Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ugly, but not tragic

That's how I feel about the New England Patriots 42-14 drubbing of the Texans last night on the increasingly irrelevant Monday Night Football.  There's no way to sugar-coat it for Texans fans: Your team looked awful.  Inept in almost every area of the game.

Some thoughts:

 - This Texans team is not quite as good as everyone thought they might be.  Looking at their schedule their best win was over Denver, in Week 2 BEFORE Peyton Manning's arm was back to full strength.  Chicago is probably not even going to be in the playoffs as fast as they're falling.

 - It's easy to blame Schaub, but the offensive game plan was weak and that offensive line might as well be playing touch football.  Not that Schaub doesn't share some of the blame.  Good quarterbacks do well under pressure, average QB's struggle.  Schaub struggled.

 - The Texans run game is struggling right now.  I think that's partly due to poor O-line play, and Arian Foster channeling a little bit of CJ2K in his running style, trying to over-lean and cut everything back. I've made jokes about his diet dragging him down.  I don't really think it's his diet, but I do think something is wrong.

 - The Texans team spends too much time worrying about things that really don't matter.  From Connor Barwin driving a Prius, to the design of letter jackets to a host of other things, while the Texans are playing around it's pretty clear that the Patriots were studying film. This needs to change if the Texans want to be an elite team going forward.

 - The New England Patriots' plan for dealing with the Texans' pass blocking was basically to hold the Texans' D as they jumped up in the air. It was funny listening to everyone on the MNF broadcast call the Patriots' plan brilliant while the footage was clearly showing Patriot O-linemen grabbing fist fulls of Texan jersey.

 - What this loss does do is make next week's game against Indy very crucial. If the Texans win out, they receive home field throughout the playoffs no matter what.  If they lose another game (assuming the Patriots win out) then they fall to the 2nd or 3rd seed, or worse.  It's certainly not panic time, but Texans fans would be forgiven if they decide to grip just a bit in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Spotted this on Yahoo! sports:

Texans WR Andre Johnson drops 19K on toy shopping spree for charity. Jay Busbee, Yahoo! Sports

Johnson's Foundation, the Andre Johnson Charitable Foundation, funded the spree, in which 12 children selected by Child Protective Services had 80 seconds to fill up their carts with as many toys as they could. And oh, could they fill those carts.
"You hear a minute and twenty seconds, and you don't think that's a long time, but you'd be surprised by what these kids can put into their buckets," Johnson said afterward. You can see his gargantuan receipt in the photo at right.
Never mind his on the field performance, which is great, the simple fact is Andre Johnson is one of the best men in the Texans organization period.

Amazingly, this didn't hit the radar for the Texans beat reporters at the former newspaper of record in Houston.  Far more important to try and rehabilitate Bud Adam's reputation here I guess.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

3CB Center (12/04/2012)

Musings from the waiver wire.

Texans sign Routt - A few years ago, when he was a UH Cougar, I summed Routt's game up as follows:  "Great speed, can't cover if you handed him a blanket."  That said John McClain's persistent criticism of an 11-1 team is getting tiresome.

Bielema to Arkansas, the coaching wheel continues to spin. - I don't like this hire for the Razorbacks, but it probably means that Mike Gundy is staying put at OSU.  In my mind Charlie Strong is still the top prize.

Nothern Illinois making the best of a bad situation. - Yes, I agree that their on-the-field performance is lackluster for a B(C)S bid, but arguing against the system only when it produces an outcome you don't like is even more ridiculous (I'm looking at you Herbstreet)

Snyder wins AP Big XII Coach of the Year. Klein wins Unitas award - After their best season in years, the awards are starting to pile up for the Wildcats.

Very happy to see that Javorskie Lane has figured it out.

Houston has 4 players named to C-USA 1st team and the Rice Owls get 2 - Rice is heading to a bowl, UH is not.  If you're being out coached by David Bailiff you're probably not qualified for the FBS.  It appears that the Cougars are keeping Levine, and AD Mack Rhoades, so they're content with a declining athletic program it seems.

Speaking of declining. - UH basketball is unwatchable.  Dickey fits right in with Rhoades scorched earth style it seems.

Remember, Pau Gasol was the player Morey wanted most of all. It's now fair to question this man's player evaluation skills.

Some good news from this year's sorry bowl season: 5 bowls you might actually want to watch.

And finally....

I give you the Astros biggest free-agent loss of this off-season. - Good luck Jim.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sorry Longhorns

...but it appears that you're losing your cadre of T-Shirt fans.

(A&M merchandise sales spike day after upset win over Alabama, Brent Zwernaman, Chron.com)
According to Fanatics.com, a leading online retailer of officially licensed merchandise, A&M for the week of Nov. 5-11 ranked fifth in college logo-branded sales behind Notre Dame, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State. Texas was ninth.

The gaggle of people wearing burnt orange T-shirts, polos etc. when the 'Horns are on top is now dwinding as aTm rises to the top of the Texas college football pile.  Next thing you know they'll be learning the Aggie War Hymn and Saw Varsity's Horn's Off.  Just remember, if you see them swaying at a bar they could be just really drunk and not a REAL Aggie.

Fear not Horn fan, these things are cyclical.

Monday, November 12, 2012

College Football: Up, (Way) Down and...Meh...

Coming off an exciting week.

Up: aTm (obviously) Take a win over the consensus number one team in all the land, mix in a Freshman QB with a propensity for big plays, a cool nickname and a coach who's looking like a genius and you have:  The buzz in college football today.  I'll listen to the Johnny Manziel for Heisman talk now, but I still think the far less flashy (and more consistent doing it all year) Optimus Klein will win. Manziel should be there however.

Meh: UT-Austin - OK, the wishbone tribute to the late, great Darryl Royal was well played, and a win is a win is a win, but your fans attempts to pooh-pooh the Aggies good fortune smackes of this:  But....But....Longhorn Network!!!!  I'm not saying we're at the dawn of a new Aggie reign over Texas football, but right now you're third place in the 3rd best conference in the Nation.  The Ags just beat the best team in the best conference in the Nation, and they did it on a Network everyone gets.

(Way)Down: UH (prayers to DJ Hayden) - The Hayden tragedy was bad enough, then you follow it up by playing a non-competitive game against Tulsa?  This coaching staff is hardly ready for prime time, and they probably wouldn't do well in the MAC.  The remaining sports aren't in great shape either.  Time for a full house cleaning that includes a new AD, new coaches for almost all sports, and a new athletic department entirely.

Other stuff:  K-State is currently number one in all the land, but there's no way the voters let things stay that way if both Oregon and ND remain undefeated.  A 1-loss 'Bama team will get some run (from CBS) for the B(C)S Championship game but it's not clear (to me) that they deserve it.  SEC homers aside, I'm not convinced that two of the current three unbeatens are going to lose.  I think two survive and the SEC is on the outside looking in.

And no, Texas, even if you win out you're not getting in a B(C)S bowl. The voters are not going to forget 63-21, they're just not. Take the Cotton Bowl and see if DeLoss Dodds can pull enough strings to keep the Aggies out of it.  The last thing you want is to end your season w/a humiliating loss to Johnny Football & Co.

We'd like to thank Auburn and Arkansas for at least showing up to every game this season.  At least, your uniforms did.  Good luck to the two of you on your new head coaching search.  I hear Vince Dooley might be available.

Finally:  Michigan.  Just Yeesh, OK?  Go Blue.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pity the fight fan

For they know not what they want.  And it has beaten up many a promoter trying to walk the line between credible fights and fan-friendly ones.

Jones v. Sonnen may be a financial windfall, but it denigrates the UFC Light-Heavyweight belt. Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports.

Sonnen was knocked out in devastating fashion by Silva in the second round at UFC 148. That dropped him to 0-2 in his two bouts with Silva. Whether or not he won five of the seven rounds against Silva, he didn't win the fights. He lost.
One of the things that White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta did in taking control of the company in 2001 was to try to structure the titles in a way that they meant something.
There has been a path to a championship that is transparent and understandable. No one was given title shots just because of their name or who their manager happened to be, as has been the case far too long in boxing.

As Iole mentions, the UFC roster has been devastated by injuries of late.  It becomes very hard to sell a pay-per-view full of lightly fought rookies, last minute replacements, or the ton of MMA fighters on roster that aren't household names.  There's a limit to the number of "Superfights" any fighting sport can realistically have.  Boxing has Pacquiao-Mayweather now, and in the future they might have something with Andre Ward vs. Canelo Alvarez but there's only ever going to be two or three big names out there in adjacent weight classes that anyone really wants to see.

The UFC is in the same boat.  Anderson Silva vs. George St. Pierre would be a GREAT fight, as would Silva vs. John Jones, but in each case one fighter is going to be giving up significant size to step in against a man who's at the top of a bigger division.  The fans want those fights, but they rarely live up to the hype.

