Opening Saturday of College Football

As you probably know, yesterday was the first Saturday of the College football season. I believe there were 53 division 1 games played yesterday, and out of those 53 only 18 were shown here on my television. Unfortunately for me, because of the fact that usually about 5 games were playing at the same time, I was only able to watch three games from whistle to whistle. I watched Virginia Tech vs East Carolina, which was probably the game of the day; Michigan vs Utah, a game that could a preview for the rest of the season for both teams; and the Missouri vs Illinois game, a performance that should make fans from any other Big 12 teams nervous. Unfortunately the Alabama-Clemson game was not shown here in Lawrence, Kansas, which was very disappointing as it was one of the games that I was really looking forward to.

Either way, as many of you know, I recently had surgery on my wrist and from the elbow down my arm is immobile, which obviously makes it very difficult to write a post so this time around I’m not going to write a full post. Thinking ahead, I took notes while I was watching the games yesterday, just jotting down things that jumped out at me. So what I will do is give a very brief overview of the game and then type up my thoughts from that game and put them down as bullet points and just make a list of key things that I think could prove to be important over the course of the season. With the things I list I will also try to look up an extra piece or two of information on the subject of the point.

Let’s start with the Virginia Tech vs East Carolina game:

Virigina Tech came into this game with a preseason ranking of 17th in the country, but East Carolina came into the game ready to play. In this game there was a fumble returned for a touchdown, a blocked extra point returned for a touchdown, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. This was a very exciting game to watch and as I mentioned before was probably the game of the day. The opening score of the game came a few minutes into the second quarter and was the fumble return when Virginia Tech’s Stephan Virgil scooped up an East Carolina fumble and returned it 30 yards to the promise land. However the final score of the game came with a minute-52 left in the 4th quarter when East Carolina was trailing 22 to 20, and had just forced Virginia Tech to go three and out and were planning on running a two-minute drill to get in field goal range when Wham! T.J. Lee blocks Brent Bowden’s punt and grabs the ball and sprints 27 yards to victory. The better team clearly won this game, East Carolina had more rushing yards, more passing yards and all but dominated the time of possession. Really the only area of the game that VT clearly did better was in terms of discipline, having 0 penalty yards, while ECU had 60 penalty yards.

-The only note that I wrote down for this game is to look out for East Carolina’s quarterback, Patrick Pinkney, who had a phenomenal game and could put together an equally as impressive season. Pinkney completed 19 of 23 pass attempts, throwing for 211 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another, without throwing a single pick, which gives him an NCAA passer rating of 174.02, which is a 119.38 by the NFL rating system.

Okay, moving in chronological order I will now do the Michigan vs Utah game:

This game wasn’t quite as exciting despite the fact the the final margin of victory was only two points, with Utah winning 25 to 23. Both teams only had 36 rushing yards, Utah dominated in terms of total yards and time of possession. Both teams had three turnovers and Michigan had significantly less penalty yards. It was 25 to 10 going into the fourth quarter and it looked like Michigan was going to come back after they scored a touchdown, making it an eight point game, then they scored another touchdown and were down by two so they went for the two point conversion but failed, and neither team scored again.

– My first note on this game again concerns the winning team’s quarterback, Brian Johnson of Utah had a really good game. He struggled a little in the second but still put up good numbers, going 21 of 33 for 305 yards a TD and a pick for a NCAA passer rating of 145.21 or 91.10 with the NFL rating. If it weren’t for the one ill advised interception it would have been a much higher rating. Keep an eye on him, he could put together a good season.

– I just wanted to draw attention to Obi Ezeh, the Michigan linebacker. He could be very very good. He had Michigan’s only interception. I tried to dig up his stats from yesterday’s game but failed to find anything that I think is accurate; ESPN.com says that he had zero tackles which I’m sure can’t be right.

– It looks like Michigan really misses running back Mike Hart, who is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Michigan had six different people rub the ball yesterday, and only one of them, Brandon Minor, had total rushing yards in the double-digits.

