Tag Archives: College Football Playoffs

The College Football Playoff Is Not Going To Expand

Jim Harbaugh appeared on a morning sports talk radio and had some interesting opinions on things. I’m not talking about who’s going to be the starting quarterback at Michigan because no one cares, that season is over. What I’m referring to is Harbaugh’s opinion on the College Football Playoff.

The Michigan head coach thinks that the playoff field should be expanded from the current four teams. That’s not a surprise, a lot of people want that. What is a surprise is how many teams Harbaugh thinks should be allowed in. Harbaugh doesn’t want six or even eight. He wants 16 or at the very least, 12.

I’ve got two arguments against why he’s not talking any sense. One of them is why it’s a bad idea and the other is why it’s never going to happen. Neither of them has to do with Harbaugh only wanting it because it looks like that might actually be his best shot to win a title while at Michigan.

There’s a lot of arguments against why a larger playoff field is a bad idea but most of them aren’t taking into account a 16 team field. They’re more based on the argument for the six or eight-team expansions. Those expansions would be fine in my opinion but the double-digit field takes away the one thing that separates college football from every other sport: the regular season.

The regular season in college football is unlike any other sport, both professionally and collegiate. A team’s season lives and dies with every single game every single week. You lose in Week 7? Well, you’re probably screwed. Lose in Week 3? You might be able to recover yet. Compare that to college or pro basketball for a second. Their regular seasons are pointless, especially college basketball when 68 teams get to go to the postseason. You see teams without winning records go to the postseason a fair amount in all sports.

Except for college football.

The regular season means everything and if the field expands to 16 teams, the sport loses that sense of urgency to win every game. Take last season for instance. The Michigan-Ohio State game that went to double overtime in 2016 wouldn’t have mattered because both of them and Penn State would already be going to the playoff. Would players have played as hard if there was nothing on the line? Probably not.

So that’s why playoff expansion is a bad idea but let me tell you why it’s not going to happen.

Slowly but surely, non-Power Five schools have been creeping into the AP and College Football Playoff polls. Houston, Western Michigan, Temple, and more have all made appearances in the last few years. The Houston Cougars even finished 2015 ranked inside the top ten. That’s a trend that despite the reluctance to let go of the traditional “blue blood” programs that have the name recognition, people have started to realize that these teams can be and are pretty good.

What’s this got to do with the College Football Playoff expanding?

Glad you asked.

If the playoff field expands at some point a non-Power Five school is going to make it in. Suppose Boise State gets in and are set to face the USC Trojans. During the first quarter of the game, the starting quarterback for USC tears his ACL and Boise State wins that game. Suppose they come out firing on all cylinders and take down a Michigan State team that just can’t get in sync. The Boise State Broncos manage to run the table and are unexpectedly crowned the champions of college football.

Seems like it’d be pretty cool, right?

Not unless you’re a Power Five commissioner and you like money.

Per Forbes, a team makes their conference $6 million just by simply appearing in the College Football Playoff. That’s chump change when you consider what conferences can make from all the bowl games. Check this out: the Big Ten made $132.5 million from postseason bowl games last season.

$55 million base payout.

$6 million for Ohio State’s berth in the Fiesta Bowl which is a College Football Playoff game.

$4 million for Wisconsin’s berth in the Cotton Bowl.

$40 million for Penn State’s berth in the Rose Bowl.

$27.5 million for Michigan’s berth in the Orange Bowl.

All those major bowl games are out the window with an expanded playoff field so the Big Ten has 132.5 million reasons to not want expansion. Let’s all be honest with each other for a moment: money talks. Everything is driven by what makes someone money and postseason play is an absolute cash cow for these conferences.

College athletes can’t get paid and you think these conferences are going to share their money with even more teams and conferences that get into the College Football Playoff?

The University of Memphis has a better shot at making the playoff this year than we do at seeing a 16 team playoff so just go ahead, get comfy, and get used to a four-team College Football Playoff.

Email Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

Image courtesy Flickr

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Bowl Season’s Biggest Winner: ACC Football

If you’ve read my articles here before, then you know I am admittedly a huge SEC homer. I was raised on SEC football and would not feel the way I do about the sport of football as a whole if it weren’t for the SEC.

Last year, the SEC did pretty well overall in bowl play. I would’ve given them props for that. In fact, I probably did. This year, it was a mixed bag for the conference I love.

But, there was a conference that really did shine in the most unimportant games of the season. That conference, to most people’s surprise, was the ACC.

Earlier this year I wrote an article trying to tell people to show ACC football some respect. After all, you don’t have to like the ACC to respect it. And now those of you that did read that article back then will see that sometimes I’m right. (I’m also wrong sometimes, too.)

But instead of just bragging about being right about that call, I will walk you through exactly how the ACC proved that I was right this bowl season. As I said above, bowl games are largely unimportant. That being said, they do come with bragging rights for the teams and conferences that fare well.

So, here’s to the ACC. Enjoy your bragging rights for the next eight months, and we’ll see what happens next year.

The ACC did take 3 L’s in bowl play. One of those really wasn’t that bad, in my opinion. But Louisville’s (vs. LSU) loss and Pittsburgh’s (vs. Northwestern) loss were both inexcusable. In a somewhat comical manner, I did manage to call the outcome of that LSU game on Twitter though. #SorryNotSorry

Let’s face it: Lamar Jackson had to carry Louisville this season, and if he was shut down then the team was hopeless. LSU shut him down and the Cardinals were hopeless.

And as for Pitt, I really didn’t see that loss coming. I guess that’s what happens when you cough up the ball four times. Northwestern wasn’t bad this year, but it also wasn’t good. Even with four turnovers, I’m still surprised Pitt dropped this game.

The other ACC bowl loss, the one that I don’t think was all that bad, was North Carolina’s loss to Stanford. North Carolina had some great moments this season, including victories over both Miami and Florida State. The Stanford Cardinal had a more solid season overall so I wouldn’t have expected a win from North Carolina in this one. Keeping the game as close as the Tar Heels did was actually pretty impressive. Here’s to moral victories!

Now, let’s discuss the ACC’s wins. And as I write this, there are eight of them. There could potentially be nine after the College Football Championship game. But I won’t get into that. My SEC bias might start showing again.

Boston College beat Maryland. But who really cares? Maryland is only recognizable in the college football world because of its hideous uniforms. Not to mention, Maryland left the ACC. The joke’s on them now.

Going into the bowl game with Wake Forest, Temple had actually put together a pretty good season. The Owls finished out the season with a convincing win over Navy, which was actually doing pretty well this year. The Demon Deacons jumped out to an early lead over the Owls and managed to hold onto that lead for the remainder of the game. They also had cool shiny helmets, so that’s a win too.

I never thought I would say beating Kentucky in football is a good win, but I’m saying it now. Georgia Tech’s win over Kentucky may not be as impressive as the win over Georgia during rivalry week. But now the Yellow Jackets are on a roll against the SEC East, having won their last three games against teams in the division. As we all know, the SEC East is not exactly full of formidable opponents. It’ll be interesting to see how the Yellow Jackets fare against one of the SEC East’s better teams, the Tennessee Volunteers.

Speaking of SEC East opponents that aren’t formidable, N.C. State dominated Vanderbilt in a game that was never close. N.C. State wasn’t exactly impressive during regular season play either but it did finish the season on a high note with a big rivalry win over North Carolina on the road. With that win and this dominant performance against Vanderbilt, it seems that the Wolfpack may be gaining momentum.

Arkansas may not be in the SEC East, but the ACC did notch another win over the SEC as a whole when Virginia Tech topped Arkansas in comeback fashion. Arkansas has always been confusing under Bret Bielema, and you never know what to expect from the team. Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente has been incredibly impressive, and the win over Arkansas just solidified that.

I don’t like West Virginia and I never have, but watching Miami get a relatively easy victory over the Mountaineers wasn’t any fun for me as a Gator fan. Mark Richt has done pretty well in his first season with the Hurricanes, and topping that off with a bowl win over a ranked opponent was a great sign for Miami fans. Maybe they’ll finally be able to forget the dark days of Al Golden.

