Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SEC Power Rankings and Week 2 Predictions

There were not a lot of surprises around the league in Week One. LSU beat a turnover prone Oregon team pretty handily in the Cowboy Classic in Jerry World. Georiga lost to a very talented Boise State team, but this wasn't unexpected. Ole Miss(Lost to BYU 14-13) and Georgia are the only teams with a loss, and Auburn gets half a win because let's face it, that game was deplorable.

Power Rankings

1.) LSU Tigers -Impressive win against Oregon, the defensive front did not disappoint and shut down the Oregon running game. LSU also showed their ability to capitalize on Oregon's mistakes. This team is for real and made a statement that regardless of the off the field issues, this team is still in the title hunt.

2.) Alabama Crimson Tide -The Defense was rock solid against Kent State only allowing 99 yards. The Offense, however, struggled 5 turnovers, Richardson had 3 touchdowns but only 37 yards, McCarron threw 2 picks and they were 2 for 10 on third down. It's week one and the offense is still being broke in, but if the Tide can't solve the little mistakes, the game at Penn State may be a lot closer than most people think.

3.) Arkansas Razorbacks -Arkansas cruised to an easy win against Missouri State, Wilson took command and had a great performance and began to step out of the shadow of Ryan Mallet.

4.) South Carolina Gamecocks - Stephen Garcia was able to rally South Carolina off the bench and maybe earn his starting job back. The Defense was rock solid and saved South Carolina from upset this game, forcing 5 turnovers. Huge game this week at Georgia.

5.) Mississippi State Bulldogs - Rolled over Memphis with 645 yards of offense and putting 59 points on the board. Memphis was an easy tune up, now the first real test begins with a road trip to Auburn.

6.) Florida Gators-Florida's offense showed it's many weapons, Chris Rainey ran, caught, and returned a block kick for a touchdown. Brantley played a great game at QB. The problem is still the receivers, but another appetizer game vs UAB this week before Tennessee comes to the Swamp in two weeks for the first SEC test for Muschamp.

7.) Tennessee Volunteers-Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, and Da'rick Rogers took their places as sophomore playmakers for the Volunteers against Montana. Bray went 17-24 for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns (he had 2 bad interceptions taken off because of penalties which could be debated wether they were good throws or not). The issues for the Vols lie with the running game. Only 128 yards on the ground and Montana shut the Vols down most of the game. If an FCS team can do that, imagine what an SEC front will do? But they say the most improvement happens between week one and week two.

8.) Georgia Bulldogs - Georgia was simply outmatched in the game against Boise State. But the fact is, they were run off the field. The team struggled to compete, and the defense was torn apart. If Richt loses next week against South Carolina, it will likely mean his job. This week may be the most important week of practice of his career.

9.) Auburn Tigers - Auburn looked like a joke, down 10 points late in the 4th quarter to Utah State, the game looked over. A quick score followed by a near perfect onside kick, and Auburn escaped with a win. It took all of that to beat Utah State, it's going to be a long season in Auburn if the team continues to play this bad. Or maybe the Auburn Defense was just feeling nostalgic and wanted to make Utah State freshman Quarterback Chukie Keeton look like Cam Newton

10.) Ole Miss Rebels - The Rebels shot themselves in the foot and gave a win away against BYU. Up 13-0 entering the 4th quarter, an Ole Miss fumble turned into a go ahead touchdown for the Cougars and BYU won 14-13. Ole Miss couldn't run the Ball and the quarterback issue still isn't solved. But they get a chance to tune up this week against Southern Illinois, but remember the last time Ole Miss played an FCS team?

11.) Vanderbilt Commodores - Yes, I put Vanderbilt above Kentucky. The Dores dispatched Elon and actually routed a team for once. Quarterback Larry Smith had 3 scores, two throwing and one running. Bigger test this week with UCONN coming to Nashville. Probably see Vanderbilt go back to being the Vanderbilt we know and feel sorry for.

12.) Kentucky Wildcats - In the 4th Quarter of the Western Kentucky game, Morgan Newton, on a third and long, took off on a 58 yard gain, before that run, Kentucky had 70 total yards of offense and their only score came off a WKU interception. The Offense was pitiful and being pushed around by a Sun Belt team, and a bad one at that. The defense kept them alive, but it's depressing to think that the Wildcats were a couple plays from losing to a team that won their first game against an FBS opponent last season.

Week 2 Predictions

#16 Mississippi State @ Auburn - And the 16 game winning streak for Auburn ends this weekend. Auburn had one of the poorest showings in the conference and really should have lost to Utah State, the Bulldogs are not Utah State. Mississippi State 31 - Auburn 14

#12 South Carolina @ Georgia - A week ago I would take Georgia in this one, giving them the home field advantage, but after Saturday, and if Stephen Garcia plays like he should (big should right there) South Carolina will win this game. It's going to be close, but the Gamecocks have too many playmakers. South Carolina 14 - Georgia 10

#3 Alabama @ Penn State - Alabama's offense struggled last week but the defense lights out. The defense will shut down Penn State's average offense and McCarron will be given plenty of opportunities and Alabama will leave Happy Valley with a win. SEC > Big 10 I don't care if their legends or leaders, today their losers. Alabama 24 - Penn State 7

New Mexico @ #14 Arkansas - Not even a contest. Tyler Wilson throws for 300 plus in an easy win. Arkansas 48 - New Mexico 7

UAB @ #18 Florida - Another tune up game for the Gators and Will Muschamp cruises easily over his first two games. Florida 41 - UAB 17

Central Michigan @ Kentucky - I honestly want to pick Central Michigan in this game, Kentucky has proven only one thing to me, their offense is terrible and they have a lot of work to do. If this game were at Central Michigan, I think the Chippewas would win, but it's in Lexingoton and sadly, I'm picking the Wildcats. Kentucky 17 - Central Michigan 13

Northwestern State @ #2 LSU - No Comment. LSU A lot - Who? not a lot.

