September 19, 2009

In Defense of Ralph Friedgen

I've written on this blog quite a few times in defense of Gary Williams. My philosophy has always been that you don't fire a coach unless you know you can replace him with someone who brings a better value to the table.

Maryland named James Franklin heir apparent during the past offseason. In a season where the Terps are exceptionally young, especially on defense, Friedgen is under immense pressure. A solid recruiter is on his staff and guaranteed his job.

Thus far this year, Maryland has lost to #12 Cal on the road 52-13, needed overtime to best I-AA James Madison University at home 38-35, and lost at home to Middle Tennessee State University, 32-31. That's 119 points allowed in three games, or 39.33 points per game. As a Ravens fan, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Remember, two of those opponents are James Madison and Middle Tennessee.

During Friedgen's tenure, Maryland has only lost to three teams that did not finish the season bowl-eligible: (2008) Middle Tennessee and Virginia, (2007) North Carolina.

Is this going to be a rough season? Almost certainly. Is it time to pull the plug on Friedgen? I don't think so.

I hate to say "wait till next year" when it's still summer, but Maryland has a young core of players that could develop into a very solid group in 2010-2012. In the current state of the ACC, you don't need a great team to make a BCS bowl. Just look at the Terps' schedule this year. In addition to the road game at currently #12 Cal, the Terps have only ranked Virginia Tech remaining. The other 10 opponents are currently unranked (pending FSU's status after destroying BYU). It is inarguably the worst conference in the BCS, and should remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Let's give the Fridge a little more time. He did deliver 30 wins over 3 seasons just a few years ago.

September 18, 2009

Washington Post Interviews Redskins Lawsuit Plaintiff

Mike Wise has an interesting piece in today's Washington Post about Suzan Harjo's lawsuit against the Washington Redskins. Harjo is seeking to have the Redskins' trademark invalidated as offensive.

September 17, 2009

NFL Picks Week 2

So none of us got off to such a great start in Week 1 and all have some ground to make up to get back to respectability. Off we go to Week 2, where the tendency is to be too heavily influenced by Week 1 outcomes and not focus on long-term predictions for a team's likelihood of success.

Brien (1-4-0):
Not a good start to the year, let's hope this week is better.

Baltimore (+3) over SAN DIEGO - The Ravens will be pissed about their poor defensive showing last week.

New Orleans (pk) over PHILADELPHIA - Brees won't put up 6 TDs again, but the Saints will win, especially with McNabb hurt.

GREEN BAY (-9) over Cincinnati - The Packers looked great, and the Bengals looked awful last week.

KANSAS CITY (-3) over Oakland - The Chiefs looked like they have some life playing against the Ravens last week.

Tampa Bay (+5) over BUFFALO - I'm inclined to think that the Bills' performance on Monday was a fluke.

Jason (3-2-0):
I ran an against-the-spread office pool with 17 entries. All entries had between 5 and 10 correct picks (in 16 games). While the distribution should center around 8-9 wins, the curve was especially concentrated. Basically, every game was a coin flip. Week 2 is no different, and even possibly worse. Now we THINK we now something.

Oakland (+3) over KANSAS CITY - Oakland has some pride on defense, especially after Monday night. I saw the Kansas City @ Baltimore game, and they cannot score. The 24 they scored against the Ravens included 14 off a blocked punt and deeply return pick.

Arizona (+3) over JACKSONVILLE - I think San Francisco might the surprise (9-win) team this year, so I discount the loss at home last week.

SAN FRANCISCO (-1.5) over Seattle - This is basically being treated as a pick 'em. I like the Niners' attitude behind Shaun Hill.

Baltimore (+3) over SAN DIEGO - No home field advantage (other than the time zone) in San Diego. I think the Ravens were still in preseason mode against Kansas City. They have been waiting for this game since February.

DALLAS (-2.5) over New York Giants - They're opening that behemoth in Dallas. They didn't do such a good job closing out the old place (thanks to LeRon McClain and the Ravens), but Romo seems to have some confidence back.

