Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday Night Beer: Nebraska Media Goes Gaga

For a few minutes this morning, the Nebraska sports media bit hard on a report from a Champaign, IL newspaper that Lady Gaga was going to perform at the Capital One Bowl.  And rather than call someone in Orlando to confirm the report, reporters across Nebraska spread the word that The Gaga was going to perform before the Husker game.  Maybe it was for her "cool Nebraska Guy"...

Except it wasn't true.  As the story exploded on Twitter, the Capital One Bowl folks got wind and immediately did what the local media didn't do: dispel the story.
Unless plans on ambushing us by dressing as a mascot/football/piece of turf, she isn't performing in our pregame show. Sorry!
And now the original story has been changed from performing "with Lady Gaga" to performing "a Lady Gaga song".  In all, it was a little harmless...but it's yet another example of how our local media have failed us once again.  Remember that the next time the media reports that says that Bo Pelini is "talking to another school," because it's becoming clear that these initial reports are frequently bogus and are being passed on unverified/unvalidated.  Just because it came from a World-Herald reporter doesn't mean jack anymore

When I said on Christmas that Creighton basketball would be exposed as the fraud they are, I figured it wouldn't happen until March...not in December. Mind you, the basketball season is still young, and the Bluejays could still develop into a top 25 program by the time March rolls around.  But let's not forget that Creighton needed a couple of gift technical fouls to defeat a bad Nebraska team earlier this month.  And let's put that Northwestern victory in perspective:  Ohio State 87, Northwestern 53.

And as I write this, Baylor just scored again in the Alamo Bowl.  It's now Baylor 67, Washington 56.  Hmmm... didn't Wisconsin beat Nebraska in BASKETBALL 64-40 on Tuesday night?  Yikes...not sure what this says about these four programs.

This weekend, UNO takes on Quinnipiac in hockey.  Quinnipiac isn't a household name, but it's an important series considering how poorly UNO has played in non-conference series so far this season.  The Bobcats are receiving votes in the USCHO poll, so it's an opportunity to regain some of the ground they lost earlier this month.

With Dean Blais coaching the USA National Team this weekend, UNO will be led by assistant coach Mike Hastings.  Hastings has occasionally been mentioned as the "heir apparent" at UNO, though Hastings and Trev Alberts both say that's mostly speculation.  My take is that I want Dean Blais to coach UNO as long as he's willing to.  After that, who knows. I don't believe that Hastings should necessarily be anointed the next head coach.  A candidate for when Blais eventually retires?  Certainly.  But there's no point in designating a replacement now.  Who knows who might be interested or available when that happens?  In some respects, this is just like when some people wanted to hand the job to Hastings back in the spring of 2009.  Instead, Trev Alberts found Dean Blais.  Let's not handcuff the program unnecessarily now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

About What Husker Fans Should Have Expected Against Wisconsin

When it was announced that Jorge Brian Diaz wouldn't play tonight, I pretty much didn't give Nebraska much of a chance against #11 Wisconsin tonight in basketball.  And frankly, the Huskers didn't lose as badly as I thought they would, thanks to Toney McCray.  McCray came out smoking right from the opening tip, leading Nebraska to a 7-0 lead early on. I joked that Nebraska should call time out and take a team photo at that point, because that's about all Husker fans could have hoped for.

From there, Wisconsin launched the rout. I haven't watched much Big Ten basketball in the past, but it's clear that the Badgers are one of the best coached teams in the country. They don't do this with NBA talent; they play solid defense and make open shots.  They rained threes all night long on the Huskers.

Meanwhile, it was more of the same bad we've seen over the years from the Huskers.  Huskers get out of focus and start jacking up bad shots, with the rebounds leading to fast breaks the other way.

It's going to be easy to jump on the "fire Doc Sadler" bandwagon after this game, but let's not forget that Nebraska was playing this game short-handed with no inside talent. Injuries aren't Sadler's fault, though not having found some sort of reliable inside presence is.  Certainly a healthy, in-shape Andre Alameida would make a world of difference tonight.

Should Husker fans be pleased with tonight's game? No. But it's still December, and things could get better once Diaz gets back into the lineup.  That being said, Nebraska basketball needs to start answering these questions this season.  Sadler owns this roster now, and not having the talent isn't anybody else's fault anymore. Osborne can be patient to a point, but after a while, the excuses for why Nebraska basketball isn't any better can't be accepted.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to All

Sadly, there is nothing worth watching on TV until tonight.  Just fake NBA basketball (I guess they were on strike; did anybody notice) and the absolutely brutal "Christmas Story" marathon.  Ugh.  Couldn't the NFL have saved one or two of yesterday's games for this afternoon to tide us over?  Heck, I'm starting to miss the old Blue/Gray all-star game.

