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.)

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Week 2 Review/Week 3 Preview

Week 2 Review: Hate Week Satisfaction Down 50%

Location: Steve's place for ND-Mich; my couch for everything else.

Games watched, at least partially: Georgia Tech-Clemson; Colorado-Toledo; Iowa-ISU; ND-Michigan; Ohio State-USC; snippets of UCLA-Tennessee.

Iowa: The first half was nerve-wracking, and I felt like we were in for a repeat of Week 1: Iowa's first half drives ended INT, punt, punt, TD, INT, punt, TD (short field off INT), end of half. Yeesh. But the second half: TD, TD, punt, TD, run out the clock/victory formation. (That drive chart is wrong, by the way. Worldwide Leader My Ass.)

I'm not sure this ever gets old.

And if you thought LOLcats were funny, you will crack up at LOLclones. (courtesy BHGP of course)

Interesting stat of the day: Iowa's leading interceptor (Tyler Sash) had more INT return yards than ISU's leading rusher (M. Hamilton) had rush yards.

Annual photo (hopefully) of Hawkeyes defeating Cyclones and claiming the ugly, unnecessary trophy. (AP photo by Charlie Neibergall)

Notre Dame: A lot of people wanted to ask me about the end of the ND game. I don't remember the end of the game too well, because there was drinking and shouting, and that combination tends to fuzzy-up my short-term memory. (It's also why I don't have the FaceSpace or the Tweeter thing or any last names on this blog, so that I can continue to say unprofessional things like that in quasi-anonymity.)

I'll say this. I'm not as pessimistic as Dylan at BGS and I'm not as upbeat as Joshua Vowles of Subway Domer. But I'm leaning towards Dylan. Over the winter, when asked about Weis, I said that he's finally learning that being a college head coach is different from being an NFL offensive coordinator. But it took him FOUR FULL YEARS to figure that out. Now it seems maybe he still hasn't learned, based on the playcalling at the end of the game.

And the fact remains that Weis still has not beaten a team he shouldn't have beaten. There have been plenty of maddening, unexpected losses, but he still can't point to a season-defining or career-defining or upset victory. Michigan appears to have gotten a lot better in just one offseason. Wow. But I'll reserve judgment til they go on the road.

Speaking of Subway Domer, he gets the award for best description of the outcome: "The loss to Michigan (is) sitting there like a festering wound on our ass cheeks."

Pick Six: Everyone has announced their picks. The first two weeks were good for MPF and Kitty, who slowly ticked up on the strength of BYU (me) and Nebraska (both). Tina hit a rough patch with the Oregon Ducks losing out of the gate and the Irish temporarily out of the Top 25. My only loss this week was Ohio State, but they only slipped three spots. Quigley went 6-for-6 and Tina lost with ND and OSU. Her Pick Sixth, Central Mitten, did pull a MAC Attack on Mitten State. (Frequent commenter and Friend of the Blog 83F is allegedly playing too but teams are unknown.) Scores: MPF 77, Quigley 77, TM 58.

National Roundup: Starting with my Pick Sixth: Losing a QB is bad of course, but this appears weather-able. (Eat it Skilling ... I just made up a weather-related word before you could think of it.) The next two opponents are awful K-State and bye. UCLA has a good looking (albeit true) freshman named Richard Brehaut who could step in and manage a game or two until Prince gets healthy.

Yes it's early ... but Gene Chizik has a better record than Iowa State.

Congrats to the Ty-less Huskies, who picked up their first win since Nov. 17, 2007. For context: I'd just moved back to Chicago six weeks earlier.

Back on Opening Day I wrote: "I have never believed in Okie State … I think they are the Kansas of the Big 12 South (ie, totally a mirage)." Thanks Cowpokes for living up to your reputation by losing to unranked and unheralded Houston.

Finally, I'm no fan of Western Kentucky. Their mascot is a scary blob and they denied my alma mater their first and probably only chance at an NCAA basketball tournament win in my lifetime. But I gotta give them credit for this video, particularly the :47 mark. (Thanks to Matt Hinton for finding.)

