September 6, 2008

College Football Quick Hitters

How long til Boeckman is replaced by Pryor?

Ohio St. - A narrow escape against Frank Solich's Ohio U squad, which outplayed OSU most of the game, is a bad sign for next week's showdown with USC. Was this a look-ahead letdown, or a sign that OSU will get crushed next week and is overrated (again)? We'll find out next week.

West Virginia - Credit an excellent ECU team with a second straight win over a ranked team, but what happened to the WVU offense? 3 pts? The loss of RichRod and Slaton might matter more than we thought, and the struggles of the defense mean fewer opportunities for the offense.

Notre Dame - It's good to see things improved so much in the offseason in South Bend. SDSU lost to Cal Poly last week at home, but led ND 13-7 well into the 2nd half. Not a good sign for the Irish's chances against the meat of their schedule. Will Weis get the quick hook that Ty got?

Washington - Got jobbed. The officials need to fix the rules on celebration. Kids should be allowed to have fun as long as they're not taunting. The game should not have been decided that way, even if BYU might have blocked the shorter PAT anyway. This loss may cost Ty his job before the end of the year. PS. Jake Locker is a stud.

Jake Locker deserved better from the refs.

ACC Still Sucks - Poor showings by VT, UVA, and especially Maryland indicate it might go like this all year. At least Wake managed a last second FG to beat Ole Miss and stay ranked.

USF - Escaped in OT, it's really too bad their rivalry with UCF is ending.

Cal - 66-3 winners on the road at Wash St., likely to crush Maryland next week...

Maryland Terrapins Officially Irrelevant

After barely squeaking by FBS Division opponent Delaware at home by a score of 14-7 last week, the Terps proved what we already feared - they're not very good. The switch at QB from Jordan Steffy to Chris Turner actually proved to be a step backwards. The switch in playcalling duties from head coach Ralph Friedgen to offensive coordinator James Franklin was promising, but in practice has resulted in the most predictable, boring and ineffectual offensive scheme in the modern history of football.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

And so tonight the Terps fell on the road to the Sun Belt Conference's Middle Tennessee State University 24-14. The 14 points were scored on a 63-yard Da'Rel Scott run and an 80-yard Heyward-Bey WR screen. In other words, vanilla play calls that were busted open by our only two offensive playmakers. QB Chris Turner was beyond putrid, overthrowing every open receiver and leaving his most catchable balls for the defenders, with three INTs. One INT quickly led to a MTSU touchdown, and another occurred in the end zone.

The scariest thing is that losing to a directional school does not even induce catatonic depression. Here is a partial list of non-BCS teams Maryland has lost to in either football or basketball since winning the national championship in basketball in 2002:

--Middle Tennessee State (2008, football)
--American University (2007-08, basketball)
--Ohio University (2007-08, basketball)
--Virginia Commonwealth (2007-08, basketball)
--Butler (2006-07, basketball)
--Manhattan (2005-06, basketball)
--Temple (2005-06, basketball)
--George Washington (2005-06, basketball)
--George Washington (2004-05, basketball)
--Northern Illinois (2003, football)

Granted, some of these teams were slightly talented, like Michael Turner's Northern Illinois team or Butler's NCAA tournament team. Still, when your football program wins 31 games in three years and your basketball team spends the majority of 1998 to 2002 in the top 10, you should not be losing to any non-BCS school (or Notre Dame, which the Terps have lost to regularly in basketball and once in football over the relevant timeframe).

I think it's time for those of us who are Maryland alums in our late 20's to accept that we attended the school during its brief two-sport heydey. Now we've returned to the muddled, mediocre middle of the NCAA Division I landscape, viewed alongside such schools as NC State and Ole Miss. Sure, we can put together a halfway decent season now and then. Perhaps we can even climb into the teens in the rankings. For the most part, though, we're just filling out a schedule for the real powerhouses.

It's going to take some time to adjust.

Georgia Tech Upsets Boston College!

