Thursday, December 2, 2010

Four-Way Splits

I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day for the days not knowing any better than to make mix CDs with more than one song by a given artist (not counting mixes of just one artist)...so I came up with an idea: 90-minute, four-way splits...in other words, an equal number of songs (or at least time) by each of four selected artists, arranged for optimal flow...here's what I have so far:

Radiohead/Thrice/Tool/The Beatles (my four favorite bands)

1. Radiohead - Planet Telex
2. Thrice - Daedalus
3. Tool - H./Useful Idiot
4. The Beatles - A Day In the Life
5. Radiohead - Paranoid Android
6. The Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
7. Radiohead - Exit Music (For a Film)
8. Tool - Pushit
9. Thrice - The Melting Point of Wax
10. The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby
11. The Beatles - Happiness Is a Warm Gun
12. Thrice - For Miles
13. Radiohead - The National Anthem
14. Tool - The Patient
15. Thrice - The Earth Will Shake
16. Tool - Right In Two

The Bouncing Souls/Foo Fighters/Jimmy Eat World/The Lawrence Arms (just four bands that seemed to go together well)

1. Foo Fighters - All My Life
2. The Bouncing Souls - Lean On Sheena
3. Jimmy Eat World - Table For Glasses
4. Foo Fighters - In Your Honor
5. Jimmy Eat World - Just Watch the Fireworks
6. Jimmy Eat World - For Me This Is Heaven
7. Foo Fighters - Everlong
8. The Lawrence Arms - Your Gravest Words
9. The Bouncing Souls - The Something Special
10. The Lawrence Arms - Brickwall Views
11. The Bouncing Souls - Hopeless Romantic
12. The Lawrence Arms - First Eviction Notice
13. Jimmy Eat World - No Sensitivity
14. The Lawrence Arms - The Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure
15. Foo Fighters - My Hero (Skin and Bones version)
16. Foo Fighters - Next Year
17. The Lawrence Arms - The Raw and Searing Flesh
18. Foo Fighters - February Stars (Skin and Bones version)
19. The Bouncing Souls - Lamar Vannoy
20. Jimmy Eat World - Call It In the Air
21. The Bouncing Souls - Anchors Aweigh
22. The Lawrence Arms - Fireflies
23. The Bouncing Souls - Gone

more on this as it develops...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Week 8

Well, I took a week off last week just so I could have a little rest from the "grind" so to speak. Since I didn't pick any games last week, not much point going all the way to two weeks ago to rehash that week's entry, so let's jump straight into the headlines from this past week...

HEADLINES

-108 points in an SEC game? I've never seen anything like that in my life. I knew Arkansas's defense was porous--specifically in the secondary--and that their offense was spectacular but that was just ridiculous. I will say this for Arkansas: Bobby Petrino deserves a ton of credit for his offense being able to put up 43 on a talented Auburn D with the most talented passer in the nation sidelined. One of the most impressive feats for an offensive-minded coach is when the starting QB goes down and the offense doesn't miss a beat. Not only does it speak to the effectiveness of the offensive scheme but also directly to the level of preparation in every QB on the depth chart. Brian Kelly was the master of this at Cincinnati, where he almost perennially had 3-4 QBs every year that could step in (remember when Tony Pike was starting for the injured Dustin Grutza in 2008 and then in a game against Akron, not only did he go down but redshirt freshman Chazz Anderson replaced him and then went down himself, forcing a guy named Zach Collaros to step in and lead the team to a win). Rich Rod's current Michigan team also has two guys that can step in without missing a beat (which also has a lot to do with their highly improved offensive line). However, unfortunately for Bobby Petrino, his defense had to deal with Cameron Newton.

-The most accurate phrase I've heard to describe Cam Newton so far is "tight end body with wide receiver speed." Gator fans would kill me for this but when you really look at Cam Newton, he's bigger, stronger, and faster than Tim Tebow with a comparable arm. He doesn't necessarily have Tebow's grossly overstated intangibles, but if this guy was surrounded by the talent that Tebow was surrounded with at Florida (and he was, he just had to ride the bench behind Tebow, which is why he transferred to Auburn), he probably would have broken some records too. I mean, honestly, ESPN would lead you to believe this is blasphemy, but if you replace Tim Tebow with Cam Newton on either of the last two Gator teams (especially last year's disappointing team that was chock full of talent but sputtering on offense while Cam was sitting out a year after transferring to Auburn upon learning Tebow was coming back for his senior year) and honestly think about how much better or worse those teams would have been. I'm going out on a limb and saying that with Cam Newton at QB last year, Florida at least wins the SEC title, if not a second straight national title. One thing is for damn sure, Urban Meyer would commit more crimes than have been committed by all his Gator teams combined during his tenure (that would be 31 arrests to date and counting) just to be able to have Cam Newton running his offense this season instead of the pro-style prototype and flailing fish-out-of-water John Brantley. Which is probably why...

-Chris Rainey has rejoined the team? Really?! Wait, why am I surprised? This is the same guy (Meyer) that suspended Brandon Spikes for a HALF--not after he was caught on camera gouging the eyes of a Georgia Bulldogs running back but after there was a public outcry about Meyer not having taken any action against the star LB. And that's just one example. Meyer has proven time and again that winning trumps moral character by a wide margin on his list of priorities and with a sputtering running game which is averaging just 106 yards a game on nearly 33 carries a game for a meager 3.2 yards per carry in their last three games--all losses--Urban needs Rainey back far too urgently to let some threatening text messages get in the way. So, Gator fans, enjoy the rest of the season with "Creepy" Chris Rainey back at Jeff Demps's side in the backfield. Maybe now you might have a chance against South Carolina or Florida State--probably not though. By the way, for anyone interested, here's a terrific article in the USA Today about the Gators' arrest record under Urban (major kudos goes out to Bryant Gumbel for calling out the Gators and the NCAA on this topic).

-I'm not sure why Terrell Pryor was ever considered a Heisman candidate but I'm sure glad that's over with. It's unlikely he'll be back either, with the biggest games remaining being a road trip to Iowa and Michigan at home.

-Really South Carolina? Kentucky?! The Gators utterly annihilated this team. The funny thing is that since SC beat Alabama the week before and the Gators lost to Mississippi State, the Gamecocks can actually lose one more conference game and, as long as they beat the Gators, they'll be playing for the SEC crown.

-I have to put a little prayer/positive energy in here for Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed from the neck down last week during the Knights' overtime win against Army. Football is a cruel, violent sport and this is the risk every one of these guys takes every single time they step on the field, which is why it's important to never lose sight of what's important. This young man will be in my thoughts throughout the coming weeks and should be in every football fan's thoughts as well.

-Oh, by the way. I know this isn't college football but...Dunta Robinson's hit on DeSean Jackson. Am I the only one that thinks that this was a COMPLETELY LEGAL PLAY? He didn't lead with his helmet, he led with his shoulder, and he hit the guy in the chest, not the head--granted, he hit him under the chin, causing a concussion, but as vicious as the hit was, by the letter of the law, there was nothing illegal about it. It just looked really brutal.

-USC 42, California 0. That's not the final score. That was the score at halftime. Wow.

On that note...on with the show...

#13 Wisconsin @ #15 Iowa

This looks to be a considerably tougher matchup for the Beavers than Ohio State was. It may not seem like it but the Hawkeyes defense is substantially better than Ohio State's (especially against the run, which is Wisconsin's bread and butter) and their offense is comparable as well. Stanzi is a better thrower than Pryor and will test the Wisconsin secondary. This is an exceedingly difficult one to pick with these teams being so dead even but I'm giving the edge to the home team.

Hobbitcore sez: Iowa

#1 Oklahoma @ #11 Missouri

This is going to get a lot of attention as the primetime game of the week and with Oklahoma being the marked man as the initial BCS #1. You'll probably hear a lot of people saying that this one will be closer than expected but count me as not sold on Missouri. I like Oklahoma to win convincingly, playing with a chip on its shoulder after hearing everyone talk about how they don't deserve to be #1 in the BCS and making a statement that yes, in fact, they do.

Hobbitcore sez: Oklahoma

UPSET OF THE WEEK

#16 Nebraska @ #14 Oklahoma State

Another mostly untested Big 12 team facing a perennial power. I like matchups like this where by far the two best units in the game face each other head-to-head on the field (i.e. Oklahoma State's offense vs. Nebraska's defense). I especially like to watch the "other" match-up--the one that won't get as much attention but will be much more interesting and unpredictable (i.e. Nebraska's offense vs. Oklahoma State's defense). Conventional wisdom tells you that Nebraska has the ability on defense to slow down Justin Blackmon and company and that the Cowboys will have problems with Tyler Martinez and Roy Helu, Jr., however, the Huskers haven't faced an offense with this kind of balance or explosiveness all year and Oklahoma State's defense is a little bit underrated--they've actually been very solid against the run, only allowing about 3.3 yards a carry and just 5 rushing touchdowns all year--and all they have to do is play the run against the Huskers. This being a home game, I like the Cowboys' chances.

Hobbitcore sez: Oklahoma State

GAME OF THE WEEK

#6 LSU @ #4 Auburn

As much as this is a down year in the SEC, at least Auburn and LSU are back. This is likely to be one of the best games of the whole year with Cam Newton facing off against one of the top ten run defenses in the nation. Auburn's defense also has a lot to prove on Saturday afternoon and I think you'll see them play like it in a marquee home match-up against an inconsistent LSU offense. The LSU defense will do enough to keep this one close through three quarters but in the final 15, Cam Newton will pull a Tebow and will his team to victory with a late touchdown drive to put the game away.

Hobbitpick: Auburn 28, LSU 17

Keys to the Game
Auburn:
-Create turnovers on defense
-Block soundly on offense
-Balance on offense
LSU:
-Keep Cam Newton in the pocket
-Throw the ball effectively
-Make special teams plays count


Out-of-Whack Spreads (games I would bet money on if gambling were legal)
Wisconsin (+6.5) over Iowa
Rutgers (+13) over Pittsburgh
UAB (+20) over Mississippi State
Oklahoma (-3) over Missouri
Air Force (+18) over TCU

My Heisman Ballot (if the voting ended today)
1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State

BCS Predictions
ACC: Virginia Tech over Florida State
Big 12: Oklahoma over Nebraska
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Michigan State
Pac 10: Stanford
SEC: Auburn over South Carolina

BCS Championship: Auburn over Oklahoma
Sugar: Utah over Ohio State
Orange: Alabama over Virginia Tech
Fiesta: Boise State over Missouri
Rose: Oregon over Michigan State

Monday, October 18, 2010

Week 7: Top 25

Well, I took a week off this week because A. it was sort of an unspectacular week of games and B. I didn't feel like it, so in addition to the top 25, I'll do my Heisman ballot and BCS predictions in this post...

1. Auburn
Why They Should Be #1: It's almost a toss-up between the top three teams in the country. Bottom line is, Auburn has the best resumé in the country right now. Two terrific comeback wins over South Carolina and Clemson, an impressive shootout win over Arkansas, and the Mississippi State win on the road suddenly looks a lot more impressive. Cameron Newton has officially supplanted Denard Robinson as the most exciting player to watch in college football as well as the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The defense has struggled immensely in pass defense and is ranked 63rd in the country in scoring defense which is an outright abomination at Auburn, especially considering the talent they have on defense this (and every) year.