The biggest problem is that the casual fight fan is terribly uneducated and only knows a handful of fighters, most of whom headline credible cards against lesser known foes.  While the hard-core fight fan realizes that Silva v. Weidman is a great fight, it's not going to have the juice of Silva v. Jones no matter how hard the UFC promotes it.

During it's early heyday the UFC had a roster full of star-caliber fighters who, unfortunately, were nearing the downside of their careers just as viewers were tuning in.  Fighters like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin and Quinton Jackson generated viewer interest on the downsides of their career.  Today's fans never got to see Bas Rutten fight, and that's a shame. He was a better striker in his prime than anyone fighting today.

The real shame is that, in many cases, most of the young up-and-coming fighters are more well-rounded and better fighters than many of the "stars" of the past.  The casual fight fan doesn't see that however, clamoring for fights with the names they know.  This leaves Dana White & Zuffa in the unenviable position of trying to cobble together profitable fight cards with a roster of healthy fighters with little buzz.

Remind you any of boxing? (Minus the corruption that is.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

College Football Game picks (10/18/2012)

Good slate of games this week:


Houston 37 @ SMU 27 - I've no faith in Gilbert and the Cougars are looking better of late.


LSU 17 @ aTm 13 - Part of me wants to predict the upset.  That part of me is probably drunk.

Va Tech 13 @ Clemson 31 - These aren't your older brother's Hokies.

Iowa St 35 @ OSU 38 - Iowa St. is ranked?  That won't last long and all will be right in the world again.

Purdue 10 @ Ohio St. 17 - Why closer than everyone thinks?  Because the Buckeyes aren't blowing anyone out this year.

Stanford 27 @ Cal 17 - Coach Tedford on the hot seat.

S. Carolina 27 @ Florida 24 - The Old Ball Coach > Muschamp.

TxTech 47 @ TCU 24 - Without Pachall TCU is just a frog.

Alabama 42 @ Tennessee 10 - The Vols aren't that good. Not sure why everyone thinks they are.

K-State 42 @ WVU 30 - I think the Wildcats have enough on defense to stop Geno Smith. (sorta)

Baylor 56 @ Texas 52 - After the OU debacle, how can you pick UT in this game?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

College Football: Now we're getting there...

Lot of thoughts about College Football as it stands at the 1/2 way pole.  Some teams better than I thought, some teams just about what I thought they would be, some surprises, and some teams that are turning it around.

The rankings are here but I'm not going to limit my thoughts here to the teams on them....

Surprises to the good:

Kansas St. - I thought they would be pretty good, but I didn't think they'd be top 5 good.  They beat a very good OU team and destroyed Miami.  Anyone think they're not going t beat WVU and UT?  Could be a big season for the Wildcats.

Louisville - I still think they're underrated, probably should be a top 10 team.  The fans of Louisville should enjoy it now because Charlie Strong is not going to be there for long as other teams will come calling.

Miss St. - Again, probably underrated.  However, could play down to their ranking as the schedule starts to improve.

Ohio - That this 7-0 team is only ranked 25 in the AP is a crime.  They beat Penn St. which seems to be better than everyone thought.  Their exclusion from the USA Today Coaches Poll is my current biggest argument for the stupidity of that poll.

Ohio St. - This shouldn't have surprised me, because of Urban Meyer, but I didn't think he had the players for his system yet.  They're not winning pretty, but they're winning.

Oregon St. - Didn't see this one coming at all.

Surprises to the bad:

Arkansas: Duh.  Probably talking to Charlie Strong as we speak.

Va Tech - I thought, with the talent returning, that Va Tech was a sleeper candidate for the ACC title this year.  Oops.

Texas - Probably should have seen this coming. Mack Brown has only been good when he's had strong defensive coordinators.  Manny Diaz is not a strong defensive coordinator.

Auburn -   I didn't think the Tigers would be good, mostly because I don't think Chizik is a good head coach, but I didn't think they'd be THIS bad. Probably looking for a new HC after the end of this season.

About where we thought they would be:

Alabama - Until someone can prove otherwise, this is the #1 team in all the land.

Oregon - Has the most speed of any team in major college football and a defense that's turning out to be pretty good this year.

Rice - There's never a year we don't think the Owls are going to be terrible.  They're just more terrible than usual this year.  It's time this university took a hard look as to whether or not it wants to continue playing major college football.

Turning it around:

Houston - After losing their first three games (and looking terrible while doing it) it seemed that the Cougars were in big trouble heading into the Rice game.  Fortunately, Rice starting QB McHarge was injured and unable to play so the Cougars got their first win. Since then they've looked good against North Texas and UAB so there's progress.  They could get a win against SMU this Saturday and then the schedule gets tougher.  If they can sneak in a win against either UTEP, East Carolina or Tulsa they could go 8-4 and make it to a decent bowl game.

Michigan - The loss to Alabama didn't concern me, neither did the close win over Air Force, but the ND win exposed a team with a bad defense and a QB who should be playing WR.  Now, into conference play, the Wolverines seem to have found their stride and just pasted a decent Illinois team.  A win against Sparty this weekend puts them in the catbird seat for the conference championship game and a B(C)S bowl game.   Go figure.

Oklahoma - 63-21 over Texas.  Enough said. Probably not going to make it to the B(C)S championship game but could make it to a B(C)S game if they win out.

My Top 10 rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida
4. K-State
5. Notre Dame
6. Ohio State
7. Oregon State
8. LSU
9. Oklahoma
10. Louisville

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Things are not looking good right now for Lance Armstrong.  From holding status as the most prolific Tour de France rider ever (not the best rider ever, that title belongs to Eddie Merckx and always will) to being accused of being the best sporting drug czar ever the fall has been swift, and fairly damning. Whether or not you like or approve of USADA (I don't, as I think the drug enforcement groups are often more corrupt than the athletes themselves) the information that they put together has ruined the legacy of the greatest American cyclist of all time.

Lance Armstrong was the leader of the biggest doping conspiracy in sporting history say USADA. Nick Hoult, The London Telegraph

The United States Anti-Doping Agency charged him with six offences covering the use of banned substances, the trafficking of drugs, the administration of drugs to team-mates and aiding and abetting a massive cover-up between 1998 and 2005, a period when he dominated the world’s most famous race.
Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s performance director who was key to Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France this year, said was stunned to read the USADA findings. “It is shocking, it’s jaw dropping and it is very unpleasant.”
A total of 26 witnesses including 11 fellow riders from the United States Postal Service team testified to USADA against Armstrong in a ­doping case the agency described as “more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports ­history”. The dossier has been sent to the International Cycling Union which now has 21 days to challenge its findings and appeal to the World Anti-Doping Agency or comply with the decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles.
In short, cycling another mess on it's hands.  In question are Lance's 7 Tour de France titles won from 1998 to 2005.  The easy solution would seem to be to just strip Armstrong of his titles and award the next finisher in line the championship.  The problem with this scenario is that most of the cyclists who finished 2nd to Lance (Including Ivan Basso) have been implicated (and in may cases suspended) for their own drug-related scandals. A worse option might be to vacate the titles and leave cycling with a gaping void of seven years where no Tour champion is listed.  It may not be a good solution, but it could be a fitting tribute to a cycling era where anyone who wasn't cheating wasn't seriously trying. (I'm looking at you, French riders)

For his part, Armstrong is remaining defiant, deciding to stay quiet and out of the public eye perhaps hoping that all of this just blows over and that he can keep chugging along post cycling as the public face of LiveStrong.

Time will tell what the legacy of Armstrong will ultimately be, but I don't think there's any way he's going to totally over come his doping legacy.  Even the staunchest of Lance Armstrong defenders has to go pale after reading the accusations and evidence compiled by USADA in this instance. There are really only two options, either Lance Armstrong is guilty as charged, or he's the subject of the greatest, most wide-reaching conspiracy that's ever been hatched to take down an individual who, by all accounts, hasn't hurt anyone if the allegations are false.  It's a staggering amount of money and resources that have been spent in what would all amount to a lie.

At the end of it all this case brings about one inevitable conclusion:  It's time to have a serious grown-up talk about PED's in sports, and whether or not we're willing to let a bunch of lawyers in suits come in and declare invalid what we've seen with our own eyes because they enjoy the power and privilege that come with being on the doping control board.  In the end, drug "cheats" hurt no one but themselves and we spend Billions trying to stop them from doing so.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If Pat Forde is correct....

And the B(C)S polls DO rank the Irish #1

Then we have exhibit A in the argument that the entire system was rigged from the git-go.

Any casual observer can determine that the number 1 and 2 teams in the nation are Alabama and Oregon respectively.  Now, granted, 3-5 might be a crap-shoot and Notre Dame is in the mix, but they're nowhere NEAR the number one spot.

