Tag Archives: football

Life Update: Where Is Tyler Working?

I recently started a new gig as an assistant scoreboard editor at the Chicago Tribune. I’m basically editing all the agate (stats, box scores, etc.) in the paper. I thought I’d post a couple examples of the stuff I’m doing. Here are two college football preview boxes I did for the Big 12 and Wisconsin Badgers.

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Super Bowl XLVI Predictions, Proclomations, Educated Guesses and Random Thoughts

Salsa Time

Victor Cruz will have a big game. The Patriots’ secondary is below average and Cruz should be able to take advantage of being defended by wide-receiver-turned-safety Julian Edelman. He will find the endzone at least once, and he will salsa. It will be awesome. The question is, will NBC pipe in salsa music again if Cruz starts dancing? Cruz is my dark-horse pick for Super Bowl MVP, I’m thinking 8 catches, 150 yards and 1 TD.

Homer Alert

Former Wisconsin Badger Travis Beckum will come up with a big grab for a first down. With the Pats devoting their attention to Cruz, Nicks, Mannigham and Ballard, Beckum (a very poor man’s Aaron Hernandez) will find himself open in a big situation. A side note: If the Giants win, Beckum will be the first Super Bowl champion I ever saw order a sandwich at 1 a.m. After the Badgers got their ass kicked by Penn State in 2008, I ran into Beckum at Charley’s Subs in Madison (Good food by the way, but now closed). I was surprised to find out he has a very high pitched voice.

Lame Joke Alert

It will probably in your best interest to avoid Twitter or lame friends at halftime, unless you want to read/hear hundreds of variations of “Madonna is old jokes.” On the contrary, I have no problem with jokes about Madonna’s frightening chiseled arms, or her odd, on-again-off-again British accent. Oh, and I’m sure we’ll all hear a lot of “Kelly Clarkson is fat jokes” during the National Anthem. Just tell those people to shut the fuck up. If you’re going to make fun of Clarkson, feel free to mention that she’s a Ron Paul supporter.

Don’t Doubt THE GRONK

Rob Gronkowski will play, and he’ll be perfectly fine. Have you seen THE GRONK? Have you heard THE GRONK speak? The guy is a freak. HE’S THE GRONK. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t feel pain. I think we saw a lot of gamesmanship from the Pats the last two weeks, but I’m sure the Giants have been game planning as if Gronkowski is 100 percent healthy.

And yes, I have a irrational love for THE GRONK. He led my fantasy to team to first place after I picked him on waivers for five bucks.

Peyton Fatigue

Between his brother starting for the Giants and the game taking place in the stadium he helped build, a player who took zero snaps for a 2-14 team will get a lot of attention during the big game. Expect NBC to show more than a few Peyton reaction shots, while Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth debate a couple different Peyton-centric topics, like: Eli vs Peyton, Brady vs Peyton, Luck vs Peyton, Irsay vs Peyton, and where does Peyton play, if at all, in 2012? Don’t be surprised if Peyton is accidentally named MVP of Super Bowl XLVI.

Sidenote on Jim Irsay. Seriously, that guy runs an NFL franchise worth over a billion dollars? Have you seen his tweets? Here’s an example:

@JimIrsay Some of u guys sending ur negative hate will only get love n return,but ur off base; Peyton and I are close n have great love for each other

Cn u blieve ths guy?

Super Bowl Drinking Game Words and Phrases Sure To Make You Ask Who Won On Monday Morning

Peyton Manning

Jim Irsay

Re-Match

Sprained Ankle

Salsa

David Tyree

Legacy

A Super Bowl MVP Surprise

Four of the last five Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks, but someone other than Eli Manning or Tom Brady will take home the award Sunday. I like Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks if the Giants win, Wes Welker or Aaron Hernandez if the Pats win. And my Dexter Jackson Special long shots are Corey Webster and Julian Edelman (he has a chance to make big plays on offense, defense and special teams).

Are We In For A Super Let Down?

It’s been nine years since the last Super Bowl blowout, when the Buccaneers beat the Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. Not only that, we’ve been treated to some all-time great Super Bowls recently (Pats over Panthers, Giants over Patriots, Steelers over Cardinals). It really seems like we’re due for a dud, doesn’t it? It looked like we were in for a blowout for awhile last year. The Packers took a 21-3 lead late the in the first half, but the Steelers were able to cut the deficit to three in the fourth quarter, and ended up getting the ball late in the fourth quarter, down by six, with a chance to march down the field for a game-winning touchdown. With all the hype over the re-match, and almost everyone believing we’re in for a close, tight game, it just seems like we’re being set up for a gigantic let down.

