Thursday, December 25, 2008

Super Arenas of the Atlantic 10

So when the conferences realigned in 2004 and 2005, the Atlantic 10 conference decided to do what all the cool kids were doing: Screw someone over. Due to the ACC stealing Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East in 2004 and following suit with BC in 2005, the Big East suddenly needed three new football programs to get their membership back up to eight (really the smallest a power conference can logically be for football). How did the Big East do this? By stealing Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati from Conference USA. That should have been where it ended, but it wasn't. For some reason, they brought in two other schools for non-football sports (even though the Big East is already massive for, say, basketball). They grabbed Marquette and DePaul, two very storied programs, away from C-USA just to rub some salt on the wound.
The A-10 apparently thought this seemed like a lot of fun, and invited Charlotte and Saint Louis from C-USA, increasing the number of teams playing hoops in the A-10 to 14, and leaving Memphis without any real conference competition (no offense to Houston and UAB).
One thing that St. Louis and Charlotte have brought to the A-10 are a couple of first-class facilities that bring the total number of high-end arenas in the A10 to eight. Six schools: George Washington, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, La Salle, Duquesne and Fordham basically play in glorified high school gymnasiums (though St. Joe's is renovating Alumni Fieldhouse, so we'll see how that goes). The schools that make the cut are, in reverse order:

#N/A: Saint Joe's: Temporarily at the Palestra
This one doesn't count, it just gives me a chance to talk about the Palestra. There are some venues that are timeless, and therefore can't be measured the same way as most other places. This is the perfect example of one of those places. The official home of Penn, the temporary home of Saint Joe's and the unofficial building of the Big Five, this place is appropriately referred to as "a basketball cathedral" by many. It is an icon in college hoops.

#8: Chaifetz Arena - Saint Louis University
The Billikens moved out of the Scottrade Center this season and into their own arena. And while it's always exciting for a school to ditch their dad's Porsche for their own Cadillac, I don't love this one. After the home opener, I went through photo galleries of the arena, and it really has nothing interesting about it. It's a cookie-cutter arena that is just one consistent deck of seats around the floor, with no suites or other especially interesting aspects to it.

#7: Robins Center - University of Richmond
Very similar looking to the previous venue, but with a permanent floor and some suites around the perimeter of the stands. Doesn't it just have a better feel to it?

#6: Halton Arena - University of North Carolina, Charlotte
It seems like forever since the 49ers were major players in the NCAA picture, but they do have a nice pad, and at least judging from their home game against UMass in 2007, they can still fill it up.

#5: Ryan Center - University of Rhode Island
Very cool arena, and it's more or less brand new. However, I have a few beefs with this place. First of all, the seats are spread way out so that even though the capacity is only about 7,600, it looks as big as some of the places on this list that are about 50% bigger. This means a lot of fans are a lot further from the action than they need to be. Secondly, I don't know about the big CVS decals on the floor. Not as tacky as, say, Texas Tech, which covered their floor in ads a couple years ago. But still, it's not the CVS Center.

#4: Mullins Center - University of Massachusetts
Yeah baby. And unlike my list of football venues, I'm actually serious about this one. Great place to catch a game, especially if BC or a big conference opponent is in town. The house that Marcus, Harper and Jon built.

#3: Liacouras Center - Temple University
The top three are really in a different league, meaning that this arena would suffice in the ACC. Fortunately, it's all ours. A lot of people probably saw it for the first time a couple weeks ago when Temple smacked Tennessee, providing pretty good evidence of what kind of home-court advantage the Owls have there.

#2: Cintas Center - Xavier University
The Muskies have been the most visible program in the A10 this decade, and they get some great support in this place. They actually lost at home last night to Butler... not good timing for my selfish purposes.

#1: UD Arena - University of Dayton
One of the top dozen or so facilities in college hoops. This place hosts the NCAA tournament play-in-game every year and often two rounds of the tournament itself. It's bigger and nicer than any other arenas in the league despite also being one of the oldest.

Probably no more entries for a while just due to the holidays. Hope everyone has a great Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or whatever else you may celebrate.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

UMass spearheads a great day for the A10

ESPN billed their college hoops doubleheader today as "two games between Atlantic 10 schools and national powers". What it turned into was "Temple and UMass show the country not to sleep on the A10", capped off by an evening match up between Xavier and Cincinnati which the Musketeers won on the road. Per usual, North Carolina rolled again.
The two early showcases for the Atlantic 10 were Temple hosting #8 Tennessee, and UMass playing #23 Kansas in Kansas City. The Temple game was impressive for a number of reasons. First of all, it showed that the better teams in the A10 should still be getting home-and-homes against the country's elite, based on talent and the fact that there are some excellent facilities including the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Temple, behind 30 second half points from Dionte Christmas, won by 16. Christmas is an absolute freak.
UMass's game was awesome. Here's my rundown of how the two decided on a venue for this game:
UMass AD John McCutcheon: We've had a great couple of years and feel that in order to take our program to the next level, a home-and-home with a school like Kansas could really help.
Kansas AD: John I'd love to help you, but I don't think we can schedule a home-and-home right now. We may be able to play one game though, neutral site.
McCutcheon: Oh that's fantastic. Somewhere like the Meadowlands?
Kansas AD: Hmm, that might work. I say we go with Kansas City.
McCutcheon: Done! But only if it's during our finals.

So, this game is going under the "neutral" column in the official books, but in my books, we won on the road. There were over 17,000 fans at the game, and about 25 of them were in maroon and white. In fact, if I heard the commentators correctly, KU's season ticket holders got tickets to this game, which really should make it an official home game for the Jayhawks, who also had their own band and cheerleaders on site. Anyway, I was terrified the whole game that something would go wrong and in the end my fears were more or less confirmed when Chris Lowe missed three straight free throws, giving KU a shot to win in the final seconds. Fortunately, unlike C-Lowe, some of the UMass players have stepped up this year, and no one has been better than Tony Gaffney. I don't believe Gaffney is a speck bigger than 6'7, 205, but he took on Cole Aldrich all day and then got a fingertip on Sherron Collins' final shot, and UMass was able to keep the Jayhawks from getting another shot off to close out the win, 61-60.
Electrifying win for a passionate UMass alum. I was ecstatic. An hour or so after the game I checked the school's athletics website, and much like I saw earlier in the year when we took on Texas Tech in football, I found some issues that I wasn't too happy about. The front page brief on the game read as follows:
"Behind a 17-point effort by Ricky Harris and another stat-stuffing performance by Tony Gaffney, UMass upset the defending national champion #25/23 Kansas, 61-60, at the Sprint Center on Saturday afternoon. The Minutemen used a 55.6 percent shooting performance, while holding the Jayhawks to 28.6 percent shooting, to knock off the defending champ for the second year in a row. Derek Kellogg's Minutemen improve to 3-6 with the win, while Kansas falls to 7-2."
There are a couple of problems with that. Problem 1: UMass shot 45.8% from the floor. Kansas shot 33.9%. The numbers mentioned in the brief are only for the first half numbers. This doesn't require much fact-checking, and just looking at the numbers should inspire someone to double check the box score. Because if UMass was one possession from losing a game in which they were +27 in FG pct, there would need to be a federal investigation.
Problem 2: Ricky Harris had 18 points. Not really sure what led to that mistake, just a typo I suppose. The point is, the UMass website is no longer a good place to go to get information about a game. UMasshoops, on the other hand, is a great one. It's a fan-run site that hosts message boards and has articles about virtually every game from the past 15 years.
I digress, it was a great win for UMass and coach Kellogg's first big one at the helm of the Minutemen. UMass is now 5-1 all time against defending national champs, including two in the past nine months. The last one was probably the most fun I've ever had at a game:

UMass beats Florida at MSG.

