Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Big East: The Iron Sheik of College Football

In this image-heavy return to the college football blogging world, I want to address one of my perennial rants: the Big East sucks at college football. Just like the Iron Sheik, who was always considered to be a serious contender but just could not win the title, the Big East returns this year with huge backing from the media.

Maybe it's an obligation that the media feels toward the otherwise college-football deprived East Coast, or maybe it's the college basketball hangover. But something is leading people to believe that the Big East is a real college football conference.

Maybe it's my own inferiority complex with being from Ohio and being jealous that I'm not from the Northeast (or Cincinnati). But the rant will continue. ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman is just one of these evangelists, and states in his recent column: "Expect to hear a lot, especially from SEC folks, about how soft the schedules of WVU and Louisville are. But if they keep winning, commissioner Mike Tranghese will get the last laugh."

Well, I'm not an SEC fan and I will proudly say that I will be the one having the last laugh on this subject. In fact, I'm still laughing at the New York Times' prediction from last year that the national championship game would be a battle between Louisville and Michigan. If you don't think that's funny, you have no soul.

As a refresher, let's take a quick look at the teams in the Big East. There is no more Miami or Virginia Tech, so what are we left with?


Is Gerry McNamara playing for this team? If not, I don't want to hear about them anymore. The Syracuse/Notre Dame matchup from 2005 turned out to be a real nailbiter, with the Irish winning 34-10. Jim Brown was great, but I'll just close my eyes and remember that great Big East tourney run by McNamara.

Is Kenyon Martin playing for this team? Cincy's big win in 2005 was against Syracuse. Great work. And who could forget the defensive battle against Western Carolina that ended 7-3 in the Bearcats' favor. By the way, Cincinnati kind of just sucks as a city.


With Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams, and Josh Boone, this team could really give the Bearcats a run for their money. Actually, I think this program is up and coming, and ever since I fell over drunk in the stands watching UConn beat up on Toledo in the Motor City Bowl, I really wish these guys the best.

South Florida

I spent some time in Tampa. It's real nice. Close to the Gulf, lots of palm trees and Yankees fans. After getting shut out 14-0 by NC State in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, we'll see South Florida debut against McNeese State (Joe Dumars' alma mater).


I love the heart you see from Carl Krauser out there on the field. Wait, wrong sport. I'm not sure if Wannstedt took the coaching job here out of self-loathing for how he fucked up the Bears, but if so, he's doing a great job. Was Dan Marino like 13 when he started playing for Pitt?


Is this in New Jersey?


Louisville hung around the top 25 last year, and ended up losing to Virginia Tech 35-24 in the Gator Bowl. That's actually respectable. And having Elvis Dumervil didn't hurt their defense at all. So I'll allow Louisville to be included in the list of "real" football schools this year.

West Virginia

So this is where we come to an impasse. People think West Virginia has a legitimate shot at a national title. They took care of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl (which should quiet the SEC fans down a little), and they have a legitimate offense with Pat White and Steve Slaton, but let's take a look at the schedule. Because this is where it gets dicey: they play Marshall, Eastern Washington, East Carolina, Mississippi State, Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Cincy, South Florida, Rutgers, and Pitt. By far their toughest matchup is with ACC powerhouse Maryland.

The only way this conference can redeem itself is if West Virginia goes undefeated and earns the chance to face the Buckeyes in the national championship.

I'm not going to say that Dan Marino, Donovan McNabb, or even Jim Brown come from an inconsequential conference, but let's face the facts: this is not a Tier 1 college football conference.

Unless the Iron Sheik of college football pulls off a huge upset, this season will just be another loss to Hulk Hogan.

Monday, July 24, 2006

CFN Comes Up With Something Original

I'm not one to credit College Football News with much in the way of originality, seeing as most of their 'content' seems cut and pasted and slighy rearranged from existing articles. All the same I have a daily addiction and don't mind throwing them a bone for having the balls to call it like everyone else is seeing it vis a vis Notre Dame. Overrated.

