Friday, November 26, 2010

College Football Week 13

I hope that all of you enjoyed the very best Thanksgiving imaginable yesterday! It's a great holiday as I can't think of much more to be thankful for than the opportunity itself, to gather with those that are closest to you, and be thankful for each other and all things wonderful in our lives...and then to eat more than one might think possible and come back for more at the slightest hint of digestion, only to pile on with the leftovers in the following days. Yes, in the end, I am mostly thankful for gluttony, but that other stuff is important too. And so is football.

I write this ongoing series of college football, partially because I love to do it, but also because I really want to see it through to the end. In the future though, I think I will limit the number of series type blogs that I take on, mainly because there are some weeks in which there is little time to write anything else and this week is a perfect example: The National Dog Show that we watched yesterday. Just in case you and your family thought it necessary to watch Tom Brady annihilate the Detroit Lions, I'll save you the suspense, the Irish Setter won...impressive performance. Ordinarily one might think it difficult to opt for the dog show over football, but our Mom LOVES the dog show, and to tell you the truth, that makes me really enjoy watching it with her. It's not like it's figure skating or something. Besides, I had a girlfriend once who told me that she would break up with me for Tom Brady and rather irrationally, I've been jealous ever since. It's not like I dislike the man, I rather enjoy watching his craft and he does start on my fantasy team, but let's face it, I'm yet to date a girl that would dump me for an Irish Setter, although I'm sure this is coming soon. Incidentally, should a girl I'm dating ever indicate that I would be on the outs for this guy, I would immediately spare her the suspense and break up with her on the spot. If you're keeping track at home, that makes the score: Tom Brady 1, Irish Setter 0, Justin Bieber -1.

Anyway, as I write this, the Auburn-Alabama game is already underway, so let's get on with the rankings for this week (games already played since last weekend not included):

1 Auburn (11-0)
2 Oregon (10-0)
3 LSU (10-1)
4 Boise State (10-0)
5 Stanford (10-1)
6 TCU (11-0)
7 Michigan State (10-1)
8 Wisconsin (10-1)
9 Ohio State (10-1)
10 Alabama (9-2)
11 Arkansas (9-2)
12 Virginia Tech (9-2)
13 Oklahoma State (10-1)
14 Texas A&M (8-3)
15 Nebraska (9-2)
16 Missouri (9-2)
17 Oklahoma (9-2)
18 South Carolina (8-3)
19 Nevada (10-1)
20 Mississippi State (7-4)
21 Florida (7-4)
22 Utah (9-2)
23 Iowa (7-4)
24 Penn State (7-4)
25 Michigan (7-4)

Obviously, the games today and tomorrow are very important, but this Iron Bowl going on as I write this might be most significant of all. And so far, Alabama is killing it, impressively already up 14-0. But with Cam Newton, it sure isn't over yet. Cam Newton, the likely Heisman winner, has made this Auburn team nearly unstoppable this year and while it may be all coming to an end right before my eyes, it's not the most unfortunate part of the run that Auburn has made in this 2010 season. This is.

So I had a poll about it, thanks for participating if you chose to. The results were about even between two of the options, one that simply receiving the scholarship for their efforts was plenty enough for the player to receive, and the other that the player should receive some additional compensation, but that there should be very strict guide-lines and regulations to the amount that a player could potentially be awarded. Those are fine options, I suppose, but it was interesting to me how little support my readers offered the options of the kind of compensation that might be more in line with the value that they might be bringing an institution.

Don't get me wrong, I understand all of the opinions offered, but here's what I can't seem to get past as I give this question more and more thought: the NCAA seems to be completely incompetent when it comes to regulating these restrictions in the first place. And it's infuriating. Take Cam Newton, or at least the best to my knowledge as to what is going on with his situation:

1) The NCAA has been aware of his possible violations since January of this year.
2) Nothing came out about them until deep into this fall, at a time in which Auburn was already something like (9-0) and Newton was very much atop the Heisman leaders.
(3) His "violations" seem to revolve around his father, a pastor, who's not so affluent church has recently undergone some pricey renovations.

By the way, Auburn is now in the process of not only losing their first game, but getting destroyed by Alabama, now 21-0 with Auburn punting, and a good punt it was not.

Anyway, there is undoubtedly more to the whole Cam Newton situation than I've listed here, but those 3 elements alone should be enough to really make you scratch your head. First off, the religion thing...uh...yeah think of that what you like...but I think for the purpose of this blog, I'll just move on. More importantly, two questions, one, what is taking the NCAA so infuriatingly long to sort through this mess? This is the top Heisman hopeful on a leading national championship contender (although, it's now 24-0 Alabama, a party in Tuscaloosa) we are talking about, one would think that a situation such as this would be a heavy portion on the plate of investigations to made. Secondly though, at what point should we accept that these are kids, and not always financially stable kids at that, surrounded by greedy individuals more than willing to toss good intentions to the wind in order to exploit their athletic talents for their own financial gain?

It seems to me, that the only people, families, institutions, agents and NCAA alike, who are prohibited from seeking financial stability in the first place, are the kids themselves. What if Cam Newton's father got together with an agent and worked this deal out on his own? Will the father be punished? No. The agent? No. Cam Newton? Hell yes, take away his trophy, his national championship and bury him in the press. Auburn might suffer, but honestly, how much? Will they still make money? Of course they will! This was well worth the attempt for them; they're in the SEC, atop the college football world, and that isn't likely to change, violations and penalties or not.

Just accept it. Is it really all about the kid's education anymore? Is it at all about that? Do you care about Cam Newton's Geology class? Do people google "Cam Newton" "Geology class"? Do people like me write blogs about it? No, it's about M-O-N-E-Y, money that we make possible every time we go to a game, every time that we watch a game on TV, every time that we argue about who is best and who is awful. We all sit here in our smug little educated worlds and suppose that what we value in our lives is what these kids should value as well. Except most of us can't play football like Cam Newton. Most of us don't have greedy jackals surrounding us, looking to take any opportunity possible to get their unearned share of our accomplishments. And even if we did, it's clear that the NCAA or any other institution wouldn't be able to protect us anyway.

I say pay the kids...not necessarily the schools, but if outside entities want to provide the kids their proper share, then why attempt to regulate what has already been shown to be too difficult to regulate anyway? It does seem to me that an unfair playing field would be inevitable, that the kids would undoubtedly go where the money is. But isn't that what we have already anyway? Are USC and Iowa State really on an even playing field as it is? No and it's ridiculous to think otherwise. Really, in the end, there are the greedy surrounded by the greedy, with heavy influence from the greedy to help the greedy make greedy decisions. At least the greedy few that actually have to put in the hard work to accomplish their goals should be the individuals benefiting the most from it. And this just isn't happening.

Anyway, give it some thought, and as always, your comments are more than appreciated. Be back next week with more...have a great holiday weekend!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

College Football Resumed- Week 12

For anyone of you that actually waits anxiously to read what I have to say about the subject matter at hand, I must apologize for my brief hiatus. In skipping week 11, I realize that the continuity of these posts has suffered a bit, but let me assure you that it was for a worthy enough cause. I spent much of last week, including all of the weekend with some old friends, good friends at that, in which I had not seen in over ten years. The plan was simple: they fly in from their respective home cities and together we take a small road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for what very well might be the last of a very long series between the two schools. The reunion meant more to me than any football game could compete with, and it came at a time in my life that I could use something like this, so please forgive me for my brief departure and let me just assure you that the occasion was a joyous one.

So with that, I now attempt to resume in what very well could end up being a fairly lengthy post. The game I attended on Saturday night, a rather pathetic one that was very much representative of the lack of splendor the series has taken on over the years, marked one important occasion for the purposes of this blog: Kansas' seventh loss. Not that anyone cares, nor should they, given the disaster that this season has been for the Jayhawk football program, but I make this statement with only the intention of maintaining that with seven losses, a team can no longer really receive much credit for defeating Kansas or any of the following schools that have suffered big loss number seven in the last two weeks:

Buffalo, Colorado State, Duke, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico State, North Texas, Rice, UAB, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.

Ordinarily, of course, I would write some statement of inadequacies regarding each of these epic losers, but I have bigger fish to fry this week, and I think it's enough to just inform you that all of these teams, Kansas included, are really, really bad. Now, I only start with this list for one reason, it's time to finally break down for you how I come up with the order in which I designate my top 25 teams, and to do so I need to present my sequence of win significance, so to speak. Let's put them into tiers:

Tier 1: Wins over 1 loss BCS programs-This is to say that the team being recognized for a victory such as this, is obviously the only team that has defeated this opponent. I should note here that I also include Notre Dame, as would the BCS, should they ever regain relevance. While I would love to see Notre Dame drop their selfish incentives and finally join a proper BCS conference, for now it's enough for me that they at least play over half their games against teams from BCS conferences, and usually good ones at that.

Tier 2: Wins over 1 loss non-BCS programs, as well as 2 loss BCS programs- I suppose it just seems about equal to me, but I'm fairly systematic in keeping to this kind of 2 for 1 program from here out, so I figure that I'm at the very least consistent in this format.

