Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm Not a Fool

...but I do have too much free time on my hands. So here's my preseason poll. Preseason polls can be confusing, because some people think they are a reflection of team strength in August, before playing a single down. Some think it's a prediction of how the season will end, an estimate of overall won-loss performance in December. This poll is the latter. It was also half-assed and shant be thrown back in my face come December when it's horribly wrong, because I am not a fool.

  1. Ohio State
  2. USC
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Florida
  5. Auburn
  6. Georgia
  7. Texas
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Missouri
  10. LSU
  11. West Virginia
  12. Texas Tech
  13. Brigham Young
  14. Wake Forest
  15. Arizona State
  16. South Florida
  17. Cal
  18. Clemson
  19. Kansas
  20. Michigan State
  21. Penn State
  22. Iowa
  23. Tennessee
  24. Notre Dame
  25. Virginia Tech
Every year there are few teams that start ranked and plummet into oblivion, and those that come out of nowhere. The addition of Iowa, ND and Cal (Pick 6) are true homer picks, albeit with a bit of plausibility. Mich. St. I just think will be better than people realize. The "dropouts" are Bama, Pitt, Illinois and Oregon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mid-American Confidence*

It is my experience that women (particularly women whose brothers/boyfriends/husbands spend Saturday’s glued to a television watching college football) get a bad rap when it comes to “picking” teams.

Who cares why I am a Maryland Terrapin fan? If I want to adopt a team simply because I think their slogan is hilarious then so be it.

TM Fears the Turtle

It's not like I ignore my alma mater. In fact, we will be making our way up to Evanston on September 20th to see Frank Solich and the Ohio Bobcats take on Northwestern (in a battle of cats, I take Bobs over Wilds… see I totally stick with my team!)

Anyway, I was reflecting on the issue this afternoon as I completed my Pick Six. Here’s the thing… I sort of kind of get why my fellow football wives (opposite of the football widow) and I may not get the respect we deserve.

Women like themes. We like to pick teams that are meaningful to us and teams that we believe in. We also hold grudges (i.e. the reason Tennessee did not make my Pick Six this year… sorry Scott Miller). A good number of us, however, can do this while still making intelligent picks. It wasn’t until after I made my ’08 picks that I noticed this year’s theme.

So what connecting factor links my ’08 Pick Six teams?

That’s right.

The Mid-American Conference.

The MAC is a small mostly non-factor mid-major conference where I spent my college years (see reference to Ohio above). Sure we have our share of NFL caliber players (Ben Roethlisberger, to name one), but mostly the MAC features kids from small Mid-western towns who graduate in four years and go on to do something that has nothing to do with football.

Oh yeah, the MAC is also the cradle of coaches.

Don’t believe me?

Here are my Pick Six teams:

Florida: Urban Meyer (current head coach) is a former head coach of Bowling Green State University (2001–2002)

Missouri: Gary Pinkel (current head coach) is a former head coach of The University of Toledo (1991–2000)

Texas: Cleve Bryant (current Associate Athletics Director for Football) is a former head coach of Ohio University (1984–1990)

South Florida: Greg Gregory (current Offensive Coordinator) is a former Offensive Coordinator at Ohio University (2001–2003)

Wake Forest:Jim Grobe(current head coach) is also a former head coach of Ohio University (1995–2000)

And my wild card pick? I decided to go with a MAC team just because. I didn’t pick Ohio as the outlook, I’m afraid to say, is pretty bleak. I didn’t pick the Turtles (not a MAC team but clearly a favorite) because last year when I picked Ohio they weren’t as good as they should have been (girl logic: never pick the team you want to win… it’s the kiss of death).

So, after considerable thought, I went with Ball State.

Dave Letterman, this one’s for you.

*In former coaches at least

My Pick Six

Creating a preseason top 25 poll is a fool's game. And because I am neither a fool nor an Associated Press sportswriter*, I shall do no such thing.

I will, however, offer my opinion on the 25 teams who comprise the preseason rankings, and whether I think they are over-rated or under-rated. Meaning, do I think they ultimately will finish higher or lower than where they sit today, the first day of the COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON WHOO HOOOOO!!

Being from Chicago and financially savvy, I'm denoting my bullish** or bearish opinion with those logos. A dash ( -- ) means I think they will finish approximately where they are slotted, +/- one slot.

