Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Why not? Everybody else and his brother seems to have a poll, or a ranking, or a blog space to rant and rave about what will happen this year. As if they all have crystal balls. I say to you then, why not the XBOX or PS2? Schrager (FOX SPORTS) takes this task head on. He did his homework with all of the teams updated complete with gamdeday rosters. And, after 30 minutes of scores, graphics, and fight-song music blasting on the surround-system, here's what the PS2 came up with for this year. Remember, it's only a game. Clink on the link to see how things actually turned out from the Heisman winner to the national champ. I gotta say that these match-ups don't look that bad right now. They're going to use the system each and every week to simulate the 10 biggest games as well. Have fun:
BCS bowl matchups:
Rose Bowl: Michigan (at-large) vs. Arizona State (Pac-10 champs)
Final score: Arizona State wins 48- 45 (2OT)
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech (ACC champs) vs. West Virginia (Big East champs)
Final score: West Virginia wins 21-18
Sugar Bowl: Florida (SEC champs) vs. USC (at-large)
Final score: USC wins 37-27
Fiesta Bowl: Texas (at-large) vs. Notre Dame (at-large)
Final score: Notre Dame wins 31-10
National championship: Oklahoma (BCS No. 2) at Ohio State (BCS No. 1)
Final score: Ohio State wins 28-21
MVP: Antonio Pittman: 19 carries, 99 yards, 3 Touchdowns
It's just better than all the rest. I've said that before. Many articles and radio shows have been dedicated to this subject. Usually, all other comparisons just fall short or don't even come close to measuring up to CFB. You can vote here on this site if you'd like to disagree (or agree). In this article, Stewart sounds off on why the best game in the land is just that, better than all the rest (insert Tina Turner song here)! My personal favorites include:
a) rivalry games late in November. I mean come on, what's better than that? The Civil War (OSU/Oregon), the Iron Bowl (Bama / Auburn), Ohio State / Michigan, Army / Navy, Miami / VA TECH, A&M / Texas, and the list goes on and on.....Illinois / Northwestern - yes.
b) the people. From the players and coaches to the student sections and tailgates, the people who play, coach, cheer, watch, and otherwise support the greatest game in the land make it so.
c) tradition and pageantry. Name a sport that has more of either than CFB. Of course, some stand out more than others (flaming arrows of FSU, push-ups after Notre Dame TD's, etc...).
Monday, August 28, 2006
I can't believe these have been around for 6 years already. I'll give Kirk credit for some originality, especially when we need it most in August. Who can disagree with his assessment of the nation's prettiest Co-EDS going to any SEC school? I'll take his word on that one. Although, the research must be fascinating.
These awards are to college football as the Emmy's are to television. Herbies are awarded to the best in college football in just about every possible category ranging from best airports and restaurants to the best student sections and everything in between. Take a peek. This is an interesting read. Not sure a I agree with his top-10 Gameday locations (he has a slight Ohio-State bias). I just gotta say that those Gameday guys just don't travel enough in the West to really get a good sample. Nonetheless, some of this is good to know should you happen to be travelling east of the Rockies.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Mr. Quinn tops the pre-season Heisman watch t his year. Not a big surprise given the strong break-out year he had last year at ND. Is there a team that gets more favorable media coverage? Some publications compare Quinn to Jesus. Pretty amazing that over the past 19 seasons only 1 Heisman winner has been the #1 pick in the NFL draft. This topic really pains me (east-coast bias?) because YALE (2) has more Heisman trophy winners than ILLINOIS. Come on, are you kidding me? Notre Dame and USC lead the list with a total of 7. Sure, no bias there.
Fox runs through their list. Seems like a wide-open race this year now that Bush, Leinart, and Young are making millions in the NFL: http://msn.foxsports.com/cfb/story/5746512/
Here is what CBS has to say. http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/heisman
12 ESPN experts lay it all out on the line here. If you need some additional pre-season help this year, this is as good of place as any. Who will be there in the first-ever 5th BCS TITLE game this year? Will this be the year for Notre Dame? Most everybody has Ohio State in the big-game against either Auburn or Notre Dame. This just in, they really like Ohio State and USC in their respective conferences. I thought for sure Illinois would be in the race here. Enjoy.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Pick - Em Predictions & Odds for this year....
