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Pac-10 Basketball Overview Nov.30

November 30, 2010 2 comments

This is the first installment of the Pac-10 college basketball overview which will take a look at a few things over the course of the season. This overview will not be focusing as much on predictions (yet) or day-to-day recaps, but on the overall conference strengths and weaknesses, and the individual teams and how their schedules and results will impact how they get slotted in March. The overview will try to cut through the typical B.S. that is fed to us from the media and their “opinion” polls. While not as egregious as college football, the NCAA tournament bubble is always full of mediocre big conference teams who don’t get challenge out of conference and wonder why they miss out on the tournament (Hi Jim Boeheim). The overview is intended to praise those schools that get challenged and who go and challenge good teams. In addition to the scheduling issues, the overview will be following three storylines over the course of the season:

1. Can Coach Ben Howland and UCLA recover from last year’s disastrous season to return to the NCAA tournament this season?

  • Traditionally, UCLA ranks with North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, and Indiana at the top of the college basketball hierarchy. With more national championships than any other school, expectations are eternally high around Westwood. It only took Howland three years after taking over the down program from Steve Lavin to have the Bruins back in the Final Four playing for a national championship. He guided the Bruins to two more Final Four appearances in the following seasons. Then, in the 2008-09 season, the Bruins were knocked out in the second round of the tournament and then everything blew up last year, with a 14-18 record. The early declarations for the NBA draft by his top recruits finally caught up to Howland and the 4 year players who provided the glue to 3 Final Four teams graduated. Can Howland get it turned around this season and develop the core of players who will return the Bruins to glory?

2. Arizona tries to return to the NCAA tournament in Coach Sean Miller’s second season after snapping their 25 year NCAA tournament appearance streak.

  • Sean Miller was very successful in his five years at Xavier before becoming the head coach of Arizona before last season. Miller followed current Ohio State coach Thad Motta in a long line of successful coaches at the Cincinnati school. Can the previous success enjoyed by the coach and school merge this season to begin another long NCAA tournament run?  With the Pac-10 going through a down period, the Wildcats have a chance to quickly move up and reestablish themselves as the elite team in the conference.

3. Will the poor scheduling of most of the Pac-10 schools keep them from sending more than 2-3 teams to the Big Dance?

  • The Pac-10 is in the unusual position of having both of their historically dominant programs, UCLA and Arizona, going through a down period of success. This factor, combined with many of the conference’s ten schools putting together weak schedules, could make for another disappointing Selection Sunday on the west coast. Even conference favorite Washington doesn’t have much on their schedule after their Maui trip. If they had won those, they would have remained in the top 10 all season long. But with losses, even high profile ones; the conference will be searching for a team to carry the conference’s banner nationally. Without out of conference (OOC) success, the Pac-10 might be a 2 bid league again come March.

Team Overviews: Records are going into November 30th and one of the factors that will be used for quality of opponent will be Ken Pomeroy’s rating system, which is not perfect, but tends to be the fairest in terms of strength of opponent. The RPI will be considered as well following 10-12 games played for each team.

Arizona Wildcats

  • A 5-1 start with a solid loss to Kansas on Saturday. They also have 3 gimme wins.
  • Their challenging OOC games include BYU in Salt Lake City and at NC State. They also have 1 more definite gimme.
  • With a couple of challenging OOC games, the Wildcats will need to win at least one to solidify their profile going into Pac 10 play. If they have an 11-2 record OOC, they should be able to get on the bubble with 9-10 wins, feel comfortable on Selection Sunday at 12 wins, and compete for a Sweet 16 seed with 14-15 wins.

Arizona State Sun Devils

  • A 3-2 start with a solid (right now) loss to St. John’s and 2 gimme wins.
  • They have some challenging OOC games coming up at Baylor, Richmond, and maybe Tulsa. They also have 3 more gimmes.
  • Their slow start makes the next two games a must split situation for their OOC profile. With a 9-3 OOC record, they can make it to the bubble with 10-11 wins and feel comfortable on Selection Sunday at 13 wins. An 8-4 OOC record will require some major work in conference play.

California Golden Bears

  • A 3-2 start with a good win over Temple and solid losses to Notre Dame and Boston College. They also had 1 gimme win.
  • This offensively challenged team goes OOC to play at Iowa State, San Diego State, Southern Miss and Kansas. They also have 3 more gimmes. This is a one of the better, if not best, OOC schedule in the conference.
  • With their OOC schedule, the Bears can afford to go 8-4 going in to league play. With those 8 wins OOC, they can put themselves on the bubble with 9-10 league wins. Winning 11-12 should make them pretty comfortable on Selection Sunday and getting 14 conference wins would put them in the hunt for a Sweet 16 seed. Of course, they’ll have to score to win those games.

Oregon Ducks

  • A 4-2 start with a solid loss (computer wise) to Duke and a bad loss to San Jose State. They had 3 gimme wins.
  • Their remaining challenging OOC games are Missouri and at Virginia. They have 3 more gimmes and a non-division I game.
  • The Ducks will need to at least split those two notable games, if not win them both to get themselves back into Big Dance consideration. Going into Pac 10 play without a prominent OOC win makes them need at least 14 wins in conference to get a sniff from the selection committee. With a 9-2 OOC record, they can get on the bubble with 12 wins in Pac-10 play.

Oregon State Beavers

  • A 3-2 start with two horrible losses to Seattle and Texas Southern. They had at least 4 gimmes, if not 5 (Charlotte).
  • There’s nothing on that OOC schedule that impresses. In fact, the only thing impressive about this team is that the head coach is our President’s brother-in-law. Oh, and there’s 4 more gimmes left.
  • The Beavers are most likely going to have to win the Pac-10 tournament or get a Presidential exemption to March Madness. The latter might be more realistic.

Stanford Cardinal

  • A 4-2 start with a decent win against Virginia. They have had 3 gimmes as well.
  • The Cardinal has challenging OOC games at Butler and at Oklahoma State. They also have 4 more gimmes.
  • The Cardinal will need to win those two remaining notable OOC games to go 10-2 OOC. If they get that, then they will need another 10-11 wins in the Pac-10 to get on the bubble and 13 wins in conference to really feel safe on Selection Sunday.

UCLA Bruins

  • A 3-2 start with a good loss to Villanova and a solid loss to VCU. They have had 2 gimme wins.
  • Their challenging OOC games are at Kansas, BYU in Anaheim, and St. John’s. They also have 4 more gimmes.
  • The Bruins need to stay away from bad OOC losses and beat either Kansas or BYU for that high profile win to put on their resume. Doing that and going 10-3 OOC will give them a solid profile going into Pac-10 play. With 10 wins OOC, they can win 10-11 in conference to get on the bubble. Getting 12-13 wins in the Pac-10 can give them some breathing room. Unless they run the rest of the OOC games, they’ll need at least 14-15 wins to challenge for a Sweet 16 seed.

USC Trojans

  • A 4-4 start with 3 bad losses. The four wins were gimmes.
  • Their OOC schedule gets more difficult with games against Texas, at Kansas, and at Tennessee. Pretty solid slate with only 1 more gimme.
  • While it’s doubtful, getting 2 out of 3 of those games and winning the rest of the OOC games to get to 8-5 would give them a fighting chance to make the Big Dance. They would need to go out and win at least 13 if not 14-15 conference games to get on the bubble.

Washington Huskies

  • A 3-2 start with very solid losses to Michigan State and Kentucky. They beat Virginia and 2 gimmes.
  • Their remaining tough OOC game is at Texas A&M. They also have 3 more gimmes.
  • While the early schedule was a nice challenge, that A&M game is a huge one for the OOC profile as Virginia isn’t expected to be a tournament team. Assuming they win out in their OOC games, the Huskies will probably need 12 wins in the conference to get onto the bubble. They should be better than that and 13-14 wins would make them a lock. If they could get to 16 or more in conference along with a very good run in the conference tourney, they might challenge for a Sweet 16 seed. 

Washington State Cougars

  • A 4-0 start with 3 gimmes.
  • Their challenging OOC games are Kansas State, Gonzaga, Mississippi State in Hawaii, Baylor/San Diego in Hawaii, and a 3rd Hawaii game. They also have at least 3 more gimmes.
  • If the Cougars can get 2 out of 3 of those definite games, or 2 out of 4 if they play Baylor, then they should have a solid profile heading into Pac-10 play. A 10-2 OOC record would give them a chance to be on the bubble with 12-13 conference wins, and comfortable at 14 wins.