Floridians can be proud of the college teams in their state because Florida State also managed to get an impressive win over Michigan. Michigan was supposedly a playoff contender but after an embarrassing first half in this game, Florida State made the Wolverines look like pretenders. As much as I may dislike both teams, I have to admit that this was a great win for the Seminoles and for the ACC.

Last but not least, there’s Clemson’s College Football Playoff beatdown of Ohio State. This was a glorious moment for me as an Ohio State/Urban Meyer hater. The one team from the Big Ten that did make it to the Playoff wasn’t even able to score a single point against Clemson. Talk about pretenders! I truly have a huge smile on my face as I write this. Clemson absolutely destroyed Ohio State, just showing the rest of us how overrated the Buckeyes (and the Big Ten teams) were this season.

Here it is: Yes, the ACC had a couple bad losses and one loss that was a moral victory so to speak. Still, the ACC had numerous good wins and a few great wins this bowl season. Like I said before, maybe it’s time to finally give credit where credit is due.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo courtesy of Ken Lund.

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I Don’t Like Alabama, But I Sure As Heck Respect It

This is one of those rare moments when I swallow my Gator and Vol pride to give credit where credit is due. The Alabama Crimson Tide is getting all the credit I can get myself to give to it today. I will make this clear: I loathe Alabama football and I obviously cannot stand Lane Kiffin. But that does not mean I will not show them some respect when it comes to what they manage to do season after season. The Tide is consistently excelling in the hardest division of the strongest conference in all of college football. That alone is absolutely incredible.

I will be the first to admit that I tend to underestimate Alabama every single year. I always think they lost too much talent so they may need to rebuild. What I seem to forget is that they are pulling in phenomenal recruits year after year. Last year, I even went so far as to say that Nick Saban was about to be in Urban Meyer’s shadow. I am eating those words at the moment. I take it back. I take it all back. As my penance for that terrible thing I said, this year I will not underestimate Alabama football. This year I am finally ready to put aside my pride and give them the credit they clearly deserve.

Their spring game was admittedly a bit underwhelming, with a whopping ten points scored overall. When you are an Alabama fan though, I doubt you really care about what happens in the spring game. You just know deep down that your team will perform when it counts. That feeling must be nice.

Last year Alabama had a quarterback battle that lasted into the season. This year it still has quite the quarterback competition going on in Tuscaloosa. This one might last into the season as well. If last year is any indication of who will be the starting quarterback, then you can bet Cooper Bateman will get his chance to go from second-string to first-string. With other athletic contenders in the mix, namely Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts, I would definitely not give Bateman the starting job quite yet. Replacing last year’s quarterback may not be their biggest concern heading into next season though.

The Tide lost key starters on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the biggest concern for Alabama right now is the offensive line. I know we have to take spring games with a grain of salt, but let it be known that the offensive line allowed eleven sacks in that game. Now, it is definitely worth nothing that a sack in a spring game is not as physically involved as one during a real game. It is also worth noting that Alabama probably has a top ten defense again so, of course, the defense is going to get some sacks. That kind of smothering defense is just something we have come to expect from them. Still, the number stands, and eleven sacks are just too many to completely overlook. Knowing Alabama football, though, I am sure the Tide will have it figured out in time for the College Football Playoff next year. Just maybe not in time for the Ole Miss game.

So what else is there to think about? Worried about them replacing Derrick Henry? No need to be. Bo Scarbrough seems to be more than ready to pick up right where Henry left off and there is some pretty good depth at running back behind him. So what about the defensive talent they lost? I said it once and I will say it again: Alabama probably has a top ten defense again. Okay, they lost Kirby Smart as their defensive coordinator. Never fear. We all know Nick Saban is the one who really calls the shots in Tuscaloosa anyway. Here’s the thing: every single potential problem I propose already has a clear solution. And that is their secret. That right there is how Alabama does it, folks.

Nick Saban at the helm and good recruits from years passed make almost every personnel (and coaching) loss a non-issue for the Crimson Tide. That is exactly the thing I failed to understand when I was quick to say Alabama could not win a title last year. I mean is there ever really a year when Alabama does not have the potential to win a National Championship? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a strong “no.” Love them, hate them, envy them, doubt them…do whatever you want. At the end of the day the haters will continue hating while the Crimson Tide keeps dominating. As Birdman might say, put some “respek” on their name!

Now please excuse me while I go thoroughly wash out my mouth with soap for saying all this. I am truly sorry to all my other SEC friends for writing this article. And to my dear father who taught me everything I know about football, I hope you are not too disappointed in your little girl right now. But, if you guys want to see how much I really do dislike Alabama then make sure to follow me (@OGKristenB) on Twitter. I assure you that I definitely do not usually sing their praises.

Photo of Bryant-Denny Stadium courtesy of Latics.

New Year Breeze: Hope Frees, CFB Semis & NFL Regular Finale

We’re in the singularly scintillating time of season for college foot-bowl semifinals (blowouts), NFL playoff-slot finalization, the carnage of NFL coach elimination, and the eternally springing hope of a New Year’s clear determination to do different, better: thinner, happier, more productive. Filled with the freshly-fallen inspiration of life enchantment , still untainted by time’s gritty-truth-cycle, I’d like to offer this re-working (ruining) of New Year’s classic tune as a gift from hope’s fleeting seat, or a garish gargle of peril to come, depending on if you feel the beat, sung: *(To the tune of “Auld Lang Syne“)* Should bubbly bottles be full-bought, as fizz post-pop floats on; Ice trays refilling drinks all night, some drunks last long past dawn; Thy Chicken Breasts be microwav’d, skat jazz speak best left behind; And friendly faces to deflect, from jocks Time thought divine. *(If you don’t like this rhyme-mime let Mr. Tom Waits tell you what’s fine and divine between New Year grime)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Link Dinks and Dunks https://twitter.com/nickbreezus/status/683435887506644992 No surprise, OSU’s sometimes QB Cardale going proA look at ‘Bama’s stud in the fading fullback field…Who will watch the playoff on New Year’s fricking Eve?…Auburn tops Memphis in Birmingham Bowl…Nice video on the world of East St. Louis (MO.) High School football

CFB Game of the Week: $$$2 Alabama 38 vs. #3 Michigan State 0 (Cotton Bowl – CFB Semi) If you didn’t know the final score and only saw the first couple drives for each team, you might’ve thought this game played out as a low-scoring, grind-it-out, defensive affair. Of course, you’d be wronger than ketchup on cereal as Alabama quickly adjusted to Sparty’s D mostly suffocating stud RB Derrick Henry by countering with QB Coker to flossy-Freshman WR Calvin Ridley, opening the floodgates from a weapons-grade warehouse of whoop-ass. I weep for East Lansing a bit, as the “little-brother” tag they’d seemed to have shed by (barely) beating Michigan, Ohio State, winning the Big Ten title and making the Playoff has now come creeping back since being so thoroughly outclassed against ‘Bama.

The same tired (but partially true) storylines of “Vastly superior SEC line play stomps Spartan hopes” and “Alabama’s stockpile of seasoned 5-star recruits smashes MSU’s overachievers” have already begun to spin out of control, and I just hope we can all remember how great Alabama is and how no one can take away the massive step Michigan State’s program has taken recently, now sitting comfortably among college football’s elite. Perhaps some teams are just perpetual media underdogs, no matter how consistently excellent they are.

Perhaps the Carolina Panthers would’ve gotten smashed by this Crimson Tide machine, which now appears enroute to its 4th national championship title in the past 7 years, once those pesky Clemson Tigers get out of the way.

