Mile High Comedown

After writing a post earlier this year on the abject mistake West Fuckin’ Virginia University made when it decided to hire Bill Stewart to replace Rich Rodriguez and engage in the war of words regarding both men like a jilted lover who was drunk dialing the ex every damn night, I got a couple of pleasant e-mails from two or three WVU devotees who professed the smart hire of having someone who was truly all about West Virginia run the program, and it wouldn’t skip a beat.

So, after losing in OT to Dan Hawkins and his MAJESTIC BUFFALOES (TM Snarkastic) in Boulder, I have only this: TOLD. YOU. SO.

There is still a possibility that the Mountaineers can win the Big East and sneak their way back into a BCS bowl game, but after watching South Florida beat Kansas, that looks less likely to me. We’re talking about a team with only 43 passing yards, who should never have been down 14-0 to Colorado at any point. Yes, the Buffaloes are better than we all think or had a right to expect, but by talent on the field alone, WVU should have been out in front in this game.

The defense did stiffen and get better in the second half, but then the offense sputtered after tying it up, racking up needless penalties (discipline problem, absolutely on the coach) and rotated in a series of bad plays calls (a 3rd and short with Noel Devine on the bench, the comically underthrown ball on that lateral pass in the 4th), and it became somewhat obvious that if this game got to overtime, WVU wouldn’t be able to suck out a win.

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The Shakedown: Six Days ‘Til Kickoff

Come next Saturday, I’ll be planted in front of the TV for every Saturday afterwards as giant dudes bash heads for school pride (or something like that.) Better take a look at who’s competing for the chip this year, and who’s got the best shot. (Note: this is how I’ve arranged the top 10, I know Georgia’s #1 going in, folks.)

(Rey Maualuga is coming for you, puny quarterbacks.)

1. USC – This isn’t pure SoCal homerism. I think the Trojans get the better of the Buckeyes and the Pac-10 isn’t a whole lot outside of Arizona State this year. If Mark Sanchez (or Mitch Mustain) can be anything resembling good and there is a wide receiver that stands out, they have the easiest path to get to the MNC game. The defense will be nasty, but the offense needs a star to pop out — whether that’s Joe McKnight, Vidal Hazelton, Damian Williams, somebody needs to be a go-to-guy. Of course, you can win big-time with team effort, and the fact that the Pac-10 looks to be in a bad swoon (Arizona State is the only other program that has any upside to look at this year) means a nice, laid-out path to the BCS game. Of course, we wrote all this last year before Stanford.

2. Ohio State – If there is any sort of karmic justice in the sport, OSU will find a way to nab a 2nd loss after losing to USC, thus promptly knocking them out of title contention. However, it took a miracle from Illinois to do it and they still have the best talent in the Big 10, by a long shot.  Their odds of making it back to the BCS title game really do depend on how much the defense can make up for losing Vernon Gholston to Sundays and whether Todd Boeckman will be consistent enough in throwing to the two Brians at wide receiver. If not, the Sweater Vest may bring in Terrelle Pryor earlier than he’d like to.

3. Georgia – The Dawgs’ in-conference schedule will eat them up. Probably won’t have more than one loss, but I don’t think they make it unscathed. They could live up to this pre-season #1 ranking they have if Matthew Stafford can up his completion percentage and Knowshon Moreno continues the form that had everyone drooling last year. Probably second best defense in conference to LSU.

4. Oklahoma – Bob Stoops has a real good chance to go undefeated in the Big 12 — but that defense allows way too much on the ground. The Sooners have laid eggs in their last few bowl games, but bring Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray back for what was a good, solid offensive attack last season. That said, there are few coaches I loathe more than Stoops — he’s whiny and petulant, an SEC coach without a bit of the inherent humor that comes with coaching in that conference.  He should be fortunate that OSU has lost two straight BCS championship games — otherwise, someone would notice he’s 0 for his last 4 BCS bowl games in the past four years.

5. Mizzou – If the Tigers’ vaunted defensive haul is true, then Chase Daniel and Co. stand a real good shot at taking out Oklahoma come Big 12 Championship Game time — and even though teams will probably double team Jeremy Maclin all season, it will only make Daniel and the spread attack in Columbia that much more dangerous. The thought that Gary Pinkel has a bunch of defensive starters returning and is confident that this team will keep others out of the end zone could make them a dark horse favorite if the tops falter.

6. LSU – Fear the Hat, but Les Miles has a quarterback deficiency. If Ryan Perrilloux hadn’t been such a dunce cap, this team likely would have been #2 pre-season with their loaded status at all the skill positions on offense and a robust defense returning, even with Glenn Dorsey moving on to play on Sundays. As is, they’re a favorite for the SEC West crown and a chance to knock off UGA.

7. Florida – The Gators are here until the team proves it has a secondary, essentially. I don’t care how much Tim Tebow you throw at opponents — there are teams they won’t be able to keep out of the end zone and there are defenses (the U, LSU, Georgia) that will pound Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Emmanuel Moody around.