2. Boise State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Say what you want about the schedule but the Broncos have been a model of consistency. Many national champions in college football history have faced comparably soft schedules and not dominated in the way Boise State has. To go along with the very respectable wins over Virginia Tech and Oregon State, the Broncos have won their other four games (Wyoming, New Mexico State, Toledo, and San Jose State) by a combined score of 215-20, which is roughly an average score of 53-5. The Broncos are ranked 3rd in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense and are ranked 14th in the country in both passing offense and rushing offense.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: It's getting really old to keep talking about the schedule but there really isn't much else you can say about this team. Their opponents' combined records are 16-24 and only Virginia Tech, Oregon State, and Toledo average over 13 points per game.

3. Oregon
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Oregon still possesses one of the five most impressive wins of the season--arguably the most impressive--and is, of course, leading the nation in scoring offense. They're also 16th in the nation in scoring defense.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The defense's nice average has a lot to do with some easy early games. In the last three games combined, the defense has yielded 84 points and 1451 total yards (including 973 through the air). The Ducks face one of the three worst passing offenses in college football next week when UCLA comes to Autzen Stadium Thursday night. However, they will have to face Matt Barkley and Jake Locker in their next two games as well as Nick Foles on Thanksgiving weekend. They'll have a long week to prepare for Barkley but they have plenty of work to do in that long week.

4. Oklahoma
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: The Florida State win looks better every week as the Noles continue to win. The Texas win looks a lot better now also. Landry Jones has quietly completed 67.4% of his passes for 1791 yards and 14 TDs with only 3 INTs.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: It's still hard to justify beating Utah State, Air Force, and Cincinnati by a combined 12 points but this team appears to have put that behind them. They've only played one road game so far and now begin a stretch where 4 of their last 6 games will be on the road, including big time matchups with Missouri and Oklahoma State.

5. Michigan State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: This is the most balanced team in the country with the second best resumé in the country with wins over Wisconsin (who just knocked off former #1 Ohio State), Michigan (on the road), and Notre Dame. The only real test left for the Spartans should be the road trip to Iowa City and possibly a season-ending trip to Happy Valley, although the Nittany Lions could struggle just to become bowl eligible this year.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: It shouldn't. This team is just about the least sexy top 10 team but with their consistency, their balance, and their phenomenal coaching, I really believe this team should be talking national title.

6. Alabama
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: This is still probably the most talented team in the country. The defense is 5th in the nation in points allowed and the offense is one of the most balanced in the country. They also have two of the three best running backs in the nation in their backfield.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The secondary's youth was exposed by both Ryan Mallet and Stephen Garcia. Alabama has yet to prove they can dominate an opponent on the road, especially in the first half. Championship teams go on the road against quality opponents and step on their throats from the opening gun. This team does the exact opposite, coming out flat on the road, letting teams get big leads and get their crowd into the game and having to dig themselves out of a big hole to get the win. They pulled it off against Arkansas but they fell short in Columbia.

7. TCU
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: I don't care who they're playing, winning games by an average score of 40-9 is damn impressive. Even more impressive is winning their last three games by a combined score of 103-3. The Horned Frogs lead the nation in scoring defense and that's an impressive feat for any team that's playing FBS competition. Don't forget this team obliterated a highly underrated Baylor team and beat a very good Oregon State team
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: 21-27 opponents' record. Tennessee Tech, by the way, is 3-4 and they play in the FCS, so that stat is actually sort of deceiving.

8. Ohio State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: It shouldn't. Terrell Pryor's arm has been overrated all season as has their run defense (who hadn't faced a team in the top 25 in rushing offense all season: Marshall is 110th, Miami (FL) is 49th, Ohio is 45th, Eastern Michigan is 73rd, Illinois is 29th, Indiana is 104th) and both those things led to the loss in Madison Saturday. Certainly this is still an elite defensive team, ranked 7th in the nation in passing defense and 6th in total defense but the Buckeyes learned the hard way last year that--even in the Big Ten--you can't win championships with just defense.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: I haven't been convinced Ohio State was a top five team since I watched them play against Miami. The Buckeyes settled for five field goals in that game, three of them on drives that started inside the Miami 30 yard line.

9. LSU
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: I'm tempted to say it shouldn't but the two quarterback thing seems to be working--or at least it worked against the Gators. If Jarrett Lee throws the ball well and Jordan Jefferson is running the option, this team can probably beat anyone in the SEC. That's a big "if" though.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: I don't know if it's more impressive or depressing to be 7-0 and ranked 70th in the nation in scoring. It won't last though. LSU will have a hard time beating Auburn, Alabama, or Arkansas even if they do score 26 points (their average)--which they won't.

10. Stanford
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: The Oregon loss is forgiveable--Tennessee couldn't stop the Ducks offense even if they used 13 guys on every play. They bounced back and beat a very good USC team in the final seconds. This is still one of the best, most balanced offenses in the country. People forget about their impressive blowout wins over Notre Dame and UCLA on the road now that Oregon is #1 in the country.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The defense is 58th in the country in points allowed and have allowed 87 points and 1124 yards in their last two games. The dysfunction hasn't been limited to one aspect of the game either--the Ducks ran for 388 yards against them and then the Trojans threw for 390 the following week.

11. Utah
12. Wisconsin
13. Nebraska
14. Iowa
15. Florida State
16. Oklahoma State
17. Missouri
18. Arizona
19. West Virginia
20. Arkansas
21. Texas
22. Mississippi State
23. Miami (FL)
24. Virginia Tech
25. USC

My Heisman Ballot (if the voting ended today)
1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State

BCS Predictions
ACC: Virginia Tech over Florida State
Big 12: Oklahoma over Nebraska
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Michigan State
Pac 10: Stanford
SEC: Auburn over South Carolina

BCS Championship: Oklahoma over Michigan State
Sugar: Auburn over TCU
Orange: Virginia Tech over Alabama
Fiesta: Boise State over Nebraska
Rose: Stanford over Ohio State

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week 6

I should be doing this shit for a living...this is what last week looked like for me...
-The Good: Oh, lordy, where do I begin. WELL. I was pretty much the only one in the country that realized Virginia Tech is still significantly better than North Carolina State. I was also pretty much the only one in the country that knew Florida wouldn't even come close against Alabama (the trendy phrase on ESPN last weekend was "Florida will keep it closer than a lot of people might think"). I nailed my Upset of the Week, picking Michigan State over Wisconsin--pretty much the only one who picked that one too. I also picked Iowa and Oklahoma but those were easy. Plus I nailed the Tulane/Rutgers spread (Rutgers was favored by 17.5 and LOST).
-The So-So: Pretty much the only thing that belongs in this category is the fact that I picked Oregon over Stanford but I only picked them to win by 3 points. Not great considering they won by 21...but sort of misleading considering Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter.
-The Bad: All of the spreads other than the Rutgers/Tulane spread. I got murdered on those things.

-The Kick-Catch Interference Rule:
"ARTICLE 1. a. When a Team B player makes a fair catch, the ball becomes dead
where caught and belongs to Team B at that spot.
b. When a valid fair catch signal is made, the unimpeded opportunity to catch
a free or scrimmage kick is extended to a player who muffs the kick and still
has an opportunity to complete the catch. This protection terminates when the
kick touches the ground. If the player subsequently catches the kick, the ball is
placed where it was first touched (A.R. 6-5-1-I-IV).

c. Rules pertaining to a fair catch apply only when a scrimmage kick crosses the
neutral zone or during free kicks"
OK. OK. What?!?! How is this possibly the actual rule? I ask this because this issue came up in the Miami-Clemson game this past week. Here's what happened: Miami was up 27-14 in the third quarter and was forced to punt. The punt returner signaled for a fair catch and then proceeded to muff the punt--here's where it gets weird--directly into the hands of Tommy Streeter, the awaiting coverage man who was standing right in front of the guy, trying to psych him out, as kick coverage guys often do. Now. According to this rule, when that ball bounced off the punt returner and into his awaiting arms, he was supposed to purposely drop the ball and let it hit the ground...and then try to recover it. The call on the field was Miami ball. It was reviewed. The call was reversed and Tommy Streeter was retroactively called for kick-catch interference (which, I thought, was one of the things replay couldn't do was call retroactive penalties but I haven't exactly read the NCAA rule book), giving Clemson the ball with pretty good field position instead of Miami the ball in the Clemson red zone with a chance to put the game away. Give me one good reason why this rule possibly exists.
Side note: Streeter was again called for kick-catch interference on the next punt because he apparently didn't give the return man enough room to field the punt (in spite of the fact that he didn't touch the guy and he made the fucking catch). BREAKING NEWS (from 2003): College football's 'halo rule' eliminated.

-While we're on the subject of the Miami-Clemson game, I can't get over how completely and utterly different Kyle Parker played at home against the Hurricanes compared to how he played on the road against Auburn a couple weeks ago. Auburn and Miami certainly have two of the best defenses in the country but you'd have a hard time making a strong case that one is significantly better than the other. In the overtime loss to Auburn, Parker was 20-34 for 220 yards and 2 TDs and remember he got his ribs crunched at the end of that game which made him miss a couple open receivers (including one in the end zone). I don't know if the rib injury was still bothering him against Miami but he went 14-33 for 149 yards with 3 interceptions and a fumble. Granted, his receivers dropped a few balls but he also missed more than his fair share of open receivers. I couldn't believe it was the same guy.

-A few notes on USC's second consecutive embarrassing last-second loss to the Washington Huskies: I watched the replay of this game a few days ago on ESPNU. First of all, you probably won't hear all that much about it but before Washington drove down to kick the game-winning field goal, USC had a chance to extend their lead to 5 and force the Huskies to score a touchdown by kicking a 40 yard field goal. What followed was one of the ugliest kicks I've ever seen. It was barely long enough, had absolutely no hangtime and ended up clanging off the upright. The next thing I noticed was that, at the end of the game, one of the announcers (I wish I knew who it was) said that this loss "takes away the national championship" for USC. Really, dude? Have you been living under a rock the last 3-4 months or something? The last thing I noticed was the incredible poise and maturity of Jake Locker. I know I really hammered him last week for his stinker against Nebraska, and deservedly so, but what really struck me about Locker is that his receivers were whiffing on perfectly thrown balls left and right and yet he never once showed even the slightest frustration. Every time one of his receivers would drop a perfect pass he would have this kind of "Ahhh man, oh well, we'll get em next time" body language. It was pretty impressive. I still don't buy that he can make every throw because they were talking about how he was having trouble throwing from in the pocket all night and had most of his success rolling out but you can't deny his intangibles.

-Very few people are actually paying attention but the Baylor Bears are now 4-1 with an emphatic conference win over Kansas 55-7. Robert Griffin III may be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country; he's completing 62% of his passes (including over 70% in his last two games) for 1351 yards and 11 TDs and is second in the Big 12 with a 151.40 QB rating while also rushing for 221 yards and 4 TDs. The remaining slate is eons harder than the first five games but there are winnable games against Texas Tech, Colorado, Kansas State, and Texas A&M so there's no reason for Baylor fans not to hope their team can make a bowl game for the first time since 1994

-Few people in sports are as lucky as Les Miles. There's an old cliche in sports that sooner or later your luck always runs out. However, Lucky Les is an interesting case study in that, with a few exceptions, his luck never really seems to run out. If there are such thing as Football Gods, they are overwhelmingly on his side. Everybody gets a bounce or a call go their way every now and then but this guy almost seems like he's been playing Russian Roulette with the same bullet in the same gun for like 3-4 years now. In fact, other than totally flubbing the clock management in the Ole Miss loss last year, can you thin of another time when Les has ended up on the wrong side of one of these wacky plays/endings? It's pretty incredible when you really think about it.



