Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekend Watch (11/13/09)

This should be a good weekend for football with games Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Throw in a little Hockey, Basketball and NASCAR (WHAT!) and it should be for a good weekend.

West Virginia at #5Cincinnati 8 PM ET ESPN2

The state of Ohio has two exciting games in two days. The first one is West Virginia playing at Cincinnati. Cincinnati is still playing without Pike (who is expected to return next week vs Illinois) but that hasn’t slowed down the offense. The defense let up around 50 last week against a better then it’s record UConn team. The D will need to play better if Cincy wants to win. Slowing down Noel Devine will be no easy task though. If Cincinnati wins they will remain the next in for the title game behind Florida, ‘Bama and Texas.

Who I want to win: Cincinnati

Who I think will win: Cincinnati

LA Lakers at Denver Nuggets: 10:30 ET ESPN

A rematch of last years Western Confrence Finals. Carmelo has been playing well this year, good enough that Scoop Jackson thinks he should be in the discussion with Kobe, Lebron and Wade. Well tonight is his night to prove it.

Who I want to win: Nuggets

Who I think will win: Lakers


College Gameday 10 AM ET ESPN

College Gameday will be in Fort Worth Texas for the Utah vs TCU game. I hope they discuss the absurd line for this game; Utah -20 that seems scary high for a game between two top 16 teams. I don’t think Gameday has ever been to Forth Worth so it should be a fun day for all.

Who I want Corso to pick: TCU

Who I think Corso will pick: Utah

Northwestern vs Illinois Noon ET ESPN or ESPN2 or ESPN Classic

Honestly this game would not normally make the watch, but the A.C.S.S. report team might be live on the scene. Northwestern needs to win another game to ensure they are invited to a bowl, while Illinois needs to keep winning to hang on to their outside chance of making a bowl. Illinois lost something like 17 straight games to FBS teams and now have 2 in the past 2 weeks. Crazy. O, BRING BACK THE SWEEET SUIX TOMAHAWK, this will be the first time in 64 meetings the trophy won’t be played for. The trophy was retired out of respect for the Native Americans. I like the trophy, and sad to see it go. Saying that, the Land of Lincoln Trophy actually looks kind of cool; it is by far the best trophy choice out of the other 3 considered (President's Trophy (named after the state's four presidents), Popcorn Bowl (named after the Illinois state snack) and the Graham-Grange Fire Bell (named after two of the greatest players at each school. Read the rest of the article about the trophies here).

Who I want to win: Northwestern

Who I think will win: Northwestern

#10 Iowa at #11 THE Ohio State University 3:30 ET ABC

This game is the unofficial Big Ten Title game. The winner of this game has the clear path to the title. Iowa is coming into game after having their perfect season ended last week by Northwestern. The biggest part of the loss for Northwestern is that Stanzi is done for the rest of the regular season. Ohio State comes in after playing very well against Penn State last week. I think with the loss of Stanzi it could make for a long day for Hawkeye fans. Wish A.C.S.S. Sr Hockey reporter (even though he doesn’t write anymore, lazy) Colin luck as he heads to Columbus wearing all of his Iowa gear. With the way he likes to trash talk, I give it 50/50 to ever see him alive again.

Real Salt Lake vs Chicago Fire 6 ET

This is the Eastern Conference finals and the winner heads to the MLS championship. Chicago lost at Columbus in the conference finals but look to win at home this year. The fire haven’t won a conference title game since 2003. Cuauhtemoc Blanco is looking to end his fire career (retiring or heading back to Mexico after the season) with a championship and has played well everytime he has played RSL. RSL is in the Western Confrence but got in the East as a wild card because they had a better record then any east team playing for the spot (I know confusing, but Canadian Football League does the same thing so not unheard of). RSL has never been to the cup final so they are looking to send Blanco home unhappy.

Who I want to win: Chicago Fire

Who I think will win: Chicago Fire

#16 Utah at #5 TCU: 7:30 ET

(Picture by Kurt SNIBBE of This is why I love College Gameday. They go to the week’s biggest game, and doesn’t care if it’s on ABC/ESPN. Kirk will do the morning game and then fly off to do another game that night (I believe Norte Dame at Pitt). Utah is coming into the game as a 20 point underdog which boggles my mind (my loan bet for the weekend, wagered legally in Las Vegas). I think the game will be a lot closer then that. The story line for the game will probably primarily focus on last year’s BCS buster playing this year’s most likely BCS buster.

Who I think will win: TCU

Who I want to win: TCU

Notre Dame at #12 Pitt 8 ET ABC
Notre Dame is coming off a loss to Navy (2nd straight time in Notre Dame Stadium) and needs this game to avoid a free fall. The Offense has been good all year, but Pittsburgh’s might be the most undereated in the nation. Expect to see a lot of Pittsburgh running to keep Norte Dame’s offense off the field.

