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Posted on: October 29, 2009 2:42 pm
 

Shared Excellence Conference?

It’s hard not to notice the seemingly endless SEC – Big Ten debate that rages on Sportsline. I’m not sure when this rivalry of sorts began (immediately prior to the OSU-Florida 2006 NCG?) but it is a worthless debate that shouldn’t be spared much thought.

SEC fans are very proud of their conference and rightfully so. They are perhaps the best football conference in America with teams like Florida, Alabama and LSU just to name a few. However, I get the feeling that sometimes these fans forget that their foremost loyalty should not be to their conference but to their team. Perhaps my perception is mistaken but that is what I see.

Recently, SEC fans have had much to cheer about with Florida and LSU winning the past 3 national titles. Unless you are a Florida or LSU fan, however, there should be little cause for celebration. Did your team win the national title? Was it your team that passed through the gauntlet of a rigorous season to raise the silver football after a championship game triumph? If that is the case, congratulations to your team on a great season. If that is not the case, why pop the champagne? Because Florida won for the SEC? Puh-leeze . . .

The only people that Florida won for were themselves and their university. Their triumph over the Oklahoma Sooners belongs to nobody else. As much as SEC fans want to portray recent NCG triumphs as proof positive of SEC superiority, the victories are not credited to the conference but to the teams that earned them; Florida and LSU.

I haven’t seen the relationship between team and conference so blurred as is the case with SEC fans, a characteristic not prominent for fans of other conferences. For example, did ACC enthusiasts claim North Carolina’s victory over Michigan State in the most recent basketball national title game as a triumph for the conference? I doubt it. I can’t see Duke being too pleased at the thought of Tyler Hansbrough winning a national championship. Did the Pittsburgh Steelers win one for the American Football Conference in their victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl? Hell no! As a Colts fan, I certainly wasn’t happy with a Steeler victory.

Why SEC fans have made such a big deal about their supposed conference superiority, I honestly have no clue. They really don’t need to make it an issue because they are the best conference top to bottom in college football this year. That being said, SEC fans need to understand that they are the Southeastern Conference and not the Shared Excellence Conference. If you’re not a Florida fan, a Florida victory is not a win for you. College football should not be about conferences but about teams. I’m afraid that this important distinction may have been lost on some SEC faithful.


Posted on: October 27, 2009 8:32 pm
 

Running up the score?

In the aftermath of the New England Patriots’ 59-0 whipping of the Tennessee Titans on October 18, I saw a lot of posts on Sportsline condemning the Pats for running up the score. I saw similar posts from people upset with the Indianapolis Colts for throwing deep late in a blowout 42-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams. I don’t understand why people have been critical of these victories and other blowout wins because the players and coaches are merely doing their jobs and doing them well. It is an absolute shame that we live in a society where limits are placed on how exceptional one is allowed to be.

Competition is what makes sports truly great. Perhaps Herman Edwards knows that fact better than anyone else after considering his “You play to win the game!” rant as then coach of the New York Jets. Following this rant, the Jets finished the year 7-2 to make the playoffs and soundly beat an Indianapolis Colts team led by Edwards’ friend and mentor, Tony Dungy. Was Edwards trying to show up his former boss by winning 41-0? Was this just a lack of class on the part of Edwards for daring to win by such a large margin? I don’t think any reasonable person would argue that that was the case. Edwards was just executing his job as head coach and did it brilliantly that day.

We’ve seen the recent dilution of competition in sports as high school coaches are fired for winning and teams condemned for playing their best. It’s high time that coaches stop worrying about the feelings of opposing players and instead focus on their own team. Instead of feeling bad for the loser, feel bad for the player that has to ride the bench because they played too well and gave their team a big lead. We as a society should encourage excellence because it elevates us. As a Colts fan, I loathe the New England Patriots but still respect their right to walk out on a football field to play 4 quarters regardless of what the score is.
Posted on: September 14, 2009 1:18 pm
 

Bye, Bye Tressel

I haven't posted here in awhile but the latest agonizing defeat has spurred me to thought regarding my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes and coach Jim Tressel. It is pretty clear that Tressel is no longer the right man to make the play calls or even stand on the sidelines with the young adults that he coaches.

Don't get me wrong, Tressel has had astounding success in his tenure with the Buckeyes. Even after the USC loss, he boasts an outstanding record of 84-20 with countless Big Ten titles and 3 BCS Bowl victories; one in the 2002 National Championship against the then vaunted Miami Hurricanes. Oh yeah, he's also beaten Michigan.