Xavier's win was a little on the ugly side. Five technical fouls including two for Derrick Brown, my early pick for A10 player of the year (still slightly ahead of Christmas), who acted like a complete idiot before getting tossed. Nonetheless, a win over cross-town Cincinnati is always nice for the X-Men, who are still unbeaten heading into their showdown with Duke next weekend. So of the four games on ESPN/ESPN2 today, three were big wins in the A10, and the fourth was some school from Chapel Hill winning another game by 16.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lost and Found

Until maybe a year ago there was a YouTube video of the classic USC-Notre Dame game from 2005. The highlights were two-sided (I hate game films on YouTube that only show one team's plays) and the song was a spinoff of USC's fight song "Victory". I was disappointed when the video vanished, but thanks to Google and MySpace, I was able to track it down. Here's the full video:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Just a follow-up

As a follow-up to a comment I made about how Notre Dame's schedule seems to be getting a little on the ridiculous side, I'd like to offer the following visual aid (since Epic Fail Demotivational Posters seem to be all the rage these days):I wonder if the Sun Bowl is actually still considering inviting this disaster to El Paso. We'll see in a couple days.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Random Thoughts

The title was right, that's all this is. Bullets from here on out:

- Mike Teel threw three TDs in his first seven games. Huge disappointment, right? Fortunately, college football seasons are now twelve games, and Teel threw 20 TDs in his final five games as a college player.

- ESPN keeps joking about how tonight's Oklahoma-USC basketball matchup would be a dream game in the BCS... No it wouldn't... Remember the last time we thought these two teams were great? 2004? Heisman winner Jason White and Adrian Peterson against Heisman winner Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush? Remmeber that? Does 55-19 ring a bell? Yeah.

- Why is Boise State paying for what Hawaii did in 2007 instead of being rewarded for what they did in 2006? When the BCS announces in two days that Ohio State is getting the 10th spot instead of the Broncos, I'm going to jumpkick the next baby that I see.

- Once known for playing the hardest schedule in the nation annually, Notre Dame's 2009 slate includes Nevada, both Washington schools, and UConn, not to mention their perennial opponents who suck (Michigan, Purdue, Stanford and Navy)

- Dustin Pedroia's new deal signed this week pays him an average of 6.7 million dollars a year. Edgar Renteria's pays him 9 million. Something's wrong here.

- North Carolina is so good that Notre Dame lost to them by 15 and actually moved up one spot in the polls.

- Wayman Tisdale has gone through hell in the past couple years and no one knew about it until ESPN wrote a story this week. Please read it. It's actually pretty moving.

- 45-35.

- Plaxico Burress had a handgun in the waistband of his sweatpants in a nightclub. While walking into the VIP of said club, his gun slipped out of his waistband, into his pants. To rectify this problem, Plax grabbed the gun through his pants... what happened next is up for debate. My feeling is that Plax had the safety off because he honestly thought he might need to engage in a firefight. When the gun slipped he grabbed the trigger (obviously by accident) and thus shot his thigh. Jon Stewart had his own theory, that Plax's penis had actually undone the trigger. We may never know. Nonetheless, Mr. Burress shot himself in the thigh. Now he is being charged with numerous things in New York, including carrying a concealed weapon. To this charge, he is expected to enter a plea of 'not guilty'... What?

- Yeah. What?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The birthplace of Killer Slacks

Most of my friends have no idea where the name of this blog originated. The truth is, it is the work of a fairly brilliant friend of mine, George Anognostakos. George and I worked together to write, direct, produce and edit a short film a few years ago called "The Alter Ego". It was part of the UMass Film Studies program, and it actually got nominated for an award (The Michael S. Roif Award in Film Studies). While coming up with a few absurd lines which appear in the middle of the film, George threw out "killer slacks broseph". And so the name was born. After about a year and a half, I've finally uploaded the film on YouTube. So, here it is, where Killer Slacks humbly began:
The Alter Ego Part 1

The Alter Ego Part 2

I'll post some of George's other work soon. Hope you enjoyed the film.
Tonight from Amherst: Jacksonville State 75 UMass 74... Seriously.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why Phil Knight should be publicly beaten

I will never feel bad speaking out against someone who is worth more than ten billion dollars. The thing about the economic crisis is, if you have ten billion dollars, you can lose 99.99% of your wealth and you're still a millionaire. Good stuff. Anyway, the reason Phil Knight is such a terrible human being is what he is responsible for doing to college football. There are two great philanthropists in division 1 ball: T Boone Pickens and Phil Knight, both of whom have given hundreds of millions of dollars to their alma maters (Oklahoma State and Oregon, respectively). Pickens' dollars have been used largely to renovate the facilities in Stillwater. Knight's influence, on the other hand, goes well beyond the expansion of Autzen Stadium. See, Phil Knight is the chairman of this little company called "Nike". And he has turned Oregon athletics into a walking billboard for his company. And nowhere is this more disturbingly evident than on the gridiron, where last night was the last straw for the Ducks.
See, over the last decade or so, Knight's influence on the aesthetic appearance of the Oregon football team has been great. They regularly try new things, virtually all of which make the person watching the team want to puke. Here's a look at the evolution of the Ducks' football attire:
Back in the 90's Akili Smith's Oregon teams had fairly ordinary jerseys. Yellow helmets, yellow pants, and green jerseys with yellow numerals at home, white jerseys with green numerals on the road. Very standard. Functional. That was the last time those two words could be used to describe Oregon's jerseys. Because in 1999, the Smith era ended, and the metallic era began.
The next era was the Joey Harrington era. This included the purchase (by Oregon, I believe, not Knight, though we know where the money comes from) of enormous billboards in major cities, trying to promote Harrington (and their new look). The era also included the introduction of the new-look helmet (ooo, shiny), a darker shade of green worn by the team, a change in the athletic logo, and the start of a new trend of using a ton of black in their jerseys.
After Harrington's years came the Kellen Clemens era. This is where shit just gets downright stupid. Random spots start showing up on the shoulder pads, and instead of piping on the pants, it's just sort of globs. Nice. But wait, it gets better.
Next is the Dennis Dixon era. More metal. Now the shoulder and knee pads have this fun new design that is supposed to look like steel, but instead just makes it look like the jerseys were made by Tibetan babies. Oh, right. And what the fuck is that font? Anyway, this era also ushered in the introduction of several new alternate options. In fact, in 2007, the team made sure to have a different look in every single game they played. This required the use of three different helmets, and various jersey/pants combinations. You may notice that only two helmets appear in that photo. Well, the third is fairly disgraceful.
This year, they had more or less followed the trend of 2007. That is, until yesterday, when they came out against Arizona in uniforms that are so far removed from anything that could be called a football jersey it almost made my head explode.
Nice compression sleeve, jackass.
First of all, their primary color is green, and green does not appear on the jerseys. Green and yellow with white trim would be the most reasonable thing for Oregon to wear at home. These are black with silver numerals and a little bit of yellow in various places. I'm sorry, Mr. Knight, but this needs to stop.
Even further, the whole trend of wearing black alternates at home during any game that anyone might consider a "big game" should probably stop, too. Programs like USC, Florida, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma don't do it, so why do FSU, South Carolina, Oregon and Maryland? Wear your school colors. That's why schools have colors.
Like UMass. Who lost 52-21 at UNH this weekend wearing maroon and white.
Basketball (1-1) vs. Memphis on Monday night should be a doozie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Madness is Here