Does anyone think that Nick Saban's team wouldn't take the Irish helmets and melt down the gold to build a Saban statue?  And the Golden Domers haven't faced a team with near the speed of Oregon.

Thank goodness this mess of a system is going the way of the Dodo.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Texans fans expected a blowout....

.... and a football game broke out.

Final score: Texans 23 NY Jets 17

Of course, this has caused ChronBlog's 33 year veteran "NFL reporter" to go into full meltdown mode.  If you were reading his Twitter feed during the game last night you might have thought he was live-tweeting a Rice football game.  Filled with such adjectives as "pathetic" and "horrible" the descriptors felt more like you were watching an 0-5 team rather than one that had just ran it's record to 5-0. John McClain is in full-on, my buddy K.S. (Bud) Adams has a losing team and I'm mad dammit, melt-down mode.

While last night's game was not a stunning spectacle of football that would bring a tear to Vince Lombardi's eye, it was a win, on the road, in the NFL, against a team who's back was against the wall.  Step back and let's take a look at the positives AND negatives instead of relying on the angry pecking of a writer who's thrown in the towel.

The Good:

J.J. Watt: Probably the BEST thing about this Texans team has been Mr. Watt for a few weeks now.  It's not that he makes every defensive play, but he's sure involved in most of them.  Put aside the Hall of Fame hyperbole and you have the beginnings of a Defensive MVP season.  He just needs to stay healthy.

Arian Foster: Say what you want about his vegan diet (and I've poked fun more than a few times on Twitter) but last night's Foster ran with authority and strength, he easily had his best game of the year against a team that was ripe for the picking against the rush.  Good players are SUPPOSED to do well against teams with a running defense like the Jets.

Road win: People forget this: It's HARD to win in the NFL on the road.  Especially against a team like the Jets who were humiliated the week before by one of the best teams in the league.  Yes, the Texans did not bring their "A" game to the Meadowlands, but they were good enough to win with their "C" game.  That says a lot about the make-up of this team.

Brooks Reed & Conor Barwin: Signs of life.  Good sign.

Matt Schaub: Every week this becomes more and more Schaub's offense.  I don't remember a time last night that he was sacked, or even seriously pressured.

Offensive Line: See above, easily had their best game of the season protecting Schaub and opening up big holes for Foster to run through.

The Bad:

Special Teams: It's time to end the Trindon Holliday experiment.  At this point it would be better to take a knee on every kick-off and fair catch every punt then to keep trotting him out there kick after kick.  Return blocking needs serious work.

Andre Johnson: It's not that he's done, it's just that he has lost a step over ten years and can now be covered one on one by elite corners.  For the fans saying he sucks: You're wrong.  He's still very good but he's now become one option in an offense that has many to choose from.

Jonathan Joseph: Easily his worst game as a Texan. Probably just a case of a good player having a bad game but it sure was rough to watch.

Cushing's Injury:  Reports out this morning report that he suffered an ACL tear that will end his season.  This means that Tim Dobbins and Brady James are the new starting LB's until Darryl Sharpton comes off the PUP, probably after the off week.  Until then, hopefully they'll cut Holiday and pick up a street-free agent linebacker for depth and special teams.

Play calling: It felt like the Texans were trying to force the ball to Andre Johnson too often and, when that didn't work, Schaub was forced to throw the ball out of bounds.  There is a time to go conservative, and a time to be more aggressive, Kubiak still needs to understand where that line lies.

Overall I would think that Houston Texans fans should walk away from this one pretty happy.  The team proved something Monday night, that they can win despite not playing at their best.  That's a huge step forward for a team that still has a lot to prove in regards to it's toughness when things go pear-shaped. Unfortunately, the former newspaper of record has shown that they cannot handle the same.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Now the polls have no idea what to do.

Ah upset Saturday, that one weekend of the year when the College Football world gets turned upside down and the polls get ever more shaky as pundits, beat writers and SID's with little clue try to piece together what's left of the wreckage into a Top 25 that makes even less sense than it did at the beginning of the year.

This week's Top 25 is no different.

Some thoughts:

 - They've got it right at the top.  There shouldn't be any debate about #1.  They're last year's defending champions and, so far, they've looked better this year than last. Alabama is, until beaten, the top team in the land.

 - The "Coaches" poll is worthless - Just worthless. Being tied to the B(C)S it omits Ohio State, and is completed by school's SID's (for the most part) or coaches who don't get a chance to watch a lot of football.

 - What to do with West Virginia? On the one hand, they keep winning. On the other hand, how high can you really rank a team with no defense to speak of?

 - How good is K-State?  This could be a big question going forward for the Big XII.  If K-State is really good, then they could win the conference and compete for the B(C)S championship.  They don't have the roughest road in front of them, and we still just don't know.
 - Michigan?  At 25? As a Wolverine fan even I'm confused by this one.  Sitting right behind them is an undefeated Ohio team that has a quality win over Penn St.  If voters paid attention this wouldn't have happened.

 - Overrated: LSU, Texas, USC, Boise St

 - Underrated: Clemson, Louisville, Cincinnati, Ohio

 - We'll know more after this weekend about:
        - aTm and La Tech.  The teams play each other at a neutral site.
        - Oklahoma and Texas. See above.  Less shine on this game than in year's past however.
        - South Carolina - At LSU is a tough place to play, even if the Tigers have no offense to speak of.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Picks vs. Reality (Week 4)

So, How'd I do?  And do I owe John McClain an apology or no?

Pick: Titans 10 @ Texans 27
Reality: Titans 14 @ Texans 38
If anything, I under-stated just how bad the Titans were, and things get knocked out of whack when a starting QB went down.  Still. 1-0

Pick: Vikings 24 @ Lions 13
Reality: Vikings 20 @ Lions 13
Not too bad.  This game played out just as I thought it would. 2-0

Pick: Panthers 7 @ Falcons 35
Reality: Falcons 30 @ Panthers 28
Way off on the score, but I got the W/L correct.  Since I'm not a handicapper I don't do point spreads, but I was surprised by the Panthers offense in this one.  It's an ugly 3-0 but I'll take it.

Pick: 49'ers 27 @ Jets 3
Reality: 49'ers 34 @ Jets 0
Reality is pretty ugly for the Jets right now.  4-0

Pick: Seahawks 24 @ Rams 20
Reality: Seahawks 13 @ Rams 19
Not sure what to make of this one.  I thought the Seahawks should handle St. Louis but they looked terrible. 4-1

Pick: Saints 20 @ Packers 41
Reality: Saints 27 @ Packers 28
The Saints are already in panic mode, perhaps the Packers should be.  I watched a lot of this game and neither team is any good.  Again, it's ugly, but I'll take 5-1

Pick: Redskins 13 @ Buccaneers 6
Reality: Redskins 24 @ Buccaneers 22
All in all not too bad.  But I was surprised the Redskins let the Bucs score that much.  Neither team is any good. 6-1

Pick: Bears 27 @ Cowboys 24
Reality: Bears 34 @ Cowboys 18
It's hard to predict a 5 INT game, but that's what Tony Romo served up last night to the Bears.  The Cowboys need to gut this thing and start over but, given their owners super-sized ego, there's little chance of that happening.

Final results: 7-1 for the same games John McClain of the Chron was 5-3.

So I don't owe an apology to the General, and he did do a good job on the picks he got right.  It still feels like he's picking based on how he felt the teams were at the start of the season, as opposed to what's been playing out in live games.  This suggests that the Chron's NFL "expert" is not watching a lot of NFL football.

Neat, one-week experiment which I think I'll let go.  Will probably keep picking 8 games per week however, for no other reason than I want to track how I do.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reported vs. Reality (College Football Edition)

If you didn't watch any college football yesterday and instead relied on the media to tell you what happened you're probably walking around with a few fallacies in your head this morning.  Let's talk for a minute about what really happened yesterday:

Myth: The Houston Cougars fixed a lot of problems in a 35-14 win over Rice.
Reality: No, they really didn't.  The loss by the Owls of QB McHarge destroyed any chance the Owls had of moving the ball. Freshman QB Driphus Jackson couldn't throw the ball, so UH was allowed to pack 8 or 9 in the box and just come after him.  Yes, it was a win, but it was a win against a team that's more similar to a FCS team in terms of structure and talent than a rel FBS team with aspirations for even a .500 record. Winning this game only means that the Coogs ceiling this year is 4 wins, instead of the 1 win (Tulane) that it would have been had they lost here. If Rice would have been able to play a healthy McHarge I think the results would have been a lot different.