One Play From the Game, My Way: Derrick Henry trucks Shilique Calhoun to end Sparty’s evening, season THIS IS WHAT I’M DOING TO DEPRESSION, DISTRACTION, AND INACTION IN 2016 https://vine.co/v/iqln6AYMeqL MSU’s outstanding DE, Shilique Calhoun is the player Derrick Henry so effortlessly flings to the field in the Vine above. Shilique Calhoun will likely be a 1st or 2nd-Round pick in this April’s NFL Draft, was a 2nd-team All-American this past year, and is “oh-by-the-way” 24 years old. In other words, he’s a bona-fide beast with age and size on his side.

However, Derrick Henry is this year’s Heisman winner, touting a mutant stregth-size-speed combination and a left-handed stiff-arm made of malice and built to bust egos. This is just one play from many, and things happen so fast in games that it’s terribly unfair to slow them down, slap ’em on a repeating Vine, and have the outstanding player quickly beaten in a singular instance seem as though his soul was stolen and smashed by a superior. I hope this is understood.

Having said that, it’s impossible to ignore the synchronicity captured in this moment of ill-will Bama’s RB visits upon Calhoun and the overall terror the Crimson Tide forced down Sparty’s throats all day long. Bama didn’t just beat MSU, they flippantly tossed them aside, just as Henry does here. Calhoun’s attempt to tackle here isn’t even a minor annoyance to Henry, who’s seemingly considering what he’ll do with his NFL millions as he trucks through the air toward pay-dirt.

One of the most amazing feats exhibited in this burst of beasting, is how Henry not only shoves Calhoun to the ground via his face while running at full speed, but how he manages to u-turn the entire trajectory of an explosive, 6’5″, 250-pound athlete trying with everything he has to impede the runner’s progress. At the end of the tackling attempt, Henry displays once again the amazingly-casual brutishness (with which he seems to always play) in this scoring run, while Calhoun’s moving the opposite way of whence he came, exemplary of these teams’ opposing trajectories after the trouncing.

3 Joke-thoughts Inspired by the Above Vine: 1. If your New Year’s resolution is to be healthy, this is how strictly you must treat sweets and fast food 2. Public Service Announcement for Children: This is how to treat strangers with candy 3. This is what my mind does to the occasional desire for self-improvement

One other nice play from the game: Calvin Ridley TD catch vs. tight coverage exemplifying the fight ever-present, natural within football, competition

Let the Bowls Continue! (Selected Bowl Roundup)

#1 Clemson vs. #4 Oklahoma (Orange Bowl – CFB Semifinal)
Watson makes Sooners scheme seem an elementary education, as Tigers roll on to Tide and ‘O-homa takes a forced vacation

Navy vs. Pittsburgh (Military)
Cadets’ QB K. Reynolds makes Narduzzi’s new nuts rusty with NCAA TD record in hand and victory glad

Baylor vs. UNC (Russell Athletic)
Baylor beats the Tar outta Academic Heels

LSU vs. Texas Tech (Texas)
Lenny F. jets Tech back to rec specs, Tigers spoil oil money fun

Houston vs. FSU (Peach)
Cougars luger cold pie to Seminoles, Herman on path to Holy Role

Michigan vs. Florida (Citrus)
First-year coaches bowl shows Harbaugh shoulders above, Wolverines give Gators the glove

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (Fiesta)
Battle of dissed playoff misses confirms Buckeyes better than most that matter, splatter Irish

Stanford vs. Iowa (Rose)
Ed did good in spurting Christian (McCaffrey), as old Bronco seed produces current Cardinal deeds destroying Hawkeye’s needs

Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma St. (Sugar)
Rebels Freeze Gundy’s Monday Morning Men, send Cowboys back to poking cows

NFL WEEK 17 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week https://twitter.com/nickbreezus/status/683129804204412928 Chip Kelly somewhat surprisingly canned in Philly…The rest of the “Black Monday” coaching firesManziel out at Cleveland, lusts for Jerry-dome…Steve Smith Sr. coming back to the Ravens in ‘16…How will ‘Bama’s Heisman-winning workhorse RB Derrick Henry…A look at the future of virtual reality in football

NFL Game of the Week

Seahawks 36 vs. Cardinals 6 With Arizona already earning the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs, it wouldn’t have shocked anyone for them to come out a little flat against Seattle on Sunday night. It was surprising, however, to see the team in red appear limper than a soggy tater-tot, slogging (apparently) through thick soup (dry heat?) while Seattle soared in, over, and around the Cardinals to a dominating win. Russel Wilson was his recently-unstoppable self, completing 19 of 28 passes for three scores, 4 kittens saved from trees, 2 robberies thwarted, and 650 hope-filled inspirations instilled throughout the United States. Tyler Lockett jitter-bugged past would-be special team heroes in the return game, the Seahawks stifled Carson Palmer’s aerial attack, and that fearsome Seattle defense shut down impressive ‘Zona RB David Johnson from the get-go, leading to a wire-to-wire destruction of a team that just last week looked like the best team in the NFL. What this says for the playoff hopes of both teams is anyone’s guess. Was Seattle just working its way through a typically tough regular season, honing, tinkering, just trying to stay healthy, and now in prime form for a thrice-repeat run to the Super Bowl? Was Arizona really just sleepwalking through this game with their immediate playoff fate already sealed, resting their excellence until it matters most? More importantly, do they have the transcendent and fleeting ability of very few to “turn it on” when they want and need to? Only time will tell those of us lucky to live to see it all unfold.

One Game-Defining Play, My Way: Sherman Waxes Poetic Given this game was such a thorough Cardinal ass-kicking by the Seahawks, and reflective of those pesky CFB semifinal blowouts , I’m just gonna leave this right here as a symbol of what played out in many parts of the country this past week. Despite some lopsided scores, it was still thrilling brilliance.

https://vine.co/v/ibP30plQiwq

 

NFL Results Roundup

Jets @ Bills
Rexy Bison Boar ruins the hopes of Jersey Shore, eats more than lap band prefers in celebre

Patriots @ Dolphins
Tannehill thrills South Beach with Fins win and Belichick encouraged to suck a Peach

Saints @ Falcons
Brees keeps saying “Suck deez” too late, but berates ATL on boards of score

Ravens @ Bengals
Ray-J McKieran leads the B’s past the B’s, AJ to AJ mentions refuse to end

Steelers @ Browns
Big Knee Braced-Ben beats Browns, then Cleveland fires everyone

Jags @ Texans
Texas Open-carries and tea-bags Jags, we all wear paper face-bags

Titans @ Colts
Pagano’s (supposedly) fiery-seat beats Tennessee dreams of avoiding defeat

Washington @ Cowboys
Cousins crew keeps rolling, apparently Saban’s Crimson Tide have won more in the Jerry-dome this year than the ‘Boys, true story

Eagles @ Giants
Coughlin set to resign? Eagles lose Chip on shoulder but push win boulder uphill, sneak thrill over NYG

Lions @ Bears
Deeeeeetroiiiiiit fooooootballll beats Chi-town’s blustery bullshit

Bucs @ Panthers
Cam-town recovers from last week’s surprising upset and smokes Tampa, ample

Raiders @ Chiefs
Close contest but Reid knows best with KC beating Oakland’s tease

Chargers @ Broncos
The Return of Peyton brings Broncos to beat electric-&-soon-to-be-LA Chargers

Seahawks @ Cardinals
Carroll’s curmudgeons put Palmer in the defeat dungeon, beat the hell outta AZ

Rams @ 49ers
San Fran takes Tomsula from also ran to run Saint Louis to South Cali egregiously

Vikings @ Packers
Peterson wins rushing crown, powers Teddy and the Gang past the Artist Formerly Known as Aaron Rodgers

Selfishly Sprayed Tweets from the Peak

Monday Morning Breeze: NFL Week 16, Bowl Scenes, & Leaping Dreams

Merry Holidays! This week we go stream-of-c swimming for most efficient information absorption, in a land where it’s 70 degrees on Christmas East and snowing tornadoes in Texas’ Sun Bowl. A land where Duke Football finally gets karmic bliss from their ref-stained, 8-lateral-last-second loss to the Hurricanes by controversially beating Indiana in Pinstripes because the kick was too high. Most importantly, we’ll soon get to see the beauty of couples across the country being torn apart because the College Football Playoff begins New Year’s Eve. The answer to, “Are you in or are you out?” could mean the difference between loving hugs and sleeping in the dumpster for a while.

