Thursday, December 31, 2009

Texas Tech is the real loser here

Disclaimer: Texas Tech could shut down football operations tomorrow and I wouldn't care. I'm neither pro- or anti-Tech in any way.

So Mike Leach is out fired (in part) due to his own ego and the wishes of some very influential check scratchers in Lubbock. As is the case in any story of this type, those that know nothing about the situation are busy making moral judgements while other (more level headed?) writers note that, in today's world, it's the perception of what's been done that matters more than what was actually done.

Oh, and there's the whole matter of being liked by your boss which, obviously Leach wasn't. the fans loved Leach however, which is why the only loser here is going to be Texas Tech. In a big way. After all is said and done people aren't going to remember Craig James, they aren't going to remember Adam James, and they aren't going to remember Gerald Meyers. What's going to stick in the public's memory are two things:

1. Mike Leach put a kid suffering from a concussion into a shed.
2. Tech fans then piled on the kid with pretty much every negative term imaginable.

To Tech fans, they're just protecting their own, the psuedo-pirate captain who's guided their program to the cusp of national prominence, who beat UT-Austin on national television and recieved all of the media attention. As a Michigan fan (Bo Schembechler) I understand a healthy dose of hero worship. What I don't understand is tearing a kid up publically in a no-win situation. With that thought in mind I offer up, free of charge, the following tips to Red Raider fans going forward:

Keep the talk Centered on "Tech Administration vs. Mike Leach" - Don't drag all of this other stuff into it. Calling a kid a wuss or a sissy (or worse) because he was diagnosed with a concussion just isn't cool. I realize that the sports mantra from those who never played sports is to die for your team, but in the real world these young men have bright futures ahead of them. This is football, not war. (Oddly enough some people want more sacrifice on the football field for the ol' Alma Mater than they're willing to give up for their Country) Don't be that school Tech.

Stick to the facts - Nothing makes you look worse than when you say "Craig James has now killed two football programs". It's one thing to be mad at a guy, it's another to invent facts to try and make your argument. The FACT is there was nothing personally attributed to Craig James that led to the downfall of SMU. Yes, he was there at the time and yes, there's the whole "well, everyone did it" angle but, when you're trying to build a fact based argument, it's best to stick to facts and not heresay.

Don't make light of injuries - Nothing says "I've never played competitive sports in my life" quite like slighting someone for being injured. I've had a couple of concussions, they suck. You cracking on Adam James just makes you look like an idiot.

Remember, even though Leach is gone, you're still a Tech alum - I saw a lot of this during the Art Briles/UH days. UH fans showing more loyalty to Briles than UH, siding with the Briles/Stephensville fanatics who ripped apart every UH fan who dared question the great one. Now that Briles has been revealed, the Stephensville folks are gone, and UH Nation is left with a lot of hurt feelings. When all of this blows over, Leach will be gone but your Alma Mater will still be there. Never forget that.

Hope is fleeting Longhorn fan.

OK, so Nebraska dominated Arizona last night in the Holiday Bowl. The score was 33-0 but it wasn't that close. If Bo Pellini had wanted to he really could have piled it on Mike Stoop's boys, "Bear Down" motto or no.

Because of this domination some Longhorn fans are starting to take hope that, in spite of it all, their team might not be the sacrificial lambs many are casting them as against Alabama. That could be. Personally, I don't think Texas has much of a chance but then, I thought USC would handle them in 2005 so what do I know? I just want a good game since all of this is relatively meaningless anyway. (And will remain meaningless until D-1 College football joins the rest of the civilized sports world and conducts a proper playoff.)

All that being said I'd be a little leery, were I pulling for UT-Austin, of getting my dander up over a Big xII pummelling of a PAC-10 team. After all, this is the same conference that's 2-3 for the bowl season with wins over a depleted Boston College team and....Temple. For every encouraging sign however, there's a downer. Georgia's 44-20 shellacking of aTm should remind you that the SEC is a different level of football than is whatever it is they're doing on the West Coast. In the SEC they play defense, let's not forget that.

To date I've seen nothing to convince me that Alabama isn't the better team going into the B(C)S Championship game against the Longhorns. Like any team however they bring with them some questions. The biggest is whether or not their Freshman QB is going to hold up under the media scrutiny that's sure to come after this weekend. One thing he already has going for him is that he's stood up under the glare of St. Tebow, and after beating God's second son what else is there to prove?

Today is a good day for the respective "big" conferences to get an idea where they stand against one another. Oklahoma/Stanford, Minnesota/Iowa State & Va Tech/Tennessee should all be fairly competative games. Like most bowl seasons, today is the day that things really ramp up and the games get interesting. Up until now however I wouldn't read much into what we've seen. We really won't know anything until game-time, and by then it will be too late to make any predictions.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sports Shorts (12/29/09)

"To the Shed with you!" - A possible quote from pseudo Pirate Captain Mike Leach

Why don't we just put Craig James and Mike Leach in a cage and let them duke it out? This would be far more fun than listening to Houston sports radio where Aggies are piling on (Uh-huh, because the Corps have NEVER hazed anyone) and Tech fans conjuring up conspiracy theories involving Sonny Dykes and Gerald Meyers drinking iced tea in the back of a pick-up truck gazing thoughtfully into each others eyes. You'd think, by now, Tech would be used to a certain amount of idiocy from Mike Leach. After all the guy's possibly the most anti-social man in college football. He's also the best coach Tech has employed since well....ever.

Ouch Georgia 44 aTm 20 In a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated aTm fans learned just how far their program had fallen under the recruiting prowess of Coach Fran. I'm sure there are a LOT of angry Aggies out there this morning but consider this: Your team is young, has some good front-line talent, and one of the better young quarterbacks in College Football. When you add the youth factor to an SEC defense however the final result was inevitable. (Remember Arkansas?) So far this season, with the exception of OSU, the Big xII hasn't held up well against superior athletes and defensive schemes frequently seen in the SEC. Don't feel bad aTm, the future is looking a LOT brighter than the immediate past.

If Case Keenum leaves, UH fans riot.

Thus endeth the error of McGrady. - The funniest thing about all of this are the sports-talk radio callers waxing angry about how McGrady was given the short-shrift. What? Here's an athlete who was given every chance to show up big in big games, take the team on his back and carry them to a championship. (or, at least, to win a playoff series) You can't doubt the wisdom of the trade at the time, judgement on a trade in hindsight is too easy, but to say McGrady wasn't given a fair shake with the Rockets is revisionist history. Good luck to him, but good riddance as well.

How far have NFL expectations fallen in Houston? We've gone from "kicking down the door" to "Gosh I hope the other team doesn't field their starters and that two of three other teams lose in games they shouldn't." I realize this is heresy in a World Class city like Houston, but I'm going to say it anyway: I miss the days when Houston didn't have an NFL team and we got the best games every week on TV.

I like Manny Pacquiao, I really do. His aversion to drug tests is ringing false to me however. Especially when you consider that he gave blood within two weeks of his fight with Ricky Hatton. I realize that most all of this is pre-fight hype, but hype over drug testing is not the type of hype you want to have.

Just a reminder: There are 45 days until NBC ruins the Winter Olympics by broadcasting nothing but people on ice in bad costumes. Seriously, is there anything more mind-numbingly boring than ice dancing? I can deal with ice skating, at least there's an element of risk there when some effeminate man goes for a quadruple axle and runs the risk of spearing one of the small kids whose job it is to pick up the flowers. Couples skating is OK as well. But Ice dancing? If NBC were really serious about upping ratings they'd show skeleton, and luge and bobsled. Not to mention more skiing. The thing that I like about the Winter Olympics is getting to see sports that we never see in Houston. Oh, and curling. I want to start a Houston Curling team in the worst way.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Your Houston Texans (Such as they are)

You know you're NFL team is not the powerhouse you envisioned it to be when the crux of the week's conversation is going to focus on the fact that next week's opponent has nothing to play for giving them a chance to secure the best season in franchise history.

What this means is that your team wouldn't be expected to beat said real powerhouse had they something to play for and weren't secretly doing what the best team in the conference did in an obvious manner against the Jets. (Who are now favored to win the playoff spot you covet FWIW) The taboo in the NFL is not throwing the game, it's looking for all the world that you're throwing the game. Those left out (The Texans) will have sports talkers and writers who will raise hell on the issue of the integrity of the playoff system etc. for the entiretly of the off-season. Fortunately for those of us who listen to sports talk radio, there are other choices. (Unfortunately none of them are really any good, but that's another post for another time.)

The important bit to take out of this is that, despite breathless proclamations to the contrary, this Texans team just isn't all that good. Yes, they have a shot at the "best record in franchise history" on Sunday, but that record is only 9-7, something teams such as New England, Indianapolis and (Yes) Dallas would consider a down year. That the Texans' pinnacle equals the trough for most playoff teams speaks volumes. Even in victory the Texans are uninspiring. As was the case Sunday, they have the ability to look like world-beaters for one half, and then coaching kicks in and they flounder around like fish out of water for the next.