Ewww, There’s Politics In My Super Bowl

Since we’re in the middle of a heated election cycle, I highly doubt Al Michaels will be able to resist infusing some of his conservative politics into the broadcast. He has a history. I know things can get pretty busy prepping for the Super Bowl, so here’s an easy one Al:

After Eli Manning completes a pass to tight end Bear Pascoe, the seventh Giants player to haul in a pass: “Eli is spreading the wealth out there tonight, President Obama would be proud!”

Thanks Again, Jerry

Former Bear Mark Anderson will record at least two sacks of Eli Manning. Why will it happen? Just to piss off Bears fans.

Please, No Goats

There is really nothing worse than watching someone fail on the biggest stage. Alright, that’s not exactly true, I have no trouble watching Tom Brady, Tony Romo or LeBron James mess up in big moments. But I hope that no one becomes famous on Sunday for all the wrong reasons. I want another David Tyree, not another Kyle Williams.

Regression To The Mean

The Patriots defense has played very well in the playoffs, much better than they did in the regular season, when they ranked 31st in the NFL in total defense. But you have to consider who they played. In the golden age of the quarterback, the Patriots reached the Super Bowl by defeating Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco at home.

As we’ve heard over a hundred times the last two weeks, Eli Manning is now elite, and he’ll present a much tougher challenge. Behind Eli, Nicks, Cruz and Manningham, the Giants will be able put up points on the Patriots’ questionable secondary.

Deja Vu All Over Again

I’m picking the Giants to win, 31-28.

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Revisiting History: A Running Diary of Super Bowl XLII’s Fourth Quarter

The greatest play in Super Bowl history?

With a re-match looming this Super Sunday, NFL Network showed a replay of Super Bowl XLII Monday night. It was one of my favorite Super Bowls, I have good memories of watching the game in my freshman year dorm at UW-Madison. The story lines were great: The Patriots going for the first 19-0 season in NFL History, Tom Brady going for his fourth ring. I love upsets, and have always disliked the Belichick era Patriots. So really, it doesn’t get better than Super Bowl XLII (Well, I guess my Bears could have been the ones to pull off the monster upset).

I thought I’d offer some observations and recap one of the most exciting fourth quarters in Super Bowl history. The Patriots led 7-3 entering the final quarter.

15:00 – One of the greatest fourth quarters in NFL history started off with one of football’s most boring plays, a punt into the end zone for a touchback. The punt returner for the 2007 Giants? None other than former Bears great player R.W. McQuarters.

14:52 – After coming back from commercial, FOX panned to some of the celebrities in attendance at the big game: LL Cool J, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Jordin Sparks, Peyton Manning and Frank Caliendo. In regards to the last “celebrity” shown, Joe Buck said he “has the ability to freak out his kids every morning by waking them up with a different voice.” Not true, even Frank Caliendo’s kids don’t think their dad has any talent.

The Giants entered the fourth quarter having not scored since their first drive of the game. On the team’s first offensive snap of the fourth quarter, Eli Manning hit Kevin Boss for a 45 yard gain. Boss ran past Adalius Thomas and Rodney Harrison for the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl XLII.

11:05 – Five plays later, Manning connected with David Tyree for the Giants’ first touchdown of the game and New York took a 10-7 lead. Asante Samuel was late getting over to cover Tyree, and Manning slipped a pass into the hands of Tyree. It would not be the last time Samuel failed to make a play, nor would be the only time Tyree came up huge. Buck noted that the catch was Tyree’s first touchdown grab of the season, calling it “the biggest catch of his life.” Well, for about half an hour.

10-7 Giants

10:26 – After Wes Welker picks up a first down, FOX showed Bill Belichick, wearing a bright red hoodie, on the sideline. He definitely looks better in his signature hand-cut, short-sleeve gray hoodie.

9:30 – The Patriots were unable to immediately respond to the Giants touchdown. As was the story throughout the game, the Giants defensive line got great pressure on Tom Brady. Osi Umenyiora forced Brady into rushing a pass to a covered Welker on 3rd and 7, and the Pats were forced to punt after earning just one first down on the drive.

9:20 – The Giants got the ball at their own 20-yard-line up by three with 9:20 left in the fourth quarter. Obviously, New York had two goals, extend their lead and eat up as much clock as possible. However, neither happened for the G-Men.

8:32 – Eli Manning escaped pressure from Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork, rolled left and overthrew a wide-open Plaxico Burress. It looked as if Burress slowed down while Manning expected the receiver to keep running. A completion would have gone for at least 25 yards, and maybe even a touchdown, as Troy Aikman hypothesized.

8:03 – Jeff Feagles punted it back to the Patriots. The Giants didn’t pick up a first down, and the drive lasted just 1:25.