That’s my first Pac-10 overview. These should come bi-weekly until conference action gets going in January. Other conference overviews will follow daily. Previous overviews can be found below:

See the Big East Overview from Nov.23

See the ACC Overview from Nov.24

See the Big Ten Overview from Nov.25

See the Big 12 Overview from Nov.26

See the SEC Overview from Nov.28

See the A-10 Overview from Nov.29

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Atlantic 10 Basketball Overview Nov.29

November 29, 2010 3 comments

See the Big East Overview from Nov.23

See the ACC Overview from Nov.24

See the Big Ten Overview from Nov.25

See the Big 12 Overview from Nov.26

See the SEC Overview from Nov.28

This is the first installment of the Atlantic 10 college basketball overview which will take a look at a few things over the course of the season. This overview will not be focusing as much on predictions (yet) or day-to-day recaps, but on the overall conference strengths and weaknesses, and the individual teams and how their schedules and results will impact how they get slotted in March. The overview will try to cut through the typical B.S. that is fed to us from the media and their “opinion” polls. While not as egregious as college football, the NCAA tournament bubble is always full of mediocre big conference teams who don’t get challenge out of conference and wonder why they miss out on the tournament (Hi Jim Boeheim). The overview is intended to praise those schools that get challenged and who go and challenge good teams. In addition to the scheduling issues, the overview will be following three storylines over the course of the season:

1. Can Richmond play inside the Top 25 for most of the season?

  • The Spiders surprised everybody last season as Chris Mooney’s team went from back to back CBI appearances to going 13-3 in the A-10 and winning 26 games overall. They feature the reigning A-10 player of the year guard Kevin Anderson and two other starters (Darrius Garrett and Dan Geriot split starts last year). This team is deep, bringing back six players who averaged double digit minutes last season. Outside of Xavier, the A-10 has failed to find a consistent team at the top of the conference for most of the past decade. In a conference like the Atlantic 10, a rising tide lifts all ships and the conference needs multiple teams at the top raising the profile and power rating of the conference in order to get multiple bids to the Big Dance. Richmond will be counted on this year, along with Temple and Xavier, to do just that. How the Spiders play out of conference (OOC) will play a pivotal role in determining the A-10’s success when the brackets are released in March.

2.  Does Dayton use their 2010 NIT championship as a springboard to bigger and better things this year?

  • Dayton had a very good run in last year’s postseason NIT after missing out on the NCAA tournament. The Flyers last made the tournament two years ago and an impressive OOC showing last season had them primed for another bid. But conference play came around and they sputtered to an 8-8 record in the A-10. This season, forward Chris Wright is a senior and has been teasing the Flyer faithful with hints of brilliance, but hasn’t been able to put it together for the entire season. Wright has the talent to take his game to the 18 and 10 level. If he does that, he could be conference player of the year and the Flyers will be dancing again.

3. What happened to George Washington, Massachusetts, and Saint Joseph’s?

  • These three long-time members of the A-10 have put together the best three A-10 regular seasons over the past 15 years. GW went 16-0 in the 2005-06 season, St. Joe’s went 16-0 in 2003-04 en route to a #1 ranking and #1 seed in the tournament, and UMass went 15-1 in 1995-96 season as they spent most of the season at #1 and made the conferences only appearance in the Final Four. All three are down now, with Karl Hobbs at GW squarely on the hot seat. The Colonials haven’t been to the Big Dance since winning the A-10 tournament in 2006-07 and only has one winning season since. The Hawks have only made one appearance (2007-08) since their run to the Elite 8 in 2003-04. The Minutemen haven’t been to the tournament this millennium, with their last appearance coming four coaches ago during the 1997-98 season. The structure of the Atlantic 10 is typically top heavy. These are schools that have demonstrated the ability to play at a high level and achieve great success in the conference. Will any of these teams step up and join the current elite schools in the conference to help solidify the A-10’s standing as a major conference?

Team Overviews: Records are going into November 29th and one of the factors that will be used for quality of opponent will be Ken Pomeroy’s rating system, which is not perfect, but tends to be the fairest in terms of strength of opponent. The RPI will be considered as well following 10-12 games played for each team.

Charlotte 49ers

  • An atrocious 3-4 start bad losses to Gardner Webb, Coastal Carolina, and Oregon State. They have 2 gimme wins, but that should be 4.
  • They play a few challenging OOC games starting with Tennessee and at Georgia Tech. They also have 2 more gimmes.
  • This is clearly a transition year for new coach Alan Major as their start will eliminate them from NCAA consideration and if they have a losing record, which is likely, they won’t be playing after the A-10 tourney. They will need to improve during the rest of their OOC games to help the rest of the conference.

 Dayton Flyers

  • A 5-1 start that was good until the shocking blowout to Cincinnati over the weekend. They have a solid road win over Ole Miss and 3 gimme wins.
  • In their OOC schedule, they have good games at Old Dominion, at Seton Hall, George Mason, and New Mexico. They also have 4 gimmes.
  • Their NCAA chances will be determined beginning with their OOC record. A maximum of 3 losses OOC will be needed unless they win at least 13 in conference. If they come in at 12-3 OOC, a conference record with 11 wins or more should put them in contention for an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

Duquesne Dukes

  • A 3-1 start with a bad loss to Robert Morris, 2 gimmes and a non-division I win.
  • Their OOC schedule heats up with Pittsburgh at the old Igloo, at Penn State, West Virginia, and George Mason. They have two chances to knock off a big-time Big East school which would go a long way to validating their profile come March.
  • They realistically need to go 10-3 OOC at a minimum to garner consideration from the selection committee going into A-10 play. A noteworthy win over either Pittsburgh or West Virginia would go far to legitimizing their Big Dance profile. Then they would need to follow that up with 11-12 wins in conference play to be under consideration.

Fordham Rams

  • A 2-3 start for first year coach Tom Pecora. They have 3 bad losses that will impact the conference rating and two gimme wins.
  • They have a couple of decent OOC games against St. John’s and at Georgia Tech. They also have what would be considered 3 gimmes to good teams.
  • Fordham’s goal in OOC play is to minimize the damage for their conference mates. That means a record in the area of 6-7 or so. The rest of the league is begging.

George Washington Colonials

  • A 2-2 start with 2 gimme wins and a bad loss to Hampton at home.
  • Their OOC schedule has them playing at George Mason and at UAB. They also have 5 more gimmes. Not the type of schedule that can get a team an at-large bid to the Big Dance.
  • GW is another team that needs to minimize the damage for the conference. A 9-5 OOC record or so would be solid. That would also give them an outside chance of qualifying for one of the other postseason tournaments if they finish at .500 or above.

LaSalle Explorers

  • A 4-2 start with a solid win against Providence and two high quality losses against Baylor and Missouri. They also have 3 gimme wins.
  • They have a chance to continue helping the conference and themselves when they play Oklahoma State in the Palestra and Villanova at home. They also play 5 gimmes.
  • Best case scenario would be splitting those two good games and running the rest. That would put the Explorers at 12-3 OOC. With that record, a solid 10-11 win A-10 season would put them near or on the bubble.

Massachusetts Minutemen

  • A 6-0 start with 3 gimmes and a non-division I win.
  • They play a few quality OOC games with Boston College at the TD Garden, Seton Hall, and UCF. They have 3 more gimmes left OOC.
  • Their schedule wasn’t really set up for a run at an at-large bid in the Big Dance, but a 11-1 start in D-I games could set themselves up for a run in league play. If one of their opponents becomes a high quality signature win, then an 11-1 UMass can set their sights on winning 11-12 A-10 games to get themselves on the bubble for the first time in the Derek Kellogg era. Otherwise, it will take an A-10 tournament championship, something not seen in Amherst since 1996.

Rhode Island Rams

  • A 5-2 start with a good loss at Pittsburgh and a bad loss to Illinois-Chicago. They played 3 gimmes, including UIC.
  • Their OOC games are at Providence, Boston College, and at Florida. They also have 3 gimmes.
  • The Rams need an 11-3 OOC record to position them for a run in league play. That record would enable them to win 11-12 games in conference and be a part of that bubble. If they were to run it and start 12-2, then they might get consideration at 10 league wins.

Richmond Spiders

  • A 6-1 start with a great win against Purdue in Chicago on Saturday. They also had 4 gimme wins.
  • With the great divide between the haves and have nots in the A-10, the Spiders needed to have a quality schedule. Upcoming they play at Old Dominion, at Arizona State, Virginia Commonwealth, Georgia Tech in the Bahamas and at Seton Hall. They also have 2 more gimmes, although Wake Forest is playing itself into one.
  • If the Spiders can get through their OOC schedule with a 13-2 record or better, they have a chance to get a Sweet 16 seed. But to do that, they’ll need to at least repeat their 13 win conference record from last year and win a game or two in the A-10 tourney. That Purdue win has a chance to go a long way for them.

