Pigskin Preview – BCS Bowl Game Breakdown

The Conference title games are long gone (does anyone even remember what happened?). The BCS gods (computers) configured the final rankings and match-ups. The bowls (all 1340983475 of them) have begun. But the big mammajammas (read: BCS Bowl Games) are still looming.

Lots of people find the bowl breakdown come end-of-season wildly confusing. To quote the BCS on the web, “the BCS is a five-game showcase of college football. It is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.”

I’m not putting a dog in the fight about the BCS this year, whether I think it’s a good system, whether there should be a playoff etc. etc. I’m too tired. What I will say, however, is that there are going to be (should be) some damn good football games to bring in 2012.

Bowl Championship Series (in chronological order)

Pretty... kind of.

Rose Bowl – Oregon vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 2, 2012, 5 p.m. (ET obv) in Pasadena, CA

  • #5 Oregon and #10 Wisconsin fire off the BCS start gun for “The Granddaddy of Them All”, better known as the Rose Bowl.  The Ducks lost last year’s title game to Auburn (cough, Cam Newton, cough), and Wisconsin actually lost last year’s Rose Bowl game to TCU. Both are looking for Rose Bowl glory in this now-fairly-standard match-up of Pac-12 & Big Ten champions. Watch these two VERY different, but very high-powered offenses go to work.

 

This bowl sounds like a joke.. but it's not (anymore).

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Stanford vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 2, 2012, 8:30 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz.

  • After a shoddy match-up last year (Oklahoma faced four-loss Connecticut, in a low-rated and low-attended game) and a scandal involving wrongful political campaign contributions by Fiesta Bowl employees (including the subsequent booting of then president and CEO John Junker), the Fiesta Bowl has what looks like redemption in the form of a great game. #3 Oklahoma State, who some/many thought should have been in the title game, and #4 Stanford, led by likely first pick in the NFL Draft QB Andrew Luck, will bring their offensively-potent squads onto the Arizona gridiron this year. This very well may be the best match-up of the BCS bunch (remember the offensively riveting LSU v. Alabama game earlier this season?)
If your sugar container looks like this, you're fancy.

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl – Michigan vs. Virginia Tech Jan. 3, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA.

  • The Sugar Bowl takes the controversy mini spotlight (of sorts) this year because of the teams playing in it. #13 Michigan will face #11 Virginia Tech – do they seem like fairly middle of the road-ranked teams? Yes. That’s because they leap-frogged teams like  #6 Arkansas, #7 Boise State and #8 Kansas State (Arkansas and Kansas State will meet instead in the Cotton Bowl on January 6). People are pissed off, Michigan and VTech are defending their right to play in the Sugar Bowl. It’s not leaving a great taste in a lot of mouths. The Hokies having trouble selling off their share of tickets was not helping matters either. Players to watch (if you watch) – Michigan’s QB Denard Robinson (a multi-purpose offensive threat) and Virginia Tech’s RB and ACC player of the year, David Wilson.
That orange is wearing a crown.

Discover Orange Bowl – Clemson vs. West Virginia Jan. 4, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in Miami, FL.

  • In yet another high-octane offensive showdown, #23 West Virginia (they get a bid because they share the Big East title and because the computer said so) and #15 Clemson meet in the Orange Bowl to try to light up one another. Both of these teams averaged over 33 points and 440 yards per game this season. Clemson started the season 8-0, upsetting ranked teams and climbed up the rankings themselves, setting school records for pass yards, total yards and scoring along the way. The Orange Bowl will be the first-ever BCS bowl for Clemson.
The big one.

BCS National Championship – LSU vs. Alabama Jan. 9, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA.

