September 8, 2007

Big Week for Big East

All I can say is WOW. Middle Tennessee St started it off with 42 points against #8 Louisville, with a 38-35 halftime score. This was the same MTSU team that lost to Fla Atl the previous week, and those 42 points were legitimate offensive points. Looking forward to the West Virginia - Louisville game, which could end with both teams in the 80's. #3 West Virginia didn't exactly dominate this week either, struggling mightily against Marshall before pulling away late (special shoutout for covering late). Rutgers and Cincinnati looked solid in home wins. How about USF with a big upset of Auburn? Any time you overcome 4 missed field goals to win on the road against a ranked SEC team, you're doing something right. The Big East has high expectations this year, with 4 Heisman hopefuls and 3 teams in the top 15. Who would've thunk it after the ACC cherry-picked Miami, BC, and VT? I thought the ACC was supposed to get the better end of that deal. Speaking of the ACC, another terrible weekend... no good wins, and UNC lost to ECU. Miami and VT lost bad in premiere matchups, really the biggest games of the week based on reputations. Wake couldn't pull it out against Nebraska even though they played better for most of the game. Maryland and WVa on Thursday night this week!

Michigan... J-Red said it, this is it for Lloyd. He's packing right now and I'll be shocked if they wait til Monday for the announcement. I came out last week and said I expected them to rebound from last week's debacle. Even though they lost a number of defensive starters, this is a team that was almost as good as Ohio St last year and returned a good bit of that talent. A one week let-down the first week of the season, where they almost came back to win, is one thing. A second embarassing, devastating loss to unranked Oregon is another. I can't fathom what's happened. Tip of the hat to Oregon, but 39-7 at the Big House?? 39-7!!! Defense? What defense? Also, Houston's RB ran for over 200 yds last week against Oregon. So Michigan's lines are losing on both sides of the ball. What a catastrophic embarassment for a program that expects the best. I freely admit I got that one wrong. Looking ahead to next week, how can you pick between Michigan and ND? What a terrible game to try to pick... Good luck, Vegas.

Lots of teams in the top 25 struggled, especially in the first half. #10 Cal surrendered 28 to Colorado St. A&M almost lost to Fresno St. giving up 29 in regulation. Clemson gave up 26 to UL-Monroe. Texas was shut out in the first half. How about Ohio St. 3-2 at the half over Akron? Georgia lost to a pretty decent Spurrier team. Boise St. lost to Washington. LSU looks a whole lot stronger than the rest of the top 25. We'll have to wait for USC at Nebraska for a better gauge of their abilities.

Final note: Arizona State can play, they'll be good for at least one upset this year.

Michigan Stomped at Home by Oregon

I'd like to invite all the Michigan fans who still support Lloyd Carr to come over to my house for tea and crumpets. I'll set the table for four.

September 6, 2007

Roger Federer and the Decline of American Tennis

I know this blog focuses on the major sports like football and baseball, but it's time to give a little credit to one of the best male athletes of the decade, Roger Federer. His record since the start of the 2004 season is 290-20 in singles matches, which has translated to 40 titles and 10 other finals appearances. 10 of those 40 titles have been majors (that's 10 of 15, and he's in the semis at the US Open). You may have noticed that he has won 40 of the 60 tournaments he's entered, finished 2nd in another 10, leaving only 10 with less impressive finishes. That's a 66.7% winning percentage. At 26, he has already set a new record for consecutive weeks at #1 (over 3.5 years), and is close to many of the grand slam records. The only blemish on his record is the lack of a French Open title, where he's been in the finals the last two years.

This is an incredible record of dominance in a very international, competitive sport. For comparison, Tiger Woods has 25 victories over the same period, including 5 majors, over a larger number of events. I think it's quite fair to state that Federer is the most dominant active male athlete in an individual sport. Federer's record is even more impressive when you consider the rigorous physical demands of tennis (flabby Phil Mickelson of a couple years ago wouldn't last a set).

Meanwhile, American tennis has bottomed out. After another loss at the hands of Federer, Andy Roddick has failed to win much of anything since the 2003 US Open. Only Venus Williams made the semis of this year's Open. Long gone are the glory days of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe and Chris Evert, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Americans used to be among the best in the world. Even the forgettable Jim Courier spent a year at #1 in the 90's. The best American men this year are Roddick and James Blake. Roddick continues to be one of the best of the rest, while Blake finally broke his 0-9 streak in 5 set matches only to lose shortly thereafter. On the women's side, only the Williams sisters perform well, exclusively as a result of incredible natural talent. Yet laziness has kept either of them from staying at the top of her game for very long, allowing a woman with much less physical ability to surpass both of them. Justine Henin (5'5" and skinny) is #1 and has beaten Serena at all three majors they have both played this year. She will have the opportunity to show Venus the exit as well. It's sad to see such a waste of talent as the Williams sisters. Unfortunately the future is bleak as well, with no significant American star power on the horizon. Only the Bryan brothers in doubles represent American tennis well (#1 in men's doubles, 4 majors since 2005).