CFN Says:

18. Notre Dame Notre Dame Preview
Predicted Finish: 8-4 2005 Predicted Finish: 5-6 2005 Record: 9-3
Yes, this is the lowest you’ll see the Irish ranked anywhere (remember that these rankings are based on how good the teams are from top to bottom) and yes, the potential is there for a BCS Championship appearance if Charlie and the boys get out of September unbeaten. However, this is a tremendously flawed team with average corners, a limited pass rush from the front four, and no developed depth anywhere meaning the machine might quickly grind to a halt if injuries hit the skill positions. The secondary didn't get any faster in the off-season, although a few freshmen should provide some immediate help, the offensive line is average, and the overall athleticism and talent level, which was exposed in the Fiesta Bowl by Ohio State, is a year or two away from being up-to-snuff for a national title-caliber powerhouse. There's a whole boatload of talent on the way and this will be a USC-like program by 2008, but not all of the stars are in South Bend quite yet. Remember, outside of the win over an average Michigan squad, last year's team didn't beat anyone with a pulse.
Relative Strengths: quarterback, receiver Relative Weaknesses: linebacker, secondary

I like it CFN. Bravo!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In Defense of the Crusty Old Coach

SI's Stewart Mandel recently joined the Blogosphere with his attempt at a College Football Blog. It might be that Stewart's blog is hosted on a prominent sports pub web site owned by Ted Turner, or that you probably won't see any cussing on his posts, but Stewart's blog doesn't feel very, well, bloggy. At first read I found it a lot like the crypto journalism of Ivan Maisel's '3 Point Stance' over at ESPN. Not bloggy, but good for snippets that feel like raw feed from the seedy underbelly of college football. And the first post's not bad for typifying exactly what I mean. Not, coincidentally, it also has to do with my main man: Lloyd Carr - the very same crusty coach from the title. (Permalink to Lloyd Story and Heated Discussion Here.)

So what? Lloyd Carr got a blind guy fired from refereeing? What’s a coach supposed to do but stand up for the betterment of the game and the benefit his team? Removing a blind ref just makes sense for everyone involved, even though conjecture sprouting up across the blogosphere is that one-eyed Jim Filson's refereeing actually improved after losing his right eye in a cock fighting accident back in 2000.

But Lloyd takes the stance that every honorable man, like a wounded soldier, knows when his physical instability has rendered him useless to do his duty. And the honorable man should take that cue to fade gracefully from the limelight. Say if Lloyd's angina caused his balls to swell such that he couldn't stalk the sideline with the nimbless required to berate ball boys, assistant coaches and sideline reporters, he'd certainly retire. No questions asked. But when some stubborn, eye-patch wearing codger won’t face the facts and start collecting Social Security when he can only watch the offense or the defense, not both, nor any of the depth of field, sometimes you’ve got to show a man the door.

So Lloyd did what he had to do by expediting the exit of a man who’s time had come. In many ways it’s merficul; humane, like putting down a lame horse before he has a chance to crap out publicly.

Plus I just like the idea of an old man standing firm on his convictions and putting down the hammer to stamp out injustice. And will Lloyd's testimony that shoddy calls by Filson gave Notre Dame, Ohio State and the last three Michigan bowl game opponents a decisive edge over the last four seasons? Will that keep Filson off the field? (Unlikely, since it's true that in America you can't terminate an employee for having a disease or disability - even if it prevents them from doing their job. My uncle tried to fire a drunk once, and since alcoholism is apparently a disease that just sneaks up on some people, the termination was deemed wrongful and my uncle had to keep the guy on payroll and pay his disability insurance.)

Finally, here's how I imagine the conversation played out wherein Lloyd secured Filson's firing.

Lloyd: ‘Hey Jim (Delaney, Big 10 Commissioner), you letting One-Eyed Jim Filson call games this year?

Jim: I was thinking about it Lloyd. He’s been with us a long time. Seems cruel to let him go now after he lost his eye and everything.

Lloyd: Cruel? You’ve got to be cruel to be kind Jim. And the kind thing is to let him go before he embarrasses himself.

Jim: What?

Lloyd: Well, is it kind to let an arthritic dog hang around and play fetch just because he still wants to be a dog?

Jim: ...

Lloyd: When his existence is inseparable from doghood and that very thing is causing him excruciating pain?

Lloyd: Survival of the fittest Jim. Basic Darwinian principle. He wasn’t even that good when he had two eyes, and now he’s seeing 50% less.

Jim: Actually Lloyd, his refereeing has improved.

Lloyd: Hogwash Jim. Look at our road record since 2000, he's missing the point. And so are you. We’d be doing him a favor if we spared him the public scorn he'll suffer if he blows any more calls. The fans can be so cruel.

Jim: Hmmm. Maybe, you’re right Lloyd.

Lloyd: They’re probably already making fun of him. Sitting around, drinking beer and making fun of Jim. Posting their vitrole on their internet chat boards and blogs. The least we can do is spare him any further humiliation.

Jim: Gee Lloyd. I never looked at it that way. I thought, well, he wants to work and he’s been with us for five decades, so what’s the harm? But you're right Lloyd. I'll fire him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hooray For Sports Illustrated!