Southern Illinois @ Ole Miss - I would say this is a gimme for Ole Miss but a lot of people said the same thing the last time they played an FCS team. I'm still taking the Rebels, if they can run the ball, but it won't be as much of a walk in the park as you think. Ole Miss 38 - Southern Illinois 24

Cincinnati @ Tennessee - I have faith in Tennessee, they should win this game. But if they continue to struggle to run the football I don't think they will win. An inability to run the ball means an inability to keep their offense on the sideline, and Cincinnati can put up points (they scored 72 last week). This game will be won in the trenches for the Volunteers, I take Tennessee riding the legs of Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane. Tennessee 28 - Cincinnati 24

Connecticut @ Vanderbilt - I think Vandy could surprise some people, I don't think they will win, but they could sneak up on this Huskies squad who had to replace a lot in the off-season. I still think Connecticut wins. Connecticut 31 - Vanderbilt 21
(Let the record show that I spelled Connecticut twice without having to use spell check, victory.)

It's the first SEC vs. Big Ten match up of the year which is always fan, and the SEC's teams in the State of Tennessee take on the Big East. Should be a good week of football.

Friday, September 2, 2011

SEC Preview 2011

When the conference wins 5 straight National Championships, there is no doubt who is the top league. The SEC are the Jedi of College Football, which makes Appalachian State the Ewoks ( think about it, underdogs from the woods who pull the greatest upset of all-time, beating Michigan, just like the Ewoks upset the Empire). Yes, I did just mix College Football and Star Wars (greatest sports blogger of all-time).

Will the SEC make it 6 in a row? I’ve been back and forth, but at the moment, I say yes. Alabama is returning 9 starters on a defense that averaged 13.5 points per game, and If that defense played in any league besides the SEC that number would likely be cut in half. Yes, Alabama does have quarterback issues right now, but their running game, led by Junior Trent Richardson is as good as it gets. That will take an enormous amount of pressure off of McCarron or Sims, whoever wins the job, and the Defense will keep them in games regardless of how the Offense plays. So, yes, I think Alabama will be the National Champion this year. They’ve got the only coach who has won more than one BCS National Championship, and he’s got an elite cadre of talent at his disposal.

As for the rest of the conference, the situation is much like last year, the power is in the west, and the east is a toss up (let’s be honest, when South Carolina is the favorite, no one is the favorite). In the west, a week ago I would say LSU is the clear cut team for second place, and a challenger for the Crimson Tide, but since the scandal with Jefferson and other teammates taking place, I am no longer confident in the Tigers ability to compete, especially in the week one match-up with Oregon.

Also in the West are the defending National Champs, who have seen their status fall dramatically, from #1 last season to #23 is quite the fall. Yes, graduation and the NFL draft left Auburn without good expectations for this season, but they were under the radar last year as well, maybe that’s where Chizik likes to be.

And then once you’re passed the Elite come the middle of the pack teams all fighting to make a statement and join the powerhouses on top. Arkansas is poised to do just that behind new quarterback Tyler Wilson and one of the best receiving corps in the country. Mississippi State wants to take the next step with their program after a solid season and big bowl win. Mark Richt needs a good season to silence his critics and cement his place in Athens, and this year he may have the talent to do it in a weak Eastern Conference. Tennessee and Florida each are on the rebuilding rout, trying to return their programs back to prominence. Kentucky and Ole Miss each want to distinguish themselves from the bottom of the pack, and Vanderbilt does it’s job keeping the conference academics and player GPA’s above average.

The East:

1.) Georgia Bulldogs – This is a huge leap of faith, but if there is any coach in the East that can handle it, it’s Mark Richt. Yes, the last couple of seasons have been disappointing, but that doesn’t mean Richt has lost his touch. And this season, Richt has the talent, and the schedule to make a run. Aaron Murray is one of the most talented Quarter Backs in the League, and adding Isaiah Crowell to the backfield only strengthens Murray’s position. There are questions in the receiving corps, can Tavarres King step into AJ Green’s role? And the Offensive Line lacks depth, but this season Georgia has the schedule working to their advantage. They don’t have to play Alabama, LSU, or Arkansas, they get South Carolina (which will be the game that decides the East) at home on Week 2, they also get Auburn and Mississippi State at home. The toughest road games will be @ Ole Miss and @ Tennessee. Georgia has talent that needs to make a statement, and in Weeks 1 and 2, they get the chance. Boise State in the Georgia Dome (which will be big game on the national level) but the real season breaking game for Georgia comes the next week when the Gamecocks come to Athens. Prediction 10-2

2.) South Carolina Gamecocks – I’m going against conventional wisdom by picking against the Gamecocks, who are loaded, but this team has never had these kind of expectations before, Spurrier has, his players haven’t. Can they handle the pressure of being the favorite? I don’t think so. Most of the issue (and the fate of this team) lies with Stephen Garcia. The skill positions are set, Lattimore and Jeffries are two of the best players in the league. But without a QB, their abilities are limited. Spurrier says Garcia has changed, and we’ve seen what Garcia can do when he is on (see Alabama game last year) but we also saw what happens when he is off (See SEC Championship Game). This may mean Garcia finally being replaced by Connor Shaw (Shaw will be starting against ECU, Garcia will come in the 2nd Quarter) The Defense collapsed against Kentucky a week after stifling the 1, 2 Punch of Ingram and Richardson of Alabama. It’s those pitfall game losses to teams like Kentucky that reminds us that South Carolina is still South Carolina. The schedule doesn’t help, Tough road games @Georgia, @Mississippi State, and @Arkansas. Don’t get me wrong, South Carolina will be a good team, but their shortcomings will hold them back from playing in Atlanta this year. Prediction 9-3