Who I want to win: Notre Dame

Who I think will win: Pitt


NASCAR NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix pres. by Goodyear 3:15 ET ESPN

Apparently if Jimmy Johnson finishes outside the top 10 and Mark Martin wins, Mark Martin will be the leader heading into the final race next weekend. Oh yeah, he’s doing this at 50.

Who I want to win: Mark Martin

Who I think will win: Jimmy Johnson

Philadelphia Eagles at San Diego Chargers 4:15 ET FOX

The last time the Eagles flew west, they lost to the Oakland Raiders, and it wasn’t pretty. San Diego looks to beat it’s second straight NFC East team after a comeback victory last week against the Giants. Should be a fun game to watch.

Who I want to win: Eagles

Who I think will win: Charges

San Jose Sharks at Chicago Blackhawks 7 ET

Blackhawks are currently in first in central division while San Jose is currently leading the NHL. Should be some fierce action that down the line could be a Western Conference Finals preview.

Who I want to win: Blackhawks

Who I think will win: Blackhawks

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts 8:20 NBC

Two of the three best teams of the decade got at it for the 7th consecutive year. Last year’s game lacked with Brady being out. Now that he is back and hitting his stride, the Patriots look to stop the Colts perfect season. Peyton Manning has been very efficient all year working with is young reciving core. I expect Bellick to try to come out with a defense that will confuse the young wide outs.

Who I want to win: Colts

Who I think will win: Colts

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tom Crean Year Two: The Early Season Guide

Between now and New Years Eve, the fledgling Indiana Hoosiers basketball team will face ten opponents ranging from pushovers (hello, Bryant University!) to a possible powerhouse (rival Kentucky). After opening the season with exhibition wins over Grace College and St. Joseph's (Indiana), it's time to find out just how good this youthful team can be.

Let's take a look at IU's first twelve games of 2009-10:

Nov. 13: Howard

The Bison hail from the MEAC, and finished last year with a 8-23 record reminiscent of IU's own 6-25. Their leading scorer from last year, Eugene Myatt, is no longer on the roster. Belgian junior forward Kandi Mukole and Indianapolis native Kyle Riley, a guard, will lead the attack, but I expect this one to be a blowout at Assembly Hall.
PROJECTION: Indiana cruises, 1-0

Nov. 16: USC Upstate

In their third year as a D-I program, the Spartans of Spartanburg, SC don't appear to pose much of a threat. However, they do have a cool media guide available online! They also have experienced head coach Eddie Payne, who is entering his 25th year as a head coach. So that's nice.
PROJECTION: Indiana wins in a walk, 2-0

Nov. 19: Ole Miss (O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff)
*Nov.20: Kansas State/Boston University
*Nov. 22: TBA

The Hoosiers will travel to sunny Puerto Rico to take part in the Tipoff this year. Ole Miss is a quality opponent hovering just outside the Top 25, and Hoosier transfer Nick Williams (traitor!) will get to observe his former teammates from the Runnin' Rebels bench.

The tourney features a tough field including ranked Villanova, Georgia Tech, and Dayton, as well as Mississippi and Kansas State. Really, the only soft teams are Boston U. (Indiana's likely Round Two opponent) and George Mason. The website (linked above) is a good resource if you want to dig deeper into the field.
PROJECTION: L vs. Ole Miss, W vs. BU, L vs. Georgia Tech, 3-2.

Nov. 28: Northwestern State

From the Southland Conference, the Demons are another team that struggled last year. They have games against Texas Tech and Indiana in their early schedule, so we'll have a better idea of if they pose any threat after the Red Raiders get their shot.

Dec. 1: Maryland

Senior Greivis Vasquez leads a seasoned Terrapins team that lost to Memphis in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament. Maryland is lacking in quality big men but is deep at guard and swingman, and will test the defense of Verdell Jones, Jeremiah Rivers, and the rest of the Hoosiers backcourt. This is a home game for IU and I expect Assembly Hall to be rocking for the Big 10/ACC Challenge.

Maryland has a cakewalk through its early schedule before coming to a truly hostile environment.
PROJECTION: Close L, 5-2

Dec. 8: Pittsburgh

Despite losing its top three players in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, and Levance Fields, the Panthers may still be a tough opponent for the young Hoosiers. Coach Jamie Dixon gets his teams ready to contend year in and year out and runs a tough offense and defense. This one will come down to whose young players are ready to step into the limelight first. However, the Hoosiers may actually have the advantage in experience, as Dixon is going with an entirely new starting lineup to open 2009-10.

Dec. 12: #5 Kentucky

Another awesome game at Assembly Hall. I remember the last time the Wildcats came to town in 2007, when Jordan Crawford schooled his big brother Joe and paced IU to a win.

