Friday, September 30, 2011

Francona Out

Terry Francona, who was the first Red Sox manager to win multiple World Series titles with the team since Bill Carrigan (1915 and 1916), will no longer be managing the Sox.

I'm not sure if this isn't a semi-mutual decision. Francona didn't seem pleased with the team he was given, nor with Theo Epstein, and I wouldn't be shocked if he told the Sox owners that he didn't want to be back, and at the same time management said to him that they didn't want him back.

We'll undoubtedly get some leaks in the Sox controlled media about a lack of discipline in the Sox clubhouse. Francona has a reputation for leniency, for being a "player's manager." To me, that's what allowed the Sox to be relaxed in the 2004 and 2007 ALCS. But those teams also had more veteran leadership to keep things in line.

They also had better pitching on those teams, which may have helped them win. I know that's a crazy idea, that good pitching wins games.

Quite frankly, I don't think that baseball managers have much of an effect on the game. It's not like football coaches who call the plays, or hockey and basketball coaches who constantly shift people in and out of the game. A baseball manager is relatively uninvolved in the winning and losing of a team.

That's why I feel this is unfair to Francona. He can't make John Lackey a better pitcher. He can't make JD Drew a tough, gutsy player. And he also doesn't have any power to punish these guys for not performing. What's he supposed to threaten JD Drew with? Benching him? "Either get out and play or I'm not going to let you play."

This team was not well assembled. And that's Theo Epstein's fault. John Lackey, Carl Crawford, and JD Drew commanded over $44.5 million in salary this season. What did they contribute? If I'm John Henry, and I've invested over $160 million (plus the luxury tax) into this team, I want to hold Theo accountable for how he's spent it. "What are you doing with my money?"

Sox fans want a manager that will be more of a disciplinarian. Do you think that will work in a clubhouse full of overpaid bums and underpaid superstars? Guys like Pedroia and Youkilis will fall in line, but those two are disciplined on their own, even without a manager. Sox fans are clamoring for a change in personalities. And I have a feeling that if Sox brass listen to them and hire some guy who will fine players for not shaving their sideburns, this team will suffer not prosper.

I understand the move, but if the Sox really want to turn the proverbial ship around, they can't just fire the ship's captain. They have to get rid of the guy who put the lazy crew together. In terms of results on the field, the Red Sox have let go of the best manager they've ever had.

College Football Picks: Week 5

It was another unfortunate week for my picks. My record is now 10-17-1, which is pretty shabby. I'll continue making picks, because I'm sure someone out there is probably looking at them, doing the opposite, and I'll be putting their kid through college.

Syracuse -1 vs. Rutgers
I hate SU, but they were one of the few picks that worked out for me last week.

Texas Tech -6.5 @ Kansas
Why not? If TTU wins, they'll win by a lot. And they're likely to win.

Mississippi State +7 @ Georgia
One thing's certain, the Bulldogs will be winning this game, much to the disappointment of the Bulldogs.

Texas A&M -2.5 vs. Arkansas (Arlington, TX)
The Aggies made some mistakes last week, the Razorbacks were simply outclassed. A&M gets back on track, Arkansas won't.

Boston College +1.5 vs. Wake Forest
Montel Harris is back. BC will run, run, and run.

Baylor -3.5 @ Kansas State
Both teams undefeated, not after Saturday.

Michigan State +3.5 @ Ohio State
Odd that neither team is ranked.

UConn -2.5 vs. Western Michigan
WMU sucks.

Clemson +7 @ Virginia Tech
I'm tired of picking against Clemson and losing. I want to pick them and lose.

Nebraska +10 @ Wisconsin
Camp Randall Stadium is not an easy place to win on a Saturday. But I believe in Nebraska, and I believe in 10 point spreads.

Alabama -4 @ Florida
UFA is overrated again, as usual.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Bright Side of Life

I'm not going to try to cheer anyone up today, but we can at least temper our misery with some pleasant thoughts...

1. Bruins season starts next week, and we'll be hoisting a banner... in front of the Flyers. That'll be sweet.

2. No more JD Drew in a Red Sox uniform (I hope).

3. Beer. Beer didn't ruin your September, and unlike the Sox, it'll be around in October.

4. You're not going to overrate the Red Sox in 2012 like you did in 2011. So if they fail again, you won't be nearly as disappointed. And if they succeed, you'll be extra happy (See: 2004).

5. College football. There are three really good games between 4-0 teams on Saturday.

6. It's very likely that a team not named the Yankees will win. Verlander in a 5 game series is extra dangerous.

7. Lesbians. God gave us lesbians and beer. A winning baseball team would have just been an added bonus.

Some Sad Salary Facts

One little fact that demonstrates how messed up this team is. Last night, Ryan Lavarnway was hitting 5th. JD Drew was hitting 6th, and Carl Crawford was hitting 8th. Lavarnway is a rookie, who started the year in AA Portland. The 24 year old catcher had 35 career MLB at-bats coming into last night's game. Yet he was hitting ahead of two veteran outfielders making $14 million and $14.9 million, respectively. And nobody seemed to think that it was a bad idea. That's how disappointing and overpaid Drew and Crawford are. Against a righthanded starter, these two lefties were below a righty, rookie catcher.

Another sad fact was the Sox' alleged effort to acquire Bruce Chen to pitch in Game 163. It might have been just rumors, but instead of putting a $16,000,000 pitcher on the mound (Lackey), the Sox were apparently trying to get a $2 million man from Kansas City.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Game Over, Season Over

Anyone that dares blame the Yankees for the Red Sox not making the playoffs deserves a swift slap to the face. The Red Sox surrendered a playoff berth that was theirs for the taking. It all happened so quickly last night, but this was a month long stretch of crappy baseball played by overrated, overpaid players. The Red Sox do not deserve to be in the 2011 MLB Playoffs.

Lester pitched well, all things considered. 6 innings, 2 earned on 3 days rest. I'll take that. He was a bit fortunate that Scutaro made that unbelievable glove-toss to Pedroia to start a double-play. Then Aceves did well, then Bard pitched a scoreless 8th, then Papelbon...

Papelbon had a tremendous season. But this is not the first time that he's been on the mound when a Red Sox season has ended with disappointment. I'm not saying we shouldn't re-sign him (unless we can acquire a similar talent for less money), but the facts are the facts. He has blown some pretty big saves.

It's a game of inches. Scutaro was inches from scoring on Crawford's double. But you shouldn't need a few inches here and there to beat the Orioles. The Sox had 7 games against Baltimore at the back of this schedule, and they went 2-5 in those games. The Orioles' payroll is $75 million less than the Sox.

And while the Red Sox lose the burden of JD Drew, but we're still saddled with Carl Crawford and John Lackey. This is not a complete team. All the preseason hype from all the suckers and fools in this town was over fantasy baseball stats. This team needs more starting pitching. They need another reliable arm in the pen. They need a full-time catcher, outfielders who play 150+ games, they need a bench.

There are good players on this team, good players with heart. Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youkilis. There's talented guys like Gonzalez, Beckett, Lester. Buchholz will hopefully be healthy. Daisuke isn't a bad #4 or #5. Lackey needs to be quietly killed and his body left in a snowbank. But there is a foundation here. There's something to build on.

But there needs to be a significant amount of building.

One thing I am seeing from most of the team in their post-game media sessions is emotion. Frustration. Anger. Disappointment. That's been missing, at least in the public's eye, all throughout this stretch. Maybe this team can play with some fire next year. Then again, you have excuse conjurers like Lackey who think the entire universe (except for Jim Beam) is against them. I don't know how much this team's attitude will change. I think you have different kinds of personalities in that clubhouse, and when things go well on the field, there's chemistry. When they don't, things break down.

Bruins season starts in 8 days.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sox Considering Bruce Chen for Game 163

If there is a 163rd game tomorrow afternoon, the Red Sox might be starting someone new. Bruce Chen's name has been thrown around as a possible starter for the Sox. At the moment, it would be John Lackey who takes the mound.