3.) Florida Gators – There are so many questions facing this Florida team. New Coach, New Offensive Coordinator, and a new offensive scheme. Florida has talent, but there is a lot of adjusting to be done in this new regime in Gainesville. The Defense will compete and keep them in many games. But it’s the offense that presents the issues. John Brantley underperformed last year, now in a new pro system coached by Charley Weiss, he will become more of the player he was supposed to be, but the two speed running backs, Demps and Rainey, don’t fit so well into a pro scheme. Add in the fact that the offensive line only returns two starters from a mediocre unit last year and there leaves much room for improvement. The Gators will compete for SEC titles again in the future, but this year is the adjustment year for Muschamp. Prediction 7-5

4.) Tennessee Volunteers – Last year the Vols outperformed expectations, yet the season still left a very bad taste in Knoxville. The Vols were two Bizarre plays from 8 -4 with a team that no one picked to be better than 6-6. This year, there are a few more expectations on the young team. For the first time in a while, the Vols return experience on the Offensive Line, if they can stay healthy, they will be solid here. The workhorse of the offense is going to be Tauren Poole, and behind an experienced line, look for Poole to breakout this season. Then comes Quarterback Tyler Bray. Bray exploded the final 4 games of the season and helped the Vols get into a Bowl game after being 2-6 with four games to go. The Gunslinger showed he has ability, but a shaky spring game has led to many questions about Bray and whether he would suffer a “sophomore slump.” Key Recievers Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones graduated and it's time for sophomores Justin Hunter and Da'rick Rogers to step into the spotlight. The Defense lost Janzen Jackson, likely the most talented player on the squad. The secondary still has strengths in Prentiss Wagner and Brent Brewer and the corners are strong as well, the secondary shouldn’t be an issue. The line backing corps is young, two freshman are expected to start, AJ Johnson and Curt Maggitt. Malik Jackson, the USC transfer made the move to Defensive Tackle and has impressed many, showing up on numerous pre-season “players to watch” lists. The Vols have potential, while this year is not a rebuilding year, it isn’t a championship one either. But there is something on Rocky Top that hasn’t been present in a while, and that’s prospects for a bright future for the football team. Young talent is abounding, and with recruiting violations, and athletic department changes in the past, the first step foreword for Tennessee begins this year. Prediction 7-5

5.) Kentucky Wildcats – Joker Phillips led Kentucky to it’s 5th straight bowl appearance last year, which, when you’re Kentucky, that’s a feat in and of itself. But the offense has to replace a lot of talent. RB Derrick Locke and all Purpose player Randall Cobb are both gone, as well as Quarter back Mike Hartline. Morgan Newton takes the helm, much to the excitement of many in Lexington, but Newton has no experience around him at WR or RB, that is not a good combination for a new Quarterback. The Defensive front is very average, which, in this league, will create problems. LB Danny Trevathan and SS Winston Guy are both talented players, but they do not have much support. Kentucky is average, they will have to battle this year to extend that streak to 6 years. The Key Games will be Louisville and Ole Miss, both at home, if they win both of those, their in. Prediction 4-8

6.) Vanderbilt Commodores- Behind New Coach James Franklin, the Dores have generated some excitement when they got some touted recruits from bigger schools such as Tennessee. But for the 2011 season, the makings for success are not present. RB Warren Norman is solid, and the Offensive line returns 5 starters, but QB Larry Smith and the receivers give Vanderbilt no prospects for a passing game. The defense isn’t much either, Chris Marve, the Linebacker is a stud, but he’s about It, with a little bit of strength in the secondary. Don’t look for Vanderbilt to turn many heads this season. Prediction 2-10

The West

1.) Alabama Crimson Tide- Yes, this is a popular pick but it’s that way for a reason. When you return nine starters from a defense that allowed 13 points a game on average, which was 3rd in the country, you generally will be favored. This team is a defensive nightmare for opposing Offensive Coordinators. Yes the defensive line has to replace Marcell Dareus, but the linebackers are a force to be reckoned with. Dont’a Hightower is a stud but Courtney Upshaw has drawn comparisons to first round pick Von Miller. In the secondary, Mark Barron is on the list for the Bednarik award.. The offense lost key players Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, and Juilo Jones, but Trent Richardson, a pre-season Heisman hopeful, returns and is poised to take over the spotlight after Ingram’s declaring early for the draft. The Quarterback battle is up in the air, but this isn’t a “you have two quarterbacks, thus you have no quarterbacks” situation, the problem is the two battling for the spot are both equally talented. AJ McCarron has more game experience, playing clean up duty last season, but Phillip Sims, the redshirt freshman started turning heads in the off-season. Alabama has announced that both will get playing time in the opener against coach Nick Saban’s alma mater, Kent State. And that’s the key for Alabama, they have one of the best coaches in the game in Nick Saban, and if he has the talent he needs, you can be sure that his team is in the running for the title. Alabama gets Arkansas and LSU at home, but goes on the road to Florida, to Mississippi State and at Auburn.Prediction 12-0 (gosh that felt weird. I need to take a shower)

2.) Arkansas Razorbacks – Yes, I dropped LSU to third after the scandals last week. Arkansas has the best receiving corps in the country. Greg Childs is back from injury last season. Jarius Right, Cobi Hamilton, and Joe Adams could all be #1 Recievers at other schools. The team took a hit when last year’s breakout running back Knile Davis went down with a season ending injury, Ronnie Wingo Jr. started at the beginning of last season, so there is some experience stepping in. Tyler Wilson had to step into the Auburn game after Ryan Mallet went out with an injury, he threw for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns, granted, Auburn’s secondary was garbage, but the kid showed he could play, and he’s got fans in Fayetteville excited. The defense returns 7 starters from an average squad, they will need to improve if Arkansas is going to make a run for the West. The schedule this season doesn’t favor the Razorbacks. At Alabama on September 24, vs Texas A&M the next week, then Auburn the week after that. They close at the season traveling to LSU. Prediction 11-1