Tier 3: Wins over 3 loss BCS

Tier 4: Wins over 2 loss non-BCS and 4 loss BCS

Tier 5: Wins over 5 loss BCS

Tier 6: Wins over 3 loss non-BCS and 6 loss BCS

Tier 7: Wins over 4 loss non-BCS

Tier 8: Wins over 5 loss non-BCS

Tier 9: Wins over 6 loss non-BCS

It seldom ever becomes necessary to even consider Tiers 7-9, but they can, if necessary, be used as tie-breakers for teams with remarkably similar schedules to date. And as I've already stated, there is no credit whatsoever for beating teams with 7 losses or more, or teams that are below division 1 FBS. So with this format in place, instead of just listing this week's top 25, let's present each team with their credentials to date.

1) Auburn (11-0)
Undefeated is the first thing to recognize, but also beat Tier 1 LSU, Tier 2 Arkansas as well as Tier 3 South Carolina and Mississippi State. Nobody even comes close to this list of accomplishments.

2) Oregon (10-0)
Also undefeated with wins over Tier 1 Stanford and Tier 3 USC.

3) LSU (9-1)
Only loss is to Auburn, which means that they are undefeated against the field of which they are being compared. And their wins, Tier 2 Alabama, Tier 3 West Virginia and Mississippi State are significant enough to trump that field.

4) Boise State (9-0)
Oregon State hit the tank but lucky for them, Virginia Tech has stuck around to allow Boise a Tier 2 victory. Their whole status depends on this, but so far, they are very fortunate.

5) Stanford (9-1)
Only loss to Oregon, so undefeated against the rest of this field, and Tier 3 wins over USC and Arizona are good enough for now.

6) TCU (11-0)
About to fade fast. Tier 4 wins against Baylor and Utah will barely do for now, but should those start slipping to Tier 5, 6 or worse, Nebraska and friends are going to move on ahead of them.

7) Nebraska (9-1)
The one loss to Texas is a rough one to justify, but there are no longer any teams that are undefeated against the rest of the field, so their wins against Tier 1 Oklahoma State, Tier 2 Missouri and Tier 4 Kansas State are plenty good enough to be the best of the rest.

8) Oklahoma State (9-1)
Only loss is to Nebraska, so now they are undefeated against the rest of the field and wins over Tier 3 Texas A&M as well as Tier 4 Kansas State and Baylor will suffice for now.

9) Michigan State (9-1)
The loss was to Iowa, which is not exactly looking golden right now, but the wins over Tier 1 Wisconsin, as well as Tier 3 Michigan and Northwestern are.

10) Wisconsin (9-1)
Now undefeated against the rest of the field, plus wins over Tier 1 Ohio State and Tier 3 Iowa.

11) Ohio State (9-1)
See a trend here? Now Ohio State is undefeated against the rest of the field and the wins over Tier 3 Miami (FL) plus Tier 4 Penn State get it done just enough.

12) Alabama (8-2)
The first 2 loss team, with 1 of the losses being against LSU, so only has 1 loss against this field. The wins over Tier 2 Arkansas, Tier 3 Mississippi State, plus Tier 4 Penn State and Florida easily top teams of this variety of losses.

13) Arkansas (8-2)
Losses against Auburn and Alabama make them, say it with me, undefeated against the rest of the field. The wins are fine against Tier 3 Texas A&M and South Carolina.

14) Mississippi State (7-3)
This is the first time that it's become necessary for this week's rankings, but I will allow a team to jump one Tier from their own if their wins and losses dictate it feasible. Mississippi State, with their only losses being against Auburn, LSU and Alabama, are undefeated against the remaining field, but it should be noted that their one win against Tier 4 Florida makes their standing here tedious at best without further improvement.

15) Missouri (8-2)
One bad loss against Texas Tech, but then every team from here out in the qualifying Tiers has a game lost that cannot be overlooked. And the wins over Tier 2 Oklahoma, Tier 3 Texas A&M and Tier 4 Kansas State makes Missouri the best of these teams.

16) Texas A&M (7-3)
Add Missouri to their losses against Oklahoma State plus Arkansas, and yup, undefeated from here out. Wins over Tier 2 Oklahoma and Tier 4 Baylor are plenty good to qualify here.

17) Oklahoma (8-2)
#15 and # 16 went well for Oklahoma because those are their 2 losses. Consider that plus their Tier 3 victory over Florida State, and they are sitting comfortably enough for now right here.

18) South Carolina (7-3)
The only bad loss is to Kentucky, but wins over Tier 2 Alabama and Tier 4 Florida beats out a field that is starting to look weaker and weaker.

19) Virginia Tech (8-2)
Remember that loss to James Madison? Well the Hokies haven't lost since. Good thing for Boise State that they haven't. Part of the steady Virginia Tech recovery includes wins over Tier 3 NC State and Tier 4 North Carolina...good enough for this spot.

20) USC (7-3)
The bad loss is Washington, the one win is Tier 3 Arizona, good enough for right here.

21) Arizona (7-3)
USC getting in means their only bad loss from here out is Oregon State. Beating Tier 3 Iowa makes for a very similar scenario as the team that just made this possible, right ahead of them.

22) Iowa (7-3)
Very similarly, Arizona's clearance leaves the only remaining Iowa defeat against this field as being Northwestern. This time their selection is even more clear with nice wins over Tier 1 Michigan State, Tier 3 Michigan and Tier 4 Penn State.

23) Michigan (7-3)
Once again, Iowa clears the way with Michigan's only bad loss remaining being Penn State, and that doesn't seem so bad, but neither does their one decent win seem that good, against Tier 4 Connecticut. This might be short lived.

24) Nevada (9-1)
Might have come up earlier had they presented us with anything better than Tier 5 California in the win column. But they didn't.

25) Florida (6-4)
Really running out of better options. Florida only has a Tier 3 victory against South Florida, but at least their 4 losses are against Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina, making them undefeated against the rest of the field.

Hopefully, you can now at least see some method to my madness. Thank you for taking the time to sort through it, as from here out, I can answer any questions and at least feel like I've attempted to give it proper representation at least one time.

Also, please vote in my poll if you haven't yet; I've got something coming about all that!

Friday, November 5, 2010

College Football Week 10

So here I was this week, typing away about the Auburn Tigers and their undefeated season to date. I thought it might be time to clearly define, as opposed to merely dropping indicators in segments, the system of which I use to define which team gets ranked where. I had plenty to write about. Auburn's fiercest rivalry, one I have always inexplicably been fascinated with, their mutual hatred for the Alabama Crimson Tide, a team that was and for some still is the apple of the college football nation's eye, will culminate in two or three weeks with what maybe the biggest match up of the season. Yet to this date, Auburn gets repeatedly under-credited for a distinguished set of accomplishments this season, and Alabama seems set to be given every opportunity to win a national championship on reputation alone, as if we predetermined that Alabama should play Boise State for the title, it's the game everyone wants to see, so let's just make it happen, regardless of how their accomplishments stack up against the rest of the nation.

Boise State then, as well as TCU and Utah would deserve some mention. Boise, I have droned on about a little on this blog, but TCU and Utah play each other this weekend and by the end of it, two of these three non-BCS teams will remain undefeated, a misfortune for those wanting a clear cut champion from the current system, a gift from God for those who cry out against an imperfect system and beg for a tournament. Perhaps this subject is better left for a future week anyway.

The last comparison to be discussed would be the obvious, the Oregon Ducks, the only other undefeated BCS conference team. This seems to be the consensus team of teams to date, with the only general criticism I've heard about Oregon so far, seems to be their uniforms. Yet if you compare their schedule to Auburn, I think you would come to same conclusion I did that....and hold on...STOP THE BLOG. Delete. Delete. Delete. This popped up on our radar last night. Read it if you have the time.

Cam Newton. The Heisman to be. The best player on the best team. Cash. We've seen this before but I can't remember a time in which it came up mid-season, particularly with a player/team that is so deeply entrenched in a season, with so much already having been accomplished. What will happen from here? Who knows. It could be nothing and even if there is something to it, we could be waiting a while before anything about this ugliness gets resolved. I'm currently awaiting a similar kind of decision on a key player, Josh Selby, concerning KU's upcoming basketball season. So perhaps I can't help but to allow bias enter the arena of my "big picture" concerning the subject matter. Therefore I've decided that this week, instead of rambling on about this Auburn player and this Auburn team, let's ask you. What do you think? The poll I have come up with is on the right of this column.

I'd like to get back to this question in the future, after I've seen your response to the poll. But for now, let's just get on with my top 25:

1 Auburn (9-0)
2 Oregon (8-0)
3 LSU (7-1)
4 TCU (9-0)
5 Boise State (7-0)
6 Utah (8-0)
7 Stanford (7-1)
8 Mississippi State (7-2)
9 Nebraska (7-1)
10 Missouri (7-1)
11 Oklahoma (7-1)
12 Oklahoma State (7-1)
13 Michigan State (8-1)
14 Wisconsin (7-1)
15 Ohio State (8-1)
16 Iowa (6-2)
17 South Carolina (6-2)
18 Alabama (7-1)
19 Arkansas (6-2)
20 Arizona (7-1)
21 Illinois (5-3)
22 Penn State (5-3)
23 Florida (5-3)
24 Texas A&M (5-3)
25 Oregon State (4-3)

Most noticeable is that the conferences are all starting to take their toll on each other, thus resulting in the teams of some conferences being ranked in bunches. While it may look a bit unsightly, I don't see anything wrong with this, given that it is merely representative of how a team's performance might affect those that seek recognition based on an opponent's presence on their schedule alone.

Speaking of scheduling recognition, here are this week's newest members to my "no credit" list:

Wyoming (2-7)- As much as they've lost, one has to recognize the difficulty of the Wyoming Cowboys' schedule. Part of this is merely misfortune, as their conference schedule is about as top heavy as I've ever seen a team have to endure, relative to the conference they play in, of course. Now they get to finish with the weaker teams that their league offers, but unfortunately, the damage is done. I will say this, should Wyoming ever build a legitimate national contender with a schedule such as this, then nobody needs to even attempt to try and deny them their right to play in any bowl they want to. For now though, no bowl, and no credit for beating Wyoming.

Central Michigan (2-7) The Chippewas probably felt that they'd set their schedule up adequately enough, taking on non-conference opponents such as Virginia Tech, Northwestern and in a couple weeks, Navy. The lesson to be learned here is simply that you do actually have to win once in a while, particularly if you play in one of the weaker conferences, such as the MAC. This team has not won much, and usually hasn't come close to doing so...I'm not going to give anyone credit for beating them.

Memphis (1-7) Given their basketball successes, for a couple years there, Memphis entered the football postseason with and appearance in one bowl game or another and used these appearances to present the argument that they would be a perfect fit for the Big East Conference. Of course, now we have evidence to the contrary. Not a good season, Memphis, but best of luck against Tennessee this weekend!

UNLV (1-7) Vegas baby! Want another cliche'? OK, try this one: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, including beating them. This team is awful.

Western Kentucky (1-7) The Hilltoppers finally won a game!!! And came back the next week and lost again, for the seventh time this season. Baby steps. They are not good, and nobody should be recognized for beating them, but for the first time since moving to the top division, one could actually make the argument that they aren't the worst team in FBS. Congrats fellas!

Ball State (2-7) Well, a friend of mine saw them play this game. After that though, there isn't much more to say about this team, unless you want me to tell you, just like everyone else already has, that David Letterman and Jason Whitlock both went to school there. They must be doing something right, and they were actually pretty good at football a couple of years ago. But those days are long gone now.

Last week I felt awful for posting so close to the weekend, but not so much this week, given the priority that the World Series offered me. I apologize if you've been wondering about this post's tardiness, but I just had to jump on the opportunity that the Giants offered me to tell that story. And thank you all for your kind responses to that post, I really appreciate the gestures and also the fact that you read my ramblings at all in the first place. Please participate in the poll this week and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The World Series

Have you ever written a love letter to someone whose love in return may be in question? I can't imagine a more awkward endeavor and I assume most people, at most times in their lives, would consider themselves incapable of doing so...right up until that point that they go crazy over some other person and they simply can't stop themselves. Or at least that's how I imagine it. And then they get on a roll, pouring out all of their most private thoughts and emotions...and before they know it, their masterpiece of heartfelt sweetness is signed, sealed and delivered. And then, almost immediately, the embarrassment upon re-reading the 1000 words saved on their word processor, frankly makes them ill to even consider the unseen response of the desired.

This isn't exactly how I feel about writing on the subject of baseball, but it's close. People who read this blog ask me all the time, why don't I write about baseball? After all, I am a baseball guy...I get season tickets...I play and win fantasy baseball...I analyze statistics...I read all I can about the game, baseball in literature and baseball theory...most of my favorite links on THIS blog page are other baseball blogs...I love the history...I love baseball movies above most other movies... It just doesn't make any sense that I have not been writing about baseball!

Top of the first:
Cliff Lee strikes out Andres Torres. Then he shatters the bat of Freddy Sanchez, out first to third, but just before that we get to see highlights of Lee's baffling the Yankees in last year's World Series...pretty cool. Buster Posey temporarily spoils the Cliff Lee love fest with a single to right, but then Cody Ross pops out to left and is not happy about it.
Giants 0, Rangers coming up

My love for the game makes it hard to even consider not writing about it. And I do from time to time and intend to far more on this site, but there's been a problem so far every time I've attempted it: why does it always seem so damned cheesy? Is it just me being hard on myself? Am I afraid of the unseen response to my impassioned thoughts of a game that maintains as much splendor to me as this one?

Bottom of the first:
Timothy LeRoy "The Freak" Lincecum takes the mound for the Giants. He makes a nice play on Elvis Andrus on a one-hopper back to the mound. Michael Young gives a ball a bit of a ride to right field, but nothing comes of it, two outs. And then a quick Tim Lincecum promo...the song: "Here Comes the Freak!" The highlights show him beating Derek Lowe, beating Roy Halladay, and then of course, beating Cliff Lee in game 1 of this series. We return to the game and he gets Josh Hamilton to ground out to first.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

Does baseball not love me back? Is that it? Is that the problem? I am a Royals fan. And I hate the Yankees. I couldn't fathom the strike in 1994 and the steroids era infuriated me. It seems intent on driving away fans, leaving me and a small circle of my friends all alone to grow ever angrier at the game I continue to love more and more nonetheless. Does baseball not love me back? It's possible.

Top of the second:
Cliff Lee strikes out Juan Uribe. Aubrey Huff grounds out to Kinsler at second and Pat Burrell flies out hard to left. That was quick.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I will always have 1985. I was ten. The Royals were World Series Championships. We made signs and had a parade at school. It was so much fun! So much love! Baseball loved me then. But what happened? It seems like we've been fighting ever since.

Bottom of the second:
Vladimir Guerrero swung at the first pitch (big surprise) and flies out to right. So does Nelson Cruz, who grounds out to second. Two pitches, two outs. Ian Kinsler grounds out to third and we've got a pitcher's duel.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I think it's because of 1985 that the St. Louis Cardinals might be the only team I've never pulled for at any given time, although I can't recall the specific instance that I pulled for the Chicago White Sox either. The Cardinals were so unprofessional in that series. They cried about "the call," never acknowledging all the other circumstances. They threw temper tantrems on and off the field. They destroyed dugouts and locker rooms, even injuring themselves in the process. This is what happens when your team forgets how to act. They lost. And I loved every moment of it.

Top of the third:
Edgar Renteria pops out to first. Aaron Rowand lines out to left. Then Torres singles! He's fast so there could be something to this, but you don't get the feeling that there is. Cliff Lee is really rolling. Cliff Lee is really good. And Cliff Lee can play defense too, as he snags a line-drive off the bat of Sanchez.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I've even pulled for the Yankees now...albeit only once. It was the last time that they played the Red Sox in the postseason. I've pretty much had it with the Boston Red Sox. They just became too trendy for my taste, I suppose, and I got sick of them. But really, really sick of them. I wonder what would happen if the Red Sox or the Yankees played the Cardinals in the World Series again. Who would I pull for? One can never predict these things. I probably wouldn't watch. OK...yeah...I'd watch.

Bottom of the third:
Timmy Lincecum strikes out David Murphy. And then Benji Molina too. The announcers are telling us now that Lincecum was singing and dancing to Mexican music in the locker room with Pablo Sandoval before the game. And he wears a bow tie. Who couldn't possibly like this kid? But he did just walk Mitch Moreland. No problem though as he strikes out Andrus. Yep, struck out the side. Stud.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

I have to hand it to the Red Sox though, Fenway Park is quite awe inspiring. I've been to a lot of ballparks in my life, finally made it to Wrigley Field last year...twice. And I think that Fenway might be my favorite, well, my favorite out of town ballpark anyway. Kauffman Stadium is like a second home to me. And there's no place like home.

Top of the fourth:
OH, Buster Posey just missed extra bases! Foul ball though and he grounds out to Young at third on the next pitch. Ross strikes out. Uribe musters a high, too high, pop fly to center. Nobody is even getting in scoring position. For either team.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

One stadium I've been to is the venue in which the game I'm watching now is happening, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Oddly enough though, it wasn't for a game. I was with my family in Dallas for some kind of weekend getaway, a while back in the month of the season hadn't started yet. But after our arrival, we somehow figured out that the brand new stadium was having an open house, open to the public for viewing, so we did just that. Nice place.

Bottom of the fourth:
Michael Young just got the Rangers first hit to leadoff the inning. Oh-oh. One question though, where has Josh Hamilton been this series? He just struck out. Guerrero, first ball swinging again, grounds to short and Young is out at second. And then Cruz strikes out. Nice start to the inning, but Lincecum has control of this lineup tonight.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

Kauffman Stadium may be my second home as far as buildings go, but really, my second home is the San Fransisco Bay Area. I lived there and loved it for six years. Still think about it often and miss it sometimes. And while there, at some point along the way, maybe after a year or two, I became a Giants fan. Being on the road a lot, I listened to a lot of their radio broadcasts, and seldom missed them on television when I was home. I caught a Barry Bonds homerun ball at Candlestick Park, and showed up for their first game in the new stadium. I was really enjoying this team and they were starting to play pretty well. Maybe baseball did love me!

Top of the fifth:
Wow, Kinsler just made a great bare-handed play at second but Moreland dropped it at first. Error and Huff is on. Burrell strikes out; he gets a lot of those. Cliff Lee does too. Renteria grounds into a double play. The error is erased, the crowd is amped and so is Lee.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

But then I realized something. Baseball didn't love me at all. It had pulled maybe its most crooked, cruel, unusually painful trick on me yet. The Giants had never won since they had moved to San Fransisco. The franchise itself had not won since 1954, when they were in New York. At least I had 1985 to think back on! My new friends in "The City" had no idea what it was like to have a parade for their baseball team. And I had jumped on board without any consideration for my well-being.

