, particularly considering it goes to both Honolulu and Reno. Those are the only three contenders and the Wolfpack get them both at home. Colin Kapernick's a brutal loss but the rest of the team remains loaded as this has become a rock solid mid major. If you're looking for a sleeper, it's Louisiana Tech and Sonny Dykes' Air Raid (think Texas Tech) attack.

And now to the big boys...

ACC - Florida State. It has to be. Virginia Tech looked terrific in its opener as well and they should be the title game opponent but the Noles are just loaded on both sides of the ball and Jimbo Fisher has breathed new life in to the program in every single way. It's happening - Florida State is becoming FLORIDA STATE again. Clemson is the second best team in the Atlantic and gets the Noles at home but they have to go to VT, Georgia Tech, Maryland and N.C. State and also draws North Carolina from the Coastal, meaning it has about the worst possible interdivisional draw. The Terps have the best QB in the conference in Danny O'Brien but they're still a very flawed team as Monday's thrilling win over Miami showed and they've never won at Doak Campbell Stadium, which is where they play FSU this year. N.C. State has a relatively soft ACC schedule with Clemson, GT, Maryland and UNC all at home but they too have to traverse to Tallahassee. Boston College got ripped up by a backup Northwestern QB on its home field and has a nasty three game road swing at Clemson, Virginia Tech and Maryland that will more than eliminate it from division title contention (oh and FSU's their "homecoming" from that little trip.) Wake Forest remains far removed from 2006 and should bring up the cellar.
Over in the Coastal, North Carolina has a terrific defense but no offense and a green head coach after Butch Davis strangely stepped down just weeks before the season; Georgia Tech's rebuilding after losing most of its option attack from prior seasons and Miami is starting from scratch and obviously is having problems with turnovers, penalties and general comprehension of Al Golden's new power running offense. Virginia appears to be getting better under second year coach Mike London but still lags behind and Duke is Duke, as evidenced by its opening day loss to Richmond.

Big East - South Florida. I swear to God I called this even before the upset over Notre Dame. B.J. Daniels looks poised for a big bounceback year, there are multiple options in the backfield, the defense is stingy and Skip Holtz is one of the top young rising stars in coaching. If Will Muschamp turns out to be a bust, I wouldn't be shocked to see him take over at Florida in a few years. Pitt and West Virginia are the two favorites but both are making vast transitions to hurry up spread offenses. Okay, WVU's is far less vast seeing as how it's only four years removed from Rich Rodriguez but they don't have Pat White and Steve Slaton around anymore, either. The Panthers have to go to Morgantown where I predict they'll be knocked out of the title race...before West Virginia has to go to Tampa the following week where the Bulls will seize the throne and book their ticket to a BCS bowl. UConn should take a step back after a relatively fluky conference title last season as they lose their star coach and RB, among others. Cincinnati's an intriguing sleeper with perhaps the best "triplets" in the league in QB Zach Collaros, RB Isaiah Pead and WR D.J. Woods but their five game run of @South Florida, @Pitt, West Virginia, @Rutgers and @Syracuse should knock them out. The Orange are an interesting team but Ryan Nassib needs to move the offense more and they're unlikely to have the same kind of shocking road success they did last year. Louisville and Rutgers are rebuilding - at least the Cards have a terrific young head coach and the Scarlet Knights have about the easiest possible Big East slate getting Pitt, WVU and USF all at home.

