Sports 56 WHBlog Q

August 31, 2009

Can David slay Goliath again?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 8:23 pm

In 1996, The Memphis Tigers upset win over big,
bad Tennessee was arguably the greatest moment in the history of the Memphis Football Program. It ignited the city, made the football program relevant again, and gave Tigers Fans “Tennessee State” bragging rights over the mythical-like Giants from the Eastern region of the state. The Vols came into Memphis ranked 6th in the nation. This Sunday, some 13 years after the upset of the Vols, the Tigers will try to cut down another top ten program. Ole Miss has an amazing history, although their last 20 years certainly is not comparable to what the Vols program has been. Never the less, the 2009 Rebels are being looked at as a National Title contender. There are many similarities including the Quarterback position where the Tigers were able to stymie the future Super Bowl Champion Quarterback Peyton Manning in 1996, and now hope to do the same to the Rebels’ Jevan Snead, who may very well be a a top ten pick in next June’s NFL Draft, assuming he leaves early.
The unfortunate thing about the win over UT was that the Rip Scherer era never again reached that moment. It was all downhill from there. The Tigers seemed to lose fans at an alarming rate until Tommy West took over and a couple of guys named DeAngelo Williams and Danny Wimprine electrified Memphis fans with performances the school had never seen. The results from W&W took the program to new heights. Since their arrival, and now several years after their departure, the school has gone to 5 Bowl games in the past 6 seasons.
The problem now that exists is a clamoring from the fans for more. Tigers fans have become indifferent to the annual Bowl Games and now want one thing, and one thing only, and that’s a Conference USA Championship and trip to the Autozone Liberty Bowl Game. What fans are asking for is not too much. The only real problem I have is the apathy there seems to be towards the football program. I guess playing in the New Orleans Bowl or Magic Jack St. Petersburg Bowl doesn’t compare with the Hoop team playing for a National Title.
With all that said, the Tigers can do wonders by shocking the world again. A win over heavily favored Ole Miss may do to the program what the win over UT did in 1996. The difference is that I think the program can build more on this win than they did in 1996 when Scherer couldn’t get the program out of neutral.
A victory over Ole Miss Sunday could electrify the city once again, and perhaps, strike an accord with the seemingly thousands of fans who at the moment, are showing indifference to the Memphis Football Program.

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August 27, 2009

Tigers still making mistakes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 6:32 pm

With their season opener set for a week from this Sunday, Tigers Head Football Coach Tommy West is still having to talk to his team (and the media) about sloppy play and silly mistakes. West’s team went through a spirited scrimmage Thursday afternoon at Liberty Bowl Stadium, but after it had concluded, Tommy unleashed on his team, talking about costly penalties and turnovers. He said if this was a real game, the Tigers would have lost.
On a positive note, West said the effort was better than the team’s previous scrimmage (last Saturday) but that wasn’t saying a whole lot. He also talked about having plenty of time (The season opener is a week from Sunday against Ole MIss) to get things fixed. Many of the players left the stadium with their heads down as they walked back to the team buses. They realize that while there’s still some time to get things straight, saying it and doing it, are two completely different things. Tailback Curtis Steele, normally a happy go lucky talkative chap, did not want to address the media until urged to do so by running backs coach James Joseph.
I think the team realizes the obstacle they’ll be facing in Ole Miss, a top 10 preseason team, but it does not appear that the sense of urgency has hit them yet. West said he was hoping to have Quarterback Arkelon Hall pushed in camp, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, Tyler Bass missed the scrimmage with a mild knee injury, and that hurt his chances. Hall will be the starting Quarterback in the opener barring some unforeseen situation.
The Tigers have plenty of new faces this season and chemistry will be an issue, but if they have any chance in slaying a dragon like Ole Miss, than sloppy play and multiple mistakes can’t happen. If they do, it could be a long opener for the Tigers.

August 17, 2009

On the Couch

Filed under: blog, sports 56, Uncategorized — robfischer @ 9:48 pm

tunica banner

As the College Football Season gets into the second week of camp, I’ve come up with 5 questions for each team in the SEC and the Memphis Tigers.  These are questions that teams would like to answer before the season gets underway.  Next to the team name is my pre camp predictions which will be re-evaluated after training camp.

SEC East

Florida (11-1 / 7-1)

  1. Is anything short of a title disappointing?
  2. Can Tim Tebow step up to an even bigger challenge and pressure?
  3. Will John Brantley be a key to the offensive success this year?
  4. Who is the best candidate to replace Percy Harvin?
  5. Are there any flaws in the defense?

Georgia (11-1 / 7-1)

  1. Can Joe Cox be good enough for Georgia to contend?
  2. Is Caleb King the next great Georgia back?
  3. Who’s the complement to A.J. Green?
  4. Is the defense improved?
  5. Can the defensive ends get a pass rush?

Tennessee (7-5 / 3-5)

  1. Will confidence in Jonathan Crompton make him become what we thought he’d be?
  2. Is the offense better than a year ago?
  3. Can the running game be good enough to have balanced offense?
  4. Is the defense capable of stealing games?
  5. Can Lane Kiffin coach?

South Carolina (7-5 / 3-5)

  1. Is Steve Spurrier a 7-6 sort of coach?
  2. How patient will Spurrier be with Stephen Garcia?
  3. Who will be the feature back?
  4. Is the offensive line better than a year ago?
  5. Will they have any sort of pass rush?

Kentucky (7-5 / 3-5) 

  1. Can they manage schedule to keep the bowl streak alive?
  2. Can they go 6-0 from October 10-November 14?
  3. How versatile will Randall Cobb have to be?
  4. Can they finally break through in the East?
  5. Are these the best offensive and defensive lines Rich Brooks has had?

Vanderbilt (5-7 / 2-6)

  1. Is the offense better than a year ago?
  2. Can the young receivers grow up?
  3. Are they capable of winning 3 of the 4 final games?
  4. Can the defense steal enough games?
  5. Was last year an aberration?

SEC West

Alabama (11-1 / 7-1)

  1. Can Greg McElroy be at least John Parker Wilson?
  2. Who is the receiver opposite Julio Jones?
  3. Is the talent there to replace losses on offensive line?
  4. Can the defense continue to dominate against the run?
  5. Do the Tide have to be undefeated to win the West?