Not only does Lackey suck, he'd be pitching on 3 days rest. Chen would be on 5 days rest. Chen actually had a decent year with the Royals, going 12-8 with a 3.98 ERA.

Chen didn't face the Rays at all this year, but in 2010, he started against them once and it was a complete game, 2 hit shutout. But in '09 against them, he had a 6.2 inning, 2 earned run game in which he allowed 5 hits and 3 walks.

The current Rays aren't too familiar with him, as they only have 64 total at-bats facing him. 28 of those at-bats belong to Johnny Damon, who hits .464 off him. BJ Upton is 1/12 in his career against Chen. Other than that, though, no Ray has more than 5 at-bats against him. No Ray has more than 1 hit, either. Pitchers tend to have the advantage when hitters aren't familiar with them.

The Rays are more familiar with Lackey (235 total at-bats). They hit .294 off him. Damon is 22 for 60 (.367), Ben Zobrist is 8 for 20 (.400). Lackey was 1-2 vs. Tampa Bay this season, with a 6.46 ERA. Last year he was 2-2, with a 6.26 ERA. This isn't a good matchup for him.

Chen was hit or miss in September. On the 18th, he made a 5.1 inning, 4 earned run start against the White Sox. Then on the 23rd, he went 8 innings against the same White Sox, allowing only 1 run off 2 hits. He was 2-3 in the month, with a pair of brilliant 8 inning starts, and 3 mediocre 4+ run starts.

Lackey has hardly been better down the stretch. 0-2 record with a 9.13 ERA in the month. He had a 3 inning, 5 earned run start against the Rays on the 9th. Like Chen, he was inconsistent. Unlike Chen, he made 3 atrocious starts in September, not 3 mediocre starts. And his 2 "good" starts were just good, not excellent, which Chen's were.

It's not that Bruce Chen is a good pitcher. It's just that John Lackey sucks. I know the entire pitching staff will be available in the bullpen in case Lackey falters, but I think Chen is less likely to outright blow the game. And with Chen, there's at least a possibility of a very good start.

Neither option is very pleasant, but I feel like Chen is the lesser of two evils.

Sox Win a Tense One

That was tense. The Sox' bats kept pulling away, but the Orioles kept coming. Nothing was easy. Just ask Papelbon after he needed 28 pitches for one inning (he needed 29 on Sunday).

The bats needed to come alive, as Bedard just wasn't good enough. Again. Thankfully, the Sox have Alfredo Aceves, who is the biggest unsung hero of the team. 3.2 innings from him (getting 1 more out than Bedard could), as he deservedly got win #10. He's pitched 113 innings this year in 54 appearances (only 4 of those were starts). Without him, the Sox are eliminated from contention over a week ago.

Daniel Bard sucks. I couldn't believe Francona didn't have Papelbon ready to come in to get the last out of the 8th. There's no way in hell that this guy is ready to be a closer.

Before last night, some people probably didn't know who Ryan Lavarnway was. After last night, I don't think anyone doesn't know who he is. He started off with a pickoff, then hits a 3 run homer, then a solo shot as an encore. He's 24, he hit .467 his junior year at Yale. He was hitting .295 in Pawtucket this year. Maybe he's a spark that this team desperately needs.

Ellsbury furthered his MVP bid with a 2 run homer in the 2nd. But another guy who has been contributing down the stretch is Scutaro. His 2 out double extended the inning that Ellsbury hit his homer in. Later, Scutaro hit a 2 run shot of his own. He's hitting .368 in September.

Now we wait for Game #162. The Rays beat the Yankees, thanks in part to a bases loaded triple play. So we wait. Jon Lester will take the mound for the Sox. He's 14-0 in his career against Baltimore. Though it's only his second career start on 3 days rest. That other start didn't go well (4 runs in 5 innings back in April of '08), but he only threw 55 pitches on Saturday so maybe he'll be better rested.

The O's will counter with Alfredo Simon who is 4-9 with a 4.85 ERA. He's a righty journeyman and not very good. There's no reason for the Sox to not score runs off him. He allowed 3 in 4.2 innings against the Sox earlier this year.

And if necessary, the AL Wild Card playoff game would be Thursday at 4:07, and would be in St. Petersburg.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's All About Pitching

Everyone's been blaming Theo and Tito for the Red Sox' September swoon. They're even blaming pitching coach Curt Young, which is slightly more intelligent since it is pitching that wins and pitching that loses. I know that's hardly an original thought, but with the blame game being played, I feel like all the fault for this stretch of wretched baseball belongs to this team's starting pitchers.

The Red Sox are 29th in Quality Starts (starts of 6+ innings, allowing 3 earned runs or less). 70 Quality Starts in 160 games. Only Baltimore has fewer with 60. The Yankees have 84. The Phillies have 107. And that's too bad, because when the Sox do get a Quality Start, they're nearly unstoppable. They're 54-16 in those 70 games (.771). Without a Quality Start, the Sox are 35-55 (.389).

Beckett and Lester have the lion's share of Quality Starts for the Sox. 38 combined. Yet in September, they've only each made one Quality Start. These are the foundations of the Red Sox rotation, and they are having two of the biggest slumps on the team.

One reason the Sox don't have as many Quality Starts as they could is the loss of Buchholz. Buchholz struggled in April, but 6 of his last 9 starts were Quality Starts. The Red Sox were 8-1 in those 9 starts. Losing him has cost the rotation some serious stability.

Losing Daisuke didn't hurt much, to be frank. He only had 2 Quality Starts in 7 chances.

I wasn't that impressed with this rotation at the beginning of the year. It seemed to rely on Beckett being consistent (something his career record has proven that he isn't), Daisuke being both good and healthy (something which is almost as rare as Beckett being consistent), a young Buchholz duplicating an extraordinary season, and John Lackey being the exact opposite of what he's been lately.

Lackey actually got worse, Beckett was great for a time, but now he's slumping (his inconsistency reappearing). Buchholz was doing well then got hurt, Daisuke wasn't doing well then got hurt. And Lester is a good 2 or 3 pitcher and not an Ace.

We all thought we had a better rotation than the Yankees. But we don't. We never did. We mocked them for just having CC Sabathia, but there's no pitcher on the Sox even close to Sabathia. And the Yankees don't have anyone as bad as Lackey.

It's all about pitching. Even with a fantastic offense, if you don't get a good start, you're going to struggle to win. If Beckett or Lester each made just one more Quality Start in September, the Sox could have already clinched. Now, their postseason lives are on the line. And if they don't get Quality Starts in the next two (maybe three) games, then they'll almost surely die.

A 2 Game Season

The Sox had Josh Beckett on the mound. They needed a great start from him. They did not get one. And once again, a poor pitching performance resulted in a loss. Although it's not like the offense did their job either. They got on base (11 hits, 4 walks), but couldn't get the hits when it mattered most.

I want this team to make the playoffs, simply to avoid the shame of such an historic collapse. But this team simply does not deserve it. People have criticized the GM, the manager, this team's "heart" or lack thereof. They've blamed injuries, and there's some validity to that. I, however, do not think this team has good pitching.

And while the offense scores runs in big bunches, it's not structured to be consistent. The lineup is too vulnerable if one or two key players slump at the same time.

The whole season is on the line. The Sox arrived in Baltimore with some momentum, with an alleged Ace on the mound, and with their destiny completely in hand. If they'd swept the O's, they'd win the Wild Card. Now the Sox have to win 2 games and they still might need a one game playoff against the Rays in order to make the postseason.

Erik Bedard faces Zach Britton tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, September 26, 2011


I'm getting flashbacks of 2009, and I don't think it's because of A Football Life: Bill Belichick. It's because this team isn't playing as well as it should. The offensive numbers are gaudy. The Pats amassed 495 yards on Sunday. But the defense has shown vulnerabilities in all three games. And now Brady is making mistakes. The Pats can win without Brady being perfect. But they simply cannot win when he turns the ball over 4 times.

