Saturday, September 30, 2006

Week 5 PICK EM Wrap! Hail to the Zookers....

Mimosas for everyone as the Juice (Isiah Williams) brings it home to Champaign for Illinois with a 23-20 win over SPARTY today. Oh My! We needed this win today, our first in 10 BIG-10 attempts. At 2-3 it's not improbable that we could be 4-3 after the next two home against Indiana and Ohio. See the previous post for much more on my Fightin' Illini and their big win today in East Lansing. Off the hot seat: Ron Zook. Welcome to that spot John L. Smith. This was the upset / victory of the day in my book and most others. I felt good about it after seeing that Kermit the Frog was the grand marshall of their homecoming parade. Not kidding. Come on Ohio State, we're getting ready for the BUCKS in Champaign this year on November 4th. Fear the Fighting Zookers of Illinois.

I got a little greedy with my picks today in taking Ohio (6 points) and UTAH (4 points). Ugh, what happened to my UTES? This just in, Boise State is for real this year. One of the biggest hits you'll ever see happened in this game by Boise State against Utah. It was a slobber-knocker blow to say the least. Kudos to Mr. Fred 'the real deal'. 54 points on a weekend like this is very impressive. Congrats to the others who landed 55's (Freiley, Larson, and Dustin). CFB Final has you covered on the highs and lows of WEEK5.

This just in - Ohio State is good. They are clearly the class of the country right now after really man-handling Iowa in Iowa City tonight. The BUCKS led for 56 minutes tonight on the road. It really wasn't that close, and Iowa is / was a good team. But with Smith, Ginn, Gonzalez, Pittman, and more is there a team in the land who can even compete with BUCKY? I'm not sure there is. Maybe Auburn or LSU. It's all downhill now for the BUCKS until the season finale at home against Michigan. That will likely be a match-up in Columbus of two undefeated teams for a right to play in the title game.

Who else is hot right now? Here's a summary of Saturday's TOP 25 Action. Wow - many squads looked really good today while others really struggled. First, the contenders who really impressed me today in no order of dominance:

1) How about Clemson? They whaled on Louisiana Tech today. And if it weren't for a missed extra point up on Chestnut Hill they would be undefeated for the season. 51-0 is still an impressive victory.

2) If you had Sam Houston State and 50 points you still lost today as Texas beat-up on the boys from SHS 56-3. Texas is looking good after the early loss at home to the greatest team in the land.

3) This just in, Michigan has the jug again. The little brown jug now goes back to Ann Arbor wiht BIG BLUE. It's not easy to win in the metrodome, trust me - I know. But the Wolverines went on the road in the BIG-10 and came away with the win and the jug.

4) How about those SEC teams? There are no such things as easy road wins in the best conference in the land, the SEC. Auburn did it against the Gamecocks Thursday night. Florida held home court tonight by beating Bama. LSU smacked-down Mississippi State at home as well. Georgia is struggling but found a way to hold on tonight in OXFORD against Ole Miss despite not having a passing game or a QB. Yikes. They get Tennessee next weekend between the hedges. How about those Vols and Eric Ainge? They whiped-out Memphis today, big!

5) Boise State and Oregon. Both of these Western squads are on the rise. If they were stock it would be buy buy buy buy buy. The Broncos cleaned-up on the road against what I thought was a decent UTAH team. And Belotti's boys quacked all over the Sun Devils in Tempe despite the 102F heat. Oregon looks very very very good right now. They are for real. What Oklahoma game? This team just validated its ranking in my opinion. And, if they had a little stronger defense they would be in the hunt for the title. Not sure they can handle CAL next weekend on the road or USC later this year in LA.

6) Speaking of hot, add CAL to this list. They've bounced-back nicely after the early TN loss @ Rocky Top. I would argue that if that game were replayed today on a neutral field that the BEARS would beat the VOLS in a close game. But for today, they devoured the Beavers today in Corvallis. Glad I didn't buy tickets to this one.

7) How about a little love for the ACC. No, not FSU or Miami. I'm talking the Demon Deacons and Gerogia Tech. Yes John, I love those Jackets. Calvin Johnson and Reggie Ball are a dynamic combination. Just ask Va Tech. And is WF now 5-0, are you kidding me? Yes, 34-14 over Liberty today. It is true.

8) Garret Wolfe and NIU. Wow, 353 yards rushing tonight against Ball State. GW is averaging 9 yards / carry. If the Heisman trophy were given out right now would he not be your winner?

9) Marginal wins today: How about USC just squeaking by over WSU? They just barely survived in the Pallouse. What about Notre Dame beating Purdue but giving up a ton of yardage again on defense? Some guy from Purdue had 250 yards receiving. Nebraska barely held on in OT to beat Kansas. Pitt, Penn State, and TT also had decent wins today. Cesar over Jim as the Red Raiders handled the Aggies in College Station. Uh oh!

10) Speaking of less than marginal, how far have those Canes fallen? Wow, 14-13 over Houston in the Orange Bowl. This is getting ugly in Miami already. What's on tap for next week? Well, the game of the week might just be Oregon @ CAL. Then again, the Dawgs will host the VOLS between the hedges. Hmmm....Did I say LSU and Florida? Wow!

My top 10:

1) Ohio State, 2) Auburn, 3) LSU, 4) Michigan, 5) USC, 6) Florida, 7) WV, 8) Texas, 9) Oregon, 10) Clemson. If you care about more official things, here's the AP TOP 25. I disagree with some of their inflated rankings including USC and WV. Michigan and Florida belong higher-up in the polls right now. LSU is way too low in the AP. Louisville might be in the right spot. Georgia is also overrated after squaking by one of the worst teams in the SEC. The Dawgs are in trouble unless they find some offense besides rushing, and a QB.

Your Heisman leaders: Troy Smith, Adrian Petersen, Garrett Wolfe, and Brady Quinn.