Enough of the complaining...I've heard enough of it from my kids who have been overdosed on Santa the last few days.  Instead, a few Christmas wishes for local sports fans:

Husker football fans:  Coming to acceptance to the fact that Nebraska has a coach many other programs wishes they could have.  That, and shoring up some holes in the secondary this spring.

Husker basketball fans:  Patience, patience, patience. With Brian Jorge Diaz ailing, the Huskers are once again playing small, and judging by Nebraska's performances last week, going to get pounded in the Big Ten this season. I don't know what the answers are, but if Doc Sadler doesn't find some reliable big men and someone who can shoot soon, it's going to be time to make another change.

Creighton basketball fans:  An HD camcorder for KMTV-channel 3.  No matter how badly Nebraska plays on-the-court, they still look 100 times better in HD on BTN and NET than Creighton does on the production equipment originally used for the 1971 Nebraska/Oklahoma broadcast.

Non-Creighton basketball fans:  A strong stomach as you try to ignore the hype from the Hilltop. Don't worry, unless McDermott's team vastly improves in 2012, the Jays will be exposed in mid-March.  Yeah, Creighton is a little better than Nebraska right now...but that's not saying much this season.  Certainly doesn't justify a vote in the Top 25, let alone being actually ranked.

UNO hockey fans:  Waiting for the second half spurt that Dean Blais usually assembles late each season.  This year's December swoon wasn't as bad as in past season, though it's hard to think of a worse loss in UNO history than the 3-1 loss to Alabama-Huntsville at the start of the month.  Patience is in the order, as UNO typically only dresses four juniors and seniors each night.  That's an awful lot of youngsters on the ice, so you have to expect things like the UAH game.  But the payoff is coming down the line in a couple of years when this year's sophomores are seniors.

Omaha Nighthawks fans:  First and foremost, a player development deal with the NFL that salvages the UFL. Then, a season that starts sometime after the 4th of July so that games can be played downtown at TD Ameritrade Park.

Darin Erstad:  A roster of college baseball players that play as tough for the Huskers as you did.

MECA:  Finding someone that can promote the heck out of an independent league baseball team so that we can have baseball back in Omaha in the summer time after the College World Series.

And to everybody:  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Night Dessert: The Only Place Worse than ESPN for Craig James is Washington

A lot of college football fans got kind of excited when word came out that Craig James was planning to leave ESPN to run for the United States Senate in Texas. While getting James off of television is a good thing, the risk of someone like James actually holding elected office is too great to make that worthwhile.  I can turn off the volume on ESPN and ignore him on television.  The biggest problem in Washington is that we have too many ignoramuses and doofuses in Congress as it is; adding to the problem is the absolute worst thing that we could possibly do.  I don't care if some people don't think that James has much of a chance to win; any chance is too great to take.

The rumor mill has Iowa defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski being a leading candidate to fill out the open position created by Carl Pelini's departure to Florida Atlantic.  Over in Iowegia, Black Heart Gold Pants paints Kaczenski as a candidate to be Iowa's next defensive coordinator.  While the conventional wisdom is that Pelini will promote John Papuchis to coordinator, I have to question Kaczenski's interest in moving to Lincoln. Unless, of course, Kaczenski is a candidate to be the d-coordinator, though working under the supervision of Bo Pelini.

Kaczenski's resume in terms of producting stellar defensive linemen at Iowa is easy to like. But while the Journal-Star talks positively about his recruiting connections in Florida, BHGP certainly raises questions about that:
On the recruiting trail, Kaczenski's results here have not been nearly as good. Kaz has taken over Iowa's efforts in Florida, previously held by Phil Parker. Iowa mines Florida for skill position players and defensive backs, and while it's extremely rare that the Hawkeyes can beat out Florida, FSU, and Miami for a local kid, Iowa's once-plentiful well of second-tier talent in the Sunshine State has run dry. While the numbers have been there for Kaczenski -- nine players in five years, almost all halfbacks, receivers, and defensive backs -- the production has not.
So take it for what you will.  Granted, recruiting is one of those things that I feel is difficult to accurately rank.  Certainly, I put little value in the rankings that we'll be subjected to in January.  But I get the feeling that BHGP isn't using the services rankings to question Kaczenski, but rather what players are doing on the field...or not making it there. So I tend to give that a little more credence.

And before someone calls me out for talking about recruiting, let me remind folks that I dislike the services that try to analyze and evaluate recruiting.  Recruiting is important...just like coaching and player development is important. The track record of the recruiting services?  Not so hot. (Anybody still think that Bill Callahan's 2005 class was one of the best in the nation that season?)

Props to Frank Solich for winning Ohio's first bowl game ever last night in the "Famous Potato Bowl" on the SmurfTurf in Boise. The end of the game was pretty dysfunctional though, with the SEC referees looking mostly incompetent with the game on the line.  Facing a fourth down and trailing 23-17 with under a minute to go in the game, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton connected with LaVon Brazill who dove into the end zone.  The officials ruled it a touchdown initally, then went to review it on the replay, which was appropriate because it was a crucial play and there were questions that Brazill had actually scored.  After the review, they announced the play stood as called...then the officials huddled again, and went back to the review a second time. Finally, they took the touchdown off the board.  But Tettleton made it all irrelevant by scoring two plays later, leaving Utah State with just a few seconds to try the Stanford-band-multiple lateral play in desperation.