The picks were products of arrogance. Brady dazzles us with his perfect throws, but he gets cocky sometimes. Can't blame him. He'll throw 9 or 10 consecutive completions, often into coverage. And more often than not, he's able to place the ball so perfectly that only Gronkowski or Welker can retrieve it. But if those throws are only 99% perfect, they're risky. The margin for error is so slim, and Mr. Brady is still a human being. He makes mistakes. And that was more than apparent yesterday.

I don't want Tom Brady to tone down his aggressiveness. But there's a fine line between fearless and reckless. He's not Brett Favre tossing up ducks out there, but he's good enough that he doesn't need to be forcing some of these passes. He can find other options.

Now to the officiating. The pass interference call on Sergio Brown was awful, and it saved Ryan Fitzpatrick from one of the biggest mistakes of his life. The Bills scored a touchdown instead of the Patriots getting the ball back with a 24-17 lead. That call was awful, and it may have changed the result of the game.

But the Patriots shouldn't need a perfectly officiated game in order to beat the Bills. They shouldn't need all the bounces and calls to go their way.

And after the blown call, how did Brady respond? He doesn't see a linebacker, throws it off his helmet, and a Buffalo Bill catches it. You can call the bounce unlucky, but a QB has to see linebackers lurking underneath. If it hits an LB's helmet, it just as easily could have been caught by him.

Then there were moments like the confusion induced false start on 3rd and goal, just before Welker's game-tying TD. That was after a timeout. No excuse for confusion.

Speaking of timeouts, Rich Gannon is a moron. After the Bills' apparent touchdown was overruled, Belichick called an immediate timeout because the clock would have started to run once the ball was set. The replay was initiated by the booth, which means that the clock would resume as normal once the review was over. Belichick called a timeout to stop the clock.

The Patriots' defense looked awful. I don't know why they even use people in the safety position. Forget the 3-4/4-3 debate, just go with a 5-4 front and two CBs. Devin McCourty has looked so exposed this year because he's on an island. He's good, but he's not good enough to do that. Few are. He has no safety help, neither does Bodden.

Maybe Chad Ochocinco should play safety. He seems to be more adept at causing incompletions than he is at making receptions. I'm done defending Ochocinco. It's one thing to struggle with the verbiage of this complex offense. It's another thing to be unable to catch a perfectly thrown ball that touches both hands and the chest. A receiver that doesn't catch the ball is as useful as a kicker that struggles to kick the ball.

I know the Pats ultimately scored on the drive, thanks to the superhuman Wes Welker, but it took about 5 minutes for the Patriots to score. The game changes if Ochocinco catches that pass. Maybe Buffalo scores, but the Pats have enough time to respond.

Brady trusts Welker. He trusts Gronkowski, Branch, Hernandez, Woodhead, and even Edelman (pronounced Ed-ell-man, not aid-ell-man). I don't know how much he'll be trusting Ochocinco.

It'd be unfair to not talk about how amazing Welker's performance was. 16 catches (franchise record) for 217 yards (franchise record) and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for 19 yards. He's definitely healthy, and back as a force, and as Brady's #1 option.

Gronkowski also had an excellent game. 109 yards and 2 TDs. Stevan Ridley looked good, carrying the ball 7 times for 44 yards. I know the Patriots don't run much, but I'd like to see this kid get more carries. He's a powerful back, but is capable of getting a few more yards. I feel like runs that BJG Ellis gets 2, Ridley gets 4. When Ellis gets 3, Ridley would get 6. My one coaching criticism from Sunday would be that when Ridley was running well in the 4th, the Patriots inexplicably went back to running with Ellis.

Thankfully, the Jets lost to Oakland. Still, this was a divisional game. Divisional losses mean more than non-divisional losses. And while Buffalo is no longer the joke of a team they once were, the Patriots shouldn't be close to losing to them.

The defense on this team is not good enough to sustain itself if the offense makes mistakes.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, September 22, 2011

College Football Picks: Week 4*

Last week my picks were 2-5. On the season, I've made 20 picks, and have a record of 7-12-1. So things haven't been going very well. Factor in a 10% vigorish that the loser typically pays in a sports bet, and I'm averaging a -31.5% return on investment with these bets. That means for every $100 I theoretically wager, I'd get back $68.50 and lose $31.50. That's not good.

So I would advise that you look at my picks, and do the opposite.

This is a big weekend in college football. There are three huge conference games that could go a long way to determine BCS berths. #14 Arkansas is at #3 Alabama. #7 Oklahoma State is at #8 Texas A&M. #11 Florida State is at #21 Clemson. And here are my picks:

NC State +7.5 @ Cincinnati
I still have faith in the Wolfpack, and think very little of the Bearcats.

Syracuse -2 vs. Toledo
Why not? If Cuse loses, then I'll still be quite happy.

Boston College -9 vs. UMass
I'm tempted to take UMass on this one, but BC has got to be pissed, their defense should stop anything the Minutemen can muster, and Montel Harris might be back.

Florida State +2.5 @ Clemson
One team coming off a big loss, another coming off a big win. I think FSU is slightly underrated at the moment, and the opposite is true of Clemson. I'm sure Jenn Sterger agrees.

Arkansas +12.5 @ Alabama
In my preseason SEC preview, I picked Arkansas to win the West because they'd match up well with Alabama. When you're wrong most of the time, it's best to stick with your first pick. That way, at the most, you can only be wrong once.

Texas A&M -3.5 vs. Oklahoma State
OSU is good, A&M is better, and playing at one of the best home stadiums in the game.

LSU -5.5 @ West Virginia
I have a feeling like LSU might get worn down with their tough schedule. But until it happens, I can't not pick them.

USC +2.5 @ Arizona State
Why not?

Is Fenway Too Friendly?

I heard Maz and Felger discussing how friendly Fenway Park has been despite the Red Sox' struggles in September. For example, how everyone sings and sways to "Sweet Caroline" between the top and bottom of the 8th, even if the bullpen has just blown a lead in a crucial game against a crappy team.

And they're right. Fenway is different. It's different from what it was 10 years ago. It's different from the other venues in town. It's become more family friendly, which is nice. And you can't avoid pinkhats (at least they're nice to look at, especially in short shorts on a humid summer evening). But there have been all sorts of undesirable fans at these games.

At least once a game, I see a group of emo kids wearing Pedroia shirts. Emo Sox fans? Could you imagine seeing an emo Patriots fan at Gillette? How about an emo Bruins fan at the Garden?

The other day, there was a group of yuppies asking me where to get good beers. I pointed out a Blue Moon stand, told them where Sam Adams Octoberfest, Guinness, Smithwicks, and Harpoon were and they almost laughed at me. These beers weren't good enough for them. Or as they phrased it "Where can we find a beer we can actually drink?"

Fenway has become a great place to take a date (or so it seems, I wouldn't know). She can get a Mike's Hard Lemonade, eat a veggie burger or sushi, wear a shirt that says "Meet Me in the Dugout," and she can even wear high heels because they repaved the concourse to flatten out all those 99 year old bumps.

Fenway used to be a place where you wouldn't take prissy girls. You'd only take girls that I consider to be wife material. These are girls who actually like the sport, don't mind sitting in cramped seats, and will have a kielbasa dog, and drink Sam Adams or Molson with you.

The Sox have dramatically improved the experience at Fenway Park. The concourses are larger, there are more areas for fans to congregate and socialize. There are activities for kids. There's tons of concession stands and ATMs so long lines are rare. They've turned the cavernous interior into a nice place to be.

But while this means higher ticket prices, which means higher revenue, which means being able to sign talented players (or JD Drew and John Lackey), it also means that Fenway has become more of a picnic area than a ballpark.

Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, if you went to Fenway, all you could do was sit in your seat, drink, and watch the game. The game was everything. You were miserable if the Sox lost, ecstatic if they won. Now it's sort of like a party with a game of beer pong being played in the background. If something interesting happens, people applaud. But most of the time, they're just hanging out with their friends.

There's been no anger, no rage at Fenway these past two weeks. At Gillette, Patriot fans get mad if the Pats aren't leading by a 14 at halftime. Bruins fans get pissed if the B's fail to score on a Power Play. There's really no atmosphere at Fenway anymore. There's no buzz when the Yankees are in town. There's no tension when the weather gets cold and there's a pennant race. It's just a happy, fun place to be. It's no longer Fenway Park. It's Cheers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marlins' New Logo?

This is simply hideous. I liked the old fish on the F. That logo was cool. The Marlins sold lots of hats because people liked their logo and color scheme. Nobody (especially not in southern Florida) likes their team.

College Football Musical Chairs

The musical chairs of college football continue as Pitt and Syracuse will be joining the ACC. The move not only improves the football of the conference, it also dramatically improves the quality of the basketball. Syracuse, Duke, and UNC will all be directly competing against each other. The move also widens the ACC's footprint in the Northeast.

The ACC could stay at 14 teams, or it could easily expand to 16. UConn and Rutgers are very willing to join. Notre Dame has been rumored to be a target, and would obviously bring huge amounts of revenue and exposure to the conference. As a BC fan, I'd love if UConn and Notre Dame were to join Boston College in the ACC.

But Notre Dame's ample revenue streams are precisely why they won't join the ACC. They don't want to split their football money with anyone.

The ACC adding teams makes sense for several reasons. Obviously, adding quality football and basketball programs increases shared revenue for everyone. Also, the SEC is lurking, like a shark in deep waters and the ACC needs to protect itself.

Nobody knows how hungry the SEC will be to add teams. But if they do have an appetite, ACC programs like Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech might be on the menu. The ACC is actively defending itself in case that happens.

The Pac-12 has announced that it won't expand... today at least. They're happy with a 12 team conference and they'll all be making plenty of money.

This means that most of the Big XII is safe... today at least. Texas A&M will shuffle over to the SEC, and will likely do so uncontested now that the Big XII as a conference can still survive with 9 members. They may also add BYU or even West Virginia. The SEC has denied that it has already added Missouri.

The Big East is on life support. This isn't the first time. When BC, Miami, and Virginia Tech left, many thought that the Big East would die. So I don't want to start writing its obituary, but things seem worse this time around.

The Big East will be down to 7 teams with the departure of Pitt and Cuse (and the addition of TCU). If UConn and Rutgers defect to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big XII, the conference will either have to disband, or add low quality teams to survive. There simply aren't that many good non-BCS programs out there to add, though. Boise State, obviously. But who else? Houston? Central Florida?

I think the ACC will become the first 16 team "super-conference." They'll be an experiment for the other conferences to watch. If it works, then the SEC and others will follow.

We might end up with 4 BCS conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-16), each with 16 teams, 4 divisions, and 2 rounds of playoffs. Then maybe the 4 conference champs, plus 2 wild cards could be in a National Championship playoff. That'd be fine with me.

The Yankees Are Doing More for the Sox than the Sox Are

I'm going to make a Curt Schilling type of statement. I don't want the Red Sox to make the playoffs if it's just because of the Yankees winning. If this team backs in and clinches because the Yankees beat the Rays, I'm not going to be celebrating.

It's hard to attack Papelbon. This was only his 2nd blown save of the season. It's awful timing as the rest of the team is struggling. But the guy is 30 for 32 in save opportunities.

We can attack Bard. This was his 4th loss of September. He's become a liability.

It's also easy to attack the starting pitching. We're all criticizing the Sox for an apparent lack of effort. The pitching, though, has been horrendous. You can't expect to win when your starters go 2.2 innings. When you need 10+ runs to feel comfortable, there's a pitching problem.

Beckett can perhaps right the ship tonight. He faces 4-4 Tommy Hunter.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

College Football Summary: Week 3

This was one of the most surprising weekends of college football. Preseason preconceptions have now become misconceptions. And Oklahoma has finally won a big road game. And right now, it seems like OU and LSU are on a collision course. Here are the headlines from Week 3...

The Bulldogs are decent, but they won't fare well against the powerhouses in the SEC West. They won't move the ball against those top level defenses. It's kind of a shame that they're in such a stacked division. They're already 0-2 in the SEC and finishing 4-4 would be a relative success for this program.


Their defense is sick. I know it's still September, but a matchup between LSU's defense and OU's offense would be great to see. LSU has already beaten Oregon, they just won an SEC West road game. They still have trips to Morgantown and Tuscaloosa. If they go through their schedule with 1 or even 2 losses, it's tough to deny them a national title bid.

Boise State runs up the score against bad teams and they wind up as #4 in the country. Big fucking deal. I'm not impressed.

It's tough to argue against LSU being #1, but Oklahoma beat a very good Florida State team on the road. Had LSU's win over Oregon been in Eugene, things might be different.

Michigan State lost to Notre Dame, Ohio State lost to Miami. Iowa already lost to Iowa State. Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, and Illinois are the only undefeated teams left. Nebraska should roll over this overrated league.


Clemson beat Auburn. Miami beat Ohio State. Granted, Florida State lost to Oklahoma and Maryland lost to West Virginia, but those two teams are likely to win their conferences. I'm not saying the ACC is on par with the SEC or the Big XII, but they might be as good as the Big Ten.

Imagine a simple, top 8 playoff system. These would be the matchups.

#1 Oklahoma vs. #8 Texas A&M
#2 LSU vs. #7 Oklahoma State
#3 Alabama vs. #6 Wisconsin
#4 Boise State vs. #5 Stanford

Tell me you wouldn't be glued to the TV.

Yankees Fans Suck

Mariano Rivera surpassed Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves list yesterday afternoon. And there were 10,000 empty seats.

I know it was a makeup game, I know it was a Monday afternoon, I know there's no way to tell when Rivera would get that save opportunity. But 8 million people live in New York. And that's just within the city limits. 18 million people live in the area. 50,000 of them couldn't take the day off from work/school and watch a legend make history?

Yankee Stadium doesn't sell out all the time, even though the Yanks are in 1st. It's pathetic. No other word for it. Yankee fans will gloat and brag as if they had something to do with their team's success (even back in the 1920s), yet when one of their most important players makes history, he did so in a stadium that was 1/5 empty.

Splitting a Doubleheader With Baltimore Has Become Good News

This is the state of things. A split doubleheader with the O's is the best news Sox fans have been able to enjoy in weeks. It also seems like the Sox offense needs to score 18 runs in order for this team to win. The pitching has become that bad.

John Lackey is the worst regular starting pitcher in baseball. His ERA is up to 6.49. He's actually saved his worst performances for the end of the season. His July was mediocre, his August was bad, his September has been godawful.

The 18 run onslaught was nice, but does this offense simply annihilate bad pitching, then struggle against the good? Do they "run up the score" when Brian Matusz is on the mound, then can't get more than 4 or 5 runs against decent pitchers like Guthrie?

Perhaps the Game 1 loss yesterday was a wake-up call, and the team answered in Game 2. However, I think that the Sox simply pounded an atrocious pitcher. I'll definitely take the win, though.

Erik Bedard faces Rick VandenHurk (he's Dutch) tonight. VandenHurk has only made one start this year and he didn't get out of the 3rd, so the Sox should put up some runs.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, September 19, 2011

Patriots 35, Chargers 21

Brady had asked the fans at Gillette Stadium to get "lubed up" but it was the Patriots' offense that was a well oiled machine. Brady himself has already thrown for half a mile this season. BJG Ellis and Woodhead moved the ball well on the ground (4.1 per carry as a team), Branch had a 129 yard day, and Gronkowski caught 2 TDs.

