Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This was a close game throughout, especially in the 2nd half. But, down the stretch Maryland, lead by their superstar freshmen VASQUEZ from Venezuela, made the big plays to turn the momentum time and time in their favor. One of the differences between a great team and an average team is knowing the concept of time and possession. Great teams find ways to manage the clock while manufacturing high-percentage shots given the stage of a game. Average teams rely on raw talent and athelticism to make things harder than otherwise necessary. Tonight, I saw more greatness in Maryland than I did in the men from Champaign.
My ILLINI squad looked lazy and confused at times, especially Rich McBride who's just back from a DUI suspension. At times he played as if he still had a hangover. Come-on already. Keep your head in the game, Richie; and stop playing fast and loose with the rock with the game on the line. Rich, my man - step it up! I'm calling you out in November. But bro, you're a senior stud who has to lead this team until Randle gets back in a month from his groin injury. Same for Warren. Mr. Carter has to learn to bring his athleticism to each and every play on both sides of the centerline.
I can't complain that we're 7-1 at this point in the season. Yes I can, but I really shouldn't. We've gotten off to lousy starts in several of our first few games only to turn 'it' on in later in those games to pull-off the wins. That's not a good philosophy for victory when the competition gets better. And tonight, the competition was better. We have a long way to go to get back on top of this conference. I'm sure things will get better as the season goes by and players grow into their roles. But for now, we're a young hardwood squad searching for an identity, some consistent scoring, and team leadership. The sooner my guys stop looking over their shoulders for Dee and James the better. It doesn't get any easier come Saturday against Arizona in the desert.
And one final thought tonight on a cold and icy night from the PNW (Pacific Northwest). We're supposed to get some freezing rain tomorrow night. When will they end this BIG-10/ACC challenge? It's a joke already. The ACC always kicks our collective asses this early in the season. I think this is the 7th or 8th year of the thing. The BIG-10 has never won a challenge to my knowledge. I wouldn't even call it a challenge given the poor level of basketball play in most games by the black and blue division. The only challenge I see is when the ACC teams have to make their connecting flights through O'Hare.
Some of my favorite post-game quotes:
- "I think we just thought the lead was going to extend itself when we went up five," Carter said. "We've just got to know how to close the gap."
- "We shouldn't lose at home, I don't care who's here," Weber said. "We gave up 72 percent shooting in the second half. I understand the competition's good, but that shouldn't happen at home."
- "It should have been closer in the second half than it was," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "Then in the second half we didn't grab it."
Looking ahead is always a dangerous thing to do, especially in late November. But that's the kind of guy I am. The ILLINI need to figure several things out before I can say with confidence how this year is going to end up. Of primary concern to me right now is understanding role and position on the team. Getting Brian Randle back in December will be a big help assuming he's 100% healthy when he returns. Others need to step up in the interim (Frazier, Smith, Pruitt, Carter, and Brock). The young guys need to grow-up fast and find themselves and the rest of the team. On the low end, I see this team going 18-12 before the BIG-10 tournament. Anything less than 18 wins will be a disaster in my book. However, if I look on the bright side, there might be 24 wins out there against just 6 losses. So, I guess I'll go with a more realistic 21-9 record heading tourney time. Check back in a few months to find out how these predictions hold up.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
This just in - USC is good on both sides of the ball. Men against boys tonight in LA. Those SC receivers are studs. One hand, one arm, one finger - it doesn't matter which body part they use; USC catches everything. In a year that should have been a rebuilding season in So Cal, the Trojans are proving to the rest of the nation that they are probably the most elite of teams in the nation. Year in and year out they get the best players in the country. If there was a year to take them down, it was 2k6. Say good bye to lost oppportunities, especially if you play in the PAC-10.
