Tag Archives: Football

Welcome back, old friend!

These are the dog days.  The weather is overbearing in a way that makes us simply want to wave the white flag.

But, college football doesn’t allow for that.  It doesn’t allow us to give int.  College football offers hope at the end of this hot, desolate wasteland that we know as the “offseason.”

As the calendar flipped to August, I was reminded of one of my favorite football movies, “The Best of Times,” starring the late Robin Williams.  You should put this on your list if only for the poetic diatribes and quotable lines.  When describing the anticipation of the annual rebirth of football, Williams encapsulates the anticipation, the hope of a new season.

“It’s that time of year again…when the first leaf of autumn falls forlornly to the barren ground below.”

The hope he speaks of is found in an ideal unique to college football.

Tradition. A three-syllable word that defines the phenomena that is the sport we love. It’s more than just what happens between the lines. Coaches and players come and go, and the sport encompasses more than Xs and Os.

It is tradition.

It’s the Vol Navy sterngating in the shadows of Rocky Top. It’s the Sea of Red releasing balloons when their Huskers score for the first time. It’s Army and Navy desperately trying to “sing second.” It’s doing the Hokey Pokey at halftime in Blacksburg. It’s dotting the ‘i’, screaming “Bear Down,” “Boiler Up,” and striking the Heisman pose.

It’s the sight of beloved mascots like Ralphie, Tusk, Cam the Ram and Mike the Tiger. It’s the smells filling the State Fair on Oklahoma-Texas weekend, permeating from Dreamland on Friday afternoon, and wafting across The Grove on Saturday morning. It’s the deafening cheers in The Swamp, The Horseshoe, The Doak, “between the hedges” and down on The Farm. It’s the driving melodies of Texas Fight, Fight Tiger, Tiger Rag and Ragtime Cowboy Joe.

The autumn spectacle makes this sport special. It has survived world wars, financial recessions, and national tragedies.

The passion and traditions are cultural – inherited at a young age, carried through tenure as a co-ed, embraced as a seasoned alum, and then taught to the next generation.

No other sport offers the color and pageantry quite like college football. Lucky for us, it’s that time of year again…

The Sooner Schooner serves as the live mascot for the University of Oklahoma and it rumbles across the field after Sooner scores. Photo taken from a message board and used by permission by the unnamed photographer.
The Sooner Schooner serves as the live mascot for the University of Oklahoma and it rumbles across the field after Sooner scores. Photo taken from a message board and used by permission by the unnamed photographer.

Texas Longhorns Athletics is Trending Upward

The Texas Longhorns have been in a downward spiral as a program, especially in football. Aside from women’s volleyball and swimming and diving, nothing Texas has done recently has been relevant on a national level.

What’s been an interesting trend for anyone who follows the program closely is that the major sports are good at one time or bad at one time. In 2005, both the baseball and football teams won national championships. A few years ago, the basketball team made a rise to the number one ranking in the nation, while the football team was still relevant nationally and baseball was also making a run to the College World Series.

But since those glorious times, it’s been tough in Austin. Baseball made the College World Series last year as a surprise, but other than that, nothing has been too impressive since 2010.

Things could be changing in the near future, especially for the football program.

Charlie Strong is already on the hot seat after back-to-back losing seasons in Austin in his first two years. What’s saving him is the fact that he has pulled in two solid recruiting classes. In other words, his excuses are running out.

The good thing is that the positive momentum on the recruiting trail is giving fans and players hope that good things are on the horizon. He has overhauled virtually his entire coaching staff this off-season in hopes of creating a spark, especially on offense.

The parallels across the entire Texas athletics program also give fans hope.

Shaka Smart has the basketball team playing at a high level in late February, which is unusual for Longhorns fans to see. The team may not be built for a deep run through March, but at least there is some excitement and optimism in the program. Making the Sweet 16 or further could be a sign of things turning around at the University of Texas.

One thing that we know for sure is that Smart and Strong are two of the most influential people in the program. They have said all the right things during their respective tenures, and now it’s time to start showing the results on the field and court.

What has many fans optimistic about football is the level of talent that Strong has brought in. That is actually ironic in itself, because Strong was known as more of a player developer rather than a recruiter. So far, that seems to be the opposite in Austin. But if he is able to develop the talent that he has brought in during his two years, then this Texas team could be relevant again quickly.

Longhorns fans know that Strong likely won’t be around in 2017 if he has another losing season this year. But even if Strong gets fired, the next coach will have a stockpile of talent to be able to win immediately. That wasn’t the feeling when Mack Brown moved on. That’s also why Strong may have a longer leash.

So what will it take for Strong to keep his job after this year and declare that Texas is trending upward? Probably 8-9 wins in 2016. He may survive a 7-5 season with a bowl victory, but he will be firmly on the hot seat again if that happens.

He has gone all-in with his new coaching staff and he knows that the time is now to create results and victories. With victories over Baylor and Oklahoma last year, fans know that their team has the potential of being good. Now it’s just the question whether the coaches can get them to play at that level every single game.

Time will tell whether the Texas program is actually trending upward, but all signs are pointing to momentum being in their favor. But momentum will only continue if it translates into wins on the field.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Randy Chancellor/Flickr.

Feast Week

Well readers, week 12 is upon us and a slight shake up has taken place in the top 4 spots in the playoff rankings.  Kudos to the playoff committee for actually having the gonads(politically correct for nuts, balls, etc.) to investigate to the best of their ability and take action where it seemed to fit.  Unlike our “Commander(Pretender) in Chief,” Mr. Obama, God save our souls, I am impressed they finally reached down, “grabbed em(imagine that sight from Condoleezza Rice, gross)” and said “this is the direction we are taking.”  Now, not so fast!  I am not saying I am all the way on board with the committee at this point but I do like the fact that they seem to really be looking at everything they claim they are when it comes to ranking the teams.

I am also feeling pretty good about my last publication and the fact that I came pretty close with the information that I gave.  Let me do a little recap:  Clemson covered by double digits over Wake, Alabama looked like National Champions against poor Charleston Southern, Michigan State did what they needed to do and upset #3 Ohio State, Baylor topped OSU as the pokes defense stayed in hiding and Baylor’s offense kept rolling, Iowa continued to play good balanced football and produced a commanding win over Purdue, Oklahoma(minus Baker Mayfield in the 2nd half) squeaked by TCU(minus Trevone Boykin).