Big Ten - Wisconsin. This is probably the hardest BCS league in the country to call. The Leaders is a two man race between the Badgers and Ohio State. That game's in Columbus but even if Wisky loses it, they're the better team. OSU's shaky QB situation will come back to bite it in the ass at some point, perhaps in the season finale against rival Michigan. Penn State's a distant third and then Illinois, Indiana and Purdue round things out in some order.
The Legends race could be epic. Nebraska is the favorite but has a ridiculous schedule, having to play both Wisconsin and Penn State on the road and Ohio State at home in interdivisional play. Nonetheless, their top challengers in the division are Michigan State and Iowa and both have to enter the Sea of Red so we'll take the Huskers to win the title. Michigan's an interesting sleeper but probably still has too porous of a defense and while the Wolverines host Nebraska in the penultimate game of the season for both, they have to go to both Michigan State and Iowa. As for those Spartans and Hawkeyes, the former has WAY too nasty of a schedule (@Ohio State, Wisconsin, @Iowa, @Nebraska) and the latter missed its window to win the conference title and is rebuilding, although should still be a tough out (particularly in Iowa City.) Northwestern is another team who could make noise if Dan Persa can get healthy and rocking like he was before getting hurt last year but they don't have the overall firepower to take the division and Minnesota already looks to be far better under new boss Jerry Kill but they still might bring up the rear. So I've got a Big Red vs Grateful Red title game and I think the Badgers take it. Russell Wilson should more than make up for the loss of Scott Tolzien at QB and the backfield, led by Montee Ball, won't miss John Clay. The o-line and the defense are up to typical Badger snuff and Bret Bielma continues to be that one coach who's among the elite in the nation, even if nobody recognizes it.

Big XII - Oklahoma. Here's the easiest BCS league to call. They're # 1 for a reason - the defending champs return most of last year's team. They have arguably the best offense in the country and a loaded defense, even with all the linebackers they lost in the offseason. Texas A&M is a flop waiting to happen, achieving a top 10 preseason rank on the back of an upset over the Sooners and a hot close to the season (and, of course, the piper's paid with a trip to Norman this season. Hopefully they perform a little bit better than the last time the Sooners were avenging a loss from a season ago.) Oklahoma State actually might have a better offense than its in-state rivals, particularly with the emergence of Joseph Randle filling Kendall Hunter's shoes, but it has to go to Texas A&M, Texas, Missouri AND Texas Tech (who's weaker than the other three but the home team almost always wins in that series) before hosting the Sooners in the season finale. Missouri should make a little noise but most of the key parts from its terrific offense, including Blaine Gabbert, are gone. And then there's Texas. Someone who just started following college football this summer would assume that the Longhorns have the best team in the country with all the attention they got for their network and everything else. And yes, they'll be much better than last year's 5-7 outfit (whose record was a bit misleading as the team clearly quit down the stretch. No, Kansas State wasn't really 37-0 better than them) and could be a factor in the race, but unless Garrett Gilbert is night-and-day (actually more like pitch-black-midnight-and-break-of-dawn) better, they won't sniff the crown. The other five teams are the league's second division, although Baylor could be feisty if Robert Griffin keeps doing THAT and Texas Tech could continue to cause problems with that offense. Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State all struggled with FCS opposition in the opening weekend, which tells you all you need to know about them.

Pac-12 - Oregon. You know how in certain states, the Democratic or Republican primary is the de facto general election because the other party has so little support? That's kind of like what the brand new Pac-12 is. Whoever wins the Oregon/Stanford "primary" in the North shouldn't have a problem in the "general election" that is the conference title game. The Ducks have to go to Palo Alto, which seemingly gives the edge to the Cardinal...but Stanford has to go to both Arizona and USC, two of the best teams in the South. They also have trips to Oregon State (late in the year when the Beavers always get hot - and when they'll be far better than the outfit that gagged to Sacramento State) and what looks to be a much-improved Washington State. Plus there's the fact that their architect is gone. Andrew Luck's still there but as good as he is, he wasn't the one that got that team playing up to and above its capability - that was Jim Harbaugh. Seeing as how he's one of the great coaching minds in pro or college football, it seems inevitable that Stanford takes a step back without him. Meanwhile, the Ducks have a trip to Arizona as well but get USC at home and its only two other road trips besides the Wildcats and Cardinal are to minnow Colorado and a Washington team that's rebuilding after heart-and-soul Jake Locker graduated (also, the Ducks OWN their border rivals, having not lost to them since 2003.) California should probably beat out the rest of the division for third and looked impressive against a tough Fresno State squad on Saturday. Oregon State likely will rebound like it always does from early season turmoil, leaving the Washingtons to battle for fifth.
As for the South, the best team in the division is likely USC but they're ineligible to win the division because of punishments from the Reggie Bush scandal. That means it'll likely come down to the Arizona schools. I can't resist Arizona State, always a favorite of mine in the Andrew Walter days. They return almost everybody and I like Brock Osweiler bombing away at QB and Vontaze Burfict being the kind of dominating presence at linebacker one normally sees at Big Ten schools. Arizona's in BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG trouble with no Juron Criner for one or both of their big home games against Stanford and Oregon and even with him, last night showed that they have a long way to go on defense. Utah's the wild card in the race but capitulated down the stretch last season and will probably have a tougher time with no Wyomings or New Mexicos to beat up on...other than Colorado, who got ripped apart by Bryant Moniz and Hawai'i late last Saturday night and who is transitioning from the calamity that was the Dan Hawkins era. UCLA also will struggle as they have a mess at quarterback for the millionth year in a row and Rick Neuheisel is almost assuredly a lame duck coach.