At almost every other public institution in the country, such a resume would render any notions of his dismissal as nothing short of laughable. However, The Ohio State University has a football program deeply steeped in college football history with a proud tradition. Thus, the latest defeats which have made the Scarlet and Gray the laughingstock of the nation have caused fans to wonder why they have a perceived inability to win the big game. The blame for that primarily lies on the shoulders of Coach Tressel. This is not an exoneration of the players themselves as they have consistently underperformed on the national stage, particularly in 2006 against Florida. Yet even then, one has to wonder if their mediocre play is a result of poor game preparation by the Sweater Vest.

The most recent of what feels like many heartbreaks was perhaps the game when Ohio State looked as good if not better than the opponent. The defense played with intensity, forcing the Trojans into crucial mistakes while the offense however unspectacular, was able to make plays that contributed to the lead they had throughout the game. However, Tressel's poor decisions and play calling turned what could have been a blowout win in favor of Ohio State to a closely contested game and eventual loss. He was aggressive when he should have been cautious in calling for a pass right before the half; the incompletion stopped the clock and gave the Trojans the opportunity to march down the field for a field goal. He was also cautious when he should have been aggressive by settling for a field goal when the Bucks were just mere feet from the scarlet end zone. That's not to mention the conservative and often obvious play calls he made; at one stretch in the game, I believe the Buckeyes ran up the middle on at least 3 consecutive series on first down. Against weak Big Ten opponents, such a faulty game plan might still lead to victory but those same plans have been constantly exposed by the likes of Florida, LSU, Texas and USC.

Winning the Big Ten and beating Michigan should not be enough for Ohio State fans anymore. As then New York Jets coach Herman Edwards said so eloquently, "You play to win the game!" Right now, the Buckeyes play for a Big Ten title and BCS Bowl loss. That is unacceptable for such a storied program and I would like to see a new coach who can maximize the potential of his players and finally put an end to our misery by winning the big game.

Posted on: December 29, 2008 3:55 pm
 

NFL Playoff Predictions

AFC

Wild Card

#4 San Diego Chargers vs. #5 Indianapolis Colts

Both teams are coming in with plenty of momentum, with each having won at least 4 consecutive games. San Diego, however, hasn't beaten great teams during its streak; the reeling Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the mediocre Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Indianapolis has beaten teams such as the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego during their 9 game winning streak. The Colts will be a much tougher challenge then either of the teams the Chargers have faced the past 4 weeks. This will be a very close game and that favors the Indianapolis Colts.

#3 Miami Dolphins vs. #6 Baltimore Ravens

Both of these teams have had remarkable turnarounds from last year and are coming in to the Playoffs strong. This should be a defensive struggle and the Baltimore Ravens will have the edge. By winning against the Dolphins, the Ravens will avenge their late loss to them last year.

Divisional Playoffs

#5 Indianapolis Colts vs. #1 Tennessee Titans

The Colts have already lost to the Titans once in Tennessee. Peyton Manning and co. will guarantee it doesn't happen again. Unless nose tackle Albert Haynesworth is 100%, the Titans 'D' may have problems stopping the Indy offense. This is definitely not the same team the Titans faced earlier this season and the Indianapolis Colts will advance.

#2 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. #6 Baltimore Ravens

The Steelers better hope that Ben Roethlisberger gets better right away. Otherwise, it may be a long day for the Pittsburgh faithful. The Titans showed how the Steelers could be exploited in week 16 by scoring 31 points. The Baltimore Ravens will be ready this time around and send the Steelers to another divisional playoff defeat.

Conference Championship

#5 Indianapolis Colts vs. #6 Baltimore Ravens

This game would be played at Lucas Oil Stadium if it ever occurs. In recent years, the Colts have owned the Ravens and pummeled them 31-3 earlier this season. This game will be closer but Indianapolis still advances to the Super Bowl.

NFC

Wild Card

#4 Arizona Cardinals vs. #5 Atlanta Falcons

Simply put, the Cardinals don't deserve to be in the playoffs. They have struggled down the stretch and their defense is atrocious. The Falcons have a multi-faceted offense led by Matt Ryan and Michael Turner that will exploit their 'D.'

#3 Minnesota Vikings vs. #6 Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have come in on a roll after torching the Dallas Cowboys, 44-6. Ever since Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb, the Eagles have been playing strong. The Vikings are not that strong offensively and the Eagle 'D' will suffocate Adrian Peterson. McNabb and Westbrook will provide enough offense to win and the Eagles will go on to face Carolina.

Divisional Playoffs

#5 Atlanta Falcons vs. #1 New York Giants

The Falcons have had a great season but they will have their hands full playing the Giants. Overall, Atlanta has had a great season but the Giants have been here before and will get the job done.

#2 Carolina Panthers vs. #6 Philadelphia Eagles

The Panthers are tough in the run game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Plus, it helps to have Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith in the passing game. Overall, the Panthers will have too many weapons for the Eagles to defend.