The defense, however, played an equally important role in this victory. They forced four huge turnovers that were key turning points. Wilfork's interception took 3 points from San Diego, and gave 3 to New England. Sergio Brown's pick ended a San Diego drive that was threatening the end zone. Tolbert's fumble came on the heels of a failed 4th and 4 attempt by the Patriots and destroyed any chance San Diego may have had to drive to the end zone and take a lead. And Rivers' fumble ended the game.

What I really liked about the interceptions was the pressure that helped force them. A blitzing Ninkovich threatened Rivers, who threw without realizing Wilfork was lurking. It was a tremendous tip and catch by the 325 pounder, but Ninkovich's pressure set things into motion. Rivers' second interception also came when the pocket quickly collapsed around him. He threw without stepping through and Sergio Brown caught it.

It was Wilfork's and Brown's first career picks. I'm sure the Elias Sports Bureau could find the last time two teammates had their first career inteceptions in the same game. But I'm not doing all that research. I'll just guess it was 1971 and the Rams were somehow involved.

The Patriots' defense was good, not great. They had an important Red Zone stand, but they also allowed San Diego to convert 10 of 12 third downs. They made big plays with those turnovers, they also allowed San Diego to stick around.

I'm sorry if I sound like I'm attacking the defense, because I'm not. This defense is good enough to do two vital things:

1. Don't allow big plays
2. Make it difficult to score in the Red Zone

If that happens, the Patriots will be fine. Opposing teams will score, but so long as it isn't either quick or easy, then the Pats will be good to go.

Back to the offense, before anyone criticizes Chad Ochocinco, can I just point out that the guys Brady is throwing to are pretty damned good? Branch, Welker, Hernandez, Gronwkoski, Woodhead. That's a nice grouping. And they've been open. Why wouldn't Brady throw to them?

The people that have been critical of Ochocinco are usually the same ones that thought he'd be Randy Moss 2.0. He's not. He's a veteran receiver learning a system, and he's competing for playing time and receptions with some of the best in the business, who all know the system well.

Then think about history. How many passes has Brady thrown to Ochocinco? How many hundreds more has he thrown to Welker? How many millions more has he passed to Branch?

Ochocinco is the 3rd receiver in an offense that almost always has an RB in the backfield, and often uses 2 or 3 tight-ends. Just because he's not on the field doesn't mean he doesn't comprehend the offense.

Things look good. There's room for improvement, but winning while improving is the best.

Pats at Bills at 1 on Sunday.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, September 16, 2011

College Football Picks: Week 3*

I went 1-4-1 with my picks last week, dropping my total record to 5-7-1. But it's early in the season, and we're all trying to figure out who's good and who isn't. Here are my picks for this week:

Boise State -20 @ Toledo
I normally don't like big spreads, but this one seems small. And once Boise State gets ahead, they tend to pour it on.

West Virginia +1 @ Maryland
This is a close game to pick, but I have to go with West Virginia because they're slightly more talented.

Penn State -6.5 @ Temple
Ummmmmmmmmmmm, duh.

Auburn +3.5 @ Clemson
Auburn has won a pair of ugly games, but it's not like Clemson's wins over Troy and Wofford were meaningful.

Michigan State +5 @ Notre Dame
I had to double-check that this was the spread.

Ohio State +3 @ Miami
The only professional football game that's being played on Saturday.

Florida State +3 vs. Oklahoma
I'm picking against my heart here.

A Football Life... Wow

If you didn't see Part 1 of A Football Life: Bill Belichick last night, you either need to see it OnDemand. Or if you don't have NFL Network, you need to sleep with someone who does and/or break into their house and watch it. Or wait for the inevitable DVD. It was bloody brilliant.

You rarely get any sort of inside look into what goes on behind the doors at Gillette Stadium. Saying Bill Belichick is slightly guarded is like saying Rex Ryan is a little outgoing. So this was fun to watch, to see meetings between Belichick and Kraft, between Brady and Belichick. Seeing Belichick reminisce about his days with the Giants was my favorite part.

He always seems to be multi-tasking. Walking on a treadmill while studying notes on a future opponent. And we learned why he's so brief when answering the media, it's because he's eating a salad.

Speaking of Rex Ryan, it's kind of funny how Ryan's antics in one pre-season provided enough material for an entire mini-series. They followed Belichick for an entire year and only made two hours from it. But it seems like they have an amazing two hours of material.

I just wish they did this with Belichick every year, and could somehow do it going back in time when he was with the Giants.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Savard to Get Name on Cup

There hasn't been much good news for Marc Savard, but at least his place on the Stanley Cup Champions will be recognized on the most hallowed trophy in sports. He didn't play the minimum number of games, but they'll make an exception for him when engraving the Cup.

His career is likely over, but this isn't a bad way to end it.

How to Catch a Foul Ball

Why not catch a foul-ball like a badass without missing a beat in a cell phone conversation.
You can actually read his lips as he says "I just caught a foul ball."

Bruschi Attacks Ochocinco

Tedy Bruschi and now Rodney Harrison, both retired Patriots turned media members, have criticized Chad Ochocinco for his tweeting and lack of impressive play. The particular tweet in question is this:

"Just waking up after a late arrival,I've never seen a machine operate like that n person,to see video game numbers put up n person was WOW"

Which seems fairly innocent. Bruschi and Harrison are criticizing Ochocinco for being amazed by what the Patriots did Monday night. And I'm kind of with them on that. Brady wasn't amazed, nor was Gronkowski surprised or Branch bewildered. Did Belichick look like he didn't expect the Pats to score so much?

To be fair to Ochocinco, he's been on the Bengals' sidelines for a decade. The whole notion of prepare, then execute, then win is something foreign to him. He seems to be in a state of shock, he's struggled to learn the playbook, and he also might be afraid of making a mistake, and slowing down this mesmerizing machine.

He's had trouble with the preparation part, but I don't think Twitter is the problem. And if effort is the problem, isn't that up to Coach Belichick to enforce?

I love Bruschi and Harrison, but if a member of the media attacked one of their teammates when they were on this team, they'd rally around him and dismiss everything as an internal Patriots matter. Which it is. If Twitter's a problem, then let Belichick handle it. If Ochocinco isn't putting the effort in, let Belichick handle it.

Belichick is the coach, Ochocinco is the player, Bruschi and Harrison are the external entities now. Some of us expected Ochocinco to be amazing here, and that hasn't been the case. His on-the-field performance of 14 yards and 1 reception wasn't dazzling, but it didn't exactly hurt the offense either. Belichick will find a way to utilize Ochocinco. Bruschi is entitled to his opinion, but he's not the coach, he's on the outside.

One thing I do like is that none of the Patriots have given much of a response to this. And neither has Ochocinco.

School of Bard Knocks

Remember when Daniel Bard was a strength and not a liability? It seems like ages ago. Three of his 5 blown saves have come in the last two weeks, which is doubly painful because wins are at a premium for the Sox lately, and he's literally blowing them away.

Five appearances for Bard in September, 4.2 innings, 9 earned runs (19.29 ERA), 3 blown saves, 3 losses. The only person happy with Bard's September is Jonathan Papelbon's agent.

How often do you get a tolerable start from Lackey? How rare is it for him to give the Sox a chance to win? And Bard wasted it. The Sox got some nice timely hitting as well, enough to drive 4 runs in.

In a pennant race that's been heating up, it's a shame to waste wins like that.

And it better not continue this weekend. The Rays are 4 games behind in the Wild Card, and they come to Fenway for 4 games. A split would be huge for the Sox. A 4 game deficit with 14 games left is comfortable. But if the Sox lose 3, it's tight, and if they get swept, it's as tight as it can be.

