July 31, 2008

The End of an Era

Fans are the best. It never fails. I log onto the Cincinnati Enquirer website after the big Griffey trade was announced, and the exact same fans who have been killing Griffey for years and bemoaning his lazy attitude and lack of hustle are now practically grieving on the Cincinnati Enquirer website about him being traded today to the White Sox. Why would anyone be upset about Griffey getting traded?? The only real tragedy here is that he wasn't traded years ago.

I don't want to be too hard on Griffey because he's a Cincy guy, and I am an admitted Griffey fan. I hope he rediscovers his swing and does well in Chicago. For all the hand-wringing about this trade from disgruntled Sox fans, I really don't think it's an awful trade for them if you use Griffey in the right situations. I would use him as a super sub or in some sort of platoon where he hits righties and maybe pinch hits in late innings. Griffey was never a great clutch hitter with the Reds, but you never knew when he might take one out. If Griffey gives the White Sox a little more lefthanded power and some quality ABs off the bench, he could be valuable for them down the stretch or in the playoffs.

Griffey had some nice moments with the Reds, but the problem with Griffey on the Reds for the last decade was that he was making $12 million a year. Many years, he represented almost 1/4 of the team's payroll, but his production level was nowhere near his salary. In other words, the Reds paid Griffey superstar money for a decade but never received anything closely resembling superstar performance. When you are building around a guy who is either too injured or too old to be a marquee player, you aren't going to win very many games. Griffey has been relatively healthy the last few years, but he's no longer a #3 hitter (even though he still hits there-thanks Dusty) and has become a serious liability in the outfield. When you are paying a guy $12 million to hit .240 and play lousy defense with a lazy attitude and no leadership, you aren't getting much for your dollar. Whether it is fair or not (and obviously Griffey wasn't responsible for all of the Reds problems), Griffey was the symbol of one of the worst eras of Reds baseball in team history.

Today should be a great day for Reds fans. It was a foregone conclusion that Griffey would not be a part of this team next year, but it's still a good feeling to turn the page on the Griffey era. The Reds have been poorly run for a decade, and the jury is still out on what type of leadership Walt Jocketty is going to provide. If this deal accomplishes anything, it gives the Reds a chance to get rid of the dead wood and start fresh with the young core and a new attitude. I've heard that the only guy who really took all the losing personally was Brandon Phillips and that there were too many guys in the clubhouse who didn't care enough about winning. Leadership matters, and Griffey was not the type of guy who would give you great leadership and hold other guys accountable. When Griffey was out there loafing on balls and not running hard, it set a bad example for the Jay Bruces and Joey Vottos of the world. I hope that this team gets turned over to Brandon Phillips now that Griffey is gone.

The priority for the offseason now turns to finding a leadoff hitter who can play shortstop or centerfield and hopefully a new catcher. Griffey frees up $12 million, and I would love to see the Reds dangle Homer Bailey and others to get a dynamic young centerfielder who can hit at the top of the lineup. A decision on Adam Dunn will also have to be made. Stay tuned.

- As far as the Manny Ramirez trade is concerned, what exactly was accomplished in this whole mess?? Did the Red Sox get any better by trading Manny?? Bay is having a great year, but who would you rather have on your roster in the playoffs - Manny Ramirez or Jason Bay??? Manny is the best right handed hitter of his generation, and he always rose to the occasion under the brightest lights. The Red Sox lineup is a little less scary without Manny in there. Yankees fans must be happy to see him out of a Red Sox uniform. Bay is younger and maybe has more long term potential, but Manny in the cleanup spot is much scarier than Jason Bay if you ask me. Then again, Theo Epstein is very smart, and maybe they think Manny is on the verge of a major decline. I'm inclined to think that Bay won't make up for the loss of Manny, but I wouldn't put it past the Red Sox to be ahead of the curve on this one and make everyone look foolish. I'm headed to Boston for a wedding this weekend, so the weekend just got more interesting already. Looking forward to talking some Sawx with the locals.

I would be really curious to hear thoughts on this trade from a Dodgers perspective. I think it would depend on what their plans are for Manny. If they are planning to keep him this year and sign him to an extension for a few years, I think this trade is perfectly justifiable. It's one thing to give away a top prospect for a stiff, but I don't think there's anything wrong with giving away Andy LaRoche for a stud like Manny Ramirez. Manny can be an anchor for the Dodgers lineup for a few years, and they have plenty of money to pay him. For all the fuss about all the Dodgers young players, none of them has really blossomed into a legit stud bat in the middle of their order. Manny is that type of player, and he will make everyone around him better. He is exactly what the Dodgers have been missing for years.

Let's face it, the Dodgers have been turning down deals for their prospects for years, but it has turned out that a lot of their prospects were just plain overrated. When you have an opportunity to cash in for a guy like Manny, I have no problem with that move. Even if Andy Laroche pans out, it will be several years before he really make a major impact. By that time, the Pirates will probably be ready to trade him away to a team like the Dodgers.

The Dodgers have too many guys in their outfield, so I wouldn't be surprised to see another trade coming this offseason involving one of those outfielders. I would love to see Matt Kemp or Ethier go on the trade market because the Reds could probably go for either one.

As far as this season goes, couldn't the Dodgers conceivably be dangerous in a playoff scenario with Manny Ramirez and Chad Billingsley?? They are certainly more potent with Manny Ramirez hitting 4th than with Jeff Kent hitting there.

Pirates fans have to be at least somewhat pleased with their deadline performance considering what the downside possibilities were (getting a bunch of junk prospects). They have brought in an assortment of young talent, and it appears LaRoche and Tabata have major upside down the road. The problem is that the Pirates have been in this never-ending cycle of trading their best players for prospects for about 15 years. I mean, Jason Bay was the Andy LaRoche or Jose Tabata of five years ago. He was the big prospect acquisition in the Brian Giles trade who was going to be one of the cornerstones of a great rebuilding project. Now here they are five years later trading him while he's in his prime. At some point, the Pirates need to change the game. They've been doing the same thing for over a decade, and they are no closer to contending now than they've ever been. The only way they can dig themselves out of this rut is to have a series of great drafts and mix those guys in with the LaRoches and Tabatas that they get through trades. You can win as a small market franchise, but you need to continually bring in great young talent through the draft and other smart acquisitions. The Pirates haven't been able to do that. They seem to find one really good player about every five years, do nothing to build around him, and then move the guy for another young player who will be in the same crappy situation. The new GM has done a nice job so far, and I get that he is in a hole created by the prior regime. I guess we won't know how their latest rebuilding project turns out for another 3-4 years. I'd be willing to guess that it will turn out a lot like the last few rebuilding projects.

July 30, 2008

Over/Unders: The Big East

Big East overview - Because these teams are only playing 7 conference games, they have to find 5 nonconference opponents. Since most of these teams are playing multiple MAC teams and other cupcakes, they usually are able to pad their records with 3-4 nonconference wins at least. I like a lot of the overs in the Big East because it only takes some of these teams a couple conference wins to reach their over.

As is the case with the Pac 10, the teams in the Big East play an odd number of conference games. Adjust your picks accordingly and give a little bump to the teams with 4 home games in the league.

One other interesting Big East note from the last week or so. Apparently, the Big East is discussing the idea of bringing Navy and Army in as conference members. If this plan goes down, I would be thrilled as an ND fan. If we could open up the possibility of using one of our Big East commitments for Navy every year, it would give us a little leg room to get some other interesting games on the schedule. Stay tuned. Army would really struggle in the Big East, but Navy could be competitive in that league.

Cincinnati - 7 wins - OVER - I was reading the Cincinnati Enquirer the other day and saw that the preseason Big East media poll had come out with Cincinnati picked 5th in the Big East for the second straight year. Hmmm. Are we really headed for a second straight year where everyone underestimates Brian Kelly and UC football?? It appears to be so.

Whether people want to admit it or not, UC football is going to be a factor nationally and in the Big East as long as Brian Kelly is pacing the sidelines of Nippert Stadium. If you don't know much about Brian Kelly, it's time to start learning more about him. He won 2 Division I-AA championships at Grand Valley State University and then took over an awful Central Michigan program and won the MAC three years later. He ends up taking the Cincinnati job in 2007 and goes 9-3 with a top 25 ranking for the first time that I can ever remember for UC football. Kelly is an unbelievably charismatic guy and has a very innovative offensive scheme. If he stays at UC, he is going to win a Big East title at some point in the near future. Mark that down.

Anyway, I don't know how long UC is going to be able to keep him, but Bearcat fans should enjoy the ride while it lasts . Kelly insists that he plans to stay at UC for the long haul, but I'm not holding my breath. At some point, a Big 10 or Big 12 or ACC type program is going to come calling for him, and he won't be able to pass it up.

As for 2008, take the over on the Bearcats and laugh all the way to the bank. They have to find a replacement for Ben Mauk, but a lot of their other top players on offense and defense are back. I get the impression that Kelly "made" Mauk, so I think the new QB will be fine in the "Cat Attack" offense. Kelly has upgraded the overall talent at UC, and the schedule is not that bad. There are 8-9 wins on this schedule, and I won't be stunned to see UC make a serious run at the conference title.

Game to watch on the schedule. Cincinnati at Oklahoma on September 6. Could be an interesting early season game, and it will be the game of the year for the Bearcats. I have no idea if UC can actually hang with Oklahoma, but I'm impressed that they lined up this game. Can't wait for that return game at Paul Brown Stadium in 2010.

One last note for the ND fans out there. It sounds like Demetrius Jones is not on the radar for the starting QB job. He's still recovering from shoulder surgery, and I don't get the impression that he is going to see the field this year. Might want to keep an eye on the UC quarterback situation this year. Jones was not a good fit in the Weis offense, and I can't see him being missed at ND with Clausen and Crist on board.