– I saved this note as the last one because it’s the most important and I want you to remember it. The Utah kicker/punter, Louie Sakoda, a senior from San Jose, California, is ready for the NFL right now and I want the Colts to draft him just as a backup and future replacement for Adam Vinatieri anf/or Hunter Smith. He’s my early pick for First-Team-All-American and easily had the best performance out of all the players I watched yesterday. He hit all 4 of his field goal attempts yesterday, 3 of which were over 40 yards (something Vinatieri didn’t do all of last season) and one of those was a 53-yarder, which he hit not from the center of the field, but from the right hash mark, and it was dead center with plenty of clearance over the cross bar. He also had six punts with one that was a 59-yard-bomb, with a 47-yard average, Hunter Smith’s best season average is 45.2 so, yes, I’m being serious when I say I want the Colts to get him.

Finally we move on to the Mizzou vs Illinois game:

As you may have seen, Bryan has already written a full post covering this game. With that said, I will jump straight to my notes on the game:

– Mizzou’s running back, Derrick Washington, is a beast. You probably won’t hear his name as much with a large percentage of the attention being focused on Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin but this kid is good. 19 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns – don’t forget about him.

– The Illini defense annoyed me. They seemed like a bunch of cocky/annoying idiots. They seemed like they were jawing a lot, and trying to start stuff after plays were over, it was good to see that the Mizzou players just walked away from this. The Illinois defense just seemed to have bad attitudes. I also noticed this about the Michigan defense; once they started losing they seemed to come in late on some hits and they didn’t look unintentional. I suppose what’s more bothering is that the refs weren’t calling.

– Missouri tight end, Chase Coffman = WOW. Nine catches for 120 yards and a touchdown… as a tight end. Thats mind boggling. He’s 6’6, 245 and has athleticism that doesn’t even make sense. There’s one play I’m thinking of in particular where he broke like a hundred tackles and then jumped clear over a defender, it was insane.

Alright my final thoughts for you guys is that there are currently four non-BCS schools that I could see sneaking into a BCS bowl, and they are East Carolina, Utah, BYU and Fresno State. I don’t see any more than one of those teams making a BCS bowl, nor am I necessarily saying that I think any of those teams deserve to make a BCS bowl, I’m just saying to keep them on your radar. I’d also like yo point out that I picked both the East Carolina over Virginia Tech upset and the Bowling Green over Pittsburgh upset as well as the Utah over Michigan win.

PS: I realize that at the beginning of the post I talked about how this was going to be a short post but I got a little carried away. What can I say? It’s the opening weekend for college football, how could I have ever expected myself to hold back?

Mizzou-Illinois from the Jones Dome

Like most Mizzou fans, I couldn’t wait to put yesterday’s game in the rear view mirror.  It was nothing more than a trap game for us.  As we saw last year, a victory means very little, but a loss could cost us a shot at a National Title.

First off, I’d like to point out that Mizzou and Illinois are not rivals.  They are in the Big 10, we are in the Big 12.  When Illinois plays Ohio State and Michigan, I pull for Illinois.  When the team’s fans tailgate, they set up right next to one another.  This doesn’t happen at a Mizzou-kansas game. This game was simply, “Sure, we don’t like you today, we’ll be over it tomorrow.”

Now, having said all that, all these reasons make this game a whole lot of fun.  It was beautiful day for tailgating and there was plenty of it.  We showed up around 2 for the 7:30 kickoff.  We made our way around the PowerMizzou.com tailgate for a little while (great food there), then wandered around some parking lots before ending up at the Official Mizzou Tailgate.  Beer was $6.50 there, so we didn’t stay long.  Eventually, we ran into a friends tailgate over by The Landing, where the beer was free.

As the picture above shows, fans intermingled all day.  I met several Illinois fans who would tell me that they just hoped the Illini would keep it close.  That eased my nerves ever so slightly.

