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.