5:27- After Brady hit Kevin Faulk for a four yard gain on first down, the FOX cameras panned to an obviously gassed Umenyiora on the sidelines. The Giants d-line had put forth an outstanding effort all game, but fatigue was understandably catching up with them. And it showed on the field, for the first time since the first quarter, Brady and the Pats marched down the field with ease.

5:01 – In the midst of a classic Tom Brady touchdown drive, Welker caught his 11th pass of the game, tying the record for most catches in the Super Bowl. It would be his last grab of the game.

2:42 – On third and goal from the 7-yard-line, Brady hit a wide open Randy Moss in the end zone. Corey Webster, who otherwise had a great game, fell down on his one-on-one coverage of Moss. Brady completed 8 of his 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown on the drive.

14-10 Patriots

2:39 – “Here comes Eli Manning, trying to answer Tom Brady.” – Joe Buck

2:09 – Eli threw a dangerous pass into double coverage to Burress that landed incomplete. It was the first in a series of ill advised passes Manning would make on his now famous fourth quarter drive.

2:04 – On the very next play, Manning threw a floater off his back foot into double coverage that was nearly picked off by Rodney Harrison. The replay zoomed in on Harrison, who was obviously pissed, knowing he was so close to all but sealing a perfect season for the Pats.

1:34 – On 4th and 1, Brandon Jacobs barely managed to get the first down, lunging to the New York 39-yard-line on his final effort.

1:28 – Manning just avoided getting stripped by Adalius Thomas after fleeing the pocket for a five yard run.

1:20 – This should have been the play that sealed a Patriots’ Super Bowl victory. Manning threw a pass, seemingly right into the hands of Samuel. Manning was angry, perhaps David Tyree, seconds away from Super Bowl immortality, ran the wrong route. After the play, Samuel put his hands on his head and screamed. The Lombardi Trophy slipped off his finger tips.

1:15 -“Pressue from Thomas off the edge. Eli Manning stays on his feet. Airs it out down the field. It is caught by Tyree.” – Joe Buck

Sigh, if only Gus Johnson had called Super Bowl XLII…

Manning somehow escaped from the pocket. Thomas, Seymour and Jarvis Green all got their hands on Manning, with Green getting a hold of Manning’s jersey. Referee Mike Carey has said that he was maybe a second away from calling the play dead, saying Manning’s forward progress was stopped. Out of the pocket, Manning threw a pass into the middle of the defense. Four Patriots defenders were around Tyree, with Rodney Harrison being the closest, breathing down Tyree’s neck. Tyree and Harrison both leaped for the ball, and somehow, someway, Tyree secured the ball between his hands and helmet. As Tyree and Harrison fell to the ground, the ball remained glued to Tyree’s helmet, and miraculously, stayed mere inches off the turf. It was a completion for 32 yards, perhaps the greatest completion in NFL history. Again, luck was on Manning’s side. He should have been sacked. He should have been picked off. But he wasn’t, it was just Eli’s day.

0:51 – Again, Eli got away with a risky throw. Manning threw another pass into double coverage. Notorious head-hunter and current Bears scrub Brandon Merriweather attempted to make a Willie Mays style catch. It went off his finger tips into the hands of Tryee, who almost made another impossible catch.

0:45 – On 3rd and 11, Manning completed a pass to Steve Smith for a first down. Smith caught the ball a couple yards short of the marker, but scampered along the sideline for the first down.

0:39 – “Manning lobs it. Burress alone. Touchdown New York!”

Burress burned Ellis Hobbs on a slant and go route, and Manning found him wide open in the end zone for the go ahead touchdown. FOX cut to Peyton Manning, who was clapping hard and screaming, showing more emotion than he ever did on a football field. Eli’s stats on the game-winning drive: 9-14, 152 yards, 2 touchdowns and all the luck in the world.

17-14 Giants

0:29 – The Patriots got the ball back at their own 21-yard line with all three of their timeouts remaining, needing just a field goal to tie. Brady had led drives that set up last second field goals in Super Bowls 36 and 38. Could he do it again?

0:25 – On second and 10, Jay Alford charged through the middle of the Patriots offensive line and sacked Brady for a ten yard loss. If any one play captured the story of Super Bowl XLII, this was it. The Giants won the game because they harassed Brady like no team had ever done.

0:19 – Brady threw a pass about 75 yards down the field that went off the finger tips of Webster and Moss. It was a brilliant throw that was just inches away from being legendary.

0:10 – Brady threw another incomplete pass towards Moss on 4th and 20. The Giants got the ball.  The Patriots are 18-1.