The triple-option era is here, and it's undefeated so far. After fumbling three times in the first half, the Yellow Jackets rallied behind their defense all game long. The defense forced three turnovers in the 2nd half and sacked the BC quarterback Chris Crane for a safety. GT took the lead for good on a option pitch to stud RB Jonathan Dwyer, who took it 40 yards untouched for the score. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt converted a number of lengthy third downs through pure athleticism and quickness, adding an extra dimension for defenses to track.

Dwyer is the stud RB for the Jackets this year.

Next week, Georgia Tech gets Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Normally a really tough game, the Hokies look vulnerable after losing to ECU last week and going into halftime 3-0 over Furman. A victory over VT on the road would create quite a buzz in Atlanta about a possible trip to the ACC Championship. Just think what could happen when the offense really settles in and starts to look like Navy did last year!

September 5, 2008

I'm a Redskins Fan and I'm Pretty Damn Pissed Off

So this post isn't going to have pretty pictures and may not be the most well-researched blog post, but I have about five minutes before I have to punch the clock and begin my gainful employment of the day and I need to use the space that I have here to vent about how gut-wrenching last night's Redskins-Giants game was. This will be a big bitch session. And it'll just be point-by-point.

1) Jason Campbell is not an NFL Quarterback. I'm sorry to say it, but the verdict is finally in. He's not. He may have been doomed by playcalling last night. More likely than not, he was doomed by having to learn his 6th offensive system in 7 years or 7 in 8 years or whatever insane number it is. Nonetheless, he didn't complete a pass until about a minute left in the second quarter (thankfully Santana is on one of my fantasy teams this year and caught the lone TD). Campbell is not a QB for the west coast offense and Zorn cannot force players into his offense. Campbell does not have a quick release of the ball and holds onto it for far too long. He makes dumb decisions and runs into the pass coverage. In other words, he's Jordan Steffy. If we're 0-2, it's time for Todd Collins.

2) Jim Zorn was the wrong hire and the result of a total clusterfuckup by Snyder, Cerrato, et al. Look, it's disingenuous to hire a guy to be the offensive coordinator, then hire him to be a head coach when his only previous experience is as a QB coach, expect him to install a new offense in five months, while at the same time, touting to your fans that this is all about continuity and that a playoff team last year will be a playoff team this year. I mean, did you SEE Zorn on the sidelines last night? He is runner up to Campbell for the official Dr. Boutros Laser Eye Center Deer in Headlights shot of the game (I imagine it would be something like this since everything by the Redskins is sponsored by somebody). My measure of a poor coaching decision is if I know how to do a better job on Madden and I look at the head coach on the field executing more poorly, that head coach is clueless. Zorn has worse clock management skills than Gibbs (did anybody listen to him trying to explain his rationale in his postgame press conference?!?!) especially at the end of the first half and at the end of the game.

3) This team was totally, completely, 100% unprepared for this game. They looked listless. They committed stupid penalties (Randle El, I'm looking at you for your two false start penalties). As a new coach, you can't come in and give the team a vanilla preseason, no matter how much your team hates the preseason, and expect that they can just flip the switch in the first game on the road against a division rival who also happens to be defending Super Bowl Champions. Hell, Portis is a headcase about just about anything. And you know what... I actually think some of these guys, Portis included, would have respected Zorn for coming in, kicking some ass, and getting the show on the road.

4) Um, yeah, you might want to actually prepare a team for all the situations they are going to face during a regular season game during the preseason. Like making sure your team is familiar enough with their offense to go no huddle, down two possessions with four minutes left in the game. Like making sure your team knows their hot routes to get out of bounds to kill the clock. Yeah... the 'Skins didn't do that last night.

5) There were more quality linemen in this past draft than you could shake a stick at. So you're going to go and draft two WRs and a TE when we already have Moss, Randle El, and Cooley? So now we don't have any pass rush, our secondary is now depleted by injuries, and aside from Fletcher, we have a pretty undersized front four. Yeah, I think New Orleans is licking their chops to get to us.