Myth: That Longhorn "shine" is back
Reality: Probably not. The 'Horns will certainly go to a bowl, and it might even be a January bowl.  As a matter of fact, they might even beat West Virginia (a team with no defense to speak of) next week and be in the cat-bird seat for a B(C)S bowl.  I have one big problem with Texas however.  For all of their supposed great play and for all of their talent they still needed a blown call by the officials at the end of the game to eek out a 41-36 win over a team that got blown out by a fairly bad Arizona unit.  The bigger problem, for Big XII teams, is that the conference doesn't seem to be all that good this year.  K-State is fairly salty it appears, and WV is going to be exciting, but there's no one in the conference who seems to be a true contender for the top slot in the land.  The SEC has Alabama, the Pac-12 Oregon, the ACC has Florida St.  the B1G and Big XII have.......

Myth: aTm can win their conference.
Reality: Uh...No. They can't.  This is going to be the age of irrational exuberance in College Station as fans are going to be borderline giddy coming off a 58-10 thrashing of Arkansas.  This would only mean something if this were the Bobby Petrino led Hogs and not the current Arkansas team led by the modern day Dana Dimel.  Yes, Arkansas still has talent but it's very clear that the coaches have no clue what to do with it, and the players are playing something akin to sandlot football.  Good first win for aTm but it came against a team that's not even trying right now.  With this win they might make a bowl.  It will be played in December.

Myth: At this point in the season the polls start to reflect reality
Reality: No, they don't.  Too many voters mail it in, or are still voting by what they think rather than what they see on the field. 1-3 is OK, but after that it really starts to break down.  LSU is a team that could barely beat Towson, at home. Georgia has not looked good, and neither has S. Carolina, all three teams are getting bumps because of their conference.  TCU is way low, as is Louisville. The best one-loss team in the land is not USC it's Clemson.  Since the B(C)S is tied to polls (although not the AP poll) these things still matter.  It's ridiculous and it's improperly punishing some really good teams.

Friday, September 28, 2012

NFL picks: Week 4

Picking NFL games is not my favourite pass-time, I tend to enjoy picking college games more.  However, since Houston is in dire need of some NFL prognostication I've decided to give it a whirl on week 4.

If I end up with a worse record than McClain then I'll retire from NFL prognostication and return quietly to college, with an apology to the General soon to come.  I think I'm going to beat him however.  All picks are straight up, I'm not worried about the betting line, I'm not a handicapper.

Titans 10 @ Texans 27 - Should be a relative walk in the park for Houston's pro football team.  And by walk in the park I mean expect the running game to finally get on track as the Titans fold into a 2-deep shell.

Vikings 24 @ Lions 13  - The Lion's defense has been atrocious this year. Minnesota is better than a lot of experts thought.

Panthers 7 @ Falcons 35 - Anyone who thinks this game is going to be close hasn't been paying much attention to football for the first 3 weeks.

49'ers 27 @ Jets 3 - An angry San Fran team, a beat up and suddenly struggling Jets team that can't run the ball?  Go Niners!

Seahawks 24 @ Rams 20 - This final score is in place provided Sam Bradford stays healthy all game.  Given the nature of the Seahawks D I'd say the odds are 50-50.

Saints 20 @ Packers 41 - The biggest question for this game is whether or not New Orleans remembers how to tackle.

Redskins 13 @ Buccaneers 6 - If, after last week's disaster, you pick Tampa Bay to score more than ten you need to turn in your prognosticator card.  It's not that they can't do it, it's that they're unlikely to unless the play calling changes drastically.

Bears 27 @ Cowboys 24 - Chicago's defense has been pretty stout this year.  Romo and company tend to struggle against physical, ball hawking defenses.  Should be close however because both teams are flawed.

Titans love letters and bad picks....

Put them together and you have the out of touch NFL writer that is John McClain.

Johnson Struggling to get ground game going with Texans on deck. John McClain, Ultimate Texans.

Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame because they were among the greatest blockers in NFL history.  Now they are coaching the worst running game in the NFL.
It is difficult to imagine Munchak, Tennessee’s head coach, and Matthews, the Titans’ offensive line coach, having a running game that ranks last at 39 yards a game and 2.6 yards a carry.
One of the biggest mysteries in Nashville is whatever happened to running back Chris Johnson. From 2,006 yards in 2009 to $30 million guaranteed last season to 45 yards on 33 carries in three games this season.

It's not a mystery, at least, not to anyone who's been watching Johnson run.  The guy has no head for contact any longer.  He moseys into the hole and then, when he sees the safety or line-backer bearing down, he goes into tap-dance mode, tries to bounce outside.....right into the waiting arms of a tackler for a minimal gain or loss.  Yes, the holes aren't as big as they used to be, signs of a Tennessee team that's done a horrible job building an O-line, but they are there.  It's just that Johnson doesn't have the will to hit them hard any longer. 

It's well known that McClain has a soft spot in his heart for K.S. (Bud) Adams and the Titans, it has to pain him to be writing about a team that's this bad.  Fortunately, for him, he's been able to take out that frustration on an average Texans team in years past.  This year however that habit is just making him look sad.

I just have one thing to say about this:

John McClain's picks for week 4, John McClain, Ultimate Texans

McClain’s record last week: 4-12 (.250) straight up; 5-11 (.313) vs. spread
Season: 24-24 (.50) straight up; 17-29-2 (.375) vs. spread


Judging by this week's picks he's not going to improve those numbers much.  Granted, it's been a tough year to pick, with a lot of formerly good teams falling by the wayside, but still.  25% last week?  Yeesh.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

And....they're back

That was fast.

Regular refs to work Thursday game after agreement. Barry Wilner, Boston.com

The NFL’s regular officiating crews are back. Their return couldn’t have come soon enough for many players, coaches and fans.
After two days of marathon negotiations — and mounting frustration throughout the league — the NFL and the officials’ union announced at midnight Thursday that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.

I will admit to being surprised by the sense of urgency the league displayed in getting this done.  Yes, Monday night's game was a travesty, and people were angry, but now all that's gone and the NFL becomes about football again and...well, fans who tune out when things are on the skids for their team are now out of excuses and are going to start tuning out.

This had to have been a case where public pressure (or perceived public pressure) drove negotiations.  Of course, the replacement (I refuse to call them scabs, that's unprofessional) referees were becoming a distraction bigger than the game.  Perhaps a majority of the owners finally came to the conclusion that their most important product should be game being played on the field?

One can only hope.

Any way, welcome back to the "regular" referees,  you replacement crews can now go back to having your Sunday afternoon's off, and watching the NFL like the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What John McClain thinks.

I'm sorry but I find it ludicrous that this type of writing & thinking is taken seriously enough to be given copy inches in what used to be a newspaper of record for America's 4th largest city.

Texans are rising, but they're not number 1 yet. John McClain, UltimateTexans via Chron.com

After the first three weeks of the season, the Texans are the best team in the AFC, perhaps the best in the NFL.
But in this week’s NFL rankings, they’re second behind the Atlanta Falcons.
And I apologize to the NFL’s other unbeaten team, the Arizona Cardinals. What the Cardinals have done — beating Seattle at home in their opener, winning at New England and mauling unbeaten Philadelphia 27-6 — is more impressive than what the Texans and Falcons have done.
Why not Arizona? Truthfully, I thought the Cardinals might be among the three or four worst teams after preseason, so I rated them low in my first ranking. Even though they were red-hot over the second half of last season, I thought their quarterback issues would contribute to their being among the worst teams.
So McClain's rankings aren't truthfully based on what's happened on the field, but where he sees each team based on pre-conceived notions about what types of teams they're supposed to be, despite not spending much time following in real time.

Part of me wants to tell you that ALL NFL power rankings are worthless, but there are some that are stats based and come just about as close as you can come to objectivity However, even those fall way, way short. There was no power ranking that I saw last year which had the NY Giants anywhere NEAR the top position. I heard some analysts say that the Giants were scary, and a team that could make a deep run, but no one was seriously placing them number 1.

The problem with McClain's ranking system is that it doesn't appear that real-world results mean much to him.  He's decided to base everything on his extensive tenure covering the NFL.  In other words, he's fallen victim to the "longevity equals experience" fallacy, the idea that since someone has been around a long time they know what they're talking about.  You see this a LOT in the media, where reports who have covered an issue for a long time are considered "experts".  They're not, of course, they're just experts on writing about the subject matter.

In some way this could be McClain's desperate attempt to stem the tide of "rah rah" coverage emanating from ChronBlog when it comes to local sports teams.  That's admirable, but misguided when the facts don't back up your assertions.

The fact is that the Texans are currently one of the top three teams in the league.  It appears (to many National observers) that they are number one.  This appearance is entirely based on what's happened on the field, and the analyst's opinions regarding talent, coaching etc.  In some sense they all do what McClain is doing, but most are savvy enough to alter their perceptions when conditions warrant.  To be clear, my beef is not that McClain has the Texans at #2, it's his incredible justification for doing so.

Now's where I tell you that these NFL power rankings are ridiculous.  In College football the Top 25 is a necessary evil to provide some structure for the B(C)S.  In pro football we find out who is the real number one, as decided on the field in February.