  • In a VERY high-profile rematch (the first title game rematch in BCS history actually), #1 LSU will face #2 Alabama, this time  with the national title on the line. After all the talk of high-powered offenses in the BCS bowls, it’s (almost) refreshing to talk about two stalwart defenses who helped make a 9-3 final score possible when the teams clashed in November. The Tigers won that battle in OT, but I’m sure the Tide has other plans for the title game (like getting into the endzone). They also have something to prove to those who think/feel this rematch shouldn’t be happening. As mentioned earlier, Oklahoma State almost fought its way into the title game (beating rival Oklahoma 44-10 in the last week of play), but Alabama held the edge – the Tide finished second in both the Harris poll and the coaches’ poll, and by enough to overcome the fact that Oklahoma State had the edge in the computer rankings. If the system hasn’t pissed you off enough by this point (I know I said I’m not going to fight about this.. but I can take jabs), take into consideration that  no matter  what happens in the title game, for six years in a row, a team from the SEC is going to be crowned victorious. The system has ensured it.


 

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – December 15 Edition

The Good

Drew Brees giving Elmo a lift.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees appeared in an episode of Sesame Street this morning. Brees’s segment featured a lesson on the word “measure” in which he teaches Elmo (see above) how to measure random items including (surprise) a football. Brees brought his family (his wife and sons – Brittany, Baylen (age 2) and Bowen (age 1), respectively) to the taping, which took place in April.

The appearance on Sesame Street is likely unsurprising to those who follow Brees outside of football. The Brees Dream Foundation is responsible for raising millions to repair playgrounds, schools, and parks around New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

On top of his off-field merits, Brees is this season’s current NFL-leading passer (4,368 yards) and is on pace to pass (pun) Dan Marino’s 1984 record (5,084 yards). What a guy.

The Bad

Concernicus.

NL MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for a PED (performance-enhancing drug), with a testosterone level at possibly the highest of record in the MLB (based on their historical testing results). If the findings are upheld, Braun is looking at a 50-game suspension to start next season.

Not only is it bad news for baseball that a league MVP has tested positive for something that has been banned, but Braun needs some PR help of his own – in a 2009 interview with mlb.com regarding the then-swirling Alex Rodriguez roid controversy, Braun said “The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth.”

The Fugly

Photo Credit: Deadspin

Sam Hurd, Chicago Bears WR, is currently in jail and facing federal drug charges. Hurd was arrested Wednesday (12/14) night after allegedly articulating interest in buying (a shitload of) drugs from an undercover agent with intent to distribute (five to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 lbs of marijuana, to be exact).

According to the federal complaint, Hurd (26) allegedly told the undercover agent that he worked with someone else (in relation to his drug acquisition) and that he and his partner distribute/sell approximately four kilos of cocaine per week (in and around Chicago).

It gets worse – Hurd, who has only 8 receptions for 109 yards and no TDs this season, has allegedly supplied drugs to a double-digit list of NFL players.

Subway Thoughts – The Writing on the Pole

I always look at the poles in subway stations. I’ve seen a few lines written, scratched or tagged on them that are so much more appealing to stare at than the skittering rats on the tracks below (gross). I can’t decide what I think this (see below) means to me, but I keep thinking about it.

14th St. F/M station.

Live Music Is Better – City and Colour at Terminal 5 (12/7/11)

One of the worst things that can happen to a fan of a particular band or musician is hearing said band/musician live and learning that he/she/they do(es) not live up to the standards set in the fan’s head (heart). I was so afraid of this before I went to the City and Colour show last Wednesday (12/7). But as soon as the tattooed-but-tailored Dallas Green sang his first words, my fears were assuaged, bulldozed. Dallas Green was incredible live. His voice (DAMN that voice) rang out clear and beautiful, and the concert quickly became one of my favorite musical experiences (ever). I recorded a (shitty) video of “Sleeping Sickness”, and it’s moderately astounding that even through an iPhone recording you can hear how rich his voice is.