Jeremy (1-4-0):
Damn garbage touchdown from the Redskins last week killed my pick, beat the spread, and made many degenerates want to kneecap Jason Campbell. Searching for teams this week who might have a little bit of desperation to avoid an 0-2 start......

Carolina (+6) over ATLANTA - I don't see two horrifying weeks from Delhomme in a row. And never underestimate the desperate need of a team to get a bitter taste out of its mouth.

BUFFALO (-5) over Tampa Bay - For 58 minutes, the Bills looked
pretty damn respectable against what we can all agree is a terrific
Pats offense. Leftwich is no Brady.

WASHINGTON (-9.5) over St. Louis - I'm not quite sure where the
'Skins are going to get their points from to cover this spread, but I'm
not sure where the Rams will get any points from whatsoever. I think
the Rams have an excellent chance of giving us this year's
suspense-filled Weeks 15, 16, and 17 as to whether or not another team
will finish winless.

And for two other picks of teams who did get a win in Week 1...

Pittsburgh (-2.5) over CHICAGO - This is not an overreaction
pick as to Jay Cutler's performance as much as it is a pick of respect
for the Steelers after their manhandling of the Titans. The loss of
Polamalu could make Cutler's day much easier though and probably keeps
this line down.

New England (-3.5) over NEW YORK JETS - This is always a bitterly fought game. I think the Jets keep it respectable but do end up losing by more than a field goal.

Magic 8 Ball (2-3-0):

ATLANTA (-6) over Carolina - "My sources say yes." (Falcons will beat the spread)
WASHINGTON (-9.5) over St. Louis - "My sources say yes." (Redskins will beat the spread)
Tampa Bay (+5) over BUFFALO - "Don't count on it." (Bills won't beat the spread)
Pittsburgh (-2.5) over CHICAGO - "No" (Bears won't beat the spread)
NEW YORK JETS (+3.5) over New England - "Yes." (Jets will beat the spread)

Russell (3-2-0):

GREEN BAY (-9) over Cincinnati - The Bungles just find ways to lose, and the Pack is better than the Broncos.

Minnesota (-9.5) over DETROIT - I think Calvin Johnson is the only player for the Lions who is better than his counterpart on the Vikings. Plus the Lions are 0-17 recently.

Baltimore (+3.5) over SAN DIEGO - Multiple injured linemen, LT gimpy, PhiLLLLip taunting, slow starts under Norville, it all adds up to a Ravens victory.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) over CHICAGO - Even if the Bears are turnover-free, I see the Steelers being better by a field goal or more.

WASHINGTON (-9.5) over St Louis - What's to like about the Rams?


Brien: BAL, NO, GB, KC, TB

September 16, 2009

College Football Picks - Week 3

After a painful Week 2, this is the week where I go against what I want to believe and hope that the losing picks continue, specifically:

Mid Tenn St (+6) over MARYLAND - There can be many reasons for the results of the Terps' first two games, but the results are not good. The line is green, the defense is struggling in a new system, and the opponent is a team to whom we lost by 10 pts last year. This year, they've already beaten Memphis by 17. Their loss to Clemson can be attributed to Clemson's physical superiority, a claim we can't make to the extent Clemson can. Please Terps, prove me wrong.

Tech needs to slow down Jacory Harris to have a chance.

MIAMI (-4.5)
over Georgia Tech - Last year on a Thursday night late in the season, Tech crushed the Canes, amassing some 450+ rushing yards. The question, as always after such a blowout, is whether Tech has Miami's number, or Miami will come out desperate for revenge and stuff the Jackets. The Canes have had a couple extra days to prepare for the option, and Harris looked unstoppable against FSU. But then FSU almost lost to Jax State. I'm thinking Miami takes advantage of the fact that Tech hasn't really found its rhythm offensively, and they get their revenge.

Boise St (-7) over FRESNO ST - As previously mentioned in this column, I don't want Boise in the BCS given their lack of a non-conference schedule. This game and Tulsa (and maybe Nevada) are the only ones they have even half a shot at losing, so I'm still hoping someone knocks them off. I'd much rather see BYU in the BCS, who would deserve it after having to beat Oklahoma, FSU, Utah, and TCU, at a minimum.