After the game, ESPN's Heather Cox foiled the Ohio players attempt to douse Solich with the Gatorade bucket during a postgame interview. Cox was acting in her own self-defense, since she was in line to get soaked.  That gave Solich a head start to escape the bath, and the 67-year old former Husker fullback/head coach certainly "moved around well" as he sprinted away from the bucket.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alex Hudson Sent Packing From UNO

With a curt news release this morning, Alex Hudson's career at UNO came to a sad end after his second violation of team rules. What's that violation?  Don't know, and frankly, don't care.  Rules are rules, and if Hudson broke a rule set by Dean Blais, he needs to suffer the consequences...especially after being suspended earlier this season.

Not the finish I expected for Hudson at UNO.  This summer, he was the team captain.  Two years ago, I thought he had the potential to be one of UNO's all-time greats...and until this season, he did nothing to make me question that.  Take that last-second game winning goal against North Dakota last season:

On a roster filled with youth, senior leadership becomes even more important...and going into this season, it looked like Hudson was going to be that leader.  Certainly that was the case in this interview from March with KETV-Channel 7's Andy Kendeigh.  At times he was the biggest, fastest, and strongest guy on the ice. The only on-ice downside was consistency.

That's why it was such a surprise to see him get suspended back in September, and while he showed flashes of his past form since returning, at other times, some fans thought he was a liability on the ice. So in that light, I wasn't 100% surprised when today's news came out.  Disappointed?  Absolutely.

It'll be interesting to see how the team responds to this change. UNO hockey has been inconsistent in the first half of the season, and will need a good run in the second half to get back into contention for a post-season run. Dean Blais questions whether the team can make that run with just two natural centers; that might be more of a challenge to his team than anything.

As for Hudson, it's likely off to professional hockey for him. At least I hope so, and hopefully he's gotten the message. He's too good of a player to let things end here, and too talented to let a lack of discipline short-change his career.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is it Possible To Appreciate Tebow's Results Without Buying Into the Hype?

I had stepped out last evening to work on the outdoor Christmas decorations, only to learn from my wife that "Tebow had done it again." (And as an avowed Denver Donkey hater, that was a tough pill to swallow for her.) And for the umpteenth time this season, Tim Tebow had pulled a victory out of the fire. Any more, football fans have to set their alarm to to watch the last ten minutes of any Denver game the rest of the season.. if only to see what seems to be inevitable.

The thing is that this week, it wasn't really Tim Tebow winning the game. More like Matt Prater booming two huge field goals thanks to a couple of huge mistakes by Marion Barber of the Chicago Bears. But Tebow is the talk of the world...and no other sports figure seems to be as polarizing as Tebow.

I admit that during his Florida days, I wasn't a big Tebow fan because I disdain the overhyped player.  I was never a huge Marlon Lucky fan thanks to the expectations that the Bill Callahan clusterfool hype machine laid down prior to his arrival in Lincoln.  I tend to root for any golfer not named Tiger Woods for the same reason. That's not necessarily the fault of Lucky and Tebow; they aren't result of the hype that others lay on them.  (Hello, Thom Brennaman)  And I'm still not a fan of Tebow; he's not your typical NFL quarterback, though I do admire the guy for showing that you can play this style of quarterback in the NFL.  And as Trent Dilfer proved, NFL teams do not need a great quarterback to win as long as there is a great defense to keep the game close.

Is there something with Tebow to hate?  Well, he doesn't throw the ball particularly well prior to the fourth quarter.  That could be any number of factors:  defenses going into prevent mode late or maybe it's some sort of character/leadership thing that causes Tebow to step up late.  Of course, if he would only play that same way earlier in the game, the comeback wouldn't be necessary in the first place.

Is there something that is out of line with Tebow hating?  When it comes to his Christianity, it seems so. Granted, he's a bit overboard with it, but he doesn't claim that God is behind his comebacks. He's just expressing his gratitude to his Lord and Savior. I guess that's a problem to intolerant people. That being said, I'm also reminded of Matthew, chapter 6, where Jesus admonished his followers to not attract attention with their prayers and thanksgiving.  So I'm conflicted there, especially when I think of how Ron Brown mixes his Christianity with athletics.