LSU (10-2 / 6-2)

  1. How long will Jordan Jefferson be the starting quarterback?
  2. Can Rueben Randle or Russell Shepard be the freshman of the year in the SEC?  How much and where will they be used?
  3. Is John Chavis a good answer for a struggling defense?
  4. How many losses will put Les Miles on the hot seat?
  5. Should finishing ahead of Ole Miss be the goal?

Ole Miss (10-2 / 6-2)

  1. Are the Rebs really a top 10 team?
  2. Can they avoid the slipups from a year ago?
  3. Can Greg Hardy stay on the field?
  4.  Is pass defense better?
  5. Will lack of depth on the offensive line hurt the team?

Arkansas (7-5 / 3-5)

  1. Why will the defense be better?
  2. Can the offensive line protect an immobile quarterback?
  3. Is Ryan Mallett this year’s Jevan Snead?
  4. Is their speed catching up to the rest of the SEC?
  5. Are they still a year away and can they be last year’s Ole Miss?

Auburn (4-8 / 1-7)

  1. How many quarterbacks will play?
  2. Can they win more than one game in October?
  3. How long before Ted Roof can get defense back to Auburn like?
  4. How long before Gus Malzahn can get the offense to his liking?
  5. Will Gene Chizik hire look foolish or brilliant?

Mississippi State (2-10 / 0-8)

  1. How much time will Tyler Russell and Chris Relf see this year?
  2. Can State win two non conference games?  What about at least two of the final five?
  3. Can Anthony Dixon flourish in Dan Mullen’s offense?
  4. Can Brandon Cooper step up at defensive end to solidify defensive line?
  5. Who will step up as the second wide receiver?

Memphis (5-7 / 3-5)

  1. Do they have full confidence in starting quarterback?
  2. Do they need to start 5-1 just to get to a bowl?
  3. Why is the defense better?
  4. Can so many new faces make the defense tough to all get on the same page?
  5. How many losses put Tommy West on the hot seat?

Sports Bar “Big SEC Coaching Power Rankings”

  1. Urban Meyer (Florida)
  2. Nick Saban (Alabama)
  3. Houston Nutt (Ole Miss)
  4. Mark Richt (Georgia)
  5. Bobby Petrino (Arkansas)
  6. Les Miles (LSU)
  7. Rich Brooks (Kentucky)
  8. Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt)
  9. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)
  10. Tommy West (Memphis)
  11. Lane Kiffin (Tennessee)
  12. Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)
  13. Gene Chizik (Auburn)

tunica bannertunica banner

There’s plenty happening this month in Tunica.  For a complete list of events and attractions in Tunica, Mississippi, click on the link below.  Get easy access to the casinos, golf courses, and all other entertainment.

http://www.tunicamiss.com/ 

Here are some coming attractions:

Carlos Mencia (Sam’s Town) 800-456-0711

Date: September 04

Carlos Mencia, superstar/stand-up comedian, is undoubtedly one of today’s most lauded entertainers and feared comics. Whether it is man-on-the-street interviews, studio comedy, commercial parodies, or nationwide sold-out tours, Mencia demonstrates an extraordinary ability to connect with a diverse audience.

B.B. King (Gold Strike) 888-245-7529

Date: September 05

His reign as King of the Blues has been as long as that of any monarch on earth. Yet B.B. King continues to wear his crown well. At age 76, he is still light on his feet, singing and playing the blues with relentless passion. Time has no apparent effect on B.B., other than to make him more popular, more cherished, more relevant than ever.

Jon B. & Damon Williams (Sam’s Town) 800-456-0711

Date: September 12

These Comedians material is universal and there’s something for all ages. There popularity has provided them the opportunity to work with some of the biggest stars in the business.

Chicago (Harrah’s) 800-946-4946

Date: October 02

In 1967, Chicago musicians Walter Parazaider, Terry Kath, Danny Seraphine, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Robert Lamm, and Peter Cetera formed a group with one dream, to integrate all the musical diversity from their beloved city and weave a new sound, a rock ‘n’ roll band with horns. Their dream turned into 20 Top Ten singles, 12 Top Ten albums (five of which were #1), and sales of more than 120 million records.

 tunica national

Don’t forget to join me every Thursday afternoon at Tunica National for our three person scramble.  $25 gets you nine holes of golf, a dinner following your round and an opportunity at great prizes, including $150 in promotional chips for closest to the pin.  Just call 662-357-0777 or 866-833-6331. 

Have a Great Week!

The Definition of Choke

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 4:00 pm

Title: What is a Choke?

In the World of Sports you often hear the term “Choke”. It’s as common as a win or a loss. A team choked away the title, this guy or that gal choked away a chance to win. So what is the definition of Choke?
Answers.com defines the word choke in the world of Sports as “To fail to perform effectively because of nervous agitation or tension”. For example, choked by missing an easy putt on the final hole.
Tiger Woods was beaten out over the weekend by unheralded Y.A. Yang for the PGA Championship. Woods had a four shot lead at the halfway mark and a two shot lead entering the final round of play on Sunday. There are many people who insist that Tiger Woods choked away the Tournament. I feel Tiger was beaten out by a guy who played better golf, and made some clutch shots.
Woods had never lost a “Major” entering the Final Round when owning at least a share of the lead. Now it’s 14 out of 15. Still, that doesn’t mean he choked it away. When I think of the term choke in the World of Sports, I tend to think of someone in total control who somehow blows it in the end with bad shots, plays, moves etc. that were brought on because of nerves. Someone who can’t handle the spotlight. This is not Tiger Woods. Another question that has come up is can Tiger choke? And the answer is, of course he can. If Tiger Woods was leading an event going into the final few holes and completely melted down and gave away the event, than he choked. He was leading going into the final round, but having a two shot lead with 18 to play and not getting it done, is not a choke. Is it a choke when a Baseball team scores 5 runs in the top of the 1st and eventually loses 6-5? No. Now if they gave up the six in the Bottom of the 9th I would say they choked. The Yankees choked away a 3-0 Playoff series lead to the Red Sox a number of year’s ago. If was a choke because they lost the series 4-3.
Let’s remember Y.A. Yang made an Eagle chip on 14 to grab the lead. It was Yang who seized the moment. Tiger became increasingly frustrated and lost focus. He made a some bad shots because of the frustration and not nerves. He didn’t succumb to Yang because he was afraid of him or afraid of losing. And it’s not as if Woods was shanking his shots or finding aqua with them. Tiger just plain and simply didn’t make putts and enough good shots, Mr. Yang did!
This was a triumph for South Korea. This was a triumph for Asia. This was a triumph for the little guy, the relative unknown, the improbable. This was not a choke by the greatest player ever to play the game. At least not this time.