Conference Championship

The Giants and Panthers have been the two best teams in the NFC this year. The Giants did beat the Panthers late in the season but the Playoffs is a completely different environment. Who is Eli Manning going to throw to in pressure situations without Plaxico Burress? The Giants have been reeling of late and the Panthers have caught them at the right time. Everybody wants to see a Manning-Manning Super Bowl but it won't happen this year.

Super Bowl

#5 Indianapolis Colts vs. #2 Carolina Panthers

This would be a great Super Bowl game, pitting two very strong teams. Carolina's duo of Williams and Stewart will attempt to run over the Colts but Bob Sanders will be back to plug the holes. This game can go either way but the Colts will be fighting to give coach Tony Dungy one last Super Bowl ring for retirement. That being said, the Colts would triumph over the Panthers.

Final Notes

It is true that the Colts are my favorite team but I honestly think they have the manpower to win the Super Bowl. It is not homerism or anything like that. The way I see the pieces falling, the Colts will get favorable matchups and give Dungy one last Super Bowl ring.

Posted on: December 22, 2008 4:44 pm
 

Stop Resting the Starters!

Around this time every year, NFL coaches around the league who have lead their respective teams to comfortable division leads perhaps think about resting their starters. Resting the starters is done with the objective to preserve players from injury but the move has been proven to derail teams in the playoffs time and time again.

Unless I am mistaken, the team that best exemplifies the negative effects of resting the starters is the Indianapolis Colts. On an almost yearly basis, coach Tony Dungy rests the starters for the final game or two of the season in order to preserve them for the playoffs. I am a big fan of Dungy but according to Einstein, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." When the Colts rested their starters as in both 2005 and 2007, they have been defeated by the Chargers and Steelers; teams that didn't rest their starters and played the whole season. The 2005 Colts were more talented then the 2005 Steelers and that showed in their 26-7 victory over them earlier that year. However, the Steelers came in on a roll and the Colts were rusty. Due to Dungy's decision to rest the starters, the Colts may very well have given away the Vince Lombardi Trophy that year.

When the Colts played the whole season, they have had much better results. In 2006, the Colts had to battle for a playoff spot, which lead to Dungy playing the starters. The Colts got on a roll and defeated the Chiefs, Ravens, Patriots and Bears in the Playoffs. One could argue that the 2005 and 2007 teams were more talented then the 2006 team but they have had decidedly different results.

Resting the starters is simply a tactic that hinders the success of a team in the Playoffs. No evidence has yet been shown to the contrary. For Pete's sake, these are NFL players and there is no reason to baby them as some coaches do. It's true that an NFL game is always a battle but they are being paid to play games, not to watch on the sidelines. Let them play!

There is no reason to rest players like Peyton Manning, who has started every single game in his career and has missed only a handful of snaps. In the case of injury prone players like Bob Sanders, there is a legit argument to give him the week off but those cases are usually not the majority.

Coach Dungy has already announced his intention to rest the starters in week 17 against the Tennessee Titans. Unless the Colts buck that recent trend, I am afraid they are looking at another early Playoff exit.

As a final note, the past 3 Super Bowl champions have been the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers. All of these teams were a #3 seed or below and had to battle for playoff spots. These teams played through and won because they were playing their best at the right time. Resting the starters causes players to be rusty and that shows on the field. So please, STOP RESTING THE STARTERS.

Posted on: December 18, 2008 4:08 pm
 

BCS Bowl Predictions

Rose Bowl - Penn State vs. USC

This matchup will pit two great teams with strong traditions. Both PSU and USC have great offenses and strong defenses, so this should be a great game to watch. I give the edge to USC because this game is essentially at home for them and they will be pumped to play in yet another Rose Bowl.

USC - 33, PSU - 20

Orange Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati

Cincinnati and Virginia Tech both come in on a roll after winning their respective conferences. Cincinnati is a very tough team but has yet to win a BCS bowl game in a very long time. VT has been here before and that experience will carry them to victory. By so doing, they will avenge their Orange Bowl loss last year to Kansas.

Virginia Tech - 20, Cincinnati - 13

Sugar Bowl - Utah vs. Alabama

Alabama is coming off a loss to Florida in the SEC National Championship Game and Utah remains undefeated. Against stronger teams, the Alabama defense has been exposed and the Utes have one of the most potent attacks in the nation. Utah has shown the ability to play in a shootout and a defensive showdown and they will adapt to play against the Crimson Tide.