So what about those BCS games? Who goes where? Well, let's start with the obvious in USC / Ohio State. Should be a great TITLE game. I don't see a blowout here. As far as the rest go, Michigan is going to the Rose Bowl for yet another visit and could play Notre Dame again in a rematch. BIG BLUE could also face-off against a solid LSU squad since the Rose Bowl will likely get the first two at-large picks with both Ohio State and USC making an appearance in the title game. I also like Oklahoma to take on Boise State in Tempe at the Fiesta Bowl assuming they beat Nebraska in the BIG-12 Championship. The Sugar Bowl looks to be a matchup between Florida / Arkansas and Notre Dame if they don't play in Pasadena. Finally, look for Wake Forest / GT to play Louisville in the Orange Bowl barring an upset by Rutgers next weekend in Morgantown over WV. You can see the entire bowl schedule here (as projected by CBS - subject to change). Personally, I'm clearing my schedule for that January 6th International Bowl showdown between W. Michigan and Cincinnati. It all gets started on December 19th with Northern Illinois and TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego). Check back with the blog early and often over the next several weeks for all of your bowl and Ronler Bowl Mania coverage.
How about those Rivalry games? My top - 4 games include the following (not in any order): 1) Ohio State / Michigan, 2) Army / Navy, 3) USC / Notre Dame, and 4) Auburn / Alabama. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of good football out there each year (including this year's Civil War game in Corvallis). But these games mean more than the rest year in and year out. You owe it to yourself to see each one of these before you die. Add them to your 'must-do' list, trust me.
Quick ILLINI Update - I know we didn't play today (and therefore we didn't lose either), but kudos to my ILLINI B-BALL squad (7-0) for taking down Bradley in Hoffman Estates at the Sears Centre (just 10 miles from where I grew up in the burbs). Not a bad win over those nasty Bradley Braves for the Chicago Invitational Challenge Title. This was a tough game for since since I graduated from both esteemed universities (BS '93 in Physics from Bradley and MSE '95 from Illinois). So far so good on the young hardwood season (undefeated and tested with some close games). But, it gets a lot tougher this week with a home game in Champaign against Maryland as part of the BIG - 10 / ACC Challenge. Then we travel to the desert to face those CATS from Arizona on Saturday. Will be interesting to see where we rank this week after a busy stretch of b-ball for Bruce Weber's squad.
Do yourself a favor and visit the burbs of Chicago. I recommend breakfast at Artemis on Golf Road. 4-egg omelletes are to die for. You better have lunch or dinner at Portillo's while you're out there as well. And if you don't have pizza at Gino's East, or Giovanni's, or Lou Malnatti's, or Rozatti's it's you're own damn fault. Life is simply too damn short. Get in there and ask for extra peppers and juice. I recommend a beef sandwich 'wet'. Viva!
Kudos to those BYU Cougars from Provo and their MWC title tonight. Nice season out there in the mountains. Great game and great win on the road in Salt Lake over the UTES. Looks like Mendenhall has the Cougars back on the national scene again.
How 'bout those BEAVS? Great job in winning the CIVIL WAR in Corvallis! Screw the East Coast, this is one of the best rivalry games in the nation, right up there with some of big-time games. I would put it in the top-10 in the nation. And this year, the men in orange and black have the braggin' rights. Wow, what a game on Friday. You will be hard-pressed to find a more exciting game in the country. For all those who wear orange and black underwear, congratulations on a job well done. 8 wins is nothing to sneeze at in public. Just remember where you were back in September after the CAL loss. Riley was hated in Corvallis more than a Kitzhaber social program. Enjoy the next 364, the CIVIL war is in Eugene in 2k7. Fear the DUCKS in the coming season. They should be very very good.
What else did I see around the nation?
- Hey Gig'Em Jim - good win in Austin over the Horns on the day after Thanksgiving. Finally, Dennis gets a signature win and keeps his job another year, for now.
- Damn those Bulldogs from Athens (Georgia). The Jackets from Atlanta (GT) let this one get away down the stretch.
- How about Boise State? Yes, they will likely play Nebraska or Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Isn't mediocrity lovely? I love communism. Hail to Trotsky. I mean what the hell already. Give me a CFB playoff or give me death.
- What happened to my CATS from Tucson (Arizona). Ugh, big disappointment tonight in Tucson against those rivals from Tempe. Phoo - wee!