The Professionals of Football’s National League witnessed some questionably reported and shocking/not-so shocking allegations tossed Peyton’s way, Carolina’s loss-column get filled with 1, William Belichick stealing a page from Marty Morninwheg’s Detroit Overtime Playbook forcing A.C. Slater’s coin-flop, Cousins kneeling for no one, Oakland and San Diego in the battle of who could care Less Angeles, Arizona Juggernauting, Minnesota rolling, Mallett winning(!) as a Raven(!), Weeden winning(!) as a Texan(!), and much more.

Come on in, the fire’s frozen and there’s a pitcher of “egg nog” that’ll put you on the floor, sky-bound Gurley Jones and Twitter flame galore as we reflect on “Dab” and “Dabo” now and forever being a part of the national consciousness.

What mysterious beauty will 2016 bring to thee?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

College Football Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

SI’s Campus Rush has cultivated some great CFB content over the year, so this one’s all theirs: What does the NFL think of Clemson’s Watson?…VA Tech’s Beamer coaches his final game…Powerful piece from a college student that also happens to be one of the best LB’s in the country, Oklahoma’s E. Striker on why he’s more than a helmeted headWhen Saban was respected but not loved as a Spartan head coach

Let the Bowls Continue! (CFB Roundup)

duke indiana

Duke vs. Indiana (Pinstripe Bowl)

School that produces rich NY’ers beats Hoosiers thanks to Karma Bowl in Yankee Palladium

UCLA vs. Nebraska (Foster Farms Bowl)

‘Huskers truck Uck-LA’s luck, Nebraska wins game, UCLA wins better place to exist

Miami (Fl.) vs. Washington State (Sun Bowl)

Mike Leach’s Reach tops Mark Richt’s Future Fellas in Snowy Texas Tornado

NFL WEEK 16 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

Touching moment as Charles Woodson says farewell to Oakland post-game…Shaky report links Peyton Manning to HGH, BS or not?…ODB’s college teammate at LSU and best friend kinnnnda replicates That CatchPeter King’s MMQB, a direct breach of creative license in stealing the format and idea from us 🙂

NFL Game of the Week

camice

Atlanta 20 vs Carolina 13

The basics: As everyone on God’s green Earth knows, the Panthers have been on one of those “14-week beat the hell out of most everyone you play” tears through the NFL, riding an undefeated record and making sure nobody tugged on their likely league MVP Super-Cam’s cape. The Falcons, have endured the rollercoaster roadshow of a Brand New Head Coach in Year 1 of the Dan Quinn regime, recently suffering through one of those “6-game losing streaks my God must we keep playing maybe the Hawks are on TV” streaks of suckitude, before getting a win last week over the Jags to chin-up to .500 on the year. Most would tune in to this game only to see how quickly Mr. Newton would get his 5 TD’s and how the Josh Norman vs. Julio Jones battle would turn out.

What’s that? You’ve been hearing alot about Carolina’s Eternally Innocent CB lately? Me too. In case you actually have loved ones and/or fulfilling things to do with your time besides swallow the never-ending sports swirly that is Media and missed last week’s ODB Jr vs. Josh Normal catfight, basically it goes “Norman and Beckham Jr. fight all game, Beckham Jr. loses his damn mind and spears a defenseless Norman in the jaw, Beckham Jr. gets 3(!) personal foul penalties, Beckham Jr. scores lovely game-tying TD on Norman late, Carolina wins on last-second FG, National media crucifies Beckham Jr. as Worst Human Conceived and he gets 1-game suspension from the league.” Phew.

This week offered Norman no rest in facing yet another top-tier receiver, maybe even the toppest of tiers in Atlanta’s juggernaut Julio Jones. How would Norman respond to being in that white-hot spotlight all week? Could Julio keep his league-leading receiving romp rolling against the best corner in the league?

Turns out Norman played like normal, which means excellent. Unfortunately for him and the Panthers undefeated streak, J. Jones decided to leap and tickle the bottom of God’s feet before providing one of the plays of the year sparking the Falcons to a (semi-) shocking upset win. In a solid nod to Dan Quinn’s first draft class Atlanta’s top pick in 2015, DE Vic Beasley, displayed his pass-rushing prowess in stripping Cam on Carolina’s last-gasp drive for the tie, as Atlanta recovered and knelt out the game.

So dowwwwwn goeeees Carolina from the unbeatens, the Old Dolphins can celebrate, Atlanta’s on the uptick and a game above even, and everyone involved is likely better off for this game going exactly as it did.

Most importantly Jah Jones gave us this play, which deserves more words…

One Game-Defining Play, My Way

https://vine.co/v/iqB0b6nraxK

I meeeeaaaan, if you can watch that play any less than 13 (thirteen) times you might not be a human capable of feeling. To begin, QB Matt Ryan rolled left to avoid pressure from the Panther’s seeking to eat his neck, re-established his feet for proper pigskin projection, and then unleashed a heaving prayer into double-coverage, well-behind his intended receiver, which would normally be a pretty terrible throw EXCEPT this time his intended receiver is from another planet, better than anyone else, and regularly answers prayers.

Watch how effortlessly Julio adjusts his route to come back for the ball, running at well over 175 MPH, listlessly shrugs off a falling Carolina player that’s trying in vain to keep up, and in an instant verticals himself to just beneath the light fixtures atop Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As he continues rising, I imagine at least the tiniest of smiles must’ve crossed his mouth as he saw Luke Keuchly (a great player in his own right but well out of his spatial comfort zone out here in the land of balletic leopards) white man jump for the descending pass. I imagine Keuchly’s mind raced, screaming: “Oh man, what the hell am I doing out here? Whoa! There’s the ball! It’s coming to me! I got it! I got it! Wait? Do they allow planes with arms in here? What the hell!? Dammit, I’m falling. There he goes.” Jones, at the peak of his ascent, calmly, gently, softly allows the ball into his perfectly placed hands like saving a baby tossed from a burning building, or how (I’m certain) he plucks groceries off the top shelves in stores for needy old people. In this case Keuchly thought he was about to get the last box of Wheaties, only he’s not Julio Jones, as are none of us, so we’re thankful for eyes and Vines.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this play is how easily it seems Jones is able to keep his balance throughout, the difficulty of this relative to the speed and explosive moments on display here evidenced by the fact the other two world-class athletes in the frame tumble to the ground in succession. Only Jones, after ball-jacking Luke’s hopeful heart, sticks the landing (damn W. German judge even gave him a 10) and within 5 pitter-patter, backwards-sideways-forwards re-routing steps has turned himself completely around and continues his plan toward the touchdown. There are no wasted steps, no wasted motion, each fiber of Jones’ form seems to have been built for this one play. As he 0-to-60’s his way into the end zone, he even has the wherewithal to cross the plane of the goal line doing one of the few celebrations I find to be creative and fun, the track-and-field inspired “breaking the tape” lean-in to secure the fastest time and edge out any parallel opponents. Only on this play, because it’s Julio, there’s nobody else to be found, nobody else anywhere near him to challenge as his opponents lie in carnage behind and beneath him. Out here, it’s Just Julio Jones, and we all get to bear witness.

Bonus Bit of Beastly Beauty

Oh ya, by the way, ummm…Todd Gurley’s amazing too. I don’t care if he fumbles on this play (Rams recovered and he wound up scoring shortly after), I do care that Gurley’s coming off ACL surgery and is able to jackrabbit at full speed over a soaring Seahawk that just happens to be All-Forever Level Earl Thomas, one of the better tacklers in the NFL. Thank you, Todd.

