Friday, December 05, 2014

The Home Stretch

Greetings Sports Fans - it's been a little while since our last encounter and what better time than now to get back on the horse.

Allow me to open with something Colin Cowherd said way back last spring, and something I vehemently agreed with at the time and still believe today: moving to the four-team playoff would not lessen the debate and controversy in college football, it would intensify it. And here we are today...

It's tough because there are a lot of good teams. One of the things I've grown to really dislike about the game is the growing stigma of the need for perfection to be considered "good". Again, there are a lot of good teams in college football and singling out 2, 4 or even 8 is going to be tough. But this forces us to get into this habit of dissecting every tiny detail of who did you play, when did you play them, how did the game go, who did THEY play, etc, etc. We've lost sight of the forrest for all the damn trees in the way.

All of that being said, I still like the fact that there's a group of intelligent, knowledgeable folks who are making the final call, and who actually have to meet with one another to discuss each week. I'll hold final judgement until the final whistle blows Saturday night, and the decision is made Sunday morning. In the meantime, here's how I see the dominoes falling.....but first, a quick note on, uh-hum, the Longhorns.

Reflecting Back on Stronghorns Season 1
I don't think it needs mentioning that there is one priority that is above all else this off season for this Texas Longhorn team. Maybe we have that solution on campus, and maybe we don't. We just don't know. Here's the good news heading into the heart of recruiting season: Strong and company can honestly say to their top coveted recruits at QB, Receiver, O-line, and D-line - "you have an honest-to-God opportunity to come in and make an impact right away. Seriously."

I hate to come down on a guy who was thrust into this position where he's clearly over his head, but this kid is NOT a big-time college football player. I mean, who the hell else was going after this guy out a of 2A school where they won 1 game his senior year? I'm too lazy to look it up, but someone look it up and get back to me. I know Strong and company don't like playing freshman, or guys before they are ready, but there is zero chance in hell that this team is going into next season with Swoopes under center. Not happening. Herd may make a lot of young mistakes, and a lot of the ones Swoopes is making, but his running abilities will get you some plays we never we would have with Swoopes.

At the end of the day, we learned a hell of a lot about this coaching staff and I think I speak for damn-near every Longhorn fan when I say I like what we see. The most appalling thing I think we all learned is just how dysfunctional this team was in so many ways. There were some tough and very frustrating growing pains this year, but pains that needed to happen. I predicted that 2016 would be the season that Texas is in the final 4....that may be a tad aggressive, but I'm sticking with it.

Let me just close with this point on the Thanksgiving Night massacre. I know this is always silly, but in light of the fact that our QB accounted for SIX (fuck, really?) turnovers, I can make this outlandish "what ifs"....IF you take away Texas' 7 turnovers, and the points that were scored off of them, the final score would have been 17-10 TCU. I'm not saying it should have been, I'm saying, what if...moving on please.....

Weekend of Shittin' or Gettin' Off the Pot
One I thing I will say is there are a lot of great games to be played this weekend with a lot of ramifications. Let's go around the horn and explore the endless possibilities (they're not endless, there are only a few).

Missouri vs Alabama - The bigger story is this: why is NO ONE talking about the fact that Missouri, a team that snuck in the SEC door right before it closed, has now won their division in the first 2 years? Not the Aggies with their Johnny Football, and Swag Copter, but Mi-freaking-ssouri. I give them credit, I really do. They were an afterthought in this league and frankly, many believe that their academic record is the main reason the conference wanted them. And look at them now - in a position to play the ultimate spoiler. Unfortunately, and I can say this with a lot of confidence, they are not going to beat Alabama. Say what you will about the Tide not being the team they've been in recent years (and they're not), but they are a lot better than Missouri. A lot. Bama will punch their ticket this weekend. Now that's about the only certainty I do have... (Sidebar: does "SEC guy" now realize that the SEC is nothing more than 3-4 really good teams and then a whole hell of a lot of mediocrity disguised as good teams? The rest of us have known this for a long time.)