August 14, 2009

C-USA Preview: Cheap Beer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Will Askew @ 2:00 pm

CUSA Eastern–The Less Exciting Division

6.  UAB

On offense:  The team is set at QB.  Senior Joe Webb, while not a great thrower, is a very good runner who is the team’s best offensive weapon.  Other than that, the team lacks playmakers.  They don’t have a good enough running back to be a feature back.  The receivers, while physically gifted (the three top receivers are 6’5, 6’2, and 6’2), are not very productive.  They do have a pretty good o-line, one that has the potential to be one of the best they’ve ever had, led by Matt McCants.  If this team is to win, it will win because it outscores people b/c of Joe Webb’s playmaking ability.

On defense:  Yeesh.  The linemen haven’t been able to generate a push, but sadly, this is probably the strength of the defense.  The linebackers have been decimated by graduation and have very little talent.  While the secondary is a good tackling unit, expect a lot of big plays.  Not good.

Prediction:  The schedule actually sets up pretty well at the beginning, with home games against Rice and SMU–then it’s murder.  2-10 (1-7 C-USA)

Key Player:  The entire defense.  Stop somebody.

Comparison:  Red Dog.  Seriously, even for cheap beer, why the hell are you drinking this?

5.  UCF

On offense:  UCF was last in the nation in offense last year, and it had a lot to do with the QB.  Rob Calabrese was supposed to be the future of the program, but really struggled last year as a freshman.  Brynn Harvey leads a promising young backfield that’s still struggling to replace Kevin Smith.  The receivers have some upside, but drops were a big problem last year.  Much like the rest of the offense, the line is young and unproven, but lost an all-league left tackle.  There’s hope, but this year could be bad.

On defense:  If this team is to win some games, it will be because of their front seven.  The line gets a lot of pressure, with junior Bruce Miller a devastating force.  They’re loaded by C-USA standards at linebacker, but have a durability problem.  In the secondary, however, it’s an adventure.  The Knights are replacing four starters in the defensive backfield.

Prediction:  4-8, 3-5 C-USA

Key Player:  QB.  If Calabrese and the offense can get going, this team could be dangerous in C-USA.

Comparison:  Busch Light.  This is made by Anheuser Busch…why doesn’t it taste better?

4.  Marshall
On offense:  Mark Cann is the leader in the QB controversy, but this is a wide open competition.  The passing game was almost non-existent last year.  The offense is bolstered by the return of Darius Marshall, who should help the offense be somewhat productive.  While the receivers don’t blow anyone away, the tight ends may be among the ten best groups in the country, with cody Slate and Lee Smith.  Even with an immobile QB, the oline was very good in pass protection last year.

On defense:  Albert McClellan, former CUSA defensive player of the year, returns from an ACL tear that kept him out last year.  Michael Janac is also very solid on the other end.  At LB, senior Mario Harvey, the team’s leading tackler, returns.  They should, however, be vulnerable in the passing game, as the corners struggled to cover last year.

Prediction:  6-6, 4-4 CUSA

Key Player:  QB.  Again, if they can get any production from the QB, they’ll be extremely solid.

Comparison:  Heileman’s Old Style.  Popular in certain places, but generally, you wake up with a terrible taste in your mouth the next day and there’s lots of regret.

3.  Memphis

On offense:  You know the deal…good skill players like Duke Calhoun, Carlos Singleton, and Curtis Steele, a decent QB in Arkelon Hall.  The offensive line, though, is a major question mark.  Rick Mallory is a very good coach, but is forced into replacing four starters on a good unit.  If this team is to fulfill its potential on offense, Hall must play more consistently and the o-line has to grow up quickly.

On offense:  Clinton McDonald is gone, so there’s a huge question as to where the pass rush is coming from.  Justin Thompson should be a starter before long on the line.  The linebackers are the strength of the defense, with Greg Jackson the defense’s top player, and Derrick Odom and Jamon Hughes ready to make an impact.  Alton Starr and Deron Furr should be good safeties, but at corner, they’re very suspect.  Special teams, as it has been since Gostkowski left, is going to be an adventure.

Prediction:  6-6, 4-4 CUSA

Key Player:  O-line.

Comparison:  Southpaw.  Lots of hops, but always disappoints you in the end.  Gives you a terrible headache.

2.  Southern Miss

On offense:  Explosive.  A lot hinges on the return of stud WR DeAndre Brown, who shouldn’t be in this league.  Damion Fletcher may be the a big numbers guy, because he’s not.  What he is is a good decision maker who never gets most underrated back in the country, and Austin Davis is a good, solid QB.  The problems could be on the offensive line, where they struggled in pass protection last year.  Altogether, an extremely skilled unit.

On defense:  Anthony Gray is a great DT, but the ends finished 93rd in the nation in sacks last year.  At LB, Korey Williams is the best player, but they have to replace a current NFLer and a three year starter.  In the secondary, they could be the league’s best pass defense and are very good at not giving up big plays.

Prediction:  9-3, 6-2 CUSA

Key Player:  DeAndre Brown.  The key to their season is his health.

Comparison:  PBR.  One of the best cheap beers out there.  A good value for the price.

1.  East Carolina

On offense:  Getting Patrick Pinckney back is huge.  Not that Pinkney is rattled.  The top three rushers from last season either left the program, graduated, or are suspended.  However, Brandon Jackson has a really good set of tools.  At receiver, they’re loaded.  Jamar Bryant is great after returning from suspension.  Dwayne Harris makes plays as well.  The Pirates also have one of the league’s best o-lines.