6) That said, my hat does go off to Coach Blatche who made some great adjustments on the defense in the second half and managed to keep the Giants scoreless in the second half. 16 points should be enough to win your offense the game. Unless, of course, Zorn is calling an offense that runs draw plays on third-and-20. Also, game ball to London Fletcher and Rock Cartwright, both of whom had great games.

There's a whole lot more to say, but I'm out of time. I will say that it takes a lot for me to scream at the TV and last night I was doing a whole lot of it, in fact gesturing with my arms frantically to get the team up to the line of scrimmage when they were taking their sweet old time towards the end of the game. I haven't been so disgusted with a Redskins team and the game management thereof since Gibbs called the back-to-back timeouts against the Bills last season. In some ways, this is worse... first game of the season with weeks to prepare and everything goes wrong. I hope I look back on this post in about ten weeks and think that I should be nominated for the Chicken Little post of the century. Instead, I think the Ravens-Redskins December 7 game might now have severe ramifications for both teams for the #1 draft pick.

September 4, 2008

College Football Picks - Week 2

This year, week 2 of the college football season is a letdown, giving the spotlight almost entirely to the NFL for its opening weekend. The premiere matchup has a 3-TD spread, and there is not a single matchup between two top-25 teams. That having been said, here are a couple games to keep an eye on.

Georgia Tech (+7) over BOSTON COLLEGE - GT has the athletes to make the option work this year, and BC is in a rebuilding year after losing Ryan and others. This game will likely establish the course of both teams' seasons.

West Virginia (-8) over EAST CAROLINA - Skip Holtz definitely has a good team, but VT is a team with a lot of problems. WVU is much more solid and should be able to handle ECU, but I don't expect a blowout. Pat White is still the QB, and ECU lost their star RB from last year.

With a bald head for good luck, Nutt and Ole Miss will surprise some teams this year.

Mississippi (+8) over WAKE FOREST - This pick is not to say that Wake is weak, just that Houston Nutt knows how to coach football. Ole Miss already beat Memphis pretty soundly, and should compete for all 4 quarters. Wake doesn't have the biggest home-field advantage around.

Last week: 4-2-0

NFL Picks Week 1

For the second year we'll be doing a weekly against-the-spread pickoff. Each of us will pick five NFL games ATS, and we'll track our records. Hopefully we won't all lose to the Magic 8 Ball like last year.
Lines are taken from Sheridan's Odds as of the day before the games. For this week, that means Wednesday night.  
The NFL is back, baby!  For the first few weeks, remember that the goal is not to outsmart Vegas, it's to find overrated teams.

PHILADELPHIA (-7) over St. Louis - The Eagles are going to do a lot better than people think, and the Rams will do a lot worse

GREEN BAY (-3) over Minnesota - I really don't think Aaron Rogers will be that bad - certainly not as bad as Tavaris Jackson

Tampa Bay (+3) over NEW ORLEANS - The Bucs surprised some teams last year, and they just might do it again.  They certainly shouldn't be getting 3 points at New Orleans.

ATLANTA (+3) over Detroit - The Falcons aren't going to be that bad this year.  I mean, a home dog to the Lions?

MIAMI (+3) over NY Jets - I don't have a ton of faith in the Dolphins, but I have to think this line is inflated because of Brett Favre
The first week is a killer. We only know what we think we know about each team, and those opinions are likely to really change by Week 4.  That being said, Vegas also has to account for general sentiment. The whole world is on the Cleveland Browns bandwagon. If you disagree, you're probably getting 3 points from Vegas.
Arizona (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO - Warner v. O'Sullivan? I don't think Frank Gore can dominate enough.
PHILADELPHIA (-7) over St. Louis - There isn't much to like about St. Louis, even with Bulger and Jackson healthy.
Houston (+7) over PITTSBURGH - I have a feeling Houston will be a wild card contender this year.
MIAMI (+3) over New York Jets - I just get the feeling the Dolphins will be fired up to erase the taste from last season. No pressure.
Jacksonville (-3) over TENNESSEE - I don't expect Vince Young to progress, but I do expect Garrard to.