Patrick Patterson probably remembers, too, which can't be good for Indiana. I expect the junior big man and Kentucky's top notch gang of freshmen to put on a show in what could be a great game for fans of high-flying, fast paced play.

Dec. 19: North Carolina Central

They opened the season with an 89-42 loss at North Carolina. In just their third year as part of Division 1, they just aren't ready for major conference talent.

Dec. 22: Loyola (Maryland)

Part of the MAAC, they started out well last season before losing 8 of their final 9 games. The Greyhounds will have started conference play by the time this Christmas Break matchup rolls around, and I'm seeing... hang on...

Dec. 28: Bryant University

Like NC Central and USC Upstate, Bryant is a newcomer to the Division One scene. Still, they won eight games last year, including upsets at Yale and against Long Island at home. Seniors Nick Pontes and Cecil Gresham are capable players. But this team was blown out by every major-conference opponent they faced last year, scoring only 36 at Iowa, and I don't expect a whole lot to have changed.

So there you have it. Heading into their New Year's Eve home date with Michigan, the Hoosiers should have a bunch of wins under their belts, and hopefully one or two upsets against major-conference opposition to grow a little bit of swagger.

It's a major bonus to have virtually all of their tough matchups at Assembly Hall, aside from the Puerto Rico tourney, and the home court advantage will definitely play a role.

This early schedule ought to give Indiana fans a good chance to see who's for real among the bumper crop of freshmen, and who has improved from last year's core of Jones, Devan Dumes, and Tom Pritchard.

Top Chef Power Rankings (11/11/09)

We are now down to the final 5. Last night’s episode featured the casino’s of Las Vegas as inspiration for the Chef’s dishes. Each Chef got to go to the casino and experience what the casino had to offer including playing with dolphins at the Mirage, attending a medieval tournament at Excalibur and seeing the Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef. Last power rankings top 3 finished on top while the bottom three finished on the bottom. Robin made a poor dish, maybe not the worst of the night, but her track record of being on the bottom sent her packing. We are now down to 5 with 1 more challenge before the final 4. Does anybody know where they are going this year?

Top Shelf

Kevin “Red Beard” Gillespie

After winning both quick fire and elimination challenge last show, Kevin followed it up by finishing in the top of both this week. His fish dish drawing inspiration from the Mirage was a judges favorite and from the way they talked about it I expected it to win.

Bryan Voltaggio

Bryan finished in the bottom of the quickfire because he added vanilla to his breakfast dish. Bryan drew inspiration on the Mandalay Bay for the elimination challenge where he produced one of the chef’s favorite dishes. Him and Red Beard are still the top two chef’s but brother Mike has significantly closed the gap.

Mike Voltaggio

Mike was the elimination challenge winner last night with his play on the chicken wing drawing inspiration from New York New York casino. I was a little surprised that he won after hearing the discussion from Toby Kieth. Dish still came out good and he is closing the gap between him and the top 2.

Chopping Block

Eli Krishtein

I was debating about putting Eli on the bottom. I think the tailspin that Jen is in, and her saying she wants to go home, puts her a little behind Eli. Eli did win the quickfire last night with what looked like a tasty Breakfast Rueben. I actually feel the judges disliked his dish the most, but he had a better track record then Robin. Saying that, I feel Eli drew the short stick with casinos. Circus Circus is a hard concept to come up with (which he struggled) and compared to the other places the cheftestants went, Circus Circus does not have as distinguishing features as the others.

Jen Carroll

The judges said it last night, the contest is a marathon and it looks Jen has hit a wall. She is talking to herself in the stew room saying she wants to go home. She has continually been getting flustered as well. I feel like her ceiling is higher then Eli’s and maybe even Mike Voltaggio, she has not been performing in recent weeks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sporcle NFL NickName Quiz

Fun Quiz, i got 28 out of 32 and ran out of time

Trivia: NFL's Best Wideouts, From??

This one is just off the top of my head, but can you name all of these guys' alma maters? A post in honor of my recent trade for Andre Johnson (got AJ and Jamaal Charles for Thomas Jones and Hakeem Nicks this week).

In the AFC...
Reggie Wayne, IND
Andre Johnson, HOU
Randy Moss, NE
Braylon Edwards, NYJ
Chad Ochocinco, CIN
Hines Ward, PIT
Eddie Royal, DEN (will also accept Brandon Marshall, DEN for bonus point.)
Vincent Jackson, SD

In the NFC...
Marques Colston, NO
Roddy White, ATL
DeSean Jackson, PHI
Miles Austin, DAL (will also accept Roy Williams, DAL for 1/2 point)
Calvin Johnson, DET
Sidney Rice, MIN (will also take Percy Harvin, MIN for 1/2 point)
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
TJ Houshmandzadeh, SEA

Double points if you can get Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, or Miles Austin. That's 19 total points. Answers Friday. There are also 2 extra credit points to be had.