On defense:  CJ Wilson leads a group of linemen that could play in the ACC.  Best d-line in CUSA.  The linebackers are an extremely mobile group that should thrive behind the d-line, and the secondary, along with Southern Miss, is the best in CUSA.

Prediction:  9-3, 7-1 CUSA

Key Player:  Running back.

Comparison:  Miller High Life.  Clearly the Champagne of Beers.

CUSA West-May Not Be Great, but It Will Be Exciting

If nothing else, the C-USA West should be really fun to watch (except for Tulane), with sort of a Big 12 South-Lite thing working.  Explosive offenses should be the norm in this division.

6.  Tulane

On offense:  At QB, there’s no clear leader.  Joe Kemp is the leader at this point, but Kevin Moore is the incumbent, though he struggled last year.  Andre Anderson is a really solid back who would have been among the nation’s leading rushers if not for a shoulder injury.  Jeremy Williams is a stud wideout, but is also coming off a season-ending injury.  The o-line, though, is replacing its two best players and is weak in the interior.

On defense:  Tulane didn’t stop the run very well last year, but should be more disruptive this fall.  The linebackers are active, but lack size.  Chinonso Echebelem leads the secondary, which is pretty good as not giving up big plays.  However, they play extremely soft coverage, which leads to third down and red zone struggles.  There’s a reason that Bob Toledo has had three DCs in three years.

Prediction:  2-10, 1-7 CUSA

Key Player:  QB.  Must get some production.

Comparison:  Milwaukee’s Best Ice…seriously.  What the hell?  Why?

5.  Rice

On offense:  They have to replace Chase Clement and Jerrett Dillard, one of the best QB-WR combos in the history of college football.  JT Shepard, Bama transfer Nick Fanuzzi, and freshman Ryan Lewis all have a shot at replacing Clement.  The running backs are almost a non factor in this passing offense.  Toren Dixon returns at wideout from last year, but they lost two NFLers.  And on the o-line, they have to replace three starters.  Rebuilding is the word that comes to mind.

On defense:  Scott Solomon leads a very solid defensive line, especially at the end position.  Terrane Garmon is an athletic, undersized LB who should make plays.  And in the secondary, a lot of experience returns, but that may be a negative after the Owls finished 110th nationally in yds allowed last year.

Prediction:  2-10, 2-6 CUSA

Key player:  The replacements for Clement and Dillard.

Comparison:  Icehouse.  Went through a little flare in popularity for a minute there, but is now back to being where it belongs.  Not in your refrigerator.

4.  SMU

On offense:  Expect a lot of improvement.  Soph QB Bo Levi Mitchell was thrust into starting as a true freshman, and responded with good numbers, but a ton of turnovers.  He should improve a lot this year.  Much like Rice, the ground game is an afterthought, with Rice last in the country in rushing with 41 yards a game.  Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson lead a talented group of receivers.  On the o-line, there are a lot of freshmen and sophomores.  The Mustangs will put up better numbers, but must cut down on the turnovers.

On defense:  The Mustangs will switch to a 3-4 alignment this year, partially because they’re defensive linemen aren’t very good.  Taylor Thompson, though, does have a nice ceiling.  Youri Yenga is a nice linebacker, moving there from end last year.  And though the Mustangs bring back nine letterwinners in the secondary, but said secondary was one of the worst pass defenses in the country last year.

Prediction:  5-7, 3-5 CUSA

Key Player:  O-line.  They must give Mitchell time to throw to avoid turnovers.

Comparison:  Olde English 800.  Tastes bad, but somehow maintains street cred and is kind of endearing in a way.

3.  UTEP

On offense:  Junior Chase Vittatoe could be the best QB to ever play at UTEP.  He’s one of the more underrated players in America, but after him, there’s nothing at QB.  At runnung back, Donald Buckram and Leilyon Myers are solid, but the Miners averaged only 122 yds/game last year.  Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi could be one of the best WR tandems in America that no one has ever heard of.  Four starters return on the o-line, but the lone loss is all league center Robby Felix, a four year starter.  This unit should put up a lot of points.

On defense:  This is where the Miners will struggle, especially on the defensive line.  Five lettermen are gone on a unit that got manhandled regularly in ’08.  Losing Adam Vincent is really going to hut the linebacking corps, which has no proven players other than Royzell Smith.  The defensive backfield has given up a ton over the years, but returns Braxton Amy from a season ending injury last year and also Da’Mon Cromartie Smith at safety.  At corner, Cornelius Brown returns, an all league performer from last year.

Prediction:  7-5, 5-3 CUSA

Key Player:  Defensive line.  They need to stop getting manhandled and putting pressure on the rest of their defense.

Comparison:  Keystone Light.  Comparatively, not that bad.  Doesn’t give you bitter beer face.

2.  Tulsa

On offense:  Jacob Bower and GJ Kinne are competing for what may be the best QB job in America this side of Texas Tech.  They will have to replace David Johnson, though.  At running back, Jamad Williams returns to replace Tarrion Adams.  Shockingly, Tulsa ran the ball the thirs most in the country last year, even with Gus Malzahn as the coordinator.  Damaris Johnson, Slick Shelley, and Trae Johnson make up one of the conference’s best receiving corps.  At o-line, the team must replace three starters, including an all-league player.  Should still be good, but maybe not as.

On defense:  The line graduated 2/3 of its starters from last season.  Wilson Garrison is a solid nose guard though.  Mike Bryan returns to anchor a good linebacking corps that is the strength of the defense.  James Lockett was an all-CUSA performer at safety last year, but the secondary remains an area where the Hurricane is extremely shaky.

Prediction:  7-5, 5-3 CUSA

Key Player:  QB.  Replacing David Johnson is huge.

Comparison:   Colt .45.  Just sounds cool.  Doesn’t taste that great, but drinking it conveys being Billy dee Williams.