8. Texas Tech – Mike Leach’s Pirate Academy could put a very real scare into OU, Texas and any of the Big 12 South’s regular powers. I don’t expect them to make a championship game yet — but the defense will be a load better and Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree are back. If nothing else, Leach’s teams are nothing short of fun to watch — and hopefully Fox Sports will do a lot of regional games with them.

9. Clemson – In a very, very weak ACC (Virgina Tech is offensively depleted; Boston College is trying to replace Matt Ryan), Tommy Bowden is running out of excuses. He has Cullen Harper, a backfield tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller (plus a freshman back by the name of Jamie Harper hoping to get PT), and he’s fallen short the past few years. An ACC title has to be his or he may not be back.

10. West Virginia – The Mountaineers go as far as Pat White’s legs and arm will take them, and as long as Bill Stewart will stay out of the way as head coach. (This was still an epic hiring error.) They certainly won’t be in a position to make the BCS game — not that the conference is great, but when USF has your number, no division is yours.

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Ill-Advised Sweet 16 Predictions

Just the usual quick and dirty here. My Final Four is still intact, but I can’t say that I think it will be after the next two days.

East Regional:

  • UNC over Wazzu — this’ll be a slog of a game, I think, because this is the best defensive team the Heels will see unless they play UCLA in the final. UNC has enough talent to get by the Cougars, but they won’t be scoring 100 this time.
  • Tennessee beats Louisville — the Cardinals are streaking right now and the Vols look vulnerable. My pick of Tennessee is pure sticking with my bracket; it could go either way.

West Regional:

  • UCLA tops Western Kentucky — Nice run, Hilltoppers, but UCLA gets calls and plays defense too well. The Bruins can overcome a bad start.
  • Xavier over West Virginia — Like L’Ville/Tenn, this is a bracket pick that I’m sticking with because I think this will be a close game and don’t really know how it will go. I think Xavier’s defense will be the defining factor.

Midwest Regional:

  • Kansas over Villanova — Jayhawks, although it will not be a walkover and Villanova will give them a very good game.
  • Wisconsin ends Davidson’s run — On a Sweet 16 bracket, I picked Davidson for fun, but really, Bo Ryan’s defense seems to smother all and I don’t see another upset for the Wildcats here.

South Regional:

  • Michigan State upsets Memphis — Watch. The Tigers will kill themselves with bad free throw shooting and being forced to take jumpers that don’t fall.
  • Stanford beats Texas — Guard play is a big thing in the NCAA tournament, but having the Lopez twins to get points and clean up the boards will be crucial in a close Stanford win.

Photo: AP/Ted S. Warren

So, We’ve Got 16 Left

What did I screw up? Plenty, but all my Final Four choices are still in.  Let’s look at the less than obvious choices. UNC was expected to be at this level and are playing lights-out ball right now.  That’s about as simple as it gets. Tennessee and Memphis are serious liabilities at the free throw line, UCLA scared the crap out of just about everyone who’d picked them to win it all.  Kansas made short work of its first two opponents.

I should know better after watching the Pac-10 all year to have dismissed Washington State so easily. That’s a bad oversight, because I forgot that they played lockdown defense. Do I think they will beat UNC? Probably not, but it’s more validation for Tony Bennett.

Michigan State looked really inconsistent all year and then reels off two solid games to get back to the 16 — beating a Pitt team that was a very popular choice to go to the Final Four in the East. Now they get Memphis, and this is the round where no one will be surprised if Memphis loses to any of hte teams left.

I knew nothing about Western Kentucky going into the tournament. I guess I better know now.  I don’t have the same excuse for Davidson — I knew Stephen Curry was good, but 70 points in two games good? That I wasn’t aware of.

Wisconsin is consistent. They play Bo Ryan’s style and do it well enough to get back to the 16 even though they were a popular upset target.

Xavier worries me, they’ve had to make comebacks, and they’re going against a West Virginia team that’s overachieving in ways no one expected this year (this is one of the only feathers in my cap that I get to claim, predicting that WVU would beat Duke in that exact game.)

Texas has great players, but they’re just as likely to shoot poorly at the line as Memphis and Tennessee — and they have to play Stanford, who shoots well from the line, has better inside presence. Rick Barnes better hope Trent Johnson gets pissed off for no reason again.

Villanova, I completely passed on, and forgot that Jay Wright had gotten Wildcat teams to the Sweet 16 twice, now three times in four years as head coach. Oh well. Beating Siena wasn’t the hardest road into the 16, but who expected Villanova to be here right now?

Photo: AP/Chuck Burton

Above The Rim: Down and Dirty

NBA first, college ball after the jump.