Well, our 5th year of PICK-EM is upon us. I've said it before, but this is the most legal fun you'll have with your PC. If you're new to the game; WELCOME. No worries.
This game is wide open anyway. We don't play for money. And no matter what happens, don't hate the game just your lousy weekend picks. Without further hoopla, here are the official 'Vegas Odds' as I see them going into the season. Keep in mind it's August. Hard to get a handle on the off-season preparation. What the hell do I know anyway?
Fightin' Illini '71 - is there a more worthy future champion? I'm due any year now. 7 to 2.
Mighty Oregon '91 - former champion. Great competitor. Not this year. 14 to 3.
Photonic Cowboy - last year's champion. BC or bust. 6 to 1 here. Hard to repeat.
Olivertwist - Notre Dame through and through. 7 to 1 odds.
Husker Nation - former champion. Will he play every week? 9 to 1.
Mr. Planning - 11 to 1. Best system out there. No wins.
Aggies Rebound / World - Cup Pick EM Champ / Chastain - 39 to 1.
Watch This / OSU Parent - 69 to 1.
The Other OSU - 151 to 2.
Everybody Else - 250 to 1.
Husky Cellar Dwellers - Off.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Tiger's kind of town; Chicago is his town tonight. Hello player of the year. Twice now winning the PGA on the same course (Medinah #3). Hey Jack, don't look back but here he comes and stronger than ever. Wow, what a dominating performance this weekend at the 88th PGA. Trust me folks, Medinah #3 isn't that easy (18 under). He took control Saturday and never let it go shooting 65 and 68 over the weekend. There were only 22 rounds of 70 below PAR today. His closest competitors (Ogilvy, Donald, and Weir) were a combined +5 today against Tiger's -4 (68). Wow. Once again, the best player rose to the top of his game and to the top of THE GAME. There are no doubts now as to the best player in the world. He owns his game and probably the games of everybody else who tees it up with him.
31 shots separated him from 70th place. Wow, remember Friday afternoon when the cut was E and 70 players had a chance. That's separation folks. Too bad the rains moved in Friday afternoon and night. The course probably played as easy as it could have for a 4-day championship. Conditions were perfect for scoring all week. Tiger took advantage more than the rest. Mission accomplished. Lookout Jack, here he comes.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Each year in August somebody has to chime in with their take on the biggest games of the year. This year is no different. Some are obvious like Ohio State @ Texas, Notre Dame @ USC, Michigan @ Notre Dame, Florida @ Florida State, and Florida State @ Miami. That's why college football is so great, every game is a playoff. Is there really a need for a post-season playoff? These are Pete's top - 40 games of the year. It's amazing at how many of them are in September. Don't forget there is a lot on the line this year with 32 bowl games (up 4 from last year). And, for the first time ever we have a BCS title game. That will be interesting. Keep in mind that August predictions are about as useful as Q4 earnings call in July. Not very. Here are the TOP 15 games according to CNN/SI. If you can only watch 15 (I'm sorry) - here they are:
Friday, August 18, 2006
Sure, the PGA may not be the most prestigious of the 4 majors. It's certainly not the oldest (British). It's usually not the toughest test in golf either (US OPEN). And, it probably doesn't have the sex appeal of say the MASTERS with its tradition and heritage (always played at the same course, which is a good one BTW). 20 or 30 years ago the PGA was likely the 4th of the 4 majors. TV coverage was poor. Courses selected as the major venue were not great. Let's face it, TIGER wasn't around back then either. And golf wasn't the spectator or player sport that it is today with millions of Americans now playing the sport from coast to coast.