1.  Houston

On offense:  It’s not that big of a stretch to say that QB Case Keenum is a Heisman contender.  He had over 5000 yds and 50 touchdowns last year and fisnihed #9 in the country in pass efficiency.  Bryce Beall ran for over 1000 yards last year in a pass-first offense, so the ground game is on solid footing as well.  Tyrone Carrier and Chaz Rodriguez anchor one of CUSA’s best receiving corps.  The only question mark is on the rebuilt offensive line.

On defense:  This is the group that could prevent them from winning the conference.  The defensive line is in a terrible state, while Marcus McGraw is a solid returning linebacker in a group that could be a strength of the defense.  The secondary, meanwhile, was very shaky last year, but Brandon Brinkley is one of the league’s better cover corners.

Prediction:  9-3, 7-1 CUSA

Key Player:  D-line.  Must remedy this crisis.

Comparison:  MGD.  One step below High Life, but still very drinkable.

Big EAST Preview–Teams are Sitcoms

Filed under: Uncategorized — Will Askew @ 1:56 pm

Big East

In year’s past, one could argue whether or not the Big East deserved a BCS slot.  At least, though, they had West Virginia, who typically looked like it belonged in BCS games and twice played really well in them(vs. Oklahoma and vs. Georgia).  This year, there is no argument.  The Mountain West has moved way out in front of the Big East, with three consistent top 25 teams…the Big East may only have one or two by the end of the year.  Mediocrity and parity are two words that come to mind.

8.  Syracuse

On offense:  Ryan Nassib was named the starter in Spring practice, and he’s not spectacular.  Last year’s starter, senior Cameron Dantley, will come off the bench…but Greg Paulus, former Duke PG, is lurking on the bench as well.  The running backs are much of the same, with strong between the tackles runners but not much playmaking ability.  Wideout Mike Williams is a solid #1, but there’s not much else there.  The o-line is not pretty.

On defense:  This is the unit that looks like it doesn’t even belong in D-1.  Arthur Jones, at NT, is the only person on the defense with next-level ability at all.  The linebackers can’t tackle, and the secondary will get roasted by anyone who can pass.

Prediction:  2-10, 0-7 Big East

Key Player:  QB Ryan Nassib.  If the club is to even be competitive, he has to perform.

Sitcom:  Saved by the Bell.  You laugh at it because it’s so bad that it’s entertaining.

7.  Connecticut

On offense:  Last year, it was all about Donald Brown.  They did lose a senior QB in Tyler Lorenzen, and though he wasn’t great, he was a steadying senior leader.  Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon are not nearly as good as Donald Brown, but they are solid.  The receivers are green, but should be good in the future.  The o-line did lose two quality players, but Mike Hicks is very solid, as are Moe Petrus and Zach Hurd.

On defense:  The Huskies defense should be okay…the defensive line will be extremely quick and disruptive, but lacks size and will have trouble against big O-Lines.  The linebackers are really, really good, led by Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson.  The secondary should be pretty good in pass coverage, but lacks size.

Prediction:  4-8, 2-5 Big East

Key Player:  Tackles.  The inside of the o-line is really good, so if they can protect the QB from the edge, the offense should perform.

Sitcom:  Parks and Recreation.  New on the scene, and has its moments, but still just, “Eh.”

6.  Louisville

On offense:  Adam Froman, Justin Burke, and Zach Stoudt will duke it out for the starting QB job.  Major question mark.  At running back, though, the team has a very good player, sophomore Victor Anderson.  The receiving corps is solid if not spectacular, and the o-line could be a major weakness.

On defense:  This unit is really going to struggle to stop the pass.  The linebackers, led by Jon Dempsey, are the strength of the unit.  However, they’re not going to have much of a pass rush and their pass defense could be a massive hole.  They lost three starters from a secondary that ranked 92nd in pass defense nationally.

Prediction:  4-8, 2-5 Big East, Kraigthorpe fired

Key player:  Defensive ends.  Must get some sort of pass rush to make things easier on their shaky secondary.

Sitcom:   Joey.  Took something that worked on another show and spun it off onto something new, but it never worked.  Probably because you made Matt LeBlanc a main character.

5.  Pitt

On offense:  Senior QB Bill Stull, while he did start last year, is not very good.  At running back, they have to replace LeSean McCoy, who is one of the great backs in school history.  They do have some good receivers, led by soph Jonathan Baldwin and senior tight end Nate Byham.  The offensive line is a good run blocking unit, but a horrible pass blocking unit.  Gave up the most sacks in the BE last year.

On defense:  Should probably be the best defense in the Big 10, even without Scott McKillop, who graduated.  Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard are good DEs, and they’re strong at defensive tackle.  At linebacker, they’re solid, though they will struggle to replace the playmaking ability of McKillop.  The secondary is a good coverage unit, but for some reason gave up big plays in ’08.

Prediction:  7-5, 4-3 Big East

Key Player:  Bill Stull.  If he is good, they could win the BE title.

Sitcom:  Frasier.  Boring most of the time, but still very effective.

4.  West Virginia

On offense:  Gone is the best QB in school history, but it could be much worse.  Senior Jarrett Brown has a lot of experiece and provides a poor-man’s version of what White brought to the table.  While they don’t have a lot of horses in their backfield to run between the tackles, they do have lightning fast Noel Devine.  The receivers are unproven, and the o-line is as big a question as it has been in years behind the starters.  Not as explosive as it has been, but still should be tough to stop.

On defense:  The defense should be very solid, with good players throughout.  The linebackers are extremely solid, with Reed Williams and JT Thomas the leaders of that group.  Scooter Berry is a good DT, but they lack ends. The five man secondary has good safeties, but at corner…could be trouble.

Prediction:  9-3, 4-3 Big East

Key player:  O-line.  Depth on the o-line is a major question, so they must stay healthy.

Sitcom:  Cheers.  Not quite as good as it was without Diane and the Coach, but still very very good.

3.  Cincinnati

On offense:  Somewhat surprisingly effective QB Tony Pike returns to an offense that could be awfully good.  They return their top three rushers, and have a very explosive receiving corps, especially Mardy Gilyard, one of the nation’s best receivers.  However, while the left side of the line is solid, but the right side features players who haven’t had much experience.

