Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final Big Ten Football Power Rankings

1) No. 5 Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten); Last week, 1

Last week: won vs. Northwestern 70-23
Apparently there’s some big game being played in Southern California on New Year’s Day. Something to do with roses? Anyway, in our final 2010 edition of Big Ten Power Rankings, let’s dish on the all-conference teams a little bit. I liked John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi both getting first-team nods on the line, and obviously J.J. Watt was going to be there too. But Scott Tolzien deserved a better fate than coaches’ 2nd-team and media honorable mention. Tolzien and Northwestern’s Dan Persa had stupidly similar numbers - 74 percent completions (outrageous), a heavily-slanted TD-to-INT ratio, and plenty of passing yards. Didn’t look like the fact that Tolzien beat 11 teams and Persa beat seven (with a combined record of 30-53) meant anything.

2) No. 6 Ohio State (11-1, 7-1); LW, 2
Last week: won vs. Michigan 37-7
Five Buckeye defenders on the coaches’ first team is not overkill at all. What a fierce unit once again crafted by Jim Tressel and his staff - OSU allowed more than 20 points just ONCE all season long. A rematch of Wisconsin’s offense vs. Ohio State’s defense would be fun, hypothetically. However, Pryor got stiffed with his relegation to honorable mention. He makes the Buckeyes tick offensively - he’s every bit of a force as Cam Newton without two things, the flash and the cash. (As far as we know.)

3) No. 8 Michigan State (11-1, 7-1); LW, 3
Last week: won at Penn State 28-22
An impressive, we-too-belong win at Penn State probably won’t be enough to push the poor Spartans into the BCS. But Mark Dantonio - a well-deserving honoree for the Dave McClain award - ordered up some sour grapes by campaigning his team should be higher than Wisconsin just because MSU beat them (not in a tight win, but not in a rout) a few months ago. It’s a body of work, bud. Don’t lose to an Iowa team that was clearly fraudulent. Still, the two-teams-per-league rule will shut out Sparty the same way it did Bucky in 2006. Seriously, BCS, enjoy 7-5 Pittsburgh (if a few things fall into place).

4) Penn State (7-5, 4-4); LW, 5
Last week: lost vs. No. 10 Michigan State 28-22
Anybody want this fourth spot? Anybody at all? The Outback Bowl doesn’t have a lot of great choices once the big three go Rose, BCS at-large and Capital One Bowl. PSU, as my boss Don Doxsie put it, finished the season doing the least amount of damage to itself. Not to portray too much love for Wisconsin and Ohio State, but one wonders how Evan Royster’s 4.9 yards a carry and six touchdowns warranted a second-team coaches spot over the 7.0 yards a lug and 14 TDs for the Big Ten Frosh of the Year, James White. Is being a senior that important?

5) Illinois (6-5, 4-4); LW, 7
Last week: Idle
Well, the trip to Cali should be fun to finish the year. Illinois could really use the win, not just for an impressive resume-builder against 7-4 Fresno State, but also to pull even with the other 18 teams in this conference that finished 7-5 overall and .500 in conference. Mikel LeShoure has already wrapped up the rushing title, and is working on three straight 100-yard games. Another one and he’ll probably get to 1,500 before the bowl.
Next: at Fresno State, Fri. 9:15 p.m. ESPN2

6) Iowa (7-5, 4-4); LW, 4
Last week: lost at Minnesota 27-24
You just have to wonder if a guy like Adrian Clayborn is glad he came back. Well, he’s healthy and a deserving first-team defensive end who should be drafted highly next April. Rick Stanzi’s a heck of a leader and talented quarterback, but it’s hard to complain with both the coaches and media not even giving him honorable mention because he simply didn’t finish games this season. The murmurs about firing Kirk Ferentz are preposterous, solely built on quick-hit emotion after a bad loss in Minneapolis. Breathe, Hawkeye fans. It’ll be fine. Remember those Oranges from 11 months ago.

