Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Challenge

It's such a tried and tired argument that the SEC is by far the premier conference in college football, but last season brought up an interesting conundrum. The ACC, head-to-head with the mighty SEC, went 5 and 5...5 and 3 during the regular season. SEC fan tries to ignore this or spin this fact with ridiculous justifications.

I'm not disputing the SEC is the best conference, but why is it the best conference? They recruit the same kids the rest of college football recruits, they have their bottom-dwellers, they have their fair share of upsets, which is becoming more and more frequent, so why are they so much more prestigious than every other conference?

My favorite excuse from SEC elitist is, "Well, we beat up on each other, making us a better conference."

What?

What a stupid answer. So, the ACC and Pac-10 don't beat up on one another?

This is where the Challenge comes in. I'll be monitoring the three major conferences in the State of Florida and how they stack up against one another. SEC v ACC, ACC v Big East, and Big East v SEC.

My personal prediction? We'll find out the SEC isn't all it's cracked up to be against opponents outside their conference.

Hate on me all you want and I'll be more than happy to accept being incorrect if the SEC "dominates" the way SEC homer will certifiably forecast, but I know, as well as the rest of the country knows, SEC fan will never, and I mean NEVER admit to being wrong even if the numbers prove so.

The Challenge:
(I'll update scores as the season progresses...bowl games TBD)

SEC v ACC

September 3rd- South Carolina v North Carlina State
September 5th- Alabama v Virginia Tech
October 3rd- Georgia Tech v Mississippi State
October 31st- Georgia Tech v Vanderbilt
November 28th- Clemson v South Carolina
Georgia v Georgia Tech
Florida State v Florida

ACC v Big East

September 12th- North Carolina v Conneticut
September 26th- South Florida v Florida State
Rutgers v Maryland
Pittsburgh v North Carolina State
November 28th- Miami v South Florida

Big East v SEC

September 19th- Louisville v Kentucky
West Virginia v Auburn

Friday, August 21, 2009

Collegiate Pre Season Football Predictions- University of Florida

On paper, the Gators appear to be unbeatable. They return every starter from a defense a season ago that absolutely dominated down the stretch and held an explosive Oklahoma Sooner offense to a mere 14 points. Brandon Spikes was a sure 1st rounder in this past NFL draft, but elected to stay his senior season to lead this defense in establishing it's place in history.

The only chink I see in Florida's armor is the offense. They're starting three new offensive linemen from a year ago and the wide receivers are extremely talented, but untested. The key to a successful offense starts with the monsters up front. The Pouncey twins will help anchor and unify this line. Gilbert has much experience, but is being phased out due to how well Carl Johnson's playing as well as the emergence of sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan, who a season ago was playing defensive tackle for the Gators. This unit is big, strong, and very athletic. Look for them to be a cohesive unit come Kentucky.

Am I forgetting something, or rather, someone? The reason this team seems to aggravate the college football world?

Tim Tebow is a born winner with limitless intangibles. He has proven his critics wrong over and again. This young signal caller has only one thing left to prove, a perfect season. And he has his eyes set on it, which means I feel sorry for the rest of the SEC and Florida's opponents.

Florida will blaze through their 1st two games of the season giving back-up and future starter John Brantley some much needed reps. Then the fun begins.

Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers enter the Swamp with a gigantic target on their backs due to Kiffin's brilliant mouthing. Clearly, this young coach has never seen what Tebow does to smack talkers. Don't be surprised if you see the Vols do well early and often throughout this game. After all, it is a major SEC rivalry game and Tennessee's defense is no slouch. They will be physical and ready to play. It's their offense that Florida will absolutely punish. I know Gator fans want a 60 point blow out, but this game will be much closer than the critics think. 1st three quarters will be a war, but Timmy and company take over in the 4th. Gators by 13.

Florida rolls over Kentucky on their way to Baton Rouge where this team, and pretty much the entire SEC, struggle. If there's one game I had to predict would be an L for the Gators, it'd be this one. LSU is very well coached and the crowd will give them all the help they need. By this point in the season, LSU's young QB, Jordan Jefferson, will either be running on all cylinders or will cause Les Miles to continue the revolving door from under center. For the Tiger's sake, they better hope it's the former. The Gators won't care. Their defense will roll and by this point in the season the offense will be clicking. Expect UF to win big in the Big Easy.