3.) LSU Tigers – There is a lot of hype surrounding the Tigers, and I’ll be honest, I don’t see it. Last year for most of the season, this team offensively depened on RB Stevan Ridley, the quarterbacks Jefferson and Lee couldn’t find any consistency, and LSU survived a couple games by the skin of their teeth. They came on some at the end of the season, catching Alabama on a bad Saturday, and Jefferson began to play better. Factor in the lost of defensive stud Patrick Peterson, and that was the state of the team last offseason. Jefferson had improved and was ready to be the starter LSU fans had waited for, but then the allegations came after the bar fight. Jefferson is out for the Oregon game, at least, maybe more. Jarett Lee will start, Terrance Tolliver, one of the Tigers top receivers, it ineligible for the Oregon game as well. I don’t see LSU winning this game, and losing the first game of the season after a scandal can have adverse affects on the team. Les Miles, the mad hatter, the cat with nine lives, whatever you want to call him, will need to pull this team together if their going to make any impact in the west this season. Trips to West Virginia and Tennessee in weeks 3 and 4 may not be easy for the Tigers, especially if they already have a loss. Later in the season they have to travel to Alabama. They Close with a match up against the Razorbacks in Baton Rouge. I think this is the year that Les Miles’ luck finally runs out. Prediction 9-3

4.) Mississippi State – Last year Mississippi State surprised everyone, going 9-4 and smashing Michigan in the Gator Bowl. They are returning many key players, and this is the part where I would see they are poised for another year on the rise, except for the part where they are in the SEC west. Thus it’s an unfortunate case for Mullen and the Dogs, not that this team isn’t good, it is, but it’s not going to be able to compete with the rest of the West as far as an SEC title is concerned. Key returners on Offense are QB Chris Relf, RB Vick Ballard and most of the receiving corps. The Offensive line will be making replacements, which, in this league could spell trouble. On defense, the secondary needs to improve this season, the line backing corps shows some talent as well. The Dogs have to go on the road to Auburn, to Georgia and to Arkansas, but they do get Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, and the Egg Bowl game at home.Prediction 7-5

5.) Auburn- 5 returning starters on both sides of the ball from a National Championship has dropped Auburn from 1st to 23rd. This year will be a struggle for Auburn, their talented, but losing that many key players, especially Cam Newton, is tough to turn around and in the SEC West, it’s even worse. Michael Dyer is the key amongst the returning players, and if the offensive line can get their feet under them, the running game could be solid, and the coaching is there, Guz Malzahn is one of the best offensive minds in the league and his squad will compete, but once again, the schedule is just too tough to expect much more than 7-5, 6-6 for this team. Mississipi State at home, @ Clemson, @ South Carolina, @ Arkansas, vs. Florida, @LSU, @Georgia, Vs Alabama. Yeah, it’s going to be a long year in Auburn. Prediction 6-6

6.) Ole Miss-The Good news, they won’t be as bad as last year. The bad news, they won’t be good. The Quarterback issue wasn’t solved until a couple weeks ago when one of the competitors was arrested, so it’s likely Barry Brunetti will be the man. The key player on this offense will be Running Back Brandon Bolden, and there is depth at the running back position with Jeff Scott and Enrique Davis. Also the Offensive line returns starters Bradley Sowell and Bobbie Massie, the running game isn’t the issue, but with the Quarterback issue just resolving itself and a corps of average receivers, the passing game will struggle, especially against SEC defenses. Last year the defense ranked 107th in Points against, averaging 35 points a game. That will need to change if this team expects to go anywhere up from last year’s 4-8 season. Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU are all home games, but let’s be honest, for the Rebels, that won’t mean much. But it’s the SEC, you never know. Prediciton 5-7

SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia (Seriously, I’m getting sicker by the moment.)

Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Murray

Defensive Player of the Year: Don’t’a Hightower

Breakout Offensive Player: Tyler Wilson

Breakout Defensive Player: Jadevon Clowney

Team on the Rise: Tennessee

Team on the Decline: Ole Miss

Coach of the Year: Mark Richt

Most Overrated: Stephen Garcia

"Good Season Fellas."

Bold Predictions:

These are not at all guaranteed or even likely for that matter. But if they do happen, don’t be shocked because it’s possible.

Alabama’s Quarterbacks never develop and it costs them 3 games.

Arkansas wins the SEC West behind Wilson

LSU Collapses and goes 7-5

Mississippi State beats Alabama and LSU in Starkville.

Auburn goes 5-7 and doesn’t make a bowl.

Ole Miss goes to a bowl game.

Georgia goes 11-1 behind Aaron Murray.

Stephen Garcia gets beaten out by Connor Shaw at Quarterback.

Florida wins the SEC East.

Tennessee wins 9 games.

Kentucky upsets Tennessee in Lexington and ends the streak.

Vanderbilt admits a student with a 3.9 GPA (yeah right.)

