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The Pundit’s Power Rankings: Meetings in Vegas, Portis is pissed, and Harrell can just stay home

Unlike traditional Power Rankings, which attempt to rank teams on a week-to-week basis, the Pundit’s Power Rankings avoid such arbitrary silliness. Instead, The Pundit wishes only to rank the pertinence, scope, and conversational value of the top sports stories of the week. Extra points for any stories that lend themselves to relentless mockery and high-horse rhetoric. On to the Rankings!

1. The Winter Meetings

They say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. In baseball’s case, what happens in Vegas ends up in New York. The Yankees and the Mets were the biggest players during the Winter meetings, with the Yankees landing free agency’s biggest prize, CC Sabathia. Plus, it looks like they’re going to snag A.J. Burnett. (Editor’s note: Damn Yankees). The Mets added pitching as well, obtaining closer Francisco Rodriguez. Plus, they added one more putz to their roster- setup man J.J. Putz, that is. (Editor’s note: Wow, never saw that first-rate zinger coming). Or, as they’re saying in New York: J.J. Pootz. Hah. Still waiting to see where big-namers like Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Lowe wind up. And the rest of the National League can breathe a bit easier, as for now, talks between the Cubs and Padres over Jake Peavy are dead. May they rest in peace, and never, ever come back to life. Stay tuned.

2. Clinton Portis vs. Jim Zorn?

Clinton Portis was unhappy about being on the bench in the second half of a loss against the Ravens this past week, and he exclaimed his anger on a local D.C. radio program, going so far as to sarcastically call Zorn a “genius.” Then, it leaked that many of the players weren’t happy with Zorn’s habit of talking to the media about the specific mistakes made by players during games, and apparentely, some of the playcalling. Fun stuff in Washington, especially for a team that has dropped four of their last five games. Though, maybe this type of thing shouldn’t surprise us from Portis anymore…

What in the hell...?

What in the hell...?

3. Heisman Ceremony minus Harrell

Coach Mike Leech was pissed that Harrell wasn’t invited to New York. Many members of the National Media were pissed that Harrell wasn’t invited to New York. Me? Eh, doesn’t bother me – for me, the contest was between the three guys they picked. Though Harrell put up some sick numbers: 4,747 passing yards, 41 passing TD’s, 6 rushing TD’s, 7 INT’s, a 71.5% completion percentage. Let’s be honest: if Texas Tech plays at least a competitive game against Oklahoma, he gets the invite. It’s all about the last impression you leave people, and unfortunetely for Mr. Harrell, his cost him dearly.

4. The Cowboys in disarray

Jerry Jones is calling out Marion Barber for not playing through his injury? TO thinks there is some sort of conspiracy going on between Tony Romo and Jason Witten to get Witten, and not TO, the ball? The Cowboys are the perfect example of why you can look lovely on paper, but if you have no chemistry, all the paper in the world can’t ensure a championship. Jerry Jones, shut your mouth, and let your players play. TO, just shut your mouth, period. Why wouldn’t Romo want to get you, one of the most talented recievers in football, the ball? You normally make him look good – accept the fact that sometimes, the defense will dictate who Romo throws the ball to. It’s common sense, isn’t it? I guess it’s just TO’s world, and we’re polluting it, apparently.

5. Jimmy V Week

“Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.” – Jim Valvano

If you can watch the speech he gave at the 1993 ESPY’s and not get a little choked up, you are probably a robot. Jim Valvano was a great example of how sports can extend beyond the field and impact the lives of so many people. Wins and losses, they fade in time. Some things live on.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Amen.

6. Injunction suspended for NFL players

Looks like the Vikings and Saints can breathe easy, as they will likely keep their players for the playoff push. This was a bigger story last week, and I still think it’s fishy that the judge who ruled on this presides in Minnesota, but whatever. I mean, is anybody all that scared of the Vikings or Saints, anyway?

Viiiiiiiiiictory!

Viiiiiiiiiictory!

7. Carmelo Anthony goes for 33 in one quarter

I mean, that’s just ridiculous. 33 in a quarter? Unheard of. Melo’s got game, son, for real for real. Let’s put that into perspective: not one Sixer has gone over 33 points in a single game this year! Which is probably as sad for the Sixers as it is impressive of Melo.

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The Pundit’s Power Rankings: Plaxico shoots up the list!

Unlike traditional Power Rankings, which attempt to rank teams on a week-to-week basis, the Pundit’s Power Rankings avoid such arbitrary silliness. Instead, The Pundit wishes only to rank the pertinence, scope, and conversational value of the top sports stories of the week. Extra points for any stories that lend themselves to relentless mockery and high-horse rhetoric. On to the Rankings!

1. Plaxico Burress shoots himself in thigh

A true run-and-shoot offense. Well, shoot and run, I suppose. And I’m not sure if I’d be running after I had shot myself in the thigh. Whatever. I feel as though we need to go over the details of this one more time: Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the thigh after stuffing his handgun, which didn’t have a safety, into his sweatpants while hanging out at a club. A handgun he didn’t have a permit for in New York, a city notoriously strict on illegal possession of firearms. And not only do the Giants lose their best receiver, but one of their top linebackers, Antonio Pierce, might be in some trouble as well. This story speaks for itself.

2. The Juice is no longer on the loose

At this point, anything I say would just be piling on. And that’s what, a 15-year penalty?