0:01 – The sidelines emptied, Coughlin got the ceremonial water bath, and the coaches met at midfield. However, there was still one second left on the clock. Everybody had to be cleared from the field and the Giants had to run one last play. It seemed pretty cruel to make the Patriots take the field for one last pointless play. Belichick and some Patriot players were already off the field before the clock read all zeroes.

Game Over – Giants 17 Patriots 14

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One More Miracle?: Saturday’s Divisional Round Playoff Picks

Saints (-3.5) vs 49ers

The second round of the playoffs kick off with what will probably be the most competitive game of the weekend. The Saints, who have never won a playoff game in an opposing team’s stadium, will most likely have to win two such games to reach the Super Bowl.

A lot of people seem to be already penciling the Saints in to the NFC title game, but this will not be an easy game. New Orleans doesn’t play as well on the road and their defense is average to below average.  The Niners boast one of the leagues’ best defenses, they’re one of the healthiest playoff teams in recent memory, and they have the luxury of home field advantage.

I still think the Saints will win, but it won’t be easy, and I will not be shocked if the 49ers pull off the upset.

Unsung Hero: Robert Meacham, NO; The Niners defense has been great in 2011, but they have been susceptible to the big play. Meacham and Devery Henderson should be able to slip by the Niners’ secondary for a big play or two.

Pick: Saints 24 49ers 22

Patriots (-13.5) vs Broncos

For the Broncos to win this game, everything will have to break their way. They’ll have to get constant pressure on Tom Brady and force him into a few turnovers. Tim Tebow will have to play a perfect game, and the Denver running game will have to consistently move the chains and eat up clock.

It won’t be easy, but the way things have gone for the Broncos this season, nothing is out of the question.

Still, I think this is the end of the road for Broncos and their folk hero. In his first career road playoff start, Tebow won’t be able to keep up the scoring pace with Brady, Gronk, Welker and the rest of the Pats offense.

But really, who knows, it’s Tebow.

Unsung Hero: Patrick Chung, NE; The Pats can’t let Tebow come up with big plays, and they should be able to force him into a few turnovers. Watch for Chung to make some noise with a forced turnover or two.  Chung, one of the best players on the Patriots’ below average defense, missed most of the season’s second half, including the first meeting with the Broncos.

Pick: Patriots 38 Broncos 14

 

 

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Win or Lose Tonight, LSU Still Deserves A National Championship

The Honey Badger gets all the attention, but Morris Claiborne has been LSU’s best defender this season.

A lot will be at stake tonight when LSU and Alabama face off in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans. Legacy, pride, the aforementioned BCS Championship, the No. 1 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, and of course, all the Allstate Insurance.

One thing that should not be decided tonight is the AP National Championship. Win or lose, the Bayou Bengals deserve a share of the national championship.

Why? Because the Tigers would still own the best resume in college football.

LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa back on Nov. 5th in “The Game of the Century.” To me, that victory is more impressive than a hypothetical Alabama victory in the BCS Championship Game. Not only did LSU manage to win on the road, they did so in the middle of the regular season, not after a 36 day layoff.

And as so many proponents of the silly BCS system like to preach, the college football regular season is sacred. So shouldn’t a regular season victory hold more weight than a bowl victory?

But LSU’s season was a whole lot more than that one game, even if it was “the game of the century.” As of right now, Les Miles’ team has earned victories over the champions of two BCS bowls (Oregon, Rose and West Virgina, Orange). And if Alabama wins the BCS Championship Game, it means LSU would have beaten three of the five 2012 BCS bowl winners. LSU also beat Arkansas, the champion of the Cotton Bowl, which this year was of higher quality (No. 6 Arkansas vs No. 8 Kansas State) than the Sugar Bowl (No. 11 Virginia Tech vs No. 13 Michigan).

LSU managed to beat eight bowl teams during the regular season, and six of those teams went on to win their bowl games (Alabama is still TBD, of course). The Tigers’ success wasn’t the product of home cooking. They beat Big East Champion West Virginia and National Semifinalist Alabama on the road, and PAC-12 Champion Oregon at a neutral site (albeit, Dallas is much closer to Louisiana than it is Oregon).

While a victory over LSU would obviously boost their resume, Alabama’s credentials would still be lacking in comparison to LSU. Nick Saban’s squad’s best regular season win was a 38-14 home victory against Arkansas (LSU beat the Razorbacks at home 42-17). The Crimson Tide’s best non-conference win a 27-11 road victory against Penn State, a team with an embarrassing offense. I’m honestly surprised the Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden and the Nittany Lions managed 11 points against the outstanding Alabama defense.

