Blood, Thorns, Credit, Cheap Steaks, And Rotten Fruit

Harry How/Getty Images)

Win forever, boys, and always be jacked while doing so. (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

Southern Cal 38, Penn State 24 – Gee, you wonder what USC could actually do if they went balls to the wall for a full 60 minutes every game. After 31 points in the first half, I’m betting Steve Sarkisian checked out mentally and started making calls on U-Dub’s behalf.  Never mind the result or final score, along with the Nittany Lions’ 17 fourth-quarter points: this was another blowout and a wish that the Trojans would either make good on their BCS game chasing again so we don’t have to go through this again (and I LIKE this Penn State team; that’s what made this game so damn frustrating, I thought SC would get a stiff challenge.) If Mark Sanchez actually decided to leave for the NFL on top of 4 TDs and 413 yards passing (along with a rushing TD), no one would blame him. Damian Williams is staying, him and his 10 catches for 162 yards. This is the kind of destruction that frustrates me as an SC fan for several reasons:

  • it gets the big heads slurping cardinal and gold jock again about an MNC when the Trojans had no business being there.
  • this fuels resentment from every other fan base out there, who asks why the fuck we lost to Oregon State (and they have a point)
  • we repeat the same cycle next year when the team comes out lackadaisical for a quarter or two

Whatever. I’ll take a Rose Bowl win and hope that we can keep it together enough next season to play a Big XII or SEC team in the BCS next year, either as an at large or in the championship game.

Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7 – Will no one rid me of these meddlesome Hokies? God help the ACC if Beamer ever gets a consistent offense to go with his ballhawks on defense (they may be the Ravens of college football, everyone knows how they’re going to win and yet they still do it anyhow.)  They made a mockery of Cincy QB Tony Pike, who managed to look like the fifth-or-sixth string QB that he is, with coach Brian Kelly yelling at him about the read he’d fucked up after each of the four interceptions he threw.

Georgia 24, Michigan State 12 – Matthew “Fetus Boy” Stafford was two-faced in this game, or at least two-halved: looking like absolute crap with a 6-for-14 and a pick in a fairly dull first half, which reminded SEC viewers of the squandered potential that UGA had throughout the season thanks mostly to injuries that had decimated both their offensive and defensive lines. However, this is a Michigan State team utterly dependent on Javon Ringer (how Brian Hoyer became a starting D-IA QB sometimes, we’ll never know), and Stafford was able to turn it on in the last 20 minutes of the game, getting streaky with three TD passes and ending up with 246 yards passing on what’s probably his last collegiate game (although he could use another year, honestly.)

Iowa 31, South Carolina 10 – Anyone too shocked that Shonn Greene will make a very nice gift for a Top 10 team looking for a big running back willing to get the tough yards and move the chains? 121 yards and 2 TDs sealed his college career in Tampa, as he spent the afternoon stepping on the dicks of a Cocks’ team that was already hamstrung by the Ol’ Ball Coach’s Quarterback Follies — starting Stephen Garcia and his 3-pcik throwing self in the first half, and going back to the solid and utterly unspectacular Chris Smelley in the 2nd after the game was pretty much out of hand, given the Cocks’ offensive troubles, at 21-0.

Nebraska 26, Clemson 21 – There’s something to be said for coming back from a halftime deficit with a 20-point third quarter and holding off another comeback attempt by the Tigers via sacking Cullen Harper a ton and tipping some passes. I guess if you’re Nebraska and you’d lost your last nine bowl appearances, you take this sucker as a way to build on bigger and better things next year — maybe with another good season for Joe Ganz and a real return to the suffocating defense that was their trademark under Tom Osborne (along with the option). Bo Pelini’s off to a nice start in his first season. Let’s see where he goes from here.

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Ill-Advised New Year’s Day Bowl Predictions

marksanchezSo, so very fucking pissed at the programmers for this shit schedule of games. Jesus, the Rose Bowl’s the only game I want to watch, but lucky me, the Orange Bowl is the only one that starts after I leave work.