#1 Alabama @ #19 South Carolina

Steve Spurrier with two weeks off to prepare is always pretty scary. He'll have Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore dialed in and ready to systematically dissect Alabama's young but talented defense. This one, unlike the Florida game last week, actually will be closer than a lot of people think. However, if Bama's defense can make Ryan Mallett fold in the clutch, then Stephen Garcia doesn't have a chance. He'll turn the ball over in a few key spots late to help Mark Ingram put the game away.

Hobbitcore sez: Alabama

#17 Michigan State @ #18 Michigan

Denard Robinson has been the most exciting and most talked about person in college football by a rather wide margin so far this year. He'll get his yards again this week but not enough against one of the most balanced offenses in the nation and the first real defense he's seen all year.

Hobbitcore sez: Michigan State

USC @ #16 Stanford

Both teams are coming off crushing Pac-10 losses. The similarities end there, however. One lost to the best team in the conference (and one of the top 3 in the country), one lost to one of the worst. One team plays defense and one does not. One team will win, one will not. Guess which one.

Hobbitcore sez: Stanford.

#12 LSU @ #14 Florida

This is kind of a tough one to pick. These teams are almost mirror images of each other; they both have ferocious defenses but neither can be bothered to play any offense, despite having athletes all over the field. I like Trey Burton to be the difference in this game after being a non-factor against Alabama last week.

Hobbitcore sez: Florida

UPSET OF THE WEEK

Oregon State @ #9 Arizona

Call me crazy but I'm not really sold on Arizona yet. Beating Iowa is great and everything but a 10-9 win over California doesn't exactly inspire confidence. The defense is ranked 3rd in the nation but they haven't faced anything close to the dynamic attack of the Beavers. I like this one to erupt into a shootout and I like the Rodgers brothers to make a few more plays than Nick Foles to secure the win the Beavers need after coming up short against Boise State and TCU.

Hobbitcore sez: Oregon State

GAME OF THE WEEK

#23 Florida State @ #13 Miami

All you're gonna be hearing this week is how this game is finally nationally relevant again. Well, not quite. It won't be Miami v. Florida State again until both teams are in the top 10 when they meet. This is, however, one of the most interesting renditions of the game in years as well as another pivotal moment for two teams who have been traversing the long hard road back to prominence for several years now. Miami returns home after a grueling road trip through Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Clemson. They have yet to play their best football, thus far unable to eliminate bonehead mistakes, and yet they're still 3-1 and favored to win the ACC. The Noles failed their only major test of the season miserably, suffering a 47-17 loss at the hands of Oklahoma. Florida State is ranked #1 in the nation in sacks and the Canes are #2 so both offensive lines have their work cut out for them. In spite of that, with the way Florida State's defense has been playing, Christian Ponder is going to have to have a whale of a game against a Miami defense that's been playing out of its mind all year. Jacory Harris will probably throw one or two interceptions but, like last year, they won't be enough as he'll also make a couple big plays through the air and the running game will get a big boost with Graig Cooper returning from injury, especially in the second half, when they'll be able to use a fresh set of legs to put the game away.

Hobbitpick: Miami 34, Florida State 24

Keys to the Game
Miami:
-Have more takeaways than turnovers
-Establish the run early and often
-Eliminate mistakes
Florida State:
-Capitalize on Jacory Harris mistakes
-Establish the running game
-Make the Canes offense one-dimensional (force them to throw)


Out-of-Whack Spreads
Tennessee (+11) over Georgia
Utah (-6.5) over Iowa State
Arizona State (+1) over Washington
UCLA (+8) over California
Auburn (-6) over Kentucky

My Heisman Ballot (if the voting ended today)
1. Denard Robinson
2. LaMichael James
3. Cameron Newton

BCS Predictions
ACC: Miami over Florida State
Big 12: Nebraska over Oklahoma
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Ohio State
Pac 10: Oregon
SEC: Alabama over Florida

BCS Championship: Oregon over Alabama
Sugar: Boise State over Oklahoma
Orange: Miami over West Virginia
Fiesta: Nebraska over TCU
Rose: Ohio State over Stanford

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Rise of Self-Righteousness

How did we end up here? When did we, as a society, become more interested in being right than in being virtuous? When did dividing, differentiating, and categorizing everyone we meet become a priority? The easy answer would be roughly 2010 years ago but I don't think that's accurate. Civilization began creating division and the "Us v. Them" mentality long before that with ancient nations and empires. But I'm not concerned with history lessons about where the roots of these values were laid because the truth of the matter is that, no matter how long ago a tree was planted or how deep its roots lay, it's not necessary to pull up those roots to kill the tree--cutting it down will suffice.

Self-righteousness seems to be among the core values of American society (and, certainly, it's a core value in many societies, if not all, but we live in America and nowhere is it more overt than here). Empathy and compassion always seem to take a back seat to "I'm right and you're wrong" morality. The desire to be on the winning side perpetuates into everything, from national (and global) politics right down to personal relationships. We prefer being petty to being compassionate. Tyler Durden's "ability to let that which does not matter truly slide" (as articulated in Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk) seems to be non-existent in our petty, quibbling, self-righteous society. Moreover, the ability to look at things from the point-of-view of the person on the opposite side of any given issue is almost frowned upon. In politics, this ability is often misconstrued as "flip-flopping" (most famously with 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry). But this is a vitally important ability to our evolution as a species. The more we create division between each other, the more we will tear each other apart.

How many people do you know who hold petty grudges against people who did things that they interpreted as malignant simply because the end result caused them some sort of grief? No one ever tries to understand each other anymore--every occurrence or situation is viewed in the most narrowly subjective way. People tend to take everything in terms of how it affects them and only how it affects them. When Republicans talk about cutting progressive services that assist the less fortunate of us, people continue to vote for them because they can't muster the desire to care about cutting services they don't personally use. When a boy openly and unrequitedly likes a girl a lot and the girl happens to really like the boy's best friend and vice versa, the friend and the girl don't get to be together because the boy would never speak to them again if they did. These are merely two among a countless litany of such hypotheticals but the point is clear: human beings are self-absorbed.

But then, why shouldn't we be? Does it not make sense that every human being's top priority is to look out for itself? Of course it does. As overly self-absorbed as our society is, there is certainly also a somewhat unfair stigma placed on selfishness. However, there is also a significant difference between making yourself your top priority and making yourself your only priority. It's fine to care about yourself the most until you stop caring about anyone else at all.

It's also key to understand that we don't necessarily create these divisions ourselves. We have no inherent motivation to turn against one another and draw lines between each other. This mostly comes from above. There are a number of institutions, both political and religious, that benefit substantially from turning human beings on one another and fostering their self-absorption.

Most organized religions benefit from fostering self-righteousness because, without it, no one would have any reason to be part of any church because there would be no reason to believe that one is right and the rest are wrong--and that is, of course the central idea of pretty much every organized religion. We are right, everyone else is wrong. Faith and morals are seemingly secondary to the fear of going to hell. Faith and morals are something human beings have all the capacity in the world to formulate on their own--the important thing with organized religion is to be on the right Guest List on Judgement Day.

This is one of the main reasons that so many people choose to subscribe to a prepackaged set of morals handed down by spiritual authority figures: Fear. Also, laziness, but that's an issue for another time. Fear is a very powerful tool. Fear keeps people in line. It's used by politicians and clergymen alike to create the divides between preordained categories of human beings that help facilitate their agendas. And we let them do it because we're scared of what we don't understand and because we're too lazy to try to understand it. We want to be told what to do and how to live because figuring those things out on our own is, well, really hard.

The problem with that is, we need to evolve--and developing and progressing our understanding of the world around us is pretty much the definition of evolution. The more we allow authority figures to trick us into believing we are different and need to create divisions between us accordingly and that "we are right and everyone else is wrong", the more we inhibit our ability to evolve. And if we don't evolve, we will go the way of the dinosaurs. Into the Earth.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 5: Top 25

Hobbitcore's Top 25 (based on equal consideration of teams' resumes and how good I think they actually are...also stole collegefootballnews.com's gimmick of "Why the Ranking Should Be Higher"/"Why the Ranking Should Be Lower")

1. Alabama
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: They did just blow away the Gators but they had a couple turnovers practically gift-wrapped. Still, it probably shouldn't. The secondary has grown up before our eyes after showing weakness against Ryan Mallett in the first half and they won't face another quarterback within a stone's throw of being that good the rest of the year unless Boise State gets the nod for the BCS title game.

2. Oregon
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Granted, Autzen Stadium is hostility defined but this team took a 21-3 deficit against one of the best offenses in the country and parlayed it into a 52-31 dismantling. For those of your scoring at home, the Ducks outscored the Cardinal 49-10 in the final three quarters.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: It shouldn't. The offense is scorching hot and the defense is rock solid when they need to be. The gut-check win over the Cardinal might be the most impressive victory for any team all year.

3. Boise State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: It's not the Broncos' fault the rest of their schedule sucks. They did exactly what they were supposed to do, swamping New Mexico State 59-0.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The rest of the Broncos' schedule sucks. It's gonna be hard to keep caring about this team the rest of the season while everyone else is racking up signature wins against ranked opponents (like Oregon just did). With a little luck, Nevada will run the table and stay ranked all the way to their showdown with the Broncos in Reno.

4. Ohio State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: The offense is putting up tons of points and the defense is an Ohio State Defense. They have a great win over a very good Miami team that has looked better and better each of the last two weeks.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: Other than beating the Canes in Columbus, OSU hasn't proven much. They've blown away a heaping helping of whatever and let Illinois stay within a score until 1:49 left in the game. Indiana's offense gave Michigan fits today (yeah, I know, big whoop) so the Buckeyes can't get caught looking ahead to Wisconsin.

5. TCU
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: They're not doing anything sexy but they do have a very nice win over a talented Oregon State team and they destroyed a vastly underrated Baylor team. The defense hasn't missed a beat after losing Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington, allowing just 12.4 points per game.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: If the Broncos can't get into the BCS title game with their schedule, TCU doesn't have a prayer. They do have the showdown with Utah and Air Force might end up being ranked by the time they and the Horned Frogs hook up but when your signature win is over Oregon State, that's not exactly impressive.

6. Oklahoma
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Landry Jones has found his stride and the running game is rolling. A win over Texas is still a win over Texas, even if it doesn't have the luster it once did, the dismantling of Florida State is looking pretty good, and the win over Air Force is underrated--the Falcons lead the nation in rushing offense.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: This is Oklahoma. They don't beat Utah State, Air Force, and Cincinnati by a combined 12 points. The Sooners will be favored in every game from here on out so there's no excuse not to enter the Big 12 championship game undefeated and playing for a possible national title shot.

7. Nebraska
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Tyler Martinez has the offense humming and the defense hasn't lost a step after replacing the irreplaceable Ndomakung Suh. They drove Jake Locker's dark horse Heisman candiacy and NFL stock into the Husky Stadium grass and look like a shoe-in to return to the Big 12 title game.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The Huskers have yet to play a team with a pulse. It's not like they need to throw the ball but they're among the bottom in the NCAA in pass offense and that kind of one-dimensional attack could be a problem when the Longhorns come to town.