- NC State lost tonight to E. Carolina. Ugh! Very very very bad.
- How about those Demon Deacons from Wake Forest? And, I'm not talking basketball either. They will take on a pretty mediocre GT squad in the ACC title game next weekend.
PICK EM WRAP - Before I go further, just a word of thanks to all of those who played this year, especially the 27 of us who played each and every week (13 in all). Wow, what a season. Kudos to Reggie Redbird as our PICK EM CHAMP for 2k6 on raw points. The TOP-11 of us broke 600 points for the year. Amazing. And, if you played each week you were in the TOP 84% in the nation. What a strong group we have this year Thanks for playing. It's been a great year of competition with some awesome games for the memory banks. I look forward to next year, the sixth RONLER PICK-EM season. And, don't miss Ronler Bowl PICK EM which launches in just 7 more days. Pick 32 bowl games in ~ 20 days and enjoy your holidays even more.
My TOP 10 (heading into Championship weekend) -
1) Ohio State, 2) USC, 3) Michigan, 4) Florida, 5) LSU, 6) Louisville, 7) Oklahoma, 8) Wisconsin, 9) Boise State, 10) Va Tech. Here's the coaches' poll (and others) for the week of the 26th.
The blog is becoming a busy place this holiday season. So far over 32 unique hits on Sunday. For the week of Thanksgiving (when lots of folks were OOP) it logged over 60 brand new visitors bringing the total since August to more than ~ 1400 fortunate souls. It's averaging 13.14 new guests / day. As always, enjoy the content and feel free to shoot me a note.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
So what do you do with Michigan? What a great game today (instant classic, in my opinion). Sorry Mr. Triton, you gotta give some love to the BIG-10 today. Clearly, Ohio State is going to GLENDALE after beating the Wolverines tonight in Columbus. Going 12-0 in the BIG-10 dictates that. But, you gotta wonder if Michigan can take down BUCKY on a neutral site. Both teams played great today. Honestly, there was a little more offense tonight than I expected give the two strong defenses. It just seemed that no matter what Michigan did today, Ohio State had an answer or two. Troy Smith basically won the Heisman tonight by leading his team to victory.
But Chad Henne and Michael Hart both had great games as well. Let's face it, it was a close game that didn't really settle too much on the field. So, the question remains - does Michigan deserve another shot at Ohio State in Glendale? Ask me in two more weeks. Looks like most of the country believe in a re-match between Ohio State and Michigan. It's hard to argue against that. But, USC still has an outside chance if they win their next two games against ND and UCLA. Then again, if ND beats USC you can just about guarantee a TITLE game between the two BIG-10 GIANTS.
And, just how good is USC after being CAL convincingly tonight? What about LSU who struggled at home in Baton Rouge against Ole Miss? Wow - you just never know. But I do know one thing, USC has a strong defense and is worthy of a title - shot at Ohio State should they win their last two games in LA. Other results of note:
- Kudos to BYU after their win at home today over New Mexico. The Cougars are 9-2 under Bronco M. Wow, next week they get Utah for the title of the MWC.
- BC looked stout today at home against a pretty good Maryland squad. Some hard hits in that game. The end result was a blow-out.
- Oklahoma continues to roll despite no AP. Today they beat Baylor 36-10.
- Tennessee just isn't the same team w/o Ainge. With him, they win big or win big games.
- Watchout for the IRISH. They are playing some good football against some bad teams. We'll see how good they are next week when they get USC in LA.
- SMU is now bowl eligible after beating TULSA today. Hail to the Mustangs.
- Kudos to the BEAVS. What happened to the DUCKS? They just haven't been the same team since that trip to Strawberry Canyon to play CAL in October. The Civil War might be lopsided this year in favor of the BLACK and ORANGE.
- Cincy beat Rugers tonight. It's hard to play well after a big win unless you are Ohio State. Just ask Louisville, Wake Forest, and a host of others.