3. Sean Avery’s sloppy seconds

Hard to believe he got a six-game suspension for what he said. Classy? Hell no. But worth a six-game suspension? Hardly. Seems to me like the NHL was looking for a reason to crack down on what they felt to be one of their more unsavory characters, and they got their money’s worth. Quick question: on a sloppy-second score, is Avery credited with an assist?

4. NFL players take substance to mask steroids, suspensions suspended

Anybody else think it’s a bit fishy that the Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson, of Minnesota, was the judge who temporarily delayed the suspensions of the 5 players accused of using diuretics to mask steroids? Which, of course, led to a federal judge blocking the suspensions until a further investigation into the matter could take place. Would Judge Larson have taken such a vested interest in the manner if the Williams Wall, and the Vikings playoff hopes, weren’t in jeopardy? I have no idea, but I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, so I’m going to go the paranoid route. Which is why I’m almost positive that Matt Cassel has been taking injections of Tom Brady’s DNA, Tony Sparano is actually Tony Soprano and is involved in a massive point-shaving operation, explaining the Dolphins sudden success, and somebody suddenly changed the overtime rules without telling anyone in week 11, confusing Donovan McNabb and, apparently, a huge contingent of NFL players. Oh, and Plaxico Burress didn’t shoot himself in the thigh – there was another shooter up on the grassy knoll, maaan…

5. Charlie Weis’ future in question

Let’s do some math, ok? Alright, here’s a problem to start with: Unlimited resources + a multitude of highly touted recruits + a lucrative television contract + a huge contract for your head coach + the past four years = 28-21 record and two losses in the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, and the two losses in the Fiesta Bowl were with players almost exclusively recruited by Tyrone Willingham. I despise Notre Dame and their College Football politicking, so seeing them fail doesn’t bother me much – I say, let Charlie work it out. Heh…

(And now, for a commercial break. This has nothing to do with this post at all, but I just saw this TV, and it absolutely cracked me up – they were offering commemorative Barack Obama half-dollars. I mean, seriously? What’s next, the Collector’s Edition Obama Oreo Tin?)

6. Oklahoma or Texas? The BCS again reveals its flaws

Though, after watching Oklahoma absolutely toy with Missouri during four lopsided quarters, its hard to argue that Oklahoma doesn’t deserve to be where they are right now. I mean, if you’re a college football fan, the Oklahoma vs. Florida match-up has to be getting you pretty pumped up.  Plus, Penn State vs. USC, and Texas, Alabama, Utah and Ohio State pairing off should actually make for a decent bowl season. Still, even though I supported Oklahoma being the Big-12 South champion, I can’t help but feel as though Texas got absolutely screwed. Hey, at least ESPN now has the broadcasting rights to the BCS after Fox’s contract runs up – now we’ll get years of the Gameday Crew touting the wonders of the BCS. Hooray!

7. Arbitration, Free Agency in MLB

None of the major moves have happened to this point, so much of this story has simply been speculation. Player X is going here, player Y is going there, Scott Boras is a huge piece of shit, etc. etc. Well, except for that last part – that’s just true. Once Manny and CC are signed, sealed and delivered, the rest will fall like dominoes. As for me, I’d like to see Derek Lowe end up in Philly, as well as a second to third-tier outfielder. What I think will happen?  Jamie Moyer will be back, and we’ll still get a second to third-tier outfielder. Though I have a feeling that Mr. Amaro is going to want to make a splash in his first offseason…

That’s it for this week’s Pundit Power Rankings – be sure to check in tomorrow for some postgame Eagles reactions.

E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!

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Combining the BCS, the traditional bowls, and a playoff: The Pundit devises the ultimate system to determine a National Champion

There are many quality arguments for a college football playoff. There are a few supporting the current system. There are many people who say to hell with the tradition of the bowl games, and many more who aren’t so willing to kick them to the curb. There are those who claim that the regular season is far more exciting than it would be with a playoff intact, and those who feel that the playoff would simply be the appropriate resolution to a captivating regular season.

The Pundit is here to bring you all together.

What will follow is my comprehensive plan to combine the BCS ranking system, a college football playoff, and the current bowl structure. If that sounds crazy, bear with me: I think this could work.

First of all, the regular season would have to be limited to 12 games max, including any conference championship games (which means ACC, SEC and Big-12 schools would be limited to 11 games before their conference championship bouts). Don’t want to lose money by losing regular season games, big conferences? Then cut the cream-puff games against puny schools. The conference championship games would take place a week earlier than they currently do. The week after this game, a 16 team playoff would ensue. The first two rounds would take place, leaving only four teams left to play for the National Championship. These first two rounds would be played at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. After these two playoff rounds, all of the traditional bowl games would make their selections, picking from a pool of all eligible schools, excluding the four schools playing for the National Championship. This would leave around two to three weeks for the players of these schools to take their finals, the coaches to prepare for their next bowl game, and the fans to purchase their tickets.

Deep breath. And continue…

The four remaining teams would play the semifinal games after the New Year’s culmination of bowl games. These semifinal playoff games would take place on neutral fields. All bowl games would be played on or by January 1st. In the event that January 1st fell on a Saturday or Sunday, the semifinals would take place on Monday and Tuesday. Otherwise, the semifinals would take place on the first Saturday after January 1st, and the National Championship Game would take place a week later.