There has been some debate over whether Oklahoma State could earn a split of the National Championship should LSU trip up tonight. While Oklahoma State had a great season, I have no idea how the Cowboys could earn a split title over LSU. Oklahoma State has some impressive victories (Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor), but they lost on the road to unranked Iowa State. LSU’s one loss would be to No. 2 Alabama, a team they also beat.

A No. 1 AP vote for the Cowboys would be illogical, but as we all know by now, there’s not much logic in college football, so who knows what will happen.

With a win tonight, LSU will wrap up one of the greatest seasons in the history of college football, and we’ll all be spared another silly debate bred by the illogical BCS system.

But even if LSU can’t get their hands on all the Allstate Insurance tonight, the Bayou Bengals should still be recognized for their outstanding achievements in the regular season.

EPILOGUE:

I. Was. Wrong.

Alabama totally dominated LSU tonight. A 21-0 loss looks bad, but in all honesty, it was worse than that. LSU was never close to scoring. The offensive play calling was pathetic. Those screen passes were not going to work tonight. Neither was the speed option. LSU didn’t get the memo, they kept running them into the fourth quarter.

Alabama’s defense put on one hell of performance, and the Crimson Tide offense and special teams should be commended for not allowing LSU to score. The only way the Tigers were going to reach the end zone tonight was through a turnover or punt/kick return.

I just did not expect LSU to get dominated like they did tonight. I figured if they lost it’d be by a touchdown or less. But, as the game turned out, there is really no way LSU can say they deserve a share of the National Championship. The Tigers had the opportunity to prove to everybody that they were the best team in the country and they couldn’t deliver.

Congratulations to Alabama for being CONSENSUS National Champions. You guys earned it.

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Ball So Hard in 2012

He’s baaaaaaaaaack.

I really liked one quote Ball dropped in his press conference this afternoon. When talking about people questioning his ability to improve his draft stock next year, he said, “they have no idea what I can and cannot do.” Love it, never doubt what you can do.

I’ll post something longer on Ball and his decision later today.

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Revisiting My NFL Predictions and Revised Playoff Picks: Part One, AFC

Now that the NFL regular season is over, I thought I’d revisit the playoff and award predictions I made before week one, and see how silly they look now. This ended up being longer than I thought, so I’m going to break it up into three parts, 1. AFC 2. NFC 3. Super Bowl and Awards. (Previous picks are in italics.)

Preseason Picks:

WILD CARD ROUND:

Jets over Chargers

Ravens over Texans

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Patriots over Jets

Ravens over Steelers

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Ravens over Patriots

I’m pretty happy with these picks. I got six of the eight AFC playoff teams right, missing on the two biggest surprises, the Bengals and the Broncos.

I actually had the Bengals going 2-14 to secure the coveted first pick in the NFL Draft. In my alternate prediction world, the Bengals would have picked Andrew Luck to be their franchise QB. As it turns out, they drafted their franchise quarterback in 2011. I had no idea Andy Dalton would be this good this quickly, even though I saw him carve up my Badgers in person during the 2011 Rose Bowl. The Bengals were paper tigers this season though, going 0-7 against playoff teams. They beat one team over .500, the 9-7 Titans.

I had the Broncos 5-11, and they were a few Tebow miracles and Marion Barber acts of stupidity from actually finishing with that record. Tebow gets all the pub, but linebacker Von Miller was the true revelation this season in Denver. He’ll be stud for years to come.

Revised Playoff Picks:

WILD CARD ROUND:

Steelers over Broncos

Texans over Bengals

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

Patriots over Steelers

Ravens over Texans

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

Ravens over Patriots

Even after 17 weeks of action, I still don’t really know what to make of the AFC, so I didn’t make many changes to my preseason picks. Thanks to some huge flaws (i.e. the Patriots’ defense) or major injuries (i.e. Matt Schaub and Mario Williams), every team is vulnerable.

The Steelers probably have too many injuries to too many important players. I’m not really including Rashard Mendenhall, I don’t think Isaac Redman is a significant downgrade, Mendenhall is overrated. Big Ben and LaMarr Woodley are nursing injuries, and Ryan Clark will miss the game in Denver due to a blood disorder.

The Texans have just been decimated by injuries. Schaub and Mario Williams are out for the season, and Andre Johnson’s health status is still uncertain. I just can’t see a team quarterbacked by T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme going very far in the playoffs, even if they do have my man J.J. Watt anchoring the defensive line. If the Texans had the services of Schaub, Williams and Johnson, I would have loved their chances to make the Super Bowl this season. It’s really a shame, but kudos to the franchise for making the playoffs for the first time in its history.

The Patriots’ defense is just awful, there’s just no way around it. As great as Tom Brady and the Pats offense is, I just have a hard time seeing New England making it through the AFC without being betrayed by its porous defense.