To keep my Ego in check, I mentioned there was a time when Boston College gave Notre Dame fits.  I really didn’t think this was one of those years!  I stand to be corrected as the Irish pulled this one out 19-16 with the luck of the leprechaun.  This was much closer than I had imagined and probably had something to do with their drop from #4 to #6.

I mentioned the powder puff scheduling of the SEC last week but Florida Atlantic gave the Florida Gators all they could handle before losing 20-14 in OT.  Is this a sign of the “great strength of the monster conference?”  Give me a break! Double amazement is the fact that the committee seems to have actually taken this mere scrape by the Gators into account and dropped them from #8 to #12.  I found this big drop rather unusual as the Coaches Poll had them at #9 before the weekend and still have them at #9 for week 12.  For those that are not aware, four of the committee members are from the coaching profession.  Just a little food for thought but don’t chew on it for too long as 99 out of 100 dentists have said that taffy is horrible for the teeth.

Now that my Ego is in check, again very unlike our present President, let’s take a look at how the new playoff rankings look and what I think can be expected in the near future.

Clemson Tigers

#1 Clemson

Clemson goes to Columbia to face a 3-8 South Carolina team that has had more than their share of problems this year.  The great Steve Spurrier resigned from the program in October and the program has been in dire straits since.  That being said, as long as Clemson isn’t looking ahead to December 5th when they meet a very hot and talented UNC squad for the ACC Championship, they should be in okay shape this weekend.  I have mentioned Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s emphasis to his players of a “game at a time” and this is definitely a week that he will need to ‘instill and drill” it into to those young men’s hearts and minds.  Clemson finishes the regular season undefeated and goes into the ACC Championship #1.

Alabama Tide

#2 Alabama

After their practice session on Saturday against an FCS team, the Tide roll into Auburn to take on a 6-5 Tiger squad.  Auburn has really “smelled” up the field at times this year.  I really thought Auburn would be competing for something larger at this point of the season and the staff and fans were right there with me.  I am going out on a limb, not too far, just a little ways.  Many things come together on Saturday that have proven time and again that Auburn might make this a game.  First, Alabama is coming off a game in which they really didn’t have to perform to get the victory.  Second, if Auburn can keep it close their fans can be a huge boost at home.  Thirdly, with nothing left of their season, Coach Malzahn(very sound offensive minded coach) and Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp are going to throw the “kitchen sink, bathtub and toilet” at Alabama.  Why not, they have nothing to lose!  Fourth, it would be real easy for the young Alabama players to be thinking ahead to possibly Florida and the SEC Championship.  And Finally, it is ALABAMA vs AUBURN in the Iron Bowl!  An “in state” rivalry such as this one produces unknown emotions and character for all of these young men and strange things can happen.  We see it every year.  Yes folks I am of sober mind and body as I write this(only because I have to go to work early tomorrow) and feel this could be a ball game that nobody is expecting.  Talk about screwing up the selection committee! Go Tigers!!

Oklahoma Sooners

#3 Oklahoma

With a victory over then #18 TCU last week, 10-1 Oklahoma jumps up four spots to #3.  Oklahoma survived the loss of their quarterback for the second half and barely escaped 30-29.  I was rather shocked at such a large jump by the committee.  It must be the fact of their strength of schedule and the win, even with the loss of their quarterback.  Great news for Sooner fans, quarterback Baker Mayfield has passed all concussion tests and is expected to start on Saturday.  Bad news, they are playing a very pissed off #11Oklahoma State team, in Stillwater.  This is a huge “in state” rivalry(known as the Bedlam series) and should produce an excellent game.  With no Big 12 Championship game, a win should secure a spot in the top four for the Sooners.  I am just wondering what the mind set of Baker will be during this game.  His girlfriend goes to Oklahoma State, plays on their volleyball team and is an avid Pokes fan.  Nobody knows what she promised Baker(behind closed doors) should he make it possible that her team comes out on TOP!  Just sayin! And YES my mind was in the gutter(similar to my Longhorn’s season) on that one.

Iowa Hawkeyes

#4 Iowa

Here come the Hawkeyes!  Moving up one spot from the #5 spot last week, Iowa continues to show balance on both sides of the ball.  That being said, they are going to be very challenged on the road by a very good Nebraska offense.  Ranked 36th in total offense, Nebraska is going to be the second best offensive team(Indiana #24) that the Hawkeyes have faced.  We are going to see just what Iowa is made of and Hawkeye fans are sure hoping not to hear or see the words, “here come the Hawkeyes, there goes the Hawkeyes.”  I am going to throw this out there, with risk of eating “ego pie” instead of the chocolate pudding pie(that I so dearly love) left over from Thanksgiving. Nebraska upsets Iowa by 3!  Regardless, Iowa has earned a birth and will play in the Big 10 Championship. Who they will face will be determined this weekend when Michigan State plays Penn State and Michigan plays Ohio State.  Michigan State wins and they are in the championship.  If Michigan State loses, winner of the Wolverines and Buckeyes will be seeing Iowa in the championship.

Michigan State

#5 Michigan State

Great win for the Spartans, knocking off last week’s #3 ranked and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes.  Michigan State was able to get the win without starting quarterback Conner Cook. Utilizing the tandem of backup Tyler O’Connor and Sophomore Damion Terry, Michigan State was able to keep it close and give themselves a chance at the end, winning on a Michael Geiger 41 yard field goal.  Geiger was 8-13 on the year when he probably ended Ohio State’s championship hopes and kept his Spartans alive in the race.  Michigan State travels to Penn State to take on a Nittany Lion team that just can’t seem to get it together.  As mentioned, a win puts State in the Big 10 Championship.  A loss puts their season as just a memory!  I have a very good feeling that Michigan State finishes strong and will face Iowa for the Big 10 Championship.  If Michigan State wins the Big 10 they will have a strong resume for belonging in the final four.  I really like this Michigan State team and truly respect Head Coach Mark Dantonio.  Don’t count them out yet!!