Week 3 Preview: Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

This Saturday we'll be in the stands for the first of our two ND games. Both teams are coming off tough losses, and I think this is one of those gut-check moments where we'll see what the Irish are made of. The opponent, well ...

I guess getting rid of John L. Smith isn't a fool-proof plan for mental collapses. And speaking of mental collapse, it's time for the annual listening of Mike Valenti's Total Fucking Meltdown (the MVTFM for insiders). Crank the volume (not at work) and check it out.

Seeing ND live means I'll miss Iowa's most exciting September matchup, vs. Arizona. Whenever you see two non-rival, geographically distant programs play each other, you should wonder what the connection is that brings them together. In this case, it's obvious: their coach is ex-Hawkeye Mike Stoops. In fact the whole family is Hawkeye.

Arizona hasn't appeared too impressive yet, but they do have the No. 2 rusher in the country, Herb Grisgby. Generally we do a good job of shutting down the run, but this year's version needs to prove they can stop top-tier talent like in the King and Kroul years.

Nationally, it appears to be a good Saturday to be away from the TV, since there is only one matchup of nationally ranked teams. And while it's Nebraska-Virginia Tech, it doesn't strike me as a barnburner. (Sorry Kelly.)

Elsewhere: Ohio hosts California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, a school that really needs a shortened name, and an asskicking in the making so obvious that Vegas refuses to publish a line. (Just kidding, they do that with all I-A vs. I-AA matchups.) Meanwhile, Tennessee is favored to get slaughtered by Florida, meaning that if all holds, 2-1 Ohio would visit 1-2 UT next week. Woo!

Even if your team lost last week, you gotta Stay Positive.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pick a Show

So, what are you doing tonight?

If you're a music lover in Chicago, you have an embarrassment of riches. Look at all these great shows going on today/tonight:
  • Bloodshot Records 15th Anniversary Beer B-Q, featuring Alejandro Escovedo, Waco Brothers with Rico Bell, and many others at the Hideout.
  • Regina Spektor at Chicago Theatre.
Quirky, engaging, songstress Spektor.

  • Matthew Sweet & Susan Hoffs at Old Town School of Folk Music.
  • Celtic Fest in Grant Park.
  • Dolly Varden at Space.
The great Steve and Diane.

  • Katie Todd at Simon's Tavern in Andersonville. (Good story about seeing her, by the way, if you happen to ask me over a beer I'll tell you.)
  • Michael McDermott at Mahoney's.
  • Gin Blossoms at Old Town Wine Crush (yes, they are still around).
  • A Marsalis brother (Jason Marsalis) at Jazz Showcase.
  • Not enough? How about Tom Wopat from the Dukes of Hazzard? Not at a casino mind you, but the Auditorium Theatre.
  • Hell, even Todd Rundgren at the Park West. Todd Rundgren!
And where will I be? After a full week (Monday: drive home from Ohio; Tuesday: church meeting; Wednesday: dinner/drinks with Beth; Thursday: errands; last night: Baseball Project at Martyr's) I'm actually going to pass on the music and enjoy the game of the century of the week from the comfort of my couch. But if you don't love football as much as I do, get out and see one of these great shows.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Week 1 Review/Week 2 Preview

Week 1 Review: I Need a More Boring Hobby

(I named my pick 'em set "Football Tour 2009" because it appears I'll spend six of the first eight weeks of the season somewhere other than my couch. So to help set the scene, my weekly review will note where I actually was.)

Location: Northwest Ohio.

Games watched, at least partially: South Carolina/NC State; N. Dakota St./Iowa State (very end seen online); Oregon/Boise St.; Ohio St./Navy (on in the background); Iowa/UNI (radio, then TV); Notre Dame/Nevada; Michigan/W. Michigan (switched over at commercials); Alabama/Virginia Tech; LSU/Washington (parts); Ole Miss/Memphis; Colorado/Colorado St.; Miami/Fla St.