By the way, I only scored 15 before looking up the rest, so if you can beat that you are awesome.

College Basketball On the Horizon!

No, not IN the Horizon! Does that league even exist anymore? Valparaiso fans?

Anyway, my ever-alert mom sent me a link to the Daily Northwestern's preseason Big Ten power rankings, which you can read for yourself here. They've got Purdue and MSU 1-2 but a few surprises after that. Minnesota is at 3, ahead of Ohio State and Illinois, and Northwestern (hope springs eternal, but it is Kevin "Big Bird" Coble's senior year after all) at 7, ahead of Wisconsin. Also Indiana at 10, which is no surprise.

A lot of people are expecting Northwestern to get that elusive first NCAA bid this year. Pat Forde even put coach Bill Carmody into his "Five coaches who need to get something done" section of his preseason Forde Minutes. Quoted below:

Bill Carmody (34), Northwestern. When he needs it: all season long. At some point, even a basketball-indifferent school like this one has to care about advancing to the NCAA tournament, right? At least once? In school history? Especially since fellow egghead schools Duke, Stanford and Vanderbilt have made it look relatively easy to succeed in power conferences. This is Carmody's 10th year, so it's not like he hasn't been given every conceivable chance.

It's worth noting that Carmody has done much better in those ten years than any of his predecessors at NU since before the days of the NCAA tourney, which is why he's hung around so long.

Anyway, I'm interested to see if the Wildcats can handle a bit of expectations. Certainly something new for the program!

And yes, I will have much more on Indiana Hoosiers b-ball as the season approaches. Don't worry.

Rants and Raves. Mark Buehrle’s Best Year. Gold Glove Frauds. Bulls Wait 10 Minutes to Find Out They Lost

Markie Mark’s Best Year?

Was 2009 Mark Buehrle’s best year? The statistics and the win numbers would say no, but I am going to say yes. The reason I say yes is not because of the way he played on the field, a solid year with lots of ups and downs, but based on everything else that happened this year.

Here is what he accomplished. While playing interleague, he hit his first career home run in Milwaukee. He pitched a perfect game and joined some elite company with 2 no hitters with 1 perfect game.

After his perfect game, he received a call from President Obama. But that really wasn’t that big a deal for him, because he had met him a week earlier in St. Louis. Before throwing out the first pitch, the President went into each team’s locker room to talk to the players. While in the AL locker room he sought out his favorite team's only player, Mark Buehrle. The All-Star game was a special one for Mark as he finally got to realize a life long dream of pitching in his home town of St. Louis. When he did pitch against fellow All-stars he threw a perfect inning, needing only 9 pitches and about 5 minutes.

As discussed yesterday, congrats to Mark Buehrle for winning his first Gold Glove. He probably should have won more, having only 15 errors in his 10 years with the Sox and always top numbers in pickoffs. So, overall I would say it was a pretty good year for Mark.

Gold Glove Winners?

Again Congrats to Mark, but I am however annoyed that Derek Jeter got the award. Jeter? Really? Alexei was about as good a fielder as he was and he was terrible. Derek Jeter has been the most over rated field since Ryne Sandberg. Jeter cannot go to his right to make a play, and often doesn’t attempt a play on the ball that is playable in order to save himself from an error.

Now, I know a lot of people say, what’s the big deal, it’s just a post season award, all I care about is wins. Well when the Hall of Fame comes calling for Jeter one day, they are going to show his achievements. This stat will pop up and leave everyone to assume, wow he was a good fielder as well. No he is not, it’s garbage.

Speaking of his defense, this famous play is so much crap. It doesn’t show how good at defense he is, or how much he gives to the game. Look how far he runs after he catches the ball. Anybody with an ounce of athleticism would have stopped and saved their face. But because Jeter can't, he goes crashing into the stands and looks like a hero. Biggest Fraud EVER!

The other Gold Glove winner I had a problem with was Torii Hunter. Tori was in a class of his own for most of the decade, deserving his gold gloves. This year, he won it on name only, and that’s not right. The Baseball Writers of America should be ashamed of themselves. Instead of doing any research, they just voted for the most recognizable names on the ballet.

Bulls Lose

I only saw the replays of Brad Miller’s game winning shot that got called back. I think the ball is out, but that’s not my call. The biggest problem with it, IT TOOK 10 MINUTES! How can anything be that conclusive to overturn the call that it takes 10 minutes to review. The 10 minutes also killed what looked like a fantastic finish. The NBA should institute a time limit like the NFL (Though it is never followed) for how long refs can look at a replay. If they have looked at it beyond that time, then clearly, the replay is not conclusive.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

B10 Power Rankings (Week 11) Part Two: The Bad, and the Ugly

After running down the Top Five in Great Lakes/Cornfields 12 Football, it's time to get to the rest of the conference! If there's a consistent theme to these squad's seasons, it's inconsistency. Some are emerging from awfulness towards respectability, while others are grimly sliding towards oblivion. Keep in mind, three of these schools will probably be going bowling.