September 5, 2007

Week 1 NFL Picks

Each week we are each going to pick five NFL games against the spread. It will soon become apparent that only my advice and Brien’s advice are worth anything. The odds are taken from Sheridan's Odds in USA Today and are current as of post time.


Jeremy sends his regards. He’s spending his honeymoon searching for Natalee Holloway.

I have always been shitty picking against the spread, and to prove just how crappy I am, I will be picking against a Magic 8 Ball for the duration of the season. You'll see that after each of my picks, the Magic 8 Ball will make a pick. The question phrased to the Magic 8 Ball is "Will the [fill in home team] beat the spread?"

WASHINGTON (-3) over Miami
Jeremy’s Pick: Gotta like the ‘Skins in this one. Miami’s D is impressive, but no better than what the ‘Skins faced in the preseason (Baltimore, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh). This will be the first time that Jason Campbell can open up the playbook with Portis being used to his full capabilities. I expect a low-scoring game, but I expect the ‘Skins to pull it out. I hope for Cam Cameron’s sake that Ted Ginn, Jr. proves that he was worth that #9 overall pick. Maybe he’ll break a nice 15-yard punt return. Redskins -3.

Magic 8 Ball Pick: “Don’t count on it.” Dolphins +3.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6) over New Orleans
Jeremy’s Pick: I’m taking the Colts. For as much as we’ve heard about the Colts losing talent on their offensive line, I’ve been extremely impressed by Manning in the preseason. He hasn’t lost any of his receivers, but Joseph Addai is a huge question mark in my mind (although Yahoo! Fantasy Football seems to think he’s better than LaDainian Tomlinson based upon how they project points). Colts at home are very difficult to beat and I don’t see the Saints coming out of the gate Week 1 and beating the Colts on the day when the Colts get their rings. Not to mention that if Indy wins, which I think they will, they rarely win a game that comes down to a field goal difference. Colts -6.

Magic 8 Ball Pick: “Ask again” followed by “My answer is no.” Saints +6.

HOUSTON (-3) over Kansas City
Jeremy’s Pick: I love the show Hard Knocks. Not just because it’s a great view for those of us couch slouches (sorry Norman Chad) into the lives of NFL players. Not just because we get to see former Redskin #1 pick waste Rod Gardner pout when he gets cut. But because we get to see just how much the Chiefs are going to totally suck this year, no matter how many thousands of yards LJ puts up. Texans -3.

Magic 8 Ball Pick: “Signs point to yes.” Texans -3.

New York Giants (+5.5) over DALLAS
Jeremy’s Pick: Wade Phillips. Tony Romo. Marion Barber III. Cowboys would have to win by six points or more to cover. Yup, that about settles it. Giants +5.5.

Magic 8 Ball Pick: “Concentrate and ask again” followed by “My answer is no.” Giants +5.5.

Detroit (+2) over OAKLAND
Jeremy’s Pick: Wow. I cannot believe that the Lions are actually dawgs against the Raiders. I can’t believe anyone is a dawg against the Raiders. I know that the are playing in Oakland. But this is Jon Kitna, who is a serviceable QB, with Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams. Versus Daunte Culpepper and… some other guys? Thanks, Vegas! Detroit +2.

Magic 8 Ball Pick: “Don’t count on it.” Detroit +2.


INDY (-6) over New Orleans
Don't underestimate the emotional high that the entire city of Indianapolis will be on when they raise that Super Bowl banner.

Philly (-3) over GREEN BAY
The WTF line of the week.

Atlanta (+3) over MINNESOTA
Losing Mike Vick won't hurt the Falcon's that much. The Vikings still have to start Tavaris Jackson.

Detroit (+2) over OAKLAND
The drama in Oakland is just too much, and Detroit has too much talent.

Baltimore (+2.5) over CINCINNATI
You'll look back at this line in week 17 and wonder what people were thinking.


Brien really loves those road dogs. Here are mine:

Detroit (+2) over OAKLAND - Detroit is going to win 7+ games this year. That's disturbing enough, but not as disturbing as a Raiders team that may rely on Ronald Curry and Lamont Jordan for offensive production. Am I the only person who sees that Daunte Culpepper is one bad hit away from paralysis?

Atlanta (+3) over MINNESOTA - Tavaris Jackson likely sucks. Chester Taylor can’t carry the team. Atlanta has a LOT to play for given the Mike Vick situation. Atlanta might win this game 30-3 and never win another game this year. As sure as you were that the Saints would beat Atlanta at the Superdome re-opener, I'm that sure Atlanta wins this week.