I'll keep the ILLINI update short this week because it needs to be. We finished with a tie for last in the BIG-10 this year with SPARTY. Ugh! But, there is hope for the future as we landed the nation's top wide receiver out of Maryland, A. Benn. My team should be a lot better come next year under the leadership of Ron Zook. I know I've said it before, but this time I mean it. We're going bowling in 2k7/8. Today was a miserable day of football by my team. Drops, penalties, and mistakes which were comical at times. We even had players running into each other on special teams leading to a turnover. Ugh! My B-ball team is 3-0 baby. Bring on March already. Thank God Bowl Season is right around the corner.
PICK EM UPDATE - Well, I lost my #1, #2, #3, and #6 games today. Looks like WSU Coug'd another one. They've really fallen apart in the last few weeks with some bad losses both at home and on the road. Would have been great if Bama came back against Auburn in Tuscaloosa. Just wasn't in the cards as Shula's squad lost its fifth in a row to the TIGERS from the PLAINS. Lots of speculation will follow Coach Mike in the off season down there. Nobody beat Golic tonight and his 49 points. Looks like the Photonic Cowboy is at it again (51 points), but probably too little too late. What happened to Mr. TWIST this week? I guess the 1-10 strategy didn't work out so well. 19 points separate the TOP-10. But, it really looks like Mr. Redbird has it locked-up barring a collapse of KIWI proportions. Only one more week to go. Mr. KIWI is hanging strong down the stretch despite putting 10 on AUBURN. Don't forget about BOWL PICKEM which starts later in December. Just pick the 32 bowl games this year and go for glory. Good Luck. If you've played every week you're in the TOP 82% in the land.
MY TOP - 10: 1) Ohio State, 2) USC, 3) Michigan, 4) Florida, 5) Arkansas, 6) Notre Dame, 7) West Virginia, 8) Wisconsin, 9) Louisville, 10) Texas. Yes, three BIG-10 squads in the top 10 and rightly so.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Then there were my ILLINI. Ugh! We blew two big leads in this game before losing to Purdue at home: 42-31. Too many mistakes in this one to earn the victory at home in fron to the partisan crowd. More of the same; fumbles, interceptions, and miscues late in the game which allowed Purdue to sneak back in and pull away down the stretch. Amazing, our 4th straight loss to the BOILERS. There was a 5 play stretch where we turned the rock over 4 (four) times. Ugh! The defense was disappointing today, giving up over 400 yards of total offense to the Boilermakers. This was an ugly loss and 6 straight. Bring on basketball already. Only 2-29 for our last 31 BIG-10 games. This has to end. Next year should be better for the Fighting Zookers. I hope.
But back to the big games of the day. Georgia took advantage of turnovers today at Auburn en route to their blowout victory on the road. Auburn is dead. Their title hopes are over. In my opinion, they've been living on borrowed time for quite a while. But today was senior day at home in front of the partisans. This kind of beat-down shouldn't happen in that environment. But that's why they play the games. The Georgia / Auburn game is the South's oldest CFB rivalry with only 2 points separating these two schools over the past 105 years. Amazing.
Then, just as I was getting over losing my 9-point game, CAL blew a big 2nd-half lead on the road to Arizona - going down 24-20 to the WILDCATS. Bye bye CAL. Last weekend it was Washington State and this weekend it was the GOLDEN BEARS. Watchout PAC-10 - Arizona is on fire. This is a team that only won a total of 6 games in the previous two years. Lots of strange plays in this one, most going the way of Arizona. CAL just didn't seem to be in rhythm on offense all day. Wow - big upset in the desert today. What a jolt to the BCS and the national picture.
What if? What if? You know what I'm going to say. Assuming Ohio State takes care of business next weekend in Columbus and, USC continues to roll through the remainder of its tough schedule - we're looking at a Trojan / Buckeye title game in Glendale. Or, what if? What if? Those sneaky little IRISH are still in the mix after this BCS buster of a weekend. It's looking more and more likely that the USC / Notre Dame winner will be heading to the desert to take on the winner of Ohio State and Michigan. Or, what if? What if? It's also entirely possible that we could see a 2nd Michigan / Ohio State game in January for all the marbles. I don't want this to happen, nor do I expect it. But, at this point it could happen if next week's game in Columbs is a nail-biter. Ah, the possibilities. Much a - do about nothing at this point. I'm sure things will shake up again over the next few weeks. Here is what CBS has to say about the likely bowl matchups after what we witnessed yesterday.
