It was a painful weekend for Boston sports fans, so let's go outside of Boston for a bit of college football talk.
Things are becoming clearer and clearer in college football. The BCS is still an unbelievable mess, and it's very possible that two undefeated teams will be left out of the title game. But the scenarios for conference titles aren't that complicated.
#7 Georgia Tech has already clinched the Coastal Division, and will be heading to their 2nd ACC Championship Game. Clemson is in the driver's seat for the Atlantic title. They only need to beat 3-7 Virginia at home on Saturday to clinch. Even if they fail to do that, BC would need to beat both North Carolina and Maryland to get into the title game. Clemson and Georgia Tech played each other in September, with the Yellow Jackets surviving 30-27. This would be only the 2nd ACC Championship Game that didn't involve an ex-Big East team.
#3 Texas is in control of the South, and can clinch with a win on Saturday when they host 5-5 Kansas. Or if #15 Oklahoma State loses to Colorado. Texas would have to lose its final two games (to Kansas and Texas A&M) in order to not win the South. Oklahoma State would also have to run the table, beating Colorado and Oklahoma.
Nebraska leads the Northern Division with a 4-2 conference record, but Kansas State is 2nd at 4-3, and the teams play each other this Saturday in Lincoln. The winner of that game clinches the division.
#5 Cincinnati and #8 Pittsburgh are both undefeated in conference play. They meet each other at Heinz Field on December 5th in what will be the equivalent of a Big East Championship game. Even if Pitt loses to West Virginia this week, a win against Cincinnati would give them the Big East crown.
#9 Ohio State finally won a big game, beating Iowa in overtime. The Hawkeyes dropped two games in a row, forfeiting a Rose Bowl berth, and perhaps a National Title berth. The Buckeyes go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. That kind of surprised me when I looked it up.
Not a BCS conference, but it's superior to the Pac-10. TCU's 55-28 win over #23 Utah gave them the keys to the kingdom. All they have to do is win at 5-5 Wyoming this Saturday (or win the week after when they host 0-10 New Mexico), and they'll win the Mountain West title. In order to not be Conference Champs, they'd have to lose BOTH their remaining games, and either #19 BYU or Utah (who play each other), would have to run the table. It's safe to start printing t-shirts and hats.
#18 USC is in 5th place. That's funny. #11 Oregon needs to run the table to secure the Rose Bowl berth. They play at Arizona on Saturday, then finish the season with the Civil War game against #19 Oregon State. But #17 Stanford is lurking. They hold the head-to-head tie-breaker against Oregon. Should the Ducks lose just one of their remaining games, and Stanford beat #25 California, then the Cardinal would go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000.
This is as clear cut as you get. #1 Florida clinched the East, #2 Alabama clinched the West. Both are undefeated, and it looks like the SEC title game will once again be a National Title Semifinal. Tuscaloosa is 203 miles from Atlanta. Gainesville is 331 miles away.
1,500th Boston Blood Sox post!
Monday, November 16, 2009
In NBC's pre-game BS, they described ex-Colts coach Tony Dungee and Bill Belichick as "the straight shooter and the rule bender." It was yet another example of the National Sports Media's deification of Tony "Father of the Year" Dungee and the subtle disdain for Bill "Beelzebub" Belichick.
Belichick didn't bend any rules last night, but he did bend logic. He twisted it, even. I've defended him a great deal. Through the overhyped SpyGate shit. Through the uncanny obsession over postgame handshakes. To going for it on 4th & 13 in the Super Bowl. Trading Richard Seymour, not signing Deion Branch, Adam Vinatieri, et cetera, et cetera. But his decision was indefensible.
It was understandable. There was logic at work. Belichick estimated that his chances of victory were better if he went for it on 4th & 2, as opposed to punting. I disagree with the logic behind that conclusion.
If the Patriots get a 1st down there, they win. There'd be 2 minutes left, Indy would have 1 timeout. So the Colts would stop the clock after the 1st down play at about 1:55. The Pats could then drain 85+ seconds from those 115 remaining, then punt. The Colts would have 30 seconds and no timeouts to go 70 yards upfield.
High reward=high risk. Fail to convert, and the Colts have 2 minutes to go a mere 30 yards. Their entire playbook is open. And if Belichick didn't trust his defense to prevent a 70 yard drive in 2 minutes, what chances did they have of stopping a 30 yard drive?