Saint Bonaventure Bonnies

  • A 3-2 start with 3 gimme wins and a bad loss to Canisius.
  • Their OOC schedule has them at St. John’s, Virginia Tech in Rochester, and Siena. They also have 4 gimmes, although maybe not for them.
  • Here’s another A-10 school that needs to win the winnable games to help the overall conference. The Bonnies aren’t heading for the Big Dance this season so an 8-5 or 9-4 OOC record would be great, and help their A-10 brethren. They just need to avoid the really bad losses.

Saint Joseph’s Hawks

  • A 3-2 start with a solid loss to Penn State. They only had 1 gimme win.
  • Their OOC schedule has them playing at Villanova, Minnesota, at Creighton and Siena.
  • If they could somehow navigate that schedule to get a 10-4 OOC record, they could be a surprise team later in the season. With 10 OOC wins, they could find themselves on the bubble with 10-11 A-10 wins.

Saint Louis Billikens

  • A 3-2 start with a bad loss to Austin Peay, 3 gimme games (Peay included) and a non-division I game.
  • They have two quality OOC games at Duke and at Missouri State. They also have 4 more gimmes. A fairly weak OOC schedule except for Duke.
  • They need to go 10-4 at a minimum to not hurt the conference and their chances. That would give them a chance to win 12-13 games in the A-10 to get consideration for an at-large berth.

Temple Owls

  • A 3-2 start with a solid loss to Texas A&M, some decent wins and a gimme.
  • Their OOC schedule has them playing at Maryland, Georgetown, at Villanova, and at Duke. They also have 4 gimmes.
  • This OOC schedule gives the Owls a chance to get into the Big Dance with only 9-10 conference wins if they can go 10-4 or better OOC. That would give them a couple of high profile wins that would help to differentiate them from other bubble teams.  Otherwise, a 9-5 OOC record would have them needing 11-12 wins in A-10 play and a win or two in the A-10 tourney.

Xavier Musketeers

  • A 5-1 start with a solid loss to Old Dominion. They also had 2 gimmes.
  • Their upcoming good OOC games are Butler, at Gonzaga, Florida, and at Cincinnati. Wake Forest and Georgia are other notables on their OOC schedule.
  • The Muskies have a solid OOC schedule and an 11-12 win total OOC will let them into March Madness with only 10-11 conference wins. If they slip up a few more times OOC, then that total will obviously increase. They need to win at least two of those four big OOC games to give themselves some wiggle room on Selection Sunday.

 

The Atlantic 10 is an eclectic conglomeration made up of three tiers of teams. They have historically high majors like Temple, Xavier, UMass, St. Joes, Charlotte, GW, Dayton, and Rhode Island. Then they have mid-majors Richmond, Saint Louis, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, and LaSalle. And then they have Fordham. Don’t confuse major with good and mid-major with not as good because Richmond might be the best team in the conference. Mid-major Butler almost shocked the world last year, but they’re still a mid major until they can consistently get at-large bids to the tournament. The A-10 isn’t lumped in with the others because they were a four bid league last season and could be again. That’s subject to change, however, if the conference’s top teams tank.

That’s my first Atlantic 10 overview. These should come bi-weekly until conference action gets going in January. My other conference overviews will follow daily.

Pro Football Week 12 Sunday Recap

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Some thoughts on yesterday’s pro football games while wondering if the winner of the NFC West will get to 7 wins, much less 8…

Falcons beat Packers 20-17: Great game between 2 of the 4 top teams in the NFC decided by a last second field goal by the Falcons’ Matt Bryant. That was set-up by a good kick return and a 15-yard facemask penalty that helped the Falcons start at the 50 yard line. It was punch, counter-punch between the two teams as Atlanta would score and the Pack would counter by tying. This went on the entire game and the Pack would probably have kicked a tying field goal had there been another minute left on the clock. When Aaron Rodgers runs for 51 yards to lead the Packers, things can’t be good for the Pack’s running game. The Packers had over a 120 yard advantage in total offense, but that was wiped out because of Aaron Rodgers’ fumble at the 1 yard line midway through the second quarter that gave the Falcons a touchback. The Falcons responded with an 80 yard TD drive to head into halftime with a 10-3 lead. Besides that crucial fumble, there were no other turnovers during this well-played game. Michael Turner scored and ran for over 100 yards on almost 5 yards per carry for the Falcons. Matt Ryan was almost perfect as he completed short pass after short pass for 197 yards and completed over 80% of his passes. Aaron Rodgers played as well as anybody could expect, except for that critical fumble that turned out to be the difference in the game. An example of how effective each quarterback was, each completed passes to NINE different receivers. Incredible. The 7-4 Packers go home and play the pitiful Niners next week. The 9-2 Falcons go to Tampa to face the upstart Bucs in a big NFC South matchup. A win for the Falcons would pretty much ensure a playoff berth and effectively eliminate the Bucs from the division title.

Steelers beat Bills 19-16: The Steelers luck out in Buffalo as the Bills give one away in overtime. Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson, who was fined for wearing a “Why so serious” t-shirt underneath his jersey last week, seriously dropped the game winning touchdown pass in the end zone from Ryan Fitzpatrick in overtime. Although completely different games, the way the Steelers and Saints won their games is indicative of how bad teams find a way to lose, and good teams find a way to win. The Steelers got a very good game out of Rashard Mendenhall who ran for over 150 yards. However, the Steelers are going to have to work on their discipline as they were penalized for over 100 yards for the second week in a row after not going over 80 all year. The 8-3 Steelers have to tighten that part of their game up before heading to Baltimore next Sunday night for a showdown with the 8-3 Ravens. A loss to the Ravens would pretty much eliminate them from the division title as the Ravens won the first game in week 4.

Browns beat Panthers 24-23: Jake Delhomme reminded Panthers’ fans why he’s not there anymore by throwing two interceptions, but a John Kasay missed field goal keeps the future head coach of the Panthers (Bill Cowher?) in the driver’s seat for Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. The Browns had lost heartbreakers the past three weeks after beating the Patriots, but survived in this one. At 4-7, they have a chance to avoid a 10 loss season for the first time since 2007 and only the fourth time since being reincarnated in 1999. Next week they play at Miami.

Giants beat Jaguars 24-20: The beat-up Giants survived a serious challenge in this game and to their playoff hopes by coming back against the Jags. The key to this win for the Giants was not turning the ball over after leading the league with 30 turnovers during the first 10 games. In addition, cornerback Terrell Thomas strip-sacked David Garrard with less than two minutes left and Antrel Rolle recovered the fumble to seal the game for the Giants. The Giants overcame a dominate Jags running game to force the game winning fumble and also an interception by Garrard at the beginning of the 2nd half that led to a field goal. The Giants solid running game and Eli Manning’s accurate and effective passing helped put the Giants back into the win column after losing the previous two. The Giants are now tied with the Eagles at 7-4 and play the rival Redskins next week at home. The 6-5 Jaguars go on the road to Tennessee to play the Titans, who despite their troubles are only a game behind the Jags for first place.

Vikings beat Redskins 17-13: Favre and the Vikings showed up for interim coach Leslie Frazier and made the two interim coaches a combined 3-1 after their predecessors went a combined 4-14. But remember, these players didn’t quit on those coaches. Favre looked like he was only 36 or 37 running for the game clinching first down and the Vikings are now 4-7 with a long shot chance at the playoffs. Bad news for the Vikings as Adrian Peterson hurt his ankle and didn’t return. He’s day-to-day. Favre didn’t force anything and the Vikings committed to the run. They try to get to 5-7 next week against Buffalo at home. The Redskins are now 5-6 and have a slightly better chance to make the playoffs. If they are to make a run, they better win in New Jersey against the Giants next week.

Texans beat Titans 20-0: Jeff Fisher is a good coach, but not good enough to win with Rusty Smith at quarterback. Who is though? Maybe Ditka with the ’85 Bears defense. The only good highlight of the game, because these teams are irrelevant now, was the fight between noted antagonist Courtland Finnegan of the Titans and star receiver Andre Johnson for the Texans. No word on if the Houston Aeros minor league hockey team will be contacting Johnson about a potential enforcer’s role following the season. If the NFL really wants to suspend the two combatants, they should do it for the rematch in Nashville during week 15. These two teams are actually a little more than mathematically alive at 5-6 each, only a game behind the Colts and Jaguars. The Texans have a short week to continue their attempt to save their season. They play Thursday night against the Eagles who put together a dog performance against the Bears. The Titans play the Jaguars in a must-win game at home.