How about that TEXAS / K-STATE game? Yet another upset (3rd big-one of the day). Have you ever seen a more physical contest? Every hit seemd to be a big blow. This was a very physical game; just ask Colt McCoy who was knocked out in the 1st quarter with a shoulder injury. Not sure how serious that one will be. But this was a classic BIG-12 game. TEXAS had trouble stopping the WILDCAT offense. That was a big surprise. Give credit to Jevon Snead (TEXAS back-up QB). Count the big plays in thise game: blocked punts, fumbles, you name it. Wow, big party tonight in Manhattan. For Kansas State, this was a tremendous win. And the BCS is a total mess. How do you rank the 1-loss and 2-loss teams? And just like Auburn and CAL today, TEXAS is out of the title - game picture.
Other big games this week (and what I noticed):
- Okie State won today. 66-24 over Baylor. No shortage of offense here.
- Kentucky became bowl eligible for Rich Brooks (Oregon) today by beating Vandy at home.
- Same for Navy with a win on the road over E. Michigan. Go Goats!
- Kudos to Nebraska - you cost me 2 points today by beating A&M. I feel bad for Dennis Francionne who has yet to beat Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Texas during his tenure. Back to back home losses to Oklahoma and Nebraska - 1 point each. Ouch!
- Penn State 47 / Temple 0. Ouch babe! Joe Pa up in the press box.
- Florida squeaked by the old ball coach today in an ugly win at home over South Carolina.
- More props to WAKE FOREST. Wow, 30-0 beatdown over FSU in Tallahassee!
- How about UCONN over Pitt today? Thank you HUSKIES.
- UCLA pasted the BEAVS today in LA. 25-7. OSU isn't bowl eligible, yet.
PICK -EM Update: Week #11 was another week of movement in our rankings. The separation at the top continues. Back in the top-10 comes the Fightin' Illini '71. It's not over yet. But this week, Mr. Larson (Other OSU) led the pack in scoring with just 44 points. If you scored in the 40's this week you had a great week. Otherwise, there were a lot of thirty-somethings posted by folks used to scoring in the 50's. Look for more of the same down the stretch with the rivalry action heating up. Right now it looks like everybody will be chasing Mr. Redbird and his lofty ranking for the crown of PICK EM CHAMP. 20 points separate the top - 10 players. And, if you played every week this year you are in the top 81.3% in the nation. Our group is strong.
My TOP - 10+: 1) Ohio State, 2) Michigan, 3) USC, 4) Notre Dame, 5) WV, 6) Arkansas, 7) LSU, 8) Florida, 9) Rutgers, 10) Texas, 11) Louisville, 12) Wisconsin, 13) Wake Forest, 14) CAL, 15) Boise State, 16) Oklahoma, 17) Auburn, 18) Va Tech, 19) BC, 20) Maryland / Nebraska. Here's the link to the AP and other polls.
With only two more weeks to go in the PICM EM race, try these games on for next week: Michigan @ Ohio State, WV @ Pitt, Aubrun @ Alabama, Arizona @ Oregon, CAL @ USC, & Illinois @ Northwestern. Go Fighting Zookers! PICK EM should be crazy down the stretch. It will be interesting to see how the final rankings shake out.
Heisman: Troy Smith (Ohio State) and everybody else. But, also worth consideration in New York - Brady Quinn (Notre dame) , Darren McFadden (Arkansas), & Slaton (WV).
Saturday, November 04, 2006
What another amazing weekend of CFB in WEEK #10. So many great games that came down to the wire. Several upsets, especially in the SEC. Georgia and Alabama bost lost today to Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively. Wow - big shockers there. LSU came back against Tennessee with 9 seconds to go for the big road win, 28-24. Whom was he throwing to anyway? Ugh! BC squandered opportunities with turnovers and had some bad replay calls go against them in Wake Forest en route to a 21-14 loss in the wacky and wild ACC. Is there a conference that's more unpredictable in the nation? Congratulations to the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.
