Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 Bowls in Charts

Reading is hard. It takes time and concentration for your eyes and brain to process all those words into the information you want. Meanwhile, we have at our disposal charts and graphs: colorful pictures that tell you everything you need to know quickly, without all that thinking.

For those unwilling/uninterested to slog though the post where I covered every game of the bowl season, here it is in chart form: (click on chart to make big)

And with all our travel in the next three weeks, I bet you were wondering where exactly we'll be watching these games. The answer in chart form:

And now that the games have started, here my picks, along with the confidence points I assigned in the pick 'em games I'm playing:

Rutgers 9
Fresno State 8
So. Miss 4
Oregon State 7
Utah 12
Nevada 21
Southern Cal. 34
Pittsburgh 15
Ohio 27
Clemson 20
Georgia 19
Miami 10
Nebraska 17
Missouri 18
Idaho 24
Virginia Tech 32
Minnesota 22
Stanford 13
Air Force 3
Florida 33
Ohio State 5
West Virginia 23
Penn State 2
Northwestern 1
Texas Tech 31
Arkansas 29
Mississippi 28
South Carolina 26
Northern Illinois 14
TCU 11
Iowa 30
Troy 25
Texas 6

Friday, December 18, 2009

MPF004 Handicaps the Bowls

Starting tomorrow, the bowl season begins. It is a nice wrap-up to the football season, even if the slate has gotten horribly bloated in the last few years. 34 bowls? 68 of 120 teams are going bowling this winter? Remember when being a "bowl team" mattered?

This expansion has a price--most of these games are going to be really boring. To save you the time and energy, I've graded out the bowl matchups so you know which ones are worth your time:
  • Yawn
  • Mild Interest
  • Moderate Interest
  • High Interest
with two additional categories:
  • the Schadenfreude games
  • the one I'll actually attend.
And I'll even give you a reason to watch, even the yawners.

YAWN: (N=15)

Dec. 19 New Mexico Wyoming (6-6) vs. Fresno State (8-4)
Reason to Watch: It's the first game of the season. Pat Hill has no fear, bordering on batshit insane (in other words, a 7 on the Zooker Scale).
MPF004 Sez: Go finish Christmas shopping.

(Notice how many of these damn bowls can't even come up with a decent title sponsor? No one in the entire Land of Enchantment wants to put their fricking name on the New Mexico Bowl? C'mon, it can't be that expensive. Dale's Bug Exterminator Bowl? Jimmy's Barber Shop? The carpet and tile store on 4th Street?)

Dec. 20 New Orleans Middle Tennessee State (9-3) vs. Southern Miss (7-5)
Reason to Watch: To find out who or what R Plus L Carriers is. You'll find out at the first commercial break, and then over, and over, and over...
MPF004 Sez: Middle Tennessee Tech Whatever beat the Turtles. Is that meaningful?

M.T.T.W. Fears Not the Turtle

Dec. 22 Maaco Las Vegas Oregon State (8-4) vs. BYU (10-2)Reason to Watch: This shapes up to be a fun matchup of strong offenses, which means a whole buncha touchdowns. And when two teams you don't give a shit about are playing before Christmas, you want to see a whole buncha touchdowns. Also: Pick Six points on the line.
MPF004 Sez: BYU, if only for the points.

Dec. 24 Hawaii Nevada (8-4) vs. SMU (7-5)
Reason to Watch: To see if anyone gives a crap this year since Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame won't be in it (answer: no).
MPF004 Sez: Spend time with your family.

Dec. 27 Music City Kentucky (7-5) vs. Clemson (8-5)
Reason to Watch: C.J. Spiller is a pretty awesome running back. It's the only game on that night.
MPF004 Sez: See if there's an NFL game on.

I just know Steve, Andy and Jeremy are looking for a "bowling" reference. Here ya go.

Dec. 29 EagleBank UCLA (6-6) vs. Temple (9-3)
Reason to Watch: Pick Six points for UCLA. Okay, I know they won't make the Top 25 even with a blowout win. How about to see the inexplicable turnaround orchestrated by ex-Virginia failure Al Golden (as DC, not as head coach. That was Al Groh).
MPF004 Sez: Temple got kinda good in the MAC, but they aren't ready for the big time.

Dec. 30 Humanitarian Idaho (7-5) vs. Bowling Green (7-5)
Reason to Watch: None. This is the one played on the blue turf. Spare your eyeballs.
MPF004 Sez: Read a book.

Dec. 31 Armed Forces Air Force (7-5) vs. Houston (10-3)
Reason to Watch: Lotsa points, I guess. Houston bores me.
MPF004 Sez: Air Force, just out of spite for hearing all year how good Houston is when they are not.

Dec. 31 Texas Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)
Reason to Watch: Bowls named after entire states tend to suck. This is no exception. I guess the reason to watch is Navy's triple option; it'll be a fun challenge to watch and good practice for scouting the Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl.
MPF004 Sez: Mizzou.

Jan. 1 Gator West Virginia (9-3) vs. Florida State (6-6)
Reason to Watch: Noel Devine running wild. He's a poor man's Reggie Bush (or Joe McKnight) and damn fun to watch. And yes, I don't give a crap about Bobby Bowden's formal retirement. He's been disengaged from that program for years.
MPF004 Sez: A big WVa win that smothers the whole Bowden sentimentality angle.

Jan. 2 International South Florida (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (7-5)
Reason to Watch: Football in Canada has an extra big field (plus the end zones are 15 yards deep I think), and offensive players are allowed to get a running start before the snap. Which team will take better advantage of these foreign rules?
MPF004 Sez: Wait a couple hours for a game in America to start.

I'm bearish on the Bulls.

Jan. 2 Liberty East Carolina (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
Reason to Watch: Honestly, I got nothing. Skip Holtz? No. Louisville reject Bobby Petrino and Michigan reject Ryan Mallett? Passing the time between the Cotton Bowl and the Alamo Bowl? Elvis impersonators?
MPF004 Sez: Take a nap.

The best Elvis sighting of all time.

Jan. 2 Cotton Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Mississippi (8-4)
Reason to Watch: The Diminished Expectations Bowl: Which program will be more crushed by the deflation of their preseason hopes?
MPF004 Sez: Go with Jevan Snead and crazy Houston Nutt over a crippled Zac Robinson and crazy Mike Gundy.

Jan. 4 Fiesta TCU (12-0) vs. Boise State (13-0)
Reason to Watch: For the same reason you look at the circus guy who bites the heads off chickens, or the beared lady at the midway.
MPF004 Sez: TCU is a far less shitty, far less illegitimate midmajor than the Smurf Turf.

Jan. 6 GMAC Central Michigan (11-2) vs. Troy (9-3)
Reason to Watch: Your last chance to see Dan "The Fever" LaFever, the MAC version of Tim Tebow except he doesn't cry like a sissy girl when he loses the conference championship game, cause he doesn't lose his conference championship game as Bobcat fans can attest.
MPF004 Sez: Dan "The Fever" and all his teammates vs. one guy named Troy? I'll take the Fever.


Dec. 19 St. Petersburg Rutgers (8-4) vs. UCF (8-4)
Reason to Watch: Rrrrrutgers!! started out slow, but cranked it up late. Bowl games are usually fun when a team enters on a hot streak.
MPF004 Sez: Rutgers, I guess. I don't know a thing about Central Florida, or than it is actually located in Central Florida, unlike South Florida which is in Central Florida.