Somewhere in the middle of this is the truth: there's no denying that Tebow's insertion as starting quarterback in Denver has led to the Bronco's success in recent weeks. But football is a team game, and there are many other players that probably deserve more credit than Tebow does.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Coach of the Year Ballot

I just submitted my vote to the FWAA for coach of the year.  Here's how I voted:
  1. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
  2. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  3. Les Miles, LSU
  4. Brady Hoke, Michigan
  5. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

While Snyder may have had the most dramatic improvement this season, I went with Gundy because he's built a team that got jobbed out of a chance to play for a national championship.  (Sorry, I don't believe you can "clearly" say that Alabama is better than Oklahoma State.  And since Alabama already lost to LSU, Oklahoma State was the most deserving team to play in the BCS title game.)

Miles gets a mention for getting LSU into the title game...especially since people on the Bayou have been talking about firing him whenever he's not there.  (Kind of reminds me of a few Husker fans who want to fire Pelini for "only" going 9-3...) 

And no, I don't ever expect to see Charlie Weis anywhere near one of these ballots.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wednesday Night Beer: Kansas Football and Delusions of Grandeur

Ever since it became clear that the administration at Kansas was jumping onto the crazy "Fire Turner Gill" campaign, it's become clear that everyone associated with KU suffers from delusions of grandeur regarding their football program.  Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal pretty much sums up the lunacy running rampant:

(Gary) Pinkel seemed to suggest Gill inherited a program in disrepair. That wasn't the case. The Jayhawks were two years removed from the Orange Bowl and had a new football facility to sell. They were ranked in the top 15 during Mark Mangino's final year, and the losing streak Gill inherited was influenced by the investigation used to justify Mangino's ouster.
There was nothing to flip, which won't be the case for Gill's replacement.
Top 15 team?  Well, Kansas was ranked #15 before they lost to Colorado...the first of seven straight losses to close out the season.  Program in disrepair?  You make the call:  Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe, and Jake Sharp were all gone when Turner Gill came on board.   What about the fight between the football and basketball teams?

Kansas fans went into 2009 thinking they would simply just reload... back to a bowl game. Problem was...nothing was left in the program.  Kansas fans won't admit that, though.  Easier to blame the new guy;  my favorite was the Rock Chalk Talk poster who called Gill one of the "ten worst coaches ever at a BCS school".  Kansas fans actually thought that Mike Leach would be interested.  Now comes the word that Kansas is actually thinking about retreading Charlie Weis.  (Florida fans will actually pay his moving expenses!)

Frankly, this reminds me a lot of Nebraska's 2003 coaching search.  A bad decision to change coaches was magnified by a bumbling coaching search that was lampooned nationally.  That turned out well for Nebraska, and Kansas seems to be heading towards a swirl down the drain.

A few other thoughts:

Nebraska needed a last second shot by Dylan Talley to escape Florida Gulf Coast.  Yikes. It's still early in the season, but this one's off to a bad start.

One of the more inane things I've read lately is the idea that Nebraska is going to make more money by getting the CapitalOne Bowl berth.  Uh no...  The money goes to the conference, and Nebraska gets an expense allowance to bring the team, staff, and band along.  The rest gets split it doesn't matter which bowl bid Nebraska would get.  And let's remember that bowl berths are not awarded on merit for the most part:  it's the potential of ticket sales.  Since it's been 20 years since the Huskers last trip to Orlando, the Huskers were very desirable.

Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald calls for a plus-1 format as the first step towards a playoff.  I'm a playoff guy, so I'm fine with that, though I prefer the eight team format myself.  But can we get away from the idea of playing game at neutral sites?  I hate it when people who don't use their own money to follow teams presume to declare what fans will do?  Trust me, but unless fans can drive to a game, neutral site games will not draw well.  The logistics of transporting thousands of fans on short notice make neutral sites unworkable.  For Husker fans, Kansas City is probably as far away as will work.  Maybe Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, or Denver.  Maybe.  Florida, New Orleans, Arizona, or Texas?  Forget about it.

Again, if you've never paid your own way to a bowl game, you don't get to speak for those of us who have done it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

BlogPoll Ballot: LSU National Champions?

One of the main arguments that bowl proponents repeatedly point out is that it makes the regular season the most important of any sport.

Scratch that now.  The LSU/Alabama makes that argument ridiculous.  Frankly, I'm not sure what the point of the official "BCS National Championship Game" is now, other than it's required.  We already know who the better team is:  LSU.  Alabama had their fair shot - on their home field, no less...and played horrible.  They lost.

So if Alabama wins the rematch, what does that prove?  Do we have to play a rubber match?  (Best of three?)  Which game do I disregard?  Not sure I can disregard the game played in November, so it'll come down to a choice between a 1-loss LSU team or possibly a 1-loss Oklahoma State team, should they win the Fiesta Bowl.

I'm not going to penalize Oklahoma any more than the bowl system did.  (Insight Bowl???) I hammered Virginia Tech and Houston pretty badly for getting blown out; mostly because I thought they were overrated all along.  They really didn't play anybody all season, so their records aren't all that impressive.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sunday Night Beer: Death to the BCS

OK, bowl proponents, now what's your excuse against a playoff?  "It cheapens the regular season" goes right down the toilet.  Alabama already had a shot at LSU, and lost on their own home field.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has a better resume, as far as I'm concerned.  Maybe Alabama is truly the #2 team in the country, but we'll never know because we have no cross-reference between Okie State and LSU/Alabama.