As for the game, I think there were more Mizzou fans in there, but not by a wide margin.  It was a neat atmosphere, even if the Jones Dome isn’t the greatest.  We had an Illinois group to our left, who seemed to think the Illini had very little chance of actually pulling out a victory. Our seats weren’t terrible, not great either, upper deck row DD.

I predicted a 41-27 scoreline, I thought the 68 combined points would be about right.  (Side note:  My girlfriend countered with a 52-38 prediction.  Not bad.)  I wasn’t expecting our D to be completely unable to stop Juice Williams’ passing attack.  Unfortunately, we kept getting burned on the same exact play, which got really, really annoying.  I’d imagine that will get worked on in practice this week and won’t happen again.  As you know, the game ended with a combined 94 total points and 1081 yards of total offense.

As for our offense, I know we hung 52 points on a good Illinois team, but really didn’t play all that well.  This is a scary proposition for opposing defenses on our schedule.  At times they were just out of kilter and I saw more drops yesterday than it seems like we had all of last year.  I chalk that up to it being the first game.  We’ll get Denario Alexander back and look out.

Overall, I was just happy to get out with a win.  From what I understand, Jeremy Maclin’s injury is only a sprain, MRI pending.  He’ll have some time to rest since we don’t play anyone in the next 4 weeks. JMac’s 99-yd kick return was a key turning point since it squashed any momentum Illinois had gained in the 2nd Quarter.

Overall, it was great day.  Perfect day for tailgating, Tiger football, and victory.

South Carolina beats North Carolina State

First of all, as Bryan did earlier, I would like to wish everyone a happy opening day to the college football season. I would also like to thank him for excusing me from the need from writing any posts until my wrist heals, but the excitement of watching the first night of college football is just too much, so here I am typing up a post one-handed. There were four college games shown on TV here, NC State @ South Carolina, Wake Forest @ Baylor, South Dakota State @ Iowa State, and Oregon State @ Stanford. With all four games being on at basically the same time I was flipping back and fourth through the channels as much as I could, but the game I watched from start to finis, no missing more than a couple snaps was the South Carolina game, so this is the game I feel that I can give an accurate analysis of. I chose to watch this game because being a Tennessee fan, I wanted to see how this SEC East opponent looked in their opening game.

With that said, I will point out that I was cheering for NC State, and that while South Carolina stomped them with a 34-point shutout victory, I believe this final score is pretty deceiving. I say this because until the last ten minutes of the game South Carolina only had 13 points, and then in those last ten minutes the Gamecocks put up three more touchdowns. Normally it would be impressive for a team to put up 21 points in less than ten minutes, but it seemed to me that at about that ten minute mark NC St had already conceded, seeing how at this point they had put in their third-string quarterback. I bring this up because for the first three quarters of the game South Carolina’s starting quarterback, Tommy Beecher was in the game and threw a dreadful 12 completions on 22 attempts for only 106 yards, no touchdowns, and 4 (yes, four!) interceptions, which gives him a 58.65 college passer rating, or the more familiar 28.03 NFL rating.

When the Gamecocks secondary quarterback, Chris Smelley, came in a few minutes into the fourth quarter he put up significantly better numbers (5 of 5 for 92 yards and 2 TDs) but as I mentioned before, it appeared that the Wolfpack had already conceded this game, so those statistics could be a little deceiving. The South Carolina running offense didn’t struggle near as much, with Mike Davis leading the attack and running for 101 yards and a TD on 14 carries, with his longest run (a 50-yarder) coming half way through the fourth quarter. The defense for South Carolina also looked pretty solid, but their run defense seemed weak at times.

With all of this in mind, it looks as though a Tennessee fan like myself can rest a little easier at night. I say this because during the off season I was relatively nervous about the Tennessee vs South Carolina game, but with what I consider to be a weak performance compared to what I was expecting, I have now had some of those worries relieved. I say this because Eric Berry and company should reap the benefits from that dreadful passing game that was displayed by South Carolina in tonight’s game and Arian Foster should be able to exploit the questionable run defense that I saw. A long story short, South Carolina didn’t look near as good as I expected and Tennessee should matchup well against them.

