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college football re-cap: bu-bye, big xii…hello, huskies!

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Texas running back D’onta Foreman runs away with Baylor’s hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.

The Separation Sequence hath begun! What is that, you ask? In each and every college football season, there is one weekend when we go from several national championship contenders to a handful of contenders. History shall recognize the final weekend of October 2016 as the weekend of the Separation Sequence.

Who’s (Still) In?
Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington (you heard me). They are, for now, the only undefeated teams from the Power 5 conferences. They are also the best four teams out of their respective conferences (until someone says otherwise on the field).

Who’s Out?
The Big XII. West Virginia and Baylor both lost this weekend to lesser opponents, which isn’t terribly surprising. I’m pretty certain neither are even the best team in their conference.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers also fell to Wisconsin over the weekend, but we should consider them “down, but not out.” They could still win their division and the B1G conference. Would that be enough to power them into the College Football Playoff? All things remaining constant, I say yes. But that’s more than a month away…and the Huskers still have to go to Ohio State.

My Top Ten
1. Alabama (8-0)
Is there any real question? Even during a bye week, the Tide could beat someone.

2. Michigan (8-0)
There were no miracles for Sparty this year in the rivalry game. Also no surprises on the outcome.

3. Clemson (8-0)
Five of Clemson’s eight victories were one-score margins. The Tigers flirt with disaster. And disaster loses.

4. Washington (8-0)
The Huskies have quietly taken advantage of a weaker-than-predicted PAC-12. Still, beating Utah and Stanford is nothing to sneeze at.

5. Texas A&M (7-1)
The ‘Bama loss will haunt this team. HAUNT.

6. Ohio State (7-1)
The Penn State loss seems to have upset Urban Meyer’s apple cart a bit. His Buckeyes did not dominate Northwestern last weekend. We’ll see if there’s still a hangover come Saturday.

7. Florida (6-1)
Don’t look now, but the Gators are quietly creeping up on Alabama. But first, they have to beat Arkansas (they will, because Arkansas is always overrated).

8. Louisville (7-1)
A high-scoring team that will dismantle Boston College this weekend.

9. Nebraska (7-1)
Losing to Wiscy hurts their post-season chances. A road win over Ohio State would reverberate throughout college football.

10. Baylor (6-1)
I flipped a coin between Baylor and West Virginia. Both are good programs; just haven’t played a very strong schedule. Two-loss Okie St. is better than Baylor, if you ask me.

Games of Ultimate Consequence
Buoyed by my 2-0 performance last week, I am confident I will go 3-0 this week. Of course, I screwed up and thought Alabama-LSU was being played last Saturday. Apparently, reading schedules is not my forte. Anyway, I’m going to lead with that game. Here are my predictions:

Western Michigan (8-0) at Ball State (4-4)—This is a weird, Tuesday night game between a pair of vaunted rivals in the Mid-American Conference. Not quite Power 5, but this should be an entertaining game. The Broncos (that’s Western Michigan, kids) average 44 points per game. Head Coach P.J. Fleck and his Flecktones are poised to light it up in Muncie Tuesday night. David Letterman’s alma mater does not stand a chance in this one.

Prediction: Western Michigan

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Alabama (8-0) at LSU (5-2)—I’ve only watched a little bit of Alabama football this season, but they’ve been absolutely dominant. I was most impressed with its defense; the fourth-best in the nation. What frightens me the most about the Tide? Their freshman QB, Jalen Hurts. He’s a versatile kid, running one the most explosive offenses in the country. And he’s only a freshman!

But don’t get caught napping on LSU. Just because they fired Les Miles doesn’t mean this is a bad team; quite the contrary. Leonard Fournette can still run circles around defenses. He may not be a Heisman candidate anymore, but he can be a killer for defenses. Speaking of which, LSU’s defense is just behind Alabama, nationally. Being a road game in a hostile environment, this could be the toughest test of Alabama’s season, but LSU won’t have enough for the upset. Expect a competitive, close game for three quarters.

Prediction: Alabama

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Nebraska (7-1) at Ohio State (7-1)—A HUGE game for both teams. The Huskers are coming off a tough road loss to Wisconsin. The once-dominant—considered to be a national title contender—Ohio State barely got past Northwestern. But both teams are still in the hunt for the conference championship. Give Ohio State the edge, since the game is in Columbus, but I see this as being another close game. Ultimately, Ohio State should come out on top.

Prediction: Ohio State

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a letter from a former cubs fan.