And when you look at the truly awful matchups that the bowl season has foisted on us (Oklahoma/Iowa?!?!?), it's hard to argue that we're getting good football out of this thing.  Only excuse left is that presidents don't want to play football games around the holidays...or the big power conferences still like having a lockhold on the spoils.

I was out of town most of the weekend, so it was really disappointing to log onto my computer and learn that it was a night of embarassing suckage all over the board.  Nebraska volleyball lost in five sets to Kansas State.  Ugh.  I guess the whining about being assigned to the Honolulu regional was all for naught.  UNO hockey lost to previously winless Alabama-Huntsville despite outshooting the Chargers 45-17.  Yikes. And the Ohio Bobcats blew a 20-0 halftime lead to lose 23-20.

Saturday was only moderately better, as UNO hockey rebounded to win 6-2 against Huntsville. UNO basketball pulled off a  nice win over Northern Illinois for their first D-1 victory as well.  But it was a good day to watch football as it snowed.  If I had a Heisman ballot, I'd gladly cast it for Baylor's Robert Griffin III.  Not having to face RG3 is one of the small advantages of leaving the Big XII.

On nearly all accounts, today's Nebraska/Creighton basketball game was painful to watch.  While I appreciate the attempt that KMTV makes in televising a local school, it's effort is lacking on all accounts.  Travis Justice on play-by-play is painful to listen to.  My favorite was watching Creighton scrambling out of control to keep the ball in bounds while Justice praised Creighton's ball control.  Later in the broadcast, Justice is praising the officiating while trying to figure out just why Doc Sadler and Nebraska was getting lit up with technical fouls.

And those technical fouls pretty much turned the game into a farce from that point going forward. Many local media members have been touting Creighton as a "Sweet 16" candidate to go far in the NCAA tournament. Well, that's still three and a half months away, but neither team impressed me as an NCAA tournament calibre team. Frankly, it's a little premature to say much about Creighton's performance so far.  Lots of local media members got excited about Creighton's dismantling of Iowa a couple of weeks ago...but that's before Iowa was completely exposed by Campbell.  (No, I'm not talking about the soup company either...)

Oh, and back to KMTV's broadcast. What can I say about the video quality, except to say that I didn't think you could find three working VHS camcorders in the world.  Or at least, that's what it looks like. Even those new Flip cameras have better picture quality than what was shown. I know we're spoiled by HD, but this broadcast looked like a basketball game from the 1960's being shown on ESPN Classic.

Apparantly, channel 3 is televising a game next Saturday, and they ran several commercials to promote the broadcast.  Except that the commercial contained two different broadcast times:  11 am and 4 pm.  Go figure.  Or you go figure; I won't be watching at either time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Silly Season of Idle Speculation

Now that the regular season in football is over, we're now into a silly season...especially since reporters (like us fans) planned on having a game this Saturday. Nature abhors a vacuum, so into the void comes idle speculation. Take this "gotcha" from Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald:
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini at an August booster event: "We're not playing around here for second place. Our coaches should be expected to win. You guys put the pieces in place for me to do that."

Pelini in November when asked what there is to play for after being eliminated from title contention: "You compete. It's not always about trophies."

Makes you wonder what the NU fans who agreed over the summer to rent 20 suites at Lucas Oil Stadium for this week's Big Ten championship game think.
Well, what do you expect Pelini to say? Nebraska should be playing for a Big Ten championship.  I think everyone would agree with that as the goal for the season. But once the Big Ten championship slipped away, what else is there to do? Call off the rest of the season? Call out the executioner?  Nope, you pull yourself off the carpet, and continue to compete. Should you be disappointed in the season?  To some extent, yes. Nebraska didn't meet expectations.  But Nebraska did win nine games in 2011, and has a chance to win ten. That's a fairly decent season by most accounts.

Then came the report about Bo Pelini talking to Ohio State from WTVN-AM talk show host Jeff Rapp this afternoon. It was quickly followed by denials from Pelini and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne. That led to a Twitter spat between KOZN-AM's Mike'l Severe, Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald, and Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star.  So what's to make of the whole brouhaha? Stop and think about it, and apply your smell test to it.  Did someone from Ohio State talk to Bo Pelini?  Possibly.  But stop and think what "talk" means.  Embattled Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary "talked" to Armen Keteyian of CBS...but it was hardly an interview.  In fact, it was hardly a conversation.  But he did say that he didn't have anything to say about the situation.