Arizona vs Oregon - Now here's an interesting one fans. For those of you not keeping score, Oregon's lone loss was to Arizona earlier this season, however Oregon was without a hell of a lot of players including some key O-lineman. Personally I think Oregon is the best, most balanced team in football right now and I think they're going to take it to Arizona. First, they're back to full health, and second, it's very, very tough to beat any team twice in one year. And here's the deal, if Arizona wins, the likelihood of them making the playoff is very, very low - so win or lose they are Rose Bowl bound. I would think it would be tough to motivate a team with that reality. (PS - why the hell is this game on a Friday?)

Kansas State vs Baylor - Now here's the humdinger of the weekend folks. I've always hated style points, but they exist and they will be alive and well on Saturday night in Waco, Texas of all places. I'll be very interested to see how Baylor comes out because there has been quite a bit of distraction around the playoff. And let's not forget that Kansas State is a damn-good football team who doesn't make mistakes. Baylor needs to come out and look sharp and polished because right now, everyone seems to think they don't. If they can come in and have that polished look and win by 10 or more, they'll have nothing to worry about. That's a big IF....

Ohio State vs Wisconsin - I mean, you have to  think with a third-string QB this could get ugly quick. But...it's still tough to doubt Urban Meyer. Ohio State is going to have to play the best run defense of their lives. I gotta take Wisconsin here - tough, physical team who'll be licking their chops to get this youngster under pressure. Give me the Badgers here by a touchdown.

Florida State vs Georgia Tech - Look, I've been saying, for like 3 weeks now, "oh, this is the week they lose, blah, blah, blah, blah." Except they keep winning. With that said, I totally get how some could see it differently. Georgia Tech may be one of the best team they've played all year, and a big key to beating this team is keeping the offense on the sideline. That triple option can do just that. If FSU can keep this team to field goals inside the red zone, they'll be fine. If they start giving up long, 5+ minute drives that end in TDs, that could be trouble.

Final Shake Out - With what we've seen this season, you just have to know things aren't just going to "fall in line" this weekend. Quickly, here's how I see it playing out...

Oregon handles Arizona with ease and Mariotta locks up the Heisman (it's not close).

Kansas State plays very tough, but Baylor hangs on for a sound, but hard-fought win at home.

Missouri may tease us with keeping it close for a while, but I don't think this game is ever in doubt.

Wisconsin over Ohio State by a touch down here.

And drum roll......why the hell not, give me Georgia Tech by 3 over the Seminoles ending a huge run at 28-straight games.

Final Four:
1. Oregon
2. Bama
3. Baylor
4. TCU

Goat Award of the Week
I just made that up, but I simply want to highlight the fact that all season long the Big 12 has been running ads highlighting the fact that everyone plays everyone and they have "one true champion". That's literally what the slogan in those ads has been. Now, we have a potential situation where TCU and Baylor will end up with the same record, but here's the rub: BAYLOR BEAT TCU HEAD TO HEAD. Say what you will about "how" they won/lost, but it happened.

NOOOOW the Big 12 has come out and said, "if both teams win out, we'll call them co-champions and let the committee decide". Are you f'ng kidding me? Really? One True Champion? In what other sport does something like this happen? It doesn't. I'm sorry, but if they both win out, Baylor is your champ. I don't like it anymore than any other non-Baylor fan, but that's how it works. And here's the thing: it's not difficult or confusing, or biased, or anything. It's common sense that every sports fan in the world would understand.

Freaking embarrassing. It really is. I mean, did no one tell the Commissioner, "hey, you know what, if you come out with this stance most people will literally think you have no balls."? I'm guessing not. Unreal.

On that note, enjoy the weekend folks. Be good to each other out there.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Teams

I guess that title could apply to a whole bunch of teams out there, but I'm referring to Okie State and Texas....we'll get to that in a second.