Dec. 23 Poinsettia Utah (9-3) vs. California (8-4)
Reason to Watch: This game lost a little luster when studly tailback Jahvid Best decided it would be Best (hah!) to sit this one out, due to a pesky concussion. But both these teams put in solid seasons and appear evenly matched.
MPF004 Sez: Without Best, I gotta think Utah has the edge.

Dec. 28 Independence Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5)
Reason to Watch: To see two once-proud teams wish it was 2001-ish all over again.
MPF004 Sez: Georgia, I guess.

Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
Reason to Watch: The Chick-Fil-A commercials are pretty funny. We saw the Vols live at Neyland. We are friends with Miller. When the Vols win, he's happy.
MPF004 Sez: Sorry Miller. Tech tears apart a beleageured Tennessee team.

Oldtimers like me remember this used to be called the Peach Bowl.

Jan. 1 Outback Northwestern (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5)
Reason to Watch: a mini-Schadenfreude: a school coached by a guy that has hated Iowa since his playing days vs. a coach from a school that hates Iowa. It's something to soothe your hangover on New Year's Day.
MPF004 Sez: I'm torn between supporting the Big 10, and rooting for the meteor. Ahh, fuck that. Whoa Damn Eagle.

Jan. 1 Sugar Cincinnati (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1)
Reason to Watch: None I can think of.
MPF004 Sez: Tebow will crush the Kelly-less Bearcats.

Jan. 2 Alamo Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Reason to Watch: Pirate lunatic Mike Leach. An MSU team that lost painfully to my two teams in the final minute.
MPF004 Sez: Several Spartan players will be suspended due to a fight on campus. That tends to not bode well for teams.

Jan. 2 Connecticut (7-5) vs. South Carolina (7-5)
Reason to Watch: It's named after a web site. A web site for pizza. Also, we saw the Cocks last year vs. Iowa, and saw UConn vs. ND this year. It's hard not to feel for UConn after Jasper Howard was stabbed to death earlier this season. Jim Leavitt is a Hayden Fry guy and recently was accused of beating up a player.
MPF004 Sez: Root for UConn.


Dec. 31 Sun Stanford (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (7-5)
Reason to Watch: Two teams (programs even?) going in opposite directions. Oklahoma started out with national championship aspirations and fell spectacularly when Sam Bradford's right shoulder got crunched. Stanford ended up beating three ranked teams, helped get Charlie Weis fired and nearly got Toby Gerhart the Heisman.
Reason Not to Watch: Being on an airplane to Phoenix.
MPF004 Sez: Gerhart > Bradford's replacement.

Dec. 30 Holiday Nebraska (9-4) vs. Arizona (8-4)
Reason to Watch: The Holiday Bowl traditionally has been one of the best, if not THE best, December bowl. It usually pairs solid teams that probably deserve to play in January. Here we've got a Husker team that was one second away from the BCS and Arizona that figured it out after losing to Iowa.
MPF004 Sez: I like Pelini.

For Kelly.

Dec. 26 Meineke Car Care North Carolina (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh (9-3)
Reason to Watch: The Wannstache was within seconds of a BCS bid. Will the Panthers come out flat, or try to prove they are better than this bowl? It's also a matchup of 2008 and 2009 ND opponents, so you know these teams.
MPF004 Sez: the 'Stache.

Last chance of the year to run this picture.

Dec. 29 Champs Sports Miami (Fla.) (9-3) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
Reason to Watch: To see Wisky take out its aggression at being passed over by nerds for a Jan. 1 bowl. To support the Big 10.
MPF004 Sez: I'm supporting the Big 10 here.

Jan. 1 Capital One Penn State (10-2) vs. LSU (9-3)
Reason to Watch: Big 10 pride (even if it is the Johnny Come Lately of the conference) vs. Esss-Eeee-Seee speed.
MPF004 Sez: Should be fun to watch. Penn St. has been damn good against non-Iowa teams on its schedule the past two years. LSU has ballsy/batshit Les Miles (6.5 on the Zooker Scale). I'll take PSU in a mild upset.


Dec. 26 Emerald Boston College (8-4) vs. Southern California (8-4)
Reason to Watch: The possibility of a meteor wiping out both teams that hate Notre Dame with the passion of a thousand suns. Barring the meteor thing, someone you hate will lose a football game in a baseball park.
MPF004 Sez: Root for the meteor.

Dec. 31 Insight Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
Reason to Watch: The possibility of a meteor wiping out both teams that hate Iowa with the passion of a thousand suns. Barring the meteor thing, someone you hate will lose a football game in a bowl formerly played in a baseball park.
MPF004 Sez: Root for the meteor.

He was inconsolable.

Dec. 26 Little Caesars Ohio (9-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)
Reason to Watch: Cause I'll be in the stands.
MPF004 Sez: Marshall picked bad-ass named Doc Holiday as their new coach. But I still like Frank and the Cats despite their being 0-2 when I'm present (I guess I'm the opposite luck of TM at Iowa games?)


Jan. 1 Rose Oregon (10-2) vs. Ohio State (10-2)
Reason to Watch: It's the Rose Bowl! Beyond tradition, if you need a reason to care about the game, you've got The Ohio State carrying the banner of the Big Ten against the new standard bearer of the Pac 10. LaGarrett Blount, the dude who punched a guy in the face and yet was reinstated to the team, will play for the Ducks. Pick Six points on the line.
MPF004 Sez: At risk of being a homer, I think TOSU wins.

Jan. 5 Orange Georgia Tech (11-2) vs. Iowa (10-2)
Reason to Watch: The oh-so-close-to-being Big Ten Champions vs. the oh-so-close-to-not-being Almost Competent Conference Champions. The triple option vs. the Angerer. Stanzi being the Manzi, Johnathan Dwyer being whatever the hell he is that doesn't rhyme with his last name. Easily the most exciting non-championship bowl of the season. Unfortunately, I do have Georgia Tech in the Pick Six.

Jan. 7 BCS Title Alabama (13-0) vs. Texas (13-0)
Reason to Watch: I'm really excited about this game. Some people think Texas lucked out, or that Bama is so supremely dominant. I think that Texas is better than people think. Also: Pick Six points.
MPF004 Sez: Back in August, I picked Texas as my top Pick Six team because I thought Colt McCoy would win the Heisman and Texas would win the national championship. Ironically, I was very tempted to pick Bama, because I felt they were best suited to win the championship, but couldn't do it for ethical reasons. So I'm with Texas.

For Paulette.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bettin' on Baseball

Hola amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I been dealing with a metric shitton of stuff in my life.

This post is about baseball (and ultimately, beer). It's been a couple months since baseball ended, so let's review the regular season winners as a reminder:

2009 Winners
AL EastYankees
AL CentralTwins
AL WestAngels
AL Wild CardRed Sox
NL EastPhillies
NL CentralCardinals
NL WestDodgers
NL Wild CardRockies

In the divisional series, the Phillies beat the Rockies and the Dodgers beat the Cardinals. The Yanks swept the Twins (sorry Craig) and the Angels swept the Red Sox. In the World Series, the Yankees beat the Phils.

Now let's see who the co-authors picked.

TM Picks
AL EastRed Sox
AL CentralIndians
AL WestAngels
AL Wild CardRays
NL EastMetsies
NL CentralCubbies
NL WestDodgers
NL Wild CardReds
AL ChampRed Sox
NL ChampCubs
World ChampRed Sox

Hmmm. She got the Los Angeles area correct, but the rest of the country: not so much. She did get the Red Sox correct, for three out of eight playoff teams. The apocalypse World Series of Cubs/Sox did not come to fruition.