Jeremy & Magic 8 Ball
I have barely been following the preseason aside from the Redskins and aside from individual statistics to aid in my fantasy draft.  So unlike J-Red, I can't even profess to know what I think I know about each time, because that's nearly nothing.  Nonetheless, I'll forage on.  It seemed to work for me last year. 
Cincinnati (-1) over BALTIMORE - Rookie QB starting in his first-ever NFL game.  The Bengals might not be great, but they're no Hofstra.
Kansas City (+16) over NEW ENGLAND - Pats win, but it'll be difficult for Tom Brady to cover this huge of a spread without playing in the preseason.  Of course, this does depend on the Chiefs actually putting up points.
Arizona (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO - Even Leinart could beat O'Sullivan/Hill/Smith with the weapons the Cards have surrounding him on offense.
Dallas (-5) over CLEVELAND - According to Hard Knocks, the Dallas first teamers have been looking very good.  Of course, Hard Knocks made the Chiefs look presentable last year.
Washington (+4) over GIANTS - Winning at the Meadowlands in September is much easier than winning there with swirling winds in December.  And Campbell should have much more time than he had against the Panthers.
Magic 8 Ball:
I'm back to beat you all again.  That is all.  Wasn't my winning percentage at 70% or something at some point last year?
NOTE FROM JEREMY: For those of you who didn't read us last year, my trusty Magic 8 Ball picks against me on the same games that I pick.  The question posed to the Magic 8 Ball is "Will the [home team] beat the spread?"  The Magic 8 Ball beat all the human prognosticators last year.
BALTIMORE (+1) over Cincinnati - "Signs point to yes" (Ravens beating spread)
NEW ENGLAND (-16) over Kansas City - "My sources say yes." (Patriots will beat spread)
SAN FRANCISCO (+2.5) over Arizona - "Yes." (49ers will beat spread)
CLEVELAND (+5) over Dallas - "My sources say yes." (Browns will beat spread)
GIANTS (-4) over Washington - "My sources say yes." (Giants will beat spread)
A new season and a new strategy for Week 1.  This year, it's a little harder to pinpoint the best teams and the mediocre teams, but the bad teams seem pretty obvious.  So this week I'm taking all mediocre teams on the road over bad teams.  I doubt anyone actually wants to watch any of these games, unless McFadden gets some PT on Monday night. 

Cincinnati (-1) over BALTIMORE - Flacco's a rookie and he didn't even start all of preseason.  The Bengals should be good enough to take advantage. 

NY Jets (-3) over MIAMI - Favre is better than Pennington, and the same goes for the supporting casts.  Jets could be playoff-bound, Dolphins not so much. 

Detroit (-3) over ATLANTA - Having no corners is bad when facing Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams, plus the coach, QB, and RB are all new to their roles at this level. 

Arizona (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO - JT O'Sullivan?  This isn't NFL Europe. 

Denver (-3) over OAKLAND - Jamarcus will not be able to exploit whatever issues there may be with Denver's D.

Brien - PHI, GB, TB, ATL, MIA
Jeremy - CIN, KC, ARI, DAL, WAS
Russell - CIN, NYJ, DET, ARI, DEN
Magic 8 Ball - BAL, NE, SF, CLE, NYG

September 3, 2008

Wrigley Field Stadium Review

So some may remember that a few weeks back, there was a post on this blog about my upcoming trip to Chicago and some compromising that was maneuvered with the wife to earn me a trip to Wrigley Field. Well I'm back, I have the sore feet from trooping along the Magnificent Mile for an afternoon of shopping as "payment" for our trip to Wrigley, but alas, I did make every sports fan's necessary pilgrimage to Wrigley Field for the Labor Day game against the Astros.

Probably the best way to do this is to organize the pilgrimage by pictures. Click on any picture for a blown up version. So off we go...