I’ll stick with my pick as the Baltimore Ravens as AFC Champions, even if I still have many doubts about Joe Flacco and the rest of the Baltimore offense. Flacco showed me a lot in the Ravens’ comeback win at Heinz Field this year, but its still really hard for me to trust Flacco. My pick of the Ravens has a hell of lot more to do with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarrett Johnson, Lardarius Webb and the rest of the Ravens defense.

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RG3, The Heisman and SEC Arrogance

Robert Griffin III is the clear favorite to win the Heisman, and for good reason, his numbers are flat-out ridiculous (3998 passing yards, 36-6 TD/INT ratio, NCAA -record quarterback rating of 192.3, 644 yards and 9 TDs rushing). But apparently some people don’t find RG3 worthy of the Heisman, or even a spot on the three deep Heisman ballot, for one reason: Baylor isn’t a member of the SEC. Here’s a tweet that radio personality Paul Finebaum sent out this morning:

“Much heat leaving RG3 off my Heisman ballot. Nice player- but SEC defenses would have eaten him alive. Haters get a clue.”

There is so much wrong with this, starting with the fact that someone over the age of 13 used the word “hater.” The SEC has reigned over college football recently. They’ve won the last five BCS National Championships, and the conference is guaranteed a six consecutive title next month as LSU and Alabama will battle for all the Tostitos (or is it Nokia cellphones this year?) next month in New Orleans.

No one will argue the fact that LSU and Alabama have elite defenses. Each squad is loaded with future NFL draft picks, and feature stars like Morris Claiborne, the Honey Badger, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron. Georgia also rode a strong defense to the SEC East title, and almost every SEC roster features at least a couple future NFL defensive players (well, maybe not 2-10 Ole Miss…).

That said, to claim that Griffin would have gotten eaten alive by SEC defenses is idiotic, uniformed and delusional.  Geno Smith, Kellen Moore and the Georgia Southern rushing game all faced off with SEC defenses this season and lived to tell their tales.  West Virginia’s Smith put up 486 yards passing on the Bayou Bengals in September. Georgia Southern, of the FCS, rushed for over 300 yards against the Crimson Tide in November. Boise State’s Moore tallied 286 yards and 3 TDs through the air against Georgia in the season opener.

Those are just some of the performances against the SEC’s best defenses, a look at the rest of the SEC reveals a lot of mediocre teams that hardly put any fear in opposing quarterbacks. Defending National Champion Auburn gave up 236 total yards and 2 TDs to Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton in his very first college game. Two weeks later, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd embarrassed the Tigers with a 386 yard, 4 TD performance through the air.

Let’s also not forget that Cam Newton, a QB with similar tools to Griffin, ate up SEC defenses last year on his way to the Heisman. Griffin may not be as talented as Newton, last year’s first overall pick, but Griffin possesses Olympic sprinter speed and a rocket arm and is projected to be a first round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

The SEC has been home to some great football players and teams over the last decade, but let’s not carried away. The SEC is not home to the 12 best teams in college football every season. Ole Miss was putrid this season, losing to BYU and Louisiana Tech. Kentucky lost to Louisville, Florida struggled to beat FCS Furman, and Auburn needed a great comeback to top Utah State.

All in all, it’s time for Paul Finebaum to get a clue.

 

 

 

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The Heisman Case For Montee Ball

Montee Ball strikes the pose against UNLV in week one

In a year where there is no clear cut favorite for the Heisman Trophy with only two weeks left in the college football regular season, it baffles me that Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is not a serious contender for the prestigious honor. Ball plays for a ranked team in a major conference and is on pace to finish the season with over 1750 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns. Yet, Ball is not on most voters’ radars.

This is partly due to the hype quarterback Russell Wilson has been receiving all season. Don’t get me wrong, Wilson definitely deserves the hype. He’s thrown for 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions and is on pace to shatter the NCAA record for pass efficiency rating (he currently sits at 199.3, the current record held by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan is 186.0). The athletic department has been hyping Wilson for the Heisman since the Badgers defeated Nebraska in early October. The @RussellManiaXVI twitter feed was created just hours after the Badgers 48-17 victory. Wilson has also had some classic Heisman moments spoiled by shoddy defense and special teams. The senior engineered fourth quarter comebacks on the road against Michigan State and Ohio State, only to have his defense blow the games in the final seconds.

However, as great as Wilson has been the season, I believe Montee Ball is having a more special season and is more important to the success of the Badgers offense. Ball got knocked out of the game against Michigan State after he took a helmet to helmet hit in the second quarter. The offense faltered without him, and didn’t get back on track until Ball returned in the second half. The Badgers had a hard time getting anything going against Ohio State until Ball starting running free in the fourth quarter. Also, don’t forget about Ball’s spectacular touchdown grab in the first quarter that saved Wilson. Ball snatched a poor throw from Wilson, it should have been picked off, and ran into the end zone for the game’s first score.