Now to MPF004!!

MPF's Picks
AL EastRed Sox
AL CentralTwins
AL WestA's
AL Wild Cardyankers
NL EastPhillies
NL CentralCardinals
NL WestGiants
NL Wild CardDodgers
AL ChampRed Sox
NL ChampPhillies
World ChampRed Sox

Three division winners correct, plus three more playoff teams slotted as wild cards instead of division winners or vice versa. In fact, I pulled the opposite of Tina Marie: I whiffed on the Bay Area but got the rest of the country partially correct. I said the AL East champ would beat the Phillies in the World Series, but I picked the good guys, not the bad guys.

So I got a couple more correct than TM. Big deal, right?

To quote a prominent sports announcer: Not so fast my friend! We have been predicting the baseball winners for four years now. Back in March, when I was in the process of winning the NCAA tournament pool, she and I made a side wager for a six-pack of beer. TM, being a big baseball fan, proposed that we make a similar wager on this sports' pick set. To clarify that picking the World Series champ should be valued higher than picking a divisional winner, we decided upon a point system that awards 1 point for correctly naming the division and wild card winners, 2 points for the pennant and 3 points for the World Series champ.

Let's look at those predictions again:

The Picks and the Points
Red SoxRed Sox
IndiansTwins (1)
Angels (1)A's
MetsiesPhillies (1)
CubbiesCardinals (1)
Dodgers (1)Giants
Red SoxRed Sox
CubsPhillies (2)
Red SoxRed Sox

Final score: 5-2. Congratulations to me! To honor the Minnesota Twins, who fought valiantly for the AL Central title and tried in vain to make America a better place by eliminating the Yankees, the six-pack of beer shall be: Summit Brewing from St. Paul, Minnesota. Either the Hefe Weizen or the new Red Ale would be fine.

Beer of Champions. (Girl in background not included.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

1000 Words: The Eyes Have It

Hawkeyes vs. Buckeyes. A bird vs. a nut? All I gots to say about that:

(from BHGP of course)

Friday, November 06, 2009

One Game at a Time

Yes there is a great temptation to look ahead. But taking it one game at a time has gotten us to this point:

(click for bigger)

(from the University of Iowa's official site)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week 8 Review/Week 9 Preview

(Damn I'm late. At least it's up before the 11am games. --ed.)

Week 8 Review: the Cardiac Kids

Location: Notre Dame Stadium. And the car. (I'll explain.)

Games watched: Notre Dame-BC; Rutgers-Army; Tennessee-Alabama (on replay); Iowa-Michigan State (on the radio-oh-oh!); Southern Cal-Oregon State; Arizona State-Stanford (sleepily).

Pick Six: A quiet week, the biggest move being BYU's emasculation by the Horned Frogs. Here's a wagering tip from you to me; never trust Mormons against a horned reptile. Our bottom quintiles officially suck: even with ND moving back in at 25, we have a grand total of one points among our bottom six teams. Four of TM's teams moved up (which is total bullshit because Georgia Tech and Texas both had awesome dominating wins, and neither moved up), and you can guess what that means: TM 51, Quigley 49, MPF 47.

And a late update: In Week 7 of one of my pick 'em games, I got the week's highest score. (My team name is Northern Iowa. The guy who runs the game requires every team be named for a I-AA or lower level school.)

Iowa: We left the stadium and got in the car. After we got out on the interstate, we finally picked up the Michigan State broadcast team out of Detroit. As we drove west, that signal got weaker. We tried WMT out of Cedar Rapids--nothing. Then I remembered WHO out of Des Moines, but couldn't think of the dial location. Now here's proof that advertising works: when you start the online player at WHO's home page, you hear an ad that said, "Hi, this is Bonnie from Van and Bonnie at WHO 1040 for [name of dentist advertising]." So we flip there and we hear Dolph coming in just fine.

For the rest of the drive, it was flipping back and forth every few minutes between the MSU and Iowa broadcasts... we'd lose one, try the other, lose it, rinse/rather/repeat. By the time we got to Lake Shore Drive, Iowa was driving in the red zone and we lost the signal. When we got it back, it was 9-6 Iowa. When we got to the house, MSU ran the hook-and-ladder play. I sprinted into the house, flipped on the TV ... and saw MSU score the touchdown.

Dejected, I went back out to the car. (I had to bring in all the crap I left there when I sprinted inside.) I couldn't watch. I figured whether it was good or bad news, I'd want to hear it from Dolph and Eddie. To my surprise, 1040 was coming in crystal clear, like I was right there in Des Moines. As I packed up the stuff, I listened to that final drive, and the final four plays.

I think I'll always remember running from the parking lot and sprinting towards the apartment, where I found TM jumping up and down out on the sidewalk. Thank you Hawkeyes for these awesome memories. As a bittersweet coda, the next morning I went out to the car ... and all I heard on the radio was static. It was like the night before was all a dream.

Notre Dame: We enjoyed the game. I mean, we enjoyed the outcome. But for Pete's sake, at some point this team is going to have to beat an inferior team by 2+ touchdowns. This going down to the wire crap is not what we were expecting back in August. And still, 57 games into his college coaching career, Charlie Weis' "signature" victory is over ... Navy in (pick a year they went to a bowl).

Anyway, Iowa won, Notre Dame won, Michigan lost. Welcome back my friend:

Week 9 Preview: Back in the High Life Again

Seeing live football games is fun, but it gets tiring. We're going out Friday night so I'm looking forward to a Saturday of sleeping in, Gameday, Iowa at 11am, you know, the flowchart. In the evening we'll head to Steve's for the ND game and a football/Halloween potluck.

On the national scene, I think USC-Quack would be fun to watch, if it were not on at the same time as ND. The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is this weekend, and I'm feeling contrarian. Something about Georgia in this game ... I don't know if I can pick the outright upset, but I think it'll be close (Ed. note: since I wrote this, I did in fact pick Geo. to win). As long as I'm out on limbs, watch for Cuse to scare Cincy, more than they should. I like Tennessee over an erratic South Carolina. Which crappy team will win the Michigan-Illinois game? Can Jim Delany just cancel it?

Happy Halloween, Hawkeye Fans

(click for bigger version)

(via BHGP, naturally)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Week 7 Review/Week 8 Preview

(work busy. blogging compromised. words fantastic, despite constraints. --ed.)

Week 7 Review: don'tlookattheuscgamedidimentionthehawkeyesareundefeated?*

Location: Couch. (and by the way--damn it was fantastic.)

Games watched: Boise-Tulsa (kinda), Cincy-South Florida, Pitt-Rutgers (kinda), Iowa-Wisky, Oklahoma-Texas (during commercials), Ohio State-Purdue (snippets), ND-Southern Cal, Florida-Arkansas (during commercials), Kansas-Colorado, Bama-South Carolina (snippets), Washington-Arizona State (but that doesn't mean I remember, it was awfully late).

Iowa: Less than 24 hours after the Michigan win, the Hawk Shop sent out an email labeled "6-0! Six more to go!" While I appreciate the symmetry and rhyme, as a fan I thought it was a little premature. Anybody can get lucky for six in a row.

But then Iowa went to Madison, for the third (second) of their five (four) incredibly difficult road games, and still prevailed. Now we're 7-0, which is lofty territory. I mean, at this point in the season, not just any schmuck can go 7-0. (Parens indicate the questionableness yes damn right I just made up that word of Iowa State as a legitimate road game.)