Arkansas is an intriguing match-up for the Gators. Bobby Petrino isn't without talent and is a very good coach. Why aren't more people talking about this game? I don't think Urban Meyer would allow his Gators to sleep on this one, but I have a funny feeling this game will turn out better than the Vegas odds will give it credit. UF wins, but Petrino will have them ready.

The Gators stomp through Mississippi State and their old offensive coordinator on their way to Jacksonville for the Earth's Biggest Open-Air Adult Beverage Consumption Fiesta (apparently, the SEC no longer wants people calling it the other way, but who're they kidding?). Don't kid yourself, Gator fans, this is a home game and although fate is on Georgia's side (they've beaten UF the season after UF wins a National Title both times) I don't see this game being close. Georgia's defense will keep them in it early, but you can't keep a defense on the field the whole game. Moreno and Stafford will be sorely missed. Richt is a good coach, but Meyer's still thinking of sticking it to him for the fiasco a couple of season's ago.

Vandy, @South Carolina, and Florida International will all be a breeze and will give Florida's back-ups reps for the upcoming future.

The hated Florida State Seminoles come into town to finish off the regular season. The Gators have beaten FSU five in a row and have a mental edge over the boys from Tallahassee. Expect the 'Noles to come off firing. Barring injury, they have too much talent to lay down. There's no way Tim Tebow loses his last game in Gainesville. Tebow will have the game of his career, giving the 200,000 fans (yes, somehow that many will get into Ben Hill to see Timmy's final game there) a show to put him down in history. Those tickets will sell for millions on Ebay and Gator fans will rejoice. UF by 20.

My upset prediction: This UF schedule is weak. They'll be favored in every game by 20 or more.

My team to potentially upset the Gators: LSU has the best shot over anyone.

Player to watch for: Junior Defensive End, Carlos Dunlap. This kid is a freak. Think Houston Texans' Mario Williams, but quicker.

Player who'll shock you: Freshman Linebacker, Jelani Jenkins. This young man can flat out fly, is very intelligent, and isn't afraid of contact. Don't be surprised if he's starting by years end.

Final Predictions:

Charleston Southern- W
Troy- W
Tennessee- W
@Kentucky- W
@Louisiana State- W
Arkansas- W
@Mississippi State- W
Georgia- W
Vanderbilt- W
@South Carolina- W
Florida International- W
Florida State- W

Tebow's dream comes true and this squad goes down as one of the best to play college football. They'll contend for the SEC and National Titles.

I'll do a quick one on Meeeeeeeechigan for my buddy Sean...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Upton, Rays Lack Guts

Forget about BJ Upton's sophomoric, whiny comments for just a moment. Forget that he's probably a distraction in the clubhouse with his sunken shoulder's and sullen face whenever he comes up to bat. Lets pretend he isn't 3 for 27 since being pulled out of the lead-off spot and lets act like we didn't see him get three strike outs in one game.

Lets just forget about BJ Upton.

I have an extremely hard time giving up on a talented kid like him. He's arguably the best defensive center fielder in the league and we've seen flashes of brilliance during his rookie campaign as well as the Rays World Series run last season. His upside is limitless, but I honestly believe that part of the Rays' slump is due to his attitude on and off of the field.

I know the starting pitching has been awful, the bats are inconsistent, and Maddon keeps making horrible decisions such as putting Willy at 2nd base (seriously, Willy...pick up your cement-block feet!), but it was long overdue for a change in the line-up.

I'd like to ask BJ a question: Why isn't it a "kick in the face" that Pena got moved from clean-up to 6th? Pena's taking his demotion with class and has been hitting the ball much better since the move. Why wasn't it a "kick in the face" that Bartlett was batting 9th, batting much better than you, yet never said a peep?

This team lacks the sand and leadership to get into the post-season. A guy like Cliff Floyd is definitely missed. Someone to straighten this young team out. Crawford, who, to me, is this season's MVP, is too quiet to be a strong voice in the clubhouse. Burrell's a veteran, but this isn't his team and he doesn't get a say because he's the new guy and he's playing poorly himself.