SEC - Alabama. As good as LSU looked on Saturday, I'm still not sure about their QB situation and they have to go to Tuscaloosa (and have a tricky game in Starkville against Mississippi State next Thursday) which is the tiebreaker for me. Arkansas, too, has to go to Bryant-Denny and their SEC West title dreams ended when Knile Davis was lost for the season. Defending (mythical) national champion Auburn is obviously taking a step back and neither Mississippi school has anywhere near enough talent to challenge the big boys, although the Bulldogs are good and have a bright young head coach. If nothing else, they'll test the top teams.
Moving to the East, South Carolina's the favorite but they too have major problems at quarterback that have already reared their ugly head. They also have a brutal four game stretch from mid October to mid November - @Mississippi State, @Tennessee (who won't contend but will be a problem in Knoxville), @Arkansas and then what might be the East title game for the second year in a row against Florida. Of course, the Gators can laugh at that four game stretch because this is what their October looks like: Alabama, @LSU, @Auburn, Georgia (in Jacksonville.) Add in the fact that Will Muschamp has entered in to an entirely new world, having not ever been a head coach before and now he's got Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer's old job and I'm not taking the Gators out of the East either. I'm taking Georgia. The Bulldogs were thoroughly outplayed by Boise State in the Georgia Dome but I think they upset South Carolina tomorrow and then after that, their remaining conference road games are against Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt - arguably the three worst teams in the conference (maybe sub Kentucky in for the Vols.) Aaron Murray should continue to develop, particularly if Orson Charles can continue to terrorize opposing cornerbacks, and I like the Dawgs to come up with the season they need to save Mark Richt's job.

Heisman - Trent Richardson. I don't have a clue why he's not getting more Heisman pub. He's the star running back on the best team in the country and he rang up three TD's on just 13 carries in Alabama's opening day domination of Kent State. He'll beat out Andrew Luck and LaMichael James (who will most likely split votes, particularly in the west, if both make it to New York and James might face competition from his teammate, QB Darron Thomas), Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden (ditto but obviously in Big 12 country) and every other serious Heisman candidate (no, Robert Griffin is not one unless he puts up video game numbers every week.) This is always a next-to-impossible call - NO ONE had Cam Newton as their choice before October of last year - but Richardson seems like the most logical guess. Neither A.J. McCarron nor Phillip Sims will be in the hunt and Alabama doesn't have any Julio Jones' for them to throw to anyway.

5 Points

National Champion - Alabama. They're quite simply the best team in the country. Trent Richardson will shine even more without Mark Ingram. Greg McElroy and Julio Jones are gone but the Tide honestly won't even need a passing game with Richardson and, especially, the defense. Dont'a Hightower leads what is head-and-shoulders the best defense in the country. Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and Courtney Upshaw are all superstars and this team has the perfect combination of talent, schedule, motivation and hunger from last year's "flop" of a season (not being able to stop South Carolina, blowing the LSU game and then "The Comeback") and the inspiration of a town needing something to feel good about after the tornadoes from earlier this year wrecked so much havoc. Well, I think they'll get it. The Tide take down Oklahoma in what is a boring but hopefully intelligent (mythical) national title prediction.


1) Trent Richardson
2) Landy Jones
3) Taylor Martinez
4) LaMichael James
5) Kellen Moore

BCS Bowls

Rose - Wisconsin over Oregon
Fiesta - Nebraska over South Florida
Sugar - LSU over Oklahoma State
Orange - Boise State over Florida State
National Championship - Alabama over Oklahoma

Friday, September 2, 2011

A college football preview is coming...