Bottom of the fifth:
Lincecum gets Kinsler to hit one off the end of his bat. Nice play by Sanchez at second and one down.
Murphy strikes out and looks stupid doing it. Another one off the end of the bat, this time Molina's and Lincecum makes the play to finish another easy inning.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

And still a Giants fan, always to be a Giants fan, second only to my beloved Royals, I had to call an end to my time there. On my last day/night out in the city, a couple of my friends took me to a Giants game. One of my friends bought me a Giants hat and I would wear it proudly in Kansas City for years to come.

Top of the Sixth:
Rowand strikes out. Torres grounds to short. Cruz misses while diving for a shallow bloop to right, but keeps it in front of him and limits Sanchez to a single. Then as if making amends, Cruz tracks down a ball crushed by Posey to the warning track. Nice catch.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

Just looked up to notice a commercial in which there are robots fighting each other in some guy's kitchen...and the guy is just watching...and eating breakfast or something. Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes, upon moving back, I immediately resumed my attention to the Royals that I had left behind. It had been a rough six years for my boys in blue. In a time of economic riches elsewhere, inside and outside of baseball, the franchise had been left behind, without any true ownership, squandering whatever few resources they had and failing to develop new. To say that the fan base had been cut in half would probably be an understatement.

Bottom of the sixth:
Moreland got a hit to lead off. This is a good Rangers lineup that has been asleep for most of this series. Is this where they break out against Lincecum? Andrus flies to center. There was a hit and run in the works...good idea, I felt that aggressive baserunning was key in the Rangers beating the Yankees. Young flies to center on yet another first pitch. Man, Lincecum could probably do this for 15 innings if this keeps up. Hamilton breaks his bat and Sanchez takes care of him. Where have you gone, Josh Hamilton? The Yankee Nation would like to know.
Giants 0, Rangers 0

So as I settled in to attend memorable back to back Royal losses in 9 hour, 100 degree heat doubleheaders at the K, I couldn't help but notice that something special was going on back on the other home front. Bonds was killing it; his splash hits were a nightly feature on the highlight reels, and more importantly, the Giants were winning. This looked like fun and I wished that I could still be there. The fruition of course, was a World Series in 2002. They had made it!

Top of the seventh:
Cody Ross is up again. Talk about a revelation, this guy has been incredible this postseason. I for one, have enjoyed watching the terror he and Uribe have gifted otherwise great pitching. He singles up the middle. And then so does Uribe. I've got a really good feeling about this. Nice bunt by Huff, nice play by Lee, one out, runners on second and third. Pat Burrell now, not my favorite Giant. This is taking some time. He strikes out. Cliff Lee being Cliff Lee and yes, Pat Burrell is still Pat Burrell. Renteria is the last hope for the lead. Remember his big hit to win for the Marlins? Who doesn't? But that was only a single and I would have never expected this. What is your favorite World Series home run? Gibson? Carter? Fisk? Well, I think that for my friends in San Fransisco, their answer from now until eternity, just might be a resounding: Renteria. Deep left center, 3-0 Giants. I have chills. Rowand flies to right, nice play by Cruz
Time for God Bless America. Giants 3, Rangers 0

To this day, that 2002 World Series is something of a blur to me. There were a lot of runs. There was a dancing monkey. KRod was born. Troy Glaus went off. And the Giants lost. As they should, I suppose. This kind of thing just doesn't happen for Giants fans in San Fransisco. They don't get to have parades for baseball...only parades of...other sorts. I remember scrambling to a bar to catch the end of that series. Had a burger and a beer just like I would have had if I had been at Red's Java House, just down the street from Pac Bell Park. By myself that night, I watched the Giants lose and then had another beer to watch the Angels celebrate. I was saddened. It was a two beer night.

Bottom of the Seventh:
Lincecum strikes out Guerrero. They're getting closer and closer. But wait. Cruz just went yard, and crushed it, 3-1. Please, let's not let this go. Oh no, Kinsler works the walk and Dave Righetti makes his trip to the mound. One out, one on, and a crowd that is starting to get pretty loud again. Lincecum strikes out Murphy. Huge. One more kid, get out of this. Done. Molina strikes out as well.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

Things would get worse before getting better for Royals fans and Giants fans alike. The Royals had a new owner, but he didn't want to spend any money. Their GM was trying, I believe really trying, but he was spinning his wheels. And for the Giants, who had recently come so close, things may have been worse. The steroids thing had put the spot-light on the Bay area. Barry Bonds, their favorite son, had become the poster child. All very sad.

Top of the eighth:
Neftali Feliz is pitching for the Rangers now. Goodnight, Cliff Lee, let's not go and do something stupid like becoming a Yankee this offseason, please. Torres pops out behind the plate. The crowd likes it, but you can almost hear their concern. Yeah, they need Giant outs, but more than that, they need Ranger runs and they know it. Sanchez flies out to left. Posey gets nothing of the ball, but gets on anyway, another hit, of the infield variety this time. The Rangers can't let this get any worse and Cody Ross is up again. He grounds out to Young at third.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

So in some way, not entirely, but to at least a certain extent, the Giants left my consciousness. Now focused on the Royals, I was determined not to get too frustrated. Baseball might not love me anymore, but this stuff builds character. I keep telling myself that. After a glimmer of hope in 2003, the Royals went back to losing again...and by that I mean, really losing. Whoever your team is, trust me, you likely haven't experienced the kind of losing we have had in Kansas City between then and now.

Bottom of the eighth:
Lincecum returns. And promptly strikes out Moreland. Ten strikeouts. I love this kid. Andrus hits one back to him and he takes care of it. 4 outs remaining for the Giants. Make that 3 as Young bounces out to Uribe.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

And then something funny happened. I moved in with my brothers and shortly after, we purchased the baseball package on cable. We had every game, every broadcast! Being a bit of a late night guy, I started watching West coast games after everyone else was in bed. And naturally, I was watching the Giants.

Top of the ninth:
Uribe strikes out. Feliz is dealing but it just might be too late. Huff grounds out to Kinsler. Burrell strikes out again.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

The Giants weren't good yet, but one thing was very apparent: they had a very young, but very talented pitching staff. And they seemed to be having a lot of fun, as was I. I had been reunited with the familiar voices of my Giants broadcasts of old. It took me back and caught me up, all at the same time. A small piece of heaven.

Bottom of the ninth:
Lincecum or Wilson? Wilson or Lincecum? Wilson. Good choice, I think. He is their closer; this is his job. And this postseason, he's yet to give up a run. Hamilton strikes out. 2-20 in this series, wow. Guerrero grounds out to Renteria, not a good series in his own right. One more out, and it's Nelson Cruz at the plate. The ball never gets put into play, strike three.
Giants 3, Rangers 1

It wasn't really supposed to happen this year. They didn't score a lot of runs, the whole country knew this. Their fans called it "torture."  But the momentum was also noticeable. I could go on about the celebration, tell you how it makes me feel, or how I think it makes my friends in the Bay area feel, but I won't. I think I'll wait for my friends, life long Giants fans, names like Barnhart, Carbone, Baldini, Concannon and many more to tell this story. After all, it turns out that baseball does love them, and maybe before too long, in a very Royal blue way, we'll find out that it, in fact, loves me too. Have a great parade, my friends!

Friday, October 29, 2010

College Football Week 9

Not a good week for this blog.

First of all, Boise just had to play on Tuesday night, didn't they? That's annoying but I'll survive. Occasionally a game will happen way too early in the week, before I'm finished writing everything I have to say about the previous weekend, but generally the teams in that game are of little consequence and I can have all the time I need before any potentially ranked team shows up to play on Thursday night, at the earliest. But no, not Boise St. Fortunately though, Louisiana Tech is not much of a difference maker, ever since this guy left campus, and Boise State's beating them is not really going to add or subtract to their positioning in my rankings...just so long as they don't lose, of course, which they didn't. That said, just for the record, the Boise State/Louisiana Tech game will not be included in this week's accounting; you're just going to have to wait until next week for that game not to matter.

And regrettably, neither will this one. You see, even as I had already completed some of what you are about to read, my Internet connection inexplicably went out last night, and never came back, well, at least not to my knowledge anyway...I kind of got wrapped up in a book and fell asleep after multiple attempts at resuming connection. Now in theory, I could have written the whole thing on my phone, but this would have been most tedious, similar it would seem to working through something like this on an abacus, and is not a journey I want to delve into. The problem this time is that, yeah, Florida State losing really does make something of a difference. But nonetheless, please, just for the sake of giving me some leeway, let's just ignore the fact that these two games have already happened and rightfully assume that they will be considered fully in next week's post.