Alright: how would this thing be seeded?

Good question. The winners of the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big-10, Big East, Big-12, Pac-10, ACC) would be given the top six playoff seeds, placed in order of their BCS rankings. After these six teams, the next ten BCS-ranked teams would qualify. Some stipulations: any BCS conference winner that did not finish the season ranked in the top 20 would still automatically qualify, but would be dropped from the top six seeds and automatically seeded ninth. In this scenario, the highest-rated BCS team that did not win a conference would take their place in the top six. As well, if a non-BCS conference winner, such as Utah this year, finished in the top six, they would be given a seeding in the top six according to their BCS rank, unless all of the BCS conference champions placed in the top ten, in which case that BCS non-conference winner would automatically qualify for the seventh seed. If a non-BCS conference team placed in the top six, the BCS conference champion they ousted from the top six would automatically be given the seventh seed, unless they were ranked lower than 20. Also, there would be no limit as to how many teams from one conference could qualify for the playoff – this year, four teams from the Big-12 would make it, while the Pac-10 and Big East would only have one each. Sorry, fellas.

Any questions? Alright, let’s do some predictions to see how this would play out. Based on what I think will happen for the rest of the season, the following will show exactly what would happen if my model were in place for the rest of the season. Since I predict wins for USC, Oklahoma, Florida and Boston College next week, my BCS top 16 after this weekend would be as follows:

1. Oklahoma   2. Florida   3. Texas   4. Alabama   5. USC   6. Utah   7. Texas Tech   8. Penn State   9. Boise State   10. Ohio State.   11. TCU   12. Ball State   13. Cincinnati   14. Oklahoma State   15. Georgia Tech  16. Boston College

Here’s what the first round match-ups would look like:

1. Oklahoma vs.16. Georgia Tech

8.  Texas vs. 9.  Alabama

4. Utah vs. 13. TCU

5.  Penn State vs.12. Ohio State

6.  Cincinnati vs. 11. Boise State

3.  USC vs. 14. Ball State

7.  Boston College vs. 10. Texas Tech

2. Florida vs.  15. Oklahoma State

Obviously, there are some rematches here – Penn State against Ohio State and Utah against TCU. Hey, that’s how playoffs work, people. As well, the one danger in my system occurs when conference winners aren’t necessarily at the top of the rankings, as evidenced by the monster showdown between Texas and Alabama in round one. But that would add a whole new level of drama to conference play – win the conference, guarantee yourself a high seed, and let everyone else sweat out horrific early match-ups. An important note: round two would be re-seeded. Why? Well, imagine this year, where the third and fourth ranked BCS schools ended up as the eight and nine seeds in the playoff – would it really be fair to ask the top-seeded team in the playoff to face one of them in round two, should that team win? I don’t think so, and thus, I would propose the second round, and only the second round, be re-seeded.

1. Oklahoma vs.  11. Boise State

4. Utah vs.  5. Penn State

3. USC vs.  9.  Alabama

2. Florida vs.  10. Texas Tech

Some pretty intriguing games there, right? Let’s whittle it down to four, then figure out the bowls games.

1. Oklahoma vs.  5. Penn State

2. Florida vs.  9.  Alabama

Ah, another rematch – that’s a playoff system for you. Now, the 12 teams that lost in the playoffs would be dropped back into the pool of bowl-eligible teams. An important note: the playoff would not affect the BCS rankings before the bowl game selections. Once the playoff begins, the regular season and BCS rankings are closed. The next, and final BCS rankings, would thus occur after all of the bowls and playoff games were decided.

Here’s how I would project the major New Year’s day bowls based on the results of the playoff, using traditional bowl-selection protocol:

Rose Bowl – Ohio State vs. USC

Orange Bowl – Cincinnati vs. Boston College

Fiesta Bowl – Texas vs. Utah

Sugar Bowl – Georgia vs. Texas Tech

I would predict an Oklahoma win over Penn State, a Florida repeat over a worn and torn Alabama team, and an Oklahoma win over Florida for the National  Championship.The semifinal and championship games would get huge ratings and generate as much (if not more) revenue as the bowls. Everybody wins.

Whew…that’s my system.

See – you get a playoff, and the bowl games are intact. Perhaps there are those that will argue that my system renders the bowls consolation games; isn’t every bowl game except for the National Championship Game a consolation game in the current system? Some may say that the drama and controversy will get sucked out of the regular season. I beg to differ – it will still be huge to win the conference, and now, instead of the top teams sweating a BCS bowl bid, the teams hovering between rankings 10-20 will be battling every week to get into the playoff. The BCS will still generate controversy, as ultimately a few teams will be left out of the playoff. Imagine this year: Would the voters keep Utah at six, automatically giving them a top-six seeding in the playoffs? Or would they bump them down a slot to seven, altering Utah’s playoff seed from the 4th seed all the way down to the 9th or 10th? Imagine the stakes for the showdown between Georgia Tech and Georgia this past weekend – that game would have had a whole new meaning. Certainly, controversy would remain, but we would have a winner determined by the play on the field.

That’s what we really want, right?