Iowa: “I need a more boring hobby.” That was my thought to myself seconds after Iowa blocked two field goals in the final seven seconds to preserve a win over I-AA powerhouse Northern Iowa. (If you were wondering 'man, has that ever happened before?!' the answer is no, it had not.)

My second thought was: “I need a drink.” I think Hawkeye fans suspected this team wouldn’t fire on all cylinders, considering the absence of a running game and a talented, motivated Panther squad. But down 10-3 at half? Fumbles and overthrowing receivers by five yards? Practically giving the damn game away? Needing historic special teams to get the win? Making this look like chump change? That was a bit much.

Paki O’Meara (21 career yards over two years) proved he is not yet a Division I running back. Adam Robinson (63 yards, 1 TD on Saturday) might be.

Notre Dame: I missed most of the first half recovering from my near-coronary, driving to Tina’s brother’s place, fighting unsuccessfully to link up to the wireless Internet and making a beer run. By that point, the game was over. I loved seeing Michael Floyd’s leaping catch (2-minute mark), and glad to see Jimmy Clausen look so sharp, but I didn’t really feel into the game. Hopefully that will change next week.

My Pick Six: BYU had the biggest upset win of the weekend. Texas, Georgia Tech and Nebraska cruised to easy wins. Ohio State and UCLA won, but too close for comfort.

Quigley Pick 6: Quigley made a bad call with Rutgers. Doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing them in the Top 25 anytime soon. The rest of his slate (Texas, LSU, Ole Miss, Utah, Nebraska) won, but Ole Miss looked shaky through three quarters, and LSU only beat Washington by 8.

TM Pick 6: Not formally released yet. But I think she has Oregon, who lost the game and their star RB in one fell swoop.

National roundup: Impressive win by BYU. Also kudos to Mizzou, Miami and Oklahoma State for proving to me they are for real (at least for now). I’d like to see Okie State win on the road in conference, but still they deserve credit for scheduling a tough SEC team like Georgia (even if the young QB had the flu).

Week 2: Hate Week

It’s hate week again ... seems like just yesterday we were celebrating this and this. It’s an odd year (and an odd-numbered year), so Iowa and ND travel to Ames and Ann Arbor. I feel worried after Iowa looked so out of synch on offense, and the defense didn’t exactly shut down UNI’s spread offense. ISU seemed to have their way with the Bison, so offense and defense need to step up quick.

This weekend I met a kid named Andy Bodell. That of course made me think of Andy Brodell, which makes me think of this:

Let’s pause to remember Marques Slocum, who once called his mother “da realest bitch alive” and sadly is no longer a Michigan Man. Please review his contribution to the literary canon, and ponder what exactly happened that made him so adverse to performance art.

ND/Mich is shaping up to be a great game, a return to when this game (and these two teams) mattered. Michigan’s two freshmen quarterbacks both looked sharp: fast and with the ability to throw on the run. I think this game will boil down to which “D” can stop the other “O” … can Michigan’s secondary force ND to run more than it wants? Can the Irish front seven put the necessary pressure on Forcier in only his second game? And how can we take the Forcier family seriously? Much like Slocum, I'm gonna hate this guy's school on pure principle. (Okay, his brother's school.)

National: The game of the week of the century is Ohio State/Southern Cal. After a shaky start, USC and Matt Barkley steamrolled San Jose State 56-3. Meanwhile, OSU struggled with Navy and their triple option. How will Barkley fare in a hostile environment? Can USC’s rebuilt/reloaded offense handle Pryor?

I also will be curious how UCLA does against Tennessee, and if Miami’s win over FSU was a fluke.

Pick Six: I mentioned OSU and UCLA earlier. Texas and Nebraska have cupcakes; BYU has an opponent with a pulse in Tulsa (averaged 47.2 points and 570 yards last year). Georgia Tech plays Thursday vs. Clemson.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Quigley Has Spoken

Last week Quigley selected his pick six teams using the highly scientific method of chasing crumpled up post-it notes in the dining room.