So many plans for this week too, but given the trials and misfortunes, let's just move on to the rankings and work from there:

1 Auburn (8-0)
2 Michigan State (8-0)
3 Wisconsin (7-1)
4 Missouri (7-0)
5 Oklahoma (6-1)
6 Oregon (7-0)
7 LSU (7-1)
8 Ohio State (7-1)
9 TCU (8-0)
10 Boise State (6-0)
11 Stanford (6-1)
12 Florida State (6-1)
13 Utah (7-0)
14 Miami (FL) (5-2)
15 Mississippi State (6-2)
16 Nebraska (6-1)
17 Oklahoma State (6-1)
18 South Carolina (5-2)
19 Alabama (7-1)
20 Arkansas (5-2)
21 Arizona (6-1)
22 Iowa (5-2)
23 Illinois (4-3)
24 Michigan (5-2)
25 Florida (4-3)

Oh how beautiful my plan this week, I had it all figured out. This was to be the week, the one where I allowed 3 loss teams into my top 25, where I was to explain each team, one by one, and how I come to these numbers that they find themselves. Well, given the mishaps that have occurred, most of no fault but my own, it will have to wait one more blog...but yes it's coming. Not yet however, as I am quite clearly beyond the time one should be allotted for a blog such as this. So instead, let's reveal what was mostly already written, and just get it over with. Behold...this week's teams that have utterly failed this season and shall warrant no credit whatsoever for any team that has beaten them:

Washington State Cougars (1-7)

Grrrrrrrr! Besides the Montana State coach, everybody said they were really, really bad...and they were absolutely right. That said, this article seems to give them hope, coach speak taken way too literally, I suspect, but hey, it's the nicest thing I've read yet about this pathetic, pathetic team.

Bowling Green Falcons (1-7)

Well, not much to say here. They are a bad team, in a bad conference, that has lost very, very badly this season. They did have their one win against the Marshall Thundering Herd...WE ARE MARSHALL...but other than that, not many bright spots to a terrible season that was, and should continue to be.

Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-7)

Check out these scores. The overtime win against Ball State appears to be something of a fluke, given the other results available...and it's not like Ball State won't be soon to find this loser-ville segment either. Eastern Michigan is bad, if not for Western Kentucky and Akron, maybe the worst in all of FBS.

New Mexico Lobos (0-7)

Oh yeah, speaking of teams that may be the worst in all the land, well let us not forget this one. Truly, and I mean really, I wish that we all could have seen this game, if for nothing else, just to enjoy the ineptness that one American State can provide. I heard on the radio before the Kansas/New Mexico State game that my Jayhawks' opponent was not the inferior team in their own State, and while I figured it meant little, I'm not sure I realized how little that statement entailed. Yeah, I get it now.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-7)

Really? After 2 bowl seasons, back to losing everything? Well, yes, but when considering that each of the last two seasons this team was barely bowl eligible, and the season before that, they won exactly this many games that they have now, I guess it's not that surprising. They should continue to lose, I guess, but who knows what is going on up there...maybe Morneau is hurt or something.

San Jose State Spartans (1-7)

Wow, every time I think that I've seen BAD, well, check this out. Need more? No, didn't think so.

Well, if you just happen to be a big fan of one of these teams, let me offer my sincerest apologies. Yet, please understand that, no matter the severity of your team's misfortunes, I insure you that mine is soon to follow so by all means, do not let it drag you down too much. That's it then, easy does it this week. Next week a fresh, more timely presentation that should put some questions you may have to my system to rest. And before that, hopefully something baseball...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

College Football Week 8

The sliding fastener, or as we know it, the "zipper" was invented in 1890 by Whitcomb L. Judson. Did you know that? It's alright if you didn't, neither did I, but I suppose it's good information to know now that we do. Actually, I think from now on, when the zipper jams or breaks on my sweatshirt or jacket, I will react appropriately by raising a clenched fist before me and muttering...damn it, Judson!

Anyway, Whitcomb L. Judson was apparently born in New York City and died in Chicago, but it's the places of residence in between that interest me most. My research has failed me a bit, but I have reason to suspect that Judson at least at one point, maybe even in 1890 when he came up with this most useful invention, resided somewhere in between New York and Chicago, in like...say...Akron, Ohio. Of course, I could be wrong about this, but it would explain how it came to be that when summer turns to fall at the brand new InfoCision Stadium- Summa Field in Akron, a mascot kangaroo named Zippy hops onto the field, followed shortly after by the University of Akron Zips football team. And then, apparently, they get murdered. Damn it, Judson!

Yes, the Akron Zips are officially 2010's first team to lose 7 games, and subsequently bowl consideration as well. And it's with this that I offer to you another standard that I utilize when preparing my weekly rankings: no consideration, none whatsoever, will be given to any team for beating an opponent that zips out 7 or more losses. Of course, it won't count against them either, just as an early victory against an FCS level opponent did not, but in a system such as mine, which is supposed to be objective and offers credit for the difficulty in a team's schedule in terms of actual wins and losses...well, more credit for beating the Akron Zips. Here are my rankings this week:

1 LSU (7-0)
2 Michigan State (7-0)
3 Oklahoma (6-0)
4 Oregon (6-0)
5 Wisconsin (6-1)
6 Auburn (7-0)
7 Ohio State (6-1)
8 Stanford (5-1)
9 TCU (7-0)
10 Boise State (6-0)
11 West Virginia (5-1)
12 Florida State (6-1)
13 Missouri (6-0)
14 Oklahoma State (6-0)
15 Utah (6-0)
16 Miami (FL) (4-2)
17 Mississippi State (5-2)
18 Arizona (5-1)
19 Iowa (5-1)
20 Michigan (5-2)
21 Texas (4-2)
22 Nebraska (5-1)
23 Kansas State (5-1)
24 South Carolina (4-2)
25 Alabama (6-1)

I suppose the team that really needs to be discussed this week is the last team on the list, #25 Alabama. Look, like Boise State, we all know, or at least we think we know that they are very good, far better than this ranking indicates. But the truth is that Alabama's opponents to date haven't really fared all that well in other games played. Their victory last week against Ole Miss appeared to be a sign of Alabama getting back on track, but then there's this. Two weeks ago when Alabama lost to South Carolina, they didn't really drop all that far in my rankings, as South Carolina was looking like not so ugly of a loss, but then this happened. Penn State was Alabama's biggest non-conference opponent and the Tide looked impressive that day...except then ouch. And of course, ever since the biggest game of the season, the one that could decide everything against Florida, a triumphant and impressive victory, things just haven't gone that well for the Gators either. So that pretty much leaves the Tide's biggest win as their thrilling comeback victory over Arkansas, but well, I guess you know what's coming.

Not all is lost for Alabama.Their schedule has failed them so far. So what? They play in the SEC, the best of the best! If they win there against those teams, they will have no problem launching themselves back atop the board, particularly in my rankings which are proving to be very fluid in that teams can move up and down at any rate that their successes, failures and their schedules allow them to. The only thing I'm kind of left wondering about Alabama is whether or not they will actually win all of these remaining games; it does occur to me that maybe this just isn't their year.

And finally, there is one more team to discuss. If you have been keeping up with my blog from the beginning, then you will already know that I have been particularly harsh on Nebraska and the non-conference schedule that they signed up for this season. Well, if you thought that the Huskers' schedule was pathetic, check out this one. That's right, Indiana, a BCS conference school has played this season: FCS Towson, Western Kentucky (0-6), barely beat Arkansas State (2-5) and, oh what do you know? The Akron Zips!!! I know, I know, kicking around the University of Indiana football team is not really worth my time. After all, it's not like they make the kind of claims that Nebraska fans insist on...but still...a Big 10 school...are you kidding me with this schedule? The thing is about Indiana, and why it's pertinent to my rankings, is that their only two losses are to Michigan and Ohio State, two teams that I have ranked, so had Indiana beaten anyone at all of any significance they would file in at #21 behind Michigan for being undefeated against the field of which they are being compared. But my system picks up on this disparity and kicks them out accordingly. We'll at least wait to see what they do against 3 loss, but BCS conference, foe Illinois this weekend and then maybe give them some acknowledgement. Of course though, they will probably lose that one too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

College Football Week 7

My brothers, myself, and a few friends of ours have a term that we like to refer to as "no credit games." Now, a lot of games can offer very little credential for victory, yet this is not exactly what we mean. Instead, the games that we are referring to are games against teams that our teams very well could lose to, but should we win, no credit whatsoever will be granted for the accomplishment. In other words, these opponents are fairly equipped, yet nobody really recognizes it. Boise State was once one of those teams, as were TCU and Utah. But these teams are examples of programs that have made the leap to absolute acknowledgement. It's all a bit relative, but essentially the more time a team spends atop the national spotlight, the more prestige someone gets for knocking them off, not that anyone ever takes down Boise State or TCU anyway, except for each other.

Thursday night, the spot-light will be on the Sunflower State, as it was multiple times this past basketball season and was this very same time last week for Kansas State in football. It's been well discussed at this point, that the game did not go well for Kitty Cat hopefuls last Thursday. However, their opponant this time around, Kansas, is extraordinarly ugly this season and has no business being profiled in any "spot-light" game. So Kansas State should win this time around, right? One would think, but I've already offered my condolensces on such topics as attempting to project outcomes and I'm not likely to take another stab at it anytime soon. Just for the sake of argument though, let's say the Cats win, it doesn't really matter by how much, a road game against a rival leaves little room for criticism in a resulting victory. But they win. What's interesting is that beating 4 loss (with more to come) Kansas would generate far more credit than their earlier victory against Central Florida ever did. Is this wrong? Absolutely.