We Did It! We Did It! The Fighting Zookers Win...

Down goes SPARTY. Down goes SPARTY. Down goes SPARTY. And, for the first time as a BIG-10 coach, Zook gets the win in the final seconds of the game on the leg of Jason Reda (23-20 ILLINI over SPARTY). Yes. Bring on Ohio State. Bring on USC. We'll play anybody anywhere including the Euro Ryder - Cup team. What a victory for my young program. And, it came on Homecoming for SPARTY in front of an alumni-packed crowd who came to see another gladiator massacre like in the days of Rome under Caesar. Not today my Greco-Roman toga-wearing warriors. The Chief has returned, if for just a fleeting moment this year. I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come for the rest of this year and into the longer term under Zook.

This was a great game for us with an unbelieveable outcome. It was our first win in East Lansing in 17 years and first BIG-10 victory since 2004. Oh my! Remember last year SPARTY put up 60+ points against our pathetic defense? Not today my downtrodden hellenistic comrads. We got up early and led 10-3 at the half only to give it back early in the 3rd on a SPARTY pick-six.

But the young ILLINI under the leadership of the JUICE didn't give up. We clawed and scratched all game. Sure, there had to be some letdown on the part of SPARTY after losing last weekend in the fashion that they did to Notre Dame. And, I know we were 26-point underdogs. But, this was much more about how much better the Illini are getting each and every week. We were the better team today as well in terms of execution, hustle, determination, and performance. If you don't come to play the ILLINI be prepared to get what you deserve. I first saw some signs of life last weekend at home in our 24-7 loss to a very very good Iowa squad. The team played well on both sides of the ball except for a bad 4-minute stretch late in the 2nd period that gave the HAWKEYES a quick 21 points. We actually played an upcoming Syracuse squad pretty close in the 2nd half the week before. It takes time when you're trying to turn a program around. Results sometimes are measured in nano-steps and not yards.

But today with 6 seconds on the clock Jaso Reda split the uprights allowing the ILLINI to plant their flag in East Lansing as a fight broke out at midfield. Yes. Hail to the Chief. Oskee Wa Wa ILLINOIS! In the win, we broke a 9 - game losing streak against the big green men of Spartica.

The Juice had 17 carries for 103 yards and threw for another 122 yards on 9/16. But when it mattered Juice Williams engineering the game-winning drive which set-up the field goal. Pierre finally had a breakout game on 18 carries rushing for 118 yards. We just ate-up the Spartans in the trenches today - controlling both sides of the line of schrimmage.

Give credit to Ron Zook. I've been riding his butt all season. And while I'm still not sure he's the greatest coach on the planet, this had to be a very satisfying victory for him and his staff. He's been saying all season that we're getting better each week and on the verge of a big-win. It wasn't always obvious, especially at Rutgers going down 33-0. You wouldn't believe that this was the same ILLINI team. Honestly, it's not. We're a lot better and getting better with more confidence each week. Wow, what was the spread in Vegas on the this game? Had to be close to 30 points or so after what they did to us last year in Champaign. Oh what a difference a year makes. I called five wins this year for our young squad. And with the play starting to come around on both sides of the ball that might just be within reach after all. We have two winnable games at home starting with Indiana for our homecoming next weekend, and then Ohio University before travelling to Happy Valley to face Penn State.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Iowa and Ohio State - Bigger than Big!

I'm a Midwest kind of guy. I love the Cowboys and the Bulls, especially when they win. You won't find better meat in ths country than what they offer in Chicago - the world's meat market. Dogs, burgers, steaks, brats, polish, Italian beef, and on and on and on and on. I really don't think any other city int the world eats as well as Chicago.

So I know what the Iowa / Ohio State game means to Iowa and the Midwest. It's huge. This will be just the 2nd night game at Kinnick in 78 years. The last night game there was 1992 when they lost to #1 Miami. Iowa is a miserable 0-9-1 when they face #1 in America. Not that many other teams are much better. But, the last three games versus #1 have been routs.

When they tee it up and kick it off under the lights at Kinnick Saturday night it will be for more than just a win; it's about having the undivided attention of the country on Iowa City and the heartland of America. Let's go pick some corn, drink a few beers, and eat a few braats. This should be a great game. Saturday night football on ABC. Ohio State versus Iowa.

"You can't beat the feeling you have coming out of Kinnick on a Saturday night. It's just going to be fantastic," Ferentz said. "But it's still our job to do a good job during the football game. That's where our focus is."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Week #4 Wrap - Hail to the IRISH and PACK!

Wow, what a Saturday! If last weekend was Separation Saturday this weekend has to be called Comeback Saturday. I came so close to a 55 this week; thanks to BC and SPARTY for choking down the stretch. Is there another team in the land who could have done what SPARTY did in East Lansing last night against the Irish?

NC STATE rallied on a late play in the game for a big-time pass-play that resulted in a TD. Then, somewhow Notre Dame scored 19 points in the 4th quarter led by Quinn's 5 TD's to beat SPARTy in East Lansing. Both were classic games. And both cost me a total of 5 points in PICK EM. Ugh! Jess - you were right about NC STATE and BC this week. I can't believe that nobody had a 55 this week. Mr. Butler came close with 54 and a 1 point loss in the NC STATE / BC game. Ugh! Lots of good stuff here in McCartney's All - Out - Blitz.