As it should be.

As such, I vow to not pay any attention to any NFL power rankings.  It's just an excuse to drive page hits to a media outlet's website to comment on information that has no practical use whatsoever in determining which teams are good or bad.

Of Bad Referees and Bad Football

Unless you're one who avoids any and all mention of football, or possibly you're stationed on the Isle of Gough in which case you're not seeing much anyway, the odds are you've followed the recent kerfuffle surrounding the NFL, it's replacement refs, and the first blown call ever in a League game.

I'm not going to spend much time on that this week except to say this:  The officials didn't give up 8 sacks in the first half to Seattle's D. Yes, the calls at the end of the game were awful, but Green Bay's offensive line was equally awful. The NFL is under no duress right now to change things, even though many self-important "guardians of the game" in the media feel they are.  Right now the NFL is more popular than it's ever been.

Moving on.

When I unleashed my Texans prediction I had them at 2-1 right now, with Denver being the only loss.  That said, after things have played out, Denver is not as good as I thought they might be (although not terrible) and the Texans are playing better.  I still have concerns about the run game and the CB's once you get past Jonathan Joseph, and I've still no faith in Arian Foster, but overall I could see this team going as high as 11-5 this year, but I'm going to stick to my prediction because the tough part of the schedule is still in front of them. (Although with Reavis going down and no run game to speak of the Jets are not going to be as tough as I thought.)

Speaking of bad football:  The Bayou Bucket is going to be contested for this Saturday and the score should easily surpass the betting line of 74.  Neither UH or Rice has a credible FBS defense, and I'm not even sure UH has a credible FBS offense.  Neither school has a credible FBS coaching staff.  Predict we must: Rice 63 UH 62 3 OT

In the college game this is one of those inevitable weeks where conference play means "meh".  That means that you're going to have to dig a little deeper into the schedule to find quality games to watch.  Here are a few suggestions and my picks:

Standford @ Washington: I feel that the Cardinal are overrated due to the USC win and I don't think that Washington is as bad as the LSU game suggested.  SU 24  WU 27

Baylor @ West Virginia: Consider this a preview of the Bayou Bucket but with much, much better talent for both schools. I believe the Mountaineers are the best team in the Big X IX Xii  BU 27 WV 56

Arkansas @ aTm: At the beginning of the year I'd have told you aTm has zero chance in this game. This is why pre-season rankings in college football are stupid.  UA 14  aTm 27

Ohio State @ Michigan State: Many, including me, don't believe the Buckeyes are for real this year.  This game should go a long way in determining that.  OSU 7 MSU 17

Louisiana Tech @ Virginia: Not only are they being ignored by the national press, but they're being snubbed in the rankings as well. La Tech is your B(C)S buster, or should be.  La Tech 50  UVA 13

Minnesota @ Iowa:  Many, including me, don't believe the Golden Gophers are for real this year. That said, I don't think the pink locker room will matter much here. Iowa is terrible.  UM 24 IU 16

Texas @ Oklahoma State: A lot of people talking about the renewed Longhorn "glow" which is odd considering their SOS is pathetic. Still, OSU has issues.  UT 35 OSU 31

And that's just about it.  My guess is there will be some games not on this list that will turn into barn-burners, which is the unique joy of college football.  It's also what makes it so hard to pick each and every week.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Notes from the football weekend that was (09/24/2012)

Going to focus primarily on College Football today since there is still an NFL game to play tonight.....

K-State 24 OU 19  - Here's the thing to take away from this game:  It wasn't as close as the score suggested.  At no time did I feel that OU's offense was ever a serious threat to K-State's defense.  The Wildcats out-muscled OU in every stage of the game, and Landry Jones is just not that good of a QB.  OU has some serious issues, on both sides of the ball, to work out.

ND 13 Michigan 6 - After this game was over I got into a mild Twitter debate with Sean "the Cablinasian" Pendergast.  He was hyping ND linebacker Manti Te'o as a sleeper Heisman candidate (If you follow Notre Dame at all it's not unusual for them to tout ANY good player they have as a potential Heisman candidate) I disagreed, explaining that Te'o has been great against inferior competition this year.  This led Pendergast to term me a "bitter" UM fan who was let down by my team.  If you have to project in an argument you've already lost.  Te'o is a great LB, probably the best in the country.  What he is not is a Heisman contender.  What Michigan is not is a good football team.  Time to help Denard Robinson with his NFL future and move him to WR while letting Redshirt Freshman Russell Bellomy take the keys to the car and try to give the Wolverines a functioning offense.  Notre Dame's schedule, which looked brutal at the beginning of the season, has gotten a lot softer with USC and OU turning out to be paper tigers. I expect they finally get into a B(C)S bowl finally taking advantage of a system that was designed to make it easy for them to do so.

Florida St 49 Clemson 37 - It looked rough for a while, maybe the Seminoles needed some time to adjust to D-1A football speed, but ultimately Florida State proved (to me) that they're contenders who belong in the B(C)S championship conversation.  EJ Manuel is now the Heisman front-runner, along with Geno Smith of WV, and that defense.  It reminds me (a lot) of the defenses FL State brought to the table during their 80's and early 90's hey-days.  Make no mistake, Clemson has a LOT of talent on that offense.  The biggest problem for the Seminoles is that their schedule is pretty dull until November 8th when they have to travel to Blacksburg and face Va Tech.  They then end the season with Florida. Besides those two games?  Meh.  Can they stay focused?

Oregon 49 Arizona 0 - Ranking Arizona in the Top 25 after their home upset over Oklahoma St. was ridiculous.  Again I go back to the idiocy of early season polls.  Now that we're four weeks into the season the picture is starting to get a little bit clearer, as almost all of the top teams have played somebody halfway decent. (The exception being LSU, who still hasn't played a good team in my opinion)  Know this, the Oregon Ducks are for real.  Unless something drastic happens I'll have them at #2 in my first ranking behind Alabama.  The impressive thing is that they have a defense this year to go along with that eye-popping offense.

LSU 12 Auburn 10 - Now might be a good time to get nervous if you're of the Geuax Tigers persuasion.  LSU struggled against a very pedestrian Auburn team and, while it is hard in the SEC to win on the road, showed us that they still have a LONG WAY to go offensively.  That defense is still there, and they have a ton of running backs to throw at you but, if they keep this up they're going to fall down the rankings further than #3, and without losing potentially.  At this point I'd say that the Seminoles are better than LSU, and possibly even Georgia & South Carolina. Fortunately, the Gamecocks are on LSU's schedule in a couple of weeks so we'll find out first hand.


Poor U of H.  Even in an off-week they lose something.  In this case it's the single-game passing record long held by David Klingler.  Beaten by Old Dominion of all people.  The thing is that I have a feeling things are not going get better for the gang on Cullen anytime in the near future.  The Bayou Bucket is next, and I think the Rice Owls have a better offense than UH this year. Given the state of the MadDog Submissive Kitty defense this season I think Rice wins a track meet.  Then the Cougars have the Mean Green coming to town.  On paper UNT were designed to be Cougar patsies, in reality they've hung with some tough teams and have some real talent.  Looking at the Coog's schedule, and given how many teams on it are not as bad as we thought by all appearances, I'm struggling to find a rock-solid win until the Tulane game.  Heck, even UAB looked good against Ohio State.  I think the Cougars ceiling this year is 3 wins.  At this point the University might want to think about clearing out the entire athletic program (including Rhoades) and starting fresh.  UH is regressing in every area.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quick College Football thoughts....

Heading into a pretty good week 4 schedule......

1. College Game Day is a snoozer this week.  Sorry Game Day, but you heading to Rutgers/Arkansas is pathetic.  Three premier top 25 matchups and you choose this snoozer over all of them?  I realize they're not on your network but get real.  RU 27 Ark 26

2. Michigan has a chance against Notre Dame.  I'm not suggesting it's a big chance but, Shoelace has been much faster than ND in the past and has given them issues.  If Michigan's defense can just rise to the D-1 level they can win this game.  That said. ND 24 UM 21.

3. Clemson has a chance at Fl. St. this week. I'm still not sold on the Seminoles but will be if they beat Clemson.  I've told Fl. State to call me after they've beaten someone.  Clemson is someone. FSU 27 Clem 20

4. K-State has a chance against OU.  That the game is in Norman gives the Sooners an edge but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the Wildcats are the more physical team in this game.  KSU 17 OU 14

5. Arizona has no chance against Oregon.  O 47 AU 15

6.  Alabama and LSU could each score 100 if they decided to.

7. USC/California is the sleeper game of the week.  USC 31 Cal 30  I was wrong by the way, Layne Kiffen could mess up even with THAT much talent.