On defense:  The Bearcats are totally rebuilding their defense.  10 new starters coming in.  Sophomore Derrick Wolfe is a budding star on the line, and though they’re green, they’re big and should be tough to run on.  They should struggle, though, to rush the passer.  The linebackers are pretty solid, but lack a real star.  In the secondary, they must replace three NFL draft choices, so it could be tough…although their safeties have some experience.

Prediction:  8-4, 4-3 Big East

Key Player:  Linebackers & secondary…for Cincinnati to challenge for another BE crown, their defense has to grow up quickly.

Sitcom:  Coach.  Coach went as far as Craig T. Nelson, Jerry Van Dyke, and Dawber took it, much like Cincinnati will only go as far as Brian Kelly and his staff will take them.

2.  Rutgers

On offense:  The big question on offense is who will replace departed QB Mike Teel.  Dominic Natale and Jabu Lovelace will both get a crack at the job.  Lovelace was the backup last year, but was hurt early in the season and is more of a runner than a passer.  The running game should be by committee, but Kordell Young is the leading returning rusher from last season and should start.  Receiver, though, could be a massive hole.  They have to replace Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood, and return essentially nothing except Tim Brown, who’s a long ball threat.  They have speed at wideout, but little experience.  The o-line is a point of strength.

On defense:  While the offense isn’t going to blow anyone away, the defense should be very solid.  The line, while having to replace two starters, is extremely deep.  The tackles could struggle to stop the run though.  Ryan D’Imperio is a really good middle linebacker, and should have very fast help from the outside.  Devin McCourty is a solid corner, but the other side is a question, while the safeties should be good.  Overall, a very solid unit.

Prediction:  10-2, 6-1 BE (loss to USF)

Key Player:  QB

Sitcom:  Night Court.  A somewhat odd conglomeration of actors, none of which moved on to anything spectacular later on.  But the show was oddly entertaining.

1.  South Florida

On offense:  By the end of his career, Matt Grothe will be the BE’s all time total offense leader.  He has been very turnover prone though, throwing 14 picks every season.  Very solid at tailback also, with starter Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor having it covered.  At receiver, they return 4 of their top 5 pass catchers.  The big question is on the offensive line, where the bulls are looking to replace 4 starters, losing the most talent on the left side.

On defense:  George Selvie is one of the most dominant pass rushers in America, and commands a double team nearly every time he’s on the field.  Aaron Harris needs to take advantage from the other side.  The linebackers are very athletic, but lack depth, and the secondary is looking to Jerome Murphy to be a star.  They will be very physical.

Prediction:  10-2, 6-1 BE (loss @ Pitt)

Key Player:  O-line.  They’ll put up a ton of points if the o-line can block.

Sitcom:  The Office.  A lot of names, and struggled for a while to come into its own, but finally did.

Big 10 (11) Preview–Good Football, but BOOORING

Filed under: Uncategorized — Will Askew @ 1:54 pm

Big 11

11.  Indiana

On offense:  Indiana’s spread offense produced 11 TDs passing along with 11 INTs.  Starting QB Kellen Lewis was kicked off the team after some off the field issues, which leaves the job to Ben Chappell.  When “fine” is the only word that comes to mind with the Qbs, it’s not good.  The running backs are fast, but haven’t produced, and the wideouts are big and for the most part, slow.  The offensive line should be the strength of the unit, but they couldn’t pass protect at all last year.

On defense:  107th in the country in total defense, 105th in pass defense, and 91st in run defense last year.  They did this despite a good pass rush.  Yeesh.  Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton should get to the QB, and that’s good, considering their run stopping is awful and their secondary is bad and coming off two blown ACLs.  Not pretty.

Prediction:  2-10, 0-8 Big 11

Key Player:  QB Ben Chappell.  If the spread is to take off like it did in 2007, Chappell has to play well.

Comparison:  Watching water run out of a tap.

10.  Purdue

On offense:  Curtis Painter is gone, and prospective starter Joey Elliott returns after going 8-15 for 81 yds last year.  Redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush is pushing hard for the job.  If there is a strength, it is the running backs, but it’s all relative.  The o-line isn’t very good, and neither are the receivers.  Given that this is a passing offense, this is not going to be good.

On defense:  Nearly all of the best players for Purdue are on the defensive side of the ball.  However, most are young prospects who aren’t ready to be stars.  Ryan Kerrigan is a very solid DE, their linebackers are young but talented, and their secondary is very solid.  There’s a lot to like here, but they can’t stop the run.

Prediction:  4-8, 2-6 Big 11

Key Player:  DTs.  If this team can stop the run, it could be pretty good.

Comparison: Watching black paint dry.  Ooh, look!  It changed shades!

9.  Wisconsin

On offense:  What would you imagine Wisconsin’s offense looking like?  The running backs are good, and they will run behind a big offensive line.  That should about sum it up.  The QB situation is a weakness.

On defense:  Last year’s defense was supposed to be really good, but choked in big spots.  This year’s team doesn’t return a whole lot of starters, but it could be a good thing.  Jaevery McFadden is a pretty solid linebacker, and they should be better than they were last year.

Prediction: 6-6, 2-6 Big 11, Bielema fired.

Key Player:  QB.  They have to have some semblance of a passing game.

Comparison:  Watching grass grow.  Nothing ever happens.

8.  Michigan

On offense:  You knew it was going to take a while to change the culture.  Eventually, Tate Forcier is going to be good, but you wonder if Michigan fans will have patience.  The running backs, if they can live up to their talent, could be really good, led by Brandon Minor.  Last year, the O-line was a major weakness, so you wonder if they can adjust to what Rodriguez’s system requires this year,

On defense:  Very questionable defensive line.  The defensive tackles are especially weak.  The linebackers, while fast, have trouble tackling at times.  Returning leading tackler Obi Ezeh is a perfect example of this.  True freshman Vladimir Emilien is about to be a star at safety, but he is a true freshman, so give him time.

Prediction:  6-6, 3-5 Big 11.  @Michigan State, @Wisconsin, @Illinois, @Iowa

Key Player:  Defensive line.  Have to get better.

Comparison:  Watching water boil…wait for it…wait for it…Yes!