Pittsburgh - 6.5 wins - OVER - Am I the only one who thinks everyone is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too high on Pitt this year?? They are becoming the Clemson of the Big East. Everyone was talking about them as a breakout candidate LAST YEAR, and yet they end up going 5-7 with a loss at home to Navy (I know, I know, we lost to Navy too) and several bad blowout losses.

Now after one big win against a West Virginia team that choked its guts out, they are suddenly ranked in the preseason and being talked about as the team to beat in the Big East. It seems like every ND prediction I've seen out of the major publications has predicted a loss against Pitt AT HOME. Wow, I just can't see it.

Lasean McCoy is the real deal and might be as good a running back as anyone in the nation, and they are going to ride him for as many carries as possible this year. But can you really win the Big East on the back of one player?? If so, what does that say about the Big East?? Let's not forget that Dave Wannstedt is still prominently involved with this program. I'm not saying that they won't be better, but let's not get crazy here.

The quarterback position is still unresolved, and it sounds like Pitt is hoping that sophomore QB Pat Bostick can step up and win the job. They should have a pretty solid defense, so the pieces are in place for them to be a factor if they are up to the challenge. Guess we'll see what happens.

On that note, their over/under is only 6.5?? Seems like Free Money to me if you look at their nonconference schedule. Bowling Green, Buffalo, and Iowa all at home and road games against Navy and Notre Dame. If they go 4-1 in those games, all they need to do is go 3-4 in conference to get to seven wins. If they are even remotely close to as good as they are being talked about, they should be able to get 7-8 wins this year.

Connecticut - 6.5 wins - OVER - UConn has taken a lot of heat from me on this blog as somehow being unworthy of playing Notre Dame, but I really don't have a problem with UConn football. I actually have a lot of respect for what they hvae been able to accomplish in their limited time at the Division I level.

It seems like that state is rallying around UConn football, and that they are developing a nice little niche in the Northeast. There will probably be some rough patches as they build up depth in the program, but they are on the rise. When you look at the amount of money UConn has invested in football in the last ten years, I wouldn't be surrpised to see them emerge as the premier program in the Northeast someday. With Syracuse floundering and BC focusing on the ACC, maybe UConn can take some portion of that market.

Just looking at their schedule this year, their nonconference opponents are not all that scary. Hofstra, Temple, Virginia, Baylor and at North Carolina. If they go 4-1 against that group, I gotta think UConn can find three more wins. UConn was pretty solid at home last year, and I would almost say I like them more than Pitt this year.

While we're here, am I missing something with some of the polls listing UConn hoops as a top 5 team next year, even as high as #1?? I think UConn will be good, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. UConn was incredibly inconsistent last year, and AJ Price is coming off the ACL tear. They seem like an early candidate for being an overrated team. For all the fuss about Hasheem Thabeet (and I'll admit that he is a shotblocking freak), he hasn't really put it together in terms of being a consistent offensive force.

Louisville- 6.5 wins - UNDER - Louisville is going to be another program that we find out a lot more about this year. It really comes down to one question with them. Is Steve Kragthorpe a little shaky or was Bobby Petrino just that good?? I gotta be honest that I'm leaning toward the latter. Louisville probably peaked 2-3 years ago, and now they are finding their historic level again. I respect what Louisville has done for their football programs, but let's not forget that it's Louisville. They are the second biggest program in a state that doesn't have a whole lot of elite high school talent. The best athletes in Kentucky are either going to UK, Tennessee, Notre Dame, or one of the major SEC schools.

Louisville's schedule is ridiculously easy this year, but I'm not convinced a winning season is ahead for the Cards. With Brohm gone and most of their weapons out and another year away from the Petrino system, it just makes me a little nervous to think that they are going to bounce back right away.

Syracuse - 2.5 wins - UNDER - (see Mike's excellent preview below)

Rutgers - 7.5 wins - OVER - It's going to be an interesting year on the banks of the old Raritan. I was all set to start questioning Rutgers and to start throwing out the Kirk Ferentz comparisons for Greg Schiano as coaches who built up their reputations by building up bad programs but have had trouble keeping their teams near the top. Part of me thinks that Rutgers has already peaked as a program and that they might be falling back to the pack.

I still think that's a strong possibility, but now I'm wavering after hearing Chris Spielman on his local radio show raving about Rutgers and Schiano and QB Mike Teel. Spielman thinks Teel is the most underrated QB in the country, and he's really high on their wide receivers. Schiano loves to run the ball, so they should be ok in the running game even without Ray Rice.

I wasn't real high on Rutgers, but I'm coming around on them a little bit. Schiano's teams really impressed me a couple years ago, so I'm hoping they can get their mojo back. Their nonconference schedule is sort of intriguing with home games against Fresno State and North Carolina and an early road game at Navy. As far as the conference stretch goes, Rutgers has 3 very winnable home games and four pretty tough road games. If they are going to get back into the conversation among the elite of the Big East, they are going to have to do some serious damage on the road against West Virginia and South Florida. I don't see it happening, but 8 wins seems like a good possibility with a veteran team.

South Florida - 9 wins - OVER - Every time South Florida seems to be on the verge of doing something big, they seem to backpedal just a bit. After last year's great start with wins over Auburn and West Virginia that moved them all the way up to #2 in the polls last year, they finished out the season with three losses in their last six games and then got hammered 56-21 in the Sun Bowl against Oregon.

It seems like they are still going through some growing pains, but they are still a program on the rise and could be on the verge of establishing themselves as the premier football program in the Big East. With the talent down in South Florida at their disposal, things are looking good for the fighting Leavitts.

As far as the team goes, their defense will probably be strong as it is every year. That George Selvie dude is a stud, and should be one of the best players in the conference. Matt Grothe is back at QB, so it might be time to induct him into the Jess Settles "Players who seem like they have been around for 10 years" Hall of Fame. He's not even that great, but seems to find ways to get it done and probably leads all quarterbacks in broken noses and bloody jerseys.

Just peeking at their schedule, they have Kansas and a road game at NC State on the schedule and only three road games in the Big East. It appears to be a very favorable schedule, and I wouldn't be surprised if that December 6 game in Morgantown against West Virginia was for the conference championship.

Honestly, I think South Florida could be a real sleeper for the national title game.

Quick story about South Florida basketball while we're here. We here at weisnd.blogspot.com had the privilege to attend a Notre Dame-South Florida basketball last March down in Tampa. Anyway, following the game (which was probably 50% Irish fans), the PA guy announces that South Florida had set a single game attendance record for the game. No joke, the stadium was half full at best!! Good times. Not a whole lot of fan support for Bulls basketball down in Tampa I guess. Stan Heath, you have some work ahead of you as the steward of that program. Can we just make them play in the Sun Belt for basketball and keep them in the Big East for football??

West Virginia - 10.5 wins - UNDER - Look I bear no ill will towards Bill Martin and hope he has a nice career at West Virginia, but I have to say I would be a little nervous if I was a West Virginia fan. It's always a little scary when you hire a guy based on a performance in one game. The only reason Bill Martin even got hired was because of their win in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. He wasn't even on the athletic director's initial list of replacements for Rich Rodriguez.

It just has a little too much of a Larry Coker feel for me to feel comfortable with that hire. Martin is a first time head coach at age 55, so I just wonder if he is qualified for this type of job. He'll probably be fine for a year or two, but I have my doubts as to whether he can keep West Virginia at the Rich Rodriguez level of performance.

Again, he could prove me totally wrong and keep West Virginia rolling along, but we've seen too many examples of interim coaches who start off well and then get in over their heads. The good news is that Bill Martin is a disciple of the same offensive philosophy that Rich Rodriguez preached, so there won't be any major adjustments this year. With Pat White back and Noel Devine at running back taking over for Steve Slaton, they are going to have tons of weapons. Apparently, Noel Devine is a superstar in the making, so they should have a potent offense.

Game to watch: The Thursday October 23 showdown in Morgantown against the Auburn Tigers. WOW. Color me fired up for that one already. If WVU is undefeated going into that game, the hype is going to be huge.

Another interesting nonconference game could be that game at Colorado on September 18. Colorado seems to be on the rise, so that could be an early test for Bill Martin.

I think WVU will be very good against this year, but I see some losses on that schedule. The Auburn game will be tough, the Colorado and Pitt games will be tough, and they will have some tricky games against Louisville and South Florida.

By the way, good to see West Virginia playing some tough nonconference games this year. I have been a strong critic of WVU in recent years and didn't think they belonged in the national title discussion with the schedules they've played, but they've definitely stepped it up with the Auburn and Colorado games. If WVU runs the table and goes undefeated, they absolutely belong in the national title game (assuming there aren't more than 2 undefeated teams). Wins over Auburn, Colorado, USF, Louisville, Pitt, Cincy, and UConn will earn my respect.

Diamond Notes


Deadline moves are starting to make an impact on the pennant races, so let's take a peek at the relevant parties.

- First, I love what the Angels did in acquiring Teixeira even if they don't resign him to a long term deal at the end of the year. At some point, the Angels needed to make a decision to push their chips into the middle and make a run at another World Series. They've been plugging along at 90+ wins a year, but they haven't really been a factor in the playoffs in quite some time. The Angels would get to the playoffs and their bats would go just completely silent. Vlad Guerrero would hit about .450 in the series and the rest of the team would have about 5 hits combined. Pitching and defense are needed to win a title, but you gotta have a few game-changing bats in your lineup who can drive in runs and get you big hits in pressure situations. The Angels have been picking around the margins with signings like Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews, but haven't found that frontline bat who can make their lineup more potent in the playoffs.