A team like Central Florida is exactly what we are talking about when we discuss the concept of "no credit games." They have lost two games, each against 1 loss BCS conference teams, North Carolina State and of course, Kansas State. Each were close, here's what NC State Coach Tom O'Brien had to say about their meeting with this no credit team:  "That was a heck of a win for our team," O'Brien said. "A couple of big, big turnovers were the difference in the game, but it's always that way. Turnovers and penalties decide games." Heck of a win? Yes. All Central Florida has done is blow everyone else out, besides the one near miss at Kansas State. Any credit at all achieved that day? Not likely. But hey, by beating Georgia Tech 2 weeks later, the Wolfpack earned themselves all the credit that they needed! Except...well...Kansas did that. To me, the most damning concern regarding that particular program (NC State) is that they lost to Virginia Tech, a loss that is looking far less disconcerting every week, but nonetheless it did follow a very unfortunate mishap by the Hokies earlier in the season, a loss that I'm not yet ready to disregard and therefore counts against all that they ravage in the mean time.

So I now return to Kansas State. Let's go ahead, proceed inch by inch way out onto that proverbial limb, and actually give them some credit for that "no credit game" against Central Florida. Then combine that with victories against UCLA and Iowa State, two teams that anihilated the only Big 12 Texas teams that we actually respect and suddenly, it's a lot easier to at least slightly overlook the demoralizing beat-down by Nebraska last week, particularly when Nebraska shoots up in my rankings to #6 this week and was already somewhere in that neighborhood by everyone else well before they actually had to play somebody. Is it really that crazy for a team to get blown up by the sixth ranked team in the country? I think not. Now, lose to Kansas on Thursday night and you are not likely to hear much from me for the rest of the season regarding Kansas State. That's fine; I'm not really fond of spending too much time talking about them anyway. My rankings this week:

1 Michigan State (6-0)
2 LSU (6-0)
3 Oklahoma (5-0)
4 Auburn (6-0)
5 Oregon (6-0)
6 Nebraska (5-0)
7 South Carolina (4-1)
8 Alabama (5-1)
9 West Virginia (4-1)
10 Ohio State (6-0)
11 Missouri (5-0)
12 TCU (6-0)
13 Boise State (5-0)
14 Stanford (5-1)
15 Michigan (5-1)
16 Florida State (5-1)
17 Oklahoma State (5-0)
18 Arkansas (4-1)
19 Nevada (6-0)
20 Kansas State (4-1)
21 Utah (5-0)
22 Oregon State (3-2)
23 Arizona (4-1)
24 Florida (4-2)
25 California (3-2)

Ahhh, Michigan State. At #1 no less? I know that Ohio State is the Big 10 team most would expect to see here...if any Big 10 team at all, but consider it a scheduling coincidence. Michigan State has very little to offer in their non-conference offerings, best win being Notre Dame, yet their conference wins to this date have been nails. Ohio State can't claim anywhere close to wins over otherwise undefeated Wisconsin and Michigan. LSU has some nice wins, but most of those are against teams that have compiled at least two losses. Oklahoma has a "no credit game" victory of their own against Air Force and a sold resume building washout of Florida State, but it's still not quite Wisconsin and Michigan. Auburn? Fine, but not quite great. Oregon? Yeah, nice win against Stanford, but that's just about it. No, I'm alright with this selection; Michigan  State can be my number one for at least a week.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

College Football Week 6

In the year 1900, William McKinley was President of the United States. That year, the first electric bus became operational in New York City, Hawaii became an official US territory and Carrie Nation began her ever so uncalled for crusade against drinking establishments. The Wright Brothers were busy fooling around with "gliders" and the first zeppelin flight was launched in Germany. In sports, the American Baseball League was created to compete with the already existing National League and in Texas, a month after a hurricane killed 8,000 people in Galveston, the University of Texas football team hosted and defeated the University of Oklahoma by the score of 28-2, in the first meeting between the two programs. They've played some games since.

Actually, I assume that you already know something of the mirth involved with this rivalry, so I see little reason to expand on it too much, other than to state the obvious that it is one of our nation's any sport. My personal experience with it is of relatively little depth, as I grew up somewhat apathetic to UT and was far more familiar with the Oklahoma/Nebraska rivalry, which has become virtually irrelevant over the last ten years and now tilts on the brink of extinction as Nebraska takes off for the tastier TV contract. Nonetheless, I have both friends that received their educations from Texas, as well as those that experienced the Oklahoma version, thus accelerating my familiarity with the event that is the Red River...uhhhh...Rivalry(Shootout? When did that happen?)

Last year, on kind of a whim, I joined my Texas friend, Emily, for one of the Texas watch parties in our area. Catching wind of the idea, my parents opted to join us and together we had a blast, as Texas celebrated in the end and my ordinarily non-Texas fan family (brothers excluded) jumped right in like it was the biggest win of our lives.

Have you ever done this? Gone to a watch party for an out of town school or team at one of your local bars and celebrated that team as if it were your own? Not a bad time, let me tell you. The only problem with the BIG Texas fun we had that day, was that I had previously, on numerous occasions, been invited (by the way, do you now attempt to spell invite e-nvite, because of e-vite? I do.) to Oklahoma watch parties by my Sooner friends, Paul and Earleen. It's not that I felt guilty for not having attended, but my choice to celebrate their greatest rival's victory over them, after never having accepted one of these invitations...well, I didn't really feel like the friend that they deserved me to be. So this year, I gathered up the parents again, and after watching Kansas get crushed by...ahem...Baylor, we headed over to join our friends at the Oklahoma watch party in town. And the party was on.

We call it watch party crashing. And now it's a tradition that we look to continue. It seems that a lot of schools have them in a lot of cities, and I'm already tossing around some ideas for next year. Let me know if you have a recommendation or would just like to start joining us in the newly founded tradition....the more the merrier...that kind of thing. Oh, and if the concept does appeal to you, allow me to suggest trying either Oklahoma or Texas for the Red River Rivalry. Actually, try both!

As for the game itself, well it's fairly clear that Texas just isn't very good this year. But here's the thing that is getting to me, I'm not hearing about much momentum in the Oklahoma corner as of yet. Look, they are undefeated, and it's not like they've cleaned up on a Husker-ish schedule either. They beat Cincinnati, who is down this year, but they also beat Florida State and Air Force, two teams that do not appear to be down at all. And now Texas on a neutral site, and regardless of the Longhorns' difficulties as of yet, Texas is still Texas, not to mention Oklahoma's greatest rival. Pretty impressive stuff to me, at least so far. Others might disagree because of the margins of victory, but did anyone watch the Alabama/Arkansas game...and then Alabama every other week? Alabama is the best team in the country, regardless of the Arkansas score. And Oklahoma is right up there too, regardless of the Cincinnati score. Points don't play here...and my new rankings reflect that:

1 Alabama (5-0)
2 LSU (5-0)
3 Oklahoma (5-0)
4 Auburn (5-0)
5 Florida (4-1)
6 Michigan (5-0)
7 TCU (5-0)
8 Arizona (4-0)
9 Ohio State (5-0)
10 Oregon (5-0)
11 Michigan State (5-0)
12 Oklahoma State (4-0)
13 West Virginia (3-1)
14 Missouri (4-0)
15 Kansas State (4-0)
16 Boise State (4-0)
17 Iowa (4-1)
18 Miami (FL) (3-1)
19 Stanford (4-1)
20 Florida State (4-1)
21 Nebraska (4-0)
22 South Carolina (3-1)
23 Nevada (5-0)
24 Utah (4-0)
25 Northwestern (5-0)

I am only interested in who a team beats, who a team loses to and how many times those losses have occurred. Because of this, I have been admittedly harsh on Nebraska up until now. This all changes Thursday night as Nebraska plays host to undefeated Kansas State. I think they should probably win. We know that their fans think that they should definitely win. It will be fun, and the winner will inevitably start to look quite attractive in my rankings, and I imagine, everyone else's as well.

Have a great week, and again, thank you much for reading!

(Correction: The Kansas State/Nebraska game will be played in Manhattan tonight. Now I'm even less sure Nebraska wins...where is all this confidence coming from? We'll see I guess. Now that I think of it, I did read something from a K State fan about a "no red" policy...this makes much more sense now. I think that I might enjoy this.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

The 2010 Fantasy Baseball Championship

After a fantasy celebration on the fantasy field of a fantasy ballpark with a fantasy capacity crowd, the fantasy players, in a fantastic manner, exited via the fantasy dugout to head down the fantasy tunnel for a fantasy celebration with lots of fantasy champagne in the fantasy locker room, surrounded by fantasy media and the fantasy players' fantasy families and fantasy friends.

My fantasy is that it was a fantastic time, a wonderful fantasy festivity for a fantastic fantasy season, the kind of thing fantasies are made of. You see, fantasy sports, after all, are kind of like Dungeons and Dragons for sports fans. We mask them deep inside a genre of competitiveness that we like to consider "cool" but in the end, we are not playing the sport, or not actually discussing the real contest at hand, instead qualifying our interests and endless dialogue on the subject as not too much much better than D&D. But instead of "Ha Ha, your Elf Wizard just got triple point blasted by a tree!" I can now claim stuff like, "I just won my 2nd fantasy championship in the 4 years of our fantasy baseball keeper league's existence!" And the difference? Well,  not much, really. What hopefully is not a fantasy, however, is the prize money that should be on it's way. My fantasy players will not be receiving a cut of that, but I should at least recognize them, just like one might gloat if their dwarf ninja cleric successfully mastered the spontaneous combustion spell and took down an entire nation of radio-active trolls.