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Football has become essential agony: The Pundit dishes on the Birds and the BCS

The Eagles

What exactly was Andy Reid thinking when he sat McNabb down on Sunday? The Birds were only down by three points, after all. Granted, McNabb had been playing an atrocious game, but benching McNabb, at least to me, signaled a move in a new direction, i.e. the Kevin Kolb era. And then Kolb stunk it up, and Andy announced on Monday that McNabb would be his starting QB.

Huh?

So now, not only have you put all of the pressure on McNabb’s shoulders by singling him out and benching him, but you also are refusing to give Kolb a long look to see what you have for next year. ‘Cuz let’s be honest – it doesn’t look like McNabb will be coming back after this year. What kind of message has Andy Reid now sent to his starting quarterback? To me, he’s sent a very simple one: “Better, uh, watch your back there, Donovan, ‘cuz at the next sign of trouble, you’re coming out, and, uh, Kevin Kolb, we’re uh, we’re going to go ahead and give him a shot.”

Because, you know, the quarterback position isn’t already chock full of pressure. Let’s go ahead and put even more pressure on McNabb. Let’s go ahead and bench our franchise quarterack, in a game we are only trailing by three points, while we are still apparentely in a playoff race!

I MEAN, ARE YOU FRICKIN’ SERIOUS?

Kudos to McNabb for toeing the company line and playing it cool on this one. I, personally, would have been pissed the hell off. Don’t tell me that no one’s job is safe, bench a guy, then start him again the next week. Especially in a game they were only trailing by three friggin’ points! To me, Andy simply didn’t evaluate the situation properly. Was McNabb playing horrible football? Absolutely. Can you blame Andy for wanting him out of the game? Maybe not. Should Andy Reid have considered how sensitive the entire quarterback issue is this season, and really has been throughout Donovan McNabb’s career in this town, before he yanked him at halftime? Shouldn’t he have considered how this would be treated by the media and the fans, many of whom are already questioning whether or not McNabb will, or should, be back next season?

DUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHH!!! (Editor’s note: Oh, that’s just obnoxious).

What is going to happen to McNabb? If he isn’t going to return, will we get to see Kolb at some point? Barring a ridiculous hot streak by the Eagles, where they win out, at what point should Kolb get a look? Is Andy Reid’s job safe any longer? Has he lost control of this team? He certainly has lost the public support, but will that matter to Jeffrey Lurie? Who would you want to replace Reid?

I miss the Phillies.

The BCS

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Now, unless Alabama loses to Auburn or Florida loses to Florida State, the winner of the Alabama – Florida SEC Championship Game will be playing in the BCS Championship Game. Right, that seems simple enough. And it seems likely that somebody from the Big 12 South will be there as well, in all likelihood either Texas or Oklahoma, each with one loss. Ahhhh, let the debating begin.

In one corner, you have Texas, who beat Oklahoma earlier this year, on a neutral field. I mean, honestly, shouldn’t the argument end there? Well, not exactly. After all, if you are going to rank Texas ahead of Oklahoma, shouldn’t you also rank Texas Tech ahead of Texas? Tech also only has one loss, and beat Texas earlier this year.

Ah, but let’s not forget about that neutral field. Texas’ win over Oklahoma has to be slightly more impressive than Oklahoma’s victory over Texas Tech, since Texas beat OU on a neutral field, while OU beat Tech at home.

But hold on, hold on a second: OU absolutely destroyed Tech, 65-21. They beat the number two team in the nation by 44 friggin’ points, for God’s sake. To me, that cancels any advantage that Texas would be given for winning on a neutral field. Still, Texas beat OU.

Alright, but how about this: OU has several impressive non-conference victories. They beat Cincinnati, who will likely win the Big East, 52-26, in week two. Cincy is currently ranked number 16 in the BCS rankings. They also beat TCU, currently ranked 14th in the BCS rankings, 35-10 in week 5. As a matter of fact, in 4 games against opponents currently ranked in the BCS top 25, OU has outscored its opponents 187-92. Very, very impressive stuff, and if they knock off number 12 Oklahoma State this Saturday, it’s hard to imagine they won’t jump ahead of Texas.

But would that be fair? Texas has also played against 4 teams currently in the top 25 of the BCS rankings, and outscored those opponents 162-129. Not as impressive as the margin of victory posted by Oklahoma, but Texas faced those 4 opponents in four consecutive and unbelievably brutal weeks!

To review: if OU beats Oklahoma State, they will have victories over Texas Tech, OU State, TCU and Cincinnati under their belts. Their primetime, utter demolition of Tech will not quickly erase from the minds of the voters. Sam Bradford might be the frontrunner for the Heisman. Oklahoma is certainly the sexy pick.

Texas will have victories over OU, Oklahoma State and Missouri under their belts. Their only loss of the season will have come in an extremely tight game against Texas Tech, which they lost on the last play of the game. Oh yeah, and they already beat Oklahoma this year – on a neutral field. Texas is, by no means, a sexy pick, but they just might be the correct one. Hard to say, and they will be ignored if Oklahoma destroys Oklahoma State like they did to Tech.

Funny thing about that game for Texas: they need OU to win. See, the only reason this discussion is taking place is because, in the Big 12, if there is a three-way tie for first, the tiebreaker goes to whoever has the highest BCS ranking. But in the case of a two-way tie, the tiebreaker is a head-to-head match-up. And Texas Tech beat Texas. So if OU loses, Texas Tech wins the South based on their head-to-head win against Texas. Texas actually needs OU to beat Oklahoma State for them to have a chance, though I doubt they want them to win anything other than a squeaker.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine sure as hell does.

