October 25, 2008

Fair Weather Phillies Fans Come Out in Force

I've been going to Maryland Football games for the past 9 years, and there aren't normally very many Phillies fans there. You'll see some Eagles fans, and of course tons of Yankees and Red Sox hats, but almost never any Phillies gear.

Artist's redition of a typical Phillies fan

Today in College Park, however, it seemed like every other person was wearing a Phillies hat, jersey or t-shirt. It's great to support your team, and it's certainly easier to do it when they're successful, but this is a bit out of hand. It's like when the Red Sox started winning a few years ago and everyone who had ever visited Boston seemed to find the Red Sox hat in the back of their closet.

That has to annoy those fans who have stuck by the Phillies through thick and thin, right? I mean, there have to be some fans in Philadelphia that haven't booed their team.

(And yes, this is what passes for World Series coverage around here)

It Wasn't Pretty, but the Terps Win Again

Maryland has had an up and down season, to say the least, but in a rainy College Park today, they pulled out a hard-fought win over an improving NC State team.

It would have been nice to see more of this today.

The game was tied for the entire 4th quarter until Obi Egekeze kicked a 20-yard field goal as time expired. Even though he had missed earlier from 39, Egekeze has overcome his early-season jitters to become a reliable kicker.

The field goal capped an 89 yard drive in the final 4:50 to move the Terps into field goal position. A lot of fans have questioned the team's heart this season, but they really showed me something in playing their best ball when it really counted today.

The offense looked great all game, particularly on the ground. Da'Rel Scott rushed for 163 yards before leaving the game during the final drive (hopefully not with a re-injury of his shoulder). Davin Meggett also looked great, with a huge 30 yard run on the final drive to move the Terps from the edge of Egekeze's range to chip-shot distance.

The defense didn't look so strong, allowing NC State quarterback Russell Wilson to gain 53 yards on the ground (seemingly all on 3rd and long). They had a few big stops, but couldn't seem to get off the field when they needed to. The Terps defense will need to step it up for the team to have a chance next Thursday in Blacksburg. I wasn't among the people calling for Defensive Coordinator Chris Cosh to be fired, but it was disappointing to see the defense fail over and over again to contain a mobile quarterback.

The ACC standings are wide open, with the Terps and Seminoles tied atop the Atlantic division at 3-1. Boston College and Wake Forest are only a game behind, and Clemson is shockingly only 1-3. Maryland and Florida State meet in College Park on November 22nd for what could possibly be a game for a berth in the ACC Championship Game (but a lot could happen before then).

I'm a little disillusioned today because I realized that the title of my favorite Terps blog, It Never Rains in College Park, is a huge lie. I was in College Park and it was definitely raining. A lot. At least Kyle's prediction of a Terps win wasn't a lie.

Update: ESPN enthusiastically identified the weather at the game.

Photo credit: danoshinsky.com

NFL Picks - Week 8

Almost halfway through the season, with only Brien and Jeremy putting up above .500 marks on the season:

Brien (20-15):

Not a good showing for me last week, but if the Jets had pulled the game out in OT and if the Bucs had scored 1 more point, I'd be singing a different tune. Sheridan has the Dallas-Tampa Bay game off the board, but other sites have it as Dallas -2. If you can bet that game, take the Bucs.

NEW ORLEANS (+3) over San Diego - Both teams should be a lot better than 3-4, but the Chargers haven't won outside the Pacific time zone this year (their one road win was over the Raiders) and the Saints are 3-1 at the Superdome. I'm an idiot, the game is in England. Doesn't change my pick, though.

CAROLINA (-4.5) over Arizona - The Panthers are undefeated at Bank of America Stadium, and the Cardinals' one road win is over the 49ers.

JACKSONVILLE (-6.5) over Cleveland - I'm still not ready to give up on the Jaguars this season, and I don't give the Browns any credit for holding it close against the Redskins last week.

Buffalo (-1.5) over MIAMI - The Bills are 5-1. You may not have realized that. The Dolphins have two great wins (over NE and SD), but four uninspired losses.

TENNESSEE (-3.5) over Indianapolis - The Titans are still undefeated against the spread, and I think we may still be overrating the Colts. That could all change this weekend, though.

Jason (16-19):

I got absolutely hosed last week. I guess that means I'm due to swing back with a 4-1 or better. That's how it works, right?

BALTIMORE (-6.5) over Oakland - There's been a lot of turmoil in Ravens' camp this week, but I still just can't see Oakland scoring any points on their own.

NEW YORK JETS (-12.5) over Kansas City - Brett Favre has been scorned and Kansas City is starting players I've never seen at any level.

Washington (-7.5) over DETROIT - The game is blacked out in Detroit. Despite the Skins' defensive injuries, I just don't see where points are going to come.

NEW YORK GIANTS (+2.5) over Pittsburgh - These teams are very evenly matched, so I'll give the edge to the champs.

Buffalo (-1.5) over MIAMI - This line is pretty stunning. Is there some angle I'm missing?