Kyle Weiland vs. Jeremy Hellickson. These guys are 25 and 24 years old, respectively, and they're pitching in the middle of a pennant race. They'll have millions of Red Sox fans and a few dozen Rays fans watching their every move.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#200 For Wakefield

If you're not from around here, you might not get why Tim Wakefield's 200th career win is such a big deal for Sox fans. Wakefield's been with this team since 1995. That was when Roger Clemens, Aaron Sele, Jeff Suppan, Mo Vaughn, Mike Greenwell and Jose Conseco were on the team. Wakefield helped that team win the AL East with a 16-8 record.

After '95, the Sox entered one of the darkest periods in their recent history. Clemens went to Toronto, and suddenly returned to greatness. We saw the Yankees win the World Series, with Wade Boggs. And to be blunt, Tim Wakefield was a big part of that mediocrity.

My two biggest memories of Tim Wakefield are when he was on the mount when Aaron Boone hit his homerun in 2003, and it was Wakefield who pitched 3.1 innings of relief in Game 3 of the '04 ALCS, which saw the Yankees win 19-8, and Wakefield allow 5 runs.

But at least he ate those innings, saving the bullpen and preserving it for the marathon Games 4 and 5 that followed.

Look, Wakefield's not a great pitcher. He's not even very good. But he was there. He was there when things were good in '95, there when things got worse, there when they got better. He's familiar to us here in Boston. So it's nice to see him reach a modest milestone.

And you know what, nobody pitching in Major League Baseball today has more wins than him.

Last night's win was much needed for the Sox. Ellsbury continues to sizzle, and Pedroia exploded out of his slump with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 5 RBI. Unfortunately, Ortiz was a late scratch due to back spasms. The Sox simply cannot afford any more injuries so hopefully that's a minor issue.

John Lackey opposes Ricky Romero this afternoon. The Sox have been able to score against him this season, so hopefully the offense can carry Lackey to win #13.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baylor Trying to Save the Big XII

The SEC voted to invite Texas A&M to join their ranks. But before the Home of the 12th Man can be the SEC's 13th member, they're going to have to go through Baylor. One contingency of the SEC's invitation is that there be no legal challenges or roadblocks stopping A&M or any team the SEC decides to invite. Baylor, however, has decided to mount a legal challenge.

It makes sense for Texas A&M to join the SEC, especially with the threat of Oklahoma and Texas joining the Pac-12. It makes sense for the SEC to invite A&M, who has quality programs in multiple sports, and would also help open the state of Texas to SEC recruiters.

Baylor's decision to try to stop this also makes sense. The Big XII is about to be ripped apart, and Baylor will likely be one of the leftovers remaining. They'll likely be invited to the Mountain West, which is respectable, but it's not the BCS. The money that bowl games and TV contracts give to BCS conferences is ridiculous, and that money gets divided evenly by all members of the conference.

To be blunt, Baylor's been getting paid big money thanks to the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. I know they want to keep that money coming, but the reality is that TV dollars now dictate conference alignment, not geography and tradition.

Manny Being Arrested

Manny Ramirez was arrested last night in Weston, Florida and was charged with battery. Allegedly, he slapped his wife Juliana in the face, which also caused the back of her head to strike the headboard of their bed.

Manny reportedly told deputies that he'd grabbed his wife by the shoulder's, "shrugged her" and that's how she hit the back of her head. However, Police say that she had bruising in the back of her head, as well as "red welling" on her face.

None of this story surprises me. We've seen Manny slap a teammate in public, we know that he tried using PEDs, even after being caught and harshly punished. Quite simply, he lacks that voice in the back of his head that says "Don't do that." He's a child that doesn't understand punishment.

And it's sad, because his on the field performances were the stuff of legend. And now he's a cautionary tale.

Brady Drowns the Dolphins

There was a point in this game that I was worried. It was when it was 14-14 just after halftime. The Dolphins defense had been pressuring Brady, and I had a not-so-good feeling that the Pats would lose 24-21 or something. But a 10 play, 73 yard drive that ended with a 2 yard pass from Brady to Welker alleviated all my concern.

The Patriots' offense is just too good for most teams in the NFL to handle. As much as Jon Gruden was on Cameron Wake's junk, the Dolphins' defense simply could not fathom what Brady and his receivers and tight ends were doing to them.

Brady's numbers tell the whole story. 32 for 48, 517 yards, 4 TDs, and an interception that wasn't really his fault. 8 different Patriots caught passes. Four of those guys had over 80 yards receiving.

Defensively, the Patriots had a few agonizing drives. There were some big 3rd down and 4th down plays that reminded me of last year's 3rd down horror shows. But there was something different this time. There were some quality plays in big situations, especially from the defensive front. The raw power of Haynesworth pushed the defensive line back so many times.

This defensive line won't accumulate many sacks. But I don't mind that. I like seeing QBs make bad throws because they're afraid of being sacked. That's when they throw incompletions on 3rd and long, that's when they throw picks.

Just some notes on Tom Brady's performance: This was his 35th all-time 300 yard game, which is the 11th most in NFL history. John Elway is 10th with 36, and Drew Bledsoe is 9th with 37. Brady's 517 yards is the most for a New England QB. Brady now has 265 career TD passes, which is 10th most all-time, only 8 behind Joe Montana.

It wasn't perfect. Ochocinco was invisible except for one catch and a procedural penalty. Edelman was a bit too eager to return the ball even when it would have been better to take touchbacks. McCourty could have hauled in an interception. These were exceptions, though. This was a good win on the road in the division. I'll take it.

The Chargers come to town 4:15PM Sunday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

MLB Once Again Taking Itself Too Seriously

A few weeks ago, the Washington Nationals wanted to pay tribute to our armed forces by wearing hats representing the five branches of the military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard). But Major League Baseball said that the Nats would be out of uniform, and squashed the tribute.

Now MLB has once again taken its uniform policies too seriously, and in doing so has really pissed me off. The Mets wanted to wear special hats to honor the first responders to 9/11, the NYPD and FDNY.

But Major League Baseball said they wanted to keep policy consistent throughout baseball. In other words, every team has to wear the same type of hats. Over the weekend, teams wore hats with small American flags embroidered on the side. Joe Torre (MLB's executive VP for baseball operations), said of the policy: "Certainly, it's not a lack of respect."

No, it's just a lack of common sense.

In September of 2001, the Mets wore hats given to them by NYPD and FDNY. I don't see what the big deal would have been if they were allowed to do so last night. The NFL allowed individual players to alter their uniforms yesterday. Yet baseball can't allow the New York Mets to change their hats for a game?

There are some uniforms that should be taken seriously, even revered. A military uniform. A police uniform. Those uniforms have meaning, and should be respected. But a baseball uniform is just cloth.

College Football Summary: Week 2

I wasn't particularly excited about the slate of games on this weekend's schedule. But the beautiful thing about college football is that you never know which games will be entertaining to watch, and there were plenty of those on Saturday. Here are the highlights:

It was Michigan's first home night game and they'll probably host a few more after their 35-31 victory over the Irish. Night games are just better. The crowd is more amped (and drunker), the players have all day to get pumped for the game. It's just better.


I'm not normally a conspiracy theory guy. But OSU got a slap on the wrist even though their head coach failed to report violations. On Saturday, they're down 22-21 to Toledo, and fail to score on a 3rd & goal. Instead of being forced to kick a field goal, a ref throws a flag for defensive holding. The Big Ten Network doesn't show a replay, but on my DVR I watch the "penalty" and see a tight-end running into a safety and grabbing him. OSU gets a fresh sets of downs, and then a touchdown. Instead of a 24-22 Ohio State lead, it's 27-22. With 3 minutes left, Toledo drives to the 17, but can't just kick a field goal. They wind up turning the ball over on downs.

Ohio State gets away with everything. They might have lost to Toledo if not for a very bad call. I hate them more than any team in the country.

Oklahoma State demolished Arizona on Friday. Oklahoma became the first team to be voted #1 in the AP Poll 100 times. Meanwhile, Texas barely beat BYU 17-16, Missouri lost to Arizona State. ITexas A&M and Baylor were both idle this week, but they're probably the best two teams in Texas, perhaps TCU is on that level too. My point is, The University of Texas is the #4 team in Texas.