After adding my little snippet about Montana State's stadium expansion plans, I also found something on renovations taking place at SIU in Carbondale (I was only looking into SIU because UMass plays them in hoops tonight with the winner ultimately facing Duke at Madison Square Garden). My guess is I could find similar things on any number of FCS programs' websites, so I'll just leave it alone. The point is, not every facility at this level of football is a just few pieces of aluminum around a patch of grass.
Speaking of UMass-Southern Illinois, college basketball season is officially underway, though in the tamest of manners. The most intriguing game to this point has been IUPUI and Northeastern. That being said, the UMass-SIU game will officially be the game of the year to this point! Sadly, that still doesn't get it any television coverage. UMass's following game, however, will be seen nationwide when they go to #12 Memphis on Monday night. Even without CDR, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey, Memphis still has Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, and Tyreke Evans, and that means bad things for my alma mater. But on to more important issues, the national picture:
UNC has received every single first place vote in both the AP and Coaches' polls. Makes sense, seeing as they were 35-3 last year and return virtually every important piece from that team. In fact, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough could potentially all be first team all-ACC. Wouldn't that be lovely. Really the only thing I care about is that Psycho T finishes his career 4-0 at Cameron Indoor, and the Dookies get laughed out of the NCAA's before the sweet 16 for the third straight year. Who knows, maybe 2nd seeded Duke will lose in the second round again, this time to an upstart, 10th seeded A10 school from New England (and ideally that wouldn't be URI). Anyway, here are a dozen names worth watching this year from teams other than UNC:
1 - Stephen Curry, SG, Davidson. We all got to know him last March, and thankfully he elected to stay at Davidson for at least another year. They lost their point guard, so hopefully someone else can step into that role so that Steph doesn't have to create his own shot all year, though he's more than capable.
2 - Antonio Anderson, SF, Memphis. A huge bulk of last year's scoring is gone from the Tigers. Anderson, who was more of a Josh Pace type on that team, could step into a starring role this year.
3 - Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee. Smith overtook Chris Lofton (who we later found out had been diagnosed with cancer - a fairly legitimate excuse I'd say) as the go-to player for the Vols last year. That team lost a lot of talent, but Smith is back and should keep UT in the top 25 all year.
4 - Darren Collison, PG, UCLA. The Bruins are going to try to start two point guards this year in Collison and hyped freshman Jrue Holiday. If Holiday can basically be Russell Westbrook 2.0, they should be fine and Collison could end up being an All-American.
5 - Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut.

For three years, 7'2 Roy Hibbert manned the middle for Georgetown, daring Big East foes to attack the basket. When he first arrived, he was raw, but had potential. You know how much he improved from his first game to his last? About 0.3% according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 7'3 Thabeet, on the other hand, went to UConn with even less prior basketball experience, but by the end of last season (his second in Storrs), Thabeet was more feared than Hibbert. If he continues to improve at that pace, the Huskies are going to be scary, because this kid is an absolute matchup nightmare.
6 - Jeff Pendergraph, C, Arizona State. Pendergraph almost tip-slammed ASU into the tournament last year before a whack call saved UCLA's ass (where have I heard that before?) This year he and guard James Harden (also a stud) will have ASU probably as the only challengers to UCLA in the Pac 10. And yes, I just called out USC, Arizona and WaSU.
7 - Jeff Adrien, PF, Connecticut. You know how guys like Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, Carl Landry and Ryan Gomes always seem to have great college careers, but for one reason or another get overlooked on draft day and then turn out to be great role players that make their teams way better? Yeah. This is one of those guys.
8 - Chris Lowe, PG, Massacusetts.

A four year starter at point guard is rare, but C-Lowe has been well worth it. In the first year of the Travis Ford era, Lowe had to play over 30 minutes a game as a freshman due to the dismissal of Maurice Maxwell. He's been a stud ever since. Reading some of the previews on CBS sportsline, I noticed that Lowe wasn't listed as one of the top 40 point/combo guards in the country. However, Tyrese Rice is up there, and is also "under serious consideration" to be an All American according to their expert, Gary Parrish. Hmmm, Lowe is a pass-first point guard (crazy thought, isn't it?) who averaged 12 and 6 last year for a team that went 25-11 (and is 50-20 since the start of 06-07). Rice averaged 21 a game last year shooting 43% (mmm... LOTS of shots) for a team that went 14-17. Good standards, Gary.
9 - Terrence Williams, SF, Louisville. Williams will benefit from the presence of Earl Clark, who Andy Katz aptly calls a "matchup nightmare", to get some freedom on the wing. Williams does most of his damage slashing and in transition, which makes sense because the kid is an absolute athletic freak of nature. Louisville vs. UConn at Freedom Hall, February 2nd. Mark those calendars.
10 - Dionte Christmas, G/F, Temple. This guy and Derrick Brown of Xavier will be the two stallions of the Atlantic 10 this year. Christmas was born to score points, and that's what he does. He actually had a better sophomore season than junior year, but that may only mean that he's going to be more motivated this time around. Temple should be able to compete with Xavier and UMass for the A10 crown again this year.
11 - Eric Maynor, G, Virginia Commonwealth.

The man who sunk the Duke ship in the 2007 Tournament is back for his senior year, and while I'm not suggesting he's anywhere near as talented, I see some similarities between him and Stephen Curry. He's basically a natural two guard who is undersized but can create his own shot off the dribble and is a scoring fiend. Without question my pick (and pretty much everyone else's) to win CAA player of the year.
12 - Sharron Collins, PG, Kansas.

With Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers all gone from the Jayhawks, Collins and Center Cole Aldrich are the only two players back from last year's 8-man rotation (and Aldrich... not really). If Kansas is going to be any good this year, Collins may have to shoulder the load for a while. Oh, and if you're like me and saying, "Jesus, how did Kansas have so many studs on one team last year?!" Keep this in mind: JR Giddens and David Padget were both seniors last year, playing for New Mexico and Louisville, respectively, having transferred from Kansas (probably because Giddens is a poor man's Rush and Padget was tired of Jackson dunking on him in practice). That Bill Self sure can recruit.
So that's more or less my outlook for the season. I didn't bother putting a 25 together because, having seen the polls already, I probably would have used those way too heavily and not been very original.
As always, Go UMass.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sorry Bozemanites

I feel it is my journalistic duty to amend my list of the premier stadiums in the championship subdivision. Since posting said list, I have educated myself a bit more and found out about an expansion project for Bobcat Stadium at Montana State University. Currently, it is a fairly ordinary stadium for this level of football, seen here:
However, the expansion project looks absolutely awesome. Dear UMass: Follow the leader! Check out the video showing the entire project step-by-step.