Teixeira gives them a career .909 OPS hitter who can be plugged right into the middle of their order behind Vlad Guerrero. Their lineup looks significantly better with him in there.

I hate to sound like Herm Edwards here, but the reason you are fielding a team is to try to win a championship. At some point, don't you have to try to make the move to win it all?? The Angels have been standing pat for years, but it was probably time for them to make a serious push to win a title. They weren't going to the World Series by standing pat yet again this year. They have the pitching, a world class manager, and great defensive team, so the move to bolster their lineup could pay off. The Red Sox are not quite as good as they were last year, and the rest of the AL is wide open.

I understand that Teixeira might leave after this year, but would it be worth it if they make the World Series?? I think so. The Angels have plenty of resources, and they can find another Casey Kotchman out there somewhere. Kotchman is a nice player, but he's not a game-changer. Teixeira is.

- I'm sure the Braves fans who populate this blog will want to weigh in on the trade, but I have mixed reviews. I don't have a problem with the return that they got, but here's my question. Why were they looking at trading Teixeira in the first place?? Why weren't they in a position to sign Teixeira to a long term deal?? Did I miss the memo that the Braves are now a small market team?? When did they suddenly become unable to sign guys to a big deal?? Who else are they paying besides Chipper, Smoltz, and Hudson?? Isn't Teixeira the type of middle of the order bat that you want to build around for the next 6-7 years??

I think they did a good job to get Casey Kotchman out of this deal, but who would you rather have on your roster over the next 6 years?? Kotchman or Teixeira?? Kotchman is a very solid young player, but he's more like the type of guy who is going to hit around .280 with 20 HR and 80 RBI and around a .800 OPS (at best). In other words, he's about 100 OPS points less potent than Teixeira. Essentially, they just traded for Adam Laroche again. If you're a Braves fan and loved the Adam Laroche era, then you'll probably love the Casey Kotchman era. I know Kotchman is going to make much much less money than Teixeira, but does he really make the Braves any more likely to reverse their fortunes in the NL East sometime in the next few years?? Even if they inch their way back to relevance, aren't they going to be in the exact same position in a few years of needing a middle of the order stud power bat like Teixeira??

I just feel like the Braves pulled a bit of a Pittsburgh Pirates move here. They traded off one of their best players for a lesser cheaper player and tried to justify the move as some sort of move towards a more competitive future. How is that any different than every Pirates deadline deal of the last 15 years??

- Speaking of the Pirates, I don't have any knowledge of these young prospects they acquired, but wouldn't their ceiling likely be to be the next Xavier Nady or the next Damaso Marte?? Again, that's a BEST case scenario for those guys. Why not build around a Xavier Nady?? He's in the prime of his career, and it's not like the Pirates are paying anyone else. I gotta think that Nady is at least somewhat of an affordable player. How much could he possibly command on the free agent market?? Sign the guy to a 5 year deal, build around him, McLouth, and Bay, and then go about trying to draft and trade for young pitching. Wouldn't that lead to a more competitive future than these giveaway deals for prospects that very rarely seem to pan out??

- Moving on to the Indians, I kind of like what they've been doing the last month or so. The Indians are in a little different position than the Pirates because they already have big money tied up (somewhat foolishly I would add) to Victor, Hafner, Westbrook, and Sizemore, so they pretty much had to move CC. There was no way they were going to be able to resign CC, so they made a move on him quickly and got a better return. It sounds like Laporta is going to be a very nice bat for them, and maybe he'll be ready to contribute as early as next year. I also like that Anthony Reyes deal for the Tribe. I don't know what happened to Reyes in St. Louis, but it seems like he just completely unraveled after a promising start to his career. If the Tribe can get him to rebound and maybe re-emerge as an end of the rotation guy, that would be an absolute steal. He has talent, so maybe he will rediscover himself in Cleveland and fit into a pretty solid rotation with Carmona, Cliff Lee, and possibly a rejuvenated Jeremy Sowers (who has been really good his last few starts).

- Finally, we'll end with the Reds. I would be more upset at Walt Jocketty if I was sure that he's actually aware that he is the current general manager of the Reds. Are we sure that Walt Jocketty has gotten the memo that he is the current GM?? I'm not sure he has made a move yet as GM of the Reds. Perhaps he was never properly informed. Case in point, he's still living in St. Louis and doesn't even come out to Cincinnati to watch games. Huh?? The current version of the Reds are not exactly a team that you can run on auto pilot. They are a very incomplete team with major needs and major pieces to evaluate. Jocketty has basically sat on his hands in this ill-fated push for .500. Again, what major league franchise pushes for .500?? When did that become the goal?? If you are only hoping to get to .500, then you are not really all that close to being a contender.

I don't know if Jocketty is treating this Reds post as some sort of glorified figurehead retirement position, but it would be nice to hear this guy lay out his vision for Reds baseball over the next five years. As of right now, he's done virtually nothing to indicate that he has a plan for this organization. Say what you want about Wayne Krivsky, but at least the guy was hands-on and had a plan to make this team better. He brought in some valuable pieces in Volquez, Arroyo, Phillips, Keppinger, Bray, Cordero, etc, and I get the impression that he was only in the beginning stages of his plan to remake the Reds organization. If the Reds essentially stand pat at the deadline (which is what they are indicating they plan to do), I will be very concerned about their long term future.

Specifically, what is the plan for Adam Dunn?? Is he going to be a part of this team's future?? If not, are you satisfied with a middle of the order involving Jay Bruce-Brandon Phillips-Joey Votto?? Bruce doesn't appear to be anywhere near ready to be a #3 type hitter and has really tailed off since his incredible debut. Joey Votto is emerging as the National League version of Casey Kotchman, and I'm not sure what his ceiling is at this point. Phillips is a talented all-around player, but you can't hit a guy cleanup who doesn't hit righties at all. Adam Dunn is far and away the most productive bat on the Reds, and it would be a significant loss to let him go. If you are going to let him walk at the end of the year, what is the plan to replace his productivity?? I don't have a problem with letting Adam Dunn go and using your young trading pieces to go after a big time right handed bat, but I have no idea if the Reds are even running these scenarios through their mind.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop at this point. I felt pretty good about the Reds going into the 2008 season and felt like it would be a building block towards a nice future in 2009-2011, but now I'm not so sure. Jocketty's laissez-faire management style isn't doing anything to make me feel at ease, and I can't help but wonder if this organization blew it by letting go of a valuable asset (Wayne Krivsky).

July 29, 2008

Syracuse Football Preview 2008

First and foremost, allow me to express my gratitude to the guys here at We Is ND for inviting me onto this forum and giving me permission to discuss upstate New York football. Given the state of the Syracuse program, I presume that most people would rather read a preview of the Sun Belt conference or discuss the upcoming WNBA playoffs, so I am thrilled to have this opportunity.

The 2008 season of Syracuse University football figures to be long and painful for everyone. Syracuse’s marketing team has labeled this year’s official theme as “Road to Perdition,” while early reports out of the athletic offices indicate that the team motto is “Let’s Just Get This Out of the Way.” The only bright spot in this season is that very few people will be forced to witness the impending debacle, as season ticket orders have plummeted this year.

Coaching

The Orange (formerly, and hereinafter, “the Orangemen”) are led by head coach Greg Robinson, who holds the rare distinction of having failed miserably at every prior coaching stop. During his three years on the Hill, Robinson has led the Orangemen to a 7-28 record, including three wins over Thruway “rival” and perennial doormat Buffalo. It is believed that Robinson is the only coach who has an entire portion of his playbook containing punt plays on second and third down.

Notwithstanding this track record of futility, Robinson has managed to retain his job by forming a close personal alliance with Athletic Director and “wunderkind” Daryl Gross opted to retain Robinson for this upcoming season. Gross jettisoned long-time coach Paul Pasqualoni immediately after taking over as AD in 2005 and replaced him with Robinson. Most Syracuse denizens, of course, are unsurprised by Gross’s failures, inasmuch as his only prior athletic administration experience consisted of acting as personal secretary/coffee gatherer to USC AD Mike Garrett during the 2002 search process in which Garrett struck out on his first seven coaching targets before hiring Pete Carroll. To be fair, however, Gross has delivered upon his promise to rescue the football program from the throes of mediocrity, as he and Robinson have guided the team on a fast track from average to terrible.

Offense

The numbers don’t lie. In 2007, Syracuse’s offense rivaled Notre Dame’s offense in terms of ineptitude. The Orangemen averaged 16.4 points per game, thereby tying the Irish for 116th place out of 120 Division 1-A teams and averaged a paltry 318.9 yards per game (115th).

A primary reason for Syracuse’s recent malaise has been uninspired quarterback play. During the MacPherson and Pasqualoni eras, the team thrived under such prominent signal callers as Don McPherson, Marvin Graves, Donovan McNabb and the incomparable Troy Nunes. This year’s quarterback/punching bag, Andrew Robinson, has provided Syracuse fans with reason for hope during his first two years under center. Robinson, however, has been plagued by poor offensive line play and unimaginative play calling, thereby stunting his development. In light of coach Robinson’s woeful offensive line recruiting over the past three years and the current paucity of skilled receivers, expect quarterback Robinson to become intimately familiar with the ice tub once again.

The backup quarterback is Cameron Dantley, a former walk-on and the son of former Irish basketball great Adrian Dantley. Last year, the younger Dantley played admirably in limited action, including a solid performance against South Florida. In accordance with the established stereotype, Dantley is more mobile than Robinson, which should serve him well in this offense. Dantley should see some action again in 2008, as Robinson will certainly take his share of ferocious hits.