How else do you explain a team going into halftime with a 27-3 lead only to watch it all but evaporate in the second half? It's coaching plain and simple. To be specific: bad coaching. Outside of sub-par talent in the defensive backfield bad coaching is the one thing the Texans have most. With all that being said, I think that 8-8 (or 9-7) is going to be more than enough to bring Kubiak & Co back for, at lest, one more year. Because of this, something has to be done to ensure these coaching mistakes aren't replicated in 2010, I'm not sure the City's psyche could take it.

My humble suggestion is this: Last night, during the Music City Bowl the cameras cut away to a kid sitting on the Clemson bench charting something. It turns out that he was coach Dabo Swinney's son. His job, easy enough, was to chart the number of times C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford touched the ball. If they fell behind a number that was part of a schedule, then the kid would go up and tap good ol' dad on the leg as a reminder to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers. This is a brilliant idea. One that the Texans should copy, and improve on.

It's often said that, in the NFL, things are taken to "a higher level" versus the College game. The athletes are bigger, stronger, faster, and the coaching expertise is superior. Because of all that I don't think that a simple tug on the trousers is a strong enough reminder. What needs to happen is that Kubiak's son be given a wiffle-ball bat and instructions to 'swing away' should Andre Johnson not see the ball say...three times per quarter. On the defensive side of the ball the Texans could raise revenue by offering one fan ticket per week to fill the role of 'gentle reminder'. If, should he return to the team, Dunta Robinson is allowed to single-cover the oppositions best receiver more than two times per game, then the fan gets to walk over to Rick Smith and put the 8-ball in the corner pocket so-to-speak.

Since none of this is likely to happen any time soon, I'm tempted to go out on a limb and predict 8-8 or 9-7 AGAIN next year. That's the current ceiling for this NFL franchise.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sports Shorts (12/21/09)

It's beginning to feel a lot like Bowl Time......

All you need to know about Brett Favre:
When it goes bad for Tom Brady(notes), he takes the blame and defends his teammates’ talent, effort, performance. When it goes bad for Favre, he starts talking about secrets.

This was a good game. So far the bowl season has been...*meh*. Yes, I realize the Wyoming/Rutgers game was close, but is there a more boring team out there than Wyoming? (Extra bonus: Dwight Dasher took Vince Young out of the record books with 201 yards rusing. Longhorn bitch-fest soon to follow I'm sure.)

Note: A quality NFL team handles the St. Louis Rams. Any other questions?

Pre-game...Post-game. Give Solomon this: he's typically fairly consistent.

A meaningful finish? - Up until they lose to the Patriots and finish 8-8 (again) or lose this week to Miami to finish 7-9. Either way we'll be told to "trust" Kubiak by radio and sports personalities.

Why am I not torn up about the prospect of losing Kyle Shanahan? Is it because his play-calling is formulaic and overly simple? Is it because he tries too-oten to make the Texans' round-peg offense fit into a square-hole running game? Lance Z is spending too much time cavorting with the Borg instead of focusing on his day job. That being said I've noticed I'm turning my AM radio dial more to 610 these days as John and Lance become more and more un-listenable.

Who would have thought that John Lopez was the answer? (If we could just find a replacement for Vandermeer.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The REAL question about the Texans.

Yes Houston, YOUR Texans beat up on the hapless Seahawks, a team playing with a recycled coach, a middling quarterback who's never reached his potential, a defense that would be competitive in the FCS and a wide receiving corps anchored by a receiver with a catchy last name who played 2nd fiddle to OchoCinco. Before we jump off the cliff of irrational exuberance, let's take a seconds pause to ask a question:
How can a 6-7 team win a game 34-7?
If you answered "The team has under-achieved all year" give yourself a pat on the back.

You now know why this team is hurtling toward another 8-8 season with more excuses than actual results.

Let's not forget that, were the Seahawks a viable NFL concern this season, the Texans very well could have LOST yesterday's game. In the second half Seattle's boys were down in the red zone at least four times and came away with negative 10 points. (The Interception return for a touchdown and a Kris Brown field goal) Take away those 10, and assume the Seahawks can put the ball in the two of four times and kick a field-goal on their other two trips and you have a 27-24 Seahawks win.

I realize this is a "what if" and the "what if" didn't happen. The Texans won the game and all is supposed to be well in Texans land. We're hearing today about how "dominant" this team can be and about how they should have done this all year long.

That's all well and good but my point is that the Texans DID what they've done all year long, they played one good half and one bad half. The only difference in this game is that the Seahawks weren't good enough to make them pay for it.

I'll grant you this: There was a world of difference between the Seahawks at 5-7 and the Texans at 5-7, starting with talent. That both teams came in with the same record speaks volumes about the poor job Kubiak & staff have done preparing this team for games. Add to that poor personnel decisions,(Why the hell is Dunta Robinson starting?) bone-headed play calling (It took Shanahan until NOW to realize that throwing the ball deep & often to Andre Johnson was a good thing?) & lack of depth (which is why injuries seem to hurt the Texans worse than other teams) and you have the makings of the worst expansion franchise in NFL history.

Early in the year I was down on the defense talent-wise, but as the year has progressed I'm convinced that things are not all that bad. Yes, the team needs a quality defensive tackle, something that can be addressed in the draft by trading up (Use Amobi Akoye, and some other players as trade bait) for a high 1st round pick to grab Cody or another roadblock. The linebacking corps is playing, as a unit, as well as any unit in the NFL and the DB's (excepting Dunta Robinson) are starting to gel as a unit. Earlier in the year I thought the Texans would need to make a push for Taylor Mays or some other top end safety, but with Barber and Pollard they seem to have two safeties who could be above average compared to the league. Cornerback is still a problem, but Quinn & Reeves are playing better (which makes Robinson expendable....good bye). On the offensive side of the ball they seem set, given that Owen Daniels inks a deal and is on the roster next year.

Given all of the above there's only one variable that really needs to change. If you don't know what it is, see the answer to the above question.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Early Thoughts on the B(C)S Championship Game

In no particular order:

1. It's NOT the National Championship, I don't care what the marketers say. - Any true National Champion in any true sport is determined on the field, not by a bunch of old guys, most of whom never played the game, and a group of computers. Sorry folks, but that's the way it is.

2. This time last year....UT-Austin fans were busily bashing the B(C)S system as "indefensible". Suddenly they're defending the exact same system because...well...they came out on top this year.

3. There's no logical argument for UT to be in the B(C)S Championship Bowl over TCU. TCU has a better strength of schedule, the most impressive win (BYU), and is, statistically, a better team than UT-Austin this year. The ONLY reason UT-Austin is in the B(C)S Championship Game is because they were ranked higher to start the season, and they're in an automatic qualifying conference.

4. That being said, the system is the system TCU....And your Conference signed onto it. Like it or not you've been beaten by a system you bought into primarily for money. 'Dem's the breaks.

5. There was very little difference between the Big xII North and the Big East this year....Big xII fans won't want to hear it, but beating lucking into a win against Pitt is just as impressive as lucking into a win against Nebraska. I would argue that a win over West Virginia is more impressive than anything UT-Austin has on their 2009 resume.

6. We love us some conspiracy theories....And every year college football never fails to disappoint. This year it's the Big xII officials rigging the end of the championship game to tilt away from Nebraska. Fuel to the fire: Watch the countdown between 0:02 & 0:01. Gosh that's a long second. (whee!)

7. How impressive is that win over Oregon looking now? Yes, they had a weak overall schedule, but the win over Oregon by Boise St. is the best win by any team not named Alabama in the top 4. (Only the Tide's win over Florida was better.)

8. There's defense, and then there's SEC defense. No disrespect to Nebraska, who plays them some SEC defense at times, but Alabama's defense is scary good. Everything Nebraska did the Tide do better and faster.

9. Because of the way the system is set up these games are going to be excruciatingly boring....Ohio State v. Oregon? Iowa v. Georgia Tech? Somebody pull the plug and put this bowl season out of it's misery. The most compelling game is Florida vs. Cincinnati, but there's a chance Florida's D-Coordinator and Cinci's head coach won't be there for the game. Ah well, at least we still have TCU vs. Boise St. A game many are calling the REAL Championship game. ...and 1 anyone?

10. The Tide is going to roll by.....Three touchdowns, UNLESS UT-Austin gets their offensive head put on straight and decides to actually do something. The difference between the Tide and Nebraska is that 'Bama actually can play on the offensive side of the ball as well. Defensively 'Bama is better, Offensively they're better, and Nick Saban is a far superior game coach than Mack Brown. The ugly potential on this game is through the roof.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A halfback pass? Really?