7) Michigan (7-5, 3-5); LW, 6
Last week: lost at No. 8 Ohio State 37-7
Sooooo ... Denard Robinson is an honorable mention quarterback, but the coaches gave him Offensive Player of the Year. While feeling the need to make Persa a first-teamer. Good to know those coaches are spending about 7 or 8 minutes on their ballots. Between this and the Royster thing, why make the coaches vote on a team if they’re not going to do it right?

8) Purdue (4-8, 2-6); LW, 8
Last week: lost vs. Indiana 34-31 (OT)
Hey, remember when the Boilermakers were 2-0 in conference? Neither does anyone else. Six straight losses to end the year, and Purdue allowed 34-plus points in five of them (at least 27 in every one). When you have the Big Ten consensus defensive player of the year, Ryan Kerrigan, on your side, that shows how far Purdue needs to grow as a defense.

9) Northwestern (7-5, 3-5); LW, 9
Last week: lost at No. 7 Wisconsin 70-23
Okay, so Dan Persa might be more important to his football team than any other player in the Big Ten Conference. We saw that in the way Northwestern collapsed in the final two weeks (though a missing quarterback has little to do with allowing 118 points in two games). But coaches and media aren’t supposed to vote based on value. It’s a vote based on merit. Tolzien, Pryor, Robinson, and arguably Kirk Cousins and Ricky Stanzi were better for their teams from start to finish than Persa. First-team all-conference is a gift.

10) Minnesota (3-9, 2-6); LW, 10
Last week: won vs. No. 24 Iowa 27-24
Pig out, Gopher fans. Amazing how even Minnesota was able to take advantage of Iowa’s lack of desire for a final win. Two of the three non-bowl-eligible Big Ten teams finished with wins, something that any sports fan can appreciate.

11) Indiana (5-7, 1-7); LW, 11
Last week: won at Purdue 34-31 (OT)
I just can’t lift Indiana out of last place, even with the extra-period win at rival Purdue. Obviously, the fact that IU scraped together five wins wasn’t enough to save Bill Lynch’s job. He’s a good man who was put in a tough situation after Terry Hoeppner’s death, but how long can you really give an interim coach to turn things around? Looks like the Hoosiers are stuck in building mode for at least a couple more years.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Week 12 Big Ten Power Rankings

1) No. 7* Wisconsin (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten); Last week, 1
*BCS rankings used
Last week: won vs. Indiana 83-20

For years as a Badgers beat writer, I heard Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema offer an interesting take on his team: “we’re not the prettiest girl in school, but we’ve always got a date to the prom.” Meaning, UW consistently finds itself ranked highly and playing in esteemed bowl games, even if the Badgers don’t dominate the SportsCenter highlights with unbelievable play. The 2010 Badgers must have gotten one of those quick-fix makeovers. Hanging 70 on Austin Peay? EIGHTY-THREE POINTS against Indiana??? Don’t forget former Gophers coach Tim Brewster’s accusing Bielema of running it up. How different these Badgers are. If they end up smelling Roses, it’ll all be worth it.
Next: at Michigan, 11 a.m. ESPN

2) No. 9 Ohio State (9-1, 5-1); LW, 2
Last week: won vs. Penn State 38-14
Like Wisconsin, the end result was a rout. But like Wisconsin, it didn’t start out that way. The Buckeyes came out of the locker room down 14-3 for the second half before turning things around. OSU has to be careful going into an always-hostile Kinnick Stadium to play a team that may or may not be, for lack of better words, ticked off.
Next: at No. 20 Iowa, 2:30 p.m. ABC

3) No. 12 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1); LW, 3
Last week: Idle
Not a bad way to spend a bye week. Iowa’s loss probably meant the most to Michigan State, since that was the only conference contender who had been defeated by Iowa. Now if the Spartans - whose end-of-season schedule is easier than Wisconsin’s and OSU’s - can hang on, they just need either the Badgers or Buckeyes to lose once to be all but certain of a BCS bid.
Next: vs. Purdue, 11 a.m. BTN