ND: I predicted this game would be more like 2006, when ND was blown out of the water by a far superior Southern Cal team, than 2005, when a feisty underdog gave Goliath all it could handle down to the final play. Being wrong didn't feel any better when the end result was just like 2005 ... a close loss.

Pick Six: Ugh. A 3-3 record this week, with Ohio State, UCLA and Nebraska losing. At least Texas and Georgia Tech beat ranked teams (BYU took down a no-name), but it wasn't enough to offset losses. My only consolation is that my family members shared in these losses: Ohio State (and ND) for TM, Nebraska for Quigley. So while all scores are down, I keep my lead: MPF 56, Quigley 47, TM 46.

Week 8 Preview: Can We Please Beat These Jesuits?!?

Well it's technically Week 8 already here on Wednesday, with Anonymous Western Team playing Supposedly Worthy Conference Foe on A.W.W.L.S. But since that doesn't count:

Iowa: plays Michigan State. I'm nervous. But like I told an MSU buddy of mine, I've been nervous for every game this year. This run has been so unexpected, I'm just enjoying every single game I can. Plus, I won't be near a TV since we'll be coming home from ...

Notre Dame. This will be the second of two games at Notre Dame Stadium this year, and another rival who has had our number of late: the Boston College Golden Eagles. Over the summer many fans chalked this up as an easy win: BC lost its coach, all its QBs, and the heart of its defense in it's star MLB. Sooooo ... we're gonna beat 'em, right?

The OH: plays Kent. Better beat Kent. Seriously man. Kent State.

* -- every Wilco fan knows what song this references, right??

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wilco (the album review, kinda)

When Wilco's new record came out, under the deceptive title "Wilco (the album)," I meant to write a proper review. But, you know, work, and summer festivals, and seeing that movie based on a toy I played with as a child, and all that.

So to add a little context to the UIC show review, here are the notes from my first listen through the record, with some editorial remarks for clarity. (Hopefully you'll enjoy my midsummer snark.)


referring to "Wilco (the song)"... I'm not afraid to admit that I cheered and clapped ("WOOO!!") at the end of the first song. However, it drew a weird look from the co-blogger on the other side of the room.

There's a reason why the cliche "I prefer their earlier work" exists ... artists in general, and rock musicians in specific, create their best stuff when they are young, pissed off, confused, drunk, heartbroken. Rare is the artist who improves with age; most say their peace and disappear from the scene after a few albums/years. Let us appreciate an artist like Tweedy who, a decade after being the "other guy" in an early 1990s trio, formed his own band out of the ashes and was still producing his best material over a decade later. And yes, Carolyn and others, feel free to substitute "Dave Grohl" for "Tweedy" in that sentence.

In contrast to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which I HAD heard before it was released, this album feels like I've already heard it. I remember the anticipation, the uncertainty of listening to records like Summerteeth and Sky Blue Sky ... what's THIS ONE gonna sound like? Is it weird? Will I like it? None of that anticipation here. Critics elsewhere have theorized that the mundane title "Wilco (the album)" is a tacit acknowledgement that this one marks time while waiting for the next creative burst. To put it another way, Wilco has now accomplished (if that indeed is the right word) something the Jayhawks never did in roughly 20 years as a band: release two straight albums with the same lineup.

A good example: "You Never Know," which I thought was "I Don't Care Anymore." Yes, I have heard XRT play this one a couple times in the past few weeks. (Not "Pure Michigan," mind you, I'm talking once or twice.) But beyond its casual familiarity, it just sounds and feels like an "old" Wilco song (in the old comfortable shoes or sweatshirt sense, not the 1994 sense.) Another is "Sunny Feeling," a pleasant, mid-tempo, mid-Wilco era bouncer.

Solitaire: I was convinced this was a cover of "Good Vibrations" until the first or second line. I got confirmation from the co-blogger that it wasn't just me. Of course, this isn't anything new. (think "sesame street" on Being There )

Now I see why "Bull Black Nova" gets mentioned in the early reviews. It isn't necessarily the best song, or most noteworthy, it just resembles notable tracks off the last two releases (Kidsmoke and Impossible Germany).

Wilco (the Show Review)

(Football talk resumes soon, hopefully Weds. --ed.)

Wilco (the Show Review): Nothing to Prove

Seeing a band such as Wilco evolve from clubs and theatres to an arena, it's hard not to feel a little like Trent in "Swingers," who declared Mikey "all grows up." Sunday night we saw a band that despite making the jump to arena rock (in literal venue size if not musicality) felt it had nothing to prove in the promotion, and delivered a solid if not spectacular performance for the hometown fans.

None of these men are smiling. Why is that?

There were a couple times where I felt Wilco was getting too love with its weird self, the first coming minutes into the show. During the first two songs, the stage right (Nels Cline and Mikael Jorgensen) were thrashing uncontrollably and unmusically. It stopped after a while, but it was almost as if they were trying too hard to be avant garde-y. The other was how many songs (like "Sonny Feeling") didn't end so much as trickle off into noisy feedback and distortion. While the artist may find the dissonance of interest, the wind-down into noisy garble deprives the fans of the chance to applaud at a proper ending. Wilco might say it's cool; I just found it annoying.

Generally though, this was a band comfortable where it is at this point in time. They segued from an intense, insistent "Bull Black Nova" to the warm "You Are My Face" featuring a co-lead vocal by John Stirratt. Two notes about that: Jorgensen played eighth notes almost nonstop for about six minutes straight during "Bull Black Nova." That's gotta hurt the wrists. And Stirratt got to take lead when he sang the only non-Tweedy-sung work in the Wilco oeuvre, his "It's Just That Simple" off "A.M."

And this show had two highlights from a set-list selection perspective: I'd never heard live (to the best of my recollection) "At Least That's What You Said" and hadn't heard "Kingpin" in forever (possibly since the "Being There" shows in 1997). Plus: not so much a set-list addition as a new instrument: Glenn Kotche finally used the gong behind him on "I'm the Man Who Loves You."

While you never know what exactly will be the highlight of a Wilco show, Sunday night had several fine moments. "Misunderstood" featured about 20 "nothings," gleefully shouted by the audience, knowing the irony that this city, this fanbase, has sustained and supported Wilco throughout the years. "Impossible Germany" featured the face-melting work of Cline, while Pat Sansone and Tweedy* noodled on the counter-line. "Handshake Drugs" similarily ended in a wail-fest on guitar. And a new wrinkle: Tweedy stepped away from the mic to let the audience sing "Jesus, etc." I think we acquitted ourselves okay, considering it came out eight years ago and has a lot of similar verses.

The opener was Tortoise, who in accordance with the Wilco's Opening Bands Must Suck Act of 1999, sucked. And though it was, all in all, a fine hometown show, I do have just one more complaint: the absence of the Total Pros.

The encore provided a fitting reward to the hometown fans, an eight-song rumble that could have stood as a fine mini-set list of its own, with a three-song stretch from 1996's superawesome "Being There."

The president of the United States hangs out with Wilco! Or vice versa, maybe. But either way: exciting!!