Is that the mark of an offensive "guru"? Because out here in the world of us ordinary folks I would think something along the following lines: 1. You've got one of the best WR in the Country in Andre Johnson, a capable #2 receiver in Kevin Walter and a quality ball-control type in David Anderson (when he's not being knocked into next week going after a pass that's behind him). On top of all this you have James Casey, who's got some experience throwing the ball as a QB, and is a physical specimen to boot.

Based on all of that my first look would be to Andre, then Walter, Anderson and Casey. After that I'd look to Chris Brown. After all of that I might consider giving to ball to Casey and let him run the option pass. After all of that had failed, I'd take one look at the play Shanahan called (and Kubiak failed to overrule) and I'd rip the page out of the playbook and throw it in the trash.

It's bad enough that the Texans (the worst NFL expansion franchise in history, in case you already didn't know that) are 5-7 with no hope of the playoffs in sight. What's worse is that they're starting to be creative in the ways that they lose, as if just going out and sucking it up for 4 quarters isn't bad enough, now Texans fans have to live with Chris Brown's mistake of the week, or Matt Schaub's 'huh?' moment, or the Sex cannon coming into the game and mis-firing. How bad was the halfback option? "Stagger Lee" is being batted around. In case you don't know, the legend of Stagger Lee, there you go.

So now the Texans are looking at having to win out in order to obtain the first winning record in team history. Given that the schedule still contains playoff contenders Seattle, Miami and New England, I would argue at this point that 6-10 is more likely than 9-7. Any sports pundit mentioning "playoffs" and "Texans" in any other context than "only way they can attend is to buy a ticket" needs to be taken out back, tarred, feathered and be forced to watch 36 hourse of Andre Ware color commentary. If they honestly think the Texans still have a chance then throw in Marc Vandermeer on play by play. Honestly, I can't think of a punishment that would be more painful than that.

For now it's on to the Seahawks, a team whose 5-7 record mirrors the Texans and who have lost 5 of their last 6 games to mostly strong competition. However, the Seahawks don't have a particuarly good defense, they're not prolific on offense and they're not going to give anyone the hives from a preparation standpoint due to the fear of being out-coached. If you think about it, they're the mirror-image of the Texans, except they've won at some time in franchise history.

If the Texans lose this one the "fire Kubiak" chant will become deafening in its intensity. With good cause. Even if they win this game the guy needs to go. The biggest arguement used by his supporters (VanDerMeer, for one) is "who are you going to get that's any better to replace him?" At this point, the odds are slim that you're going to get anyone much worse.

If Colt McCoy wins the Heisman....

...Then the award is the new Nobel Peace Prize....

Not that the Heisman has truly been about naming "the most outstanding player in College Football" for quite some time. In fact, considering the group of journalists and former winners that have a vote, it's long been about finding the MVP of the top team, from a media-attention perspective, in the Nation. Because of this, he's probably got more than a 90% chance of winning.

Which is too bad.

The problem with Colt winning on the basis of this year's performance is this: He'll probably go down as one of the least deserving Heisman trophy winners in history. Based on his career that's not very fair. McCoy has been an above-average to great quarterback for UT-Austin for most of his career. Last year, when he lost to OU Quarterback Sam Bradford despite having better numbers, he was historic in terms of passing efficiency and did everything he needed to do....except beat Texas Tech on the road. Sam Bradford made it to the Big xII championship game, so Bradford wins the most meaningless trophy in college football.

The thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. The voting panel that makes up the Heisman vote could pay attention to what happens on the field and cast an intelligent vote if they wanted to. It's just that they don't want to. It's far better to pick the best player on an undefeated team and be done with it. No silly research for us. Then there's the "overhyped white QB" factor. All things being equal, a Caucasian QB is going to have an advantage over a minority player The exception to this is when said minority player is head and shoulders above the white QB in terms of output, and even then (see Jackson, Bo & Long, Chuck for more) the vote will be closer than it should be.

Because of these factors Colt McCoy has a chance of winning despite a statistical line (330/468, 3782 yds, 27 TD's & 12 INT's) that's average when compared to other College Quarterbacks. And that's the whole rub that many have in regards to Colt McCoy winning the Heisman this year. Average players are not, by definition, the most outstanding player in college football.

Based on recent history I've got little doubt that the final 5 who go to New York for the award ceremony will look something like this:
Colt McCoy, QB - UT-Austin (stats above)

Tim Tebow, QB - Florida (182/279, 2413 yds, 18 TD's 5 INT & 859 yds rushing w/13 TD's)

Toby Gerhart, RB - Stanford (311 carries/1,736 yds, 26 TD's 0 fumbles)

Golden Tate, WR - Notre Dame (93 receptions/1,496 yds, 15 TD's + 25 carries/186 yards, 2TD's + 32 Punt returns/171 yds, 1TD)

Jimmy Clausen, QB - Notre Dame (289/485, 3,722 yds, 28 TD's, 4 INT's)
Against that lineup McCoy wins.

Now, here's how the final 5 should look:
Mark Ingram, RB - Alabama (249 carries, 1,542 yds, 15 TD's + 30 receptions, 322 yds, 3 TD's)

Toby Gerhart, RB - Stanford (311 carries/1,736 yds, 26 TD's 0 fumbles)

Ndamukong Suh, DT - Nebraska (82 tackles (47 solo), 12 sacks, 1 INT)

Case Keenum, QB - Houston (468/659, 5449 yds, 43 TD's, 9 INT's + 132 yds rushing w/1=4 TD's)

Mardy Gilyard, WR - Cincinatti (80 Receptions, 1,150 yards, 11 TD's + 69 KR's, 1,276 yards, 3TD's)

If I had a vote it would be as follows:
1. Mark Ingram
2. Toby Gerhart
3. Ndamukong Suh
4. Case Keenum
5. Mardy Gilyard
I give extra credit to Ingram for doing what he did against the much tougher SEC. It won't work that way however, because this is the Heisman trophy we're talking about.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sports Shorts (11/30/09)

Spanning the....OK, sorry....

Scaling the heights and plumbing the depths of suck? (Just asking)

Kubiak must Go! (Uh...yeah...what he said) (All of those 10-6 & 11-5 predictions by what pass for sports media experts in Houston are really starting to look stupid now aren't they?)

Was this article written by Justice? Or Cougar beat-writer Steve Campbell? Early on ChronBlog had Campbell listed as the author.

Look, Vince Young is proving to be an decent NFL quarterback (admittedly, a surprise to me). He's also the beneficiary of one hell of a running game, something he wouldn't enjoy were he drafted by the Texans. So let's stop with the VY man love OK? It's one thing to be a UT-Austin homer, it's another thing to let it cloud your judgement as a writer. Case in point.

Hey...this Tiger Woods news story might have some legs.

Dear ACC: You suck. Signed the SEC

Goodbye Charlie.

Goodbye Bobby

Goodbye Mark

Goodbye Al

(UH fans are now holding their collective breath that none of the schools mentioned (well, KU and Virginia, not Notre Dame and Florida St obviously) take a serious look at Sumlin)

Convince me that TCU isn't one of the top two teams in the Country. I'm listening.

For that matter, convince me that the Heisman Trophy has any relevance to reality. "Most outstanding player in College Football"? Colt McCoy? S.H.A.M.

While you're at it: Make an argument that Cincinnati is not one of the top two teams in the Country, and that Mardy Gilyard shouldn't be a top 5 Heisman contender (if not the outright winner).

If you have a terrible officiating structure, you're going to get terrible results. FIFA is probably the worst International sports body in existence.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scaling the heights and plumbing the depths of average

It's time to face facts. This Texans team is the epitome of mediocre. They're not bad per se (in a Detroit Lions sense) but they're not especially good either. This is going to be hard for a lot of reporters covering the Texans to accept, them being the teams' biggest cheerleaders, for the Texans fans (who long ago stopped believing the hype, it should be a little bit easier.

Sure, sure, you were all told to believe. You were told by what passes for sports experts in Houston that "this was the biggest game in franchise history" and that "the playoffs were there for the taking". That's fine to say...except it wasn't and they weren't. Not by this team anyway.

Reality is there have been no big games for the Texans franchise to date, nothing with real playoff implications anyway. Even had the Texans won this game, with a record of 6-4 they would probably be in need of a 4-2 closing run to have a shot at a Wild Card. With two penciled-in losses against Indianapolis and New England on the schedule the reality is they'd have to run the table in the following four games: @Jacksonville, Seattle, @ St Louis, @ Miami. As it stands now they have to win those four games AND beat either Indy or New England. That's right, they have to go 5-1 over their last six games to finish 10-6. FWIW a 10-6 New England team missed last years' playoffs, so there's no post-season promise with even that record.