I was lucky enough to witness this timeless cat tradition (which is generally not to be seen by the human eye). Luckily, I had my camera ready and managed to capture his picks as they happened.

The Q checks out his options in each quintile.

I hereby present to you, Quigley's 2009 Pick Six:

Pick #1:

Pick #2:

Pick #3:

Pick #4:

Pick #5:

For his "pick 6" team Quigley went with a non-cat school. He did briefly consider the Ohio Bobcats but thought better of it. (Smart cat, that Quiqley. Ohio's week one loss to those stinking Huskies is sure to be a momentum killer).

In the end, Quigley went with Rrrrrrutgers. There is no explanation for this other than he likes to meow "Rrrrrrutgers!" at the top of his lungs during the middle of the night (at least that's what I think he's saying...)

Anyway, the Q's pick of Rrrrrrutgers might not look so smart after their unfortunate loss to the Bearcats on Saturday. But then again you never can tell how the season will turn out. Quigley did beat this guy last year...

Friday, September 04, 2009

Iowa Preview 2009

(This is a little slipshod, but at least it's up before kickoff. --ed.)

I've been a little heavy on the ND coverage this summer ... mostly due to the incredible talent amassed on the roster and the impatience to see it on the field. To balance out the coverage, here's the way-overdue look at Iowa's 2009 season.

Yeah, this is a little annoying if you look at it too long, but it IS pretty cool.

The three issues I'll be watching this year:
  • Is Stanzi still the Manzi?
  • Who will run the ball?
  • Can we win on the road?
Even though the T-shirt has been banned by the university, I believe the answer to the first question is yes. Stanzi is a year older, has proven he can perform in high-pressure games, and can win on the road.

However, like Drew Tate in 2004, he'll be forced to be the Manzi due to the gaping hole at running back. Shonn Greene took his game pro. No problem there, as Jewel Hampton showed he can handle the featured back role. But his season-ending injury gives us a total of 21 career yards in the form of Paki O'Meara, plus a dinged-up redshirt freshman, a healthy redshirt freshman, and a true freshman.

The Gazette's Morehouse points out this curious fact:
NUMBERS GAME — When Wegher officially un-redshirts, the Hawkeyes will have four sophomore running backs in 2010 — Hampton, Brinson, Wegher and Robinson.

A good problem to have next year--a crappy problem this year.

And the third piece of the puzzle, driven by the first two: Can we steal any road wins? On paper, two are winnable: Iowa State and Wisconsin. Heck, even Michigan State is plausible, if they can't settle on a quarterback and can't find someone to fill Javon Ringer's shoes (suddenly our perceived edge over MSU, reliable depth at RB, is gone). But Ohio State and Penn State are near-losses, despite our recent success vs. JoePa.

As usual, we should dominate the Cyclones. But who will replace Andy Brodell? And why do we need this to beat Iowa State?

Bwahh hah hah. If we need a fourth-quarter kick return to beat Inconsolable, we should all hang our heads low (and my window will look like the windows behind Dave Letterman).

Look at NU's horseshit schedule. Based on winning percentage, it is the 111th hardest (10th easiest). According to Phil, only Rutgers has an easier sked among major conference teams.

Date.......Opponent..........2008 Record
9/5/09.....Towson............3-9 (1-7)
09/12/09...Eastern Michigan..3-9(2-6))
10/3/09....@ Purdue..........4-8(2-6)
10/10/09...Miami (OH)........2-10 (1-7)
10/17/09...@ Michigan State..9-4(6-2)
10/31/09...Penn State........11-2(7-1)
11/14/09...@ Illinois........5-7(3-5)

I have no idea why these guys keep beating us. It's not like they get tested in the preseason games.

Wrapup random links:

* For complete, exhaustive, occasionally profane coverage, check out BHGP and their "Assume the Position" series.

* At least I know Iowa will (or could) win the national championship.

* Steele talks about how close Iowa came last year. Good teams can shut the door in the fourth quarter. That will be even more important on the road.