SEATTLE (-6) over Tampa Bay - Tampa might play three quarterbacks in this game. Plus, they didn’t open well last year, getting trounced by the Ravens. This time they have to travel cross country. I don’t see this going well. Seattle isn’t what they were, but they’re still probably good enough to win by 10 in this game.

SAN DIEGO (-6) over Chicago - Haha. Thank you Vegas. The Bears don't win 9 this year.

DALLAS (-5.5) over NY Giants - Romo has been positively itching to make up for "the snap". I bet he does.


Atlanta (+3) over MINNESOTA - Tarvaris who? Atlanta D will dominate an ugly game. Take the under.

Pittsburgh (-4.5) over CLEVELAND - Are you kidding? This game will be a blowout.

Denver (-3) over BUFFALO - The Buffalo defense won't even know what hit them, and Champ will shut down Lee Evans. Take the over, Denver might get there even if Buffalo doesn't score.

Kansas City (+3) over HOUSTON - This line is really ridiculous. Matt Schaub has never won a game, and he's never been hit as many times as he will be in this game. They didn't replace the O line as well as David Carr.

Philly (-3) over GREEN BAY - Favre is good, but there's just not enough around him to beat the hated Eggles.

Russell also throws in these NCAA gems:

West Virginia (-23) over MARSHALL - Marshall already lost by that much to Miami and WVA's a little better.

MICHIGAN (-8) over Oregon - I know Oregon's good, but there's too much pride at Michigan. J-Red’s note: Russell finally picked a home team.

LSU (-12) over Virginia Tech - Geaux Tigers! J-Red’s note: As a Tulane alumnus (like Russell's father), I say eat shit and die.

Alabama (-3) over VANDERBILT - Nick Saban's return to SEC play will not be spoiled by a game Vandy team.

Nebraska (-7) over WAKE FOREST - Skinner's shoulder injury and Keller's arm make the difference.


Brien (0-0-0)
Jeremy (0-0-0)
J-Red (0-0-0)
Magic 8 Ball (0-0-0)
Russell (0-0-0)

(Bold means consensus. Italics mean dissention)

Jeremy - DET, HOU, IND, NYG, WAS
Magic 8 Ball - DET, HOU, MIA, NO, NYG
Russell - ATL, DEN, KC, PHI, PIT

September 4, 2007

ND - Michigan Matchup Loses Its Luster

While Michigan's loss to App St. was definitely the most embarassing of the weekend, Notre Dame's loss to GaTech might actually have been worse. For a school that just lost all of its offensive skill players, the lines need to dominate games if ND is going to have a chance this year against a tough schedule. Almost 200 yards of rushing to Tashard Choice and 8 sacks later, I think it's clear that ND is in for a tough year. ND will likely enter the Michigan game this year winless rather than undefeated, after losing at Penn St., while Michigan should bounce back against Oregon.

National respect for ACC football continues to decline. Embarassing losses by Virginia (at Wyoming) and NC State (vs. UCF) highlighted the weakness this weekend. Next weekend, Riley Skinner's shoulder injury will dampen hopes for a Wake Forest victory over Nebraska, and VT will be noticeably overmatched at LSU. Good times when the nation already wasn't impressed with the GT-WF matchup in the championship game last year, punctuated by the stellar performances of both offenses leading to a 9-6 shootout. A rematch this year is not out of the question. A Thursday night matchup between the two Tech's will likely determine which of them wins that division unless Miami steps up.

Maryland may have a chance at a good year if Steffy stays healthy. While he might not have been my #1 choice as mentioned last week, nothing improves my opinion more than a strong performance, bolstered by the ineptitude of Chris Turner who managed to throw 2 INTs and fumble once in about a quarter of play. Maybe if he cut his hair, he could see the DBs. Portis, who I expected to start, has an "academic issue" and may not see the field this year. Criminal Justice 101 must have been a little too tough.

In other college football news and notes, Cal's offense embarassed the Tennessee defense and a matchup between Cal and USC in November with both undefeated is likely, with the national championship game on the line.

September 2, 2007

Why Your Favorite Team Won't Win the Super Bowl

It's Labor Day weekend, which for fans of any NFL team is a time of unchecked optimism. Anything could happen this year, even if you're a Browns fan. You've seen just enough in the pre-season to talk yourself into thinking that this might be the year. Your team is going to be the one that shocks everyone, comes out of nowhere and wins it all.

I'm here to throw a wet blanket on all those thoughts. Here's a reason to be pessimistic about every NFL team.

Arizona Cardinals
The biggest story of your off-season involved your quarterback being a shitty father. People have already written off your team every year by May, so they concentrate on the soap opera involving your pretty-boy franchise-saving quarterback instead of considering how good the team might be this year (because the answer is, like every year, not that good).