7.  Minnesota

On offense:  The Gophers have a lot of talent in WR Eric Decker and QB Adam Weber.  They had the Big 10s worst rushing attack last year, but added Matt Carufel, a Notre Dame transfer, at guard and T Jeff Wills, who’s 375 pounds.  Look for much more emphasis on the running game this year.

On defense:  The style should be very aggressive even with Ted Roof gone.  The strength of the DL is at tackle, so they should do a pretty good job stopping the run.  The linebackers are very very fast.  The secondary should be okay with the addition of tWisconsin transfer Kim Royston.

Prediction:  7-5, 4-4 Big 11

Key players:  O-line.  Must get a push for the emphasized running game.

Comparison:  Watching icicles form.  I suppose it’s interesting to some people, but it’s cold.

6.  Northwestern

On offense:  All of the top skill players are gone.  What they do have, though, is a really good offonsive line and some pretty solid running backs.  Expect a lot of running and some nice safe passing from reliable senior QB Mike Kafka.

On defense:  Corey Wootten is a really nice NFL looking talent on the defensive line, but is coming off an offseason injury.  The linebackers under Pat Fitzgerald are always solid, and the secondary may be the strength of the team.  A very solid unit.

Prediction:  8-4, 4-4 Big 11

Key Player:  Receivers…if they can develop quickly, this could be a huge surprise team.

Comparison:  Going to a Calculus lecture.  You don’t really understand what is going on, and there are lots of smart people around.

5.  Iowa

On offense:  Ricky Stanzi wasn’t asked to do too much last year with Shonn Greene sharing the backfield with him, so he should be okay.  The backups, though, are good at QB, even though they have no experience.  You can’t replace Shonn Greene, but Iowa does have four starters back on their O-line, so the running game should remain effective.

On defense:  The back seven could be the best in the Big 10, with Pat Angerer at linebacker along with more studs and Amari Spievey anchoring a solid secondary.  The defensive line, though, is a major question.  They have to replace both starting tackles from last year, but have good ends.

Prediction:  8-4, 5-3 Big 10 (@PSU, @ Wisc, @MSU, @ OSU)

Key player:  Stanzi.

Comparison:  Mowing grass on a farm.  You’re getting something accomplished, but it takes a while.  And there’s corn.

4.  Michigan State

On offense:  They lose Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer.  Yeesh.  But they do have nice QBs in sophomore Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol to replace Hoyer.  Because Ringer never, ever came out of the game, they don’t have much experience at RB, but some speed.  The receivers look like an NFL unit, but don’t produce like one.  The left side of the O-line is a question, but the right is a question.

On defense:  Greg Jones and Eric Gordon are excellent linebackers and anchor what should be Mark Dantonio’s best defense since he came to East Lansing.  The secondary brings back three starters, but Marcus Hyde has to replace the best from last year, safety Otis wiley.

Prediction:  8-4, 5-3 Big 11

Key Player:  Right side of the OL.

Comparison:  Rolling a big rock up a hill.  Really really difficult, and every time you think you’re getting somewhere, it rolls back down the hill.

3.  Illinois

On offense:  Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn are two of the most dynamic players in the Big 11.  The running backs could be a weakness.  The biggest thing that this group has to avoid is turnovers.  Juice has been quite turnover prone in his time at Illinois.

On defense:  The front seven is full of guys who look good and should perform but either haven’t or haven’t had the chance.  The secondary is the opposite…a ton of experience.  However, they need to force more turnovers.

Prediction:  9-3, 6-2 Big 11

Comparison:  Cleveland.  Probably the most boring major city in America.  But at least you can go see a Cavs game.

2.  Penn State

On offense:  Getting QB Darryl Clark back for a 6th year is huge.  They do have to replace their top 3 wideouts, including playmaker Derrick Williams.  Evan Royster is a very very good back with first round potential.  The o-line lost three great players, so it could be a question mark.

On defense:  The linebackers are awesome.  Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman anchor a great linebacking corps…but the line isn’t spectacular and the defensive backs can tackle, but will have trouble covering.

Prediction:  11-1, 7-1 Big 11

Key Player:  WRs.  Good QB, good RB.  But they need to get some production out of some new wideouts.

Comparison:  Going to hang out at your great grandfather’s house and sitting on his couch.

1.  Ohio State

On offense:  It is the year of Terrell Pryor.  Everyone expects Pryor to develop into a superstar this year.  The team did lose Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline from last year’s team at wideout, but overall, the receivers won’t be that much worse.  The running backs’ biggest question is health.  Pryor will be the engine that makes this team go in his second year.

On defense:  They lose James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins, two consensus All Americans, but they should be as good.  The ends are spectacular, with Thaddeus Gibson being an absolute stud.  Despite losing Jenkins, the team also brings back a lot of experience.  If there is a question on the team, it’s the linebackers.

Prediction:  11-1, 8-0 Big Ten (@ Penn State a huge game)

Key Player:  Pryor.  If he’s not good, they’re done.

Comparison:  Being on a desert island.  You’re on the beach, but you’re all by yourself.

August 13, 2009

Pitino Erred, School Compounded Problem

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 3:21 pm

Louisville Hoop Coach Rick Pitino screwed up. I mean, he really messed up. Pitino has admitted to having an affair with a woman who would go on to wed Pitino’s longtime friend Tim Sypher. Pitino has admitted to the FBI that he also provided Karen Sypher with $3,000 for an Abortion. Pitino’s lawyer has come out and said the money was for Health Insurance, and not for an Abortion. These are just some of the particulars in this “Made for Hollywood” Soap Opera.
There is nobody who will defend Pitino for his actions. He has come out and apologized for his indiscretion. As I have already said, Pitino Screwed Up! But now comes the next mistake, and it comes from the University of Louisville.
I have no problem with a University, or any institution for that matter, standing by their employee. Both the Louisville President and Athletics Director have come out publicly and stood up for Pitino. Like I said, that is to be expected. The problem is that A.D. Tom Jurich has not once said that his Teflon Don Coach was wrong. Not once has he said he messed up big time. What type of message is the school sending? No fallout from this ordeal? Where is the penalty?
I by no means am saying that Pitino should lose his job. We all make mistakes(some larger than others) but how can you not send a message that this will not be tolerated by your employees. Isn’t this a black eye for the U of L? Pitino has at least caused a public relations nightmare. What type of respect can people give you when there are no repercussions from someone’s actions?
To sweep this under the rug is an absolute travesty. Pitino needs to be punished to some extent. The school looks soft and controlled.
Steve Kragthorpe will likely lose his job if the Cardinals Football team doesn’t turn it around this season. Pitino’s Basketball team is an NCAA Power, he is untouchable.
I guess Louisville is proving something most of us already know…..we don’t care about your character, we don’t care about the amount of athletes you graduate, we just care about the bottom line….Winning!