Wilco (the concert)
UIC Pavilion (the venue)
October 18, 2009 (the date)

Wilco (the song)
Shot in the Arm
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
One Wing
At Least That's What You Said
Deeper Down
Impossible Germany
It's Just That Simple
I'll Fight
Handshake Drugs
Sonny Feeling
Jesus, etc.
I'm Always In Love
Hate It Here
I'm the Man Who Loves You

You Never Know
(band intros ... recorded sample triggered by Kotche)
Heavy Metal Drummer
the Spongebob song
Outta Mind (Outta Sight)
Hoodoo Voodoo
I'm a Wheel

* -- Not on purpose, but this might be the first-ever review of anything Wilco-related that has Jeff Tweedy as the sixth-mentioned member of the band.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week 6 Review/Week 7 Preview

Week 6 Review: Sweet Home Iowa

Location: The parents' house, Iowa. It was nice, and relaxing, to be back home.

Iowa: Beat Michigan. Look, I wish I had more time to expound on this, but basically, my hate for Michigan has grown tremendously in the past two years. To paraphrase the chief of police in Malibu: I don't like their jerkoff coach, I don't like their jerkoff freshman QB, I don't like their jerkoff helmets, I don't like them ... jerkoffs.

So it was tremendously relieving to beat Michigan under any circumstances, much less a nationally televised game at Kinnick Stadium.

Suck it, retards.

ND: had a bye.

Pick Six: Texas dropped a point, edged out by Bama. Oh well, I should get that point back with a win over Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. Meanwhile, OSU, Georgia Tech and Nebraska benefitted from good-looking wins. I'm sure the bread tasted fantastic? (UCLA did itself no favors, losing to the Quackheads.) Quigley had two losses in LSU and Ole Miss. TM pretty much held steady, with the appearance of Notre Dame noteworthy and adding a single point to her total.

We're halfway home, people, and here are your standings: MPF 68, TM 58, Quigley 52.

National: Six weeks in, I think we can safely declare these teams Not As Good As We Thought (NAGAWT):

Georgia (3-3)
Ole Miss (3-2)
Florida State (2-4)
Illinois (1-4) ... keep in mind, I expected them to be .500 at best so I'm really not piling on by listing them here, sorry Sarah
Colorado (1-4)

This picture is from two weeks ago. But holy shit, can you imagine a photograph of a guy MORE likely to get fired at the end of the year?

Grudging Respect Given To (GRGT):

Auburn (5-1)
Wisconsin (5-1)
Real Miami (4-1)
Los Quackos (5-1)
Washington (3-3)
West Virginia (4-1)

And hey, lookee who's 4-2:

Phil called it.

Week 7: The Rivalry of the Year

Notre Dame: Plays Southern California. You may be aware of this. You may be looking forward to the oldest, most tradition-heavy intersectional rivalry in the United States of America.

And now, courtesy of our friends at Blue-Gray Sky, read this cringeable stat:

More than SC's strong stats and deep depth chart is the unavoidable fact that the past few years worth of matchups have been a horror show of Irish ineptitude. The players and staff just don't know what it is like to experience success against Southern Cal. I can think of no better way to sum it up than with this unfortunately 100% true statement:

70% of the scholarship players on Notre Dame's roster were not a part of the program the last time Notre Dame scored a touchdown against Southern Cal.

Re-read that statement a few times and you might find yourself looking to make other plans for Saturday.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I made the mistake of looking at the website for AWWLIS (the Alleged Worldwide Leader In Sports), you may know them by the more familar Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, to learn this stat: since 1992, the cumulative score is Southern Cal 284, ND 95.

The 2006 game was 44-24. The most points SC has given up this year is 16. While those two stats seem incongruous, I'm expecting a 2006-like result.

If this were* an editorial cartoon instead of a LOLcat, the cat would be labeled "S.C. Defense."

Iowa: Plays Wisconsin in Madison at 11am. Now, I was looking at the rankings this week, and the AP has Florida at No. 1. But Florida is only 5-0, whereas Iowa is 6-0. That's better, right? Why aren't the Hawkeyes ranked above the Gators?

Pick Six: Big games for Texas (Q and MPF) and Georgia Tech (MPF) headline the slate. Oh, and the Irish (TM) vs. Southern California.

I'll be following the flowchart. Won't you join me? (in spirit if not literally. The couch ain't that big.)

* -- Occasional proper grammar use is at the sole discretion of the blog proprietor.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Week 5 Review/Week 6 Preview

Week 5 Review: Happy and Dry

Location: Blue recliner. (For the first half of ND game: Sarah's place, checking in on her kitteh.)

Games watched, at least partially: La. Tech-Hawaii (kinda), Colorado-West Virginia, Pitt-Louisville, Iowa-Arkansas State, Mitten State-Mitten (during commercials), ND-Washington, LSU-Georgia (during commercials), Miami-Oklahoma, Ohio State-Indiana (kinda), Auburn-Tennessee, USC-Cal (on the Internet), Idaho-Colorado State (barely, thru droopy eyes).

Iowa: I might be the only person in America to have picked Arkansas State to cover the spread. Definitely among my pick 'em group and the fans at BHGP. I just sensed that we are not a team to come out with a killer instinct and roll up a 42-0 type win. If Iowa did get up big, Ferentz would put in the reserves, keeping the score close.

But it never got there. After building a 14-0 lead, Arkansas State decided to run the UNI "How to Beat Iowa" playbook step-by-step, coming within an onside kick of a massive upset. I do think Iowa is deserving of its national ranking; I just think this team plays up or down to its competition, and needs a solid four-quarter effort against a surprisingly strong Michigan team to prove that fact. But there's no shining this shit of a game: they played well enough to get the win and not much else.

Notre Dame: Keep that Dr. Guffs canister handy: Notre Dame went down to the wire in its fourth straight game, a game that shouldn't have been this close. Instant replay karma took away a Washington TD, giving the Irish another chance to match this performance and keep it a one-score game. All I can say is, 4-1 sounds a lot better than 3-2 in the bye week. Southern Cal comes to town after the bye for the annual beatdown. Do you think there's a fifth straight close game coming?

Pick Six: Another decent week for MPF. Three wins and two byes. UCLA lost, pushing them further away from the Top 25, but I'll take five of six at this point. For TM, Cal out and Oregon up was basically a swap. Quigley has the biggest disappointment (Ole Miss) but also the biggest gainer (LSU). After a relatively quiet week, the standings are: MPF 58, Quigley 57, TM 55.

Polls: Some things in life have a way of self-correcting. Last week I was a little miffed to see who was ranked above 4-0 Iowa: Cincy, TCU, Houston? Frickin' Boise State? Could you honestly say their profile was better than Iowa, who just beat a Top 5 team on the road? This week I'm a little calmer: Houston is gone, and Miami has (grudgingly) earned their slot above the Hawkeyes. I don't know if Virginia Tech is the best one-loss team in the country--I'd give it to USC frankly--but at least Cincy has a chance to fall at South Florida this week, and as quality teams play quality opponents, hopefully midmajor distractions like Boise will fall to where they belong (oblivion or the sidestage at the very least).

So to review: Iowa, Notre Dame and Ohio all won. TM's Turtles won. Hell, even Drake and William and Mary won. Michigan lost. This week earns the:

This week's statistic of note: Scoring Defense. This will make Iowa fans happy (we're tenth in the nation, going up against No. 55) but Irish fans looking ahead to next week quite nervous (SC at third, 8.6 points per game).

Week 6 Preview: Westbound, for a Change

Notre Dame: has a bye. Getting ready for Southern Cal on Oct. 17.

Iowa: This weekend we're going back to Iowa, for a visit to the parents in the hometown. I'll be reading up on Michigan this week, trying to figure out if Iowa is the team to stop superfrosh Tate Forcier (Notre Dame wasn't, Michigan State was for a while, but not really) and if our offense can get in synch enough to score 20 or more against that blah Wolverine "D".