Notre Dame

#6 Notre Dame

As the weeks wind down so does the teams that will have an impact on the playoff rankings and the final four candidates.  With that, I too will dwindle down to the teams that I think still have a shot.  The Irish dropped two spots from last week to the #6 position.  I think that was a little drastic but at the same time I think the committee really contemplated just where the Irish fit in the scheme of things.  If deemed a member of the committee, I probably wouldn’t have been so harsh on the Dame for playing close to Boston College because I know that the Eagles usually give them fits.  The Irish are now on the outside looking in.  They travel to Stanford, California to face the #13 Cardinals(9-2).  This is going to be a great test for the Irish and their last chance to give the committee any possible reasoning to jump them back in the hunt.  Stanford is a very solid squad and will give the Irish all they can handle.  It is going to take a pot of gold and all the “luck of the Irish” to walk out of Stanford Stadium as victors on Saturday.  This will definitely be a game I will watch!

Tony Romo

As I await the great feast of Thanksgiving, my thoughts ponder on the things that I am grateful for at this point of my life.  My list reads:  my two grown children, my two beautiful grandchildren, my family, college football, Obama’s last term, college football!  Is there a need for any more?  Oh yes I almost forget, college football!! “Happy Thanksgiving” readers and remember if you don’t choke on that drumstick, dry it out and beat a local Isis supporter with it.  “Peace in the Middle East!”

My Hypocrisy Only Goes So Far

As I lick my wounds from being a University of Texas Longhorn fan, I ponder the many thoughts as they circle this small brain of mine.  Left wondering what in the world is going to need to happen to return the Longhorns to a National Championship contender, I struggle through my responsibility of giving the reader a fair and accurate writing on the college football playoff rankings.  Why the struggle Heath?  Unlike many people from a certain conference(S-poiled E-litest C-onference), I cannot root for a Big 12 opponent just because I want the conference to be represented in the final four!  To quote Doc Holiday, “my hypocrisy only goes so far.”  My blood and brain are so conditioned to despise Longhorn opponents that to try and tell my mind and body to root for our foes at my age would be like trying to install hovercraft technology on my sister’s cat! Isn’t happening! “Smokey” would probably enjoy it once he discovered this is a sure way to the outside world but as Doc Holiday said “the strain would be more than he could bear.” I can relate oh so well with this statement.  Enough of my personal processing.  Let us take a look at week 12 and how the playoff picture might look after this weekend.

 

Clemson vs Wake Forest

#1 Clemson(10-0) @ Wake Forest(3-7)

Wake Forest comes into town against a very hot and very athletic Clemson team.  As I have mentioned before, Coach Swinney preaches hard to his players the philosophy of “a game at a time.”  The right move since it has “bitten their butt” with previous squads. Clemson will win this one, probably by double digit margin and the #1 spot will still be theirs come Tuesday.  Deshaun Watson should get an opportunity to continue to put up good numbers for his Heisman push.

 

Charleston Southern(9-1) @ #2 Alabama(9-1)

Wow!  The only words I can come up with when I look at the ridiculously “padded” weekend throughout the SEC.  Alabama schedules an FCS team and should look like National Champions at the end of this one.  I don’t think Coker can play bad enough to lose this one for the SEC queens and Derrick Henry should be given the chance to “pad” his numbers in his push for the Heisman. By games end, the viewers will be scratching their heads questioning whether it is legal for a college program to schedule a high school program.  I am interested to see if Ohio State makes a big showing against Michigan State, will the committee jump them over Alabama?  They should but don’t count on it!

 

Ohio State vs Michigan State

#3 Ohio State(10-0) @ #9 Michigan State(9-1)

Finally!  Ohio State gives us somewhat of a game that we can justify their ranking.  By this, I mean their schedule has been so weak that almost all that I have heard and read agree they have played no opponents worthy of a top 4 ranking.  Well here it is!  I understand that Michigan State has a loss on their resume but I also feel they will be competitive with Ohio State.  In fact, if Michigan State can control the ball and limit big mistakes, this game can go either way.  Ohio State wins, they once again secure the third spot.  Ohio State wins “big,” then they deserve to jump to the #2 spot.  Period!  If Michigan State is able to pull off the upset it will open the “flood gates” for the committee.  I really like this matchup!

 

Boston College(3-7) @ #4 Notre Dame(9-1)

I remember a time when Boston College gave Notre Dame fits.  Unfortunately I don’t see it happening this year.  Notre Dame will come into this game ready and I am predicting a double digit win for them.  A solid victory will keep their #4 spot secure, barring no upsets upstairs(1-3).  I don’t see them getting any further than #3 this week even if Ohio State blows out Michigan State, jumps Alabama to the #2 spot.  I really don’t believe the SEC Cartel will allow a two spot drop for their SEC Baby Alabama and allow the Irish to move to #3.  Ain’t happening!

 

Purdue(3-7) @ #5 Iowa(10-0)

Solid play on both sides of the ball usually equals success.  This is what I take from this Iowa team.  You don’t hear a bunch about them but they continue to win and they do it the old fashion way, balance.  Nothing fancy, nothing complicated.  Just win!  Again, the Ohio State and Michigan State game has major implications on Iowa doing any “moving” at this point(barring no major upset at Notre Dame).  Iowa needs to just keep doing what they are doing and they are in really good position to make a run.  A loss and they are out of the talk as is the 4 teams above them.

 

Ok State vs Baylor

#10 Baylor(8-1) @ #6 Oklahoma State(10-0)

This is a huge game for the Cowboys.  There are huge rewards awaiting Oklahoma State if they can win out.  Baylor lost to an up and coming Sooner squad but I watched that game and felt it was a very good game.  Baylor, even without Seth Russell is a very well coached and athletically able team.  A win over the #10 spot will continue to widen the eyes and open the ears of the committee.  The Cowboys actually have the worst chance of winning out the regular season of any of the programs left in contention, strictly based on the fact that they have the hardest two games left to play.  The Cowboys just need to go this win and worry about Oklahoma next week.  I am eager to see if the potentially good OSU defense that we have only seen snippets of, will show up for this one.  Baylor is out and a loss by Oklahoma State would ensure them a view from the bleachers.