6. Michigan State (5-5, 3-3)

State's season highlight so far was a 24-14 win against Northwestern at home. They recovered nicely from their three-game losing streak against Central Michigan, Notre Dame (barely), and Wisconsin (barely, again), but after losing to Iowa and Minnesota in the last three weeks, find themselves right back in limbo.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has had a showcase season, throwing for 2,097 yards and fourteen touchdowns, but MSU's running game has not kept up at all. Losing Javon Ringer to the NFL really hurt, as none of his replacements have more than 400 yards.

Meanwhile, the defense has been torched by many opponents, including a Minnesota squad that was missing top threat Eric Decker two weeks ago.

Beating Western Michigan 49-14 last week counts for something (namely, a W), but a road date at Purdue this weekend and the home finale against Penn State are both crucial for Sparty's bowl hopes. Close losses have been a theme throughout the year, as all five L's have been by eight points or less.

Still, Michigan State is clearly the 'best of the rest,' and may even pass Northwestern for the fifth Big Ten spot before it's all said and done.

7. Purdue (4-6, 3-3)

The Boilers have really pulled themselves together after a miserable 1-5 start to the season. Fiery coach Danny Hope refuses to give up, even after his team's win streak was ended in a comprehensive 37-0 demolishing at the hands of Wisconsin, and led his Baby Boilers to a nailbiter of a win at Michigan last weekend.

With losses to Oregon and Notre Dame, and the upset win against Ohio State, Purdue has a strong schedule to show for itself, and closing out the season with MSU at home and then a road game against Indiana gives these Boilermakers an outside shot at a bowl in their first season without the legendary Joe Tiller.

Purdue's biggest problem is a defense that tends to give up around 30 points a game, but their offense has been explosive at times and features a number of playmakers. Look for them to end their season on a high note and go bowling somewhere.

8. Illinois (3-6, 2-5)

Although their overall record is the worst in the conference, the Fighting Illini are riding a two-game win streak against Big Ten opponents. They probably won't be going anywhere this postseason, although beating Northwestern in Champaign on Saturday would be a huge statement, because their next opponent is #5 Cincinnati on the road.

Juice Williams is hurt again, but that may be a blessing since frosh Jacob Charest looked good in the upset at Minnesota. How will he fare against that rejuvenated Wilcats defense on Saturday? It's anybody's guess. Mine is that Northwestern wins, but then again, I'm biased.

9. Minnesota (5-5, 3-4)

The Golden Gophers are an enigma. After a strong start to the season, they got plastered by Big Ten frontrunners Ohio State and Iowa, then came back and won a huge game against Michigan State after losing their best player in WR Eric Decker.

The stage was set for a late-season run, right? Not so fast. A home loss to Illinois last week drops Minnesota all the way to the Big Ten basement, with two games left to play. One of those games is a freebie against South Dakota State, so Minnesota will likely become bowl-eligible, just in time to go on the road and play Iowa, a prospect that is not quite so daunting now that Ricky Stanzi is gone.

Minnesota has the talent to win both of those games, but who knows which team will show up? Regardless, it will be a team missing a likely NFL first rounder, as Decker is gone for the year.

10. Michigan (5-5, 1-5)

Thanks to a soft schedule that gave them wins against Delaware State, Western Michigan, and Eastern Michigan, the Wolverines are still alive for a postseason berth. And their strong national following will likely give them that berth if they can get one more victory.

But that doesn't hide the fact that this team is not very good. Although their running back tandem of Carlos Brown and Brandon Miner have put up sterling numbers (954yd, 12TD, 5.7ypc), their freshman quarterbacks have fallen apart during the grind of a Big Ten season. This offense can definitely score some points, and their 320 is tops in the conference.

But it's really the running game doing most of the damage, including Forcier and Robinson. Their best wideout has only 22 catches, and no receiver has more than one TD.

Also, the defense is terrible against any reputable school (not DSU, WMU, or EMU).

Add that to a daunting final two games against #20 Wisconsin on the road and then #9 Ohio State at home, and you have a team destined for 5-7 obscurity.

11. Indiana (4-6, 1-5)

Ahh, Indiana, our Indiana. The standard 3-0 start against weak nonconference opponents had IU fans salivating over a shot at another bowl game. Then reality set in, as the Hoosiers lost game after game after game.

Hoosiers believers, including Bill Lynch (aka the blind leading the blind), never fail to point out that Indiana has outplayed several good teams this year, only to fall victim to circumstance. I was at the Michigan game, and can attest that Indiana looked a lot better than the Maize and Blue, up to a point. IU had Iowa on the ropes last week but couldn't finish the job. They almost came back against Wisconsin this Saturday, losing by three. They were dominating Northwestern in the first half at Ryan Field, and self-destructed.