Playoff teams don't lose series. They don't lose to teams they should beat. Playoff teams are consistent and find ways to win. This team finds ways to lose.

This squad is full of quiet leaders. Leaders who go by the mantra that actions speak louder than words. Sometimes that just isn't enough.

Like I said, I hate to give up on Upton. I know, and every true Tampa fan knows about the "Tampa Curse." It's happened to us ad naseum. Upton will get traded or released and become a superstar elsewhere. If you know what I'm talking about, you know the list is long.

That shouldn't be enough to keep a sulker on the team. Sometimes it's just better to get a fresh start elsewhere.

I'm not saying that all of the Rays woe's are due to Upton, but he is just another unwarranted diversion.

For a team full of guys that want their play to do the talking, BJ sure lets his body language show his delicate side. Hopefully he, and the rest of this talented squad, can make a run and prove this blogger wrong.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pre Season Collegiate Football Predictions- Florida State University

The Seminoles domination in the late 80's and throughout the 90's is a distant memory. The swagger is no longer there. The Heisman hopefuls and overpowering All-Americans are no longer being coached to their fullest potential. Talented recruits as non-qualifiers have been detrimental to the program. I'm sure rumors of dissension within the coaching staff has been hindering the players from breaking out on the field. Arrests. Alleged cheating. Bowden's looming retirement. The list goes on and on as to why this program has fallen from grace.

Bowden is still the Head Coach and he needs to step up and take charge before it all crumbles away. Jimbo can have his say when it's his turn. In the meantime, it's Bowden's squad and that's a scary thought considering most feel the game has passed him by. With Defensive Coordinator, Mickey Andrews publicly stating that this very well may be his last season, Bobby may follow.

And Bowden may have to follow because Florida State's schedule is rough...

Florida State opens the season and rekindles a Labor Day rivalry game against the hated Hurricanes. This game is more of a measuring point for the 'Canes who're breaking in a new offense and defense. The Seminoles have the home field advantage and return a very talented and athletic offensive line that paved some huge holes for then senior Antone Smith and Jermaine Thomas in last season's match-up. The 'Noles will most likely want to establish the run and wear down Miami's physical defensive tackles. The Seminoles defensive front four are undersized and may get pushed around. I expect plenty of blitzing packages out of the defense to harass UM sophomore QB Jacory Harris, who'll be solidified as the Miami starter by September 7th. This game will be just as boring as the last 3, so I anticipate a low scoring, defensive slug fest. If the 'Canes establish the run and protect Harris, it'll be a long night for the 'Noles. Florida State has to get ballsy and try for the deep ball when the 'Canes stuff nine in the box. FSU wins a nail biter.

The 'Noles have to play a game five days later against Jacksonville State. FSU has struggled in these short week games after Labor Day in the past. They cannot come out flat and wake up in the 4th quarter. They need to smash them early and get back-ups precious playing time.

@BYU and South Florida are both intriguing match-ups. BYU will have the home field and will challenge FSU's suspect secondary early and often. The 'Noles love to rush the passer hard, so I fully expect some draw plays that'll be massive gainers. I don't like FSU in this one.

USF will be coming to Tallahassee fired-up to play some hard-nosed football against their in-state rival. It's the 1st time these two teams will meet and the 'Noles need to be careful. Remember what USF did to Auburn, in their house, a few years ago?

I think the 'Noles get by a Boston College team who's rebuilding. Florida State is 2 and 0 at BC. And FSU will be looking to get revenge on a Georgia Tech team that took college football by surprise a season ago. 'Nole fans remember the ending to last season's game very well and I promise you so will the players.

@North Carolina will be a giant game for FSU. It'll be a prime time, Thursday night game against 2 of the better teams in the ACC this season. FSU struggles on Thursday night's, but they have a bye week prior to this game, which will help them tremendously. The Tar Heels will come out strong and I think they have an excellent shot at upsetting the Seminoles. Butch Davis is familiar with FSU's defensive schemes and I'm sure he'll exploit them.

North Carolina State, @Clemson, @Wake Forest, and Maryland close out their ACC schedule. The 'Noles absolutely have to win all four of these games, but recently the boys in garnet and gold stumble with teams they're supposed to beat.