NFL Results Roundup

Chargers vs. Raiders (Thursday Night)

Oaktown prevails in battle of future LA, Woodson tells crowd “Hey”, both teams’ futures sway

Washington vs. Eagles

So Kirk Cousins might become Uncle Kirkle after this lovely display, winning games against Chips Kids

Panthers vs. Falcons

Dowwwwn goes the Dab as Matty Ice gets Hotlanta again to end Panther unbeaten hopes

Texans vs. Titans

Titans are bad with Mariota and reprehensible without, as evidenced in today’s Texans fillet of Tenn. tons

Steelers vs. Ravens

Ryan Mallett somehow beats Ben’s Pitts after being on Baltimore for half an hour

Patriots vs. Jets

Controversial coin flip call by Belichick lets Jets De-Fleet and give shingles to New Era

Bears vs. Buccaneers

Jay Cutler somehow remains married to F-list celebrity woman, more amazingly beats Winston’s Bucs

Colts vs. Dolphins

Indy survives injury to their Geriatric backup QB to drown Dolphins already filled with frowns

49ers vs. Lions

Deeeeeeeettttroiiiiiiiit Foooootballllll tops Tomsula’s Tattered Tonsils

Cowboys vs. Bills

Rexy Flexy beats star-less yet still TV sexy Dallas, Jerry Jones stomps his foot and nobody cares about any of this

Browns vs. Chiefs

Hey whattttya know? Andy Reid’s got his team in surprising position for a playoff birth, beating Browns’ Johnny spot

Jaguars vs. Saints

Brees rebounds from Lions licking and stick it to other cat crowd, jack those Jags

Rams vs. Seahawks

Fisher wears his hat backwards but points Saint Louis forward in shocking toppling of Seacarrols

Packers vs. Cardinals

Arizona appears geared for an NFC showdown with Carolina, Cards’ d-line batters Rodgers in desert swarm route

Giants vs. Vikings

Men of Soda monster mash Big City Boys, give ’em all purple nurples

Bengals vs. Broncos (Monday Night Football Prediction)

Peyton Manning accidentally sends an HGH shipment to Nick Saban’s Crimson House, and the McCarron’s receive word, win the press game but these Broncos tame the striped cats no question

Selfish Tweet Promotion (So sue me) (But please don’t)

A General View of the College Football Playoff

As I watched all the conference championships on Saturday, I thought “oh how the committee must be nervous!”  What if #18 Florida was to upset #2 Alabama?  #10 North Carolina upset #1 Clemson? This would of set off a tailspin of confusion that not even Dr. Phil could have processed. Fortunately for the committee it did not come to pass.  Everything fell into place.  Alabama won the SEC Championship by handling a Gator team who couldn’t score on offense, even if Saint Tebow had came back and placed his healing hands on Treon Harris’ shoulders, deeming him a “Heisman” hopeful! #1 Clemson survived a shoot out with a #10 North Carolina squad winning the ACC Championship and finishing the season with a perfect record.  The Big 10 Championship was actually the best game of the day.  #5 Michigan State outlasted #4 Iowa(undefeated at the time).  I really enjoyed watching this game! #3 Oklahoma was idle as there is no Big 12 Championship game at this time.

When all the dust cleared, trophies passed out and celebrations ended, the Playoff Committee must of felt some kind of relief.  The top four teams were a no brainer coming into Sunday’s final ranking.  The only issue the committee had to resolve was who the #3 and #4 spots belonged to.  When the announcement was made, the committee’s final ranking looks like this:

#1 Clemson

#2 Alabama

#3 Michigan State

#4 Oklahoma

 

#1 Clemson will host #4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, in Miami, Florida.

#2 Alabama hosts #3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

I feel the committee got it as close to right as possible.  I have already heard some critics questioning the jump of Michigan State over Oklahoma but I agree with the committee on this move.  With no Big 12 Championship game for Oklahoma to showcase and make a statement, Michigan State was able to do this by beating a very good #4 Iowa squad for the Big 10 Championship. Plenty enough justification for the committee to make this change in my book.

There is always a mental, physical, spiritual and emotional side to everything we face in life.  The game of college football is no different.  We must consider all these aspects when trying to achieve a solution or reach a result.  As we close in on the two semi-final games to be played on December 31, I can’t help but think of how evenly matched all four teams are.  I find it very interesting how the teams almost mirror each other in many ways.  Alabama and Michigan State both love to run the pigskin down their opponents throat, have a short passing game(when needed), great special teams play and both take great pride in their run defense.  Clemson and Oklahoma have very athletic, running and passing quarterbacks.  They can move the ball very well and are capable of putting up a lot of points.  They are similar on the defensive side of the ball using balance and athleticism.

With so many similarities, how can one possibly examine these teams and try to find any possible advantage that one might have over the other.  I mentioned the many aspects above that all the players and coaches will be experiencing from this point in time until the final whistles blows on January 11, 2016 when a National Champion will be crowned.  The responsibility that each of these staffs have going forward will be tremendous.  I am talking about the things that the average viewer might not even be aware exists.  All of this eventually ends up on the lap of the head coach for each squad.  The head coach that is able to delegate these numerous responsibilities to his staff will be a step up on his competition.  In Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” Tzu’s main focus is on the leadership that goes into leading troops into battle.  The game of college football is a battle.  Let’s take a look at just a few of the things that face these staffs and squads over the next couple of weeks.

First, we have to remember that they are dealing with young men usually between the ages of 18-22.  I feel we sometimes forget the reality that these athletes are still in their late teens or just out of them.  The student athletes are enrolled in classes and that doesn’t stop just because you made the playoffs.  In fact, most students will be taking final exams in the next couple of weeks, so there will need to be time for studying.  There will be many practices and many team meetings.  Now that each team knows their next opponent, hours will be spent on the field and in the film room learning all they can about their competition.  Most teams, I would guess by this point, will have various team rules but one of the biggest is usually a curfew at night.  We see it every year at bowl time where an athlete is suspended for violating some type of team rule and based on my experience it usually involves partying and/or breaking curfew.

Second, keeping these athletes focused and motivated with so much on their plate and the long time period between playing a game, is a chore in itself.  I have seen many times over the years where a very good football team shows up to a high profile bowl game very flat and out of character.  I would chalk that up to the very fact that there is such a long period of not competing on the field.  Yes, they are practicing against each other and scout teams but that is not the same as competing against an opponent.  Usually at this point, most coaches go ½ to ¾ speed in their practices in fear of getting their athletes hurt.

Third, all four teams will be traveling pretty good distances for their games.  I am sure most of the programs will get to their sites a week early.  As a coaching staff, this requires making sure all the athletes are where they are suppose to be at all times.  Lodging is usually in a motel so extra precaution has to be taken to ensure team curfew and rules are being followed.  Imagine being responsible for 50-100 athletes in this situation.

Finally, keeping the athletes in “emotional” check.  There will be a ton of media(including the massive social media of today) leading up to these games.  It is very easy for these young athletes to get caught up in what they are seeing and hearing through the media and lose focus on what their priorities are going into their games.

Listed is just a few of the things that face the coaching staffs and players for the two semi-final playoff games.  As one can see, leadership is a huge factor in controlling and executing the many things that must take place.  When looking at the four coaches participating in this year’s semi-finals, we find years of experience with post season games.  If I had to rank the coaches based on there experience and ability to handle the many facets involved in this process, it looks like this:

Nick Saban

1.  Nick Saban(Alabama)

Coach Saban has an overall collegiate record of 189-60-1 and is the holder of 4 National Championships.  His team was in the semi-finals last year, losing pretty soundly to an Ohio State squad that went on to win the National Championship.  I watched an interview with Coach Saban on Sunday and he pointed out that his players lost focus prior to their game and I am going to bet that Nick will ensure that doesn’t happen again.  If they lose, it will be because the competition was better that day.