Ball has reached the end zone 30 times this season, and scored at least two touchdowns in every game this season. He is just the fifth player in FBS history to score at least 30 touchdowns in a season. The junior has already broken the Wisconsin and Big Ten records for most rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns in a season, and with possibly three games left, Ball still has an outside chance to break Barry Sanders’ outrageous record of 39 total touchdowns. Ball is averaging a touchdown every 8.0 times he touches the ball

Ball ranks first in the NCAA in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and total scoring. Ball has accounted for 182 points this season, 32 more than Kansas State quarterback Colin Klein, who sits in second. Ball is second in the NCAA in rushing yards, just two yards behind Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey.

Wisconsin two losses hurts Ball’s chances, but it’s important to remember that the Badgers didn’t lose those games because of Ball, and both of those losses came on hail mary passes. Ball has played well in every one of Wisconsin’s toughest tests.

48-17 win vs Nebraska: 30 carries, 151 yards, 4 TDs

37-31 loss at Michigan St: 18 carries, 115 yards, TD; 2 rec, 24 yards, TD

33-29 loss at Ohio St: 17 carries, 84 yards, TD; 3 rec, 30 yards, TD

28-17 win vs Illinois: 38 carries, 224 yards, 2 TDs; 1 rec TD

According to the UW athletic department, in three games against teams ranked among the top 16 in the country in total defense (Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois), he has averaged 141.3 rushing yards, 159.0 all-purpose yards and scored seven touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving).

Alabama running back Trent Richardson is considered by most to be a serious contender for the Heisman. Heisman Pundit believes that if the vote were held right now, Richardson would finish third, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. However, Ball has better numbers than Richardson across the board. Ball has more rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and has a higher yards per carry average.

Richardson had a chance to have a Heisman moment on the biggest stage possible, last month’s “Game of the Century” between Alabama and LSU. The junior didn’t have a poor performance, he ran for 89 yards and had 5 catches for 80 yards, but he didn’t reach the end zone as his team lost 9-6 in overtime.

At this point, there are only a few reasons why someone would vote for Richardson over Ball. Richardson is considered to be the more talented player and have the higher draft stock. Most pundits have Richardson being a top five or top ten pick in next year’s NFL draft if he opts to leave early. Richardson plays for Alabama, a high profile team that plays in the most high profile conference, the SEC. Alabama is also ranked #2 in the nation, and if the season ended today, the Crimson Tide would be playing in the BCS National Championship Game. To me, none of those reasons should matter when it comes to the Heisman, the trophy supposedly given to college football’s most outstanding player.

Now, if people have Baylor’s Griffin over Ball, fine, that’s a different story. Griffin has had an outstanding season. He’s putting up video game numbers (33 TDs, only 5 INTs and over 4000 total yards) and he’s exciting as hell to watch. But if you’re going to punish Ball for playing on a two-loss team, then Griffin should be as well. Baylor has lost three times, and needed overtime to beat Kansas, one of the worst BCS teams.

Ball has possibly two more chances to shine on a big stage before Heisman voters turn in their ballots. The Badgers play Penn State this Saturday in a de facto Big Ten Leaders Division title game, and with a victory, UW will face Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 3. Perhaps, Ball still has a chance to capture the nation’s attention.

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Checking In: First Round Wrap-Up

Wheaton North QB John Peltz (4 total TDs this week against Jacobs) tries to escape a Glenbard North defender during the regular season – Photo from the Chicago Tribune

CLASS 5A

#6 Montini 49 #11 Woodstock North 14

Montini scored four touchdowns over a 12 play stretch in the second half to pull ahead from Woodstock North in the Broncos’ 49-14 first round victory.

The Broncos took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Thunder battled back and cut the score to 21-14 in the second quarter. From there though, it was all Montini, as the defensing 5A state champs scored the final 28 points of the game.

Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp had another star performance, hauling in 7 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. The Nebraska-bound senior also had a 52 yard punt return for the game’s first touchdown.

Quarterback John Rhode continued his string of excellent games, completing 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 330 yards and four touchdowns.

Montini advances to the second round where they will play at #3 Sterling 1 pm on Saturday

#8 St. Francis 27 #9 Burlington 10

After losing in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons to Montini, St. Francis broke through to the second round for the first time since 2008 when the Spartans won the Class 5A championship.