LSU should be ranked #1. Alabama went to State College, PA and left with a convincing win. Mississippi State is a darkhorse in the division, but they couldn't beat Auburn on the road. There are 5 legitimately good teams out there. Can any team run that gauntlet and not lose 2 games?


There wasn't much factual evidence to support Notre Dame's preseason rankings of 16 (AP), and 18 (Coaches'). And now everyone else in the country knows what I knew before the season started: Notre Dame sucks. They might start 0-3 as they host Michigan State next.

It's been 13 years (1998) since BC did not make a bowl game. But after the Eagles' 30-3 loss to Central Florida of C-USA, it's hard to imagine them winning the required 6 games. BC has no ability to score. They only had 141 yards of offense against UCF. Chase Rettig was 10 for 23 for 70 yards and 2 picks. BC should beat Duke and UMass at home, but now games against the likes of Wake Forest seem like daunting challenges.

Friday, September 09, 2011

College Football Picks: Week 2

I went 4-3 last week, getting both of the big games Saturday night dead wrong. Here are my picks for Week 2:

Missouri +9 @ Arizona State
ASU should be decent this year, but Missouri is kind of good. It's hard to imagine them losing, let alone losing by double digits.

Iowa -6 @ Iowa State
ISU sucks on toast.

NC State -1.5 @ Wake Forest
WFU is dreadful, NCSU is decent, this spread is too small.

Penn State +10.5 vs. Alabama
I'm pretty sure Bama will win the game, but by more than 10 points? I don't know.

South Carolina -3 @ Georgia
UGA does need to win this game so they'll be motivated. But SC is quite good.

Notre Dame -3 @ Michigan
I'm rooting for more lightning in this game between teams I despise.

Boston College +7.5 @ UCF
I do have a bad feeling that BC will lose, especially with Montel Harris out. But that's a big spread. Kind of. I don't know why but I'll take BC.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Russian Hockey Team Wiped Out in Plane Crash

This is fairly breaking news. A plane carrying 43 players from KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after take-off. The flight was destined for Minsk, where Lokomotiv were scheduled to start the 2011-12 KHL season. Word is, all but 2 on the plane were killed. A team spokesman announced: "We have no team anymore."

Among the dead is former NHL star Pavol Demitra, who played 16 seasons in North America with the Senators, Blues, Kings, Wild, and Canucks.

It's just a terrifyingly random and awful way for so many lives to end.

College Football Summary: Week 1

Week 1 rarely teaches us much, and by the time November comes, we usually don't remember nor care what happened. That's why it's kind of smart for some programs to schedule big non-conference games in Week 1. A win gives them momentum and can solidify their spot in the rankings (and get them TV games later in the year). A loss can be forgotten by the time the rankings really matter.

Here's what we learned about the 2011 season:


This is an important year for Baylor. The Big XII is on the verge of disintegration, which will leave Baylor's fate up in the air. If they can win some games, make some noise, and get to a decent bowl game, then they can have some decent options for which conference they want to go to next. I'm thinking they might replace TCU in the Mountain West.

Anyway, RG3 threw for 359 yards and 5 TDs, he also ran for 38 yards, and caught a pass for 15. Not bad at all.


It's shocking that people would rank Notre Dame higher than they belong. Absolutely baffling. If the Irish can't handle USF in their own backyard, how will they handle trips to Ann Arbor and Stanford, as well as visits from Michigan State and USC?


The SEC West is wide open. LSU just joined Alabama and Arkansas as the leading contenders. They dominated Oregon in a semi-neutral location (Baton Rouge is 450 miles from Arlington, Eugene is 2,000 miles away). It's almost impossible to go undefeated in the SEC, so having a big win like that already in the bank can help give the Tigers a national title berth, even with 1 loss or perhaps 2.

The Ducks weren't terribly outplayed, but they made huge mistakes at the worst points of the game and at the worst spots on the field. 4 turnovers, 12 penalties, and another loss to an SEC defense. The Ducks fly high when they're much more talented than their opponent, but when they face equal talent, they have yet to demonstrate the character it takes to win big games.


Speaking of Oregon, only they can wear silly threads and look cool. That's because their uniform was ridiculous to begin with. Forest green with lime green writing? Why not modify that? But when teams with traditional colors and standard uniforms try to copy Oregon's creativity, it never works out. Georgia's uniforms were so ugly, that they even failed at being ugly. Maryland's looked like a nightmare, Boise State's were ugly AND boring. Every team will try to imitate the Ducks, but only Oregon is Oregon.

It's hard to be impressed by a 19-17 home win over lowly Minnesota, but USC did something in this game that they notoriously failed to do in 2010: their defense made a big play at the end, instead of choking down the stretch. In the Pete Carrol days, USC won with their defense. Their current incarnation might not be as athletic or as dominant, but at least they apparently no longer will cost the Trojans any games.


Lightning seemed to effect about half of the games this weekend. It was a rare set of circumstances with several large weather systems covering the country. As the season progresses, and the weather cools down, lightning will stop being a factor.

The Eagles amassed 479 yards of offense, including 375 from QB Chase Rettig. But the BC quarterback couldn't get the ball into the endzone, and the eagles lost to a mediocre team that had a backup QB under center. Now BC travels to Orlando to play UCF, who won 11 games last year. A loss to UCF, and the Eagles can kiss bowl eligibility goodbye.

Offensive Feast or Famine for Sox

After being shutout for the 11th time of the year, the Sox put up 14 runs in Toronto. It was the 21st time the Sox have scored 10+ runs in a game. In other words, the Sox have had many games of no offense at all, and many games of much more than enough offense.

The Sox also got some pitching in this one as Lester went 7 scoreless, only giving up 3 hits and 1 walk, striking out 11. He only needed 100 pitches to get through those 7 innings.

The Sox hit 9 doubles, including 3 by Scutaro, and 2 from Ortiz.

Wakefield goes for #200 tonight, opposing 9-10 Brandon Morrow.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Video Game Idea: Bill Belichick's Situational Football

John Madden has made millions by lending his name to a video game. I think it's time for Coach Belichick to do something similar. This game will be different from all previous football simulations. You won't play entire games, you'll just play key moments, or key SITUATIONS. And unlike other football video games, you won't be playing as the ball carrier. You'll be playing at different positions for different situations. So on 3rd & 8 on the opponents' 35, you'll be a receiver, and you'll have to run your route deep enough to get the 1st down, or at least get to the 30 so your kicker can attempt a field goal. You'll be a gunner on punt coverage, a lineman pass blocking, a blitzing middle linebacker, et cetera.

And sometimes the position will seem boring. You'll be an offensive lineman and you'll have to try to hear the snap count in a noisy Indianapolis stadium. You won't get to let the entire play unfold. Once the ball is snapped, your job will be done and you'll move on to the next situation.

Another scenario: you'll be a free safety and you'll have to determine where to stand at the start of a play. Then you'll move on to the next situation.

And it won't just be on the field stuff. You'll have to know how and when to substitute in and out of the game. You'll have to memorize route trees. You'll learn how to answer questions from the media without really answering them. You'll have to turn on your video game system at a certain time each morning to arrive for practice, even if it's snowing.

This won't be as popular as Madden, which allows you to be the star of the game without any of the work or preparation. It will be more real, more down to earth, more nuts and bolts, and much less entertaining. Most people won't get it, will find ways to criticize it even though they don't understand it, then scratch their heads and wonder why it's successful. Some will then attribute its success to the players inside the game and not the coach.

I can't wait for Patriots' season to start.

Friday, September 02, 2011

College Football Picks: Week 1

I'm going to once again try picking college football games, with the spread. That way when I'm 30 games under .500 by October, I can blame the spreads. Here are my picks for Week 1:

Baylor +10 vs. TCU
I think Baylor has some talent, TCU lost most of theirs. TCU will win this game, but not by 10.