The Seminoles finish the season at Gainesville to play the Gators who have owned them in the past 5 meetings. Anything can happen in a rivalry, but Tebow won't lose his final game in Ben Hill. Expect the Seminoles to come out very hard and try their best to upset the Gators.

My upset prediction: Other than Florida, none of these should be upsets. The 'Noles will most likely be favored in everyone of these games.

My team to potentially upset the 'Noles: Take your pick. Miami, @UNC, @Wake, and @Clemson are all viable candidates.

Player to watch for: Jermaine Thomas. This young running back has speed and elusiveness. He quietly rushed for 7 yards a pop last season.

Player who'll shock you: S Jamie Robinson. This senior made the switch from corner to safety, but not without it's bumps. He played extremely well at the end of last season.

Final Predictions:

Miami- W
Jacksonville State- W
@BYU- L
South Florida- W
@Boston College- W
Georgia Tech- W
@North Carolina- L
North Carolina State- W
@Clemson- L
@Wake Forest- W
Maryland- W
@Florida- L

8-4 and FSU will most likely represent the Atlantic Division in the ACC Championship Game. This team is still a ways away, but they're making progress.

The Gators will be my final prediction (I may do Michigan for my boy Sean)...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vol Fan Beware

My buddy and I are having a cold brew, chatting up sports, when two young ladies approach us and introduce themselves as Tennessee Volunteer fans. We, being enormous college football fans, welcome the conversation and, to my amazement, were very knowledgeable even though they had some harsh and vulgar words towards the University of Florida, Steve Spurrier, UF players and fans. Glass houses. We've all said something horrible about our rivals at one point or another and you're full of it if you say you otherwise.

My friend and I politely excuse ourselves and we go our separate ways.

As we approach our destination, my pal says to me, "I wouldn't go to the Swamp if I were a Vol fan this season." I look at him inquisitively and he answers, "Because, Gator fans are going to take it out on Volunteer fans even though they have no control as to what Lane Kiffin says."

I've been on University Avenue in Gainesville and have seen Gator fans throw eggs at cars with Vol stickers and license plates during the annual showdown. I've seen first hand the mayhem that ensues before, during, and after this SEC East rivalry game.

My buddy brought up an interesting and true observation; the sheer pent up rage within Gator Nation due to Kiffin's idiocy will likely awaken hate out of the calmest of Gator fan and the already spiteful, drunken fan will turn to abhorrence and action.

The media has built this up. The fans talking about, "Oh, I can't wait for September 19th! Kiffin's going to get it!" around town have kept it alive. The dorks on the message boards are ready to take their Star Wars helmets off and reveal their true selves and throw down.

I honestly believe something terrible will happen to Vol fans if they show up to this game and it isn't even their fault. They'll be harassed when all they're trying to do is enjoy a beautiful day in Florida and watch a potentially great game. Harassment will turn to defense, which will undoubtedly turn to egregious hostility with mothers screaming, "This is ridiculous! I have my children with me," but her voice will fall on deaf ears because fans have to inflate their chests and aggravate one another because Kiffin and his detractors cannot shut up and watch football.

I don't care who starts it, please, I implore you, show some civility and lets enjoy a solid stomping on the football field and not on the streets. Thank you.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Where're the Rays Fans?

I've gone to see the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies this season at the Trop and I have to admit that I am embarrassed and disgusted with many of the Rays fans in the area.

My question is: Do you think if we went to any of the aforementioned team's stadium that we would see anywhere between 30 to 40% of Rays fans filling up their seats? I'll go ahead and answer for you. Absolutely not! Then, why is it okay that we allow our rivals to fill up our seats in our stadium?

The Rays are still a relatively new franchise and I understand not many people cared about them until last season when they shocked the baseball world by embarrassing Boston and New York to take the AL East and represented the AL in the World Series. The Rays are still a solid team that are once again knocking on the playoff door, even though the league is better prepared for these exciting young players. Yet we, as fans, allow our rivals to push through the gates and bully us in our own house. The nauseating chants of, "Lets go, Red Sox!" reverberating throughout the Trop is sacrilege, although, I love it when we drown them out with our "Boo's." If we tried something like that at Fenway, we'd be escorted out in gurneys.