Dolphins beat Raiders 33-17: If the Raiders didn’t have Jacoby Ford, they would still stink. As of right now, they only smell. After getting taken to the woodshed last week in Pittsburgh, the Dolphins came out and spanked them in Oakland this week. A healthy Chad Henne was impressive, throwing for over 300 yards and 2 TDs, seemingly finding Davone Bess for big plays all day. Bess and Ford have to be two of the most enjoyable receivers to watch that nobody knows about. Ford has over 100 yards in two of the last three games and has more than a couple of highlight reel catches and returns. With Bruce Gradkowski having a mediocre game (2 Ints), do the Raiders go back to Al Davis favorite Jason Campbell at San Diego? Next week will be must win for them so this is a story to watch as Campbell was much more effective during the week 5 win over the Chargers than Gradkowski. At 6-5, the Dolphins are the only team with that record who really doesn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. It probably takes them winning out and even then, they would need some help. They try to keep it going next week at home against the Browns.

Chiefs beat Seahawks 42-24: The Chiefs have been poor on the road, but a trip to the NFC West leading Seahawks got them straightened out for the week. Dwayne Bowe caught 3 TD passes from Matt Cassel, who threw 4 TD passes against his former college coach, Pete Carroll, who never gave him a chance to start at USC. You know what payback is, right Pete? And if that didn’t get Carroll jacked up, the three turnovers and almost double the offensive yards for the Chiefs had to. The Chiefs are now 7-4 and have payback on their mind as the Broncos come to Arrowhead next week. Maybe if Josh McDaniels lets Todd Haley use his video camera, he’ll shake his hand after this one. The Seahawks are still in first place at 5-6. I think their magic number is one, but I’m not entirely sure. They play at home next week against the Panthers who should petition the league to return to the NFC West, citing a similar quality of play to their own.

Bears beat Eagles 31-26: Do we have to take the Bears seriously now? The Bears showed great offensive balance while not committing any turnovers. Jay Cutler threw for 4 TDs and was only sacked 4 times. Well, the Bears weren’t perfect. Julius Peppers was all over the field harassing the formerly invincible Michael Vick, who threw his first interception and fumbled 4(!!!!) times without losing one. The opposition defenses have chased and battered Vick in the last two games following his great performance on Monday night against the Redskins. Despite the constant pressure, Vick still impressed with 333 yards passing and 2 TDs. The issue for the Eagles, however, continues to be their lack of a substantial running game out of their backs as LeShon McCoy ran only 10 times for 53 yards. A great average, but an effective running game is often more about the number of carries than the average. The Bears continue to bend, but don’t break on defense and forcing the Eagles into 4 field goals and an interception in the end zone was the biggest factor in their win. The Bears are always coming up with timely, big plays defensively that are a major factor in their success. The Eagles fall to 7-4 and a tie with the Giants who they beat last week. They go home for a short week and play the pass defense challenged Texans at the Linc on Thursday night. The Bears go to 8-3 and are a game up on the Packers as they head to Detroit to play the well-rested Lions. The Lions were robbed on opening day in Chicago when Calvin Johnson’s apparent touchdown reception was called incomplete due to a bad rule. It will be interesting to see how they play the Bears this time around.

Rams beat Broncos 36-33: I wonder what the Broncos coaching staff will say after watching the video of this one? Maybe they’ll deny that they watched it. Sam Bradford took another step in his accelerated development as a good NFL quarterback by throwing for over 300 yards and 3 TDs in picking up a key road win for the Rams. They are now tied with the Seahawks in the worst division in sports, the NFC West, with five weeks remaining. I’m not so privately rooting for the division champ to have a 6-10 record. Not because I want the playoff system changed, but because it would be funny. The Rams have a key division game next week at Arizona who plays tomorrow night.

Ravens beat Buccaneers 17-10: The Bucs were eventually going to play a good team, and this week it was the Ravens. There’s no word if the fan-free Bucs were intimidated by the sellout crowd in Baltimore, or the fact that the Ravens were just a better team. Joe Flacco was solid for the Ravens, throwing for almost 300 yards and 2 TDs. On the other side, the Ravens harassed future star Josh Freeman all day and he couldn’t get anything going until a TD drive late in the game when they were down by 2 TDs. The Ravens played their typical physical style of play and it should be interesting to see how this game affects the Bucs next week when they play the Falcons at home. At 7-4, the Bucs division title chances are on the line against the NFC best Falcons. The Ravens have a showdown of their own as their hated rival, the Steelers, come to Baltimore for a potentially division deciding grudge match on Sunday night. Both teams stand at 8-3 and a win would put that team in the driver’s seat for a first round bye in the AFC playoffs.

Chargers beat Colts 36-14: There’s something about playing San Diego on a Sunday night that causes Peyton Manning to turn the ball over to them constantly. That was 6 interceptions in their 2007 meeting. Tonight it was two pick 6’s to Kevin Burnett and Eric Weddle (nice pass interference) and another two interceptions thrown by Manning and a fumble by Javarris James that gave the Chargers a plus 5 in the turnover battle. It was the Chargers offense that scared the Colts coming in, but the #1 rated Chargers defense scored two touchdowns compared to one for the #1 rated Chargers offense. Are the Chargers really a legitimate contender to win the Super Bowl? Until Norv Turner is the head coach of a team that wins the Lombardi Trophy, everyone will expect the Chargers to let them down in the end. For the Colts, it just looks like they are too beat up to consistently compete with good football teams. Against bad teams, Manning is still able to carve them up with his replacement players, but the good teams have stopped them in recent weeks. It looks like the Super Bowl loser curse is alive and well as the Colts might miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001, Jim Mora’s last season as head coach. The 6-5 Colts try to right the ship next week against the Cowboys at home. The suddenly 6-5 Chargers are alive and well. They host their archrivals, the Oakland Raiders, next week trying to avenge a week 5 loss in Oakland.

Tonight, I hate both teams and their entire mediocre division. Could one of these teams in the NFC West have enough respect for the game and at least finish at 8-8? Probably not, especially with these two 3-7 treasures. Note to both teams, find yourselves a quarterback! I have to pick one, huh? How about a tie? The pick is the Cardinals, because they are at home and are better coached. Please forgive me if I forget to watch this one.

This week, my Super Bowl pick is the Patriots beating the Falcons. As usual, that’s subject to change next week, and probably will.

Week 13 College Football Weekend Recap

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Thoughts on this weekend’s play as I root for TCU to bust up the BCS National Championship. Where have you gone Boise State?

1. Oregon beat Arizona 48-29: The Ducks continued their onslaught of Pac 10 competition. Even when an opponent can slow them down in one half, the Ducks come storming back and this week they scored 34 points in the second half. It’s tough to win when you give up 389 yards on the ground, which is what Arizona did. LaMichael James is fading in his bid for the Heisman Trophy, but it looks like he might get the national championship. All that’s left for the Ducks is the Oregon State Beavers in the “Civil War” game. TCU beat the Beavers in September, and would love to see the Beavers end their season with a win.

2. Auburn beat Alabama 28-27: What a great comeback by the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and the Tigers! They looked like road kill midway when Mark Ingram broke that long run that ended with him fumbling out of the end zone. Auburn was without two defensive starters who were suspended for the first half for fighting in their last game against Georgia. Their defense looked completely different when they returned in the second half. The Auburn defense forced two turnovers and two field goals in the red zone which provided the difference in the final score. The mark of a good team is to win despite the other team playing better. That’s what happened on Friday in Tuscaloosa. The only on-field barrier to Auburn playing in the BCS national championship is South Carolina next Saturday in the SEC championship game in Atlanta. Off the field, who knows if, or how many more Cam Newton stories will surface as they get closer to a championship.

3. TCU beat New Mexico 66-17: The Horned Frogs completed their perfect regular season by rolling the Lobos. This game was relatively close at halftime before the Frogs outscored the Lobos 35-0 in the second half. A loss by either Oregon or Alabama should get TCU their dream shot at the title. Otherwise, they most likely play Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in what should be an explosive matchup.

4. Boise State lost to Nevada 34-31: A shocker in Reno! Kicker Kyle Brotzman missed two chip shot field goals at the end of regulation and in overtime giving the Wolfpack the upset. The loss to Nevada will definitely keep the Broncos out of the BCS championship discussion and will probably keep them out of a BCS bowl game. Hello Humanitarian Bowl. What a joke this system is. Hey Ohio State President Gee, if your school had the courage to schedule the Broncos, they would show you what a dynamic, exciting offense is all about. Boise State still has the best out of conference win at the BCS level this season in their win over Virginia Tech. Maybe the Fiesta Bowl takes a chance on the two-time Fiesta Bowl champion? Oh, they need to beat Utah State next week first.