7 towards Flushing. T to Kenmore. Green line to Navy Yard. Red line to Addison. All of those (except for one) are instantly synonomous with a particular stadium. At Wrigley, the Red Line of the CTA (technically a subway line and not considered an "el" line since part of it is below ground) takes you right to the front step of Wrigley Field, dropping you off right at the corner of Sheffield and Addison, just one block to the home plate gate of Wrigley.

As you exit the train, you'll find more sidewalk vendors hawking more varieties of Cubs and Wrigley Field gear than any other ballpark I've ever seen. Some of which as included above, are good for a laugh. If you're interested in a Harry Caray t-shirt with the Cubs mascot wearing the famous oversized glasses over slanted eyes with the caption "Hory Cow," your only bet is to buy it outside the stadium from one of these vendors. Anybody who wants any semblance of an official affiliation with the Cubs will get banned if they sold that shirt. These guys don't care so much (see... Green Bay Packer logo turned into a handicapped sign).

Wrigleyville... yes, it very much exists, and it is the very model of what every city hopes to create with a new ballpark. Every baseball fan, except for maybe Red Sox fans who are blessed with a similar neighborhood (albeit of lesser magnitude) outside Fenway, will go to Wrigleyville and wish that they got to experience that neighborhood ambience before heading into a game at their home team's stadium. Wrigleyville consists of endless bars, each offering different gameday specials, countless places to pop in for tavern food, and all in one compact area within blocks of the Addison stop.

Finally after you make your way through Wrigleyville (or at least hang a right at the foot of the Addison stop and make a lap around the stadium, you'll arrive back at the home plate gate, where the most famous marquee in all of baseball hovers overhead. For those who are making their first trip to Wrigley, they'll be shocked at how low the sign actually hangs. The base of the sign can't be more than 15 feet above the ground. For frame of reference, those windows hanging underneath the marquee are box office windows (if memory serves). Thus, the tops of the windows are about ten feet tall. Wrigley is 95 years old now and shows its age in many ways. One of them is how short the stadium is. There is only one skinny row of boxes crammed in between the lower and upper decks. You end up with a situation where it's not rare at all for foul balls down the baselines to go over the roof of the stadium and onto the surrounding streets.

Wrigley has two statues outside. This is obviously of Ernie Banks. The other is of Harry Caray. I couldn't get a good clean picture of the Caray statue, because it was pretty much mobbed with people mugging for cameras in front of it while I was there. Harry is depicted with his signature glasses leaning out of a press box, microphone in hand, holding it out towards the crowd for "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The numbers retired by the Cubs are commemorated by flags hanging from the foul poles and are Banks, Sandberg, Santo, and Williams.

The bleacher entrance to Wrigley is deserted an hour before first pitch. That's because by an hour before first pitch, 90% of the thousands who held bleacher seats were in the ballpark in their seats. Bleacher seats at Wrigley are first come, first serve. So even though you will get into the bleachers with a ticket, the question of where you will sit in the bleachers is only determined by you - how early are you willing to get there? If you want to sit in the first row, close enough to have a running conversation with the opposing outfielders, you better be there early. Cole Field House anyone?

The view from our seats in the seventh row of the upper deck just down the first base line from home plate. Off to the right, you could see a corner of Lake Michigan (far more visible to those sitting down the third base line). The two cutouts in the ivy on the wall are for Under Armour signs. Kevin Plank, you're a great Terp... but man, your company should be ashamed. And note... this picture was taken about 45 minutes before first pitch. Those bleachers are packed in.