That’s the preview, I’ll probably be proven wrong on most points by next week, but it was fun while it lasted. It’s going to be a great season, and here’s to the SEC taking it’s 6th in a row as long as it’s not Alabama or Florida (It’s Kentucky’s turn this year, baby.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

15 Years of College Football

]I was listening to a Knoxville Sports station today on the way to class, and they had the "This Day in Vol History." August 31, 1996 was the date of the first home game of the Tennessee season in 1996 and also the night Neyland Stadium made it's final additions and closed in the upper deck. I was five years old, and my Grandparents were taking me to my first college football game ever, my brother Nat was a 7 years old and he'd already been to a couple games but he came along. That night changed my life, It was a night game at Neyland, I'd never seen anything like it. 105,000 people packed the stands, Peyton Manning in his junior season led the Vols onto the field, with seats in the brand spanking new seats with chair backs in the new upper level of the stadium, section ZZ. That night was the first time I saw the Vols run through the T, I've seen it many times since, and it never fails to give me chills. Every time the Vols scored, which was often they won 62-3, fireworks were shot behind the stadium, and exploded in bursts of Orange and White with a large boom that seemed to shake the entire stadium, but it was actually the cheers of the 100,000.

My Grandfather is one of my heroes. For a lot of reasons, he was always there to mentor and teach me and my brothers new things about life, from respecting others, to loving God, to fishing, to making whistles out of tree leaves, we even tried to make baseball bats in his woodshed one time (they broke). But more than anything, I saw so much of Jesus in my grandfather, and that's why he is one of my heroes. Each year he took each of us to one football game, we each got to pick (in 1998 I picked Arkansas, what a doozy that was). Some of my greatest memories from my childhood were in Section Y8, Row 35, Seats 11 and 12 going to Tennessee football games with him. (Y8 is literally right behind the T when the Vols take the field, it opens up seemingly right below you and the boys in Orange come spilling out on the field while the stadium roars).

It's been 15 years, I'm 20 now, but College football never fails to bring out that 5 year old kid I used to be, full of wonder and excitement. And that's one of many reasons I love this time of year. Tomorrow the season begins, I can't tell you how excited I am. 15 years I've been going to games, I say, Happy 15th Anniversary for me and my second love, I cannot wait until we are reunited once again tomorrow evening. Here's to a great season, 15 years of memories, and the new ones on the way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tennessee: The End of the Scandal and Pat Summit

[Originally Posted on The Ineligible Reciever]

The NCAA ruled today that it would not be levying any more penalties on the University. Former Coach Bruce Pearl was banned for three years from College Athletics, that, along with Tennessee's self imposed penalties and the 8 game SEC suspension for Pearl were enough for the NCAA. Former Football coach Lane Kiffin wasn't given any penalties either (USC has had enough, I'll say it.)

Tennessee should consider themselves fortunate that the Miami case broke this week. Maybe it wasn't a factor, but let's compare Bruce Pearl's Barbeque and Lane Kiffin adding smoke effects in the stadium to Cash Gifts, Boats, and Ho's (see what I did there?) in Miami. The U wishes Sharpiro had only thrown a barbecue.

This off-season has been the worst for college football. The Ohio State case, the "scouting services" Oregon and LSU have been using. There is silver lining in this. All of the cases coming up likely diminished the relevancy of Tennessee's case. The NCAA was in a position to make an example of Tennessee. Look what they did to USC over improper benefits to a football player and a basketball player. 2 Years of post season ban, recruiting restrictions, probation, and stripping victories (including a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy). They were prepared to do the same to Tennessee, making an example of an SEC school would certainly send a message. But then the off-season comes and the Ohio State case breaks, that gets messy and the Tennessee case goes under the rug some. Then comes last week and the Miami case, which makes the Tennessee and even the Ohio State cases look like Child's play. Tennessee is lucky to have got out the way they did.

Granted, UT athletics is in oen of the worst places it has ever been. This is the first season since 2008 that there has been the same coach as the season before. The basketball coach got fired, the baseball coach got fired, the AD resigned. Volunteer Men's Athletics is in turmoil, but hopefully rock bottom is behind the Vols. For Tennessee Athletics, there has been one solid ground, Pat Summit and the Lady Vols.

The last couple of days have been tough in Knoxville. The legendary coach was diagnosed with early onset dementia (Alzheimers Type). But Summit's reply was typical, facing the news with the same icy glare she has become famous for (along with numerous other things including 8 National Championships) "There's no pity party, I'll make sure of that," said Summit.

If there is anything that Pat Summit has been to the University, it has that she had been constantly there, a solid ground, and that is what many in the sports community have said about her. But even more so during these tough times in athletics, there has never been doubt in Summit and the Lady Vols. And by constant, I don't mean just solid as a coach, i mean constantly successful on and off the basketball court. There are few coaches that reach the legendary level that Pat Summit has reached. Not only for her on the court successes, but the impact she has had on her players lives. It was evident yesterday when the news broke that the Coach has many around her who care deeply about her, most of them, former players. Because when it comes down to it, that's what coaches are for. Too many times today we got caught up in winning, but a coach who can push his players and teach them to succeed is a cut above. There is a reason that John Wooden is the unquestioned greatest coach of all-time. Pat Summit is in the elite cadre with those coaches like John Wooden. They are few and far between, and should be honored.

I wish Coach Summit the best, and lift her and her family up in prayer. For Tennessee, the worst is behind, the cloud has been lifted, the way to move now is foreword, and it starts September 3 in Neyland Stadium.

Just a note, the NCAA did find violations in the Basketball program that did put the University under probation, also the Vols could be subject to the repeat violator clause for the next 5 years if there are further violations, which would mean bigger penalties (bowl bans, scholarships taken etc.)

The 2010 FBS Play-off: From The Ineligible Receiver

[Originally Posted on www.theineligiblereciever.blogspot.com]

The debate has been going on for some time, and 2011 was just another year that Pro-Playoff'ers used as an example of the league's need for a playoff series. We've all heard the arguments, but here's what I'm proposing, let's just look and see what it would have looked like last year with a 16 team playoff. Then we'll decide which turned out better.