For a few end notes, I’d like to point out that from what I saw Wake Forest looked really good tonight, the Stanford vs Oregon State was a really good game with an intense finish, and Georgia Tech’s running back, Jonathan Dwyer looked like he could be scary good this year, running for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 10 carries.

My top 5 games to watch this weekend:

Southern California @ Virginia – My Pick: USC

Utah @ Michigan – My Pick: Michigan in a close one

Appalachian St. @ Louisiana St. – My Pick: LSU

Alabama @ Clemson – My Pick: Clemson

Illinois @ Missouri – My Pick: Mizzou

Happy College Football Season!

I’m currently watching the riveting South Carolina-North Carolina St. primetime Thursday night football game.  At this point, I would watch Western Wyoming A&M play North Oklahoma Community College.  I’m sure most of you feel the same way.

I just got my tickets to the (6) Mizzou vs. (20) Illinois game for this Saturday.  I’ll take plenty of pictures and give a full recap on Monday.  For the record, I’m quite nervous since Illinois is a very, very good team, however, I think Mizzou will be fully prepared and win 41-27.

Now for a few predictions.  I think the National Championship game will be USC vs. Oklahoma.  I know you (Weller) are devastated that there is no SEC team, but I think they will beat each other up so much that no team will really come out on top.  Georgia may ultimately have the best team, but they play six teams ranked in the Top 25 with two of those games coming at LSU and at Auburn late in the season.  I just don’t think they’ll be able to run that gauntlet, plus the SEC Championship game.  If they can, they will be more than deserving of that title shot.

I don’t think anyone will challenge USC this season.  If they can beat Ohio State, and hopefully they do, the Trojans won’t be truly tested for the rest of the season.  As for the Sooners, I feel they are the class of the Big 12, unfortunately.  They return a dominant offsensive line plus Sam Bradford and I don’t see them losing.  My Tigers are fully capable of going 12-0, or 11-1, but I don’t see them being able to best the Sooners in the Big 12 Title Game.  That game is in being played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, which will be helpful to the North team that represents the conference.

Anyway, strap in for the next couple weeks.  We’ll see just how wrong my predictions are.

Instant Replay

First things first, Weller had successful surgery on his wrist this afternoon. He should be back in action soon, so don’t fret, facebook discussion boarders. Apparently he did ask the nurse if they put a cell phone inside of him like in the Dark Knight, for what it’s worth.

Now, onto the topic of the day: Instant Replay. Baseball has been and always will be the slowest sport to evolve with the times, since it has been around the longest and has its fair share of ‘purists’ who feel the game just hasn’t been the same since they moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn.

Major League Baseball announced today that they will institute instant replay on “boundary calls.” This means, a) was a ball fair or foul, b) did the ball leave the field of play, and c) fan interference. Unlike the NFL, only the Crew Chief can call for an instant replay.

It’s about time. Instant replay has worked brilliantly in the NFL, NCAA, NHL, and the NBA. Critics worry about the stoppages slowing down the game. I never really understood why MLB is so insistent on shortening games. No one expects to go to a game and leave in less than three hours. You go to a game and make a day of it. Isn’t it more important to get the call right on the field than get the fans out of the stadium 3 minutes sooner? I think so.

Think about if limited replay had be in place on October 9, 1996. You know the play. Replay would have quickly shown that Derek Jeter did not hit a home run and this kid may not have his own Wikipedia page. Odd side note, when I interned in Seattle, the other intern played college baseball with Jeffrey Maier at Wesleyan University. I can’t say that the Orioles would have won the series, but it certainly could have swung the momentum in their favor with the Game 1 win. Maybe my Braves would have won the 1996 World Series over the Orioles and the O’s wouldn’t be in their current state of disrepair. Who knows.

Anyway, I think it’s a great idea. Baseball has already waited too long to implement this, but it’s better late than never, right? Hopefully it works as well as it has in the other sports and they can get 100% of the boundary calls correct in the postseason.