8. Auburn
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: The Tigers notched two of the more impressive wins of the season so far with brutal gut-check, comeback wins over Clemson and South Carolina. Cam Newton looks more like a dark horse Heisman candidate every week and the defense is vintage Auburn
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: It shouldn't. Everything is coming together at just the right time for Auburn. After travelling to Kentucky next week, the Tigers get Arkansas and LSU at home in back-to-back weeks. If they make it through that, they'll likely find themselves in the top 5, setting up a monumentally huge Iron Bowl.

9. Michigan State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: The Spartans have quietly compiled a very impressive resume of nice wins over Notre Dame and Wisconsin. They aren't putting up the stats of an Oregon or a Stanford, but the offense is perfectly balanced, not only between the run and the pass but this is truly a team offense with the ball being spread around to many different receivers and two very good backs sharing the load on the ground and both averaging close to 100 yards a game.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The defense is decent but they have given up 55 points combined to Notre Dame and Wisconsin, the only two clinically alive teams they've played. They're also only converting 37.1% of their 3rd downs which is one of the most underrated stats in football.

10. Arizona
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Nick Foles may be the most underrated quarterback in the country. There's also an impressive win over a very good Iowa team and a pretty good win over a decent California squad. The defense is ranked 3rd in the country in points allowed.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The Wildcats barely had to generate any offense to take a 20 point lead over the Hawkeyes--a lead that evaporated by midway through the 4th quarter against an offense that isn't exactly known for scoring fast or often. Also putting up 10 points on a Cal team that yielded 52 to Nevada isn't very respectable either.

11. Arkansas
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Ironically, I wasn't convinced of how good this team was until they lost a game. Ryan Mallett and company pushed Alabama to the limit in Fayetteville which, to me, was their most impressive performance of the season--even more impressive after seeing what the Tide did to the Gators.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: When your signature performance is a home loss (albeit one against the best team in the country) and your next best game is a last-second escape over a Georgia team that's now 1-4, you have some work to do.

12. Stanford
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: No shame in losing to Oregon in Autzen Stadium. The Cardinal took command early with opportunistic defense and even in a 21 point loss they proved they belong. Andrew Luck's arm gets all the attention but the running game (including Andrew Luck's legs) is actually a bit more productive. They destroyed UCLA and Notre Dame and remain in the top 5 in points per game.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: Great teams don't give up 21-3 leads on the road. They certainly don't get outscored 49-10 in the final three quarters. Granted, they would have a hard time stopping Oregon's offense with 12 or 13 guys on the field but they do have the ability to keep that offense off the field for extended periods of time.

13. Miami (FL)
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: As poorly as the Canes played in the Horseshoe, the defense and special teams kept them in it until the end. Then they rolled into Heinz Field and blasted the Panthers and held on to beat a very good Clemson team in Death Valley. The defense is playing out of its mind and if Jacory Harris could cut out the mistakes, this team would be almost unstoppable. They still haven't played their best and yet they're 3-1 and ranked 13th.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: There are way too many mistakes on offense. Even against Pittsburgh and Clemson, there were penalties, dropped passes, and, of course, Jacory Harris interceptions. The Hurricanes dominated Clemson most of the game but barely escaped with the win and even against the Panthers, they could have won by 40 if they hadn't kept shooting themselves in the foot.

14. Utah
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Utes have built on a big opening night win over Pittsburgh to quickly reassert themselves as a contender in the Mountain West. The offense and defense are both top ten squads, even after losing a bunch of starters.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The Pittsburgh win doesn't exactly look too impressive anymore and the rest of the schedule has been a lot of whatever. They also needed overtime to beat a team at home that the lower-ranked Hurricanes obliterated on the road (and without even playing particularly well).

15. LSU
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: It hasn't always been pretty but the Tigers keep winning. They beat a short-handed North Carolina team and an unremarkable West Virginia team but those are still better wins than a lot of teams have. They may be in the bottom 10 in pass offense but they're still winning games the way LSU always has: with defense and power running.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: As the old saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have any. The Tigers haven't had a quarterback since Matt Flynn left and Ryan Perrilloux was dismissed (I hate to remind LSU fans of this but what a gut-wrenching tragedy that situation was--imagine what the Tigers could have been with Perrilloux under center the last two years). There hasn't been an impressive win yet and they needed an extra play to beat a Tennessee team that needed overtime to take care of UAB

16. Florida
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: It shouldn't. The Gators haven't looked right on offense all year (with the exception of Trey Burton running over an unsuspecting Kentucky) and all their problems came to a head in Tuscaloosa. The defense has been bailing them out all year but they got smoked by one of the most balanced offenses in the country.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: If the Gators don't fix their issues and find an identity on offense, they're going to struggle with South Carolina, LSU, and Florida State. Everyone is still penciling them into the SEC title game because of the defense and the logo on their helmets but I wouldn't be so hasty. Luckily, they don't have to face Auburn or Arkansas while South Carolina does (the Gamecocks also face Alabama this week) so if the Gamecocks can't beat either Alabama or Arkansas, the Gators will have the inside track, assuming they beat LSU. If the Gamecocks win one of those games then the two teams will be playing for the East on 11/13 in the Swamp.

17. Wisconsin
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: It shouldn't. The Badgers needed a blocked extra point to beat the only BCS conference team they played until the loss to the Spartans. The running game is as good as advertised but there is very little about this team that has been impressive.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The Badgers finally faced a team with a pulse and they blinked. They only have to wait two weeks for their chance at redemption when the Buckeyes come to town but they'll have to work out some issues on defense the week before against Minnesota.

18. Iowa
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: The defense is ranked #2 in the country in points allowed and Ricky Stanzi has thrown for over 1200 yards already. They almost fought back to beat Arizona on the road, which shows a lot of character, especially after a pick-six and a 100-yard kickoff return TD. There was also an impressive win over Penn State yesterday.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: Penn State doesn't exactly look like a world-beater right now and the running game is feeling the loss of Shonn Greene, ranked 49th in the country, an uncharacteristic ranking for a Kirk Ferentz coached team.

19. South Carolina
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Marcus Lattimore is a stud, the defense is improved, and Stephen Garcia has been solid. They jumped on Auburn early on the road and were 4 late turnovers (and a questionable decision to pull Stephen Garcia late in the final quarter) away from a huge road win.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: Stephen Garcia is still inconsistent and Marcus Lattimore was a non-factor against Auburn. The best win was a defensive struggle against a dismal Georgia team and they aren't rated higher than 33rd in any major category of team stats

20. Michigan
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Have you seen Denard Robinson? Much like Tim Tebow in 2007, Michigan won't even need to win the Big 10 (or even win 10 games) for him to run away (literally) with the Heisman. It already seems like it's his to lose. Not only that, but when he left with an injury against Bowling Green, the offense hummed right along without him behind the most improved offensive line in the country.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: At some point, this team is going to have to start playing some defense. UMass and Indiana have underrated offenses but this is still Michigan and Michigan doesn't beat UMass and Indiana by a combined score of 84-72. We'll learn a lot about this team Saturday when the Spartans roll into town.

21. Florida State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Christian Ponder is one of the most supremely talented quarterbacks in the country and has incredible poise. The running game has actually been more productive than the passing game, with three backs already over 250 yards, all averaging over 6 yards per carry, and each with a TD run of over 50 yards.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The only team with a pulse the Noles faced (Oklahoma) completely dismantled them. The defense is getting better but still has a long way to go.

22. Nevada
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: Colin Kaepernick is one of only two guys in the country with over 1,000 yards passing and over 500 yards rushing (take a wild guess who the other one is). The Wolf Pack is ranked in the top five in the nation in rushing offense and points per game and they have good wins over California and BYU.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: They haven't done a whole lot besides beat mediocre teams. The schedule, like Boise State and TCU before them, isn't all that exciting. It'll be a while before they have a game anyone will care about but if they can stay ranked until then, they'll be in good shape to steal a non-AQ automatic BCS bid.

23. West Virginia
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: The defense is ranked 12th in the nation in points allowed and Noel Devine is still one of the most dangerous backs in the country when he wants to be.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: The Mountaineers are struggling a little too much with inferior teams for a squad that's supposedly the favorite to win the Big East. They lost to an LSU team that doesn't play offense and barely beat Marshall and Maryland. Noel Devine only has 391 yards rushing through 4 games which isn't even 100 yards a game and that's disappointing for a guy as explosive as Devine. Fortunately, they won't have to do much more than they're doing to win the Big East.

24. Oklahoma State
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: 2nd in the nation in points per game and 3rd in passing offense. Nice Thursday night win over Texas A&M. Justin Blackmon may be the most underrated receiver in the nation.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: 91st in the country in points allowed, having only played Washington State, Troy, Tulsa, and A&M is a problem.

25. Air Force
Why the Ranking Should Be Higher: 373.6 rushing yards per game. Yeah. Per game. That's the most in the country, in case you're wondering. They also came within 3 points of Oklahoma, which isn't too shabby.
Why the Ranking Should Be Lower: You know the drill. Mountain West. Call me after you've played TCU and Utah.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Week 5

Well, last week was kind of a mixed bag...
The Good:
-Picking Miami to blow Pitt away
-Picking LSU to win close
-Boise State pick
-The Miami/Pitt, Purdue/Toledo, and UNC/Rutgers spreads
The So-So:
-Thinking Arkansas would be overmatched against Bama
-Thinking Notre Dame would keep it close with Stanford
The Bad:
-Picking South Carolina over Auburn
-The Houston/Tulane and Iowa/Ball State spreads

We have a metric ton of really good games this week. I can't pick them all because there are just too many. But first, HEADLINES...

-Of course you know I'm gonna start with Miami. Especially since I saw this coming a mile away. I saw this coming as soon as Utah beat Pitt (not because Utah beat Pitt but the way they did it) and I saw it coming after Miami lost to Ohio State. Pittsburgh just plain isn't very good. The defense has its soft spots but the offense is totally inept. Of course it helped that Miami has one of the smartest, most athletic defenses in the country. And you could tell that John Lovett emphasized technically sound tackling in the 11 days leading up to this game. But the Panthers couldn't buy a first down to save their lives. In the first half, they were gifted with two typical Jacory Harris mistakes and couldn't do diddly squat with them. It feels unfair to say this but I know it isn't: Miami should have won this game by a lot more than they did. The offense easily could have put 40 or 50 on the board if it wasn't for a litany of bonehead mistakes on offense (and special teams) that stalled drives and took points off the board. For starters, if Jacory puts a little more air under that first INT and if an early Travis Benjamin punt return TD doesn't get called back, it wouldn't be outlandish to think this game might have ended 45-3 (nevermind the myriad of dumb penalties and dropped passes on offense)--granted, if they had built that kind of a lead early, they might have called the dogs off sooner but there's no reason to think they wouldn't have still hit the 40s.