Defensive back Michael Hanson’s interception in the third quarter was the key play of the game. Trailing 14-10, Burlington opted not to punt on 4th and 13 from the St. Francis 36-yard line. Rockets QB Ryan Ritchie overthrew his target, and the ball landed in the hands of Hanson, who returned the pick 70 yards for a touchdown that put the Spartans up 21-10.

Running back Jack Petrando led the Spartans with 18 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Nick Donati added two touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground.

St. Francis faces a tough test in the second round where they will go on the road to face #1 Kaneland at 7 pm on Saturday.

CLASS 6A

#3 Nazareth 35 #14 Deerfield 6

Nazareth running back Joshua Moore ran for 160 yards and four touchdowns in the Roadrunners dominant 35-6 first round win over Deerfield.

The Roadrunners took a 28-0 lead into halftime after holding the Warriors to just 19 yards of offense in the first two quarters. Deerfield scored its first and only touchdown with just 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Nazareth will host Cary-Grove next Saturday at 1 pm in the second round. The Roadrunners will be looking to advance to the quarterfinals for the second time in school history.

#10 Glenbard South 30 #7 Foreman 7

Running back Wesley Sanders scored two touchdowns as Glenbard South defeated Foreman 30-7 in the first round of the class 6A playoffs.

The Raiders played a sloppy game (5 fumbles, just one lost) without their starting quarterback Tyler Padera (concussion) but still dominated Foreman. Glenbard South took a 30-0 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders will host Prairie Ridge next Saturday at 7 pm. The two teams met the first week of the season with Prairie Ridge winning convincingly 55-12.

#2 Prairie Ridge 49 #15 Marmion 0

Things started out well for Marmion, as the Cadets recovered a fumble on Prairie Ridge’s first offensive play of the game. However, the Cadets had a field goal attempt blocked on their ensuing possession, and things quickly went down hill.

Prairie Ridge went on to dominate the first half, taking a 42-0 lead into halftime. Quarterback Nick Nissen (12 carries, 38 yards) ran for four touchdowns. Running back Connor Greenwald added a touchdown and led the Wolves with 144 yards on 11 carries.

Marmion earned just one first down in the game while gaining only 23 yards of total offense.

#8 Lake Forest 55 #9 Fenton 20

Fenton struck first, but the Bison were unable to keep things going, losing to Lake Forest 55-20 in the first round of the class 6A playoffs.

Play-making running back Alan Geneva led the Bison with 10 catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.

Quarterback Sean Havlovic did not play for the Bison due a “school-related incident.”

Lake Forest running back Owen Williams (16 carries, 130 yards) reached the end zone four times for the Scots, who will face #1 Batavia in the second round.

CLASS 7A

#11 Carmel 28 #6 Addison Trail 20

Running backs Jordan Kos and Brian Brennan led the way for Carmel as they upset Addison Trail 28-20 in the first round of the class 7A playoffs.

Kos led the Corsairs with 31 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown while Brennan added 20 carries, 78 yards and two touchdowns. Addison Trail had only given up 48 points in the regular season, and never gave up more than 14 points in a game.

The Blazers drove down to the Carmel 11 yard line late in the fourth quarter in an attempt to send the game to overtime. However, the Corsairs forced two incompletions and time expired.

AT Quarterback Trevor Bermingham completed 19 of his 33 pass attempts for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Carmel will host Crystal Lake South in the second round. The game kicks off at 7 pm Friday night.

#7 Wheaton North 28 #10 Jacobs 0

John Peltz had another strong performance as Wheaton North flew by Jacobs 28-0 in the first round.

Peltz completed 13 of his 19 pass attempts for 277 yards and four touchdowns. The junior added another touchdown on the ground.

Sophomore Matt Biegalski caught 5 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown while senior Johnny Daniels had 3 grabs for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

The Falcons’ defense was able to shut down Jacobs by holding down running back Caz Zyks. The talented back with a sweet name only gained 27 yards on 11 carries.

Wheaton North will face Rockford Boylan, the defending 6A champions, in the second round. That game kicks off at 1 pm Saturday in Rockford.

CLASS 8A

#11 Glenbard North 27 Barrington 21

Glenbard North only completed two passes in their 27-21 fupset win over Barrington, but the second one happened to be the play of the game.

With the scored tied at 21 halfway through the fourth quarter, Panthers quarterback Brian Murphy threw up a prayer into the end zone. The ball somehow fell into the hands of Logan Henshall for a touchdown (also Henshall’s first catch as a varsity player) and the Panthers took a 27-21 lead.

Once again, most of the Glenbard North offensive production came from the Jackson brothers. Junior Justin (17 carries, 95 yards) reached the end zone three times, while senior Phil ran for 122 yards on 21 carries.

The Panthers advanced to the second round where they will host Palatine at 6 pm on Saturday.

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