But when it comes to major - championship golf, I ask you which of the four majors is the best today? Rosaforte provides the best argument I've seen for the PGA. It is the last chance each season for a major victory. We have to wait until next April for another shot. I also strongly agree that the PGA has the best balance (along with the MASTERS) of a tough but fair course. The US OPEN has become a circus show the past few years, especially at Shinnecock in 2004. Winged Foot wasn't much better this year. They are so hell-bent at making that championship the toughest test in golf (riding the edge of what's fair if you will) that they've gone too far and actually crossed the line. The last fair US OPEN was at Olympia Fields. What's wrong with a winning score being under par anyway? You can have a tough test and a fair test at the same time. They've lost touch with reality. Phil said it best about the US OPEN this year at Winged Foot in one of his press conferences. To paraphrase, the USGA tries to find the toughest 72 pin locations period. They used to have 6 easy, 6 challenging, and 6 pins to avoid each round. No longer is that the case. The PGA is the role model for this set-up. Kerry Haigh is the modern master of that.
Did I mention it annually has the strongest field, the most on the line (player of the year, Ryder or President's Cup bids, and the best trophy of them all?
If it's good enough for Tiger it's good enough for me. "The PGA gets it right," said Woods. "They go to great venues, and you have great tournaments. I ask why can't all championships be that way?"
On a more personal note, is there a better PGA track than Medinah? This is the 2nd run at #3. Who will ever forget the 1999 tournament with Tiger and Sergio? This year is shaping up to be the same with another strong finish involving the best in the world. Sure, I have a slight bias having grown up in suburban Chicago (the best sports' town in the land BTW). I mean come on, name one city that loves its teams more than the windy city. You can't beat its cuisine either.
But, back to golf and Medinah. At over 7500 yards, this is a great course. Don't just take my word, ask the pros or listen to what they have to say. With 3/4 par 3's over water and one of the best finishing stretches in the game, Medinah #3 provides one of, if not the best, venue for this great tourney. It can be set-up to be impossible with its length, thicker rough, and slicker greens. But, the PGA wouldn't want it that way. And, neither would I. The golf 'purests' will argue that this is an embarrassement for the course. No major should yield so many scores under par. I can almost hear them now as they choke on their cigars while watching the Mets and Yankees. Two of the worst majors of all-time took place in New York (2004 and 2006 US OPENS). Both of those were travesties, in my opinion. They were like playing the local putt putt without the clown faces and windmills. Again, if it's good enough for Tiger it's good enough for me. We're told that majors are supposed to be survival tests of the fittest, but the PGA proves year in and year out that you can determine the best player that week by just letting them play without having to watch grown men toil for what - a par? Someone will win the 2006 (88th PGA) instead of losing it like Phil did earlier in the summer at Winged Foot. And when it's all said and done, that person will likely be TW.
Some advice for future majors which WILL be played there (no doubt). You can't control mother nature (rain, wind, snow, soft conditions), the PGA can control the following:
1) Grow the rough out a little thicker and deeper - at least another inch thick. The course could use a little more protection. Don't cut it the Saturday before the championship starts. Cut it the Saturday after the US OPEN and let it grow all summer. Bad shots should NOT be so easlily rewarded. I note Mickelson's 2nd shot into 18 during the 2nd round from 164. To keep it below the hole with SPIN noless is a sign that the rough could be more penal. Bring it up to a 1/2 - stroke penalty, or higher.
2) Speed-up the greens. Make them firmer. Cut it shorter. You get the idea. The course looks great with the A1-A4 bent-grass greens. It's in supreme condition. But, the greens are a little slow this week for a major even with the rain they've had in Chicago. It's a delicate balance. Don't trick them out like Shinnecock in 2004 or Winged Foot this year. No need for a circus show. But, if they ran a little faster on the stimp - meter it would be good. It was like throwing darts out there this week. Make 'em work a little harder around the greens.