I'm sorry, but a loss is a loss. And those four count just as much as the Virginia shellacking or the Ohio State snoozefest.

My line on this team remains the same. Indiana is lucky to have a ton of talented players on their roster. Jamie Kirlew will be playing in the NFL soon. So will Tandon Doss and Demarlo Belcher, and probably Ray Fisher and Darius Willis too. They are weak at corner beyond Fisher, and the offensive line is inconsistent in both phases, but both show spots of brilliance, as in the five INTs against Iowa.

But Indiana's biggest problem is a coaching staff that talks itself out of victory after victory. This week, it was the decision to kick the ball deep to Wisconsin after getting within three points with four minutes left in the game. Wisconsin's RBs had run all over the Hoosiers (that D-Line is much better at the pass rush than at run stopping) and thoroughly wore them out. What made the IU coaches think that Wisconsin wouldn't be able to get enough first downs to run out the clock?

Indiana now has a great facility in The Rock At Memorial Stadium. It is a beautiful stadium, up there with the best in the Big Ten, and its seating capacity of just over 50,000 is manageable if this team could just string together a few wins. Add in the top notch weightlifting facilities and a great AD in Fred Glass, and this should be a program already on the rise.

Yet here they are, at the bottom of the Big Ten again. It's way past time for a coaching search.

B10 Power Rankings (Week 11) Part One: The Good

As promised, here are my Power Rankings for the future Heartland/Midwestern 12. There has been a lot of movement since I last did this a few weeks ago, especially in the case of Purdue (upwards) and Michigan (free fallin').

1. Ohio State (8-2, 5-1)

That's right, the Buckeyes are back on top. Most of their wins have been dominant this year. The three exceptions? A squeaker with Navy to open the season, which doesn't look so bad now that the Midshipmen are 7-2 and just beat Notre Dame. That awful loss to Southern Cal, which showcased Ohio State's weaknesses (conservative coaching in the Red Zone, underachieving offense). And the fluky upset against Purdue on the road, where Pryor just had an awful game.

Since then, the Bucks have reeled off comfortable wins against Minnesota, New Mexico State, and ranked Penn State. They play in their second consecutive huge game this week as Iowa comes to town.

Their defense continues to excel, holding Daryll Clark and Penn State to a mere seven points.

2. Penn State (8-2, 4-2)

The Penn State offense has been inconsistent, racking up 30+ points seven times while being shut down by quality defenses like Iowa and Ohio State's (seventeen total points).

The defense, on the other hand, has only allowed 108 points all season, and OSU's 24 last weekend was their worst outing of the year.

Penn State's last three games are going to showcase an important factor in special teams, where OSU's Ray Small got two big field position punt returns last weekend. Indiana may not be much of a threat on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, but Ray Fisher is one of the best punt returners in the conference and might be able to break one. And the road game at Michigan State will probably be close, decided by a few plays one way or the other.

If Penn State can get its special teams in synch with its defense, that flaky offense may not matter quite so much.

3. Iowa (9-1, 5-1)

According to ESPN, QB Ricky Stanzi had surgery on his ankle this week and (at best) will be coming back for Iowa's bowl. So Iowa is going to face big bad Ohio State on the road with a true freshman at the helm.

This would be a very good time to try and run the ball 40 times. Unfortunately, Iowa doesn't have anybody who can do that. Their best play all year has been the deep ball. Against TOSU's excellent defense, probably the best in the Big Ten, I don't give Iowa much of a chance.

Then again, ball-hawking safety Tyler Sash and super D-Lineman Adrian Clayborn have been making plays all year, and if they can ruffle Terrelle Pryor's feathers like Purdue did a few weeks ago, this could become an upset in the making.

4. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2)
They got a bye week at the right time. After losing to Ohio State and Iowa and getting a week off, Wisconsin responded with a convincing sweep of the Hoosier State, crushing upstart Purdue and holding off Indiana on the road. Wisco has the best running game in the Big Ten, led by sophomore John Clay.

Clay has 973 yards and 11 TDs this year, and his backups are not exactly slouches, either. The Badgers currently sit at #20 in the BCS rankings.

The big difference from past Wisconsin teams? The defense is vulnerable. They've already given up over 200 points on the season, with three games left. This week's matchup, as struggling Michigan comes to Camp Randall, is a welcome one for the Badgers. The Wolverines are winless on the road this year and in disarray.

Closing out the year with road dates at Northwestern and at Hawaii (talk about getting two bowls instead of one!) virtually ensures this Wisconsin squad a nine-win season.

5. Northwestern (6-4, 3-3)

The Wildcats just got their defining win of the year, taking it to Iowa 17-10 for their third straight victory at Nile Kinnick Stadium. NU's quarterbacks combined for a mere 109 yards, but got key first downs when they needed them for the win.