4) No. 20 Iowa (7-3, 4-2); LW, 4
Last week: lost at Northwestern 21-17
Ricky Stanzi, you cannot make that throw to the end zone with a 10-point lead like that. Stanzi’s career has been marked with good, intelligent decisions, but that gave Northwestern full momentum to make the comeback. Things are pretty gloomy in the Heartland - the OSU game has lost much of its luster, at least to the locals. Who knows its effect in the Hawkeyes’ locker room.
Next: vs. No. 9 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. ABC

5) Northwestern (7-3, 3-3); LW, 8
Last week: won vs. No. 13 Iowa 21-17
And we have yet another entrant to the “Fans Who Inexplicably Rush The Field After A Win” contest that apparently America’s college students have decided to stage this season. Iowa’s good, sure, but, uh, both teams now have identical records. And it was at Northwestern. And Iowa wasn’t even in the top ten. And the Wildcats have now beaten Iowa five out of six. Come on, NU kids. It’s not like a semi-attractive girl showed her face at the 50-yard-line.
Next: vs. Illinois, 2:30 p.m. ESPNU

6) Michigan (7-3, 3-3); LW, 7
Last week: won at Purdue 27-16
It has to be said: 19-0. That was the halftime score two seasons ago, in favor of Wisconsin, before the Wolverines stormed back for a shocking 27-25 win. UW has won just twice at Michigan Stadium in 48 years, and its current drought goes back to 1994. James White was 2 years old. Needless to say, the Badgers have some demons to exorcise on Saturday.
Next: vs. No. 7 Wisconsin, 11 a.m. ESPN

7) Penn State (6-4, 3-3); LW, 5
Last week: lost at No. 9 Ohio State 38-14
Matt McGloin has a promising future in white - and one heck of a name to go with it - but he can’t make mistakes like the one he made getting picked by Devon Torrence to let the Buckeyes take control. It’s odd to see a Penn State team with talent that’s still considered a total rebuilding project, but that’s what we’ve got.
Next: at Indiana, 11 a.m. BTN

8) Illinois (5-5, 3-4); LW, 6
Last week: lost vs. Minnesota 38-34
Let’s go ahead and call this a startling turn of events in Champaign, no? The monster win in Happy Valley was so close to igniting a 4-2 record in Big Ten play before the Illini scored 65 points in a loss ... followed by this. Losing to one of the worst teams in a BCS conference on Senior Day. Now it’s off to Evanston and Fresno to try and scratch out a win just for the right to play in a 13th game, if it means that much to the Illini.
Next: at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m. ESPNU

9) Purdue (4-6, 2-4); LW, 9
Last week: lost vs. Michigan 27-16
Well, at least the Boilermakers lost by just 11 this week. That’s a squeaker compared to Purdue’s last month. Its last shot at playing spoiler comes in East Lansing, not to mention any prayer of a bowl game shot.
Next: at No. 12 Michigan State, 11 a.m. BTN

10) Minnesota (2-9, 1-6); LW, 11
Last week: won at Illinois 38-34
Hey, perfect timing! Get the big win, and enjoy a week off! All is right in Gopherland again. You know, except those 63 problems that have dogged this football team all season long. Screw it, it’s bye week time!
Next: Idle

11) Indiana (4-6, 0-6); LW, 10
Last week: lost at No. 7 Wisconsin 83-20
Rock bottom. That’s what this feels like. Minnesota probably doesn’t deserve to be relieved of its guard duties in the cellar, but Minnesota hasn’t relinquished 83 points in an afternoon before. Any and all progress gained from narrow losses to Northwestern and Iowa have been wiped away. At least Indiana didn’t accuse of Wisconsin of running it up - it’s competitive football. If the Hoosiers had a problem with it, they probably should have done something about it between the lines.
Next: vs. Penn State, 11 a.m. BTN

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Season to Remember

After shaking off the disappointment of the World Series, I decided to reflect a little bit on the season. It was a fantastic ride from start to finish, but instead of walking you through the season step by step, I will throw out a few notes and then take things back to my favorite game of the year.