So, many thanks to:

Robinson Cano
Carlos Carrasco
Shin-Soo Choo
Ryan Dempster
J.A. Happ
Aaron Harang
Corey Hart
Derek Holland
Ubaldo Jimenez
Adam Jones
Garrett Jones
Clayton Kershaw
Hong-Chih Kuo
Brandon League
Colby Lewis
Joe Mauer
Brett Myers
Brayan Pena
Luke Scott
Clayton Richard
Koji Uehara
Juan Uribe
Brian Wilson
Chris R Young
Michael Young

Also a huge fantasy thank you to those fantasy players, that unknowingly helped my team along the way but were not on my final fantasy roster, even though, like you the unfortunate reader of this obnoxious behavior, they could not care any less, even in their wildest fantasies. Or yours. Or mine.

May your fantasies all come true...but until then, I'll be back with more college football soon.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

College Football Week 5

Imagine what it's like living in SEC country. The Tampa Bay Rays are in first place, a half game ahead of the New York Yankees. They are young; they are exciting. Two seasons ago, they surged all the way to the World Series, only to be denied in the end by a damn good Philadelphia Phillies team and some freakish torrential downpours that provided no momentum for anyone. And now they're back to try again, as they once again clinched a playoff spot, coming from the toughest division in baseball to do so. But then there's this. How is this possible? If the Kansas City Royals fielded a team even close to the Rays' caliber, our town would be painted blue. We would have parades every day. Our city would no longer be called "City of Fountains," but instead the "City of Parades." But we don't have a team like theirs. Not even close. So we just move on to our Chiefs, our Jayhawks, our Tigers and our Wildcats. We embrace football just like everyone else, all the while dreaming of the Big 12 basketball season to come. The Royals are a void that remains unrealized for 25 years and counting.

Football season, just like everyone else. Well...not exactly "everyone" else. Because the reason, as pathetic as it may seem, that the Rays can't find their fans is because they don't really have them. Nobody cares about sports in SEC country, they only care about 1 sport, college football. I don't like it, you probably don't either. MLB definitely does not like it. But here's what can be said on behalf of SEC people, this sport they do pay attention to, the one they fill the stadiums for: at least they are very, very good at it. They win every year. They snatch up the National Championships and they win the majority of their Bowl games. And their non-conference schedules before they tee off against each other? They win those too. And unlike some of the teams getting dropped in my rankings because of poor competition, the SEC teams schedule real, intriguing match ups. And win. My top 25 this week:

1 Florida (4-0)
2 Auburn (4-0)
3 Alabama (4-0)
4 LSU (4-0)
5 Arizona (4-0)
6 Oklahoma (4-0)
7 TCU (4-0)
8 Missouri (4-0)
9 USC (4-0)
10 Ohio State (4-0)
11 West Virginia (3-1)
12 Stanford (4-0)
13 Kansas State (4-0)
14 Boise State (3-0)
15 Oregon (4-0)
16 North Carolina State (4-0)
17 Michigan (4-0)
18 South Carolina (3-1)
19 Northwestern (4-0)
20 Toledo (3-1)
21 Nebraska (4-0)
22 Penn State (3-1)
23 Temple (3-1)
24 Utah (4-0)
25 Wisconsin (4-0)

Notice a trend here. Unlike last season, in which I made it virtually impossible for a team to be passed in the standings without losing, this season is ever changing from week to week. The reason for this is simple, my standings are not only responsive to how a team does in a given week, but also how their prior opponents fared that same weekend. So a team such as TCU, who was just last weekend glorified for having beaten 2 otherwise unbeaten BCS conference teams, saw Oregon State tumble again and will also likely see Baylor visit darker days before too long. I have never been a fan of the theory that games later in the season are of more significance than games played early on, but by the same token a team shouldn't receive too much credit for exactly the opposite either. The inherent problem with football in general, is that the sample size of an entire season never seems adequate enough to really create much separation amongst the top teams. This is the very reason I am supportive of the NFL's recent decision to expand the schedules to 18 games. The more games, the more likely we are to see the best teams eligible for post-season play. College football, of course is even fewer games then the inadequate 16 games that the NFL is expanding from. A tournament would go a long way to help resolve that, but hey, we don't have it, so the best approach is to consistently evaluate a team's success and the successes of their opponents. And all games are to be evenly evaluated, regardless of at what point in the season the victories and defeats took place.

In last week's comments, my friend Kevin said this: "You make an assumption that Boise State has the ability to schedule more quality non-con games. Most high-level opponents are loathe to play them. Certainly nobody wants to do a home and away series with Boise. When Boise has offered to play people at their houses no-strings-attached, they are still rejected. The money is not that great, you get zero credit for beating them, and god forbid you lose to them. Props to VA-Tech and Oregon State for stepping up. Search your soul and honestly tell me that you don't think Boise is one of the ten best teams in college football, let alone top twenty. Do the right thing kyle."

First of all, yes, my soul tells me that Boise State is very good, one of the best teams in the country. So why play the games then? The entirety of a season is important for earning championships, not just being gifted one. My soul is not objective and should not be trusted. But beating good teams leaves little doubt, and Boise added one this past weekend so they have moved back on up accordingly. Again, not losing will certainly help, but they're going to need some help from the better programs they do play, because if those teams flop, Boise St will have accomplished not much at all. And then there's this. Granted, it's not until 2015, but can you imagine if that game happened this year? Subtract South Dakota State or Idaho or Western Kentucky from Nebraska's schedule and add Boise State. Subtract Wyoming or Toledo from Boise State's schedule and add Nebraska. Wow the difference. Suddenly, we have a great game to watch and are looking at the two teams in an entirely different light. The larger point here is that Boise State's anyone, anytime, anyplace, slogan seems to have some disclaimers. We shouldn't be surprised; we know that money does most of the talking. Just saying, if the two schools roll out schedules in 2015 that at all look like this season's, then shame on both schools for not reaching a compromise. I suspect that this is more common than we may know, so no, I don't really buy into the argument that Boise State can't get decent teams to play them.

The other comment of note came from anonymous:  "Your betting system is a joke. Good job otherwise, though"

I'm not sure about the "good job" part, but one thing remains clear, yes anonymous, my betting system is very much a joke. I believe that there really are those that can keep up with Vegas' trends and are very adept at taking advantage of their misgivings. My mama's boy mid-western ass, however, is not one of those people. I've always had an inclination that gambling, besides the basic low stakes pools and brackets and fantasy leagues, is just not my thing. I think I'll trust my intuition here and stay away from it. Consider the gambling system discontinued, it's merely a waste of my time otherwise.

Thoughts? Comments? I really do appreciate those that I do get, so if something occurs to you, by all means....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

College Football Week 4

Let me tell you about the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. They are, by my account, the worst team in NCAA-FBS college football. And it's not even close. Last season they actually managed to finish strong, losing their last 3 games by less than a touchdown, but that's about the best thing one might say about this program to date. Not only did they lose every game, but it was following a 2008 season in which they won 2 games against non-FBS schools and only managed to stay within a touchdown against one opponent in the division of which they, at least attempt to, compete. Is this excusable? Well sure it is, the truth is that Western Kentucky only qualified for top division status a couple years back and should probably not be overly criticized for demanding some time to adjust and get better. They have recently made a coaching change and play in a weak conference, by FBS standards, one that they should be able to maintain at least a hint of competitiveness within the not too distant future. But they are not there yet.

So what's the problem then? Nebraska, actually. It's not that the Huskers won't get their opportunity to validate their hype, they do after all play in a conference that affords them that chance, well at least for now they do. But when I saw that their opponent is FCS South Dakota State this coming Saturday , I thought oh come on man. When I say that Nebraska carries with it a lot of hype, it's an understatement. For the last few seasons, fans of Big 12 North teams have kind of justified their inadequacies with the thought that should they just win the North, then one never knows what could happen in one game for the conference championship. And last year, Nebraska nearly pulled off just that. But they didn't. And they lost 3 other games as well, including one ugly one at home against Iowa St that gave us this wonderful scene. What's more is that their best player from a year ago, not to mention maybe the best player in college football, moved on and with him a handful of other starting players, including the quarterback. Yet here we stand, 3 weeks into the season, and the Husker hype is boiling over.

And what do they have to show for it? Blow out city, no question, but against Western Kentucky, Idaho and Washington. The Washington game is their only real test so far, as it was a road game against a BCS conference team. Washington though has been awful in recent past, even losing every single game 2 years ago (Incidentally, Idaho 2 seasons ago. Hmmm, noticing a trend here? In 2008, Western Kentucky, Idaho and Washington combined to beat 1 FBS foe...New Mexico State). Last season, Washington's production spiked a little with a new coach and a couple of huge conference upsets, but they still topped out with a 5-7 season. Better, but not good enough for their opponents to stake claim to any consideration the likes of which most Nebraska fans are posturing for, particularly since Washington opened the season with a loss to BYU, who has had a bit of a rough go at it since. It's not that blowing out Washington on the road is without merit, but to truly justify recognition of accomplishment heading into conference play, backing it up with a second notable opponent this coming weekend would be appreciated, particularly given the lack of substance in weeks one and two. Instead, we get South Dakota State in Lincoln. Oh come on man.