8. Rice beats Memphis!!! Rice beats Memphis!!!  Rice 28 Memphis 7.....Oh, wait, they play MARSHALL.  Oops.  Marshall 27 Rice 13

9. In the Southern Miss/Western Kentucky tie watch defensive end Dwayne Montgomery. (#99)  He's a redshirt Freshman who looked dominating at times.....against Alabama.  Don't overlook the Hilltoppers here for the mild upset.  SMU 28 WKU 24

And finally.....

10. Breathe easy UH Cougar fans, you have a week off to lick your wounds before the (now annual) beating by Rice at Reliant takes place.  Consider this as well:  UNT hung in there with K-State last week, so they might not be as bad as advertised.  0-5 to start the season anyone?  UAB is terrible, possibly worse than the Cougars, so that should be a win.  Then I struggle to find another win the rest of the season until you get to Tulane.  2-10 should get your coaches fired.  Especially with that talent.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

What did yesterday's upsets prove?

If anything, they proved my point that pre-season rankings in NCAA FBS football are ridiculous.  Do they serve a purpose?  Yes, they provide the lazy MSM sports media with something to talk about, and they over-hype early season matches (Alabama/Michigan) and make it harder for really good teams to make a push toward the B(C)S championship game. (This year: Michigan St looks like an early contender.)

For the most part, early season rankings are based on t he prior season's results, how else do you explain an average Arkansas team being ranked in the top 10, or Oklahoma State (who lost almost every offensive weapon to the NFL) being ranked at all?

Not surprisingly, both teams suffered bad losses and readjusted in the rankings to where they should have been in the first place (outside of the top 25).  The biggest injustice, as I see it, is Kansas St. being ranked at #15.  All they've done is wallop a bad team (after a slow start granted) and then ambush a major-college team in Miami, making the latter look like an FCS program in the process.

I still think Michigan St is ranked too low, and OU, Georgia and South Carolina are ranked way too high.

This is why I don't do any type of ranking until after (at least) week 5, and I don't think the media outlets should either.  Let's get rid of the ridiculous pre-season rankings and just vote with our eyes.  If anything, LSU and Oregon should both be ranked above USC based on results right?  It's not going to happen and, unless USC loses, the major media outlets and the coaches poll will continue to be a joke.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Bad Day for the B1G

Let's see...

Michigan struggles with Air ForcePenn St. loses to VirginiaIowa loses to Iowa St.Purdue loses to Notre DameOhio State struggles with UCF and Wisconsin loses to Oregon State.

All in all a pretty down day for a pretty down conference.  I'm going to have to seriously rethink my Michigan vs. Wisconsin title game prediction.  Depending on how Nebraska looks against UCLA tonight Big Red and Michigan State could be the two best teams in a terrible conference.

Toss them out for "best conference in the land" this year.  It's a two horse race between the SEC and Pac12.

Oh, and Notre Dame is overrated, I don't care that they're 2-0.

UPDATED: Nebraska lost to UCLA.  This conference is horrible.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

College Football: Week 2 Predictions

Piggy-backing off of my "games I'll be watching" list posted earlier this week:

Pittsburgh 3  Cincinnati 42 - Outside of the Houston Cougars, the worst team in major Division college football this year is Pitt. 

Utah 38 Utah St 17 - I'm a believer in the Utes, until they play USC and Oregon that is. 

UCF 10 Ohio State 27  Urban Mayer is ahead of schedule in Columbus.
Kansas St. 17 Miami 16 No matter the final score, it will be close
Air Force 18 Michigan 35  I believe the Wolverines will bounce back.
Texas St. 20 Texas Tech 24  Is UH that BAD, or is Tx St that GOOD?  My guess is UH is that bad, but Tech isn't that good either.
La Tech 45 Houston 10 I really don't think this one is going to be all that close.
OK State 66 Arizona 3  You DID see how bad Rich Rod's defenses were at Michigan right?
Georgia 27 Missouri 3 I'm not a believer in the rebirth of Mizzou. 
Florida 27 aTm 24 I think Sumlin's team will play hard, but I think they've got a long way to go.
Nebraska 27 UCLA 7 Beating Rice is one thing, beating a real football team?  Something else entirely.
Notre Dame 17 Purdue 20 I'm not sold on the Irish. 

Tonight's game is gonig to be terrible, but if you want to point at the screen and laugh at Pitt, I encourage you to tune in.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Taking a long view of Texas St/UH

You know the  short term fall-out, an offensive coordinator fired, a fan-base in turmoil etc.  The upset of the University of Houston Cougars has done all of that, and more.  It's energized a fan base in a school's first year of D1-A FBS competition, its  taken one team off ESPN's bottom 10 and  put another team on. It's moved UH football from potential BCS "buster" to FBS joke.  It's taken all of the momentum and good will that UH developed with the national media over the last couple of years and flushed it right down the toilet walls at Robertson Stadium.

Dark days in Cougar land.  As the Mack Rhoades era has gone forward the schools athletic fortunes have grown darker.  One year after leading the Cougars to an improbable NCAA tournament appearance Tom Penders was gone, replaced by washed-up never was James Dickey.  Raynor Noble, the most successful baseball coach in UH history gone, replaced by Todd Whitting who has so far shown a remarkable inability to recruit and win. In golf, Jonathan Dismuke is not Keith Fergus, women's basketball coach Todd Buchanan hasn't had success (the team only won 4 games last year) at least coach Leroy Burrell is still in charge of track and field.

All of this brings us to football, which upgraded after the Art Briles departure in  the form of Kevin Sumlin, but then seemed utterly rudderless when Sumlin left, promoting the special teams coach, Tony Levine, to the head spot, and going cheap on assistants.  The result of this penny-pinching method of hiring coaches was the disaster you saw last Saturday.  Houston fans have a right to be dismayed. If anything, this season is starting off with a very Dana Dimel feel to it, instead of red-shirting an entire class, Levine has decided offensive coordinators are disposable.

All of this is short term, a speed bump in what is supposed to be the return of the House of Coog to athletic prominence.  In my mind however, the Texas St. loss illustrates some long-term issues that UH faces considering their new competition are newly minted D-1A FBS programs of Bobcats and the Roadrunners.

That's right UH fan, you're now competing with TX St. and UTSA.

Think about it, when the three schools finish their facility plans (you can find Houston'sTexas State's and UTSA's by clicking on the respective links) they're going to be roughly equal, funding and alumni support is going to be on par, and all three Universities' athletic programs have strong administrative support. If anything I'd give the edge to TX St. and UT-SA based on location alone.  Where would you rather go to school?  San Marcos or San Antonio?  Or at the University of Houston?

For a little while, there are going to be four tiers of major college football in Texas.  UT-Austin & aTM are going to be firmly at the top, Baylor, TCU & Texas Tech will make up the second tier, UH, SMU, TX St., UT-SA and UT-El Paso will make up a third tier, and UNT and Rice will, temporarily bring up the rear.

Going forward I see a three tier system developing depending on how the eventual 16-team Super Conferences play out:

Tier One:  UT-Austin, aTm, TCU (let's face it, the Frogs are permanently up there with the big dogs.)
Tier Two: Texas Tech, Baylor & TX State
Tier Three: UH, SMU, UNT, UT-SA (maybe, they have the potential to move up) UTEP, Rice and UNT 

The second tier has a chance to hang on in whatever the FBS eventually turns into, depending on how agile their athletic departments turn out to be.  Texas Tech, for example, will probably never drop into being a second classification football program.  I think eventually however all of the teams on the bottom tier will forever shunted off into what is going to be known as FCS (or whatever it's called) hell.  Of the three schools I'm focusing on I see TX State and UT-SA currently having a better chance of remaining relevant than Houston.

UNT and Rice are already glorified FCS teams, I don't see any way out of the bottom for them.  They'd probably be better served moving down in classification where they can compete. The thing is UH should be immune from this problem, but they're on the cusp of being passed by two Johnny-come-lately's to a party they've napped on for over a decade.  UH had a chance to really build something and make a move to a major conference, they had a chance to matter.  For some reason AD Rhoades decided to penny pinch at just the wrong time and now finds his program playing catch-up to TX St. & UT-SA.

Who would have believed this to be possible 5 years ago?  Not me.

Predicting the 2012 Texans: 9-7

Two caveats to this prediction:

1. I'm assuming the team stays moderately healthy.  If Schaub or Foster or another offensive linemen goes down all bets are off.
2. I'm not a Texans fan, I just follow them because I live in Houston and they're the "local" team.  I'll do a San Fran prediction post later in the year.

With that out of the way, here we go:

1. Miami - Win
The Fins are going to be terrible this year.  If the Texans don't win this game (at home) with a rookie QB starting for the opposition then hold on to your butts.

2. @Jacksonville - Win
See Miami. Even on the road this should be a win.  Although Maurice Jones-Drew will probably be back on the field and the Bulls on Parade has struggled slowing this guy down.