-What a surprise. Now the whole world is jumping on the NC State bandwagon. Allow me to Lee Corso this trend: "NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS!" I'll say it again: teams (especially ACC teams) are figuring out the triple option attack now. There's still the opportunity for big plays once in a while because defenses will still miss assignments from time to time and Georgia Tech still has the athletes to make them pay. But if you watch the Jackets on offense, they're not a consistent ball-moving offense; not anymore. The ACC has figured out how to play assignment football now. Combine that with the fact that they lost most of their defense and I just don't know how impressive the NC State win really is. This is a Georgia Tech team that lost to a Kansas team that lost to North Dakota State 6-3--Kansas, by the way, scored 28 points on Georgia Tech just a week removed from notching only 3 on the Bison. But, of course, the media loves a dark horse, so North Carolina State is now ranked and being talked about all over ESPN to win the ACC Coastal. Not that beating the defending ACC champs on the road isn't impressive, but let's see how they do against THIS year's preseason favorites to win the ACC first. More on that later.

-I was thinking about how this year's Red River Shootout is possibly the least enticing edition of the game since 1999 when only Texas came into the game ranked and was ranked #23 (you might argue that the 2005 edition was less interesting because an unranked 2-2 Sooner team faced Vince Young's juggernaut but I felt that was an underrated Oklahoma team at the time--and, to be fair, they did win 6 of their last 7 and then shock #6 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl--and it was also the year Texas snapped a five-game losing streak to the Sooners). That got me thinking about a more broad picture: Is there any top ten team that has looked legitimately impressive this year?

Let's go down the list:
Alabama and Ohio State have certainly looked like the two best teams in the country (which isn't exactly saying a lot) but they also both have some pretty glaring weaknesses and certainly neither look unbeatable.
Boise State may have been the most impressive team in the country but needed a miracle drive to beat a currently unranked Virginia Tech team after giving up a 17-0 lead.
Oregon's offense has been rolling but they haven't exactly faced a team with a pulse, nor has Nebraska or Florida.
TCU looked solid in their win over Oregon State but mighty shaky against SMU.
Oklahoma barely got by Utah State, Air Force, and Cincinnati.
Stanford destroyed a UCLA team (on the road) that just dismantled Texas in Austin and a Notre Dame team (also on the road) that had been looking very respectable but that's still not that much to go on.
Auburn has looked pretty impressive in two brutally physical gut-check home wins over Clemson and South Carolina--and before you're turned off by the fact that these were home games, remember that they were dominated early in both these games--but, again, not much to go on there.
If you want to consider the opinion of the coaches as well (for some reason), then you have Wisconsin and LSU instead of Stanford and Auburn--which kind of makes no sense to me because Stanford and Auburn have probably been the two most impressive top ten teams outside the top three.
Wisconsin needed a blocked extra point to beat Arizona State (their only BCS conference opponent so far) and LSU has narrowly beaten a decimated North Carolina team and an unconvincing West Virginia squad while managing to be ranked 115th in the NCAA in passing offense.
If I had to pick my top ten heading into October it would look something like this:
1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Boise State
4. Stanford
5. Oregon
6. Auburn
7. TCU
8. Nebraska
9. Oklahoma
10. LSU
In fact, that gives me an idea. Maybe every Sunday or Monday I'll start doing my own top 25. That would be fun for those people that read this. Yeah...

And now...on with the show...


#21 Texas vs. #8 Oklahoma

OK, everyone, relax. This is STILL Texas/Oklahoma. It may not have all the luster it's had in recent years but it is still one of the premiere rivalries and these are still two supremely talented teams even if they haven't quite found their identities yet. I've been a big fan of Garrett Gilbert ever since last year's BCS title game (which I STILL think Texas wins with Colt McCoy playing 60 minutes) but the Longhorns have no running game (no matter how much they think they do) while the Sooners have DeMarco Murray. I give Landry Jones the slight edge in experience and while both defenses will be tough to crack, Oklahoma will make just enough plays to win another defensive struggle.

Hobbitcore sez: Oklahoma

Virginia Tech @ #23 North Carolina State

The Wolfpack has become everyone's favorite dark horse in a disappointing ACC (which is saying something because not much is generally expected of this conference) after a 4-0 start and a big win over the defending conference champs. That's all well and good but, in my opinion, the road to the ACC title still goes through Virginia Tech, who are coming off of a dominant 19-0 win over a very good Boston College team. Russell Wilson has the tools to give the Hokies defense some fits but I think Tyrod Taylor gives the Wolfpack D even more and Bud Foster will have enough tricks in his bag to confuse Wilson into at least one or two uncharacteristic mistakes.

Hobbitcore sez: Virginia Tech

#22 Penn State @ #17 Iowa

It may not be sexy but this promises to be a classic Big Ten slugfest. Both defenses should have good days but I think Ricky Stanzi tips the scales in Iowa's favor and the Hawkeyes get the big conference win at home.

Hobbitcore sez: Iowa

#7 Florida @ #1 Alabama

Yeah, ok, maybe I'm biased against the SEC but someone has to be, right? Personally, I have to disagree with everyone who's talking about how they think Florida will keep this one closer than everyone expects. Yeah, they'll be playing with a chip on their shoulder and yes, Trey Burton is beginning to emerge as the playmaker they need, who will give the young Bama defense a lot of problems. However, Florida is facing their first real test of the season after weeks of games against unranked teams to help them work out the kinks. They seemed to be able to do that against Kentucky, but that's Kentucky. I think Bama's defense has enough talent and Kirby Smart is crafty enough to confuse the Gators into making several crucial mistakes on offense, which, unlike Miami (OH), South Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky, Alabama will be able to take advantage of on offense while avoiding mistakes against Florida's opportunistic defense. I know I said this last week but this one may be close for a half or three quarters but eventually the Tide pull away at home because the Gators just aren't mentally tough enough to handle the #1 team in the country in a hostile environment.

Hobbitcore sez: Alabama

UPSET OF THE WEEK

#11 Wisconsin @ #24 Michigan State

I'm really struggling with this one because Wisconsin hasn't exactly looked like a world-beater and Michigan State has been mildly impressive. With this one being held in East Lansing, all the pieces are in place for a big upset. John Clay will be tough to contain but Michigan State held Armando Allen to 71 yards on the road. I may end up regretting this but my gut is telling me to go with the upset.

Hobbitcore sez: Michigan State

GAME OF THE WEEK

#9 Stanford @ #4 Oregon

Stanford could really make the argument that they have the best resume of any top ten team up to this point with blowout road wins over UCLA and Notre Dame. Oregon has been steamrolling a handful of mediocre opponents. Now we get to see who can play defense. Oregon averages 57.8 points a game and is allowing 11 a game while Stanford is averaging 48 points a game and yielding just 13.8 a game. Those stats could be fairly misleading, however, as Oregon pitched shutouts against New Mexico (ranked last in the nation in points against and next to last in points for...Oregon beat them 72-0) and Portland State (of the FCS) as well as dominating a dismal Tennessee offense (after struggling early) and also gave up 31 to Arizona State last week. Stanford, meanwhile, went on the road and pitched a shutout against UCLA, and went into Notre Dame and held Brian Kelly's much-improved offense to 14 points. The misleading thing about Stanford is the fact that their QB is one of the top NFL prospects in the country and yet they are actually one of the top 15 rushing offenses in the country. This is an unbelievably even matchup so I have to give Oregon the edge solely because of Autzen Stadium, which has quietly (not literally, obviously) become one of the ten most difficult places to play in the country.

Hobbitpick: Oregon 45, Stanford 42

Keys to the Game
Oregon:
-Pressure Andrew Luck
-Pass to set up the run
-Special teams, special teams, special teams
Stanford:
-Make Darron Thomas beat you with his arm
-Run to set up the pass
-Special teams, special teams, special teams


Out-of-Whack Spreads
East Carolina (+14) over North Carolina
Tulane (+17.5) over Rutgers
Kentucky (+3) over Ole Miss
Kansas (+9) over Baylor
Boston College (+2.5) over Notre Dame


My Heisman Ballot (if voting ended today)
1. Denard Robinson
2. Mark Ingram
3. Cameron Newton

BCS Predictions
ACC: Miami over Florida State
Big 12: Nebraska over Oklahoma
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Ohio State
Pac 10: Oregon
SEC: Alabama over Florida

BCS Championship: Alabama over Nebraska
Sugar: Boise State over Oklahoma
Orange: Miami over Florida
Fiesta: TCU over West Virginia
Rose: Oregon over Ohio State

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week 4

-Can we officially shut the fuck up about Jake Locker now? I don't care if he was playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, 4-20 for 71 yards, a TD, and 2 INTs is unacceptable. If you take away a 45 yard TD strike to Jermaine Kearse, he was 3-19 for 26 yards and 2 INTs. He's got lots of talent and I'm sure he's a perfectly decent kid but the idea that Locker is the ultimate prospect in this year's NFL Draft is inexplicable. His Heisman campaign is obviously deader than dead at this point and I see no reason that he won't be the next Tim Couch.

-Here's a random one: Kansas is down 31-10 to Southern Miss...they score a touchdown with 5:17 left in the game...and go for two?! Uh...what? Who did the math on that one? What possible scenario are they planning for? Are they planning cut the deficit to 13 instead of 14 in hopes that, in the event that they have to settle for two field goals at some point, they can still tie the game (with the addition of another touchdown)--all within the time frame of the last 5:17 of the game. Or maybe they just wanted to ensure that if they did score two more touchdowns, they would WIN the game, instead of sending it to overtime. Or perhaps they were planning on going for two again if they scored again, in order to, you know, cut the deficit to 5...for some reason. The point is, Turner Gill is probably a misunderstood genius.

-It occurred to me while watching the Georgia Tech/North Carolina game that it seems, by and large, that everyone has basically figured out Paul Johnson's triple option attack. For the first couple years he was there, it was this mystical thing that no team could prepare for unless they had more than a week to do so (hence their struggles against teams with a long week to prepare as well as in bowl games), but now teams (especially in the ACC) are becoming more and more adept at playing assignment football. The only thing that makes it work at all is the fact that the Yellow Jackets have superior athletes to many of the teams they play (especially in the backfield). The only reason it was effective this past week against the Tarheels is that the Tarheels were decimated by suspensions, lacking depth at key defensive positions, which made it easy to wear them down. Just wait til they meet Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami, and Georgia in four of their last five games (and three of those are on the road with only Miami coming to Bobby Dodd Stadium).

-Anyone who was lucky enough to have seen the Auburn/Clemson slugfest will attest to the fact that it was one of the hardest hitting games they've seen in quite some time. I certainly can't remember the last time I saw that much violence in a football game. It's a shame that Kyle Parker could barely breathe without excruciating pain radiating through his body for the most crucial parts of the game (no way he misses a wide open receiver in the end zone if his ribs aren't throbbing) but even in defeat, Clemson did the ACC proud. It still lacks a marquee non-conference win but the Tigers did a lot on this night to improve the ACC's image after some ugly losses. On the other hand, if you thought Auburn and Clemson was a war, just wait until Stephen Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and the Gamecocks roll into Jordan Hare. More on that later...

-Speaking of the SEC, let's talk about the two SEC openers:
*Florida/Tennessee: Well, the Gators did look a little bit better. Brantley at least seemed to find some rhythm eventually. However, in the first half, at least, they looked like the same team from the first half of the USF game and the Miami, OH game. Mike Pouncey continued to struggle with snaps and the running game never really got going with Jeff Demps averaging less than 3 yards per carry. The defense again had to bail the Gators out by capitalizing on a few royally stupid throws by Vols first-year starting QB Matt Simms and if not for a brilliantly called fake punt on a stalled drive late in the third quarter of a 10-10 ballgame, who knows if the Gators would have escaped with the win? Kentucky comes to The Swamp this weekend and that will be the last chance the Gators will have to work out all the kinks before their trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium begins a brutal six-game slate that includes clashes with LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina--all of which they will lose if they play the way they've played the first three games.
*Arkansas/Georgia: I'm not exactly sure what to make out of this game but I damn sure don't see what about this win was impressive enough to rocket Arkansas into the top ten. Their defense was able to get a good pass rush when they wanted to but they had problems all day stopping the run and were consistently vulnerable to the long ball. Ryan Mallet will win his share of games for them this year but there's only so much he can do and that will become apparent this week when the Tide roll into town.