Jeremy (18-17):

Nothing like a meaningless safety at the end of the 49ers-Giants game last week to make the Giants cover the spread. When that ball was kicked out of the end zone, a lot of people lost a lot of money.

Washington (-7.5) over DETROIT - Detroit has played games closer as of late, but with this Redskins defense in lockdown mode, I don't see their offense putting up more than 10.

Buffalo (-1.5) over MIAMI - Either Vegas knows something I don't or people in Vegas think this is the 2004 Bills.

Tampa Bay (+2) over DALLAS - I love the Cowboys in full meltdown mode. I'm making this pick more out of hope than anything else. (I put my picks in on Saturday and the game is on the board)

Atlanta (+9) over PHILADELPHIA - Picking another road team to beat the spread, but I have mad respect for Matt Ryan. This will be his most hostile road game yet, but I still don't trust Philly's offense to cover this kind of spread.

TENNESSEE (-3) over Indianapolis - Whatever Jeff Fisher is putting in Kerry Collins' Metamucil, it's working.

Magic 8 Ball (17-18):

DETROIT (+7.5) over Washington - "My sources say yes." (Lions will beat the spread)

MIAMI (+1.5) over Buffalo - "Signs point to yes." (Dolphins will beat the spread)

DALLAS (-2) over Tampa Bay - "Yes." (Cowboys will beat the spread)

Atlanta (+9) over PHILADELPHIA - "No." (Eagles won't beat the spread)

Indianapolis (+3) over TENNESSEE - "My answer is no." (Tennessee won't beat the spread)

Russell (17-18):

At least I had a good week on college picks last week. It wasn't too long ago that I was 15-10 for NFL picks... ouch.

BALTIMORE (-6.5) over Oakland - The Raiders still can't score against a decent defense.

CAROLINA (-4.5) over Arizona - The Panthers are great at home, and the Cardinals are awful on the road on the East Coast.

San Diego (-3) over NEW ORLEANS - No Reggie Bush = No Offense for the Saints.

PITTSBURGH (-2.5) over NY Giants - Should be a good game, but home field advantage and the better defense swings this to the Steelers.

St Louis (+7.5) over NEW ENGLAND - Let's not get too excited about how great the Pats looked against the worst D in the league. If anyone noticed, the Rams just beat the Skins and the Cowboys in consecutive weeks.

Russell: BAL, CAR, SAN, PIT, STL

West Virginia Has Impressive SEC Streak

My boss wanted me to point out that West Virginia has now won five consecutive games over SEC opponents (Auburn 10-23-08, Miss. St. 10-20-07, @Miss. St. 10-07-06, Georgia 01-02-06 Sugar Bowl, and Ole Miss 2000 Music City Bowl).

This must be last year's Fiesta Bowl, because Stewart is smiling and the guys are wearing road whites.

Of course, they've also lost their last two road games to East Carolina and Colorado, meaning they've lost their last games against Conference USA and the Big XII. They've also lost two straight to South Florida, who the Mountaineers host to close out the season on December 6, 2008. Could be worse - look at RichRod's streak against the MAC and Mountain West.

I guess we'll figure out from this week's game at Cincinnati whether the Mountaineers are just a pretty good home team.

October 24, 2008

Terrell Suggs is an Idiot

There are two possible conclusions one can reach based on Terrell Suggs' recent comments:

  1. He admitted to a violation of NFL rules
  2. He doesn't know what the word "bounty" means
Either way, he is not a smart man.


If you've been living under a rock this week (or if you get all your sports news from ECB ... ummm ... sorry about that), you may not have heard about the latest beef between the Steelers and Ravens, so here's a recap.

Terrell Suggs went on an Atlanta radio show called "2 Live Stews" (Yeah, it's named after the guys who brought you "Me So Horny." Classy.) and said that there was a bounty out on Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward.

Now, for normal people, the term "bounty" clearly means that players were offering cash rewards to other players for injurious hits on either Mendenhall or Ward. This is clearly a violation of NFL policy. What's worse, former Ravens coach Brian Billick admitted that this sort of thing goes on all the time in the Ravens locker room.

Later, Suggs claimed that he "misspoke" when he made the bounty comments, but as I noted above, that either means that he now realizes he shouldn't have said it, or that he didn't know what the word means.

Oh, and if the stupid bounty comments weren't enough, this week Suggs also said he thinks Troy Smith should be the starter over Joe Flacco, wore a Yankees hat on ESPN, and said the Ravens are quitting on the season. He's a genius.

What's worse about all this is that Hines Ward is the one accused of being a dirty player. This isn't the Cowboys offensive line and their chop blocks. It isn't even a linebacker breaking fingers in the pile. We're talking about a wide receiver and hits that are deemed legal on the field. What you're seeing is a lot of defensive players who are embarrassed about getting their clocks cleaned by a skinny wideout.