5. LSU lost to Arkansas 31-23: Arkansas’ quarterback Ryan Mallett dropped by from his own 20 with 6 seconds remaining in the first half and threw a strike to Cobi Hamilton at midfield and Hamilton broke a few tackles and made a few more defenders miss as he ran the remaining 50 yards for an 80 yard touchdown pass to end the first half. That was the difference in a close game that was close throughout. Presumably, Arkansas would jump over LSU for a BCS slot and go to the Sugar Bowl if Auburn wins next week. Not so fast, my friend as Lee Corso would bellow. Remember that the Sugar Bowl is in New Orleans and LSU is the home team. They both have the same 10-2 record and there will be a lot of local pressure on the Sugar Bowl to invite Les Miles’ team.

6. Stanford beat Oregon State 38-0: Stanford continues to roll and has really only played one bad half this season. Stanford can claim an automatic BCS bowl game by finishing in the top 4 of the BCS standings. If they do this, the rumor is that they will head to Miami and the Orange Bowl. They got two teams in front of them who lost, but, will they hold of Wisconsin in the standings?

7. Wisconsin beat Northwestern 70-23: The Wildcats aren’t great, but they did win 7 games. The Badgers are a beast and you kind of pine for the old days when the Pac 10 and Big Ten winner would meet in Pasadena before the BCS. The only way we see Oregon and Wisconsin matchup in Pasadena is if the Ducks lose next week. Otherwise, it’s most likely TCU. A wildcard would be Stanford if Auburn lost and TCU went to the championship game. The Rose Bowl would undoubtedly want that Big Ten/Pac 10 matchup if given the chance.

8. Ohio State beat Michigan 37-7: Rich Rodriguez went 0-3 against The Ohio State University and will probably not get another chance. The Buckeyes took control in the second quarter and were never challenged after that. Ohio State is rumored to be the choice for the Sugar Bowl as long as the standings don’t turn upside down and send the Buckeyes to Pasadena.

9. Oklahoma State lost to Oklahoma 47-41: What a wild 4th quarter in the Bedlam game. Forty combined points made for an exciting finish. Oklahoma finally went on the road and got a good win against the Cowboys. That sets up the final Big 12 title game next week. There’s a 99% chance that it will be the classic Big 8 rival game between Nebraska and Oklahoma. They should have Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne for the pregame coin toss. The winner will go to a BCS bowl game, probably the Fiesta, while the loser will miss out.

10. Michigan State beat Penn State 28-22: Sparty completed their best regular season in 20 years as they tied for the Big Ten title. Despite that, they not only miss out on the Rose Bowl, they will miss out on the BCS altogether. I’d bet if you got coach D’Antonio under the truth serum, he’d beg for a playoff system. The Spartans head to Florida, Tampa or Orlando, to face an SEC team.

Other BCS Notes:

Virginia Tech will face Florida State in the ACC title game after NC State lost to Maryland. Virginia Tech became the first team to go undefeated in ACC play since Florida State in 2000.

The Big East stinks and they’ll be probably be providing an unranked team to the Fiesta Bowl, especially if it’s UConn. This just goes to show that college football is not a meritocracy, but a bureaucratic mess. Right now, 7-4 UConn is in first place and just has to win next week at South Florida. Second place West Virginia will finish at 9-3 if they win and goes to the Fiesta if UConn loses. That’s what the BCS needs to happen to save face.

South Carolina will play Auburn in the SEC championship game. They only go to a BCS bowl game with a win.

After next week’s bowl selection, I will be unveiling my alternative playoff system to the BCS that isn’t perfect, but provides a much better, and fairer, system to determine the national champion.

You can find all of the information used to compute the BCS rankings below, please direct your hate mail to the owners of these computer rankings:

BCS selection procedures

BCS Poll

Components (not including AP Poll)

Harris Interactive Poll

Anderson & Hester

Richard Billingsley

Colley Matrix

Kenneth Massey

Jeff Sagarin

Peter Wolfe

These are the hated components that replace the potential on-field playoff that the great sport deserves.

SEC Basketball Overview Nov.28

November 28, 2010 4 comments

See the Big East Overview from Nov.23

See the ACC Overview from Nov.24

See the Big Ten Overview from Nov.25

See the Big 12 Overview from Nov.26

This is the first installment of the SEC college basketball overview which will take a look at a few things over the course of the season. This overview will not be focusing as much on predictions (yet) or day-to-day recaps, but on the overall conference strengths and weaknesses, and the individual teams and how their schedules and results will impact how they get slotted in March. The overview will try to cut through the typical B.S. that is fed to us from the media and their “opinion” polls. While not as egregious as college football, the NCAA tournament bubble is always full of mediocre big conference teams who don’t get challenge out of conference and wonder why they miss out on the tournament (Hi Jim Boeheim). The overview is intended to praise those schools that get challenged and who go and challenge good teams. In addition to the scheduling issues, the overview will be following three storylines over the course of the season:

1. A new bunch of kiddy ‘Cats in Lexington.

  • Coach John Calipari has another group of young players in Lexington after losing five first round draft choices to the NBA. Calipari has become the guy to play for if you are a top high school point guard who wants to be a lottery pick. Starting at Memphis, Calipari has had DaJuan Wagner (6th pick in 2002), Derrick Rose (#1 in 2008), Tyreke Evans (#4 in 2009) and John Wall (#1 in 2010) last year with the ‘Cats. This season point guard Brandon Knight joins Coach Cal and the ‘Cats. But while the young players get the attention, it’s the returning juniors DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller who are going to be looked at for leadership. If Kentucky is to be as successful as last year (Elite 8), they will need upperclassmen leadership from those two. The most difficult player for Cal to replace will be the steady Patrick Patterson. Cal’s most successful teams have always had an inside “warrior” type player dating back to his UMass days with Harper Williams and Lou Roe to Joey Dorsey with Memphis and Patterson last year. We’re going to find out if Terrence Jones is the candidate to be next in this long line of tough inside players that have played for Calipari.

2. Bruce Pearl suspended for the first 8 games of the SEC season while working without a contract.

  • No more cookouts, Bruce. As far as NCAA rules violations go, this one is ridiculous. The problem here is that Pearl lied to the investigators. At least, he came forward and tried to make amends. Complicating this whole situation is that Pearl isn’t working with a signed contract and could be let go at any time. If all Pearl did was cook a few burgers and dogs for some recruits, this needs to be put to bed sooner than later. Pearl has helped take the Volunteers to a level they hadn’t seen previously with hoop success normally attributed to the women’s team and Pat Summitt. While he didn’t do the right thing by lying, he has done everything possible after that to make amends. How will the suspension affect the Vols at the start of league play and will those games help or hurt them when the calendar turns to March?

3. Can the Florida Gators shake their postseason inconsistency this season?

  • Outside of those back-to-back magical seasons in Gainesville, postseason success has been mostly lacking for the Gators. Florida made that run in 2000 with Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem where they lost to Michigan State in the finals, and then became the team to pick against in your bracket for an early upset. They’ve lost three first round games since 2000 and went to the NIT in 2008. It’s been feast or famine for the Gators who haven’t made it to the second weekend without making the Final Four since 1999. Their team this year should be a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 team, but they could also be that 12-5 upset pick in your bracket. Which one is it going to be? With the Gator football team having a down year, the hoops teams will get more attention earlier in the season as Gator Nation searches for a winner. Is Billy the Kid up to it?

Team Overviews: Records are going into November 28th and one of the factors that will be used for quality of opponent will be Ken Pomeroy’s rating system, which is not perfect, but tends to be the fairest in terms of strength of opponent. The RPI will be considered as well following 10-12 games played for each team.

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • A 3-3 start with 3 gimmes and a bad loss to St. Peter’s. Losing to Iowa isn’t that good either.
  • The out of conference (OOC) challenging games are at Purdue, at Providence, and Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City with four more gimmes.
  • The start isn’t a good one if they want a chance to return to the Big Dance. With three opportunities to play decent opponents, the Tide will probably need wins against two of them to be in a good position going into conference play. Playing in the west division should help their record, but not their power rating which is why those OOC games are so important. If they can get into league play at 10-4, then another 10 conference wins should get them on the bubble, at least. They’ll need to get to 21-22 wins to feel safe on Selection Sunday.

Arkansas Razorbacks

  • A 3-1 start with a loss to UAB and 3 gimme wins.
  • They don’t have many challenging games OOC except Seton Hall in Louisville, Texas A&M in Dallas, and at Texas. They’ve also got 6 gimmes.
  • Their OOC strength of schedule is weak which makes those three remaining games important. Getting 2 out of 3 and coming in at 12-2 OOC will put them in a decent position. If they do that, a 10 win conference season should get them dancing.