Michigan State had a 31-14 lead at the half. Ouch!. But, you knew that this game was going to be close at the finish. Notre Dame didn't quit and in the end found a way to win. They are still alive in 2k6. Kudos to Quinn with 5TD passes tonight. But what the hell did SPARTY do? Choke comes to mind. I mean come on. You were up 17-0 in the 1st quarter. Then the skies opened up and Divine intervention appeared. Seems like SPARTY always finds a way to lose a game like this. Ugh! I want a PICK EM refund. ND just seemed to be in the right place at the right time tonight to take advantage. Is MSU the only team in the country who can do this at home? Nuts, just nuts. The $14M BCS dream lives - on in South Bend after this win for the IRISH. Rising from the dead comes to mind. Notre Dame is looking good right now with only one tough test for them on the road in Colorado Springs and Air Force before USC at the end of the year. The Irish are alive and have a chance to play in the Title Game later in the year of all goes their way. Great comeback, but a great collapse as well. Kudos to the IRISH who had the right adjustments at the half. But this had to be one of the biggest meltdowns of the modern era in CFB. Thank you SPARTY. Rallies, Revivals, and Suprises.

Out West, USC really struggled most of the way tonight with Arizon. I knew this was going to be a tough game for SC on the road in Tucson. Sure they won 20-3 and extend their streak to 55 games of 20 points or more. But this was a defensive battle for both squads. Arizona is going to win some games in the PAC-10 this year. USC is good, but not great.

So who looked good this week? Michigan, Clemson, VA TECH, Louisville, Rutgers, Auburn, BYU, FSU, CAL, TEXAS, SC, BUCKS, TN, UW, OK, FLORIDA, NEB, and ND.

Who layed an egg? Colorado (0-4), Penn State, SPARTY, UCLA, and BC. Ouch - all of these squads had W's in the the left column after the 1st half. What the hell happened in Raleigh tonight? Same for East Lansing? Colorado choked late on the road in Athens against the DAWGS. At least Ralphie ran wild in the SEC. That BC loss really hurt. The Eagles really had poor clock management in the 4th quarter which led to the Wolfpack victory.

As far as the Heisman race goes it's really about about Troy Smith (Ohio State) and Adrian Petersen (OK). Some may argue for Brady Quinn and Kenny Irons, but to me there is clear separation right now from the top - 2 and everybody else. Here's what CBS has to say about the Heisman Race.

So. Cal didn't look that great tonight on offense in their 20-3 win over a very strong AZ team. Let's face it, the WILDCATS can play some defense under Stoops. Not many teams are going to go into Tucson and hang 20 points on that squad at home. But, in the end the Trojans survived to live another BCS day.

Here is my TOP 10: 1) Ohio State, 2) Auburn, 3) Michigan, 4) LSU, 5) USC, 6) Florida, 7) WV, 8) Texas, 9) Va. Tech, 10) Clemson. Others of note: Louisville, Notre Dame, Iowa, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Cal. Just out, the AP TOP 25 for the week. Interesting that RUTGERS makes its first appearance in 30 years. Wow, how the power of college football is changing. This is a good team. Just ask Ron Zook of Illinois.

Illinois Update - Getting Better at 1-3!

Well, this is a shocker. Almost as good as a win in my book. Illinois played Iowa tough today at home only losing 24-7 on the best turf in the land. I mean come on - give 'em some credit already. We're getting better each and every week. This was expected to be on the order of 66-13 or something like that. Our defense isn't great, or good, or hell even mediocre. But, pathetic is better than abyssmal where we were last year. I'll take it.

Sure, IOWA lit us up for 21 points in the 2nd quarter. But hey, we held them scoreless in the opening session. Yes, I know it was our 10th straight BIG-10 loss. And, we didn't do diddley in terms of moving the ball until the 4th quarter. But, we finished with 315 yards of offense for the game. Not bad. The Juice started at QB - and he struggled going only 9-32 early. I'm sure some of the passes were not even visible to the receivers.

In the end, we played them strong for most of the game except for a 4-minute stretch late in the 2nd quarter. Sure, we were erratic on offense. At times enemic. At times pathetic. But what do you expect from one of the most marginal DIV 1AA squads in the land? OOPS, I mean 1A squads in the nation. No surprises execpt the final score as Iowa pulled away to a 24-7 victory in Champaign.

I believe Ronnie. We're getting better with each little nano-step we take. When does basketball start already?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Too Much Controversy in CFB These Days

I mean really, by now we all know about Oregon and Oklahoma. Same for LSU and Auburn. Bad calls are bad calls and CAN often change the outcome of a game. But rarely, if ever, are they the sole reason why one team wins and another loses. I've said it before, there are usually 60 plays on offense, 60 on defense, and 20 on special teams. What about the other 138 plays Boren?

But seriously, there's too much whining and complaining in the game we all love and that's bumming me out. Don't get me wrong, I like controversy and trash talk as much as any other guy. See prior blog postings in the archives for proof. Today we learn the USC is pissed-off at Musburger for disclosing a team signal last weekend in the Nebraska game when it was well in hand. Apparently, Brent disclosed privileged information during the 4th quarter of the game while doing the play by play commentary. I mean come on already. We're talking about a hand signal used to communicate to his wide outs that there is a certain coverage shown by the defense which triggers a play change at the line of schrimmage. Asked about Musburger's on-air revelations, USC coach Pete Carroll said with a laugh, "Just wondering what they're going to tell us next. I'm not worried about it. There's a million signals, a million ways to do it."

So enough of the name-calling, death threats, whining, and lame notes from college presidents to conference commissioners. Let's all find a way to let the play on the field speak for itself. If any of us has learned anything from last weekend it should be how petty and foolish you can look after a game when criticizing officials and bad calls as opposed to seeking the truth within. Last I checked the refs didn't block the field goal or make a game-saving tackle on the three-yard-line. Oregon and Auburn made the big plays down the stretch to win their games. And, I'm sure Nebraska and the rest of the country didn't learn too much from Brent Musburger's disclosure that John David Booty uses the hang-loose sign to signal a play-change at the line of schrimmage.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Controversy in Norman...Pac 10 Apologizes

Wow, rarely do you see something like this from an officiating crew or conference. Today, the PAC-10 conference formally apologized for its officiating in Saturday's game against the DUCKS. Additionally, the replay officials who worked the game were suspended for 1 week.