3. @Denver - Loss
It's not that I'm a big believer in Peyton Manning, it's that I'm not that big a believer in the Texans DB's outside of Joseph.  Plus, Denver is a tough road win.

4. Titans - Win
At home, against an average team, the Texans should win. Period.

5. @ NY Jets - Loss
I really think the Jets will have their backs against the wall in this game.  That's my reasoning behind this. Plus, the Texans are not a team (in the Kubiak era) that have gong on long winning streaks against tough teams.

6. Green Bay - Loss
I just think that Green Bay is better.

7. Baltimore - Win
Too many questions for Baltimore.  I think their defense is going to be a shell of its former self this year with all of the injuries.

8. Bills - Win
The top billing for this game is going to be "The revenge of Mario Williams."  Given his past performances that means he'll have two tackles instead of one.  Stupor Mario does not produce against good teams. Plus, the Texans are coming off their bye week which should help.

9. @Chicago - Loss
I'm pretty high on Chicago this year.  I think they're a wildcard team in the NFC.  Plus, the Windy City in November portends an elements game.

10. Jacksonville - Win
I didn't see Jacksonville beating the Texans in Florida, I don't see them doing it in Texas.

11. @Detroit - Loss
This is basically a swing game for me.  I see the Texans and Lions as about equals talent wise.  The difference is I don't see the Lions making the playoffs because their division is much tougher.

12. @Tennessee - Loss
It's very rare (and unheard of for the Texans) to run through your division undefeated.  This is the most likely spot for a loss.

13. @ New England - Loss
I really don't need to explain this one right?

14. Colts - Win
Luck is getting better, but Schaub and the Texans eke one out. Unfortunately they get the Colts late so this could be the difference between the playoffs, and staying home.

15. Vikings - Win
Even as someone who's not that high on the Texans, I can't envision a scenario where the Vikings beat them in Houston.  If the Texans lose this game the season has gone way off the rails.

16. @Colts - Win
Here's the thing, I think the Texans still need this game to make the playoffs.  Unlike last year when the starters took the game off and Indy stunk one out.

Final Result:  9-7  1st place AFC South.

The prevailing thought in Houston is that the Texans are going to be better because of two things:

1. They have Matt Schaub back
2. Andre Johnson is back

Neither of these things is a sure thing and #2 is only likely to be true for 1/2 the season.

These pie-in-the-sky overlook some deep deficiencies in this team that aren't being reported on by the Rah! Rah! group at ChronBlog.  To start, the right side of the offensive line is suspect, with no depth.  If your starting Right Guard is one year removed from being a 7th round draft pick you've got problems.  Add to this a suspension of belief in the greatness of Foster, injury concerns, no faith in the DB's and a "meh" attitude about the coaching staff and you end up with a 9-7 prediction.

On the bright side: I still think that's good enough for the Texans to win the division and make the playoffs.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

College Football round-up: Week 1

Just a few things to say that probably have already been said, possibly some haven't.

I wasn't pleased with how Michigan chose to use Denard Robinson on Saturday, but I'm not sure they have any other choice with him.  Denard is NOT a good passer, against Alabama (Without Touissant) he wasn't much of a running threat either. Maybe it gets better for him against other teams. (Read: Teams without Kirby Smart's defense.)

As bad as it is for Michigan, at least we're not Houston.  Poor Cougars, it's sad that one terrible hire (and then the terrible hires terrible hires) can ruin what was a renaissance for the College on Cullen.  Next week is LaTech, which should, probably, be ranked in the top 25.

Pat Forde forgot to look at last weekend's weather map before writing this terrible column.  Considering most of the SouthEast conference schools were keeping one eye on Isaac I'm surprised they got the turn out they did. Classic case of over thinking and trying to create an issue out of nothing.

Alabama is the new number one team in all the land. Which means absolutely nothing.  There shouldn't be a poll until after the fifth week of the season, which is why I'm not going to put one together until then.

Big loss for the 'Noles. And a big loss for college football fans. Man can play.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Your Heisman front-runner Straight out of central casting.

David Carr younger brother alert. - Has the dad said he's not going to cut his hair until his second son is drafted?

As much grief as some people give week one of the College Schedule. Week 2 is always worse.  This week no top 25 team plays another top 25 team.  Although the aTm/Florida tie has potential.

Other games I'll be watching this weekend:

Pittsburgh - Cincinnati:  It's quite possible that the Panthers are the worst team in major college football this year.

Utah/Utah St.: Utah has the potential to be good, Utah State has the potential to be average.  We'll find out on Friday.

UCF/Ohio State: Urban Mayer is probably ahead of schedule in Columbus.  This should not be news.
Kansas St./Miami: Could be the best game of the weekend.
Air Force/Michigan:  Will the Wolverines let 'Bama beat them twice?  I hope not.
Texas St./Texas Tech:  Is UH that BAD, or is Tx St that GOOD?  We'll find out. (I'm betting on the former)
La Tech/Houston: See the question above, also La Tech is a legit top 25 team. Expect the Coogs to get thrashed.
OK State/Arizona: For no reason other than I'm always glad to see Rich Rod take a beating.
Georgia/Missouri:  Welcome to the SEC Tigers, drink heavy, this one's gonna hurt.
Florida/aTm: Should be a very good game.  Always interested in seeing Sumlin's teams play.

There are various other games that I'll peek at Nebraska/UCLA for one (how good is either team?) and Notre Dame/Purdue because I still believe the Irish are paper tigers this year (again).  I'll have some picks out later this week, before Thursday.

Great opening week. We can only hope the rest of the season is as entertaining as Week 1.

Monday, August 13, 2012

3CB Center (08/13/2012)

About to kick the sports blogging into full-gear.  But first, some quick thoughts.

This McIlroy kid is pretty good. - Too bad the ChronBlog has an Astros picture tied to the story on-line.

The worst thing about this train wreck..... is that it was foreseeable.  Johnson is a train-wreck with diminishing talent.  Any team that signs him is desperate.

The Astros still suck  That is all.

10-16, 188 yards, 2 TDs - In 24 plays.  I've a feeling this Luck kid is going to be OK.

The Olympics catches it's third drug cheat. - That's three.  If you saw the games you realize how silly that number is.

Olympic boxing was terrible. AIBA's solution?  Tell NBC to move Teddy Atlas and Bob Papa away from the judges because their feelings were getting hurt. There's a strong case to be made that boxing needs to be axed from the Olympics, AIBA disbanded, and the whole thing replaced.  I'm a firm believer in that argument.  Papa and Atlas were the best part of the event.  At least they had the courage to tell the truth.

Yup, Lane Kiffin is still an idiot.

Honey Badger don't play. D-1 football that is.

The sad thing is someone is going to hire Bobby Petrino because he can coach a little.

Daryl Morey, super genius. - Now, if he could just keep from falling off that cliff.

19 days until the Cowboys Classic. - I don't think Michigan can beat Alabama but, if they do, I'm buying plane tickets for the National Championship game.

I'm excited about the Gore/Jacobs tandem But, given the strange ways of the NFL, I can't help but wonder if Gore gets cut?  Crazy, but crazier things have happened.

I'll be so glad when the football games mean something.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shooting themselves in the wheel.

Another Tour, another big name rider caught up in a doping scandal.....

Tour de France rider Schleck fails doping test. AP via Chron.com

The RadioShack Nissan Trek team pulled Frank Schleck, one of the biggest names in pro cycling, out of the Tour de France on Tuesday after he failed a doping test, threatening to overshadow Bradley Wiggins' bid to win the three-week race in Paris this weekend. The 32-year-old rider from Luxembourg, who was third in last year's Tour, left a police station in Pau where he had discussed the case with authorities after cycling's governing body announced the positive test.
The drug that he tested positive for was Xipamide, which is a diuretic and a known masking agent for steroids.  Of course, Schleck claims innocence and claims that he was poisoned. He has requested his "B" sample be tested as per normal procedure.

For those of you unfamiliar with the procedure, the "B" sample will be tested and it it comes back negative that's it, case over.  If it comes back positive then Frank Schleck will have a right to state his case in front of the UCI (Cycling's governing body) which will then vote on his guilt/innocence and issue his penalty, probably a fine and ban from racing for a period of time.

Not really mentioned in the article is the very real possibility that Schleck will face criminal prosecution in France, which has passed a passel of tough anti-doping laws over the years in response to illegal substances being found in it's biggest sporting event.

With drug testing, under WADA standards, the standard assumption is "guilty until proven innocent".  It's very rare for an athlete to present a good case that he didn't inject the substance unknowingly (i.e. 'poisoned') or through benign methods (i.e. tainted meat) at a level that will convince the anti-doping board they're clean.