A more fitting question is this: After starting 0-6, will the Titans finish with an equal or better record than the Texans? That may sound laughable but right now the former Oilers are exactly one game worse than your Houston Texans. Vince may not have been the right pick for the Texans, but to say he can't make it as an NFL quarterback requires either an unrational hatred of UT, or a lack of understanding of winning football. Unfortunately, in Houston, many fans carry around both.

Next Sunday is Indianapolis, where it should be back to a sub .500 record for the worst expansion franchise in NFL history. Sports personalities may care about that but I think the majority of Houstonians are beyond caring. The truth is you just don't give much of a damn any more.

- Coaching not to lose: Sean Pendergast from 1560 said it best: "If you settle for a 48 yard field goal, you deserve what you get." Kubiak has a tendency to coach not to lose way too often. It's a fatal coaching flaw.

- Dead fish count: I counted 10 times that Dunta "pay me" Robinson flopped around on the filed like a fish out of water after a)missing a tackle or b)blowing a coverage. The guy's not even an average NFL CB this season.

- Beating a dead horse: How long is it going to take Kyle Shanahan to learn that this year's version of the Texans are not a running team? The well is dry. Get creative with a short, ball-control passing game or perish.

- Beaten units: The O-line is sub-par, the DB's are overmatched, and the D-line is anemic. That is all.

- We'll miss 'ya: I'm on Andre Johnson's side here. The guy is too talented to waste his entire career playing for a mediocre team out of the playoffs. He's within his rights to demand a trade. Here's hoping it's to a winning franchise. (or San Francisco, which would NOT suck)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sport's Shorts (11/23/2009)

RIP UGA VII. - I watched part of the game. I've not seen a picture yet but the image of Hairy Dawg kneeling in prayer in front of UGA's dog house was a tear jerker.

For a sport to be considered truly "Major League" their finals have to generate some buzz. Hell, I follow football and I forgot the finals were Sunday....

Rah! Rah! Sis-Boom-Bah!

If there's a greater threat to the legitimacy of MMA than the UFC in its current state I'm not aware of it. This is an organization that needs to get it's act together. Too many boxing like controversies from an organization that used to steer clear of them.

Oh yeah: The Texans play tonight, so we're all supposed to be fired up about that (or something). As for me I'm so tired of talk radio and others trying to guilt me into rooting for this mess of a team that I'm probably going to boycott this game. I actually heard Vandermeer say, on the radio, that the fans had some responsibility for this game....what??

Side note: Stop gritching UH fan. If you're outside the top 12 where you are in the AP doesn't matter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The stupidest comment in the entire history of stupid.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner:
TOR says:

TCU fan should be grateful for the opportunity to be "worked up" over a perceived slight by the BCS. As soon as Patterson bolts (i'm guessing sometime in, ohh, say, JANUARY) and the booster money stops flowing into all that 'recruiting' (you really think they're getting all that speed because tcu is a great college setting?) the frogs will sink back into the muck of 4-6, which is where they belong.

Same thing can be said to a lesser degree for UH- Coach Sumlin is probably already packed for whoever makes him an offer.

Good day.

The sad thing is, such stupidity was in response to a pretty good take-down of the "UT is better" argument by Sean Pendergast in response to another display of idiocy by Richard Justice. It's gotten so bad that the Sean & John show is losing credibility every time they call Justice an "expert".

Back to the comment...

It's one of those rare instances where elitism is coupled with a total lack of facts, hidden behind the shroud of cowardly anonymity. "Heyuh..Hey Maw! Watch theeus. Look whut I wrote on the big computer thing!"

TCU suffering when Patterson leaves? Funny when Franchione left TCU faced that same question. What they did was have a candidate in place and move forward. Or, the same thing they'll do this time.

It's not as if this script hasn't been written before. Boise State faced the same dilemma when Dan Hawkins left, all they did was continue to improve under Chris Peterson. Even UH, who were wondering where to go after Art Briles departure are going to be OK should Sumlin leave.

It's one thing to be stupid, that's almost understood from Texas fans. It's another thing to not have an understanding of the facts, yet to continue talking about them with your identity hidden. If nothing else, people know who Justice is, where he is and how to get in touch with him should they disagree. (If they even want to bother with it) That's more than can be said for those who post anonymously on message boards.

I won't even go into how bad the Big xII is this year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is the Big xII the new Big Ten(leven)?

You know the jokes. "Not Ohio State again, PLEASE...anyone but them!"

To give the Big Ten(leven) bashers credit, they have a point.

Up until you realize that they're from the Big xII and...well....Uh...

"Wait!" Big xII fans will say. "We've got BIG GAME Bob Stoops and the Sooners!" a powerhouse of a team with first round draft picks and.....

Blowout losses by LSU & Florida preceded by a loss to Boise St.

Sorry...try again.

"OK" you say "We've got Texas with Mack Brown and Vince Young Colt McCoy and...

A schedule that would make even the bluest of Texas blue-bloods cry. Your signature win? Over a 3-loss Okie State team caught up in a scandal involving their best player. Yes, yes, yes we know. You beat OU, and UTEP who beat Houston which means that according to six degrees of football seperation you can keep calling UH "Cougar High" for another year. We get that.

But the fact remains that your chest-thumping, bong-water drinking this season has been relegated to the argument that Case Keenum doesn't deserve the Heisman because he plays for a small school.....That's right, your QB and his attached-at-the-hip-roomate/buddy top passing target aren't even in the picture. And Case? Well...he's had better stats against common opponents. Deal with it Horn fan. You're still on probation for giving this guy a degree. Any reputable institution would have never let him out of the gate. You're responsible for that Longhorn, so deal with it. Last year you barely beat the team you like to make fun of. That's right, you're three points better than Ohio State.

The point I'm making here is that the Big xII is quickly morphing into what used to be the Big Ten(leven) a team that could beat up on each other and beat regional teams to the point that the disinterested media (who pay little attention to the actual games) get fooled into thinking that a 30 point win over UTEP is somehow equivilent to a 10 point win over Clemson. This illusion holds up until the point Miami (OH) UofH comes in and beats two or three of your tier 2 teams. Suddenly the entire ball of wax begins to melt and you're stuck with K-State in the Big xII championship game because Nebraska likes to fumble, Colorado has no speed, and coach Mangino ate the starting defense by accident after the last practice before the season.

That's what is happening to the Big xII right now. We're starting to see them for what they are: A regional conference, much like the Big Ten(leven) who's desperately trying to remain competative with the SEC. Heck, even Cincinatti is probably better than Texas this year, and they're a Big (L)East school. The Longhorns struggled to beat a 4-loss OU team that was overrated all year long. Even Cincy understood how to handle Rutgers.

What this means is that the real National Championship game is going to be played December 5th between Florida and Alabama. Unless, that is, Texas somehow loses to either Baylor, aTM, Kansas or (presumeably) K-State in the Big xII championship game allowing Cincinatti, TCU or even the loser of that game to sneak in the back door. Then we might get something resembling a championship. Sure, Texas fans won't like it, but all they have as an argument is that...well...they're Texas and, despite the fact that their schedule is weaker than Maddoff's defense, that should be overlooked because (and I'm not making this up) "Mack Brown is a really nice guy."

But, and we all know this, it's not going to happen that way. What's going to happen is that Texas is going to walk over what's left of their weak-sister schedule and be in line to play the winner of Alabama/Florida. All that will be left is a bunch of useless media run-up to what's surely to be a lop-sided game. The B(C)S will have their champions (again hailing from the SEC) and t-shirt Texas fans will have something new to run out and buy....

The rest of us will dread the coming of NEXT year, when the Big Ten(leven) will again be deemed "weak" by pundits hailing from Big xII land.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sports Shorts (11/09/09)

Talk about your "Thrill of victory and agony of defeat..."

Call it the miracle in Tulsa, call it Coach Graham (or, as Rice affectionately knows him: Coach Douche) not knowing how to properly align to defend an onside kick. Call it whatever you want, but don't forget that the Cougars now control their C-USA destiny. They didn't deserve to move up in the polls (13th is about right) but they shouldn't move down either.

I'm not a fan of the B(C)S, but at least they got TCU right on this one. Sorry Boise, but there has to be a price to pay for playing one of the weakest schedules known to man. True, you can't control your conference, but playing UC Davis, Miami (OH) and Tulsa? TCU is the better team. Sorry.

This is what happens to Texans fans, you start to buy in and they break your heart. Still, they're on schedule for the record that most (credible) experts had them pegged at before the season started. 8-8 or 9-7 is about where this mediocre group is going to wind up. They're not "one step away" and they're not "about to turn the corner". They're average, period end of story. *The questions after the season should focus on what Kubiak's ceiling is.

Say what you want about horse racing....Zenyatta's performance in the Breeder's Cup Classic was one for the ages. Now, about that showdown with Rachel Alexandra?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Gospel According to Tebow.

Commandment One: Forget all that twiddly stuff Jesus did and listen to me....