Same thing here.  Someone from Ohio State very well might have contacted Bo Pelini.  Bo could have simply said something like "Aren't you hiring Urban Meyer?" and ended the conversation there...and that would have been a "contact".  Didn't mean any discussion of substance occurred or that Bo Pelini "interviewed" with Ohio State?

Am I being naive?  Perhaps. But use a "smell" test on this. Even though Bo Pelini is an Ohio State alum, why would he interview with Ohio State when the Buckeyes pursuit of Urban Meyer has been the worst kept secret in college football?  Just doesn't make sense.

And that's what we get now that the regular season is over.  Can we get a bowl bid lined up quickly so that we have something meaningful worth discussing?

BlogPoll Ballot: Going For Four-Straight "Whack Job" Ballots

I didn't realize it until today, but I've been named the last three weeks as the "Whack Job" ballot of the week.  Can I do four in a row?

Three weeks ago, it was for dropping LSU to 3rd after that 9-6 overtime suckfest with Alabama three weeks ago; I moved Oklahoma State to #1.  Keeping Oklahoma State #1 the next week earned me another award two weeks ago.  And last week, I earned it for a throw-away #25 vote for Iowa State. (In my defense, three AP voters voted for the Cyclones last week, and Sagarin still has Iowa State #29 after losing to Oklahoma yesterday.)

I figure I'll get it this week for keeping Alabama behind Oklahoma State. Hey, I don't see any reason why I should vote Alabama ahead of Oklahoma State.  Yes, Alabama did lose to a better opponent..but the game was at home, and frankly, neither team played well.  Oklahoma State's loss was on the road and had extenuating circumstances.  And frankly, Oklahoma State/LSU looks like a more enticing game than a rematch of LSU/Alabama.

Nebraska moves up to #19 mostly through inertia. I'm keeping Alabama #3 because (a) I'm still not convinced that Alabama is better than Oklahoma State, and frankly, we already know who the better team between LSU and Alabama is.  (Guess what... that will probably earn me a fourth straight whack-job ballot.  See if I care...) Southern Cal's whitewashing of UCLA was impressive enough to vote them into the Top Ten.  I can't vote Arkansas any higher than #8...and frankly, I easily could bump them after USC.

Penn State stays in the poll mostly by inertia.  Not sure who I vote in at this point.  Same thing with Clemson.  Florida State and Southern Miss get the votes this week.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

UNO Hockey Sneaking Into WCHA Contention

I have to admit that I haven't paid as much attention to UNO hockey so far this season.  Goalie John Faulkner is having an off-year, and the Mavs started the season 1-3.  And while the Mavs did have a nice win at Wisconsin last month, they haven't pulled off the eye-catching upsets that they did last season.  (Sweeping Minnesota at Mariucci, a win at Michigan, and a stunning sweep of North Dakota.)

But the Mavs have been bouncing around in the lower parts of the Top 20 in recent weeks, and after a win and a tie this weekend against St. Cloud State, they find themselves in a tie for second place - one point behind Minnesota. 

Finally got a chance to catch the Mavs again this afternoon, and once again, I'm not quite sure what to make of the Mavs this season.  Strangely enough, the roster seems once again to be getting younger as Dean Blais remakes the lineup in line with his vision of speed and offense. In both games this weekend, the Mavs got off to a cold start as the Huskies dominated the play in both first periods.  This afternoon, the Mavs tilted the ice and carried the play in the second period and much of the third period.

The last two seasons, the month of December has not been kind to UNO hockey. That's a trend that UNO needs to break.  A neutral site series with Alabama-Huntsville in Nashville is up next weekend, followed by a trip up I-29 to play North Dakota just before the Christmas break.  Getting some points in Grand Forks could be a key sign to positioning the Mavs for a run in the New Year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Blackshirt Friday as Huskers Pummel Iowa

If Nickelback fans liked
football, they'd look
like this.
Going into today's "Black Friday" matchup between Nebraska and Iowa, I felt the battle came down to which team wanted it more...and in my approach to the stadium, I got a bad feeling observing the number of Iowa fans in Lincoln. Certainly Iowa fans made their presence known today, buying any and all tickets available.  Frankly, the pre-game vibe was almost like Nickelback was in town; a passionate group of fans with some questionable taste. Iowa fans owned the pregame atmosphere.

Fortunately, the Huskers didn't share that same vibe.  Right from the start, the Blackshirts defended Iowa the same way they defended Michigan State.  Shut down the running back, and blanket the leading wide receiver.  Marcus Coker got a few yards, but never was able to consistently get the Hawkeyes into situations where quarterback James Vandenberg could capitalize with play-action passing. Add in Alfonzo Dennard locking down on Marvin McNutt...and the Hawkeye offense was essentially neutered today.

Of course, Iowa's offense was also hampered by really questionable play calling.  Example in point: After an eight yard reception by tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, the Hawkeyes faced a second and two late in the third quarter.  Needing something to happen on offense, I figured Iowa would try to throw the ball downfield in that situation.  The playbook should be wide open at this point, and if the pass is incomplete, the Hawkeyes still had a chance to convert a third-and-short.