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – December 10 Edition

The Good

The National Basketball Association (or NBA for shortsies) announced Thursday (12/8) that, as part of their collective bargaining agreement, they are planning to adopt a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. To boil the jargon down, the new policy’s umbrella will specifically include protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation (which does not, however, include gender identity or gender expression). The policy effectively only covers men (gay or bisexual men in the NBA), since no women (gay, straight, or in between) play in the NBA, but this is marked on a human rights level – there exists no legal protections for LGBT employees on a federal level, so private employers have the ability (but not the requirement) to adopt policies that protect said employees from workplace discrimination.

This is fairly HUGE for the NBA to be a part of, as the organization is inherently part of a greater theater of homophobia that exists in professional sports. The National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) opted to include sexual orientation in their respective non-discrimination policies earlier this year as well. Baby steps, but hell, this is progress that is notable. I should also note that several current (and the current part is oh so important) professional athletes have publicly voiced their support of LGBT equality, including the NHL’s Sean Avery (which is probably wildly surprising for some, and not at all for those of you who know he interned in the fashion industry), NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita (and former-NFL-player-now-commentator Michael Strahan), and current NBA point guard extraordinaire Steve Nash. Watch Nash’s video promoting the now-enacted marriage equality law in New York State:

The Bad

Oregon State freshman defensive tackle Fred Thompson, 19, collapsed and passed away Wednesday evening (12/7) while playing basketball at a recreation center on campus. Reports are now coming out that it is likely Thompson suffered a cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) that in this case led to death. The 6-foot-4, 317-pound DT had no known heart conditions. Thompson’s 20th birthday would have been this Sunday.  

The Fugly

Jerry Sandusky - Bernie Fine

Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine are still in the news, for absolutely awful reasons. Sandusky was arrested again Wednesday (12/7) and charged with 12 additional counts of child sexual abuse (involving two new alleged victims). Sandusky is now facing more than 50 charges, and yet he was able to post bail (which was only $250,000) on Thursday (12/8). The charges against this man (monster) are HEINOUS, and yet he is able to return home. There is something wrong with this, and it legitimately makes me see red.

Onto Bernie Fine, there is also something so wrong with this – Bernie Fine can’t be charged with child molestation (despite credible accusers) because the statute of limitations has passed. Onondaga County Dist. Atty. William Fitzpatrick said this week that had he learned of Bobby Davis and Mike Lang’s (both step-brothers and former Syracuse ball boys) sexual abuse accusations in 2005, Fine would have been arrested and charged with child molestation.

“Bobby, I’m sorry it took so long,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick also harshly criticized ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard for not turning over a tape recording accuser Bobby Davis had given the news outlets (in which Fine’s wife admits to Davis that she knew what her husband had done to Davis) to the police. Meanwhile, ESPN is still backpedaling as to why they held onto the tape for eight years without doing a damn thing.

Jerry Sandusky is likely going to rot in prison and have hell to pay abuse-wise when he gets there (prisoners are not kind to child molesters). Bernie Fine is likely going to get away with sexual abuse of children. This is fucking ugly, and this is fucking wrong.

 

 


Live Music is Better – Max Bemis at the Bell House (12/2/11)

Max Bemis isn’t crazy anymore. And he’s married (weird). But his following is strong (-er than I expected), and we who have liked him since/when he was crazy (really crazy) came out to hear his solo acoustic set Friday night, December 2, at The Bell House in Brooklyn.

The Bemises... or Perma, I suppose.

His wifey, Sherri DuPree of Eisley fame, opened up the night, but Bemis joined her for a few Perma (the duo/band they formed together… sigh) tunes before DuPree left the stage, telling the crowd that Max was going to come out and “spit on all of you… or whatever he does.”

Bemis came out with a lone guitar, and the packed Bell House crowd sang every word along with him (especially for the older Baseball and …Is a Real Boy tracks), sometimes shocking the Say Anything frontman to the point where he’d ask “how do you guys know this shit?!” He let us sing choruses, stepping back from the mic in moderate awe, but when he took over he belted his (gut-and-heart-wrenching) lyrics with passion, and angst, and fervor – everything we all fell in love with his music for.