Although this year’s crop of running backs will not remind anyone of Jim Brown or Ernie Davis, the Orangemen expect one or more rushers to emerge in 2008. Junior Delone Carter and senior Curtis Brinkley have both shown signs of explosiveness in prior years, but both must show that they are fully healed from injury. Carter missed all of 2007 with a hip injury, while Brinkley missed the final few games of 2007 with a broken leg. In their place, then-freshman Doug Hogue performed capably, albeit unspectacularly.

The wildcard at the running back position is Averin Collier, who is Robinson’s most prized recruit and the program’s biggest local signing since Damien Rhodes decided to play for his hometown school in 2002. Collier graduated early from Churchville-Chili High School in suburban Rochester and he participated in spring practice, thus raising expectations that he will be able to contribute instantly. Though the young Collier obviously appears to possess the physical tools and mental toughness to succeed for the Orangemen, fans and alumni alike should temper their enthusiasm, as the transition from Monroe County high school football to the Big East Conference is akin to rising in class from a $5,000 claiming race at Finger Lakes Race Track to the Kentucky Derby.

Prior to the end of last season, wide receiver seemed to be a bona fide position of strength for the Orangemen, as Mike Williams (60- 837, 10 TD) and Taj Smith (44-822, 5 TD) both figured to build on their impressive 2007 campaigns. Unfortunately, Williams was suspended from school in the spring for academic reasons and Smith, apparently acting on the guidance of the same people who advised Matt Walsh to leave the University of Florida early, skipped his senior season at the Dome so he could go unselected in the NFL draft. Consequently, first-year offensive coordinator Mitch Browning is hoping that he can coax some production out of an inexperienced and unheralded crop of receivers which includes Donte Davis, Lavar Lobdell and Dan Sheeran, as well as the tight end group of Mike Owen and Ben Maljovec, both of whom are converted linebackers. In other words, expect to see plenty of 8 and even 9 man fronts.

In football parlance, offensive linemen are often referred to “the big uglies.” This is half true at Syracuse, as the quality of play is undeniably ugly, but the linemen are somewhat undersized. In order for the offense to have any measure of success in 2008, the line must improve dramatically over last year. The Orangemen return guard Ryan Durand and tackle Corey Chavers, both of whom have proven to be tough, effective players, but there are few other linemen with experience. Moreover, using Phil Steele’s vernacular, the line is not exactly teeming with “HTs” or “VHTs” who can be expected to contribute immediately. Unless new coordinator Browning, an offensive line coach by trade, can swiftly whip this group into shape, the Orangemen can expect to find themselves at the bottom of the offensive statistical rankings again.

Defense

Perhaps feeling hard pressed to keep up with the offense, Syracuse’s 2007 defense also reached dizzying lows last year. The defense surrendered a staggering 468.8 yards per game (111th nationally) and 34.8 points per game (104th nationally). As with the offense, the defense features a new coordinator, Derrick Jackson, who will be charged with the proverbial task of making chicken salad out of chicken excrement. Head coach Robinson, reportedly giddy at the thought of molding this outfit of one and two star recruits into a well-oiled machine, will assume the role of co-coordinator.
Dwight Freeney, where have you gone? In 2007, the defense posted a meager 9 sacks, thus placing tremendous pressure on its already undermanned secondary. Notwithstanding this performance, the defensive line does feature a potential rising star in junior defensive tackle Arthur Jones, a Second Team All-Big East selection last year. As for the rest of the line, substantial improvement will be required from the likes of sophomore defensive tackle Bud Tribbey, sixth-year senior Vincenzo Giruzzi, a former linebacker, and freshman Lamar Middleton. As with Mike Williams, one of the few bright spots, Brandon Gilbeaux, neglected to take care of his responsibilities in the classroom and, thus, he will ride the pine in 2008.
At linebacker, the Orangemen can depend upon senior Jake Flaherty, who can be described as a poor-man’s Paul Posluszny, to provide steady play and solid leadership. Other than Flaherty, however, the rest of the linebacking core is green. Sophomore Parker Canty will likely start at strongside linebacker and freshman Chad Battles will battle (repetitive verb usage intended) Mike Mele for the other starting gig beside Flaherty. This group is light on size, talent and experience, but presumably terrific otherwise.
Last (and decidedly least), the secondary should be the weak link of an already miserable defense. Mike Holmes, who struggled as a true freshman, returns at cornerback, where he will be joined by either Da’Mon Merkenson or sophomore Nico Scott. At safety, Bruce Williams and A.J. Brown, both of whom are inexperienced are expected to start. This group, having been burned so badly last year, is rightfully expected to be gun shy. It is imperative that the defensive coaches somehow empower these guys with some measure of confidence in fall camp (and not just false braggadocio like the kind exhibited by Syracuse alumnus Anthony Smith last year in the NFL) or it will be more of the same in 2008.

Special Teams

If there’s one thing a bad football team needs, it’s a strong punting game. In light of this axiom, the Orangemen will be heavily dependent on punter Rob Long, particularly since he will be punting on second and third down, as noted above. Long thrived last year as a freshman, averaging 41.9 yards per punt while logging a heavy workload of 75 punts. Likewise, in anticipation of likely red zone struggles, kicker Patrick Shadle will be a vital cog in the offensive attack. Syracuse has a rich history of placekickers, such as Gary Anderson and Olindo Mare, but their recent kickers have been unable to carry on this legacy, as evidenced by their embarrassing miscues (see, e.g., Temple game, 2002) and dependence on outright chicanery (google “collin barber syracuse lollipop”). Coach Robinson and crew are hoping that Shadle can build on his strong 2007 campaign (10-14 FGs) and restore the proud kicking tradition to Syracuse. More importantly, considering Syracuse’s myriad other shortcomings, the team’s ability to make a run at .500 will likely hinge upon whether Long and Shadle can challenge for the Ray Guy and Lou “The Toe” Groza awards, respectively. Finally, in the return game, the Orangemen feature Caucasian sensation Max Suter, who has been described as a “possession kick returner,” notwithstanding his 25.5 yards/return last year. Suter should get plenty of opportunities, as opposing teams will certainly score plenty of touchdowns against the Orangemen in 2008.

Schedule/Outlook

To his credit, Athletic Director Gross has constructed another respectable non-conference schedule. The Orangemen will open the season against Northwestern in Evanston and they will host longtime rival Penn State at the Dome in September. In addition, Syracuse will also visit South Bend in November. In conference play, the Orangemen host Pittsburgh, Louisville and Connecticut, while traveling to West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers and Cincinnati. Although this slate may have been navigable for most Syracuse teams throughout the school’s history, this year’s talent-starved squad will likely be overwhelmed. Accordingly, there is little hope that 2008 team will exceed last year’s 2-10 record, especially as the calls for Greg Robinson’s job become louder and the crowds at the Dome become sparser.

Prediction: 2-10.

July 28, 2008

Over / Unders: The Atlantic Coast Conference

Since Doug's Pac-10 post was so well-received by our thousands (hundreds? tens?) of readers, and being that in two weeks I will be driving a U-Haul straight into the heart of ACC country, here are some picks on the fortunes of arguably the weakest of the BCS conferences. Again, these over/unders are straight from the experts at vegasinsider.com.


ACC Overview - If everything goes by the book this year in the ACC, you may want to tune your television sets elsewhere on Saturday afternoons. There are two HUGE favorites, a slew of teams pegged for mediocrity, one frisky under the radar team and then some downright dogs at the bottom of the conference. At the ACC media day, Clemson received 59 of the 65 votes to win the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech received 58 of 65 votes to take home the prestigious Coastal Division title (raise your hand if you knew the ACC had an Atlantic and a Coastal division).

There are some intriguing storylines, including the post Matt-Ryan era at BC, the rise of UNC under Butch Davis, the resurrection of Miami under Randy Shannon, and the attempted revival of Duke under David Cutcliffe. But when it comes down to it, the ACC inspires most to dream of Midnight Madness in October on most campuses and this year doesn't appear to be any different.

DUKE - 3 wins - OVER
How's this for a bold prediction: Duke will begin the season 3-0. The opening schedule consists of 3 home games against James Madison, Northwestern and Navy. Last year's team won at Northwestern and lost a heartbreaker to Navy by 3. This years team returns 17 starters from last year including decent QB Thad Lewis. Of course the big change is David Cutcliffe is in as head coach. While I don't see and Ole Miss like rising from the ashes to form a legit program, I think that the Dukies will find another win on the schedule, most likely at Vandy or NC State at home. That's cause enough for a ticker tape parade through the streets of Durham before everyone turns their attention back to Coach K fresh off his Olympic Gold.

VIRGINIA - 4.5 wins - UNDER
If you would have told me that UVA would lose their first game to Wyoming last year and still go 9-4 I would have said no freaking way. But a closer look at their results shows one of the flukier seasons in recent memory. They won an amazing 5 games by one or two points and were 101st in the country in total offense. With Chris Long gone and starting QB Jameel Sewell suspended for the year for academics, it could be a harsh dose of reality in Charlottesville. A brutal last 3 games of at Wake, Clemson, at Virginia Tech could get ugly.

GEORGIA TECH - 5.5 wins - OVER
After watching Tech absolutely destroy Notre Dame from the endzone of Notre Dame stadium last year, I find it hard to believe that:

a. Tashard Choice didn't win the Heisman. I was ready to start some witty Choice is the Choice for Heisman campaign myself for the guy.

b. Paul Johnson is now the head coach of the Jackets. Anyone who says they have any idea about how this season will play out for them is just being ridiculous. I think highly enough of Johnson that I think he'll get 6 wins out of this team (the games against Jacksonville State and Gardner-Webb don't hurt), but I really have no idea what to expect.

c. John Tenuta is a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff. That 33-3 win last year was about as dominant a defensive performance I've seen in a while. Tenuta had every player on the field flying to the ball and causing havoc in the backfield. If that is any indication of how this years ND unit will be playing, then we could be in for a good year.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE - 5.5 wins - UNDER
I wonder how much Tom O'Brien is enjoying that move from Boston to Raleigh. While BC just went through a great era in the history of the program, O'Brien is still trying to figure out how to win at NC State. A defense that was last in the ACC lost 7 starters from 2007 (Ok, not sure if that is a good or bad thing). The schedule gets tougher with nonconference games including the opener at South Carolina and a home game against USF. I don't see a bowl game in NC State's future. At least their hoops coach wears a slick red coat.