 

#18 TCU(9-1) @ #7 Oklahoma(9-1)

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is nursing a very tender ankle and at this moment still questionable. The quarterback position is more than likely going to be a game time decision by Gary Patterson.  Either way, the Oklahoma defense of late is going to have to be relentless when facing this offense.  If they can keep the quarterback position on the move, they should be in great shape.  That being said, let us not leave Baker Mayfield and the Sooner offense out of the equation.  Mayfield has come on strong in the last couple of games and his fire and determination have put the wheels in motion for his offense.  What is at stake here?  This would be a huge win for Oklahoma’s resume.  The committee’s pupils have dilated the last couple of weeks in regards to OU and Oklahoma State(.   Fortunately these two teams meet next week and it could play out to be one of the biggest games of the year in many ways.  I will say it again, Oklahoma must win out!

I tried to do it!  I tried to leave this section without mentioning anything about October  10, 2015.  Do you remember this date in History?  Well if you have ever seen the commercial where Troy Aikman is at the checkout and makes the comment “sorry, I live in the past,” then you are familiar with where this is going:  Texas 24  #10 Oklahoma 17!  Yes folks this is the “horn” in OU’s side in regards to their playoff hopes and contention and will continue to produce a black cloud over them in the eyes of the committee.  I Love It!  Hook Em!

 

Florida Atlantic(2-8) @ #8 Florida(9-1)

SEC!  Need I say more?  I mentioned the diaper scheduling for the SEC this week and here is another fine example.  I want to step out on a limb and say this game has no bearing whatever for the playoffs but the way the SEC Cartel has lined up their teams, Florida could possibly be a huge factor.  Florida’s regular season is not what is important here.  It is the fact that Florida and Alabama will meet for the SEC Championship in a couple of weeks and that game is slated to be very important to the rankings.  Personally, I don’t feel at this point in the season we should even be talking about an SEC in the top four but we are because that is where big money and big media has taken control of college football(on the wings of the SEC).  For this reason, I can’t wait to see if the Gators can chomp up the Tide and make the “Beasts of the East” eat their damn words and all the SEC dung they can stomach.  Yummy!  I want to see the look on Jeff Long’s and the rest of the committee’s faces as they taste that.  I am guessing it would be very similar to the look that “Smokey” gives right after smelling Frasser’s(my sister’s other cat) butt!

 

There should be good reason to tune into college football this weekend.  Stay away from the SEC games, focus rather on the Big 10 and the Big 12.  These games are where the rankings are going to start taking shape.  I look forward to coming back next week and see just where everything has lined up.  Damn, hold on a minute.  “Smokey just flew out of the house with this horrible look on his face and the Texas Longhorns just made a bowl game!”  As my alarm goes off, I lay there hearing the music and sound of Dido’s “White Flag” playing in my head, wish that dreams did come true. The thought then hits me “well maybe they do, as I remember October 10, 2015.

The Steps to Recovery

These are the steps to recovery.

I am really glad that my initial reaction to the first college playoff ranking of the 2015 season wasn’t published.  Why? I allowed my emotions to send me into relapse and I was overwhelmed to a point of it affecting my personal happiness! I resorted to a spot in my life where it was drilled into me that to do the same thing over and over and expect different results was the definition of insanity.  I couldn’t help but think there is only one solution, a power greater than myself!  Unlike previously, where it was a matter of life and death, how could I possibly draw upon a power greater than myself that could possibly pertain to college football?

Now don’t misunderstand me, as probably some or maybe all of you can relate, there have been many times when I have prayed to the football “God” that if He would just allow this 55 yard field goal with time running out, just allow this touchdown pass of 65 yards with 2 seconds left or allow a 100 yard kickoff return with no time left on the clock, I would promise to do whatever it was He was asking of me. Can you relate yet?

I refused to “watch” the college playoff rankings as I refuse to give the “monster network” one more positive mark on their viewer numbers.  Rather I waited till the following day and researched it from a reliable, non biased source(somewhat, as a “ total” unbiased source probably doesn’t exists)!  As I laid it out on my 3×5 cards the order fell like this:

#1 Clemson(8-0)                                #6 Baylor(7-0)

#2  LSU(7-0)                                         #7 Michigan State(8-0)

#3 Ohio State(8-0)                              #8 TCU(8-0)

#4 Alabama(7-1)                                 #9 Iowa(8-0)

#5 Notre Dame(7-1)                          #10 Florida(7-1)

Be patient with me folks.  There is somewhat of a method to my madness.  In order to compare the new rankings I believe it is only professional of me that I give the reader a look (and reminder) at how the first selection fell into place.  That being done let me reveal, fresh off the press, the selection committee’s week two rankings.

#1 CLEMSON TIGERS

Clemson

Holding on to the #1 spot the Clemson Tigers.  They went up against a tough #16 Florida State squad in what I believed was a decent performance by both squads.  I have said all year that I feel Clemson is probably the fastest, most athletic college team this season.  Clemson did the things necessary to produce a victory.  I feel if coach Dabo can keep this squad focused on a game at a time, they will be competing for the top prize at season end.  Here lies the issue.  Clemson’s remaining schedule is somewhat of a powder puff one.  Two road games at Syracuse and South Carolina, with a home game against Wake Forest in the middle.  All three teams sit with 3-6 records and will do Clemson no good in terms of quality wins over quality teams. The ACC championship game will help some. I also feel that if Clemson comes into their last game against South Carolina over confident, we might not be talking about Clemson in regards to a playoff team.   Win out and they will be one of the four but possibly not at the #1 spot!

 

#2 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Alabama

At this point I am feeling a little uncomfortable.  How in the world has “IT” happened again.  Right before our eyes we are being force fed a big mouth and mind full of crap.  One loss Alabama gets in at the #4 spot last week and leaps to the #2 spot this week.  The force feeding by the committee and big money media have basically willed that the SEC must be in the race.  The reader might say, “not so quick Heath, did you not see the Alabama whipping of LSU?”  The answer is yes.  It was an Alabama steamroll over another “blown up” SEC foe.  I had to rewind my DVR to make sure that the LSU team on the field was the same team that actually ran out of the locker room.  Why?  The LSU team that I had heard about for the last 10 weeks as having the most “dominant” rushing  game in college football was stifled.  Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette gained 31 yards on 19 carries and a give-me touchdown.  Please don’t insult my intelligence and try to slip in “Alabama’s defense is awesome!”  I watched them literally get ripped apart on September 19th against a middle of the pack offense and mediocre team in Ole Miss.

To find some level of acceptance, I recite the 2nd step in my mind as it pertains to this situation, “Came to believe that a power greater than the selection committee could restore the process to sanity.”  Where are you football “God?”