Atlanta Falcons
The whole Mike Vick thing was bad enough, but getting rid of Matt Schaub had to add insult to injury. Now you're going into the season with Joey Harrington? If you're a Falcons fan, just go into seclusion now. It's not going to be pretty here for a few months. You can come back out in April for the Draft.

Baltimore Ravens
You're one Steve McNair concussion away from another season of The Kyle Boller Experience.

Buffalo Bills
Eight years without a playoff appearance. And you play in the same division as the Patriots. Ouch.

Carolina Panthers
After last year's high expectations followed by disappointment, Panthers fans should be a bit more cautious about talking Super Bowl in September.

Chicago Bears
I think we can all agree that the bears were the classic overachieving team last season. This year they're going to hope lightning strikes twice for Rex Grossman. Things aren't looking too good.

Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals managed to stay out of jail for the most part this off-season, which means they're due for a Carson Palmer underground poker ring bust.

Cleveland Browns
This is your new quarterback.

Dallas Cowboys
Your star quarterback choked in the biggest play of the season last year, and then spent all Spring getting friendly with Carrie Underwood. He's lost his edge and is on the way down now.

Denver Broncos
Broncos fans have to be feeling good about starting the season without Jake Plummer, but this will be the year that the fantasy gods punish Mike Shanahan for platooning running backs. Sorry, but it has to be done for the good of fantasy owners everywhere.

Detroit Lions
It's tough to pick just one reason that the Lions won't win the Super Bowl this year. I'll go with this one: the Lions O-Line was one of the worst in the league last year, and now they're protecting Jon Kitna, who is not known for his mobility. David Carr is going to have Vietnam-style flashbacks watching Lions games this year.

Green Bay Packers
I hate to say anything bad about Brett Favre, but let's just say he's not going to lead a team to the Super Bowl.

Houston Texans
Yes, Schaub is an upgrade over Carr, but the rest of your team still sucks.

Indianapolis Colts
You have to give the defending champs a fighting shot at repeating, right? Not when Peter King picks them to win it all. That's the kiss of death.

Jacksonville Jaguars
David Garrard replaces Byron Leftwich in the final week of pre-season? That kind of quarterback controversy can't be good for team chemistry.

Kansas City Chiefs
When the Ravens were on Hard Knocks, they lost in the first round of the playoffs. When the Cowboys were covered, they finished 5-11. A few more years of this and they'll start calling it the Hard Knocks curse.

Miami Dolphins
Your head coach abruptly left the team to coach the Crimson Tide. He must have known something, right?

Minnesota Vikings
I can't see a team winning the Super Bowl with a coach who looks like this.

New England Patriots
The HGH thing goes way past Rodney Harrison. It would explain Brady's superhuman sperm, right?

New Orleans Saints
Another team cursed by Peter King. He predicted the Saints will win the NFC.

New York Giants
The Giants couldn't even make it to week 1 without major drama embroiling the entire team. The rifts exposed in the team by the Tiki-Eli feud will only grow wider as the season goes on.

New York Jets
Another team with a QB controversy going into the season. And this one has the fickle Jets fans stoking the fire. Not a good situation.

Oakland Raiders
The Raiders suck so bad that Jamarcus Russell might wait out the whole season without signing. You think he'd do that if the Raiders had any chance of winning the Super Bowl?

Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles fans are some of the worst when it comes to being overconfident before any actual games are played. Sure Donovan McNabb is healthy this year, but when he's throwing to the likes of Reggie Brown, this could be another cold winter for Philly fans.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Losing Bill Cowher is going to hurt the team more than people realize.

San Diego Chargers
Marty Schottenheimer isn't my favorite coach in the world, so I was very supportive of the Chargers replacing him. But Norv Turner? Did Art Shell turn them down?

San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers seem to be the wise-guy pick for the surprise team this year. Based on what, I'm not sure. Mike Nolan does dress very nicely, though. But when that's the best thing you can say about the team, I don't think they'll be surprising anyone in January.

Seattle Seahawks
I think this is the year that Matt finally snaps and starts yelling at reporters that Elisabeth shouldn't be the most famous member of the Hasselbeck family.

St. Louis Rams
Gus Ferotte is the Rams backup quarterback. That might be worse than Kyle Boller. Especially when your starter is Marc Bulger.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jake Plummer decided to retire rather than compete for a starting job with Jeff Garcia. Your team is so bad Jake plummer would rather retire than play for them.

Tennessee Titans
The Titans spent the whole off-season debating whether Pacman Jones should be able to practice with the team or if he should be banished for the whole "making it rain" incident instead of surrounding Vince Young with competent players.

Washington Redskins
Dan Syder's gotten better this year at not screwing up his team, but that probably just means he's due for a bonehead mid-season move that derails the entire season.

There you have it, a reason why every one of the 32 teams won't win the Super Bowl. Obviously I'm wrong about one of the teams above, but the beauty of it is that I'm certain to be right about 31 of them.