I would be mildly surprised after watching the highlights of Utah’s win over Dallas if Dirk Nowitzki isn’t suspended for the flagrant foul on Andrei Kirilenko. It looked bad on tape, never mind what it was like during the game itself.  What really screwed the Mavs over is that not only were they unable to score for several stretches, but one Utah bench player, Kyle Korver, outscored Dallas’ bench.

The Hornets have made it official: the Knicks have now suffered seven straight losing seasons, punctuating it by allowing a 10-0 run by the Hornets to close it out. Chris Paul lead with 27.

The tiff between Mike Dunleavy and Donald Sterling unofficially torpedoed the Clippers, and now teams like the 76ers are thrashing them so solidly that any reminder that the other team in Staples made the playoffs two years ago are becoming very, very distant.  Eight of the team’s last 11 losses have been by double digits — in fact, this is the second time that Philly has handed them a 20+ point whooping in the past month.

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Drunk Dialing The Ex To Talk About Your Latest Hook-Up.

Scene: The new head coach of the University of Michigan’s football team is moving into his new palatial estate in Ann Arbor. All utilities are in, some furniture still needs to be moved around. Rich Rodriguez parks, walks in, and sees the blinking red light on the phone for a voice mail.)

Rod: Hmmm. Wonder if that’s Rita asking for more cash for hairspray, but she’d have my cell anyway…(punches voice mail code, puts it on speaker.) What the fuck’s this shit?

(The voice mail message is a mess of assorted moaning, screaming, grunting, and the sound of wood, leather, and other upholstery crackling.)

Rod: That sounds like Ed and Mike.
Ed Pastilong, WVU AD: Hello there, you traitorous fuck. Too bad you’re not home; we just wanted to call, see how the move went, and wonder where our money is.
Mike Garrison, WVU Prez: And we found someone new. Someone who appreciates us for what we are, and is actually happy to be here — never mind a BCS game winner. So we’re celebrating without your lame ass, dipshit! Hope your no-account trash wife has all the tanners and peroxide she can’t live without!!! Why don’t you introduce yourself to the asshole, Billy?
Bill Stewart, new WVU coach: (grunts, moans) Wha?
Garrison: We got Rodriguez’s voice mail. Tell him about us.
Stewart: Really? Oh. Ahem…Rich, you gotta understand, it was nothing personal, but you just left them feeling so alone, left ’em all in the dust like that…hell, left me…

Rod: Like I’d drag that backwards-ass fucker to Ann Arbor….he wouldn’t know what to do with himself….

Stewart: Anyway, I just wanted to say, I hope we’re still friends, even though I won with the kids you couldn’t and got to move into the house you built. Promise I’ll take real good care of it for you, y’know?
Pastilong: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, BILL? Rich, your ass is as good as dead to us. It doesn’t matter if he can’t recruit, it doesn’t matter if there were others talking like they wanted our job, he’s perfect. It doesn’t even matter if you pay the buyout…
Garrison: Um…yes, yes it does..
Pastilong: Oh right….well, fuck it, we still want that $4 million back, but you aren’t ever gonna hurt us again, because this fella, well, he’s West Virginia through and through…and…
Garrison: Ed, Governor Manchin says he’s coming over. Should he bring anything?
Pastilong: More booze and extra lube! We’ve still got a party to finish, and guess who’s not invited, Rich? YOU! Now, you, Coach Boy, what the fuck’s your name again….
Stewart: Bill Stewart, Ed…(sighs.)
Pastilong: Bill. Right, just keep telling me how you’ll never leave us, ever…

*BEEP*

Rod: (Stunned silence.)

…Godspeed. Hmmm…call the phone company and make sure this number isn’t fucking listed.

Photo: AP/Matt York

There Isn’t A Couch Left In Morgantown Today.

(Video of Matt Vasgersian calling West Fuckin’ Virginia FB Owen Schmitt a runaway beer truck courtesy of Awful Announcing. Matty V also noticed the whole Dingle-Berry joke that the Mottrams brought to us a while back.)

West Fuckin’ Virginia 48, Oklahoma 28Damn, what the fuck was that we were talking about how OU was gonna destroy the Big East team, rudderless and without the offensive genius that brought them this far?  That highlight above from Schmitt was the longest run in Fiesta Bowl history (57 yards) until fellow rusher Noel Devine ran so fast that you might want to describe SEC players as having WVU speed for a 65-yard score in the fourth quarter.  It was 20-6 at the half when OU started to make a comeback — scoring via Chris Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run, but then Bob Stoops made the errors that have cost him four straight BCS bowl games — calling an unsuccessful two point conversion and then on-side kicking it way before it was necessary.  The scary thing: most of those WVU players will be back next year: Pat White and his dual-threat rushing-receiving yardage, Noel Devine will be, and it sounds like Steve Slaton will stick around. Maybe Morgantown will have better days without its favorite son coach, although having the offensive coordinator going with him to Ann Arbor might make a dent. Let’s just say that this makes yet another year that Oklahoma was expected to dominate a bowl game, and came up short.