Quick Reactions from Last Weekend...
  • And how about those Longhorns. In the interest of full disclosure, that Mountaineer team sure did look flat after that TCU game, but that's why you play the games. This defense continues to play at such a consistently high level which is great. They have continuously shut down big-time offenses this year. Very pleased with that. And offensively, thank God for our second quarter scoring barrage because yet again they came out VERY flat in the 3rd quarter. All in all a great confidence-building win for this team. And a great way to go into the last quarter of the season. 
  • I admit I've been very up and very down on Swoopes this year (who hasn't??), but I'm pretty convinced that this kid simply isn't going to develop into a significantly better play caller. Until we're able to get another quarterback in there to really learn the offense and take over we are going to struggle offensively. I was calling for Herd early, but I really like that he's likely going to keep that redshirt on this year - plus with some newcomers coming in, we'll have REAL competition at the QB position. Swoopes is a good athlete and we could do a hell of a lot worse, but I don't think we're too far from his ceiling. 
  • That whole third quarter phenomenon is really concerning to me. I mean, every game...
  • Big win by the aggies and really a good bounce back game. Aggie fan may not admit to this, but Sumlin REEEEAAAALLLY needed that game. 
  • I don't want to take anything away from the Aggies because they came out ON FIRE and laid it to Auburn early, but those last 2 turnovers were shocking. Those were unforced errors - those fumbles had nothing to do with Aggie defense. But that's why we play the games and the Aggies capitalized. 
  • Thanks for playing Notre Dame, if you'll step off the stage over here, Susan will show you to your consolation bowl. Can't lose that game like that. 
  • That was an exciting game in Baton Rouge last Saturday, but these teams are still rebuilding/loading and it showed. Quarterback play was pretty poor by both teams. And let's be honest - LSU pissed that game away in the last 50 seconds. Once Bama tied it up at the end, I think everyone watching new LSU was done. 
A Tale of THESE Two Teams....
Oklahoma State is a on 3-game losing streak as they head into the toughest part of their schedule...and none have been close. Their opponents in that stretch were TCU, W. Virginia, and Kansas State - the best of the best in the conference. After Texas they get Baylor and Oklahoma. What does this tell you? This is their best chance to pick up that sixth win and become bowl eligible.

Texas is riding a 2-game winning streak heading into Stillwater - with their biggest win of the season coming last week against the Mountaineers. After this game, Texas gets TCU on Thanksgiving night. What does this tell you? This is their best chance to pick up that sixth win and become bowl eligible.

While on paper these are mediocre teams playing for a meaningless bowl (which is all true), in the trenches, this is the most important game for both of these teams. Some would call this a must-win for both of these teams. Stillwater is a tough place to play and it's going to be really, really cold. These fans don't give two shits about rankings or bowls right now - they just care about getting back in the win column....AND of course, beating Texas. That's worth a lot and makes this game a tough one to call. These two teams are two very different trajectories though. And while Okie State is coming off of a bye week with time to regroup, Texas is also coming off the momentum of that big win. And honestly, I'll take that. I think the Texas defense helps keep this Cowboy team in check while the Texas running game will help control things offensively. I'm seeing a very close, pretty ugly dog fight here.

Texas - 26
Oklahoma State - 24

Other Thoughts on This Weekend...
  • As much as I'd like to see Minnesota upset Ohio State, I just don't see it. 
  • Based on what I've seen this season, I really don't think Alabama should be able to hang with MSU. But, I'm sure Saban will have something up his sleeve and I think it's a good game. But give me Bulldogs all the way. 
  • Chances Dan Mullen bolts for Florida at season's end: 55%
  • I have nothing logical to back this up with, but I think Tech makes this game very, VERY close against OU this afternoon.
  • I get the sense that Georgia is going get way more "up" for this game than Auburn - the Tigers have some confidence/mental issues going on here. They need to really step up their defense - a healthy and rested Todd Gurley is going to be a real test. I think Georgia wins this one by double digits. 
  • Very interesting game in College Station. I have no idea what to think about Missouri. Based on what I saw last week I have to give the Aggies the advantage here. If they can replicate that, they'll blow Mizzou out of the stadium. 
  • Once. Just this once I will root for Miami. I think everything about FSU is dirty. And I think they are the weakest of the four teams (I don't care which other 3 you put in there). Just this once. 
  • If you're looking for an NFL game to watch this weekend - check out the Sunday nighter with Tom Brady and Patriots visiting Indianapolis. 
That's what I got. Enjoy the weekend.