3) Finally, convert the PAR-5 5th hole into a long 4-PAR. Par 71 on this course at over 7500 yards would really be a tougher test of golf. Don't get me wrong, seeing the greatest players bunched up at the top is great, but a little more separation would be nice. Again, I'm not saying we need to make the track play like a video game, but #5 is playing too easy this week as a PAR-5 at only 534 yards. How does a 520 - yard PAR 4 sound? Tough.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Mostly common sense. Some of these are actually good to practice. Some hard words for those Temple Owl fans. And, until I google'd him, I didn't know the name of my school President or the name of our long-snapper (yet). The former is B. Joseph White (side shot). He goes by Joe and therefore can't be too bad.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Wow, with road games @ Arizona, Missouri, XAVIER, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, and Iowa - it's going to be another tough year for the Illini B-Ball team as the look to rebuild after losing both the 1-man fast break (Dee Brown) and James Augustine. The Youngin's will need to step up this year: Frazier, Smith, Carter, McBride, Randle, Pruitt, Arnold, and the rest. It all begins at home in the Hall this year against Austin Peay. Two 'home' games will be played at the new Sears Centre in suburban Hoffman Estates over Thanksgiving weekend. That's not far from where I grew up in Mt. Propect, IL. In total, the Flyin' Illini will be on national TV some 14 times, at least. Hopefully more.
From Coach Bruce Weber - "This non-conference schedule will be a challenge as we replace the two winningest players in Illinois history in Dee Brown and James Augustine in our starting lineup," Weber said. "We'll have to be prepared to play in midseason form in December, which should have us ready for Big Ten play come January. We'll be playing good teams in the Chicago Invitational, followed by a game against Maryland, a tough game against Arizona in Phoenix, UIC in Chicago, and a good Xavier team in Cincinnati right before Big Ten play begins. The Braggin' Rights game against Missouri is always a highlight for our fans. We'll have to be ready once we get to Big Ten play because we open with two of the league favorites in Michigan and Ohio State and I anticipate the league being extremely tough and balanced this season."
Maisel gets this one right. I could probably add a few more reasons myself. What about those pre-game tailgates? I do agree with him that the overtime system in CFB is unparalleled. What about mascosts like BEVO the longhorn, UGA the bulldog, and the CHIEF from Illinois? I could go on and on here.
This link has it all from a complete ranking of all 119 teams, to the toughest conferences, to bowl projections, to coaches on the hot seat - basically everything you need to know heading into another season of CFB. Where does your school fallout? Where will your team be playing in December or January? SI's 5-minute guide has all the answers (note, it's still August). Right now they see Ohio State taking on Notre Dame for all the marbles in Arizona. That won't happen.
Here's how the conferences fallout in their view:
1. SEC: There are four teams ranked in the top 11 and eight teams in the top 40; no conference is stronger top to bottom.
2. BIG TEN: The league has two clear favorites, but it could finish the year with as many as five teams in the top 20.
3. BIG 12: The South has a pair of heavyweights and a couple of teams ready to break out, while four teams in the North could surprise.
4. ACC: With nine schools in the top 50, the balance is hard to overlook. All that's missing is a dominant team.
5. PAC-10: While USC's run has been impressive, it's time for another challenger to step up in this top-heavy conference.
6. BIG EAST: Where would the weakest BCS conference be without West Virginia and Louisville?
7. MOUNTAIN WEST: This is the mid-major most likely to snatch a bid in the first year of the expanded BCS.
8. WAC: If wide-open offenses and high-scoring games are your thing, this is the conference you're looking for.
9. CONFERENCE USA: The league is quietly gaining respectability with Central Florida, Southern Miss and Tulsa leading the way.