You may have heard about Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes trying to gouge out the eyes of Georgia Running back Washaun Ealey. Like me, when you heard of it, you figured the player in question would be suspended for a couple of games, issue an apology and by-gones would be by-gones. Football, after all, is a violent sport. Were that all that was involved in this story then I wouldn't even be blogging about it. To be honest, I could care less about the internal disciplinary goings-on over in Gainesville.

That is, until the Great one spoke up and practically took a dump on his Christian faith in the name of they started it?

[Ft. Myers News-Press]
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said on Monday that Georgia players were doing some of the same stuff that got Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes suspended for a half in last Saturday's 41-7 win against the Bulldogs.

Got that? Mr. Christian's fed up with all of that "turn the other cheek" crap that Jesus talked about. Nope, according to the Gospel of Tebow (the chosen one) retaliation is fine....IF you're a Gator starting linebacker that is.

I don't have any problem with Tebow the player. He's turning out to be one of the best College quarterbacks ever, the numbers don't lie. What I am tired of is all of the blather about Tebow the leader, about the promise, about the Gospel of Tebow and about what a fine young Christian man he is. You see, that's all a bunch of PR generated crap.

Jesus wouldn't lie to win a game, and if I remember my Bible right he had his disciples healing those that couldn't see, not gouging out peoples eyes.

Just play the game Tebow, and then shut up about it. Don't act as if, because you've been out on missions, that you're somehow morally superior to the rest of us. You're a quarterback....go throw a touchdown already.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Don't lie to the NCAA

Or they will kick you out of the club...

Way out of the club.

Let's face it. There's no bigger lie in this world than the one told by the NCAA regarding "amateur athletes". Heck, even the Olympics (that bastion of honest amateur athletic competition *snicker*) has seen the writing on the wall and is admitting pros now. If, for no other reason, than to keep revenues up.

Here's the deal: For years, baseball was not considered a "revenue sport" in College because most of the top talent was leaving High School and heading directly to the Minor Leagues in order to get paid for playing sports at an earlier age. Only recently has the emergence of the College World Series as a television event started to turn that worm. Despite this, most (not all) top prospects still leave high school and proceed directly to the Rookie leagues. It hasn't been the same in College Basketball & Football, which have always profited by the lack of developmental pro leagues in their respective sports.

Because of this the NCAA has been able to apply all kinds of silly restrictions on so-called student-athletes forcing Universities to spend un-told amounts of money on compliance alone. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and the NCAA laughs all the way to the bank.

What I'd like to see is the entire system turned on its head. There's now a D-League in the NBA, wouldn't it be nice to see them get players right out of High School? And how about this UFL in football? Let's drop the minimum draft age and turn it into a full-fledged NFL D-league and get all of the top talent in the so-called "revenue" sports out from under the revenue-averse-for-athletes NCAA. Let's bring College sports back to what they were before the advent of big-time pro athletics and let the kids that want to be professional athletes be professional athletes.

The NCAA is determined that we don't lie to it. That we're forthright and honest, well OK. I'm honest when I say I'm sick and tired of the NCAA putting schools like SMU on the death penalty while other schools get off with a slap on the writs. I'm tired of the NCAA treating college athletes like second-class citizens while coaches and schools make Millions. In a recent survey College Presidents stated that they felt College Coaches earn too much money, while it may be that much of this is driven by jealousy over home size, there's some truth to it as well. College coaches do make too much, considering they're working with what basically amounts to free labor.

Let's tell the truth to the NCAA and set up professional developmental teams in Football and Basketball in all States. We want our athletics with a little less hypocrisy if you please, and a healthy side of "stop making mountains out of molehills."

The Big XII: Hell if I can figure it out...

Last week I was encouraging you to hug an Aggie. They needed it after being thrashed by K-State 59-0 and looking forward to a Texas Tech team that beat K-State 66-14. By all accounts Tech should have handed aTm their hats.

As you know by now that didn't happen. Just another crazy result in the now crazy Big XII, a land where Nebraska beats Mizzou one week and then loses a sloppy game to Iowa State. (Iowa State? What?)

Then you have Oklahoma, which looked terrible against BYU, like world-beaters against Tulsa, not-so-great against a only mediocre Miami team, OK against Texas, and then back to world-beaters against a Kansas team that was humming along until falling to that powerhouse Colorado who then got handled easily by that powerhouse Kansas State, which is now in 1st place in the Big XII North.

This we know:

UT-Austin is good, but not that good. Certainly not good enough that a one or two loss season is beyond the pale.

Everyone else is down. Maybe even way down. When the team in 1st place in the North division has a loss to Louisiana Lafayette on their record things are not going well. Nothing against the Ragin Cajun's mind you, they're a decent team, but there's no way a middle of the pack Sun Belt team should ever stand toe to toe with a division-leader in one of the power conferences....

...unless that conference is the Big XII. Or should be say...the Former Southwest Conference schools and what's left of the Big 8 football tradition. (excepting OU and OSU)

What's going to happen next week? You tell me.

Monday, October 26, 2009


So, the Texans beat the 49'ers 24-21. I can't give grades on this game due to the fact that I spent most of it in the waiting room of the local clinic to see the PA so I could get a prescription for my bronchitis.

Needless to say, I'm pretty upset that the 49'ers couldn't beat an average team like the Texans, but I'm happy for Texans fans because they COULD beat an average team like the 49'ers.

I don't think either team has the playoffs in their future, but I've been wrong before.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sam Houston vs. Stephen F. Austin - Reliant Stadium

This sounds like a good idea...

[Joseph Duarte, ChronBlog]
Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin have agreed to a four-year agreement to play their annual “Battle of the Piney Woods” football series at Reliant Stadium through 2013, organizers and school officials announced Tuesday.
Great idea. Two small area schools, who have a pretty fierce rivalry that flies under the radar locally, getting a chance to play ball in the Regional NFL stadium. This is a theory that works well in other areas, and I don't see any reason it can't work in Houston.

The wife is a SHSU grad so I'm sure we'll be heading down to many of these games. Sam Houston home games are a good time, albeit on a much smaller scale.

On another note: Are those REALLY UH & Rice fans I see in the comments taking shots at the two schools for attendance???

It wasn't too many years prior UH fan that SHSU was coming close to outdrawing you. They're still close to outdrawing Rice. (And, this year, both teams are playing better football) Those who live in glass houses etc. etc.

Besides, D-1 schools picking on D-1AA schools is weak sauce. Sort of like Kansas State picking on poor aTm.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Flatlining the Cardiac Cats

So this is what happens when the Texans put together a full-game effort?

It's euphoria day in Houston as ChronBlog pundits tell us that the Texans have turned a corner, that Kubiak is a genius and that the defense is a group of world-beaters who've just been misunderstood until now.

Uh..OK. I'm not buying it, but OK.

The facts are that the Texans are still on pace to finish around .500, and that they're behind schedule with the hard part of their 2009 season still to play. The defense played better, but hey, it's the Bengals....

On to grades...

Quarterback A-
Easily Matt Schaub's best game of the year. He still gets careless under heavy pressure (he had one interception, and one that should have been a pick/six which was dropped) but he's got a decent arm and is usually fairly accurate. Still checks down too quickly for my taste, but a good game this week.

Running Backs C+
Steve Slaton finally got going, in the passing game. The running game is so bad that Kubiak finally gave up on it and implemented a short passing game to take its place.

Wide Receivers A
I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's too bad that Andre Johnson is stuck playing for the Texans. If he were on a winning team there would be no debate as to who is the best receiver in the NFL. Owen Daniels had a good game, as did Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. All around good effort from this unit.

Offensive Line C-
Still not able to open up anything in the run game, and giving them a high grade ignores the fact that Schaub was under pressure almost all game. That being said, this unit played about as well as they are capable of playing.

Defensive Line B+
Consistent pass pressure is still a concern, but they did a good job in run defense taking up blockers and allowing the LB's to stuff Benson time and again. That doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but it shouldn't be overlooked. Conner Barwin had his best game to date.

Linebackers A+
Easily the best unit on the field when Texans are on defense. Brian Cushing should get consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year if he can stay healthy, and DaMeco Ryans is making a strong case for a Pro Bowl berth. Add to that Cushing's game-clinching INT and you have the makings of a good grade.

Defensive Backfield C+
Coverage is still spotty. As a matter of fact, the CB's couldn't cover if you handed them a blanket. What made up for it was hustle. Running to the receiver after the fact and forcing turnovers. Against the Bengals that paid off, against a better WR corps that could come back to bite them.

Coaching A
Give Kubiak his due: He finally made the decisions he needed to make in order to put the players in a position to win. For that alone he deserves an A. For finally winning a challenge? Well....

Full disclosure: Next week I'll be rooting against the Texans as the 49'ers come calling. I grew up a 49'ers fan and remain one today.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hug an Aggie

God knows they're going to need it....