Play-Off Rules
In this hypothetical scenario, the BCS doesn't exist, and there is a 16 team playoff. The 11 Conference Champions automatically are in the tournament, then the remaining 5 slots will be filled by at-large teams based on rank. There would have to be a system to decide on which rankings are used, but just for this case, the AP Poll from Week 15 (the Polls after the Conference Championship games) were used, remember, the BCS doesn't exist, thus the BCS Rankings do not exist. You can argue that the AP isn't the best and that there are others, but it really wouldn't have changed anything in this scenario, and this isn't real life, it's just a speculation.

The Teams:

#1 Seed- #1 Auburn - SEC Champions

#2 Seed- #2 Oregon- Pac 10 Champions

#3 Seed- #3 TCU - Mountain West Champions

#4 Seed- #4 Wisconsin- Big Ten Champion

#5 Seed- #5 Stanford - At Large

#6 Seed - #6 Ohio State - At Large

#7 Seed - #7 Michigan State - At Large

#8 Seed - #8 Arkansas - At Large

#9 Seed - #9 Oklahoma - Big 12 Champion

#10 Seed - #10 Boise State - At Large

#11 Seed - #12 Virginia Tech - ACC Champion

#12 Seed - #13 Nevada - WAC Champion

#13 Seed - #25 Connecticut - Big East Champion

#14 Seed - University of Central Florida - C-USA Champion

#15 Seed - University of Miami-Ohio - MAC Champion

#16 Seed - Florida International University - Sun Belt Champion

At this point, the main team that is on the outside looking in is #11 LSU. Yeah, it stinks for the Tigers, they are an SEC with two losses. But they lost two games, one of those a week earlier to Arkansas. They had the opportunity to make it, and at no point was their destiny not in their own hands.

The Bracket

Here is the bracket fully played out, if the #1 and the #2 seeds won each game. Granted, we still see Oregon play Auburn play, which was a great game. but Boise State, and TCU both had their chances, and Oregon and Auburn each had to earn their way into this game.

Look at some of these matchups and imagine, first, the amazing football games we would see, and the audiences they would draw on television (last year Auburn-Oregon alone drew 27.3 Million) Second, imagine the amount of money that would be made on ticket sales.

Round 1

#16 FIU @ #1 Auburn - not a great match-up, but knowing Auburn fans, there wouldn't be an empty seat in Jordan-Hare. Auburn 48 - FIU 7

#9 Oklahoma @ #8 Arkansas- Jones vs. Mallet, Petrino vs. Stoops, Broyles vs. Childs. This game features some of the best Offensive players in the game. I don't see this one being a defensive battle, but it would be one heck of a game. Arkansas takes it, but it takes last minute heroics by Mallet. Arkansas 48-Oklahoma 44

#12 Nevada @ #5 Stanford - Andrew Luck squares of with Colin Kapernick. Stanford really came on at the end of the season (destroying VT in the Orange Bowl). In this play-off system, they get a chance to make something more than a shalacking of the Hokies in Miami and an Orange Bowl Trophy, which, don't get me wrong, is nice, but it's not a Championship. Stanford 35 - Nevada 17

#13 Connecticut @ #4Wisconsin - The Wisconsin running games continues to roll through Big East Champ Connecticut. The Fiesta Bowl sucked last year, Oklahoma pretty much got a free win and an unsatisfying end of the season win. In the play-off system, Connecticut is still probably over their head, but just making the play-offs was a victory. And Wisconsin, though getting a relatively easy win, still have a ways to go before the championship. Wisconsin 28-Connecticut 10

#15 Miami (Ohio) @ #2 Oregon - Oregon begins it's run to the title with MAC Champion Miami Ohio) Oregon is favored, but this is one of those games that the 15 seed could sneak up and win. And everyone loves an upset. But Oregon is not the team to be upset. Oregon 56 - Miami (Ohio) 14

#10 Boise State @ #7 Michigan State - Boise State finally gets their shot at a title run, and a chance to silence all the critics. But a loss to Nevada late in the season took the home field advantage from them and gets them an opening round match up at Michigan State. But Petersen will not be outdone, and the Bronco's, thirsty to prove themselves, take the win and the first upset of the play-off. Boise State 28 - Michigan State 24

#14 UCF @ #3 TCU - Gary Patterson is another coach whose ready to prove his team has what it takes. TCU went undefeated last year, and won the Rose Bowl. Essentially, they did everything they possibly could right, and didn't get rewarded for it with a championship. That's a shame, when a team does every possible thing to win, and succeeds, and still don't win, that's not right. It's as if before the season ever started, they were eliminated. TCU is ready to become a national power. TCU 35 - UCF 17

#11 Virginia Tech @ #6 Ohio State - Tresel vs. Beamer. The Hokies traveling to the Horseshoe and challenging the Buckeyes. I don't have to tell you how incredible of a game this would be. Two of the best dual threat quarterbacks facing each other. And this is just the first round. Ohio State has the better defense and that's what wins them this game. Ohio State 21 - Virginia Tech 10

Round 2

Arkansas @ Auburn - When these two teams squared off in the season, over 100 points were scored. They say the hardest thing to do is beat team twice, it's harder in the SEC. Cam Newton and the Tigers find a way, and win this one in the second half. Auburn 45 - Arkansas 38

Stanford @ Wisconsin - Stanford's dream meteoric rise of a season under Jim Harbaugh continues it's war path to Camp Randall Stadium. The Home Crowd "Jumping Around" and the running back tandem of Clay and Ball are too much for the Fighting Trees. Wisconsin goes to the Semi's. Wisconin 31 - Stanford 28