 

 

Pigskin (P)review – Conference Championships and the Like

It’s a big Saturday for a lot of NCAA football conferences. Last chances for teams to assert themselves BCS-wise, and a lot of final games before the season wraps and the long (monthish-long) wait begins for bowl games. Here are your weekend notables and what has gone down already.

CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP

  • #24 Southern Miss is currently visiting and leading undefeated #6 Houston, 42-21 in the 4th. Can Houston overcome and stay undefeated (seems kind of unlikely now)? What will it mean for them bowl-wise? It’s always interesting when a dominant team emerges from a smaller conference – interesting in that even when staying undefeated, it’s hard to crack into a notable bowl. Southern Miss is playing spoiler hardcore.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
  • #14 Georgia takes on #1 LSU for a 4 PM kick-off. If LSU beats Georgia (at the Georgia Dome), they will be (almost certainly) headed to the BCS national title game . LSU has already nabbed the first 12-0 regular season in school history, and today they battle for their 11th SEC title (first since 2007 – the year LSU also won the national title). Georgia might not make it easy for them, having won ten straight games.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
  • #15 Wisconsin and #13 Michigan State are meeting in Indianapolis for the first-ever Big Ten Conference Championship game – and a rematch (remember that mildly controversial last-second Michigan State hail mary win? No? Go look it up.). Wisconsin was battling for a chance to go to the national championship when it lost to Michigan State earlier this season. Now, a ticket to the Rose Bowl is on the line for the Spartans and Badgers, both of which are riding a four-game win streak. Kick-off at (the awkward time of) 8:17 PM.
BEDLAM
  • The Big 12 no longer has a championship game (because it is kind of falling apart) due to the lack of having 12 teams, but there are big things on the line tonight when #10 Oklahoma faces off with #3 Oklahoma State for what is referred to as Bedlam (kick-off at 8 PM). There is still a (slight) chance that Oklahoma State can leap-frog current-#2 Alabama and catapult into the national title game – they have to blow-out Oklahoma tonight. The Cowboys, however, are only 3-point favorites and have historically been on the losing side of the Bedlam match-up (Oklahoma has a nine game win-streak). If an Oklahoma State win isn’t a big enough beating, or if the Sooners take another win away, the winner will head to the Fiesta Bowl (to most likely battle Andrew Luck-led Stanford).

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP

  • #5 Virginia Tech is looking to avenge its loss to #20 Clemson earlier this season in tonight’s ACC Championship game. Kick-off at 8 PM. The Hokies haven’t lost since falling to Clemson on October 1, whereas the Tigers, after a strong 8-0 start, have lost three of the last four – most recently falling to South Carolina a week ago (34-13, ouch). Tonight’s ACC winner will also head to the Orange Bowl (the Hokies made it that far last year, falling to Stanford in the Orange Bowl 40-12. Damn that Andrew Luck).
PAC 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
  • #9 Oregon is headed to the Rose Bowl after beating UCLA 49-31 on Friday night. The win sealed Oregon’s third-straight conference title. The Bruins kept it closer than most thought they would, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Ducks and RB LaMichael James (who found himself in the endzone three times), who might be slipping to the NFL next year (James is a junior).  The game was the last for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who was fired earlier this week.

 

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – December 2 Edition

Wow, are the Philadelphia Eagles imploding or what? I could also say the same about the Washington Capitals. Rough night for two struggling teams that should be playing a lot better than they are.

The Good

It's been rough.

Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning (who is sorely missed this season by the 0-11 Colts) has been cleared for more intense rehabilitative workouts. Manning’s doctor, Dr. Robert Watkins, said Manning’s neck has, for all intents and purposes (unless those intents and purposes currently include full-speed pro football), healed.

“X-ray and CT examination of the surgical area shows that the fusion performed in September has achieved firm fixation. Peyton will now be allowed to increase the intensity and breadth of his workouts as tolerated. There remains every indication that his recovery will continue,” Watkins said.