And the finished product:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Top Stadiums in the Championship Subdivision

This past weekend UMass went down to URI and absolutely knocked the slop out of Rhody. It's always nice to see my alma mater stick it to the only school it faces annually in both football and basketball (Richmond is also in the same conference in both, but the Spiders compete in the CAA South for football so we only see them every couple of years). The game was at the Rams' Meade Stadium (right), a nice little facility that sits adjacent to their new basketball arena. While it's a perfectly suitable place to see a football game, Meade Stadium joined some of the other facilities I've seen UMass play at that just weren't particularly impressive. UNH and Northeastern suffer from a similar affliction. Especially Northeastern, who basically plays at a high school field. So I decided to compile a list of the premier stadiums in the championship subdivision. Admittedly, I have only been to a few of these, but based on tradition, television coverage and a few other factors, I think I can make a fairly educated list.

Honorable Mention:
McGuirk Stadium, University of Massachusetts.I don't actually feel this way. In fact, I hate McGuirk. I wish Jack Welch would just step up and offer 50 million dollars to help the school build a new stadium. Maybe that's what I'm putting here: The stadium that would exist if UMass elected to throw tens of millions of dollars into a new facility. Sure. That's it.

Finley Stadium, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.The site of the Division 1 Football Championship since 1997, Finley Stadium is a nice, average sized FCS facility. About 22,000 spectators can attend the biggest game of the year at the 1-AA level, which UMass has participated in twice (1998, 2006).

Top 10:
10 - Harvard Stadium, Harvard University.This place was built 105 years ago. That would explain the mass of concrete. However, it's still one of the most aesthetically pleasing stadiums at this level. At points, including when it was home to the Boston Patriots in 1970, the stadium went all the way around and seated up to 57,000. Today, it holds about 32,000. Of course, it doesn't come anywhere close to that number against anyone except Yale.

9 - Paulson Stadium, Georgia Southern University.Georgia Southern was the Appalachian State of FCS not so long ago, with guys like Adrian Peterson trampling people en route to multiple championship game appearances. Today, the Eagles are more of a middle-of-the-pack team in the Southern Conference, but their stadium still holds up to its billing as "The Prettiest Little Stadium in America".

8 - Delaware Stadium (Raymond Field), University of Delaware.UD has one of the more passionate fan bases in FCS, and they regularly pack this place. Now if they would just man up and play those pesky cross-state rivals on a regular basis.

7 - Princeton Stadium, Princeton University.This place is awesome. It's one of a small number of multi-tiered stadiums at this level, and is done beautifully. This is what UMass needs to have in mind when they get that 50 mil from Jack Welch.

6 - Bridgeforth Stadium, James Madison University.This place is pretty awesome. I hadn't really seen it before UMass played the Dukes this year, but I'm sure most people became familiar with it during the JMU-App State game, when in the midst of Madison's enormous comeback, the fans got so fired up that the stadium was literally shaking.JMU has also announced some expansion plans for Bridgeforth (above), which look absolutely awesome.

5 - Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania.For not playing particularly good football, the Ivy League has some awesome old stadiums. The Philadelphia Eagles actually called this place home for a while, and it is where the film "Incredible" was shot (probably because The Vet had been demolished).

4 - Fargodome, North Dakota State University.
Generally speaking, I hate dome stadiums. That being said, when your school is in Fargo I'd say you have a fairly legitimate excuse. In addition to that, it's actually a pretty nice place, and NDSU is building a monster program.

3 - Yale Bowl, Yale University.
Much like Franklin Field and Harvard Stadium, this place also was home to an NFL franchise (New York Football Giants). It is enormous by FCS standards, though much like Harvard Stadium, it doesn't get all that many spectators except for "The Game".

2 - Kidd Brewer Stadium, Appalachian State University.
App State clearly has become the beast of this level of football. Appropriately, they have expanded Kidd Brewer Stadium to hold over 20,000 fans. However, because they have a "hill" on one open end of the stadium (much like Virginia's Scott Stadium, Missouri's Faurot Field or Colorado State's Hughes Stadium), many more fans than that can attend games. And they do. On multiple occasions this season, App State has broken 30,000 in attendance.

1 - Washington Grizzly Stadium, University of Montana.
Still the most impressive facility in the championship subdivision, and with its new expansion, it will be even better. The fact is, the Grizz never lose at home, and while many factors go into that, a great stadium is a big part of any home field advantage.Of course, they aren't quite invincible in this place: While they haven't lost a home game in the regular season since October 15th, 2005, they've bowed out in the playoffs the past few years in dramatic fashion. Nonetheless, Montana continues to be an elite program at this level with a stadium to match.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The home stretch

People, the biggest election in this country in a long time is in two days. If you didn't register to vote: You suck. If you did but aren't going to vote: You suck. If you did but plan on voting for Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Woody Hayes, Susan B. Anthony, Geraldo Rivera, Keith Olberman, Tony Kornheiser, Nick Saban, or Stephen Colbert as a write-in: You suck. If you're going to vote for John McCain... well... you know.
In all seriousness, I think that John Cleese has hit the nail on the head here. Some would argue that it's none of his business as a Brit to endorse one candidate or the other, but I disagree. After all, if the republicans piss off Britain, who do they have left to alienate?
Mr. Cleese?

Guy knows what he's talking about. Plus, I mean, come on. He's John Cleese.
So I guess it's fairly evident where I stand here. But politics aren't my thing, so moving on to the weekend.
Michael Crabtree officially became the front runner for my Heisman Vote last night. Of course, I don't have a Heisman vote, but if I did, he'd be up there, even ahead of his quarterback, who reminds me way too much of Colt Brennan, only he has a great offensive line and can throw to Michael Crabtree. While Tech did impress me in their win, I don't agree with the AP voters putting them ahead of Penn State. The best team Tech has beaten on the road is Kansas. The best team Penn State has beaten on the road is Ohio State. That's a big difference. Winning at home in the biggest game in school history is impressive, but let's be honest, the 'Horns almost definitely win that game at a neutral site. Fortunately, we get another month to sort this thing out (or create an even bigger mess).
Other awesome, crooked scores from the weekend:
#2 Appalachian State 70 #3 Wofford 24
#15 Massachusetts 49 Rhode Island 0
FBS #4 Oklahoma 62 Nebraska 21
Also, a quick note on non-BCS conference teams trying to crash the party: Assuming Boise State wins out, I have no beef with them getting to a BCS game. I certainly imagine that they'll be able to play with whoever wins the ACC. And assuming that the winner of the Utah-TCU game also wins out, I'm also fine with that team getting in, and I'm sure they'll be able to compete with the champions of the Big East, even though TCU already has a loss (at Oklahoma). Meanwhile, there is still one other unbeaten school out there: Ball State. Ball State cannot join the party, because Ball State plays in the MAC. This means that they play nobody in their conference schedule, and let's just look at their nonconference wins: Navy, Indiana (Big Ten doormat), Northeastern (FCS) and Western Kentucky (transitioning from FCS to FBS). Sorry, Ball State, but even though ESPN is carrying your next four games on the family of networks, the fact that those games are on two Tuesdays and two Wednesdays says everything that needs to be said.
Lastly, congrats to James Ihedigbo - known largely in UMass circles as J Diggs - for being activated to the New York Jets' active roster this week. When was Diggs' first game action? Opening kickoff, as he played special teams throughout, but hopefully gets some time at safety in the near future. Making Amherst proud.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thank you, Happy Valley

Well, this year will not be a repeat of the last two. Penn State ended Ohio State's national title hopes by effectively sealing their own Big Ten championship. The Lions beat the Bucks 13-6 in the Shoe in a game that saw more commercial breaks than first downs. Hey, I'll take it.
Thank you, Penn State.
In other news, Duke beat once 5-0 Vanderbilt today to improve to 4-3, 1-2 in the ACC. They Devils now have a better record, both in conference and overall, than once-top-ten-ranked Clemson. Amazing. Also amazing how easy it is to root for Duke football and David Cutcliffe despite loathing so many other things about the school.
UMass 42 Bryant 7... that game shouldn't even count.
James Madison won another miracle game too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I wonder who plays Senator Obama...