This is a team with clear strengths and weaknesses. One strength is the defense, which has finally returned to last year's winning form thanks to returning starters S Brad Phillips and several CBs from injury. This is a solid and seasoned unit with good players on all three levels.

Northwestern's other strength is more of a surprise. After losing almost 100% of their wide receiver production from last season, seniors Zeke Markshausen and Andrew Brewer have stepped up big time.

Markshausen is the possession guy, weighing in at a petite 180lbs and standing 5'11" (both generous measurements). All Zeke has done this year is lead the Big Ten in receptions, with seventy through ten games. That's sixty-nine more than he had in his entire career up 'til this year.

Meanwhile, big Andrew Brewer is the home-run hitter. Averaging over fifteen YPR with 5 TD's, Brewer is a threat to take it to the house every time he gets the ball.

Unfortunately, the Kafka/Persa combo at QB is inconsistent, and neither has been able to run the ball as well as Kafka did last year in relief of CJ Bacher. The running game has missed Tyrell Sutton, as Scott Concannon has had to carry most of the load and has been stuffed against top Big Ten defenses.

This Northwestern team needs to win at Illinois on Saturday to lock themselves into a bowl bid. Several teams that travel better than NU can still get to six, and if that happens and the 'Cats can't win again, they could easily be left in Evanston for New Years.

...second half of the Power Rankings coming soon...

Mark Buehrle Wins Gold Glove

It's been annouced, Mark Buehrle has won his first Gold Glove. Congrats to him, it's been a long time coming.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pre-Season Final Four Predictions

I’m going to go on record with my Final Four predictions. As I wrote around tourney time last year, there are certain trends that I follow when I’m predicting who will make the Final Four. I always predict two teams from one conference and have one team that was there the previous year’s Final Four (The 2009 Teams were North Carolina, Michigan State, Connecticut, and Villanova). Without further ado, my predication's.

(Note All Rankings is current AP Rankings)

#1 Kansas (Big XII)

I know, real courageous with choosing the #1 team in the country. This team has tons of talent and Bill Self got over the stigma of being a bad big game coach by winning the title two years ago. Most of this team played last year and the additional recruits will have Kansas cruising to a Big XII title. The Texas and Mizzou games should be great to watch, Oklahoma is ranked, and Baylor keeps getting better; but I see this as Kansas’ conference. Another reason I am picking Kansas is because I have an irrational love of putting Kansas in my Final Four. I have done so every year since the Paul Pierce era until they won their title. A one year hiatus and they are back in my Final Four.

# 2 Michigan State (Big Ten)

Another courageous choice by me, picking the #2 team in the country following my choice of the #1 team. Michigan State is my choice from last year’s four to return. They bring practically everyone back from a championship game team. They might have played above their heads in beating Louisville and then UConn, but I think that’s cause Izzo is a great tournament coach. I see him getting this team back to the Final Four.

#7 Purdue (Big Ten)

I have been touting Purdue for a couple years now, but the starting five has been starting together since they were freshman. They had a sweet 16 team last year and lost to eventual Final Four Team UConn. They are disciplined and play good defense and with a healthy Hummel will be a tough team to beat. It’s time for Painter to start stepping out of Keady’s shadow with his first Final Four team.

#17 Louisville (Big East)

Louisville is an elite eight team from last year with good returning talent. Pitino is a fantastic coach and has had success taking teams to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville). The Pitino sex scandal storyline could follow the team around all season which could create a potential distraction. I know Kentucky is the popular choice from the bluegrass state, but the Cardinals are my choice.

Lastly, Indianapolis is a great location for the Final Four. Indiana is as basketball crazy as any state in the USA and Indianapolis is the heart of the state. Indy is home to the NCAA Hall of Fame. Now, they have a state of the art stadium in Lucas Oil Field that is apparently going to set all kinds of attendance records as well as provide and exciting atmosphere for all the big games. I was in Indy a week before one of their Final Fours and the city does a great job preparing for it. If my predictions come true, tickets will be hard to come by with in state Purdue, just over the border Louisville, and not that far away Michigan State fans gobbling up the tickets. Even Kansas isn’t an unbearable drive. I know I will personally be scouring the Internet to find good deals on tickets and try to attend the conclusion of the Madness that is March.

Notre Dame's Two Tone Floor Overkill?

I know it's been a recent trend for hoops courts to feature a different shade of wood inside the 3 point lines and outside the lines. Notre Dame has taken this trend to a new level. As you can see in the picture, Notre Dame's floor features a different shade in the middle of the floor in the shape of a clover. Is this cool or overkill. I personally think it is overkill, but will wait to pass judgement until I can see the floor on TV.

Trivia: Schools with 2+ NCAA Men's Basketball Titles

Trivia this week feature's College Basketball since it is starting up this week. Can you name the 14 schools that have won 2+ NCAA Titles?