In other news, I went to the Cardinals 18-3 thrashing of the Braves last Friday. That’s all I’ll say about that. I also just got my tickets to the Mizzou-Illinois game on Saturday. It’s almost football season!

The Miracle on Melted Ice

That’s what I’ve decided to call the men’s semifinal water polo match between the United States and Serbia, a game in which the U.S. doubled up Serbia, winning ten to five. The remarkable part about this is that the United States team came into the Olympics being ranked only ninth in the world and weren’t even supposed to be in contention for a medal, finishing only eleventh and ninth in the past two world championships. After the United States beat the number one ranked team in the world, Croatia, to win their group people have started to believe differently.

There had been speculations that Serbia had thrown one of their own games to end up on the same side of the bracket as the United States, providing the U.S. team bulletin board material to give them to motivation needed to beat the Serbian team that they had failed to score more than 3 goals against in their last meeting, which was in the preliminary rounds of the Olympics. Head Coach, Terry Schroeder, who was the captain of the 1984 and 1988 silver medaling Olympic teams, said that he welcomed the challenge and that they would be ready and they were.

The game was tied at four goals a piece late in the first half, but the U.S. put in their 5th goal to give them a 5-4 lead at half time. After that the United States ran away with it, having a 7-5 lead going into the 4th quarter, and not allowing a single score in that final period, and putting in three of their own. Lead by Tony Azevedo, who had three of the teams ten goals, and in addition to his hat trick had two assists, two steals and two blocks. The other seven U.S. scores came from Ryan Bailey and Layne Beaubien with two each and then Peter Varellas, Jeff Powers and Rick Merlo had a goal a piece. Though despite all of the scoring the player of the game award should probably go to goalie, Merrill Moses who had a staggering 16 saves, which when compared to Serbia’s goalie, Slobodan Soro, one save, puts it in to perspective on how impressive Moses’s 16 is.

This win gives the United States team an opportunity to compete against Hungary for the gold medal. The United States hasn’t had a men’s water polo team in this position since the 1988 Olympics. Hungary has won the gold medal at the last two Olympics and will be looking to defend their title and become the first men’s water polo team since Great Britain in 1920 to win three Olympic gold medals in a row.

Mizzou at the Olympics

As I alluded to a couple days ago, Mizzou has two athletes competing in the Beijing Olympics: Christian Cantwell and Ben Askren.

A few days ago, Cantwell took the silver medal in the shot put, with a throw of 21.09 meters. After a shocking failure to qualify for the games in Athens four years ago, Cantwell vowed to win gold this time around in Beijing. Several news stories from the local paper in Columbia have him quoted as saying he wouldn’t be happy with a silver or bronze. After seeing him take the silver, he went too his coach and grabbed the American flag and had quite a smile pasted on his face. I’d say he was pretty happy with the silver.

It was just reported on the news that The Diner down on Broadway has a 21.09 meter silver ribbon that fans can come and sign. Maybe I’ll go do that tomorrow after work.

Ben Askren was another first time Olympian, but he was no stranger to high level competition. At Mizzou, Askren became the first Tiger Wrestler to be a National Champion and he did it in back to back years. His senior year, Askren went undefeated and won his second straight Dan Hodge Trophy as the best collegiate wrestler. Askren’s Olympics started with a pin against István Veréb of Hungary. In his round of 16 match, Askren was pitted against Cuba’s Ivan Fundora, the bronze medalist from Athens. Fundora’s experience showed as he beat Askren 3-1 and 4-0. Defending gold medalist Buvaisar Saitiev then defeated Fundora, ending Askren’s hopes at a bronze medal.

In the end, it didn’t actually matter to me how they finished. I really just wanted them to represent the USA and the University of Missouri well. Cliche, I know, but after seeing Usain Bolt’s antics while blowing away the field and after reading about Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian’s antics on the medal stand, I didn’t want any sort of similar performance. I was never worried, but it’s always in the back of my mind. Both Ben and Christian made the University of Missouri very proud in their respective events.

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