10. MAC: The teams at the top can play with some of the big boys, but the league gets dragged down by its weak sisters.
11. SUN BELT: Teams from BCS conferences seeking wins to become bowl-eligible should look here.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Built in 1923 as a tribute to the men of WWI, Memorial Stadium and Zuppke Field face some serious renovations in the coming years. Scheduled to begin the day after the state-football championship game in November, the renovations should take about two years and involve some serious changes to the exterior and interior of the building. The West Stadium will see the biggest changes involving new club seating and a state-of-the art press box. North and South Stadiums will see seating drastically increase. Current capacity is ~ 70k (grey). I think the upgrades are expected to have a net gain of zero in capacity, but the creature-comfort level will surely be much better. Still, when the big games are played we'll find a way to squeeze close to 80K in there again. Changes in white (side shot).
Renaissance: A period of vigorous activity; a rebirth.
Historic Memorial Stadium, the stately home of Illinois football for generations past, present, and future, has seen some of the great performances and games in the storied history of college football. The proud building’s tradition began on its dedication day, October 18, 1924, when Red Grange galloped to six touchdowns, four of them in the game’s opening twelve minutes, and has never stopped to look back. Rose Bowls have been clinched. Memorable games have been won and lost. Great players – men with names like Butkus, Nitschke, Hardy, Rice, and Kittner – have risen to glory on Zuppke Field’s hallowed ground. Recently, however, the venerable stadium, that which has witnessed the vast history of the Illini program, has fallen into a state of perpetual slumber. That slumber ends now.
Today marks the dawning of a new era in the proud tradition of Illinois athletics. The Illinois Renaissance is a rebirth – a renewed spirit marked with perpetual energy – that will lead to the coming glory of Illinois football. Plans call for sweeping changes to the historic stadium, including improved sightlines, wider public concourses, a portal entryway system, new restrooms, improved concessions, permanent seating additions in the south and north end zones, a state-of-the-art press box, and luxurious hospitality facilities.
The renovated Memorial Stadium is only one piece of the Renaissance of Illinois football. The stadium, coupled with the passion and commitment of new head coach Ron Zook, will propel Illinois football back to its rightful position atop the Big Ten and at the forefront of the nation. History is being made in Illinois athletics. Be a part of the Renaissance.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Oskee Wa Wa.
Wow - this is one of the best pre-season features I've seen all summer. Admittedly, not a hard accomplishment given the quality of the writers and nature of the subjects this time of year. But still, Dennis covers it all in this article for CBS Sportsline. Worth the read. Everything you need to know about the new BCS format this year to the best names in the game like 'Knowledge Timmons' and 'Hercules Satele', 'Tom Dance', and 'Syndric Steptoe'. I'm not making this stuff up. Here are some samples.....
In and Out:
In: Conference networks
Out: That annoying channel surf for Purdue baseball
In: Coaches' challenge
Out: A Lloyd Carr hissy fit
Out: No hurry
In: Michael Bush
Out: Reggie Bush
In: Big Red faced
Out: Big Red Imports
In: (Agent) runners hiding in the shadows
Out: Runners hiding behind their linemen
In: $3 million per year for coaches
Out: $2 million per year
In: Shotgun possession
Out: Shotgun offense
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
In their 50th Season, the Harmon Group has assembled the first picks of the season based on probable scores. Some interesting outcomes here. And for all you Texas - haters, this one will go a long way in making your evening. Love this game. It's like no other. World What? Oh, yeah - world cup. Right!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Well well well - this is very interesting. Check this one out! This year appears to be wide open even for the experts. Nebraska? Michigan? Utah? South Carolina????? Too much time in MYSPACE for Mandel has skewed his normally good vision of the future. Of course, you expect to see teams like Ohio State, USC, and West Virginia on this list. But, Georgia Tech - the ramblin' wreck!
Well, if you start with all teams who went 7-5 last year and work your way down to the final 16 contenders, I guess this is what you end up with. Contenders have the following traits:
1) veteran QB's. It's been a long time since a freshmen led a team to the top.
2) experienced line play on both sides of the ball.
3) big-time playmakers.
4) favorable schedules.
Monday, August 07, 2006
This is the first year of the BCS title game to be played on January 8th between the top 2 teams after the ROSE, FIESTA, ORANGE, and SUGAR BOWLS are done. Should be interesting and controversial.
