Our incredibly intense college football preview is up. Since I don't do it on the pages, here are the major bowl picks for me:
SUGAR: LSU v. West Virginia
FIESTA: Oklahoma v. Georgia
ROSE: Florida St v. Texas
ORANGE: Michigan v. USC
If a Big Ten and Pac-10 team meet in the national title game for the national title, expect Rose bowl execs to kill themselves. Yeah, I'm picking Michigan to win the title. Call it a feeling.
posted by Poseur 9/02/2004 01:27:00 PM
Huh? There are American sports?
After our Olympic orgy, it's tough to settle back into the rhythm of the American sports calendar. I've pretty much ignored the preseason, college football camps, and baseball's pennant races. So I'm working on our football previews (I really have to hurry up for college, which gets underway this weekend), and I'm trying to re-acquaint myself with the pennant races. So, some comments.
What the hell happened to the Yankees?
Three and a half? Blowing a 10 1/2 game lead is Phillies-esque. Now, it's not like they've completely tanked. They still have a lead and Boston is still, you know, Boston. The teams still have six games to play head-to-head and the Sox have to know they need to win four of those. But both teams are about to feed off the bottom feeders of this division.
Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have actually been outscored by their opponents. A-Rod, Matsui, Posada, and especially Sheffield have been doing the heavy lifting, but the offense isn't as deep as it once was. And the pitchings been disastrous. Only two starters have an ERA below four, and only three below five. 19 of 45 starts have gone to pitchers with a combined ERA of 7.76. That's beyond terrible.
It's not over for the Yanks, they still can score runs and they still have a lead in the division. But things don't look good right now.
AL West? Still good.
Three teams within five games. The A's are having their annual second-half surge and they look like the team to beat in the division. But with the Red Sox kicking ass, it looks like it's win the division or else. While the Sox and Yanks play assorted stiffs, the West will be stuck beating one another up. Which makes a wild card team unlikely unless either the Soxor Yanks completely go into the tank.
Which means we have an old-fashioned pennant race.
St. Louis is awesome
Holy moley. The Cardinals lead the NL in both runs scored and least runs allowed (ok, the Dodgers have them by one, but Chavez Revine is the ultimate pitcher's park). They lead the division by over 15 games. Heck, they are so good, they are toying with putting Rick Ankiel on the postseason roster. Why the heck not?
The team has three players with an OPS above 1.000. That's just obscene. There's no dpeth or supporting cast, but who needs it? The pitchign staff is the opposite, tons of depth with no stars. Only six players have made a start, and 128 of 131 are by the five-man rotation. Their ERA's range from 3.59 to 4.63. Amazing consistency.
The wild card?
You're guess is as good as mine. the Astros have suddenly decided to play well, and now sit only three games out. The Marlins have been on a tear, and they are three out. San Diego's a half game down and the Cubs and Giants are tied.
That's five teams, all with a legit shot at the wild card. And the Phillies, at 7 out, still dream the impossible dream.
posted by Poseur 9/01/2004 10:19:00 AM
CNNSI's Stuart Mandell had a pretty interesting piece on overrated college football teams.
With the help of Lexis-Nexis, I went back and found the first and last AP poll from every season and counted each time a team finished at least seven spots lower than predicted. Why seven? I don't know, It just sounds more dramatic than six.
Ladies and gentlemen, the nation's most overrated program, with eight such occurrences in 14 seasons, is ... the Washington Huskies. Not far behind were -- here's a shocker -- Notre Dame (seven), USC (seven), Auburn (six) and Texas (six).
I compiled the same data for teams that finished at least seven spots higher than predicted. Teams didn't make nearly as many regular appearances in this category, probably because after exceeding expectations a few times voters got the message and started picking them higher. The leaders, with five instances each, were Ole Miss, Iowa and Alabama, followed by LSU, Washington State, Virginia Tech, Kansas State and Texas A&M at four.
First of all, kudos to Mandell for actually doing research to support his point. Often times sports writers don't even think to do that (just think about the last time you watched The Sports Reporters). As Mandell admits, his method is arbitrary, but I think it's fine, albeit limited. The 7-place standard is a pretty good bench mark because it's a little more than one quarter of the top 25, meaning it's a substantial change, yet small enough for several teams to breach the mark.