1. Georgia
2. Ohio State3. USC4. Oklahoma
5. Florida

( -- )

6. Missouri7. LSU8. West Virginia9. Clemson10. Auburn11. Texas 12. Texas Tech

( -- )

13. Wisconsin

( -- )

14. Kansas15. Arizona State

( -- )

16. Brigham Young17. Virginia Tech
18. Tennessee19. South Florida20. Illinois21. Oregon22. Penn State

( -- )

23. Wake Forest24. Alabama25. Pittsburgh

So having said that, here's my "pick five": Ohio State, Auburn, Texas, South Florida and Wake Forest. OSU has been dependable for me lately and has a clear path to 11-1 or 12-0. Auburn also has been steady, but faces a tough SEC slate. No one else in 6-10 impresses me. Texas was my least confident pick...but they are still better than the other two XII options or the Wisky/ASU options. South Florida is a pride pick...Jim Leavitt is a former Hayden Fry guy. I think Matt Grothe will improve with another year at the helm. And Wake: well, I just don't believe in Clemson, Va. Tech has serious injury issues, and I think Wake is in a position to capitalize on being outside the ACC spotlight. They have a steady QB in Skinner and a pretty solid defense.

And finally, my foolhardy Pick Sixth. Everyone on the BGS board is going to pick Notre Dame, so you aren't going to separate yourself from the crowd there. Besides, I think 6 or 7 wins is admirable for this squad, which maybe gets you into the low 20s. Likewise, I'd love to pick Iowa. But that would be homerism, and there are just too many questions. I'll root for them anyway.

I do believe Michigan State will be better this year, but that would require rooting for them (kinda) in their games against Iowa and ND. So poking around the fringes of the Top 25 and the Phil Steele book, I found....California.

Well, not the whole state, the Cal Golden Bears. They went 7-6 last year after a 6-0 start, finishing with a solid bowl win. Coach Jeff Tedford is something of a QB guru, although he never made Brady Quinn great like Charlie Weis did. He's 50-26 as a head coach in six years, and has two options at QB this year. Sophomore Kevin Riley will start the opener vs. Michigan State...we'll see how smart/foolish that looks in November.

Aside from MSU, the non-conference games are manageable: at Maryland (unafraid) and Colorado State (hippies). I'm not impressed with Oregon or Arizona State, but both come to Berkeley. The USC game looks unwinnable. I mean, USC is the No. 3 ranked team in the country! Impossible, right?

That's the Pick Six man. As the Red Stripe guy would say....Hooray, Football.

* -- They are not fools either, they're just required to do it as part of their job.
** -- Yeah, that's the Wall Street bull. (I used to live in New York too.) I'm not aware of a sports team with a bull logo here like Da Bears.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Things you can pick:

  • The Sweet 16
  • The Blue-Gray Sky Pick Six
  • The division winners in baseball
  • Your friends
  • Your nose
Things you can't pick:
  • Your friends' noses
Here at TMMPF, we've done everything on the first list. You read about the human vs. kitty pickin' back in March, you'll hear more about the baseball in October, you're probably reading this cause you are a friend, and there will be no pictures of that last one.

Now it's time for one of my favorite picks, the BGS Pick Six. The rules are simple: take the preseason AP Top 25 poll and divide it into fifths (1-5, 6-10, etc). Select the one team from each quintile that you think will finish the best in final poll of the regular season (bowls are not included). Then select one team from outside the top 25 that you think will do the best.

Points are 25 for first place, 24 for second, etc., down to 1 point for the No. 25 team.

We played last year. To spare you the pain of slogging through all 32 screens of results (link opens in a new window), I've highlighted the key portions. Click on each image below for a larger view:

That's 79 points for MPF and 58 for QBKatt, the nom de pick for TinaMarie.

As a twist this year, we're going to ask Quigley to make his picks as well, since he had so much fun with the basketball. So look for that. My picks will be up online here shortly.

College football starts tomorrow night, Iowa football starts on Saturday, and Notre Dame football starts Sept. 6. Enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chicago Cubs: 1998 vs. 2008

I was watching the Cubs the other day when Alfonso Soriano, the outfielder with the insanely huge contract, was at the plate. The announcers were discussing how he had failed to run out a long drive his last time up--as he admired his supposed home run, the ball bounced off the fence, the left fielder hustled it in, and Soriano had only a single.

I thought, damn. Lazy, selfish, overpaid outfielder with tremendous talent we see only occasionally? Who does that sound like?

Then I realized: this team has a lot of parallels to the great 1998 team that went to the playoffs (and may I remind you...I saw Game 163 back in 1998. Damn that was exciting).