I know it has been said, but it needs to be said again: This team overcame great adversity. The manager admitted to doing Cocaine before the season. The team was bankrupt. The two "Aces" were out of the rotation by the All-Star Break. The franchise had won two playoff GAMES in it's history, yet this Texas Rangers team made it within three games of winning the World Series. The WORLD SERIES. Still doesn't quite seem real to have "World Series" and "Texas Rangers" in the same sentence. Unless of course the sentence is "The Texas Rangers will never make it to the World Series." Well they did, and even though they played poorly once they got there, they proved they belonged by beating the Rays and demolishing the Yankees. It was a season that I will never forget.

There were plenty of games to choose from as "my favorite game of the season." Any playoff win. Any display of Cliff Lee's dominance. Any victory against the Yankees. All of the walk-offs. My favorite game is a walk-off, but it is so much more than just that.... it twas the evening of August 13th.

This was not your normal August night at the Ballpark. The previous day was an off day for the players, but it was a big day in court. The Texas Rangers finally had new owners as the Ryan-Greenberg group finally won. The celebratory mood filled the evening air at the ballpark. I wish I had been there, but you could tell the atmosphere was different. Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve both seemed a little more amped than usual and there was a buzz in the ballpark.
The matchup featured one of the game's best in Josh Beckett against recently hot youngster Tommy Hunter. The Rangers scored once in both the 1st and 2nd and the crowd was going nuts. Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg were shown cheering loudly, but the mood changed quickly. The Red Sox scored once in the 3rd, then hit back-to-back-to-back homeruns in the 4th to knock Tommy Hunter out of the game. They went on to score 7 runs in the 4th and the crowd was silent. A 6-run deficit against the Red Sox seemed to be too big of a hole to overcome, especially against Josh Beckett.

This was my favorite game for more than one reason. First thing, it was a microcosm of the season. Here was some major adversity and the Rangers would overcome it. Newcomer Mitch Moreland hit a two-run homerun in the bottom of the 4th and the lead was halved. Then Michael Young and Josh Hamilton went deep in the 5th to make it a 2-run game. After a JD Drew homer in the 7th, the Rangers added two in the bottom of the 7th to make it a one run game.

Then reason number two I loved this game, it showed our power but also our ability to scrap for runs the Ron Washington way. In the 7th we scored on a sac-fly and my favorite run of the night comes in the 8th to tie the game. After Josh Hamilton doubled with two outs, Vlad comes to the plate. On a ground ball in the infield, somehow Vlad beats out the throw and miraculously Hamilton rounds third and scores a run. Our slugger scored from 2nd on an infield hit to tie the Red Sox in the 8th. The place was going absolutely crazy, and I was running around my living room. We tied the game.

Reason number three, with the exception of the World Series, our Bullpen turned out the lights. After Hunter made his exit and Feldman (demoted ace) struggled, our Bullpen shut down the Red Sox, just like they did all season. Ogando in the 8th, Feliz pitched the 9th and 10th and O'Day kept them scoreless in the 11th. That set the stage for Mr. Nelson "Boomstick" Cruz. Pitcher number eight for the Red Sox and the last man in the bullpen only threw one pitch on this night. The knuckleball that Cruz was waiting for...

BOOM! Let the celebration begin. The Rangers made the World Series and under new ownership, the days of losing seasons could be over for a long time here in Texas. Get your Antlers up and Claw'em up. If you jumped on the bandwagon, stay for the ride next season.

Monday, November 1, 2010

BDubs 11 Spot

11 (because most people only turn things up to 10) musings about mostly sports coming straight from my mind....

1) Texas Rangers fighting for survival.
This is the team I have followed since I first knew anything about baseball. This is the team that had won two playoff GAMES in its history. Now they have won two series in one playoffs. No matter what happens it has been an amazing year. A few things before you count them out. The top two spots in the rotation from spring ball aren't even on the roster. The team was bankrupt. The manager admitted to snorting coke last year.... and now they are in the World Series. This team responds to adversity. Nothing would surprise me. Go Rangers!