NORTH CAROLINA - 6.5 wins - OVER
While it is indisputable that Butch Davis is building something at UNC, the fact remains that the team only went 4-8 last year. After a season opening cupcake party against McNeese State, the direction of their season will be determined in the next 5 games: at Rutgers, VT, at Miami, UConn, ND. I see the Heels coming out of that stretch of games at 2-3, but luckily for them, the schedule eases up the rest of the way, including missing out on Clemson, FSU and Wake.

Notre Dame fans should be familiar with the name Greg Little - he's the guy who spurned Charlie at the 11th hour. The wide receiver turned running back will headline the offense that also features Mike Paulus as a true freshman backup QB. For all of the country's sake, here's to hoping he isn't as annoying and unlikable as his big brother.

MARYLAND - 7 wins - UNDER
Ralph Friedgen has quietly carved out a nice little niche in College Park (or maybe a nice big niche? He makes Chuck Weis look like a regular Weight Watcher). He'll usually play one marquee out of conference game a year ('02 ND, '03-'07 West Virginia, '08 Cal), play 3 D 1-AA caliber opponents if at all possible (Delaware, Middle Tennessee, Eastern Michigan) and then try to go .500 in the ACC. Usually that adds up to about a 6 or 7 win season and a berth in the Emerald Bowl or Music City Bowl or something. And apparently the administration is happy, the fans are happy, and the heat gets shifted to National Championship winning coach Gary Williams.

Since I really have no analysis of the Maryland football program, allow me to voice my displeasure with the trend of everybody playing the Villanova's and Delaware's and Western Carolina's of the college football world. I'm not thrilled that ND is playing a team like San Diego State, but at least it's a fairly reputable D1 school in the first week of the season. If ND was out there scheduling Charleston Southern as their home opener like Miami this year, there would be a revolt among the ND Nation. Do fans of other schools really get pumped to go to these games? As far as I am concerned, there are two men coaching football who fear no one:









This year, Pat Hill will be taking his team to Rutgers and UCLA while welcoming Wisconsin to Fresno. And the Trojans will be playing at Virginia with Ohio State and ND at home. No Northern Arizona's or Youngstown State's on these two men's schedules.

MIAMI - 7 wins - PUSH
Randy Shannon had a very unenviable task in front of him. When he walked in the door, things were so bad that he had to put in a firearm discipline policy, something that many coaches around the country probably don't have to worry too much about. Was Larry Coker just letting guys bring their guns to practice? Either way, Kyle Wright has graduated after spending what seems like the last 8 seasons tarnishing the legacies of Bernie, Vinnie and Gino. Unfortunately, there is no paisan waiting in the wings to take over - only two freshman. With games at Florida and at Texas A&M, I see only a slight step forward for the program this year.

On a separate not, here's to hoping that Swarbrick is on the phone right now to the Miami AD to see if we can't get a series set up between ND and The U.


BOSTON COLLEGE - 7 wins - UNDER
With Matt Ryan gone, the QB position is turned over to 5th year senior Chris Crane. An experienced guy who should be able to step in and maintain BC's momentum, right? Uh, not so much. The guy has thrown 32 career passes. Well at least they should be able to rely on the running game. Ok, maybe not. Andre Callender and LV Whitworth have exhausted their seeming endless supply of collegiate eligibility and a true freshman is expected to start. Throw in about the toughest 6 week stretch you can have in the ACC midseason of VT, at UNC, Clemson, ND, at FSU, at Wake, and I'm not feeling too optimistic about BC this year.

One thing we might find out about though is how good of a coach Jeff Jagodzinski is. He rode Matt Ryan's coattails last year, and let's just say that I am a little skeptical of what direction Coach Jags will be taking the program. And yes, wearing a leather jacket on the sideline is a factor. Although defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani does have one of the more underrated snout brooms roaming the sidelines. No confirmation yet to the rumor that Joe Tiller sent his entire coaching staff to Chestnut Hill this offseason to get the latest mustache grooming and growing techniques from Spaz.


WAKE FOREST - 8 wins - OVER
If you remember at the beginning of the preview, I tabbed one school as a frisky under the radar team. Well, look no further than your 2008 Demon Deacons. While my bias may already be coming through even though I haven't set foot on campus yet, I see Wake primed to make a serious run at a conference championship. They return virtually every key piece from last year, including last years NCAA comletion percentage leader (72.4%) Riley Skinner, last years ACC Rookie of the Year RB Josh Adams, and All-American cornerback Alphonso Smith, who picked off 8 passes last year and already holds the ACC record for most INT's returned for TD's.

The schedule is favorable for a big run in the ACC. Clemson comes to Winston-Salem on a Thursday night for what will in all likelihood be the biggest game in program history. Having never been a part of Thursday night football, I couldn't be more excited about that game under the lights. Of course I'll probably have a Quant exam or Econ paper due on Friday, but we'll worry about that later. Virginia Tech is nowhere to be found on the schedule, and out of conference is a respectable but highly manageable slate of at Baylor, Ole Miss, Navy and Vanderbilt.

I'll leave it at this. Take it to the bank that Jim Grobe is getting 9 wins out of this team. If the Deacs win that Thursday nighter against Clemson, than a conference title will be well within reach. And if you're feeling lucky, head on over to vegasinsider.com and lay down 10 bucks at 100-1 odds on Wake to be holding the National Championship trophy in January. I just did.


FLORIDA STATE - 8.5 wins - UNDER
The Seminole nation heads into another season waiting for Drew Weatherford to finally make the leap from 'guy who shows glimpses but makes too many dumb plays' to 'guy who was supposed to be All-American when he was recruited.' Let's just say I'm pretty confident we will not be seeing Weatherford's name on any All-American lists this year. It's pretty unbelievable that a school like FSU hasn't recruited another QB to come in and take over yet, but it looks like it's Weatheford's job for now.

With the huge academic scandal from last year in which so many suspensions were handed down Bobby Bowden was almost forced to suit up in the bowl game, coupled with the suspension of Preston Parker in the offseason for cruising around Miami with a loaded .45 and weed, it is difficult to see FSU reaching Vegas' lofty expectations. Sorry, 'Nole fans, this is a 7 win team. At best.


CLEMSON - 9 wins - PUSH
Sorry to cop out here, but Vegas is right on the money with this line. Would it surprise me if Clemson won 10 or 11 games. No. The talent is there for a monster season. But haven't we been down this road before with Tommy Bowden? It seems like every time there are big preseason expectations his team fails to live up to them. There is an annual Tommy Bowden on the hot seat story. And every year he seems to rally the team late and save his job and Clemson fans are forced to talk themselves back into him.

Clemson has a HUGE opener against one Nicholas Saban and Alabama in Atlanta. Wow. It doesn't get much better than that. If they can pull that one out, then they are cruising until that aforementioned showdown in Winston-Salem and are a legitimate national championship contender. With Cullen Harper, James Davis and CJ Spiller back to lead one of the most potent offenses in the country, and no Virginia Tech on the schedule, Tiger fans have every right to expect nothing short of a BCS appearance. But if history tells us anything, they might be disappointed come January. Only this time, if Bowden screws it up, chances are the Tiger faithful will be talking themselves into a different coach come next season.


VIRGINIA TECH - 9.5 wins - UNDER
I have to admit, I was shocked that Virginia Tech had the highest predicted win total by Vegas. I mean, they did win 11 games last year, but leading rusher Branden Ore was booted from school, and their top 4 receivers all graduated (well, exhausted their eligibility, I don't know if they actually got the sheepskin from this fine institution). BeamerBall will again incorporate two qb's, which after their first loss will inspire every TV analyst to trot out the old adage 'if you have two qb's you really have no qb's.' Although Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor both have had their moments, neither inspires much confidence among Hokie faithful. The defense returns only 4 starters after losing several key players to the NFL.

If there is one reason why Las Vegas pegs Virginia Tech as the ACC's biggest victor, it has to be the schedule. Nonconference games against East Carolina, Furman and Western Kentucky are a joke. Come on Beamer, you're better than that. A trip to Lincoln to visit a rebuilding Huskers team is their only nonconference test. Even with the easier schedule, I just don't think the talent is there for a stellar season in Blacksburg. Pencil in the Hokies for leading the NCAA in blocked punts....and 8 wins.

As an aside, I came across this painting of Frank Beamer being sold on some artist's website in Virginia. The guy by all accounts was serious in his artwork and devotion to the Hokies, as he also had portraits of Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor. Ummm, buddy, might be time to let go of the dreams of that painting career. Good God, Beamer is a legend in Blacksburg and this is what that gets him.

July 25, 2008

The Newest Cub

Congrats to Jeff Samardzija on his big promotion to the Cubs. Sounds like there is a very real chance that he is going to get the start tomorrow against the Marlins. With all of WEISND gathering in Chicago this weekend, perhaps a trip to Wrigleyville to cheer on #83 is in order?? I have to think there will be all kinds of Irish fans piling into Wrigley Field to watch Samardzija's debut.