I was wrong.  Offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe puts the ball in the hands of Marcus Coker, who runs right into Andrew Green on a blitz for a half-yard loss.  The third down pass goes incomplete...and the Hawkeyes have to punt.

Of course, the Blackshirts came to play today.  Lavonte David had another stellar game with a highlight reel play.  Fiedorowicz pushed David to the ground to convert a third and 11.  But David got the best of Fiedorowicz, regaining his feet to strip Fiedorowicz of the ball downfield.  Fiedorowicz got the double fail on that play:  offensive pass interference (declined of course) and the fumble.

Offensively, the Husker offense set the tone early by overpowering Iowa's defense.  Early on, only ill-advised penalties stopped the Huskers on the ground.  After the game, Bo Pelini said that Taylor Martinez sprained an ankle, so the offense became totally focused on Rex Burkhead...and the heart of the Husker offense ground out another sausage game:  159 yards on a school record 38 carries.  No long runs today; he just made his cuts and gutted it out despite barely being able to walk at times.

Add in a few nice catches by Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa, and you had enough offense to win the game today. Nebraska is banged up, and probably wouldn't have been in a good position to compete next weekend in Indianapolis if they had qualified.  But it was enough against Iowa.

It wasn't a thing of beauty today in Lincoln today. But it was a solid win that doesn't so much as earn Nebraska "bragging rights", but rather denies Iowa fans any "bragging rights" for the next twelve months.

So now Husker fans can sit back for the next week and eye a New Years Day bowl game against the SEC.  Will it be the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, or the Outback Bowl in Tampa?  My preference is the Outback...if only because the Outback is televised on ABC.  (Hey, I'm not traveling, so destination doesn't matter to me at this point...just the television broadcast!)  We don't know the opponent at this point, but having five and a half weeks to heal up is a good thing for the Big Red at this point.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Suh Lets the Packers Get To Him

If you were watching this afternoons game between the Packers and the Lions...or saw any sports highlights today, you couldn't miss seeing Ndamukong Suh stomp on the arm of Evan Deitrich-Smith in the third quarter.  That act ended his game, and might actually end his season.

Here's the video, in case you haven't seen it:

First and foremost. Suh deserved his ejection; there is no excuse for stomping on another players arm.  Much like Ben Cotton's personal foul penalty in last year's Texas A&M game, the stomp was a reaction to a dirty play by the opponent.  Watch the replay again... Deitrich-Smith takes down Suh well after the play is over; 4 seconds after Aaron Rodgers releases the ball.

But that's where the similarity ends.  Suh's response was far worse than the original foul; he let the Packers take him out of the game. It was a dumb penalty, and with a nationwide audience watching it, it cemented his reputation that Suh is the game's dirtiest player. Hard to argue that after what happened today.

In his postgame comments, Suh seemed to be in denial about what he did... and that's probably making it even worse, if that's possible. Almost assuredly, Ndamukong Suh is going to be fined and suspended.  Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira says he'll be suspended for multiple games, suggesting that it's comparable to the five-game suspension given to Albert Haynesworth in 2006. 

There are only five weeks left in the NFL season.  If Suh gets the same penalty, his season is over.

No doubt in my mind that Suh wasn't the instigator here...but in every situation, the retaliator is the one who gets caught. And in this case, the retaliator upped the ante and the retaliation escalated the situation. That's something Suh is going to need to think about in the coming weeks.  He's too talented to let this happen to him; he needs to play smarter and not pull stunts like this on the field. And when a situation like this comes up, he needs to admit his fault rather than deny that he stomped on the guys arm.

That message will be coming loud and strong at him in upcoming days. He'll be the talk of sports radio, and his endorsees will let him know about it as well.

"Black Friday": Huskers versus Iowa

When the whole "Heroes Sponsored by Hy-Vee" concept was announced this summer, it immediately rubbed me the wrong way. If there is one thing we learned from Nebraska's time in the Big XII, rivalries cannot be manufactured.  They grow organically, unlike what Bill McCartney tried to do at Colorado.  ABC and the Big XII tried to force the issue, but Nebraska fans never accepted Colorado as their rival.  When Colorado had a good team, it was a big game.  But when Colorado sucked, as they mostly have ever since McCartney retired, it wasn't.

So now we have another "rivalry" game with Iowa and Nebraska. It makes more sense geographically, because of the closer proximity of the two campuses and the population centers of the two states.  But frankly, it probably doesn't stand the test of competitiveness, which in my mind is the biggest reason for a rivalry.  Nebraska vs. Oklahoma became a rivalry because the games had a history of meaning a lot.  1971 Thanksgiving Day is "THE" game of the century, though the term is starting to become trivialized through overuse.  Iowa fans like to trumpet how Iowa has had more success in recent years than Nebraska, with more Top Ten rankings and better bowl berths. Except they forget one simple fact:  Iowa's record since the turn of the century is only marginally better than Nebraska's record.  Or to put it more simply:  Iowa's best decade of football is only marginally better than Nebraska's worst decade of football since the Eisenhower administration.