-First, let me say that I'm glad Mark Dantonio is out of the hospital and doing fine. That being said, you couldn't write this stuff. College football head coach calls for a fake field goal on fourth down in a do-or-die overtime period to win the game and then goes home and has a heart attack three hours later. If it was fiction, it would be bad fiction. And while we're on the subject, as gutsy as the call seems on the surface, the more you think about it, the less gutsy it seems. I mean we're talking about a 46-yard FG attempt by an inexperienced, unreliable kicker. Granted, it was 4th and 14. I'm not saying it wasn't gutsy because it took some serious brass balls to try "Little Giants" on 4th and 14 but I'm just saying going for the field goal may not have even been the higher percentage choice.



THURSDAY

#19 Miami, FL @ Pittsburgh

I have to say, I watched Pitt's season opener against Utah and I watched Miami's gut-wrenching loss to Ohio State and based on what I've seen from these two teams, I don't think Pitt will even come close in this one. The Hurricanes have way too much athleticism on defense for a Pitt team with no passing game and a struggling Dion Lewis. Even if Pitt's defense forces a few Jacory Harris miscues--and I don't think they will because Utah's Jordan Wynn exposed a massive amount of holes in the Panthers pass defense--the offense won't be able to capitalize on any field position that's outside of field goal range. Picking the Canes over the Buckeyes was a homer pick. This one is completely and totally rational. I would put every penny I had on the Canes to cover the spread if I had even a single penny to my name.

Hobbitcore sez: Miami

SATURDAY

#1 Alabama @ #10 Arkansas

Wait. You mean this week's only matchup of two top ten teams (alliteration is always awesome) isn't the Game of the Week? Well, maybe theoretically, but A. I don't see any reason why Arkansas should be the #10 team in the country and B. they don't match up well at all with the Tide. This one might be close for a half or even for three quarters depending how much time the Razorback offensive line can give Ryan Mallet to work with. But, eventually, the Tide will pull away. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson will pummel the Arkansas front seven into submission and Greg McElroy and Julio Jones will exploit a very vulnerable secondary with at least 3-5 deep balls much like Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs did last week. Bama wins and also covers the spread.

Hobbitcore sez: Alabama

#16 Stanford @ Notre Dame

The Irish are looking to rebound from two absolutely excruciating losses (continuing a trend that began last year). Unfortunately, they have to rebound against probably the best NFL prospect in college football right now. The good news for Irish fans is that they match up considerably better against the Cardinal than they did against Denard Robinson and the spread option. This game will be close because they know how to defend Andrew Luck's offense--in theory. The Irish will lose another heartbreaker because they can't defend Andrew Luck's offense--in practice.

Hobbitcore sez: Stanford

#24 Oregon State @ #3 Boise State

This one is actually closer to being Game of the Week than Bama/Arkansas. Anyone who expects the Broncos to blow the doors off of the Beavers, prepare to be disappointed. The Beavers have one of the more dynamic offenses in the country and will have no trouble keeping up in a shootout. This one won't quite reach that level--although there will be a pretty respectable amount of points put on the board--because Boise State will come up with just enough defense to get past the Beavers.

Hobbitcore sez: Boise State

#22 West Virginia @ #15 LSU

I was entertaining the possibility of making this my upset of the week pick. I really like West Virginia's speed and Noel Devine is the kind of back that could give the Tigers fits. But LSU also has their share of speed and although Jordan Jefferson won't be special, he'll have a good enough game and his backs will help him out just enough to win a squeaker. LSU simply doesn't lose night games in Death Valley.

Hobbitcore sez: LSU

GAME OF THE WEEK/UPSET OF THE WEEK

#12 South Carolina @ #17 Auburn

I was kind of surprised to find that Auburn was favored in this game. They are coming off of a huge win in an all out war with Clemson and Cam Newton is pretty impressive but the Gamecocks have been impressive in their own right, specifically Marcus Lattimore and Stephen Garcia. If you thought the Battle of the Tigers was physical, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Cam Newton and Marcus Lattimore are gonna be looking for contact all night long and Stephen Garcia isn't afraid of taking a lick or two either. I really, really like the Gamecocks right now, they seem like they have all the pieces in place to make a run at the SEC East crown.

Hobbitpick: South Carolina 22, Auburn 17

Keys to the Game
Gamecocks:
-Don't miss ANY blocks
-Offensive diversity
-Spy Cam Newton
Auburn:
-Get Garcia's jersey dirty
-Tackle soundly; don't try for big pops on Lattimore
-Make SC's offense one-dimensional



Out-of-Whack Spreads
Miami, FL (-3.5) over Pittsburgh
Toledo over Purdue (-11.5)
Tulane over Houston (-19.5)
North Carolina (-1.5) over Rutgers
Ball State over Iowa (-28)

My Heisman Ballot (if the voting ended today)
1. Denard Robinson
2. Ryan Mallet
3. Justin Blackmon (leads the country in receiving yards and scoring)

BCS Predictions
ACC: Miami over Florida State
Big 12: Nebraska over Oklahoma
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Ohio State
Pac 10: Oregon
SEC: Alabama over South Carolina

BCS Championship: Alabama over Nebraska
Sugar: Boise State over Oklahoma
Orange: Miami over West Virginia
Fiesta: TCU over South Carolina
Rose: Oregon over Ohio State

Monday, September 20, 2010

Participation and Cooperation

When I was a senior in high school, I was already an avid attendee of what were purposefully referred to by myself and my peers as "local shows" (the idea, ostensibly, being to separate what we were doing from the overblown idea of the "rock concert"--which may be valid or may not be). Most of these shows I attended on my own and for the sole purpose of seeing live music that I enjoyed. However, something changed during my senior year. Little by little I started meeting more and more of an overwhelmingly wonderful group of friends (there were roughly 20 or 30 of them) who attended many of the same shows I was attending at the time. The quality and quantity of memories I made with these people cannot be overstated but those are different stories for another time. For the sake of this particular piece, there's only one of them who is really of importance. Let's call him Iggy.

Iggy was one of my best friends in the group--for a time, he was unquestionably my best friend of them all--and he not only introduced me to a mother load of music I'd never heard before--and likely never would have heard, if not for him--but he taught me a number of things about music and politics and the politics of music.

One of my first and best experiences with Iggy and the rest of our phenomenal friends was a show he himself had booked at The Alley--one of our favorite places to attend these shows and one where roughly 60-80% of our best memories were formed. When I asked him how he had managed to book a show for one of his favorite bands, his response really struck me. "I just emailed them." What a novel concept! You want a band to play where you live? You ask them. You ask them and they actually answer you. Because that's how punk rock (and hardcore, which was spawned by punk) and the DIY (Do It Yourself) music culture work. There is no separation between artist and audience--they are your peers, not your superiors. They play on stages that are no more than a foot high--if they play on stages at all. That's the entire point of the punk that so many people seem to miss. That could be you up there. It could be any of us up there.

This was an important lesson I learned from being involved in the DIY music scene and one that I have carried into every aspect of my life. That lesson is that no community can function healthily unless everyone--and I do mean EVERYONE--participates. Obviously not everyone has to participate to the same degree but each person must bring something distinct and unique to the collective and do his or her part to make it what they want it to be.

This is especially true in politics--and by politics, do not take me to be merely referring to national, state, and/or local governments. When I say politics, I refer to the politics of anything and everything. It's never enough to just vote people into positions of authority and/or responsibility under the assumption that, upon being elected, they will subsequently take care of everything. We're seeing the repercussions of such behavior in our current political climate with falling approval ratings for president Obama and looming disasters for the Democrats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It's not enough to vote in elections and then sit back and wait for them to fix our world--nor is it enough to vote on decisions in a church or congregation whenever they happen to come up.

Participation is everything.

If you want your church, your school, your workplace, your music scene, your community, your city, your state, your country to be a certain way then you're going to have to do the dirty work to make that happen. In the words of Aaron Sorkin, spoken through the vehicle of Andrew Shepherd in The American President (played by Michael Douglas): "America isn't easy, it's advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's going to put up a fight." It's up to you to spread awareness and share knowledge. It's up to you to galvanize and organize and exert influence on those who represent us--or, at least, are supposed to. It's up to you to participate.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I guess this will be a Unitarian Universalism blog now...

The first thing I'd like to say is that I can't even begin to express my gratitude for those who have felt so moved by what I've written in here (even if it's just the one entry) that they felt compelled to spread awareness of it through any channels available to them. This is undoubtedly my first experience with the opportunity to be writing to an audience which is both ridiculously exciting and mildly terrifying. The point is that due to the recent influx of readership and in light of the specificity of said readership, I will be doing two things: 1. I will be updating this blog once a week (every Monday) and 2. I will be attempting to at least loosely skew the content of the blog toward matters at least loosely related to Unitarian Universalism. It's the least I can do to gratify whatever audience I have been lucky enough to be gifted with and have gathered for me.

So. Here's something I wrote down in a moleskine during today's service that I thought might be a nice jumping off point:

"The Sanctuary's myriad of translucent panes lets such light in that, as the sun goes and comes out from behind the clouds, light pours into and drains out of the room like waves crashing on a shoreline or lungs inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, giving the room the appearance of being alive and, perhaps, indeed, giving it life."

Actually perhaps I should let that sink in for now and then I'll have a real update for you all tomorrow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week 3

Well, the dust has settled from "Monster Saturday"...let's review shall we...