Should be interesting to see how he performs. Shark doesn't strike me as the type of guy who would have any troubling dealing with the pressure of a pennant race, so I would imagine that he will do well in his debut. Even if he ends up getting sent back down when Kerry Wood is healthy, it's a great sign that he is already performing well enough to get the big league call up.

July 24, 2008

Les Miles: No Inner Monologue

I'll say this about Les Miles. He's not exactly the brighest bulb out there and probably should learn the value of the unexpressed thought, but I'll be darned if he doesn't keep things lively for college football fans.

The latest Miles flap takes us to the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama for the always entertaining SEC media day. I've never lived south of the Mason Dixon line (just stop with your Cincitucky jokes right now!!) , but I get the impression that the entire Southeastern United States comes screeching to a halt during the SEC Media Days. Great stuff, and it seems like about five controversies emerge every year from all the trash-talking that goes on at this event (see the Urban Meyer-Richt feud that has blown up over that Georgia team endzone excessive celebration last year). I think it is safe to say that Tim Tebow is currently the most famous athlete in all of the south, and now Urban Meyer has told a Miami audience that Tebow "is the greatest player of our era." Seems like a bit of a stretch if you ask me, but there's no denying that Tebow has all the eyes of Dixie upon him.

Anyway, Alabama fans are all riled up this week after the recent comments by Les Miles in front of about 500 LSU fans in a Tiger Tour stop at the Hilton Riverside hotel in New Orleans about the upcoming Alabama-LSU game.

According to The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Miles cautioned LSU fans “not to make too much of that game, as it seems like a lot of teams in Louisiana beat that team.”

Of course, Miles was referring to Alabama's 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, two weeks after losing to LSU.

Sounds like Les was just cracking a joke, but the Bama fans are all hot and bothered about it. Gotta love SEC football fans. They are far and away the most intense college football fans out there.

Needless to say, feel free to set your TIVOs now for that Alabama-LSU game in Baton Rouge on November 8. I'm going to take a guess that the game will be played under the lights in front of 92,000 liquored- up, Tiger-Bait chanting Cajuns with Mike Patrick and Todd Blackledge calling the action. Over/under on the number of "HOLY COW!"s from Mike Patrick: 17

As far as Urban Meyer complaining about Georgia's excessive celebration, here is his quote regarding the incident:

“It was a bad deal. And it will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and our football team.”

HUH?? When did Urban Meyer turn into Karl Malone?? What's with the third-person reference?? And why are you still whining about this incident??

I think Urban is a big time coach, but he does himself no favors here by complaining about a freaking touchdown celebration. It was a strategic move by Richt to get his team fired up, and it worked. Georgia needed to win that game to get their mojo back, and it propelled them to a top 5 season. Instead of whining about it, Meyer should just tip his cap and figure out a way to get a win next year in Jacksonville.

Anyway, Urban Meyer has a new book coming out titled "Urban's Way." Could be an interesting read. Only SEC coaches could have someone named Buddy write their book. Somehow I doubt there will be too many purchases of that book from Columbus, Ohio or South Bend, Indiana.

July 23, 2008

Bring Back the Prestige

ESPN trotted out an interesting analysis the other day ranking the most "prestigious" basketball programs in the country since March Madness expanded to 64 teams. As I digested the first breakdown, I started thinking to myself, "Please please please don't tell me Notre Dame didn't crack this list." I realize the John McLeod Era was a plague upon the program, but there have been plenty of areas of merit. 11 20-win seasons. 11 trips to the Big Dance, including the Sweet 16 in '03. NIT runners-up in '92 and '00. Pat Garrity, Troy Murphy and Luke "The Mongoose" Harangody all garnering All-American status. 2000-2001 Big East West Division champs. Surely this was enough to look past 6 moribund seasons of sub .500 ball.

When I saw that they had, in fact, ranked 51-300, I felt more queasy that ND's step-child program would find themselves on the scrap heap. I scanned the first twenty or so names and was happy/surprised to see the Irish not mentioned. A glimmer of hope flashed. The fleeting moment passed upon seeing Notre Dame next to "T-86." What kind of sick joke is this?! Tied with Mississippi State, ranked directly behind such "prestigious" programs as South Alabama, East Tennessee, Ball State, Pepperdine, Bucknell, Winthrop, Old Dominion, Montana, and Louisiana Tech. Read that list again and tell me your stomach doesn't churn and make you want to hurl.

Let me get this straight ESPN. In the last 24 years, a school that plays a national schedule in the premier basketball conference in the country, a school that has had four 1st and 2nd team All-Americans and a slew of NBA players, a school that has occupied space in the media Top 25 polls throughout, falls behind East Tennessee in its "prestige" rankings. No offense, but I find that system flawed.

Have the Irish consistently crapped the bed in the Big East Tourney? To the point where they now wear Depends, yes. Have they disappointed with 1st and 2nd round losses in The Dance to beatable teams? Like a hand-knit Christmas sweater from your aunt. Washington State in '08, Winthrop in '07, Mississippi in '01 in recent memory. And dating back to the beginning of this time frame, SMU ('88) and Arkansas Little-Rock ('86) bested the underachieving Irish. Have they had highly touted recruits turn their value upside down? Without question, Chris Thomas and Torin Francis became as valuable to the team's success as a turd sandwich in a lunch-room trade.

But it's not just the Irish lowball ranking that irks me to no end. Granted, the good people who concocted this ranking system decided to be fair across the board and award points for specific benchmarks, regardless of the competition these benchmarks were accomplished against. It's a pretty cool, in-depth look at who's done what for us recently in basketball. But there are some egregious misnomers created by this inexact science.

Murray State clocks in at #30. Really??? I couldn't name you a single player or recall any hype related to Murray State in the last 20 years. Yet according to the points system, winning the vaunted Ohio Valley conference 22 times (regular season and tournament) weighs more than Villanova (#31) winning a title, making two Elite Eights, and having some of the best players in the country don a Wildcats uniform. Something clearly is getting lost in the addition.

College of Charleston (#50) and Chattanooga (#48) dominate weak conferences year in and year out, thus inflating their 20-win seasons exponentially. Please tell me how either of these deserve to be ranked above Marquette (#61) or Boston College (#71)?


ESPN is doing a good job of dragging this out over 5 days, so I'm curious to see how the top 20 shakes down according to their flawed point system. The usual suspects will be in the top spots, but in what order? If ESPN conducts this ranking in another 20 years, I sincerely hope that the Irish will lay claim to a top 30 ranking. The program is destined for a prolonged string of competitive, 20-win squads. They need a transcendent team to make a deep run and become as storied as the '78 Final Four squad. Could this year's team fit that description? Football season first, but, as sacrilegious as it may sound, I'm definitely more excited for the exploits of Brey's ballers than Weis' warriors.

Nobody Stopped the Clock!! Nobody Stopped the Clock!!

In honor of Ravi's pending nuptials this weekend, let's travel back in time to 1987 and relive a classic clip from Indiana sports history. Ravi, I hope you have a box of tissues by your side when you hear "Indiana wins the champioship! Keith Smart is the hero!" Sit back and enjoy one of the greatest final minutes in Final Four history as Brent Musberger and Billy Packer deliver the action.

Over/Unders: The Pacific 10

Since our site is generally pro-gambling, I figured we would start previewing some of the conferences with a gambling spin. Thanks to the good people at www.vegasinsider.com, I pulled the over/under futures on wins, so let's run through the Pac 10 and make some picks.

Pac 10 overview - Before we start with the picks, I just wanted to say that the Pac 10 is probably the toughest league to predict year in and year out. After USC, it seems like all of these programs are interchangeable. They've all had highs and lows in the last decade or so. Honestly, who has been the second best program in the Pac 10 in the last 15 years?? Oregon?? Cal?? Washington?? I have absolutely no idea. Half these teams are 9-3 one year and then 5-7 the next year. If you are looking to make some money on over/under futures this year, I would probably stay away from the Pac 10. You can do research and take some educated guesses, but you never really know who is going to rise out of the middle or the bottom of this league and surprise people.

One other random tip that occurred to me while looking at these teams. Since the Pac 10 plays 9 conferences games, half the teams are going to get 5 home conference games and half the team are only going to get 4 home conference games. Might be something to look at if you're on the fence. Give a little boost to the teams with the extra home game.

Just one additional thought for you Pac 10 fans out there. I think the Pac 10 might be a little down this year, especially compared to the great year the league had last year. The league has lost a lot of talent, and there don't appear to be a lot of veteran teams in the Pac 10 this year.

Arizona State - 8.5 wins - OVER - As Jimmy pointed out in his response to the best coaches in the game post, Dennis Erickson is no joke as a head coach. If you hire Dennis Erickson, he is going to bring in athletes and win you a lot of ballgames. The team he put together at Oregon State of all places was downright scary (just look at the Cincinnati Bengals roster under the WR section if you need any other info), and I expect him to do the same at Arizona State. Let's be honest, which places is easier to recruit?? Tempe, Arizona or Corvallis, Oregon?? Erickson might have the Sun Devils on probation in five years, but he is going to win games along the way.

Anyway, I expect to see Arizona State continue on their 10-3 record from last year with more success in 2008. Rudy Carpenter is back, and Erickson will have them flying around the ball. Go ahead and mark your calendars now for that September 20 Arizona State-Georgia game in Tempe. Could have huge implications for the national title race. I don't know when that game was scheduled, but I would imagine that Georgia did not expect to get a Dennis Erickson-coached team when they scheduled that game out in Tempe.