It's another black eye for cycling, which is not a huge sport in the US but which is very big in parts of Europe. I know I'll be watching le Tour coverage tonight on NBC Sports if only to watch the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the commentators.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Ranking Texas' D-1A Athletic programs

Using no metric other than how I feel the schools are currently positioned.....

1. UT-Austin - Like 'em or not, the horns are the top dog in the State of Texas in regards of overall athletic program.  They have great facilities, and bring in a TON of money through the Longhorn Network (even IF no one will carry the thing)  Yes, their football luster has dulled recently (and I believe that will carry into the next few years, until they can find a solid QB/RB/WR trio again) but they've got more resources than any other school in the State, by far.

2. Texas A&M - For all of the screaming and yelling, aTm did the best job of any of BIG state schools improving their position.  The jump to the SEC was a smart move, and will provide them with money and recruiting resources for years.  Outside of Kentucky, it's a conference that doesn't care much about basketball, so aTm should do better than expected there.  It's football where the big advantages will be found.  Not initially, as Coach Kevin Sumlin and crew will find out, but over time possibly.  To me their ceiling is Georgia.  That ain't too bad.

3. TCU - A surprise here, but not really.  TCU has been working diligently on their athletic program for years now with one goal in mind: making it into the Big ten elven Twelve whatever and they're now there.  They should do well in football, use the money and recruiting to get better in basketball, and surprise some teams in baseball and the other non-revenue sports.  TCU has good (not great) facilities and a leadership team in place that seems to understand what's needed.  I see good things for them in the future.

4. Baylor - Say what you want about the little college in Waco, they've parlayed some friendly government intervention into a decent run in the Big XII and are getting a new football stadium and a host of upgrades for the rest of their facilities.  With quality men's football and basketball teams to complement the Ladies basketball juggernaut the Bears are slowly building a competitive sports product to compete with the big boys.  Ultimately, I feel that their lack of a donor base and other limitations will cap them out here but man, what a ride.

5. Texas Tech - That "West Texas school" has been on a bit of a since the Mike Leach debacle took some steam out of their momentum.  Right now they have the feel of a moribund program whose prospects for future greatness are well.....Football is sliding, as is basketball, and may or may not have reached their low points.  Something needs to change in Lubbock, and fast.

6. SMU - I realize that I'm going to get killed for this by UH fans but the facts here speak for themselves.  SMU has better facilities, better current programs, and a better financial base on which to continue building than do the Cougars. They are in the same conference and have the same problems with that conference that UH has.  The difference is SMU is rising, UH is falling.

7. Houston -  Houston is a school that's fallen way down my rankings over the last few years.  Five years ago they may have been ranked as high as four on the list.  Unfortunately, despite having some measure of success on the football field, the Cougars are still suffering under the immense weight of unfilled potential.  They have a new, on campus, football stadium coming, maybe. Their basketball stadium is an aging relic and every other facility on campus is average at best.  For the Cougars life seems to be a steady stream of "wait and see", meanwhile other schools are moving faster and bumping them down the list. If they can sustain some measure of success on the field, get a new football & basketball stadium up and running they can move back up again.

8. UT-El Paso - It's hard for me to rank any school in the UT system (not named UT-Austin) too high.  Ultimately they have to answer to a board of directors who want to make sure the children don't surpass the parent.  UTEP does have some decent facilities however and some good coaches that they claimed off of the scrap-heap.  They're in a dog conference, and are limited on what they can accomplish due in part to geography.  Still, they are currently a lot better than they were previously.

9. Texas State - You have to like what Texas State is doing.  They're on the cusp of moving to D-1A in a conference (The WAC) that's very weak and which should allow them to make some competitive inroads. However, they couldn't dominate weaker competition in the Southland conference. They have decent facilities and an administration that seems to be committed to making them a D-1 competitive school.  Time will tell.

10. Rice - Due in large part to their tiny alumni base, and the fact that they don't place great value on the revenue sports, Rice is what Rice is, a small private institution who will always be known for academics than athletics.  This is a good thing, because this is what Rice values.  It's not a good thing for the purposes of this list however.  That said, they have a great, if aged, football stadium and the recently renovated Autry at least gives them a workable basketball facility.  Wayne Graham is a genius in baseball.

11. North Texas. - Saddled with a conference affiliation that's terrible (the Sun Belt) North Texas is moving along under the sports radar albeit, with a very large donor ("Mattress" Mack) in their corner.  They recently completed a nice little new football stadium and they have a pretty nice campus up in Denton, I just don't think they will ever have the resources to really challenge anyone above them on this list.

12. UT - San Antonio - Look, I appreciate what they are doing but there's really nowhere else you can put this school but at the bottom considering where they are today.  They've not played a down of football at the D-1 level although they could improve given the dearth of college sports in the San Antonio area and the fact that their WAC affiliation is better than the Sun Belt or C-USA.  I'd say this grade is "incomplete" but, for now, I think this is where they must rank.

Stop the Linsanity

With today's news that the Houston Rockets are making a contract offer to Jeremy Lin I think it's time to step back, take a breath, and say something that needs to be said:

The Rocket's off-season is starting to look like a slow-motion car crash.

If you think you've seen this movie before, you're probably correct.  At the beginning of the off-season it was obvious that the Rockets had developed a plan "A".  Make small trades for draft position and picks, and then bundle up Kyle Lowery and a bunch of other stuff in a trade for Dwight Howard.  What they got stuck with (after everything fell through) was Omar Asik and another Darell Morey inspired beg-a-thon to Jeremy Lin.  What's worse, the guy who they thought was going to be their starting point guard, Goran Dragic has said "thanks but no thanks" to what is rumored to be a low-ball offer and is now certainly going to sign elsewhere.

This leaves the Rockets with...well....not much really, again.

As I said previously, you've seen this before from Morey and co.  Remember "plan A" Chris Bosh?

The problem for the Rockets is that there is never a plan B.  And there should be, because Houston is, despite locals protests to the contrary, not a destination city for most athletes. Because of this luring "A-list" free agents is never a done deal.  There are many reasons for this, the least of which is the Summer heat, since most sports (excepting baseball) are off for the Summer so athletes can live wherever they want, I'll just touch on a couple here.

1. Houston is a bad, bad sports town. - I'm sorry, but it just is.Yes the Texans have a broad fan base, but it's not very deep.  And they're the best positioned team in the City. Remember 1/2 full Reliant Stadium when the Texans were missing the playoffs?  How about having to change tailgating policies because people would rather stay outside than go into the stadium?  There's no driving passion for sports in Houston, not as a whole.  Yes, you have a few Texans fans who paint their faces and compete every year for some mythical "Superfan" prize but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Houston will turn out to see a winner, but that's about it, and they're very, very quick to turn on a player if they feel somehow "dissed".

2. Houston has a terrible sports media. - Even worse, it's a sports media that the National media all but ignores.  What this means is that what happens in Houston, from a sports perspective, usually stays in Houston.  Even Yao, who was a marketing success, didn't have near the options that other national athletes have.  While salaries are equal, endorsements in the "destination cities" are certainly going to be much, much higher.

3. Houston's just not that good of a market. - This follows up on the point I made above, the endorsements just aren't going to be there.  A lot of (rightfully) proud Houstonians like to point out that they live in the "4th largest city in the USA" (some would argue 3rd largest right now)  which is true, but it's also the 10th largest media market.  In the world of sports and sports money, that's pretty small change.

The thing is, there's not much that Houston can "do" to change any of this.  Most of the population is imported and has long-standing ties with other teams (I fall in that catagory growing up rooting for Michigan & Oklahoma State in college sports, the 49ers in football -although I did grow up an Astros fan and I'm not a fan of the NBA so there's that- the Red Wings in Hockey the Irish in rugby and the Scots in footy) they may pull for the local teams but they have no real connection to them.  The media is falling all around the country and, for some odd reason, local sports talk really doesn't take off in Houston, especially if the teams are bad. In comparison, you should hear the talk shows when teams in New York, Philly or Chicago are bad.  Do you think the Cubs are not a hot topic on Chicago radio right now?  Meanwhile the Astros are almost a non-entity, treated as a joke when mentioned, almost with a wink and a "yeah, we get it, you don't want to talk about them" nod.

It's bad enough that most of Houston's sports news coverage is of the Rah! Rah! variety, which refuses to address the real problems facing teams, because that leads to fan apathy.  Even though they're not passionate, Houston sports fans (except for most UH & UT-Austin fans that is) are fairly educated and fairly honest with themselves about the states of their programs.  When what's written in ChronBlog doesn't sync up with what fans are seeing on the field, they just tune out.  The resulting silence can be devastating for a team.  Especially a team that's doing poorly.  One can only wonder how long it will be before you can hear a baby cry in Toyota Center during game action?

If next season is as bad as this off-season portends, it could be a very short time until Houston tunes out on the Rockets liked they've tuned out on the Astros.