-I'll start, of course, with Miami. Firstly, Jacory Harris. This was supposed to be the year where he put it all together and stopped making stupid mistakes, becoming the quarterback that all Hurricanes fans had hoped and expected him to become. Now, Ohio State's defense deserves a lot of credit. Not every defense in the country would have converted some of these mistakes into turnovers and OSU's impeccably coached D is one of the best at it. However, with this game, the hope of Jacory becoming the QB we all thought he could be has taken a huge hit. It seems likely now that he will never fulfill his potential and while he deserves some of the blame, most of it rests squarely on the shoulders of Mark Whipple. For starters, Whipple is the Canes' QB coach and appears to have failed in that capacity. Making stupid mistakes is a red flag that signifies poor coaching. Not only that but Whipple's play-calling has been called into question a number of times and it only seems like it's getting worse each week. He calls for downfield throws at some of the most suspect times. He often runs something that's working too many times in a row and if not, he stops running it too soon. He calls for things like a short pass over the middle in a goal-to-go situation that gets intercepted by Cam Heyward and returned into Miami territory (obviously there's no way Jacory should have thrown it there but not only was it a bad call but Damien Berry did a terrible job of coming back to the ball). A lot of people have been calling for Randy Shannon's job and he does deserve some of the blame but, in my opinion, he'll be fine in a year or two. If anyone should be on the hot seat for Miami right now it should be Whipple, who has been rumored to have been spending more time with the backup QBs (one of which is his son, Spencer) than he has with Jacory. Additionally, many Miami fans continue to wonder why this team doesn't install and run the no-huddle offense on a regular basis--the offense that Jacory Harris ran brilliantly in high school. The bottom line is that this team lost to Ohio State because it is poorly coached in several aspects of the game. The receivers had nine dropped balls--two of the Buckeyes' four interceptions went directly through the hands of Travis Benjamin. Five false start penalties on the offensive line (four of which came in a crucial third quarter). The defense missed tackles all over the field, including in Ohio State's backfield, allowing Terrell Pryor to rush for 113 yards and pick up six first downs with his feet. There were also a couple of dropped interceptions by the secondary that could have been monsterously huge. Granted, the defense was put in some truly awful situations by turnovers and big returns and held up impressively well considering the circumstances but that's no excuse for missed tackles and dropped interceptions. On a day when Pryor was inconsistent with his arm, the Canes handed him scoring opportunities and first downs and failed to convert his mistakes into turnovers. On a day when the Canes got TWO special teams touchdowns and a very respectable finger-in-the-dam performance by the defense that kept them in the game for at least one half, the offense often failed to move the ball, and when they did, they were thwarted by Jacory Harris interceptions. The talent on this team is not being developed at the pace it should be and the players are not being properly prepared for gameday. Hurricanes fans will be delighted to know that Randy Shannon ripped into his team Saturday evening in the locker room after the game--quite possibly for the first time since he was hired to coach the team. "I never have seen him like that," offensive lineman Orlando Franklin told AP, "but I can't say I was shocked." There has also been much made of his decision to ban his team from using Twitter, which he sees as a distraction. Some around the program are seriously examining the possibility that this new, meaner Randy Shannon may not be an aberration--and the transformation comes not a moment too soon. If the Canes don't win at least 10 games and the (extremely underwhelming) ACC, then there probably should be a murderer's row of coaches fired, perhaps starting with Mark Whipple--and Randy's ass will undoubtedly be firmly planet on a fiery hot stove.

-Well, Florida had a week to tighten all the loose screws and prove that the opening day struggles against the Red Hawks of Miami University were an aberration. That didn't happen. Sure the Gators ran away with the game in the second half thanks to some takeaways by the defense (notice I didn't refer to them as "turnovers created") but for much of the first half, the Gators were again dominated on both sides of the ball. Their first offensive drive was a three-and-out that included yet another fumbled snap. The Bulls' first drive was a 17 play, 96 yard touchdown drive that included several big first down runs by QB B.J. Daniels as well as a killer pass interference against the Gators that set up the touchdown after they stopped Daniels for a loss of 8 on 2nd and Goal from the 1. It was 7-0 Bulls for almost the entire half until a bone-headed B.J. Daniels interception deep in USF territory led to the Gators' first touchdown, making it 7-7 at the half. A fumble on a second half drive that had progressed into the Florida red zone took certain points off the board and sparked a 62-yard touchdown run by Jeff Demps which broke the game open (for the second consecutive week). The offense did eventually settle in but you have to wonder if a trend is developing and if the offense will be struggling like this all year. Today we might learn just about all we need to know about this team as they travel to Knoxville to face their first (and, likely, most) hostile environment of the season (and John Brantley's first hostile environment as a starter). If they don't improve drastically in a big hurry, they could find themselves in big trouble in Neyland Stadium.
*Side Note: Creepy Chris Rainey--Stay Classy. 30 arrests of 27 players in 6 years under Urban Meyer? Who's the real Thug U now? And by the way, it's no coincidence that no one (except, perhaps, Hurricanes fans) has noticed this until now, when the Gators are beginning to struggle in the post-Chosen-One era.

-Speaking of the Gators, you better believe that if the defense continues to miss as many tackles as they've been missing and continues to get dominated up front that Marcus Lattimore will absolutely trample them. This kid is phenomenal. I can't remember the last freshman I've seen that was this hard to bring down. Talk about a hard runner. With Lattimore, Stephen Garcia, great play from the offensive line, and a stellar defense, the Gamecocks might have the pieces in place for the first time under Steve Spurrier to legitimately contend for an SEC title. They've already beaten Georgia but they have yet to face Tennessee and Florida or travel to Auburn or Alabama. If they beat Florida and win the East, this team will have been thoroughly tested and will have already faced the Tide, who they would likely face again in the SEC title game. I'm not sure you can even call them a dark horse pick anymore the way Florida is playing.

-Oh yeah. Denard Robinson. The Heisman hype has officially arrived. The Wolverines have two more glorified scrimmages against UMass and Bowling Green before the Big Ten opener on the road against Indiana and a rivalry game against Michigan State, both of which they should also be favored in. Then Iowa comes rolling into town to really test "Shoe Lace" and company followed by a trip to Death Valley two weeks later. Then a few weeks of whatever before closing out the season by welcoming Wisconsin and traveling to the Horseshoe in consecutive weeks. Bottom line: if Michigan is for real, there will be no excuses against the tough teams because they'll have more than enough time to work out all the kinks.

There's probably more I could say about a few other things (USC barely got by Virginia after giving up 36 points to Hawaii, Kansas put 28 points on the board in beating a ranked GT team after losing to North Dakota State 6-3, James Madison picked off a hung over Virginia Tech and badly bruised Boise State's national title hopes in the process) but it's already 10 to 12 and I haven't even gotten to my picks yet so let's go ahead and do that...

#12 Arkansas @ Georgia

Georgia comes off being suffocated by South Carolina's defense and steamrolled by Marcus Lattimore in a 17-6 loss. But they, at least, have been tested, which Arkansas hasn't. Considering that and the fact that this game is between the hedges, I get the feeling Georgia will keep it close. However, in the end, Ryan Mallet is just way too good for Georgia's defense and picks them apart late in the game to pull away.
Hobbitcore sez: Arkansas

Air Force @ #7 Oklahoma

This could be a much better game than it might seem. Air Force has a very dynamic offense and a much better secondary than Florida State. However, Landry Jones has found his stride, DeMarco Murray is rockin', and Oklahoma has won 32 straight in Norman. Not today, Falcons.
Hobbitcore sez: Oklahoma

BYU @ FSU

Both are looking to rebound from tough losses but despite both teams being somewhat disappointing, this should be a real entertaining game, especially when the Noles offense faces the Cougar defense. I like FSU at home to get it done.
Hobbitcore sez: Florida State

Notre Dame @ Michigan State

This is always a good one and this year should be no different. Dayne Crist and company face their first big road test and I like them to rebound from a very tough loss last week.
Hobbitcore sez: Notre Dame

#6 Texas @ Texas Tech

Another team facing their first road test (Lubbock will be absolutely rocking for this game) and another game that is likely to be a lot closer than it seems like it should be. Taylor Potts and the Red Raider offense are one of the most underrated groups in the country and Tommy Tuberville has the defense playing much better. Look for Garret Gilbert to have a breakout game and make some plays late in the game, showing shades of last year's BCS title game, to pull out a close win at the end.
Hobbitcore sez: Texas

UPSET OF THE WEEK

#10 Florida @ Tennessee

I know, I know, I'm a Gator hater. I also know that the Vols defense got completely shredded by Oregon last week. According to their defensive captain, they "quit" in the second half of that game and therefore I really like them to come out with a chip on their shoulder and fly to the ball, capitalizing on some early Gator mistakes and pounding the ball against their defense, committing none of the stupid turnovers that cost Miami University and South Florida their upset bids.
Hobbitcore sez: Tennessee

GAME OF THE WEEK

#9 Iowa @ #24 Arizona

I know it's not very sexy but this will be a very physical, hard fought battle between two terrific defenses and two underrated offenses. There will be some serious hitting in this game and it will be fun to watch. I'm excited to see Arizona's running game face off against Iowa's monster defense. After seeing Ohio State first hand last week, Iowa is my new pick to win the Big Ten--as well as this game.
Hobbitpick: Iowa 19, Arizona 13

No fun stuff at the end this week, I've already missed my deadline by 12 minutes...you're just gonna have to trust me that I didn't change anything in the 12 minutes I spent half-listening to Arkansas/Georgia on the TV behind my while I typed furiously to finish this thing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Week 2

OK...here's where the fun begins. Now we've all had a little taste of what to expect out of most of the teams in the country (well, sort of) and this week things start getting REAL interesting. First things first, storylines from last week:

-I'll start with one of my favorite things to talk about: anything and everything negative about the Florida Gators. I make no secret of my hatred for the Gators. However, you could make the argument that this fact actually better qualifies me to comment on the state of affairs in The Swamp. Much in the same way that college football fans have a tendency to know the most about their favorite teams because they actively follow them, I know a lot about the Gators because I do, in fact, follow them, for the sole purpose of rooting against them and excessively scrutinizing them. However, while being a fan of a team often makes one biased in their favor--sometimes unrealistically--hating a team has the opposite effect of making you one of their biggest critics--which, quite often, is the best thing for the team and their fans. I'm starting to wonder if I could make a really good living reporting on the Gators.

Now. Having said all that.

You can imagine my giddiness watching the Gators struggle so mightily with lowly Miami of Ohio this past Saturday (a team that won as many games last season as the Gators lost--one). It would seem that the replacement of NFL-caliber Center Maurkice Pouncey with his brother Mike (moving over from Guard) is causing much bigger problems than anyone could have anticipated. But there were much bigger problems with the Gators' performance Saturday that were overshadowed by the flurry of bad snaps. For one thing, several of the fumbles were not caused by bad snaps but by bad handoffs, pitches, or just plain lack of ball security (and/or good tackling mechanics). Not only that but for more than half of the game, the Gators appeared to be getting manhandled in the trenches on BOTH sides of the ball.

Imagine if Jeremy Foley and Urban Meyer actually had the chutzpah to open the season against an actual BCS conference team with a pulse (god forbid a top 25 team like Georgia, Alabama, LSU, and many others outside the SEC have done several times over the last few years). Imagine if the Gators had lined up across from North Carolina or Virginia Tech or Clemson in the Georgia Dome. Imagine if they had traveled to Oklahoma State (the OSU of last year when they still had Zac Robinson) or welcomed Oregon to The Swamp. Imagine if they had opened their season in Landover, MD against Boise State. They would be nowhere near the top ten right now after being steamrolled. Even if they had played their opponent for this week (South Florida) last week, they probably would have lost.

As has been said a number of times, the Gators had months to work on these basic fundamentals and now they've had a week to fix some major problems. They have another week before they begin their SEC schedule at Tennessee and another two weeks after that before they travel to Tuscaloosa. I already had the Gators struggling to win ten games this year (I had them losing to Bama and Georgia as well as possibly FSU and/or LSU) but if they dont fix a lot of problems in a big hurry, they could end up struggling to be bowl eligible. The general consensus is that the Gators won't have another performance like this one and that seems like a safe bet (even though this performance was put forth against one of the least formidable opponents they'll face all season). However, it won't take a performance this bad to lose to Alabama, Georgia, FSU, LSU, South Carolina, or even Tennessee, South Florida, or Mississippi State.

It seemed like the whole college football world was penciling the Gators into the SEC title game against the Crimson Tide before the season. Now, suddenly, they barely look like a top 25 team. Only time will tell if the Gators will play up to preseason expectations, down to the expectations created by this game, or somewhere in between. But one thing is for certain: Florida has some very serious concerns to address if they plan to compete for an SEC title.

