Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preseason Big Ten Power Rankings

1) Ohio State (11-2, 7-1 Big Ten in 2009)
The Terrelle Pryor for Heisman train has officially reached full speed, and he certainly is the catalyst to the Bucks’ season. If he doesn’t play up to the hype, Ohio State will stumble once or twice. If the kid’s as dominating a passer as he is a presence, the Buckeyes are headed back to the BCS championship game.

2) Iowa (11-2, 6-2)
In a player poll by ESPN the Mag, the Hawkeyes were voted the likely conference champion. The defense continues to be regarded as among the best in the nation, and while the Adrian Clayborn-led unit is stout, losing LBs Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds to the NFL should not be overlooked. An improved offense could make Iowa BCS-bound even if the Hawkeyes can’t catch the Buckeyes.

3) Wisconsin (10-3, 5-3)
A long time ago, a certain student beat writer said that 2010 was the year Wisconsin won the Big Ten because of quarterback play. Well, Pryor’s better than ever, and the guy who looked like the Badgers’ quarterback of the future is sidelined for perhaps the whole year. But while Curt Phillips’ time will have to wait, Scott Tolzien has blossomed. Factor in that John Clay fellow for a high-powered offense, but the defense must improve after losing O’Brien Schofield.

4) Michigan State (6-7, 4-4)
Put me down for a bounceback year in East Lansing. You figure the Spartans should stop the ball better than that, especially with Greg Jones around for what it seems like his eighth year. Michigan State doesn’t leave home until Oct. 9, but road games at Northwestern, Iowa and Penn State make a .500 Big Ten record seem distinctly possible.

5) Penn State (11-2, 6-2)
Talk of the demise of the Nittany Lions is trendy, what with Darryl Smith out the door and the ageless Joe Paterno figuring to lose his recruiting pitch with each passing year. But much like Bo Ryan’s basketballers, Penn State just finds a way every season to be strong, so it’s hard to imagine PSU slipping out of the upper half of the conference.

6) Northwestern (8-5, 5-3)
It seemed egregious to place the Wildcats in the top four in anything pertaining to athletics. But darnit, Northwestern might do it this year. The schedule stacks up for NU to potentially carry eight or nine wins into Camp Randall for the season finale on Turkey weekend.

7) Michigan (5-7, 1-7)
Well, Rich Rod’s gotta put a quality product on the field one of these years, right? With the cheating and all. Seriously, the Wolverines’ brutal schedule won’t let Michigan reach those old days of double-digit wins. But the first bowl game in the Rodriguez regime isn’t a stretch.

8) Illinois (3-9, 2-6)
Put me down for a bounceback year in Champaign. And yet, sadly, for the Illini, it doesn’t take much to bounce back from just three wins. Ron Zook’s seat is hotter than the fire sauce at Taco Bell, but a Bounty-soft home schedule - you know, after hosting Ohio State to open Big Ten play - should help ease UI to an increased win total.

9) Purdue (5-7, 4-4)
What rhymes with Brett Favre and transferred to Purdue this year? Robert Marve, who gets to throw to Keith Smith this year. Hey, how come Marve isn’t spelled Mavre? Seems like it would be the logical thing to do for a quarterback. Looks like the Miami transfer wants to cavre his own path.

10) Minnesota (6-7, 3-5)
Adam Weber really should be better than this. But with Eric Decker gone to the professional ranks, it looks like the best receiver on the team might be MarQueis Gray, Weber’s stocky backup. Tim Brewster talks a big game, but his squad doesn’t look quite up to the task.

11) Indiana (4-8, 1-7)
The program has never recovered from being stricken with tragedy in coach Terry Hoeppner’s death. Tandon Doss is an exciting wide receiver to watch, but there’s not much else to cheer in Bloomington.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kenny Chesney - "Boys of Fall"

Former colleague and fellow UW alum Eric Schmoldt posted this on his Wyoming blog last week, and with Week 1 of the high school football season beginning in a few days, I thought it'd be appropriate to follow his lead. This is an 8-minute video, but it is well worth your time, trust me, from beginning to end. I've never played a down of organized football, and now I wanna throw a uniform on too.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sportsman of the Month: July (not August. Duh.)

Sportsman of the Month: Kevin Durant

Pop quiz: Which organization allegedly received the financial benefits from LeBron James' one-hour ESPN special three weeks ago?

Quick! Which interviewer sat down with LeBron and asked him about 38 useless questions before asking him the only question that counted (where ya goin')?

Without hesitating, can you recite the exact words LeBron used to announce his Decision on where to play basketball for the next five years?

And one last pop quiz: what did Kevin Durant announce via Twitter on July 7, the day before LeBron's Decision?

Admit it. The answers to the first three questions sprung to mind automatically, in the same manner as "what is your birthday?" and "when's the last time the Cubs won the World Series?"

Admit this, too: you didn't immediately recognize that Kevin Durant signed a five-year extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That's because Durant's TV special took exactly 60 minutes less than Lebron's, ahem, one-hour circus.

Put it this way, folks: type "LeBron James signs" into a Google search. Then try "Kevin Durant signs". One of them yields 23.8 million results. The other gives you a smidge over 600,000. Guess which one's which.

Now, I'm not saying I like my athletes to be bland, boring, excessively married to the norm. I miss the days when athletes could say and do as they pleased without getting ripped for showing a little color.

But LeBron's Decision was Decisively stupid. There's not much left to say at this point, obviously, but the way he left Cleveland was shameful. And addressing himself multiple times in the third person that night? A pity to see a wondeful athlete and affable personality tear down his good-guy persona in just one night.

That only serves to make Kevin Durant look that much better. A man whose talent gap from James is smaller than you think, and a man who has won the same amount of NBA Finals games as James, showed humility and loyalty with "The Tweet".

So good for Kevin Durant. If Carmelo Anthony makes the hard Decision to leave Denver in 2011, and if I'm forced to make the impossible Decision of divorcing the Nuggets, I think I know which bandwagon I'm jumping on.