Hawk fans know how to score at the Metrodome.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Pick Six (And National Preview, Kinda)

Before I announce my Pick Six teams (which according to tradition, all one year of it, is done on the Thursday before the first Saturday), let’s look back at last year's set.

Last year's Pick Six, in truck-fail format.

Out of sheer boredom, I predicted whether teams would finish better or worse than their preseason standing. I got 11 right. Sounds pretty bad, but consider the AP voters as a whole: they only got 14 of the eventual 25 teams in their preseason poll—and that does not take into account relative standing. For example, they had Bama at #24 (went 12-0 until the conference championship and bowl game) and LSU at #7 (unranked at end of regular season, finished with 5 losses at #23). They whiffed hard on Clemson and Auburn (of course, kitty and I did too), and both have new coaches.

Now, forward to the present. Like last year, I shall explain my picks and in a roundabout way, forge a sort-of preseason gauge of my own.

Group A: Florida has nowhere to go but down. They are the consensus favorite for a reason, but history shows how difficult it is to repeat in college football. USC is the most dominant program over the last seven years—it’s almost amazing they only have one BCS championship over that stretch. Like Alabama, they have a new quarterback (a true freshman at that), and enough holes to fill that I’m nervous about their ability to make it to the final game. So it comes down to Texas-Oklahoma. Like last year, this should go a long way to determining the national championship. I think the Longhorns have the talent (and the chip on their shoulder) to win this game, and every other game on their slate. As tempted as I am to pick Alabama (partially because I think they can take the conference if/when Florida stumbles, mostly if only to hear Paulette say “I HATE NICK SABAN” milliseconds after anyone in the room says “Nick Saban”), the ‘Horns are my team.

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban.

Group B: Virginia Tech appears to be the consensus pick of the ever-muddled ACC, but I’m not sold on Tyrod Taylor as QB. Plus their star RB just went down with a season-ending injury. I am not on the Ole Miss bandwagon, seeing as how many strong SEC teams they face. I have never believed in Okie State … I think they are the Kansas of the Big 12 South (ie, totally a mirage). Penn State loses too much offensive talent for my comfort, and to get to the conference title they will have to go through … Ohio State? I’m picking the Bucknuts again? Holy crap, I guess I am. Sigh. (Just kidding. I really do think they are the best team in the Big 10, and Pryor’s sophomore year will be better than his first.) And look, they aren’t totally classless.

Group C: LSU did not impress me with their five-loss season, and Jordan Jefferson does not impress me as a QB. I’m sure they will bounce back, but I’m not risking my Pick Six pick on them. Ditto for Georgia: after losing Stafford and “No Shonn Greene” Moreno, what merits them being No. 13? Cal had their chance last year, and no way I’m rooting for the Smurf Turf school. Meanwhile, sitting there ripe for the Pick Sixing is Georgia Tech, who runs Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense that everyone said wouldn’t work against BCS-conference opponents. It’s Johnson’s second year in the system, and I’m looking for a repeat of or improvement over last year’s 9-3.

Group D: I’m not picking FSU on principle. Don’t even know how good they are, and I’ve already got my ACC school. Oregon is a gigantic question mark. The NYT has them at 12, Phil has them out of the Top 40. As much as I’d love to have QUACK in my Pick Six, I just don’t have a grip on this team. So now you look at the muddle of BCS busters. Utah must replace their star quarterback. TCU has some significant losses too, and trips to Virginia and Clemson could hurt their W-L record. BYU gets both of the other two at home, has senior Max Hall at QB, and a desire to erase ugly '08 losses to the Utes and Frogs. Good enough for me. (Ed note: Except, um, BYU plays Oklahoma AND Florida State. Oops.)

Group E: The Pick Six is hosted by a Notre Dame blog. Excitement is sky-high, so everyone will pick the Irish. I’d love to take the Hawkeyes instead, but no less an authority than the head coach said: “It's really conceivable we have a better team than last year and have a record that doesn't indicate that.” And that was before the starting CB broke his ankle and the starting RB re-hurt his previously hurt knee (both out for the year). I think Kansas is a joke, I don’t want another ACC team, so that means I’m going to make someone in Madison, Wisconsin, very happy:

That’s right Kelly, I’m going with ...