 

#3 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

Ohio State

After a win over hapless Minnesota, Ohio State was leap frogged by Alabama and remained at the #3 spot.  J.T. Barrett is back in the mix after serving a week suspension.  I believe the Buckeyes control their own destiny.  With Michigan and Michigan State still on their slate, a win out would more than likely ensure a final four appearance for the Buckeyes.  I have a lot of respect for Urban Meyer and his ability to keep his team focused.  I will be the first to admit that Ohio State’s schedule to this point has been very weak.  I also know that Coach Meyer coaches his teams to think “one game at a time” and this team can and will compete with anybody in the country on any given day.  If perhaps a “blown up” SEC team does make the final four, I pray to the football “God” that Urban gets his shot at them in the semi-final round.

 

#4 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

Notre Dame

Wow!  Did you hear me say “wow?”  One more time, “WOW!”  The Irish were able to beat a 2 loss team in Pittsburgh this past weekend.  Is this all you need to break the top four with several undefeated teams sitting behind you?  The “only” way I see any justification in considering the win a good one is to look not at Pittsburgh’s wins but rather who they had lost to.  Their losses include Iowa at Iowa by 3 and North Carolina at home by 7.  If we are going to start figuring who a team has lost to as a measurement to be used by the selection committee, help me understand where this puts Alabama and their loss to Ole Miss.  Double standard?  Notre Dame’s only decent win in my mind came against USC.  I do recognize that their one loss came at the hands of now #1 ranked Clemson by 2 points.  With no conference championship to interfere, the Irish finish the season with home games against Wake Forest and Boston College, then go on the road to face Stanford.  I am going to sit on my hands in regards to the  Irish, not because my hands are cold but rather I am not going to be sold on Notre Dame until I see how they do against a very good Stanford team.  There is valid talk that Stanford is right in the mix of it all.  This matchup could serve up some major changes in the rankings.  That is how the game of college football should be settled.  On the field!

For the benefit of the reader, the following is how the rest of the Top 10 appears:

#5 Iowa(9-0)

#6 Baylor(8-0)

#7 Stanford(8-1)

#8 Oklahoma State(9-0)

#9 LSU(7-1)

#10 Utah(8-1)

There is still a lot of football to be played before the dust clears and we get to our final four playoff teams.  As I look at the bottom 6 teams I get a feeling that we just might see one, possibly two of them emerge in the ranks and make an honest bid for a spot in the final four.  My hope, as is probably every legit college football fans, is that the process is allowed to be played out in its natural state.  I also personally ask that the playoff selection committee continue to work the following steps:

Step 4-  Make a searching and fearless inventory of themselves and their future decisions.

Step 5-  Admit to the football God, themselves and to us as college football fans the exact nature of their wrongs.

Step 10-  Continue to take personal inventory on a weekly basis and promptly admit when they are wrong.

These steps that I have mentioned as a whole have saved many a person.  They come together to form a way for the individual to “get it right.”  If applied they can be used in many settings and if applied properly will allow one to come to a logical solution.  Isn’t that what we want college football fans?  A logical solution to a humanly complex process?

A modest proposal: Move Terps’ WR Ulmer back to QB

It is quite obvious five games into the 2015 season that the Terps are struggling to move the football let alone score points. Maryland’s anemic offense has been absolutely stymied the past two games, leading to the Terps getting outscored by an unbelievable 67 total points. Maryland was blown out two weeks ago in Morgantown by the Mountaineers by a final score of 45-6, and were shut out at home Saturday by Michigan 28-0.

Perry Hills began the season as the team’s starting quarterback, but after two poor performances and a 1-1 record, head coach Randy Edsall determined it was time for a change. In two games, Hills threw for a total of 306 yards on 27 of 51 passing, with four touchdowns to two interceptions. While the stats themselves are less than atrocious, Hills played much worse than the numbers portray. He proved incapable of finding the open receiver downfield, and his arm strength quickly became a serious concern.

Junior Caleb Rowe, who most thought was the obvious choice to be named the starter heading into the 2015 season, took over quarterbacking duties in the Terps’ third game. After throwing two interceptions in relief of Hills in the Terps’ second game of the season, Rowe played comparatively well against South Florida. Rowe also started the next two games but his performance plummeted, as he went 18 of 54 for a total of 114 passing yards with no touchdowns and seven interceptions. Rowe was pulled in both games in favor of Daxx Garman, who has also found little success during his time under center, going 6 for 18 for 115 yards, one score and one interception. While it can be partially attributed to lack of playing time, Garman has looked completely lost with the ball in his hands, and certainly does not seem to provide anything else Hills and Rowe could not.

With the Terps at 2-3 just one game into the Big Ten schedule, the possibility of hitting six wins and a potential bowl game is rapidly seeming more unattainable with every snap of the football. The offense has bottomed out, and I would honestly be surprised if the Terps managed to win another game the rest of the season given the current state of the offense and quarterback play. Something needs to change. Maryland needs a quarterback, and currently they do not have one.

Maybe, however, there is another option.

Redshirt freshman Will Ulmer, who came to Maryland in 2014 as a quarterback, made the move to wide receiver just days prior to the Terps’ 2014 season opener against Richmond. Ulmer impressed the Maryland coaching staff as a receiver on the scout team playing against the first-team defense, and soon thereafter Edsall decided to make the move permanent. In 18 games since arriving on campus,  Ulmer has yet to record a catch.

Ulmer was a relatively highly-touted recruit out of high school, ranked as a four-star athlete by ESPN and a three-star athlete by 247 Sports. His skills are undeniable, particularly his speed and elusiveness, both of which are evident throughout his high school highlight video:

A player of his caliber should see playing time, especially for a team in dire need of an offensive spark. The current trio of quarterbacks have proven completely ineffective. Why not move the unused Ulmer back to quarterback, and work him into a few plays over the next several weeks? At this point, what does the team have to lose? It could potentially benefit both the offense and Ulmer.

Maryland is deep at receiver, and all signs so far are pointing to Ulmer not seeing significant time as a member of the receiving corps. Interestingly, Ulmer was used in some wildcat formations during the Terps’ spring Red-White scrimmage game, showing that the coaching staff is at the very least open to the idea of getting him involved in the offense in some capacity.