Alright, let me do my BCS predictions. OU is hot right now. They beat Oklahoma State, though not as handily as they beat Texas Tech. Let’s say 38-21. Sorry, Texas, but the sexy chick always gets laid before the bland, practical one does. Florida beats Alabama, Oklahoma beats Missouri, and Florida beats Oklahoma, 56-52, to win their second National Championship in three years. The other bowls? Oregon State will lose to Oregon, meaning an intriguing Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State. I go Penn State over USC, 23-21. (Editor’s note: What a homer!) Alabama will face at-large Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and handle them fairly easily, winning 35-13. The Orange Bowl will be Cincinnati vs. one of the ACC teams. Seriously, I have no friggin’ idea what is going on in the ACC, and quite frankly, I could give a damn. Cincinnati wins the Orange. Finally, poor ‘ol Texas gets a less than appealing match-up against Boise State, who gets a rare second at-large bid for the mid-majors, ousting Ohio State for the final BCS slot. Texas Tech is the highest ranked team to get stiffed, since only two teams from any one conference are eligible for BCS bowls. Texas takes out its rage on Boise State, winning 49-10. Clearly, none of this will happen, and it is only what I am hoping will happen. In all reality, I just want the BCS to explode.

(Editor’s note: God, would a playoff be great this year. Stay tuned – methinks The Pundit is in his linguistic laboratory, concocting the perfect playoff system, one that will please all available parties. Oh, it shall be grand – or not. Either way, stay tuned).

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From the Nosebleeds – The Texas Tech Red Mutants are Freakishly Good

Ryan Jacobs

What a fucking dismal weekend of sporting predictions and results it was. At least it was for me: my beloved Nittany Lions lost a heartbreaker to Iowa, ending their National Championship aspirations; the Eagles lost in usual fashion to the Giants to keep them tied for dead last in the highly competitive NFC East; and my prediction of an Oklahoma State upset became a joke. I could spend this whole time talking about why Penn State lost, but I’m not. I’m too hurt by the poor performance of a team that wasn’t as hungry as it should have been.

No, I think I’ll talk about Texas Tech, instead.

On Saturday night, I had another chance to watch the swarming horde that is the Texas Tech Red Raiders. It was like I was watching the movie Aliens all over again, yet this time the aliens resembled a set of human figures decked out in Black football apparel (instead of giant, black, insect looking creatures). I was almost waiting for a company of futuristic marines led by Sigourney Weaver to storm the field and slaughter the Tech horde in a barrage of gun fire, laser beams, and flamethrowers (Editor’s note: Could you imagine the ratings for that?) I determined that this Texas Tech football team is not human. (Editor’s note: But they are still people, so let’s be sensitive, okay?)

In fact, the players are genetically engineered freaks; mutants created in a lab. Many college football analysts call Mike Leech the “mad scientist” for his extensive input and manipulation of the college spread offense (and also because of his quirky character). But most people don’t realize how literally that name should be taken.

You see, Mike Leech got together with the scientists from the biochemistry and genetics departments at Texas Tech and discovered a way to successfully splice Michael Crabtree’s genes with the DNA of a cheetah. After this discovery, they spawned a whole team of offensive playmakers and then set them loose on the Big 12 conference under the command of Graham Harrell, senior brigadier football general of the Texas Tech mutant squad. (Editor’s note: Wolverine is sooo going to be a first round draft pick). Like his soldiers, Harrell is also a mutant DNA Makeup: one-half Joe Montana, one-half peregrine falcon, as evidenced by his uncanny vision. (Editor’s note: Kind of like how Chris Bosh is one-half person, one-half raptor. And not even because he plays for the Raptors – look at him, man! He looks like a friggin’ raptor!)

This may all sound funny (Editor’s note: Meh) but Tech’s offense certainly is not. Seriously, they are out of fucking control. If you didn’t watch Saturday’s game, I urge you to at least watch the highlights. Texas Tech played very good defense, especially against an Oklahoma State team that ranked 7th in total offense (and 6th in scoring), allowing only 20 points. But it was the offense that stole the show in this game. Graham Harrell was UNSTOPPABLE. He had 5 different receivers with at least 5 catches; 4 of those 5 had at least 77 yards receiving and 3 of those 5 split Harrell’s 6 passing TDs. Everybody was wide open.

Mike Leech spread out the Oklahoma State defense so much that they couldn’t even “bend”; all they did was “break”. (Editor’s note: So much dirty joke potential in there, I went cross-eyed). If receivers were covered downfield, Harrell simply flicked the ball to his safety valve: usually a running back in the flat. So many Tech players were making so many plays across the field that the Cowboys simply could not account for a running back coming out of the backfield.

Harrell always had an exit strategy. Even if he didn’t have a dump off/hot route, he made plays outside the pocket and bought time so that he could telepathically order his mutant receivers (utilizing their mutant abilities) to come back on their routes so that he could throw to them. It didn’t matter what mutant caught the ball, though, because they all ended up juking and/or running away from at least one Cowboy defender after the catch.