...your Huskers. My source in Omaha, Husker Larry, isn’t terribly optimistic, and Coach Pelini just booted the No. 2 RB off the team. But I like the leadership he’s brought to the team, and the schedule is manageable. Eight or nine wins isn’t unreasonable. If Iowa and/or ND have great seasons, I will enjoy the ride. But if Nebraska has a great season, I’ll enjoy the Pick Six points.

And now the all important Pick Sixth. This is where you can really make up some ground. I had trouble finding a team this year. South Florida looks good … but then they always look good, and always choke. Not again. Other Big Easters lurking in the “also receiving votes”: Pitt, RRRRutgers, W. F’n Va, Cincy. No thanks. Illinois and Michigan State are absolute wildcards, and I don’t feel like rooting for another in-conference team.

To introduce how I moved down the coast from last year’s pick, think back to 2008: a veteran coach with a bit of a slimy reputation is coming off a so-so campaign in his first year with his new team. Everyone said they were a year away from really contending, and yet they went 12-0. So who is this year's slimeball coach, and what is his team?

There are numerous ways for this to look stupid:
  1. As of this Aug. 25 report, the O-Line is two freshmen, two sophomores, and a senior. Maybe I’m a couple years early on this pick?
  2. After that stunning upset of Tennessee on Labor Day night, (which may not have been that stunning after all, given UT’s backslide) UCLA went on to get steamrolled by 59-0, 41-20, 34-6 and 34-9, and finish 5-7. At least 'Bama was in every game they lost in 2007 (6 losses all by >7 points), which shoots a big hole in my theory.
  3. The QB is a redshirt freshman named Kevin Prince. Zero collegiate snaps.
  4. Games @Oregon State and @Southern Cal are near-automatic losses, and two of the tossup games (Stanford and Arizona) are on the road.
  5. No one is picking them, really, given the strength of USC, Oregon, Cal, maybe Oregon State, maybe one of the Arizonas.
In my defense:
  1. Winning at Tennessee in Week 2, albeit over a down Vols team, should count with the voters.
  2. Kansas State is another BCS opponent, who is also looking at a sub-.500 season with a new coach. A victory there would help in the rankings.
  3. Norm Chow is an offensive genius and if anybody can whip this team into shape, it’s him.
  4. Phil likes the Bruins for third in the conference.
  5. Logic doesn’t necessarily play a part. Anything can happen, because it’s DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL, BROTHER! (If you just want the audio directly, go here. Crank up the volume.)
After looking at my teams, I discovered a theme, one you may have picked up on if you were paying attention:

Behold my awesome MS Paint ability.

Nebraska, UCLA and Georgia Tech have second-year coaches (and Ohio State starts a second-year quarterback), ready to improve on last year. BYU and Texas came oh-so-close last year, and are ready to make a second run at glory.

Good luck to all who are playing! Keep us posted on your picks, even the bad ones like Missouri, in the comments as the season goes along.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In A League Of His Own

MPF004: Rich, could you come here for a second? Which team do you play for?

Rich Rodriguez: Well, I'm a Michigan Man.

MPF: Well, I was just wonderin' why you would break NCAA regulations when we got a program to build. You let the kids work out too long, and now we have to investigate. Start using your head. That's the lump that's three feet above your ass.

MPF: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN FOOTBALL!

Bill Martin: Why don't you give him a break, MPF...

MPF: Oh, you zip it, Martin! Lou Holtz was my coach, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Iowa to see me play the game. And did I cry?

Rodriguez: No, no, no.

MPF: Yeah! NO. And do you know why?

Rodriguez: No...

MPF: Because there's no crying in football. THERE'S NO CRYING IN football! No crying!

(photo credit Andre J. Jackson of the Detroit Free Press)