Cubs '98 vs. '08
Characteristic1998 Cubs2008 Cubs
Egotistical corner outfielder: Sammy Sosa Alfonso Soriano
Goddam ex-Cardinal acquired in season but geez he's hitting pretty well for us: Gary Gaetti Jim Edmonds
Flame throwin' newcomer: Kerry Wood Jeff "Shark" Samardzija (I spelled that without looking)
Gruff closer: Rod Beck Kerry Wood
Smart aleck quote machine: Mark Grace Ryan Dempster
Obnoxious guy saying woo: Ron Wickers Ron Wickers
Native Iowan on the mound: Kevin Tapani Jon Lieber
Ex-Brave middle infielder: Jeff "B-lousy" Blauser Mark DeRosa
Hyperactive broadcaster: Chippy Caray Ron Santo
Regrettable acquistion: Matt KarchnerNothing that bad really...Scott Eyre I guess

So if all this holds true, we are destined to hang on to the wild card spot, and then get summarily dismissed by the NL East winner. Could it really be?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Big Ten Nuttwork

I'm a big fan of Big Ten sports, especially college football. And I also like watching sports on TV, particularly the Big Ten.

So when the idea was proposed of a television network dedicated to Big Ten sports, I was excited. (They came up with the ultra-clever name "Big Ten Network.")

However, the execution has not matched the promise. For starters, the network was not available on any major cable system when it launched August 2007. The only carrier BTN got a deal with was DirecTV. This might be a good time to mention that DirecTV was owned by News Corp. (which has since divested its ownership to Liberty Media) and that the Big Ten Network is owned 51% by the conference and 49% by Guess Which Major Media Company. But by now they've landed RCN (our provider), Comcast, Dish, and a bunch of other cable companies.

That doesn't mean they are perfect after one year on the air. For example, our BTN comes in with a one-half to one-second delay between the audio and video. The result is Kung Fu Theatre when the talking heads do analysis. It's sometimes hilarious, usually annoying.

And now, this commercial. (I guess they want us to feel like we're being recruited by all 11 coaches?) The words come fast and furious, so make sure your volume is loud enough. (I can only imagine watching it on our RCN!)

Now, I'm also a fan of Orson Swindle and his merry band of blogsters at Every Day Should Be Saturday. Orson has a guest who is masterful at Photoshop spoofs, who goes by the nom de web LSUfreek. Now that you've seen the original BTN commercial, please enjoy LSUfreek's version.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Cat Days of Summer

The subtitle of our blog is "News, views and the occasional picture of our cat." We've been slacking off in regards to one-third of that promise....

That's right, this one's all about ME. It's about time.

We even have a tag dedicated to such posts. So it's time to get caught up with Quigley's summer.

TM has spent a lot of time away from home this summer...from Europe to DC/Maryland and Pittsburgh this weekend. So I've had some time to observe how Quigley has been spending his summer.

Lucky him, it hasn't been a real hot summer. There were a couple days there it hit 90 degrees, but for the most part it's been real pleasant. Which has allowed the Q to find some new favorite places in the apartment.

Early in the summer, he spent a lot of time under the ottoman on the front porch.

What are you doing laying on the floor?!

Oh, it's picture time. I see. Let me pose for you. I call this one...'Pensive Quigley.'

But as the weather as stayed cool, when it should be getting unbearably hot for those covered in fur, he's started to explore other resting spots. For example, he looks so damn cute in the captain's chair:

I'm trying to sleep here, pal.

All this looking cute is hard work!

Although if it's too hot, he'll hide from the sunbeam underneath the chair.

We took the cat out onto the back porch a few weeks ago. Every time we're out there grilling and/or chilling, the Q looks out the window longingly. So I dug out the cat leash, hooked him up, and let him wander around the porch for a while. He seemed to enjoy it.

So much in fact, that he now wants to help with errands, like the grocery store:

As you can see, Quigley's summer is going just fine.

Happy Birthday J!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Opponents' Predicted Wins

I stumbled across a new (or new to me) Iowa blog out there called Meet Me at Kinnick, via the usually reliable Black Heart Gold Pants. They had found a Vegas odds site listing each team's expected number of wins for the season. You can think of it as an unofficial ranking system (Ohio State will have more wins than Minnesota, etc.)