I want to see this again. I want to taste his tears. I want his quarterback broken into so many pieces, Quigley tries to bat at random body parts on the TV screen.

Pick Six: Now that we're into conference season, the Pick Six games get exciting, and there's more of a chance of our teams facing each other. For example, Florida vs. LSU should be a great game to watch, but it also pits TM against her kitty. If my Bruins can quack up Oregon (TM), will that get UCLA into the rankings?

Elsewhere: Nebraska (also a P6 team) plays at Missouri in the dreaded Thursday ESPN game, where the home team is something like 72-1 over the past 10 years*. I know Kelly is worried; I think the bread talk is just a cover for her nervousness about HLSE**. Bama/Ole Miss should be fun to watch; I see Saban pulling it out close. Ohio is favored at Akron. Woo Bobcats!

When else am I gonna have the chance to post a pic of a MAC kangaroo?

* Made up stat. Close enough.
** Husker Low Self Esteem, second-best acronym of the season thus far.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Summer's Over (An Escovedo Show Review)

No one agrees on when summer really ends.

Many will say the Labor Day holiday weekend is the end. People on academic rhythms (teachers, students, parents of schoolkids) will say the first day of school, or the literal-minded will say the autumnal equinox of Sept. 21 or 22 (if that's even what it's called, whatever, I'll let someone who knows science correct me in the comments). Or maybe it's when it's finally cold enough to put on a sweater or a hoodie sweatshirt, or even when college football starts.

In Chicago, when the last summer festival is over, summer is over. And summer ended last night on a crisp, un-summery evening with the Chicago Country Music Festival. The Petrillo bandshell's inexplicably lame headliner was one of the Big and Rich guys (I did see a nice set by the Flatlanders first) but for my money (the festival was free) the real draw was Alejandro Escovedo.

Alejandro Escovedo
Grant Park, Chicago IL

Always a Friend
Everybody Loves Me
This Bed Is Getting Crowded
Sister Lost Soul
Juarez ->
I Was Drunk
New song (I'm In Love With Love?)
Chelsea Hotel
Sex Beat
encore: Beast of Burden (Jagger/Richards) featuring Nicholas Tremulis

David Pulkingham, gtr
Hector Munoz, drm
Bobby Daniel, bs

In a little over an hour, Escovedo went from double-barrelled electric guitar rock to lamenting ballads to a Mexican instrumental. He once again proved why he is a national treasure, and in early October he provided a fitting sendoff to the real end of summer.

This show had the intimacy of the shows you hear about in Austin, at Stubbs or Continential Club or Cactus Cafe, during SXSW perhaps. The small stage was under a tent designed to hold 100 or so people, but with almost another 100 watching from the edges. It was a show where at the end of every song I sat up straight in my chair, realizing I'd been leaning forward, straining to absorb every word, every note. I also found it ironic that a representative of US99 (sponsor of the festival) introduced Escovedo, since they probably wouldn't play his music in a million years (charitably you could say because it's too hard to categorize; less charitably you could say because his music is authentic, and good.)

"I Was Drunk" had a neat flavor because David Pulkingham (Escovedo's guitar wiz) still had the Mexican guitar he played during the "Juarez/Rosalie" combo, imbuing the angry/sweet drinking song with a different texture. He debuted a song that he didn't think much of, but the crowd definitely enjoyed it. And that encore .... Escovedo strutted around the stage like a cross between a Chicano Jagger and Jack Black's frontman in the finale of "High Fidelity." I'm not a huge Tremulis fan, but it was clear everyone on that stage was having a lot of fun.

Escovedo was much more open and introspective than I've ever seen him, talking extensively about his father's life as a way of introducing songs from "By the Hand of the Father." For example, I learned that Al's father was a prizefighter during the Depression, and his father (Al's grandfather) was a drinking, abusive man ... Escovedo used the word "mean" to describe him. He also talked about being one of 12 children, eight of whom went on to be professional musicians. Escovedo is neither shy nor effusive, so it was neat to see him chat openly in this setting.

Escovedo also played Grant Park last summer, at the Free Fourth of July concert. But that set list was shorter, and as the opener of a three-band show, it had a more stilted, abbreviated feel. Being up on the Petrillo stage, yards away from the nearest fans, didn't help either.

Alejandro Escovedo
Grant Park, Chicago IL (Petrillo)
July 4, 2008:

Put You Down
Always a Friend
Everybody Loves Me --Susan Voelz wailed on violin.
Sister Lost Soul
Chelsea Hotel '78
"By the Hand of the Father" Suite: Juarez---> Rosalie
Real as an Animal

Speaking of the Chelsea Hotel, a New York-centric postscript: I remember talking to my sister as she was moving out of Manhattan, and how that experience of life in the city changes you. I told her that the Escovedo song starts out, "I used to live at the Chelsea Hotel, on 7th and 23rd" ... and how a few years ago, I would've just glossed right over that. But I actually heard that line, and processed it, and knew exactly where it was. Because I've walked past the Chelsea Hotel, stopped and read the plaque. I know the streets, I know that neighborhood. Just one of those little ways that life in Gotham changes you.

Friday, October 02, 2009

My Football Saturday

Having a routine is important. It prevents you from getting all confused, with questions like: "What day is it?" and "What am I supposed to be doing today?"

That's why you can follow along with this handy flowchart, illustrating a typical football Saturday for MPF. (click to make big)


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Week 4 Review/Week 5 Preview

Week 4 Review: Rainy Day Football

Location: Knoxville, Tenn.

Games watched, at least partially: Ole Miss-South Carolina; Michigan-Indiana (snippets); LSU-Mississippi State; Ohio-Tennessee (live); Iowa-Penn State (last 18 seconds or so).



We left Neyland Stadium and headed for a bar to catch the end of the late games. We were halfway there when I told Miller (who has a relative who is a lifelong employee and fan of Penn State) that Iowa had returned a blocked kick for a TD. Our pace picked up. Walking through the Old City, I looked through a bar window and saw an Iowa player intercept a pass and take a safe slide. That usually means the game is nearly wrapped up.

By the time we got to Manhattan's (a bar I highly recommend: great staff, cheap drinks, all around good times), I saw Iowa kick the field goal that iced it. What an amazing win. I wish I would have called it. Instead I will say:

For anyone my age or older, I'll translate: this means that Iowa has beaten Penn State several times recently, we have Penn State's number despite their generally being the better team, we "own" them.

So yeah, Iowa beat Penn State. But I still love Joe Pa. Check this out:

ND: We got occasional score updates via text message (thanks to Mom, Dad, Steve and Sarah for their efforts) and it seemed like things were going fine ... 17-7 ND in the third. But once at Manhattan's, the bottom line said Purdue 21-17. A bit later we saw the final plays. Danny Hope's call was just baffling. That is the kind of thing I'd expect from the Zooker or the Wannstache. You could chalk it up to a rookie mistake, but Hope was head coach for 5 years at Eastern Kentucky University before last year's apprenticeship under Coach Brimley. ND continues to win, close and unimpressive. A blowout win over a significantly worse team would look good right about now.