Apparently this is pretty old news to a lot of people, but not to me. Hustler legend Larry Flynt has produced a new video starring Lisa Ann called either "Who's Nailin' Paylin" or simply "Nailin' Paylin". This has the potential to be the greatest MILF flick in the history of the industry. Nina Hartley, who is now 49 years old, will play the role of Hillary Clinton. This will mark my first time (I think) hyperlinking to adult content. I'm proud it could be because of this.
Fortunately I didn't let this new discovery take over my entire day. Sports Illustrated's annual NBA Preview issue came in the mail today, and I had the pleasure of reading about how severely the Celtics are going to own the Eastern Conference again. SI appears to also be on the ever-growing Sixers bandwagon. I'm not sold on them quite yet, though I do think they'll be dangerous with Brand. The one thing that irks me about this issue is that SI, much like the fine folks at ESPN, seems to think that the loss of James Posey is going to be huge for the Celtics. Believe me, I was a Posey fan, but the guy was just a role player. After seeing the athleticism displayed by Billy Walker during the preseason, I feel very comfortable with Walker and Doc's personal favorite, Tony Allen, filling Posey's shoes.
And I know I've written about this before, but does anyone realize how young the Blazers are? Look at this! (Potential 12 man roster)

Blazers Depth Chart Age on 01/01/09

PG Jerryd Bayless 20
SG Brandon Roy 24
SF Martell Webster 22
PF LaMarcus Aldridge 23
C Greg Oden 20

G Steve Blake 28
G Sergio Rodriguez 22
G Rudy Fernandez 23
F Ike Diogu 25
F Channing Frye 25
F Travis Outlaw 24
C Joel Przybilla 29

Ridiculous! That is absolutely frightening. This team may be on the verge of winning about five championships in the next decade. There was another team that caught my eye because of their youth: Memphis. This team, according to SI, will start Mike Conley Jr, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, and Marc Gasol. Yikes. That could easily be a 60-loss club.
As for SI's award picks for the year, they were remarkably creative. They have Kobe as MVP and KG as Defensive POTY... oh wait, those are last year's actual winners. To be even less creative, check out their first team All NBA: Chris Paul, Kobe, Lebron, KG, and Yao. The only difference from the '08 All NBA team is Yao subbing in for Dwight Howard (who SI has on the second team). Nice, fellas. Way to go out on a limb.

A couple of less happy notes: Today, Lute Olsen stepped down as head coach of Arizona. To be honest, I don't know how much his heart has been in it since his wife passed away. Last year, he took a leave of absense and ultimately divorced the woman with whom he had remarried. It's a shame, but hopefully Lute finds some happiness in retirement. He's been a staple of college hoops for my entire life.
Troubling news for New England Patriots fans, as apparently Mr. Brady is experiencing some technical difficulties post-surgery. An infection has needed to be operated on multiple times and ultimately Brady may need to have the initial surgery done all over again. I can definitely foresee Brady choosing not to return to football. Hopefully his overall health doesn't become an issue, as these infections can get pretty serious.

And finally, a happy note. I was perusing YouTube today, as always, and came across this video:

It's baaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The point of no return

In the past two weeks I've really been pushed over the edge. I graduated in May with basically the same degree from a better institution than Sarah Palin, yet while she somehow has spent the 20 years since her graduation working her way to becoming a vice presidential candidate, I have spent the five months since mine receiving rejection letters from potential employers. I'm not being especially greedy, applying for gigs I'm underqualified for. These are entry level jobs, most of them in sports media relations, though lately I've been branching out a bit. I really hit a breaking point a few days ago when I got a call from a potential employer who I'd interviewed with (driving over 500 miles round trip to do so) earlier this month for a position that would pay me a $10,000 stipend for the year with no help with housing, life insurance, etc. In other words, this company was going to have me do probably about 60 hours of work per week, yet compensate me in an amount that would keep me below the poverty line, and I was still strongly considering taking it. Yet to my surprise, there was a much more qualified candidate. Someone much more qualified, meaning they'd probably already worked in an SID's office for a year and gotten their BA in communications or sports management or something along those lines, was going to get paid ten grand to keep statistics at D3 women's tennis matches. What is wrong with this picture?

Yeah, I'm pissed. Fuck it. Vote Obama, please. The cat has an outside chance of getting us some jobs back. Otherwise I'm going to have to join the military, and I don't especially want to do that.

Anyway, on to the recent issues in the world. The Red Sox blew it in Game 7 against the Rays, though I maintain that they really blew the series in Game 2. That sets up a pretty odd matchup in the fall classic between Philly and Tampa. Both teams have likable players (J-Roll, Ryan Strikeout Howard, Shane Victorino, BJ Upton, Longoria), likable managers, and not-so-good ballparks. Philly gets the overall nod because their fans aren't as bad as Tampa's, and The Bank isn't nearly as bad as The Trop. However, the Rays will probably win, because they play in the AL, and the AL is the NL's daddy.

College football has a couple top 10 matchups this weekend. #1 Texas and #6 Oklahoma State. Mike Gundy is still OK State's coach. Texas by three touchdowns. And #3 Penn State vs. #9 Ohio State. Please, for the love of God, Penn State, win this game. If you don't, people are going to say "Ohio State is BACK", and they will meander their way up to #2 by late November and find themselves in the BCS Championship Game. And they will lose to Alabama or Texas or Florida (again) or USC (again). And it will be 42-17. Please Penn State. Don't let that happen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What do Dunkin Donuts and Audi have in common?

They both have totally unoriginal advertising ideas. Beyond that, they steal from the same place. I mentioned in an earlier post how severely Audi ripped off Sigur Ros in their recent A4 spot. Now, Dunkin Donuts has done the same thing, taking the visual component of the Glosoli music video and claiming it as their own. Dunks had a good stretch of ads in recent years when they had a deal with They Might Be Giants, but now that they're back on their own, it appears that any originality is out of the question.

Sigur Ros, Glosoli:

Dunkin' Donuts, Uphill Battle:

Pretty blatant if you ask me, but then again I get easily excited over these things. And believe me, I appreciate good advertising, so long as it's creative as opposed to larcenous.