There's a lot that could be blamed for this game, Obama speaking in College Station, still-sub-par talent levels from the Franchione era, a campus environment not conducive to attracting modern recruits, but all of those are just band-aids on the cancer that has become an overly insular aTm football program.

By "insular" I mean all of the important decisions are being made by a handful of influential individuals with nary an opposing viewpoint allowed to creep in. Sherman was hired, in large part, because he was "part of the family" an Aggie with deep roots, given the seal of approval by Aggies with deep roots. Even Franchione, hired in part because he was outside of the program, still was considered to be a kindred spirit amongst the check scratchers and the moneyed Aggie elite.

There are also those who feel that the Aggies are suffering from firingagoodcoachisitis, for their un-ceremonial dumping of RC Slocum despite his 123-47-2 lifetime record as an Aggie.

Whatever the reason, last night's result ventured into 1-AA territory, as a middling Kansas State team housed an outmatched, out-talented, unfocused and startlingly slow Aggie team.

If you are close to an Aggie today you might want to give them a hug. Forget competing for a Big-12 championship, these Aggies are suddenly going to have to hustle to make it to the Houston Bowl. (or any bowl for that matter)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bemidji Update

The Fighting Beavers of Bemidji State University beat No. 14 Wayne State 21-10 last Saturday to improve to 4-2 in the NSIC conference and 5-2 for the season.

Next up, the Beavers take on the Golden Eagles of Minnesota - Crookston continuing their quest for an NCAA DII playoff berth.

I am not messing with Notre Dame's God....

If you listen to Notre Dame fans, they're God's favorite football team. If that's the case then Notre Dame's God has had enough of them getting taken to the woodshed by USC.

Need proof?

Trojans are dropping like flies. First there was Stafon Johnson's horrible weightlifting injury, and now we have an injury to C.J. Gable.

It's almost as if Notre Dame's God has money on the Irish and is sick and tired of losing....

Two things:

1. I am NOT messing with Notre Dame's God. You probably shouldn't either. The last thing I need is for a Notre Dame assistant coach on a recruiting trip to slam into me on I-10.

2. If Notre Dame should lose (and I believe they will) you might want to give Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weiss as wide berth for a few weeks. If Notre Dame's Almighty is too heavily invested in this game he could drop a piano on the guy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Come down off the bridge....

...Texans fans, Richard Justice is here to tell you that everything is all right. As a matter of fact, that 2-3 grouping of persistent mediocrity and inconsistency is just on the cusp of greatness. I mean real, honest to God greatness. The kind of stuff of which legends are made. (or, at least, sappy NFL films with the good voice-over guy)

In a way, you have to feel for Houston's media. After 3 years of telling us all would be well during Kubiak's reign they've got nothing else to fall back on but the 'we're close' tab. More sober pundits are able to keep all of this in the proper perspective.

As for me? Well, I hardly make a claim to constant sobriety, but I did say 8-8 or 9-7 was the ceiling for this team....

On to grades.

Quarterback: B-
It's easy to be hard on Schaub, but the fact is he played a decent game, and was outstanding in the second half. He'll never be a "top-flight" QB, but he could be a playoff QB with the right pieces around him.

Running Backs D-
There's just not much to say about this unit right now that's any good.

Wide Receivers A-
It's too bad that Andre Johnson is stuck on such a sorry team. He's an All-Pro talent with an outstanding work ethic.

Offensive Line C-
Actually, not a bad game from this unit, except in the running game. The Center position is desperately in need of an upgrade. Pass protection was fair.

Defensive Line D+
Too much time for Kurt Warner to sit back and survey the field. The lack of a consistent pass rush is killing this defense.

Linebackers B-
Consistent, but nothing spectacular.

Defensive backs D-
Let's be honest with ourselves: No one one this unit would start for almost any other NFL team. There's no talent, no coverage ability and not much to talk positively about.

Coaching C-
Terrible game plan, decent halftime adjustments. Whatever you say about the coaching staff you have to admit they did a good job in the locker room at halftime.

Now for the bad news: The next two games against Cincinnati (4-1) and San Francisco (3-2) were both considered to be easy "W" games in the pre-season when pundits were making wild-eyed predictions of 10-6, 11-5 and playoff contention. It's probable that this inconsistent team that doesn't know how to win will be 2-5 heading into the bye week....and the toughest part of their schedule.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Anything you can do...

I can do too! (notice I didn't say better).

Monday, the Houston Press ran a story on six-man football being played in the Houston area. Having once played six-man myself, during Jr. High, at a private school in Midland, TX. I found it to be one of the more interesting write-ups to date in Paul Knight's "Friday Night Lights" series. These have proven to be interesting looks at the local High School football scene, unfortunately Knight has shown an inability to mask his disdain for almost anyone outside the Loop, which has detracted from the writing. That said, they're a damn-sight better than the "technology/social media" crap posts that are dutifully posted and then summarily ignored by the readers (judging by the comments).

Not to be outdone, the ever-diligent ChronBlog sports editors have decided they need a six-man story of their own. As was the case with Knight's story, its a good read. I have to admit that this surprised me because, to date, I've not been too impressed with the copy produced by Jenny Dial. Granted, it's been better than say...a blog post by Richard Justice but nothing special.

Regardless of all that, it's nice to see six-man get a little press time. Typically these are small schools with small budgets who's players don't have a prayer of moving on to the next level. (except, in some odd case, as a walk-on) When viewed from that perspective it could be the most entertaining local HS football of all.

Monday, October 05, 2009

At least they didn't spike themselves

That's the new upside for the Raiders, the new benchmark for NFL futility now that the Lions are off the schneid. Not surprisingly, ChronBlog cheerleaders are out in full force. Of course, they're wrong, their analysis is sloppy and superficial but....hey....It's ChronBlog (Which, oddly enough, has become the new benchmark for Media futility, especially in their sports coverage*)

Solomon's column (usually one of the more level-headed sports columns in Chron-Blog, if not always accurate) really contained the most errors, from Dunta Robinson being a player to the Texans being in a battle with Indy for first place...huh? About the only thing I agree with him on is that Matt Schaub is better than Tony Romo. However, winning that battle is like being told you've won the congeniality award at the Beauty pageant....great.

As has become the norm, it's time for grades. I'm sure mine will be a little bit different than McClain's.

Quarterback: B- - For one half, Schaub looked pretty good, then the second half came and the game turned into a sleep aid. Against a defense as terrible as the one the Raiders are fielding there's really no excuse.

Running Backs: D - Steve Slaton can't find a hole and the best part of the Texans running game was Ryan Moats. That tells you pretty much all you need to know.

Wide Receivers: C+ - No one could get open in the second half, Daniels dropped a ton of passes and no one seems to have any idea how to get Andre Johnson the ball on a consistent basis. In the first half they were great.

Offensive Line: D+ - Did a better job against the pass rush (which isn't saying much) but still got pushed around in the run game like they were playing patty cake with a defense that wanted to run them over. It's a recurring theme, but the second half offense was abysmal.

Defensive Line: B+ - For a team with one total sack coming into the game the appearance of Smith and Amobi was welcome news. Granted, they turned it up against the worst team in the league, but still.

Linebackers: A - The LB's were the Texans best, most consistent unit of the afternoon. Play after big play was made by Ryans, Cushing and Diles. Cushing's best game as a Texans by far.

Defensive Backs: F - I know, I know, you think I'm being too hard on them right? Well, go back and take a look at the game again, and watch all of the times a wide open Raider receiver either dropped the ball or was overthrown. Too many. Yes, they make some plays, forced fumbles etc. but often those are made after a completion that shouldn't have been made in the first place were the cornerbacks and safeties in good cover position. The reason the run defense was better was due to the LB's and not to this group.

Coaching: A- - I thought the coaches did a good job this week. It was an easy game to come out flat for. The defensive scheme was smart, gearing to stop the run, as was the offensive game plan, relying on the short pass in lieu of a running game. I'm never going to be a big Kubiak fan as far as game management and talent evaluation goes, but they did a good job this week.

Texans fans are giddy after beating a glorified Top 5 College team 29-6. Talk of playoffs and 'respect' are in the air. Despite their recent struggles, I expect the Arizona Cardinals to put an end to all of that silliness next week. He may be getting old, but Kurt Warner is a damn sight better than JaMarcus Russell, and Fitzgerald, Bouldin & Co. aren't going to make the drops that Murphy and Heyward-Bey were making on a consistent basis.

As you can tell by the grades, there are still gaping holes in the Texans that aren't going to be addressed until the talent is upgraded significantly.

*Who knew that John P. Lopez leaving would be considered a downgrade in quality?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Back off the ledge Cougar fans

So, your team got housed by UTEP and ChronBlog's resident UT flack is piling it on (while somehow, curiously, morphing this into a win for UT). Your B(C)S buster hopes got buried under and avalanche of Miner offense and you still can't find 3 out of 4 lost helmets.