This all leads us to my rankings this week. As promised, everything has been completely reshuffled to be more representative of this year's achievements, as opposed to last year's as my previous polls to date had demonstrated. Like my little point spread forecasting attempts, I will provide explanation as to the specifics of my methods as we go along, but I'd really like to cover this in parts, so let's unveil it first and work on the explanation later. Some things might stand out to you, one being Nebraska's falling a bit, but somehow I don't think that will offer the most vivid reaction. Here they are and then I'll discuss a couple of them:

1 TCU (3-0)
2 Florida (3-0)
3 Alabama (3-0)
4 USC (3-0)
5 Oklahoma (3-0)
6 Auburn (3-0)
7 Stanford (3-0)
8 Arizona (3-0)
9 Missouri (3-0)
10 Texas (3-0)
11 Ohio State (3-0)
12 Wisconsin (3-0)
13 Utah (3-0)
14 West Virginia (3-0)
15 Nevada (3-0)
16 California (2-1)
17 LSU (3-0)
18 Michigan State (3-0)
19 Nebraska (3-0)
20 Temple (3-0)
21 South Carolina (3-0)
22 Kansas State (3-0)
23 Michigan (3-0)
24 North Carolina State (3-0)
25 Oklahoma State (3-0)

So Nebraska has been much discussed and yeah, they have dropped to 19 accordingly. But have you noticed yet who is missing entirely? Yes, Boise State is not ranked at all. As much as I've criticized Nebraska for their schedule, at least they will play in a very challenging conference, second only to the SEC and will have every opportunity to make up for a lack-luster first 4 games of competition. Boise State though is in the WAC, a conference which a team of Boise State's caliber should and usually does annihilate. Nevada looks pretty good so far and might be able to provide some problems, but really nobody else will likely offer any challenge at all. This isn't completely condemning, for now it is their conference, and they cannot do much of anything about that. But what's shocking to me about Boise State, which has so few match-ups of any significance in conference play, I wonder why a team such as this would then go ahead and schedule Wyoming and Toledo to supplement their 2 challenging non-conference games against Virginia Tech and Oregon State. Shouldn't they load up with 4 big games to put on their resume? Or at least 3? I mean, it's pretty clear to everyone what kind of status they have prepared themselves for and therefore should be competing at this level more than 2, maybe 3 times in a season. I don't get it and now that Virginia Tech seems to be less than advertised, and Oregon State has dropped a game already, Boise State might have very little to fall back on as they did last season, when they beat Oregon, who went undefeated the rest of the way. For now, I reward achievment, and never losing will help, but a lot of teams have not lost yet and they have more impressive wins to date.

The team that has achieved thus far is TCU. Now, many teams have also played well, but TCU is the only team in the country that has defeated 2 otherwise undefeated BCS conference teams. So for now they are one. Should they lose, or the teams they are being credited for beating lose, then my ranking system will adjust accordingly. But for now they are the team, and given the level of play we have become accustomed to seeing TCU play at, this is not too far of a stretch anyway.

So last week, I suggested some discomfort with some of the teams my betting system was recommending, and sure enough it suffered cataclysmic defeat, losing to the tune of a whopping -$428.50. Unfortunately, while it did project some of the results, the betting amounts would have completely sunk me.

Winners: Temple, Arizona State, Air Force and Northwestern.
Losers:  Ohio, Kent State, Tulsa, Troy, Wake Forest and Iowa.

A good amount of money would have been saved by the 2 alternative systems. Betting only on spreads of 20 or less would have resulted with -$228.50 and betting an even $100 per game would have given me -$240. That leaves the totals as such:

My system as is: -$238
The flat $100 per game rate: -$140
Betting only on spreads of 20 or less: -$17.50

Hopefully I can rebound from this week. Here are the picks:

Florida International +11 vs Maryland   $20
Rutgers +1 vs North Carolina   $80
Pittsburgh +3.5 vs Miami (FL)   $65
Temple +14 vs Penn State   $20
BYU +4 vs Nevada   $130
Oregon State +17 vs Boise State   $60
California +6.5 vs Arizona   $85
Arkansas State +11 vs Troy   $10
Middle Tennessee -2.5 vs Louisiana-Lafayette   $25
FAU -9.5 vs North Texas   $65

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

College Football Week 3

The Chiefs are in first place. I know it's just one game, but I'm not certain how often I will be able to write that down, so well, Chiefs-first place! Also, after next week, the Chiefs can be no less than tied for first place, which means that the Chiefs will have been in first place for 2 weeks! Wow! What an amazing season they are having! And then there are my blessed Kansas Jayhawks! I was in Lawrence for that one and will simply say this: that was a really, really good time and very much needed by all.

So with the very busy, local (to me) sports weekend behind us, I can move on to examining the rest of the college football world. My thoughts on the weekend? Well, let's see, the Mormons lost. Oklahoma, Cal and Michigan look impressive so far. And Virginia Tech either sucks...or. Of course though, that's just scratching the surface. More importantly, you can already start to see some division as to who, on a national scale, we will be watching all season and who we should just store away in our memory until next year.

Naturally though, all is not lost for any school. It's way too early to tell for sure. And that's why I decided last week to wait until after week 3 to start truly assessing what teams have earned up to that point. It's decent in principle, many teams have been squaring off against opponents of minimal significance and little to no chance of finding victory against their bigger opponents. How can one assess accomplishment without any data available supporting the team or the strength of their schedule? So we just start the season with what we know from the previous year, and kind of, I don't know, just work with it, as the teams from the expired paradigm start to falter. The result is fine for week 1, dissatisfying for week 2, and now as we approach week 3 of college football, my rankings look distorted and ugly, to say the least. Clearly, I'll have to come up with a better approach to this period of status purgatory in the future. But for now, here they are:

1 Alabama (2-0)
2 Texas (2-0)
3 Florida (2-0)
4 Boise State (1-0)
5 Ohio State (2-0)
6 TCU (2-0)
7 Iowa (2-0)
8 Penn State (1-1)
9 Oregon (2-0)
10 Nebraska (2-0)
11 Wisconsin (2-0)
12 LSU (2-0)
13 Utah (2-0)
14 Pittsburgh (1-1)
15 Miami (FL) (1-1)
16 Texas Tech (2-0)
17 USC (2-0)
18 Clemson (2-0)
19 West Virginia (2-0)
20 Fresno State (1-0)
21 Cincinnati (1-1)
22 Air Force (2-0)
23 BYU (1-1)
24 Temple (2-0)
25 Central Michigan (1-1)

So this is almost criminal. No Michigan. No Oklahoma. But Central Michigan at (1-1) gets the nod? Yeah, I know. But there's a point to doing it this way, and it isn't to offer up a skilled analysis of how the teams should be ranked to this point. Granted, should I continue this approach in the future, it would get insanely old and the masses would rebel against me. OK fine, but here's the lesson. Last year I made it clear, at this point, that only undefeated teams would gather recognition. Undefeated is undefeated, I said. And after 2 weeks' sample size, perhaps this isn't a poor guideline...undoubtedly something to consider coming back to in the future. The problem with that, however, is that when teams lose to ranked teams, they are playing a competitive schedule, and that should not be punished. And that's the basic point here. An undefeated team beats a ranked team, and they should by displacement, take over a spot in the top 25. Fine. But what about the teams that only sustain losses against teams already ranked ahead of them. Theoretically, those losses should be expected, and they are, in fact, undefeated still against the field of which they are being compared. But, what I fail to do here is consider the significance of their wins, something I intend to do next week, not only for these specific 1 loss benefactors, but for all teams altogether. Get ready for a massive shuffle; I told you that it was coming.

My gambling week was encouraging and discouraging at the same time. On the surface, my system rolled, but for the first time, my model demonstrated loss in one of the methods being tracked. 

My winners: FAU, California, Ohio State, Troy and Rice
My losers: Georgia, Arkansas State, BYU and Penn State

OK, so once again, I won 5 out of 9,  so my flat rate concept would have netted another $50. At least that's consistent, because the other scenarios have me flip-flopping a bit. This week, my actual system would have raked it in, achieving me $180 for my efforts. The problem is, that the redeeming success was entirely sustained by FAU, a team that was a whopping 28 point underdog against Michigan State. Credit my system for identifying the extremity of that spread, but as I said before, I have little confidence in large spreads and had I opted not to bet on such games, I would have taken a loss of $49 this week. Anyway, tracking it is the whole point, so here's my tab to date:

My system as is:  $190.50
The flat $100 per game rate:  $100
Betting only on spreads of 20 points or less:  $211

That's still not bad, but I hate to see a loss in any of the categories. I was a little surprised to see some of the projections for this coming week, but then again, the easiest way to fail on a procedure is to not acknowledge it, so here are the picks:

Temple +6.5 vs Connecticut   $5
Ohio +32 vs Ohio State   $180
Kent State +21 vs Penn State   $20
Tulsa +6.5 vs Oklahoma State   $65
Arizona State +14 vs Wisconsin   $70
Air Force +17.5 vs Oklahoma   $115
Northwestern -6.5 vs Rice   $25
Troy -4.5 vs UAB   $105
Wake Forest +17 vs Stanford   $220
Iowa -2 vs Arizona   $30

That will do it for now, have a great week!