Outback Bowl: Iowa has a bulldozer in Shonn Greene and a workable defense that’s somehow managed to keep Kirk Ferentz employed (does he have pictures of the school’s president pulling a Catherine the Great or something? Jesus), and South Carolina is suffering from a severe case of ED on the offensive end (yes, wait for it and then yell at me.)  Defensively, they’ve seen backs as good as Greene before and not had much on them. Be taking the Hawkeyes here, even if keeps that asshole employed. 17-7, Iowa.

Gator Bowl: Two semi-useless rebuilding projects scrounged up good enough records to get invited here, and Bo Pelini’s Nebraska team doesn’t have the intensity on offensive he would like yet, while Clemson under Dabo Swinney appears to be finding its footing regarding what it would actually care to do on offense at times (memo: just keep running it behind C.J. Spiller and James Davis; the rest will work itself out.) The aggressive mediocrity of the Big XII North is probably a bit better than that of the ACC.  Nebraska by a touchdown.

Capital One Bowl: How the hell did this get to be a New Year’s Day game? Anyway, it runs up an SEC team (Georgia) and a Big 10 team (Michigan State), both equally flawed in various ways. Georgia’s flaws involve injuries to both lines, which derailed MNC aspirations. Michigan State’s are a bit more jarring: a rather mediocre QB in Brian Hoyer, resulting in a necessary leaning on Javon Ringer. Eight in the box for UGA all day as they push the Spartans into the pit, 34-10.

Rose Bowl: At least we’re getting somewhere now. I will reference my own defensive preview at Conquest Chronicles here, and re-assert that this will be a very close, defensively oriented game. However, Penn State has a weakness with pass defense and its safeties, while USC can be had with running game trickery and proper blocking. Southern Cal, 20-13, on two passing TDs by Mark Sanchez and a couple FGs.

Orange Bowl: Honestly, I know little about how Virginia Tech has managed to work its way to the top of the ACC again and even less about how Brian Kelly got Cincinnati to the top of the Big East heap despite having to go through six QBs to do it. Cincinnati, just for fun.

Rushing The Field: Another SEC Barnburner

Seriously, if we’re gonna go through this every week with SEC teams in the night game on ESPN, it’s gonna be a real long, nail-biting season.  LSU pulled out the victory in the Tiger Bowl against Auburn thanks to a late touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee, who was subbing after Andrew Hatch got concussed, to Brandon LaFell to end a game largely characterized by the hard hits on both sides along with fits and starts on offense that have to infuriate Auburn fans. I mean, just watching the passing on Tony Franklin’s offense look spectacular one minute and awful the next has to drive the Auburn faithful nuts rights now.  So much more of the game was about the heavy hitters on defense, and the eight guys LSU rotated in and out on the D-line came through and pounded Chris Todd in the end to secure the win.  Les Miles would also like to remind you about the size of his play-calling balls.

When UGA’s Rennie Curran took Rudy Carpenter’s helmet with him on a sack in the first half of Georgia’s visit to Tempe to face Arizona State, I knew this game was going to be in favor of the Dawgs, and ugly in the second half. Matthew Stafford now has a new target in A.J. Green, who caught for more than 150 yards last night and a score on top of two more touchodwns from the reliable Knowshon Moreno.  Carpenter now has a fifth off-brand orifice thanks to an offensive line that can’t protect him; at least two of them were provided by USC’s Rey Maualuga.

The Tennessee Volunteers just flat out gave up when Florida came to town. The final score does say that the Vols got on the scoreboard, but really, when you’re down 27-0 in the third quarter, do any points after that count?  It wasn’t exactly a spectacular game for Tim Tebow, and that offense still looks a little too dependent upon him and Percy Harvin, but the Vols defense had very few counters and the Vols on offense — well, this is a team with two studs at RB in Arian Foster and Monterio Hardesty whom they can’t open holes for and get the ball to. Jonathan Crompton is still being asked to do way too much.  In joining Steve Spurrier as the second Florida coach to beat Tennessee and Phil Fulmer four times in a row, Urban Meyer would be perfectly within his rights to snark, “You can’t spell Outback without UT.”