Pick Six: I bounced back from a crummy Week 3 with a dominating performance. All 5 teams in action (UCLA had a bye) won big ... Georgia Tech had the smallest margin of victory at 17. I didn't get a huge bounce in the polls, though: only 6 points. The Ole Miss and Cal losses hurt Quigley and TM, respectively, though TM's was offset by the re-emergence of Oregon. And suddenly a third of the way in, we have ourselves a ballgame: TM 54, Quigley 54, MPF 51.

National Roundup: The Ohio/UT experience deserves its own post, which it got. Penn State wasn't the only top team to go down ... Cal, Ole Miss, and Miami all did a swandive.

This guy from Cleveland Plain Dealer is my favoritest sports writer/AP poll voter in America right now. Not for putting Iowa at No. 5, but for his rational methodology that puts Iowa at No. 5. (For example, Boise at 2 is clearly apeshit, but at least there's logic.)

Coach of the Week: Kirk Ferentz, for beating Penn Sccchhhhhate. Runner-up: Technophobe Mike Leach for banning Twitter.

Week 5 Preview: Couch Time

This is going to feel like a bye week after all the activity of the first month, especially with my teams having relatively easy games. Iowa hosts Arkansas State, a Sun Belt (barely I-A) school. As long as they stay focused on the game at hand, they should win by 15-18 or more. ND hosts Washington, who scored the annual Pete Carroll upset, got ranked for it, then came crashing to the ground. With Clausen and Allen healthy/healthier, I expect a 42-17 type game. (If not at full strength, expect another Purdue or MSU, down-to-the-wire type game.)

Elsewhere: Ohio gets into MAC play at Bowling Green, which is Orange actually. Three exciting top 25 matchups: LSU @ Gowja, Oklahoma @ Real Miami, Southern Cal @ Entire Cal. So of course College Gameday is going to Florida State @ BC. Yawn.

I'm intrigued by Michigan having to go on the road for the first time, to Michigan State, who took out years of frustration on the Skunkbears last year. Will Sparty channel their anger of a 1-3 record into a beatdown? (I hope yes.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I don't give the Chicago Tribune much credit ... mostly because they don't deserve any. But I can make the distinction between the idiots at the top and the grunt journalists trying to put out good work each day.

And besides, like TM said, this has been a long slog of a year. So to the 2009 Cubs, I say, good riddance. Let's count 'em down. (click for a larger image)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Knoxville Wins Again

As you may have noticed, we here at TMMPF have officially switched from baseball mode to college football mode.*

In fact, the 2009 TMMPF Football Tour kicked off two weeks ago with a sunny Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium and continued last weekend with a rainy Saturday night in Knoxville, Tennessee. Why Knoxville, you ask? The fighting Bobcats of Ohio University vs. the wobbly University of Tennessee Volunteers, of course. **

The view from our seats at Neyland Stadium.

I’m sure MPF will write a more detailed recap of the game, but as a proud alumna of Ohio’s first university I feel it necessary to give you some of my thoughts regarding our weekend in east Tennessee.

About the football:
After spending four years in Athens, I can promise you that I honestly did not believe we had a chance to even be competitive against the Vols. Part of being a Bobcat is being pessimistic about our football team – it’s something they teach at freshman orientation.

So imagine my surprise when we not only completed 1 pass but 30! Also, conspicuously missing from our playbook in Knoxville was the ever popular fumble play. In fact our quarterback (MAC East Offensive Player of the Week, Theo Scott) was so good the Volunteer fans wanted to trade for him. Seriously!

Proof that we were winning (for just a little while at least)...

But enough with the jokes (only that last one really wasn’t a joke, if you don’t know anything about Tennessee football then read up on QB Jonathon Crompton and you will understand why they want to trade).

In all seriousness, before traveling to Knoxville we were told that Vol fans are friendly and knowledgeable. We were not misinformed. I cannot say enough about the hospitality of all Tennessee fans I met this past weekend. It was a good time and a good game. And, as is our custom (see 2008), Ohio came oh so close to the colossal upset... I guess there is always next year.

About the band:
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not only an alumna of Ohio University but also of the Ohio University Marching 110.

Upon convincing MPF to make the 9-hour drive to Knoxville (10-hours if you count the time change) I sprang on him the real reason I wanted to go to this particular game: too see the Marching 110 on the road.***

Just in case the Vol fans didn't know where we are from...

So we went to Neyland Stadium and, unsurprisingly, the 110 kicked ass. Even a real rock star said so. The fans at Neyland were really into it and I have it on good authority that they generally don’t stand up and cheer for just anyone.

About the town:
I think the coolest part about our trip to Knoxville was, well, Knoxville.

To quote Mr. Miller "it’s a middle man’s city in an almost town". Only, clever as the line is, I’m not sure I entirely believe him (sorry Scott).

For one thing, an "almost" town wouldn’t have a place as cool as this. I wish we had had time to check out Yee-Haw sometime other than on game day. It was too wet (did I mention the rain in Knoxville?) to buy anything worth buying on Saturday.

Secondly, Knoxville has history which makes it automatically interesting.

Did you know Knoxville hosted the World's Fair in 1982?
Did you even know there was a World's Fair in 1982?

Thirdly, Knoxville has lots of places where you can have a good time, which makes it automatically fun. We ate here on Friday night and it was delicious (I recommend the fish tacos).

In many ways, Knoxville reminded me of Athens, which is probably why I liked it so much. Between the brick sidewalks, the colonial style buildings, the University within walking distance of bars and restaurants, the hills and the rain (becuase, you know, it always rains in Athens) Knoxville sort of felt like it could be my home away from home...

Way to go Knoxville, you win again!

*Shout out to Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and rest of the Cubs for making this year’s transition quick and easy.

**Per the Ohio athletic department, the Bobcats should always be referred to as “Ohio”. The full name “Ohio University” may be used when referring to the opposing school also by its full name. The athletic department respectfully asks that Ohio is NOT referred to OU, Ohio U, The Ohio University or Harvard on the Hocking at any time.

***Obviously it would be easier to just go to Athens for homecoming in October but I’m already busy that weekend because of this and this.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gameday in Pictures

Looking at pictures takes a lot less effort than reading a thousand words of analysis.*

First, the entire game would have been different if Michael Floyd's touchdown had been allowed. The South Bend Tribune's Marcus Marter got this photo of proof: (click any photo for bigger version)

The other big TD catch, one that was ruled a catch, was Golden Tate's fourth-quarter go-ahead grab. From our seats in the south end zone, we couldn't see this:

photo by Matt Cashore, the official University of Notre Dame photographer.

A better view is this:

photo by Rod Sanford of the Lansing State Journal. I love the "oh shit" look on the kid between the ref's head and Tate's hip.

A far better perspective is provided by MSPaint Like a Champion Today:

Thanks to the Blue Gray Sky, where I found all these images.

* -- I just did an MS Word word count. It's closer to 1,500 words. So I understand if you didn't read it all. I had a lot to say.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This may be the first-ever Ohio/Tennessee football-themed editorial cartoon in the history of all time.

by Charlie Daniel of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Notre Dame 33, Michigan State 30

This week it's all about Saturday's ND game. An abbreviated W3R/W4P appears below.

This had to be the worst win I've ever experienced. I just felt nervous and pessimistic the entire second half, and did not enjoy the victory at all (okay, a tiny bit). I was so negative the second half because Weis teams don't have a record of comebacks, or winning the fourth quarter. I didn't have any faith that we could outscore them with a gimpy QB (it was evident that Clausen was hurt, plus he sat out the last play of the first half) and without our best receiver (the Floyd rumors were rumbling through the stands at that point). I'll do an analysis if I get the time, but basically: not good at halftime adjustments, not good at comebacks.