Auburn Tigers

  • An atrocious 1-4 start for new coach Tony Barbee. All of those games are considered gimmes, just not for the opponents.
  • A home game against Florida State is the only good opponent on the schedule. There are 5 more gimmes (for which team I don’t know) and a non-division I game.
  • Auburn isn’t going dancing unless they win the league tournament. Getting into any kind of postseason tourney would be a huge success in Barbee’s first year. The goal OOC is to not kill the league RPI any more than they already have.

Florida Gators

  • A 4-1 start with a solid loss to Ohio State and 3 gimmes.
  • The OOC gets going this week with games at Florida State, UCF (off campus in Orlando), then Kansas State in Miami, at Xavier, and Rhode Island. There are also 2 more gimmes left, but a pretty solid schedule for the RPI.
  • Getting 2-3 losses OOC would have the Gators in a pretty good position going into SEC play. Their OOC schedule, along with playing in the SEC East sets them up pretty well if they can get to 19-20 wins. Twenty would undoubtedly keep them off the bubble unless their opponents just don’t play as well as expected. To get that Sweet 16 seed, the Gators will need to limit the OOC losses to 2 and win at least 12 in the conference.

Georgia Bulldogs

  • A 3-2 start for the Dawgs with only 1 gimme. Two losses to Notre Dame and Temple were solid and won’t hurt and their wins over Colorado and St. Louis are much better than the gimmes that most other teams beat.
  • Three more challenging OOC games remain with UAB, at Georgia Tech, and Xavier. The start gives the Bulldogs hope and winning 2 out of 3 of these good games should put them in a decent position come SEC play.
  • If they can go 11-3 OOC, then a modest 8-8 record can get them on the bubble as long as they win a game or two in the conference tourney. Getting to 21-22 wins should get them dancing.

Kentucky Wildcats

  • A 4-1 start with a good win against Washington and a solid loss to surprising UConn.
  • Cal knows how to schedule and only has 3 true gimmes. That Penn game shouldn’t hurt them after Penn gets into league play. The rest of the challenging OOC games are at North Carolina, Notre Dame in Louisville, Indiana, and at Louisville.
  • If the Cats are looking for a #1 seed, then only one more loss, at the most, can be sustained OOC. Then they need to get 13-14 SEC wins. If this is more of a transition year, the Cats can get to 24-25 wins overall and get a Sweet 16 seed. Their computer profile should be really good with the OOC schedule and playing in the SEC East.

Louisiana State Tigers

  • A 3-2 start with 4 gimmes. A bad loss to Nicholls St. and a solid loss to Memphis.
  • This is not a schedule for a team looking for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Wichita State in Bossier City and at Virginia are the only notable OOC games. They have 6 more gimmes left.
  • They are going to need some conference magic to get an at-large bid. This schedule might not get them in with 23-24 wins. Playing in the SEC West will hurt them along with the pathetic OOC schedule. This will be a bubble team if they only get to 22 wins. Mark it down.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • A 4-0 start with 3 gimmes.
  • They play Virginia Tech in the Bahamas, Washington State in Hawaii, then Baylor/San Diego, then St. Mary’s in Las Vegas. This is a fairly weak schedule as well. They better hope they face Baylor and beat them or Virginia Tech.
  • They can only afford one loss with this OOC schedule. While not as bad as LSU, the Bulldogs might need to get to 22-23 wins to feel safe on Selection Sunday. Their affiliation to the weak SEC West could drag them down. Remember, 23 wins last year wasn’t enough.

Ole Miss Rebels

  • A 3-1 start with only 1 gimme. Good wins against Murray State and Penn State with a solid loss to Dayton.
  • A couple of challenging games remain at Miami and Southern Miss. They have six gimmes left.
  • Their OOC is a little better than some of the SEC West schools. They will need more than their 21 wins last year to make it to the Big Dance. This schedule will probably require at least 23 wins for the bubble and 24 wins to feel safe on Selection Sunday.

South Carolina Gamecocks

  • A 4-1 start with a solid loss to Michigan State. They had 3 gimmes.
  • Their other good OOC games are Clemson, at Ohio State, and Boston College. They also have 4 more gimmes.
  • They are going to need a 10-3 or better OOC to give them a chance to position themselves for an at-large. With 10 wins or more OOC, they can go 9-7 or better in SEC play and at least be on the bubble, if not in. 10-6 in league play with a win or two in the conference tourney would make them comfortable on Selection Sunday.

Tennessee Volunteers

  • A 5-0 start with good wins over Villanova, VCU, and Missouri State. Only 1 gimme so far.
  • The rest of the good OOC games are at Pittsburgh, Southern California, Memphis, and at UConn. You have to like the way they schedule. Only 2-3 more gimmes remain.
  • Their schedule is set up to make a run at a #1 or #2 seed. It looks like 26-27 wins would get them a #2 and more than that puts them in contention for a #1. The games with the Big East could be the tiebreaking games for the selection committee come March. Of course their two division rivals, Kentucky and Florida, will help their strength of schedule, beating them will help their power rating. The most important thing is that this schedule allows for a lot of margin for error and they will be a Sweet 16 seed with only 21-22 wins.

It’s a tale of two divisions in the SEC. That’s my first SEC overview. These should come bi-weekly until conference action gets going in January. My other conference overviews will follow daily.

NFL Week 12 Preview

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are my thoughts on this week’s NFL slate of games while I wonder if the Broncos are videotaping me right now…

Thursday’s games review first:

Patriots beat Lions 45-24: The Pats took care of business after finding themselves down at halftime 17-10. The Lions put up a good fight, but losing the turnover battle 2-0 and Tom Brady’s perfect play were too much to overcome on Turkey Day. Brady to Branch looked like old times and the running game was effective enough (25 car/109 yds) to provide the balance that kept the Lions on their heels defensively. This game looked dangerous for the Patriots early, but they continue to show that they’re one of the best teams in the league. At 9-2, they face the Jets in Foxboro next Monday night. The Lions are 2-9 and hoping that Matthew Stafford can one day put together a healthy season.

Saints beat Cowboys 30-27: The Cowboys are still a team that makes critical mistakes at key points in the game as Roy Williams’ fumble with about 3 minutes remaining in the game. The strip and recovery by the Saints’ Malcolm Jenkins of Williams illustrates that difference between a defending Super Bowl champion that could be going back and a team that got its coach fired at the halfway point this season and “expected” to be playing in the Super Bowl this season. Like most NFL games, the Cowboys lost the turnover battle by one, and lost the game. The Saints did a great job of preventing the Cowboys from sustaining a rushing attack as most of the Cowboys’ yards on the ground came on Miles Austin’s 60 yard run at the beginning of the 3rd quarter and 20 yards scrambling by Jon Kitna. Felix Jones and Marion Barber combined for less than 3 yards per carry. The Saints weren’t great, but they won and are now 8-3 after starting 4-3. The next two weeks are very winnable, at Cincinnati and home to St. Louis before the final three tough games. The Cowboys will continue to scout the best offensive linemen in college.

Jets beat Bengals 26-10: Steady as she goes for the Jets as they win again. Didn’t expect the Bengals to play for 60 minutes and they really didn’t do anything after halftime. It was cold you know. Mark Sanchez came back to earth after the last few weeks, but somebody needs to tell me when Carson Palmer turned into Babe Laufenberg?  If the Bengals had Matt Leinart, they would probably bench Palmer for him, that’s how bad Palmer has become. I don’t know if TO ended up on Revis Island or Gilligan’s Island because he only had 3 catches for 17 yards. Paging Cedric Benson, paging Cedric Benson. The Bengals are easily the most disappointing team in the AFC and would be the most disappointing in the league if the Cowboys and Vikings weren’t having their seasons. It’s beginning to look like the Bengals might be on the clock soon. Andrew Luck anyone? Although nobody would feel Lucky to be a Bengal these days. The Jets are now 9-2 and the showdown with the Pats looms a week from Monday. Can’t wait.

Sundays Games:

Packers at Falcons: Here’s the game of the week in Atlanta. The winner of this game will probably have the inside track on home field advantage in the NFC. The Packers were bitten by the injury bug early in the season but have gotten reasonably healthy which has helped them develop some consistency on both sides of the ball. The Packers have been impressive in winning four straight, if beating Dallas and Minnesota twice can be impressive (they did beat the Jets in week 8). The Falcons have won 4 straight as well since losing in Philly. The Falcons still have not lost outside of Pennsylvania this season. The Packers defense has been great, giving up a total of 10 points in their last 3 games. The key this week for the Pack will be stopping Michael Turner and turning the Falcons offense one dimensional. While Ryan to White has been great, Charles Woodson might be able to keep White from breaking the big plays that have sparked the Falcons to their 8-2 start. The running game might be the key on the other side as the Falcons are stout against the run and the Packers have struggled at times with Ryan Grant out for the season. This could eventually turn into a shootout if the Packers can’t run. Look for a slow offensive start while each team doesn’t take any risks and then things should open up a bit after one team gets out in front. The pick is for the Falcons to be the ones to get out in front and they’ll win behind Michael Turner grinding out first downs in the fourth quarter to remain in charge of the NFC at 9-2.