So what did we really learn today? For one, you can't take anything for granted in CFB. Just ask Michigan, Ohio State, and Florida. All three squads won their games today, big deal. None looked convincing in victory. See my TOP-10 later in this blog entry to see what these performances really mean. Some major shake-up in the rankings this week. And two, it's November. Every game matters. Each is bigger than the last. Losses in November hurt more than ones in September and October. Rivalry games pepper the schedule all month. You just don't know what can happen.
And what does this all mean for PICK EM? I thought I had some good picks today in Tennesse and BC. Both let me down with 9 points in cumulative loss. Should have ended up going the other way. Tennesse lost with 9 seconds to go against a gutty LSU performance in Rocky Top. BC shot themselves in the foot and had some terrible calls go against them to boot. Ugh! And I'm sick of hearing about Louisville. They have no defense, period. They are a good offensive squad but are not going to play in the title game, in my opinion. We'll see what happens next Thursday in New Jersey as they take on a very good SUNJ (RUTGERS) squad. In the meantime, I'm desperately seeking a perfect week to help make-up some of the lost ground of late. It's going to take a monumental task for those of us more than 10 points back to close the gap in the last three weeks. Not impossible, but it's an uphill battle.
- Kudos to the big movers today: Mr. ACC BIAS, Mr. OSU_Parent, and Mr. Redbird on their perfect weeks - very impressive.
- If you've played every week this year you're in the TOP 82% in the nation. Congratulations. We have a strong group this year. But it looks like the TOP 3 in our league are starting to create some serious separation on the field. On to week #11.
- And don't forget - only three more weeks to go in the regular season. Don't forget about Bowl PICK EM later this year. There are some 32 bowl games on the schedule to carry you into 2007. It's almost as much fun as regular - season PICK EM. I'll send out the link and the registration data so your holidays will be merry and bright, just like mine.
I'm starting to work on the greatest traditions and biggest rivalry match-ups in the game. Send me your inputs and requests. It's hard to beat Michigan and Ohio State. What about Army / Navy? And is there a school in the nation with better football tradition than Texas A&M? With the twelvth man and GIG 'EM KISS YOUR GIRL; that's my kind of tradition.
My TOP 10: 1) Ohio State, 2) Texas, 3) Louisville, 4) Michigan, 5) CAL, 6) Florida, 7) USC, 8) Auburn, 9) Notre Dame, 10) LSU.
The blog has welcomed ~ 110 new readers this week. Averaging 400 or so unique hits / month since August. Not too bad. Finally, a prayer goes out tonight to Joe Pa after suffering what looked like a nasty knee injury today on the sideline against Wisconsin. At 79 years old, you just don't need whipper-snappers blowing up your knee. Hopefully it's not as bad as it looked. Here's to a speedy recovery.
A message was sent today to the rest of the BIG-10 and the nation, for that matter. You just don't walk into Memorial Stadium and expect to win. Those days are OVAAA! Will will protect our house. Our new motto: EXPECT TO WIN. What's that? Oh, it must be the collective sigh of relief in Columbus tonight as the guys in RED escaped with their #1 ranking, living to fight another day with their national-title dreams.
This must have been a tale of two halves after trailing 17-0 at the break. To hold the vaunted BUCKEYE offense to 0 oints in the 2nd half must have been amazing. But, this young ILLINI defense is getting better each and every week. You've heard me talk about this for the past month. We didn't play like a team who's lost 5 straight games. Sure this was another loss. And I'm not saying that I like hanging my hat on losses and losing seasons. We deserve so much more, but this is really turning out to be a turning point for my team. With the exception of the RUTGERS game earlier this year (and they're pretty good aren't they?), we've been competitive in each and every game this year. The 2-8 record is misleading and could easily be 7-3 or 6-4. The worst is behind us. I can't wait for next season.