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Rushing The Field: That Was Supposed To Be Competitive, Right?

Honest question: is 35-3 a bad enough beating for Ohio State that we can no longer consider them candidates for the BCS championship game? After watching USC’s offensive pick apart the secondary and the Trojans’ front seven on defense get after Todd Boeckman early and often, it seems that Jim Tressel’s ethic and mentality in Columbus may need just as much of a change as Lloyd Carr’s did in Michigan. That wound up with Carr leaving and Rich Rodriguez replacing him, but I am not suggesting such a drastic step.  What it may require is Tressel stretching out his recruiting area — because he can get every athlete in the Midwest and many in the Atlantic part of Big 10 territory that he likes, but he isn’t attracting players that can be difference makers in out-of-conference games.  I don’t think Beanie Wells would have made a lick of difference, either, and you know what? I don’t like the Buckeyes much when they have to play Penn State are their spread offense later this year, either.

They may not be able to get by Wisconsin, who grind out wins. For every play that Fresno State made against the Badgers in the San Joaquin Valley, the Badgers had answers and their defense was able to keep Tom Brandstater in check.

The dirty little secret about USC? They have the easiest path to the MNC game because the Pac-10, usually good for 2nd in conference strength behind the SEC these days, is in a down cycle. USC was one of only two Pac-10 teams that won an out-of-conference game convincingly, and I would rather not count Oregon State-Hawai’i as any sort of meaningful OOC game. Oregon lost another QB and snuck by Purdue in OT, to be fair.

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Rushing The Field, Week 1: Atlantic Coast Collapse

It wasn’t a good opening weekend if you happen to be a general ACC backer, unless your team happened to be chomping on some early dessert in I-AA or low I-A cupcake form (Miami, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Boston College.)

Clemson was more than happy to let Alabama drive a heart right through any attempt to do anything more than maybe win an ACC championship, and they still look ready to underachieve for the rest of their schedule. I know we are dealing with SEC vs. ACC, but not being able to protect Cullen Harper for shit and being so poor that James Davis and C.J. Spiller only got 20 yards from scrimmage combined is much, much more of a problem that any prognosticator had anticipated. (Most had flagged the Tigers’ O-line as a problem long ago.)  As for Nick Saban and his charges, I don’t know what to make of them yet since ABC decided Michigan State-Cal was what I wanted to see (not so much) and thus did not see the telecast — and there’s not much to go on until the Tide hits its SEC schedule.

It seems fitting that Frank Beamer is hoisted by his own petard, so to speak — on a late blocked punt by Skip Holtz’s East Carolina squad and what looks like an even poorer decision to redshirt Tyrod Taylor in favor of Sean Glennon, who may well be remembered as the white Reggie Ball. If you have a Virginia Tech squad with absolutely no returning skill players outside of the quarterbacks, why redshirt the QB with the potential to use his feet to make plays if the pocket breaks down? Then again, considering the state of the ACC, this was less of an upset than every analyst was claiming.

As for the rest of it? Maryland and UNC barely beat I-AA teams, Boston College won the weakest shutout known, N.C. State was picked apart by the Ol’ Ball Coach’s Cocks, and the aforementioned Wake and Duke were the only teams to eat their cupcakes in record time.

Virginia got absolutely destroyed by USC. Mark Sanchez is, for now, everything Pete Carroll and Steve Sarkisian were waxing on about and if the Tailback Factory can rotate effectively and take advantage of the skills of Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable, and Joe McKnight like that, be very afraid. I do question the cornerbacks: it’s USC’s style to play aggressive with the other team’s wideouts, but they were doing things that were bound to get flag-happy refs to toss the yellow.