If Ulmer showed some flashes of productivity in limited time over the next few weeks, and received time practicing as a quarterback over this period, handing the reigns of the offense over to him may not be entirely out of the question. Yes, this would be somewhat of a stretch. But it is glaringly obvious Maryland’s current quarterback options have become incapable of winning games.

Why not give someone else a shot? Even if it is a receiver.

Maryland Player to Watch in 2015: WR Taivon Jacobs

The Maryland offense will look dramatically different in 2015 than it has in recent years due to the departures of several significant playmakers. Quarterback C.J. Brown was a sixth-year senior last year and has finally taken his last snaps as a Terrapin.  While head coach Randy Edsall has yet to affirmatively name a starting quarterback, perhaps even larger questions loom over the Maryland receiving corps this upcoming season after the departures numerous key receivers from last season.

In 2014, senior Deon Long recorded 575 receiving yards on 51 catches with two receiving touchdowns. Despite missing three games, junior Stefon Diggs led the Terps with 792 yards on 62 grabs and five touchdowns. Diggs left for the NFL a year early, was drafted in the fifth round, and is currently trying to work his way up a crowded Minnesota Vikings depth chart. Also gone (unexpectedly) are Marcus Leak and Juwann Winfree. Leak had a solid start to 2014, notching 16 receptions for 253 yards and three touchdowns over the first six games before his production faded over the remainder of the season. Many expected Winfree to play a large role in 2015, but was suspended and subsequently withdrew from the school. Another pass-catcher, Jacquille Veii, transferred this offseason.

With this amount of turnover, other receivers will obviously need to step up to fill these voids. Sophomore Taivon Jacobs will unquestionably be one of these receivers.

Jacobs was a four-star receiver coming out of high school according to ESPN, and decommitted from Ohio State to join older brother Levern at Maryland. Levern has shown flashes of his potential, as he stepped into a prominent role in 2013 after starting wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were both lost for the year to injury midway through the season. In his final six games, Levern caught 37 passes for 473 yards and three touchdowns. Both Jacobs brothers will be integral parts of the offense this season, but the younger Jacobs brother could have a breakout year. He appeared to be pegged for a significant role in the Maryland offense last season, even ahead of older brother Levern. He earned a starting role at receiver even before ever having taken the field as a Terp. However, on just the second drive of Maryland’s first game last season, Jacobs suffered a torn meniscus running a deep route and was lost for the year.

Despite having several true playmakers, the Maryland defense is susceptible to allowing some of the more potent offenses of the Big Ten to put up big numbers. Accordingly, the Terps may be playing from behind early and often this season, and could likely be taking more shots downfield. Edsall has also shown he is not opposed to abandoning the running game, no matter the score, and leaving the ball in his quarterback’s hands to make plays. Take for example Maryland’s furious comeback last season against West Virginia. After crawling back into the game having been down by as much as 22, the Terps still only finished the game with a nine rushing attempts for a total of five yards. Clock management or game pace were not concerns; attempting to out-throw WVU quarterback Clint Trickett and his NFL-ready receivers was. While the Terps’ passing/rushing stats were at extremes in this particular game, the story was similar for much of last year, even with a quarterback lacking the strongest or most accurate of arms.

Expect to see Taivon all over the field in 2015. As quite possibly the fastest player on the team, he will in all likelihood be used in various ways; quick passes over the middle, screen passes in the flat, deep routes downfield, and likely even on kickoff and punt returns. Cornerback Will Likely thrived as a return man last year, but Jacobs should see many opportunities on special teams as well. Edsall will try to get the ball in his hands any we he can and as often as possible.

Based on last year’s wildly disproportionate number of pass attempts to rushing attempts, as well as the probable continued need to keep up with their opponents’ scoring, it is certainly feasible that the Terps will be airing it out frequently 2015. This should create plenty of opportunities for Taivon Jacobs to flash his speed and break big plays week after week. Expect him to have a big year, even if the team as a whole takes a step back from their 7-6 overall record last season.

Cost of Attendance and Urban Meyer; By Any Immoral Means Necessary

As we all know, this year will be the first year of the cost of attendance stipend for college athletes. It is seemingly a great provision. While it does not compensate players to the point that some, myself included, would like to see, it is a starting point.

Urban Meyer was asked to offer his thoughts on cost of attendance and how it will influence how he recruits. 247 Sports With CBS Sports provided his brief but potent reaction and may be found here for your review.

Using Meyer’s own words, here is a summation of his politically correct opinion in regards to the discrepancies in value from institution to institution:

“Well, it’s wrong,” Meyer said. “That’s wrong and it needs to be fixed. So, whoever came up with that ruling … it’s wrong. So, there needs to be a standardized (stipend). I’m surprised there hasn’t been more conversation about it.

Coach Meyer considers the discrepancies to be “wrong.” His solution is to “standardize” the stipend. Please allow me to translate his use of the word “standardize.” What Meyer really means to say is that the dollar amount needs to be “fair.” And by “fair” he means “equal.”

The fact of the matter is that it does not cost the same amount of money to attend Penn St as it does Ohio St. This comparison and contrast can be made for any school you wish to choose. So WHY does Meyer think an equal cost of attendance value would be justified? The truth of the matter is that it would be fair, but fair is in fact IMMORAL.

FAIR IS IN FACT IMMORAL.

We are not all the same and that extends to businesses and educational institutions. Are you flipping your lid yet? Well let me explain.

Each person and entity should be given equal consideration. From that point, we stand on our individual merits. In terms of cost of attendance, the individual merits of the institutions mean that some are more expensive to attend than others.

We are not all equal. BIG DEAL. Everyone needs to pull their big boy and girl pants up and get over it. That includes you, Coach Meyer.

The 247 Sports article shows that Penn St has the highest cost of attendance, Michigan St has the lowest and Ohio St falls roughly in the middle of the Big Ten schools.

So what would Meyer propose as a fair solution? Do you think he would advocate for all schools to offer what Michigan St is able to offer? Do you think he would advocate for all schools to offer what Penn St is able to offer? Or should everyone just offer what Ohio St is able to offer?

It is an irrational question. Why should Michigan St be forced to pay more than what is justified? Why should Penn St be forced to pay less than what is justified? My guess is that Meyer wants everyone offering what Ohio St offers.