As always, results will be in the comments later

Sammy Sosa is White? What is going on?

I have no idea what is going on here, but this picture is real. I have heard some people this is an after effect of steroids orI also heard he tried to do some skin rejuvenation. Maybe I don't know, just weird and creepy.

Big Ten Bowl Selections

Before I go through the projections, a quick explanation of how the Big Ten receives it’s bowl berths. As a member of BCS, the Big Ten champion receives an automatic berth with a tie-in to the Rose Bowl. There is a possibility that a second Big Ten team gets selected to the BCS as at-large bid. As for the non-BCS bowls that the Big Ten is affiliated with, the Bowls are not obligated to choose their teams in exact order of standings. For example Big Ten #3 does not mean the team that finished 3rd, in the Big Ten, but has the 3rd choice of all Big Ten teams available. A bowl can only select a 6-6 team from a conference if no 7-5 from that conference are still available. Lastly, I am going to assume the Big Ten will have enough eligible teams to fill their Bowl games.

Rose (Big Ten Champion): Ohio State

Date: January 1st

Sorry Iowa fans, but after a shaky performance against Purdue, Ohio State has bounced back and played well. Iowa losing Stanzi is big as can be seen by their performance without him against Northwestern in the 2nd half. Possible opponent would be the Pac-10 champ, which Oregon is in control of right now. Ohio State can beat the Oregon team that played Boise and Stanford, but could not play with the Oregon team that took Cal and Southern Cal to the woodshed.

Orange (BCS At-Large): Iowa

Date: January 5th

A two loss Iowa team is still a very attractive team for a BCS Bowl. Iowa travels well regardless of location. If Iowa lands here, they will most likely play the ACC champ which looks to be Georgia Tech. Playing the triple-option is challenging cause so few schools run it. However, having a month to prepare for it and the dominant D-Line could go a long way to slowing it down.

Capital One Bowl (Big Ten #2): Penn State vs (SEC #2)

Date: January 1st

Outback Bowl (Big Ten #3): Wisconsin vs (SEC)

Date: January 1st

Champs Sports: (Big Ten # 4): Northwestern vs (ACC #4)

Date: December 29th

Alamo Bowl (Big Ten #5): Michigan vs (Big 12 #4)

Date: January 2nd

Insight Bowl: (Big Ten #6): Minnesota (Big 12 #6)

Date: December 31st

Little Creasers (Big Ten #7): Michigan State vs (MAC)

Date: December 26th

Not going Bowling: Indiana, Illinois and Purdue. All three of these teams could finish with 6 wins and become bowl eligible.

Thank You, Stewart Mandel's college football guru opens his article today with a detailed comparison of three very similar schools: Stanford, Northwestern, and Notre Dame.

All three sport six victories this season. Northwestern just became bowl-eligible for the third straight season (compared with two for the Irish) and sixth time in seven years (five for Notre Dame).
Comments? Anybody alive out there?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sports Illustrated's Food for Thought

How cool is that? I think Texas would probably win it all, they've got the easiest road if they could survive that Georgia Tech offense.

Big Ten Power Rankings- The Preview

Because it's late and I am an insomniac at heart, here's a sneak peek at where I will (probably) have the Big Ten teams after another crazy week in everybody's favorite conference:

1. Ohio State - Back in the driver's seat after dominating Penn State.

2. Iowa - Better pray that Ricky Stanzi is a quick healer. Lack of a running game suddenly a major, major issue.

3. Penn State - Says here that Daryll Clark just cain't handle pressure. Hmm...

4. Wisconsin - They still haven't beaten anybody this year, losing their only games against top opponents and looking weak doing it. But at 7-2 with games against Michigan, Northwestern, and Hawaii to go, they might not have to beat anybody this year.

5. Northwestern - Huge win at Iowa showcases a tough defense finally rounding into form. Northwestern's wide receivers were also clutch in a game where every offensive yard counted.

6. Michigan State - As expected, demolished Western Michigan.

7. Purdue - You know they're still alive for a bowl bid? Three Big Ten wins is nothing to scoff at, nor are 'quality losses' against Oregon and Notre Dame.

8. Minnesota - Next week's gimme against South Dakota State will get them bowl-eligible, but I could see them being left out in the cold (literally) if nine teams make 6-6.

9. Illinois - Fun fact: Riding a two game winning streak, Illinois has its rivalry game against Northwestern and then a road date at... Cincinnati? Number five Cincinnati? Nice scheduling.

10. Indiana - This week's coaching maneuver o' shame: Kicking deep to a Wisconsin team that had dominated all day with the running game, trailing by three with four minutes left in the game. Oh yeah, you'll get a stop. Definitely.

11. Michigan - Three ugly losses and an upcoming road game at Camp Randall.

(Watch for the full version on Monday, so you can read it at work!)