Steelers at Bills: The Bills have won two in a row after starting 0-8. The Steelers got back on track last week against the Raiders and should eventually overwhelm the Bills. One chance the Bills have is if they can give Ryan Fitzpatrick time, the Steelers have been vulnerable to passing teams this season. Unfortunately the Bills are probably lacking too much everywhere else to challenge the Steelers. The Steelers are the pick.

Panthers at Browns: Jake Delhomme starts for the injured Colt McCoy against his old team. The Panthers stink (every week), and the Browns have played hard, but have been unlucky. The Browns should change that this week and get the win.

Jaguars at Giants: Here are two teams that are heading in different directions. The teams are also coached by the only two head coaches in Jaguars history. The Giants offensive line is a mess, Shawn Andrews is doubtful after missing practice this week with a bad back. The Giants are also missing their starting receivers and are going to former first round pick and UFL player Michael Clayton for some help. The Jaguars are living a charmed life, even better than the Jets. A last second 59 yard field goal beat the Colts in week 4; a Hail Mary beat the Texans two weeks ago and last week they overcame 6 turnovers to beat the Browns. MJD has an abdominal injury but is expected to play. The Giants played well defensively against the Eagles last week, but you wonder if their offense will be able to be as dominate as they have been in the past without all of those lineman and receivers. The NFL season is a war of attrition and the Giants, right now, are the big losers. That’s why the first place Jaguars will remain in first with a win in Jersey.

Vikings at Redskins: The Leslie Frazier era begins for the Vikings at FedEx Field on Sunday. If they lose will the Favre era end? For those of you questioning Donovan McNabb, the skill position players on the Redskins wouldn’t start at Boise State. I’m not kidding. Expect the Vikings to play looser and harder for Frazier and begin a modest winning streak like the Cowboys with Jason Garrett. This trend will catch the eye of other owners and GMs and will undoubtedly cost some coach his job. It’s a copycat league you know.

Titans at Texans: Is this Vince Young’s former team against his future team? Not if Bob McNair is smarter than Bud Adams. Adams’ fascination with Young might cost him one of the best coaches in the league. It will be interesting to see if things go downhill eventually for the Titans as they are a loss away from really being out of it as far as playoffs go. The Texans are on life support as they really need to win out and might need help after that. It all looked so good for Houston on opening day, but they seem to be snake bit with four straight losses, the last two excruciating. The fans should be ready to face their former Oilers and help give the Texans a boost. They can’t get their heart ripped out again, can they? The Texans stop their 4 game slide against a quarterback I’ve never heard of and the Jeff Fisher rumor mill heats up. Get well and good luck, Mike Heimerdinger.

Dolphins at Raiders: The Dolphins get Chad Henne back, but Brandon Marshall didn’t make the trip to Oakland. The Raiders got beat up and embarrassed at Heinz last week so they’ll look to some hometown inspiration in the stands on Sunday. The Raiders have played well at home, going 4-1. But the Dolphins are 4-1 on the road and the Raiders were exposed a little last week. The Dolphins are banged up, but they had a few extra days off after the Thursday night game against the Bears. The Dolphins are typically well coached and their lack of a running game against the Bears will refocus them on ball control and winning the battles on the line of scrimmage. They are a desperate team who probably needs to win out and get to 11 wins to have any chance of making the playoffs. The Raiders are still trying to shake that recent history of losing. Look for a lot more running with Marshall out and the Dolphins to control the clock and win the game.

Chiefs at Seahawks: The Chiefs 1-4 road record is a little skewed since three of those losses were to Indy, Houston when they were good, and the Raiders in overtime. Nothing embarrassing there. Except the Bronco game last time on the road. With the Chargers breathing heavily on their neck, the Chiefs need to start winning on the road. Matt Hasselbeck is wearing a club on his left arm from his broken hand. Mike Williams is questionable with a foot injury. This is the week that the Chiefs get well on the road and win.

Eagles at Bears: Are the Bears for real? We’re going to find out on Sunday when the Birds come to town. Michael Vick is the 10 game MVP of the league and the Eagles are everybody’s pick to win the NFC right now (not me). Bad news for the Eagles as Asante Samuel won’t play. The Bears are abnormally healthy as only one player is listed on the injured list, and he didn’t miss practice time. The Bears have taken advantage of a soft schedule to get to 7-3; they’ve only played two teams with a winning record. The Eagles are rolling in the three games since their bye week and have a chance to capture another potential tiebreaker against the Bears. This might be the last tough game they have as the rest of the schedule is a smorgasbord of interim coaches (Cowboys X2, Vikings), maybe interim coach (Houston), and the beat up Giants who might be fielding a UFL team come week 15. The Bears need to get a big pass rush this week from Julius Peppers and company in addition to keeping DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in front of their safeties. The Giants showed last week that you can slow the Eagles down a bit by making them one dimensional by stopping the run. The Bears are second in the league against the run and stopping Leshon McCoy early could be huge. Once again, with colder weather expected in Chicago, a strong running game might be the key in this one. The Bears haven’t run really well, but they’ve made a firm commitment in recent weeks to the running game and have controlled the clock and limited Jay Cutler’s sacks. This should prove to be the key to this game. The Bears win a close one, maybe in overtime in what could be the Eagles last loss of the regular season. Don’t expect either team to go over 20 points.

Rams at Broncos: The Broncos got destroyed on Monday night and this week fired their video guy for illegally taping the 49ers practice in London a few weeks ago. Everything seems to be unraveling for the Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels. The Rams haven’t won a road game, and they might not have to in order to win the worst division in sports, the NFC West. The opportunity is there for Sam Bradford to have his best passing day as a pro. Can he do it on the road? The Rams pass defense isn’t that good and Kyle Orton has been lighting up defenses all season. The Broncos are the pick to erase the bad memories of the past 6 days.

Buccaneers at Ravens: This should be a good, hard fought game. The young Bucs seem to come across a different challenge every week. This time it’s the battle tested Ravens and their experienced defense. The Ravens defense hasn’t been dominating this season, but they still hit as hard as anybody. While Ray Rice has been quiet for most of the year, the Bucs run defense is not good. If the Ravens can commit to 30 carries by Ray Rice, this should be a win for the home team. Inexperienced offenses tend to struggle, especially in the passing game against the Ravens who have a lot of ball hawks sitting back in the zone reading the quarterback. If Terrell Suggs and company can get consistent pressure on Josh Freeman, it could be a long day for the budding star. The weather won’t be wintry, but it’s going to be a lot colder than the Bucs are used to playing in. The Bucs will play hard and might surprise the Ravens at times, but the Ravens should control this game from start to finish and win by two scores.

Chargers at Colts: The Chargers are streaking, as they’ve won three straight and are just a game behind the Chiefs for first place. The Colts have struggled, losing two of three in tough road games at Philly and New England. The question about the Chargers is: Can you beat a good team? The only good team they beat was Jacksonville way back in week two and the Jags weren’t yet playing well. The Colts showed some really good signs late last week before Peyton Manning threw his third (??!!) interception of the game. Sanders and Collie are out for the Colts who will probably without Joseph Addai again as well. But don’t expect Manning to throw three picks again. The only thing rarer than a consistent Norv Turner team is Peyton Manning putting together back to back bad weeks. The Chargers still rank as the #1 offense and defensive team in the league in terms of yardage. Their offense loses Patrick Crayton, who played well, but gets Vincent Jackson on the field for the first time this season. Gates is still questionable and Ryan Matthews will probably not play. Even so, expect the defensive numbers on both sides to take a hit as this game is destined to be played in the 30s or 40s. And when Peyton Manning is involved in a shootout, I like his team to win. Colts in a close, high scoring game.