It's been a long boring offseason, but the light is finally emerging at the end of the tunnel. The Internet is turning up the College Football coverage so I thought I'd links to Sport's Illustrated's excellent update with previews of all 119 D-1A teams. There is enough here to prevent you from working for the rest of the week.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Take That ESPN Insider!

Last night my car was towed after a grump neighbor alleged that I was blocking his driveway. I'm feeling the weight of the man's foot on my neck, so I decided I've decided to strike back by egging said neighbor's house and doing my part to leak a little corporate content onto the blogosphere.

In events only related in my mind, Bruce Feldman just put out his pre-season Top 16 to add to the noisy littany of pre-season rankings out there. For those of you too cheap to subscribe to ESPN Insider, I'm writing with a leak of Feldman's top secret ranking in traditional, 5-7-5 haiku-condension format to avoid copyright infringement. Comments encouraged, as are personal Top 16s or more.

Here goes:

1.) West Virginia
returning back field
meets hungry o-line to feast
on weak big east slate

2.) Ohio State
mystery defense
troy smith is a real man
fear the sweatervest

3.) Auburn
they'll iron it out
on the ground in dixie's heart
where west is the best

4.) Notre Dame
ESPN loves
irish cock of brady quinn
smell a paper tiger?

5.) Texas
Rookie QBs vie
to fill a legend's old shoes
Mack Brown counts his cash

6.) Oklahoma
stout defense and
healthy adrian at back
make bob stoops hungry

7.) LSU
the bayou runs deep
but unless miles is god
there looms a road loss

8.) USC
matt leinart less troy
reloads with o-line and fast guys
but who will take snaps?

9.) Michigan
winds of coaching change
cool fans afire for wins
or lloyd carr's head rolls

10.) Miami
a fast ass defense
rocks like a hurricane can
larry sweats for wins

11.) Florida State
no coaching from old
man bowden means no problem at
all wit' d like this

12.) Georgia
get over the hump
you dawgs, but fat chance uga
the east bristles

13.) Cal
hippy dippy da
does flower power a new
champ for pac ten land?

14.) Florida
there's urban pride, sure
but a chris leak in the boat
may swamp the season

15.) Iowa
tate's the it boy in
the big ten, say media
who don't play football

16.) Louisville
as confucius said
its easy to win football
games in the big east

Just Missed the Cut: TCU, Penn State, Clemson, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Utah and Arizona State.

Jesus, writing 16 haikus is hard.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

All You Never Cared to Know About I-AA Ball

I had this theory that the community of Pocatello, Idaho, home of the Idaho State Bengals of the I-AA Big Sky Conference, would be silly excited that Matt Gutierrez (erstwhile Michigan Wolverines quarterback and recent transfer) had joined their ranks. My hunch was that any I-AA team would be psyched to get a former QB from a I-A super power program, especially one as touted as a prep as Gutierrez was coming out of the De La Salle High School in California and being briefly anointed the Michigan starter.

So I googled 'Matt Gutierrez' to tap into the expected well of media hype and stumbled upon a website, Monsters & Critics, that bothered not only to identify, but to then rank all 101 I-AA football teams (including the Ivy League schools who cannot participate in I-AA's most redeeming feature - a post-season playoff which determines a single champion - and whose ranking is therefore sort of meaningless). Blechh.

(*As an aside the website mentioned above mostly sucks so my inclusion of them is by no means an endorsement. Here's why: With their marvelously, detailed and unnecessary coverage of I-AA I would have expected at least as much of their I-A College Football link, but it is broken as of the writing of this post. I'm giving them a chance to fix that link, or delete it and prove their flawed, experimental approach of exploiting the I-AA College Football 'niche.')

I can't imagine the research burden this must have presented to reporter Matt Dougherty who dutifully put together a snippet for each of these ridiculously obscure schools, despite the gloomy prospect of nobody actually giving a shit. Here's to Sisyphean tasks.

At the end there's tacked on a 'Mid-Major' list of 21 schools I had previously not heard of
(except for Valparaiso due to is periodic Cindarellaness in the NCAA Basketball Tourney). Anyone who can explain why these schools (not to be confused with team from I-A conferences like the Mountain West or Conference USA) are also referred to as mid-majors will when a personal check from me to you worth $2.

Anyway, congrats to Appalachian State for that #1 ranking, shame on you Savannah State for going 0-11 last season and being ranked dead last in college football's b-list ranking.

As for Gutierrez and Idaho State, they are ranked #23 coming off a 5-6 season in '05. That's a testament I think to the perceived improvement of the team based on the arrival of Gutierrez alone and a few state pen. and JC transfers.

You can check out the rankings if you care to HERE.