Northwestern +10 @ Boston College
Northwestern has a good passing game, BC's defense is a little weak against the pass. And with no Montel Harris, the Eagles have no offense.

Notre Dame -7 vs. South Florida
I don't have much faith in a middle of the pack Big East team to go to South Bend and lose by less than a TD.

Oklahoma -23 vs. Tulsa
OU can score a lot of points.

Georgia -3 vs, Boise State (Atlanta)
Big test for both teams to show how much they actually have.

Oregon +3 @ LSU (Arlington, TX)
This will be a fun game to watch, UO's offense vs. LSU's defense. But Oregon has the weapons.

Texas A&M -14 vs. SMU
I think the Aggies are good enough for a BCS bowl, and therefore should handle SMU.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

College Football Preview: BCS Bowls

So I've gone through the BCS conferences, and now it's time for me to predict which teams go to which bowls, and who wins the National Championship.

Here's who I picked as BCS conference champs:
ACC - Florida State
Big East - West Virginia
Pac-12 - Stanford
Big XII - Oklahoma
Big Ten - Nebraska
SEC - Arkansas

And here's who I think the 4 at-large teams will be:
Texas A&M
Michigan State

So here are my bowl picks:

Rose Bowl:
Michigan State vs. Stanford
I think Stanford outduels a very solid MSU team.

Sugar Bowl:
Alabama vs. Texas A&M
Texas A&M might be introducing themselves to the SEC with a win in New Orleans here.

Fiesta Bowl:
Oregon vs. Oklahoma
Oregon beats Oklahoma in a 100+ combined point slugfest. Who wouldn't want to see this game?

Orange Bowl:
Florida State vs. West Virginia
FSU tools on WVU in a battle of the bottom two BCS conferences. Who would want to watch this game?

National Championship Game:
Arkansas vs. Nebraska
A very entertaining defensive battle which will see Nebraska prevailing because they have a good QB and that's what separates these two teams.

Now imagine how entertaining it would be if these 10 teams (plus maybe Ohio State and South Carolina) were involved in a 12 team playoff. It's too bad.

College Football Preview: SEC*

The SEC West is once again the most formidable division in all of college football. And what makes the SEC so strong is that almost every team is at least solid. Put Kentucky in the Big East and they'd contend for the title. Predicting the SEC winner is about the same as prediction one of the two teams in the National Championship Game...

1. Arkansas Razorbacks
The Hogs are strong at WR and RB, but Ryan Mallett is simply irreplaceable. But while the offense will take a step back due to this loss, the defense will take a huge step forward thanks to a flock of talented veterans.

Key Games:
9/24 @ Alabama
10/1 vs. Texas A&M (in Arlington, TX)
11/5 vs. South Carolina
11/19 vs. Mississippi State (in Little Rock, AR)
11/25 @ LSU

Prediction: 12-1, SEC West winner, SEC Champion, National Championship contender

2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Bama will reload in the backfield with RB Trent Richardson, who ran for 700 yards last year. However, the QB position is still up in the air. A strong defensive line needs to emerge, as well. The defense was the strength of this team last year, and they still have excellent LBs and amazing DBs. Their schedule is as forgiving as it can get in the SEC West. They'll be great, just not good enough to beat Arkansas in September. It's far too early in the year for the offense to take shape and the defensive line to gel.

Key Games:
9/29 vs. Arkansas
11/5 vs. LSU
11/12 @ Mississippi State

Prediction: 10-2, 2nd in SEC West, BCS berth

3. South Carolina Gamecocks
SC brings back talent like RB Marcus Lattimore, who ran for 1,197 yards and 17 TDs as a freshman. There's also WR Alshon Jeffery, who had 1,517 receiving yards and 9 TDs as a sophomore. If the Cocks get consistent QB play, they'll be good to go on offense. The defense also needs consistency. They're in the "weaker" SEC East, and I think they'll be good enough to repeat as divisional winners.

Key Games
9/10 @ Georgia
10/15 @ Mississippi State
11/5 @ Arkansas

Prediction: 10-3, SEC East winner, SEC title game loser

4. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia is slightly overrated, as usual. But they do have an excellent young QB in Aaron Murray, who's entering his sophomore season after 3,000+ yards and 24 TDs as a freshman. He'll need the help of an untested WR cast, and the rushing offense needs to improve from being 10th in the SEC last year. Defensively, they've gotten more girth in the middle of the D-line, which should help them play their 3-4.

UGA is just good now, they'll be a powerhouse in 2012.

Key Games:
9/3 vs. Boise State (in Atlanta, GA)
9/10 vs. South Carolina
10/1 vs. Mississippi State

Prediction: 9-3, 2nd SEC East

5. LSU Tigers
Will QB Jordan Jefferson finish the season as the starter? That's up in the air. The Tigers' intermittent offense was why they lost to Auburn and Arkansas last year. And things don't get much better in the backfield as RB Stevan Ridley needs to be replaced. Defense will be the key to LSU's success, but defense can take you only so far. We'll get to see how good LSU's defense is this weekend.

Key Games:
9/3 vs. Oregon (in Arlington, TX)
9/15 @ Mississippi State
9/24 @ West Virginia
11/5 @ Alabama
11/25 vs. Arkansas

Prediction: 9-3

6. Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs should have a balanced offense thanks to a rush game that's proved itself strong and an improved passing game. The defensive line will be the key to improving performance on the other side of the ball, and the LBs need to learn how to make plays fast. If the defense can stop the run, the Bulldogs can play ball with the big boys in the SEC West. This will not be an easy team to beat.

Key Games:
9/15 vs. LSU
10/1 @ Georgia
10/15 vs. South Carolina
11/12 @ Alabama
10/19 @ Arkansas (in Little Rock, AR)

Prediction: 9-3

7. Auburn Tigers
How good is the SEC? The defending National Champs are the 7th best team. Anyway, the Tigers only return 2 starters on offense, 3 on defense. RB Michael Dyer will be the workhorse of the offense. He ran for over 1,000 as a freshman. But questions surrounding the QB, WR, and line positions means it'll be a long year in Auburn.

There's only one senior starting on defense. In any other division in any other conference, Auburn would have a chance. But not with trips to Columbia, SC; Fayeteville, AR; Baton Rouge, LA; and Athens, GA.

Prediction: 7-5

8. Florida Gators
What a surprise, people are overrating Florida. But not me. Their offense is neither talented nor tested. Their defense returns only 3 starters and most players will need a full season to properly mature. They'll be tough to play, but they are quite beatable.

Prediction: 7-5

9. Kentucky Wildcats
UK lost its skill position talent. Defensively, they do have a star in LB Danny Trevathan, who made 144 tackles last year. Their defense is OK, and they'll perhaps be part of an upset that alters the outcome of the SEC.

Prediction: 6-6

10. Tennessee Volunteers
This is a year for the Vols' offense to improve after being 11th in the SEC. They have talented pieces, like sophomore QB Tyler Bray, who did well down the stretch in 2010. However, their defensive situation is utterly disorganized. They could make a bowl game in 2011, and they could do much more in 2012.

Prediction: 5-7

11. Ole Miss Rebels
One player sums up Ole Miss' football program. And that one player is RB Brandon Bolden who is the leading returning passer (1/1 for 7 yards), rusher (163 carries, 976 yards, 14 TDs), and receiver (34 catches, 344 yards, 3 TDs). He's the only talent at the skill-positions. He'll at least have a decent line to run behind. Defensively, the Rebels will be toyed with by their 5 bigger brothers in the SEC West.

12. Vanderbilt Commodores
The Commodores return 10 offensive starters... unfortunately. Because they were 112th in scoring last year and 110th in total yardage. On the plus side, they were 80th in rushing yards. The quality they have on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield will keep teams from blowing them out too badly, but that'll only affect the spread, and not much more.

Prediction: 2-10