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I became a Cubs fan around 1982 or ’83. I was a kid growing up in Michigan, so I was (and still am) a diehard Detroit Tigers fan. But I saw a segment on a TV show about loyal Cubs fans. I thought it was cool the way the fans never abandoned their team, so I decided I’d be a Cubs fan from that day forward. I was pretty excited during the 1984 season.

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You didn’t have to be a Cubs fan to be a Ryne Sandberg fan.

My two favorite teams on a collision course to face one another in the World Series. I understood the history of both franchises, but not to the extent I do now. I guess ’84 was my first taste of what it’s like being a Cubs fan.

 

Anyway, I considered myself a big Cubs fan throughout the 80s, 90s and into the aughts, but started to get discouraged by the fans and ownership. It’s one thing to be a loyal fan. It’s another thing entirely to reward mediocrity with your money.

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Even though this happened more than 30 years ago, my disdain for the San Diego Padres is still pretty strong.

Too Many “get drunk in the bleachers” Fans
I felt the Tribune Corporation knew it could put any 25 schmucks on the field and Cubs fans would still pack the stadium. I grew weary of that and it began to wear down my own status as a Cubs fan. It’s sort of ironic, really. The very thing that drew me to the Cubs was now pushing me away.

As I would say to friends, there are too many “get drunk in the bleachers” fans and not enough actual Cubs fans. I don’t say that to disparage my friends who are Cubs fans. I really don’t. For me, I simply couldn’t square in my mind that ownership was fleecing the fans and the fans seemed to go along with it. Truth is, I was angrier with ownership (but took it out on the fans, I suppose).

By contrast, look at the Detroit Tigers. From the late 80s until 2006, the team was a complete, wandering mess. After the Tigers’ 1987 playoff appearance, the team had just three winning seasons until 2006 (when they went to the World Series). Did attendance suffer in those waning years? You bet it did. And why wouldn’t it? I’m a Tigers fan, but I’m not going to reward management when they’re not even trying to compete.

“Wait ’til Next Year” & the Definition of Insanity
The Cubs had similar success and failure between 1989 and 2003 (let’s not talk about 2003), but their attendance never dipped as low as, say, Detroit’s attendance. I suppose the allure of Wrigley Field is enough to draw fans to the stadium, but it’s aggravating when ownership knows this and let’s it continue. On top of that, the lack of renovation to an old yard like Wrigley in the modern era also cheats fans out of simple amenities like clean restrooms and lack of falling concrete.

We can debate all day long about stadium lights and video scoreboards in the outfield, but I don’t believe either of these impedes the charm of Wrigley Field. As I’ve said before: they tore down The House That Ruth Built. Don’t believe for one second that Wrigley is untouchable.

I’m not advocating for the demolition of a stadium rich in history, mind you; just reminding fans that moving forward and modernizing does not mean a franchise sells its soul. Didn’t the New York Yankees play home games at Shea Stadium for a couple seasons in the 1970s while they rebuilt Yankee Stadium from the inside out? Just sayin’…

All this to say I grew more and more dismayed with what I perceived as stubbornness from Cubs fans. You can’t eschew change and evolution for 100 years and somehow expect the results to be different this year…or even if you “wait ’til next year,” as they say. Isn’t that the very definition of insanity? Rigid adherence to an archaic system borders on religiosity. The fans no longer celebrate success. They worship at the alter of the past for all the wrong reasons.

In other words, it felts like Cubs fans were embracing the “lovable losers” moniker a bit too much. It was similar to Boston Red Sox fans, who wallowed in “The Curse of the Bambino” for so many years they became the most insufferable fans in baseball. They’ve since gotten a taste of success and it’s changed their mentality, which is good, but they’re still insufferable fans. That’s another story for another time.

The game has changed. The players have changed. The competitive landscape has changed. You either evolve or die. It’s nice to reminisce about the bygone era of four-man rotations and fewer specialty players like middle relievers and closers, but look around. That day is long gone. Approaching the game, the marketing of the game and the stadiums in which the game is played is not anachronistically adorable. It’s a recipe for self-inflicted mediocrity.

A New Era of Cubs Baseball
Somewhere between the end of the 2003 season and 2009—when the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs from the Tribune Corporation—my fandom for the Cubs went dormant. It seemed all those things that frustrated me as a fan grew too much to bear anymore, so I threw it off and moved on as a Tigers fan, exclusively. I didn’t hate the Cubs. I simply chose to no longer be an active fan of them. I divested emotionally, you might say.

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I enjoyed Lou Piniella’s congenial efforts to make his point with the umpires.

Even though I should recognize I appreciated the hiring of Lou Piniella, who immediately went to work on that “lovable losers” attitude among fans. The Cubs got to the playoffs a couple times with Lou running the show, but never quite got over the hump. Nevertheless, he echoed some of my sentiments and I did appreciate that.

It wasn’t until the Ricketts family came to town and ushered in a new era of Cubs baseball. Where many Cubs fans shrieked in horror at plans of plazas, video boards, luxury boxes and modern clubhouses, I applauded the efforts to modernize Wrigley Field.

Where many Cubs fans raged at the idea of blocking the view of the rooftops on Waveland and Sheffield, I applauded it. Whatever charm the rooftops had in the early days was completely lost on me as these building owners took to corporate sponsorship, constructing bleachers and “luxury boxes” and charging fans a fortune to pilfer a baseball game across the street. It was one thing when people who lived in these buildings had rooftop parties. It’s another thing entirely when you turn it into a corporate enterprise. No thanks. My hope is the Ricketts family one day buys all those properties and turns it into part of the Wrigley Field grounds, but that’s another story for another time.

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The Ricketts families’ proposed changes at Wrigley Field. Unlike many in Chicago, I was onboard with this plan from Day One.

While I’ve been pleased with the off-the-field changes for the Cubs, I’ve been even happier with the changes to the team since the Ricketts family took over. The hiring of Joe Maddon told me they were serious about winning.

Does winning make me a Cubs fan again? Well, I’m on the bandwagon, sure, but it would be disingenuous to say I’m a “Cubs Fan” again. As a baseball fan, I love seeing them in the World Series. For my 13-year old self who was a big Cubs fan, I love seeing them in the World Series. Even though I’m much happier with the Cubs over the past six or seven years than I was the previous 10, I can’t call myself a Cubs fan again. I say that out of respect to my diehard Cubs fan friends. This is their moment, not mine.

But I don’t mind riding the bandwagon as long as they don’t mind. Just as I walked away from the team over the culture of losing, I have to recognize the cultural change around the Cubs. They are no longer “lovable losers.” That’s all I ever wanted.

Go Cubs Go.

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college football re-cap: the tide rolls, the buckeyes get cracked.

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Weekly national rankings don’t really matter all that much since the advent of the College Football Playoff. If you’ve spoken to be about college football for five minutes, you’ll quickly learn I’ve always felt the rankings were pointless until conference schedules are underway. Since we’re several weeks into things, I thought I’d weigh in.

I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of all the undefeated, one-loss and two-loss teams in the Power 5 conferences; although I’m not sure why I care about two-loss teams since none of them will ever sniff the CFP. I also included a handful of non-Power 5 teams to watch; teams like Navy, Western Michigan and Boise St. No, they won’t make the CFP, but I do feel they’re worthy of Top 25 status over most two-loss teams. If you have three losses, you’re out. Period. That means no more three-loss SEC teams get unfair consideration.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping track. As of the conclusion of Week 8, there are a total of 33 teams on this list. My Top Ten probably won’t look much differently than what you see from the AP or the Coaches Poll.

Here’s my Top 10:
1. Alabama (8-0)
After last night, there’s no doubt in my mind they’re the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, until someone else says otherwise.

2. Michigan (7-0)
As impressive as the offense is, Michigan’s defense is even more impressive. Thus far, they’ve lived up to expectation. From this point forward, the season only gets tougher with three important road games (Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State).

3. Clemson (7-0)
The Tigers have been flirting with disaster all season long, yet continue to find ways to win. Florida State this weekend will be their biggest test since Louisville.

4. Washington (7-0)
The Huskies are quietly putting themselves into CFP contention, thanks to high-powered offense and solid defense. The’ve got a tough road game at Utah this weekend, which could end up being a Pac-12 championship game preview.

5. Texas A&M (6-1)
As strong as the Aggies are, they are a distant second in the SEC right now. Unless something happens to ‘Bama, the Aggies are playing for the Sugar Bowl or something.

6. Nebraska (7-0)
This year’s Iowa. The Cornhuskers have had a similar ride as Michigan, thus far. Road games at Wiscy and Columbus over the next two weeks will be the ultimate tests for Nebraska.

7. Louisville (6-1)
That loss to Clemson means the Cardinals are relying on help from Clemson’s upcoming opponents the rest of the way. Even if they win out, Louisville needs Clemson to lose twice to have a chance at the ACC championship.

8. Ohio State (6-1)
No one—and I mean NO ONE!—anticipated Ohio State losing at Penn State. I still don’t know how it happened. But it hurt. The Buckeyes’ season is hardly over, though. They control their own destiny. Of course, The Game is going to decide the B1G championship.

9. Baylor (6-0)
This is not a great year for the Big XII. But Baylor has established itself as the top of this weak, weak heap. West Virginia might move its way past Baylor soon, but for now…who cares. Neither team has really distinguished itself this season yet, if you ask me.

10. Utah (7-1)
Don’t fall asleep on the Utes. This is a rising program amidst a tumultuous period for the Pac-12. UCLA, USC, Oregon and Stanford or vulnerable these days and Utah has moved to supplant them. No, they haven’t really played anyone yet, but they are undefeated. In my book, that does count for something (but don’t be surprised if they’re not here next week).

Games of Ultimate Consequence
Clemson (7-0) at Florida State (5-2)—The Seminoles are playing for pride. The Tigers are playing for a second consecutive ACC championship. I expect this to be a close game with the Clemson defense dictating the outcome.
Prediction: Clemson

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Alabama (8-0) at LSU (5-2)—Since firing its head coach, LSU has been rejuvenated, winning three straight games in convincing fashion. But they won’t have enough to take out Alabama.
Prediction: Alabama

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Michigan (7-0) at Michigan State (2-5)—I’ll admit, this is a sentimental pick for me. On the surface, it looks like a gimme for the Wolverines, who have only had a couple serious challenges all season long. But who could forget last year’s finish between the two in Ann Arbor? Sure, Sparty has fallen hard and fast this season, but it’s a rivalry game. Anything can happen in rivalry games. Mark Dantonio will have his team fired up to play the role of spoiler once again in a series that’s become insanely personal for him. On that same turn, Jim Harbaugh has kept his Wolverines hungry, intense and prepared for every challenge. I doubt he’ll let his team look past a rival.
Prediction: Michigan

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That’s my two cents. You may think I’m a complete idiot, but that’s okay. Disagree? Leave it in the comments.

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which heads belong on olympics mt. rushmore?

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Listening to late-night sports radio on the AM dial last night, I caught an interesting topic: who would be the four heads on an “Olympics Mt. Rushmore?” Good question. The topic was spawned by the obvious: Michael Phelps destroying everyone and taking home five more gold medals in the 2016 games.

To complete this exercise, I established a couple ground rules:
Americans only. There are lots of great, historic Olympic athletes from all countries; too many to begin listing here. If you want Alberto Tomba on Mt. Rushmore Italia, knock yourself out, pussycat. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m sticking with American athletes…because, ‘Merica!

Two Rushmores. One for each, Summer and Winter Games. Hey, South Dakota’s a big, wide open state. I’m sure they can find a couple spots in the Black Hills to carve out eight more heads!

With that out of the way, here goes.

Kevin’s Olympics Mt. Rushmore—Summer Games version (in no particular order)

Summer_Phelps.pngMichael Phelps. Was there ever any doubt? Twenty-three gold medals over four separate Olympiads. The sheer dominance Phelps has imposed over the sport and the Olympics as a whole is overwhelming and not likely to be repeated.

 

 

 

Summer_Owens.pngJesse Owens. Any man who puts Nazis in their place in their own yard—in front of Hitler himself—is a giant and a hero. The importance of his victories can never be overstated. In an Olympiad that Hitler boasted would put Aryan dominance on display for the world to witness, a black man from Alabama proved otherwise. Owens’ four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin games were historic on every level. Take THAT, Adolf!

 

Summer_Babe.pngBabe Didrikson. Most people probably don’t even know who she is. She is mostly remembered as a dominant champion golfer in the 40s and 50s. Before that, she was a two-time Olympic gold medalist—in track & field—at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. She is roundly considered one of the greatest American female athletes of all time.

 

 

Summer_Thorpe.pngJim Thorpe. If Nike were around back then, they would’ve used him in TV commercials instead of Bo Jackson. Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm games. Afterward, he would go on to be a hall-of-fame football player as well as play professional baseball. He also dabbled in professional basketball, barnstorming with a team called “Jim Thorpe and His World-Famous Indians.” Whatever Bo knows, Jim knew it first.

 

Honorable Mention
Wilma Rudolph. She was the fastest woman in the world in 1960 when she won three gold medals at the Rome Olympics. Not bad for someone who contracted polio and was paralyzed as a child (to say nothing of the realities of growing up in the segregated South). Rudolph paved the way for Flo-Jo, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Gail Devers and a slew of other female American athletes.

Mia Hamm. It’s tough to single out an individual player in a team sport, but Hamm and her three medals in soccer (two gold, one silver) cement her place on the mountain. Team USA has been THE dominant force in women’s soccer at the Olympics since its inception in 1996 and Hamm is a major factor in establishing that reputation.

Kevin’s Olympics Mt. Rushmore—Winter Games version (in no particular order)

Winter_Heiden.pngEric Heiden. Were it not for a rag-tag group of college hockey players, Heiden would’ve been the biggest story at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid. Five gold medals and four world records in speed skating. Simply, wow. Heiden also became a household name in the U.S.; an honor among winter Olympians usually reserved for figure skaters.

 

 

Winter_Blair.pngBonnie Blair. Gold medals in three separate Olympiads (plus a Bronze in her fourth). Blair was a dominant figure in women’s speed skating for a decade. She was quiet, humble and not very flashy…but once the starting gun was fired, she was off like a rocket.

 

 

Winter_Button.pngDick Button. The man was a two-time gold medalist in men’s figure skating in an era when there were only 48 stars on the flag. He was also the first skater to land a double Axel jump and the first triple-anything jump. Plus, it’s just fun to say his name: Dick Button. Dick Button. Dick Button.

 

 

Winter_Brooks.pngHerb Brooks. He never received a gold medal as an athlete, but his contribution as coach of the men’s hockey team in 1980 is unparalleled. He put together the team that did the impossible. There isn’t a man over the age of 40 today who doesn’t get choked up at the thought of the Miracle On Ice. Team USA’s victory over the Soviet Union at Lake Placid is, without question, the biggest upset in sports history. Because of Brooks, we do believe in miracles.

 

Winter Games honorable mention

Ted Ligety. Who? The two-time Olympic gold medalist in skiing, that’s who. Why Ted Ligety? Because he’s a distant, distant cousin of mine…whom I’ve never met, but I don’t care. He still gets on my Mt. Rushmore!

Peggy Fleming. She was not the first American to win a gold medal in women’s figure skating, but she might be the most famous. That’s got to count for something.

Terry McDermott. He won a speed skating gold medal in 1964. You probably haven’t ever heard of him, but I have because he’s from my hometown…well, close enough. Essexville is pretty much a part of Bay City.

Katerina Witt. I know. She’s not even American. But who cares? It’s Katerina Witt!

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college football week 12 recap: another sad pizza day for urban meyer.

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This photo is from ESPN.com. Please don’t sue me.

Plenty of drama in Week 12. But do you think any of that drama produced a clearer playoff picture? Ha! You fool! If anything, the waters are muddier today than they were before Saturday. With two remaining undefeated teams and 12 one-loss teams left this season, no tickets have been punched. Only four will make the playoff. I wouldn’t place bets on any of them yet…although we can probably count out Toledo, Houston and Navy.

The Big Story: OSU (both of them) Down
There are two, really, but Oklahoma State losing at home to Baylor was a much bigger deal to me than Ohio State losing at home to Michigan State. I never expected Baylor to have so much fire power with backup QB Jarrett Stidham filling the big shoes of injured Seth Russell. And then HE went down! Baylor had to rely on a third-string QB, Chris Johnson, to carry the load. I seriously thought this was Okie State’s year. I really did. I was wrong. Leave it to the Cowboys to blow it in spectacular fashion. They were never in it. Baylor had OSU chasing all night long.

On the surface, I was never surprised that Michigan State would beat Ohio State. It didn’t matter to me that it was a home game for the Buckeyes. To me, this was the first true test for Ohio State and, much like last year’s defending champs, they were vulnerable and ripe for a loss. Now, had I known the best QB in the B1G, Connor Cook, would be sitting it out, I might’ve felt differently.

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Another sad pizza day for Urban Meyer. At least his players lost with class…oh, wait.

Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was Sparty’s defense, perhaps it was backup QBs Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry doing just enough to manage the offense, perhaps it was Michigan State’s experience in winning ugly and winning late.

Michigan State v Michigan

A clearly overjoyed Mark Dantonio flashes his familiar smile after his Spartans defeated Ohio State…and then he ripped out the heart of a deer with his bare hands and devoured it in the postgame presser.

No matter how you cut it, State was the better team in an otherwise dismal game where neither team looked exceptionally great. But who knew the loss would send Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott into the postgame presser, announcing his intention to go to the NFL…and throwing his coaches under the bus on his way to draft day.

The usually unflappable Ohio State suddenly looked and sounded frustrated. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond next weekend. I do not expect a hangover of any sort, heading into The Game.

cupcake-secCupcakes – 1; SEC – 0
I said last week to ignore the SEC entirely this week, thanks to their tradition of Cupcake Week. But we have to pause and give praise to The Citadel for knocking off South Carolina 23-22. On top of that, a down-and-out Florida Atlantic nearly took out championship contender Florida to OT. Did NOT see that coming! If that’s not enough, Georgia also needed overtime to secure a win over that powerhouse Georgia Southern.

It’s time for the SEC to keep the cupcakes early in the season, like everyone else.

Orange Pants

Big Boy Pants! The Volunteers are putting ’em on, thanks to head coach Butch Jones.

Big Boy Pants!
The Tennessee Volunteers are currently 7-4, heading into their final game of the season vs. Vanderbilt. That’s an impressive record; especially considering it clinches the Vols’ first winning season heading into the bowl season since 2009.

Thanks to third-year head coach Butch Jones, the Vols are putting on their Big Boy Pants! This season is even more impressive when you consider only 17 points separate Tennessee from an 11-0 season.

Volunteers junior QB Joshua Dobbs has a total QBR of 74.1, good for No. 22 in the nation. Sophomore running back Jalen Hurd is 113 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season. Don’t be surprised if Tennessee moves its way back into the upper level of the SEC East division next season.

Current Rankings…According to Me
Fact: none of this matters until the regular season and championship games have been played. But in the meantime, I took a look at the remaining undefeated and one-loss teams and ranked them according to my super-duper scientific method.

You may agree or disagree. I’m not even sure I agree with myself right now. Truth is, it’s likely to change after Thanksgiving weekend and once again after Championship weekend. But, for now, here’s where I see things.

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CorsoStrictly Personal: The Old Oaken Bucket
Indiana (5–6 / 1–6) at Purdue (2–9 / 1–6)
No one will pay any attention to this game. There is nothing really on the line (but for bowl eligibility for one team)…and a bucket. A win for IU means a 6–6 season; just good enough to get an invitation to a bowl game. For Purdue, it means…who cares?! I’m an IU grad and carved out 5+ years of my professional career with IU. I’m cream and crimson, through and through!

While Purdue owns the overall series at 72-39-6, the Hoosiers have won the past two Bucket games. IU has the better offense by a county mile. IU was within a touchdown in games against the top teams in the conference: Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan.
Prediction: Purdue? Pur-DON’T! Win it for Coach Corso! Win it for Hep! Win it because…Christ, we need SOMETHING to cheer about this season with IU football! HAIL TO OLD IU!!

The Final Weekend
I’m already sad we’ve reached the end of the line for the 2015 season. But the playoff drama will not be decided until the conference championship games the following weekend. In the meantime, there are several rivalry games that have more than pride on the line.

Oklahoma (10–1 / 7–1) at Oklahoma State (10–1 / 7–1)
Bedlam. This game will undoubtedly live up to the hype. In a conference without a championship game, this rivalry matchup will likely serve as the de facto championship. It also represents that last, best hope for the Big XII to have a representative in the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: Boomer Sooner.oklahomaauthenticriddell

Florida State (9–2 / 6–2) at Florida (10–1 / 7–1)
This out-of-conference matchup could prove devastating for the Gators. They’re already set to take on Alabama in the SEC championship game. A loss to the Seminoles would take Florida out of the national championship picture. Florida hasn’t had an impressive win since taking out Ole Miss back in October. For Florida State, it’s all about pride. Sure, FSU is going to a bowl game, but their schedule boasts very few quality wins. A win in Gainesville would go a long way in this bitter rivalry.
Prediction: Gators chomp the Seminoles.Florida Gators

Notre Dame (10–1) at Stanford (9–2 / 8–1)
Saving the best for last. The Irish still have a great shot at making the playoff, but need to get past the best team in the Pac-12. Were it not for a two-point loss vs. Oregon last week, The Cardinal might be in CFP contention as well. Instead, this game is all about bragging rights. And The Legends Trophy. While national media will likely be paying attention elsewhere, this game is one to watch.
Prediction: Irish prevail. ND

Ohio State (10–1 / 6–1) at Michigan (9–2 / 6–1)
It’s been a long time since The Game has had meaning for both schools. This year, the stakes are much higher for Ohio State. A win in Ann Arbor keeps OSU’s conference (and national) championship hopes alive. For the Wolverines, a win (coupled with a Michigan State loss) would put them in the conference championship game and serve as an exclamation point in the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Prediction: Too close to call, but…MichiganReplica

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college football week 6 recap: the georgia pyrites strike again!

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Now that everyone’s settled into their conference schedules, the separation between good teams and great teams is well underway. Sort of.

Most Impressive Win
Lots of choices for this category. Could be Texas over Oklahoma. Could be Washington State over USC. Could even be Utah over Cal. Nope. It’s Michigan over Northwestern. The Wildcats got everyone’s attention by holding Stanford to six points in their first game of the season. Since then, Stanford’s been a scoring machine, averaging more than 40 points in their next four games. Not only did Michigan hang 38 points on Northwestern, they also pitched their third consecutive shutout of the season.

The Fightin’ Harbaughs are putting everyone on notice: do not look past the Wolverines. Of course, it gets no easier for Michigan. They host instate rival Michigan State next Saturday in what will be their biggest test of the season (until the next one).

Georgia Bulldogs = Fool’s Gold
I have never, ever, ever, EVER been a believer in the Georgia Bulldogs. Invariably, some hack on ESPN lays it out there early in the season that “this is UGA’s year!” Yeah, easy to say after they beat up on an FCS school in Week 1. After last week’s loss to Alabama, I felt slightly vindicated. Watching Tennessee come back from a 28-3 deficit to win the game. From hereon, the Georgia Bulldogs shall be known as the Georgia Pyrites. Why? Because they’re FOOL’S GOLD!

The Contenders & the Pretenders
I’ll put together my own Top Ten, but let’s look at it this way first: who’s a contender? Who’s a pretender? Let’s get into it:

The Contenders
Clemson (5–0 / 2–0)—They already beat a quality (albeit banged up) Notre Dame. The rest of their schedule comes down to two tough games: at Miami and at home vs. Florida State. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers run the table.

TCU (6–0 / 3–0)—The best team in the nation, if you ask me. Trevone Boykin is a Heisman contender and leads a high-powered offense that has a tendency to hang 50 points on opponents. Try and keep up with them. They dare you.

Notre Dame (5–1)—Against all odds and against all injuries, I’m still leaving the door open for the Irish. I’ve been impressed with ND’s ability to shake off adversity and keep coming back. The Clemson loss was a bitter, bitter pill. Next weekend’s rivalry game against USC will tell us a lot about Notre Dame. I still see ND as having an outside shot to make a playoff.

Ohio State (6–0 / 2–0)—The Buckeyes found their groove again this week against lowly Maryland. Until someone knocks them off, OSU is the top team in the B1G. They’ve got Penn State at home this week. Some are hyping it as a big game. I see OSU rolling over the Nittany Lions. Ohio State’s entire season will boil down to the last two Saturdays of their season. Period.

Utah (5–0 / 1–0)—What’s a Ute? The only undefeated team in what I consider the most competitive of the Power 5 conferences. With every passing week, their opening season victory over Michigan looks more and more impressive. And it would appear Utah flat-out broke the Oregon Ducks! How are they doing it? Well, they’re not flashy. They’re just playing solid, consistent football.

Texas A&M (5–0 / 2–0)—With the exception of Arkansas, A&M is beating everyone handily. In my mind, they’re the best team in the SEC, but that could change this weekend when they host Alabama. Beat ‘Bama, you remain a Contender. Lose? Bu-bye, 12th Man.

The Pretenders
Florida State (5–0 / 3–0)—After Ohio State, Florida State has a pretty weak schedule. All that’s left for them is Clemson and a resurrected Florida. Everett Golson has fit in nicely with the Seminoles. We’ll see if that remains the case, or if he’ll start throwing the ball to DBs, like he did so often in South Bend (when he wasn’t cheating on his exams). But I don’t see FSU getting past Clemson.

Michigan State (6–0 / 2–0)—Sparty could very well prove me wrong. But six weeks into the season and MSU hasn’t really been all that impressive. They win ugly, which certainly counts. But their two conference wins were eeked out over lower-level B1G programs. Like I said, they could prove me wrong. This week at The Big House will be their first big game since beating Oregon in Week 2.

LSU (5–0 / 3–0)—Well, they’re playing like the big boys of the SEC. Right now. They haven’t really beaten any team of great consequence. Sure, everyone’s showering RB Leonard Fournette with well-deserved accolade, but let’s hold off on crowning LSU until we see how they fare against unbeaten Florida this weekend.

Dark Horses
Stanford (4–1 / 3–0)—One constant remains in college football: if you lose early, you can recover. Stanford laid an egg in Week 1, but have been rolling ever since. Their Thursday night game against UCLA this week will be a turning point for both teams.

Iowa (6–0 / 2–0)—Yes, the Hawkeyes are undefeated, but it’s way too early to book your trip to Indy for the B1G championship. They go on the road to Northwestern this week in their biggest test since beating Wiscy a few weeks ago. Iowa plays in the weak division of the conference, so, perhaps you can book a trip to Indy, but let’s hold off on CFB talk.

Florida (6–0 / 3–0)—Don’t look now, but the Gators are quietly climbing the board. After beating Ole Miss and Mizzou, Florida has a couple tough games ahead: LSU and Georgia (I think they’re good, not great). If the Gators are undefeated after the next four games, they could become a contender.

My Top Ten
1. TCU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Utah
5. Baylor
6. Michigan State
7. Texas A&M
8. LSU
9. Florida State
10. Florida

The Big Three
These are the three games this weekend with major postseason implications. You should watch each of these games.

Alabama (5–1 / 2–1) at Texas A&M (5–0 / 2–0)—LSU has to play both of these teams. Whomever wins this game is going to challenge LSU for the division title.

USC (3–2 / 1–2) at Notre Dame (5–1)—The Irish should be a heavy favorite in this one, but it’s a rivalry game. We already know USC’s season is effectively over. For ND, a win means they are still in the hunt. The Irish have no room for error.

Michigan State (6–0 / 2–0) at Michigan (5–1 / 2–0)

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, calmly discussing a matter with an official.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, calmly discussing a matter with an official.

The importance of this game has grown with every week Michigan wins. This will be a bloodbath. Sparty needs a signature win to prove they belong in the CFB conversation. This will be Michigan’s biggest test of the season…until the final weekend.

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one (not so) shining moment.

You may have heard by now about the southern California girls basketball game where a team won 161 – 2. You may have also heard the coach for the winning team received a two-game suspension for the win. Well deserved, I say.

Before we continue, spare me the arguments that this is just a typical loss for a kid and we shouldn’t baby them. That’s not what this is about. I have no problem with kids playing sports, accepting winning and losing. This is about a coach who should know better and exercise not just control over his players, but self control as well. What happened here is the coach was playing Madden Football against an opponent whose controller wasn’t plugged into the game console…and played as though he knew nothing.

This is not about “teaching kids to be soft,” or whatever other BS argument I’ve heard. We’re not talking about a 30-point, 40-point or even 50-point loss. If we were, then a suspension would be an overreaction. This isn’t even about running up the score. It’s about a coach allowing and encouraging his team to beat the hell out of a severely outmatched opponent just because they can; using them as a punching bag to tune up for another fight another day.

score2
Look at that scoreboard and tell me I’m wrong. 161 – 2. Do you know how Bloomington High scored their two points? Free throws. One in the first half and another in the second. Free throws. Do you know how Arroyo Valley scored their 161 points? They shot the ball 98 times. There are college teams that don’t shoot the ball 98 times per game. There are NBA teams that don’t shoot the ball 98 times per game.

The halftime score was 104 – 1. I can understand a team playing hard and playing at its peak in the first half, but a full-court press for the entire first half? Really? Now, you’re just preening, but for whose benefit? That’s the real question. What do your players glean from beating down a team that is nowhere near your caliber? Nothing.

The Arroyo coach likes to make himself feel better, saying he only played reserves in the second half. Well, pin a rose on you. But here’s my question, ‘coach’: why are your players getting whistled for fouls in the fourth quarter? You’re up by 150 and you’re opponent can’t hit free throws, much less a field goal. And you’ve got your players fouling? Why? At that point, everyone from the opposing team to the refs to the parents just wants to get out of the gym as quickly as possible. Don’t tell me you can’t tell your players, “don’t hack anyone, just play zone.” My only hope is there was a running clock in the second half.

My issue with this outcome has nothing to do with pride, emotion or even being better players. It’s about beating up on a weakling just because you can. Players at that age learn nothing about their abilities, the game of basketball or life when they kick an opponent repeatedly just because.

I’m a firm believer that it’s okay for kids to lose when playing sports. They get over it. They learn how to accept defeat and how to do better. They get over blowouts, too. Sometimes, you run into an opponent who’s just better than you. Try your best, but don’t give up.

The reason this coach is suspended is because, at some point, he needed to recognize no good could ever come from such a lopsided victory. I wouldn’t say this if it happened in the pros or in college sports, where the playing field is a bit more level. This coach should’ve handled his embarrassment of riches (comparatively speaking) better by knowing when to pull back…starting with the full-court press.

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