Also realize that this is just as much a measure of teams as it is of the voters. We at BartCopSports often criticize the sports media for not applying thought to their picks--just take a look at the preseason polls. Do they look a bit similar to the final polls of 2003? Yeah, the voters have a problem breaking out of their pre-conceived notions. Well, thanks to Mandell, we can see who has been overhyped for the last decade & a half: Auburn, USC, Washington, Texas, & Notre Dame.
posted by uberschuck 9/01/2004 01:27:00 AM
A few items off the wire as we await kickoff...
Deion Sanders makes a comeback
The seven-time Pro Bowl defensive back passed his physical and formally ended his retirement by signing a one-year contract laden with incentives. Sanders will practice with the team for the first time Sept. 1, and expects to play in the Ravens' season opener Sept. 12 against the Cleveland Browns.
Sanders, 37, played cornerback in his prime, but will be used as a fifth defensive back in Baltimore.
I always despised Sanders, but I'm glad he's doing this. He's 37 and hasn't played in 4 years. I'm looking forward to watching his showboating ass get beaten again and again. The problem is that eventually the Ravens' D will force a QB to loft a lame duck of a pass that will fall into his hands, and that'll make the highlights on SportsCenter instead of all the 25 year old receivers running past him like he's standing still.
Falcons lose Hall
The Atlanta Falcons learned Tuesday that rookie cornerback DeAngelo Hall will miss six to 10 weeks with a small fracture on the left side of his hip.
Hall, the No. 8 overall pick and the first cornerback taken in the draft, had been designated as the starter on the left side three months ago by coach Jim Mora. Kevin Mathis will replace Hall Friday night when the Falcons visit Washington.
Last year the Falcons set a team record for most passing yards allowed, and they were dead last in the league. Taking DeAngelo Hall with the 8th pick of the draft was a welcomed relief for Atlanta, but lightning has struck the Falcons again.
Douglas yo-yos back to Philly
Defensive end Hugh Douglas agreed to a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, returning to the team after a one-year hiatus.
After being cut earlier in the day by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Douglas agreed to a one-year contract, said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
This is a boon for the Eagles. Douglas can't be expected to be the dominator we saw three years ago, but there's no reason to think he won't have an impact back with his old mates. Perhaps the Jaguars weren't pleased with the price for his production. Apparently Douglas and the Eagles were meant to be together.
Broncos lose Anderson
A Monday examination revealed that the groin injury Anderson sustained late in the Broncos' 31-17 win over the Houston Texans three days earlier was so severe that it will keep him out for what Head Coach Mike Shanahan said would be "three months or possibly longer."
The Broncos will put Anderson on injured reserve, from which he cannot be recalled to the active roster during the upcoming regular season and postseason.
"He's got two muscles in that groin area and he tore both of them off the bone," Shanahan said.
Yikes! Off the bone. It hurts to think about it.
So, Denver trades Clinton Portis and loses Mike Anderson to an injury. Denver has built up a reputation of being able to run anyone for lots of yards. Are they at the end of the line? The key all along has been a great O-line and talented backs. The O-line is still fine. What about the RB talent? They've still got Garrison Hearst, Quentin Griffith, and a rookie I can't wait to see, Tatum Bell.
posted by uberschuck 9/01/2004 12:42:00 AM
I've come not to bury the US basketball team, but to praise them. I didn't write much on the basketball team because, well, I don't care all that much. i don't have a lot emotionally invested in one medal. I want the water polo team to win gold as well, and don't see why there's a special case for basketball. And they did win the bronze, so it's not like they come home empty handed. Faced with being the first US team to fail to medal, the US went out and beat the best team in the tournament, Lithuania. they desrve praise for that.
The players also deserve praise just for showing up. Unlike almost every other Olympic athlete, NBA players have nothing to gain by playing in the Games. Without the Olympics, Michael Phelps is just a goofy-looking kid who can swim real fast. We don't care. Now, he's a national celebrity. This is the largest stage most of these athletes will ever perform on. In short, they need these Games more than the Games need them. Not so with USA basketball. These guys aren't definied by gold medals, but NBA titles. And nothing is ever gonna change that. All they could do was tarnish their legacy, but they showed up anyway. With nothing to gain, these players chose to represent the US. And they won bronze. Isn't that to be commended? Or are you gonna condemn the 4x100 relay teams for being a bunch of no-good chokers as well?