Arizona - 6.5 wins - UNDER - Seems like everyone has Arizona on sleeper alert this year, which usually makes me a little nervous. Haven't we been waiting for Mike Stoops to break through for about 5 years now?? If his last name wasn't Stoops, would anyone be that excited about this guy?? Something tells me that Stoops would have been fired by now if he had a different last name. It's not like last year was some big breakthrough. They lost home games last year to Stanford and New Mexico. I know they have players returning and all, but I'd like to see it before I go and put money down on them to go to a bowl game. As far as I'm concerned, they are probably going to be down near the cellar yet again this year.

Washington State - 4 wins - OVER - Hey, it's our 2009 neutral site opponent coming to you live from San Antonio, Texas in front of 37 fired up fans!! Good to see that they are currently projected at the 4 win mark for this year. This is a "marquee" game?? I digress.

I'm not going to pretend to know anything about Washington State football, but this new coach Paul Wulff sounds like he has given this program a shot of life and brought some energy back to Pullman. Interesting first game of the season for the Cougars against Oklahoma State in Seattle. If they win that game, the schedule looks somewhat favorable for a 6-ish win season.

Since I don't have much else to add about Wazzou football, I'll throw in a nugget about Washington State basketball. Sounds like Tony Bennett is really excited about this recruiting class coming in led by SF Klay Thompson, son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson. I know ND was on this guy, and it sounds like he is a big time sleeper. Might want to keep an eye on him this year.

Oregon State - 6.5 wins - UNDER - You gotta love any team with a wide receiver named James Rodgers. Jimmy, I expect to see you in a James Rodgers Oregon State jersey some time this fall.

Oregon State has a brutal nonconference schedule this year with road games at Penn State and Utah (probably will lose both those games) and Hawaii at home, so it is going to be tough for them to get to 6 wins. Is it me or do all of the Pac 10 teams play tough nonconference schedules?? They are already playing 9 games in the league, and then all of the Pac 10 teams seem to add at least one and often two quality nonconference games. Never thought I would say it about the Pac 10, but they are by far the gutsiest league out there when it comes to football scheduling.

UCLA - off (weisnd over/under will be set at 6) - OVER - For some reason, the over/under is not listed for UCLA, so we'll just go ahead and set it at 6 for them. SLEEPER ALERT!! Say what you want about Rick Neuheisel being a rat, but he is no joke as a coach and has brought in a top notch coaching staff with Norm Chow as offensive coordinator and DeWayne Walker as defensive coordinator. It might taek a little while for Chow's system to get going In Westwood, but they could be a major sleeper in the Pac 10 this year.

Remote control alert: UCLA and Tennessee square off in the Rose Bowl to open the season. WOW. We're going to find out a lot about both those teams in a hurry.

How the heck has Norm Chow never had an opportunity to be a head coach in college football?? The guy is widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in college football, and he has a great reputation for developing quarterbacks. You're telling me that there isn't a WAC team out there that would love to have Chow's high-flying offense in place??

USC is still the king of the southern California football scene, but it could be interesting over the next few years if Neuheisel starts winning at UCLA. Chow's system is going to be attractive for recruits. Nothing would please me more than to see UCLA gaining ground on the Trojans for the top players in Los Angeles.

Washington - 4.5 wins - UNDER - Just checking in on the Washington 2009 recruiting watch. The Huskies still stand at 0 recruits so far and now are the only BCS team in the country with no recruits. Ladies and gentlemen, the Ty Willingham era!!

The man is literally stealing money from Washington and the good taxpayers of the state of Washington. I'm offended as a college football fan and as a card-carrying member of the Republican Party. Bobby Jindal 2016. Rooting out our fiscal problems one overpaid college head coach at a time. YES WE CAN.

As for the over/under on the Huskies, I'll happily sign up for the under on them. With another brutal schedule and Ty's coaching staff basically packing it in, they are not winning 5 games this year. Locker is a talented player who has a lot of different ways to beat you, but the rest of the team won't give him much help.

The worst part for Washington is that Willingham is killing them not only this year but for the next 3-4 years. Whoever inherits this program is going to be taking over a complete mess. The Jake Locker era doesn't even have a chance to take off.

Stanford - 4 wins - OVER - I've been saying this since the day he was hired, and I'm standing by it now. Jim Harbaugh is a program builder, and they are going to be better than people think starting this year. They were much improved last year, and Harbaugh has elevated their recruiting profile. Beating USC and Cal last year was pretty impressive considering where Stanford was a few years ago. Harbaugh seems like a good coach, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see them in a bowl by next year. At the very least, they are going to be a team that opponents have to take seriously in the Pac 10.

Still doesn't mean that I want them on the ND schedule every year, but I think Stanford is a lot closer to being a winning team than people realize.

Oregon - 8 wins - OVER - No Dennis Dixon and the schedule has 5 Pac 10 road games, but the rest of the schedule is really favorable. Their toughest road game involves a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on the fighting Tillers. Could be an entertaining game. Judging by Oregon's domination over Michigan last year, I don't see any reason why they won't win that game at Purdue next year.

If you're catching a theme here, I'm not all that high on the Big 10 this year. At this point, the Big 10 teams are going to have to prove that they can beat quality opponents outside the league before I start picking them to win these types of games. After watching USC throttle Illinois and Oregon destroy Michigan last year, the Big 10 has a lot of work to do to rebuild its reputation.

By the way, for you Buckeye fans who read this blog, were you nervous at all when Terrelle Pryor started expressing an interest in Oregon as a possible destination for his services?? As strange as it sounded, there was somewhat of a logical fit there with their spread offense and all the Nike ties. Pryor has a little bit of OJ Mayo in him in terms of wanting the spotlight, and nothing really surprises me with Pryor anymore. It's going to be an interesting next few years with him around.

Cal - 8 wins - UNDER - Cal lost a lot of talent last year, but they seem to be flying under the radar a little bit. Let's not forget that Cal has had 8-10-8-10 wins in the four seasons before the 7-6 campaign in the 2007. They have 9 starters back on defense, and Tedford always manages to put together a good offensive team. With that said, their collapse last year was concerning, and I'm a little concerned that Cal might have already peaked as a program. I'm not sure what to make of the Bears this year, but 8 wins seems a little high for them for some reason. With UCLA and Arizona State on the rise, I feel like Cal is about to get passed up for Pac 10 superiority.

USC - 10.5 wins - OVER - Here's all you need to know about USC this year. Their starting QB was the #1 QB recruit in the country, their backup QB was the #1 recruit in the country, their starting running back was the #1 running back recruit in the country, and just about everyone on that offense was a five star recruit. The talent is there for USC to be a dynamic offensive team, but we'll have to see how it plays uout. Seems like a lot will depend on Mark Sanchez. By all accounts, he has had a great spring and summer and appears to be destined to be the next great quarterback at USC. If he has made the leap, USC is going to be in good shape offensively.

Speaking of depth, USC has about 10 running backs this year, and all of them are talented. McKnight, Stafon Johnson, CJ Gable, Allan Bradford, Marc Tyler. How does Pete Carroll keep all these guys happy?? All of these guys would be starting for every other school in the Pac 10, and yet a guy like Marc Tyler is sitting 5th or 6th on the depth chart.

USC's defense is just plain scary this year. Maulaluga and Cushing form the best linebacking crew in the nation, and their secondary is going to be as good as it has ever been in the Pete Carroll era. If you're looking for a breakout star on this defense, look no further than Everson Griffen at defensive end. Anyone who watched this guy shred people at the Army All-American Game is aware of what he can do. The bottom line is that it is going to be very difficult to score on USC this year.

The only question about USC this year is whether they can run the table and get back into the BCS Championship Game. The schedule is pretty favorable with most of their big games at home (Ohio State, ND, Cal, Arizona State, Oregon), so they definitely have as good a shot as any to run the table this year. It brings me no joy to sing the praises of the Trojans and I would love nothing more than to see them go 7-5 this year, but they are what they are. USC is loaded and well-coached and they aren't going away any time soon.

The over is awfully high at 10.5 games and they have had some problems staying focused for 12 games, but I like it anyway. Defense wins championships, and USC has the best defense in the nation.

July 21, 2008

Fight On

http://blogs.usatoday.com/gameon/2008/07/carson-palmer-r.html

Wow, Carson Palmer's agent must have passed out when he heard about this radio interview that Palmer gave out in California. Needless to say, I don't think he is going to be a very popular figure in Columbus, Ohio this year. (Note to Columbus tv programmers, just because Carson Palmer called out the Buckeyes, please don't take it out on the Bengal fans living in Central Ohio by not showing Bengal games.)

Here's the full text of Palmer's trash talk about Ohio State (the audio is in the link):

"I don't watch what I say. I cannot stand the Buckeyes, and having to live in Ohio and hear those people talk about their team, it drives me absolutely nuts . . . It's amazing to hear what those guys think about that university and what they think about that football program and (Ohio State coach Jim) Tressel and all the crap I gotta put up with being back there. I just can't wait for two years from now when SC comes to the 'Shoe and I get to hopefully, hopefully we'll have a home game that weekend and I can go up there and watch us pound on them in their own turf and kind of put all the talk to rest. Because I'm really getting sick of it and I just can't wait for this game to get here so they can come out to the Coliseum and experience LA and get an old-fashioned Pac-10 butt-whoopin' and go back to the Big Ten . . . I can't wait."

July 19, 2008

The Most Overrated Coaches in America

Yesterday's discussion of the best coaches in the game got me thinking a little bit about a different topic of discussion when it comes to college football. This topic is a little more enjoyable for me because it's a subject that the mainstream media hates to talk about. There is nothing more uncomfortable for mainstream media types than to go on the record and call out a coach for not getting it done. And yet as a college football fan, there is nothing more frustrating than hearing the media gush over coaches who fans know is not all they are cracked up to be. Guys like Chris Fowler (who I like by the way) absolutely love to pooh pooh the fans whenever fans start getting upset about the performance of their coach. You'll start hearing stuff like "nothing is ever good enough for (insert team here) fans" and "loyalty is a long lost art among college football fans" and "fans will jump all over you at the first sign of trouble." As a college football fan, I usually find those statements insulting (especially when they are directed at the fans of my team) because we know as well as anyone if our coach is getting the job done. In the spirit of open discussion, let's tear down some barriers and throw out a list of college football's most overrated coaches.