I'm just not sure when. Our power went out yesterday morning and while it's back on, our internet is still out. It's probably a problem with Fios - along with no internet, we have a working TV but no program guide - but since it's the weekend and then the holiday, I probably won't get internet again at home until Tuesday at the earliest, which is obviously when week 1 of the season is completed. I was gonna work on it today but then the American tennis thing got in the way. Anyway, it'll be up next week. Really wanted to get it up before kickoff yesterday but it's been a hectic week all around. It's got a cute gimmick too! So look for it then. Until then, I'll be watching copious amounts of football and tennis over the weekend. God bless the fall.

American Tennis - Rising From The Dead?

It wasn't all that long ago that American tennis - both men's and women's - was considered to be dead.

Let's take a trip down memory lane to the 2009 U.S. Open. Andy Roddick, the # 5 seed on the men's side, shocking lost in the third round to rising American John Isner. Isner then turned around and lost in four sets to 10th seed Fernando Verdasco.

Isner was the only American male to make the fourth round.

James Blake, then the # 21 seed, was swept away by 14th seed Tommy Robredo in straight sets in the third round. Mardy Fish didn't play. Donald Young lost in the first round to Robredo, his third straight first round loss at this event and for the fifth time in six years since turning pro. And Sam Querrey, the # 22 seed, lost in the third round to then # 12 seed and current top 10 player Robin Soderling.

The women didn't do much better. Third seeded Venus Williams lost in the fourth round to eventual champion Kim Clijsters, a wild card after her return from maternity leave. Only two other American women made the second week and both flamed out embarrassingly; Melanie Oudin's Cinderella story was stopped abruptly in the quarterfinals by eventual finalist and current world # 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-2. And Serena Williams, the # 2 seed, was slayed by Clijsters just like her sister - but she had a Chernoybl-level meltdown at the end of the semifinal match, cursing out the chair umpire after a foot fault while serving to stay in the match to incur a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that cost her the match.

Going forward, things looked bleak for the state of the sport in this country. On the men's side, Roddick and Blake were showing their age and Querrey and Isner didn't appear to have good enough all around games to take their places as the torchbearers for American men's tennis. Fish wasn't just a has-been, he was a never-was. And Young was the Freddy Adu of men's tennis - once the top juniors player in the world, hyped up to be the next big thing before he was out of high school and ended up as a horrific bust after turning pro at the age of 14. Surmising all of this, the Davis Cup team had lost in the quarterfinals to Croatia and hadn't won the event since 2007.

And on the women's side, the Williams sisters had both embarrassed themselves and it was only Oudin's magical run which was a positive to be taken from the tournament, but even as it was happening, an objective observer noted that her shock victories over Aggie Radwanska at Wimbledon and then Maria Sharapova in round 3 and then Nadia Petrova in the round of 16 were smoke-and-mirrors and a focus, non-shaky Wozniacki blew her away. She's yet to get out of the second round of a slam since and lost in the first round of every slam in 2011.

But those who think there's no hope for Oudin have been extensively proven wrong by the overall rise of American tennis to the surprise of the world. Here in 2011, Fish has improbably jump-started his career to rise to # 7 in the world and has truly grabbed the aforementioned torch, Roddick is still sitting there at 21 and is facing young American blue chipper Jack Sock tonight and Isner blew through a veteran American, Robby Ginepri, to get to the third round where he'll face another American, Alex Bogomolov, a veteran who came back from two sets to love in the first round before winning in straight sets today. He too is having breakthrough success - this is his first U.S. Open since 2006, his fifth straight first round loss. In fact, he hadn't played in any grand slams until this year's French Open. Then he upset the 25 seed, Juan Ignacio Chela, in straight sets in the second round at Wimbledon and now he's made it to the first weekend at his second straight slam. At 28, he and the 29-year-old Fish have proven that it's never too late to make something of yourself in a game that's becoming increasingly younger.

And then there's what Young did today.