Every player who touched the ball for Tech did their best  Reggie Bush impression, especially the player who currently garners the number 5: the man himself, Michael Crabtree. Somebody please give this kid a pass to the NFL right now, I want the Eagles to pick him up. Strength, speed, size, vision, hands, moves…Crabtree has it all. (Editor’s note: Legs that go all day, perky breasts…wait, sorry, I was getting my sexual fantasies mixed up with Jacobs’ sexual fantasies…sorry about that). He was plucking Red Raider bullets out of the air like they were his prey, attacking the Oklahoma State defense with a hunger for success.

Harrell led his team to 8 straight touchdown drives, seven of those consisting of 8 plays or more, averaging over 10 plays per drive in that span. Amazing. He finished 40-50 for 456 yards and 6 TDs. Insane.

NFL Crystal Ball Prediction: Harrell, like Colt Brennan before him, has put up freakish numbers running the spread. Yet NFL scouts will still criticize this amazing QB talent due to the steep learning curve for NFL quarterbacks. (Editor’s note: And for the fact that no NFL team runs the style of offense that he uses, which very well could be masking deficiencies in his mechanics and don’t give NFL coordinators an idea of how he would make his reads in the pros). But those scouts will soon realize that Harrell is a mutant, and we all know the NFL has made a home for many freak/mutant players such as Randy Moss, Deion Sanders, Antonio Cromartie, etc. (Editor’s note: I guess we can start calling Roger Goodell “Professor G?”)

I think I was most impressed with how well Tech was able to grind out drives, mixing in a solid ground game with their video-game passing offense. Speaking of video games, I heard the Texas Tech band playing music from Nintendo’s Mario, the NES version, during the game. I thought that was great. The whole university understands the unreal numbers that their team puts up and supports the whole videogame, slang reference thing going on wholeheartedly. (Editor’s note: That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we in the business call “investigative reporting.” Can’t get that anywhere but here, people).

So I guess I’m buying into the whole Texas Tech thing; or, at the very least, recognizing their talent. They have an endless stable of playmakers and I can’t figure out who would be able to slow them down enough to keep pace with the points they can score. Florida perhaps? Florida’s offense is explosive in its own right and their defense might be able to do just enough to get by. USC? Their defense might be the best in the country, though I don’t know if even they could stop the Texas Tech Mutant Raiders.

I would assume the best defense against Tech would be a really balanced offense that could grind out drives of their own, keeping Harrell and the mutants off the field. But Tech’s defense looks like they can step up and play against some of the best offenses in the country (Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas). That being said, they do have to play against the cyborg-led Sooners next week, featuring an offense that I feel can hang with Tech. If they can survive that game, however, it should be smooth sailing for the Red Raiders. Which is what I said about Penn State after they beat Ohio State, and look what happened there. Damnit. Keeping a high degree of intensity for an entire season is hard to accomplish for any team. Let’s see if Tech has what it takes to keep fighting, because as much as I like them, I’m still not completely convinced.

Texas Tech has one of the best teams in the country; they deserve to be respected. And if they don’t hit any speed bumps in the next couple of weeks, they may cruise right on into a BCS National Championship birth.

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The RJ Report: Previewing the day in College Football

Ryan Jacobs

Penn State is coming into Saturday’s match-up in Iowa City favored by only 8 points, leaving some Penn State fans wondering why the Vegas predictions are so close. Here are two reasons: Iowa’s defense and running back Shonn Green. These two factors alone have helped to keep Iowa a relatively decent team, and despite their underwhelming 5-4 record, they are still Big Ten football team (Big Ten inter-conference play is still way more competitive than people give it credit for). Iowa has lost by a combined total of only 12 points, which tells me something must be going on with this team.

Shonn Green is averaging 6.3 yards per rush and is just shy of 140 yards per games (3rd in the nation). This, however, may be the only offensive weapon that Iowa has to offer, as QB Ricky Stanzi has thrown for only 6 TDs to 9 picks. This kind of stale, one-dimensional offense will not fare well against Penn State’s defense, ranked 11th nationally against the run. The power running game offense utilized by Big Ten teams of the past no longer has a future against the coming storm of the spread offense.

But wait! (Editor’s note: Ohmigod, ok, I’m waiting!) Iowa has another trick up it’s sleeve! (Editor’s note: I’m super excited to find out what it is!) Their defense is ranked 7th nationally in points allowed and 12th against the run. Sounds to me more like an Anthony Morelli led Penn State team than 2008 Iowa (solid ground game; tough defense; shitty quarterback and ho-hum offense that will lose the game for you). Penn State’s running attack will probably encounter some trouble in this game and will have to rely upon Darryl Clark to get them by, as long as he can avoid getting his clock cleaned. (Editor’s note: I’ve been looking for a good clock cleaner around the city – my clocks at home are super gross. Anybody know a place?)

Honestly! (Editor’s note: Who throws a shoe? That really hurt, man.) I’m all about Darryl Clark, but he has gotten DECKED in just about every single game this year. It’s hard to tell a running quarterback (though you should remember from my previous Penn State article that I truly support that Clark is a true passer) to watch out more often, but Clark doesn’t seem to avoid big hits very well. And even though he may be tough, I wouldn’t label Clark as the next coming of Marion Barber.