I of course was interested in the foes of my top two teams, and listed them here in table format:

Opponents' Expected Wins
Notre Dame 7.0WeekIowa 7.5
bye1 Maine N/A
San Diego State 4.52Fla Int'l N/A
Michigan 8.03Iowa State 3.0
Michigan State 7.04 Pittsburgh 6.5
Purdue 6.55 Northwestern 6.5
Stanford 4.0 6 Michigan State 7.0
North Carolina 6.57 Indiana 5.0
bye8 Wisconsin 8.5
Washington 4.59bye
Pittsburgh 6.510 Illinois 8.0
Boston College 7.011Penn State 8.5
Navy N/A12Purdue 6.5
Syracuse 2.5 13Minnesota 4.5
Southern Cal. 10.5 14bye

A couple of observations, because I am a little suspicious how Vegas got to these numbers. Logically speaking, a team should be expected to beat another team with fewer overall wins. We can assume that Vegas knows what it's doing (a safe bet--hah!!) and that win totals should jibe with opponents (e.g., Florida and Georgia can't both have 12 wins if they play each other). Ignoring that upsets happen in college football (cause they do), you get the following:

ND beats: San Diego St., Purdue, Stanford, UNC, Washington, Pitt, Syracuse, Navy (my assumption).

ND loses to: Michigan, USC.

Tossups: Michigan State, BC.

8-2 with two tossups makes a 9-3 season. Mirror opposite of 2007. I think just about every Irish fan would take that. Certainly a better season that the 7.0 wins predicted.

Iowa beats: Maine (not I-A thus not rated by Vegas), Fla Int'l (my assumption), ISU (we pray this happens), Pitt, Northwestern, MSU, Indiana, Purdue, Minny.

Iowa loses to: Wisky, Illinois, Penn St.

That's another 9-3 season. January in Florida, here we come. But then where is the 7.5 derived from?

On another note: Iowa has only two schools within a half-point of their expected win total (MSU and Ill.), whereas ND has five. Does that mean more close games for the Irish? I don't know if my heart and fingernails can take it. The Iowa sked does look pretty clear cut, with several potential blowouts on the good side and no real obvious ass-whupping (being the ass of Eric Foreman vs. the foot of Red). There are hard games, like Wisky and Penn St., but they are later in the year, when Iowa and Jake C. have had a chance to settle in and jell.

There are three common opponents: Michigan State, Purdue and Pitt (how odd), all bunched in that 6.5-7.0 range. (How odd also to not see Meech as a common foe, due to the Big Ten scheduling rotation.)

Finally: You heard it here first: Illinois, way too high at 8.0 wins. No, I haven't looked at their schedule. But I have looked at their depth chart: no Mendenhall, no RB to replace him, a shaky Juice Williams still at QB, and most importantly, none of this. If you're smart enough to be reading this, and you're offered 8 wins for Illinois: Take The Under!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Questions about the Olympics

Starting with the stunning opening ceremonies last Friday, I've watched a lot more Olympics than I thought I would. But all that watchin' got me to thinkin'.
  • Why can't we bring back tug-of-war?

    As an old college friend once pointed out (we were in school together at the time of Atlanta 1996), many Olympic sports pre-date the invention of balls. Think about it: running fast and straight, running for a really long time, throwing the javelin (which is just a caveman's spear) ... all of these are ancient, from before team sports were organized. So if we're going to have sports without round objects, why not former Olympic event tug-of-war?

  • I'm sure swimming backwards is difficult...I can't even pat my head/rub my stomach. And yet, why is it that Natalie Coughlin is the only Olympic swimmer who has difficulty with this? Can't she just ask one of her teammates, or her coach? "Psst, Katie! ... how do you keep from running into the lane markers on the backstroke?...."

    Maybe this guy can give Natalie some tips.

  • Why aren't the Greeks and Italians the best at Greco-Roman wrestling?

  • And why isn't America taking all the shooting categories? Aren't we the most gun-happy country on the planet? We have more gun deaths in a day than Japan has in a decade.* Why can't all the gun nuts from Texas and Kentucky put down the moonshine long enough to train for the Olympics and bring home the gold? Hell, if they win silver or bronze, they can put the medal on a fence post and use it for target practice.

  • Can Michael Phelps please represent all the success for University of Meeechigan-affiliated athletics for the rest of 2008? That includes Tom Brady, the football team, the basketball team, Jalen Rose, whatever, I don't care, I really just care about the football team.

    America: Yaaaay!! University of Mitten: Boooooo!

  • How has modern pentathlon survived? Check out this description from the official Olympics website:

    Modern Pentathlon is an educational sport. This was the primary wish of its creator, Pierre de Coubertin. A complete sport, on the physical side - Swimming and Running are the basic disciplines; on the mental side – Shooting requires stress control and a precise technique; on the intellectual side – Fencing requires adaptability and intelligence; Riding an unknown horse requires a mix of adaptability, self-control and courage.