1) Mack Brown - The reason I wanted to start with Mack Brown is because he's the perfect example of a coach who has an absolute pristine reputation with the mainstream media but probably faces a lot more grumbling at home in Austin with his own fans. Let me start by saying that I don't think Mack Brown is a bad coach, and it would be silly for me to say that he hasn't been successful at Texas. The guy has put together a 103-25 record in 10 years in Texas and has averaged over 10 wins per season. He got the job done with the national title in 2005, and has never won fewer than 9 games at Texas. He's also 7-3 in bowl games, and 19-11 overall in rivalry games against Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. When you consider that he took over a Texas program that was in the doldrums when he got there, he has delivered big time results at Texas. By all accounts, he is very popular in Austin and pretty much has a lifetime contract at Texas.

So why am I putting him on this list again?? Because it's Texas!! You're talking about a university that is king in one of the three richest states for high school football talent in the country. Texas high school football is probably the most intense high school football in the country, and just about every one of those kids dreams of putting on those burnt orange colors and playing in Austin. Yea, A&M and Oklahoma and maybe some schools like ND, LSU, and Arkansas might get down there and pluck away a few blue chippers, but the vast majority of the top talent in the state wants to go to Texas. In other words, the head coach at Texas has his pick of the litter. There's no other situation like it in the country. The Florida schools are all cannibalizing each other for players in Florida, and the same applies in California to some degree. There's fans of all different teams throughout those states. In Texas, it's all about Longhorn football, and Mack Brown barely has to step out of his backyard to put together a top 5 recruiting class. In the Big 12, Texas is always going to have the best access to talent in the conference.

I'm not saying that it's easy to win 10 games a year at any school, including Texas, but isn't it safe to say that there are a lot of quality coaches who could do what Mack Brown has done?? Mack Brown has been a success at Texas, but let's not go overboard here. The guy has won 1 Big 12 championship in 10 years. ONE. Read that again. What "legendary" coach has only won one conference title in a ten year span?? Stoops has won five Big 12 titles in the same time frame. Mack Brown deserves better than the "Mr. February" label that he sometimes gets tagged with, but you have to admit that he hasn't produced a lot of powerhouses with the talent at his disposal.

Mack has his national title, but let's not kid ourselves. We all watched Texas that year. They won a national title for one reason and one reason only. VINCE YOUNG. I've never seen a player carry a team more than Vince Young did that year. He turned Texas from a program that always came up small in the big moments into one that found ways to get it done. Other than the Vince Young era, Mack Brown has been "Mr. Holiday Bowl." There's nothing wrong with that, but if you compare Mack Brown's achievements to his national reputation, there's a noticeable gap there. There are probably many Texas fans who insist that Mack Brown is the best thing ever to happen to Texas football, but I would bet there is a vocal minority who think he probably could be doing more with the resources available at Texas.

2) Kirk Ferentz - Any coach who has been able to win 2 co-Big 10 championships at Iowa of all places probably has no business being on an "overrated" coaches list, so maybe it's not fair that I have Kirk Ferentz on this list. In 9 years at Iowa, he's put together a 73-70 record (and that's including his 1-10 season in his first eyar), and he has a 38-34 record in the Big Ten. All in all, a pretty respectable career at Iowa, and his overall tenure has been fairly successful.

I don't think Ferentz has underachieved at Iowa by any stretch, but the reason he makes my overrated list is because he somehow finds himself on the shortlist of candidates at every college and pro job in the country. How does he do it?? Every time a job opens up in college or the NFL, there's Ferentz in the top three saying "I'm very happy at Iowa." He must have the best agent in the country or something. It never fails. Michigan job opens up?? There's Ferentz on the list as the top candidate. Pittsburgh Steelers job becomes available?? Suddenly every Pittsburgh tv station is out in Iowa City looking for an interview from Ferentz. And after he turns down all these jobs, he takes advantage of his leverage and extends his contract until about 2090 and get a pay raise out of it. Case in point. Ferentz is now the highest paid coach in the Big 10.

Yet, if you look at his performance in recent years, why is everyone still so excited about this guy?? In his last three years at Iowa, Ferentz is 19-18 overall with a 11-13 record in the Big 10. In other words, he's basically reverted back to being your typical middle of the road Big 10 coach. At some point, you would think that the interest in this guy would start to dry up. I'm not even sure that he'll be in good graces at Iowa much longer if he has another down year or two.

By the way, what's with Iowa thinking that they are a much better athletic program than they actually are?? They ran Steve Alford out of town and now Ferentz is starting to hear some grumbling. I'm not saying either of those guys are superstars, but it's Iowa for god sakes!! What do they expect?? Do Iowa fans really think they should be competing for Big 10 titles year in and year out in football and basketball?? I respect their passion for Iowa sports, but it's a little shocking to see a mediocre program complaining so much about their mediocre coaches. Dr. Tom Davis and Hayden Fry aren't walking through that door, folks!!

3) Phil Fulmer - Since there has to be an SEC coach on this list, how about we go down to Knoxville and hit up the pumpkin himself, Mr. Phillip Fulmer (break out your Tennessee twang when you're saying it for extra effect). As anyone who has followed his career at Tennessee is well aware, Phil Fulmer is a lightning rod for criticism in Rocky Top country. Just mention the name Phil Fulmer, and you'll have a Tennessee fan riled up for hours.

It's almost like Tennessee doesn't know what to do with Fulmer. He keeps plugging along at around 9-10 wins a year and usually does just enough to look ok, but it's been a long time since Tennessee was really really good under him. He hasn't won a conference title since 1998, and his team hasn't finished in the top ten since 2001. Don't get me wrong, some of those 10-3 type seasons he has been putting together are nothing to sneeze at, but the Tennessee faithful are a little restless these days. He has had a good run at Tennessee overall, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up getting pushed into retirement a little earlier than he maybe wants.

With a new QB in place and a fairly tough start to the season (at UCLA, Florida, at Auburn in the first four games), I think Fulmer's seat could get really warm early in the year.

By the way, here's the full list of the coaches who will be participating in SEC football next season:

Urban Meyer
Nick Saban
Les Miles
Steve Spurrier
Phil Fulmer
Mark Richt
Tommy Tuberville
Bobby Petrino
Houston Nutt
Rich Brooks
Sylvester Croom
Bobby Johnson

If you're scoring at home, there are 5 former national champions, 1 coach who had an undefeated season at Auburn, another coach with a 72-19 record at Georgia and 2 SEC titles, and another coach who went 41-9 at Louisville and is widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the game. Could you imagine being Bobby Johnson in that league?? Good god, the SEC is so loaded with coaching talent it's not even funny. Compare that to the Big Ten where one of the top 3 coaches in the league might be Ron Zook (yikes). Needless to say, the SEC is in a league of its own in college football these days.

4) Tommy Bowden - Tommy B. One of my favorite whipping boys. Of all the coaches on this list, I think Bowden was probably the most deserving. He's such an easy and obvious candidate for the "overrated" list that it's almost too easy to come up with things to say about him.

One of my favorite rites of summer is the annual "Watch out for Clemson" predictions that you see on ESPN.com and in your college football preview magazines. Doesn't matter if it was the Woody Dantzler era or the Charlie Whitehurst era or the current Cullen Harper era. Everyone loves to get excited about Clemson football in the summer. Every year is going to be their breakthrough year where they take command of the ACC. And yet how many years does Tommy Bowden have to go 8-5 before people start to realize that their big year might not come?? Instead of pronouncing them ACC Champions in the preseason for like the 7th straight year, could we maybe take a wait and see approach?? Considering that Miami and FSU have been down the last few years, the fact that Clemson still hasn't won an ACC title is probably an indication that it's not going to happen for them this year either.

Clemson hasn't been awful during the Bowden era, but they haven't even come close to breaking out yet at any point in his tenure. Bowden has never won an ACC title, and he's only had one season with 2 losses in the ACC. Every other year, he's been 5-3 or 4-4 in the conference. With an overall record of 69-42 in nine years (about 7.5 wins a year), there's really nothing in Tommy Bowden's track record to suggest big things are about to come for him.

5) Joe Paterno - Finally, this list wouldn't be complete without the old man somewhere on it. It always cracks me up to hear the JoePa defenders come out of the woodwork every fall to tell America how much they love having JoePa at Penn State and that they wouldn't want any other coach. JoePa's base of supporters insist that they would be happy if he coached forever at Penn State. Here's my response:

GOOD!!

If Penn State fans are happy going 9-4 every year, losing every big game they play, and losing out on big recruits in Western Pennsylvania to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan every year, fine by me!! I couldn't be happier to see Joe Paterno at Penn State, and I hope he's there another 10 years. It's one less program in the Midwest that I would need to take seriously in terms of competition for recruits. Penn State sits in one of the most fertile high school recruiting areas in the country, and yet they seem perfectly content to give up their chance at regular dominance so that their 80 year old coach can keep himself busy instead of going to a nursing home.

Not only are Penn State fans more than willing to wallow in mediocrity during Paterno's last years with us on earth, they're even going to let him hand pick his successor from his staff. Beautiful!!

So if you're scoring at home, Joe Paterno spent 35 years building Penn State into a football powerhouse, and now he's in the process of sending them into a 20 year swoon. You gotta love Joe Pa!