On a different topic, I'm sure everyone by now has seen at least some of the Vice Presidential debate from last week, as well as the SNL skit that followed. Can these campaigns just continue forever and ever? I know we're in a true economic crisis, and at war, and have plenty of unresolved social issues -- but really, isn't watching Tina Fey as Sarah Palin totally worth postponing the election?
Eh - maybe not.
Oh, and congrats to Vanderbilt for knocking off Auburn to improve the smart kids of the Big Ten and SEC to 10-0! Unheard of. Unfortunately, I see it ending this week with Michigan State beating Northwestern. NU is good, and could win ten games, but Javon Ringer is a BEAST. Guy will carry the ball 40 times a game, put up 200 yards and you won't hear a peep out of him. Reminds me of another running back who recently came out of that area, Chris Perry. Unfortunately, every carry they force on Ringer now is one off the end of his career, which means he's probably hurting the longevity of his NFL career. However, I don't think Javon really cares about that. His team has Rose Bowl aspirations, and he holds the key.
Early Heisman picks:
#1 Javon Ringer RB Michigan State
#2 Chase Daniel QB Missouri
#3 Sam Bradford QB Oklahoma
#4 Daryll Clark QB Penn State
No Tebow, no Moreno, and absolutely NO Max Hall. I want the guys who have produced, not the guys gettin' the hype. When Hall beats a real opponent, we'll talk... Oh wait, BYU doesn't play anybody. And don't say UCLA, Washington or Utah count. No way.
I already see it coming: The 2009 Orange Bowl -- Clemson 38 BYU 21. Just remember Hawai'i, everyone. Remember Hawai'i.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

In case we needed another reason to hate OSU...

Terrelle Pryor appears to be exactly the type of player they love in Columbus. An athletic freak who also happens to be borderline mentally retarded. Seriously, I actually have evidence here. The kid went to his press conference last year, which he had plenty of time to prepare for, and in a very awkward manner announced his college plans. He didn't read an eloquent explanation of the process, concluding with "it is for these reasons that I will enroll at the Ohio State University" -- but rather said "If everyone is here, University of Ohio State". First of all, that's some shitty sentence structure. Second of all, what school is that?
Anyway, I've probably ranted about this before, so I'll get to my point. This week, Pryor was noticably upset about a very non-inflamatory comment by Mark May. Mayday basically said, let's wait before declaring Pryor a savior in Columbus. Pryor's response? Nothing short of awesome:

"If we would lose that game, we would get stuff talked on us, but if USC loses, they don’t get stuff talked on them.People like Mark May, he said ‘let’s see how he plays on the big stage,’ and we’re going to see next week... The media, ESPN people, sit there and talk stuff on our team and say we’re dead. We’ll find out this week coming up who’s dead. We’re out to show the world something, and we’re going to."

Terrelle, what the hell does it mean to "talk stuff on [OSU]." However, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. This isn't the first stud freshman who came into Jim Tressell's program, played like hell but wasn't one with the words. What prison is Mo Clarett in again?

The unfortunate thing about this is that Pryor may not be the biggest crybaby in football this week. As most of us are now aware, Lane Kiffin is out of a job in Oakland. What some people do not know is that one of Al Davis's former head coaches took greater exception to the firing than Kiffin himself. Mike Shannahan apparently feels that Kiffin should have been let go a long time ago, saying "I was a little disappointed, to be honest with you. When you take a look at it, I was there 582 days. Lane Kiffin was there 616 days. So, what it really means is that Al Davis liked Lane more than he liked me. I really don't think it's fair. I won three more games, yet he got 34 more days of work. That just doesn't seem right." Okay, so Shanahan was kidding, but seriously dude. The guy just lost his job, and Al Davis is now saying he won't even pay him the remaining salary he is owed. Al Davis is funny. And by funny I mean senile.

In unrelated news, the Sox look poised to go back to the ALCS after an excellent game 1 win in Anaheim. The Cubs, on the other hand, do not appear to be in such good shape. They're currently trailing the Dodgers 6-0 in game 2, having already dropped the opener. Man, what did Chicagoans do to warrant this kind of fan torture. Even when they're excellent, they still suck. Also, when has there ever been a post season with this many awesome managers? Pinella, Torre and Scioscia are awesome, and Maddon and Francona are solid. I know nothing about Charlie Manuel, and Ozzie Guillen and Dale Sveum are borderline inhumanly stupid. But still, five very good managers of the eight teams still playing baseball. Reminds me of the NBA conference finals when the coaches in the western conference semi-finals finals (Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, Jerry Sloan, Byron Scott) made the ones in the east (Mike Brown, Doc Rivers, Flip Saunders, Brian Hill) look like my seventh grade AAU coach.

Also, a few quick shoutouts. First, to Sarah Palin and Joe Biden for thoroughly entertaining me tonight. By entertaining, I mean giving me something to flip to during the commercial breaks of the Cubs game. But seriously, this election is big. I'm not endorsing anyone -- for now -- but I do hope and expect more than the 110,000,000 or so votes that were cast in 2004. And because I can count on roughly five people to read this, then I feel I'm fulfilling my civic duty by posting this:

Finally, a congratulations to my cousin, Jill, who will be marrying her fiancee, BC, in about 17 hours. Very awesome people, should be a fun night.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Well, today was a shit sandwich

Today, Americans lost trillions of dollars. Trillions. Like, thousands of billions. The stock market lost seven percent of its value. Individual families are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not just wealthy ones either, there are people who are truly being financially destroyed by this. And while I'm not making any comments about the presidential candidates, I'm sure as hell not going to worry about bad-mouthing the people who are already in office. Thanks, A-team. I have to admit, I feel bat for Henry Paulson. The man probably hasn't slept a wink in months trying to resolve this mess that's been created.
Oh well. I guess I don't have to worry as much since I'm broke, unemployed and living out of a cardboard box.

Moving on, I wanted to bring some attention to something I noticed last night while watching the Eagles-Bears game. During a commercial break, an ad came on for the new Audi A4. Nice looking car. However, I wasn't paying so much attention to the visual attention of the ad as I was the audio. The music sounded incredibly familiar. So I went to my iTunes and found a song a friend had recently sent to me by Sigur Ros, a group from Iceland. Lo and behold, it's a blatant ripoff. However, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I figured that Audi may have collaborated with the band for the ads. Apparently not. I mentioned it to my friend, who apparently had also noticed, and she sent me this: apparently I'm not the only one who noticed. See what I did there, Audi? I gave someone else credit for doing more research than I did on the subject. I offered a mere hyperlink to someone else's website. I didn't act like this was an entirely solo effort.
Reason #4,591 I won't buy an Audi in my lifetime.

As for recapping the weekend in American gridiron football -- what a Saturday, eh? Vanderbilt is alone in first in the SEC East (4-0, 2-0 SEC) while Northwestern sits alongside Penn State as the only overall unbeatens of the Big Ten (5-0, 1-0). Smart kids keep on rollin'.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Didn't happen...