A closeup of the famous Wrigley scoreboard, almost as famous as the scoreboard at the base of the Green Monster. Note the electronic ribbon at the base. There are five total electronic ribbons around the stadium that I could observe. The one here which displays the current batter, and two along each baseline, one of which shows pitchspeed and constantly rotates out-of-town games, and the other of which shows pitch count. There are televisions along the concourses and in the back of the mezzanine section which is horribly obstructed by the upper deck. Note the holes in the scoreboard, through which you could frequently spot the guys manning the scoreboard watching the games. Just to the right of the base of the scoreboard run the "el" tracks, and every few minutes during the game, a train would come rumbling by. There is nothing in the ballpark at all, aside from your scorecard, that shows the batting lineup or the defensive alignment. Which makes for an awkward scene when a visiting blogger who thinks he can fit in by cursing at a Cubs shortstop for a throwing error, trying to fit in with those fans sitting around him, gets some weird glances when he realizes he is actually cursing at somebody who is on the bench that day. That totally didn't happen to me.

The rooftop bleachers are quite the scene. We all know that the Cubs now get a small cut of the bleacher proceeds. That explains why the rooftop bleachers are totally corporate now, each of which advertising its own webpage for reservations by way of banner along the front or side facade. Some of the rightfield rooftop bleachers actually are double decker bleachers. Not sure why anybody would choose to watch from a rooftop bleacher and not from the stadium unless it is a corporate event. Probably cheaper to get lower deck seats for a Cubs game than to rent the entire bleachers for a roof 400 feet from home plate.

Cubs fans LOVE Fukudome. The rightfield bleacher fans chanted his name at the start of the game and had a similar dialogue with him as I imagine they had with Sammy Sosa. I'll bet they actually understand more of what Fukudome says.

Ahh... Fonzie... I am one of those Nats fans who does miss your messed up batting stance and your 40 HRs and 40 stolen bases, but am also glad that we didn't overpay to keep you.

Hey, I recognize you? Didn't you used to play football for some really mediocre college team?

Finally, the press box, where Harry Caray in perpetuity looks down over the Wrigley faithful from high atop them. Here, some guy who won some contest led the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Not quite Jessica Simpson. But it was still fun to take part in. The Wrigley press box has to be the smallest of any major league stadium. Only four rows of desks for print journalists that stretched maybe 20 yards wide. The television booths weren't much bigger.
So after the seventh inning stretch, it was time to head back to our hotel. The Cubs were losing, I didn't really have a vested interest in the game, but I did have a vested interest in our Greektown dinner reservations. So to conclude, a few more observations on my pilgrimage to Wrigley:
i) The fan who attends a game at Wrigley must be a true baseball fan or else they'll be bored to tears. There is no Jumbotron showing a crab shuffle in between innings. There is no "guess the year" contest. There are no replays. You need to be there to watch baseball and view the time between innings as a brief respite to go hit the head, grab a beer or a dog, or something akin to that. Otherwise, bring a book.
ii) Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the concession prices at Wrigley - far cheaper than Nats Park and significant cheaper than Camden Yards. $5.50 for a 20 ounce domestic draft beer at the concession stands, $3.50 for a heaping pile of nachos, $2.50 for a malt cup or frozen lemonade. And the hot dogs... ahhh, the hot dogs... I was put on notice by one of our 16 loyal readers who I ran into prior to last weekend's Maryland football game that if I did one thing at Wrigley Field, I had to buy a regular hot dog. And not from a vendor. But from the concession stand. And man, was she right (yes, we do have female readers). The "jumbo dog" for $3.75 lived up to its name (there is no other hot dog besides the "jumbo"). It was plump, cooked until it split open, was perfectly salted, and with ketchup, mustard, onions, and relish, is the best regular old ballpark dog I've ever gotten.
iii) For you men out there, the bathrooms are in trough style. But better than that, they're in Cole Field House trough style, so there is the long trough with the wall down the middle and the trough on the other side. So you gaze longingly into the eyes of the guy standing across from you while you're both taking a piss. Wait... the gazing longingly thing is only me? Well, anyway, there are only four restrooms total to my count on the entire upper deck. Two mens rooms and two womens rooms. Do the math. If you're female and you plan on going to the bathroom during the game, budget two full innings.
iv) EVERYBODY is in Cubs gear. It may be as simple as a hat. It may be a full authentic jersey with on-field cap to the tune of $300. Regardless, everybody is wearing Cubs clothing. Never quite seen that at another baseball venue.
v) I know we're talking about a very old stadium, but is it too much to ask to put in enough speakers in the upper deck so that the P.A. guy doesn't come across either softly or totally garbled? There was at any given time about a 15% chance you'd make out what the P.A. guy was saying completely. Most of the time, you'd understand about every fourth word. Again, you go to watch the game. That's it.
vi) Cupholders at all seats. Nice touch.
vii) It was fun to see the "pros" standing in the street behind the leftfield bleachers to grab batting practice home run balls. They stood out from the amateurs who were many in number, all with glove in hand, who would scream anxiously anytime a ball looked like it may leave the park. The "pros" wore expensive anti-glare sunglasses, never took their eyes off the horizon just above the wall of Wrigley, had outfielders mitts, and always seemed to take the right path to the ball when it hit the street.
That's really about all there is to say about Wrigley, I think. It was truly a special place to visit for a baseball fan. If you happen to be in Chicago while the Cubs are in town, you owe it to yourself to go. Even if you buy yourself the next afternoon popping in and out of handbag stores along the Magnificent Mile, you will think it's worth it.