Michigan looks bad — very bad. Utah nearly gave that game away at the Big House, but the Wolverines don’t have the playmakers or enough familiarity with Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense to be able to take enough advantage of the late errors by the Utes. Eventually, Brian Johnson and the Utes offense will click enough to make a run at crashing the BCS party (if it ain’t them, it’s their hated rivals at BYU) — but it’s all about who will step up in what will be Michigan’s obvious absence from the top ranks of the Big Televen for the next year.

It could be Illinois, but the Illini are off to rough start after losing to Missouri (by much less than I’d expected.)  Gary Pinkel was losing defensive players of his (supposedly) much improved squad during the game, but that seems irrelevant as Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, and Chase Coffman appear to be enough in and of themselves to outscore teams in shootouts.  That said, watching Juice Williams improve on the field (26-42, 451 passing yards, five TDs) and lead second half rallies, I’m thinking he’s in the process of turning himself into a very, very good quarterback.

Dave Wannstedt keeps renewing his status as the symbol of profound mediocrity since the early 1990s.  Pre-season assessments had Pitt RB LeSean McCoy as the star to fthe offense, but when he struggled, the Wannstache decided it would be best to throw 51 times and not even pretend to have a running game. Eventually’s Pitt’s athletic department will tire of this — how long it will take, we don’t know, but being upset by Bowling Green as a result of that hard-headedness will add some fuel to the fire.

Above The Rim: Ice Cold.

For whatever reason, the hoops review here has been NBA-centric, but now I’m adding college hoops to it. Hopefully this will get it close to daily.

Spurs 90, Heat 89 – This was a title-winning team two years ago in Miami, now they get absolutely no breaks and have now lost 15 in a row. They haven’t won since December 22nd. Karmic payback for Riles easing Stan Van Jeremy to the side a couple years back? You never know, but this hodge-podge has nothing except Dwyane Wade, and if anyone comes calling with the tired line that Shaq still makes a difference (he’s out and hurt, of course), it’d be nice if that analyst just went out back and flailed himself.

Warriors 121, Nets 119 – Hack-a-Cliche on the AP writer who came up with “Hack-a-Boone” in the write-up of this game for the fouling strategy of sending Nets F Josh Boone to shoot free throws (he made half, an improvement.)  Monta Ellis went absolutely nuts — 39 points in 41 minutes, 13-of-14 from the line; Baron Davis had his eighth career triple-double (25 points, 12 boards, 10 assists). Vince Carter had 29, Boone had 21 for the Nets.

Bucks 104, Pacers 92 – All about Michael Redd and his 37, going off in the first three quarters of this one — the Bucks had a 21-7 run during the third quarter, opening up the lead for the win against a Jermaine O’Neal-less Indiana team.

UCLA 80, Oregon 75 – All you need is Love, and some clutch second half work. Oregon was up by seven in the 2nd half and the Bruins mounted the comeback, taking the lead with less than two minutes to go and icing it with a pair of Darren Collison free throws. Kevin Love had 26 and 18 boards, Collison had 22, Malik Hairston had 18 for the Ducks.

Arizona 76, Wazzu 74 – The Cougs are hitting the skids a little quick in the Pac-10 schedule right now, getting beat up by the Wildcats’ bombing from the three-point line (12-of-21 last night.)

USC 68, Oregon State 44 – 19 for O.J. Mayo, 18 for Davon Jefferson, and USC is working its way back to .500 in conference play while Oregon State looks to be this year’s doormat.

Duke 81, Virginia Tech 64 – It’s so much easier to hate on the Blue Devils when they’re good (or at least it’s more fun and less trendy).  Kyle Singler led Coach K’s crew with 16 in a very, very chippy game — and Deron Washington apparently likes to cheap shot himself some Blue Devils (hat tips to D-Wil for the video clips below.)

Washington did it to Lee Melchioni a couple years back, too:

Photo: AP/Alan Diaz