Bob Stoops

2.  Bob Stoops(Oklahoma)

Coach Stoops has been at Oklahoma for 16 years.  His overall collegiate record is 179-45 and is the holder of 1 National Championship.  It is probably a benefit having one more week off than their opponent(because of no Big 12 Championship game) to heal injuries and give his athletes the rest but at the same time that extra time off puts that much more time in between competing. Coach Stoops and his staff will have to get creative keeping his athletes motivated.  Is this the year that Oklahoma can shake the adage that they tend to choke on the big stage?

Mark Dantonio

3.  Mark Dantonio(Michigan State)

Coach Dantonio took over the Spartan program in 2007.  He has an overall collegiate record of 105-49.   He has never won a National Championship as a head coach but was the Defensive Coordinator on the National Champion Ohio State team in 2002.  He has several Big 10 Championships and has won some big bowl games.  Dantonio is a very low key coach and really enjoys sitting in the background and letting his future opponent get the press.  He is a great motivator and uses the media saying his team doesn’t stand a chance to get his squad focused.  The match up against Alabama is probably the ideal situation for Coach Dantonio and his staff.  He will have his troops ready and regardless the outcome, the football nation will know the Spartans were there.

Dabo Swinney

4.  Dabo Swinney(Clemson)

Coach Swinney took the Clemson program over in 2008.  His overall collegiate record is 74-26.  Through his tenure, Coach Swinney has continued to build a program that is a National Champion contender.  His program too suffered the “can’t win the big one” fever for a couple of seasons but this year it looks like he got that monkey off his back.  Coach Dabo is a great motivator and has a very unique way of relating to his players.  They love playing for him and if he and his staff can do the things I have pointed out, we very well could be looking at the next National Champions.  Coach Swinney was a receiver at Alabama and was on the Alabama staff for several years.  All three of the other coaches were defensive backs for their collegiate programs.  Might be why the Tigers can really roll on offense.  After throwing a pizza party for all the fans on Sunday, I wonder what his plans for an encore will be if indeed they win it all.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” Sun Tzu

Obviously there are many facets that go into winning a national championship.  The games will be won before any team even takes the field.  Whatever General has his troops prepared, focused and motivated will prevail in their battle.  Can’t wait until December 31 and find out who is going to advance in the collegiate chain of command.

Monday Morning Breeze: College ‘Chips and NFL Winter Dips

Sometimes the parallels between life and these splendid sport displays are too loud to ignore.

Yesterday, when walking around the city (Austin) I came across a couple random dudes that’d just jumped (illegally) off the main (Congress) bridge into the frigid Colorado River which bisects the downtown portion of the city. It was a random moment in a rapidly-changing town that I just happened to catch, yet it contextualized the city and the day in its own special way. Two bike-kids popping off their wheels to flee the scene of cement and soar into unknown waters far beneath, for glee. It reminded me of this weekend’s football significance, with college teams hopefully plunging into waters of uncertain depth and temperature, hoping to return to the surface as league champions and playoff participants. Similarly, the NFL action called for the consistent competition that comes with our beloved professional game; pitting healthy, hot teams against the those lurking in the coldest waters, always looking to strike despite what the record beside their nickname might say.

‘Tis the season for organizational heathens leaving pink slips on the desks of disappointing coaches country-wide, and championship pursuit pictures getting clearer with Time’s guide. Regardless of the ugly sides of this football guide, we thankfully sigh knowing entertainment lies once again on the full weekend’s tide with Saturday, Sunday, and Monday offering welcome rides to the truths turf-tussling provides.

In the college ranks, we’ve already seen the coaching turnstile spinning round and round, with massive shake-ups at schools big and small. We’ve also heavily anticipated this championship weekend, as if the weeks leading to this Saturday were conjecture-filled opening/closing arguments for who belonged in the College Football Playoffs, this weekend would provide the jury’s decision, finally offering the truest clarity of the Four-tunate teams that’d go on to compete for college football’s holiest grail.

In the NFL, games continue chugging along with each week promising the delight and defiance showcased in a league built on the ideal of parity, in loud contrast to College Football’s “Mostly Big, Old Powers Rule” system. Post Sunday-Monday-smashing we’d learn if the Seahawks or Vikings were more for real, if the Panthers could remain the NFL’s sole undefeated in New Orleans, if Philadelphia is as bad as they seem facing the Super Patriots, and more and more and more.

So here’s what happened…

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 12 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Championship Saturday’s here! The conjectured smoke we’ve made will finally clear. On. The. Field.

College Football Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

The College Football Playoff is set…HEAD COACHING TURNSTILE UPDATE: Mark Richt heads to Miami, where I think he’ll dominate…Alabama’s DC Kirby Smart off to replace Richt in Georgia…Nice SI (Staples’) piece on Smart’s potential at UGA…Will Muschamp gets another HC shot at South Carolina…DJ Durkin leaving UofM(ichigan) for another UofM(aryland)…BYU’s Mendenhall off to mend Virginia…Syracuse to hire Bowling Green’s Dino BabersRutgers to hire OSU DC Chris Ash?…LSU to hire the coach they already had, Les Miles (great article)…Standout PITT RB James Conner, already out for the season w/a knee injury, diagnosed with Lymphoma

CFB Game of the Week

#4 Iowa vs. #5 MSU (B1G Championship Game)

Of all the championship games taking place Saturday, this one was the only clear-cut “win and you’re in the playoff” scenario for both teams participating. MSU, coming off a massive win over at-that-time-undefeated for 23-games Ohio State and a pummeling of Penn State, was rolling strong and appeared to be on a warpath to the Playoff. Meanwhile, Iowa’s been humming along in relative obscurity all year, except for those taking potshots at the Hawkeyes’ mediocre schedule and claiming they lack proof for being counted among the nation’s elite. For each, this game was a chance to quiet naysayers. In MSU’s case, forever playing second-fiddle to the University of Michigan in its own state (even as MSU’s been superior for years) has created a little-brother complex the Spartans seem ready to shed, and this game’s potential for granting MSU a spot in the CFP would lift any lingering question marks about their legitimacy as a national power. On the other hand, Iowa’s vanilla offense and vanilla schedule have created a mostly vanilla reception from the national audience relative to their elite status. If they could beat a mostly-proven opponent in MSU, on the Big Ten championship stage, it’d quiet almost each (but not all) negative Nancy and push them into the even brighter lights of the College Football Playoff.

LJ Use

#5 MSU 16 – #4 Iowa 13

Here’s One Play that Defined the Game, My Way:

  1. Sparty’s Longest Drive, Longest Yard, Long-Awaited Playoff Berth:

Click here to watch the play of the game.

We could talk all about the defensive slugfest this game predictably turned out to be. We could talk all about the resilience of Michigan State all year exhibited again here, the toughness of Iowa showing up on the big stage proving they belong listed among the nation’s elite, but we should only talk about one play. This play capped the one drive that mattered in this evening’s contest: Michigan State’s game-ending, 22-play, 82-yard drive that took 9 minutes and 42 seconds off the 4th-quarter clock, finishing with a battle comprised within a run that exemplified the entire game up to that point. Two teams playing disciplined, defensive, program-identity-laden football eventually being decided by this amazing gasp of human exertion by MSU’s Freshman RB LJ Scott.

For an outsider, this was the perfect play-nugget to decide and explain this B1G championship contest between two defensive-centric, heavyweight-slugging teams. This running play, given to Scott heading off the right tackle, into a swarm of Iowa defenders, appeared to have been smothered behind the coveted goal line. However, just like Michelangelo’s depiction of spiritual swine Divine and Man touching digits in the “Hand of God”, LJ Scott would not be denied a connection with his fate, with his Ultimate Understanding. Just like Man must twist and collide and pivot and spin and eventually strive to stretch past His hurdles in Life, LJ managed to do so past the Hawkeye’s defensive contingent, reaching the rock over the blessed white line into the end zone, Heaven, Enlightenment, and all that’s holy in the B1G’s championship dossier. Watch it once and you’ll probably see a hard-nosed football play. Watch it twice, perhaps your eyes can catch the human pursuit of peace and perfection, hope’s resurrection, time’s exalted collection of the homo-sapien struggle, all contained within one foray of this funny football snuggle.