My feeling is this: you're on a football field. Chances are, there's someone on that field trying to hit you at any given moment. If your head isn't on a swivel, you're probably going to get blindsided. No one cries for quarterbacks who get hit from behind, we certainly shouldn't shed a tear for a wussy Bengals linebacker.

October 22, 2008

College Football Picks - Week 9

Can the Terps show up against a team they're supposed to beat?

Now that I'm back on track after a 4-1 record last week, I'm going to burn a couple picks on things I'm worried about but am hoping don't actually happen. They're not bad picks in the first place, but I'd rather be wrong.

NC State (+10.5) over MARYLAND - How good have the Terps been as heavy favorites this year? Plus the Wolfpack have been very competitive, even though they don't have many wins to show for it.

Virginia (+11.5) over GEORGIA TECH - The option hasn't dominated the last couple games, and the Cavs are suddenly competitive. I don't know if Virginia will be the same on the road, but I'm worried about a Jackets letdown after the Clemson game.

Virginia Tech (+4.5) over FLORIDA STATE - Beamer and the Hokies don't often lose in back-to-back weeks, and they may be able to wreak havoc with the Noles' young QB. Tyrod will have his work cut out for him against a tough, fast defense.

Houston will show the idiots in Fayetteville how big a mistake they made.

And now the other games:
Mississippi (-5) over ARKANSAS - You can bet Nutt will have something extra special for the Razorbacks in his return, after the abusive treatment he received from the fans and alumni there. Plus he knows the weaknesses of every Arkansas player, and his team's better to start with.

TEXAS (-12.5) over Oklahoma State - The Cowboys offense hasn't faced a legitimate defense all year, and their victory over Missouri was enabled by 3 Chase Daniel turnovers in the second half. They'll need a similar breakdown by Colt to be close in this one.

Texas Tech (+1.5) over KANSAS - I'll take the Red Raiders because I think they're more likely to break 50 points. Both teams might.

Penn State (-2.5) over OHIO STATE - Last week's offensive explosion by the Buckeyes was an anomaly, and they'll be lucky to get to 20 points this week behind their rookie QB. The Nittany Lions won't dominate like the Trojans, but I definitely expect them to win.

Georgia (+2) over LSU - The Tigers' only big win was over Auburn, not so impressive. The Dawgs have more weapons on offense and should be able to confuse LSU's young QBs. This is not the same team that won the title last year in any respect. It's a day game, so the crowd won't be nearly as much of a factor.

Last week: 4-1-0
Season: 28-18-2

October 20, 2008

ESPN: Niners to Fire Mike Nolan

Why? When you give a guy J.T. O'Sullivan, Shaun Hill, Arnaz Battle, Darrell Jackson and Isaac "I was old in 2000" Bruce to work with, you expect magic? Why are teams hiring non-retread coaches and then firing them when the franchise doesn't turn around?

In the salary cap NFL, coaching is 20% and management is 80%. Management has consistently failed the Niners since 1994. Just look at the Steelers. Unless there is some player mutiny, this is just asinine.

I like that they think Mike Singletary will turn things around. I think they got blinded by sparkplug Jim Haslett and the Rams taking advantage of the Redskins and Cowboys. Singletary was a great player, and he's a great motivational coach, but he doesn't have what it takes to manage an NFL franchise. He could barely handle the Ravens' six linebackers when he was LBs coach and Nolan was DC.

Texas Longhorns Look Special

I will admit that I'm not the biggest college football fan in the country. I'll watch what's on and I get sucked into a good game here and there, but I definitely couldn't recite the Top 25 or name all the Pac-10's starting QBs. That being said, Texas looks special this year. I've watched the past two games, and I've never seen such a transformation as Colt McCoy has had in the middle of their win over Oklahoma.

The most exciting thing about the past two wins, over Oklahoma and Missouri, is that I keep seeing new people making plays. It reminds me of the dominant USC teams where every game seemed to feature a new star. It could be Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, or any number of defensive players, but someone was going to ensure a win every time they took the field. I see that this year with Texas, and I think Mack Brown has the tools to avoid any characteristic Pete Carroll turd games.

Sidenote: Why isn't Mack Brown considered the best coach in the history of college football? He managed Vince Young, Cedric Benson, Roy Williams and Ricky Williams with NO PROBLEMS. We need guys like Mack Brown to run for public office. That's working miracles.

Texas has a brutal schedule to finish the season, of course. As much as everyone defaults to loving the SEC, mostly because more people live in the Southeast than the Plains and those people love football, the Big XII is consistently the most trying conference in the land. People forget that a trip from Austin to Manhattan or Missouri or Iowa State is a lot more onerous than jaunting from Baton Rouge to Georgia. Texas still has Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech and at Kansas on the schedule, along with a season-ender Thanksgiving night on ESPN against A&M. LSU is currently the highest ranked one loss team in the BCS, but I think you could give Texas a loss to any of those four teams and still keep them ahead of any others.

A lot can happen between now and the BCS Title Game, but Texas looks like the team of destiny at this point. I'm really enjoying seeing a truly great college football team materialize each week.