    Isn't there some other way in the 21st century of advocating brains, courage and physical health besides this combination?

  • And just because it needs to be repeated until corrected: you're telling me they got room for ping pong and horseys but not baseball?!?

Okay, enjoy the rest of the Olympics. Football will be here soon (two weeks from today actually).

* -- Statistical estimation. Probably accurate.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Things I'm Not Paying Attention To

Things I'm not paying attention to, August 2008 edition.

Despite usually being a pretty aware, sharp-eyed guy, there is plenty of stuff that just ain't showing up on my radar:

Batman. I keep hearing all this talk about Batman, everywhere Batman. I remember this movie coming out a long time ago, so maybe they re-released it? I guess not, cause I checked the movie listings....nothing under "B" for Batman.

1989? Can you believe it's been almost 20 years since this movie came out?

The Wild Card race. C'mon people, it's barely August. There are two months of baseball to watch before the wild card gets relevant. We had the trade deadline, which is important, if only that Manny is now just being Manny in the senior circuit. But let's not get ahead of ourselves with the scoreboard watching. Wake me up around the Notre Dame-Michigan game...that's usually a good bellwether.

The presidential election. Yes, free country, civic duty, etc. I'm still gonna vote. But I do not need to pay attention to Barack cruising around Europe or McCain putting out ads with celebrity hotties (no, I don't know why...cause I'm not paying attention).

This is the map from 2004. You can ignore all that Downstate red come November.

Let's face it, I already know who I'm voting for, and why, and nothing that's happening right now (or in the next three months) will change that. Besides, the junior senator from Illinois is running. Do you think he'll win Illinois? Me too.

Handsome fella. Future president. Gonna carry Illinois without my vote.

The Olympics. I feel a little bad about this one, cause it feels like it's in our national DNA to care about the Olympics. But I just don't have any idea who's good and who to root against. Is Iraq fielding a women's track team? Probably not. was all so much easier when it was Mary Lou Retton against the Commies. Nowadays, there's that swimmer from Baltimore, and the gymnast from Iowa, and, uh... well, the basketball team is all pros now, and who gives a crap about the NBA.

Part of it could be the lack of a dominant American track athlete. For years America gave the world (and TV-watching Americans) guys like Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson, who dominated the sprints, and chicks like Suzy Favor Hamilton, who was equally dominant in the 400/800 range events (I think, can't remember her specialty). Even Greg Louganis and Mary Lou, in sports less watchable than track, were great athletes who kicked some Russkie butt. Without Russkies, though, and without a Michael Johnson type performance at Atlanta 1996, how do I get fired up?

I remember EXACTLY where I was when this happened, and how I felt. Not counting on that happening this time around.

Besides, I'm a little annoyed at the sprawl of the Olympics. BMX bike riding? Really? When does ping pong become a sport too? (Umm, nevermind.) I guess that means darts is being readied for the 2012 Olympiad? (Note: Those Games ARE in London, after all. --Ed.)

Are you shittin' me? The Olympics? For real?!?

The American League. Nothing new there.

Brett Farve, Favruh, whatever. I distinctly remember this guy retiring a few months ago. And for some reason he's still in the news. I don't get it. If you quit, then stay quit. If you want to play football, then play football up until you don't want to play football anymore, THEN quit.

What's worse is EFPN (they recently changed their name to the Entertainment and Farve, Favruh, whatever Programming Network) with all constant coverage. Aren't the Cubs in first place? Isn't there something more worthy of air time than a retiree? General rule: if your last name has its own category on the ticker crawl, like "MLB" or "NCAAF," you are a distraction. Sit down and be quiet.

I wanna play football! I mean I don't, I mean I do...waaaah!

And finally, two things I'm paying way too much attention to:

The decline of the newspaper industry. I love newspapers, and have a bit of free time during the day, and so I read about the state of the industry, the layoffs, the cuts in newshole, the defection of readership to the's all very depressing. Like watching a friend wither away of a terminal disease.

Newspapers will still be around...we still have railroads, they just aren't the primary method of moving stuff from point A to point B anymore. Likewise, we'll always need papers to provide context and analysis beyond the breaking news. My forebears are big train buffs...I guess we have a soft spot for dying industries.

College football*. It's barely August. The season hasn't even started yet.

* This "too much attention" item expires on August 28th.