"Errors clearly were made and not corrected, and for that we apologize to the University of Oklahoma, coach Bob Stoops and his players," Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said in a statement. "They played an outstanding college football game, as did Oregon, and it is regrettable that the outcome of the contest was affected by the officiating."

Stoops still doesn't seem to happy. It won't change the result of the game, meaning a loss for Oklahoma. David Lyle Boren (left), the President of Oklahoma, sent a letter to the BIG-12 to strike this game from the record books and have the officials in question suspended for the rest of the year. This is getting serious folks. Both reqeusts don't seem too likely at this point. Look for some possible changes to come regarding the PAC-10 and instant replay.

My personal take on this situation as an informed spectator who witnessed the flow the game and both calls: GET OVER IT OKLAHOMA. Yes, those two calls were atrocious. The video evidence was clearly in your favor in both cases (on-side kick and PI late in the game). But you know what? You still weren't 2 bad calls better than the DUCKS. Meaning, you had some fortunate flags in the first half which kept drives alive that led to points. Additionally, you couldn't stop Stewart, Dixon, Williams, and Company from scoring at near will with the passing game mixed in with some strategic runs.

Rather than worrying about things you can't control, like poor officiating, you would be better served in spending more time on the practice field working on blocking kicks, or playing some pass defense, or clock management. For Pete's sake already, I've stripped, re-caulked, and painted 7 seams in my cedar siding since this game ended already. It's time to move on Bobby. Show some leadership and take the first step for your program. That's how I see this one. Whether or not we like it all the time, officiating is part of the game. Hopefully that won't change. Long live the men in stripes.

So what's the real problem with Oklahoma? Mandel has a few thoughts. Actually, the more I think about this game and what happened, the more I come to the conclusion that it wasn't good for PAC-10 football, specifically the brand we play in the PNW. Yep, the BIG losers this weekend were the schools of the PNW. It wasn't the DUCK's fault they won, was it? Surely not, the DUCKS took advantage of the opportunities and made the big plays when they really mattered (the catch, the block, etc...). So did Oklahoma. But that's football. Thank God this wasn't hockey where it's acceptable to have a tie game. Nope, there are usually 60 plays on offense, 60 on defense, and 20 on special teams. No game is decided just on 1 or even 2 blown calls. In his Forde Yard Dash, Pat explains what it means to lose and how to handle it going forward.

We all know about the east-coast bias that exists in the media (ESPN, SI, etc...). The reality is that most big-time programs rarely travel west of the Rockies to play quality programs that aren't named USC. Heck, most of them rarely leave their friendly confines in the month of September (cream puffs?). This outcome, specifically the controversy around the outcome, won't help those efforts when it comes time to make deals with the programs like Nebraska, Texas, LSU, Auburn, WV, Ohio State, Michigan, FSU, Miami, and Florida to name just a few. Let's move on already, for the good of the game. I applaud Oklahoma for adding Oregon to its schedule. We need more inter-conference games like this in September, not less. We need less input from college presidents on university letterhead. OU might cancel UW in 2k8.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Week #3 PICK EM Wrap!

Wow, what a weekend of CFB. It's been 13 years since so many ranked teams played each other on a Saturday in the fall. 14 ranked teams went at each other today. It lived up to all of the advanced billing too. 4 of the 8 big games were decided on the last play or final possession. Hopefully, you had a chance to catch some of the best games today. Saturdays like today remind me why I love this game: controversy, passion, OT, comebacks, letdowns, upsets, blow-outs, and unexplained showings. I'm spent. I'm done. I'm a wreck. Send in the back-up. Here's the FOX ROUNDUP in case you missed any of it.

KUDOS to Mike Klinkenborg (#40 left) the Iowa Linebacker who played like hell today after burrying his father 3 days ago (heart attack). This guy symbolizes CFB and life. There is no better drama out there in Hollywood. I was almost in tears watching this guy go at it all afternoon against the cyclones. Is there a better game on the planet? Come on - are you kidding me? No way. I am all worn out tonight. Check me into therapy. I'll take two and call you on Monday. How about BC over BYU? Great game that went to 2OT. BYU came to play and had their chances. Same for BC in regulation. In the end, BC made just a few more plays for the big victory. Wow - pretty exciting stuff. Note to everybody else: don't go to OT against BC. They don't lose. Here's what we learned on Saturday.

Congrats to Mr Watch This (Jesse)! Very impressive 47 points today. Same for Reggie Redbird who's our new leader with 46 today. Definitely some separation today. Mr. ACC BIAS had the best of the week with his 52 points. Are you kidding me? How do you put 5 on Louisville, 8 on Clemson, and 10 points on Floriday? Do you know about the point system and how it should toggle? Yikes, still impressive.

What happened to the BIG 12 today who went 2-7, and no wins against BCS conference teams? Wow, that's amazing. Oklahoma, TT, Iowa State, Nebraska, and Colorado all went down hard today. Oh, I feel for those poor BUFFS. Texas Tech looked pathetic today against TCU in the 12-3 loss. Ouch! Tough weekend for this conference. TCU owns the nation's longest winning streak now at 13. Huh? Criminiello offers some insight into the Horned Frogs and the BIG-12 in his QUICK OUTS.

How many close games were there today? College Football Final has you covered if you missed any of the key action. It was almost too much football to handle. Yes, I admit. It was almost football overload. Clearly, the SEC is the BEST conference in the land. How about that LSU / AUBURN game on the high plains? That was probably one of the most physical games I've seen in years. I'm still in pain and I sat in my smoking chair all afternoon. Send me to the trainer, please. What about FSU and CLEMSON? Son beats daddy. Both Miami and FSU lost today. Both are done in terms of any NATIONAL TITLE hopes. Michigan is BACK. Notre Dame is out. The Wolverines took the IRISH to the wood-shed today. Ouch. I'm sure the Rose - Bowl Committee will breathe a little easier today with this victory by BIG-BLUE; since it looks like Ohio State will get an automatic title-game bid by the BCS. Who is the next best team in the PAC-10 behind USC? Does it matter? Ah, so many questions. Fiutak provides a few answers in his 5 Thoughts for the Week.