They didn't just get bashed by the press, they got bashed non-stop by their own coach. Larry Brown had his excuses for losing ready before they even made the trip. He whined about roster construction, the lack of practice time, and the officiating. Really, he blamed everybody except for himself, the number one reason why the US lost. The US had better athletes, no one denies this. so why the hell did Brown insist on a half-court game with lots of isolation down low to Duncan? This team should have been trying to run teams out of the gym. And a truly uncreative offensive gameplan doomed this team's chances.
Dwayne Wade led the team in steals, but only was seventh in floor time. LeBron was fourth in assists, a neat feat given incredibly limited playing time. Amare Stoudamire had as many defensive rebounds as Jefferson in 100 less minutes. Brown had young, dynamic playmakers sitting under his nose, but he refused to let the kids loose. OK, Carmello was uniformly terrible, but the other three kids were outstanding. Richard Jefferson, who did not play well, had more minutes than LeBron and Amare combined. If I notice this from my couch, it's up to Brown to notice it while coaching the team. Find the hot hand for godsakes.
Ultimately, this team took home the bronze because of its character. They had the built-in excuse for losing. The media and the fans, hell, their own coach, were already writing them off as a disgrace, yet they came out and showed their mettle. We have a tendency to romanticize the past, but this team was not nearly as obnoxious as the Dream Team. Sure, we won in Barcelona, but that was a team more concerned with covering up the Reebok logos so as not to offend Nike while this team was trying to overcome the outright hostility of all comers. In all honesty, though they didn't win (and weren't as good), I'll remember the 2004 team more fondly.
posted by Poseur 8/30/2004 03:29:00 PM
Liberals are afraid of nationalism. I'm not sure why, considering nationalism is one of those important "isms" that lead to modern liberalism. Histroically speaking, the nation is a pretty new concept, the alternative to empires and dynastic holdings. National identity gives people the worldview to throw off the yoke of tyrrany. Sure, it can also be a horrible thing, look no further than World War I. But damning something for its worst possible outcome is like damning comedy because of Carrot Top. In the wrong hands, any idea is bad.
The Olympics are an expression of healthy nationalism. It gives us a chance to kick some international butt without, you know, people actually dying. Isn't it better to assert the primacy of America via athletic competition than military conquest? You don't get a surge of patriotic pride when the US women's soccer team wins another gold medal? I do. Actually, I love the fact American dominance in the Olympics hinges on our dominance of women's sports. Doesn't that say something good about our nation? Isn't that a reason to feel pride?
I'm not saying winning the most medals makes you a better country. Heck, winning no medals doesn't invalidate a country's pride. But Israel winning their first gold medal? Iraq's run to the medal rounds in soccer? Every time Greece won anything in front of the home crowd? Or even China's first track and field gold? Those are moments of great national pride. Sure, it's just a sporting event, but it's a healthy expression of nationalism. I'm not going to feel shamed for rooting for the Americans or enjoying their victories. This doesn't make me incapable of enjoying other nation's victories. That's when we cross the line.
And despite all of the early worries, the Americans behaved admirably at these Games. If anything, they were too timid. US athletes endured an unfair amount of abuse at these Olympics, particularly Paul Hamm, who may end up remembering this gold medal as the worst thing that ever happened to him. Greek fans booed and jeered them, and to a man, the US athletes didn't lash out. They were remarkably good sports, even when it was very hard to be so. There was some whining from Aaron Piersol, and some chest thumping from the sprinters, but nothing too egregious. As a rule, the Americans swallowed hard and dealt with having everybody root against them.
Hey, part of being the big boy on the block is that everyone wants to beat you. You put on the USA jersey, you've got a target on. Just because people cheered against the US doesn't mean they hated Americans. It's just that people root for the underdog, and we're never going to be underdogs, even in sports we're not terribly good at. So we need to cheer on our American athletes even harder.
posted by Poseur 8/30/2004 03:06:00 PM