Even the Buccaneers had to go through this same ordeal. Packer and Bears fans filling up the Old Sombrero made going to Bucs game unbearable. Well, that and they were absolutely awful, but once they started winning and making postseason appearances the Packer and Bears fans became less and less visible.

So, why is it now that the Rays are winning we still have to endure a sea of colors not associated with our great franchise?

"St. Pete is too far." This is my favorite excuse. Hop on 275 S from wherever you are in the Hillsborough area and it takes 20 to 30 minutes. I got on the interstate late for the game yesterday and dealt with minimal traffic. I still had time to have a bite and an adult beverage before I sat in my seats. Why do the Yankee fans make it?

"It's too expensive." The Rays are considered the most affordable sports franchise in baseball. Philly fan seems to think it's cost friendly.

"The Bay area's a melting pot of people from across the U.S." Absolutely. That's why we have to teach our kids that're born here that you root for the home team. I have family and friends that represent other sports franchises because that's where they grew up and that's what they know, but one thing they all have in common is they teach their children to root for the team in the city in which they were born.

We have to quit making excuses for ourselves and we absolutely have to develop an identity. These teams who have been around for centuries all have fan bases with an identity because they're relics of a time when baseball was considered "America's Pastime." We need to step up and fire back, not physically with violence (and our fan base has to quit getting baited by these neanderthals into throwing fisticuffs. I'm not saying don't defend yourself, but don't enable it either), but by filling our stadium with our fans and truly representing the Rays with dignity and class.

I don't want to have to look down on this franchise in a hundred years and say, "Now we have a true fan base, and it only took us this long." We, and only we, have the power to complete this task. We're the only ones that can put a stop to these unholy invaders. We're the only ones that can make it happen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pre Season Collegiate Football Predictions- University of Miami

The Hurricanes were a dominating force earlier this decade racking up a National Title and going back to the big stage the following season only to fall short.

The 'Canes have never had trouble recruiting and tend to get elite talent, but don't get the most out of their players while at Miami.

The honeymoon is over for Randy Shannon and the excuses are getting tired. I honestly believe that if he doesn't come through with an ACC Championship game appearance the Shannon era is over. And with the schedule the 'Canes have to trudge through the University might as well start looking for his replacement.

How brutal is it that the 'Canes have to start off the season with 4 teams that finished the season in the top 25. I've heard people say how the Hurricanes can easily start the season 0 and 4 and I have to agree with them.

Miami travels to Tallahassee to renew their Labor Day bore fest against their bitter rivals, the Florida State Seminoles. This game is a classic when played in October, but is a snooze when it's the first game of the season. FSU will have experience on the offensive line, one that shredded the Miami defense a year earlier, but Miami's front 4 are big and athletic and I'm pretty sure they'll be looking for payback. Watch out for Miami's talented backfield. If they get heated up hitting 4, 5, and 6 yard gains consistently, it'll be a long night for the 'Noles.

The one downside to the 'Canes this game? It's the first game they'll be implementing their new offense AND defense. If you like defensive slug fests, this is your game. Seminoles win by a small margin due to their continuity on the o-line.

I think Georgia Tech blindsided teams last season and I don't expect the same to happen. I'll give Miami this win because they'll be better prepared after a weeks rest and it's at home.

Virginia Tech and Oklahoma win the next two. Va Tech is just a better coached team and I expect Tyrod Taylor to have a monster game against the 'Canes. Traditionally, Miami struggles against scrambling QB's.

Oklahoma is a beast. Too much talent. Too much firepower. Miami gets them at home, but will lose...badly.

FAMU and UCF are where the 'Canes can make some strides gelling on the offensive side of things. They'll wins these games, but watch out for the Knights. I wouldn't be shocked if they gave Miami a hard time.

Clemson, @Wake, Virginia, @North Carolina, and Duke seems like such a cake walk, but this isn't the late 90's and early 00's. I wouldn't call any of these teams legitimate contenders, but they'll pop you right in the mouth. These teams aren't scared of Miami anymore. They have to win 4 of these games if they want to contend for the Coastal Division and a bowl bid. Clemson in Miami and @UNC are losses. Spiller will want to go out on top of the 'Canes and Butch Davis will not want to lose at home to his former employer. I'm not trying to be funny here, but watch out for Duke.