Oregon @ Boise State - One year earlier, Boise State stopped Chip Kelly and #14 Oregon's offense dead in it's tracks, holding them to 8 points. The Ducks were so frustrated, punches were thrown after the game. Boise was the only team to hold the Ducks in single digits in the last 4 years (the last was UCLA in 2007). This year, each team enters this game with something to prove. Boise that they can compete on the National Title level, Oregon to settle an old score with the Broncos. Boise puts up a gallant effort. But the Zoo, the Kelly Offense, and Lamichael James are too much for the Broncos. Oregon 35-Boise State 34

Ohio State @ TCU - TCU gets the game they want. The chance to prove themselves against the year in, year out, most successful BCS team in the last decade. After a hard fought, physical football game, Andy Dalton with some 4th quarter heroics, leads the Horned Frogs to victory in front of a record crowd in Fort Worth. TCU 31-Ohio State 28

Wisconsin @ Auburn - It's the Big Ten vs. The SEC. These games never go without every SEC fan jumping on the SEC bandwagon and Big Ten fans doing the same. In those two markets, the TV Ratings would be through the roof. Which conference is best is settled for the year with the best of the best from each squaring off at Auburn. Cam Newton and the high powered Auburn Offense prove to be too much for the Badgers who hold on for a while, but eventually can't keep up. Auburn 42 - Wisconsin 31

TCU @ Oregon - Andy Dalton and the Horned Frogs, fresh after proving themseleves as a contender, ride the success into Eugene to face the Ducks who are likely sporting some of their fanciest uniformes to date. This game is a barn burner that goes down to the wire, whoever has the ball lasts will win. But Oregon eventually wears down and exploits the Horned Frogs weaknesses on D. Oregon 38 - TCU 28

So the final is Oregon @ Auburn, played in Glendale Arizona. You could argue that the BCS system is like the entire season is a play-off. No. TCU went undefeated, Boise State was two field goals from and undefeated season, and neither of them ever had a shot at making this game. In the playoff system, they did, they were beaten, but they had their shot. We all know what happened when Oregon and Auburn played in January, so Auburn is your national champion. But in the play-off system, they earned every bit of it, and the victory is that much sweeter for Chizik and his team.

4 Arguments for the Play-off

1.) Every team gets their shot. Let's be honest, in any system, one team is going to be on the outside looking in. But who would you rather be left out? The #3 Undefeated team? Or the #11 2 loss team? In the Play-off system, each team has their chance. You win every game, you win the championship. That's all their is to it. There's no elimination from contention based on strength of schedule or conference strength. Win, and your in. That's all there is to it.

2.) The best football games of the year would come in the play-offs look back at some of those match ups. Those games make for some incredible football, and some of those games would become legendary. There is so much more on the line when the winner goes on, and the loser goes home.

3.) There is more incentive to win the conference and a greater reward. The conference championship sometimes just becomes a trophy sometimes. With a play off birth and a chance at the title attached to it, it becomes that much more. Now teams all have incentive to compete for the conference title. Suddenly North Texas has something more than a Bowl Birth to play for, a conference championship gets them a spot in the tournament.

4.) No More awkward one month break for Championship Game Teams - This one explains itself, the one month break between the Championship game and the Bowl Game is hated by most and detracts from the team.

Arguements Against the Play-Off

1.) The Athletes aren't physically able to play that many games. Yeah, that's a lot of football. Obviously, the season would have to be shortened to 11 games, then with a conference championship game, the max games would be 16. You say that's a lot for a college athlete. Some High School Teams play 15 a year if they make a state championship. Pro Football can play as much as 19. 16 is doable. And if you want that title, you have to earn it. It is exhausting, yes. But the reward is that much greater.

2.) 12 Games of Excitement or 4? - Yes the current system rewards consistent teams and it creates an every game matters feel. But when you're a team like Boise, or TCU, every game doesn't matter because even if you win them all, you're still not in. If you're FIU, it really doesn't matter. In the current play-off system, LSU lost two games and they were out, and they are an SEC Team. This system still puts a lot of pressure on each game. Yeah, you can lose a game, but lose two and you're chances drop considerably. Winning is the only way to secure a spot in the play-off.

3.) Play-off Means less football and No Bowls- Really? One less game. Would you sacrifice one season game (which would likely be a dinky out of conference slaughter anyways for most teams) for 4 weeks of some of the best football with a national title on the line? I would. And there is a place for the bowls in the new system. The Championship game still exists because the Championship game is played in Arizona. You could have other bowls so that other teams (Like LSU, Alabama, Florida State etc.) could have a post season game, they would just lose their luster, and some money (which the Fiesta Bowl proved they can't handle right anyways)

Friday, July 22, 2011

On Marvel and the Superhero Film Era

I was walking out of the midnight showing of Captain America: The First Avenger, and I couldn't help but just feel unsatisfied. The movie was good, but it didn't do anything to set it apart from the mediocrity of 95 % of other Superhero films. What bothers me most is, we've seen the potential of Superhero film, the Batman series directed by Christopher Nolan has been fantastic. What is the problem, what is lacking in all of these other films?


I believe one of the problems is Marvel. With the exception of Spiderman 2 and MAYBE Iron Man (Iron Man was solid and very basic, but the performance by Downey Jr. saved it for me, without him that movie was nothing) Marvel has not made a good Superhero movie, and consider the fact that Spiderman 2 was 2004 and Iron Man was 2008, most Marvel films have missed. I am not a comic book fan, but it seems to me that with the exception of Batman, Superman, and the Green Lantern, most popular super heroes are Marvel. So why can't they make any good movies?

Marvel is trying to create this universe where all the stories are connected, it's a creative, bold idea, the problem is each film is not executed properly as it's own film. Which leaves the film and many of its elements undeveloped. Thus, this whole avengers series has played out more like a television show than a series of films. The focus of all of these movies is the heroes themselves, not the stories they take part in. Character does not drive film, story does. The character plays into the story, the main part actually, but he is not the central focus.