After breaking his first round losing streak (which continued last year), he faced the daunting task of 14th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, a quarterfinalist here last year, Young fell behind two sets to one, winning all of five games in the second and third set after winning a first set tiebreak. It was there that he was pronounced out of gas and, well, dead.

But somehow, he rallied. With an electric Court 17 - a brand-new show court with a thumping atmosphere - cheering him on, he held to open the fourth and then broke Wawrinka to go up 2-0. The Swiss # 2 - to a guy named Federer, of course - broke right back and it was there where Young could have lost his nerve. But instead, he broke back for 3-1 and held the rest of the way to force a fifth set.

Young had only been in one other fifth set in U.S. Open history - a 2008 opening round loss to Blake. He himself would admit after the match he didn't think he had the fitness to emerge victorious. But he battled his way to a fifth set tiebreak - and then it happened.

Young broke to open the tiebreak. Then he held both his serves for 3-0. Then he broke again. And then he broke again.

It was stunning to watch. The crowd roared more and more with each consecutive point he won. He played exceptionally clean tennis during it. Despite 72 unforced errors in the match, he only committing his first error of the breaker while up 6-0. The next point, he smacked an inside-out forehand winner and celebrated an improbable upset. In just 4 hours and 20 minutes, 22-year-old Donald Young - the same age as this blog's creator - "became a man," as Patrick McEnroe tweeted right after the match.

Young's victory was the first upset of a seeded player by an American male. But in the past two days, it's been all about the unseeded American women. Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens, Vania King and Irina Falconi all pulled off upsets over seeded players.

King, at the age of 22, is the veteran of the group (as a fellow 22-year-old, that's kind of a horrifying thought.) Typically a doubles star - she's the reigning doubles champ here with Yaroslava Shvedova - she matched her 3rd round performance from a couple of years ago by dominating 29th seed Jarmila Gajdovsova 6-2, 6-0. Next round, she'll face an opponent who also won her 3rd round match 2 and love - Wozniacki. That's first up tomorrow morning at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Falconi - who was born in Ecuador - turned 21 in early May and has played her first full year of slams after a wild card in last year's Open. She won just three games in her first round match against Flavia Pennetta - who shocked Sharapova earlier today. On Monday, Falconi came from a set down to beat Klara Zakpolova for her first ever grand slam victory. Then two days later, she did the same to stun 14th seed Dominika Cibulkova - a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, like Oudin two years ago, she was blown away today by 21st seed Sabine Lisicki and her booming serve which is among the best on tour, 0 and 1.

Then there's McHale and Stephens - the two who have made the biggest waves of the group. McHale, a 19-year-old from Teanick, New Jersey - has had a terrific summer. She upset 28 seed Ekaterina Makarova in three sets at Wimbledon to record her first ever slam victory. Then she followed that up by shocking Wozniacki in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters 6-4, 7-5. Now here at the Open, she beat Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak before recording her second victory over a top 10 player in two weeks, stunning 8 seed Marion Bartoli 7-6, 6-2 - dominating the second set to take out the French Open semifinalist and Wimbledon quarterfinalist in arguably the upset of the tournament until Sharapova went down today. She went out meekly to Maria Kirilenko tonight 2 and 3, but there's no doubt the future's bright for her.

Unlike the rest of the group, Stephens had never played at the U.S. Open before this week. In fact, she had never played in a grand slam until this year's French Open, where she qualified and lost in the first round. But late Tuesday afternoon, she won a third set tiebreak over Reka-Luca Jani for her first ever slam victory and then yesterday, she powered her way past 23rd seed Shahar Peer 6-1, 7-6 - closing out the tiebreak with some booming forehands that prove that the African American from Ft. Lauderdale who cites the Williams sisters as her inspirations might be able to develop their kind of power that can give her, a former junior star like fellow African American Young, success on the senior circuit.

And as for Serena? After recovering from multiple major injuries over the past year and change, she's dropped all of three games in two matches and looks to be a favorite to win Venus pulling out with a mysterious flu-like illness yesterday against Sabine Liscki has been the only disappointment.

But with the performances of her sister as well as the up-and-coming players, it looks like American tennis - men's and women's - will prosper with or without her.