Then there was the DUCK / SOONER game. See for yourself here. What can I say. Both teams played well enough to win. How good is AP? Answer = very good. Honestly, Oklahoma was a victim of some pretty poor or biased officiating. It's been a while since I've seen that in CFB. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a SOONER fan, but if any objective eye reviews the tape of today's game it's quite clear what happened and who played the part. Not only did the DUCKS have the 12th - man in the crowd, but they also had the 13th and 14th men on the field in the form of the men in stripes. Then there were Brandt and Fouts in the booth (make that 15th and 16th men). They were pro-DUCK from the start and didn't make any attempts to hide their support for the program. No surprises there, I guess. Oh my, tough loss for the SOONERS. Did they really loose? AP had over 200 yards rushing. Didn't matter. The PAC-10 officials were the difference in this one. But hey, congrats to Bellotti and the DUCKS who are now 5-0 versus ranked non-conference opponents. Watch-out, what goes around comes around coach. Instant replay was a disaster for the PAC-10 conference today. Ahhh!

I have to send some love out to both Auburn and LSU. What a great game. This was WAR and a SLUGFEST. Hopefully you didn't miss this game. It was a battle of battles. What a physical game. The SEC is th BEST conference in the land, bar none. It's not even close. The speed, the skill, the strength, the defense, the offense, and the grid-iron acumen is so evident that there is the SEC and everybody else. Period. Kenny Irons is a gladiator. He knows no stop. This is really an amazing series, something special in CFB today. A touchdown in this series really is cause for a legal holiday. A total of 6 points separates the two teams since the 2000 season. Amazing. Since 2k2, Auburn leads LSU 72-70. The SEC, and especially this series, is probably the closest thing you'll find in the NFL with all of its advantages and virtually none of the drawbacks.

Actually, the PAC-10 is only really the PAC -1; USC. The BIG-12 is down this year as well. The BIG -10 is all about Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State - big surprise. The ACC is a mess with Clemson and BC emerging as the best. What about the BIG EAST? Just WV who plays nobody good this year. I mean come on: Florida, LSU, Auburn, Gerogia, and even Tennessee are the class of the country. My Heisman leaders: Smith, Peterson, and Irons. Then, everybody else. Heimsan Watch. Here's my TOP 10: 1) OHIO STATE, 2) AUBURN (for Paulie), 3) USC, 4) FLORIDA, 5) WV, 6) LSU, 7) MICHIGAN, 8) GEORGIA, 9) LOUISVILLE, 10) TEXAS.

Pretenders: Notre Dame, Miami (U = Ugly), FSU, Texas, Tennessee, and probably Georgia.
Contenders: Ohio State, Auburn, USC, WV, Florida, Michigan, Louisville, Iowa, TCU, Boise State.

Looking at the remaining schedules, I'd say the inside track to the BCS game goes through Columbus and LA. Here are the latest bowl projections according to Darst. Hard to see either the Trojans or the BUCKEYES losing another game before the end of the regular season. Neither conference has a championship game either; unlike the ACC, SEC, and BIG-12. Auburn might sneak in there to play one of these two teams but they still have tough games both at home and on the road against other SEC rivals: Florida (home), Georgia (home), but @ Alabama (iron-bowl game). Then there is the tough SEC Championship. I don't see USC having any trouble with the remainder of its very weak conference schedule (PAC-10) this year. Toughest tests might come @ Arizona and at home against Oregon, CAL, or Notre Dame before travelling across town to take on UCLA in the Rose Bowl to end the season. We shall see how this pans out. Here's the latest AP TOP 25. Looks about right. Notre Dame falls out of the TOP-10, and both TT and Miami fall out of the TOP 25. For the CANES, it's the first time out of the TOP 25 since 1999. Oregon jumps 5 spots to #13 behind ND. I like Auburn at #2. Welcome Clemson and Boise State. Love the Broncos! Ooh - Rah!

Illinois Football - A New Low Each Week...

Ugh, not much I can say here other than we are probably the worst team in DIV 1A. Losing at home today to a pathetic Syracuse squad only makes us that much more pathetic. I don't see us winnning again ever if this trend keeps up. There is no skill, acumen, or passion on this ILLINI squad under ZOOK. Last week I posed the question out there should ZOOK stay? After this week's embarrassing loss, I submit to you that there is no other answer than NO. It pains me to say it, but I don't see him as our leader in the future. Next week Iowa comes to town. God help us please. I'm asking for a little mercy here. RECAP of the pillow fight which we lost. Ugh! Our best move for the rest of the season is to play as many of the 'young' freshmen as possible. This is serious. If I were the coach I would give as many of the underclassmen that deserve it the gametime they need to develop. This year is over.

The best thing we can do with it is to build for the future. I don't see another win on our schedule this year. Yikes, that includes Ohio, Indiana, and Northwestern. Not good. Basketball cant' come soon enough this year. Hang in there Juice, next year is sooner than you think. Here's the ugly BOX SCORE. Check out this MP3 from Wyldebunch. It's a pretty-cool musical way to capture the emotion and passion of CFB. Fox uses it on their pre-game show. STOMP THOSE BLEACHERS. Enjoy the hip-hop mojo here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

It's Only September - Bowl Predictions & More! Week #3 PICK EM Update.