Story is the essence of film. Maybe it's not the same for Comic Books, but I'm not going to the theater to read a comic book, I'm going to see a movie. One of the issues that handicaps so many of these films is they all seem to be catered to the Comic book audience. Subtle jokes that only comic book readers get, back stories and information that's important to the story that once again, only comic book readers understand. But I would say this to the filmmakers, most of your audience, likely, hasn't read all the comics for these superheroes, thus you've alienated a large part of your audience and left holes in your story.

Basically, what I'm saying is stop catering these movies to the Comic Book Audience, that's what the comic books are for. It's like they assume every audience member going into the theater has all the information the comic book fans have, and thus they leave those details out. (I never got the name of any one of the members of Captain America's crew except for his buddy Bucky) but apparently those characters were key players in the comic books, the audience doesn't know that, you can't make a good film with holes like that. Key information is left out of the story because it has been assumed that we know and understand it.

My main point is, what drives a movie is the story. The story HAS to be the focus, the center, the skeleton if you will. When a character is the focus, he dominates the movie, and everything is left underdeveloped. When When special effects is the focus, you get a Michael Bay movie. It's the story, and that is what is missing so evidently in Hollywood these days.

The Dark Knight Got It Right (SPOILER ALERT)

I want to look into the Dark Knight, and how it succeeded as a Super Hero film and what it did right.

First, it doesn't seem like a super hero movie, sometimes when I'm watching the film, I forget that it's about a superhero, I think it's a real story. It happens within the realm of possibility. This is something Marvel has deviated far from, Marvel is trying to make their own universe that their films exist in, and it makes them come off like fairy tales. The exception for Marvel is Spiderman 1 and 2, and Iron Man, and these were two of their best. Go Figure.

Second, the story is the focus of the Dark Knight. It isn't about Bruce Wayne, or Batman, granted he is the main character, but the story is about justice in Gotham City and how Batman plays into that and the sacrifices he ultimately must make to achieve that. It reveals the tragedy of a hero, and makes him so much more real. In most other superhero films, it's about how cool the hero is, he gets the girl, he gets the powers, he saves the world, and gets the glory. In Batman it's the exact opposite. He has money, but is unsatisfied with it. First he loses his reputation and that of his family, second, he loses his relationship with Rachel, and eventually he makes a choice to sacrifice her for the greater good. And at the end of the Dark Knight, Batman sacrifices his reputation as a hero to save the name of Harvey Dent. Suddenly all of the populous sees the man trying to save them as a villain, in order to protect the reputation of Harvey Dent, who was the face of Justice in Gotham. There is hardly any glamor for Batman, it's a sacrifice.

Story drives film. All other elements play into the story. The characters, the effects, the setting, the circumstances, the sound, the cinematography, but without story, they are nothing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Breaking the Curse : Another Dismal Year in Wrigleyville

The Cubs lost their 60th game today, before even playing 100, they've lost 60, are 13.5 games out of the Division, and even farther on the Wild Cart. But the real thing is the team seems to have lost (If it ever had it) it's ability to compete. Once again, it's July and the Cubs are out of the picture.

Usually I see this as a blessing because it's about this time of year that I begin to focs on college football anyways. But let's be honest, I couldn't call myself a Cubs fan if I didn't hope for the day when the Cubs would end the drought and finally take the World Series (they haven't even made the Series since 1947). There is a culture of losing in Chicago, in 2009, the Ricketts took over the Cubs and we wondered, can the Cubs win under new ownership.

Pinella left last season, then the Cubs made a run under the management of Mike Quade and following the bat of rookie phenom Starlin Castro. Enough of a run to get Quade the job this season. After acquiring perfect game thrower Matt Garza, and home run slugger Carlos Pena, along with Kerry Wood in the offseason. While the makings of success were not guaranteed, there was some momentum going into this season, but it's all proved for not.

Can the Cubs ever break the curse? Being a Cubs fan I will always say, it's not a matter of if, just when. There's the makings of success. There are some moves the Cubs can make now to begin investing in the future.

1.) Fire Jim Hendry - While I'm usually against calling for someone's firing, Hendry did hire Dusty Baker, and Lou Pinella, both who had the team going in the right direction. But Baker peaked with the 2003 NLCS apperance, and Pinella had two division championships but not a single play-off victory in either of those seasons. During his tenure, Hendry has given large contracts to players that were nowhere close to worth the money or contract length they were given (most recently Fukudome, and Soriano) and also Hendry has made trades for players that have not worked in the Cubs Favor (the Nomar Garciaparra trade, trading young talent for Matt Garza, a talented pitcher, but not what the Cubs needed, granted the Cubs did get Carlos Pena out of this, which was a good move.) But it's time to look for another GM. Andrew Freidman of the Rays comes to mind.

2.) Keep Mike Quade - He's got a contract through next year, and there have been improvements under him. If it doesn't work out after next year, begin to look other places. Quade's seat is getting a little warm, for good reason, but by no means is this enough reason to fire him. A little warmth on the seat can serve as inspiration.

3.) Trade Zambrano, Dempster, and A. Ramirez - All three of these guys are past their prime. At this point trading these three could bring in some good young talent to the farm system, which leads to. . .

4.) Build the Farm - The future is only as bright as a team's youth. The Cubs need to take notes from the Kansas City Royals or the Atlanta Braves and begin to build young talent in the farm system.

5.) Alfonso Soriano - Soriano is putting up mediocre numbers for the amount of money he is being payed. By next year, he won't be viable at all and it's time for the Cubs to let this one go. Tyler Colvin is ready to replace Soriano in Left.

6.) Keep Castro and Pena - Both of these guys are an integral part of the Cubs offense and could become a deadly 3 and 4 duo in the future. The team can follow the bats of these two.