A few people asked me about a recent post (from Wednesday) that deleted. By a few, I mean two, or about 50% of my readers. Anyway, the removal came for a number of reasons, but it was mainly because I called out people, by name, for doing a poor job in their writing. Calling people out on their jobs isn't what I'm here to do. I'm here, of course, because I have a lot of thoughts.
Anyway, maybe the article will be amended in the next few days and put back up. In the meantime, Oregon State just beat USC, which means that this whole post must not actually be here. I must be in a total dream. I will not believe that I just saw USC lose to the team I watched blow it against Stanford in week one. Didn't happen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

If I'm better than you at your own job, then you're pretty bad

Editor's Note: This was originally printed on September 23rd, then removed because I didn't want to bash people and use names, and now is being reprinted because I have decided I just don't care.

So I more or less gave up on the dream of being an SID. Not completely. I mean, if someone called me tomorrow and asked if I wanted a job in that line of work, I'd be interested. However, I'm not trying day in and day out to get a job in that field.
Nonetheless, it still irks me when I see someone in a good position - say, SID at a great division 1 university - doing a crappy job just because they either don't pay attention to detail or are lazy. So you can imagine my reaction when I was looking over the press release from UMass Athletics prior to the UMass-Texas Tech game this past weekend, and came across some glaring errors. I mean, these aren't typos, they are truly egregious mistakes that should never be made in a serious athletic department. Without further ado:

Glaring Error #1: "2007 was a year of the upset for the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA). There were eight upsets of Football Bowl Subdivision teams, most notably Appalachian State defeating then No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 34-32 on Sept. 1. From the CAA Football conference, Delaware beat Navy, 59-52 on Oct. 27 and New Hampshire defeated Marshall, 48-35 on Sept. 15. In 2007, FBS teams were 51-7 against FCS teams. The other wins by FCS teams over FBS teams in 2007 are: Nicholls State over Rice (16-14), Northern Iowa over Iowa State (21-13), Southern Illinois over Northern Illinois (34-31), McNeese State over UL-Lafeyette (38-17) and last weekend North Dakota State over Central Michigan (44-17)."

Okay, first the article says that there were eight FCS over FBS upsets, then it says FBS was 51-7 against FCS. Well, where did that eighth upset go? It was NDSU beating Minnesota in the Metrodome. Also, it shouldn't say that NDSU's win over CMU was "last weekend", because it was last year. This is clearly an example of someone copy-pasting from an old press release.

Glaring Error #2: "UMass began the 2007 season at 4-0 for the first time since 1986, losing to Boston College, the current second-ranked team in FBS, by a narrow 24-14 score in Chestnut Hill."

Oh boy. Again, an issue of copying and pasting from an old release. Boston College is not number 2 now, they have not been ranked this year, and they were not in the top 10 when UMass played them last year. This release came from around the time BC played at Virginia Tech and at home against Florida State, which I believe were their two weeks at #2.

Glaring Error #3: "As a freshman in 2006 playing behind four-time 1,000-yard rusher and current Arizona Cardinal Steve Baylark as well as Lawrence, Nelson gained 235 yards on 47 carries for a 5.0 average."

In 2006, the depth chart did not include Matt Lawrence at halfback, who spent the year as Steve Baylark's lead-blocker. In 2007, Lawrence moved from fullback to halfback, and Nelson remained second in line.

This was only about half way into the release, at which point I jumpkicked my desktop and was unable to continue reading. Anyway, the point is, UMass is a great university with a wonderful athletic department. John McCutcheon is a great athletic director and has overseen several teams, from football to basketball to soccer to softball to lacrosse, become perennial winners. However, it is really inexcusable for the press release for a huge football game to be factually inaccurate. Jason Yellin may be a good SID, but he certainly dropped the ball here.

Anyway, that's enough for that rant. On to happier topics: The Boston Red Sox clinched the playoffs tonight and are still very much alive for the AL East title (2.5 back, 5 to go). They also reached the postseason by beating the Indians and Cliff Lee, who is now 22-3. Might as well beat the best, right?
Speaking of baseball, a wonderful piece by UniWatch writer Paul Lukas the other day about the closing of Yankee Stadium. Obviously I wouldn't have appreciated this article if I were a Yanks fan, but I like the comparisons he draws from that organization to our country. It's definitely worth the read.
Also, quick promo for Bev Freeman, a friend who is running a presentation at the Harvard School of Public Health on some of the issues surrounding the recent catastrophes in the Gulf Coast region. A lot of very interesting speakers are coming to speak from various institutions, including LSU and the Mississippi Interfaith Disaster Task Force. More details can be found here.
And while we're here, another shameless plug for yours truly: Check me out! Sorry. That's all.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

That dumb ad campaign

I recently wrote about a really awful ad campaign for Buffalo Wild Wings. Here's one example of the fans stabbing their team in the back. If I find the other I'll post it.
There is another current ad campaign that may challenge BWW for being total nonsense. It's Microsoft's series of ads with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. However, I'll say the verdict is still out, because I have a feeling they're going somewhere with this. Plus, they just came out with an ad countering the "I'm a Mac & I'm a PC" ads which is a pretty good response.
In the meantime, how about them Miami Dolphins. I'm still trying to figure out if the offense they ran with Ronnie Brown in the shotgun was a zone-read, sort of like what West Virginia runs, where he has the option to hand it to Ricky Williams coming around, or if where Brown goes with the ball is already determined when they break the huddle. Either way, it was very cool, and he scorched us.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More to chant about than SAT scores

It wasn't always like this. The SEC and Big Ten weren't always just about 40,000 student public universities with 100,000 seat football stadiums. In fact, there was once a time when the University of Chicago was a conference rival of Illinois, and Sewanee: College of the South would have conference battles with Alabama. It was a different era.
Then the second World War happened, and college sports more or less went on hiatus. When the war ended, schools had the opportunity to re-evaluate what they wanted for their athletic departments, and schools like Chicago and Sewanee got out of the big time. Since that time, those two conferences have as much history to brag about as any. Virtually all of the current 23 schools in the two leagues have rich football traditions with 60,000+ seat stadiums, 25,000+ person student bodies and countless bowl victories.
With two exceptions.
Vanderbilt and Northwestern, two almost-Ivy private schools have had some of the most incredible stretches of futility in all of college football. Northwestern once had an NCAA division 1-A record 34 game losing streak from 1979 to 1982. We're talking three straight years without a win here. That's tough. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has not been to a bowl game in twenty six years. Considering that the majority of the FBS competes in bowl season these days, that's fairly atrocious. But oh, how times have changed.
Today, with wins over Ohio and Mississippi, these two long-time doormats both improved to 4-0. And while they've played only two conference games between them (Vandy is 2-0 with wins over South Carolina and Ole Miss, NU starts their conference slate next week with Iowa), there is reason for optimism at both schools.
For Northwestern, the news is excellent. Assuming Tyrell Sutton isn't too banged up (he has a lower leg injury following today's game according to WGN), they'll have a shot to go to 5-0 against Iowa next weekend in Iowa City. After that they'll have their first big test with Michigan State. However, of the five toughest teams in the Big Ten, Northwestern does not have to play Wisconsin or Penn State (talk about luck), and gets MSU, Ohio State and rival Illinois all at home. The stars may be alligning for Northwestern. They aren't going to be making any trips to Pasadena in January like they did in their miracle season of 2005, but for this team to be able to look realistically at a 9-win season is fantastic.
For Vanderbilt the news is not as good. The 'Dores are in the SEC East, which means that they still have to play Florida and Georgia, plus they draw Auburn from the West, and go to Wake Forest for their finale. Assuming this team doesn't pull any top-10 upsets, and that just doesn't seem terribly likely, especially since they're getting some attention, this probably wont be better than a 7-5 season in Nashville. But hey, that's progress.
Northwestern had the first miracle season of the lovable losers that I can remember, coming in '95 when Darnell Autry and Pat Fitzgerald let the Wildcats to a Big Ten title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl against USC. Two years ago Rutgers tried to duplicate such an accoplishment by coming within one play of a Big East title which would have sent them to the Orange Bowl. However, in both cases, the teams were back to their old selves shortly thereafter, including this year's Scarlet Knights, who look just awful.
The lesson? Enjoy the success your teams are having in Evanston and Nashville. They could be back in the cellar at any time, so as long as they're winning, no empty seats should be tolerated. I mean, these are schools that play high profile games in relatively small venues (Vanderbilt Stadium holds about 39,000, Ryan Field around 49,000). Get out there and support them. Vandy's fans are doing pretty well. But NU? Come on, today there were 22,069 fans out there to see your school start 4-0 for the first time in 46 years! That's putrid! I mean, it's better than the 19,062 that showed up to your last home game and 20,015 who came out to see the season opener, but for chrissake this is major college football, not division II lacrosse.
Support your student athletes. They're earning it.