Manning, 35, hasn’t practiced since a September 8 spinal fusion, which was meant to repair a damaged nerve in the quarterback’s neck, which affected his throwing arm. Manning has had three neck surgeries in 19 months.

As alluded to above, the Manning-less Colts have broken team streaks of success established in recent years – throw nine straight playoff appearances and nine consecutive 10-win seasons out the door. The Colts, currently in line to pick up Stanford QB Andrew Luck in the first round of the NFL Draft, are 0-11 for the first time in 25 years. Damn.

The Bad
Indiana state high school basketball stand-out Austin Hatch will not be on the basketball court this season. Hatch was involved in a plane crash that killed his father and step-mother, in which Hatch sustained a head injury, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and a broken collarbone. Hatch’s father was flying the plane at the time of the crash. The 6-foot-6 junior had made an early commitment to play for the University of Michigan in 2013. His family has reported that Hatch’s rehabilitation is going very well, but that he needs time and requests privacy in his recovery. The tragedy was the second plane crash that Hatch survived, the first in 2003, during which Hatch’s mother and two siblings were killed. Hatch’s father was flying the plane in the 2003 crash as well.

The Fugly
After years of respect and loyalty to ESPN, I have some major issues connected to the way the network and its commentators & writers have handled the Bernie Fine case juxtaposed against the coverage and scrutiny of dismissed Penn State coach Joe Paterno (in connection to the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case). On November 4, the Jerry Sandusky grand jury report was released, and the media (but I’m honing in on ESPN) was whipped into a feeding frenzy involving Joe Paterno’s role in the scandal. A slew of ESPN commentators wrote op-eds and went on-air to vehemently and publicly voice their disapproval of Joe Paterno, saying he failed in his moral obligations, that he just didn’t do enough.

As the Sandusky storm was (briefly) coming off a coverage peak, another child-molestation-accusation-at-a-major-university story broke. (Now former) Syracuse men’s basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine allegedly molested team ball boys over the course of several years. Fine was fired on Sunday (11/27), after ESPN released a recorded phone conversation between first accuser Bobby Davis, and Fine’s wife, Laurie Fine, during which Laure Fine admits to Davis that she was aware of the molestation and/or abuse Davis is now accusing her husband of.

Syracuse University officials stated that the tape was never made available to the university, or they would have fired Fine a lot sooner.

In a letter published by USA Today, chancellor Nancy Cantor writes “Mr. Davis didn’t give [the audiotape] to us in 2005, nor did the media, which have acknowledged having it since 2003. Had that tape surfaced in 2003, Fine would have been fired. Had we been given the tape in 2005, we would have gone straight to the authorities.”

ESPN has stated that they did not release the tape when they received it because they could not get anyone to corroborate the story, and they weren’t sure that the female voice in the recording was actually Laurie Fine. The network did not go any further until LAST WEEK, when they turned to a voice-recognition expert to confirm whether the female voice was in fact Laurie Fine (it was).

But for eight years, no one that heard the tape did ANYTHING with it. The network held onto damning evidence for eight years. Yes, there is an argument for the role of the “objective journalist”, that the journalist is obligated to stay out of the story itself. But journalists are also human. And this is not black and white. This is grey. And this had to do with sexualized crimes against children. Why didn’t anyone at ESPN share the recording with police or Syracuse officials?

ESPN commentators were vicious in their scrutiny of Joe Paterno, rightfully so or not. The problem is that the network was guilty of the same thing it was damning Paterno for. Except that Paterno actually did report the alleged abuse to his superior (which he was legally obligated to do). ESPN just didn’t do anything.

The Penn State (Jerry Sandusky) and Syracuse (Bernie Fine) situations are not the same, but I cannot ignore or stay silent about the incredible hypocrisy displayed by ESPN in its coverage and handling of both, especially because the network is now directly tied to the Fine firing. Failed moral obligation by those that preach it. It’s depressing as hell. And mostly because the victims have to suffer more, and longer, because of those moral failings.