Georgia (+1.5) over ARKANSAS - I'll be the first to tell you that the Dawgs aren't as good as last year, but underdogs to the Razorbacks? We'll see if Petrino has them better prepared than in their first SEC game last year, a pounding by Alabama.

And now for a few other games:
CLEMSON (-7) over Boston College - Athletic superiority and the Eagles' lack of a QB.

VIRGINIA TECH (-4.5) over Nebraska - Lane Stadium plus the Hokies' physicality determine this game, much as the game in Lincoln was last year.

AUBURN (-7) over West Virginia - The Mountaineers haven't replaced Pat White yet, and the Tigers looked sharp last week against Miss St.

Last Week: 2-5
Season: 6-9

TMQ Rejoinder - Week 1

I’m so happy about the start of the NFL season that I couldn’t work up too much vitriol about this week’s TMQ column.

Big Hamburgers

Red Robin, talks a lot about local ingredients, corporate integrity and the like … The queso appetizer is 1,433 calories and 89 grams of fat; the Guacamole Bacon Burger is 1,160 calories and 77 grams of fat; the chicken tenders salad is 1,400 calories and 91 grams of fat; the Mountain High Mud Pie is 1,373 calories and 63 grams of fat … So the company cares about the planet -- just not about people!

This is another of Easterbrook’s favorite rhetorical devices.  He points out hypocrisies that aren’t really hypocritical.  Red Robin’s corporate responsibilities have nothing at all to do with how many calories are in its meals.  Not to mention the fact that most people share appetizers and desserts.

Running Up the Score

Over the weekend Oklahoma relentlessly ran up the score on Division I-AA Idaho State, winning 64-0, while Cincinnati relentlessly ran up the score on Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State, winning 70-3. Leading 56-3, Cincinnati was still throwing the ball trying to run up the score. For these egregious displays of bad sportsmanship, Oklahoma and Cincinnati are likely to be punished by the football gods with unhappy seasons.

Look, I’m all for good sportsmanship.  The problem is that in college football, margin of victory matters.  Voters who don’t watch half the top 25 games only go by scores, so a 70-3 victory looks much better than 30-3.  As long as there is voting in college football, teams can be expected to run up the score.  It’s only bad sportsmanship if (as in the NFL) you derive no tangible benefit from it.

Assault and Battery

Threatening another person with physical harm is in most states a crime akin to simple battery, such as throwing a punch.

I’ll let the lawyers here weigh in on this one, but there is a HUGE difference to normal people between threatening a punch and throwing (and landing) a punch.   But Easterbrook rushes past this to claim that Serena Williams benefited from her fame and riches.  I can sympathize with Blount (the BSU player who threw a punch) getting a bit of leniency, but comparing what he did to Serena arguing with a line judge is ludicrous.

September 15, 2009

Native Americans' Challenge to Redskins Trademark Still Alive

Native Americans challenged the Washington Redskins' trademark in Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc. as immediately cancellable under the Lanham Act as "offensive". The trial court ruled in their favor, but the appellate court reversed essentially ruling that the plaintiffs had waited too long to allege that the word "redskin", a racial slur on par with the N-word, was offensive to them. The legal term for this prejudicial delay is laches, though the doctrine is rarely invoked. In this case its use was particularly surprising, as the Lanham Act specifies that a trademark can be cancelled at any time if it meets the offensiveness standard.

Today, Above the Law, and others reported that the plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. If four justices wish for the case to be heard, the court will take the case. If the Court rules that the trademark is invalid, it will be immediately revoked. Anyone with a silk-screen machine will be able to begin producing merchandise.

Even if the Court refuses to hear the case, the plaintiffs' attorney has a second group of plaintiffs ready to go. This group is younger and thus the laches/delay issue will be off the table.

For as long as the Redskins are in existence, groups will attempt to force the organization to change its name and possibly mascot.