Also, nice job by the Minutemen today. Really. Great stuff.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taking the eggs out of the basket

First of all, big, BIG ups to Carlos Zambrano for no-hitting the Astros last night in Milwaukee. Sure, the 'Stros can continue to bitch about how these games shouldn't be played in a venue that is so accessible to Cubs fans, but they haven't even shown up for these games. Today, Ted Lilly took a no-no for the Cubbies into the seventh. With the Astros losing back-to-back, and Milwaukee reeling, It appears as though the National League wild card is going to be Philadelphia's to lose. That is, of course, assuming the Mets can hang on to the east.
As for the American League, it was nice to see the Red Sox show some life in Tampa tonight, opening up a can of you-know-what on Scott Kazmir (who looked just awful). The Sox were 0-6 in the Trop this year before tonight. I'm still worried when Dice-K goes out and needs to throw this many pitches to get through innings.
Of course, I'm only bantering about baseball because of how badly the weekend went in football. Sure, the Patriots are 2-0 and USC thumped Ohio State, but that's basically where the happy news ends. UMass (#3/#5 entering the weekend) got absolutely housed at James Madison and have now given up 94 points in two weeks entering next week's showdown with Texas Tech (#10/11 in the bowl subdivision). If Tech, which had nearly 700 passing yards against SMU this weekend, is firing on all cylinders, they could easily hang 60 on the Minutemen.
As for the NFL, my picks to play for the Super Bowl aren't looking so hot right now either. Of course the Patriots were my pick to win it at the beginning of the year, but in the "I shouldn't pick them because them I'm probably being a homer" world, my secondary choice from the AFC is the Pittsburgh Steelers. While they've played well for two weeks, my NFC choice has not. Minnesota couldn't convert any of their drives into touchdowns and blew several chances to put the game on ice this weekend against the Colts.
Game of the weekend was probably the Monday Nighter between Philly and Dallas. Something tells me that these will look like the two best teams in the NFC in November, but neither will make the Super Bowl. Other than that, it's good to see some points being scored (sans Patriots-Jets).

Huge games this week for the Red Sox in Tampa and Toronto. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Southern Cal > Ohio State... and Ohio State < an arm pit hair follicle

There are very few chances I get to enjoy myself like this, but what USC did to Ohio State tonight was just delightful. The Trojans appeared to be on a totally different level than the Bucks. This is the third consecutive year that a team with great speed has made OSU look totally incompetent. We're talking top-10 vs. FCS type dominance. Man. USC didn't look this good against Idaho last year (or two years ago... whenever they played). But they made it happen tonight.

In other interesting games, South Carolina was the latest in the "STOP TRYING TO STRETCH THE BALL OVER THE GOAL LINE WHEN IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN" club, joining Oregon, Oregon State, and several other teams in the past year. And the crazy thing is that UGA's 14-7 win was a high-scoring affair compared to another SEC battle today. Mississippi State must have joined a very small group of teams today when they held Auburn to three points AND got scoring help from their defense AND lost. Yup, the last part is correct -- they lost. 3-2, to Auburn. I love coach Croom, but he went 7-5 last year with nothing but defense. He'll need to find people who can play offense if he wants to get to the 10-win territory.
But anyway, I'm getting back to this great Wisconsin-Fresno State game. A weekend recap should be up tomorrow or Monday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday update

Just a few quick items today. First of all, someone has put a clip of the police brutality at ECU on YouTube. This shows one of the two really bad parts I saw on ESPN, which is the totally intense throwdown, but it doesn't include a different cop repeatedly punching a student (possibly in the head) who is laying on the ground. Nice job. This is why law enforcement has gone from a respectable field to one that is on par with prostitution.
This reminds me: Be sure to check out the work of Grant Cerulo, a friend and old classmate of mine at UMass who is currently working in New York. He became famous in UMass circles for his video game "Riot UMass" following the Red Sox riots of 2004, and has gone on to do some other very neat work.
And on a personal note: How can a pair of $150 headphones have such a simple frigging flaw that never gets dealt with? The Bose Triport headphones are absolutely wonderful. They cancel out most noise and sound terrific. However, the plastic just above the earpieces is very flimsy and breaks. I got a pair for Christmas a few years ago and they broke. I was able to get a new pair under warranty, which also broke. Finally the third pair bit the dust in the exact same way. This time, rather than bugging the company about it, I've gone with the superglue route. Still, pain in the arse.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The dumbest ad campaign in recent memory

Has anyone else noticed this? In the new "Buffalo Wild Wings" commercials, the restaurant patrons get to have a say in a baseball or football game's outcome. In both cases they do something to prevent their own team from winning. The rationale is that they don't want the games to end because they're not ready to leave yet. Seriously, the idea is that sports fans would prefer to have a game go into overtime so that it will end at the same time they finish their lunch, rather than having their team win in regulation. This is supposed to sell chicken wings and beer.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tomorrow will either be awesome or terrible.

So for those of you who don't know (and I admit, I didn't until recently), tomorrow will be the first attempt to circulate a beam at the Large Hadron Collider, a Particle Accelerator in Switzerland. Unfortunately, it's been about five years since I saw the Nova program "The Elegant Universe", so I can't remember exactly what we hope happens here, but I'm pretty sure the concern is that the world might explode. That wouldn't be worth it for anyone, now would it.
In all seriousness, super colliders are actually pretty neat. We're talking about a multi-billion dollar facility in which physicists hope to create the Higgs boson, and then take steps towards proving superstring theory, and then ultimately the grand unifying theory. One of the knocks on string theorists to this point was that their ideas were untestable, therefore the entire concept is actually more philosophy than physics. Hopefully the result isn't an enormous black hole that eats the earth and spits it out in a distant galaxy. Unless that galaxy is totally livable and has other nearby planets with lot of fun alien species we can hang out with.

In unrelated news, ESPN showed footage from this past weekend's East Carolina-West Virginia game of police officers (I think they were rent-a-cops) beating the living you-know-what out of ECU students. More on that as soon as more videos circulate.