The 3rd Saturday in September shaping up to be the first real big weekend of ball this year:
Florida @ Tennessee, LSU @ Auburn, Clemson @ FSU, Michigan @ Notre Dame, Miami @ Louisville, and Oklahoma @ Oregon. Oh yeah, Nebraska plays @ USC too.
Friday, August 04, 2006
This link is dedicated to our coach - Ron Zook. Lead us back to Glory! Here are some tidbits.
Ron Zook's grandfather, Peter, came to America from Russia. When he arrived at Ellis Island, immigration officials looked at his 26-letter last name and shortened it to simply "Zook."
As children, Ron Zook's brother, Bob,would stand at the top of a hill behind their home and roll an old tire down to Ron, who was standing at the bottom of the hill in shoulder pads and a helmet. Zook was small growing up, but the drill taught him toughness. He either made a great stop or got knocked to the ground. Afterwards he would get up and push the tire back up the hill and prepare for another shot. "It was a toughness drill, teaching me to run through things when I tackled," Zook said. "You had to hit it hard, because it was a moving object and it'd roll right over you."
He's a real high energy guy and he's going to get the players to play fast. He'll run a little no-huddle offense and try to speed the game up in the Big Ten a little bit. I think it will help them give people trouble in the Big Ten. I know he is going to do great."- Rex Grossman, former Florida and current Chicago Bear quarterback.
It's never too early to start ranking teams. Of course, the pre-season polls are usually about as accurate and useful as well thought-out 5Q plan. Nonetheless, here they are (August 4th). Ohio State tops the USA TODAY Coaches poll, followed by TEXAS, USC, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma.
Click the above link for the complete list (and take with a large grain of salt). Other schools of note:
Texas Tech = #25
Nebraska = #22
Oregon = #20
Penn State = #19
BC = #27
Illinois is NOT ranked, yet! BTW, here is my first official pre-season ranking which is subject to change depending on future developments (arrests, suspensions, terminations, etc...)
1. Ohio State
2. Notre Dame
CNN/SI assembled this collection. I agree with some of them, like the theme from 'ROCKY'. How inspirational was that back in the 70's? I'm upset the ILLINI fight-song isn't in the mix. Da, Da Da, Da Daaaaaaaaaa, Da Da Daaaaaa....(repeat 1000000x). Still pretty cool!
I'm not sure I agree with the Canadian National Anthem. Come on! I like Ray Charles' America the Beautiful better. Of course, you can just about guess what the #1 song is (Clue = Freddie Mercury, Queen).
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Remember the '5th' play for Colorado against Missouri back in 1990? How about Lawrence Phillips of NU? And don't forget the FSU Foot Locker fiasco. Relive all those great college moments as CNN/SI takes you on a historical romp through the not so brilliant moments in college football.
Group = Ronler Pick Em 2k6
Password = 8675309
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
10) Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of ILLINOIS. Come on, you knew this one was going to make my list. I spent 2 years of my life in Champaign - Urbana. What a great place to watch a game. Tailgating with 70,000 of your closest friends is also a blast. Built in the 1920's as a tribute to the men of WWI, this place has character. I enjoy every chance I get to go back and take in a game here. Oskee Wa Wa ILLINOIS. Hail to the CHIEF!
9) Autzen Stadium - University of Oregon
8) Doak / Walker - Florida State
7) BIG Hose Shoe - Ohio State (107K capacity). Becomes the 3rd largest city in the state on game day.
6) Neyland Stadium / UT
5) BIG HOUSE Ann Arbor
4) Rose Bowl - UCLA
3) Big Horse Shoe (Ohio State)
2) Darryl Royal Stadium - TEXAS
1) Kyle Field - Texas A&M, Home of the 12th man.
1) The SWAMP - FLORIDA
1) BIG HOUSE - Michigan
1) Notre Dame - Touchdown Jesus. Alleluia. Amen.