Penn State will likely have to open up the passing game against Iowa to get down the field. Hopefully all of the cobwebs have cleared during the bye week, as Clark suffered a mild concussion against Ohio State. We’d all like to see…er…check that, all of us Penn State fans would like to see a 42 point win to get some style points factored in with our bullshit BCS computer-equation, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

I see Penn State winning this game because they will shut down Shonn Green like they did P.J. Hill and the similarly one-dimensional Badgers. I see Penn State wearing down Iowa’s defense in the first half and then beating the tired defenders in the second when they can no longer keep up with the Spread HD.

Hawkeyes players spent the last two weeks having Penn State’s national title implications spoon fed to them; and believe me, they’ve gotta be sick of it. (Editor’s note: Vrrrrrroooooommmmmm. Here comes the BCS…vrrrrrroooooommmmmm. Open wide, now, little Hawkeyes). They’re going to be chomping at the bit, but I’m finished fretting over the mental and physical readiness of this Penn State team. They know what they need to do and they’re going to take care of business just like they have all season.

My Pick: Penn State 24 Iowa 14; with the last Iowa touchdown scored when the game has already gotten out of reach in the fourth quarter.

NCAA Football Notes:

– Last Saturday against Texas Tech, Colt McCoy went 20 for 34. That was the first time he threw more than 7 incompletions in one game since his 9 incompletion outing against UTEP in the second game of the season. Fucking incredible. He has still completed 79.0% of his 276 attempts.

NFL Crystal Ball Prediction: Kid will be playing on Sundays.

– Sam Bradford has thrown for 34 TDs and helped the Sooners hang up 42 offensive points in the first half; his play is Godlike. (Editor’s note: After I read that last, Godlike bit, I was struck by lightning. On my couch. In my house.) I think Oklahoma is magnetically attracted to the end zone or something. Somebody will soon discover that Bradford is actually part cyborg and drop him and his team out of the Heisman and national title races.

NFL Crystal Ball Prediction: Cyborg may be playing on Sundays if Roger Goodell approves league rules recognizing and protecting cyborg players. (Editor’s Note: Is “roughing the cyborg” a fair penalty? Is lubricating oil considered a performance-enhancing substance?)

– I hate USC. But dammit, they are going through the same thing as Penn State right now (except with one loss under their belts, of course). Both teams play in a poorly rated conference yet both continue to play outstanding football. Both teams rank in either the top 10 or top 25 nationally in every significant offensive and defensive stat category. And if you ask me, this is the way you should be dominating a softer schedule if you want to be considered a national contender. But then we both get burned in the BCS rankings while simultaneously stirring BCS doomsday talk. What BCS doomsday talk, you say? Why, quite simply that both teams would be denied a national title birth if other schools ranked above them win out due to their weaker schedules. And yet another case is made for D1-A football playoffs. Hooray!

– So everybody loves offense but they say defense wins championships, right? But offenses sell tickets and TV ratings, so defense kinda gets left in the dust. Everybody is busy hyping the Big 12 as the best offensive conference and most fun to watch  in college football. Everybody is also busy getting together and bashing the Big Ten as a very weak conference. But hold on a second, folks. I see the Big Ten as one of the best DEFENSIVE conferences right now, which is something people aren’t giving the conference credit for. The Big Ten has three teams ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense (Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa) and 5 in the top 25 (including Minnesota and Northwestern). Now the SEC is right there with the Big Ten in ranked defenses, but I don’t know how hard those southerners can hit in colder weather. How about some love and respect for hard hitting defensive, cold weather rivalries in the Big Ten? (Editor’s note: Of course, this begs the question – does the Big Ten have great defenses because their offenses leave much to be desired, and similarily, does the Big 12 have “poor” defenses because their offenses are sooooo damn good. Or do the offenses seem so good because the defenses are lacking? If an offense scores 68 points per game in a forest, but there isn’t a defense in their way, did the tree really fall?)

Gameday: #1 Alabama at #15 LSU. Game to watch, indeed. Upset potential for sure. But I’m not biting on this one. LSU isn’t the team they were last year, mostly because of their defense (I’m not gonna get into the whole QB situation). Alabama is just the better team; and even though LSU fans will want to hang Nick Saban from the flagpole Saturday night, the Tide are going to come into Baton Rouge and prove that. I’m not going to say it will be a domination, but Alabama will win by at least a touchdown. I’d put my eyes back on Lubbock, Texas again to see the dark upset clouds brewing there, instead. Oklahoma State is a solid team (perhaps the only big 12 team that has a defense who can hang around with it‘s offense) and they’re going to beat Texas Tech on the road. Last week’s Texas Tech win was certainly no fluke, but I don’t think that Tech’s program has the balls to hang around with all of the big boys. Sorry Mike Leech, but your team runs out of gas in a tough game on Saturday and clears the way for my Penn State Nittany Lions.

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From the Nosebleeds: The Big 12 ain’t got jack on Penn State

Ryan Jacobs

I was very impressed with Penn State’s performance in Madison this past Saturday night; it was the kind of victory that is solidifying PSU as one of the best all-around teams in the country.  Daryll Clark has been the most impressive player during this team’s rise to 2008 football glory.  Against Wisconsin, Clark proved himself as a passer more than he has all season.  Quite simply, Clark is playing lights-out football.