The scene: Saturday started great, with a fun tailgate hosted by my friend Steve and his family. Although it was 50-50 ND and MSU fans at the tailgate, the mood was lively and congenial. But once inside the stadium, I found myself seated next to a loud meathead MSU fan. Normally I have nothing against Spartans, but this guy was obnoxious and swinging his elbows and screaming at the smallest things. It put a damper on my experience. Moving on the game.

The game: In 2005 TM and I got tickets to ND vs. Brigham Young, which featured a 3-3-5 defense (means fewer guys up close to the line of scrimmage.) Offensive Genius and Head Coach-in-Training Charlie Weis had a great gameplan for taking advantage of that: the Irish lined up in 4-and-5-wide sets, and Brady Quinn chucked short, lateral passes all over the field. It got boring after a while, but it picked up six or seven yards per play, and you do that often enough, you get in the end zone.

I made a reference to that game at Steve's tailgate. But I didn't realize that offense was exactly what the Irish would come out in against MSU.

It started out great. On ND's second play from scrimmage, Clausen stepped up in the pocket and threw to Kyle Rudolph standing along on the left sideline. "Oh he's a little bit wide open!" I cried with understatement, as Rudolph rambled 52 yards. Two plays later, Armando Allen took a direct snap and went up the gut for a TD. After an MSU field goal, we marched down the field again ending with a TD pass to Michael Floyd. It was looking like an easy afternoon. (Clausen ended that quarter 9-for-9, with the other plays being the Allen Wildcat TD and two QB scrambles out of the 4-or-5-wide set. We never needed third down the whole quarter.)

The second quarter got ugly. After going for it on 4th-and-1 (with Allen getting a generous spot), ND went like this:
Tate rush out of the Wildcat, minus-1.
2nd-11: False start on Sam Young.
2nd-16: Holding penalty on Trevor Robinson.
2nd-25: Clausen sacked, injured, walks off.
3rd-35: Crist dump off to Hughes.
4th-way too far: punt. It appeared the punt touched an MSU player, so Kyle McCarthy picked it up and tried to run with it, but officials ruled it had not.

Then: the bullshitiest* drive of the season. From's play-by-play:

1-10 V20 MICHIGAN STATE drive start at 10:42.
1-10 V20 Nichol, Keith rush for 5 yards to the MSU25, out-of-bounds (BLANTON), total bullshit personal foul late hit PENALTY ND (BLANTON) when Nichol tripped out of bounds. 15 yards to the MSU40, 1ST DOWN MSU.
1-10 V40 1st and 10.
1-10 V40 Caper, Larry rush for 6 yards to the MSU46 (SMITH, H.). No penalty called when an MSU guy (hard to tell which one) shoved and crawled over a helmetless ND defender nowhere near the play.
2-4 V46 Nichol, Keith rush for 9 yards to the ND45, 1ST DOWN MSU (BROWN), another total bullshit late hit personal foul PENALTY ND (SMITH, H.) even though it was no different from any other defender running to the pile at the end of a play. 15 yards to the ND30, 1ST DOWN MSU.
1-10 H30 Timeout Notre Dame, clock 10:11.
1-10 H30 1st and 10.
1-10 H30 Martin, Keshawn pass complete to White, Blair on a halfback pass for 30 yards to the ND0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 09:30.
Swenson, Brett kick attempt good.
(At this, the meathead fan next to me was cheering like he won the game. Two bullshit penalties and a trick play does not mean your team has accomplished anything, sir.)

Oh, but we weren't done yet, cause triple-first-named coach Mark Dan Tony'O called an onside kick, which MSU recovered. That drive was shortened by an MSU fumble, but on first down, Mike Ragone dropped a pass.

The rest of the way was a lot of back and forth, with neither team dominating. Golden Tate caught the go-ahead TD pass with about 5 minutes left in the game.

Maybe it's been a long day, I dunno, but I thought this was funny.

Ultimately, it took MSU dropping a similar pass that would have won the game, followed by a Kyle McCarthy INT to ice it.

McCarthy celebrates the game-saver with Brian Smith.

Things I noticed watching a second time: The kickoff coverage is bad. On the first two kicks, MSU picked up 34 and 25 yards, giving them field position on the 45 and 32. Luckily they went three-and out-and then held to a field goal, but that will hurt us later in the season.

That said, our return game is pretty good. Theo Riddick made a guy miss and returned a kickoff 38 yards.

The hard running of Armando Allen. He bounces off defenders and forces the second guy to tackle him. He can see the hole and got the first-down conversion at least 7 times on Saturday by my count (on a 4th-and-1, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and 3, 3rd-and-2, plus a couple 2nd down conversions). I feel like we finally have that dependable guy at running back we haven't had since Darius Walker went pro. Jonas Gray looked good too.

Things I picked up on live: Our defense is not good. We are still quite a ways away from shutting down quality or even average offenses. I predicted a 45-28 WAC-style shootout, on the assumption that they couldn't stop our offense and we would hold their "O" in check. But the reality is we stopped ourselves often enough, and did not do a good enough job getting MSU's "O" off the field after the first quarter success.

Worst play of the game/season: Michael Floyd makes a great grab on a fade route and lands hard on his left side. Even though replays showed he had two feet in, plus possession, Dave Witvoet's Big 10 field official rule "no catch" and Big East replay officials back him up. Watch him catch it at the 1:34 mark here. Bafflingly, Witvoet says "it was a catch" and signals 'catch' when he explains to the stadium that the "no catch" stands. Can you see why I hate this guy at my games?

Best defensive series: After ND's go-ahead touchdown, MSU passed three times. Two were well-defended (we got lucky on third down when Cunningham dropped it).

Remember how I said I had no faith in our defense to make the stop, no playmakers to save the day? On MSU's final drive, Cousins had five straight completions to move them from their 20 to our 30 (nearly field goal range). And then, and then: watch the three-play sequence starting at the 9:49 mark here. (Thanks to NBC for the video.)

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Week 3 Review: See above.

Location: Section 18, Notre Dame Stadium.

Games watched, at least partially: ND-MSU. Fresno-Boise on Friday. The Geo. Tech beatdown on Thursday. W. Virginia-Auburn (on the radio then on TV).

Iowa: beat Arizona, goes to 3-0.

ND: see above.

Pick 6: Wow did I take a hit. Ohio State won in a shutout... and dropped. Georgia Tech got killed by Ghost of 1980's Miami and dropped out. BYU got killed by Ghost of 1980's Florida State and dropped out. Nebraska lost to Virginia Tech and barely stayed in the poll. At least Texas held steady after an unimpressive win and UCLA keeps winning. My 32-point drop may be a single-week record. Quigley was hurt by Nebraska and UCLA losses; Tina had no change. Scores: Quigley 66, Tina 58, MPF 45.

National Roundup: eh. Florida didn't kill Tennessee. Southern Cal lost. Other than that, I dunno.

Week 4 Preview: Rocky Top

GameDay, featuring Fowler, Herky-Head and Herbstreit, will be in State College for the Iowa game. We'll be elsewhere.

This weekend we're going to Knoxville, Tennessee, and legendary Neyland Stadium. This is one of the biggest stadiums in the country and a place I've always wanted to visit. This will be my first SEC stadium and should be a great experience. You may be familar with the opponent.

Enjoy the games, and see you next week with another on-campus report!

* -- my new favorite word. Invented for the purpose of describing that series of plays.