I know some of you out there are asking yourselves right now what the heck is he thinking by writing this post. It's only September, 09/11 to be exact. Yes, I know. Bare with me on this one; it's going to get better. After what we witnessed this weekend (mainly in Austin, TX) are there any doubts that the road to the BCS Title Game in Glendale, AZ is paved with BUCKEYE RED and TROJAN CRIMSON? I mean come on - who are the two best teams in the land right now? Ask yourself if that's going to change anytime soon. Logical answer -> NO. So, this article makes some sense.

FOX lays it all on the line (this week) in predicting that the BUCKS will face the TROJANS on Jan. 8, 2007 for the national championship. I can't disagree right now. After all, do you expect Ohio State to lose on the road in Iowa City to the Hawkeyes. Me neither. What about the Trojans? Will they lose at home late in the year to Notre Dame? Pretty much the same answer - NO. Of course things could change. Injury is a huge part of this sport. So are winning and losing the last time I checked. But realistically, it's all about USC and Ohio State right now. Isn't that a sexy title game?

They have Auburn taking on Louisville in the Sugar Bowl (hint). Florida State should face West Virginia (hint hint) in Miami at the Orange Bowl. And yes, that's right - TEXAS and Boise State at the Fiesta Bowl. Which leaves the poor Rose Bowl having to invite Notre Dame and Florida. That's like having a turkey sandwich and potato salad on Thanksgiving. Can you imagine an independent school (ND) and an SEC school in the Rose Bowl? Me neither. But, it could very well happen (hint hint hint). Click on the link for an interesting read. At least you can save it and look back in a few months and have a good laugh.

In his FORDE - yard dash, Pat sounds off the games this week on what could be the best Saturday in years. Don't miss this read. There's even a plug for my ILLINI in what he calls a premium BCS pillow-fight. Yes! Is this really the first Separation Saturday of the season, or another over-hyped day of CFB? BTW, would that really be such a bad thing? It's probably 10x better than any over-hyped NFL event.

And, in case you're wondering I'm taking the ILLINI this weekend at home against Syracuse in the bounce-back game of the week. Hell, if we win it could be the bounce-back game of the year, right? We've played the CUSE 10 times and have 9 wins (history tells us). OK, the last two games were in 1981 and 1982 under Coach White. So, it's been a while. But we're still 6-1 verus the ORANGE in Champaign. Overall, we're 19-6 against the BIG - EAST. Couple of other interesting notes:

1) We feature 15 true freshmen on our team with game time under their belts. All have seen action this year. Only Temple has played more through the first two weeks.

2) We played 62 players in the home opener; 21 making their first starts.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Week #2 PICK EM Wrap!

It wasn't much of a separation Saturday today afterall. Jsut about everybody did well with the picks. Congrats to Olivertwist, Triton Power, RAS, the JUCO Poser, Huser Nation, and Aggies Rebound who all lit it up for 55 points this weekend. I think Mr. Trecker had a perfect week by predicting the Oregon / Fresno score as well. Wow! But, come on, you had to admit the Colorado / Colorado State game was a total coin flip which could have gone either way. Clearly, the cream is starting to rise to the top in terms of the usual contenders. I've said it before and you might even hear me mention it one or two more times going forward, you can't win the Ronler PICK EM CHAMP title in September, but you sure can lose it there. It's a long season, a marathon if you will.

Wow, how about those Irish? What happened to Penn State? Ohio State looked stout tonight in Austin against a young Texas squad. I've said it before, it comes down to QB play; and tonight was about Troy Smith and Company. They looked really good against a strong Texas defense. I love these early season clahses - CFB and America needs more of them going forward. We need less mayhem in the streets of Columbus.

Biggest upset of the day had to be NC STATE losing at home to Akron. FSU, Tennessee, and IOWA all had major scares, but all three escaped with the precious W's today in their games. Biggest win, probably Ohio State which now controls its own destiny. Remember what this win did last year for Texas? How do you put a price on confidence in CFB? The BUCKS look large and in charge right now. Auburn continues to roll heading into next week's SEC showdown. Check - out CFB FINAL by ESPN for a complete look at week #2.

Notre Dame looked great today at home against PSU. Same for Georgia on the road in Columbia against the Gamecocks. LSU rolled at home against Arizona setting up a huge matchup next weekend against Auburn. Wake Forest gave me more stress than I signed - up for today in their close win at home against Duke.

Everything else went according to plan or script. If you have a veteran QB calling your signals this year you're in good shape. Right now, the teams on top has juniors and seniors leading them up and down the field. That position is making all the difference (Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame, Auburn, LSU, etc...). Here's the ESPN TOP-25 Overview. Next weekend is Showdown Saturday in CFB. If you watch any games all year make sure you tune - in next Saturday. Here are some of the matchups: Michigan @ ND, LSU @ Auburn, Nebraska @ SC, Oklahoma @ Oregon, and Florida @ Tennessee. Wow, could be the best weekend of the year.

My top 10 (USA Today Coaches' Poll):

1) Ohio State, 2) Notre Dame, 3) Auburn, 4) USC, 5) WV, 6) Florida, 7) LSU, 8) Texas, 9) Georgia, 10) Oklahoma. Ducks are on the verge.

And, if you prefer the AP poll instead. Oregon is in the top-20 right behind Tennessee. We'll see what happens after next weekend. And, is that BC in #25? Heisman Race: Smith vs. Quinn and then everybody else. Both QB's had great games today on huge stages in CFB. On to Showdown Saturday. Let's see how things shake out this week when the power schools in the power conferences start beating up on each other a little. Enough of the cream-puffs already. I'm ready for some real football this Saturday. Check - out the latest ESPN Power Rankings.

Massacre in Piscataway - Down We Go Again

Pronounced 'Piss the cat away", in case you're wondering. Well, this is getting tough to take. It was the exact opposite of Custer at Little Bighorn. The Chief was scalped himself today. And by the state school of New Jersey (Rutgers) - ugh! I mean ILLINOIS is the home of Red Grange and Dick Butkus for Pete's sake. What can be said, our program is at an all-time low. We're in shambles right now, and I don't see a silver lining in any of the storm clouds. When you make this list you know you really suck: THE BOTTOM 10. It's true, with our fans, facilities, and recruiting base we should never be on this list.