2) I hate Cody Ross
Of course I hate him. I am a Rangers fan. He has a smug face. His beard/bald look is appalling. My girlfriend says "I just don't like him" when he is shown on TV. That's enough for me. He is in the Bdubs Hall of Lame.
3) Brad Childress lost the Vikings and should be fired.
Forget this whole Randy Moss debacle. Wait we can't not talk about this! He addressed the team after getting into it with Moss and told them that he is gone. He didn't talk to the front office or the owners before doing this. Now the entire team hates Chilly and the front office and owners want Moss back. Now let's rewind to last week against Green Bay. I watched the game at work and saw Adrian Peterson make a first down with about 25 seconds left to the Vikings 40 yard-line. Farve and Moss had just hooked up on a 50 yard bomb that was called back. With two timeouts Chilly decides to sit on it and just go to half up 3. Moss, Favre and Peterson (the core of your offense) look FURIOUS. At this point I posted on facebook: "WOW BRAD CHILDRESS. YOU JUST LOST YOUR ENTIRE TEAM'S SUPPORT"
And I was right. Add that to this Moss situation and the only solution is cut ties with Childress. If ownership picks Chilly over Moss, the rest of the team will be itching to leave ASAP.

4) I was still way too optimistic about my Cowboys in my last post
I said 7-9 at best at 5-11 at worst. This team could definitely win less than 5 games. I mean look at the remaining schedule... after losing at home to Jacksonville I see only 2 or 3 games that are winnable. They could go 1-15 for all I know. I really hope Jerry considers cleaning house with these coaches. The talent is there.... somewhere.

5) Watch out for the Detroit Lions.
I sent Adam Schefter of ESPN a message the other day on Twitter with this stat: Detroit 1-5 with a point differential of +6 and Tampa Bay 4-2 with a point differential of -30 (He used this stat in this week's ESPN article). At 0-4 I said Detroit might be the best 0-4 team ever. Now they get Stafford back and win a game. With a fairly easy schedule don't be surprised if they finish at 8-8 or even 9-7. Just sayin...

6) The Saints are still the best NFC team.
You can explain the offensive inconsistencies on losing both of the star RB's to injury. Bush is coming back soon and Thomas might come back soon too. Despite both of them missing, they looked great vs the Steelers. Their defense looked fantastic despite only having ONE cornerback on the roster. Give this team time to get healthy and they go deep into the playoffs again. If they get a home game or two in January... watch out.

7) Twitter is an excellent source for sports information
I have fallen hard. I love Twitter. I don't really care too much for following the celebrities and players. But the information and commentary you get from sports analysts and writers is fantastic. They are more off-the-cuff and it's more gut-reactions. I like reading what they first are thinking. It is a lot of fun.

8) Tiger Woods will be #1 again by the U.S. Open next year
At the latest. Michael Wilbon said it best today on PTI. When he practices all the time he will be #1 and will win majors. When he can't practice all the time (this past year) he will not be at the peak of his powers but still pretty good.

9) Cliff Lee will be a Ranger next year.
The Rangers signed a new TV contract worth $150 million a year. Largest contract for a MLB team that does not have it's own network (Yankees). That is a lot of money. If the Rangers offer anything close to what the Yankees do, Cliff will be a Ranger. His wife has been quoted that she loves Texas. Wifey is queen.

10) College Basketball is boring until Mid-February
The regular season is worthless to me. I love the tournament and I wouldn't change a thing about it. Let me repeat, I wouldn't change anything about it. Don't add more teams to the tournament. You will just water down the regular season more. This doesn't affect my opinion of College Football needing a playoff, because it would be small enough that every game would still matter.

11) Top Chef Just Desserts has been added to the DVR
Yes, this is partly because the girlfriend moved in... well... mostly. BUT, the show is very very good. I have to give it up to Bravo. Some of the best produced Reality TV I have seen. Perfect balance of not too much personality conflict and a good amount of competition. Not to mention the food they make looks amazing and gives the girlfriend some great ideas...

Stay Classy,