It's going to be OK.

Let's look at the facts:

1. This years Cougars are a young lot, with several underclassmen starting on defense. This situation was made worse by last week's injury of your defensive leader.

2. Conference games on the road are hard to win. I don't care which conference you're talking about.

3. UH has a target on their backs. Get used to this. Fair or not you're the targeted team in C-USA now.

The one concern that I had was that I heard too much talk of lost helmets and no respect from the pollsters, and very little talk about UTEP. Not only from the media, but from your coaching staff as well. When you overlook a team like UTEP, with a prolific offense and a good coach, you end up losing by 17 in the National spotlight.

The good news is the season's goals are still in reach. I refer, of course, to the goals that were there before the season began. Conference USA is still out there for the taking, as is a berth in the Liberty bowl against an SEC team. The B(C)S dream was all fool's gold, the odds are stacked against too many teams, especially with Boise State an almost certain lock to get the nod. (never mind that TCU is probably the better team)

So, come down off the ledge will 'ya?

Now is not the time to worry about one loss on a 12-game schedule. Don't worry about what the Longhorns are saying, they never make sense anyway.

And hey, at least you're not Baylor.

UPDATE: Houston falls out of the Top 25 - Which illustrates just how ridiculous the polls really are this year. College Football is the best football in the land, but the ranking systems are fatally flawed.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Nike: Vick Who?

When ESPN breaks a story, you're better off waiting for confirmation before running with it as gospel. Perhaps no sports media outlet has mastered the art of running unconfirmed innuendo or aside as news, and gotten away with it a majority of the time. When the information is wrong, however, no one gets called to the carpet.

Such is the case with the Michael Vick/Nike "endorsement" story, first broken by ESPN "news services".
Michael Vick is back with Nike two years after the company severed ties over the quarterback's involvement in a dogfighting ring.

"Mike has a long-standing, great relationship with Nike, and he looks forward to continuing that relationship," his agent, Joel Segal, said Wednesday.

Today however, Nike flags Vick's agent for a false start:
"Nike does not have a contractual relationship with Michael Vick. We have agreed to supply product to Michael Vick as we do a number of athletes who are not under contract with Nike," the company said in a statement.
Which seems more likely to me, considering that Vick has yet to make any impact in the league, or show any sign that he's going to become the impact starting quarterback he once had the potential to be.

Fair or not, Vick is toxic right now to a company from a PR standpoint. Yes, he's back in the league and deserves to make a living, but endorsement deals are viewed by the public as a different deal altogether. If Nike jumps right back onto the Vick bandwagon then the PR hit could be immense. The term: "soulless corporation" comes to mind. NO ONE on Madison Ave. wants to have to market around that tag.

I don't care how talented Vick is.

As for ESPN? I love their actual sports coverage, as I feel they always do a good job producing the actual events. When it comes to pure analysis however there are many other outlets who are doing it better, and with less self-promotion. Where the NFL is concerned there's also better coverage to be found that doesn't involve the analysts performing on-air oral sex to Brett Favre everytime the latter throws a pass that's not intercepted.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A French Surrender...

What to make of the 2009 Houston Texans. Let's look at what we have so far...

A stinker, followed by an defining win, followed by a stinker. And, what a stinker it was....Not only did the Texans come out (again) flat and uninspired, but the defense looked like a group of practice squad players dressed up as an NFL team, the offense is spotty and unimaginative, and the coaching is sub-par...and that's being nice. A week after finding their heart against the Titans, the Texans lost it again vs. the 0-2 Jaguars.

Since this has become something of a habit, let's throw out some grades....

Quarterback: C-
Schaub under pressure is looking more and more like a second-tier quarterback. Not only that but, if he keeps getting hit, odds are the sex cannon is going to get to fire his shot before long.

Running Backs: D+
There were signs of life in the running game this week, but big play after big play wasn't made by the Texans duo. Add Chris Brown's drive ending fumble and ain't pretty.

Wide Receivers: B-
Nice to see Kevin Walter back out there, and Owen Daniels had a decent game, but too often the receivers are covered and don't seem to be working hard enough to get open. They get a passing grade in this game, but they have to get better fast for the Texans to win.

Offensive Line: F
Whiffs, no surge, no nothing. Right now the Texans O-line isn't really doing anything worth mention...if you subscribe to the "If you can't say anything nice" axiom. As for me? I'm just tired of talking about it.

Defensive Line: F
Zero sacks, and Maurice Jones-Drew had three rushing touchdowns. For all of the money the Texans have invested in the D-line you'd think they could rate out passing at least once this season. I'm starting to have my doubts. The only D-lineman playing worth a damn is Tim Bulman.

Linebackers: C-
It was bound to happen, Brian Cushing had a terrible game. After all he is a rookie. What I didn't expect was for the rest of the LB's to look so bad.

Defensive Backfield: F-
Let's see, where to start? Missed coverages, poor tackling, terrible run support angles. Dunta Robinson is starting to look like a perennial back-up (much less a $10 Million dollar man) and Busing doesn't seem to have a clue where to line up to defend a toss sweep. Fred Bennett and Dunta Robinson may be the worst two staring CB's in the entire league.

Coaching: F-
It's very simple: If you can't motivate a team after last week's win you shouldn't be coaching in the NFL period.

The offense scored 24, which should be enough to win an NFL game, unfortunately the Texans defense is terrible, borderline pathetic. Still, until the Texans improve their line play and running game they're not going to fare well against most any team in the NFL.

It's going to be a long season.

See Red

It was a big win on a big stage for the Cougars, one that long-time program supporters never stopped believing, in the quiet places of their hearts, would come to Cullen Ave. again. Sure there were the requisite 'heartbreak' moments (How many of the Cougar faithful thought "Oh no" after the questionable penalty that nullified an interception?) but in the end this Cougar team, coached by Kevin Sumlin, put to rest all of the ghosts of Cougar past and gave the school its biggest football win possibly ever.

Yes, during the Run n' Shoot days, there were big wins over the University of Texas. In the meaningful games however, games against Hurricanes or blitzing Aggies or Catholics led by Joe Montana, UH often came up just a little short under the bright lights of the National glare. UH has always been just on the edge of the National football conscience, just outside of the periphery, just off the radar.

All of that has changed this season, first with the win over OSU in Stillwater and then against the Wiley old Pirate on National TV in a game that pundits were salivating over. All of this changed because of a coach named Sumlin, a quarterback named Case and a pack of fast, very fast, young talent that's got something UH football has lacked for decades: Discipline.

Make no mistake about it, these are not the same Cougars you saw unprepared for games during the Art Briles era. Teams that were more likely to shoot themselves in the foot in big games than score touchdowns. This is a team whose strength is forged in the kiln of Coach Jackson's strength program, whose game plan has been designed by one of the best coaches in the College game.

Yes, this success is about the players, but it's also about Kevin Sumlin, a coach who's certain to be coveted at the end of the year by big-time programs with big-time budgets. It's about a University that's learned what it means to win, or what it takes to build a winner. UH isn't a 'helmet team' but they are a good team. Probably a top-ten team in the Country.

The fruits of this win will probably be a national ranking in the 12-14 range, which is too low. I have them in the 9-10 range, although I heard Mark May of ESPN put them at five last night. That's heady stuff for a team that, just a few years prior, was playing in front of 15,000 fans and had people wondering if D-1A was in their immediate future.

Next up is the Conference-USA schedule, games that won't have the hype or cache of the OSU and Tech games, but games that are going to be of heightened importance if UH wants to really cash in and take the B(C)S by storm.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Up. Set.

One by one they fall, those pretenders to the throne of power in College Football.

First it was #3 Oklahoma, the Sooners felled by the Cougars of Brigham Young. Beaten out in a game that unveiled Jerry World and gave us the "stache, 2009". That upset was followed by The #5 Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboy's loss at home to the (then) unranked Houston Cougars. Then came #3 ranked USC beaten by injury and a former coach, who has taken a winless team from the prior year and molded them into a Top 25 contender.

Which brings us to last night, an ESPN game featuring another top 5 team on the road. This time it was #4 Ole Miss getting upset by a Steve Spurrier-coached team whose offense is more closely resembling a pop-gun, than the old Fun n' Gun featured at Florida.

What does all this prove?

That pre-season rankings are worthless. 100% worthless.

For that matter, so are any rankings that may be out there that are generated absent a head to head matchup.

While it's true that arguments against the B(C)S system took a body blow after BYU and Utah got thier helmets handed to them by Florida State and Oregon respectively, the utter irrelevence of the pre-season polls is the main reason why the system still has its detractors.

Notre Dame? A paper tiger. Built on the hopes and dreams of the considerable influence of their alumni base.

USC? Overrated every year. Ranked high because they recruit, and because everyone really likes Pete Carroll. What's not reported is that Mr. Carroll performs as poorly in spotlight games as does Jim Tressell.