Big 12 Basketball Overview Nov.26

November 26, 2010 5 comments

See the Big East Overview from Nov.23

See the ACC Overview from Nov.24

See the Big Ten Overview from Nov.25

This is the first installment of the Big 12 college basketball overview which will take a look at a few things over the course of the season. This overview will not be focusing as much on predictions (yet) or day-to-day recaps, but on the overall conference strengths and weaknesses, and the individual teams and how their schedules and results will impact how they get slotted in March. The overview will try to cut through the typical B.S. that is fed to us from the media and their “opinion” polls. While not as egregious as college football, the NCAA tournament bubble is always full of mediocre big conference teams who don’t get challenge out of conference and wonder why they miss out on the tournament (Hi Jim Boeheim). The overview is intended to praise those schools that get challenged and who go and challenge good teams. In addition to the scheduling issues, the overview will be following three storylines over the course of the season:

1. The Legend of Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen and his beard.

  • Coach Frank Martin has done a tremendous job of building the Wildcats into a top 10 program and Jacob Pullen is leading the way. Most people figure that the state of Kansas will be represented at the Final Four in Houston. But this year it could be the Cats from Manhattan who make it there and not the Jayhawks and it will be Pullen who leads the way. Many people are picking freshman Harrison Barnes of North Carolina as the favorite for the national player of the year award. But while everybody is looking for that next Kevin Durant, there’s going to be a few marquee upperclassmen in college basketball who are experienced and know what it takes to carry a team. That’s where Jacob Pullen moves to the forefront as a top notch two-way player who will set the tone defensively for Frank Martin’s hardnosed team while stepping up and making big shots on the offensive end. The first step toward winning a national player of the year award will be leading K-State to the Big 12 title. That’s one of the stories that will be followed in this overview throughout the season.

 2. Does Doc Sadler and Nebraska drag the conference down in their final season in the Big 12?

  • This has been a notoriously poor men’s basketball program during the Big 12 era and this year looks to be more of the same. The Big 12 becomes a 10 team conference next season and that should help the conference compete on a level closer to what the ACC has in terms of cutting out the fat at the bottom of the conference. Nebraska went 2-14 last season in conference and hasn’t been to the Big Dance since 1998 and hasn’t won a conference championship of any kind since 1950. Nebraska says that Sadler is safe, but can they afford to go into the tough Big Ten with a mediocre coach?

3. Where have you gone Blake Griffin?

  • Two years after all-everything Blake Griffin led the Oklahoma Sooners to the Elite Eight, Coach Jeff Capel is facing a second consecutive down season in Norman. They had a major exodus of players after last season and bring back only five players who played last season. There hasn’t been any talk about Capel being on the hot seat out there yet, but this week’s loss to Chaminade and an eighth place finish in the 8-team Maui Invitational isn’t the best way to start a season. It will be interesting to see if this team can even win 10 games this year and how their performance might also drag down the rest of the conference.

Team Overviews: Records are going into November 26th and one of the factors that will be used for quality of opponent will be Ken Pomeroy’s rating system, which is not perfect, but tends to be the fairest in terms of strength of opponent. The RPI will be considered as well following 10-12 games played for each team.

Baylor Bears

  • A 4-0 start with no impressive wins and 2 gimmes.
  • The challenging out of conference (OOC) games that are upcoming are Arizona State, Gonzaga in Dallas, Mississippi State/Washington State in Hawaii and hopefully another good game in Hawaii. They have 6 gimmes remaining including a non-Division I school.
  • The Bears have a pretty soft OOC schedule that should provide them with a bunch of wins but make those few challenging games even more important. They’ll have to win at least two of those four solid opponents and maybe even three if they want to make a run at a Sweet 16 seed in the Big Dance. With 13 Division I OOC games, they’ll need 11 or more wins to be comfortable going into Big 12 play. With 11 or more wins, a winning record in conference should be enough to avoid the bubble on Selection Sunday. Any bad OOC losses would have to be countered with an impressive win in conference, probably K-State or Kansas, or a very good conference record.

 

 Colorado Buffaloes

  • A 2-2 start with two gimmes and a bad loss at San Francisco.
  • Another Big 12 school relying on the strength of the rest of the conference to pull their schedule through. Only challenging game for the Buffs is New Mexico in Las Vegas. There are 5 gimmes and a non-Division I game remaining OOC.
  • The schedule isn’t really set up for an at-large berth in March Madness, unless they inexplicably win 12 or more games in conference play. Before then, they’ll need to win the rest of their OOC games to keep from dragging the rest of the conference down.

Iowa State Cyclones

  • A 5-0 start with three gimmes.
  • Home to Cal and at Virginia is the extent of their challenging OOC schedule. They have 6 more gimmes as well.
  • With the “Mayor” back in town, the Cyclones are trying to get Coach Fred Hoiberg’s return off to a successful start. Their schedule wasn’t built with the NCAA’s in mind, but they’re at least not losing these winnable games yet. If they continue winning OOC, they might be able to sneak onto the bubble with 9-10 conference wins.

Kansas Jayhawks

  • A 4-0 start with no early tests and 2 gimmes.
  • The challenges begin soon with Arizona in Las Vegas, UCLA, Memphis at MSG, USC, at Cal, and at Michigan. They also have 3 gimmes but this should provide them with a good power rating.
  • Assuming that don’t lose more than one OOC game, they should only need about 13 wins during conference play to be in consideration for a #1 seed on Selection Sunday.

Kansas State Wildcats

  • A 4-1 start with impressive wins over Gonzaga and Virginia Tech and a solid loss against Duke. One of the other wins was a gimme.
  • Coach Martin continues to challenge his team OOC with games at Washington State, Florida in Miami, and UNLV in Kansas City. They also have 5 more gimmes.
  • With one or two OOC losses, K-State will be well positioned to make a run at a #1 seed. 12 or 13 conference wins without an early exit in the conference tournament should have them in the #1 seed discussion come Selection Sunday.

Missouri Tigers

  • A 4-0 start with 3 gimmes.
  • The challenges begin with Georgetown in KC, Vanderbilt, Illinois in St. Louis, and Old Dominion. They’ve got 4 gimmes and a non-Division I game.
  • As long as they limit their losses to 2 or less OOC, they will be in good shape to make a run at a Sweet 16 seed. The conference win total will need to be 11 or more, which would be an improvement over last season. Also, they’ll have to win a game or two in the conference tournament. If they struggle in conference, their OOC is still good enough that they’ll be at least a bubble team if they go .500 in league play.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • A 3-2 start with 3 gimme wins and a solid loss to Vanderbilt.
  • The schedule doesn’t any more quality games as there are at least 6 should-be gimmes. Losses in those games would kill the conference’s power rating.
  • They’re not going to the Big Dance unless they do the impossible and win the Big 12 tournament. Their schedule should enable them to be under consideration for the NIT or another postseason tournament.

Oklahoma Sooners

  • A bad 3-3 start with 3 gimme wins and a solid loss to Kentucky, but an atrocious loss to Division II Chaminade.
  • They continue to play solid games with upcoming games at Arkansas, at Arizona, and Cincinnati in Oklahoma City. They also have 4 more gimmes.
  • The Sooners don’t look like they’re going to be under consideration for March Madness, but a perfect run through the rest of their OOC games would give them an outside chance. An 11-3 OOC record would give them a chance at the bubble with a winning record in league play.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

  • A 4-0 start with at least 3 gimme wins.
  • The OOC schedule heats up today with Virginia Tech in Anaheim, UNLV/Murray State in Anaheim, at Tulsa, Missouri State, Alabama in Oklahoma City, Stanford, and at Gonzaga. Really solid schedule with only 2 gimmes remaining. This is the type of schedule that rewards teams in the power ratings.
  • Assuming they don’t lose more than 2 OOC games, they might be able to compete for a Sweet 16 seed if they can get 10-11wins in league play. This schedule also helps them should they have a down conference record and finish within a game of.500 or at .500.

 Texas Longhorns

  • A 4-1 start with 2 gimmes and a good win against Illinois and a solid loss against Pittsburgh.
  • They play UNC in Greensboro, at Michigan State, Arkansas, and Connecticut. They also have 4 gimmes.
  • Very solid OOC gives them a chance at making a run at a top 2 seed if they have only 1-2 OOC losses and win at least 12 games in conference.

Texas A&M Aggies

  • A 3-1 start, but one win against a sub-Division I school and 2 gimmes. Only loss was to what might be a decent Boston College team.
  • The OOC challenges are Temple in Orlando, Washington, and Arkansas in Dallas. They also have 5 gimmes.
  • They will need to win against either Temple or Washington to be able to make a bubble appearance with a .500 conference record. A 3-4 OOC loss total will force the Aggies to probably win 10 games in Big 12 play to have a chance at the Big Dance.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • A 4-1 start with 3 gimmes and a bad loss (right now) at North Texas.
  • They play St. Mary’s at South Padre Island today, then BYU/South Florida, at Washington, at UTEP, and New Mexico. They also have 3 more gimmes.
  • To be considered for the Big Dance, Tech will need to limit their OOC losses to 3 or less and get to .500 in league play. That should at least get them on the bubble on Selection Sunday. League play and Washington give them an added bonus of a potential marquee win as well.

That’s my first Big 12 overview. These should come bi-weekly until conference action gets going in January. My other conference overviews will follow daily.