As such, I think this "rivalry" means more to Iowa fans than Nebraska fans.  Nebraska fans opinions are still jaded by the memories of 60-3 and national championships. Some fans even are ready to fire Bo Pelini after losing a third conference game of the season. Bottom line is that Nebraska fans expect their team to play at a higher level than Iowa currently or historically has. That's not a good basis for a mutual rivalry.  That being said, if either team raises the level of their play, that school probably won't consider this much of a rivalry either.  (Yes, Iowa fans...if Iowa becomes a consistent Big Ten and national contender, then yes, Iowa fans won't consider Nebraska a rival either.)

The "Heroes Game" designation is an interesting attempt to justify making the game something more than it actually is..but it has absolutely nothing to do with the matchup.  It's artificial.  It's not a bad thing to honor people who have made contributions to their community; it just has absolutely nothing to do with the football game.  So no matter what Hy-Vee and the athletic departments want us to think, I'm not going to use that moniker going forward.  (Not that I care what Hy-Vee thinks; I rarely shop there because despite it's proximity to my house, they are always have the highest prices and are typically out-of-stock of what I came there for.)  It's just as bad as that Legends/Leaders crap that Jim Delaney is trying to sell...

Leave it to the academic side of the house to come up with a better theme for this game.  On Facebook, the the two schools are having a little contest to get the most fans, calling it the "Race to Black Friday".  Once I saw it, it immediately resonated.  Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving.  The Blackshirts.  Iowa's black uniforms.  It just fits. It's clean; it's a natural extension of the term everybody is using for the day anyway. Maybe it's not original, but unlike Farmageddon, it hasn't been used for a football game before.  (Dear Iowa fan... don't plagiarize Iowa State and Kansas State.)

So who's win the initial "Black Friday" game? On paper, my biased perspective favors the Huskers.  James Vandenberg is the type of quarterback the Blackshirts typically feast on.  Can the Huskers handle Marcus Coker?  That's the key battle in my mind.  Iowa's offense feeds off Coker setting up the combination of Vandenberg to wide receiver Marvin McNutt.  And if Alfonzo Dennard can lock up on McNutt, I like the Huskers in this situation.  Iowa's defense has a lot of holes this season, and really aren't outstanding at any position. The defensive line is missing the three guys they sent to the NFL last I think this could be a good opportunity for the Husker offense to get untracked.

But it really comes down to who wants this game more.  Winner gets a couple of relatively meaningless trophies and a better bowl bid.  Fans get the bragging rights for a year.  But that's it.  And I'm not so sure that Nebraska fans really need the bragging rights; Husker fans just want to avoid listening to Squawkeye fans lording this over them for a year.  While Iowa did defeat both Northwestern and Michigan (two teams Nebraska lost to), they also lost to woeful Minnesota.  Again.

And most importantly, Iowa just doesn't seem to play well on the road this season.  So my prediction is Huskers 31, Iowegia 17.  We'll see how that works out tomorrow afternoon.  Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

BlogPoll Ballot: How Do You Account for F-Bomb Saturday

Lee Corso's "Oh, eff it" pretty much summarized yesterday in college football.  Too many upsets, too many weird things happened on the field.  Some people have said you can take positions 4 through 25 on their poll ballot and mix them up anyway you want...then light it on fire.

But I'd go even further.  Some people are voting Alabama #2... and my question is "Why?"  Do you really want to see LSU and Alabama play again?  We already know who the better team is.  And frankly, Alabama was not impressive against Division 1-AA Georgia Southern.  The Tide led by 10 at halftime, and let Eagles gain over 300 yards on the ground.  So I'm supposed to vote them below Oklahoma State, who lost on the road to a pretty good Iowa State team in overtime.  Oh, and that loss happened just hours after they heard the news of the women's basketball coach being killed in a plane crash.

And my answer is "No!" Heck, the only reason why the SEC escaped upsets is because they played cupcakes.  And they struggled.  Florida trailed Furman.  South Carolina kept it too close with The Citadel.  And one of my rules in voting is that losing to a good team means more than beating a bad team.

With that, here's my ballot for the week:

I can't raise Virginia Tech this week.  Not when they struggle to defeat North Carolina and really haven't beaten anybody of substance this season.  Baylor gets rewarded for their victory over Oklahoma.  Clemson gets penalized for getting blown out -- and not beating anybody all season long.

And yes, Iowa State gets a vote at #25.  Why?  Why not?  They have a victory over a top 10 team. And frankly, they're just as deserving as just about everybody else.  So in the immortal words of Lee Corso...

"Awwww,  eff* it!"