At the End of the Day: CFB’s Top 25 Went this Way (Rankings via Official College Football Playoff Poll)

#4 Iowa vs. #5 MSU (B1G Championship)

Spartans strong, win with one loooong final drive and outstretched RB arm, on to the Playoff

#12 Baylor vs. Texas

Charlie makes strong, season-ending statement besting beat up Bears in Koresh’s House

#19 Houston vs. #22 Temple (AAC Championship)

Herman’s Coug’s run Owls back east, clinch ‘ship and hopeful future with new 5-year HC deal

#1 Clemson vs. #10 UNC (ACC Championship)

Tigers remain undefeated, decleating Carolina, Dabo dances finah than Fedora

#2 Alabama vs. #18 Florida (SEC Championship)

Bama whamma’s Gators gains, screams victory from Mobile plains enroute to Playoff

#7 Stanford vs. #20 USC (Pac-12 Championship)

Card’s ride McCaffery’s record-setting (all-time yardage) son, may’ve won himself the Heisman

NFL WEEK 11 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Teams Keep Smashing Each Other in Fast, Fun, Frightening Ways

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

God-damned Lions lose on this crazy play to the Pack…We know JJ Watt’s good, but outperforming Buffalo’s entire D-Line good?…Great look at how the NFL’s money train keep rolling, no matter what…Rams’ WR Stedman Bailey recovering miraculously from gunshot wounds to the head…Panthers’ CB Josh Norman on how he gets his game face on…

NFL Game of the Week

Seahawks @ Vikings

Minnesota red-carpeted to this game on a roll, winning 6 of their last 8 games, leading the NFC North and riding a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson fresh off his massive suspension last year to a dominant season thus far. Meanwhile, Seattle has struggled to regain the form that saw them to the last two Super Bowls, missing out on a repeat chance due to one (very) questionable goal-line offensive play call against New England. The Seahawks had rebounded from a rough 0-2 start to the season to 2-3, and now regaining their championship form on a 2-game winning streak. Who’s momentum would continue after this meeting of two of the warmer teams in the League? Could the ‘Hawks D slow down the Peterson train (yes)? Could Minnesota contain Russell Wilson (no)?

WILSON YES

Seattle 38 – Minnesoooootaahhh 7

One Play that Defined the Game, My Way:

  1. Russell Wilson Spins the Game, Vikings, on His Fingers:

Click here to watch the play of the game.

Much has been (rightfully) made of Steph Curry’s dominance of the NBA recently, including this glowing NY Times’ piece getting the similarly glowing reviews from professional ballet dancers on Steph’s footwork and exploits. If there’s anyone in the NFL that can offer such a consistently entertaining, fleet of foot viewing experience it’s Seattle’s QB Russell Wilson. On a key 3rd down play during SEA’s first scoring drive against the Vikings, Wilson’s Curry-like ways were on full display as he rolled left and was rudely confronted by Minnesota’s DE, #99 Danielle Hunter. Wilson, in response to potentially being mauled, chose to feign a quick cut right, seemingly planning to return whence he came for greener pastures. His juke so convincing the ultra-athletic (and jacked) Hunter sought to cut Russell off at the pass, for a likely sack, glory, and end of the Seahawks’ potential TD drive. Unfortunately for Hunter, and Viking fans worldwide, Wilson was merely setting him up, like Reggie Miller getting free for another open 3 or a mark getting took by the Vegas shark that’s lurked longer, better, and quickly spun back to his left, revealing a wide-open patchwork of turf he’d quickly sprint across, gaining a valuable first down and ultimately a Seahawks touchdown. It appeared effortless, perfect balance maintained throughout, as though Wilson was Kasparov playing chess with a beginner, knowing all along the trap he needed to set for a quick victory. This is just one play, but it resembled the entire afternoon of this Seattle blowout victory, as Wilson was at his best all day, controlling the pace of the game, distributing the ball effectively, and being electric when he had to. Don’t count out the ‘Hawks just yet, thanks to Wilson’s balletic brilliance, that’s a play I won’t soon forget.

NFL Results Roundup

Packers vs. Lions (Thursday Night)

McCarthyism wins in miracle fashion, Pack smack Lions back down with shocking Hail Aaron

Texans @ Bills

Rexy’s boys finally get win machine turned on, top Texans and turn tons of pressure on Billy’s butt

Falcons @ Buccaneers

Rookie QB’s rule today, with Winston rolling once more to a win over Matt “Not Good” Ice

Jaguars @ Titans

Mr. Mariota runs looooong past Jacksonville, cast Jags in a losing suit once more

Jets @ Giants

Despite another lovely ODB Jr. long TD, Jets with the battle of New York, see?

Cardinals @ Rams

If you haven’t noticed yet, ‘Zona’s good and they pull the hood over Rams’ heads again

49ers @ Bears

Gabbert shows he’s a fast white dude, excludes Cutler from that category & the one named WIN

Bengals @ Browns

How’s that Manziel punishment going? Dalton’s smash baby Browns, make clowns of CLE frowns

Ravens @ Dolphins

Will Smith’s win over the Poe’s in the city of Southern Sin

Broncos @ Chargers

Brock bowls a nice game again, smacks Future Los Angeles Chargers hard

Chiefs @ Raiders

Reid’s steeds beat Al’s young pals, KC craters Raiders

Panthers @ Saints

Cam’s Cats stay undefeated, gut-punch hope-depleted Stains du Nu Orlosin’s

Eagles @ Patriots

Chip shows college football how much he loves NFL by bringing hell to 2-loss-in-a-row Belichicks

Colts @ Steelers

Big Ben busts Hasselbeck’s butt so bad, the Colts can’t remember Luck ever feeling so bad

Cowboys @ Washington (Monday Night Football Prediction)

(EDIT) Cousins continues climb to kiddie-Canton1Editor’s Note: We realize Drew Stanton plays in Arizona, but we tend not to bother The Breeze when he’s rolling, a la Brother Bluto, leads Terrible Name past the Collarbone’d Cowboys

Follow This to Finish Fantasy Fantasy Football Finer than Foes

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1. Editor’s Note: We realize Drew Stanton plays in Arizona, but we tend not to bother The Breeze when he’s rolling, a la Brother Bluto

Shattered Dreams and Iowa

The phrase “we need Iowa to go undefeated” is one that probably was not uttered by anyone other than Iowa alumni.  Coming into the season, there was a legitimate possibility that Kirk Ferentz was going to get the axe, but his contract, more specifically his buyout clause, was stopping that from happening.  Now, Iowa is undefeated, has a guaranteed spot in the Big Ten championship game, and looks to be the Big Ten’s best chance at being in the College Football Playoff as an undefeated team and eliminating the counter argument of “they just got in because they play in the Big Ten.”

The beauty of the college football playoff is how much scheduling plays a part.  Luckily for Iowa, very few thought that they would be legitimate contenders and did not schedule them into any true primetime, late season matchups. The Hawkeyes finish the season at Nebraska, the team that has managed to lose a surprising number of close games throughout the season and had a season-defining win in which they managed to ruin Michigan States’ title chances by handing them a late season loss.  While Nebraska will view the game against Iowa as their “championship” game, Iowa should be able to win and go into the Big Ten championship undefeated.

In comparison, the other teams around Iowa in the rankings have far tougher matchups.  Notre Dame finishes its year at Stanford without two of its best players, C.J. Prosise and KeiVarae Russel, while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play one another in what should be a high scoring rivalry game that will determine who will be the Big 12’s playoff candidate.  Florida, the 8th ranked team in the Week 12 rankings, ends its year at Florida State.

My bound-to-be-wrong prediction for Iowa

Iowa wins at Nebraska convincingly, but not overwhelmingly with a 31-14 win.  In the Big Ten championship game, they play Michigan State.  The Spartans, coming off a huge win at Ohio State and a win over Penn State win a close, low scoring and what most of the country considers to be an “ugly” game.  In the process, the Big Ten manages to have three 1-loss teams.  Considering the huge media hype that constantly surrounds Notre Dame and the possibility of an undefeated Oklahoma State team, Iowa misses the playoffs and no Big Ten team gets to compete for the championship.