What is the moral justification for Ohio St to have the playing field leveled at the expense of the other schools? An important component of this action is that the other schools would be forced to do so. When I say “forced” I mean by mechanisms other than the free market.

Not convinced about Urban Meyer and his immorality? Here is another example that took place before last season’s National Championship game.

Coach, COME ON MAN!

Seriously, it is never enough with this guy. Ohio St was going to offer an $800 travel stipend to the family of the football players. I believe it is a safe assumption that this is the amount the NCAA deemed as fair. While I am no fan of the NCAA and while I do agree with Meyer than $800 is a flimsy amount to offer the families, where does Meyer get the nerve to lobby the NCAA to not only increase this amount but to also take on the responsibility of the added funds?

Meyer told the NCAA that the families were not receiving enough but then expected the NCAA to foot the additional bill. The astounding part of all of this is that the NCAA went along with this notion.

In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand stated:

The right to property means that a man has the right to take the economic actions necessary to earn property, to use it and to dispose of it; it does not mean that others must provide him with property.

Coach Meyer would be wise to familiarize himself with this quote.

*feature image courtesy of vnews.com

Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri; Historical Perspective on Conference Realignment

You will never guess what topic reared its dysfunctional head this morning. Realignment reared its head in The Omaha World Herald with Lee Barfknecht’s Sunday morning column.

Looking back 5-6 years ago, conference realignment talk was sweeping the college landscape. Numerous teams were peddling their brand to whichever conference offered the best deal. Times were changing and the only certainty was change itself. The best thing any team could do was look out for itself.

Some teams embraced all of this with personal responsibility and owned their decision. Others, such as Nebraska, made every attempt to blame other institutions for their flirtations with other conferences. At the time of Nebraska’s courtship with the Big Ten and subsequent move to the conference, Harvey Perlman and Tom Osborne were quick to blame Missouri for their decision.

Reading Barfknecht’s column, one gets a completely different representation of the situation that Nebraska placed itself in. According to the column Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa St. were in discussions to join the Big Ten. So what were the road blocks to the deal? Glad you asked:

The feedback from Big Ten school officials was positive, both sources said. The sticking point was devising a revenue-sharing plan to satisfy all. It would have taken at least three to four years for that many incoming schools to hit the financial payoffs sought for moving.

From the standpoint of Nebraska, this is just too rich…pun intended. You see, Nebraska not only cast Missouri has the grim reaper of conference realignment, but they also presented themselves as bringing significant financial leverage to any conference that was willing to grant them membership. Retrospective truth be told, it seems that neither self proclaimed truth was actually a truth.

As we all know, Nebraska left for the Big Ten in June 2010 with Missouri leaving for the riches of the SEC one year later. Again, Nebraska was hell bent on blaming the school that left the Big 12 a year after they did for the demise of their former conference.

And how about Kansas being mentioned in this column? How about Kansas?!?!

It is no secret where Bill Self and many, if not all of the heavy hitter KU boosters stand on playing Missouri. They are dead set against it. In their mind, Missouri is the devil for having turned their back on a floundering conference in favor of one that was and is more stable.

For a well balanced perspective on Kansas, Missouri and realignment, check out this June 26, 2013 blog entry from local Kansas City media personality, Hearne Christopher Jr; Bill Self Sticks It To Misouri…Again.

Now consider the reality of conference realignment and where the Big 12, Missouri and Kansas fit into that reality. The fact of the matter is that Kansas was shopping its brand right along with everyone else. Again, in retrospect, Bill Self comes off as hypocritical and the Kansas fan base appears to have been put in its place.

Hearne Christopher relies on Craig Glazer as the voice of the Kansas fan base. Glazer is a well connected and influential Kansas Citian. Locally his opinion carries considerable weight. That does not, however, mean that what he says should be taken as sports gospel.

Take for example this comment he made to Christopher:

“KU is the No. 1 sports franchise in the Midwest, including the pro sports teams, and MU screwed the Big 12,” Glazer says. “And the school that almost got damaged the worst was Kansas, because nobody really wanted Kansas. KU and Self were almost a man and a team without a home.

Glazer seamed to prove himself wrong in one long breath. IF Kansas is the No. 1 sports franchise in the Midwest, including pro teams, how could little old Missouri screw them? Again, IF Kansas had the kind of market value Glazer contended then Missouri would not have had the real or perceived impact to Kansas. Kansas appears to be legends in their own mind even as they were left at the alter in conference realignment.

When all of the realignment talk was in full swing and the dominoes had yet to fall, local Kansas City sports personalities from radio, print and blogs engaged in an all out war with credibility being the ultimate prize. Since I have focused my column on teams that are considered to be geographically local to Kansas City, I leave you with an old, but comprehensive account of what was going on in Kansas City sports media at the time of realignment. This is courtesy of Greg Hall. Enjoy this compilation from The Landmark.

*feature image courtesy of unbiasedsportsreporters.wordpress.com

Tom Brady, a Suspension, and #DeflateGate – A Cleveland Collective Reaction

Tom Brady’s four game suspension in the wake of the Ted Wells’ report to the NFL regarding #DeflateGate1Since we’re making up words for everything, I figure the lines are blurred enough to put a hashtag in a column has probably generated a million words of opinion prices and the hottest of hot takes from every corner of the internet.

Well, here’s our corner of the internet:

Josh Flagner (@RailbirdJ) – More Than a Fan

My opinion on #DeflateGate has left most who have heard it unsatisfied, and I don’t think that trend will abate now that a punishment has been doled out from the NFL.

Four games, draft picks, and a boatload of money are all fine punishments to me. The whole thing is little more than a shrug. The Patriots will still be AFC Super Bowl favorites by mid-season, and Tom Brady is still a first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer. Further, unless we’re tarnishing the legacies of any players on teams who used stick’um, who pumped in crowd noise, who stored their balls in front of heaters, who froze out opposing locker rooms, who signed players just for scouting reports, who recorded opposing teams (before AND after Spy Gate, or who did millions of other things that bend and break rules2Or played for LEAGUES that knowingly looked the other way on HUGE cheating and player safety issues – I’m looking at you, EVERY LEAGUE… I think Brady’s and the Patriots’ historical achievements are safe.

Unrelated to everything I just said; I imagine parts of this punishment will be mitigated because Roger Goodell makes worse discipline decisions that Adrian Peterson.