-Another, slightly less noteworthy, struggle was that of USC's defense against Hawaii. If you've been paying attention for the last couple years, you've noticed that USC's reputation for ferocious defenses is slowly fading and the trend continued this past week when they gave up 36 points to lowly Hawaii. It seems like, nowadays, the only thing the Trojans' D is good at is hitting and hurting people. Last season they gave up 27 points to Notre Dame, 36 to Oregon State, 47 to Oregon, 55 to Standford, and now they give up 36 to Hawaii. If I were Monte Kiffin, I'd be in full on panic mode right about now.

-While we're on the subject of teams that looked sorely disappointing last week:
*Pittsburgh looked nothing like a team deserving of a spot in the top 25 in their upset loss in Utah. Their defense had holes EVERYWHERE (especially in pass defense) and they had no passing game to speak of. Maybe Utah is just a lot better than we thought--Jordan Wynn is very talented and the Utes are phenomenally coached--but there's no denying that the Panthers certainly did not look like a team capable of winning the Big East (although I'm not sure who else would).
**Side note about this game: shame on Kyle Whittingham for using one of the lowest tricks in the book by attempting to freeze Pitt Kicker Dan Hutchins TWICE by calling a time out split seconds before the ball was snapped for his game-tying kick, nearly costing his team the game on the second occasion when the would-be kick sailed wide, which would have ended the game if not for Whittingham calling ANOTHER timeout moments before the snap, thus negating the miss. Not only was this stupid--the miss on the second kick was kind of the whole point of the timeout on the first one--but it was slimy and he got what he deserved when he watched the field goal attempt he had underhandedly negated sail wide. Let this be a lesson to all coaches across the nation: STOP PULLING THIS CRAP!
*Oklahoma struggled mightily with lowly Utah State, winning by only a touchdown, 31-24 (and that was the score for the last 17:31 of the game, in case you're wondering if it wasn't as close as it seemed) in spite of getting 218 yards and 2 touchdowns out of DeMarco Murray. In spite of jumping out to a 21-0 lead to open the game, the Sooners subsequently yielded 17 straight points to a vastly inferior opponent. Then, after expanding their lead back to 14 points at 31-17, they gave up another touchdown late in the third. Lucky for them the Aggies were unable to close the gap but Oklahoma was also unable to widen it. I didn't see the game but based on the box score, the problem for the Sooners on both sides of the ball seemed to be the passing game. Landry Jones completed just 17 of his 36 throws for 217 yards. He threw 2 touchdowns but also threw 2 interceptions, one of which was thrown inside the USU 25 yard line and one thrown inside the USU 10. Utah State QB Diondre Borel completed the same number of passes in the same number of attempts, however he threw for 341 yards. This, to me, is the one disappointing performance of the week least likely to be repeated next week or any time this year. This will be a wake up call for the Sooners, mark my words.
*I'm not sure how good Ole Miss was expected to be this year (even with Jeremiah Masoli) but I'm assuming they were supposed to be good enough to beat Jacksonville State. Apparently not.

-From disappointing performances to surprisingly positive ones:
*As far as single player performances, there was no bigger story in Week 1 than Denard Robinson. He set a record for rushing yards by a Michigan QB but more importantly looked confident, decisive, and, well, really, REALLY fast. Rich Rodriguez can finally breathe for the first time since he lost Terrell Pryor to Ohio State (imagine what Rich Rod's first couple years at UM would have looked like with that guy under center). As we've heard from just about every sports pundit in the nation over the last week, he's found his Pat White.
*Notre Dame allowed only 12 points in their win over Purdue and QB Dayne Crist looked pretty sharp in his debut replacing first-round draft choice Jimmy Clausen. I was also very impressed with Armando Allen and the Irish offensive line. We'll have a dandy on our hands when the Irish welcome the Wolverines this week.
*Many wondered if Oregon was going to be OK without the dismissed Jeremiah Masoli. Last week they steamrolled New Mexico 72-0. Well, then.

-TCU looked quite impressive in their Week 1 win over Oregon State...but so did Oregon State. I really don't think losing so admirably to a top 10 team is grounds for dropping out of the top 25, especially when you're being replaced with the likes of South Carolina, Arizona, Stanford, and BYU. I hate the whole reactionary idea that any team that loses HAS to drop in the rankings, even if they were expected to lose. Assess all the teams in front of you and decide who you think are the 25 best ones instead of making a loss an automatic drop in the rankings.

-Last but not least, congratulations to Boise State on a big time win over Virginia Tech. Not only was it impressive that they beat a team favored to win the ACC and poised to possibly make a run at a national title but even more impressive was HOW they won. Not only did they jump all over the Hokies to start the game but they survived several momentum swings and a furious comeback by a supremely talented team with a phenomenal quarterback and pulled out a clutch win when everything seemed to be going Virginia Tech's way thanks to a "Heisman Moment" drive led by Kellen Moore. I had several interesting observations about this game:
*First of all, both teams' special uniforms looked awesome; Va Tech looked super slick in all black (especially the helmets) and the Broncos looked very classy in shades of grey with blue pants...I also loved the Broncos' helmets--the massive logo was really cool looking and I love one-sided helmets.
*One thing I noticed about Kellen Moore is that on certain plays, he has a tendency to lock onto a receiver and throw to him even if he's not open at all.
*I will never, ever, EVER understand chasing points in any situation of any game outside the last 8 minutes...ESPECIALLY after the other team just had one blocked, giving you an advantage you wouldn't normally have in a game...but the real point is that you NEVER KNOW what might happen in a game and going for two just because it will put you up by 3 (instead of 2, with a worst case scenario of 1) or 7 (instead of 6, with a worst case scenario of 5) points is simply not smart because you never know how it could affect you later in the game if you miss and this has been demonstrated many, MANY times, including Monday night.

-One last thing: the Week 2 polls. I was extremely impressed by the Week 2 polls (especially the Coaches Poll) for several reasons:
*First of all, the coaches displayed more common sense than I can ever remember seeing them demonstrate in their poll voting--they moved Boise State up to #3, where they belonged all along (the AP, of course, already knew this), they dropped Pitt out of the top 25, they moved TCU up to #5, they dropped Oklahoma a couple spots, moved Oregon up a couple spots, dropped Florida to #6 (I expected the AP to drop them a little but I almost expected the coaches to inexplicably leave them at #3 since they won by 22 points)...also, to their credit, they had Utah ranked in the preseason poll and the AP didn't
*I am impressed with both polls having the courage and the wherewithal to drop the Gators after a poor performance, in spite of the fact that they won convincingly. The AP dropped them from #4 to #8 and the coaches dropped them from #3 to #6. Of course the AP is slightly more reasonable in both their preseason and current rankings of the Gators but I can't exactly make a convincing argument that Nebraska and Oregon are definitely better than Florida.
*Kudos to the AP for putting TCU at #4 ahead of Texas, who looked decent in a 34-17 win over Rice but not as good as TCU who beat a ranked team and held one of the best RBs in the country to 75 yards
*I do not, however, necessarily agree with dropping Oregon State or North Carolina from the rankings.

PHEW! That was a lot to cover and I haven't even gotten to my picks yet. I should be getting paid to do this shit. Someday...

But anyway there are a ton of great games this week so let's get to the good stuff:



#22 Georgia @ #24 South Carolina

Both these teams looked pretty impressive last week in wins over inferior opponents (South Carolina's was slightly less inferior than Georgia's). Stephen Garcia is starting to look like the guy everyone expected him to be. However, I really like Georgia's defense and experience and I liked what I saw out of QB Aaron Murray. Georgia is my pick to win the SEC East this year and until they give me reason to feel otherwise, I'll be picking them every week.
Hobbitcore sez: Georgia

#17 Florida State @ #10 Oklahoma

The Noles looked pretty impressive against Samford (if you want to call a 59-6 win over an FCS team "impressive") and Oklahoma looked less than impressive in a narrow win over Utah State. Christian Ponder must be licking his chops after seeing Aggies QB Diondre Borel throw for 341 yards on the Sooners. However, as I said above, I expect Oklahoma to bounce back in a big way. Look for the Sooner front seven to get after Ponder early and often and also look for Landry Jones to bounce back from a shaky performance. DeMarco Murray will have a field day against the Noles' shaky defense.
Hobbitcore sez: Oklahoma

#18 Penn State @ #1 Alabama

Penn State looked like they were going to be fine without QB Darryl Clark last week in a big win over Youngstown State. Alabama, however, is not Youngstown State. This one will be a lot closer than people might think, especially if Mark Ingram doesn't play. But even without Ingram, Bama is too much for a rebuilding Penn State.
Hobbitcore sez: Alabama

UPSET OF THE WEEK

Michigan @ Notre Dame

I was actually kind of amazed to see that Notre Dame was favored in this game after the way Denard Robinson and the Wolverines looked in their win over Connecticut. Notre Dame was pretty impressive too but their defense better be ready because Robert Marve doesn't run the spread anywhere near as well as Robinson does. Robinson will have a huge day as no one on the Irish defense is even close to being able to keep up with him.
Hobbitcore sez: Michigan

GAME OF THE WEEK

#12 Miami (FL) @ #2 Ohio State

OK. I'm almost assuredly going to come off as a homer on this one. And I say this every year but these Canes are going to be better than people realize. Not only is this a landmark game for the Canes but they A. have nothing to lose because no one expects them to win and B. have the added chip on their shoulder from the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Not only that but, historically, the Canes always show up the biggest when A. the bright lights are shining and/or B. no one is giving them a chance of winning. Jacory Harris is healthy (all I've heard anyone say about him since last season was that he needs to eliminate his mistakes but a large chunk of his interceptions last season could conceivably be attributed to a thumb injury he sustained in a late-season game against North Carolina; a game in which he threw 4 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns) and mature and, while his offensive line may be inexperienced, last year's O-Line wasn't exactly a strength--and I've noticed that when experienced O-Lines that aren't particularly good lose a lot of guys, the inexperienced guys that step in end up being surprisingly good. The Miami receiving corps will also give the Buckeye secondary fits and the stable of Canes RBs will too. On the other side of the ball, the Canes' defense will be extremely fired up after hearing about Terrell Pryor and Ohio State all week and will give the Bucks' offensive line fits with their depth and talent, especially on the front four. If the Canes can get pressure on Pryor rushing only four, Pryor will have a very long day. Also, don't underestimate the impact of Miami's special teams. I like Allen Bailey to register a couple sacks and the Miami backs to establish the run and short passing game to open up the field for Jacory to make some big plays with his arm and get the Canes their biggest win in nearly a decade.

Keys to the Game
Ohio State:
-Force Canes to blitz
-Get Brandon Saine going
-Pressure Jacory Harris
Miami:
-Protect Jacory Harris
-Get pressure on Pryor without blitzing (and keep him in the pocket)
-establish running game and short passing game early and often

Hobbitpick: Miami 21, Ohio State 20

MY HEISMAN BALLOT (if the voting was today)
1. Kellen Moore
2. Denard Robinson
3. Ryan Mallett
4. Christian Ponder
5. Jordan Wynn

OUT-OF-WHACK SPREADS (games I would bet on...if gambling were legal)
Georgia over South Carolina (-3)
Florida State over Oklahoma (-7)
Michigan over Notre Dame (-3.5)
Miami over Ohio State (-8.5)