However, Daryll Clark is being outshined by the holier-than-thou Big 12 quarterback club.  I watched the Red River Shootout and was extremely impressed with both Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford…honestly, who wouldn’t be?  Bradford has thrown for 23 TD’s already this season and McCoy has completed 79.4% of his throws.  These huge stats continue through the rest of the conference with quarterbacks like Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, and Todd Reesing.  How did this conference give birth to so many aerial assaults?

There are many possible answers to that question, but I think maybe poor defense has something to do with it.  Don’t get me wrong – when you have a gifted offense like many Big 12 teams do, you’re going to score some points. But you would figure that inter-conference rivalries would slow high-scoring teams.  Oklahoma State did a good job of forcing turnovers on Saturday night, intercepting Chase Daniel three times, the first time he’s been picked since the season debut against Illinois (showcasing his, well, God-like abilities during that time). But Daniel still threw for 390 yards in a close game.

Oklahoma, who Kirk Herbstreit says is one of the “nastiest defenses in the country”, got gashed for 161 yards on the ground and 277 yards through the air in their close loss to Texas.  Vice versa, Sam Bradford lit up the “best defense he has seen by far this year” for 387 yards and 5 TDs (though he did throw two picks).  These teams have great playmakers, but defense does not seem to be this conference’s strength.

In fact, Kansas, ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense, has statistically the best defense in the conference, followed next by Oklahoma at 37.  Penn State, on the other hand, is 6th in scoring defense and 8th in total offense allowed.  I realize that Penn State racked up those stats against some pretty poor offenses, but the same goes with Kansas, Oklahoma, and the majority of the other Big 12 teams, with their early season, cream-puff schedules.  The point is simple: if you’re playing poor teams and you have a good defense, you should be able to win these games without surrendering many points or yards.  These Big 12 teams obviously don’t have those kinds of defenses.

And another thing – I keep hearing that the Big 12 is the best offensive conference in DI-A.  While this appears to be valid, many supporters of this theory have (obviously) never checked out the eye-popping stats put up by players in the non-BCS, Conference USA.  Just check last year’s numbers for guys like Tulsa’s Paul Smith (QB, 5065 passing yards, 60 Total TDs) or Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (RB, 2567 rushing yards, 30 Total TDs), or Tulane’s Matt Forte (RB, 2127 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs), or Eastern Carolina’s Chris Johnson (RB, 1423 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs).  All three of those running backs are now in the NFL and are already, or will soon make a difference for their respective teams.  This is, overwhelmingly, the best offensive conference in D-IA college football and possibly the worst defensively.

I am still impressed with the big-play Big 12 offenses, but I think Penn State deserves some serious national respect. (Editor’s note: Um, gotta say, I feel as though a national ranking of three is respect).  Penn State’s offense is extremely efficient and very balanced, which in turn leads to smaller numbers for Daryll Clark.  This may lead to a conclusion that Clark isn’t good enough for consideration in the kissing-the-Big-12-quarterback’s-ass club. (Editor’s note: From what I’ve heard, people leave these club meetings with a bad taste in their mouth). On Saturday night, however, he proved to me that he has the ability to throw with the best of them.  He is smart, makes good decisions, and can make every throw across the entire field, regardless if he is standing upright or running for his life.  His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially after things have broken down, is amazing.  His comparison to Michael Robinson is unfair, because Clark is a true passer who just happens to be able to run (and with some strength).  Dare I say he reminds me of a young Donovan McNabb at Syracuse?

Clark is enjoying extreme success in a spread offense that has weapons everywhere (7th in Scoring Offense with 45.3 pts./game), and a team that really doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses (9th in Total Offense, 8th in Total Defense, excellent special teams).  Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated (probably SI’s best known college football writer) stated, quite frankly, that he hasn’t seen an offense as dynamic and dangerous as Penn State’s since that of the 2004 Utah Utes, led by coach Urban Meyer, who broke into the BCS that year with an undefeated season.  Anybody else think Urban Meyer knows how to run a really good spread?  Now what about Penn State?

Penn State’s offense is ranked statistically with the best in the nation, but I still don’t think that many analysts realize the stats they’ve compiled.  In the first quarter of this Saturday’s Red River Shootout, a stat flashed onto the screen: Oklahoma has outscored their opponents 103-3 in the first quarter this season.  Kirk Herbstreit promptly stated, “I don’t know if we’ve seen a stat like that in college football”.  Oklahoma improved upon that stat, making it 110-6 by the end of the first quarter in that game, a very impressive stat with a 104 point difference.

Now look at Penn State.  Coming into Madison, Penn State had outscored its opponents 110-20 in the second quarter, then improved that stat to 131-27 by halftime; a very impressive stat with the same 104 point difference as Oklahoma in the first quarter. So in a word, Kirk Herbstreit is wrong.  I won’t give him that much flack, as Herbstreit seems to be a Penn State supporter himself.  In the end though, he played quarterback at Ohio State, which forever leaves a part of him in the realms of douche-bagginess. (Editor’s note: Dot that eye, bitch!).

Coming into this Saturday, I thought Oklahoma had the best all around team in the country.  But after seeing them lose and seeing Penn State’s complete dominance, I think the Nittany Lions need to be considered as the nation’s most solid team from top to bottom.  I still have much respect for Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, USC, Florida and the likes (and I realize that Penn State has a ways to go), but PSU is a force to be reckoned with.

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