Bob McDonald (@bobmcdonald) – More Than a Fan Cleveland

Other than the obvious rude puns and jokes scattered around the Internet, the framework of Tom Brady’s suspension are just dying to be scrutinized. It’s not that much of a surprise, considering that the punishments that have been doled out over the past year. It makes you think Roger Goodell is just throwing at a dart board in his office and using the number he hits as the total suspension. In the end, Brady probably isn’t going to be out for four games.

Besides that, there’s also no evidence that any penalties levied against the Patriots are going to have any effect in slowing them down. Remember Spygate? That scandal didn’t exactly ruin New England, did it? If anything, Deflategate will just become fodder for another South Park episode and the Patriots will keep doing what they do: win. So Brady may have potentially had an infinitesimal doing in #DeflateGate.

JimPete (@jimpeteehc) – Everybody Hates Cleveland

Yo Tom Brady, how about you try something refreshing other than ignoring the issue? How about doing one of two things: “I did it, sorry, it won’t happen again,” or “I didn’t do it, but here’s what I did do.” Instead, we get another bad guy/bad guy story that ends up in a court room dominating the offseason. Could the NFL be any worse? Yeah…yeah it could…

Craig Lyndall (@WFNYCraig) – Waiting for Next Year

I was shocked by Tom Brady’s suspension. I don’t think the punishment really fits the crime at all. It seemed to me that the league ought to either ding the organization or ding the individuals, but it seemed weird that they did both so heavily. In the end, I can’t believe any of this fits the “crime” that was committed. To me, I was looking at the penalty levied against the Falcons for artificial crowd noise – a fine and a fifth-round pick in 2016 – and would have gone up from there. The NFL decided to go way up and I’m still trying to figure out why my perception of the transgression is so much less than that of the powers that be doling out punishments.

Mark Skog (@MarkSkog) – Twitter Provocateur

1. I’m ok with Brady’s suspension for a few reasons. First, I’m not a Patriots or Brady fan. I’m not so high and mighty to pretend this isn’t a factor. I’m not a juror who needs to put their personal biases aside. I embrace mine. And seeing them slapped for cheating brings me great joy. Boston fans bitter tears have made for a delicious breakfast this morning.

2. Brady was the impetus behind all of this. Josh3He means me. ME. This guy is talking about ME on MY OWN SITE. I’m going to have to block him on twitter. isn’t buying this (I don’t actually know if Josh feels this way but let’s say he does) but the idea that it would come from anywhere else is preposterous. The two patsies who are about to be fired certainly didn’t do it without direction. And I believe that Bill Belichick couldn’t have cared less about the PSI of footballs. He’s too busy worrying that Gronk is always complaining that it burns when he pees (antibiotics Gronk. They are your friend). The only person who had a stake in this was Brady. Josh believes (sure, why not) that because a deflated ball has less velocity Brady wouldn’t sacrifice that. But if it gave him a better grip, Brady makes that trade in a heartbeat. If it feels better, that’s what counts. Am I right ladies?

3. Robert Kraft basically said, “I dare you to find anything.” And when the NFL did, the Pats are now acting like they’re shocked to find gambling at Rick’s Cafe (look it up kids, it’s good). If Kraft wasn’t so arrogant, I’d bet the punishment would be less severe.

So that’s it boys and girls. A cheater got caught. No tears shed here.

Ryan Thompson (@RthompAK13) – More Than a Fan Cleveland

What’s the big deal? Everything. If you look at the fumble per touch rate between the ’00-’06 seasons and ’07-’14 seasons, the numbers are drastically different. While New England is within the normal curve from 2000-06, it distances itself as a serious outlier from 2007-14.

So what, right?

Think about it like this: New England is a cold weather town where approximately 5 home games are going to be played in less than optimal (and colder than normal) conditions. Include playoffs and you’ve got several bone-chilling games. With a ball pumped to normal pressure, in cold weather, it becomes harder to handle in the QB-RB exchange. With less pressure, the ball becomes softer and the ball becomes easier to handle. Thus – Less fumbles. In one blowout against the Colts, does that make a difference? – Certainly not.

But what about the close games from 2007 – 2014? How many wins were racked up (over the long run) due to easier exchanges between Tom Brady and (insert RB here). I’ll let you be the judge.

Jeff Nomina (@Nominataur) – Everybody Hates Cleveland

The Patriots lobbied for a rule, exploited it, lied about doing so, and then interfered with the investigation.  This is after having been found guilty of Spygate.  When the Super Bowl champs have been caught cheating for a second time, the NFL has to come down hard or risk losing any credibility in the sport. Imagine if it were the Browns in the AFC Championship game instead of the Colts. We’re ready to burn Kelly Olynyk at a stake right now for ruining a championship opportunity. Also: for possibly being a witch.

And I understand people wanting to compare this to recent legal issues with players, but I expect a judge and jury to punish those players, not Roger Goodell. Equating domestic violence to football games is a losing exercise. The league can, and should punish the Patriots for being a bunch of cheating cheaters.

Jake Altman (@shakeandjake7) – More Than a Fan Cleveland

Tom Brady’s 4 game suspension is just what the doctor ordered from Roger Goodell. Unfortunately, I don’t see how the suspension can stand. Brady will certainly appeal, and in typical NFL fashion, the suspension will be lessened.  Once it comes down to 2 games, I think Brady will likely take it, although the possibility certainly exists for further litigation. My main question regards how Bill Belichick has avoided punishment thus far. The precedent in this situation for the NFL, set in 2010 after the Bounty-gate scandal in New Orleans, was that the head coach should have knowledge of all goings-ons in the locker room. Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season, when, by all accounts, he was unaware of the bounty program. Belichick may not have been aware of what was happening, but he is the head coach, and, according the NFL precedent, should know.  As head coach and general manager of the Patriots, based on previous rulings, I can only conclude that Belichick should be spending this entire season somewhere in Florida.

What do you think? Comment here, and make sure to follow all of the great Cleveland minds that contributed!

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1. Since we’re making up words for everything, I figure the lines are blurred enough to put a hashtag in a column
2. Or played for LEAGUES that knowingly looked the other way on HUGE cheating and player safety issues – I’m looking at you, EVERY LEAGUE
3. He means me. ME. This guy is talking about ME on MY OWN SITE. I’m going to have to block him on twitter.