Ole Miss? C'mon. They've got a stout defense, one REALLY good offensive player (McClusker almost single-handidly won that game last night) and a QB (Jevon Snead) who couldn't beat out Mark Sanchez and Colt McCoy respectively. Oh, they have a coach. Who's widely acknowledged as a genius, but who hasn't won anything to speak of. (yet, I'm a believer in Houston Nutt, and think he will eventually win something, although not this year)

About the only thing that we "know" right now is that Florida deserves to be ranked number one. This is not because of their play on the field this year, but because they are the defending champions and bring a lot of talent back. You can't be the man until you beat the man...and so on. Outside of that all of the top 25 rankings are meaningless. Especially the Sports Information Director's er...coaches poll, which pretty much has no basis in reality.

Which is why the B(C)S still is in scramble mode, because it's basing its rankings on a poll with no connection to what fans are watching on TV. It's a mess of a system designed not to find a champion, but to find the most profitable matchups for the networks. It's big business come to an amateur sport whose governing body is insistent on ignoring the business surrounding the games.

In short, it's a mess, much like pre-season rankings.

I'll start ranking teams after week 5, when conference play is well underway and we have a better idea of who's where in the pecking order.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rockets Redux

Red and yellow by flickr user drewstephens used via a creative commons liscense.
Remember the Houston Rockets?

Of course you do. They're Houston's NBA team. You know, the one's that used to dress up like condiments.

What's that? You didn't live in Houston during that time period?

Well...that's OK, our sports media is going to make sure you don't forget.

Just remember to Practice safe lunch and wear a condiment OK?

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Zierlein nails it.

The Astros are a lost cause.

If you want to know why they are a lost cause then you need look no further than the top of the organization, no...higher. That's right, Drayton McLane and Tal Smith. Those are the black-hats in the Western drama that has become the Astros organization of late. Those two men have done more to wreck the organization from within than anyone else, more than Tim Puprua, more than Scrap Iron and certainly more than Cecil Cooper, whose recent firing is similar to trying to solve the grafitti problem by punishing the victim.

I'm not suggesting that Coop was blameless, he certainly didn't have the tools to be a major league manager. The problem was that he shouldn't have been put in that position in the first place. Yes, he didn't have a quality car in the race, I give you that, but he shouldn't have been racing in this circuit to begin with.

Then we have the writer of wrongs who feels that a love for the game and Brad Ausmus is all the Astros need. Nevermind pitching, defense, someway out from under the bloated contract of Carlos Lee, etc. The Astros could resurrect Casey Stengal and he couldn't even get this collection of misfits over .500 (something that Cooper was at least able to do last year.)

Did he lose the players? Obviously, especially if they were wearing "really?" T-shirts under their uniforms and texting reporters (Justice among others) every time Cooper made a decision they didn't like. The thing is, no quality manager is going to want to go into a clubhouse full of spoiled children, no matter what the terms of the contract are.

What all of this probably means is that the Astros are going to end up hiring Dave Clark, who (we're told) has the respect of the clubhouse. (despite the team losing two straight since he took over, in blowout fashion) Next year we'll be told that the Astros are "competing for a championship and they'll bring in some wheezing wind-bag of a .500 career pitcher (Is Kenny Rodgers available?) some spit and bailing wire and tell us the Astros are ready to contend. They'll do this because Drayton McLane wants to turn a profit, while convincing anyone who will still listen to his schtick that he's all about winning a championship.

He's not, of course, but he is about selling tickets and concessions, something that the Astros have done fairly well up until this year. In Drayton (and Tal's) mind a rebuilding year means lost revenue, lost concessions sales and is unacceptable. It's something that's probably not even brought up in Astros board meetings. Which is too bad, because it's what desperately needs to be done.

Were the Astros serious about winning that is. Which, of course, they're not, otherwise you'd have seen Oswalt, Berkman and Tejada on the trading block before the deadline, having provided Ed Wade with a list of teams for which they'd waive their no-trade clauses.

You won't see that though, because that's not something that "makes you a champion today". You know, sort of like Tal's Hill and putting a flag pole in the field of play.

Oh, and raising beer prices.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Texans find their heart

Wow, so there is a sense of "want it" boiling in the cauldron of the Texans. Good for them. After the Jets debacle Texans fans everywhere questioned whether or not this team had the constitution necessary to be a winner. The answer, it appears, is yes. What they still lack is coaching ability, and talent at key positions.

Look aside all of the Texans cheerleading in the media this week and there are still huge questions that the Texans are going to have to answer. More of that as we hand out grades:

Quarterback: A-
Schaub had a career high in touchdowns and showed a spine by standing up in the face of the Titan's rush. He had a good, albeit not perfect, game. While an A+ (John McClain's grade) would ignore his early game struggles and missed reads it's not too much to say that this was Schaub's best game as a Texan.

Running Back: D-
Not only were the running stats anemic (63 yards on 22 carries) but their blitz pick-ups were spotty as well. Granted, some of this is on the O-line, but the running game needs to improve.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: B
Good game by Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Jacoby Jones. David Anderson gets marks for providing the team with a much needed spark (and for taking on Vanden Bosch) but too many dropped passes prevent this group from getting an A.

Offensive Line: C+
Still can't figure out how to open holes for the running game. Did a better job with pass protection but Schaub was under a lot of pressure. High marks for rebounding from the Chester Pitts injury however.

Defensive Line: D
The Texans pass rush is non-existent. For most of the game Collins could have built a campfire and made s'mores for all the time he had. Run defense is a problem.

Linebackers: C+
The best part of a Texan's defense that is leaking oil. Cushing and Ryans were everywhere, unless Chris Johnson was outrunning them. To be fair though that will happen to a lot of people.

Defensive backfield: D+
Dunta Robinson was terrible early, and then the Titans stopped throwing his way which suggests his coverage improved. Bryce McCain shouldn't be on an NFL roster, and the busted coverage on the Chris Johnson waltz-in for the touchdown was inexcusable. Add to that the fact that the DB's seem to have no concept of proper pursuit angles for run defense, and you have the makings of some high-scoring games this season.

Coaching: D-
Once again the Texans came out flat, unprepared and faced an uphill battle. Does anyone know what Gary Kubiak was doing when Johnson went uncovered? Nose in the playbook not paying attention to the game? A real head coach would have seen that and had the presence of mind to turn to the sideline official and say "Time out". It's a testament to the new found heart of the Texans players that they won this game, not to the intelligence of the coaching staff.


I was sad to see Chester Pitts go down with a knee injury in the 3rd quarter. Here's a guy who's been with the Texans since day one and has not missed a game due to injury. Good guy, good DL, and here's wishing him a speedy recovery.

Before you get too excited remember this: Most of the people making their season picks had the Texans winning vs. the Jets and losing this game. All this win does is get the Texans back on schedule. 9-7 is a reality again.

If there is anything sillier than Vanden Bosch and his red contact lenses I can't think of it right now. It was fitting that David Anderson was pushing him around by the end of the game.

The Titans defense is really missing Alert Haynsworth. I'll bet they wish they had that free agent decision back.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

B(C)S Busters Busted

So BYU was a paper Cougar and Utah got punched out by Oregon. That leaves Boise State, TCU and the Houston Cougars as the B(C)S "busters" left standing.

Week 3 also tore a big hole in the reputation of the Mountain West Conference, considered by many (including me) to be the 3rd or 4th best conference in the land prior to this weekend.

The WAC? Boise State and everyone else. C-USA? Well...there's Houston. Tulsa got rolled as did ECU, both losing big in games they needed to win in order to bolster their National reputation.

What this leaves us with is a TCU team that appears to have issues on defense, and a Houston team that's facing a stiff test next week against a Texas Tech team coming off a dishearening loss to Texas. (Disheartening that is, for Tech, Longhorn partisans are ecstatic today.)

The ideal situation for the Coogs is a resounding win over Tech, followed with a dominating run through a weakened C-USA. The reality is: Tech's offense, while struggling, is still stiff, and their defense is going to be stronger than anything they have faced so far.

This week will be filled with a lot of fluff and run up to the Tech/Houston game this weekend, The Chron's sportswriters will be falling all over themselves trying to convince reader's they've been fans all along, especially Richard Justice, who might take a break from servicing Mack Brown to cover the local angle for a while. Then he'll go back to servicing Mack Brown.

Regardless of what happens next week, those of us hoping the B(C)S system will crash and burn lost a big battle in the war yesterday. Until the "Non-automatic qualifier" conferences step up in big games, the system will stay exactly as it is.

I will say this, it's still better than the travesty that is the NFL, where I'm stuck with one option: The Texans playing sub-par football against the Titans. At least yesterday I could take my pick of the best games of the day.

Off for a long bike ride. It's too pretty outside today to watch the Texans fall apart again.