But - we can't tackle, block, run, throw, catch, or even punt. Rutgers hung 30 points on us in the FIRST HALF, ugh! They did it in every imaginable fashion: blocked punts, interceptions, field goals, and offensive touchdowns. Every play on offense for us looked like we were just trying to survive. Both QBs were under seige all afternoon. It was about as UGLY as a lipstick on a pig on Michigan Avenue. Ugh! We are very very very bad. Coach Zook tries to put it all in perspective as he tackles some of the big questions coming out of this game when he met the press on tuesday. So many questions and concerns about the morale of the team, the QB situation, on playing tough on the road, and on Syracuse.

I'm sick of ESPN comentators apologizing for my team. It's getting ridiculous already. And old. 6-28 in the last few years doesn't cut it. And, I don't care how many freshmen and sophomores we have on our team anymore. You can only make excuses for so long before they just don't hold water - at least with me. We have a long re-building process ahead of us. Let's get started already Ronnie. Your future is now. You better win next week at home against the Orangemen or it's going to get really ugly in Champaign-Urbana. Are we the worst DIV 1-A program in the land right now? I hope not, but only time will tell.

I have some real concerns about the future of Illini football under Coach Zook. Is he really a football coach anyway? Or, is he quite possibly one of the most over-hyped motivators east of the Mississippi? Is he just a mediocre recruiter, or can he actually lead a football program back to the top (even though we've never been to the top)? I just don't think he has the football knowledge to get it done in Champaign or anywhere else. Don't get me wrong, he means well and genuinely seems to care about the program and the kids. But caring and trying are different than delivering results. He's in his 2nd season, and I don't really see any improvement over last year. I know we're a young program (so are many others), but ours doesn't seem to have the football discipline or acumen to be competitive in the short-run or long-term. Ouch. It pains me to say that.

Where do we go from here? I'll try to put a positive spin on a negative situation. To be honest, I'm not sure. The defense really looks slow and under-sized. I don't see themselves in the right football positions on the field to make plays. Same for the offense which looks out of sync. I don't like any of the play-calling from the bench. I put that problem squarely on the shoulders of the head coach. He's just not scripting the right gameplans for such a young squad that is really stuggling with finding some confidence of any kind. We haven't won on the road since 2002, and I don't see that changing for a few years anyway.

So, where do we go from here? The good news is that it can't get any worse. It can just stay this bad for a while, I suppose. We do have some atheletes / players under scholarship, but they're not ready to contribute just yet. Juice looks like a real freshmen (which he is). Mendenhall might be our future stud at RB, but even he can't make a difference when he's not given the ball. Brasic is done. Let's just focus on getting Williams the snaps he needs to develop this season. The defense will mature over time (we're still young there and occasionally make some big plays). We need to get bigger, faster, and meaner on that side of the ball. We don't own the line of schrimmage; and are barely paying rent - in my opinion. I have to say use the rest of the season as a 'practice' for next year, but there really isn't any other option at this point. The Illini football nation is reeling right now, and that pains me. Oskee Wa Wa Illinois. Until next year.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The History of #1 versus #2 - Who Ususally Wins?

When #1 Ohio State invades Austin this weekend to face #2 Texas it won't be the first time a #1 and a #2 have met in the regular season. But it will mark the first time a #1 and a #2 have battled so early in the season (week 2). It's been 10 years since such a regular season match-up has occurred (1996 when #2 FSU beat #1 Florida). Interesting little expose' by CBS. 35 times since created in 1936, #1 has played #2. The first game was in 1943 when #1 Notre Dame beat #2 Michigan 35-12. Notre Dame is a common theme in this statistical breakdown. I keep forgetting how good Army was back in the 40's. Interestingly enough, the last time #1 and #2 played was for the title last year in the Rose Bowl when TEXAS with VY prevailed. Hook 'Em. Overall, the pollsters seem to get it right. #1 has won 22 games while losing 11 times. There were two ties.

What If Sports ran the numbers through their super computer (which hasn't picked anything correctly that I can think of) to see who would win this weekend: Ohio State or Texas. They actually have a complete box score and play by play summary. Check it out to see who wins the virtual match-up between the two monsters of the game today. Texas Vs. Ohio State. Here are some interesting YOUTUBE footage floating around the net:

Power rankings for week #2 came out last night. Mandel has Ohio State #1 and Texas #3 behind the Irish. Hmmm......makes for interesting theater. Actually, I'm already getting sick of the hype and just hope the game is as good as the advanced billing. Bring it on already. I just checked the VEGAS ODDS, and Texas is a slim 2.5 point favorite as of tonight. That could change by Saturday depending on who's eligible to play. Sin city also likes Boise State by 8 over the Beavs and Notre Dame by 7 over the Lions. In case you wondering, Rutgers is a 10.5 point favorite over Illinois (ugh! - we've really fallen hard here). Coach Zook on Rutgers and the upcoming road trip and other topics incluiding Juice Williams.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Week 1 Wrap - How 'bout those ILLINI?


#1. Well, it was our first win in 9 games so cut me some slack. Yes, a 42-17 victory over Eastern at Memorial Stadium in Champaign was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was our first win since September 2005. Pierre rushed for 126 yards and Timmy B. threw for 149 yards in the romp at home. We had over 500 yards of total offense. Even the "JUICE" played a little bit in this game and had some contibutions. What else can I say. We're young and rebuilding. We ended up with 345 yards rushing and 24 first downs in a game we were expected to win and win big. We did. Next weekend we travel to New Jersey to take on those nasty Knghts from Rutgers who won a big game today at UNC. Check out what Gelfond has to say in his BLEEDING ORANGE and BLLUE. That will be a tough game for us right now. On to week #2. We'll see what happens next. Everything you need to know from week #1 can be found here in CFB FINAL.