My problem with the move is that it was crazy, not aggressive. It wasn't confident. The last few years, Belichick's done all sorts of weird shit in attempts to beat Indy. I remember in '05 when he tried an onside kick in the 3rd quarter. It's funny, because when the Patriots owned Peyton and the Colts, they didn't win through crazy, 1980s little league movie trick plays. They won by executing on the field. The players made plays.
And last night, they made plays for 58 minutes until the coach got nervous, even scared, and didn't let them make plays.
Then there were the timeouts. He threw them around like he was Mike Martz or something.
And for those Pats fans who want to crucify Belichick today, here:
And if that isn't enough, this video will melt your heart and make you fall in love with him all over again.
Moving on to the rest of the game...
Laurence Maroney serves no purpose. He's like a Special Olympic kid out there. It's a fucking miracle for him to get up to the line of scrimmage with the football in his hands. That fumble near the end zone was horrific. And the fact that he is so unreliable for a mere 2 yards in short yardage situations severely limits play-calling. 13 carries, 31 yards, 2.4 per carry, 1 touchdown, 1 fumble, longest run was 6 yards. He's at 4.0 YPC this season, which doesn't sound awful, but he's so inconsistent and unreliable. He has monster games like last week against Miami, then shits the bed.
The Patriots have yet to win a game in another team's home stadium. It's week 10. That's worrisome. Especially since it's now a forgone conclusion that any potential road to the Super Bowl will have to go through another team's neighborhood(s).
But unlike everyone else, I'm not going to kick the dog over this loss. I have to say I was pretty mellow right after, and I'm even calmer writing this (except when I think of Maroney). The Colts are 9-0, do they frighten you?
This was a test game, and the Patriots failed because they forgot to fill in the circles completely, not because they were too stupid. The Colts are an elite NFL team, and the Patriots lost by 1 to them on the road, and should have beaten them.
It hurts. Losses like this always hurt. But how much would a win have mattered? Would there have been a duckboat parade? Would I have stayed up all night drinking and calling everyone I know at 4 am? Don't think so.
It would have hurt less had the Colts won by 3 TDs and totally dominated the Pats. But it also would have meant that the Patriots weren't in the top tier of NFL teams. And we found out last night that the Patriots are in fact a top team.
Peyton Manning can have all the regular season honors, accolades, awards, and records he can get his hands on. After all, he is the best pre-December QB in history.
Oh, and the pass interference call on Darius Butler that set-up Indy's touchdown that made it 34-27 was a bullshit call. That gave the Colts 31 yards in 0 seconds. The spot on Kevin Faulk's 4th & 2 catch was also very favorable to Bill Polian's Colts. But it's the Pats' fault for not having any timeouts to challenge with.
This was a setback. A major setback perhaps, but it is week 10 of a 17+ week season, the Pats are in 1st place with a 2 game cushion, and we get to beat up the Jets on Sunday. The fans in Indy won't get to see the best quarterback in the NFL until the playoffs, while we get to see him every Sunday.
In a back-and-forth offensive bonanza, the Bruins fell in overtime to the Penguins. To be fair, the B's only led for 2 minutes and 28 seconds of the contest. The rest of the time, they were playing catchup with Pittsburgh, but doing a good job of it.
With less than 10 seconds to go, the Bruins had a 5-4 lead and the puck inside the Penguins' zone. That's when the imperceptibly fractured graphite carbon fibre of Patrice Bergeron's stick snapped as the puck hit the blade. The ensuing turnover sprung Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh's best player, Cindy Crosby sucks), who found Wilbraham's Bill Guerin for the game-tying goal with 0.4 seconds in the clock.
In the overtime that followed, Tim Thomas lazily played a dump-in behind the net, and gave the puck away to Jordan Staal, who centered to Pascal Dupuis for the game-winner. Thomas' reaction to his mistake, as well as Guerin's tying goal have been the only two times I've seen Thomas truly flustered in the net. Swinging his stick at invisible demons. Even when he dropped Kostitsyn, even when he tussled with Sean Avery, there was a bit of composure to it. His anger was more specific, more focused. He wasn't just generally pissed in all directions.
You can blame Bergeron's stick. Certainly had it maintained some semblance of structural integrity, the Penguins wouldn't have been able to come up ice and score. But again, the Bruins had their lead for all of 148 seconds. Catchup hockey is losing hockey.
The Bruins host the once lowly, now pesky Islanders tonight.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar