Monday, July 25, 2016

Big XII Expansion: If Baylor is Against You.

By my way of thinking this is good news for Houston.

Baylor should oppose Houston's Big XII bid. Kendall Kant, Our Daily Bears.

Houston is an attractive expansion target for a number of reasons. Those reasons make Houston a huge threat to Baylor, if they join the Big 12. Baylor should not elevate a strong program in Texas, or make it less likely the Bears find a home in the next round of realignment.

If Baylor's argument against boils down to "Houston is a good program on the rise and that's bad for Baylor", then given Baylor's recent issues I believe this strengthens, rather than weakens Houston's position.

Before the latest round of endorsements from UT-Austin, I thought UH to the Big XII was always a pipe dream and I thought that Houston's talking to the Pac-12 made more sense.

Now?

The right people are seemingly in support of them and the wrong people are against them.

Baylor's days as a top-tier program are, in my mind, coming to an end. UH should worry about wooing OU and the northern schools.  Let Baylor wither on their angry vine.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2016 College Football Preview: The Southeast Conference.

Every year the SEC (S.E.C!) is the conference with the most hype, and the most passionate fans. This hype machine is fueled, in part, by the Network known as ESPN and a group of SID's that are second to none in the industry.  It was also fueled by an impressive run of National Titles under the old B(C)S system that was undoubtedly rigged in their favor.

Fast forward to the College Football Playoff however and the more things change the more they stay the same. For two year's running the SEC has placed a team in the CFP, and in both years there has been serious discussion about them having two teams in the top four.  Last year, Alabama won the entire thing and enters the season as a strong favorite to do it again.

This year the conference appears to be on the verge of approaching something resembling competitive balance between the divisions, but they're not there yet.

Conference Divison Projections:
WEST W L
LSU   12 0
Alabama 11 1
Arkansas 9 3
Auburn 7 5
Ole Miss 6 6
Mississippi State 5 7
Texas A&M 5 7










EAST W L
Tennessee   10 2
Georgia 9 3
Florida 8 4
South Carolina 6 6
Missouri 4 8
Kentucky 4 8
Vanderbilt 3 9

Conference Championship:
LSU over Tennessee
Bowl Teams: 9
CFP: LSU
Big Six Bama
CFP 2: None
Others: Tennessee
Georgia
South Carolina
Auburn
Ole Miss
Florida
Arkansas
Most Underrated: Arkansas
Most Overrated: Ole Miss
Coaches on Hot Seat: Texas aTm
Ole Miss
Auburn
As you can see (above) I have LSU going undefeated, beating Tennessee in the SEC Championship game and getting the nod into the CFP. In my opinion the Alabama/LSU game is a coin-flip this year, and I decided to have the coin end up on the home team's side. (LSU)

Let's look at the teams:

1. LSU. - We all know that they are going to have a strong running game. Provided Fournette stays healthy.  He is the best running back in the country and there should be no debate over that. They also will have a strong O-line, a monster defense and a talented WR corps.  The question for LSU surrounds quarterback Brandon Harris. Can he play well enough to win the "other 4" games that LSU is going to need above the 8 wins that Fournette himself will basically carry them to?  I say he will.

2. Alabama. - The fighting Saban's don't rebuild, they reload.  And that's the same story this year as quarterback Cooper Bateman is predicted to take the reins of an offense that will be built primarily, again, around a bruising two-headed run game of Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris. Defensively the Crimson Tide might be the best team in the country. The experienced LB grouping of Tim Williams, Ruben Foster and Shaun Hamilton will give opposing defenses fits. Also, Bama is coached better than any other team in the country outside of Ohio State.

3. Tennessee. If Butch Jones and the Volunteers are ever going to win the East, this might be the year. They have a ton of talent on offense (QB Dodds and RB Jalen Hurd for example) but it's young. They have experience on defense and the talent level seems higher than other teams in the division. Experience on offense and coaching will be their two glaring question marks, followed by speed on defense. that said, I think they have more talent in Knoxville than at any other place in the East.

4. Arkansas. - The "smallest" offensive lineman on the Razorbacks starting roster is listed at 303 lbs. They have a running back that weighs 249 lbs, (Kendrick Jackson) more than some DE's he's going to be facing. And a halfback (Sr. Kody Walker) who tips the scales at 251 lbs. In short, the Razorbacks are going to run the ball and try to chew up clock. Just like coach Brett Beilema wants them to. When not running the ball watch for QB Austin Allen to try and get the ball to slot receiver Jared Cornelius, the latter has game-breaking speed. They have talent on defense, but depth is a concern. They must stay injury free. I do think they are the most underrated team heading into this season however.

5. Georgia. - I probably have the Bulldogs too high in my predictions.  But I do that because I don't predict injuries and I think Nick Chubb and Sony Michele are one of the best 1-2 running back duos in the league. I also think Greyson Lambert is gong to have a good Sr. season throwing the ball (at least, at the beginning of the season, but there will be pressure to bring the Freshman in) to a talented group of wide receivers behind a very experienced, and cohesive offensive line. I also think the Bulldogs will be improved on defense because that is what new Head Coach Kirby Smart is known for. Plus, they'll be more mentally disciplined which was a bugaboo of theirs during the Richt era.

6. Florida. Unlike Gator teams of the past, it appears Florida's best players are on the defensive side of the football. They are going to field a formidable defensive line in the persons of Brian Cox Jr, Joey Ivey, CeCe Jefferson and Caleb Brantley. They have an all-Sr linebacking corps that should be among the better groups in the league. Their defensive backfield is solid. It's on offense where I question the Gators. They have two transfer quarterbacks in the top two spots on their depth chart that I think will need time to sort things out. They have talent at WR, but nothing spectacular. Their success will depend on whether the Jordans (Cronkite and Scarlett) can run the ball with any consistency. The team improved under 1st year head coach McIlwain last year, the question is will they continue improving in year 2.

7. Auburn. - This is a big year for the Tigers/Plainsmen(War Eagle!) (huh?) but I don't think it's going to end up quite like they want it to. They have a lot of experience on both sides of the ball coming back but I question them at QB (JuCo transfer John Franklin) and RB (Small school transfer Jovon Robinson). Defensively they should be OK but if you don't think a 7-5 season will put head coach Gus Malzahn on the hot-seat you don't know Auburn football fans.

8. After last year's debacle of a season (and the retirement of the ol' ball coach in mid-season) the Gamecocks find themselves in a mess of a rebuilding phase. They lack talent on both sides of the ball and, to add insult to injury, I don't think they made a good coaching hire in the form of former Texas DC and Florida HC Wil Muschamp. Still, their true Freshman QB Brandon McIlwain appears to have talent and might improve as the year progresses. That said I think 6-6 is just about right for them.

9. Ole Miss. The Rebels have a talent that's only being overshadowed by the amount of distractions they are going to face this season.  Coach Hugh Freeze' program is currently under multiple investigations due to Laremy Tunsil's draft day collapse and admission he received improper benefits. I think this is going to hang like a cloud over this team all year and they're going to end the season as one of the more overrated teams going in.

10. Mississippi State. Coach Dan Mullen will find himself rebuilding this year. And he's going to rely on a pair of Sophomore quarterbacks to try and get him there.I don't see much space between Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley but Fitzgerald is listed #1 on the depth chart for now. I've a feeling we'll see both.  Defensively they return a lot, but lose a lot and are going to rely on Seniors who have spent their careers 2nd on the depth chart to fill the gaps. I think they're going to step back some this year, especially if players continue to get in trouble with that law.

11. Texas A&M. - Amazingly, Aggie fans are optimistic after the dumpster fire of an off-season endured by Kevin Sumlin and crew. Both highly touted QB's up and left leaving the team banking it's offensive hopes on former OU quarterback Trevor Knight, who had one good bowl game and then was...meh.  They do have a decent WR corps in Speedy Noil & Ricky Seals-Jones, but can Knight get the ball to them?  Running back Keith Ford was highly recruited, but he's a true Freshman. On defense it's largely, the same cast that was OK, but not spectacular, last year. The question there is whether or not former LSU DC John Chavis can get more out of them. I don't think so, and Kevin Sumlin is officially on the hottest of hot seats. I don't think he survives to coach at aTm next year.

12. Missouri. Tough times in Columbia as new Head Coach Barry Odom and Missouri boosters are now being hit with the reality of recruiting in the hyper-competitive SEC. To be blunt, the cupboard is pretty bare. Sophomore QB Drew Locke might develop into an OK player, but his WR corps is average, and Jr College transfer RB Natereace Strong feels like a stop-gap at best. On defense the Tigers have some experience (5 starting Srs) but lack overall team speed. This is going to hurt them against speedier offensive units within the conference.

13. Kentucky. Amazingly, the Wildcats are not already looking forward to basketball season as they are carrying high-hopes for their team under a Stoops.  No, not THAT Stoops, 2nd year head coach Mark Stoops.  Drew Barker is a RS Sophomore QB who might have some talent and most of their players on offense are either Jr's or Sr's other than the QB and TE.Defensively they're are relying on a LOT of Sophomores to get a LOT better than they were last year to see a meaningful improvement. I don't think they do so coach Stoops will have to go back and mine that "recruiting powerhouse" that he claims is Kentucky once again.  Is it basketball season yet?

14. Vanderbilt. - I know the Commodores hate being called the "academic help" for the SEC but it's true. Recruiting wise they cannot compete with the rest of the SEC so they go 3 & 2 star and hope.  MAYBE some players on this Jr & Sr laden team will take giant leaps forward and produce seasons that results in more wins than losses and MAYBE So QB Kyle Shurmer is just that good but I don't think so. It's another long football year in store for Vandy fans but at least they know the fans of other teams will probably be calling them "boss" in years to come right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

2016 College Football Preview: Yes, it's hard to wait.

First off, I'm not a tout.

Nor am I an "experienced football analyst with years of experience that can help you beat the books". What I am is a fan, of college (and professional) football that likes to take a look at it in pre-season and share my thoughts.

If you're paying attention, this makes me just as credible a source as any so-called "sports journalist" out there opining on the same.  I have a degree in accounting, they have a degree (probably) in journalism.  Most of us probably played competitive sports at some level in our youths, but sucked too bad to make it any further.  Me? I played football, basketball and baseball, and I dabbled in soccer. As an athlete I made a great writer. I would have been known as a "lunch-pail" player who was "gritty" (read slow) and "gave effort" (i.e. had little athletic ability).

Of all the sports I played as a youth the one that I like the most now is football.  This is surprising to me because it used to be baseball. As I've grown older however I've found that football is the sport that draws my interest and it's the one that I do the best job analyzing, and that I seem to understand the best.

Over the next few days I'm going to be rolling out my (now) annual preview of the 2016 College Football season. Last year I was stupid and tried to analyze all of the conferences, this year I'm sticking to the six that I feel are going to have the most say in the Playoffs. 

Based on that my order will be as follows:

1. SEC
2. ACC
3. PAC-12
4. BIG-12
5. American
6. B1G
7. College Football Playoff and the Big 6 Bowls.
8. Overview of minor conferences and some basic thoughts on the season at large.

These posts will start rolling out over the next few days, and will (hopefully) culminate with my first FIVE of the season for week one.

The rules of the FIVE will be the same as last year.

1. I'm going to pick five games to predict against the spread.
2. The spreads that I pick will be available at the time of the writing.
3. Odds will be pulled from the Odds Shark Application for Android.
4. Lines will be their average lines from all of their offshore books.
5. Predictions will be posted before the kick off of the first game.
6. I will typically not include the Thursday game in the FIVE
7. I might analyze certain games but only FIVE games count toward season stats.
8. The goal is 51% (or hopefully better) at the end of the season.
9. The picks are for entertainment purposes only. No offer is being made, or will be accepted nor is there an expectation of return, on these picks.
10. If you're relying on some guy you've never met on the Internet to give you football tips for gambling, (especially a guy who admits he's not playing any or all of the games he's picking) get a brochure and call a gambler's helpline immediately.

As is typical, the standard comments policy applies.

Sport's gambling is a serious business.  As with any casino game it's a game of negative expectations. In other words, you are probably going to lose money over time. 

Good luck for the season and here's hoping we all have a profitable one. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Don't overthink Michigan vs. Notre Dame, just enjoy that it's happening again.

News broke today that Michigan and Notre Dame will be renewing their excellent college football rivalry and already the pundits are going into full-on, over-analyze mode.

To whit:

Michigan Blog "Maize n' Brew" is worried about the cost.

For the Wolverines, they give up a home game to Arkansas and pay $2 million to buy out of that match-up in 2018 to head to South Bend. Not only will they play ND on the road, but they will also play Michigan State and Ohio State on the road in that same season, leaving them without a tentpole(sic) rivalry game on their home schedule.

This makes no sense for the following reasons:
1. $2 Million to buy out Arkansas is chump change compared to what the game will draw.
2. Arkansas???  While a home and home with an SEC team sounds grand, the Razorbacks didn't really move the needle.
3. They didn't have a "tent pole" rivalry on their home schedule before this. They still don't for 2018.

Even worse than this however was the usual blather from CBS who decided to go full-on listicle with their analysis.

Whatever the case is for these two star-crossed lovers in the long-term, here's what you should know about both of them while waiting for the 2018 reunion.
1. It's hard to see this as anything other than a good thing for college football fans:
2. This isn't the first time these schools have broken up and reunited 
3. Which is good, because it is likely in both school's best benefit not to make it an annual game 
 4. Michigan is dropping games against Arkansas to fit Notre Dame in:
None of these are "things fans should know" but instead are things the author is either amped, or bummed about.

Yes, it is a good thing for fans of college football and yes, this is not the first hiatus in the series and yes, it should not be an annual game.  Again, the game against Arkansas had zero buzz around it, except in the minds of bored-as-hell sports writers who envisioned some coach-fight happening between Harbaugh and Bielema.

None of that matters.

In the spirit of CBS' sub-par writing here's a listicle outlining what DOES MATTER:

1. Notre Dame and Michigan are going to play one another in College Football. 
2. 3. & 4. See point number one.

That's it. That's all that matters.  These are two schools with a long rivalry that need to play each other as much as is reasonably possible.  As much as they hate to admit it, both sides need each other because Notre Dame vs. the ACC doesn't move the needle as much as Notre Dame vs. the B1G.

So bring on the game in 2018 and Hail to the Victors.



But please just stop overthinking it.  This is one of the things that makes the older generation of sports writers, guys like Peter King, Rick Reilly and others, so tedious and unreadable.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The rise (and fall) of the National Basketball Association

On July 4th Kevin Durant, presumably via a  ghost-writer in the The Player's Tribune, announced to all interested that he was taking his talents to Oakland.  To be more specific, Golden State, where he will join with current NBA MVP Stephon Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to form one of the most formidable starting line-ups the league has ever seen.

This is "Dream Team" stuff, stuff that has already caused the line-makers to move the Warriors' 2017 title odds to 4/5, a ridiculously low number this far out.

Call it "LeBron II" except that Durant had no ties to Oklahoma City, he was born and grew up in California before going to college at UT-Austin. Durant still lives in LA during the off-season, when he's not hanging in the Hamptons that is.

I don't say any of this to disparage Kevin Durant. He made a choice that he feels provides him with silly money (somewhere around $54 Million over two years) and provides him with the best chance of winning a championship ring (something he has yet to do).  All of the other stuff about "player development" and "becoming better" is just a smokescreen. He, like most people, wants to succeed and get paid for doing it.

This, of course, has the media in somewhat of a tizzy. There is nothing more frustrating to a sports writer making five figures than having to opine on an athlete making eight.  While we're not in the bad old days of Richard Justice thinking he was more important than the game itself, the decline of the media industry covering sports has largely mirrored the decline in media as a whole. But that's a tale for another time.

What's important to know here is that all of the media talking heads, yes, all of them, are getting the story 100% wrong.

The problem is not that Kevin Durant decided to not "compete" (as he so famously admonished others for not doing in 2010) but rather that there are too many slots on rosters and not enough quality players to fill them.

Right now the NBA is top-heavy. You have Golden State, Cleveland (amazingly), San Antonio and?

Who?

For a little bit the Oklahoma City Thunder looked like they might be the next 'big' thing but they are now imploding under the weight of "decision II" and what they are going to do with Russell Westbrook.  The OKC fans have been loyal to the Thunder, but they've never been asked to go through a rebuilding process. This will be new to them and will be a test of whether or not they can sustain a fan-base without deep playoff runs.

The Houston Rockets had a cup of coffee in the big-four, but then flamed out against Golden State two years ago before going down in an ego-fueled, flaming mess this year, before Dwight Howard walked away taking much of the blame with him, unfairly I might add.

As for the rest? Atlanta is young, and they might have had something to build on, but they just lost their best player and will surely take a step back. Memphis just signed walking blue-jean model Chandler Parsons to a max deal for Chrissakes.

Of the former powerhouse teams the Lakers are hot garbage, the Kincks are building a team that would have been a monster in 2007 while the Celtics scuttle around the fringes, adding a piece here, losing a piece there, but never seeming to make the move that will get them back in title contention.

The reason most teams cannot make that move is because there aren't enough good players out there to fill the rosters.  This means that a lot of mediocre players are getting huge free agent deals because, the thinking goes, the teams have to spend the money on someone.

Again, I don't begrudge the players their money.  While a charmed life the NBA is also a short life. All professional athletes face this problem. You make what money you can when you can and hopefully set yourself up for life after the league. If you can string together a coherent sentence, maybe you transition to the announce booth, or the analyst's studio.

Players getting paid is not the problem.

The problem is that there are too many teams, and not enough quality players to fill all of the roster spots. This leads to a hollowing out of competitiveness past the top tier and gives rise to spectacles like Daryl Morey's prostituting of the Rockets to Chris freaking Bosh two times to no avail. It means that some guys who shouldn't be fogging an NBA mirror are, and fans are forced to watch Anderson França Varejão flop around like a fish on a boat deck.

Eventually, this TV money train is going to dry up. It has to because TV viewers are going elsewhere. Sure, there will be something to replace it, but in most cases the Internet has ALWAYS been cheaper than what it replaced, and it appears the future of entertainment is going to be streaming.

If we continue to blame the players, as the media is doing, then we're going to risk returning back to the bad old days when the players got peanuts and several wealthy owners provided flat Champagne when titles were clinched.  What we need is retraction, by all of the leagues.  And while I realize the thought of your city losing their team is unpleasant, I would also forward that if your team is one on the chopping block you're probably not all that invested in them anyway.  At least not enough to actually attend games.

For selfish reasons, I'll go first,  You can have the Houston Texans NFL, take them back.

And give me back my Sundays with four or five game options on TV without having to subscribe to Dish Network and buy your overpriced Sunday Ticket.  One caveat though:  JJ Watt has to go to San Francisco.  This is non-negotiable.

Next.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Draft Projections: When you get one wrong.

I admit it, I was 100% wrong about Johnathan Manziel.

I didn't think he would be great, but I did think he had enough physical ability to be a competent NFL quarterback and I said so publicly.

What I did not take into consideration is the fact that the man seemingly has both the impulse control of a child, and is possibly the stupidest quarterback since Ryan Leaf.

Take this recent photo of Mssr. Manziel in Mexico:

An idiot and his weed
 Pillock, is the first word that comes to mind, followed by waste of space and raging moron.

Here's a guy that had no business being close to Millions of dollars showing us that, in the game of life, some people don't have any ambition at all.

Manziel got paid the big bucks and went off the rails. He's digressed from a QB prospect in the NFL to a never-was who had one good season in college and parlayed it into a multi-Million dollar contract from the Cleveland Browns.

And his career is kaput.

He's never going to play football, at the professional level, again and the chances of him emerging from this as a productive member of society are growing slimmer by the day, much like his frame. He looks less like an NFL quarterback now than he does a frat guy.  A dope-smoking, hard-drinking frat guy at that.  You don't find many of those playing quarterback for professional football teams.

Unfortunately, we're going to continue to be subjected to Mr. Manziel's antics because the world loves a train-wreck, and Johnny is the best train-wreck to come down the pipe since Lindsey Lohan went off the rails in a cocaine-fueled fireball.

Sure, he says that he's going "totally sober" after this one, last blowout in Mexico but you really don't believe that. His check-in to 'rehab' didn't do any good so I'm curious why we think that a pinkie swear is going to stick where professional help didn't.

Contrary to the tone of this post, I'm not mad at Manziel. I'm neither a fan of aTm or of the Browns, and I certainly didn't (and don't) want him on my team.

But I am a little bit sad, because one the field, when properly coached and motivated, he displayed some incredible skill.

What he has never displayed is a sense that none of this is owed to him.  For that I blame his parents, his dad's protestations and pathetic pleas for someone to help Johnny to the contrary.

If anything, Manziel is the poster-boy for all of the wrong ways we treat athletes. He was coddled, and probably passed through, every challenge he faced. He was never forced to face down adversity or overcome a challenge like the rest of us. He was thrown into a world for which he was totally unprepared, full of booze, drugs, women and God knows what else. It's a world that I don't pretend to understand, and honestly have no desire to.

But, it's all he has left.

Because of that I blew it on projecting his career and life goes on no poorer. So did many others. To be fair, many got it right.

Out of all of this the sad thing is there are going to be no repercussions for the paid prognosticators that got it wrong. They won't have to admit blame and, if they're also idiots like Skip Bayless, they can throw their incorrect analysis down the memory hole and pile on shamelessly.

Such is life in the consequence-free land of sports media.  Be as wrong as you like, no one will remember.

All I can say is this:  I HOPE that I remember, when analyzing prospects, that character matters, a lot. That's why I'm still luke-warm on the future prospects of Laremy Tunsil and others.

Is that fair?  I don't know. But since we have no perfect crystal ball it's all we have to go on.

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