#2. Elsewhere around the BIG 10 - Ohio State and IOWA looked good today in their wins over Northern and Montana, respectively. Actually, the BUCKS gave up a ton of yardage to Wolfe and the HUSKY running game, but most of that was probably late in the game when it didn't really matter. Penn State and Michigan won their games (big deal). Neither victory was impressive. Michigan didn't loook that great at home in the BIG HOUSE against Vandy. The LIONS didn't look overly impressive at home in their win over Akron. Ho hum! But, as a conference we went 9-0 today. Yes. Best in the land - we'll see. But for week #1, the BIG-10 went undefeated. I know it's not the PAC-10 this year.

Around the country -

#3. The Ducks were very impressive today in their win over Stanford. Wow - how about Dixon and Stewart and Williams and Kent and Johnson. This team has potential for a big season, and a schedule to back it up! The DUCKS are for real in 2k6. But, they might be 1 year away from a real threat for the national title. Dixon looked very strong throwing and running the ball. Stewart was a best today (Heisman candidate?). The receivers also came through big time in a big game against the Cardinals. Very impressive win for Oregon. They're definitely a top-15 team. Bring on the Sooners! They're ready. In case you missed any of the top-25 action this weekend, here's the FOX TOP-25 Summary.

#4. What the hell happened with CAL? I mean come on - #9; are you kidding me? Tennessee is a good squad, especially at Rocky Top. But what the hell was that? I should have done more homework before I took them over the VOLS in Knoxville. Big win for Tennessee and the SEC. CAL didn't beat anybody last year with a winning record. That says a lot. Overrated - absolutely yes. They can't tackle either. Or block. Or run. Or pass. Or coach. They didn't do the PAC-10 any favors tonight. Same for WSU on the plains in Auburn. PAC-10 didn't look that great east of the Mississippi. Media will have a field day with that. Tedford is a good coach, but not a great coach. He made several bad play calls especially in the first half when the game was close. I think Dodd is right - on here in that CAL might just be the biggest fraud since RuPaul. Kudos to Ainge and the VOLS for a big-time win. I'm sure Fulmur will sleep well tonight.

#5. Speaking of overrated, Oklahoma and Notre Dame also seem to fall in that category. Both won their games tonight, but neither was very impressive. Notre Dame's 'D' showed- up tonight against a very good GT squad. Where was Brady and the rest of the offense? I'll give the defense of ND some credit - they're not bad. They are a lot better than last year, and a lot faster as well. The Sooners almost lost at home to UAB. Michigan's Chad Henne has some work to do as well. But back the IRISH. You either love them or hate 'em. It's only September and already this is the most-talked about team in the nation, with plenty of ND haters our there taking their shots: Non-domers hate IRISH.

#6. Texas and Ohio State both looked very strong today. Both played weak opponents at home. I think the BUCKS are a little stronger right now compared to TEXAS but we'll know for sure after next Saturday. It's amazing to me how the great teams just keep reloading each and every year. There is no such word as rebuilding in their vocabulary. Same for USC. Wow, 44-7 with 10 minutes to go over Arkansas. More whoop-ass by the Trojans. They're still the team to beat in the PAC-10. But, watchout for Oregon. Here's a quick weekend summary in McCartney's All-Out BLITZ!

#7. Nebraska, Florida, and Clemson all looked pretty good tonight. Same for Georgia and LSU. But it's hard to say too much more than that. They really didn't play anybody. KUDOS to Auburn for finally playing somebody outside of the SEC or ACC. The COUGS actually hung in their for most of the first three quarters. Too bad they have to play 4. WSU had several chances to pull even with the TIGERS early in the game and even in the 2nd half. But, in the end too much speed and talent won out. BYU took Arizona to the wire in a match-up that was much closer than the experts thought. The Cougars appear to be on the right track with Bronco calling the shots in Provo. This one could have gone either way. BYU RECAP.

#8. Poor Colorado - ouch, losing to Montana State at home in Boulder. Have they fallen or what? Hawkins has his work cut-out for him at CU over the next few years. This is really sad to see, in my opinion. The BIG -12 has lost its collective luster and won't get it back until the North shows up again. Right now, it's all about Texas and everybody else in that conference. What happened to Colorado? How the Buffs have fallen.

#9. This is the time of year you have to be fluid You can't win a national title in September, but you sure can lose one now. Just ask Cal. How good are Texas and USC? Same for Ohio State and Notre Dame. The first #1 and #2 matchup since 1996 should happen next Saturday in Austin as Ohio State ventures in to Darryl Royal to play those Horns from Texas. It will be strength against strength and weakness against weakness.

#10. What's scary? The USC defense. I mean sure they played Arkansas tonight and blew them out again (50 points). But, the 'D' is better this year than last. Booty call is in charge in the Trojan nation. The offense is back; no worries there.

Finally, is there any doubt about the best conference in the land? It's not the PAC-10. It's the SEC. Nobody has more speed or strength or skill. The SEC was on full display today for all to see. There's football, and then there's SEC football. Not the same thing. Just look what Auburn and Tennessee did today on the big stages. Mandel puts a wrap on what we learned this opening weekend of CFB: What we learned in week 1!.

My Top 10 (as of 09/02) -

1) Ohio State
2) USC
3) Auburn
4) Texas
5) Notre Dame
6) WV
7) Iowa
8) Florida
9) LSU
10) Oregon w/ Dixon

Heisman Frontrunners -

1) Troy Smith
2) Kenny Irons
3) Adrian Peterson
4) Brady Quinn
5) Chris Leak
6) Jonathon Stewart
7) Garrett Wolfe
8) Ted Ginn Jr.

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