September 2, 2008

Todd Palin is Hardcore

We generally try to avoid politics here at ECB (except for Jeremy), but when the spouse of a major political figure is involved in an obscure sport, that's right in our wheelhouse.

Snowmobile racing at the Winter X Games. Not the same thing as Iron Dog.

It's been widely reported that Todd Palin, husband of Sarah Palin and Alaska's "first dude" is a snowmobile racer. I've seen snowmobile racing at the Winter X Games, and it's kind of cool. The racers do around 10 laps of a course with jumps and turns. It's a lot like Motocross on snow. Fun to watch once a year, but definitely a niche "extreme" sport.

Turns out, that's not what Todd Palin does. He races in the Tesoro Iron Dog, the longest snowmobile race in the world. That doesn't mean they do 50 laps of a Snowcross course, it means that they race on the Iditarod trail. The race runs from Wasilla to Nome to Fairbanks. That's quite a course. The Iditarod sled dog race only runs to Nome. The snowmobile race adds an entire other leg.

The Iron Dog reminds me of the Paris Dakar Rally, only on snowmobiles instead of motorcycles and snow instead of sand. Anyone who finishes this race, much less wins it (as Todd Palin did in 2007) certainly has my respect. It's not likely to influence my decision on whether or not to vote for his wife's running mate, though.

September 1, 2008

Awful Weekend for the ACC

The ACC has been criticized as the weakest BCS conference for years now, but this year there isn't any doubt. As an ACC fan, it pains me to say it, but the conference doesn't look any better than C-USA and is clearly far worse than any other BCS conference.

If you missed it, here's how the ACC faired this weekend:

  • #23 Wake beat up on Baylor
  • GT beat a 1-AA team
  • Miami beat a 1-AA team
  • NC State got shut out by South Carolina
  • #17 VA Tech got upset by ECU on a neutral field
  • UVA got blown out at home by USC
  • Maryland beat a 1-AA team by a touchdown
  • UNC beat a 1-AA team by 8
  • Duke beat a 1-AA team
  • BC shut out Kent State (one of the worst teams in division 1-A)
  • #9 Clemson got embarassed by Alabama on national television in the Georgia Dome
If you're keeping track at home, the conference went 2-4 against 1-A opponents (and only 1 of those wins was against a BCS conference school). Thankfully, none of the five teams that played 1-AA patsies lost.

When the new rankings come out, the ACC will likely be down to 2 teams in the top 25 with a big goose egg in the top 15. What is wrong with the ACC? The players apparently aren't the problem, as they keep getting drafted in the NFL. Is it the coaches? Something else?

All I know is that the ACC needs to do something to fix its football problem. The ACC Championship game is an embarassment. The fact that the conference gets an automatic BCS bid is embarassing. Duke is an embarassment to Division 1 football. Things need to change.