August 12, 2009

The sorry state of the Grizzlies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Eli Savoie @ 3:58 pm

Jason Williams? Really? Jason freakin’ Williams back on the Grizzlies? Don’t laugh, it could happen. More on that in a minute, but first, a continuation of something I wrote about a couple weeks ago at elisavoie.com on the Grizzlies and owner Michael Heisley’s penny-pinching.

Tom Ziller, of AOL Fanhouse, wrote this past weekend about how the Grizzlies have essentially found a way around the league’s minimum salary requirements. If you can read that and still not think Michael Heisley is taking the cheap way out, then you will never figure it out.

Here’s basically how it breaks down:
The NBA’s minimum salary requirement for next season is $43.2 million. The minimum salary is determined by 75% of the salary cap. It means that every team in the league must spend at least that much on player salaries.

The Grizzlies appear to have $53 million committed to players for this season.
Part of that 53 million is Jerry Stackhouse at $2 million and Steven Hunter at $3.7 million, both were paid for by cash considerations in the trades that brought them here, meaning none of that money is actually coming out of Michael Heisley’s pocket.

Zach Randolph’s salary for this year is $16 million on the payroll, but his contract includes $25 million of deferred money that will be paid starting in 2012, only $11.2 million will actually be paid this to Randolph this year.

Subtract the Stackhouse $2 million, the Hunter $3.7 million and the Randolph $4.8 million that Heisley isn’t paying from the apparent payroll for this year, and you get $42.5 million that Heisley is actually paying this year towards player salaries, less than the minimum required by the league.

This is not against the rules, as Ziller points out in his article, it’s simply a way Heisley has figured out around the minimum requirement. By staying below the cap, the Grizzlies can be facilitators in trades between other teams and can get cash considerations in those trades to cover any player contracts they take on. That way the payroll stays over the minimum, but Heisley doesn’t have to cover the cost.

Also, as Ziller points out, if Heisley ends up selling the team before 2012, he’ll never be on the hook for the deferred money owed to Randolph. So now you see why many people have called Randolph the cheap way out at the power forward position?

Add all of this to the fact that a team on a “three-year plan” is now trying to sign a 33-year-old who was out of the league last year. Why? Because Heisley has a good relationship with Jason Williams. Meanwhile, he’ll leave GM Chris Wallace hanging out to dry trying to explain why the move makes sense for the Grizzlies when it clearly doesn’t. All you can do is feel sorry for Wallace and wonder where this organization is headed.

SEC Football Predictions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Eli Savoie @ 3:11 pm

With the football season just a few weeks away, it’s prediction time, here are my SEC predictions, starting in the East:

Florida 12-0 (8-0)
Wins: Charleston Southern, Troy, Tennessee, at Kentucky, at LSU, Arkansas, at Mississippi St, Georgia, Vandy, at South Carolina, FIU, Florida St.
Losses: None

Georgia 8-4 (6-2)
Wins: South Carolina, Arizona St, LSU, at Tennessee, at Vandy, Tenn tech, Auburn, Kentucky
Losses: at Oklahoma St., at Arkansas, Florida, at Georgia Tech

South Carolina 7-5 (3-5)
Wins: at NC State, Florida Atlantic, South Carolina St, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, at Tennessee, Clemson
Losses: at Georgia, Ole Miss, at Alabama, at Arkansas, Florida

Tennessee 7-5 (3-5)
Wins: Western Kentucky, UCLA, Ohio, Auburn, Memphis, Vandy, at Kentucky
Losses: at Florida, Georgia, at Alabama, South Carolina, at Ole Miss

Vanderbilt 5-7 (2-6)
Wins: Western Carolina, Mississippi St, at Rice, at Army, Kentucky
Losses: at LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, at South Carolina, Georgia Tech, at Florida, at Tennessee

Kentucky 4-8 (0-8)
Wins: Miami-Ohio, Louisville, La-Monroe, Eastern Kentucky
Losses: Florida, Alabama, at South Carolina, at Auburn, Mississippi St, at Vandy, at Georgia, Tennessee

And in the West:

Ole Miss 11-1(7-1)
Wins-at Memphis, SE La, at S. Carolina, at Vandy, Alabama, UAB, Arkansas, at Auburn, Northern Arizona, Tennessee, at Miss St.
Losses-LSU

Alabama 10-2(7-1)
Wins-FIU, North Texas, Arkansas, at Kentucky, S. Carolina, Tennessee, LSU, at Miss St., Chattanooga, at Auburn
Losses-Virginia Tech, at Ole Miss

Arkansas 9-3 (5-3)
Wins-Missouri St., Georgia, Texas A&M, Auburn, E Michigan, S. Carolina, Troy, Miss State, at LSU
Losses-at Alabama, at Florida, at Ole Miss

LSU Tigers 8-4 (4-4)
Wins-at Washington, Vandy, Louisiana-Lafayette, at Miss St, Auburn, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, at Ole Miss
Losses-at Georgia, Florida, at Alabama, Arkansas

Auburn 6-6 (2-6)
Wins-La Tech, Miss St., West Va, Ball St, Kentucky, Furman
Losses-at Tennessee, at Arkansas, at LSU, Ole Miss, at Georgia, Alabama

Miss St 4-8 (1-7)
Wins-Jackson St, Houston, at Middle Tennessee, at Kentucky
Losses-at Auburn, at Vandy, LSU, Ga Tech, Florida, Alabama, at Arkansas, Ole Miss

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