While having no team in the championship would be somewhat embarrassing for the Big Ten, it will not be as horrible as people make it out to be.  Clemson and Alabama are clearly the top teams this year and Iowa does not have the weapons or the personnel to keep pace with teams of that caliber.  Iowa getting into the playoff would probably look at lot like a bowl game featuring an automatic qualifier; it will be obvious from the start which team had a “miracle” year that is coming to an end and which team is entrenched as a top contender year after year.  As fun as it would be to have a team from the Big Ten in the playoff, it will probably be better to not have to endure a 60-minute beatdown at the hands of Clemson or Alabama that loses its suspense after the first quarter when Iowa is down by 21.

Cardale Jones and the Path of David Freese

It is fun to see professional athletes catch lightning in a bottle for a short period of time.  If this happens at the right point in the season, athletes are sometimes able to parlay their short-lived success into a successful career.  The best example would be how, in 2012, the term “Linsanity” was created in response to Jeremy Lin’s incredible approximately 3 week run with the New York Knicks.  Jeremy Lin has parlayed his month long run into a successful NBA career and even a movie.

Like Jeremy Lin, Cardale Jones parlayed his incredible college football postseason run into the starting quarterback job for Ohio State this season.  Of course, he had to beat JT Barrett in camp, however, in hindsight it is pretty easy to see why.  Urban Meyer could simply point at Cardale and say “he won us the championship” and it would be very hard for Barrett supporters to argue.  With the way he has played this season, Cardale might have been better off riding his postseason success directly into the NFL draft.  But like Matt Barkley and many other quarterbacks who decided to return to college instead of turning pro a year early, Cardale has struggled to maintain his postseason form and has hurt his NFL prospects.

The college football playoffs are very much like the MLB World Series.  There is a lot of prestige and media attention and every play, like every at bat, has a lot riding on it.  In this way, what Cardale did makes him very similar to former St. Louis Cardinal and current LA Angel David Freese.  While it may seem odd to compare a college football player to a baseball player, there are similarities.  In the 2011 playoffs, David Freese won the World Series MVP by leading the Cardinals to a World Series championship by posting an absurd .545 batting average in the NLCS against Milwaukee and a .348 batting average in the World Series against Texas.  Like Freese, Cardale made big plays during the biggest games of the college football season.  And with every successful big play that he made, the wave of hype and momentum behind Cardale grew.  While Freese was the baseball player who turned down a college baseball scholarship and sat out his freshman year, Cardale was the relatively unknown recruit who everyone hoped would fill in and merely keep games respectable, but ended up winning them.

When the hype hits, it is difficult to take a step back and evaluate a player, especially one with as little history as Cardale.  David Freese had his most productive years at age 28 and 29 and has, unsurprisingly, slowly declined with age.  He has become a serviceable, but unspectacular, .260 hitter.  Unlike Freese, Cardale has the advantage of youth and promise, two factors which have allowed him to maintain support even though his first five weeks as the starter have resulted in 5 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a 59% completion rate.  The support for Cardale has started to wane, as it should.  And if the first five weeks are any indication, fans may soon be looking at Cardale’s playoff run as his career highlight instead of a promise of things to come.  He may soon be the football equivalent of a .260 hitter who is kept around simply because of a past postseason run.

 

 

Image: AP

Golden Bears Play the Hunter in the Pac 12

Coming into this season, there were several questions surrounding the California Golden Bears’ level of success. After four games, four wins, and a # 24 ranking in the AP top 25 Poll, the Golden Bears are answering those questions. The # 24 ranking marks the first time since 2011 Cal has been ranked in the top 25. With a dizzying offense and a much-improved, and might I add stingy defense, Cal has earned every bit of its newly crowned ranking and will be on the prowl to keep climbing in the Pac 12 as well as the polls.

Sitting 4-0 (1-0) for the first time since 2007, Cal has found itself in unchartered territory under third year coach Sonny Dykes. It’s been long expected that programs under Coach Dykes begin to hit their stride in year three under his tutelage. With spectacular play calling, a top 3 quarterback in the country in Jared Goff, a NFL-caliber receiving corps, and a productive run game, it’s as if the prophecy of the third year charm has come to fruition. It’s hard to gauge if this blistering start is a product of a less than challenging opening schedule or the realization that Cal has finally earned their long-awaited time in the spotlight. If this Golden Bear team can keep up this pace, it’ll clearly be the latter in this case.

So far this season, the Cal offense has continued to make tracks towards greatness. Currently ranked 9th in the nation (543 yds/ game), the Golden Bears have met, and thus far have exceeded expectation of their production. It’s also promising that Cal has been able to maintain a solid and effective rushing attack without the services of Daniel Lasco who has missed the last two games with an injury. Picking up the slack in his absence has been junior running back Khalfani Muhammad and sophomore running back, Vic Enwere. The trio of backs has been able to put up respectable numbers in the run game, just under 200 yards per contest.

But the real story so far this season has no doubt been the play of the defense. I can’t begin to tell you how many stories I’ve read about the success of the Golden Bear team being directly tied to the performance of the defense. So far, in my humble, yet incredibly biased opinion, the defense has done an admirable job. Currently ranked 75th in the nation, giving up 383 yards per game, this much-maligned group a year ago has risen to the occasion and brought respectability back to the defensive side of the ball. And if you still aren’t sold on Cal’s defensive transformation, I’ll let you guess who leads the nation in interceptions.

With the season a third of the way complete, Cal’s remaining schedule gets cranked up a few notches. This Saturday, in Berkeley, Washington State stops by. Last year’s contest in Pullman was as true a shootout as there was. Cal escaped that one, 60-59. The secondary won’t have to worry about record setting quarterback Connor Halliday though. This time around, they get sophomore quarterback, Luke Falk. Statistically, he’s as sharp as they come; completing 73% of his passes and an 8:1 touchdown to interception ratio, Falk is no joke.

The next three weeks following the match up with the Cougars, will be the MOST challenging three-game schedule there is in all of college football. The Golden Bears take two consecutive road trips- one to #10 Utah and then visit # 7 UCLA in the rose Bowl. Cal then comes home as they play host to the 17th ranked USC Trojans. Now, if there were any type of litmus test, this would be it. Each team Cal will face is riding a hot streak that would singe the Devil himself. These are going to be the most exciting three weeks in recent Cal football memory. Each game allows the Bears to climb closer and closer to the top of the Pac 12; and most importantly, the polls. Can you imagine the chaos Cal would bring to the College Football Playoff selection committee if Cal were to emerge victorious in these games? Despite the odds the Bears would undoubtedly be against for each of these games, I think Cal has just as much a legitimate shot of winning as the opposition. I state this with no regional bias or proverbial ‘Kool-Aid’ in my system.

At this moment, it’s now or never for Cal. I don’t think Jared Goff will be around for his senior season; not to mention his stellar receiving corps as well. There’s too much opportunity in the NFL. Frankly, it isn’t worth sticking around the college ranks for one more year collegiate fame. Because of Cal’s success on the field, the Golden Bears were able to secure some notable commits for the next recruiting class. Unfortunately, it’ll take a few more recruiting classes to equal the level of talent currently in place. I don’t want to be a Debby Downer about the future of Cal football. It’s just this thing we call reality we must contend with on an everyday basis. But for now, I will live in the moment. It’s still very early on in the season and there’s so much to look forward to.

All in all, I’ve been very pleased with the output of this year’s Golden Bears squad. A few tweaks here and there and a healthier Daniel Lasco, I feel Cal will match well with each team on their remaining schedule.  Now, all’s left to do is hit the field and produce the way they are capable of producing. If things align at the right time, this Cal team could be one for the ages. Lucky me, I have front row seats!