Utah - 24, Alabama - 23

Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State vs. Texas

People say that the Longhorns will be upset about being snubbed for a National Championship Game bid and will come out playing their best. I would not be surprised if they spent the month leading up to the game moping about being denied the chance to play for a national title. Although this game is being played in Phoenix, the Buckeyes travel as well as anybody and will pack the stands. Plus, the Buckeyes have been playing their best football as of late rather then wilting at the end of the year as in the past. Ohio State will be looking to avenge past BCS failures and they have a strong record against Big 12 teams. When factoring in the fact that this game will be played at the University of Phoenix stadium where major 'upsets' like Oklahoma vs. Boise State have taken place, the Buckeyes will have more luck on their side come this BCS game.

Ohio State - 27, Texas - 23

BCS National Championship Game Oklahoma vs. Florida

Both of these teams have come in on a tear and will engage in a tough battle. Florida has yet to play a game against an offense as potent as Oklahoma but the OU defense has faced offensive machines like Texas and Texas Tech. SEC fans like to say that Big 12 defenses are that bad but I think Big 12 offenses are that good. This will be a home game for Florida but that advantage will not close the gap between the two teams.

Oklahoma - 41, Florida - 30

Posted on: June 22, 2008 4:43 pm
 

Cincinnati Reds Batting Order

I've noticed that our manger, good ol' Dusty Baker uses interesting lineup combinations. To my utter disbelief, I saw 1B Joey Votto in the leadoff spot one game. This is not a jab at Votto, whom I consider one of the team's best hitters, but Votto is not a leadoff hitter. The same goes for Jay Bruce as well. While thinking about that, I decided creating a batting order that would have the best chance of success against an opponent:

1: Brandon Phillips, 2B

2: Jay Bruce, CF

3: Jeff Keppinger, SS

4: Joey Votto, 1B

5: Adam Dunn, LF

6: Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

7: Ken Griffey Jr., RF

8: Pitcher

9: Paul Bako, C

To me, Brandon Phillips should be the leadoff hitter because of his speed and power. Instead of trying to hit for power like what he does in the 4 hole, he could concentrate more about getting on base and setting the table for the rest of the Reds lineup. Bruce would be a good #2 hitter because he doesn't hit into many double plays and would complement the righty Phillips. The #3 hitter should be the best hitter, and I think that is Jeff Keppinger for the Reds. He may not hit for power but he makes solid contact and is not an easy out. I like to think about what would happen with his RBI production if he batted there. Votto needs to get more at bats and he will if he is moved up 2-3 spots in the order. His power capability allows him to drive in the runners who bat in front of him. I like Dunn in the 5th spot because of his power and his OBP, although the strikeouts remain a problem. After having two straight lefties, Encarnacion should be the 6th hitter. Although he doesn't hit for a high BA, he has nice power. I expect that EE will still finish around .275. before it is all said and done. Ken Griffey would be a great 7th hitter and would make a tough out for a player that low in the order. I am a big proponent of having the pitcher bat 8th, so that the catcher Paul Bako could bat 9th.

Is this lineup a good one, or would somebody else like to propose an alternate lineup?

Posted on: May 27, 2008 2:11 pm
 

MLB Predictions and Playoffs

Here are my baseball predictions after about a third of the season. Please don't make fun of me too bad with all of my picks...

American League

East

Boston Red Sox - 95-67

Tampa Bay Rays - 88-74

New York Yankees - 86-76

Toronto Blue Jays - 83-79

Baltimore Orioles - 71-91

Central

Cleveland Indians - 90-72

Detroit Tigers - 90-72

Chicago White Sox - 84-78

Minnesota Twins - 75-87

Kansas City Royals - 66-96

West

Los Angeles Angels - 97-65

Oakland Athletics - 85-77

Seattle Mariners - 77-85

Texas Rangers - 76-86

National League

East

New York Mets - 93-69

Philadelphia Phillies - 90-72

Atlanta Braves - 87-75

Florida Marlins - 74-88

Washington Nationals - 61-101

Central

Chicago Cubs - 96-66

St. Louis Cardinals - 86-76

Cincinnati Reds - 83-79

Houston Astros - 79-83

Milwaukee Brewers - 77-85

Pittsburgh Pirates - 72-90

West

Arizona Diamondbacks - 94-68

Los Angeles Dodgers - 91-71

Colorado Rockies - 81-81

San Diego Padres - 73-89

San Francisco Giants - 67-95

Playoffs

AL

1. Los Angeles Angels

2. Boston Red Sox

3. Cleveland Indians

4. Detroit Tigers

 

Angels vs. Tigers - Angels

Red Sox vs. Indians - Indians

Angels vs. Indians - Angels

NL

1. Chicago Cubs

2. Arizona Diamondbacks

3. New York Mets

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Cubs vs. Dodgers - Dodgers

Diamondbacks vs. Mets - Mets

Mets vs. Dodgers - Dodgers

World Series - An LA Series!!!

Angels vs. Dodgers - Dodgers in 6

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com