The finale with South Florida is such a compelling match-up. The 'Canes will come in arrogant, as if they're teaching their Tampa buddies a lesson. USF at home, with it being Selvie and Grothe's last game, will come out strong and upset the 'Canes.

My upset prediction: Well, although I think the 'Noles win on Labor Day, Miami may upset them. You never know with these rivalry games.

My team to potentially upset the 'Canes: @USF on November 28th. Ray Jay will be rocking and no o-lineman can slow Selvie down.

Player to watch for: S Randy Phillips. This young man is NFL ready with speed and power.

Player who'll shock you: WR Travis Benjamin. Tons of pure speed and extremely shifty.

Final Predictions:

@Florida State- L
Georgia Tech- W
@Virginia Tech- L
Oklahoma- L
FAMU- W
@UCF- W
Clemson- L
@Wake Forest- W
Virginia- W
@North Carolina- L
Duke- W
@South Florida- L

6-6 and no chance at an ACC Title bid. The "All 'Canes Conference" has never represented itself in a conference title game and it doesn't start now.

Next up: Florida State...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Violations About Money, Not Example

For years, it has been speculated that Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles have engaged in multiple violations over the years only never to be caught or to get a slap on the wrist by the NCAA.

By now, we all know about the Music Appreciation Class scandal where students and student-athletes from Florida State partook in the aforementioned class and allegedly received test answers from a tutor. The NCAA has conducted an investigation and their punishment is scholarships taken away from the teams with players that were involved with the cheating scandal. The football team, most notably Head Coach Bobby Bowden, did not take to their sanctions well. Bowden has to forfeit the games in which ineligible players were used, even though when officials at FSU got word of the cheating they acted accordingly by suspending players. My take in all of this: It’s all complete bull…

The NCAA claims they’re trying to make a statement and an example to all colleges and universities that no one is above the law and you will eventually get caught. I have a major problem with this.

You’re either completely na├»ve or stupid if you truly believe cheating doesn’t take place in all forms of higher education, especially with student-athletes. These charges have nothing to do with setting an “example” and everything to do with money. Florida State was making bank for the NCAA during the height of their program. We witnessed arrest after arrest in the 90’s and we all heard murmurs and rumors about academic misconduct within the school’s system for years. Why wasn’t there an investigation ten years ago? And if there was, do you honestly believe FSU was that good at covering up mishaps that the NCAA walked right past it?

“But what about the ‘Free Shoe U’ scandal?”

Well, it was so publicized that the NCAA was forced to act and they didn’t even hammer FSU as hard as they probably should have.

Florida State is no longer among the elite and isn’t making the NCAA, which runs similarly to the mob, as much revenue as it has in the past. The ‘Noles can’t even sell out their own stadium anymore. How are they to make money for the NCAA? Don’t believe my assessment? Check out what’s going on on the West Coast with Southern Cal. They’ve been in the spotlight this whole decade. Winning national titles. Being on television week after week. Accepting enormous accolades, such as Heisman winners, et cetera. We keep hearing about illegal activities taking place at USC, but there hasn’t been a single sanction given. OJ Mayo, Reggie Bush, and most recently an NFL consultant helped out some of the USC players, which is absolutely a violation, and nothing happens to them. Why? Because they are making the NCAA a boatload of cash.

And I’ve heard the excuse, “Well, speeding is illegal and people get away with that all of the time.”

Well, you’re an idiot for making such a ridiculous statement. So, I guess it’s okay to participate in illegal activities, as long as you don’t get caught, right? There’re so many things wrong with that, I’d have to write up a whole other article just to point out the stupidity.

I understand that Bobby is in charge and responsible for these children, but how in the world is he supposed to know everything that’s going on? If you truly believe Urban Meyer and Pete Carroll know everything going on in their players lives then lift your eyes one paragraph.

Love him or hate him, Bowden has been a staple in the college football world and is already a legend. Without him, there’s no such thing as Florida State football. If you truly want to punish the FSU program then I say do it. They got caught and there has to be repercussions. Pull scholies. Take them off of tv. Ban them from a bowl game.

But not at the expense of a man who has sacrificed himself for the game. He earned those victories. To take them away is a bigger crime than these ridiculous sanctions.